Category: Articles

Be The Lion

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAdBAAAAJDA0NmM5MDAxLTVhZmQtNDQwNi04MDhlLTM2ZDNkYjNmYTc0OQ

When ever we look to do something courageous, contentious, abnormal or similarly ‘departing from the normal’ – we are almost guaranteed to receive criticism and/or negativity. Not the constructive kind either.

More often than not, this criticism comes from people who are at or below average at what you’re trying to do. Average or below doesn’t like above average as it feels shown up. So it unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, looks to discourage any one who could put them to shame.

In sales, great sales people aren’t average – obviously. Therefore, it is fair to say that great sales people have encountered a lot of criticism to get where they are.

There is an African proverb that goes:

In sales there are many small dogs. Some bark louder than others and sometimes they bark in chorus – but they will always bark.

Your Dog

If you are a typical sales person – your dog will bark the loudest and most often. Part of us is fearful of putting ourselves out there, so in the recesses of our mind a dog barks to protect us from failure. The logic – by not trying we don’t fail and therefore don’t embarrass ourselves. Of course this is true – but it also means we never succeed if we listen to this dog.

Sometimes this dog barks for real reasons and correctly identifies skill, knowledge, process or similar gaps in what we’re doing. In this case – listen to the dog, but don’t turn around. Address the gaps – move forward. That dog barking isn’t a reason to stop – that dogs bark makes us stronger. It is warning us.

Unfortunately, our dog is the biggest dog we have to fight. We’re usually the only one that can hear it and it speaks our own language. We’ve taught this dog through years of self talk. We’ve nurtured this dogs bark. It has both protected and inhibited us. You need to learn to not ‘turn around’ because of it, but listen and judge whether it’s bark makes sense.

The Team Dog

In some sales teams, there is an air of mediocrity. Of ‘getting by’. As a result, anyone departing from this culture quickly encounters the team dog/s. This is where average endeavours to maintain the status quo. Statements like ‘That won’t work’, ‘They won’t buy from us’, ‘They’re a difficult client’, ‘This sales course is worthless’ and similar remarks are all the team dog barking.

You can see this in some teams where the best sales people end up lone wolfing simply because they have chosen to ignore the team dog and just do what they know works. They don’t turn around, but unfortunately often at the expense of the team dynamic. They risk getting socially emancipated from the team.

This can often be why good sales people don’t last long in poor sales teams. Too many dogs barking, not enough lions. As a sales leader – this is important as often the lions don’t roar often, but you better listen when they do. Provided you can hear them over the dogs barking.

The Company Dog

Sales is usually one aspect of a business – with many other areas of the business existing and working together. Sometimes, tension unnecessarily exists in a business – you end up with the company dog.

It is all to easy in sales to find a reason to not leave the office. Someone always wants a report completed, some admin work done, and similar valueless work. Sure, it needs to be done, but are you turning around because the company dog is barking? If it doesn’t help you achieve better outcomes for your clients, achieve your results and genuinely isn’t time critical – why did you listen to that dog barking?

As a sales leader, you job is to silence, minimise and/or eliminate this noise from your sales teams to allow them to focus on being the lion. Without distraction.

The Market Dog

I’ve seldom met a sales person who is 100% happy with the market conditions. There is always a more active competitor, someone who is cheaper, someone with a better product, not enough clients, poor economic conditions. That market dog can bark pretty bloody loud if you let it. Sheesh – some days you can question why you even get out of bed.

But hold on – I have also met a number of highly successful sales people who perform regardless of these conditions. Sure, their results vary in good and bad markets, but they still outsell everyone else. Sure, market and competitive conditions vary but they don’t turn around.

Listen to that dog and potentially change direction accordingly, but don’t turn around. As a sales leader – you need to determine if that dog barking is an excuse masking another issue, or a genuine reason inhibiting their activities/outcomes.

The Client Dog

Sometimes we can even encounter a dog in front of us which can stop us and turn us around. The client dog. This is especially true in situations like where the client has an unexpressed or unconscious need we’ve identified but they haven’t as yet come to realise. Or, where we have clients under stress, competitive pressure, experienced a service or product failure.

It is easy in these situations to have a client who barks a lot and, as a sales person, for us turn around. Sometimes the client dog can bark VERY loudly. It can be deafening. As both a sales person and leader, you both need to determine is that dog going to bite and how hard. After all, as sales people, they’re why we exist.

However, good sales people are resolute and listen to that dog and continue forward to deliver that client the best possible outcome they can.

There are many dogs barking in sales vying for our attention and endeavouring to throw us off course or stop us altogether. Endeavour to find others like you who can hear but ignore those dogs and keep moving forward. Eventually those dogs will stop barking as they have nothing to bark about.

That Lion doesn’t turn around simply because it has nothing to fear. It has learned, as an apex predator, that those barking dogs are noise but not a threat. They exist but are immaterial.

Be the lion.

Be The Candle, Not The Moth

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAk9AAAAJGU2YWY2MTAwLWE4ODAtNDAwOS04NjQwLTg3NzFjZDc3YWFlNg

Asking all sales professionals –

  • Do you curate your own content?
  • Do you create your own content?

One of the challenges in sales is finding, engaging and holding to new clients whilst maintaining strong relationships with the ones you already have. You’re like a moth circling many flames at the same time.

Imagine if you could be the candle instead – your flame attracting your clients and prospects alike? Imagine a world where clients seek you out and want, if not yearn, to do business with you? A sales nirvana. One, historically, that was hard to achieve with mass marketing being expensive and a sales force left with phone, feet and (later) email to reach their market.

However, in today’s world your reach is far more expansive than it has ever been. Personally, status updates and tweet immediately reach our friends and network and quickly circle the world. Youtube videos have immediate and enduring reach. People are prepared to and do broadcast their thoughts, ideas, advice and opinion with often reckless abandon.

Yet, professionally, we seem to inhibited in this ability to similarly present our ideas, expertise, advice and opinion with the same passion and frequency. We stiffle this markedly in comparision with our personal lives.

LinkedIn is a fantastic example – whereby anyone can produce articles, share their own content and that of others content, have dynamic profiles and all manner of other mediums. Yet few do. The old ‘1% produce content, 9% comment on it and 90% watch’ plays out day after day professionally.

What is true though is that the reach of social media in business through sites like LinkedIn is growing daily. Businesses and business people NOT engaged and active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc is dwindling. So, as a sales professional, where is your audience today?

Back to the original questions – do you create and/or curate your own content?

More importantly, if you don’t, you are probably asking ‘why should I’? Well, there are a number of salient reasons, including

  • Distinction Yes, sharing information is the first natural step in the social space. Simply clicking the share button and clicking it again. The next step is adding an opinion, comment or embelishment to it. What will people think? Finally, the big leap is producing and publishing your own content – with your own ideas and your own opinion. Nervewracking – probably. Rewarding – definitely. Doing this is like public speaking. Whilst we have a fear of it, most likely everyone else does as well. But by standing up and doing it, we distinguish ourselves. As scared as the you may be, many in the audience are going ‘Wow, they’re brave’ or ‘I couldn’t do it’. Regardless of your content & relevance (which is obviously still important), you’ve already made people stand up and notice. You’d made yourselve distinct from many of your peers and have grabbed the attention of your clients in a completely different manner.
  • Engagement Notwithstanding them even reading the article/watching the video in full, they will notice you on their activity feeds (assuming of course they’re connected with/following you). They are reminded you are there. Of course, whilst clients and prospects alike may not have an hour to spend with you at that particular moment, many will take the time to read articles. Then, wait until people start commenting and real, tangible engagement ensues. The joy of this engagement though is it is not push, it is pull. You are putting it out to the general ether, they are choosing to notice, read/watch and/or engage.
  • Expertise Here is where you can demonstrate your knowledge and why you do what you do. Why you are passionate about what you do and how it helps your clients. It isn’t about ‘selling’ it is about value creation, problem solving and opportunity realisation. Well written articles can challenge thinking, educate, inform or even entertain. But shouldn’t sell (this isn’t an advertisement!). Here is where you give what you know freely, abundantly trusting it will pay you dividends (in what ever form) later.
  • Bigger Than Social What starts as a social strategy, can quickly develop in to a physical, face to face one. Requests to talk, present, coach, and consultant quickly follow. The absolute benefit of this is they are engaging with your because of your thoughts, ideas, advice and opinion – not simply because of your product/service. They want you to advise them – therefore you, in crude terms, enter the sales cycle correctly once engaged. You start with a relationship, not a transaction.

Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit, contributor to the development of RSS and staunch activist for freedom of public information said:

“In the old system of broadcasting, you were fundamentally limited by the amount of space in the airwaves. You could only send out 10 channels over the airwaves for television, right? Or even with cable, you had 500 channels. On the internet everybody can have a channel….So it’s not only certain people who have a license to speak. Now everyone has a license to speak. It’s a question of who gets heard.”

Whilst he was referencing the likes of Google and their control of ‘who sees what’ on the internet – he is stating a modern trusim. Everyone now has the ability to produce content – a license to speak.

However, the last line is true also – it isn’t about simply producing content, it is about who is being heard. To this end Benjamin Franklin said:

Probably like most of you, I quickly remove connections who pitch me ‘ideas’ or ‘opportunities’ immediately after connecting. I unsubscribe and delete similar emails from people who have scraped my email off LinkedIn. They effectively ‘cold call’ by social messaging. Yuck!

I do however read the content produced by my connections and people I am following. And, where it is content I connect with, I share it. Similarly I produce my own content for no other reason than to educate, inform and/or entertain. I certainly hope it is worth reading, but I don’t write it to sell anything.

So, hopefully now I’ve incited you to consider curating or publishing your own content. What next? How do you produce relevant, engaging content?

Consider the below when producing your own content.

  1. Know your audience. In the words of Mr Franklin, one of the key errors is producing (or sharing) irrelevant content. Tailor your content (whether shared or created) for your specific audience. If you don’t know your audience, work it out before you start.
  2. Expertise > Sales. I regularly get infuriated when I read an advertisement disguised as an article. You need to give to get – trust that your expertise is valuable in the hands of your audience if presented correctly. Be a centre of excellence and work The best way to demonstrate your value to your audience is to demonstrate you are a centre of excellence in what you write about.
  3. Don’t over think it. Publishing your first article is someone nerve wracking. As I mentioned above, you will get feedback, questions and sometime criticism. But is this bad? You want to provoke thought and discussion. You want engagement. Sometimes being controversial is actual the angle to take.
  4. Be you. Your articles are a reflection of you – it is your chance to personally talk to your audience. Be conversational and personal – reflect and opine.
  5. Be consistent. Writing one article is easier than consistently writing articles – but regular writing maintains consistent engagement with your audience. Try and publish at the same time so your audience becomes accustomed to when they are likely to hear from you
  6. Don’t worry about the stats. It is easy to become consumed with the number of views, likes, comments and shares. Over time this becomes important, but this grows. Though, do read the comments and respond – if someone has taken the time to compose a response, take the time to respond. Similarly, thank people where they share your article and, if game, ask them what in particular did they connect with as this helps shape further content.
  7. Visuals. A good headline image is important as human’s are visual. Similarly, using images, graphs etc in your article helps with explaining/illustrating points, covering quickly what words would cumbersome to do and provide visual breaks.
  8. Collaborate. If you’re not an expert on a topic you know your audience would like, find someone who is and co-write an article. Ask them if you can share/quote their article and add your own opinions or comments over top to connect it to your audience. Ask them to guest write for you or conversely you for them.
  9. Honour your sources. Don’t use others content without asking and citing them. If you reference other public information – quote and include links. People have taken the time to produce their content, it is only fair your recognise their contribution to the quality of your work.
  10. Be proud. Sign off your work with a) a link to your other work b) how to reach you c) a suggestion people like, share or comment on the article if they found it interesting and/or useful. Remember, 90% of people lurk and for some it only takes a prod or two for people to engage.

There are many more suggestions and I encourage your comments as to what works and doesn’t for you. I fell in to writing articles as I simply wrote for myself and then a few people said I should publish them. Now I find writing articles is incredibly useful for me as much as I hope it is for my audience.

The biggest advantage is this gives you the opportunity to be the candle, producing the flame, rather than a moth looking for something to circle. Sure, you may end up with no or few moths, but with a little perseverance and fine tuning and you’ll quickly find you have an audience, most likely including clients of your competitiors – recognising so few sales people do it.

So, if you are an expert at what you do, why aren’t you producing your own content? Why aren’t you becoming a centre of excellence. The channel is there to speak, you just need to be heard.

Ask To Act

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAktAAAAJDU2NTY5ZDU1LTQ4MzctNDE3Mi1iY2E2LTdhZWJjYjRkMTFkYw

Two recent video interviews I shared from two sales professionals I respect touched on this need to focus what we do for our clients. Tony Hughes recently completed a video interview with John Smibert extending Simon Sinek’s Start With Why philosophy to articulate you need to understand Your Client’s Why.

Then, John (if you haven’t noticed a theme, follow John!) followed this up with an interview with Tony Bananno who reinforced the fact that sales people today need to develop the skills to have Effective Commercial Conversations.

In the information rich digital age we currently live in – clients know more about our products and services than ever before. Gone are the days of simply connecting features and benefits and using ‘product sheets’ to wow clients with how great what we offer is. Now, it isn’t about the products and services we have, but whether we understand our clients well enough to deploy them effectively to help our clients meet their objectives. This starts wholly with both the themes raised by the two Tony’s (not sure if there’s something with the name).

These aren’t new concepts – every sales course and training regime is heavy on the concepts of open ended questions, deep discovery, active listening and other tools and techniques to help uncover the core needs of our clients. All espouse the need for sales people to spend minimal time talking about products and services and the maximum amount of time discovering why their clients need their help and what opportunities and challenges they are facing. Once understood, it is about wrapping what you do neatly around your clients to support where they are going. It isn’t about finding clients for your products and services.

However, here is where I wish to extend this conversation and say that it doesn’t end here. Simply knowing what you have to do isn’t the silver bullet. The real magic comes from why you do it. Simply asking these questions and finding out this information doesn’t help your clients, it is what you do with this information that creates magic for your clients. You must Ask with the intent to Act. And Act in your clients best interests, not simply your own.

Before you can act, you have to ask. So where are the pitfalls common in the sales discovery process?

Don’t Ask / Asking the Wrong Questions

The first mistake is simply not asking any questions followed closely by asking the wrong ones. This is what Tony Bananno touches on – having social or spurious conversations with clients that don’t actually go anywhere. You can’t act on information to help your clients if you haven’t asked any questions to get it. You are left guessing/assuming what your clients wants and/or needs. Similarly, and sometimes worse, you can’t act effectively if you don’t have the right answers/information.

This is a training/experience thing which most sales leaders can pick up and coach following observation. It can come down to inexperience/confidence or under/no preparation and can be resolved relatively easily once identified.Now, let’s assume you are asking and asking the right questions as most who read this will be.

Moving on to two ‘sales person’ centric issues:

Ask to Tell

Some sales people like being experts more than they like being sales people. Selling can be a great opportunity for this and, unfortunately, some sales people simply ask questions so they can demonstrate to their clients how much they know and that they are a subject matter expert. They simply use the questions as a means to directing the conversation to areas they wish to talk about. This can be an outcome of an overly prepared sales person (predetermination) or one, as mentioned, who wish to stand ahead, rather than behind their clients

Ask To Sell

As Tony Bannano touches on – some sales people simply ask questions to sell and press/push product on clients. The minute they get the sniff of the ability to shift a product or service line, they jump down the rabbit hole to sell it. Sure, sometimes they may make the sale, but often at the expense of the larger and/or longer opportunity. Or they can under/over sell and create a problem for themselves and/or company later when they realise they didn’t know as much about the client as they thought they did (significant issue in regulated industries like Financial Services).

These two are examples of the ‘old’ methodologies of sales and ones where some of the age old sales stereotypes reside. Sales people who simply wish to shift product/service.

Now, what else can happen that can disconnect the ability to ask good questions, yet not have an effective ability to act on the responses? This is where we get in to the sales person’s intent in the discovery process:

Don’t Care

It can be very easy for a sales person to learn to ask the right questions – but do they care about the responses? Are they genuinely asking these questions because they have an interest of understanding their clients position and improving it – or simply because they ‘have to’ or are ‘going through the motions’? This is one of the more nefarious issues in sales – a sales person who doesn’t care and, ultimately, needs a reality check or new career.

There is a real issue here when it comes to sales leadership. Some organisations have the view that certain fields in the CRM ‘must be completed’ or questions ‘must be asked’ – but unless you give the context of why these questions should be asked and what should be done with the information – you run the risk these questions are asked and the information collected – never to be referred to again.

No Active Listening

Asking one fantastic question usually leads to a fantastic answer. This answer usually leads to one or more fantastic potential follow up questions/lines of thought. The joy of asking great questions is you often get surprised by these great answers. Being able to follow these threads but stay on point is a real sales skill. Being able to follow up your client with insightful questions along their thought line leads to the real gold. As Tony Hughes identified, this is where you uncover the clients why. One fantastic question seldom makes the meeting – it is the ability to act on this within the meeting to drive the conversation deeper that does. This can be symptomatic of an overly scripted process. Sometimes this can be confused with the ‘don’t care’ issue – but they are distinct. A lack of active listening doesn’t mean the sales person doesn’t care, it can simply mean they are inexperienced or nervous.

No Record

Asking fantastic questions and receiving fantastic answers is great – but if you don’t make notes of the conversation you are doing your client and yourself a mis-service. Great conversations can change course quickly – and diamonds can be exposed in conversation only briefly. As good as your memory is, I guarantee it isn’t as robust as your pen. When you get back to your office without notes, it is almost a certainty you’ll remember the meeting in bullet points and miss some of the key points as the memory fades. It is hard to act on information if you can’t recall it. The next step is to ensure this information is captured in your CRM (or where appropriate) so you (and you’re wider team) can access this information later, whether tomorrow or weeks/months later. So it can be compared over time.

An aside, taking notes also slows thinking down, allowing time to a) better remove ‘unconscious bias’ (ie assumptions), b) reflect and connect thoughts/ideas along with c) a better spatial recollection of the meeting later.

Now assuming you’ve dodged all the bullets above – you’re gold, right? Here is where many sales people let themselves down…..

Not Acting On It

The fantastic information captured from your fantastic meeting after asking fantastic questions is meaningless unless you do something fantastic with it. Unless you Act on it. CRM’s the world over are littered with such information – sitting dormant, gathering dust. If we’ve done the above, we have immensely insightful information about our clients and, by giving us this information, our client hasn’t just empowered us to make a difference to their business, they’re actually compelled us to. Why ask the questions if you don’t wish to act on them? What is the point of asking questions simply to fill our a CRM? Why even bother meeting with your client in the first place?

Ask yourself – why do you meet with clients? What are you trying to achieve by having the meeting? What is your real agenda? If it isn’t to help them, improve their position, reduce their risk, help them realise opportunities or discover more about them so you can do any/all of the above and more – why ask the questions?

Acting isn’t an overly complicated process – but it starts with recognising that you often need as much time after the meeting as the meeting took to reflect on the outcomes of the meeting, plan ‘what next’ and execute. Effective action doesn’t happen by accident. Some ‘actions’ post meeting include

  • Definitely completing your CRM – thoroughly and usually within close proximity to the meeting itself. Bulk loading your CRM doesn’t work as you will find you will shorten your notes.
  • Following up your client with some immediate proximity to the meeting with an email/note reflecting on the meeting and some immediate value
  • Connecting them with people in your community who you know can help them with areas of opportunity/risk outside of your expertise, yet important to the client
  • Share information/insights/research with them which helps them on their journey as you have or come across this information
  • Invite them to functions/events which help them on their journey
  • Diarising future contact (and why!)
  • Follow up on key milestones/events identified in the meeting to see how it went

Then it is about, re/assessing whether you could and should do business with your client based on the information discover, and how you should move forward. You lead with your value as it relates to your clients situation. This is why you collect information – to allow you effectively deliver what you do to provide the most value to your client. It only works if you put the information you gather to work.

Asking insightful questions and collecting insightful answers is wonderful if that is all we are measured on – but ultimately we’re measured by our client on the difference we make to them and their business. This only comes from acting on the information we obtain, in their best interests.

Reflect, Refine, Reset

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAcyAAAAJDliNzMxODIyLTA3YjktNDU5OS1hMjg5LWQ5MDQ5MTMyMjlkYg

Life in sales is often frantic with many tasks competing for our attention. While we have the encumbrances of a ‘financial year’, seldom does this afford us with the real opportunity to sit back and reflect. There is a Zen saying:

We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see

And this plays very true in sales. It is usually when our clients are quiet that we have this ‘still water’ to reflect wholly on ourselves. This time of year around the traditional holiday season affords us with the stillness to reflect. Unfortunately, too often we cram it full of things which seem important (like tidying up files, organising email boxes, CRM etc) rather than taking the opportunity to personally reflect, refine and reset our mindset and processes for the coming year ahead.

In sales, there are 4 main areas we (whether from the perspective of a sales person or leader/coach) should be reflecting on where we will usually trip ourselves up:

Right Things

Results don’t achieve themselves – they are a factor of doing the right things. Whilst we often have KPI’s in sales which measure the outputs of what we do, we need to clearly define what the right things to do are.

The question here is ‘Are you doing the right things to achieve your results?‘. There will always be things we can identify that we should be doing but aren’t.

Naturally, the next question to ask yourself is ‘If I should be doing them, why aren’t I?‘. It could be as simple as lack of prioritisation or planning. You just aren’t setting time aside to do what you need to do and, as a result, other tasks are filling that void/time.

It could be that you aren’t confident in doing them or don’t know how, so avoid them. In which case, be honest with yourself. If you know you need to do them and know you don’t know how or feel uncomfortable executing them the next question should be obvious: ‘What I am going to do about it?’. Where can you go or who can you lean on to support you developing the skills and/or confidence to do the things you know you should be doing. There are many avenues open to your here once you’ve identified these actions – seeking peer support from high performers, using your sales leader, formal/informal training and practice.

There is another question which is far more difficult to answer yourself – ‘What should I be doing, but don’t know I should be doing it?’. Are those more successful than you better because they are doing things you don’t even know you could and should be doing? How do you find this out? Well, you ask them, observe them, shadow them. Often these people don’t know you don’t know. If you ask, most will be all too happy to help. They will also likely be the people who will help you when you can’t do something or feel uncomfortable.

As a sales leader, do you know the things your sales team should be doing? Do you know what is separating the great from the good from the mediocre and under-performing? If you don’t, how can you help an individual sales person become aware of what they should, but currently aren’t, doing?

Things Right

Obviously, if it were as simple as just knowing the right things to do, we’d all be superstars with this knowledge. I hypothetically know how a house is built, but would I build one?

The next question to ask is, ‘Knowing what you should be doing, are you doing them right?’. Are you executing these things correctly? This is a more qualitative question to ask yourself and one that requires you to be very honest with yourself. Often this can and is measured in sales through various conversion/success ratios, so can sometimes be quite obvious, other times it is degrees of success. A great example is where you ‘win’, but not everything. You leave value on the table unaddressed. So it looks like success – but is sub-optimal. Failure is easy to identify – we you can’t do something it is obvious. However, you can win poorly, inefficiently or despite your shortfalls. This is much harder to identify. We often ‘think’ we’re good at what we do (and blame failures on external influence), but the external perception can be vastly different. How do you better understand this?

  • Seek feedback and advice. Again, observe high performers in terms of not just ‘what’ they do, but how they do it. Ask them to observe you and provide feedback – and it goes within saying, be open to receiving it
  • Ask your clients. Ultimately, the single biggest perspective that matters is that of your clients. Analyse your wins and your losses. Seek feedback regularly – make it a habit. I observed a sales person ask a client ‘Is there anything I should be doing for you that I’m not currently?’ Brave question – but the responses were insightful. But it didn’t finish there. She then followed up by asking ‘Is there anything I’m doing now that is annoying you?’. She opened her Johari window with a whoosh.

If you’re doing the same things, in the same way and expecting different results, you’re definitely setting yourself up for disappointment. Just look at the evolution of digital/social sales, client available information and industry disruption. I would argue that even waiting to reflect annually may be too late given the speed of change in the sales industry. Not knowing is also not an excuse either. You can always ask, you just have to want to.

There is another factor here which can determine your success in doing things right which we’ll cover below – and that is the right reason; your why.

As a sales leader, you must actively observe your team to understand if they are doing things right. The analogy is to be the jockey on the horse, rather than the trainer in the stand – making timely, subtle and relevant adjustments and suggestions regularly to keep your sales people at the front of the pack.

If you find yourself struggling with your development plan actions – it is most definitely because you don’t understand the above. You have limited awareness of your current state and ideal state – so have no idea what needs development. This is something for sales leaders to keep in mind when they see their team struggling with development plans.

Right Volume

Assuming you have the above two locked and loaded – the next question is ‘Am I doing enough of the right things?‘.

In a nut shell, if you know the right things to do and how the execute them properly, are you doing enough of them?

This is often where prioritisation, distraction and apathy can set it. It is also where, as sales leaders, we need to be careful with targets. We often think this is about setting a minimum expectation for our sales team, but we also risk setting an upper limit on this performance as well. We can get to a situation where our high performers go ‘well, I think I’ve done enough’ based on where they sit against target (yes, hiring the right staff with the right mindset shouldn’t see this happening).

The volume question is quite simple and, in reality, is often what we measure first in sales unfortunately. As a result, we risk ending up with a sales team completing many of the wrong tasks incorrectly and lots of activity, without much output. But we look busy. When then try and fix output shortcomings by raising volume – but not always looking at whether we are doing the right things and executing them correctly.

Right Mindset

Last, but by no means least, is our mindset. As a sales person, the question to ask is ‘Why am I selling?’. This can be something both difficult to identify and harder to adjust. It can also be something that, whilst we blame the sales person, can be the influence of the leadership or organisation.

Are you selling because you ‘need the income’, ‘can’t do anything else’, ‘want to make lots of money’ and the list goes on? There is often one thing consistent with sales people who are consistently successful in the long term – they sell because they ‘want to help their clients’, they ‘want to improve their clients position’, they ‘believe what they offer can make a difference’. The key difference is where their purpose is centered. It is centered on the client, not themselves. Without a doubt, in delivering this, they themselves will be successful, but this is an output, not a driver. They know and trust this will happen, but wake up, put their clothes on and come to work thinking about their clients.

Getting this right means you will

  • use greater discretionary effort at work,
  • care more,
  • have better relationship with your clients,
  • seek out the right things you should be doing and
  • seek out the best way to do things things

As sales leaders, we need to tread carefully here as we can influence the ‘why’. Ensuring we are consistent in delivering the strategic vision of the business, that your team understand and agree with it, and we measure and reward against it is important. If we know what the right things to do are, how to execute them properly and how much of it should be done – our job is to sweep all the other dross and noise out of the way and both empower and motivate our sales team to get on with the job. Guiding them to be more effective at it.

This time of year is the perfect opportunity to reflect, reset and refine our sales mindset and processes – are you using it wisely?

No…

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAfCAAAAJGEzNmY4MzViLWVhNDQtNDA4ZS1iYjhkLTM3OTIwZGQyOWY3Ng

The one word sales people often fear, irrationally.

Often perceived as absolute in its meaning; usually negatively at that. For sales people, it has the perception of the end. An inability to do business or continue doing business with a client and, emotionally, also strikes at the ego of sales people as it resonates with the client not wishing to do business with you. Ouch.

We encounter it regularly in life – and it is often a response we ourselves fall on unconsciously. Think about when you’re window shopping and approached by a sales assistant – you’ll probably say ‘No, I just looking thanks’ often without thinking; even if you do actually need help. Think about parenting and how we learn to say ‘no’ rather than ‘maybe’ so we don’t enter in to a circuitous debate or fall foul of the fantastic situational memory kids have.

The reality is you’ll struggle to find any sales person, no matter how successful they’ve been or are, who hasn’t had a client say ‘no’ to them. Sometimes repeatedly, even from the same client.

If you roll your memory back to school and your affection for your school crush.  Did you ask them out? If you didn’t – why not? I can pretty much guarantee you it wasn’t because you were scared they’d say ‘yes’.  Instead, subtle hints are planted in the hopes they notice you and something happens naturally. Nothing does and you’re left wondering ‘what if?’. Sometimes the most attractive opportunities go wanting as no one is prepared to ask for it – not only are we scared of a ‘no’, we actually grow to expect it so can avoid situations where it happens.

The problem with this fear of ‘no’ for sales people is the same. Through the fear of receiving a ‘no’, we can often stop ourselves from asking for their business because we don’t want ‘no’ as an answer.  Worse, we can often not undertake any actions to avoid receiving a ‘no’ in the first place. Think of cold calling as an example. However, in doing this, we also never get a ‘yes’. Instead, we dance around our desire to do business with them in the hopes the client asks to do business with us, or sit at our desks wondering why clients aren’t ringing us to do business.

Why do we often have as many closing strategies in sales training as we have for those to overcome objections? I wonder if is because the client isn’t the problem – but it is because sales people often never ask for the business, at the wrong time or poorly. One of the biggest flaws many sales people have is they don’t actually ask for the business. They can often do all the right things on the way through, but never come out explicitly and ask their clients to do business together.  You’re probably shaking your head…..how about this old sales adage then:

‘I don’t sell to clients, they buy from me’

Ask yourself when you hear this (from you or someone else) – is this just a euphemism for this very problem in sales?  Sometimes, this may as well say ‘I don’t like asking for my clients business, so I wait until they ask if they can do business with me’. Successful sales people sell to their clients – unashamedly.

The other issue with fear of the ‘no’ is we often wait until the end of the sales process to ask our clients if we can do business together.  We dither and delay around asking the question. Sure, we can convince ourselves that we are laying a ground work of value first before asking…but are we? Or do we just not have the confidence to ask our clients outright?   Successful sales people start closing from the outset. They are discussing with their clients what their buying drivers are from the beginning of the sales process and asking ‘if I can deliver these for you, could we do business?’.  They close on a ‘conditional’ basis from the beginning of the sale, knowing what the client values and that they could and should do business.

Why is this important? Both your clients time and your time is expensive and finite.  Unfortunately and surprisingly, some clients will spend time in the sales process with no intention of actually buying unless explicitly asked. Excuse the crude analogy – but it is like flirting and never asking for their phone number. You have fun at the time, but go home alone. So if you don’t ask, you’ll spend a fair amount of time going no where. Yes, this does happen more often than we realise. Meanwhile, there are far more motivated clients who you could and should be doing business with, but aren’t.

One of the biggest issues with the fear of the ‘no’ is that it isn’t actually the end….if you’ve sold properly on the way through the process.  Most, if not all, successful sales people will have examples of clients who have said ‘no’, only for them to go on and do business together later.

Why? A ‘no’ doesn’t scare the successful sales person off. A ‘no’ puts a stake in the ground and provokes the conversation to change tone. It allows the sales person to explore the hurdles between the current state and them doing business with their clients.  Clients say ‘no’ for many reasons and are often, unless you’ve truly destroyed the sales process, a point in time decision. Some clients, like our shopping example, saying ‘no’ instinctively.

They can be a reflection of the fact you haven’t addressed all their needs, or address them properly. They can be resultant from a change in thinking mid-way through the sales process. There are a plethora of reasons which you can find out, if you’re willing to stay in the game. The absolutely wrong things you can do as a sales person when a client says ‘no’ is to a) run off with your tail between your legs (woe is me) or, worse, b) throw your toys (&^%#$ the client).  This is almost certain to burn a bridge with the client.

The right thing to do is to explore why, determine whether it is end game or simply pause and form a strategy to move on. If it is a firm ‘no’ – knowing why is crucial in sales. It is where you learn and change. To simply walk away is dooming you to repeat your past. Ask the client if you can stay in touch (things to change, and rapidly in this market) and agree to this (and don’t let yourself down by not following through!).

Also, even if their ‘no’ is completely definitive, it is still useful. It allows you to redirect your activity to other opportunities. You have qualified that client as one you can’t (currently) do business with. Whilst it is obviously preferable to do business with them, a no is still useful. It takes the ‘what if’ off the table. It is certain and therefore actionable. It saves you, and your client, from investing any more time and you can focus on more promising opportunities.

Successful sales people aren’t afraid of clients saying ‘no’ – sure they do everything in their power to minimise situations where it happens, but they appreciate the a ‘no’ can be as useful as a ‘yes’ in sales. They certainly don’t avoid asking for business through fear of receiving one.

Low Maintenance Clients – The ‘Silent Client’

4638064448_fe3f079ff8_b

I hate the term ‘low maintenance client’.  It needs to be put to pasture in sales.

Sales is a high demand, dynamic industry forcing those in it to constantly make decisions around prioritising work/tasks to achieve their outcome.  Therefore, a low maintenance client appears to be nirvana to the sales person.  Especially a high profit, low maintenance client – high value clients that don’t ask for us anything.  Wow!

What then happens?  Your sales teams day is filled with the now – and there’s usually plenty of it.  Clients with deadlines you need to meet, problems you need to resolve, internal meetings that need to be attended, phone messages, emails, functions, new business targets that need to be achieved.  The list is endless.

They can quickly fall in to the rhythm of fighting fires and responding to what is screaming the loudest.  The ‘work in progress’ in our pipeline gets priority over strategically managing our portfolio.

This is particularly telling when we are busy because deadlines start looming and we usually have ample tasks in front of us which need, sorry demand, our attention.

Usually the first thing to go in this situation is our prospecting activity as, rightly or wrongly (definitely wrongly!), we view we have more than enough work so why pile more on just now, it can wait.

What then goes second are our low maintenance, silent clients.  Those clients that don’t have anything on at the moment.  That aren’t demanding any of our attention at the moment.  That we can always reconnect with tomorrow, or the day after.  At the moment we have a full plate.

This can be an outcome of how you measure or remunerate your sales team – and symptomatic of the very metrics you are using to impel your team to sell.  An acquisition mindset where we are so focused on new clients on our portfolio, risks doing so at the expense of those clients we’ve already made promises to.  A sale through product mindset, where your sales team is measured on their volume of sales (eg number of widgets sold) is also a risk as, invariably, new clients present bigger opportunities.  Even where you measure revenue growth (either net or gross) can present risks as often the trigger our silent clients aren’t happy is when they signal they’re leaving and we need to replace a hole in our revenue line.   We simply risk creating a defacto culture of ignoring our silent clients if we get these metrics wrong or don’t draw attention to those that may not be buying today, but could if we had the right conversations.

Examples of this are rife in the B2C space where existing clients feel unvalued in lieu of the strong acquisition programmes these businesses have and deals they offer new clients.  Loyal clients are neglected in the pursuit of new ones.  Their voice is silenced and they need to yell to be heard.

That client who doesn’t demand much, doesn’t ring all the time or isn’t consumptive of your attention today may very well be sitting in front of you tomorrow.   Because they’ve been a client of yours for a long time, they expect you know their business, the goals and their industry.

The other issue is, now they are sitting in front of you, you can guarantee that what they need is pressing or important, and usually time bound.  Suddenly, you need to deliver a compelling solution for an existing client you have not spent enough time with – simply because you’ve viewed them as ‘low maintenance’.  Your silent client is now yelling for attention and you don’t know enough about them.

How do they feel when they come to understand you don’t know them or their business very well?

Aside from the above situation where a client who was previously ‘low maintenance’ raises their head, there is another more nefarious implication of not addressing your low maintenance clients.  The above is predicated on your client contacting you.  What if they don’t?  What if your low maintenance client is viewed as a high value prospect of your competitors and they aren’t as apathetically managing their relationship with them as you are?  What if they don’t contact you, instead choosing to contact your competitor?  Your low maintenance clients are the breeding ground of competitive opportunity.

If you are managing your client relationships effectively, you should be creating the conversation not waiting for them to ring you.  You should be asking them questions to challenge them, to inquire, to provide confidence to act, to help them make decisions which lead them to their goals.

But when I try to contact them, they tell me they don’t need to see me?

Yes, this often happens in sales.  But this often doesn’t mean your client is low maintenance.  More often it can mean you’re viewed as low value.  Yes, you!  The sales person.  You haven’t demonstrated your value beyond delivering solutions to ‘transactions’.  You haven’t proven the value of your relationship, intellectual property and/or personality for them and their business.  Sorry, painful but the truth.

So what do you do?  Well, the wrong answer is to leave them alone.  The right answer is to challenge their thinking and reset their expectation of you.

How about saying ‘I appreciate you may not have anything on that requires our services at the moment, however when that does happen I want to be able to provide you with the best solution I can.  In order to deliver the best outcome for you, I want to understand you, your business and your strategic goals so when you do call with a pressing matter, I understand why it is pressing, how it fits in to your business and how to best structure a solution to deliver it.  This means, when you have a time bound opportunity or problem we need to solve, we can not just be responsive, but comprehensive in our solution.  Importantly, we may even be able to pre-empt it so it isn’t time sensitive. We may even help you identify opportunities or risks you aren’t yet aware of.

I obviously laboured the above to make a point.  The point is you are a professional sales person – not a order taker.  Your role is to help shape wise decision making in your clients business, not simply react to it.  If your clients don’t understand this – you’re the reason why they’re low maintenance.

So?

If you aren’t in regular contact with all your clients – this is usually the first area you need to address.   Yes, you need to deal to your work in progress and time bound client requirements – but as a professional sales person, all your clients should be contacted regularly.  ALL of them.

But it doesn’t simply stop there.  Simply contacting them isn’t a silver bullet.  Why you contact them is crucial.  Are you completing strategic reviews, discussing their goals or participating in or seeking the outcome of their internal planning?  Simply picking up the phone for a chat isn’t enough.  All your clients require a robust relationship strategy to deliver maximum value.

When looking at your clients, look at things like the below critically:

Look at each of your clients based on value and potential – and map your relationship strategy accordingly.  Also be honest – if you have low value, low potential clients – why?  Is having them detracting from the time and value you can offer to high value and/or high potential clients?  More often than not, the fires you’re fighting will be coming from these low value/low potential clients anyway.  It is not to say they are bad clients for your business, they just may need a different relationship strategy.  Wrap your strategy around your clients needs – now and in the future.

Low maintenance client should never be confused as no maintenance clients or, worse, no value clients.  The ‘they’ll never leave, they love us’ mentally is a sales death knell in your culture.  It may be the case – until someone else shows them what they aren’t getting.  What real sales value looks like.

Please stop using the term low maintenance.  Your sales team shouldn’t be putting out fires, they should be lighting them.  Under your clients.  ALL of your clients.  To make wise decisions that help them and their business.

Step Back To See Ahead

image

The past week of being sick has been frustrating. A desire to work, but an inability to execute.

What I have found is that by not being able to deliver on the micro, ‘now’ tasks – the macro ones get more attention.

My thinking becomes less about what I need to do today (given I can’t) and more about tomorrow and beyond.

Strategy replaces execution.

Sales is a highly dynamic professional life and one that easily sucks you in to ‘now’. The doing.  Sometimes and often at the expense of tomorrow.  The thinking.

Notes in your CRM from todays meetings seem less relevant today. Those clients who don’t have pieces of work on today are often shelved behind those that do. Looking at your business suffers in lieu of being in it.

High noise issues replace high importance ones.

Doing usurps thinking.

To be forced to not be able to execute today originally had me wracked with guilt. But what I now realise is I will be far more focused tomorrow. So, being sick has reminded me how important strategic thinking is.

Yes. Failing to plan does set you up for failure. But it can seem like you’re succeeding while it’s happening because you’re accomplishing things today.  It is only when you lift your head and see you’re not where you expected or wanted to be that you realise, unchecked, ticking off a to do list only works if that list is driven by your strategy.  No matter how many ticks you have.

To be more successful, step back to see ahead.

Must Read: Legacy by James Kerr.

James Kerr from Legacy wrote about the 15 All Black Principles – ‘The First XV’.

And what can we – as individuals, companies and teams – learn from The All Blacks.  The world’s most successful sporting outfit, undefeated in over 75% of their international matches over the last 100 years. What is the secret of their success?

Here is a diagram of these principles

d3c2a8e7b347dc7e93df08025440bd90

I would encourage you to look at his book with further information on this content if you are looking to developing team culture – particularly around the power of legacy in a team.  It is an investment in team development you won’t regret

http://www.amazon.com/Legacy-James-Kerr/dp/147210353X

 

 

 

What Do BDM’s Do?

Dan Symons recently wrote for KiteDesk’s Blog on the role a business development manager holds within the sales structure of an organisation.  From the obvious ‘hunting’ of new business, through to brand ambassadorship and internal sales capability and best practice growth within a company – a BDM can be a powerful sales force and voice within your sales team.

Read more of his article on KiteDesk’s Article What Do Business Development Managers Do?

3370498053_3a962646bb_o

Discretionary Effort: Sales Secret Sauce

effort

Recently Dan Symons commented on how ‘discretionary effort’ is often the secret behind successful sales people.  Where sales people choose to deploy the fullest of their effort when working with clients rather than ‘just enough’ – stunning sales result can, and usually do, occur.

Read more on his LinkedIn Pulse Article

Discretionary Effort – LinkedIn Pulse Article

Sales As An Art

abstract-art-516337_640

There is a leaning in selling towards ‘sales as a science’ over an art.  The main thrust behind this is science provides us with some certainty as sales people, leaders and organisations that it being an art doesn’t.

Science is about facts, objectivity, repeatable outcomes and, important systemised processes.  All these factors provide certainty – certainty that if we do step A, followed by B, C and so on – we’ll get the outcome we want.  But the reality of sales is it as much an art as it is a science and it is the artistic side of sales which often makes the compelling difference to the overall experience and outcome the client obtains.

So why is sales arguably an art?

Layers 

303892944_32f95ff922_oIf you’ve ever taken the time to watch artist’s paint, they don’t simply try to paint the end result straight on the canvas.  They often pencil in the key outlines and then go about building up the picture in layers.  Layers of colour and area.  Eventually, once all tied together, the picture becomes clear.  They lay down both the big and small elements with the same amount of care and often in strange order, but it makes startling sense once the picture is complete.

Selling is no different, we don’t walk in to the client with a solution from the outset and, in fact, the solution may not even be in our minds eye when we commence talking with our client.  We have an idea of the outcome, but paint it as we go along.  We ask deep and shallow questions to help shape the picture of our client and their situation and goals.  We undertake small and large tasks to help build credibility and value for the client.  The initial process of discovery is iterative rather than linear.   It is through the layering of the sales process, like painting, that helps us develop the end picture.  Like the painter, if we simply tried to deliver the big picture at the outset, our solution would lack depth and substance – exactly like if an artist were to do the same.

As sales leaders, it is these layers that lay the foundation to great client solutions.  Whether engaging experts, client advisers, hosting clients, doing them favours, learning about their industry (or participating in it) – all of these soft and hard sales layers help build up the bigger picture to a successful solution.

Big Picture

downloadVery few artists start without a vision of what they wish to end up with.  They may not end up with exactly what they envisioned when they started or have what they wish to end up with identified in fine detail – but they start with some idea of where they’re going.

Selling is no different – if you sell aimlessly, you end up with aimless outcomes.  Sure, you may not know exactly how you’re going to help your client – but you should know you want to and, in turn, know broadly how what you offer them could help them.  It is then a matter of filling in the finer details to shape your solution to match the specific needs of your client.   It is very hard to build up the layers of the sale if you don’t know what you’re building up to.

As a sales leader it is as important to discuss and continue to redefine the end result as it is to focus on the sales stages and minute detail of progressing the proposal.

Small Details

Jatropha_hybrid_-_Leaf_detail_(129_DAS)_(4595559479)If you watch a good artist paint, you’ll see that it isn’t the big swaths of colour that make the difference how we view the painting.  It is the smallest of details which have the biggest impact.  The reflection in an eye or definition of a line.  Take the Mona Lisa – her ‘smile’ is feature that makes this painting famous (notwithstanding the artist of course).

Sales isn’t any different – it is the top 10% that makes the largest difference to the client.  The extra mile.  Your price can be matched by your competitors and is usually long forgotten once the sale is completed.  It is your ‘eye’ as a sales person which makes the key difference to your clients experience.   It is your ability to fine tune the solution specifically to the client where real value hides.

As a sales leader, it is often attention to the small details which can trip up a successful outcome.  Not engaging with the correct people in the organisation, spelling names incorrectly, using the wrong client logo, emailing rather than hand delivering and presenting the proposal.

Many Techniques & Perspectives

Art shows us that there are many ways to paint a bowl of fruit and many interpretations as to how that bowl of fruit should look.  Painters can use brushes or palette knives, charcoal or water colour.  Paint it in abstract or realism.  They will all see the original bowl of fruit, but their finished work can vary greatly.  Which technique is right?  All of them.

Sales is no different.  So is choosing one process with limited room for your sales people to choose their own style right?  Yes, you will end up in uniformity in your sales process, but at what cost does it come?  What if your client is abstract, but your sales process is realism?  A process should be a framework, not a rule.  If the same were to occur in painting, our art gallery’s would be pretty boring.  Case in point – our clients are now often knee deep in digital, does your sales process include digital?  Should it?

Also, two people standing in front of the same piece of art can have completely different interpretation of and feelings about the art.  I could love it and you could hate it.  I could see a cow and you and field of roses.  Regardless of what the artist painted, our perception is our reality.

The same goes in reverse; as sales people our perception of our clients situation is limited by our field of reference and, as a result, so therefore is our solution.  So engaging with our peers and specialists to widen our field of reference is crucial to delivering a deeper value proposition to our clients.

As a sales leader it is important to ensure our process and techniques are matched to the client, not the sales person/leader/organisation.  So it is therefore important to ensure the process is fluid and your sales team have the autonomy to use varied techniques to help their clients.   Equally, it is often your sales person the client ‘buys’, so driving their personality out of the sales process is to be avoided at all costs.

Clients Eye

4884006357_caa1fa6826_oAs a sales person, you can’t proclaim your solution as great no more than an artist can their painting.  Like Art and the patron – the only perspective that matters is that of the client.  Many artists have died before their work has found fame.  In sales, many sales people have starved because their clients didn’t find their solutions great.

At all times, when composing sales solutions, it is your clients perspective that should be at the forefront of your mind as they are the one writing a cheque out for it.   This is the unique situation of conflict before artistic flair and compromise.  In sales, you may actually have a fantastic solution but if the client can’t see it, to their mind it isn’t fantastic and therefore valueless.

As a sales leader, it is important to ask questions like ‘what would the client think?’ through the sales process.  No perception matters in sales more than the clients.  Therefore you need to understand their perception well and, where appropriate, manage it through out  the relationship.  Too often sales people forget this.

Shelf Life

Like the above, many artists haven’t seen the success of their work as their work outlived them.

Sales is no different, often the success of your work will be realised long after you put it in place.  Costs savings or efficiency gains will be realised, and therefore valued, over time rather than immediately.  In some complex sales situations, the ROI could be measured in months or years and, sometimes, long after the sales person has moved on.

Great solutions have long legs – much like great art.  They are appreciated and valued over time.  They become memorials to the great work of the artist or sales person and they depth of understanding they had of their subject matter as experts in their field.

As a sales leader, long term sales solutions and client value is what you should be driving your team to provide.  Great businesses usually have great supplier relationships supporting them – NOT great transactions.  They trust their suppliers with key and often commercially sensitive information to ensure you deliver compelling solutions to their business.


Sure, we aren’t painting the Mona Lisa in sales but the creative side of selling is as important as the scientific side.  As sales leaders, the scientific side is easy to measure – it is often reflected in a report or leaderboard but it only show us, at best, half of the inputs that go in to the entire sales relationship with a client.

In fact, I view that the artistic side of selling is where the real value sits.  This is born true simply by the fact that if sales were purely scientific, successful results would be easy repeatable and everyone would be successful.

Next time you’re looking at your sales process as a sales leader – consider how much scope your sales team has to exercise their creative flair and how you go about encouraging and fostering this.

Don’t Hunt Trophies

19532609474_121df0dd6e_o
I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her― Ellen DeGeneres

Many of you will have watched the media & social frenzy around the US Dentist who hunted and killed Cecil.  Whilst the legalities of the hunt will be argued for a while to come – it shows that what could conceivably be legal to do, isn’t necessarily moral or socially accepted.

Hunting in general is often a polarising activity.  Once it was how we survived as a species – particularly until we learned how to farm.  In the modern era, farming has replaced hunting.  Yes, animals are still killed to provide food, but usually well away from mass population so all we see is the end result.  We rationalise it away given we need the food and, in a country such as ours, it also provides economic benefit through export value and employment.

Trophy hunting on the other hand serves very little purpose other than to satisfy the internal drivers of the hunter.  Their pride/ego.  This is seen through the pictures paraded on social media by trophy hunters, heads hung on walls and skins used as rugs.

And here we shift to sales.  Hunting is a term often used in sales.  Selfishness or self-serving along with it.  Unfortunately it is too easy to compare trophy hunters with rifles with the stereotypes many hold about sales people.  Instead of a piece of taxidermy to hang on a wall, we have commissions to put in our pocket.  We even use the term ‘trophy clients’ with alarming regularity.

Like hunters of old who provided food to allow their village to survive – hunting in sales isn’t simply about ‘winning deals’, it is about providing sustenance to your business.  What you successfully hunt is turned in to the energy on which your business runs.  It is the fuel that allows your business to survive.  Simply closing the sale doesn’t generate this energy – it is what happens post-sale that turns all the effort of the sale in to a meaningful outcome for the business.  In to energy.

How do sales people go wrong when hunting for new business and risk becoming trophy hunters?

Hunting the Wrong Target

Knowing who you’re intending to focus on in sales is the single most important step in the ‘hunting’ process.  Working to understand who your ideal future clients are allows you to better understand how to go about finding them (refer:Finding Your Ideal Client).  Fail to do this and you can spend a considerable amount of time looking for anyone and finding no one.  You can also spend a large amount of energy and time tracking a prospect only to find that they aren’t who you are looking for.  With no clear plan, it is easy to fall in the trap of hunting trophies.  Hunting those clients that look the best, biggest and brightest with no assessment of whether you could or should have them as clients.

Not understanding the Topography

Anyone who’s been hunting will understand the frustration of being ‘bluffed’ (being blocked by a sudden change in landscape – like a cliff) or, worse, being in the wrong place entirely.  Sales is the same; to hunt effectively, you need to understand where you’re hunting.  This starts with a clear understand of who they are.  Once you know this, you can work out where you are most likely to find them and therefore where you need to be.  This isn’t simply a matter of geography but also about what groups you need to be participating in, what your social media strategy needs to be and who you need to know.  There is no point walking out the front door of your office, if you don’t know where your future clients are.

Not respecting the Environment

Responsible hunters realise that in order to be successful, they need to think sustainably.  They honour quotas and respect the environment in which their animals live.  Selling isn’t any different.  It is about ‘how‘ you go about selling.

The blind pursuit of a target with a win at all costs, do whatever you need to attitude may secure you your target – but at what cost?  What bridges did you burn along the way.  The environment in sales is your ‘Integrity’ and your ‘Credibility’.  It means little what you think about yourself in sales, but rather what others think of you.  Respect that.

Trusting the Wrong People

The US dentist placed trust in those who were arranging his hunt.  It would appear he had misplaced trust in them.  In sales, trust is incredibly important, if not vital, to your success.  Blindly hunting a trophy can result in you trusting or associating with the wrong people, or hearing what you wish to hear.

How you build your network and who is in it is something to be managed carefully.  Who you have as clients, reflects on you.  Who you have in your network, reflects on you.

Leaving Value on the Table

In days of yore, hunting was about the sustenance the animal provided to the hunter and their wider community.  Trophy hunting is about a trophy – something to hang on a wall, put on social media and/or brag about.  Without understanding why you are selling, you risk simply hunting names.  Hunting trophies.  Winning deals because you can.  As a result, you often leave value on the table.  You are after the kill, not the relationship.  You want the client to say yes, not have a long relationship with them.  You, your client and your businessmiss out as a result.

Hunters of old can teach modern sales people much.  They didn’t hunt trophies because it looked good in their hut – they hunted because the meat meant life to their village.  They respected the animal because of what it provided them and their community.  They didn’t wantonly kill animals – they culled what they needed.

Hunting trophies in sales changes it to being all about the sales person, not the client.  It becomes about what the clients means to the sales person, not what difference the sales person can mean to the client.  It is important in sales that when we use the word ‘hunting’ we use it in the context of providing energy for the business and value for our clients.  Not simply ‘winning deals’.   Selling isn’t about hanging your clients on the wall…is it? 

The Goldilocks Client

goldilock_by_daniel_rocal

We’ve all had them (or have them).  Clients for who nothing is perfect.  You’re too slow to respond, the pricing is too high, your solution is full of holes, they object to every piece of advice et al.

As sales people, they are the source of many avoided phone calls or rapid succession of expletives post call.  We end up not enjoying working with them and, as a result, they don’t like working with us.  Two things happen:  a relationship of mutual detestation develops and then (or your client may jump to this point), they leave.

For many, the departure of the client is one of relief.  ‘Thank heavens they’re gone’ is the exclamation from the relationship manager.

Some of you will also have witnessed the situation where a client, who was previously perceived as a terribly difficult client by one relationship manager, is transferred to a new relationship manager and they get on like a house on fire.  A previous difficult client becomes tame and amiable.

What happened?

It is easy for the sales person or relationship manager to blame their client.  ‘They are just difficult and hard to please!’.  This is easy because it externalises the problem however, more often than not, it is better to look at yourself in this situation.  Yes, there are a handful of truly demanding clients out there – but it is rare to come across a client who doesn’t want a solution and relationship which is ‘just right’.

So, how do difficult clients get created?

Lack Of Understanding Of ‘Just Right’

As sales professionals, we spend an extraordinary amount of time in discovery to seek to understand the problems and opportunities our clients face and how we can create solutions to improve their situation.  This is selling.

Do we go through the same discover process to understand what a clients’ expectation of our service proposition is?  If a client tells us they want us to be ‘responsive’ – do we know what this looks like to them?  Or do we make assumptions based on our view of ‘responsive’.  Often a demanding client is a factor of us making assumptions as to how they wish to be served.  Wrong assumptions.

You have to have an open conversation with your clients around what is expected and offered in a sales relationship.  If your clients are judging you on the service you provide – you owe it to them and yourself to explore the criteria to which they are judging you.  What does excellent service look like to them?  Not just the terms, but what delivering it looks like.

The offer/expectation model is used extensively in employee/employer relationships and works brilliantly in sales too.  Understanding what a client expects from you (and you from them) at the outset and where this diverges from what you’re offering allows you to discuss the gap before it presents itself as a problem.  Before the client feels let down.

Be warned, you can also over-service your clients.  We always worry about under-servicing them and because of this, in certain situations we can over service them.  Service being ‘too hot’ can be just as damaging for some client relationships.  You see this with call cycle – often relationship managers will call clients on a set cycle because their business says ’90 day call cycles’ – but have we asked the client if this is what they want?

Consistency is similarly important here.  If you serviced a client well and then your service drops off – expect them to become demanding.  You set (or reset) and expectation with them.

Setting the expectations at the outset, like any good relationship, allays many future issues, but is irregularly undertaken in sales.

Lack of Spine

My favourite topic.  It is drummed in to sales people that ‘the customer is always right’.  Well, they aren’t always right.  If this was the case, they wouldn’t need you and would buy your services in an e-procurement model.  If they always knew what they needed and were correct in their decision, advice based selling wouldn’t exist.

Too many sales people create demanding clients by allowing themselves to be steamrolled through fear of offending their clients.

A demanding client exists because they have learned, from you or prior sales people, that the way to get action is through being demanding. Sales people have coached them in to this by being order takers, not advisors.

As sales people, we can’t be afraid of saying no to our clients when what they’re doing isn’t in their best interest.  Telling them that what they want, isn’t what they need.  We have to understand our clients well enough that, when we have these difficult conversations, we can substantiate why what we are proposing is in their best interests.

Free giving is a good example.  Some sales people, to avoid difficult situations, heavily shade pricing or waive conditions to smooth the path and pre-empt any objections.  They then let themselves down by not explaining to their customer what they’ve done and, importantly, why they’ve done it.  As a result, what is a highly negotiated deal for the sales person, is now normal deal for the client.  This may help you win this deal – but will often create a future demanding client when you, or the next sales person, can’t match this later.

Too often, sales people act subservient to their clients.  You are the expert in your field!  However, if you don’t lead your client, they will lead (or leave) you. If you know your client well enough – you should have the fortitude to have the difficult conversations with them when it is in their interests to do so.

Goldilocks didn’t have someone to ask her how hot she liked her soup or how firm she liked her bed – so she had to try them all.  But your clients have you.  Don’t let your service and selling be a trial and error experiment for your clients.  Understand them – especially how they like to be managed.  Suddenly, demanding clients will be a thing of the past.

Source: LinkedIn

%d bloggers like this: