Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In Good to Great, Jim Collins outlines the difference between companies that can sustain success from those that can’t.  However, the difference between surviving and thriving often comes down to SALES.  While a good product, marketing, and investment are all important, it is the sales team that provides the lifeblood of the company—Revenue.  As Guy Kawasaki pointed out in Rules for Revolutionaries, "The best product doesn't always win."

NEWS FLASH!  Your customers don't care about your sales process.  "Packaged Solutions” are being commoditized by the Internet, Social Media and Microsoft.  Your sales team is no longer considered the best source of information about your product. 
Social media is the consumer’s first choice for acquiring product knowledge.  No one with the budget and power to make a six or seven figure decision is going to engage a sales person to watch a Feature-Advantage- Benefit presentation on 25+ PowerPoint slides.  Sales people who do not establish a “brand” are marching down a path to their own obsolescence. 
Today’s prospect & customer wants a Sales Professional who :
1.   Understands their business (Industry and Business Acumen),
2.   Who is going to be accountable for their decisions and actions, and
3.   Who will be an Advocate for the customer when problems arise in the relationship. 
That’s right, I said when, not if, a problem arises.  Every customer who has purchased technology knows that problems will occur.  Potential clients are assessing your sales team (not your product) to determine if that is a person who will answer the phone when they call and if that is the person  that they want on the other end of the line when someone picks up. 
Establishing a brand is not easy; if it were everybody would be doing it.  However, those who do will make far fewer cold calls than those who don’t and will be able to guarantee that their six figure salaries are justified in 2011 and beyond.  Establish a brand includes:
1.   Business Acumen – Understanding the client’s business, including their industry and their job specific challenges.  This includes financial, business and competitive acumen.  It’s not enough to know what they do, you have to know how their competitors do it and if they do it better or worse.  My friend Adam Shapiro who is with “Customer Centric Selling” says that he is shocked by how often sales people don’t even know what their customers do.
2.   Accountability – Don’t wait for the customer to give you a failing grade.  Proactively put mechanisms in place to measure how the customer will measure your performance.
3.   Customer Advocacy – Some call this a “can do attitude”.  When a customer has a problem or a need, it doesn’t mean that you have to give it to them for free.  It does means you have to solve the problem whether the solution comes from your company or a third party entity.   Otherwise, your competitor will solve the problem for them and erode or eradicate your presence & value.
4.   Empathetic Listening – I always say that the very best sales people draw pictures with their words.  They accomplish that by truly understanding what the customer is thinking and saying.  It isn’t enough to ask follow up questions or repeat what you have heard, you need the ability to understand how the customer feels and what would relieve their very real pain. 
5.   Executive Presence – Great Sales People are the type of person that an executive wants to hear from and isn’t embarrassed to take into a meeting with peers or customers.  It is absolutely necessary to “sound” like an Executive.  Next time you are in a meeting with an Executive or watching one on TV, listen to how they speak and think.  They have a presence that says “I’m important”.  They don’t speak quickly, use slang or unknown acronyms.
6.   Social Media – Once you have developed the skills and the vocabulary, you will need to create a presence on social media.  It is imperative that your communication skills and mindset are appropriate before executing this strategy.  While not everyone can write an entertaining blog, respond intelligently to a LinkedIn Discussion only requires a little time.  I usually write my answers in word so that I can print them, read them and spell check them before publishing.  Anyone can Tweet about articles and blogs by other subject matter experts so that customers can have quick and easy access to a host of resources.  For example:  “@CEO – I thought you’d love to see what your competitor did today (insert link),” or “@CFO loved your picture on the cover of Money Magazine last month (insert link)”.  It is imperative that your presence on Social Media reflect positively about you and everything counts – attitude, knowledge, punctuation and vocabulary.
Forget about “product” training – the product you need to sell is YOU.  Today’s Top Performing sales person will be a hybrid of sales and marketing expertise and they will be selling and marketing themselves.  The bad news is that the job just got much harder.  The good news is that the customers will follow the sales person and the company and its products will become the commodity. 

No comments:

Post a Comment