Salespeople and sales teams have been inundated with strategies, process, and automated tools, particularly within the last year since the economy turned. But, if you stop and think about it, most salespeople don’t need more selling philosophy or management tools. What they need is something that will increase their value in the eyes of potential customers in order to increase their success rate.
Our focus has always been on bringing sales philosophy to the customer conversation level. The value your company offers is really a function of customer perception. I’m not suggesting that your company and products aren’t valuable! Just the opposite. Your solutions are valuable, but only to the degree that customers recognize their needs and trust your ability to provide the best solution.
If you look around your sales organization, you will notice that some salespeople are more effective than others when it comes to helping customers to identify needs, and positioning the value of your products and services. Why is that?
One could attribute this difference in capability to personality, charisma, or the salesperson’s DNA. While I agree that people sometimes have certain gifts, I disagree with the adage that you are either born a salesperson or you aren’t. I wasn’t a born salesperson, and I have transformed enough people over the years into top performers to know that I can assure you it’s not about personality, style, or charisma. This is good news, because there not much that can be done to adjust someone’s DNA to increase their performance.
Today, the difference makers in a competitive selling environment are the intangibles that get communicated over the course of the sales process. In 100% of your interactions, customers are forming impressions about the salesperson, in terms of their competence, credibility, confidence, knowledge, thought leadership, integrity, work ethic, passion, experience, and preparedness, not to mention whether or not you seem customer-focused or self-serving. These are not just training buzzwords, rather these are the girders that ultimately foundation the customer’s perception of your value.
Note that intangibles like credibility or experience are not something you can just pull out of a briefcase and hand to a potential customer. The problem is, a salesperson can’t really claim these intangibles verbally. Humility, for example, is a very attractive human quality, but imagine declaring to a customer, “I am the most humble person in the world!”
Intangibles like competence, credibility, experience, confidence, knowledge, thought leadership, integrity, work ethic, passion, preparedness, and being customer-focused must, in fact, be demonstrated as opposed to being claimed. How exactly can a salesperson demonstrate their credibility, competence, or experience in a particular industry? That’s where sales philosophy and process must be distilled down into something that can actually be applied to the customer conversation.
Last week, a colleague and fellow trainer, Steve Thompson, likened this to a similar challenge facing the telecom industry. Large telco companies have been building their bandwidth capabilities and infrastructure for decades. But, the ‘holy grail’ for these companies has always been what they call The Last Mile–connecting the capabilities of a large telecom backbone to the end user’s computer or television set.
Many sales organizations now face a similar challenge. Do you have an internal sales process? If so, I assure you that your competition does as well, and I bet their sales process looks very similar to yours. Do you have talented and experienced salespeople? So do your competitors. Has your marketing team been hard at work trying to craft a new message to give the sales team? Guess what, your competition has a marketing department, too.
The decision to buy (or not) in your next prospect account will likely to have more to do with the customer’s perception of the person representing the product or company, than the actual product itself. Even so, companies have spent the bulk of their resources and productivity efforts developing strategy, process, and tools, when your sales effectiveness, including whether you win or lose will more likely be determined by “how” those tools are implemented.
As my wife (Laura) has been telling me for years, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. She’s right! We live and compete in a rock, paper, scissors world, and “technique” wins over “process” every time.
–Thomas A. Freese
President/Author, QBS Research, Inc.