The future is upon us, it is now!
Evolution of the critical role of sales in an ever evolving , global market place is a reality that we in sales must willingly embrace and be willing to change for in order to maintain our continued relevance.
I know this is easier said than done; BUT it is not impossible.
This blog is based on my learning from the Solutions Marketing course at the HULT Business School, Boston. Extensive reading and submissions of papers pertaining to the future of marketing set me thinking about the sales person of the future, keeping in step with changing marketing requirements.
The result is this ready reckon er for current sales reps to consider making changes to themselves so that they are battle ready for the foreseeable future!
According to my research….The salesperson of the future will be…
- …introverted rather than extroverted. Traditionally, most of the people drawn to a sales career have been of the “interesting extrovert” variety but, today, the “interested introverts” often do better because they tend to be curious about the customer and more willing to let the customer dominate the conversation, as opposed to the extrovert who is constantly trying to prove how interesting he or she is. Source: sales guru Tom Hopkins.
- …a collaborator rather than a communicator. With the Internet, the customer and the sales rep typically knows a great deal about each other’s firms. As a result, the selling process becomes a matter of filling out the details and coming to a deeper understanding. Rather than providing information, the seller participates in a mutual educational process between the supplier and the consumer of a product or service. Source: Bob Carr, CEO of Heartland Payment Systems.
- …a negotiator rather than a convincer. Traditionally, selling was seen as a way to change the preferences of a potential buyer so that he or she is more likely to buy. Over the past 20 years, however, this has undergone a big shift, so that sales is now seen as a negotiation skill that helps people reach agreement. Source: Max H. Bazerman, Professor, Harvard Business School.
- …an expert rather than a generalist. Because sales jobs are becoming more specialized and professional, it is easier to teach the sales process than it is to teach business knowledge. For example, companies that provide process control systems to refineries now look to hire individuals who have been refinery managers, while companies selling ER management software look to hire ER nurses. Source: Jeff Thull, CEO of Prime Resource Group
- …a professional rather than a tyro. Business schools are taking sales more seriously. Universities are definitely adding sales into the curriculum, even though in the past it was not considered theoretical enough. Sales as a profession has gained status as people, both in business and in academia, realize that sales engagements are much more complex than in the past.
These ideas are definitely turning all known sales axioms on their head because they come from some of the best thought leaders in their fields.
This is certainly serious food for thought and for assimilation at the highest priority!
This blog follows the other topics on which I have written about in the past weeks.
During the training programs that I attended and conducted over the last 18 years, I was often asked, and I myself asked of my trainers- which are the best questions to ask your clients/customers, so that the response meets your key objectives in the sales process?
By compiling elements that I learnt through class room training, numerous Rank Xerox PPS (Professional Selling Skills) programs and field sales experience I have come up with the following questions that I believe are effective , cutting across domains and verticals.
While these questions are primarily derived from my experience with B2B clients, I suspect that they will prove to be just as effective in the B2G ( Business to Government) business eco-systems. ( Let me have your views as I have no understanding of this space)
Here are the fourteen absolutely indispensable questions ( power tools) that should be in every sales rep’s bag of tricks:
- What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
- What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
- What don’t you like about your current situation?
- What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
- What can you tell me about your priorities?
- What prompted you to start this project now?
- What can you tell me about your decision-making process?
- How do you handle budget considerations?
- What other options are you looking at?
- What can you tell me about the people involved in the process?
- What obstacles are in the way of moving this forward?
- How will you be evaluating different options?
- How will the funding for the project be justified?
- How much support does this have at the executive level?
According to me –
Get the answers to these questions, and take action based on those answers, and you’ll get the sale. It’s that simple.
This is based on the KISS principle- Keep it simple and sweet!
I hope you have been enjoying these blogs dealing with how some customers play mind tricks with us sales reps!
Do take out time to read the last 3 blogs, on the same subject…
Now lets talk about this trick that customers play with us….
TRICK NUMBER 4
False Cold Feet
- Explanation: During the final negotiations, the prospect pretends to question the wisdom of the deal.
- Example: “I realized we’ve been working on this for a long time, but we’re not really sure that this is the right thing for us to do at this time.”
- Their Hidden Agenda: They’re trying to scare you into thinking you’ll lose the deal so that you’ll offer some concessions.
- Your Strategy: Determine whether there’s a real problem. If so, roll back the sales cycle; if not, push through.
- What YOU Say: “Exactly what is making you question the deal?”
- What Will Happen: If (as is likely) the objection isn’t real, the negotiation will proceed as before.
- Warning: If the objection IS real, you’ll need to step back from the negotiation process and return to an earlier stage in your sales cycle.
From my little experience, this trick is not real in majority of cases, and the way that I handled this trick was simple.
Dont react to this obvious shock to begin with- maintain and calm demeanor and immediately inform your boss of what happened.
Walk away from the final negotiation table, clearly mentioning to the customer that when ever they are ready, the negotiated terms would have to be re-visited; do inform the client that while the terms can be fast tracked since a lot has already been invested in the engagement over so many months, but a sweet deal cannot be guaranteed under the present circumstances ( postponement of the decision).
On the way out, tell them that a window of 24 hours is open for a rethink on this decision by the client and that the file would be kept “hot” until that deadline. Be polite, BUT be firm and in many cases, the client does get the message that you meant every word you said, and he will in all probability call you up in the next 24 hours.
Try it and let me know if this worked for you.
After posting the blogs related to sales over the past few weeks, I have been asked by my friends and readers – why are you openly sharing your “secrets” with the world?
My answer to this is simple- I only share my views based on experiences spread over 18 years of engagement at different levels as a sales professional. The points mentioned have real stories behind them and by mentioning these points I give nothing away. The only way to really understand these points is to know the context behind each and every point mentioned, which is only possible if you know the stiry behind that point.
Therefore in order to become a great sales trainer you also need to be a great story teller, a great explainer.
NOW being a great expainer is a skill that not only helps you train a crack team, BUT also helps you sell well to your clients, including your C-suite executives.
A speech is only so many pretty words until you drive home the message in a way that connects with the audience. That’s why you need to pay more attention to how you use explanation to describe benefits, challenges, and to set expectations.
“Explanation is a key attribute of leadership communications. Leaders know to inject their communications with verve and enthusiasm as a means of persuasion, but they also need to include an explanation for the excitement. What does it mean and why are we doing it are critical questions that every leader must answer with straightforward explanations.”
There are three ways to become an effective explainer:
- Define what it is.
- Define what it isn’t.
- Define what you want people to do.
But a great explainer doesnt just list a slew of benefits.
Too much detail can put an audience to sleep, but too few details won’t be convincing. It calls for a fine balancing act that comes only with practice.
I cite a recent example – Obama explained in an interview the importance of using taxpayer funds to assist GM and Chrysler in 2009.
“Our auto industry is the foundation for economies all across the Midwest and ultimately, for the country as a whole. And had we allowed GM or Chrysler simply to liquidate, that would have been a huge anti-stimulus on the economy as a whole, and could have dragged us even deeper into recession or even depression.”
I have been blogging about the issues that dog sales reps, marketing managers in the B2B space today and have been getting a decent response to the content.
This post is based on what my team posed to me during one of the training programs that I led during my stint as the P&L head for a business recently in Africa.
This topic was discussed for almost the full session lasting an entire day and took the most out of me!!
So i think this topic deserves mention here in some detail- so here goes.
My take on who are the key stakeholders in the B2B business eco-system, who are the key gate keepers ( yep you cant wish them away, except if you become strategic in your approach!!) and most important, the decision makers, who will finally take the call on your pitch and give you the all important contract!!
The Engineering Guru (The GEEK..eeek!!)
- Why he’s a stakeholder: Everyone trusts him to know whether something will actually work, including the solution you’re selling.
- Quote: “Dialectial interference at subwavelength frequencies is manageable… if you’ve got reticular imaging, of course!”
- Pros: Is usually willing to meet with sales folks.
- Cons: He can and will bore you to tears.
- Warning: May refer to specific Star Trek episodes during business conversations.
- How to sell to him: Show that you and your firm are technically competent. If you can’t talk major tech, bring along one of your own engineers.
The Purchasing Manager (Guy who hands you over your purchase order)
- Why he’s a stakeholder: Controls the list of approved vendors.
- Quote: “If you can convince me, you can convince anybody.”
- Pros: Once you’re on his list, you’re there forever.
- Cons: Can sometimes stop a deal permanently.
- Warning: He’s so terrified of being exposed as useless that, if left out of the loop, he may act, well, loopy.
- How to sell to him: Convince him that you would personally value his YES more than anyone else’s opinion because you know that he’s “naturally skeptical.”
The Head of Human Resources (surprise …surprise!!)
- Why she’s a stakeholder: She knows everything about everyone.
- Quote: “There are free donuts in the break room.”
- Pros: Usually doesn’t wield all that much power.
- Cons: Will stroke the gossip mill if you flub up.
- Warning: Can be surprisingly devious.
- How to sell to her: Invite her to key meetings. Ask her who else should be attending. And be the one who brings the donuts.
The Departmental Manager (Indentor..remember your friend on the shop floor)
- Why she’s a stakeholder: She’s the one who actually needs your solution.
- Quote: “We’re up to our ass in alligators here!”
- Pros: Has problems that need solving.
- Cons: Is usually too busy to listen to you.
- Warning: She may be on the edge of burn-out, in which case she’ll be taking a leave of absence.
- How to sell to her: Get the Engineering Guru to help you understand the manager’s problems, then get HIM to present YOUR solution to address HER problem.
The CEO’s Toady (Title May Vary, BUT you will get to know him pretty much earlier on in the engagement)
- Why he’s a stakeholder: He’s the spy who watches the CEO’s back.
- Quote: “He can’t see you right now, but I’ll be happy to hear you out.”
- Pros: Incredibly easy to butter up.
- Cons: Has all the CEO’s character flaws with none of his charisma.
- Warning: Will be suspicious of any attempt to cultivate a relationship with the CEO.
- How to sell to him: Since everyone at customer’s firm secrets hates him, he’ll appreciate any positive attention. Ask his advice on how to get the CEO on board.
The Chief Financial Officer (Mr. Money Bags!! the treasury keeper and has the ears of the board!!)
- Why he’s a stakeholder: Holds the purse-strings of everyone’s budget.
- Quote: “We expect to see a significant ROI within three weeks.”
- Pros: Can actually cut you a check.
- Cons: Probably won’t cut the check unless forced to do so.
- Warning: Secretly thinks that the concept of spending money to make money is “crazy talk.”
- How to sell to him: When you present to him, make it quick, and stick to the numbers. Don’t talk about solutions; talk about ROI.
The CEO’s Admin (Ace up your sleeve to keep away the other nasties!!)
- Why she’s a stakeholder: She actually runs the company.
- Quote: “I’ll bring this to his attention as soon as it’s appropriate.”
- Pros: Probably won’t attend many meetings.
- Cons: When she does, she’ll take detailed notes.
- Warning: She may be, uh…, “overly close” to the CEO.
- Care and Feeding: Always keep her in the loop. Ask her advice about how to work through the corporate bureaucracy. After all, she’s the expert
The CEO (THE BIG GUY with an ego to match!!)
- Why he’s a stakeholder: He thinks he runs the company.
- Quote: “If it doesn’t raise the stock price, I’m not interested.”
- Pros: Is surprising easy to sell to.
- Cons: Is surrounded by people who don’t want you to sell to him.
- Warning: May suffer from “CEO Disease”, a malady where the CEO’s sphincter expands to cover his entire body, causing subsequent itching that can only be assuaged by underling osculation.
- How to sell to him: Treat him like an equal. And why not? You’ve got something he needs; he’s got something you want.
I did write on the subject of negotiation by mentioning 9 rules that may be helpful to executives while negotiating complex deals…and I know for a fact that since the financial debacle of 2008, the deals have only gotten complex !!!
Here is the link to my earlier post of the subject for your reference 9 Rules for Negotiating a Complex Deal
After giving this subject much thought, I decided to share these 5 skills that I personally believe have been crucial to my successes while negotiating with my suppliers, while negotiating with my sales teams, my logistics team, my production staff, my contract labor AND my clients and trade channel partners!!
So here goes….
- Completely and honestly assess your relative position. Information is everything, and so is making sure you’ve got a completely honest and straightforward assessment of your position and your opponent’s, going in. In my view it takes guts to look your self objectively in the mirror and say to yourself that given the information that you have you may have to decide a strategy- which may often mean, retraction, or simply “holding your ground”.
- Study precedent, inside and out. Precedent means terms you and your opponent have agreed to in prior negotiations with other companies. It doesn’t matter if the terms were confidential; assume everybody knows everything. There’s virtually no defense against precedent in a negotiation. But remember, it works both ways.
- Plan for all contingencies, up front. Go in with a solid plan: Good cop, bad cop; worst case scenario; bottom line terms; under what circumstances do you walk out; which terms are negotiable and to what extent; when to hold back and when to offer a negotiating chit; the extent of your authority, etc. Anticipate all the same things from your opponent’s side.This definitely requires a 360 degree view and assessment of the negotiation process. Introspect, think , strategise and then act logically, without getting emotionally involved in the process.
- Never negotiate with yourself. Under no circumstances should you offer revised terms until your opponent has countered. Make sure they’ve responded fully on every term before you counter. Of course, feel free to try to use this in reverse, but most are savvy to it and it may hurt your credibility.
- Always seek to raise your opponent’s risk. This is especially critical in prolonged negotiations with ongoing litigation. Your actions, both at the negotiating table and in the court room, must always be designed to raise your opponent’s risk. Also, your opponent must believe you’re willing and able to go the distance. That means a big war chest and minimal exploitable vulnerability.
Your inputs and ideas are welcome….