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A Few Questions And Answers From The Singapore Business Press
1/ You have been involved in the art of sales and leadership for more than three decades. What has changed, and what has not?
Selling is about relationships. Successful selling is about sustained relationships. In the past many salespeople as well as sales management were only concerned about the sale or the transaction without regard to the “lifetime value ” of the client.
Successful sales professionals, sales managers and leaders are finally coming around to the simple facts that;
-People buy when they are ready to buy not when the salesperson needs to sell.
-People say they are concerned about low price but in reality they want their problems solved with a reasonable investment.
-Pre-programmed presentations that are organization, product or service driven are no longer effective.
-People today have dozens if not hundreds of choices and options to have their needs and desires satisfied.
-When you earn the business on price you will eventually lose the business on price.
-The cost of poor sales performance is significant in a number of direct and indirect ways.
-People buy from people they trust not people they like. If they like you but don’t trust you – no sale.
-If salespeople and managers are not getting better every year with education and
learning that there is no way they will be able to continue to increase sales and profits in a competitive world.
Selling is about people and unfortunately technology, if used as a crutch rather than a tool, will gradually erode personal relationships. Too many salespeople and managers are depending far too much on technology. We are losing the human touch and effective selling is about keeping the human touch.
2/ What are the common mistakes that sales leaders make nowadays? How should they be rectified?
There are only three ways to manage and lead better. Do more right. Do less wrong. Or, do both. In my book 81 Challenges Smart Managers Face I cover a variety of contemporary as well as on-going issues or mistakes managers make to help them do more right and less wrong. In the essence of space I would put these in a few separate categories. Here are some of the common issues summarized with 12 management premises.
1. When you have an issue, problem, failure, dysfunction or whatever – any – where in the organization – look up the ladder for the cause and down the ladder for the solution not the reverse. The reality of the corporate culture, competition and marketplace are clearer to the people who are closest to the issues. Their actions and attitudes are driven by the decisions, behaviors and actions of the senior people in the organization.
2. Everything that happens in an organization is the direct or indirect result of that organization’s culture, philosophy and core beliefs. These are created top-down and acted upon bottom-up.
3.You get the behavior you reward. If you don’t like the behavior you are getting from an employee or group of employees look first at the reward system that is in place not the behavior itself. The behaviors are caused by the reward systems that are in place.
4. Effective management is not about the latest fad or philosophy. It is about a fundament trust and respect for people and treating them accordingly. If people don’t feel validated and worthwhile they will not perform tasks, roles and responsibilities in an effective and productive way.
5. Growing a business is not hard and it should be fun for everyone. If people do not enjoy their work, sooner or later their behaviors and attitudes will touch your customers in negative ways.
6. Integrity and ethics must be the foundation for all of your decisions, behaviors and actions. No exceptions. No sacred cows. No inconsistencies that are justified in the name of growth or profits.
7. If you want effective and productive employees you must see employee development as an investment and not a cost. Failure to routinely invest in employees skills, attitudes and beliefs will take a significant toll on competitive position, market share and profits. The key is to create a self-coaching environment.
8. What employees want to be motivated and performance driven
is appreciation, recognition, validation and to feel important and to
feel like they belong. Every employee asks themselves every day, “do I belong or fit in here?” If they get a yes, they will stay and be productive. If they get a no, their resume will be on the street.
9. The job of management is not to motivate employees but to create a positive motivational climate where employees take responsibility for their own motivation and performance. That’s why it’s called self-motivation. Everyone is motivated by something the key is to show the employee how that can get what they want in life by helping the organization get what it wants.
10. You are responsible to your employees and not for them. Poor managers indirectly tend to take the responsibility for their employees
poor behaviors and outcomes.
11. When you hire under pressure you will always hire beneath your standards and sooner or later these bad hires will cost you in significant ways.
12. Leadership is not a position, right or title. It is earned and it is the responsibility of everyone in an organization to demonstrate leadership attitudes. The job of managers is to lead people and manage things. Unfortunately many managers confuse these responsibilities. If you are not leading people but managing them I will guarantee that you will have recurring have employee performance issues and challenges that take your eye off of the goal or target. Leaders decide what to do and why. Managers figure out how to do it, when to do it and where to do it.
3/ What are the key ingredients needed to win a deal? What are the key traits of a successful sales leader?
Poor salespeople are on the defensive today. They are reducing prices, giving away extras, allowing prospects to erode margins and generally losing control of the sales process. On the other hand professional salespeople are on the offensive. They are selling value not price, customer benefits not product features and they are creating positive long term relationships by honoring their commitments, providing incredible service and helping their customers reduce their costs while not sacrificing value.
I have observed thousands of salespeople during my sales training career. I have found that there are twelve ways in which these pro’s are taking quantum leaps ahead of their competition. (Here they are in no particular order.)
They have passion.
They are more passionate about their opportunity to be of service, to learn, to improve their status and lifestyle. They are more passionate about their organization’s products and services. They are passionate about developing their sales and human relationship skills. They are more passionate about life. They are passionate about solving their clients problems and about learning everything they can about their customer’s business.
They go the extra mile.
In an age where organizations are putting a great deal on salespeople’s plates to do: sell, market, service, administer, promote, solve problems and so on, it is no wonder that poor salespeople have less time to sell and learn. Successful salespeople promise a lot and deliver more. Going the extra mile, means doing more for a customer than they expect, demand or pay for. It is doing all the little extras that communicate they care and that their clients business is important to them. This philosophy helps them build solid relationships that are not impervious to competition but, are certainly resistant to the constant onslaught of poor salespeople selling lower price and empty promises.
They are a resource.
Poor salespeople sell products, services, features, benefits, what’s available, the solutions to problems, price and any number of other specific or general commodities. The pro’s that put distance between them and their nearest competitors, sell themselves as a resource for their clients. Being a resource, they are asked for their advise, counsel, opinions on a number of related or unrelated issues. They bring creative ideas and information to their customers with regularity.
They invest in themselves.
The pro’s that are out-distancing their nearest competitors, are doing it with improved skills, greater understanding, increased awareness and the integration of this information into their daily selling activity. What I am referring to here is the consistent pursuit of knowledge that will allow them to continue to compete and win in the marketplace of tomorrow. It takes time, money and commitment to devote yourself to a path of self-improvement. But these pro’s know that the payoff will far exceed the cost.
They love what they are doing.
People who live with inner acceptance, peace and harmony live life spontaneously. They spend their time in the now moments of their life. With this philosophy, they enjoy and live life to the fullest. In other words, they have fun. They are fun to be with. They don’t take life or themselves too seriously. They know that business is only a game. They win some and lose some, but in the losing there is growth and in the winning there is new opportunity. Their definition of winning is beating their own personal best, not beating other people.
They cultivate support.
Successful salespeople know that they can’t always get the answers their customers need, or solve their clients problems without the support of other people, both inside and outside their organization. They are the customers ambassador inside their organizations. They build bridges of support with customer service reps, executives and anyone needed to help serve their customer in a satisfactory way. They are firm and unyielding, yet friendly and compassionate when dealing with other people. They build bridges of understanding and willingness.
They believe in themselves, their mission, their organization, their products and services, their management and the free marketplace that permits them to help others while they help themselves. Their self-belief is a fiber that is woven into everything they do. They have high expectations of themselves, their organization’s ability to perform and their clients willingness to give them business. They build strong relationships that, even though they may be tested from time to time, can withstand the mis-communications and errors that will inevitably be made.
They are focused.
They know that it is critical to maintain focus. Every day, every activity, every sales call and every working moment they are aiming at a specific target. They believe that in order to be effective they must do one thing at a time. They will have multiple projects going on simultaneously, but they are only working on one moment by moment. They know the tremendous power of singleness of purpose.
They are everywhere.
Exposure in today’s world is critical for success. These salespeople know that their customers are their competitors best prospects. They network, they collect business cards, they attend meetings and seminars looking for new contacts that will contribute to their career. They appear to be everywhere. They don’t waste their time in useless ways but they target their exposure. They insure that each exposure keeps them on the right track. They are not looking to just add names to their database but to collect relationships that can aid their career.
They study their client’s business.
They are walking encyclopedias of information about their customers. They know their objectives, histories, goals, problems, frustrations, expectations, style of doing business, needs, dreams and their people. They are perceived by their customer’s employees as one of them, not an adversary. They are on the lookout for methods, tools, ideas and information that they can bring to their clients to help them improve performance, success, income, market penetration, positive growth and longevity.
They study their competitors.
They are not surprised when they don’t get business. They know the weaknesses as well as the strengths of their competition. They know their competitor’s philosophy, people, attitudes and vulnerabilities They freely recommend another firm, if they believe it is in the best long-term interests of their prospect to do business with them. They know that when the prospect does business with a competitor they have recommended, they may have lost a sale, but they have not lost a potential client. And they understand the difference. They are playing the long game.
They keep in touch.
Out of sight, out of mind. Successful salespeople who put distance between themselves and their less successful counterparts, know the value of staying in touch with their clients. They do this in a variety of ways. By informing them regularly about new organizational policies or procedures, new products or services, success stories, market conditions in other industries that might impact on their customers and any number of bits of information that is of potential value to them. They do this with newsletters, faxes, letters, emails, telephone calls, meetings and special forums. They do not waste their clients time with useless approaches like, “I was in the area so I thought I would drop by and try and sell you something”.
4/ Over here in this part of the world, (ie, Asia, Southeast Asia), are there any unique limitations that sales people should look out for? What might be some of the distinctively “short cuts” that can be used in this part of the world to wrap up a deal?
Everywhere in the world I speak (21 countries to date) I hear the same thing over and over again. I also here it in the same country. People in the southern part of the United States will tell me that “you know, people here in Alabama buy for different reasons and with different styles than people in Boston, Chicago or California. Let me tell you, that I don’t care where in the world you sell, if you believe that your product is a commodity then you better prepare yourself to fight down in the ditches for pennies cause that’s what everyone else is doing.
I believe that every culture and country has it’s unique style, nuances, challenges etc however when it comes down to buying – people buy what they want or convince themselves they need no matter the language or part of the world.
People throughout the world in general want to avoid pain, tension, stress, frustration and problems and want peace, happiness, freedom, control and prosperity.
You see, to me it’s not wrapping up a deal that matters but wrapping up a relationship. It’s easier, less time consuming, less costly and more fun to do more business with present customers than continually looking for new business. Yes, you have to have a constant stream of new customers but let me ask you, wouldn’t you really rather have people buy from you than you having to continually to sell to them?
5/ The customer gives you 30 seconds to wrap up your sales pitch. What should be said?
Actually I wouldn’t say anything but I would ask a couple of probing questions. Let me explain. I would ask a few urgency building elevator questions.
What are elevator questions? Let me ask you a question: If you were told by a prospect that you had sixty seconds to sell him, what would you do? Would you condense your sales message into a one-minute presentation or talk about your organization and its strengths and history?
Would you ask a few thought-provoking questions or sit or stand there dumbfounded, wondering what to do or what to say?
I recently met an individual on an elevator. He looked like he was a business person, so I asked him, “What do you do for a living?” He responded, “I am in the insurance industry.” My follow-up question was, “What do you do in the insurance business?” He said he was the president. (Keep in mind, I don’t have a lot of time here; we are on an elevator.)
My follow-up question was, “Are you aware of what your lost sales are costing you every year?”
He responded with, “What do you do for a living?”
I said, “I am in the lost sale prevention business.” (elevator statement)
Needless to say, we continued the discussion in the lobby of the hotel and we left that initial meeting with an exchange of business cards and a commitment to discuss his challenges and my services later in the week by phone.
An elevator question is any question that cuts to the heart of your prospect’s challenges, concerns, or fears and makes him think. It also implies that you or your organization may have a solution for his problems.
Elevator questions are designed to encourage more dialogue between you and your prospect. At this point, you are not selling, you are probing. Remember, there is a time to sell and there is a time to prospect. While on an elevator is not the time to sell. However, based on the other person’s response and emotional reaction to your question, you will begin to determine whether this prospect is worth more of your time, energy, and resources.
I am constantly amazed at salespeople who jump too quickly from the probing and qualifying phase of the sales process to the presentation phase. And then they wonder why they are not closing more sales.
In the profession of medicine, we call a diagnosis without proper information malpractice. In selling, you may not get sued, but you will certainly blow another sale.
If you can master the skill of elevator questions, you will be astonished at the results you will achieve with them. Remember that elevator questions are not used only on elevators. They can be used at social settings, while selling on the telephone, or at any point during the sales process.
6/ There are numerous sales consultants and gurus out there in the same circuit, what is your greatest selling point?
Unfortunately many of the sales consultants and gurus throughout the world are still dealing in ideas, approaches and tactics that went out of style years ago. Most do not blend contemporary studies in human behavior and psychology with the skill requirements for success in selling. Why are these people stuck in teaching these outmoded old fashioned approaches? Well it takes study, time, effort and desire to learn and master the ability to teach new ideas and concepts that impact success. If you are not re-inventing yourself every day you are falling behind the curve of what works in contemporary society.
Let me give you a quick illustration.
Teach a salesperson a new closing strategy that is guaranteed to increase their sales and if they are insecure, lack confidence, don’t have clear goals or have low self-acceptance I will show you a salesperson who won’t ever use this closing skill.
One of the critical factors in successful selling is a person’s self-esteem. If a salesperson has low self-esteem they will tend to shy away from calling on important buyers, avoid difficult probing questions, quickly lower price and seldom will ask for the business. I challenge you to find a worthwhile discussion of self-esteem in most of today’s sales training programs.
I believe that how we sell depends a great deal on who we are, what we believe and our life philosophy. If this understanding is not clearly etched on our behaviors we will eventually either fail, quit when it gets a little rough or just waddle along for years in mediocrity.
My approach for over 35 years has been to blend the critical factors for overall life success into all of my training programs.
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