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Friday, September 12, 2008

The New SalesPerson - Acumen


"New Selling" and its application to Copier Sales

I was reading a blog regarding selling and noticed some interesting information - from the post by Jonathan Farrington, The Sales Corporation:

"...various studies suggest that getting one salesperson in front of one customer now costs $1000 - this cost has trebled since 1983. As a consequence professional salespeople have to be more effective than ever to justify the investment in a face-to-face effort..."


"...Customer Focus Creates Competitive Advantage..."

  • The one-term that sets top performers apart - customer focus
  • Outstanding sales results depend on:
    - The ability to think from the customer’s point of view
    - Understanding the customer’s agenda, buying cycle, and best interests
  • Beyond a superficial reading of immediate customer needs, salespeople must gain a deeper understanding of both the buyer’s long-term goals and the overall business climate
  • At the heart of customer focus is the art of listening constructively - the best salespeople are masters at capturing information
  • Customer focus means taking the customer seriously - today the salesperson who clings to the product orientation of a decade ago is losing ground
  • As client companies branch into new markets and unfamiliar territories, they are demanding unique, flexible solutions from their vendors - customized to support specific goals
  • Another myth that can be exploded is that whilst customers value flexibility, being too flexible can undermine the sales relationship. On the whole, salespeople imagine that customers value a vendor’s responsiveness above all. However recent research shows that their primary concern is reliability.
In summary, in order to maintain customer focus, the best salespeople become facilitators, creating a partnership that extends the selling relationship within the customer’s company. The motivation to achieve this should be strong - it costs five times as much to attract and sell to a new customer as it does to an existing one!..."
I think of the changes happening right now in our industry, and how everyone has started to "talk the talk" about being a different type of technical, selling professional.

I have often mentioned the ability of successful salespeople to be Partners with clients, to constantly develop Business Acumen, and to learn to Empathize with customers.

So it is nice to read an affirmation of my thoughts - from somebody in sales, but completely outside of our industry:

  1. Partnership
  2. Business Acumen
  3. Empathy and Disconnect
Partnership -

The "Partnership" mentality is a mature set of beliefs anchored in "...To Do No Harm...".

You're are in front of the prospect to Help them - you must find where they need you and if they are willing to accept your help.

And as an example, if you are in there to "..Do No Harm.." why would you "gouge them" on pricing, why would you make them sign into a 60-month, "captive", on-sided agreement? Why would you twist your client into a solution which only addresses the surface issue of "price"?

A real Partner is never an Enabler

We don't need to watch Dr. Phil - if you are in a position comfortable enough to tell your client they are wrong, then you have the beginning of a partnership. If after you tell the client he/she is wrong, they take your advice, your partnership is built on solid ground.

Don't Enable Your Prospect to Make the Same Mistakes, over and over...

Business Acumen -

This is not product knowledge. This is not a feature and benefit argument. This is not easy. This will take time.

Business Acumen is ALL of the above and oh so much more.

In a nutshell, business acumen can be obtained through the observation and study of everything "around" your solution - That is, the study of the cause and effect of your position, proposals, and projects - over time.

This knowledge is uniquely yours.

Yours to take with you into every appointment and in every conversation.

Think about this: your view and your opinions based on the history of your "installs" and implementations and proposals - are yours alone. Not your companies, your clients, your manager, or your peers - all you.

If you have installed just ONE idea - the outcomes and ramifications of this one project, seen through your eyes, are an example for you to use in every single 'new' opportunity. And each new opportunity, not just installation, is a chance to learn more about business than from any book ever written.

Empathy and Disconnect -

These two words diametrically oppose - but the tight rope must be walked.

Empathy - Good salespeople can put themselves into their client's "shoes"; see things the way their client does. In order to do this effectively, one needs to become "one" with the prospects' business, his world, from his angle - and not through the prism of product or service. One needs to see the prospect's world without "commission" or quota issues hanging over one's head. And to do this effectively, the Selling Professional needs to become disconnected from the outcome of the sale...

Disconnect - Difficult, but not impossible. First off, what do I mean by disconnect?

Disconnect, in this sense, is the ability to cut away from your emotional connection to the success of the "sale".

More specifically, disconnection from the success of the sale, from the selling professional's view, is what I am talking about. But this is NOT being uncaring or aloof or unconcerned - a tightrope.

Perhaps disconnect is a strong word, maybe "compartmentalization" would be better.

Once the emotional factor is put aside, we can deal with the client in terms of what "makes sense" for both him and me, instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole, at the end of the month.

In conclusion, common sense usually prevails and over-complication of simple rules typically dilutes the results. If you focus on these three issues:

  1. Partnership
  2. Business Acumen
  3. Empathy & Disconnect
You will be well on your way to success.

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  1. I'm finding inspiration here but as a nearly 100% commissioned rep, I am trying to figure out how I can invoice my boss for the $1,000 I shoud be spending on each sales call. The way I see it, I am a great value!

    In all seriousness, this is a great post. The way I see it, the close died with the solution sale. Let me revise that...the "angled" close died with the solution sale. I think I've tried every geometrically possible trajectorial close technique (the "Columbo F.U.D. reverse hard angle was my fav.) before I figured out that you can close a deal with a question.

    Let me clarify: You noted that "listening consructively" is the heart of customer focus, and I agree. But lets step back and think about what we are listening to. A valued colleague of mine once metaphorically described the art of a great investigatory or introductory sales call by comparing it to the act of tuning in the rotary dial on an old radio. Its perfectly fine to locate the channel and listen for the words, but don't you want to tune it in just right so the static is gone? Much like listening to the radio, the best sales people are not only the best listeners, but they are the best posers of the best questions. Who wants to listen to static when you can get right to what you want to hear by asking the questions that evoke the information that you need to construct a solution. You can close a deal on the first call by asking the right questions and listening to valuable answers.

    As for being a partner, the tightrope becomes a vast solid bridge and emotion takes a back seat when you can identify the problem(s) and put you and your prospect in the same vehicle...and together you attack the problem(s) on the other side with confidence that its the right choice.

    I love mixed metaphors, and to boil it down...its as simple as moving to the other side of the desk, pointing out the culprit with your arm over your prospect's shoulder and saying "we can do this together".

    ...and as for the "death of the close?"... I have to ask: "Can it install this month?"

  2. docu!

    very good points!

    Right on regarding the close and the solution sale and getting on the other side of the desk and the "static" vs music -

    I mean, you're right, everybody in sales knows we should listen - but some let it end there.

    And as for mixed metaphors, good grief, I mix analogies, similes AND metaphors - and all that other stuff they taught me not to mix in those "stupid" (sarcasm, they weren't stupid then and they have been disparately missed since creating this blog) Advance Creative Writing classes from high school.

    This is a fine post...great one.

    thank you, and keep commenting..


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