It seems that the wave of the sales revolution is picking up steam. Just now we are seeing many “sales experts” announce that the role of the salesperson is gone. The internet has won and people in selling can be replaced by specialized recognition systems driven by big data manipulation running on machines.
First of all, where the heck have they been? The commoditization of information via the internet is not new - it is just moving at a non linear rate that is staggering and catching everyone’s attention. As of April of 2015 (ancient times in the data world) the stats are crazy. Ninety percent of the world’s existing data has been created in the last 2 years. Every day we create enough NEW data to fill 10,000,000 blu-ray discs (remember those?), which when stacked would measure the height of 4 Eiffel Towers on top of one another. EVERY DAY… a year ago. (No newer validated data that I can find.)
Secondly, those same pundits who forecast the demise of the salesperson are both right and wrong. They are right - if the sales professional questioning their existence does not make a huge mind set shift and follow that up with an equally huge methodology shift. So that opens up the door to the fact that they can be wrong, and the outcome is actually in the hands of the individual sales professional themselves.
My premise, along with a good friend and colleague, Hendre Coetzee, is that this massive amount of information that overloads people is actually a catalyst for the need for even better professionals in selling, helping clients understand good from bad data, make better decisions, and make them faster than ever before. Today’s very best sales pro is the master of understanding and simplification. Understanding how to help their clients make the world a better place, and simplifying the client decision-making process. While these both seem very holistic, they are actually very practical motivations and outcomes.
Preparation is the key to it all. No longer can the sales pro strap on their product selector guide and hit the street and do any real work. Now we must start with a serious focus on understanding each client, and the role of specific people in that client, and figuring out how to help them better view the myriad of product and solution options that are in front of them.
We need to understand, at a high level, the industry that they are in and many of the fundamental challenges that exist in that industry. It takes more preparation time than ever before to be able to help our clients make a real difference, because we must first determine what that will look like. When we get into this level of conversation the first push back we hear is that “we can’t be expected to know our client’s business better than they do”. While even that is arguable, the primary response to that is that we CAN be expected to know what impact our products and solutions will have on their business better than they can.
And to do this well we have to make a shift away from OUR view of the world and shift it into a view of THEIR world…then merge the two.
Hendre and I are writing a book in which we guide the mindset shift as well as explore some of the methodology and skillset shift that is required to remain relevant and successful in selling in today’s business climate. We are excited to show you how you can become a depended-upon resource for client specific solutions of any kind. Despite what many say, the sales professional indeed has an important and necessary role to play today. But it requires core shifts in mindset and skillset – stay tuned!
In the meantime, my good friend and colleague Dave Brock has just released the Sales Manager Survival Guide. The book has already reached number one in Amazon Kindle hot new books in sales and marketing.
Please. Stop giving presentations.
Now, let me expand and explain. One of the very worst tools to ever be used by a sales person is PowerPoint. Not that it is bad on its own, just that we all use it as a crutch. We have all misused the true power of the tool because it is what we have seen everyone else do: stand in front of a client and roll through 30+ slides that tell them about what we do. Boring, and not in the least effective. And yet we still continue to do it. We have all said the phrase “please stop me and ask questions” during one of our mind-numbing presentations. And the clients almost never do. It is just the way it is… or WAS.
My challenge for you for the next 2 weeks: give NO presentations.
Instead, have good two-way conversations.
Keep PowerPoint in hiding and the laptops closed. Go old world, take out a piece of paper and take a FEW notes. Prepare for and hold very interactive conversations with your clients. Have conversations with your clients that matter to them. Conversations that matter are 75% listening and 25% asking questions. Good questions contain the information that you want to communicate. For example: “Bill (client) I understand that one of your suppliers has just announced another round of EOL (End of Life) devices. Will that be impacting you this time?” You are delivering a message AND asking a question. Conversations like this take planning on your part and a deep understanding of the client.
Here is another way you can do the same thing (this data is actual survey data from our clients). You are talking to an engineering manager in your client. It may be a first conversation or just another in the long line of visits. “Bill, at Microchip we have over 100,000 clients world wide. In a study that we have just completed with our global client base we uncovered some surprising data. More than 30% of our clients are spending more than 30% of their engineering resources on fixing problems like EOL that semiconductor suppliers have caused. And the average redesign cost was in excess of $150,000. That’s a staggering amount of money and time wasted. At Microchip we don’t cause that, and I’m wondering what your experience is in this situation.”
Now, let’s set the stage further: You are having this conversation, and as you start, you stand up and approach a white board, or you open your notepad to a blank piece of paper, and you write EOL in big letters on the top. You start the conversation above and make 3 notes:
Then you write MCHP and put a big ZERO beside it as you close the comment. Then you hand them the marker or the pen and ask them what their experience is.
Now this is just one conversation that you can pretty well use universally. This is a good example to show the planning that must go into having a good two-way conversation. Your Plan/Do/Review commitment is absolute if you wish to have conversations with clients that matter to them and to you.
So, step away from the Powerpoint. Step away now. Plan your next call, prep the conversation, simulate the conversation with a friend, and take the time to really care about your client and what their focus is. Even if a client expects a “corporate overview” from you, do it without Powerpoint.
Make it a conversation, not a presentation. Make it different and you will stand out from the crowd. You know the material you need to cover. All you need to know is what matters to them. All you have to do is ASK. You will be surprised what the ensuing conversation will become.
Again, the challenge: NO presentations for 2 weeks.
It’s shifting mindset AND methodology! Let me know what happens.