The best of all outcomes are achieved when you, as a serving professional, actually co-create insight that applies to a specific person within the client. It applies to that person and what they are working to achieve. It applies to that specific person and where they are in the client decision-making process and the progression of that process. This personalization is the most powerful connection that you will make at a client.
Think about the person you work with in a client-company. This person has specific needs and objectives that are unique to them. You have the opportunity to help them in ways that go beyond the overall business aims of their company. How can you help them do their job better? What constraints are pushing on them personally? What obstacles can you help remove? Can you help them meet deadlines? What information can you provide that impacts this person, not just this company?
This connection came to a clear understanding when calling on “Jim”, an engineer at a medical device client that we had been serving for years. Jim was a young father of 3 with his oldest son just turning 10. In this case, Jim was involved in the software creation of a new medical device that was due to market in the next few months. He had used our products and software tools to develop their end-products on many occasions. This time out the pressure to get the product to market was particularly high.
Added to the work pressure was the fact that Jim had just volunteered to coach his son’s soccer team. And that was a BIG community involvement in this case. We listened carefully to the conflicting needs for him to push to work overtime AND at the same time to coach his son’s soccer team. Our team had multiple solutions. We arranged for an outside consultant to assist in the project. We also coordinated our own technical experts locally and from the factory across the continent to help create the framework for the software and provided key sections of pre-written software code to address some of the special functions needed. We assisted further by helping with the quality assurance and compliance testing needed to get this medical device to market perfectly. On the personal side we were able to reach out internationally and connect Jim with a youth coaching expert that one of our European team members knew well.
In this case we delivered highly personalized insight and solutions that helped our client meet his corporate mandate and see through his personal commitment to his son. That’s how you work with your client to truly make a difference.
Insight is good. Personalized insight is invaluable.
For the last 30 years or so in the semiconductor industry we have sold a concept that might just have been wrong! This is a mindset shift that we can make now and that could easily have been of great positive impact had we recognized it much earlier. And this shift in thinking that I will propose could easily apply to any number of industries and market places.
As always with shifts in thinking, not everyone will understand the differences, or choose to accept them, and that is quite OK. And those that do (you) will benefit from the shift in methodology that this shift in mindset sets up.
So what is this epiphany?
In our past, we have worked to make sure our clients were fully informed and understood the TRUE Total Cost of Ownership. Total Cost of Ownership discussions required us to put negative facts on the table that the people we were working with may or may not have actually taken time to include in their analysis of the choices they had made. Most of the time, as sellers of the “preferred” solution, we detailed a specific, unrecognized, significant cost factor that raised the costs of the “other” solution when factored in.
In the case of the semiconductor industry, in the early days of the concept of “field programmability” we pitted our “flexible” solutions against the non-flexible offerings of what were called mask programmable solutions. The true cost of ownership of a mask programmable solution actually included many elements that were not normally included in the price comparison at a piece by piece level. There were up front manufacturing costs in the “other” solutions that would be thousands of dollars, there could be the scrap costs as many times these less flexible solutions needed changes to finally function. It was really an easy conversation to have.
And in actuality, it probably was NOT wrong for its time. Those were different times, and we were selling an education, not just products in these cases.
That was then, however, and the same old thinking will NOT get us where we need to go today. Talking just about cost is the same as talking just about price. We need a different perspective – a differentiated perspective if you will.
So, no more Total Cost of Ownership.
Its time to change the words, that will change the thinking, that will change the actions, and get the results we want.
So instead, we need to talk about Total Benefit of Ownership.
A minor shift in words and a huge shift in thinking, discussion, and action.
If Total Benefit of Ownership is BETTER, BEST is Total Profits Added.
You can easily imagine the 2-way conversations that you will now have with a client when you start to position your answers to their needs in terms of the benefits that can be achieved by the client when they execute on the ideas that you CO-CREATE with them.
That focus on achievement outcome from a positive perspective is only made more powerful when you, together, take the time to specifically spell out how the impact that actions taken in the directions created by you and your client will actually generate ADDED PROFIT of $$XXX. Not just revenue, but bottom line profit. Having that level of discussion and spelling it all out at that detail level demonstrates your complete commitment to the success of the client and the people you are serving.
As you do this, you can rest assured that you will be in a unique perspective with your client, as everyone else is stuck back at product features, benefits, and cost.
Time for a discussion about TOTAL BENEFIT ADDED!
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.
Building blocks are not just for kids! Sales people need them now more than ever.
Let me expand and explain.
As sales people we are told to “just go sell”. Get more face time with our clients. Understand what they need and then deliver it. Simple, right? From that single perspective yes it is. And once upon a time that worked.
In the world of the complex “solution” sell of today it is no longer effective, and it never really was what the best of the best did in any case. The very best “sellers” have always had a lot more internal knowledge and intellectual curiosity, and just plain cared more than the average bloke. And it showed.
When the CEB published The Challenger Sale they did not invent a class of person that rose to the top. Their research simply identified a selling style that firmly and totally existed already. This selling style was the best combination of attributes that marked the best producers. What the CEB team did was label things clearly and define them accurately so that we could finally figure out how to search for, find, hire, and enable more of what we wanted in our teams.
(We are finding that hiring for attitude as Mark Murphy has taught us is the most important shift in hiring that we have ever made. We now hire for traits not skills. And it is making a HUGE difference. But, let’s go back to building blocks for the moment.)
As we hire for attitude and train to teach, tailor, and take control, we also find that the new normal in the co-creation and delivery of insight with our clients requires that our team have a total and detailed understanding of all of the elements of business as the client sees it.
Now to do the job we need to have all of the chapters of the book engrained in our soul. The fundamental elements of the trade now consist of having a full grasp of:
As any good builder knows the strength and stability of every tall building is its foundation that it is formed on, its baseline building blocks. They must be solid and well-defined. So must our knowledge of our own building blocks… ALL of them. To make a real difference with our clients we have to be experts at the client engagement process.
The sales world that we thrive in today demands uniqueness, but only if we want differentiation from commoditization. And where once that was achieved by having the best products and/or services, it is now achieved by the sales professional and their approach to serving their clients. Now, more than ever our best sales pros have a complete grasp of all of the building blocks that are a part of the complex mosaic of today’s business. Building blocks are now for big kids… like me!
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. - Theodore Roosevelt
As sales people our past success over several decades has been driven by data - data in the form of what we KNEW. Our success in “selling” was once based on the information that we had in our heads, the people that we knew, the contacts that we had, and the resources that we knew how to deploy.
Unfortunately, today significant portions of what once made us winners no longer matter, and many of us still can’t get over the ways of the past.
In a recent blog, a friend and fellow sales fanatic, Dave Brock wrote about how poorly many sales people today prospect for clients. Check out his thoughts, they are great. I see the same thing today from EVERY single call and email that I get from salespeople who are wanting a piece of my time.
The message starts like this:
(We can stop right here because clearly my name was picked out of some database somewhere. The only person ever to call me by my full name was my Mother, when I was in trouble.)
“Mitchell, my name is Bob Blah and I would really like to have just 10 minutes of your time to tell you all about my blah, blah, blah. We are number one in blah, blah, blah. And today we serve 159 of the Fortune 500 companies. Our blah, blah, blah, will help you sell more and solve all of your problems.”
I actually do not pick up my office phone any longer because these calls come all day, every day. It’s sad. If just once, one of these hard working folks would call up and demonstrate that they actually cared about what was important to me, I would be delighted to call them back. But in the last decade that has never happened. Not even once.
To connect with the people in our lives, while selling or not, we have to CARE, and we have care about THEM.
Our understanding of what is important to THEM, what their challenges are, and how we can help, must come before we ever get into a discussion about our products or services or anything to do with us.
Our clients will care about what we have to say, ONLY when we clearly demonstrate that we care about them FIRST. And it must be in that order. And it must be genuine and sincere. No games, no pitches, no opening and closing strategies, no handling of objections, no manipulation, no SELLING!
Start with caring about them as people, not them as a part of a company. Do your homework about their world. Understand what you can about their issues in their company, their challenges in their industry, the risks that they face daily in innovation… And keep seeking to understand, because you care. Turn the understanding and caring around to focus on the person that you are serving.
You will find that those people that you care enough to serve well from their perspective will in fact care a great deal about what YOU have to say, in time. And from there the caring and information sharing explodes.
Your clients care because you care. You first!
Once upon a time our value as sales people was information. It actually still is, but the new reality is that to get to the point in a client relationship where your information is again valuable, you must enter into that relationship from the perspective of listening and diagnosing first, extensively, before you prescribe.
Sounds easy, but most sales people that I interact with today are still pushing their stuff on me before they have ever stopped to understand me. Too bad. Their loss, and our gain, since we know the secret… CARE about the people who you serve.