Irregular and irreverent rants and ravings from a SALES FANATIC.
We have learned over years of working around the world in every country where commerce exists that the meaning of words often times have huge variations. What I think I am saying can sometimes most certainly NOT be what my listener hears. And this does not even have to be an issue of local language versus English. Native English speakers can be just as confusing to each other depending on where they are from.
A good friend, Tom Freese, the author of Question Based Selling taught our leadership team that, “If it is worth saying, it is worth explaining”.
In my last blog I stated that we have to start with a shift in mindset before we can shift methodologies. This is key to any changes that you want to actually make a part of the culture of an organization, or that you want to make as a human being, for that matter.
My starting premise for shifting the mindset of the sales professional is reframing how they see themselves and developing a clear understanding of why they “sell”. The premise that sticks is an emotional one, not a logical one. We are first, emotional beings, and those embodiments are the most powerful of motivators.
So once again, my view of how to reframe the sales professional’s thinking about why we sell is the mindset shift that says this:
Our objective is to make a difference with the people who we serve.
Here is where Tom Freese comes in. Every word in that phrase is there for a reason, is very specific in nature and communicates something powerful about how and why we do what we do. Let me explain.
‘To make’ is a very strong verb. Action oriented and planned, created and intentional. It is not an accident or a passive thing. It is doable and seeable, and we guide it.
The difference is defined by the other person you are working with; it is something unique and unusual. This difference has a major impact on them and those that THEY serve. It is not something that anyone else will or can likely do, primarily because it was created together with YOU and that will hold a bond that will not be violated.
(Allow me to interject a practical point here. We are working with clients and our end objective is to serve them the way we know best. This always means that our best service is delivered by serving our client with our best products or services. There is always a pragmatic side to our serving. And that’s OK! It keeps us whole and well and able to serve others even more.)
Now, back to the phrase…
‘With’ is a huge little word here. This means that the creation and delivery of our “difference” is not done on our own and then served up for analysis. It is conceived, developed, finalized and delivered WITH the person that you are working with. With them, on things that matter to them. This is not done FOR them; it is done WITH them, from beginning to end, and beyond.
We are working with people, not companies, and not even clients, really. We are working with people and all of their challenges, both professional and personal. This is as much about personal wins for them as it is for helping their jobs and their company in any of the BIG3 types of help provided (help their company grow revenue, help their company reduce overall costs, or help their company manage risks). However, this is not about relationships as much as it is about understanding. This means we do lots of diagnosis and exploration, long before we ever get to the prescription side.
To serve is an interesting and unique perspective. Here I mean a combination of things as defined in many dictionaries. Serve – to do a job or perform duties for a person or organization, to help achieve something, to provide a person with something useful, helping a client choose what they need. I prefer the servant leadership perspective that Robert Greenleaf has in his book, The Servant as Leader, where he states that to serve is “to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being met.”
So there we have it - a simple yet compelling and powerful reframe of thinking for starting the mindset shift for the sales professional: to make a difference with the people who we serve.
This is just the starting point. Following the mindset shift comes the methodology shift and that will take us into the world of Prescriptive Execution. It is not enough to shift the mind; we must also shift ourselves into another gear of execution to make a difference. This takes process, skills, planning and a LOT of work. This takes the work of Challenger, the conversations like Question Based Selling, and a whole lot of COACHING.
More on that soon…
In the beginning there were people who made stuff and people who needed stuff. Then there were the peddlers of stuff who helped the makers and the buyers find each other. The peddlers of stuff were very successful for hundreds of years, because both the makers and the buyers needed them. Stuff was bought and sold and everyone was okay. Then things changed.
Today’s business landscape is rapidly and radically changing and people and organizations are struggling to keep up. Product information was once the golden nugget that every salesperson owned and shared only with those people who they chose to enlighten. The salespeople were once the Kings and Queens of data and information and they reigned supreme. The true product that the salesperson offered up was the information that the client could not easily find. That was then.
Consider this: between the beginning of time and 2003, 5 exabytes of data were created. In 2013, 5 exabytes of data were created each day. In 2014, 90% of the total data and information in the world had been created in the last 2 years. And the prognosis is that the amount of data and information in the world will double every year shortly, and then every 6 months, and on and on. This commoditization of data and information has totally changed the value that a salesperson must deliver today. This rapid change in the creation of information is closely tied to the shifting trends in the nature of work and business. Some futurists estimate that close to 50% of jobs will be extinct in 20 years.
The jobs on the endangered list are not just the obvious ones like travel agents and the milkman. Accountants, air traffic controllers, utility engineers and teachers are all at risk – and so is the sales professional.
The sales professional is on the verge of extinction. Up until now the salesperson was the keeper and deliverer of information, but now they are not really needed for that anymore.
So what do they do?
The good news is that there are clear and valuable answers to that question. In recent months and years there have been a number of sales methodologies presented to bring relevance to the field of selling. The Challenger Sale is the best of those in my opinion. The basic tenets of Teach, Tailor, and Take Control only come from an in-depth understanding of the true value of insight and how best to create and deliver it. Done poorly it is just another substitute for commoditized information. And even in the domain of insight there are key differences that you can make. We will explore those as well as many elements in this journey.
The key difference in the work that Hendre Coetzee and I have done over the last several years shows us that methodology shifts are not sufficient. To stay relevant and avoid obsolescence you will need to make a mindset shift FIRST. Only from there can you properly attack making a shift in what you DO. The specific actions needed to make the shift will be detailed in the book and in the works from Hendre and myself.
Shifting mindset AND methodology is required for completely reversing the erosion of the sales professional’s relevance in a highly commoditized world.
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.
As I find myself studying Edwards Deming more these days, I realize there is an amazing amount of fundamental business wisdom in much of his thinking and many of his quotes. This past week I was reminded of the vital nature of one of his most challenging quotes ever: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
I have had numerous discussions about dinosaurs and the desire to not become one. That focus is more critical than ever today, growing daily. Change is what defines us, change is what makes us different today and what will build our future.
I was fortunate to spend a few days with 90 of my peers in the sales world at the recent CEB Chief Sales Officer meeting. I found myself in company of an amazing group of sales leaders from the world’s leading companies. A few of these companies are Staples, FedEx, Penske, Analog Devices, Wells Fargo, John Hancock, Dow, Kemper, Airgas, Siemens Building Technologies, Vision, Jacobs Eng, Interstate Batteries, Georgia Pacific, Intelsat Daimler Trucks, Fluke, Cargill, National Instruments, Bose, Kaiser Permanente, Rockwell, Avery, Smucker, Medline, Honeywell, Herman Miller, Gates, NetJets, Kroll, Avis, Brocade, Fidelity, Gannett, Frost Bank, Comcast and a bunch of others!
These companies represented hundreds of billions of dollars of combined revenues. They come from every industry, from technology to healthcare, banking, oil and gas, materials, building, investment, pharmaceuticals, legal, foods, automotive, and a favorite of mine, J.M. Smucker (they make the best jams and jellies). These companies sell cardboards, advice, gas, pills, jams, oil, batteries, recovery, prevention, million dollar pieces of equipment and products that sell for less than a dollar, like us.
The common denominator that we all shared was that we all came from backgrounds where we sold product features and benefits with a vengeance. We all offered ‘solutions’ that we just knew were exactly what the customers needed. Why? Because that’s what our customers wanted in the past.
The challenge we face today: Our customers no longer want what they did once upon a time.
Most of the folks in attendance were still struggling to really grasp what they needed to do DIFFERENTLY. They had heard, they had read, they even believed, they were just too tied to the past to ACT. They were on a dinosaur path, they knew it and they were very uncertain. Enlightenment is just starting to take hold. It is moving quickly in the ranks of those folks that have the vision to move forward.
Only a handful of companies in the group had reformed their ‘funnel’, or pipeline, into a client perspective of how they make decisions, rather than the old view of what the salesperson needs to do. We made that shift MANY years ago and it has been a key part of our thinking ever since. Mark Sellers of Breakthrough Selling guided us in that critical stage. Helping our clients make better decisions is our focus and it remains the best place to exist.
If you decide that survival is preferable, that relevance is better than turning into a fossil, then change is necessary. Our journey continues to grow and evolve, and it has required shifting both mindset AND methodology.