Posts Tagged b2b selling
About top performers: by definition, they are already at the ‘top of the totem pole’. They already set the benchmark, for what is acheivable through exemplary performance, in their respective organisations. They shape the belief systems about what’s acheivable. They thus have potentially far more influence than the management infrastructure who are trying to lead your company to greater success – through wisdom, carrot or stick.
(I’ll use B2B sales as an example, but I could be talking about executive officers, sports professionals, lawyers, managers, consultants, you-name-it.)
Top performers’ challenge to climbing greater heights is two fold…
- Top performers may struggle to find assistance from people, more experienced or better than they, to teach or mentor them in their sales performance. And although I can mentor salespeople, that’s not the line I usually go down, apart from maybe suggesting the odd reframe. I don’t mentor so much; I coach.
Mentoring and coaching are completely different and require, by and large, different (but not mutually exclusive) mindsets: expert/directive/intellectual and non-expert/non-directive/emotional – respectively. Top people benefit more from the latter because….
- A step change upwards in performance, for them, is not so much an intellectual challenge. It’s emotional. These people are smart. If their challenge was purely intellectual, they would have figured out what to do differently already – and be doing it. What they require, to step up, is someone to help them bypass the emotional blocks (the deepest of which they are unaware of) with which they allow to hold themselves back.
Change is a journey that’s two parts emotional to one part intellectual.
I’ve spent the best part of the last 18 years working with top performers, in global organisations, to help them express how to be 30%+ more effective. They figure the ‘what’ to do differently, to be 30%+ more effective, for themselves as part of the coaching process. What I do is equip them with the emotional framework to go do it – for that is what they require.
[That’s my guarantee, by the way. If you do the coaching, and do all the work assigned on time, you will become 30%+ more effective at whatever you are focusing on.]
Paul C Burr
Facebook: Beowulf (>15,000 followers)
(An extract from my booklet, Quick Guide VII – A Top-notch, Sales-Relationships, Account Management Template)
The matrix implies that you may have the opportunity to add value to your sales propositions. The nature of this value may be intellectual and/or emotional. Furthermore, if your customer values ‘you’ both intellectually and emotionally, you meet the basic criteria to form a partnership with your customer. If your customer neither values your intellect nor you/your-organisation as people – then your products and services are probably viewed as not much more than commodities.
Let’s look some more into each of the four quadrants in the Customer Value Orientation Matrix.
- Transactional: In this quadrant the individual client tends to place value for money upon the cost of the product and service quality they are buying and little or nothing more. In a commodity sale, given the minimum criteria of quality required, the client will make their decision typically on the lowest cost supplier. They attach neither emotional nor intellectual value on doing business with one vendor over another.
- Intellectual: Over and above product and service quality some clients will value a vendor’s intellectual property, i.e. their expertise, wisdom, data and/or whom they know.
Case Study: Intellectual Value – IT Directors’ Network
I once sold worldwide best-practice research to IT Directors as part of a private club subscription. Over and above the value of accessing millions of pounds (£UK) of research, at a small fraction of the cost, many members joined to meet their peers face-to-face. They met informally on a regular basis to discuss ‘hot topics’ of their own choice. Members would share insights into major IT management issues. If nothing more, members shared solace amongst themselves that they all struggled with the same management issues.
- Emotional: In the UK, themes such as ‘Buy British’ or ‘our Customer Support is based in the UK’ continue to carry favour with some clients.
I have sold millions of pounds (£UK) worth of contracts by asking the client if they would help me to make or overachieve my sales targets at year end. In each case, I had a very close and trusting relationship with the client. They were willing and happy to bring forward the business simply because I asked for it.
Case Study: Emotional Value – A Surprise and Wonderful Contract of Thanks
I led a sales and installation project of a huge network of Personal Computers (PCs) to facilitate a new customer service support system for a UK national corporate client. My organisation was awarded Phase 1 of a two phase project. I was told informally that Phase 2 would probably be awarded to a competitor whose product was some 40% cheaper.
The client valued my organisation’s technical know-how and I assembled a top support team to make sure that Phase 1 was commissioned on time and within budget. By the end of our contract, the customer was delighted.
I managed to persuade my management to keep the support team in place, even though our contract for Phase 1 had been fulfilled. I was determined to ensure the complete project was a success. Specifically, I did not attempt to negotiate anything in return for this ‘extra resource’ commitment.
Phase 2 got underway. About half way through and to my complete surprise, I was awarded a further £3M worth of unexpected business. The client-sponsor was “simply delighted” with my organisation’s commitment to the project overall regardless that a competitor was supposed to be supplying the hardware for Phase 2. This was the client-sponsor’s way of saying “thank you”.
- Partnership: When a client values doing business with you from both an intellectual and emotional basis, you have the potential to forge a partnership.
A business partnership is to all intensive purposes a marriage between your organisation and your client. You’ll sit together at a common ‘planning table’. Collectively you’ll form ‘one team’. You and your client’s organisation will ideally have a matching hierarchy of values.
The partnership will sustain when it is built on pillars of passion, resonance, security and creativity. The pillars are cemented in trust and as long as their bedrock is sound, pillars can crumble and be rebuilt.
I once engaged with a global apparel manufacturer to ‘measure’ the value its major retailer clients placed on the various products and services it offered. It sold prime marque products at premium prices. It was very successful but had a mismatch of values with one giant retailer in particular.
The retailer placed little or no value on the various add-on services the manufacturer provided, such as: local marketing campaigns, TV advertising, electronic tagging, in-store merchandising and so on. The retailer’s mentality was ‘stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap’; a complete contrast to prime-product retailing. The retailer was more interested in selling the manufacturer’s ‘bin-ends’ and ‘seconds’. And so a deal was eventually cut but the prospect of a partnership never came to fruition. The retailer’s view of all suppliers was totally Transactional .
For more information on forging and sustaining business relationship I refer you to two booklets from my series of Quick Guides to Business…
Good Selling & Shine on…!
Paul C Burr
Most sales training I’ve come across focuses primarily on developing a salesperson’s skills or competencies, for example: opening, qualifying, questioning, advocating, presenting, negotiating and closing. The intention is that, over time with experience, the salesperson will get better and better at demonstrating these skills. It follows logically that they’ll become more confident in their sales approach and thus hopefully more motivated.
I haven’t seen much in the way of material that focuses on engendering an ongoing sense of curiosity, for example, how can I be the best, if not better, at what I sell?
The E=MC3 equation implies that an individual’s effectiveness is three parts mental and emotional (motivation, competence and curiosity) to one part intellectual (competence).
Let’s take a first pass at each of the qualities: motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity.
Most salespeople are motivated to win, especially when the selling is relatively easy. Likewise, most are motivated by earnings and win bonuses. Some are motivated by advancing their career.
What motivates top salespeople? The answers from my research fall into three categories:
1. “To be the best I can be” or “…recognised as the best salesperson there is” – not only the best in terms of results but the best at selling too (outcomes + journey).
2. “To deliver customer value above and beyond that expected.”
3. “To create a legacy so that I am renowned for the value I bring to customers and my organisation’s business.”
In all three categories, the top performers are motivated by being (and being seen as) excellent. ‘Moderates’ talk of winning and earnings but talk less of personal excellence.
I worked with a 26 year old CEO of a recruitment firm who had a good reputation for hiring confident as opposed to arrogant people. I was asked to model how he went about the task. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “How do you differentiate between a confident person and an arrogant one?”
CEO: “Well, I’m not sure; I just get a ‘feeling’.”
Me: “Describe that ‘feeling’.”
CEO: “Well you just sort of know, don’t you? It’s something you sense….. a gut feeling.”
Me: “Okay, imagine you have an arrogant person to your left and a confident to your right. What’s the difference between them?”
CEO: “The confident person asks questions; the arrogant person doesn’t. The confident person probes for where they feel they’ll bring value to the organisation. They look to find out if they will enjoy the role. They seek opportunities for themselves to grow in the role. The arrogant person takes a position that they have the knowledge and wisdom suitable for the job and makes no effort to see how well they’ll fit in.”
Top salespeople exude confidence by the quality of questions they ask as well as the articulacy by which they convey reassurance. (For a framework with which to construct quality sales questions, refer to the INCREASETM model in Number 1 of this series of business guides, Quick Guide – How Top Salespeople Sell.)
If you stacked all the sales training and development materials in the world on top of one another, you’d probably build a mountain higher than Mount Everest. So I’ll attempt to put a different slant on competence by giving you a customer’s perspective. (For completeness, Appendix 1 lists the skills and knowledge demonstrated by top salespeople at, and away from, the customer interface.)
A corporate salesperson spends, on average, 15% of their time speaking directly to a customer. Ergo, 85% of the time, they apply their skills and knowledge to researching, developing and planning; how to be more effective during the ‘15%’ customer interface window when the occasion arises.
Top performers prepare themselves, intellectually and psychologically, to be at their peak when speaking to the customer. They develop appropriate skills and knowledge (the intellectual exchange) and they also prepare themselves to be in the right frame of mind and body (the mental and emotional exchange) with the customer.
Being perceived as ‘competent’ by the customer requires you to be:
1. Prepared: with insightful questions to ask and have answers to potential customer questions, including facts, data and logic so that your proposals are visionary, ‘grounded in reality’ and hopefully compelling
2. Clear about the outcomes: What do you want to achieve in the meeting both in terms of the task-in-hand and your relationship with the customer (e.g. engender trust). It’s also being very clear about the outcomes the customer might want to achieve, in terms of their task-in-hand and from their relationship with a supplier like you.
Illustration: 4 Outcomes to a Meeting
Most of us prepare ‘box 1’ before a meeting. Many ‘moderates’ omit boxes 2 and 3 above from their preparatory work. Most salespeople miss out box 4 altogether – often because of a lack of self-belief and sometimes unconsciously. They don’t visualise themselves in a picture working closely with the customer.
3. In the right frame of mind: If you were to prioritise the three factors: Prepared, Clear Outcomes and Frame of Mind – which order would you place them?
Exercise: Allocate three weighting percentages (that add up to 100%) against Prepared, Clear Outcomes and Frame of Mind respectively – in terms of how important they are to being successful during (not before) a meeting.
The most important thing you take into a meeting is your frame of mind.
This statement often raises a few queries. It doesn’t say that you shouldn’t prepare diligently for a meeting. What it says instead is – the moment the meeting starts, the single most important factor that will determine your success is your frame of mind. You may well feel you have to do a significant amount of preparation to get yourself ‘centred’, for example. BUT it’s not the process the meeting follows that determines success the most; it’s you, your frame of mind and the thoughts that engender that frame of mind.
Specifically, whatever thought you process in your conscious mind passes straight into your unconscious mind and merges with any ‘subconscious programmes’ running there. The aggregate information is then passed directly to your DNA which vibrates at different rates in accord with your temperament. That is:
The vibe you put out determines your success.
I coached a very successful salesperson who never felt at her best in front of a CEO customer. It took a wee while for us to discover a subconscious programme she’d developed from her authoritarian parents, created by a ‘single significant emotional event’ when she was three years old. Once she ‘released’ this programme, her faith-in-self in front of CEO’s increased significantly. Her sales soared.
Research by scientists (e.g. The Biology of Belief, by Dr Bruce Lipton and The Genie in your Genes, by Dr Matthew Dawson) demonstrates the subliminal communicative functioning power of DNA between human beings which can be harmonious (I prefer the term, ‘resonant’) or out of tune (dissonant) – and at its extreme, disruptive.
Allow me to define ‘being competent’ as not only having the capability to demonstrate requisite skills and knowledge at the customer interface, it’s also about being competent at preparing yourself to be at your peak, to achieve the gravitas (sometimes called ‘traction’) you seek.
Author’s note: gravitas is something we can all achieve; it’s a result not a gift privy to a chosen few. Only 15% or so of salespeople achieve the ‘customer gravitas’ they seek, hence this book!
Let me add, the competence that customers attribute to you will also include an element of the perceived competence of the solutions you bring to the table, i.e. an acknowledgement of the potential of your solution’s value proposition. Put another way, if the customer has little faith in what you’re selling, even though they value your personal contribution, to what degree will you be invited to participate in the decision making process?
We’ve covered two of the three ‘Cs’ in the E=MC3 equation. A salesperson not only has to be competent in following ‘top sales processes’ (and have potentially ‘competent’ solutions); they need to be confident in their ability and motivated to follow those sales processes too. And still there’s one further factor that determines how effective you are (by seeing what’s really going on), a heightened sense of…
Top salespeople are unstintingly curious. For example, they love to be coached. They are very willing to learn how to become more effective at selling.
Top performers focus on working smarter, not harder, than ‘moderates’
You might ask, “Curious about what?” Answer: “Everything!”
Top salespeople probe below the surface of what’s going on – especially when forging business relationships. Like a metaphorical iceberg, they acknowledge that you only see about 15% above the surface; the obvious facts and logic by which a customer makes a decision. But they don’t stop there, they’re proactive to find the real passions and fears which will motivate or deter key stakeholders in the decision making process.
Curiosity is the sonar signal you emit to track changes on your ‘sales radar screen’. You track political, economic, sociological, technological and organisational developments as well as your competitors’ manoeuvres. At the deepest level, you’re tuning into changes in customers’ feelings, e.g. inspiration, motivation, confidence, sense of security, anger and most of all – trust and fear.
There’s more. You also need to be proactively curious about what might happen. I return to this later.
To summarise: selling is three parts mental/emotional to one part intellectual.
E=MC3, it’s not rocket science!
Paul C Burr
I’ve released a new page in this website devoted to the Quick Guides to Business I’m writing. It will contain links to extracts that you will hopefully find interesting and helpful.
Your feedback about Quick Guides to Business or any aspect of this site would be most welcome.
Paul C Burr
My latest booklet, Quick Guide III – How to Bridge the Pillars of Successful Relationships (QG3), focuses on complex, inter- and intra- corporate, many-people-to-many-people, business relationships.
There are sound, logical, rewarding, tangible and emotional reasons for building healthy relationships. These very same reasons apply equally to personal relationships.
Here’s an extract from QG3…
Logic – less cost
Research shows that once you’ve established a customer relationship based on mutual trust and value, it takes five times the effort to build the same relationship with a new customer as it does to maintain it with your current customer.
When the cost of new prospect sales is five times that of existing satisfied customer sales, you don’t need a certificate in mathematics to appreciate the importance of satisfying, if not exceeding, the expectations of existing customers irrespective of the premium you earn from brand loyalty.
Premium – higher earnings
A reputable brand image makes selling a lot easier. I had no problem whatsoever getting to see new clients when I worked for IBM. Cold-calling for an organisation that isn’t a ‘household’ name, however, was a real ‘eye-opener’ for me after I made the switch.
The value of your reputation is the premium that customers will pay to do business with you over and above what they will pay your competitors, all else being equal, plus the cost reduction in sales your brand reputation affords you.
A simple example: ‘Household-name’, supplier A, renowned for its high quality products and services, sells a PC. ‘Relatively-unknown’ supplier, B, clones A’s PC with the exact same components, guarantees and terms of service. Intrinsically there’s no difference between PCs from either supplier. The cost of production and distribution of each product is the same.
Look at the buying/selling process from a customer perspective. All else being equal…
- What price difference will a customer pay (for the increased: reassurance, sense of status or another emotional, differential source of value they feel) for a PC from supplier A over supplier B?
- Reduction in sales cycle time and resourcing: how quicker and easier is it for a seller to convince a customer of the quality of a PC from supplier A compared with supplier B?
Brand value = [(what customers pay you) – (what customers pay for the exact same product/service from your competitors)] + (increase in productivity/cost-reduction in sales afforded by your brand)
Legacy – higher contribution
How do you want to look back on your time in sales and management at the end of your career? How do you want to be remembered? As a seller, buyer or leader: do you want to feel you’ve kept (or at least strived to keep) the agreements you made?
Maybe a business world forged with 100% truthful relationships is somewhat of a pipe dream, but as you look at the world’s economy and the ‘wars’ for limited resources right now, what choice do we have? And we have to imagine something before necessity will mother its invention – do we not?
‘You’ can either contribute to a world where wealth and power are shared through equitable negotiation – or not, truth or illusion/deception, abundance or scarcity, oneness or separateness, love or fear. ‘You’ choose! (But this is the topic contained in another book of mine, Defrag your Soul.)
Paul C Burr
Publication Date: May 6, 2013 | Series: Quick Guides to Business
Over and above exemplary sales achievements how do ‘you’ (by ‘you’ I mean: you, me, us, we) spot a top salesperson when you meet one? Top salespeople come across differently. There’s a resonance to their mannerisms. If you want to sell as well as they do, how would you go about it? If you were to ask the same questions and give the same answers as they do, would that be enough? No, because you bring your own personality and mannerisms into the equation. It requires the wisdom and will to nurture 7 key traits by which top salespeople outsell ‘moderates’.
This series of ‘Quick Guides to Business’ is borne of research, direct selling experiences and coaching in some of the world’s largest companies including: IBM, Xerox, Cisco, BP, American Express, Standard Chartered and Reckitt Benckiser.
From the Author
I chatted to two advisers about a business book that “I have inside me”. I had original research and experience inside my head. I had data. It delves into people’s effectiveness at strategic and personal levels. I’d developed simple but powerful business frameworks and a scorecard that take people’s feelings, motivations and fears into account.
They reveal what happens below the surface of successful business relationships at their outset – and what needs to happen for those relationships to thrive. I had a lot to tell but would the busy-business people, it’s aimed at, read it? So I tested my ideas and scope for ‘the book’ with two wise confidants.
The first simply said, “At last, I’ve been waiting for you to write ‘your business book’. When are you going to write it? I want a copy!”. The second: “People want ‘quick guides’ these days. They want ‘manageable chunks’ of wisdom, practical tools and ‘cheat sheets’. Something you can read in minutes and do something with straight away.”
Subsequently, I gave a series of briefings to business audiences and post-graduates. The talks were very highly received. The University of London asked me back to talk to a wider range of postgraduates in business-related studies. I am due to go back a third time.
March 2013: I set about writing a series of Quick Guides. Each would have about 10-15 (A4 size) pages of findings, tips, self-help tools and insights into specific topics.
The majority of my work focuses on what top performers do differently from ‘moderates’. I’ve started in sales and sales management, an area in which I’ve coached hundreds of individuals/teams and conducted research – across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The first two guides reveal ‘the what, how and why’ top salespeople outsell ‘moderates’. They sequence activities differently. They come across differently. They attune their approach to the most senior of clients resonantly; ‘moderates’ do not.
My next and third Quick Guide… will reveal what needs to happen for business relationships to thrive over the long term.
Summary Bullet Points
This 17-page article (A4 size, excluding appendices) bears from my research, consulting, direct selling and coaching within global corporations over a twenty year period.
Within you will discover how and why top salespeople succeed through:
- Effectiveness = motivation x confidence x competence x curiosity (or E=MC3)
- Migrating from selling at D-Level (middle management) to C-Level (senior management) involves a journey, from a tangible and known environment to one of uncertainty and the unknown
- Engaging a customer effectively and willingly, to co-explore uncertainty and the unknown, requires a salesperson to demonstrate 7 key traits, characteristics and competencies
- Top salespeople demonstrate that:
- The aforementioned 7 key traits are what really differentiate top performers from ‘moderates’, more so than behaviours in that they predict whether the salesperson will be successful selling directly to C-level clients.
- You can spot a top-performer or high-potential individual by noticing how much they demonstrate these 7 key traits.
- These key traits are nurtured not ‘trained in the classroom’; the nurturing process can be accelerated by equipping yourself with ‘non-expert’ coaching tools, such as in Appendix 2 – Prepare to Be at your Peak in Every Meeting.
Extract from Quick Guide – How Top Salespeople Sell
Picture courtesy of Electronic Payments Coalition
The higher up a corporate customer’s management hierarchy you call, the more uncertainty there is to deal with. At operational levels, you deal with business unit managers who, by and large, are all measured against the same tangible yardsticks of performance.
Once above that level you deal with leaders of change who, by definition, are looking to do things that haven’t been done before. They focus on defining and creating new realities. They are the ‘harbingers’ of tomorrow’s world.
The ‘harbingers’ delve into the unknown. Their task is becoming increasingly difficult because the unknown, aided and abetted by ever increasing changes in technology, is getting larger and darker. There’s much more data about what’s going on but can it be extrapolated with confidence into the future?
There is very little data that accurately measures what the world or business may look like in anything beyond six weeks hence.
I went to series of banking seminars in and around mid 2008. Were there ‘green shoots’ appearing in the economy? Were we in an elongated dip? Were we starting a ‘double dip’? Nobody could predict accurately. Any form of optimism was mooted very cautiously. More data was called for. More analyses were completed. Did they make any of the forecasts more believable? No. Bankers and politician’s couldn’t predict the future with any sense of accuracy. They/we still can’t.
We live with more data, more unknowns and more uncertainty than we ever have because the future happens a lot more quickly than it used to.
The more uncertainty faced, the more we need to put trust in our advisors and ourselves. But trust is not truth.
Trust is the gap between what we know and what we put our faith in.
Here lies the role for, dare I say, a ‘newish’ generation of salespeople. There was a biggish fad a few years ago to develop salespeople to become ‘trusted expert advisors’. My personal experience is that you can count on one hand the number of ‘broad-based industry experts’ in, for example, a global IT sales organisation who know as much about, say, banking as the bankers themselves. And even then you might find you have three or more of your fingers missing.
The new sales role is more than mentoring and different. The relationship with the customer still requires a huge amount of trust but the ‘new salesperson’ doesn’t need to be an industry expert. Instead, they develop the expertise to help explore uncertainty and find answers in the hidden nooks and crannies of the psyche of their customers’ organisation.
By psyche, I mean the intellectual and emotional capabilities of its leaders and workforce. These salespeople don’t have magical answers. Instead, they have magical questions that spark the customers imagination into collaboratively putting together a believable ‘image-in-ions’.
This is about making the sales/customer relationship equation: 1 + 1=3. The sum of the parts is more than each party can bring to the table on their own. But this is a relationship that transcends trust, it’s rooted in truth. There are no hidden agendas.
When you exchange truth with another wholly, you no longer need to trust them. What remains is your trust in yourself.
This is more than being an ‘honest broker’. The salesperson of the future will still bring skills and know-how of their own industry to the table. BUT, the top salesperson will be an intrepid explorer too; capable of guiding clients into the unknown and back again safely. They achieve this by knowing how to find and help release that which holds the client back, namely fear.
Only four things hold us back in life: shame, anger, sadness and fear. When you look inside these negative emotions, you discover they’re all fear. The opposite of truth is falsity. Behind all falsity lies fear.
The top salesperson earns the customer’s trust because they deal in truth, and only truth. Truth drives out falsity which ultimately releases fear. More than trust, truth forges a relationship that can connect to the ‘greater good’ for all involved.
A business world forged by relationships rooted in truth might be a pipe dream. But we have to imagine it before we can create it. As we look back over history and specifically the world economy over last few years, it begs the question, “What sustainable alternative do we have?”