Posts Tagged sales
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
Extract from How to Sell Coaching.
Coaching is not mentoring. Coaching is not consulting. Coaching is not training. Coaching is not therapy – but it’s probably more akin to therapy, and the term ‘therapy’ is still struggling to find a foothold in corporate cultures where problems are seen as weaknesses.
Coaching is about helping people to make breakthroughs to improve their business or personal performance. The ‘coachees’ might already be at the top of the ‘performance tree’, they may be struggling, or (like most people) somewhere in between.
My value proposition is hopefully clear and simple. “I will help people improve their performance by 30% or more in a matter of weeks, and in some cases, days.”
My definition of coaching, addresses the issues that inhibits clients from making breakthroughs. These issues are almost always emotional issues and not intellectual issues.
Case Study: Me and My Comfort Zones
In my early years in sales, by and large, I got on very well with clients’ operations managers. When I met or presented to a client’s more senior management, I would do my best to make sure I was structured and grounded my proposals in facts and data. Nonetheless, I often felt nervy and that came across in my body language and in the tonality of my voice. Senior clients would often think to themselves, “Paul does his ground work and thinks things through but he’s uncomfortable at this level. If I’m going to take his proposals up the line I’ll need to involve someone more senior from his company”.
*** End of case study ***
Coaching takes people outside their comfort zone in a safe and secure manner; so that a client is okay if things don’t work out the way they want, the first time around. It provides the client with tools to learn equally from successes and setbacks – especially in the domain of relationships. (For a guide to forging excellent business relationships I refer you to Quick Guide III: How to Bridge the Pillars of Successful Business Relationships.)
I have found that business, and life for that matter, is all about relationships, relationships, relationships.
When there is no-one with the power of veto to stop what you’re trying to achieve, including yourself, then you cannot fail. You succeed.
Mentoring or consulting, on the other hand implies that you are dealing with an expert; someone who has first-hand experience of new areas in your line of business; experience that you do not have. They might, for example, have studied world-class practice in a new business model in which you wish to engage. They will be capable of identifying the gaps between where you are now and where you wish to be. They will be able to customise a business model that meets your precise needs to fill those gaps. They will transfer skills over to you to fill those gaps, so that at some point in time you no longer feel dependent on their input.
The outcomes for both coaching and mentoring/consulting are the same, improved business performance and improved personal skills. Both get you to do things differently, whether those things are old or new. But the processes of achieving improved business performance are different and often complimentary. Coaching primarily addresses the emotional journey (which is still often overlooked) involved in change, whereas consulting/mentoring primarily addresses its intellectual journey.
The two categories, coaching and consulting/mentoring, require different mindsets: non-expert and expert. The two categories each require a different approach as well, directive and non-directive. I’ll explain what I mean by ‘non-expert’ and ‘non-directive’ through the following case study and later, when I define what coaching is and is not, to a prospective client.
Case Study – Top 5 Global IT Firm, Managers as Coaches
I coached a European team of managers who were already equipped with/‘trained-in’ an oft used coaching technique (GROW: Goal, Reality, Options and Way forward). BUT, they were not equipped to help their salespeople ‘grow’ their performance by more than a few percentage points. Going for, say, 30% growth requires a much more profound approach.
It involves taking people though a structured process outside their comfort zone to do some things very differently, often things that in the past, have anxiety associated with them. This level of coaching is not a competence that coaches will pick up in a two/three day training course. It requires that they experience passing though their own anxiety barriers – so that they understand more fully the emotional journey that they’ll subsequently be coaching others through – by taking their own ‘medicine’ first.
Here are testimonies from the sales managers I coached, about what it’s like to be coached and subsequently coach people to increase their sales by over 30%. Some refer to specific tools and techniques which they hadn’t received in their conventional ‘coaching-training’.
Coaching requires a completely different mindset. When I use it the process gets an A* for managing poor performers.
Coaching isn’t an individual session; it takes place over a period of time to get to a solution. Using ‘2nd position’ (how to stand in another person’s shoes) has helped enormously. It’s made me face some of my own demons.
I took the material and applied it rigorously to coaching X. The meeting wasn’t easy! I faced my demons and got on with it. It’s not there yet but the mountain has moved.
I’ve used the ‘Success and Setback Analyses’. (Two tools that, respectively, ‘paint’ both sides of the boundary of, or limits to, the success we create for ourselves.) I’ve overcome my shyness… I feel I’ve moved out of my comfort zone.
I am more rigorous in the ‘Analytical and Process Quadrants’ (a ‘thinking preferences’ analytical tool) and it’s paid off.
I took away the ‘Being at my peak’ tool from our session and used it – it’s brilliant.
The ‘Being at my peak’ tool helps me synchronise with people.
I am more effective in how I use my time and am more prepared for important meetings.
First two sessions were particularly useful. I would not have gotten through that month without the self management tool.
When I do follow the coaching process it works and it fails (I fail???) when I don’t.
This team of sales managers, in a Top 5 Global IT Company, went on to receive an award for being the top performing sales branch across Europe within six months of participating in this endeavour.
*** End of case study ***
Note that, in the case study above, the managers focused on taking themselves (and thus learn how to lead others to do the same) outside their comfort zones. In the subsequent coaching of their people, the managers specifically did not focus on directing their coachees what to do – even though previously, the managers all had successful careers in sales. Instead, the managers coached their direct reports to explore the space beyond their ‘boundaries of current success’.
In a nutshell…
- Coaching implies a non-expert and non-directive approach.
- Consulting/mentoring implies an expert and directive approach.
Top performers do three essential things to be at their peak.
1. Clarify your outcomes for the meeting in hand and how you want the relationship with the person to develop, meeting by meeting, one step at a time. Moderate performers focus less on the latter dimension.
2. Be mindful of the frame of the mind you want to be in and that any meeting (is hopefully a meeting of minds) is ultimately about helping everyone present to frame a congruent viewpoint of what needs to be done.
3. Prepare your strategy, primarily so that you allow yourself to get in the frame of mind you want to be.
Research I’ve come across and my own experience shows that the most important thing you take into a meeting is your frame of mind followed by being clear about the outcomes you seek. Having a strategy is important but, once the meeting has started, it’s factors ‘2’ and ‘1’ above (and in that order) that will determine most how you ‘handle any curve balls thrown your way’.
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?”
Combined extracts from two business articles:
Quick Guide II – Learn How to Spot, Mimic and Become a Top Salesperson (coming soon)
“When you’re selling at board level it’s about taking the customer on a journey that’s both fantastic and believable. That is, no matter how complex that journey is…, it’s about breaking it down into manageable chunks. You create a pathway into the future that is as clearly marked out as possible. There will be uncharted territory. So it’s about discerning all the parts of the map that are known from those unknown.
It’s then about pinpointing all the ‘dots on the chart of the unknown’. That is, answering all the ‘what if this happens’ questions.
In effect, you join the dots of the unknown with customer as best you can.”
Top UK salesperson for a global top 10 IT company
Images courtesy of http://misswhit-tany.blogspot.co.uk/
What CEOs value:
The ‘science’ to determine value discovers what’s important to the CEO. And once you understand the customer’s priorities – how do you stack up (against your competitors) to deliver against them?
Here are sources of value (business drivers and problems to fix) that CEOs look for:
• Cash – Will your proposal improve our cash position?
• Cost Down – Will we reduce costs?
• Revenue/Market Share Up – Will we make competitive gains?
• Agility/Speed – Can we move, reshape, transcend quickly?
• Security – Will we be better protected?
• Governance – Am I compliant with Company Law?
• Product/Service/Cost Leadership – Will our own customers notice and value the changes in our organisation that your proposal offers?
• Innovation (e.g. Technology, New Business Models) – Do I want (to be seen) to be first in the marketplace, to do something differently? Does your proposal accelerate the process?
• Personal Credibility – Can I use your proposal to advance my own prospects and standing?
• People – Will your proposal raise the effectiveness and job satisfaction of people?
• Something else? – If you don’t know, ask “What else do you feel is important for me to know?” Even if you feel you know, ask anyway.
Put concisely, you need to understand profoundly what’s important in the heart and mind of your CEO client and convey the value you bring to the table in their language, not yours.
At this stage you may have provided sufficient verifiable value for the CEO to progress the sale. And there’s often a temptation to press on. In doing so, you may miss another, often unspoken, factor that weighs heavily in the CEO’s mind (as well as most of us) – fear.
The more you earn a customer’s trust, the more fears they share with you. They give you more power deliberately to help them.
My thanks go to Professor Colin-Coulson Thomas who shared with me the bounty of a minute fraction of his wisdom, and made a significant contribution to the following list.
What CEOs fear:
• Bad earnings news: the most likely and quickest sign of departure.
• Corporate programs don’t deliver: mergers and acquisitions “achieve 70% of their potential” at best.
• Failure to turnaround ailing sales quick enough.
• Change takes too long: ‘corporate firewalls’ prevent people from getting it done.
• Investors don’t understand: a CEO spends 40% of their time articulating strategy and some argue that’s not enough.
• Personal wealth at risk: e.g. missed deadlines can lead to private investors swallowing up the shareholding of a company
• Lack of innovation: playing it safe is no longer an option these days. Competitors and customers are moving too quickly.
• Talent gaps in performance: e.g. 20% of the sales-force bring in 80% of the revenue.
• Conflict in the boardroom: too much time spent looking inwards leaves too little time to focus on the customer.
• Personal credibility at risk: any of the above means less likelihood of stepping up the ladder of success and/or lack of a legacy of note. These in turn can lead to…
• Personal health at risk: where the stressed mind-body connection can have serious consequences. I know of one CEO who, after missing targets set by investors, developed terrible eye problems because he didn’t like what he saw. Another developed disabling back pain through a lack of self-esteem. Another who was deemed too rigid and inflexible developed problems with their joints.
Your task is to earn the right to zig-zag; to take the CEO on a journey whereby they see your solution working in their organisation and have allayed any fears they once had.
I coached an experienced salesperson who had fallen on hard times. Sales were down.
Like all good salespeople, he worked extra hard, and made as many sales calls as he could. He crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in abundant call reports, to demonstrate his commitment and loyalty to his bosses. Alas, all to no avail.
Image from How Stuff Works
Like most of us (I include myself) it was easy to blame the economy………………
I asked what was driving him. Back came the response “Well I’m behind in my numbers and I want to catch up. I don’t want to lose my job!”
I asked a series of questions:
Q: “So fear drives your actions?”
A:“Yeh, I’ve got a wife and kids to support” came the answer.
Q: “To what extent do your friends and colleagues share your fear?”
A:“Quite a few, it’s time like this you find out who your friends are.”
Q: “To what extent do your existing customers share in your fear?”
A: “Yeh, a few have intimated that I’m trying too hard and come across as more pushy than usual. They are a bit apprehensive about me.”
Q: “And what of new customers and prospects?”
A: “Yes again, everybody I meet seems fearful to do anything right now, even when the business case is clear cut.”
So what’s going on here? I’ve coached many people in this predicament. Here’s what I’ve seen, time and again.
What drives us, we attract. Fear attracts fear.
So in the above client’s case, the coaching focused on tools to switch out fear and replace it with what the client wanted instead: “creative confidence”.
Within weeks, despite an ailing economy, the client’s sales figures went from poor, to fair, to good, to very good. He got back on track.
Paul C Burr
I’ve seen a wide variety of researched estimates of the average tenure of a CEO. They range from 2.5 to 7+ years. I don’t know many private investors who are that patient. The last two CEOs I met, gave themselves considerably less time to make their mark; 1 year and 6 months respectively.
CEOs seem to have a honeymoon period of around 18 months. By the end of which, if things aren’t significantly better, their ‘marriage’ with the investors will probably not last.
A chat with Professor Colin Coulson Thomas prompted me to write this blog. Colin, author of Winning Companies:Winning People, is Chairman and fellow board member of Cotoco Ltd .
Here are the warning signs that CEOs fear most.
- Bad earnings news: the most likely and quickest sign of departure.
- Corporate programs don’t deliver: mergers and acquisitions “achieve 70% of their potential” at best.
- Failure to turnaround ailing sales quick enough.
- Change takes too long: “Corporate Firewalls” prevent people from getting it done. More on this later.
- Investors don’t understand: a CEO spends 40% of their time articulating strategy and some argue that’s not enough.
- Personal wealth at risk: e.g. missed deadlines can lead to private investors swallowing up the shareholding of a company
- Lack of innovation: playing it safe is no longer an option these days. Competitors and customers are moving too quickly.
- Talent gaps in performance: e.g. 20% of the salesforce bring in 80% of the revenue (and probably a much higher percentage of the profit).
- Conflict in the boardroom: too much time spent looking inwards leaves too little time to focus on the customer.
- Personal credibility at risk: any of the above means less likelihood of stepping up the ladder of success and/or lack of a legacy of note. These in turn can lead to…
- Personal health at risk: where the stressed mind-body connection can have serious consequences. I know of one CEO who, after missing targets set by investors, developed terrible eye problems because he didn’t like what he saw. Another developed disabling back pain through a lack of self esteem. Another who was deemed too rigid and inflexible developed problems with their joints.
Getting the strategy right will largely depend on the advice the CEO receives from those around them and experts (those they know who have done it before). This is called mentorship. And many stop there because it’s traditionally acceptable to have mentors.
But the CEO’s job is not just about getting it right. It’s about influencing people who don’t want to be influenced at first. If they were easily influenceable they’d have done what was needed long ago. This leads us to those constructs that get in the way – I call them….
With a select group of people, the CEO works out what tomorrow’s reality for their organisation will look like – and the strategy to get there. They find the first firewall just outside this group. Everyone on the inside ‘gets it’. Those on the outside don’t – certainly not the whole picture. Which means they miss perhaps key pieces to the corporate jigsaw. The more select the CEO’s inner group, the higher or tougher the ‘wall’ is to breach.
The wall filters out some of the cognition and understanding of what went on inside. It only takes a small amount to create ambiguity. Once ambiguity kicks it can start a trail as follows:
ambiguity –> confusion –> stress –> dysfunction.
This occurs especially in organisational cultures where ‘not understanding’ is perceived as a weakness. And when a ‘senior middle manager’ (say, from outside the group) doesn’t get it, they tend to do one of 4 things. They…
- Ask for clarity (’tis surprising how little often this happens)
- Put their head down, pay lip-service, and hope it will go away
- Push back (the larger the hierarchy the less egalitarian the culture)
- (Most dangerous of all) Make up the missing pieces of the jigsaw for themselves
The latter habit creates the most confusion for everyone in the value chain right through to the customer interface or the grass roots level of the organisation. For just behind this ‘grass roots’ operational level we observe a second firewall. Curiously, those at the ‘grass roots’ level seem to get the gist of CEO messages quite easily. It’s how those messages are translated into action where the confusion lies. And they are sometimes less prone to keeping quiet when things don’t add up. So the CEO has the challenge of involving those who will carry their message wholly and articulately into the organisation on their behalf.
7 Key Traits
CEOs require a mixed repertoire of personal strategies to influence influencers. In my personal research (of several hundred top performers in organisations around the globe) I’ve observed 7 key traits (or characteristics) in those who influence the best:
- Faith-in-Self – when there is no data (or time to gather it) to make big decisions.
- Passion – if you don’t radiate passion how can you expect others to shine?
- Sensibility – to see where others are at, where they come from and where they are headed, in their minds
- Articulate – to simplify complex concepts and make them compelling
- Curiosity – to explore what’s going on below the surface of things
- Networker – it’s not what you know it’s who you go to, to find and share wisdom to get things done
- Composure – under pressure or facing the unknown
We demonstrate traits. They describe how we come across to others. We do not learn them in a classroom through conventional training. We nurture traits. A good Executive Coach accelerates the process of how a CEO nurtures winning traits and behaviours (that may feel uncomfortable at first) – to forge a strategic personal-identity with those people whom they do not have personal contact with. If these winning traits were purely intellectual or comfortable they wouldn’t need a coach – would they? With this in mind, we can see the difference between mentoring and coaching.
We get what we project.
CEOs get people to copy what they project. The onus they face: to transfer the above traits and characteristics to others. Some CEOs see coaching as something for other people with problems. They are part right. It is. But the problems I talk about are all associated with an inability to influence those people who will block/thwart even the best thought out plans. CEOs might not even know what those that hinder are up to – because they are hidden behind a Corporate Firewall.