Customers, Employees and Influencers as High Performing Sales and Marketing Channels1

Beedon Headshot

The Pipeline Guest Post – Dick Beedon

Although brand advocacy has always been important, it is critical today. The path to purchase has changed forever. Because there is so much data available, and because communication is so easy, today’s buyer almost always seeks advice from a trusted friend or consumer source before making a purchase. Brands are now starting to realize that what others say and write about them defines who they are.

Smart brands know they must build strategies and systems to generate, track and manage brand advocacy. They know they must encourage and enable the people that know and trust them – their customers, employees and 3rd party influencers – to advocate on behalf of the brand.

And it works. By encouraging and empowering these customers, employees and influencers, they will drive peer-to-peer referrals, forward content, share information about new products and promotions, and write testimonials. And they can do it at scale and more efficiently than traditional channels.

The Benefits of New Channels are Compelling (examples)

  1. They Build Brand Awareness – when a customer shares something about the brand with a friend, there is no better way of building the brand.
  2. They Generate Leads – those friends that respond and go to the brand for more information become the best leads a brand can get. There are few people on earth who will argue that leads generated from referrals are the best leads. 
  3. They Drive New Customer Acquisition – Leads from referrals close faster, they buy more and they stay longer. 

Other reasons customers, employees and influencers make good sales and marketing channels;

1.  Identify Brand Advocates and Build a Rich “Social” Data Set

Brand Advocates are identified when they register for or engage with your programs. By using technology systems, brands know who “opts-in” and advocates, how often they do it, what their sharing preferences are and how big their network is. We learn who they know and how influential they are. Brands are able to now get a deeper 360 view of their customer’s network value.

2. You’ll Know when Potential Customers are “In-Market”
Social channels provide insights and information not previously available. At the most basic level, social channels extend a brand’s sales force (with zero overhead) and they solve one of the biggest challenges brand’s face: knowing when a potential buyer is in-market. Only your current customers know when the people they know are ready to buy.
3. The cost of acquisition is lower.
This channel is always on and continually active – making referrals, amplifying products and promotions, and posting positive information about your brand. Brand advocates do this for a brand because they trust the brand and they want do it. Therefore, the time and cost invested into this channel is significantly less than other channels.
4. New customers that are referred by someone in your Social Channel are Valuable.
Research has consistently shown that consumers who convert as a result of a referral from a friend, are more loyal to a brand, spend more and stay longer.

Who are your Potential Channels and how Well can they Perform?

Customers, partners and employees are the fastest growing sales and marketing channel today. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize these social relationships to generate new customers, and they can track and manage social behavior that is critical to the success of their company.

Customers recommend your products because they have first-hand, positive experience with them.

Today’s truly successful companies understand the importance of leveraging their customers into sales and marketing channels that drive corporate productivity. Creating and cultivating a large group of advocates can: pay huge dividends in the growth of your brand, increase subscribers, and boost profits. The financial investment to create this channel is minimal when you compare it to the long-term payoff for the brand.

About Richard Beedon

Richard Beedon is a founder and CEO of Amplifinity.  Beedon has led the acquisition of both Entyre Doc Prep (by Wolters Kluwer) and University Netcasting, who merged with Student Advantage (now collegesports.com) and was acquired by CBS. Dick’s thought leadership and early adaption of SaaS based technologies that allow brands to manage advocacy marketing has been instrumental in the success and growth of Amplifinity.

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Once They Bought Product – Make your Client Change1

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

Change is hard for all of us, that much more so for sales people. On one side they are trying to get buyers to change, clearly articulating the upside of change. Some of the most creative modern prose have flowed from sales people enticing their buyer to change, “Your business dreams, are but one change away”. Yet as sellers, we rarely hold that mirror up in front of us, we don’t like change, believe me I spend a lot of time helping sellers to change, and it requires a lot. Much like their potential buyers, they are resistant to new things, and are much more willing to live with the pain of what they know, than experience the pain they associate with change.

This could be the very reason why many sales people prefer to be “gatherers” – account managers than hunters. After all, spending 80%, 90% or more of their time with their base, allows them to regularly avoid having to talk about change. When they do, they are not only in-congruent, but on a number of levels dishonest with their potential buyers. After all, singing the praises of change all the while thing it yourself, just sends the wrong message, regardless of how much they rehearse, intentions and genuineness always rings through.

Not only that, but as soon as they “change” a buyer from their previous provider to being their client, they cast off their mask, and become steadfast defenders of the status quo, doing everything they can to make their client forget change.

But just like with fire, the best way to fight change, specifically the type of change your competitors are trying to sell your customer, is with change. Start by forgetting the product, yes, I know, it’s hard, such a warm blanket. While many are fixated with upgrade and new releases, there are other and “better” changes a good sales person can present.

As in the sale, the differentiation, and often the value, comes not from the product but from the sale. The way the seller engages, and conveys value to the buyer has to transcend the product, especially in a world where on a good day the overlap between you and number 2, is at least 80%. And once you are the incumbent, your competitor, number 2, will embellish that 20% until only a small discount is needed to entice your client away.

But if you the focus off the product, and placed it on how the client uses the product; how it specifically impacts their reality, their profits, competitive edge, or other non-product dependent things, then change is not about the product, but you, and what you do for them. Sure they can use the other product, but they will lose the benefit of you, your expertise, and the value you bring. It is easy to change the box, it will be hard to replace how you help them benefit from the box.

How to get from Interruption to Conversation when Cold Calling Webinar

There are still a few slots left for today’s cold calling webinar – start your own change, sign up now.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

 

So How Did You Do With That One Thing? – Sales eXchange 2310

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Success 1

Last year around this time in a video titled “The One Thing“, in which I challenged you to avoid the temptation of pursuing whole changes and resolutions going into the New Year, and instead focus on one thing. One thing that will measurably improve you execution, you’re selling, and when you master that one thing, build further from there.

Well it’s a year later, time for a reality check, let’s see how you, or we, did on that one thing, what worked, what didn’t, and why. If you did take on the challenge, how did you do?

If you did not accomplish what you set out to do, there are some things to keep in mind. If you gave it a real effort, made some progress, but are not where you want to be, that’s ok, as long as you keep going, don’t settle for “some progress”, go for your goal. If it is taking longer than anticipated try to understand why, and they adjust accordingly. At the times the goal is valid, but the means we choose is not the best. Step back, focus on your goal, the positive impact it will have on your success, and see if there is an alternate path. Don’t mistake with changing your course with changing goals or coming up short. In fact as a sales pro, at times the best thing we can do for prospects is show them how they can achieve their objective though an alternate way they hadn’t considered. If the goal is valid and really key to helping you sell better, stick with it, experiment, and apply the learning, even when it is a result of failed approach.

If you did succeed, congratulations, pat yourself on the back, reap the rewards, and then ask: “What next?”

With all the changes and continuous challenges facing sellers today, you can’t stop and rest on your laurels, you need to use you success as a springboard to your next conquest, right after you examine some elements of how you succeeded. How long did it take, what were some anticipated hurdles you overcame, what were some of the unanticipated that if proactively used moving forward will positively impact your journey.

When did you accomplish success, four weeks, three months, most of the year? Understand the elements, just as you would elements of a sale you want to repeat to ensure you succeed again and again.

Once you have an understanding of the concrete elements, it is time to look forward, and move forward. Meaning decide some things you would want to change in 2014. While you may want to look at more than one, you also don’t want to go crazy. While I will ask you to focus on one at a time, you are now in a position to plan out more through the year; as you accomplish one, roll in to the next, orderly, methodically, each building on the last, setting up the next. Just like a sale, just like planning your sales, like a process, for sales success.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

How to Relieve Workplace Stress3

CC Nov 13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

Let’s face it – stress in the workplace is pretty much unavoidable. Even in the most relaxed office setting, stress can happen. Whether it is conflict with a coworker or a strict deadline that you are behind on, stress will creep up. Stress can affect your work habit, which is why you should make combating stress a priority.

The sales industry in particular can be very stressful, particularly to those who are new to the business. So how do we deal with stress? Everyone copes in different ways. Some people choose to eat right and exercise to try to combat stress. Others may internalize it and lay awake at night worrying. There are definitely healthy and not healthy ways to deal with stress.

Here are a few tips on how to handle stress in the workplace:

  • Self-talk or self-hypnosis – we all know that our brain is the most powerful tool that we have. The way that we think will always affect our attitude towards the people and things around us. One of the things that I personally find really powerful is to have a mantra of sorts. If you are stressed at work, repeating a mantra to yourself like “I will finish this project and it will be great” throughout the day can help you to calm your mind. Self-hypnosis is similar but instead you talk yourself into a state of calm.
  • Get up and moving – even taking a short walk mid-workday can help you to get your blood flowing. Research has shown again and again that exercise is as good for the mind as it is for the body. If getting outside isn’t an option, take a brisk walk around the inside of your building. You can also consider swapping your chair for a balance ball. Some offices have even implemented treadmills instead of chairs! Workouts outside of work can help combat stress as well. Try boxing for exercise, it can help you get some of that stress and anger out in a useful way.
  • Take off your shoes – I know this sounds strange, and when I first read about this stress-release strategy, I thought it was strange too. But if you really think about it, it makes sense. In some Eastern cultures (think Japan) taking off your shoes is the norm. Letting your feet rest or even using foot massage or manipulation techniques can help you to feel more relaxed. According to this Forbes article, Finnish gaming company Supercell insists upon its employees removing their footwear upon entering the office. Even without shoes they’re making over $2.5 million per day.  Women in particular are apt to wear uncomfortable, confining shoes. Think about that great release you get when you take your shoes off at the end of the day. Try it in the office!
  • Make your space zen – whether you have a cubicle or a big office, take the time to make the space around you calming. The Forbes article mentioned above suggests a bonsai tree on your desk. I personally had a mini sand garden on a desk that I used. It was very calming and fun to rake the sand and arrange the rocks when I was having a hard day. Think of other things that can calm you down; maybe photos of family and friends, or flowers. Keep things on your desk that remind you of why you’re slaving away at your desk.
  • Cry, scream, or laugh – let it out! If you are having a hard time at work, take the time to just let yourself feel it. Often, expressing the way that you feel can help you work past it. While I’m not suggesting that bursting into tears at your desk is a great idea, processing through your feelings at home and letting yourself feel your emotions can help to relieve stress.
  • Build relationships with your coworkers – yes, relationships can be stressful, too. But having an open line of communication with your office mates can help you to have less stress in the long run. You don’t have to be BFFs with everyone, but being able to express your feelings to those around you can help you to work through your stress.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to reducing workplace stress and making more sales in no time.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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Dude – It’s Not Really A Duck!0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Duck

What’s the old saying:

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck.

While that may be true for Donald or Daffy, it is not the case is sales. But a number of sales people I have worked with seem to believe that this Duck Method is a good way to sell.

Here is an example, about a month ago I got a call from a rep selling a “sales productivity” tool. The usual shtick, intro blah blah, big value prop, around how the tool drives engagement in sales call and increases productivity, sales and could (if it worked) deliver truckloads of money. It was clear that they did some research about me, but did bother to validate some of their assumptions that were truly wrong, first mistake. I guess they figured that I look like one, spoke like one, I must be what they assumed I was one, when I am not. Just because the word Solutions is part of the company name, I don’t deal in IT.

Then came the real Duck sale, the series of unrelated questions that if answered affirmatively, they hoped will lead to a close.

Before I share the conversation, it is worth noting that while the idea behind the product was conceptually good, and must have looked really good on the white board, you know like world peace, or a fifty cent gallon of gas. But the idea that drove the concept was not really present in the product. While they were trying to flog it as a ready for market product, in my view it had little or no application in the real world. In some ways I think he was aware of that too, which is why he went for the Duck.

Him: Tibor wouldn’t you agree that if you could measure engagement it would be a good thing?

TS: I guess (shrugging my shoulder)

Him: Great, and wouldn’t you also agree that if you could then increase engagement it improve your results?

TS: Sure (this time I only raised one shoulder and an eyebrow)

Him: So if you found a tool that could do that, you would see it as a good addition to your tool kit?

TS: Sure, if I found one

Him: Great, that’s why I think our Thing-A-Ma JIG is the perfect application for you, and I am glad you agree and are ready to get started.

TS: Quack?

Just because I agreed to a couple of concepts does not mean I am at all interested in your offering, or that there is a line on the planet that remotely connects those dots.

While the above is an extreme example, badly executed to boot, it is not an uncommon approach. You see it daily. If you agree with point one, and agree with point two, then point three must be true. No I am sorry it is not.

The only question is this, are there people actually buying when they are Duck sold? You would think that if there aren’t any buyers, there would be no sellers using the technique, but it continues to thrive, along with the Ben Franklin close and other such tricks, one has to wonder why.

So if you are tempted to sell like Donald Duck, or are being sold by one, just remind them that Donald’s best friend was Goofy.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Should Lead With Price – Sales eXchange 2072

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

change

If sales were presented as a play, the typical flow would seem to be: segment, identify, qualify, engage, discovery, gain commitment, negotiate and close. Somewhere towards the latter part of “gain commitment” and “negotiate”, the issue of price becomes central to the plot, in fact with some sellers “negotiate” is really just a code word for “price haggling”.  This would explain why so many sales these days are won or lost on price, especially when “discovery” is rushed or executed in a cookie-cutter way.

The plan (I guess), is build value (place your methodology here, ours is good too), and align to price. The frustration for many is that they may not know the relative role of price till late in the game, especially when there is a low cost provider in the mix.  Wouldn’t it be better if you could learn if price will be the breaking factor much earlier in the play?

That’s the catch 22 of selling I guess, if you don’t build value you can’t justify or rationalize the price; on the other hand, you could spend time and energy building value and be defeated by price. What’s a seller to do?

Well, why not lead with price?

Counter-intuitive, maybe? Risky? Could be, but most things worth archiving involve a level of risk.  The opportunity and skill is in managing the risk and finding the balance where calculated risk consistently rewards the risk taker.

This is not to say that your meetings should start:

“Hi I am George, with ACME Solutions, the price is $42,000, plus 20% annual maintenance fee, ready to go?”

But there may be merit to putting price front and centre much earlier in the process. There is an element of this accepted, if not always executed, by many sellers in the form of exploring budget; in terms of its existence, availability, control and commitment.   But budget is different than price, how many times have you been able to check all the tick marks around budget but still lose on price?

But what if we did introduce process earlier?  The reality in many instances, the price is based on some formula, be it unit based or other elements, and sellers have a sense of what a deal is worth early in the play.  Before you protest the last statement in an effort to seem above the fray, go look at yours or any other forecast.  So why not put it on the table, and make it a way of introducing, driving and accelerating the value discussion.  After all, if they object to the price at that point you can get to the heart of the matter by asking them what they base their remarks on.  It is a great way to go to the real value discussion.  As both price and value are relative, you can find out what they see as value in their reaction to the price.

You can then use all the tools and techniques you would normally use to build value, but this time it can be much more collaborative.  The key is not think of it as defending the price, but as a mutual and collaborative value definition.  In the course of executing it, you can uncover objectives, separate needs from wants and a range of other things that make for a successful sale.  All without the suspense of the traditional ending.

As with most things in sales, we can stick to the same old, or so called fresh techniques that are the same old in new packaging.  Or you can try something that will not only differentiate you, the way you sell, and most importantly the outcome.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales Focus: Online Channels vs. Traditional Tactics0

CofC Mar 13

The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka

The Internet has opened up a whole new world of marketing and advertising tactics. And although this isn’t breaking news, people are coming up with new ways to utilize the web every day when it comes to sales. But are we letting more traditional sales practices fall by the wayside in lieu of solely committing to digital tactics?

In my experience, the companies with the best strategies are making the most of both types of marketing. Finding a winning combination of traditional marketing and Internet marketing can take some trial and error, but it’s worth it for your company in the long run. Consider these perks of focusing on online advertising and sales:

•    Less Expensive
While running a business website isn’t necessarily cheap, there are many ways that you can advertise online for very little cost. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer great outlets for marketing and a variety of tools to help you build your network and share your message.

•    Bigger Reach
It typically costs less to reach more people with online marketing. Using social media accounts and websites can generate thousands of views—even hundreds of thousands for successful companies—each month.  It’s difficult to reach that many people with traditional marketing tactics and a small business budget.

•    More Outlets
There are so many ways to advertise online. Some of the most obvious include social media networks. The biggies include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but there are hundreds of other social media sites that you might consider using based on your type of business and your audience, among other factors. Community-style message boards, blogs, and websites may also be ideal channels to add to your digital strategy.

Although digital tactics can undoubtedly be effective, traditional advertising and sales still carries a number of benefits, too, including:

•    Tangible Nature
Some people like advertising materials that they can see in person or touch. Some examples might include business cards, postcards, or business swag (think branded water bottles, key chains, or pens).

•    Increased Permanency
Marketing campaigns such as billboards or magazine ads can be placed for a longer period of time without needing changes. Online, it’s more necessary to keep content new and changing constantly to not only serve your audience, but also search engines.

•    Appeal to a Larger Audience
Don’t confuse this with having a larger reach. While online advertising may have the ability to reach a higher number of targeted people, traditional marketing techniques reach multiple generations and income levels and typically aren’t as segmented as digital alternatives.

Your best bet as a business owner or salesperson is to find a balance between the two types of marketing. It’s important to gauge your audience to see which kind of marketing best suits your clientele. If you can find the right combination, you’ll be able to reach a huge audience and give everyone something that they want—not to mention using a variety of marketing techniques will help you increase sales and expose your company to new customers.

(Photo Source)

About Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Shock Treatment – Sales eXchange 1922

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca
 
Jump Start

Last Monday I posted about the overlooked opportunity in that segment of buyers know as Status Quo, pundits and sellers alike commiserating each other about the difficulty of selling to a ready group of buyers, vs. taking orders from self-declared buyers.

I’ll be the first to admit change is hard, especially for business buyers who have their handful, trying to make headway in a competitive market.  Change is time consuming, a drain on resources, creates upheaval, usually expensive, and fraught with risk, for the organization and the individual at the centre of the decision.  Moving the dial with these types of buyers requires more than a bit of effort, which is why change is also hard for sellers; it is much easier and safer to rationalize, and wait for a referral.

This is why there is a healthy and growing industry of sages ready to sell indisposed sellers every mean of just waiting at the edge of the forest, encouraging them to wait for something to come out to them, rather than entering the fray and winning business most sellers seem reluctant to peruse.

How much effort does it take? Well take a minute, step back and look around you and study what it takes for people to make critical changes in key their lives. Frighteningly, you discover that people don’t often make big changes, right changes, preferring to avoid and live with the consequences of the Status Quo.  Even when they know that the new state is preferable to their existing one.  The naive notion which many buy into that people will move to a better mouse trap has cost both sellers and buyers much time and money.  You can build the better mouse trap, Trap 2.0, and people will rodent infestation will maybe look your way, then rationalize why they shouldn’t beat a path to your door.

Don’t believe me, how many people do you know who continue to smoke, even after their father expired due to lung cancer; how many people do you know who continue to biggie size it, despite the fact that they have to buy a new wardrobe every six months?  People can change these with a effort if they wanted to, but it takes effort.  How many times have you watched companies go to the brink or beyond because the devil they knew was a better alternative to the one they didn’t know?

The answer is not offering the “right” or “better” solution, or in becoming their friend.  It is about penetrating the barriers the buyers have erected to protect their current state.  Your only choice is to shock them, shock your way past their fortress of hope.  Hope it will work out, hope it will last, and hope no one will notice.  For the “be found crowd”, this is not an issue, the buyer has dismantled the barriers, and are ready to change, but for the Status Quo, intervention time.

Now I am not talking about clamping a couple of electrodes to your buyer’s temples (or elsewhere); but I am talking about asking hard and very direct questions, which at best could be called provocative, at worst a punch below their reality belt.  One does not have to be rude, but one does have to shake things up, which means the ultimate relationship you have starts out a bit rough, but ends up being a solid one, built on being a reliable resource, not a cuddly friend.

There is plenty of writing and thinking out there about how to succeed with the Status Quo, mine, others who provide means and questions you can use.  But the first step is for you as a seller to recognize and decide how you want to deliver value to your buyer.  Once you decide that you can do more than just take orders from ready buyers, and win more business who may not think they need you or your offering, there are plenty of resources to help you, but as with other changes, you need to first admit that you are a card carrying member of the Status Quo.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

5 Tips For Cutting Overhead Costs and Unleashing Your Sales Team’s Potential0

Running The Sale

The Pipeline Guest Post – Zoe Maldonado

Cutting overhead costs is one of the best ways to help your business succeed. With many businesses, the expenses are far easier to control than the profits. Cutting overhead doesn’t only help you on a financial level, but it also simplifies the management of your business. Cutting overhead costs is extremely complex and depends on the industry that you’re in, but here are some good ways to get started.

Move key resources to the cloud

Cloud computing is a relatively recent development and has been adopted by many companies as an excellent way to save money and operate at peak efficiency. With cloud computing, you take advantage of an array of computers over a private or local network like the internet. You can use these computers just for data storage or to host and run your business software.

Cloud computing is inexpensive, secure and Eco-friendly. Taking advantage of cloud technology means that you won’t have to spend any money on your own network or multiple software licenses; and you don’t need to have space for your own data servers. This saves you on both your technology budget and your rent and storage. Cloud computing also enhances the efficiency of your business because it allows your sales staff to access files and data from anywhere in the world. This efficiency can easily translate directly into increased sales. In addition, new studies are showing that businesses using multi-tenant cloud data centers produce less carbon than businesses utilizing the same types of services in-house.

Process sales on the go

Mobile credit card processing is the wave of the future. Even the big box stores have started taking advantage of this technology, and for small business use it has many clear advantages. With mobile credit card processing technology you can take a payment from a credit or debit card anywhere you go. These types of services often have a small credit card reader you can attach to a tablet or smart phone in order to swipe customer’s cards and close the sale right away.

Ditch the office space

With all the mobile apps for businesses available today, a physical location isn’t even necessary for many business owners. If you find that your staff is mostly on the road, and that you can do your work from home, ditching the office space can be one of the most cost saving decisions you make. If you need a storefront office, you can always down-size and allow some of your employees to “work from anywhere”.

Hire independent contractors

Independent contractors are on an hourly basis and can’t claim the benefits most employees do. Of course, you need to follow the government’s guidelines on whether your staff qualifies as independent contractors, but many do. You may not be able to get them for as many hours, but the savings will pay off.

Ditch the land-lines

Phone systems are often one of the most expensive initial costs for a company, but this goes back to the olden days when phone systems were the core of a business. Consider switching to mobile phones if it’s at all possible, because this will not only save you a lot of money, but it will also enable your staff to be more accessible to clients. Land-line phone systems have expensive monthly costs and are chained to a desk, so if your sales staff moves around a lot, land-lines are virtually useless.

About the author

Zoe Maldonado is a freelance writer and blogger for TechBreach who enjoys writing about all things mobile and electronic and spending time with her very active twin boys.

Why Settle For Just One Thing?1

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Haa2

Infographics are the rage these days, they leverage two powerful elements of communication; important “must know” and compelling information delivered via power of the pictures, where every picture is worth a 1,000 words.  Sales people and organizations love to use these as a means of communicating big picture changes, where if buyers want to benefit or get ahead of the facts and trends represented, the choice is clear, “our product is designed to help you…..”

But here is a real challenge, while the marketing people who produced the infographic may have an appreciation for change, the sales people in those same organizations often resist change, especially in the way they sell, leaving the buyer with a mixed message.  Mixed messages create doubt; doubt is a kissing cousin of risk, and no one likes risk (well at least 70% of the population don’t), especially buyers.

A big challenge for VP of Sales, and to a lesser degree the front line sales managers, is not so much convincing the market or buyers to commit to change, but to get their own sales teams to buy in.  As for front line managers, many were promoted to the role due to their success in the field rather than their ability to manage; they then take this recognition as a cue to get their teams to do what they did; and they do, leading to little change in the way things are sold.  This is why more than ever, the job of sales leaders is to lead change by “selling” their teams on the need to evolve their selling approach as fast as the market is changing, and certainly as fast as in the infographics they rely on.

We are all resistant to change, but sales people as a group of professional seem more reluctant than most.  I get a front line view of this when working with our clients.   During the pre-program interviews Renbor conducts with participants in the program, most sales people, veterans and newbies, inevitably say something that sounds like:

“The way I look at it, if I can take away even one thing, it will be worthwhile.”

One thing?  Are you kidding me, one thing?  That’s all you aspire to, to learn one thing?  Why, any more than would shatter your universe, require an upgrade in memory, or is it that just may require some real effort?

Even the weakest, most middle of the road, vanilla flavoured, beige program, has more than one thing the average sales person faced with a market of change resistant buyers could make use of, so why go into it with such diminished expectations?  Is that the level of expectation and aspiration sellers bring to their sales as a whole?  How will that effort hold up vs. the few sellers willing to go the distance?

What I hear is the person saying that they don’t want to make the effort involved in, if not improving to the way they sell, at least adding to their repertoire or enhancing things they are already doing.  This is sad not just because it says something about the profession, but it falls short of buyers’ expectations.  After all you are asking them to change, abandon a way of doing something they are already doing and commit to your product and your way of doing things.  Buyers react to many things, one is the way they are being sold, and if the way you execute your sales contradicts the message you are selling, buyers will respond.  Generally the response is in the form of an unspoken reduction in trust, a reaction to “do as I say, not as I do” sales approach.  Being incongruent is not a good thing for sales people to be; preaching is ineffective enough to begin with, your behaviour and approach to selling contradicting the stuff you preach is just asking the buyer not to act.

For many, the line that even if they learn one thing it will have been worthwhile is a way of pretending they are open to learning something new, and willing to support the cause.  But in reality what it communicates is their means of avoiding the effort involved in upgrading their skills and results.

Trying one thing is easy, pick the least offensive to your current sales compass, and its done, with little or no impact on you or the buyer.  But even when stretching, the pattern is familiar, they try the one thing, it does not produce textbook results the first time, and now they have a means of, an excuse, for avoiding everything in the program.  By being able to point to one thing that did not work, they conclude and rationalize that use that by extension nothing in the program works, which is why they don’t want to risk it on their buyers, so it’s back to same old.

Imagine if a pilot on your next flight, who has been flying for ten years took the same attitude when they first fly a new plane; or if a doctor you have been seeing took the same outlook and practice to new diagnosis, instruments and drugs.  How long would you stay on the plane or go to the doctor?  How long should a buyer stay with a seller who is not up-to-date in their thinking, and is asking you to take steps they themselves are reluctant to?

This is why follow-through is key to not just sales training success, but more importantly sustained behavioural change that allows your sales team to evolve and grow their skills.  Follow-through is important for both the individual sales people and their front line managers; while many can sell, many are not comfortable with being agents of change.  They need to understand that their role is not only to help their people sell better, but to lead change.  This is why often the best ball players do not make the best coaches, but the reverse is often true.  These coaches understand that their role is to challenge the norm, not drive conformity.  This is why often the coaches who we felt were in our face about the wrong thing, in hindsight have the greatest positive impact on our selling approach.  Most new military recruits hate their first drill sergeant, but always remember the impact that first one had on their success; specifically breaking old habits and instilling new ones, including the habit of change and adoption.

This is also why we get program participants to commit to three things they will put into practice the next morning after the program is delivered.  No chance to waffle, pick and choose, make your selection, and then the manager and us can help make them make it happen daily and in the follow-through, using metrics and standards to drive action.

Change is hard work, it requires time, effort, commitment, and often resources, and in the case of your buyer, it involves spending money.  I don’t like to work hard either, but I like the rewards it brings.  Without the extra work we are left to enjoy what we know.  In light of the fact that numerous sources point to the fact that only about 50% B2B sales people made quota over the last few years, how inviting is what we know versus the possibilities something new brings?  Its just a question of will and effort.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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