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Sep 18 14

Never Apologize For Selling Or Being A Sales Professional!

by Dave Brock
Car salesperson

I have to admit I get just rip roaring pissed off with a lot of the rhetoric–some from very smart people about selling and sales people.  “We should stop selling and start serving… ”  “We need to stop selling and be helpful…”  “We’re not trying to sell you something, we’re trying to solve your problems….”

The madness goes on to what we call ourselves or refuse to call ourselves.  We don’t want to be called sales professionals, but rather relationship managers, account managers, customer service managers (as opposed to real customer service people), business development managers, partners, and the list of creative names that avoid the “S” word is really astounding.

All of this is simply horse shit!  It may draw eyeballs, it may create readers, it creates great sound bites and tweets, it may sell seminars and workshops, but it’s just crap and does our profession a disservice.  It plays to and reinforces all the stereotypes about bad selling and salesmanship.  It lumps all of us together, demeaning us, and avoiding the real issue, bad salesmanship and bad sales practice.

When are we going to stop apologizing for who we are and what we do?!

I am a sales professional.  I’m proud of being a sales professional, I’m proud of the value I create for my customers and clients.  I want them to recognize that value and I’m proud to ask them to pay me for the value we create.  (And they are happy to pay.)

There is nothing incompatible about selling, serving, and being helpful.  Professional selling has always been about helping customers improve and serving them.  Whether it’s helping them realize opportunities they are missing, whether it’s identifying and solving a problem they are having, whether it’s helping them achieve goals, business and personal.  Great selling has always been focused on being helpful, serving our customers, building great and differentiated value that’s meaningful to them.

But we have more responsibility than just being helpful and solving problems.  We are accountable for creating revenue, keeping our companies in business, and the people who support us by designing, building and supporting the products solutions and services we sell employed.

We shouldn’t be wasting our time on people who don’t want our help and service.  We shouldn’t be wasting our time on organizations whose problems we aren’t the best in the world at solving.  We shouldn’t be wasting our time on people who don’t want to change and improve, or whose focus is on other priorities.  We shouldn’t be wasting our time on organizations who are not prepared to invest in the value we create.

There’s really a perverse irony.  If we are spending our time being trying to be helpful and serving those people—then we are probably wasting their time.  We are spending their time on things they don’t care about or aren’t a current priority.  We are spending their time on things in which we offer little value or which they don’t value.  In the end, we really aren’t being helpful or of service, we are being just the opposite  (Kind of funny how that works, isn’t it?).

The issue we are avoiding by playing these word and title games is bad salesmanship and bad sales practice!  We’ve got to confront that head on, not avoid it by changing what we call ourselves, playing word games about servicing and helping  and not selling.

We have to root out and extinguish bad sales practice and bad salesmanship.  It has to be unacceptable in our own organizations, both because it’s bad for our customers and it’s bad for our companies.  We have to set personal examples to our people, our peers, and most importantly to our customers about truly professional selling.  We have to educate them about what great professional selling is about, so they don’t let the hackers waste their time.

When you think about it, we’re the only people who haven’t figured that out.  Our customers have already figured it out.  They really want to see good sales people and to buy–because their act of buying means we are creating value and helping them achieve, improve, and produce results.

They tell us this every day, by who they choose to see, by where they invest their time, and what they choose to buy.  There’s tons of market research from the leading analysts reinforcing this.  Customers value sales people who help solve their problem and who help them improve.  And they welcome investing in those things that create great return and results for them.

All these articles and stuff about stopping selling aren’t written for buyers, they are addressed to sellers.  Rather than have us confront the real problem, they promote avoidance and distract us from the core issues of what professional selling is about.

Anyone ashamed of being a sales person, is not addressing the core issue, they’re just trying to mask it, perhaps even use it to manipulate customers.  Bad salesmanship and sales practice is bad salesmanship and sales practice, whether executed by a sales person, a business development person, a relationship managers, or a partner.

So let’s stop playing word games, let’s stop avoiding the issues that confront us, our companies, and our customers.  Great selling creates great value.  Bad salesmanship, manipulative, deceptive, pressure based tactics and practices are simply unacceptable and have nothing to do with being a sales professional.  Bad salesmanship, not listening, not probing, not exploring, not challenging, not engaging, not understanding the customer or their business, being poorly prepared, not following up, not learning and improving is wasteful of our time and our customers’ time and needs to be eliminated.  Being focused only on what we get, regardless of the value the customer gets is wrong and an embarrassment to our profession and our companies.

Bad salesmanship, bad sales practice is simply unacceptable.  We should call it what it is, we should address it head on, and we should eradicate it.  Playing word and title games is nothing more than mental and verbal masturbation.

(Aren’t you glad I don’t feel strongly about this?)

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Sep 17 14

The Devil Is In The Details

by Dave Brock
Details brain

I  suppose it’s human nature not to look at details.  If I look at the pace of business and life, the workloads each of us have, it’s easy to gloss over things.

We look at reports, only looking at the summary data, not looking at or understanding the data itself.

There are countless examples:

Sales people are making the right number of outbound calls, activity levels are right—but if the quality of the calls is garbage, then we are wasting our time.  We don’t know that unless we drill down into the details of the calls themselves.  For example, listening to a few, having measures that give us some view of the results they produce.

Or our pipeline numbers look right, we have the right coverage, there appears to be velocity.  But we don’t look at the details.  We don’t pay attention to the 30% (or choose your number) of deals in the pipeline that have close dates of last year, last quarter, even last month.  We don’t pay attention to those deals that have been in cycle 3-5 times longer than most, we don’t pay attention to close date/sales cycle anomalies, we mistake churn for velocity.

Or we look at deal strategies, the sales person talks about where they are, who the competition is, and what we’ve done.  But we fail to understand the underlying issues on what’s driving the customer need to buy, are we dealing with who we’re dealing with or the decision makers, what are the business consequences to the customer, and so on.  Or worse, we just focus on the outcome, “When are you getting the order,” without even focusing on the details of what we are doing, not doing, or need to be doing.

Or we make a sales call, without knowing the right people to accomplish our goals will be participating, or if the customer will be prepared to accomplish what we want to accomplish, or…….

We fail to perform, we fail to perform at the highest levels possible, because of the details.

We make excuses because we are busy, we don’t have the time.  But we always have the time for rework and recovering.

We don’t train ourselves to drill down and understand the data.  Am I looking at the right data?  Am I looking at it in the right way?  Am I understanding what it’s really saying?  Or even, is it accurate?  Summaries, aggregations, totals, subtotals don’t tell us this stuff or they may be telling us the wrong stuff.  We don’t know until we drill down and understand.

I’ve used this example before, but there are the clients who have said, “100 customers make up 80% of our revenue, we just have to focus on those 100 customers.”  While the data is true, they miss that every year, 60 of those customers are different.  So they don’t really understand they have a churn/customer loyalty problem.

Or as sales people, we hear what we want to hear.  We don’t probe, we don’t drill down, we don’t question skeptically, we don’t try to make sense out of things that don’t make sense.  So we miss the opportunity to really help the customer, to create/build real value, to set ourselves apart, to create/build real insight.

We have to take the time to search for the meaning of the data.

So the devil is in the details.  We have to train ourselves to look beneath the summary data, we have to train ourselves to question, analyze, probe, and understand.

Someone much smarter than I said, “Focus on the details and the big things will take care of themselves.”  There’s a lot of validity in that.

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Sep 15 14

What Do You Want To Know?

by Dave Brock

We all know that preparation for a meeting is important.  We want to connect well with people, we want to create a positive impression, we want to accomplish something.

As we prepare for a meeting, there are all sorts of things we may want to research and prepare for.  There are great tools to help us in that process.  We learn a lot about a person by looking at their personal social profile leveraging LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other tools.  We can learn about their company by visiting their website and leveraging all sorts of other tools (e.g. Insideview, Hoovers, D&B, others)

If we’ve had some level of relationship with a person, we may want to review our last calls/meetings.  Or we may know something they are interested in and want to be prepared to talk about that.  For example, I just got off a call with someone who’s a sailing fanatic and just returned from a week long bareboat charter, so we exchanged a few “sea stories,” (you know the kind—my adventure makes yours look like nothing, with each of us one upping the other.  A close friend just had a very cool meeting with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, so on his way to the meeting, he listened to their big hits, just to refresh his memory.

What are the 5 things you really want to know about the person you are just about to meet with?  Just before you walk into a meeting with an individual, what are the 5 most critical things you want to know about them, their situation, and/or their company–and why are they important?

I’d love to get your feedback in the comments, I’ll summarize them and provide a follow up post.

The 5 things may be different if you have a relationship with someone versus this being the first time you are meeting.  If so, I’d love to know the differences.  Just to be clear, you already have a meeting (phone or face to face) established-you aren’t trying to convince them to meet with you.  What are the 5 things you always prepare for in walking into the meeting.

I’ll try to kick start this conversation with my 5 things:

  1. I’d like to know a little about the person–their current role, background, types of jobs they have, schools, hobbies, whether we know anyone in common.
  2. I’d like to know a little about their company and the current situation in the company.  Did they have a good quarter? Year?  Are they a leader in their sector, have they been struggling, is there any hot news in the last few days?
  3. What’s happening in their industry/markets?  Has there been anything exciting/disruptive that impacts them and their markets?
  4. I’d like to know, sometimes it’s hard to determine, how things are going with them in general.  Are they incredibly busy, have they been having some problems, are they frustrated, have they had some recent successes or gotten some great visibility?  Has anything important happened in their life recently?
  5. How will I make sure that what we are meeting about will be a good use of their time?  What value will I create in the meeting?
  6. I’ll give you the 6th–all of us will have this, so I don’t want you including it in the 5 things you identify—but for all of us, it’s probably, “What do we want to accomplish with them in this meeting?”

So not repeating the 6th item–what we want to accomplish in the meeting–our goals, objectives, agenda, can you tell me what 5 things you want to know about the person before you meet.  I’ve been a little general in my 5–just to give you a starting point, but if you can provide your 5 things, it would be really helpful.  If you could also provide a short explanation about why you want to know it, that would be great as well.

Thanks for your help!  I’ll leave this open for about a week and write a summary as a follow on post.

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