For success in sales learn all you can about your customer
Following a recent consultative selling workshop about developing sales partnerships with clients, I was struck by what one of the sales executives said to me when I ran into him at his offices the following day. “How is it?” he asked “That you seem to know so much about our company. It seems as though you know more about us than many of the people who work here?” Wow - what an eye-opening realization from a young man in the early stages of his professional sales development. I wondered whether he realized that he had identified one of the key elements of a truly ‘consultative’ or in fact a ‘partnership’ sales approach.
Develop partnership sales relationships to help customers achieve their goals
As a sales consultant you eventually cross an imaginary line in the sand beyond which the customer stops seeing you as a sales person for another company, and instead starts to accept you as part of their extended team, working in partnership with them to deliver the results that really matter to them. To get to this hallowed ground you need to park your product pitch at the door, leave it in the car (or at least in your bag) and only refer to it when the customer actually asks you for it. I am certainly not advocating a sales style which would see you arrive at a customer meeting unprepared; in fact quite the opposite. What I am suggesting is that you can spend time planning a killer powerpoint presentation by all means, but plan on NOT using it. Plan on a consultative conversation with the prospect or customer, a conversation focused on them and their needs and challenges and not on your products or solutions. Once they see that you really care about them, about understanding them, and that you’re not simply waiting to deliver a pitch, they will start to tell you what you really need to know to be a true partner to them. When the time is right, when they feel that they can trust you, then THEY will ask you what you have to help. At that point they are interested in your insight and your ideas, not the glossy brochure or impressive slide-deck.
Focus on your customer not your product!
During you time with the customer, be you. Care about your customer as a person. Demonstrate that you want to help them … and they will help you! In the process you will learn enough to be considered a valued member of their team and not an outsider.
Back to our sales executive … I talked with him for a while and explained that I had had to work hard over many months to develop the kind of in depth understanding that he was referring to. There is no substitute for hard work but ‘smart work’ really counts too. Sales people should spend less time worrying about learning every nuance of their product or service and instead invest that time in really trying to understand their customers and prospects. It pays huge dividends. What have been your experiences and what suggestions do you have to develop a consultative, partnership sales relationship?
We inspire others by our sincerity and the way we behave
Being an inspirational leader is not about charisma or power but about sincerity, your belief in what you are doing and in the people you are asking to help you. When people listened to Hitler, a leader with immense power and charisma, they really believed that HE could achieve anything. When people met and heard Churchill they came away believing that THEY could do anything. The difference was that Churchill’s ability to inspire was not dependent on his power or charisma or even his words, but demonstrated by his behavior. “No-one ever left his cabinet, meetings without feeling himself a braver man’' Leo Amery, Cabinet Minister.
Churchill realized that to be effective with others, we need to be honest and realistic about our own abilities, and to know when to offer advice. Churchill showed his sincerity and interest in people and their ideas, he was empathetic and he knew how to listen. It won him people’s attention, respect and most importantly their commitment. Against terrible odds, in desperate circumstances, people were prepared to make unusual sacrifices to endure great suffering, strengthened by a renewed belief in the ability to win. People were inspired.
How can you inspire others to action, to do what needs doing?
“Leadership is about the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it” Dwight Eisenhower.
The ability to inspire others comes from your conviction in success and your confidence that the effort will be worth it. Be the example...lead from the front, be committed to excellence, never expecting more out of others than you would of yourself. To encourage others, ‘walk the talk’, look for ways to be involved and to participate, always portraying calm, confident optimism. Listen and be responsive to other’s suggestions, be willing to share power and delegate. Focus on issues that you can control to create potential positive outcomes to reinforce your belief in success. This behavior will motivate people and help promote agreement about decision criteria.
Inspiring leaders take risks and make decisions; they are accessible, optimistic and confident.
Inspirational leaders are prepared to take risks, they don’t get stuck in planning and research, they make decisions. They are initiators and not position conscious. They are accessible and interact with others. They are giving of their time and their skills, committed to their team’s growth and well-being. They try to create a better work environment, celebrating successes and milestones, however small. Inspiring leaders are confident and optimistic, Churchill’s ongoing mantra “....we shall never surrender” was heart felt, representative of how he felt despite the very gravest of circumstances. Confidence is contagious, being optimistic, yet realistic, draws people to the cause, encourages people to believe that their continued effort will make a difference, optimism inspires………….. how well do you inspire?