Read any book, article or blog about sales and you’ll probably come across some reference to the need for the sales person to provide value to the customer. But the real question should be “how can a sales person make their value more visible to the customer?”
Sales people who differentiate their value succeed
Most sales people work for a company where they have developed solutions which can add value to the customer’s business. The challenge is to persuade the customer that the value that one company (or sales person) provides is greater than the value presented by their competition. In many cases it is not the ‘best company’ or ‘best solution’ that wins the sale but rather the sales person who was able to make their value more visible to the customer. You’ll often hear people say that company 'A' was simply “out-sold” by company 'B'. What they really mean is that the sales person in company 'B' did a better job of making their differentiated value more visible to the customer.
How sales people make value visible
It’s no use having the best solution for the customer if you can’t make that value visible. So how can sales people make value visible? The starting point has to be to focus on the customer first, not on your product or service. This may appear counter-intuitive but the problem is that most sales people think that the value proposition is all about themselves and their product. It’s not; the value proposition
should be all about the customer and what your product or solution can do for the customer. Therefore, the sales person who can articulate the value that their solution can provide to the customer is more likely to win the deal.
Understand the value the customer is looking for
In complex sales scenarios (where there is more than one person involved in making the buying decision) this is even more important. This is because the sales person has to determine what type of value each individual member of the customer’s buying team is looking for, and then make that value visible to them personally. If they succeed in doing this they are more likely to win the support of all involved.
For example, let’s say that one sales person believes that part of their value proposition is that they are the market leader in their space. What does that mean to the customer? What is the value to the customer of this vendor being the market leader? The answer depends on who the sales person is addressing in the customer: for the CFO, or financial buyer, it might mean financial stability, the fact that the company is likely to be here for the long-term. For someone in marketing perhaps it has to do with brand and market perception. They want to be seen to business with a successful company. For someone in the implementation team perhaps it has more to do with experience and having a trusted, tried and tested solution. For others it might represent the potential economic value of being able to buy a solution at a fair price because the vendor has better economies of scale.
Sales people tell customers engaging stories to articulate their value
The key task for any sales person is to determine what their differentiating value is, and to find a way to make it more visible to the customer. One of the most effective ways of doing that is for the sales person to have a story to back-up any claim or value proposition. People remember stories. They re-tell stories. Customers are far more likely to remember a story which provides a good example of the value that the vendor provides. Good stories, customer success stories, references and market innovations help the customer to see and appreciate the real value that the vendor can bring to them. People will buy from sales people they trust – and sales people who are able to bring their value to life, to make their value visible by telling meaningful success stories.
“Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It is easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory…….It is another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down” Lee Iacocca.
As the savior of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca believes that leaders are made in a time of crisis. The crisis of a nation such as Sir Winston Churchill faced in 1939 and the crisis of a corporation such as Iacocca faced in 1978. Leadership is about who we are and how we behave, we can learn to develop our behavior and become more successful leaders. Here are the nine qualities Iacocca believes are needed for effective leadership.
A leader needs to be curious, to step out of his comfort zone and to listen others' different, possibly challenging ideas. Without challenging our thinking and belief’s how do we know we are right?
Leaders need to be willing to try something new, to think outside of the box. Part of a leader’s role is to manage change.Circumstances alter constantly, a leader needs to adapt and creatively deal with those changes.
Effective leaders confront realities, even when it is painful to do so. They communicate the truth, suggest strategies to move forward, inviting others to share their ideas and become involved as part of the solution.
Character means knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is about our moral and ethical strength. It is what is deep inside us, both when things go well and wrong. Ideally our reputation and our character should be mirror images. As Abraham Lincoln said: “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
A leader must have courage. The courage to sit down at the table and talk, to defend what is right even when it might be unpopular.
A leader should passionately believe in their goals and be determined to achieve them.
Charisma is the quality that inspires, that makes others trust you, follow you and believe that they have a valid role to play as part of the vision.
A leader needs to be competent and to surround themselves with people who know what they are doing as competent problem solvers.
9. Common Sense
Leaders need to be able to reason and use common sense!
When Iacocca joined Chrysler in 1978 it announced a $160 million quarterly loss, it was appallingly managed, lacking organizational discipline and structure. Harsh measures were needed, measures which Iacocca had the courage to implement. Visiting every Chrysler plant he learned how employees felt and he devised a rescue plan. Never asking others anything he wasn’t prepared to accept himself; hard work, commitment and for himself a salary of one dollar a year. Inspired by their leader’s honesty, common sense, conviction and passion employees accepted losses in wages and benefits to help effect a dramatic recovery. Iacocca bought a company teetering on bankruptcy back to life, retaining employment for thousands and making an enormous contribution to the American economy.
In today’s competitive, depressed economy, Iaccoa’s story is inspirational. Try applying his nine C’s of leadership, always do your best and do let us know what other ideas you might have to be an effective leader.
Integrity and trust are fundamental to effective leadership. A great leader is trusted and admired, a role
model whom others wish to follow and emulate, a person of integrity. Would you follow someone you neither trusted or respected? To trust you people need to believe that you are sincere and honest, that you have their best interests and the best interests of their company at heart. Being an excellent role model consolidates all the other aspects of leadership fortifying the process of creating vision, inspiration and momentum.
1. Your behavior, setting the example
Others form a picture of who you are by observing how you act. Your behavior tells others a story. The standard of behavior, the example you set and how you defend what you believe to be right all demonstrate your integrity. This is especially true during times of change when people will be looking to see if the leader lives up to the specific values and themes they are promoting. If you earn people’s respect and trust they will want to adopt your values, both personal and the company’s, which has a tremendous effect on the organizations culture and success.
2. Self respect
This is reflected by your appearance and actions, your punctuality.
3. Respect of others
How you treat others, with sincerity, empathy and consideration. To build credibility ensure that you are friendly and approachable. Make time for others, let the other person do a great deal of the talking, listen and be sympathetic to peoples’ opinions, ideas, concerns and worries. Make eye contact, know that little things count. Offer feedback and advice and take action to address their concerns.
4. Be honest and sincere
Honesty creates a culture of trust. Be uncompromising about the truth keep your word, be honest yet modest. Defend what is right. Show people that you only expect from them what you are prepared to do yourself. Let your team know what you think is important. If you don't tell people what your beliefs are, they'll guess and hold you accountable for what they guess. Being forthright has the additional benefit of making people feel like they understand you, and it develops trust faster than any other way.
5. Always defend what you believe is right
Make sure everyone knows what the organizations belief system is. Write it down, post it on the notice board. Ensure that all your actions demonstrate your adherence to this believe system and your values. Openly acknowledge and praise others who demonstrate this. Never be too important to apologize when things go wrong, When your strategy blows up in your face, take the responsibility.
6. Be magnanimous
Be magnanimous don’t bare grudges. Invite the opinions of others, ask them what values they think are important, what integrity means to them. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view Share with
them that you have accessed your own strength and weaknesses. Invite them to do the same, making yourself available to each individual to offer your help with this. Be prepared to apologize, if you are wrong admit it quickly and emphatically. Let other people feel that new ideas belong to them that their opinion matters.
Only hire integrity. ‘Walk the talk’, be firm be consistent, be honest, be respectful, be fair and kind, be the leader!
Do you agree that integrity is the cornerstone for effective leadership and that these are the traits that exemplify leadership integrity? What are your thoughts, we would love to know?
Being able to effectively communicate with others is an essential skill for anyone, regardless of their position or responsibility. All of us need to be able to convey our ideas clearly and convincingly with enthusiasm and confidence. With careful preparation, hard work, practice and a focus on clear language it is possible to develop and improve our communication skills and become more articulate. For a leader this is critical, to clearly and decisively explain vision and direction.
Sir Winston Churchill, a role model for communication?
Sir Winston Churchill, was a master communicator. We might not ever achieve the legendary status of Churchill but we should take encouragement from the fact that contrary to what many believe, Churchill was not a natural orator and was plagued by a speech impediment. Partly because of this but also driven by a desire to communicate effectively to get the results he seeked, Churchill dedicated himself to persistently rehearsing and editing each of his speeches for many hours. Hard work and practice were key components to his success together with thoughtful preparation and sincerity.
Churchill's 6 communication strategies
- Be clear about the audience you are addressing, who they are, what their needs, worries and concerns might be.
- Make sure that your communications have a well defined purpose, have a well defined objective.
- Be aware of all the facts before you speak. Do your research to make sure that you have available all relevant information
- Use simple, but precise language.
- Use humor to make you speeches easier to understand and to remember.
- Be sincere, speak from your heart. This was perhaps Churchill’s most significant tactic – his audience realized that he believed in what he was saying, they believed it too and very often acted on his words.
Additional Communication tips
1. Communicate in several methods
Communication is not all about public speaking and developing presentation skills to large audiences. Your team members want to hear new information from YOU. They want to hear your perspective on changes and new directives. Communicate key messages in more than one method. For your communication to be remembered repeat it. Be consistent without becoming predictable or boring. The first time you say something, it's heard, the second time, it's recognized, and the third time, it's learned.
2. Seek feedback and advice from others
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in creating and practicing important communication. Ask a co-worker, team member or peer manager to review the message or to listen to your practice sessions. Seek feedback from people after an important piece of communication - How could I have improved it? Which part did not seem to work well? What could I have done differently?
3. Involve your audience
Try to involve your audience, require them to think. A good communicator asks good questions that spark lively discussion, questions that promote a deeper understanding, if you want to get to the heart of something, ask “WHY?” five times. Don’t just stand up and tell people what to do, you want a team of forceful people who understand what you want but at the same time feel that they can make daily decisions themselves. Get people involved, ask for their input, their ideas. Show that you are listening and that you value their thoughts; give positive feedback and encouragement.
4. Have clear expectations and be sincere
What are your thoughts and what has worked well for you? We would love to hear from you!