If you’re lucky enough to be the latest brand new shiny thing to hit the market you’ll be basking in the warm glow of uniqueness. And if your innovative new product or service offers terrific value to your customers, that they can’t get elsewhere, you’ll have an audience of eager customers willing to invest their dollars and welcome you into their businesses, at least for a little while.
But of course, in today’s marketplace, no new product or service has the luxury of being the only choice for too long. Competitive offerings are chasing you down like Usain Bolt in the 100m dash. The reality for most in today’s hyper-competitive sales and business environment is that you’re faced with multiple offerings from other companies that are remarkably similar to your own.
All of this “sameness” makes life incredibly frustrating for buyers. And the bad news for sellers is, more often than not the only way they can separate you from everyone else is, you guessed it – on price! Ouch. All of that money invested in carefully curated brands and clever marketing and it all comes down to the lowest number. That’s tough to hear, but not at all surprising. In a recent post titled “Sales Has Changed. Have You?” by Randy Illig, Global Leader – Sales Performance with FranklinCovey, he shared this feedback from a group of Fortune 100 technology buyers. When asked how they felt about sales and sales professionals they responded very negatively, stating that only “one, or maybe two, percent of so-called sales professionals make the grade.”
By “making the grade” they meant the salesperson demonstrated a depth of knowledge and expertise that brought significant value to the interaction, helping key stakeholders to make good decisions and get things done. But herein lies the problem. Most employers are simply not investing in the ongoing development of their sales forces, at least not at the level necessary to build the expertise buyers value so much, but seldom experience.
Most are providing little more than a couple of days per year of “training” and many are doing nothing at all. Instead, they’re relying on the thin veneer of their brand and marketing to open doors and placing the weight of expectation of their people to figure out what to do next. As I said no surprise then that buyers are seeing little value in the sales interaction.
Leaders are quick to oversimplify sales and to underestimate what it takes to realise the highest levels of performance. It’s tempting to think a quick fix training “event” will cure all that ails you. Indeed there are many providers out there who will gladly part you from your money. The truth is they’re effectively peddling the modern day version of snake oil. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes.
If you’re a sales professional or are in a role that carries revenue generating responsibilities, a key part of your work is to meet with people. In fact, you’ll most likely interact with and touch the lives of more people every day than just about any other profession. Each one of those interactions has a direct influence on individual, team and organisational success, so knowing what to do and knowing why you're doing it is pretty important. Navigating the fog and complexity of long sales cycles, with multiples stakeholders, all the while keeping your focus on customer value requires skills and behaviours that do not come naturally. They have to be earned.
It doesn't matter if you're an individual, a team, a small or medium-sized business or a large company employing thousands of people; changing behaviours and creating the kind of culture that delivers superior and sustainable results takes time and effort. In today’s new selling and business environment a couple of days “sales training” each year just won’t cut it, not by a long way.
It takes more than a couple of days of exercise to smash out a great performance in a Tough Mudder Run, and it takes more than one lesson to crank out famous riffs like Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit on an electric guitar. The truth is that anything worth doing requires a much greater level of commitment and focus over time. Just ask anyone in any field who has achieved a degree of proficiency. If you’re going to become terrific at something, you’re going to have to put in the hard work, sweat, repetition, drilling, and practicing until you get it right. Sales is no exception.
If you’ve ended the financial year with great numbers, a happy sales team, and even happier client’s congratulations. Keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you’ve fallen short now is the perfect time to rethink. What may have worked before simply doesn’t work any longer. You and your salespeople need to be much more than in the past. But it’s going to take leaders with courage and conviction to lead that change. As Randy points out in his post - Sales Has Changed. Have You?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian J Lowe is the Founder & CEO of eccoh, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation pioneering a movement to change the way the world thinks about and experiences sales. Ultimately our goal is to break down the barriers between people. In my view sales is the most effective vehicle to achieve that objective. Salespeople touch more lives every day than just about any other profession, consequently, we have more opportunity than most to bring value to those interactions, whatever the outcome.
By working together to overcome challenges, build relationships based on trust, authenticity and genuine care for our fellow human beings inside and across workplaces throughout the world, we will eventually see a natural flow of that goodwill into our communities and throughout society as a whole. Salespeople can be a powerful force for collective good in the world - now that's a purpose I can believe in. If you can too let’s talk. Maybe we can make it happen together.
Image Credit: Double Impact movie, Stone Group Pictures, 1991.