You are browsing the archive for 2011 July.

Let’s not assume

July 28, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, Sales Skills, Sales Tips, Uncategorized

There is an old saying “assume makes an ASS out of U and ME” and for good reason. Too often sales people find themselves jumping in too soon, offering premature solutions when it comes to dealing with a prospective client’s needs or priorities.

Often they begin with the best of intentions by asking some preliminary questions of the prospective client. But many sales people report finding it hard to continue asking questions when opportunities present themselves during the course of the conversation. Instead, they want to begin talking about possible options and solutions too soon.

The saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is another issue especially for the Account Manager who has a long term relationship with key clients.

So how do we put aside our need to make assumptions and really make the most of our conversations with prospective clients or existing accounts?

Making assumptions is the act of ‘taking for granted’ or ‘supposing’. Not all assumptions are problematic. You can assume when there is an accepted cause and effect relationship, or the existence of a fact from the known existence of other fact(s).

Assumptions, although useful for providing basis for action and creating “what if” scenarios to simulate different realities or possible situations, are dangerous when accepted as reality without thorough examination.

And this is what happens to sales people and might I say other people all too often.

Often sales people assume they know what the prospective client wants or needs because of past experiences with other clients or pervious history of an existing client. On average sales people report that they pick their way through a series of ‘question pit stops’ hopefully finally gathering enough complete information to cover everything the prospective client wants or needs. At worst they report that a sales person can talk over the prospective client supposedly showing them how much they know with a patronising ‘Yes I’ve heard all that before’ attitude leaving the client feeling misunderstood, disenfranchised and unheard.

I’m not suggesting that sales people do this to be rude or disrespectful. In fact many report an overzealous need to prove themselves and their worth to clients. If only they could see that asking questions and actively listening to the whole story before offering advice or solutions will save everyone time, money, frustration and heartache and make selling and buying a much better experience for everyone.

Empty Cups as in do not assume

Do not assume

It took me a while but I have learnt to never assume in any meeting. I walk in with an ‘empty cup’ ready to be filled with my client’s content before I offer anything. Another little technique I use to stop me from interrupting and make me a much better listener, besides taking detailed notes, is to use my ‘flag system’. As I ask questions and listen to what a prospect or client needs or wants to achieve, I place a small flag beside the area I know I can help them with. This flag alerts me later on when I verify all that they have told me. It helps me to weave all the areas (assuming there is more than one) I can help them with into a complete picture. Many clients have actually expressed gratitude in hearing their needs, priorities, or wants fully understood and mapped. Once mapped, I can then work with them to map a pathway to the future.

Learning how to listen, ask questions, verify and reflect is essential to fully understanding another person’s whole situation, needs, priorities and wants. These are core life skills that serve us very well.

Might I suggest that we all take time out to practice our listening, questioning, verifying, and reflecting skills everyday with everyone we come in to contact with and see how this adds value to relationships. Imagine what the world would be like if couples, families, neighbours, communities, business and religious leaders, politicians and nations really listened to each other and did not assume or take each other for granted. I wonder where we would all be now?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

Are you a Sales Pioneer?

July 21, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Sales Pioneer, Success

‘Sales Pioneer’ was voted as the Number 7 Sales Trends for 2011. As the business world and selling become increasingly complicated, the Sales Pioneer is emerging to help us all map a pathway to the future.

Unafraid to ask the hard questions, uncover new opportunities and challenge the precepts and ideas of their clients and companies alike, the 21st Century Sales Pioneer is not afraid to stand up and be counted.

The 21st Century Sales Pioneer works in healthy and dynamic collaboration with clients including procurement, internal teams and allied suppliers. Above all these pioneers are educators, teaching clients how to improve their businesses. If you’re thinking about refreshing or realigning your sales team in 2011 consider finding, developing and retaining the Sales Pioneer to give you an edge this year and beyond.

Sales Pioneers are far from being ‘yes’ men or women and aren’t able to be bullied or tyrannised by prevailing views and attitudes. This is precisely what ‘market challenger’ companies will want to recruit in 2011 and beyond. This more articulate, professional and conceptual breed of sales person is definitely not well suited to compliant or transactional sales cultures. They are the first to enter new territories, open up new vistas, challenge our thinking and take us to better places where we can benefit.

Sales Pioneers sell insight. They deliver insight to making better buying decisions in a complex ambiguous world.

Sales Pioneers sell results. They sell results through education, creativity and collaboration and work with clients to deliver tangible results.

Sales Pioneers coordinate multiple stakeholders. They realise the buying decision is increasingly spread across multiple stakeholders all vying for input onto their collective futures.

Sales Pioneers create a planned approach for change. This requires patience, the ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity, excellent listening, questioning and reflecting skills, the ability to work across a range of stakeholders and understand their buying behaviours, commercial acumen and awareness, open mindedness, curiosity, amongst other things as well as courage to take the lead.

How do you manage a Sales Pioneer?

A domineering, command and control leadership approach will not work here. Nor will a weak, uninspiring visionless business keep or attract the Sales Pioneer.

Unlike the 600lb Sales Gorilla or transactional sales people, Sales Pioneers thrive on curiosity, creativity, collaboration, continuous learning and having a clear purpose to anchor their talents to. In short you provide leadership for Sales Pioneers and they will in turn lead you to the future.

Give them a compelling vision, a clear message, and the tools to go and create business for you. Above all give them your trust. Trust them to help you map your pathway forward to the future just as they can do for your clients.

How do you create Sales Pioneers?

Most likely, true Sales Pioneers are born with these enviable talents and probably never quite fitted the transactional sales culture. However, this doesn’t mean less entrepreneurial sales people can’t develop some of the same skills and attributes.

Sales Training is critical. Your people are key to successful business and so, developing their business and commercial acumen is really worthwhile given the more complex business landscape we find ourselves in. In response to this we have developed the Barrett’s Business Acumen for Sales Professionals Program which is designed to show sales people and sales managers how businesses work and what clients are looking for beyond the obvious product pitch. Knowing how your offering works in concert with your clients overall business is what Sales Pioneers are really good at. You can teach knowledge and awareness to people so they better understand clients and work with them as business professionals not just product sales people.

The right sales training and coaching (sales coaching) for your people coupled with the right work environment gives you the recipe for a team of sales pioneers. Make an “open” working environment, encourage curiosity and ideas and don’t shy away from questions being asked. Don’t tell a Sales Pioneer what to think, show them how to think. Demonstrate possibilities, options and choice and show them how to create and achieve results.

Sales Pioneers will fundamentally change your business and your clients’ businesses for the better. How courageous are you to create a Sales Pioneering team and culture?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say matter to you?

July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

After over 4300 shows in 25 years, Oprah’s final show aired recently where she mentioned that of more than 30,000 people she has interviewed, they all had one thing in common; the need to be validated. Oprah claims that the common three questions they needed answered were:

‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say matter to you?’

I propose that these questions are at the heart of 21st Century selling – the principle of exchange of value. How well a salesperson validates their clients and prospects through skills such as listening, questioning and verifying are key to their success. How good does it feel when someone really listens to you and understands you? Just great!

Usually in sales, training or coaching mode I find myself doing the bulk of the validating. The other day however, was an exception. I received a delightful surprise from a guest after speaking about High Impact Selling at a Women’s Network Australia luncheon. Sandy McDonald, a specialist in social media, sent me the following article validating me and the Barrett message. Here’s her take on ‘everybody lives by selling something‘.

Sandy writes “What do the words selling, or sales, or sales person conjure up for you? Is your first thought negative? Do you shy away from it? Or do you imagine a poor person somewhere in Asia who has to earn a living trying to sell you something you neither need nor wish to be disturbed by, as you eat your dinner?

What if I was to tell you, as I was told today, that ‘everybody lives by selling something‘? It took a while to realise just how profound this statement is.

Sue Barrett, of Barrett, is among many other things, a sales expert. She was the guest speaker at a Women’s Network Australia lunch today. ‘Everybody lives by selling something‘ is her business slogan.

When I first read it on the screen behind the lectern, it slid away from my eyes, or maybe my eyes slid away from it. The notion of selling causes me anxiety, you see. But after Sue had finished speaking, I reread it and its meaning had been entirely transformed.

The principle of fair exchange and value
It would appear I do sell. All the time. In fact, I am selling now. Writing this post, sending it to you, dispersing it through my social networks, commenting on forums. All that activity is about selling.

I had thought I was creating relationships, building trust, earning the right to have a dialogue, listening, giving you something of value in exchange for an opportunity to be of service to you.

As I understood it from Sue, that is selling.

She started out by explaining that there had been more changes in the last ten years than in the last hundred. She said in the next 100, the changes would equate to the previous 1,000 years.

She posited the theory that we make the same number of decisions in one day, as a person in the 14th century might make in their lifetime.

Our lives and how we live them have become complex. So it figures that our business offers are no longer simple. Just before the presentation, I had been discussing the role of blogging to both inform and educate your community over time, about how you can help. Few businesses can restrict that successfully now to the once trusty old DL flyer.

Sue continued with a brief history of how selling has changed since the end of World War II. Then you produced products and had a monologue with your customer. While product features and then their benefits became a focus in later decades, today we stand “at the centre of a dialogue where you exchange something of value.”

What they are buying today, she explained, is your capability, your experience and your ability to facilitate a service for them.

“We don’t just sell with our heads anymore, we sell with our hearts,” she said.

It was fascinating to hear her describe the buyers’ journey today. She explained that buyers are actually creating their buying journey before they approach you. They have investigated your offer through social media.

In light of this, she asked, “how are you managing your message?” How does your vision and your purpose fundamentally change their lives?

The Yin and Yang of Selling
It was a women’s networking luncheon (which didn’t preclude men), but of the 70 attendees, only one was a man.

Nonetheless, Sue was not pandering to her audience when she described women as excellent sales people. She said the elite performers she had interviewed who were women, all displayed the same attributes: Able to engage in self appraisal, self aware, open to being reflective, good at orchestrating resources, able to facilitate opportunity to do the best for their clients, good at aligning customers and suppliers and capable of consultative problem solving.

Effective selling, she explained is getting a balance between all of that and the more masculine approach to ‘getting out there’.

Finally, she discussed with us what a client might want from us: to deal with a professional, to expect to be helped, to have business acumen, to display conceptual thinking.

In a previous business life, we were exposed to tools to measure team engagement. One of these was a trust monitor. It involved measuring your interactions with others and theirs with yours, on a scale of 0-10, against transparency, inclusivity, competence and authenticity.

As Sue spoke about the need to listen to all your stakeholders, customers, employers, investors, suppliers, prospects, influencers, she went on to say that you have to be genuine, authentic and to connect on a holistic level. Exactly how you would benchmark your interactions with others against the values of the trust monitor.

And before this epiphany, I had not thought that building trust, understanding and empathy were all about selling as it is manifest today.”

When you truly believe in something and you take risks to put it out into the world, nothing beats having someone endorse your sentiments. There is something incredibly powerful about being validated. I encourage you all to truly see, hear and understand another person – it can make all the difference.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

How your procurement practices affect your sales and brand

July 6, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Ethics & Values, Procurement, Sales Culture

Ethical selling and procurement (purchasing) is now in the spotlight. Harvey Norman’s recent publicity surrounding their supposed sourcing and use of Australian native old growth forest timbers in their Chinese made furniture has drawn light on retail procurement practices.

Harvey Norman have been asked by activist groups NGO Markets for Change and GetUp.org.au to explain themselves. GetUp.org.au has even gone to the lengths of creating and distributing a viral advertisement, ‘No Harvey No‘ via the internet after the Television Classification Board refused to classify the ad, concerned about potential legal action if they did so. GetUp.org.au have not been deterred and their internet advertisement has reached its nearly 600,000 members Australia-wide. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What will be the impact? Who knows?

Whether or not GetUp or Harvey Norman are ethically and legally right in their actions, the matter of ethical procurement practices it not going to go away. More frequently people are asking questions about where goods come from, what they are made of, transportation miles, etc. Many people are demanding that businesses act more responsibly when it comes to sourcing and distributing their products.

Procurement is now fairly and squarely in the spotlight and choices surrounding sourcing and distribution activities can have a dramatic effect on a company’s brand, reputation and sales revenue.

Let’s look at another recent example of public influence; Australia’s live export cattle trade is now under intense scrutiny. Why did they let cattle go to these abattoirs? Didn’t they know about the poor work practices in play? No one can escape the net.

Whether you’re sourcing product or supplying product it’s important to acknowledge that in the blink of an eye, the stroke of a key or the post of a tweet, can have you and your practices under the microscope.

Sourcing, supply and distribution should never be simply about managing costs but also about managing consumer expectations.

Professional bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPSA) are now rightly asking questions about how we manage and guarantee supply in an ever changing, often unpredictable and volatile world that is laced with moral causes, principles and philosophies.

The messages are clear; people want frank, measurable, transparent and ethical selling and procurement practices which discourage inhuman and immoral practices, human and environmental degradation and exploitation, excessive consumption and greed. The focus is moving towards forging legitimate business relationships which serve the environment, people, business and communities recognising that ‘we’re all in this together’.

If we are to meet current economic, environmental and social demands and expectations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, we need to engage in ethical and sustainable selling and procurement practices which support the concept of Sustainable Development as part of our business and community strategies moving forward.

So do your procurement, distribution and selling practices stand you in good stead for the future? Could you stand up to the scrutiny experienced by Harvey Norman?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

Switch to our mobile site