Ok professional network I would like your input on something. Here’s the back ground.
As we often do in business, I recently asked a person in my network for an introduction to someone they knew as they used to work together and are connected on LinkedIn.
This is the response they received from requesting a warm introduction for me:
“Thanks. I don't know him. He's a sales person who has been trying to get business for years. I am not interested in pursuing that”
He is a sales person…
That felt like it was supposed to be derogatory and demeaning. Didn’t it?
I am not sure why but this really offended me. All morning I kept thinking about it. I have been ‘a sales person’ for over 30 years and am proud of this profession. As I have gained experience and gray hair, I now have an even better appreciation for the value of the ‘Noble Purpose’ (Lisa Earle McLeod) of putting the needs of the customers first. I am consistently looking for ways to help, not just sell something. Why can’t they figure it out?
I quickly checked my CRM and saw that I had reached out about 10 times over 30 months – several emails and a couple voice messages. Was that too much?
My first thought was that this was a poor reflection of the prospect I was trying to connect with and that they were being narrow minded.
Then, as my fragile old ego started to heal, another thought occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, this is my fault? I must have come across as ‘salesy’, whatever that is. Clearly I have not effectively communicated my intent of exploring ways to help their organization.
I thought about it further and decided that there were a few things I could have done differently. Better. Y'know like the things I train and coach on??
Since we should always learn from setbacks and failure, what have I (re)learned here?
More research - is required prior to reaching out. A generic message likely won’t resonate with anyone. Instead, what will be of specific interest to them? Everything else is just noise. In Hope is Not a Strategy, Rick Page talks of the Arsenal of Competitive Advantage and Linking only what’s relevant to the client. In hindsight I was throwing ‘stuff’ out hoping something would stick. That was dumb.
Shorter emails - I am verbose at times and my subject lines more compelling. There is lots of research that shows short emails with specific messages and compelling subject lines are opened more, increasing the opportunity to connect.
Leverage your network - to learn more about the individual PROIR to reaching out. Spending time preparing better upfront is more effective than potentially wasting time later. Jill Konrath (More Sales Less Time) writes about the benefits of pushing the BETTER button in sales vs the MORE button. If your approach or process is sub optimal, why do even more of it? Figure out how to do it even better.
Negative perception of sales people is still quite prevalent - What can I/we do to help people understand we want to help? Sales is by definition helping, however some people still view sales people as yucky. As per Daniel Pink’s word cloud in To Sell is Human:
As I have written about before, my purpose or mission is to help evolve sales people into even more effective sales professionals through sales training and coaching. This unflattering email response reminded me that we are all a work in progress. Yes, even me. Maybe especially me. It’s easy to get complacent and then reality reminds you there is always room to improve and get ‘more better’.
What recent experience have you had that was a reminder that sales is hard and we need to always be looking to grow and improve professionally?
I was looking for some funny sales cartoons last week and during my 'research' I was struck by a common theme – a negative perception of the profession of sales. Unfortunately, I get it and it’s our own fault.
Think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all). Sure organizations often provide technical or product training, but what about actual sales skills? There was (is?) the common scenario of ever-increasing targets and misguided compensation plans that reward the wrong behavior. Given the lack of training and poor comp plans, is there any wonder why sales has a bad reputation? We were literally creating an environment where a collection of under skilled, unprepared sales people with intense pressure to ‘close’ were interacting YOUR clients. As a result, it’s not a surprise that we often see desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
The often poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s change that.
Don’t believe me or think I may be exaggerating? Well, I will politely say you are wrong. As noted in my recent LinkedIn post, In his book "To sell is Human", Daniel Pink did a survey on the perception of sales people and 80% of the responses were NEGATIVE.
Based on my ‘research’, I see many top sales writers and influencers speaking about the evolution of sales, especially with the recent pandemic causing even more need to adapt.
The Modern Definition of Sales-Generally speaking, sales is a process of creating value and helping prospective customers fix their problems. Sales is all about ABH or Always Be Helping rather than an old school ABC which was all about Always Be Closing
I like that. I also saw this comment that resonated with me:
“What makes someone effective at sales? A genuine desire to help others solve problems”
Lisa Earle McLoed describes a concept of Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who's focus or purpose is to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas), actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
So then how do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals and shift the perception of sales?
Well, what elite athletes have in common is an intentional plan and time commitment to work on specific skills. Why don’t we do the same with Leadership and Sales skills? (I don’t know either- that’s why I am asking you!).
Organizations rely on sales to grow revenue. Always have. As we recover from the pandemic, we need effective, motivated and well-trained sales professionals to grow our organizations and our economies. This underlines how important it is to focus the appropriate investment, time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams skills to increase the opportunity for success.
Proper training and coaching is more important than ever to help sales reps evolve into effective and fulfilled sales professionals. All of us can benefit from enhancing and updating our skills.
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. This diverse teams of business all-stars have helped me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow closer to their potential. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
These programs are available virtually and when appropriate, in-person.
Let's work together to professionalize sales by providing better training and coaching support for the people who chose to work in this incredibly important area of our organizations.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
Work with me here:
Think of your favourite (yes Canadian spelling) hockey team (GO Jets Go). You watch all the games and are a huge fan. Let’s say their 5 on 5 game is good, Penalty Killing is near the top of the league, but the Power Play is ineffective and not only doesn’t score, it takes momentum away from your team. The Power Play has sucked for a while now and nothing seems to work. But they keep doing. The same. Dam. Thing. Man that's frustrating, right?
As a fan are you screaming at the TV for the coach to ‘do something’? (I don’t do that by the way). Maybe fire the GM? Or change it up and put so and so in front of the net.
"If it’s not working, why don’t they do SOMETHING? Anything?"
As the coach, if you knew the PP was hurting your success, wouldn’t you look to update and improve your power play?
Additionally, what if they didn’t track this part of their game (analytics/KPI’s) and don’t even realize the extent the Power Play and is hurting the team’s success? That would be irresponsible to the players and the fans. Especially the fans.....
Wait a minute - does this maybe, possibly, even a little bit...sound like your sales game plan?
While I have your attention, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is your sales strategy?
2. How do you measure your effectiveness?
4. What does your sales funnel look like? (Does it look like a funnel?)
If these questions were difficult to answer, or you didn’t like the answers, should we fire the coach? Of course not. But it does drive home the fact that if we took a page from sports in terms of our approach to sales and sales leadership, we could probably be even more successful.
Here’s another example to hopefully drive this point home: Think about the amount of time sports teams invest preparing and planning for their games. Football for example takes an entire week to review game film, devise a game plan specific to the next opponent, run drills at practice, more drills, pre-game preparation etc.
To maximize the opportunity for a successful outcome.
In our case that may be a sale, but it may also be another meeting. It may be an opportunity to get in front of more decision makers to even better understand how you can help them. It may be the opportunity to submit a proposal for the first time with this account. Those are all 'wins' that lead up to the 'championship' – a new client.
How many of us show up to our calls and meetings prepared with a well-defined sales game plan?
No? Ok that’s it! FIRE THE COACH!!!
Kidding again of course.
But, maybe you could hire a Sales Coach to work with your team. One that has the experience to help guide team players and management on developing a sales game plan that will lead to increased success. Someone who could put processes and structure into place that will lead to building that capacity internally so that you can eventually run your own game plan. Someone that could help with practice plans and provide a safe and fun environment to practice your various skills so that when you get into the game - sorry met with a customer - you are prepared to be at your best, help the customer and invariably, make the sale.
Somebody who is funny, witty and with boyish good looks and charm for days. I know a guy…
I had lunch recently with someone who said something I really liked. We were talking about the noble profession of sales, how difficult it can be and how many businesses struggle or fail because they don't invest the proper time and energy into sales and marketing and/or they don’t respect (or understand) the profession of sales. His comment was about the fact that while he may not have the specific expertise that his clients have, why do ‘they’ so often feel like they know how to sell/do business development!?!?
That’s a great question and something I wrote about in one of my first blogs over 4 years ago: “How hard can it be?”
It is still baffling to me how often really smart people feel that if your organization has a great product or solution, that's essentially all you need and growth will simply occur.
My lunch date also shared a story of a scientist who came up with a new ‘invention’. He was asked how do you expect to grow revenues for this invention and his response was they would write a couple of papers......
In another example, I recently had a conversation with an association that represents engineering professionals in their province. We were discussing leadership training and the conversation turned to sales. To paraphrase her comment: Engineers are smart people that don’t have a clue how to sell. (Not picking on engineers!)
In prepping for this blog I found a LinkedIn article that I liked, especially point 5.
The author quotes Henry Ford "Nothing happens until someone sells something”.
The more I thought about the quote the more I appreciated how profound it is. You can have the greatest product or solution but without a strong sales and marketing plan, and someone to execute it, not much is likely to happen in terms of growth. You can assemble the best team of professionals and create a great solution for customers but…..somewhere along the line there has to be an effort to find a potential customer, an initial conversation with the right person, a relationship and trust built, an in-depth understanding of the challenge/opportunity and then a solution presented that fits that need and helps the customer.
If all of this was easy and anyone could do it.....
There is an undeniable synergy between the art AND science of selling. If sales was easy there wouldn’t be so many books, articles, training systems, etc. out there designed to help people get even better at selling.
Sales takes hard work, constant improvement, training, failure and learning, a genuine desire to help, time and energy, more hard work and more training, more failure and learning.
Also I wouldn’t have gray hair if sales was easy. Although I think it makes me look smarter.
So to be clear, I don’t know how to be a:
· Software Developer
· Exotic Male Dancer (apparently I am ‘too old’)
· IT Expert
· NHL goalie (I wish tho)
· Supply Chain Expert
· Operations Expert
· Network Designer
(I think you get the picture)
And if you are really good at any of these, chances are pretty good you could use some help growing your business.
Further, it’s precisely my lack of expertise in all these professions above that allow me, and other sales/business development experts, to help your organization grow. It is the coming together of experts with different areas of specialty and collaborating that create the ingredients for success and revenue growth.
My 30+ years of experience in sales and my renewed commitment to professional development has reinforced for me that if you try to sell off the side of your desk, or if you don’t invest the appropriate time and energy in your sales team (hiring, training, mentoring) and sales processes, you are very likely to be disappointed in your growth results.
So if you and/or your company are looking to do any of the following: improve revenue, increase margins, shorten sales cycles, earn more business, reduce sales turn over and help more clients, think about having a conversation with a sales consultant. I know a guy.
Further to my post last week, recent events have given me time to think….. and as a result, re-focus on what I love doing: sales training and coaching
Last week I posted about the ongoing and rapid evolution of the sales profession.
Old school tactics and ‘tricks’ don’t work and created a lot of inappropriate sales behavior that tarnished the view that many people had (or have) of sales and sales people. It likely also resulted in many good people avoiding or leaving the profession because many of these old school approaches didn’t sit well with them.
"The sometimes poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me either. I am going to do my part to help people and organizations who want to grow. "
Organizations rely on sales people and sales departments to grow their business, move into new markets, introduce new solutions, increase market share, create positive experiences with new and existing clients, make ice cream taste better, improve margins, grow revenue and help our dogs love us even more. (just making sure you are paying attention and getting the point about how important the sales function is within your organization).
The above points, well most of them anyway, reinforce how important it is to focus the appropriate time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams to increase the opportunity for success. Imagine a hockey coach having a great break out plan, speed and numbers through the neutral zone, strong zone entry plan, offensive zone set up and then…..crickets. No plan to create high danger scoring chance. Do they think ‘We’ll figure it out when we get there’?
My sports analogy aside, there are many organizations that spend considerable time, energy and money on great products and solutions. They develop top notch products and services, with high quality engineering and development teams, highly educated and skilled finance and operations teams etc. Ask yourself if you are investing the corresponding time and energy into hiring, training and supporting a world class sales team? One that will, after considerable effort, eventually put the puck in the net or push the ball into the end zone?
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. These diverse teams of business all-stars are helping me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow into even more effective sales professionals. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
I think you get the point.
Initially the plan was to deliver these as ½ day and full day in-person training experiences. Circumstances dictated that these will now be delivered in 90 minute webinar modules. These programs will be ready to launch in the very near future and I am excited to share them with you once they are ready.
My goal is simply this – to help sales professionals continually improve and to love what they do. What they do is help people solve problems and leverage new opportunities. Like any professionals in business and in sport, we need a plan - and then to practice based on that ‘game plan’ so we can continue improving our skills, to grow and to reach our potential. Investing time and energy into professional development in order to constantly evolve and grow just makes sense.
That’s where, as professionals committed to constant learning and growth, we can benefit from the opportunity to work with a trainer and coach who can help us.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.