For the last 10 years I have been studying was makes great sales individuals tick. The high performers I have researched span the spectrum of start up entrepreneurs, high growth businesses, typically the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 up to FTSE250 businesses. My mission has been to understand what makes these people perform better, why do they excel? – More importantly what can we learn about the skills, tools, tactics and behaviours they use day in day out.
Some years ago my first book ‘Pitch Perfect – Feel the Impact of a Winning Sales approach’ was published it defined the three principles of sales excellence, these are:
- Functional mastery – an intimate understanding of the products and services, customer’s world, market and competitive environment
- Customer Connectivity – an ability to find, win and keep customers and build a go to brand both personally and professionally
- Momentum – the internal energy, passion, drive and focus to achieve and exceed targets
Thousands of entrepreneurs and sales professionals have been trained in this methodology and they have embraced the sales excellence framework. The resultant effect has been transformational performance in terms of winning and retaining sales. Our success has led us to translating our methodology into a recognised qualification and educating the next generation of sales professionals – we have created a sales apprenticeship that equips young talent to embrace the approach of the world’s most effective entrepreneurial sales individuals.
Some of our fabulous sales apprentices with the team
Recruiting and retaining high quality sales talent is a challenge most business owners will be able to relate to. To combat the high staff turnover which is commonplace with sales staff many successful companies have decided to embark on a strategy of “growing their own talent”.
I am on a crusade to support and grow tomorrows “sales stars” by assembling a group of individuals who live and breathe the principles of great selling. I would strongly recommend any ambitious growth hungry entrepreneurial business to consider taking on a sales apprentice. They will have the attitude and mindset to do a great job, represent your brand with passion and more importantly help to deliver what every company wants – more sales!
Find out more about recruiting a sales apprentice, trained by The Winning Sales Academy >>>
Anyone involved in sales and marketing will know about features and benefits – a legacy of the 70′s/80′s and 90′s school of selling. Whilst the underpinning principle in my view is sound – today we find customers are more discerning, wanting for far more, often for less! Over the past few years I have been exploring how the old school of selling (F & B) can be fused with a more powerful channel to communicating propositions – this has led me to adding impact and evidence to the old ways of doing things. I believe that when we combine F and B with I and E an extremely intense message is emitted to customers. Next time you are in a sales situation think about:
Impact – can you validate to customers: return on investment (ROI), cost savings, efficiencies, when you can demonstrate impact in terms of facts and figures the credibility of your proposition is just positioned on a new level – for example if you are an advertising agency, can you show the impact of your services on the clients budget of £X will give a return of £5X
Evidence– telling the customer that you are great is superficial and generic – in the case of the advertising agency the evidence should be – the names of three clients that have benefited from the services and indeed the added value brought to bear. Such an approach to selling is clear – there is no ambiguity.
I have observed many businesses embrace this F.B.I.E model of selling and proposition marketing . It can be applied to telesales, web communications, pitches and any other form of business development. When you think in terms of FBIE your messages become crisper and to the point – more importantly they will resonate with the customers world – it shows you are bothered and its not just about getting a deal. Try it – it really does work!
Train yourself or your sales team on John’s ‘Principal of Selling’ with The Winning Sales Academy >>>
Success involves people and organisations having to sell what they have to offer – this could be our skill, a product or service. This term frightens the life out of many as it conjures images of unethical smooth talking individuals manipulating others so as to get their own way. This is not the case, a great pitch is grounded in ethical behaviour fused to a mindset of offering real value through a passionate belief in what you have to offer. Personal and professional progression means that you will frequently be in a situation where you have to pitch for what you want. Applying for a career promotion, a place on the school board or attracting new customers fundamentally means we are in competition and there is a need to sell.
If you don’t adopt this mindset then you will struggle to get what you want out of life. When you find yourself in a situation where selling is vital, start by asking:
- Do I understand their world?
- What problem am I going to solve for the person I am pitching to?
- What do I know about my audience?
- What value do I bring?
- What examples can I use to evidence credibility?
- How can I bring to life the impact I make?
- What is special about what I have to offer?
Personal progression means you must embrace the philosophy of life is a pitch. In doing this you condition yourself to delivering an effective and engaging performance to those that matter. Convincing others of the benefit of your talent, idea, product or service is an integral component to achieving your goals. Other people have an influence on whether we succeed or not. Your pitching mindset should help you to position your key messages in the following way:
- Real and tangible
- Deliver it with passion and meaning
- Ruthlessly simplistic message
- Clearly shows the difference you will make
- Win – win outcome
Practicing your pitching skills to enhance your chances of success. It will put you in a stronger position to beat off competition.
The UK needs more sales professionals. It’s a core skill many of the successful business people and entrepreneurs I have met possess. They commit time, effort and energy learning how to sell, they train hard and learn how to build long lasting relationships and win-win outcomes with customers.
Those individuals who learn how to effectively sell will always have employment, they get the highest paid jobs and many often go on to set up their own business. They enjoy fulfilling careers and make a big difference to their employers.
The call centre and door to door commissioned sales, sales-rep provides the classic view of a career in selling – the reality is these can be both highly paid positions and they provide a grounding in the vital skill of having a great telephone or face to face conversation – essential to success and personal progression.
Train hard, learn, read and hone your sales skills – it will deliver a long lasting and profitable career.
We are supporting National Apprenticeship week. Find out more about The Winning Sales Academy >>>>
For the past ten years marketing experts and the finance community have stressed the importance and benefit of having an “elevator pitch”. This is the term, originating from the US, used to describe very clearly and concisely your proposition or offering. The elevator pitch is commonly used in selling situations, increasingly it has become one of the key tools entrepreneurs use to raise finance.
The Dragons Den format has dominated investments forums in recent years and it seems to be these events where the elevator pitch has greatest application. Just how effective is this pitching environment? – on TV we have seen many individuals face humiliation in front of millions. Makes great TV (not for me, as I personally can’t stand the programme). These TV styled events have got boring, local entrepreneurs (business angels, devils more like) with ego’s the size of planets, sit there in judgement of nervous individuals struggling to get their message out in three minutes.
Well in my view anyone who can make a financial judgement based on a three-minute elevator pitch must be a genius. The sensible and ethical investors I have come across avoid TV style pitching formats and spend time trying to understand the idea, the proposition, the person, the market, and the numbers. It’s a considered response based on a least a couple of hours of discussion. How many ideas get lost or fail to see the light of day because an individual can’t get their message over within 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Does that make them a bad entrepreneur?
Two serious and successful VC’s I have spoken to (one in the UK and the other from North America) have started to do away with pitching type events – instead they want to get under the skin of the ideas and the people. How refreshing!
I was asked today what I thought about the LEAD programme. The truth is it should still be running. For me LEAD was a fantastic stimulus for both personal and organisational change. It helped leaders to personally and professionally grow.
Anyone running a business knows that if you don’t adapt and constantly move with the needs of customers you will quickly get left behind. Living in the “Customers World” by spending at least 3 days a week with them is a habit successful entrepreneurs exhibit. By doing this you get close to their problems and issues, ultimately locking in by becoming a trusted adviser
Any leader should be promoting the fundamental importance of sales. Great selling is about adding value, leaving positive mental imprints of yourself and your business. Integrity, trust and a strong reputation are key foundations of happy customers. Remember – the desk is a very dangerous place to view the market and your customers needs, get out there and practice the philosophy of success is 20% thinking and 80% doing!
LEAD helped to embed these very important principles for growth – bring it back !
Bravery and courage are important traits of successful entrepreneurs. All too often there is a very fine dividing line between success and failure, the implications on either outcome can equally profound. Rene Carayol, a leading management thinker and person I truly admire talks about the need to sometimes practice “scary strategies”. These are methodologies that need to be employed in order to achieve a breakthrough or pursue big personal/business intention. They often involve raising the bar and extension of our natural comfort zones. Scary strategies are particularly appropriate in difficult selling situations where there is a real need to demonstrate competitive advantage e.g. dislodging an incumbent supplier from a long-standing relationship or as a small business pitching against a global brand.
In considering the deployment of a scary strategy we must pay due recognition to:
– Challenging the status quo and encouraging the customer to change their outlook, in other words try to change their mindset
– Bringing a different approach or one that is unconventional but truly brings benefit (however, there is a fine dividing line between genius and madness)
-Challenge existing practices that are old-fashioned and out of date
Scary strategies should be considered when all traditional methods of winning business have failed. Doing something memorable that is innovative, inspiring and displays a real sense imagination can sometimes win the day.
An approach taken by major London ad agency in the 90’s is one of the best examples I have come across. In the days of British Rail, the top management turned up at the agency ready to be pitched to. An uninterested receptionist, filing her nails, made them wait in the foyer, which was decorated with coffee-stained tables and overflowing ashtrays. The minutes ticked by and nobody came to meet them. Furious at their treatment, the BR managers were about to storm out when an agency Director and his team appeared. “That’s how the public sees BR,” the Director told them. “Now let’s see what we can do to put it right.”
Yesterday morning I spoke to a fantastic group of ambitious high growth SMEs. The theme was how do growth businesses embrace a winning approach to selling. My aim was to dispel some of the myths that go with this notoriously challenging dimension of business growth. Other key messages included, superior and sustained sales growth is achieved when there is clarity in the business model, strong team ethos, robust processes and systems linked to clearly differentiated propositions.
We also discussed what makes great selling at the coal face. When you love, believe in and are passionate about what you are offering it creates an energy and customers will very often tune into messages at an emotional level. If you don’t love what you are offering don’t expect the customer to. Only last week my philosophy of selling from within was summed up wonderfully by a delegate at another event, she said “my best sales performances are when I get the opportunity to just talk about what we do and how we add value”. The era of the hard sell is over, the order of the day is building customer relationships through partnerships and collaboration. It is vital to embrace this mindset when you turn up to your customers. Dont let them think you are only there to flog them something.
I have referred to this point in some of my recent blogs but I really do want to stress how important I believe the issue to be – I keep coming across the problem time and time again, both with SMEs and larger companies. The big assumption many sales trainers make is – “The business model, propositions, products and services offered by those being trained do actually capture the voice of the customer and align to needs”. This can be a dangerous assumption to make.
This very point came to light only this week when one individual I was talking to after an event said – “I just do not believe in the product and what it delivers” – a training course will not improve performance if this is the case. In my experience is that many large corporates fail to see this and when under performance kicks in managers go straight to HR to request a relevant sales course. How much money has been wasted on such occasions?
The very fact that someone does not believe in a product could be two-fold, firstly the because market does not want it, this results in constant customer knock backs or secondly the individual has a personal hang up with what is being sold. If it’s the former – a rethink of strategy, innovation is necessary so speak to the customers. If the latter then that could be one of many reasons ranging from lack of product knowledge through to personal motivation. Coaching from a respected colleague or manager can be a highly effective way of getting to the heart of the matter.