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 >>>
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 >>>>
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.
Its been a great weekend. Yesterday I spoke at a Goldman Sachs event managed by MMU – the topic was “Delivering a Great Sales Strategy”. My input was part of Goldman’s initiative to support 10,000 growth wish entrepreneurs across the UK. The set up was fantastic and the twenty odd companies and their mentors who participated were there for a number of valuable reasons:
1. To grow
2. Create wealth
3. Generate jobs
4. Fulfil personal intentions
5. Make a difference
6. Learn about business best practice
7. Network with likeminded people
When you are part of such an energetic group of people it makes getting out of bed so much easier. Owner managers/entrepreneurs/ ambitious people should realise the value of being part of a network of like-minded people. Yesterday reaffirmed to me that when ambitious individuals get together to learn, exchange ideas and share experiences the results can be transformational. It doesn’t feel so lonely after all!
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.
Enthusiasm is highly contagious and extremely powerful force you can use to build relationships and form new connections. It is far more pleasing to interact with individuals that are highly energised and motivated by what they do than spend time with people who seemingly just can’t be bothered. If you suppress your feelings about the things you love to do you run the risk of cultivating an image of apathy. It can result in others forming opinions that fail to do justice to you ability, skill and competence. – make your feelings come alive. Enthusiasm is the manifestation of your passion and it should be delivered with confident communication to those you wish to influence.
Fast track goals achievement by allowing your enthusiasm to rise to the surface, make it very clear to others how much a certain issue, topic or aspect of your vocation or professional life means to you. You do this by:
- Projecting your voice clearly and articulate concisely your thoughts
- Use open body language and gestures to show how you feel – be animated
- Have opinions but don’t be opinionated, avoid being viewed as arrogant
- Use visual aids and props to make key points come alive and engage with examples
Find the dividing line between enthusiasm and over zealousness as the latter can come across as an annoying. Behaving in this way can alienate others to your views as your zeal can be interpreted as pure rhetoric. Be aware of the audience you are interacting with and mindful of their personalities, if necessary curb the enthusiastic behaviour to suit personal preferences. Your enthusiasm and energy can be highly motivating for others when used carefully, it becomes an effective vehicle for adding value and demonstrating to others the difference you make. The spirit of enthusiasm clearly signals to others your zest for life, this in turn creates a charisma – remember charisma sells ideas, thoughts and plans!
I have spent so much time over the last number of years speaking and lecturing on the topic of “what great selling looks like”. Great selling for me is about:
– Finding problems and solving them
– Bringing added value that makes a difference
– Capturing the voice of the customer
– Living in the customer world
– Walking away if what you have does not align to the customer needs
We have seen so much non sense in my view over the years around objection handling and closing techniques – most of which I disagree with – trickery that aims to nobble people! Closing starts the minute you open your mouth – if you spend the duration of a meeting talking rubbish – I remain to be convinced that some form of magic wand termed as a closing technique will do the job. Sell from the heart and believe in what you are selling – the best sales people I have met just love their proposition. This love translates in to a passion – the ultimate sales tool. Dont be afraid of letting your customers know how much you love your propositions!