While everyone may be thinking of their Halloween costume or what tricks or treats they may provide, as sales leaders we must consider the bigger picture. It is a scary world out there, with plenty of things to fear: the future of the business cycle, new taxes that will hit in 2015, and how your sales team will perform in another challenging year. All of these fears impact your planning actions.
Emotion has always been a major element in the sales environment. Today's buyers are more risk-avverse, and salespeople are more cautious and less confident. Worse, the relationships between buyers and sellers are caught up in an artificial game of tug-o-war between cost and value.
It's a familiar scenario. For years, powerful discount suppliers have pressured vendors to push prices lower and lowers. Just recently, I listened to a prospective client describe how prospects were treating his sales teams and how his sales teams dreaded attempting to call on "net new" opportunities. “It’s all about low price-vendor relationships versus how we like to work as a consultative partner with our clients,” he told me. The good news is that, at least in the technology sector, two factors separate us from this mentality.
In selling your solutions, as partners, we can sell productivity enhancements, business efficiency, and cost effectiveness. (And, if you do it right, you can sell both at the same time.) I challenge you to consider which — if any — other industries address these most important business challenges.
The question is: As an owner or sales leader, how are you reducing the fear in your sales teams — and how are they approaching their prospects or clients to lower their fears?
At a recent conference, I led three back-to-back breakout sessions about reading the evaluations. In conversations afterward, I heard fear-based questions, such as: “What should I do...? What do you recommend...? How should I address...?”
What are your action steps to reduce fear and finish off 2014?
Most would consider this a weak action; however, if you spend time creating a mantra or maxim that you believe in and you focus your energies around reinforcing it with your sales team, the desired attitude will build. At the University of Tennessee, they display former Coach General Neyland's 7 Maxims. His first is: "The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win." I have also used, "Be Brilliant on the Basics." Each of these is designed build a certain sales mentality.
This requires sales training that includes adding role play in your sales meetings. The issues your team must understand are: operational efficiency, cost containment, customer responsiveness, revenue growth and increase market share. What issues do the CEO, COO, CFO, VP of Sales/Marketing, or VP HR care about? If you make the business case to the COO, they can find the money. Make your sales team more confident; give them the knowledge to hold their own in tough sales situations. Mental toughness is critical.
To gain attention you need to consider “edgy” approach and stand out in the market. The important element is to create multiple messaging that addresses the business challenges from #2 above. Campaigns should be focused to the specific job title you are attempting to address. Most partners use the same messaging to addres all job titles, or worse, they use a technology message expecting business decision makers to understand — or translate the technology pitch into valid business benefits.
Run your Business Breakfasts or Executive Forums campaigns aimed specifically to a job title, with the appropriate message for that title. "Drive an Increase in Customer Satisfaction and Lower Your Costs” certainly would get the attention of the VP of Marketing or COO.
Don’t be scared; be aware — the important action is to take action. Sales leaders must recognize their environment and build a culture of success with an organized plan of attack.
Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 16 years, his consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout the world. His book Leading High Performance Sales Teams is a best-seller, and his fifth book, “JAMMED! for New Sales Managers" was published this summer. Ken provides keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance.
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