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The Audacity of Hope:
“Just Do It” Works for Nike but is Fatal for Salespeople

Most salespeople, as a matter of habit and conditioning, still try to do business normally in a world that is anything but. There is a huge gap between today’s selling strategies and today’s market conditions. Salespeople in general ardently reject traditional selling in principle and embrace consultative selling, but have no real process to execute it with. A lot of apparent changes are merely window dressing. Salespeople are quickly finding out the hard way that identifying prospects’ needs and giving solutions isn’t consultative selling.

Salespeople need a better sales strategy and sales model. Imagine a quarterback coming out on the field during the last drive of the game, going into the huddle and enthusiastically saying to the players, “I don’t know, let’s just do it!” It works fine for Nike, but not for salespeople.

Manufacturers don’t put up with line workers running production lines as they see fit. The administrative staff isn’t allowed to run whatever software it is comfortable with. Companies allow certain things to happen in the sales department which they wouldn’t permit anywhere else in the organization. Too many sales organizations believe that selling is a mystery, an afterthought and an ugly stepchild. Selling is truly the last frontier as far as efficiency is concerned. The process salespeople use has generally been unchanged for decades. The only meaningful changes in the sales department have been external. Sales departments have made large gains in mechanization, processing and tracking of orders and monitoring activity at the exclusion of creating a disciplined and systematic sales process. The easy answer to why is, because it is easier to change external processes than it is to change human behavior and interaction. Many companies have spent more money, time and resources on training clerical and factory workers than they have on their salespeople.

An effective sales process, vision, and disciplined strategy are the most important things a company can do for their sales effort. A systematic sales process can be a huge competitive advantage for a company. Salespeople can no longer fly by the seat of their pants with a “wing and a prayer” strategy, and expect to be productive and efficient anymore.

Salespeople need a documented and systematic process of predictable and repeatable steps that when followed consistently lead to a high percentage of success. Salespeople need to reinvent themselves and use a system that tells them in advance about whether they are winning, losing, what red flags to look for, how to change when needed and how to avoid similar missteps in the future. They need a system that puts them in control more and leads to uniform steps of action to produce specific outcomes.

Most selling is due to random events leading to accidents, both positive and negative. Salespeople instead need to lead prospects through sequential stages with a series of progressive, small commitments. “Once salespeople adopt a universal system of problem solving, managing information and change, they can begin objectively to look at everything they do as an opportunity cost,” says Jim Holden. They can better decipher and analyze their prospect’s critical business issues to better determine if they have a compelling reason to change, what their problems are, how much it is costing them, what the decision process is, how much money is available, how change happens and what the competing priorities are.

Once salespeople have an end-to-end process that is sequentially linked and has stopgaps, they can optimize their time and resources more effectively and neutralize, contain, and counter-balance the prospect’s superior buying process. This process of checks and balances utilizes universal questions to understand the process of change that prospects must go through and can be adapted to any type of personality a salesperson may have.

Salespeople tend to be very predictable and transparent. Their process is easily anticipated and neutralized by most sophisticated prospects. Most salespeople try to win the hearts and minds of their prospects by being energetic, confident and passionate in their pursuit. Instead they should be a resource, a leader and a change agent who helps the prospect in a sequential process that determines the cost of change and the will to follow through with it.

By following a defined sales stategy, you allow the prospect the opportunity to disqualify themselves each step along the way early and often, from beginning to end. By doing so, you start to sell consequences, problems and change, not products and solutions.

As you start to adapt this end-to-end process, you’ll find that understanding is far more critical than persistence and giving out information.

Any disciplined sales process is typified by give and take. However, if salespeople or prospects are only taking, then there is no mutual basis for a relationship. It must be a mutual exploration and discovery process. To do so, you must be willing to suspend your ego, your expertise and all your hard-won product knowledge. You must learn to try to have unconditional acceptance of your prospect’s point of view, regardless of whether it is wrong or not. You must learn to use your product expertise as a tool to get more information, not give away more information.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com