||Marketing Strategy . . .|
Avoiding the Biggest Mistakes of Selling
Help your sellers stand out and win more deals
by James A. Alexander, Ed.D.
We all know that effectively selling complex services and solutions requires lots of horsepower ó a robust combination of broad and deep knowledge, executive-level skills and a trusted advisor mindset. Being good at this takes most talented and motivated individuals years of hard work to achieve, and only a select group of your sellers may ever be substantially better at it than your competitors' sellers.
But wait a minute! Achieving the competitive advantage and winning more deals may not be as difficult as lots of people pontificate (including me!). My research and that of others has consistently shown dissatisfaction with how services and solutions are sold. A recent study taking a different approach shows the reasons why buyers are often disgruntled with sellers.
Figure 1 shows what buyers view as the biggest mistakes made by sellers who call on them. Take a look and see what they say.
Wow! This is interesting. Buyers donít beat up their sellers for not asking sophisticated questions, or eloquently discussing performance theory or clearly articulating an industry viewpoint on critical issues. They are disappointed that the sellers who call on them donít have good manners! In their view, many sellers are not:
Exhibiting basic communication skills such as listening attentively and explaining things clearly
Demonstrating respect for the customer by doing upfront research, learning the customerís buying process and then following it
Following through as promised by doing what they say they will do when they say they will do it
My first reaction to this research was one of disappointment in that many in the field obviously did not see selling as a profession and that we've seen little progress from the days of formula selling.
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However, further reflection changed my feeling to one of optimism ó what a marvelous opportunity exists for sales leaders looking to distinguish their people. Becoming trusted advisors is still an important long-term goal for many sales organizations, but consistently doing the basics well is a quick path to distinguishing your salespeople. Here are three principles you can apply to make significant improvement fast:
Zero tolerance. Thereís no need to explain quantum mechanics or practice the principles of Jungian psychology. For the most part, sellers must simply put in practice the things they learned at home or in primary school. Make a mandatory, no exceptions, iron-clad rule of employment that your sellers treat everyone with respect, do what they will say they will do and follow the other tenets of professionalism.
Time and tools. Some of your people may have been absent the days these core life principles were taught. Others may have been abusing these constructs for so long that the bad habits have become ingrained into their everyday behavior. No matter. Employees deserve a little time to change their ways along with tools to help them do it. Provide information and training as needed.
Trust but verify. Stop conducting your normal customer satisfaction research for a while. Instead, ask customers what your sellers do well and not so well. Link their performance to their pay. This will get your peopleís attention immediately and drive the new actions you want.
Selling is a profession, and sales people should think of it in that context. Consistently following this standard will distinguish your people and your organization from the pack.
Jim Alexander is founder of Alexander Consulting, a management consultancy that creates and implements professional services strategies. Contact him at 239-283-7400, email@example.com or visit http://www.alexanderstrategists.com.