This somewhat confrontational article explores 5 myths that seem to be putting a stranglehold on sales growth for many companies at the moment. The context is that that we are increasingly being fed “fake news” about how selling is apparently changing, propagated by two parties who have most to benefit from changing the rules of the game in their favour – salespeople (who instinctively want the best result with least effort) and prospects/customers (who want the best product/service at the lowest price).
Myth 1 – Digital marketing is the future of lead generation
No so; digital marketing is part of the future, not the future. An increasing number of supposed salespeople are saying lead generation is SER – somebody else’s responsibility – and digital marketing falls into that category. Somewhere along the line, company directors seem to have been conned into believing that the £40-£100K packages their sales team enjoy doesn’t now include the discomfort and effort of prospecting. We say otherwise – having enough prospects to call is a sales person’s responsibility full stop – otherwise, it creates the ridiculous scenario of a highly paid salesperson saying they are unsuccessful because the company hasn’t provided them with enough leads. There are plenty of highly professional, simple and effective methods of prospecting available – most salespeople these days don’t seem to have even heard of them let alone use them and need the training to do so. If they don’t want to do prospecting activity, then we would respectfully suggest they go find a job more suited to their comfort zone.
Myth 2 – Selling is dead – it’s now just about meeting buyers’ demands
Many salespeople report the increasing instances where prospects, even customers are increasingly trying to buy “transactionally” – putting all the emphasis on price and delegating information collection to someone with no authority in the buying process, no real understanding of the context or need and no willingness to put in much effort into the process; in fact, even having a conversation with a buyer seems hugely difficult.
If your product/service is now suited to a transactional model then you need to change accordingly – note transactional means low price matched with low service required. However, if delivery of the best possible service/product and doing the most professional job depends on your ability to understand context and needs, discuss ideas and options and offer the best advice then you need to start taking back control. Next time you are asked to quote/present without engaging in a sensible professional, consultative process, politely say, “I’m sorry, we don’t work that way because in order to ensure we fully understand your needs and give you best advice, we need to sit down and talk with all the stakeholders involved”. Many will surprise you by agreeing to what you ask. However, if they refuse, then wish them well, walk away and spend more time with those who will. You will otherwise be dragged down the slope of trying to provide best advice/service/products without doing the job properly and at a consistently reducing price.
One client who recently took this advice went from closing 1:5 opportunities to 2:3 within a matter of weeks! Taking back control is liberating but needs courage and skill – hence why most salespeople need re-training in professional, consultative selling techniques.
Myth 3 – Price is now the issue
If this is true, fire your entire sales team and just advertise you sell the cheapest product/service! Price is an issue, not the issue; it always has been and always will be. If you list down all the things a buyer wants from your product of service, the ultimate decision is always based on a combination of factors. The art of professional, consultative selling is understanding the preferred combination, the associated benefits and consequences, and positioning your product/service accordingly. No prospect/client really wants to risk working with those companies who over promise and under deliver. Be clear, the job of a professional, consultative salesperson is to influence the outcome of those discussions – otherwise, what’s the purpose of their role? Many salespeople need training in professional, consultative selling to be able to handle these situations successfully.
Myth 4 – There is no such thing as customer loyalty
Not so; there is customer loyalty but maybe not for the reason you thought. The fact is most senior decision-makers don’t have enough time in the day to do what’s on their To-Do list, let alone what else comes up in the day. As changing suppliers takes extra time, effort, cost and certainly risk, the reality is that a customer is likely to remain loyal by default UNLESS you give them the reason to change or fail to keep in regular touch. Again, salespeople need training in the professional, consultative selling skills of retaining and developing a client – to illustrate, just check how much face to face time each salesperson has actually had with each of their customers in the last 12 months. “There are happy and don’t want to see me” should ring alarm bells; it also suggests your salesperson hasn’t given them a good enough reason to meet.
Myth 5 – Good salespeople are hard to find
We can understand why companies say that; Directors have even told us they have stopped recruiting because they have repeatedly spent a small fortune on people that turn out to produce poor or inconsistent results. We would respectfully suggest though that the problem lies in what they looked for in the first place and the circumstances at the time of recruitment. To explain, whenever a company needs to recruit a salesperson it’s often a situation where “the desperate meets the grateful” – the Sales Director is desperate to recruit someone and the candidates are grateful for any opportunity to get a job or a better job – it’s a guaranteed recipe for disaster because both parties end up rushing to the end game of an appointment before due diligence has been completed.
For approaching 40 years, our on-going survey into best and worst sales practice reveals there are over 30 reasons why a company struggles to recruit and retain a successful salesperson and we work with sales directors to help them address each one. One tip is the build three profiles before you start recruiting – a) a job profile that sets out key areas of responsibility, the desired/required results and the activities likely to be required to deliver them – the more honest and more open you are about what the job actually requires on a day by day, week by week basis, the less surprises for the salesperson when onboard b) a talent profile that sets out qualifications, skills, experience honestly required; for example, good salespeople do not need to be graduates and c) the personality profile listing the personal characteristics required for the type of selling and the type of activities required. You then have a better basis of evaluating candidates. If it helps, the latter profile is the one which best denotes likely success.
If you are based in the Thames Valley – Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Middlesex or Surrey and would like a complimentary audit of your current sales team or would like to learn more about the work we do to help sales teams to measurably improve performance, please get in touch.