Mentoring

With Kevin Harris-Brandi

The Past, The Present And The Future

The past is important for a number of reasons as in sales it helps us avoid making the same mistake again and again if you look at the history of sales, you will discover a lot of structure and techniques being talked about, those were simpler times when we all were less informed.

Today’s connected world is all around, “The Internet of Everything” is at the door, so many of the products we buy are categorised as commodities, we compare, check price, availability and place orders from devices that fit in the palm of our hand within seconds.

Selling ideas, structures and techniques that worked in the past do not work very well or not at all, and now increasingly create negativity, cause conflict and rejection. With so many companies now finding their trading position increasingly difficult, simply choosing to follow what others are doing is a good start and very often the only choice but it is not the long term remedy.

Coming in second, third or further down the order will not generate growth; being the best, you can be and helping those around you become their best is not finite; it is infinite.

The marketplace

All too often orders and clients are lost for quite trivial reasons, the need to bring into vision the little things that get in the way of doing business is increasingly more important in a world when we all have significantly more competitors that ten or even five years ago.

With the realisation that the majority of marketplaces are at maturity defining the difference between them and us is playing an increasing part in business success. All businesses reach a point when every possible budgetary cut is exhausted. For those businesses faced with the reality that they are still losing orders on price, then its time to shift the focus and sell the difference.

When all checks and balances are done and left with little difference between them and you, then the marginal differences comes down to you. You will face the question “What can I do to transform a loss to win?” then it’s a good time to start looking for a mentor.

From almost day one of my sales career, I have heard the expression banded again and again as if it’s the answer to everything “People buy from people they like.” In nearly every case when I have asked what does it mean and can I use it to my advantage I have been met with a combination of answers but no advice on how or if I can make more people like me.

What is its meaning?

The words above only give a glimpse at the real understanding. So why do we like “A” and not “B”, the foundation for “WHY” is set in the commonality between them and us?

Why do people start a role in sales?

A fascinating thing about salespeople. If you asked a group of salespeople to take a moment to reflect on their talks with their career advisor while at school: it is widely agreed that a career in sales never featured as one of the potential choices.

I once read an article in The Harvard Business Review some years ago that at the time a survey had revealed that of those at the time working in a sales role just 13% possessed a natural ability for selling, so what about the other 87%?

In Steve W. Martin article; Are Top Salespeople Born or Made?, he wrote that having researched B2B salespeople:

My last post on the “Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople” was based on personality tests administered
to 1,000 top business-to-business salespeople. The test results indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling styles, and, in turn, their success. However, the study also raises the perennial question, “Are top salespeople born or made?” In other words, must top salespeople be born with the prerequisite sales instincts, or can someone learn to become successful in sales without them?

Based upon my research, experience, and observations, I estimate over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. Conversely, less than 30 percent of top salespeople are self-made — meaning, they have had to learn how to become top salespeople without the benefit of these natural abilities. In addition, for every 100 people who enter sales without natural sales traits, 40 percent will fail or quit, 40 percent will perform at near average, and only 20 percent will be above average (These figures vary by industry and the complexity of products sold).

Based on the figures above, the real question that should be asked is, “What determines whether or not a self-made salesperson will become successful?” While it’s easy to recite a laundry list of general reasons for success (hard work, persistence, intelligence, integrity, empathy, etc.), my experience in the field and the research I’ve conducted indicates four key factors that determine the self-made salesperson’s destiny. They are language specialization, “modelling” of experiences, political acumen, and greed.

Pushing beyond

With much of a sales role being repetitive by nature there will come a time when refreshment of attitudes and ideas is needed whether refreshing a single salesperson or a team, using an external mentor will add depth and breadth to the sales team.

With the success of sales personnel worldwide under increasing pressure due to changes in the marketplace, continuous development of the sales team is paramount, even in companies that have dedicated management of their sales force the pressure is on. Sales managers often are heard to say that they have no time to train and mentor their team due to their own workload.

The future of sales people

With today’s high business operating costs, it is resulting in the sales process being split into two distinct realms ‘transactional’ and ‘consultative’, with so many items and services becoming commoditised moving them to a transactional sales conducted online, requiring almost zero sales input.

It is resulting in the repositioning of those successful salespeople into the consultative role. There will always be a need for salespeople in the higher value sales, but even in the middle value sales range the role has become more about listening, giving clear, correct answers to questions, conveying confidence and trust in the buying decision. Trust now plays an increasing element of concern in a risk-averse buying culture.

Against a backdrop of many salespeople missing their targets repeatedly, the pressure is on; it is now commonplace to hear figures of 50 – 60% target achievement voiced openly. Only the best prepared and organised salespeople will survive in the coming years.

Salespeople need to show how they and their company is different from the others; you don’t have to be perfect just the best you can be, demonstrating value when you connect with a prospect is the minimum requirement. Conversations that only offer a retelling of what is already known is worthless along with the salesperson. Salespeople need to give information that cannot be found on the internet.

The growth in artificial intelligence (AI) set to gather pace over the next twenty to forty years will see many sales processes inevitably being automated due to there repetitive nature. Achieving success in a sales role is paramount, small mistakes drift into large outcomes with regular occurrence. For the future sales professional failure to grow into the best they can be is not an option.

Risk-averse buying

Our risk-averse marketplace has shifted buyers to place at least half of all orders with the same companies not only for ease, cost savings but also the trust factor (better the devil you know). Demonstrating that a company is worthy of the opportunity to do business with them is sometimes down to a marginal difference, the risk-averse buyer needs taking care of, positions in companies can change, people come and go, looking after the relationship long term requires management.

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