Archive for May, 2017

If I’ve learned anything in my marketing career it is the fact that we’re all in sales. Because if you work for a living, no matter what you do, you’re trying to sell something to somebody. Whether it’s a product, a service, or even an idea. Yes, when you’re trying to persuade someone to consider something or making a case for or against something else — you’re committing the act of sales.

It’s just that some people do it a lot better than others.

Since most of us spend so much time and energy selling, it seems logical to want to get better at it. We can start by considering the traits associated with sales success.

Fierce need to achieve. Most people want to be liked and well thought of. Many of us want recognition for being good at what we do. The most successful salespeople take this to much higher level. They don’t let up. Ever. They are steadfast and relentless when it comes to winning in competitions of all kinds and being seen as winners. Growing up most of us are taught to be gracious losers for a good reason. You can’t win everything, every time. And there’s nothing attractive about winners who gloat, flaunt and exult. It’s unsportsmanlike. But make no mistake. Successful salespeople are all about winning and they don’t apologize for it. They thrive on competition and winning. They revel in it. Success is oxygen. Why? Because what they crave most is the approbation, admiration and respect of their peers. Of course they want the money, the bonus and the gaudy awards and prizes handed out at the the recognition events. But it’s the recognition, not the event, or even the reward, that drives them. And the most successful salespeople I’ve known, without exception, let this recognition–the word of mouth–do all the talking.

Mental toughness. Not to be confused with thick skin, a term I disdain because it implies the opposite of sensitivity which is a trait that sales kings and queens possess in abundance. In fact, effective salespeople are hyper-tuned to the needs and sensibilities of others. They know when to change course and how to tack. They can read people. They are active listeners. Still, to paraphrase Jason Wesbecher if you have what it takes to be told no on 50 consecutive sales calls and you can get to yes on #51, you’re on the path to a good career. Persistence means treating rejection as a learning experience. In sales it’s known as “loss analysis” — finding out why the deal didn’t go your way and how anything from a minor tweak to a major course correction might lead to better outcome next time. They persevere and persist. And they don’t let up.

Steadfast optimism. Pessimists don’t invent, they don’t create, they don’t start companies, build brands or become good at selling. People are naturally more attracted to optimistic, upbeat individuals. Optimistic people exude confidence, credibility and inspire trust. You want to sit next to them at dinner parties. And when they ask to make a sales call you’ll usually put on your calendar.

Calm in the storm. The guy who ran the Asia-Pacific region of a very hot tech brand where I worked some years ago got his introduction to Asia during the Vietnam War — as a medical evacuation helicopter pilot. He got shot down twice. Shot-at innumerable times. He said he learned then that whatever he would face in the future would seem like kids-play by comparison. He was right. In his sales role, as everybody else was losing their heads over deals gone sour or customers in revolt, he stood out like a beacon. And showed the way with cool, clear thinking. Inspiration personified. Sports and athletes are overused as analogies here but the fact remains that the very best performers are at their very best when the pressure is the most intense. When everything’s on the line. They find a way to make the play the team needs. They win.

Problem solver. In sales this means customer problems, first and foremost. Active listening is a developed trait. When you’re ill and visit the doctor she doesn’t pitch a treatment before she finds out about your ailment. She asks you where it hurts and how long you’ve been sick, and so on. Only then does she write up the prescription.

In the same way, customers tell you about their own aches and pains. The superior sales pro will latch on to this need, drill down, do the analysis and fulfill the customer’s desire for practical information and insight. Suddenly, the salesperson is selling solutions and is seen as a fixer and a partner — the prerequisite for success with that customer.

Selling is listening, analyzing, and communicating. Ultimately it’s more about solving problems than getting orders. And super success in sales — as in almost anything else — is the result of the masterful application of those skills.

 

(This article first appeared on Linked In.)

Good piece here by Travis Bradbury. With apologies to him, here’s my point-by-point take on its relevance to vendors. Even content creators.

Just as a you should strive to make your boss always feel like the smartest dude in the room for having hired you, the culture of every organization should preach the gospel of making their customers/clients feel that same way. Customer satisfaction? Meh. Customer loyalty is what we’re about here! The ad agency where I got my start used to say something to the effect that we weren’t necessarily experts in the business of our clients but that we were ad experts. OK, but no way should this ever stop anyone from learning, constantly, about that client’s business. The more you can learn about any industry, the more value you bring and more valuable you become to the client. And the more you enlarge your understanding of the role you play. Thus, your potential for adding value that constantly grows.

Client/customer management, AKA herding the cats, is underrated. Indeed, it’s quietly appreciated and deeply valued by customers and clients. Manage expectations, of course, but anticipate and pre-empt process bottlenecks and friction. You’re not a valet, exactly, but an instinct for full-service keeps your radar sharp and effective. Become a force-multiplier and your brand reputation for adding value in unexpected places will grow. Brand-building mission accomplished. We couldn’t have done it without those guys!

Crisis communications training places supreme value on owning up to miscues and screw-ups that led to the crisis. When your brand gets whacked, for whatever reason, the worst thing you can do is to emulate the NFL with vague, weasel-worded excuses and “apologies” that are anything but. Be pro-active, man-up and call a screw-up a screw-up. Then make good. Be an old-fashioned good human being who might not be perfect — just perfectly accountable.

“Visionary” is an overused term but customers love vendors who go the extra mile. Or even a few hundred yards. Which is what vision enables. It’s another form of anticipation and it reaffirms your commitment, enthusiasm and initiative. In this way, you become a trusted member of the family. Or at least a closer family friend. Sometimes this is even better.

Branch out. The best ad account executive I ever had was actually the president of an agency that had plenty of AE’s running around. But he just liked sticking his nose in his clients’ business. In a good way. He was a gear-head and loved hanging around engineers and technicians. They were flattered that a guy in his position could be genuinely interested in the science behind their products. He built relationships. It paid off.

If you can keep your head when everyone’s losing theirs, you attract admirers — and more customers. Just as the best salespeople are typically the best problem solvers, vendors who stay cool and calm when the inferno is raging will stand tall. This one is a variation on the accountability trait described above but the difference is in context. When a customer or client references your “professionalism”, this is what they’re talking about. They are loyal customers because you exceeded their expectations.

(This post originally appeared on Linked In)