Recently I read a posting on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network by Joseph Grenny entitled “4 Ways Leaders can create a Candid Culture”. I have long believed that the most successful sales professionals use leadership skills instead of the typical sales tactics to achieve and maintain their level of success. That led me to consider the 4 action steps in Mr. Grenny’s post in terms of creating an open sales environment and I pass my observations on for your consideration.
Praise Publicly – My research has shown the most successful professionals have more successful clients that the average rep. That just doesn’t happen by accident. Those reps actively engage in helping their customers become more successful and that doesn’t occur without individuals within that organization going above and beyond the norm.
So there are many opportunities for the rep to acknowledge, in a very public way, when someone in that organization has done something that improved the company and aided in the success of that rep. Letting that person know you appreciate their efforts is nice but doing it publically is nicer still.
Prime the Pump – Too often in our sales interactions we seek only positive feedback and attempt to avoid the negatives. This may sound strange but giving your customers permission to complain does in fact create a comfortable relationship that leads to a sustainable competitive advantage.
A prime example might be the current saline solution price increases. Acknowledging both the current production shortages and the increasing costs for the available product is a good start but even better is to acknowledge the accompanying emotion i.e. “that frustrating for everyone.” The average rep is going into a call hoping the client doesn’t ask while the most successful reps are actually encouraging that discussion.
Lead by teaching – Many manufacturers and most reps believe that teaching is limited to a recitation of the features (what it is) and the functions (what it does or does better). While that is an important and essential part of education, the real payoff in teaching is when you describe the benefits (what I will have) of a new product or service.
The most successful reps always mention the fact and the feeling when teaching a client about the benefits i.e. “so this new widget will create higher compliance rates and give you the satisfaction that you are doing the very best for both your customer and the end user.”
Sacrifice your Ego – The most successful sales professionals I know have a very well developed ego which is necessary to deal with all the rejection but still press ahead with a positive attitude. But that ego is well in check on their calls. Whether it is the receptionist, the buyer, the department manager or the company executive, the most successful reps make that person feel as if they are the most important in the room at that point in time.
They do that because that receptionist is a decision maker in that they can open the door and provide access for that rep. That buyer or department manager is a decision maker in that they can influence the ultimate decider. So the most successful sales professionals sacrifice their ego by seeing themselves as the decision-getter and their role as helping the decision-makers make the biggest committed decision they can handle today.
So while Mr. Grenny’s intention was to help leaders create a more candid culture, I’m convinced these 4 tips will enable sales professionals create a more open sales environment and enhance their sustainable competitive advantage. Of course you are the ultimate decision maker. What do you think? The first person to send me their thoughts and mailing address will receive a free copy of our book “Cracking the Code to Leadership”.
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