Tag: ownership

It’s Time for a 180

Have you ever run into a sales professional who seems so unaffected by their success and so comfortable in their skin that you wonder how they got there?  They seem unaffected by the stresses their customers put on them.  Their approach to the management teams they report to shines with confidence and a sense of partnership.  Their professional lives seem so fluid and serene.  Are they on drugs?  In therapy?  Let’s get real here, sales is supposed to be all about stress, caffeine and nervous energy right?

Ownership

In talking with and interviewing these salespeople over the years, I sense a common thread in their approaches.  It’s called “ownership”.  They have replaced the often abused excuses of “It’s the market.”, “The product isn’t good enough” and “If we only had more support staff I could get more done” with a completely new dialogue.  You’ll hear these comments from these new professionals.  “I’m trying new markets and employing new models to open new markets.”  “I’ve gone back to basics to learn more about my product(s) to see what aspects I might be missing” and “I run this business as if it is my own.  I’ll do my best with what I have.”  In their minds, the relationship they have with the sales process has spun around from one where everyone else is at fault to one where they own the entire process – they are responsible – they take ownership.

Process, process, process

Perhaps the most surprising thing I find out about very successful sales professionals is their adherence to a process.  For those in the corporate sales arena you have been through Miller-Heiman, SPIN, Target Account Selling or some form of internal sales process orientation.  For those outside the corporate ranks, you may find it harder to find guidance in how to improve the way you approach your business.

I was reminded recently about some wonderful cassette tapes (yes cassette tapes) that I was required to listen to by one of my first professional sales managers.  Bob Fuire was one of the best I’ve known and was especially good at building the careers of young salespeople.  One of the disciplines he instituted was that we all were required to listen to a selection of motivational, self improvement and sales training programs by some of the giants in this arena.  Of course, at the time, none of us had any idea who these people were.  Each of us reviewed tape series by the likes of Wayne Dyer, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and Dale Carnegie.  Each of us was required to do a “book report” at our weekly sales meetings.  Sounds parochial right?  Well, it was something I took seriously and I’ve never forgotten.

I Google’d the website recently to see if the purveyor of these programs – Nightingale/Conant – was still in existence.  I was happy to find they were still going strong and they now carried many new voices in this field as well as all of the “old dogs” that I remember so fondly.

Some Homework

Take a moment to visit www.nightingale.com and browse their selection.  I’d guide you to explore two paths in your process.  Consider programs centered on self improvement as well as sales skill development.  As salespeople we must build a solid personal foundation as we grow our professional skills.  I’d suggest beginning with anything from Wayne Dyer and Brian Tracy.  Both are great voices whose messages continue to inspire and educate.  Give them a try.  There’s nothing stopping you from success except yourself.

Happy Selling!

Inauguration Day—Leadership

Leadership

What a pleasure and inspiration it was to be a part of today’s historic inauguration of Barrack Obama.  The president’s speech got me to thinking about the role that you and I can play in transforming America.  You may be asking yourself similar questions.

  • Can salespeople be leaders
  • What does sales leadership look like?
  • Can I really make a difference?

I offer you the opportunity to think about how we as salespeople can make a really big contribution in the worlds where we work.

Sales Leadership

Sometimes being a leader means taking ownership for things even when you aren’t the one in charge.  Who better to stand at the forefront of your company than you?  Consider that your friends in accounting, I.T. and human resources are looking for you to take the lead.  If they could do what you do they would.  Taking a sales leadership role can take several different forms.

Teamwork:  Too many salespeople act like they’re hired guns, independent contractors or the proverbial “lone wolf.” Going it alone in the sales game spells disaster.  Enlisting the support and feedback of those in supporting roles not only makes your job easier but also helps others feel like they are contributing to the efforts on the front lines too.  Let me give you an example.  For most of us the folks in accounts receivable, legal and sales administration are referred to as the “sales prevention” team.  In working with clients I create teams where members of all these groups collaborate on a sales effort.  Legal provides some greater flexibility once they really understood the scope of the deal.  Accounts receivable is able to offer flexibility on payment terms and sales administration offers to create a calling campaign to drum up add-on product revenue.  To get this going it means that the sales role needs to morph into a leadership role.  The salesperson becomes more like a head coach leading their players into the big game.

Ownership: We’ve all gone out with our sales buddies after a tough week and started to complain about how everything that’s wrong with our quota and earnings is because of engineering, product marketing, legal, management, etc.  After all, we’re just the salesperson right?  Think again.  We are the front line.  We take the lead.  We live by the motto “Sell What You’ve Got.”  I liken this to the role that President Obama (or any president) is taking on.  Whatever he inherits is what he gets.  He doesn’t get to choose.  He builds a team, prioritizes the challenges and starts hacking away.  Stop the grousing and start the team building.

Reporting and Transparency: One of the biggest changes one makes when transitioning to becoming a true sales professional relates to reporting.  In interviewing salespeople over the years I’ve found that forecasting and reporting are their least favorite parts of the job.  Wouldn’t it be nice to go into your next forecast meeting and feel in control?  Well, it’s all about building a “peer to peer” conversation from the start.  How about looking at your executive (owner, manager, etc.) as part of your team?  To many of us treat these people as our enemies.  We’ll often say “All they want is for me to tell them what they want to hear.”  The biggest change for me and for many salespeople was when I began to see these people as my equal, a peer, as a part of “my team.”  When this transformation takes place the conversation takes a consultative tone.  Opinions are shared.  Challenges are discussed.  Priorities are agreed to and teams are built to help each other out.  This requires what most salespeople hate the most – transparency.  We don’t want to give up our “secrets.”  We tend to “sandbag” those deals we’ll pull out at the last minute so we look like a superhero.  What we fail to realize is that this makes it a one man show.  We’re not allowing anyone access to our world.  Subsequently, when we do need help it’s often too late to build the teams and get the partnerships necessary to pull off the deal in time.  We’ve all seen it.  It’s the end of the quarter and the deal you squirreled away falls apart.  What’s the first thing you do?  Run right to your manager and start begging for a discount.  How different it might have been if this would have been an ongoing dialogue with management and you had multiple brains working on this right beside you.

Homework

Begin by prioritizing your deals and deciding who would be best to assist you from all parts of your organization.  As soon as possible, set a meeting with these team members and share your sales opportunity.  This could be a new account, a large sales opportunity or a problem account.  Share honestly about your challenges and where you could use support.  There is nothing better than obtaining multiple perpsectives on your opportunity.  One final thought – Don’t forget to update all your team members as things progress.  Everyone needs to be part of the feedback loop.

Happy Selling!