A call from a friend caught me by surprise as he asked me to write a blog on sales. My pet peeves have been around the stereotypes for a good sales guy and ingredients for sales success. Stereotypes abound, one of the earlier memories of mine was to be given this feedback that you do not have a fist pumping , chest thumping persona so you will not be able to lead teams in a sales environment . Well not only did I create a high performing team but got great satisfaction that one cannot erode one’s self esteem basis such stereotypes. Here are some of the nuggets over this long journey.
Sales is a whole brained job – requires the right mix of left and right brains
This was a good two and a half decade earlier . I started the sales career taking over a territory from a very well respected sales leader in his 50’s. Now they never taught you to deal with age in B schools but that was the very first lesson in dealing with people. I observed this Gentlemen very closely – he knew names of the distributor , their salesmen and important milestones. He listened intently, paid attention to context and behaviour and solved their problems- In fact part HR, part psychologist, part psychiatrist( yes this is different ) , part problem solver , part listener, part friend … you get the drift. This was true in the old school and will remain true for next few years as well .
Good distribution infrastructure requires an innate understanding of market , planning coverage and setting rules for creating access.
People Buy into People
Often trust building happens when people buy into people, then there is a brand choice. We had a very tough customer in North Karnataka and he refused to entertain us when I took over the territory and we just built a sharp discipline of just going regularly and meeting him and providing him with updates about the category . Post the 5th visit he kind of gave in to respect our persistence and reward us with a foot in the door . Often if you are authentic and genuine, clients will forgive incompetence but never lack of integrity and honesty. Stay true to yourself and the client. Establish a connect at a individual level
Listening is persuasive
A lot of times objections and problems posed by clients and sales team were resolved by them. I just had to resist to the temptation of jumping in with a solution. One has to invest in patient listening and many a times asking the right questions helps reveals the answers, resolves conflicts. I have built sales team in my career and has a sales leader you tend to have strong viewpoints . Many a times especially during conflicts or issue on the ground, the tendency to jump into solutioning puts the monkey on your shoulder. Very early on somebody introduced me to this article (https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey. ) Which put things in perspective especially if you have a desire for excellence and you have high quality standards then you are the most bandwidth challenged person. Therefore listening intently, probing, nudging team and clients to get a solution can be a great win -win .
Invest in the client’s success
If the client understands that you are working for a common goal and invested in their success many a small issues are never raised. The collaboration increases many times over. For this as a sales guy one must build the appreciation for the business model and seek to understand the pain points.
As a sales leader you have to be in the field , know your customer demonstrate and set highest standards of discipline for follow up , set standards which are measurable and make non-compliance a fatal error . For this conviction of purpose is desirable as many a times you have to let go “performers” who bend the rules or get sales at any cost – it has a far reaching consequence on the team . One must also realise that the team will get their personal problems at work and might impact their performance. Separating counselling (personal issues) from coaching (on professional work standards) is an acumen which one has to build over a period of time. I have had to let go of a star performer who compromised on financial integrity to bend the rules to get sales at any cost. The intention was not to make money for himself but he exploited a chink in the Armour which could be misused in the future . Therefore it is necessary that we blend in leadership styles.
Developing, nurturing, recognising people and treating them as individuals and not as a headcount helps build confidence and frees up considerable bandwidth for sales leaders. IF they feel that they are not under a banyan tea which not let anyone grow under the shadow people become doers and lose initiative. Situational leadership calls for allowing people with sharper skills to be recognised as leaders even though they might be younger to you. True today even more with technology making huge inroads into business.
There are only Good or Bad leaders no such thing as bad troops
Most of the time excuses are around incompetent people or resources. It’s a leader’s job to marshal resources and get the troops to perform and align with the organisational objectives. In fact aligning with the organisational objectives leads to superconducting stage as people discover their purpose and understand their contribution.
Law of the farm
Oft repeated ad nauseum there is no shortcut to success. There are certain law in the universe like law of gravity which you cannot repeal. One such law is the Law of the Farm.
This law states that a farmer cannot expect to harvest a great crop unless he carefully plans for the development of that crop and works diligently and consistently over a long period of time.
The farmer first needs to prepare and fertilize the soil, plant the seed, water and nourish the sapling, tend to the weeds, protect it from the insects and diseases and constantly monitor before the time for harvest comes. The farmer cannot plant a crop, do nothing for six months, and then expect to have a great harvest magically. So in sales it requires us to bring together all our learning around the customer , business and resources to create a successful practise and fundamentals first approach helps build a strong foundation to scale up .
Power of Social Networks
The FANG platforms leashed another energy into our lives . Some of us who latched onto this and became early adopters could experience the power of networks. In good old days one would get lists to do cold calls on , now using digital and data anlalytics we have replaced this with knowing whom to call . Automation has helped increase speed and efficiency. Plenty of times using education via blogs, articles , showcasing your offerings, products strengths results in likes, comments , engagements which help create warmer conversations.
Combining multiple prospect ways by using progressive profiling increases chance of engagement with a client . Serve them through the channel they prefer.
In the end technology is supposed to make us responsive ( get more speed ) and build hyper engagement. My hypothesis around this that we could use the benefits of technology to expand the network of relationships meaningfully beyond Robin Dunbar’s number https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number . This will definitely help us leverage the discipline , law of farm , situational leadership, intent listening combined with the power of technology to seamlessly blend in the old and the new – engage more customers concurrently with authenticity.
This post has been written by our Guest Author Gaurav Suri (Sr Executive Vice President and Head of Marketing) for Relatas.com (Sales AI). If you wish to share your Sales Stories with others, please write to us for access: firstname.lastname@example.org
Relatas is the Sales AI platform that successful B2B sales teams use for Accurate Sales Forecasting using Relationship Intelligence and AI. Relatas helps Sales Professionals sell better and faster, with NO-DATA-ENTRY & helping Sales Managers reduce revenue loss and better sales forecasting.