May 08, 2009

The Growth Guy – Interesting insights for those of us in sales

I met the Growth Guy Verne Harnish on Wednesday at a Mastering the Rockefeller Habits event. That was a great opportunity to compare the sales priorities and strategies being employed on both sides of the Atlantic in this time of economic turmoil.

No surprise, the list is almost identical. Just to show how identical I made a list of some of the points Verne raised:

  • Forget selling benefits, restructure your benefit statements into messages that focus on loss avoidance. Present the opportunity that could be lost. Verne referenced a book called High Stakes Negotiation that I plan to read over the coming weeks.

  • Never email a proposal, always arrange a time to review the proposal either face to face or over the phone, ideally face to face. I know some sales people find this one hard to swallow, but I can tell you from experience of working with hundreds of sales people this is an important point. The sales people who make sure they review proposals face to face win more.

  • The single most important thing you can know about the person you are selling to is how their bonus plan will be measured. You don’t need the numbers you just need to know the areas he/she needs to affect.

  • Avoid discounting, use a good, better, best approach. When you are asked for a discount ignore it. If that doesn’t work, be absolutely clear on your differentiation and points of value, then present options along the lines of a good, better, best approach. Make sure you go back to the people you sold your solution or service to and review the value with them. More often than not they will acknowledge the value you deliver. Remember buyers are being asked to call everyone not just you.

  • As sale professional we have the toughest job in the world, no doubt. We have to face rejection more than any other profession in the world. I would suggest that up-to 70% of sales people stop communicating with a hand picked prospect after 3 or 4 attempts. Verne referenced research that shows you need to maintain a keep in touch mindset, reaching out to prospects up-to 15 times with relevant/insightful material. The KIT approach delivers sales.
  • As sales managers, we need to be leaders and coaches. We need to sit with our sales people regularly. We need to talk to them about what they are learning in the filed from customers and prospects. Then we have got to remove the barriers they feel are in their way. I use the word feel because successful sales people sometimes put barriers in their way that are based on their feelings. Sales people attitude is everything. In fact 80% of the characteristics of effective sales people are attitude based. Worth a thought.

  • Sales people need to read more. What was the last sales book you read? How many sales books did you red last year? Most sales people read on average one to two books a year. The best sales people read upto 12. They are always looking for new tips and techniques that will help them sell more professionally and more effectively. So you might want to pick up one of the best selling sales book in the US right now - The Ultimate sales machine.

    • Marketing should not report to sales and most great marketers have an engineering mindset. Where does marketing report to in your company.

    • How often do we seek feedback from the people we have sold to and delivered to? In my experience sales people rarely revisit customers to get feedback unless they are looking to cross sell or up-sell. Verne suggested 4 key questions we should ask our customers:
    1. How are you doing
    2. What is happening in the industry right now?
    3. What have you heard about our competition?
    4. How are we doing?
    Whether you agree with these questions or not is not the point I guess. The point is customer feedback is crucial; it will help you identify patterns and real market needs. It will also help you understand what marketing and sales tactics your competition are adopting. And remember your competition are calling on you customers.
    • Intense listening, asking interesting and relevant questions will position us ahead of our competition. Have you the intense listening skills required to sell in this environment?

    I could probably keep writing for another few hours on all the points Verne Harnish highlighted, and do recommend next time Verne is in town you should take the day out to hear what he has to say. Thanks to O’ Kelly Sutton and 4th Option for hosting the Verne event.

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