May 14, 2009

Sales Success: Are You A Road Warrior?

When it comes to selling is your organisation a road warrior, or simply just road weary? Well, to help you find out, we talked to one road warrior, the MD of an organisation that has come from the margins to the top of its industry in just 6 years.

Here are some of the road warrior attitudes and behaviours that has helped this organisation grow, so let us see if they characterise your company:

1. In the world of sales there are road warriors and desk junkies and we all know which ones a sales manager wants to have on his team. The difference between the two is a reflection of so many things, confidence, committment and ambition just to name a few. Getting out in to the market and keeping your company in front of customers and prospects may mean lots of air miles, hotel nights and worn shoe leather, but there is no other way.

2. Obsession and focus
- if you believe you have the right solution you need absolute determination to leave your mark on your industry. On a prospect by prospect basis you must be determined and never give up. If you do not, you leave the door open for another solution provider to come in and benefit from all your hard work.

3. You have to take the longer term view.
Would you continue selling and developing relationships in an account for over three years without a result, or would you walk away? Say, you lost the deal to a competitor, would you shun the lost prospect and move on? I have a feeling most of you reading this piece would say 'yes'. Well this highly successful company did not. They took rejection on the chin, keeping in contact, making the calls and maintaining the relationship. Yes, privately they complained of competitors playing dirty, but continued to make it easy for the customer to interact with their global teams. Finally, when there was a change of operations director in the account, the company seccured a lucrative and strategic piece of business. It took a long time, but it did pay-off.

4. Solving a problem often isn’t enough
- we are all told our solutions must have a strong value proposition, but for the road warrior that is sometimes just not enough. If you are going to sell successfully your solution must be absolutely compelling, solving an immediate problem for the customer. And the bigger and more immediate the problem, the better - one that affects your customer across multiple locations and geographies.

5. Me too solutions won’t work in a market that you are trying to penetrate for the first time. Your competitive advantage has to be more than marginal, because established local competition will need to be dislodged if you are to succeed. Road warriors believe in changing the game to win win, impacting on customers and their problems in a new and innovative way.

6. Hiring the right sales person – Road warriors want to hit the ground running and that means having the right people in place. However, we have all heard the dreaded stories of hiring sales people and then losing, or firing them months later. Who is to blame? The sales person, or the manager? Well the advice from our road warrior, a company which has grown a substantial sales force is – take your time, make sure you have confidence you can win and deliver business in the geography before putting an experienced sales person on the ground. Then when they are in place support them thoroughly. Their success and yours are the one.

7. CEO’s must sell
- If you are a CEO reading this piece, listen up, you must sell, you must make calls and position your company with new customers. You must also help your sales people open doors, advance sales cycles and win business.

You need to be a road warrior too!. You need to make sure your customers and prospects feel they can meet you anytime, if you have to get on a plane and travel half way around the world for a meeting at 12 hours notice you do it.

In the road warrior organisation, selling is not below the CEO, nor is it an affort to his/her ego. A team based approach characterises all successful sales organisations and the CEO has a particularly important role to play on that team. He, or she can talk CEO to CEO, and can often ask questions that sometimes a sales person just won’t get an answer to.

8. Being Top Dog. Everybody cannot win the customer's business, indeed with corporate customers reducing their number of suppliers being at the top of the pile is a requirement for the road warrior organisation. Supplier concentration is
a fact, not just a sales person’s excuse and it has implications for us all. It creates more pressure and adds more complexity to the sale, causing many smaller companies to complain about a Big vendor bias in many customer organisations. Again the road warrior mentality is essential if your company is going to compete in the same league as the big boys in terms of service and credibility.

9. Being local. Think globally act locally was a popular phrase a number of years ago. For the upstart competing against the global vendor it has a particulary important meaning. Lets take just one example, pointed out by our road warrior - proposal delivery. Some people are still emailing proposals to their customers, but not this company it d
elivers them in person, making sure your customer sees them as local even if the proposal has been developed at the company headquarters thousands of miles away.
These insights remind me of a quote from Don Juan in Carlos Castaneda’s a Separate Piece – “The difference between a warrior and an ordinary man is that a warrior sees everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man sees everything as a blessing or a curse”. You need your team to adopt a road warrior mentality.

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