ELEVATING TO THE NEXT LEVEL
By Marie-Therese Phido
I worked for over 26 years in two of the best professional services firms in the world. One is number one globally, while the other is number one in Nigeria. I was in charge of coordinating and driving sales and marketing in both organisations, of course working hand in hand with the CEO and the various group heads in each of these organisations, and I can tell you that despite the fact that these two organisations, provided similar services, they were very different in culture, people and outlook.
However, the constant was that marketing and driving sales needed to follow the same formula, which was the case in both organisations to a large extent. The difference was that one of the firms did a lot better than the other and the financial results showed this difference.
The question is, what would we say accounted for this success by one organisation and fact that the other was playing catch up. One big factor was the people at the top and the leadership, which was the key to this success. We should never undervalue strong and visionary leadership. The other factors are the five points listed below:
â€¢ Build and deepen relationships â€“ I always tell people, especially competing organisations, in addition to the two I worked in, that most times the difference between one organisation and the other is the strength of the relationships.
Organisations have similar products and processes and the only difference is the people. On an account management training for one of our big banks recently, this was the message that I hammered. This applies to all businesses. We need to stop being transactional about our relationships and prospecting. We need to establish a position of trusted advisor and confidant by spending the necessary time required to nurturing these relationships. An organisation can achieve more value if it spends time nurturing clients. Many of us find this aspect of selling difficult. I know someone who finds it difficult to make small talk and thinks since she cannot, selling is not for her. Selling can be for everybody. We need to discover a connection between us and the person we are trying to develop a relationship with and hone it.
â€¢ Understand what would compel an individual or organisation to buy from you. You need to constantly put yourself in your customerâ€™s shoes and answer the question â€˜what is in it for them?â€™, because that question resonates with the customer daily by proposing solutions that improves their business, service, social standing, business performance, bottom-line results or whatever the client or target holds dear. Another compelling reason to consider is what has changed in the clientâ€™s organisation or in the environment to make them buy from you. If you are providing service, what are the things that customers find wrong with your greatest competitor and how can you take advantage of this breakdown in service to your advantage.
We usually find our sales opportunities in instances when our prospective customers are either dissatisfied with some gap in performance. In order to create a reason for our prospects to switch to us, we need to let them understand why they need to change, and proffer solutions they cannot say no to. However, remember the key is providing a compelling reason, because the more compelling the reason, the more likely they are to change. Many banks in Nigeria sell to you today without always providing a compelling reason for you to switch to them. The only reason many switch or patronise their products is either from pressure or the relationships you have with the sellers.
â€¢ Determine the necessary investment required. Anthony Iannarino, says acquiring something of a higher quality requires a greater investment. But organisations mistakenly want to postpone that conversation as long as possible. If there is a compelling reason to change, there is a compelling reason to invest in that change. â€œMostly I work with clients with higher prices and who produce greater results than their competitors. The greater investment is necessary to produce those results. You might believe a higher price builds resistance to a deal, but if you are focused on the value you create (the outcomes), it reduces resistanceâ€. As we can see, the key here is to always build value, once the value is understood it is easier to sail through.
â€¢ Build consensus because people do not like change. Fight the status quo. If there is one thing that can derail an opportunity for you faster and more assuredly than anything else, that would be your mortal enemy, the status quo. The status quo has many defenders. Unless and until you work your way through your target clientâ€™s company building consensus, you arenâ€™t likely to move the opportunity forward. To loosen the status quoâ€™s grip on your target clientâ€™s company, you have to spend time with the stakeholders â€“ influencers, decision makers, gate keepers, users and the technical team. You have to help them understand the case for change, and you have to help mitigate the problems it creates for them.
We need to spend time with the people who will support our sales objectives and client coaches who will give us intelligent information about the inner workings of the organisations.
Get commitment one step at a time, what I call the â€œlittle Cs and the Large Csâ€. Ensure that every interaction with the client leads to both of you coming to a consensus on the way forward and help your client arrive at the decision by proffering value, nurturing the relationship and providing a compelling reason for why it must be you and no one else. Go from commitment to commitment, creating value at every stage of the process. Make sure you leave every interaction with the client with a clear sense of the necessary next steps to get you closer to your goals.
There are many more steps but, practicing the steps above will enhance your sales process. It does not matter what kind of business you are in, the steps will come in handy irrespective. It is all a matter of technique and consistency.
– Marie-Therese Phido is Sales & Market Strategist and Business Coach
tweeter handle @osat2012; TeL: 08090158156 (text only)