Release Your Inner Sales Person
In life, to be successful, you have to be a sales person.
Now it was not an easy conclusion as it took all of 18 years of consulting with Accenture and Capgemini, a wife and three kids before I embraced this completely. Once embraced, it motivated me to take my first pure sales role with Infosys eight years ago and my current position leading Practice Sales for our budding Salesforce.com practice.
However I understand that this is not an easy conclusion to accept, as some feel the ability to sell is a characteristic you are born with like creativity, instead of a skill to be developed like communication. So before we dive into the need to be a sales person, consider this definition of sales:
Sales - the exchange of a promise of an outcome in return for something equivalent in value.
The promise of an outcome is important to consider because whether professional services or goods, the promise is fulfilled at different times in the ownership lifecycle. So before you lose an opportunity to a competitor or before you sit through another romantic comedy or action movie because you could not sell the other person well enough, consider these takeaways.
Ask your client - Whether it's testing a price point or asking specifically what budget is available for the program or who are the actual decision makers or users, always ask. The thing to keep in mind is that its human nature to want to help and when the client can't answer, they won't. Takeaway: don't be afraid to ask for information or help.
Client wants to pay more - if you internalize the adage "you get what you paid for" then this is simple to understand. Start with the assumption that your client wants to afford the premium good or service, so now focus on highlighting exactly why its premium, not why its cost competitive. Takeaway: find out who is the real consumer and show them the Cadillac not the Chevy.
Don't leave empty handed - whether it's a follow-up meeting, or a POC, don't leave without securing an outcome. It's simple but you have to be ready for a fallback position or two when the client says no thank you. Takeaway: always prepare a fallback position in any sales transaction.
No freebies - depending on your position with your client, this could be the most difficult concept to adopt. The simple idea is that anything free is generally unappreciated. Too much and it will be taken for granted and even expected. So even in the case where you have to give something away - never make it free - go through the process of quantifying the request, then document the credit or secure another piece of work in return that would otherwise go to the competition. Takeaway: nothing is free.
Sell the value - we will not discuss value selling here; there are books and methodologies dedicated to this. However, the key point is, do not drive the discussion to a price and credential exercise. At least never start there. There will always be someone else that is willing to go cheaper or that has more references. Instead focus from the beginning on the value that you are creating. The catch is to personalize or link the value to your methods or techniques or solution. Otherwise you are simply creating the customers value proposition (or business case) which then the customer will simply shop to the lowest price: Takeaway link business value and results to your specific approach or secret sauce.
Change the game - when the client thinks of value received, it sometimes comes in forms we do not normally think about. Practically, what this means is while the client's purchasing team or vendor management office are adept at saying "do not deviate", well the business mostly wants to know if there is something they have not thought about or value that can be brought beyond this specific transaction. On a personal note, try to not say "I don't want to go shopping for tools or dresses, etc." instead why don't you try "I can do that, or I can plant a new garden in, or work on vacation plans, or..." Whatever the buyer value is, they may see more value in your offer than in the initial plan. Takeaway: Don't hesitate to offer alternate scope, terms, payment, or models that are in line with buyer values.
Don't do it alone - this will take a little faith, however always consider a partnership strategy for the deal. Whether it's leveraging their endorsement, technology, or simply investing in a relationship that might help for a larger upcoming transaction, partnering often improves your offer. Keep in mind a few things: 1. A smaller piece of the pie is better than all of nothing and 2. Enemy of my enemy can be my friend. 3. Consider that even if a potential partner turns you down on a deal. A NO is still insightful, especially if you are uncertain about their standing. In such a case you could update your sales strategy to deal with them as a competing party. Takeaway: Keep your partners close and your competitors closer.
Know when to shut up - Once the deal is closed or you have agreement, stop selling. This is a common mistake which instead of helping might trigger cold feet. Simply put, once the customer makes up their mind, additional justification can raise doubt and cause additional opportunity to change their mind. Takeaway: Stop selling the second you get an agreement to avoid initiating buyer's remorse.
It can be a scary realization that most people reject especially when you attach sales to used cars or cold calling. So use some or all of these ideas in context and with judgment. For a personal or a client transaction considering each of these items on its own merit will force you to go through the mental exercise and better prepare you for the sale ahead.Whether you are focused on becoming a technical wizard, a CEO or trying to change the movie choice with your date, you become more effective at selling your ideas and securing your desired outcome when you embrace your inner sales person.