I recently read an excellent book on value selling by Jim Holden and Ryan Kubacki, titled The New Power Based Selling. In my former life as a sales manager, I attended numerous classes on consultative selling, but this book was a great reminder of some simple truths when it comes to being a top-performing salesperson.No matter how much experience you have or what product or service you sell, I have found the following statement to be true:
1. Sellers aren’t as good as they think they are. After studying almost 30,000 sellers over 30 years, Holden and Kubecki concluded that only 20% of those sellers are considered “power” sellers. In my experience, this statistic bears out. That said, if asked, close to 80% of the sellers on my team would have said they were in the top tier. Accurate self-assessment is the first step to improving performance.
2. Sellers tend to connect with just one person in an organization. Understanding the politics and culture of an organization is critical to successful power selling. But most sellers tend to latch on to the first person that either took their meeting or shares something in common like golf. But to truly understand what’s going on, you need to broaden your outreach and that means developing more than one relationship across multiple levels within an organization.
3. Sellers don’t always know who the decision maker is. The book spends a lot of time talking about finding the people in an organization that have both influence and authority. I can honestly say that in my experience, almost every major deal we lost was due to misidentifying the key decision makers. If you don’t understand the importance of #2, you increase the likelihood of making this mistake.
4. Sellers tend to use only one strategy. Many of the salespeople I worked with had their own unique process. Many times it worked so they stuck with it for years. But this lack of flexibility is one of the characteristics that keep the average seller from becoming a power seller. Every prospect and customer should be looked at with fresh eyes and a strategy employed that fits best with that particular opportunity.
5. Sellers rarely blame themselves when they lose. I’ll be the first to admit that I would find excuses when we lost a big pitch. My usual go to phrases were. “The decision maker has a really tight relationship with the competition”, “we weren’t price competitive”, or my favorite was, “we knew we only had a 20% chance to begin with.” It’s easy to rationalize the loss of the sale, but if you’re really honest with yourself, you may find that your process may have contributed to the loss.
I know many companies and salespeople that say they sell value and have the right dialogue with the right people, but in practice, I’ve seen very few. If you’re in sales or manage salespeople, it might be time to take a hard look at what and how you’re really going to market. It’s a new year and may be time for a new strategy.