Posts Tagged ‘Dan Pink’

Weighing the pig won’t make it fatter, but feeding it will

July 28, 2014

How top companies are changing their approach to sales

When the influential management analyst Dan Pink conducted a poll for his latest book To Sell Is Human, he found that the most common word associated with salespeople is ‘pushy’ – no surprises there. But this cliché of sales as the domain of ruthless hustlers is as tired as it is tenacious. Fuelled by new research and innovative thinking, the UK’s best sales teams aren’t just driving the bottom line, they’re taking a lead role in generating customer advocacy and loyalty, not to mention boosting employee engagement. They’re game-changing the industry.

Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.

The days of ‘hooking’ the client, fielding objections, and constantly pushing to close are over. Thanks to social media, customers are unprecedentedly informed and empowered; recent research from the Sales Executive Council finds that most buyers are 60% of the way down their decision-making cycle before they even talk to a salesperson. Distrust in big business has skyrocketed, and regulatory changes are causing massive upheaval.

Weigh the pig

Stop weighing the pig

Doing more of the same – selling faster and harder, to bigger targets and shorter deadlines – will not lead to different outcomes. Instead, leaders need to help salespeople redefine who they are, what they do, and how they do it. It’s not easy, but it’s urgently important, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let’s begin by examining the ‘who’. When it comes to personal sales styles, it’s time to give pushiness the shove. A study published by Adam Grant last year in the journal Psychological Science found that ‘ambiverts’ – people who are equal parts extroverted and introverted – perform best. Dan Pink’s essential ABC of sales traits are Atunement (an ability to connect and understand needs), Buoyancy (an ability to bounce back) and Clarity (being clear what you’re offering). The Challenger Sale, a new book by the Corporate Executive Board, outlines five typical sales personalities – the Lone Wolf, the Problem Solver, the Hard Worker, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. Experiments reveal that it is the Challenger, the commercially savvy, far-sighted and well-researched self-starter, who really moves the dial.

So emotional intelligence, sensitivity to context and a sophisticated perspective are the personal qualities that win out, but the way in which organisations frame the function of sales itself is equally important.

Earlier this year, Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatter, popularised the concept of H2H (Human-to-Human) sales and marketing, in which he advocated discarding the concepts of B2B, B2C and D2C in favour of a connection between equals: “Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form […] Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.”

This includes understanding that salespeople are not just there to sign off order forms. Research from the Corporate Executive Board finds that a good sales experience accounts for 53% of what drives long-term loyalty, so although price will always be important, focusing on value at the expense of service can be a false economy.

Of course, these new mindsets will only take hold if they’re embedded in a whole ecosystem of suitable management, process and reward. Encouraging advisors to provide authentic experiences rather than setting restrictive sales targets, coaching Challenger skills, and tweaking recruitment criteria are all part of the mix.

In his previous book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink suggested that 80% of the workforce is motivated by a sense of purpose, autonomy and mastery more than they are financial gain, so leaders also need to balance a fair and transparent pay structure with the sort of flexible, empowering culture seen in young hero companies such as Innocent and Netflix. Sometimes this involves getting rid of people who cannot or will not adapt. Netflix is as ruthless with ‘dead wood’ as it is supportive of bright stars, so if you followed this approach, your own Lone Wolves will gradually have to be rooted out.

It’s challenging stuff, particularly for large, established companies operating in sectors such as energy, finance and telecoms. Thankfully, there are leaders out there proving that it absolutely can be done.

A leading energy company has 15,000 people in their energy sales channel, 4,000 in their homecare channel, and 500 in field sales. A few years ago, they hired a brilliant new sales director who believed that current perception of the energy sector begged a whole new channel approach, and called on Blue Sky to help. Starting with the 1,200 people in their outbound channel, we helped them remove the frontline sales-per-hour target, instead encouraging salespeople to focus on having a great conversation with the customer, building the brand and being genuinely helpful. If customers didn’t wish to make a sale at that time, they were given a number to call back on later if they changed their mind, rather than being pushed to confirm a sale straight away.

The results? Sales per hour stayed largely the same, and from an engagement perspective, the workforce was far more motivated. Plus, thanks to the ‘call back’ mechanic, they saw a significant increase in the volume of inbound calls – which had double the conversion of the conversations on the outbound line.

“Selling, I’ve grown to understand,” says Dan Pink, “is more urgent, more important, and, in its own sweet way, more beautiful than we realise.” Sales leaders need to stop selling themselves short. H2H makes for better results – but it’s also a sales approach of which we can all be proud.

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementSally@bluesky




On purpose

February 23, 2012

When people ask me what I do for a living there are a variety of responses I can give them:

  • Consultant – this is the worst one.
  • Coach
  • Facilitator
  • Trainer

I work with businesses to make them perform more effectively through their people.

These all describe what I do.

Sometimes when I am working, I am connected to the purpose of what I do:

“Creating the conditions to make people’s lives happier, and helping people love each other more”.

I find that when I am doing anything in my role connected to this purpose, I am instantly happier and more peaceful; and easier to work with. Dan Pink, author of best-selling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth Behind What Motivates Us, describes an inspiring purpose as the yearning to be in service to something greater than ourselves, he cites this as one of the most important factors in human motivation. In fact, I find that I can do pretty much any task in my life, and if it’s in the service of something greater than myself, I instantly have meaning and purpose in my life.

Connect - BlueSky - Bluesky Performance Improvement

A friend of mine and ex-colleague, Bill Hutchinson used to say that it’s not the task we have to carry out that creates our experience, but the spirit in which we undertake the task. For example, when someone asks you to make a cup of tea, you have a choice. You can do it in a begrudging manner, or do it with pleasure because you want that person to be happy and have a really good cup of tea. The fact remains whichever way you choose, you will still be making the cup of tea. It’s the same as when you give money to a charity cause. The act itself will not create you to be happy or unhappy, but the spirit in which you do it will. If you do it with a mind on what benefits you will personally create for the people who receive the donation will receive, you will have one experience. If you do it because your peers will think you are mean, you will have another experience. Another way of saying this is it’s not what you do, but the context in which we operate. It’s the same work that we do, but the context and reason why we do it is different.

Why do we come to work? To make money so that we can enjoy our life outside of work, and hope at the same time that our work will be personally satisfying and fulfilling, and when it isn’t, well hey? No job is perfect.

What about if we came to work because of the reason the work existed? Because we were so compelled and inspired by the purpose of the work we were involved in, it transcended our own need for own needs to be met, and yet at the same time spurred us on to even greater personal achievements.

I find that when the context of my work is centered around me, life can be miserable.  When my job becomes about not getting what I want, not doing the kind of work I want to be doing, things not being done the way I want them to be, people not behaving the way I want them to behave or the way they should, the work not being done the way I think it should be done, things not going the way I want them to be, my boss not treating me the way that I want to be treated, work life can create all kinds of unhappiness. And when I am present to the purpose behind the work that I do, I find that work can be an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling place to be.

And what is a leader if it isn’t someone who has been able to inspire people to be present to a purpose that is greater than themselves?

So what if the places we worked in were more present to a purpose that was more important then ourselves and we were more connected with that on a day-to-day basis? Would that make a difference to our experience of the world and the individual work that we produced?

I’d love to know your thoughts….


James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Blue Sky Performance Improvement