Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

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Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.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

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

Does your customer really want a partnership – or a Partnerschaft?

December 3, 2013

Inside views from three global procurement directors

The business world is awash with jargon: strategic partnerships; strategic sourcing; strategic intent… but what does it all really mean for B2B sales people today?

I interviewed three global Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) from Fortune 500 companies to find out.

In the words of one CPO: “The only way I would want a partnership is if I cannot achieve the business result via RFP or competitive procurement activity.”

Another CPO suggests, “If you are a strategic supplier then that means you will give me more discount.”  Another confirms, “When we hear the seller say ‘partnership’ we start to think, ‘What do they want?’  This is another way to leverage us.”  I was then playfully reminded of the German term for Partnership… Partnerschaft.

So, in the eyes of Procurement, what really is a strategic partnership?  One Fortune 500 Bank estimates they have nearly 18,000 suppliers across the globe, but they have just 35 relationships that are considered strategic (under 0.2%). However, these 35 suppliers account for >56% of all money invested (see accompanying model).

Supply base analysisThe real test of a partnership

If that supplier went away, would the customer be harmed more than the supplier? Is there joint investment between the two companies to generate increased revenue; reduce risk or reduce costs to both parties? One CPO claims “unless you have invested, it’s not a partnership.”

So what our panel of procurement leaders suggest is that for many sales people today, a term that they could consider using is “effective commercial relationship”. Customers don’t want a partnership… and they certainly don’t just want a friendship or merely a ‘good relationship’. Develop effective commercial relationships with your customers and save the Partnerschaft conversations for the lucky few.

Andrew's Photo (blog)Andrew@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Features & benefits – who’s the real winner?

July 20, 2011

Features and benefits are the cornerstone of selling. All products and services have features but the features on their own won’t make the potential customer want to go ahead as people need to see what’s in it for them – and that’s what benefits demonstrate. Advantages are potential benefits, but they don’t become benefits until we link them personally to the customer.

Features & Benefits - Who's the real winner?

Great sales people focus their questioning on establishing what the customer needs, really getting under the skin of ‘why’ a customer buys a product and uses this information to present the benefits of a product to the customer linking to what the product will do for that customer on a personal level. When this level of tailored selling is achieved it has a massive impact on customer experience as well as sales results….when it goes wrong it can have the adverse effect, have a look at this video and see the impact of getting it wrong

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Great service in the most unlikely places..

July 13, 2011

Trains are not usually the sort of places that you would expect to find excellent customer service, especially not trains packed to the gunnels with over tired business people during the morning rush hour.  But here I am on the early morning Grand Central train from York to London having a conversation with the ticket collector and thinking how great his service has been. To backtrack a few minutes, I’d boarded the train and was in the process of buying a ticket from the collector when he suddenly stopped in mid sentence, excused himself and started running down the carriage calling after a lady who he’d just let past.  I looked at my fellow passengers and we wondered if he’d realised that she had the wrong ticket and needed to pay an excess.

inspire

A minute later he reappeared and slightly out of breath told us that “I just realised that she was heading to the buffet car to buy a drink and I’d forgot to tell her that it would be free if she showed her ticket”. It was a simple gesture and one that was delivered with absolute sincerity. When I commented on this he simply said “well, it’s part of my job to look after the customers” and then he added “Grand Central is a really good company to work for, we all like coming to work each day”.  I wish I’d had time to explore this comment further but of course he had better things to do than to talk to me. But it did inspire a conversation around my table about customer service and how the simple gestures like this leave you with an overwhelmingly positive impression of an organisation.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever moan about broken air conditioning, delayed trains or overcrowded carriages, but this is definitely a company I want to travel with again.

Robin@Bluesky

Robin Mar - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Talking sales – Our recent Sales Breakfast at The Gherkin

June 1, 2011
Picture of the very top of The Gherkin, London looking out on a blue sky

The view of the very top of The Gherkin, London

The sun shone across London on the 12th May, giving us beautiful blue skies for our Changing Face of Sales breakfast at The Gherkin. Whilst taking in the magnificent view we were joined by 11 senior sales leaders, along with Marc Jantzen our CEO and Robin Mar our Client Services Director to thrash out the current issues in sales creating an enthralling debate.

 

Marc Jantzen CEO & Robin Mar Client Service Director

12th May Sales Breakfast at The Gherkin - Robin Mar & Marc Jantzen

Some of the key issues that arose from our guests included how do you get the right balance in cross selling services and products in particular within a highly regulated environment, how do you up skill sales people to move them from a traditional focus of selling ‘product’ to creating longer term ‘value’ with customers and how to offer a seamless multi-channel sales process for ever demanding customers.


The view of London Bridge and Tower Bridge

A view from the table

Wrapping up the morning with the promise that the debate will be continued we have created a ‘LinkedIn’ group called ‘Future of Sales’ for guests of our past and future sales breakfasts to join to keep up to date with the issues arising from the debates. We will be running this breakfast again in October so please email me at eve.b@blue-sky.co.uk if you are interested in join us.

From

Eve@Bluesky

Eve Brockwell - Events Manager - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.bluesky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement Logo - High Resolution