The art of selling is exactly that, an art. I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to work with some outstanding sales people who have taught me a great deal. I’ve only worked in B2B sales environments, supporting sales teams and providing administration and marketing support. What have I learnt over the past 20 years?
The high performers
The best sales people are those who understand a buyers business problem. My observation is that a professional salesperson can sell financial services, move to selling professional services and then computer hardware. It doesn’t matter what they sell, it’s how they sell that is critical to their success.
While working at a software company for seven years I saw a sales person come on board for the single purpose of selling to a large Australian telco. That was their single purpose, they did it and they did it well. There may have been “blood and carnage” on the walls of the office as this salesperson demanded support from a range of team members, but they got the sale in the end.
Was that the right way to go about winning the deal? I don’t think so. Better sales people are able to muster support from the wider team in such a way that people want to help. A good salesperson realises the depth of knowledge and skills of the people around them and they tap into that knowledge.
A good salesperson surrounds themselves with great people
There are Hunters and Farmers, two types of salespeople with two distinct behaviour types. Both serve a purpose, the Hunter grows the business through net new sales i.e. adding new logos to the client list and the Farmer grows existing accounts and expands the companies footprint within that business.
The ability to think strategically in the way they sell is a key attribute for a good salesperson. A good Hunter or Farmer will call on support staff around them to ensure they have a plan in place. A plan that looks beyond the current quarter and one that’s built with a solid understanding of the client’s business challenges will always provide a framework for success.
We’re all salespeople
I used to resent this notion, but as time went by I realised it was true. Once a sale closed and I had contracts to work from, there was ample opportunity for me to up-sell. I frequently found opportunities to add consulting days to our engagements, additional services which in turn added revenue to the bottom line.
My interactions with clients was such that they didn’t see me as a ‘salesperson’, but I was in a position to influence the client. The key however, was to ensure there was value in what I was suggesting. Because the salespeople I worked with included me in the account planning phase, I also understood the client’s challenges and was empowered to make decisions based on the overall account objectives.
What can you do to ensure you add value?
I could create a bullet point list here that would keep you scrolling for hours, but I’ll save you the pain. The key attribute I’ve found that has helped me over the years is, agility. Making sure I don’t get stuck doing the same thing over and over again. There will always be repetitive aspects for any role, however being flexible in our attitude and the way we approach problems or challenges is key.
“Work smarter, not harder” is an old adage…but it’s actually true in today’s work environment! To illustrate: hard-working Harold is the first one to arrive and the last one to leave the office. We all have a hard-working Harold at our companies – he shows true dedication and a willingness to put in extra effort. He drinks 5 cups of coffee every morning, pours over paperwork at 1:00 in the morning, and types 80 words per minute. However, Harold will probably not outperform Agile Anna, who more effectively supports peers, seeks feedback, and adapts to changing situations.”* Emphasis added.
“CEB [The Corporate Executive Board] found through quantitative research that agile employees outperform hard workers. However, 75% of surveyed employees are not agile. As a result, communications teams are fighting an uphill battle when trying to help the organization adapt to ongoing change.”*
My top 5 tips for success when working with Sales
- Understand you’re also a salesperson.
- Get involved in account planning and determine where you can add value.
- Learn good farming techniques.
- Be agile in how you work with the sales team and the company more broadly.
- Enjoy what you do and do it well.
*SOURCE: The Corporate Executive Board – Why You Need Agile Employees, and Not Just Hard Workers