Selling is simply something we all do to get other people to do what we’d like them to do either for your gratification or theirs. If your primary purpose is “your” gratification you will not achieve much success as a salesperson. On the other hand if you are motivated by a desire to help people you won’t achieve much unless you’re a success as a salesperson.
Professional services can’t be seen, smelt, felt, touched or tasted so for the most part people who need them will not be aware of that need. To address this you need to alert your clients to the benefits that your solutions will provide. We’ll call this marketing. But marketing is not selling. Selling is the flip side of marketing and is the process of helping people move from a mental position of understanding their need to a mental state of wanting your solution.
This brings me to three points. First, your impact as a professional is directly related to the value you bring to the table for the people you are privileged to serve. Second, no matter how talented you are, your impact will be directly influenced by your ability to sell. Finally, you ability to sell, as with any learned ability, will be directly influenced by your willingness to practice to develop your skill. Here’s my question, how often do you practice for or even prepare for a sales meeting?
Consider this. I read a story recently about Tony Gwynn, a US major-league baseballer who played for the San Diego Padres from 1982 to 2001. He was inducted into the Hall of Famer in 2007 as one of the best hitters in the game with a career batting average of .338. He was the National League Batting Champion on 8 occasions in his 19 year career. I take it you understand that he was pretty good!
The key to his success I’m told, is not just his natural talent but also his ability to focus. Despite his unquestionable skill he would read Ted William’s book The Science of Hitting several times each season. He watched hours of video of his own game and others. He’d take the videos with him on the road to study and when he wasn’t swinging his bat in practice, watching videos, or reading about hitting he was talking to his team mates about it and how he could improve. This is precisely the same behavior that Tiger Woods exhibits with his golf. He practices all the time and if he has a bad round he goes straight to the practice tee and hits hundreds of balls.
Now you may not aspire to the lofty heights achieved by Gwynn and Woods but I think there’s something to learn from them. You get better at anything when you practice. Practice may not make perfect but if you aim for perfect and fall short, you’ll still end up with excellent.
Your formal education gave you the basic knowledge you needed to enter the profession. That education together with the continuing formal education you receive as part of your CPE/CPD compliance keeps you technically up to speed and gives you your income. However, this is never enough to make you a master. That comes for you own personal development – from reading, watching video programs, attending sales training courses and most importantly from practicing. When you combine your talent with your sales skill you will have a dramatic impact on the people you come in contact with. Here are two books you could start with. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World. In addition to reading these books take a look at our own sales resources on the website.
Your sales productivity (and your income and professional enjoyment) will explode when you do the following things: (1) be deeply prepared – this will show your prospect that you care, (2) have a clear and definite picture in your mind of what you want and expect the outcome of the sales presentation to be, (3) rehearse every presentation in your mind and with colleagues, (4) develop your listening skills rather than your talking skills, (5) be “interested” rather than “interesting” so that you are able to identify your prospect’s real needs and remember the saying: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care and finally (6) ask for the engagement with the use of a statements such as “so <name> having seen what this means for you, when would you like to get started?”
Oh, and one more incredibly important thing, don’t forget to go through your Mutual Commitment Statement as an integral part of the sales process. This requires practice and when you get it down pat, your financial future will be assured as will that of your clients.
One thought on “Talent is not enough”
Great post and excellent advice Ric. One thing I have found is that in addition to the preparation and being crystal clear on the outcome of the meeting, something that helps firms dramatically is sitting down and designing a sales process that has defined steps and clear milestones – that is, having a perspective that is more encompassing than the one meeting – e.g. Initial Needs Analysis Meeting; Proposal preparation; Proposal discussion meeting. This provides two benefits: (1) It gives business development operatives within the firm a clear process to follow with clear desired outcomes from each stage (e.g. the desired outcome from the first meeting is simply to understand the client’s background, current issues and future goals, along with explaining the firm’s points of difference), and, perhaps just as importantly, (2) it also allows a BD operative to say to a prospective client right up front, “we have a 3-step process we go through when we’re in this ‘getting to know each other’ stage with a prospective client … can I explain those 3 steps to you now?” … followed by a PAUSE … waiting for the prospective client to speak next, and to permit you to continue.
The first ‘sale’ to make in the sales process is to sell the prospective client on the sales process … that is, to gain their commitment to the stages in your process. This provides comfort to the prospective client and it automatically sets up more than one meeting, giving the BD operative the opportunity to build greater rapport and to be able to follow up after providing the proposal. Without this permission up front, following up a presentation or proposal can seem like the firm is trying too hard (e.g. ‘pushy’) to win their business, whereas if the expectation is set up right up front, it’s more comfortable and works better for both parties.
This type of explanation also comforts the prospective client because they then know that the purpose of the first meeting is not to ‘sell’ them, but rather to listen to them, to start analyzing their situation and to walk away with a clear brief upon which a realistic proposal can be built. This ‘sales process design’ is equally important as ‘sales skills training’; combined, these produce far better results.