The good ole US of A is riding a wave of optimism and euphoria right now. You have to be American to really understand this, but even if you’re not American we’re all really hoping that the wave crashes on the shore, not in the surf of broken dreams, missed mortgage payments, and business foreclosures, but rather on the crest of an uplift in confidence and renewed vigor. History has shown that Americans have an uncommon ability to recover from seemingly insurmountable difficulties, and the world economy is depending on one man, and his citizens, to lead a global recovery. Each of us has a part to play.
In any business, nothing (good) happens until someone sells something. The sales team is the engine of growth. Without it great products go unnoticed, inventive marketing is unrewarded and good companies go under. For many of us, the challenge has never been greater, but out of the garden of fear and trouble rise the twin siblings of opportunity and achievement, for those who are themselves prepared to sow the seeds of success, and with tireless work, and effective pruning, nurture oaks from acorns.
In a previous post, I postulated that there are few professions where the inner strength of the individual protagonist is as critical as that of the professional salesperson, and I listed the 7 principles that govern the level of achievement.
- Commitment and Resilience
- Honesty and Integrity
- Inquisitiveness and Learning
- Empathy and Perspective
- Vision: Innovation and Leadership
- Enterprise: Hard Work, Strategy and Execution
Sales 2.0 tools such as CRM 2.0, Learning as a Service , intelligent pipeline analysis tools, social networking (see earlier post), and others, make it possible for you as an individual to set aside the constraints of corporate cutbacks, travel restrictions and market pessimism, but only if you take control, and, for yourself decide “Yes I can!”
I believe that each of the 7 principles outlined above are important to help you ACHIEVE, but in this post I want to spend a little time on number 7, Enterprise: Hard Work, Strategy and Execution.
First to Hard Work. Over the last 22 years, I’ve started 5 separate companies, and had the privilege of employing and working with many wonderful individuals. Each of those that I remember fondly had individual attributes that brought considerable value to whatever tasks they undertook. But one thing stands out as a common characteristic. They all cared deeply about what they were doing, at once for the company, for their own personal satisfaction and sense of responsibility, and to the overall benefit of the customers. Each came with plenty of aptitude, but more importantly not a single one was lacking in attitude or application. Doing what it takes to make it happen is something that can only be self governed, and is less impacted by corporate policies or procedures that by an inherent sense of self-worth and a willingness to work hard (and play hard.) ‘The harder is work, the luckier I get’ is an adage that’s based in truth and unswerving reality, and in these times completely apposite.
Strategy: Strategy development is by definition an unnatural act. If it were not so, we wouldn’t need to do it. We would naturally execute in accordance with the ‘strategy‘ without necessarily ever articulating it as such. But that’s not how it is. In sales we know there is value in developing a strategy to approach a customer or market. It’s well understood that without a plan – and in truth a strategy is just a well considered plan – failure is a common bedfellow. For those of us who make our living persuading others to part with their cash in exchange for our goods or services, strategic approaches to account planning, opportunity management, market segmentation, territory planning, negotiation, product positioning, self-education, influence management, value proposition development, and resource allocation are all essential ingredients in the success recipe. In the sales effectiveness (read sales training, sales methodology, sales productivity, sales performance improvement, sales consulting) market, many vendors have toiled for many years espousing a variety of strategies or methodologies that will help you increase revenue. The facts support the vendor’s claims (though not necessarily to the level that’s promised). When you adopt and faithfully apply a sales methodology, you will do better than if you don’t. The evidence from independent analysis is inconvertible, and it’s foolish not to take a strategic approach to sales.
So why doesn’t every intelligent sales person take that strategic approach, and ‘adopt and faithfully apply a sales methodology’. Three words: It’s too hard. By that I mean the effort involved in applying the best practice inherent in these proven methodologies, doesn’t always seem worth it, and adoption wanes, and with waning adoption comes reduced results, and with reduced results comes decreased discipline, and with decreased discipline comes waning adoption and so the vicious circle continues.
Sales training, where sales professionals learn how to develop and execute strategies for the aforementioned challenges, has historically been solely conducted in a training classroom – away from where the real work is done, and artificially separated from the interrupted and event driven pattern of a sales person’s daily routine. Not just that, but there is little separation between knowledge transfer and knowledge application. Nor has there frequently much thought been given to the fact that while 80% of an individual’s learning happens on-the-job, little effort is expended in supporting that learning. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Here’s where Sales 2.0 tools comes riding in on the proverbial white horse. Tools exist today that separate knowledge transfer from knowledge application. Sales people can be empowered to learn the core concepts of sales strategy over the Internet, through interactive portals, online video, self paced tests and accreditation and all in engaging edutational (if that’s a word) environment, where the only peer pressure is self-induced, and personal gratification is in-built.
Taking a strategic approach to sales works. That’s a fact. In these times however it’s hard for companies to invest in the traditional way. The good news though is that it’s not the only way. In my post How do you get over the travel ban?, I suggested ways to deal with some of the constraint attendant with straitened times.
Execution: Without effective execution, strategy is worthless, but this post is too long already, so in a subsequent post I will deal with this issue, and again point to how Sales 2.0 might help. For now it’s up for you to decide if you want to succeed, by coupling your aptitude with its sisters – attitude and application – and taking the time to develop a strategic approach to every sales challenge you encounter. Can we do better by following this approach? Yes we can!