“Extinction is what happens when the shared history of what works takes us past the point where we need to adapt.”
A University of California, Berkeley, study found that animals and plants don’t just disappear because of bad luck in a static and unchanging environment. Most cases of extinction are the result of a changing environment combined with a lack of adaptation to the new environment. This is true in the animal kingdom, as well as in the world of sales.
Many businesses are at risk of going extinct because the world of selling is no longer as it was. The era of selling we have been operating in has changed and continues to change, and the businesses that fail to adapt to this new environment will no longer be viable.
According to the McKinsey Quarterly, nearly 50 percent of all B2B purchases will be made on digital platforms by the end of 2015. In addition, B2B customers now on average regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the decision journey. This is a far cry from the days of linear sales transactions that took place between a buyer and a seller. Does your sales strategy fit into this new buying process or is your business at risk of being on its way out?
Below are three signs you are (way, way, way) past the point of where you need to adapt to survive in life after the death of selling as we once knew it.
1) You think salespeople close business.
The Death of Selling
I regret to inform you that selling has passed away. The exact time of death is not known, but was long anticipated. Selling fought a long, hard battle against the changing B2B buying process, but ultimately lost the fight. Without adaptation, selling was unable to survive in the new era of sales. Selling will be greatly missed by old-school sales leaders and traditional sales reps who rely solely on hard work, charisma, and a bloated database of personal contacts. However, what gives us hope is the prospect of life after the death of selling.
Life After the Death of Selling
The era of selling we have been operating in is dead. Shifts in the B2B buying process have transformed selling as we know it. We must change the way we sell when buyers change the way they buy, which means we also must change the way we lead.
Below are three tips to help you lead your company in life after the death of selling as we know it.
- Become a Fortuneteller
Now, more than ever, one of your weightiest responsibilities as CEO is anticipating the future. In this new fast-paced sales era, not adapting to a quickly changing market means extinction. Your new job as executive leader is to become a fortuneteller so you can lead your company to adapt. You must figure out what the customer will need not today, but tomorrow, and (most importantly) the day after that.
- Become a Builder
If you want to survive in this new era of sales, it is critical to build a framework for your entire organization to make decisions, including the sales team.
I get the privilege of speaking with thousands of CEOs about their businesses, their plans to grow and their challenges. The conversation often turns to the question,
“Do I have the right people in sales to really grow?”
From my perspective, it’s a false choice question. If the answer is yes, then the CEO has concluded that sales growth is just about people. If the answer is no, then the CEO will be stuck replacing sales people with institutional knowledge, market and customer contacts and a lot of unrecoverable investment on the company’s part.
Hiring is a risky and murky business at best and then there is the inevitable performance delay called “onboarding.”
Let me offer a different set of questions:
- Can your sales people learn?
- Will your sales people change?
- Do your sales people know that they are “at risk” in your view of the future?
The CEOs who ask about their people, know the truth, “what got you here won’t get you there”. They have just mentally replaced the “what” for “who” in that analysis.
But, experience tells me that changing the “what,” the company’s process, message and delivery, is more important than changing the “who.”
Recently, I met with Bill Caskey, a friend and colleague in sales performance development, caskeyone.com. We were talking about what makes for remarkable sales performers. The right balance of mindset and mechanics was our conclusion. One without the other creates an unsustainable performance recipe. I later added one more ingredient:
Here is What it Looks Like:
- Mindset sets the frame for what is possible for yourself and your team. It is not a false bravado or an artificial “rah-rah” speech. This is the lens through which remarkable performers view the world. It is abundance-based and confidence comes from the concrete and accurate view of people, process and the marketplace.
- Mechanics include all of the baseline skills necessary to connect, build trust, diagnose, advise and present solutions to prospects. In the modern sales world this requires successfully expanding the participants in the process on both sides of the buying process.
- Magic is the least tangible, but still necessary component of discerning between several choices what is the best and most productive choice to make in a variety of leadership, management and selling circumstances.
My upcoming program for senior sales leadership is called, “The 3 Ms” based on the ideas of mindset, mechanics and magic. I built it because often the least invested in position is the one of sales leadership, yet it has the highest leverage for performance. If you are interested in learning about it or the upcoming start of our next Academy sessions, click here to provide us your information and we will get right back with you.
I met with a master of the relationship pitch recently. He is an artist. I’ll hit some highlights of what he did:
- Researched me and everyone on my team in advance of the meeting
- Dug deep on our website and the internet regarding our company
- Followed up his initial phone call with a detailed and specific email summarizing the phone call and the agenda for the next steps
When we met, he was friendly, charming, confident and engaging. This should have worked. We should have connected, built trust and we should have bought from him. In fact, he made friends, we did connect and all of us trust him- we just did not buy. Why? He was not relevant to our business, only to us as people.
This sales person came from the perspective that trust is the highest importance in building a sales relationship and being liked is a part of that. The current world wants those things along with relevance and value. That’s where he missed.
Here’s what he should have done in addition to connecting to the people:
- Determine what the problem is that we need to have solved. He did not know and he never asked.
- Research the competitors to our business and the threats that we face so as to position his offering in alignment with what we are trying to overcome.
- Offer us a clear picture of why his offering would fix our unique problem.
It is going to be hard to tell this sales person no, he is a real charmer and I like him.
Get Out of the Straitjacket
Opening your email and voicemail the first thing every day, is liking putting on a straitjacket and spending the first few hours of every day trying to escape from it.
Hyper-responsiveness creates a false sense of accomplishment. Just because you get back to someone within minutes on an issue they would have waited hours for a response on, does not make you more productive or even more appreciated. It just makes you wasteful of the most valuable thing you have to spend- your time.
If you want to get out of the straitjacket faster, don’t escape. It is faster to not get into it in the first place. Let me remind you of some ideas you know, but are not following:
- Do not open email until 10 a.m. at the earliest and work your way up to waiting until noon.
- Only listen to voicemails on even hours of the day.
- Plan your day for at least 5 hours of self-scheduled, self-directed work. The remainder of the available time is for work driven in response to others requests.
If you are not following these simple rules, then you are sitting around every morning without a plan and waiting to be told what to do. If you don’t like that idea, change your plan and your habits.
The Oddsmaker – What’s Your Chance of Winning?
Vegas has its oddsmakers. These experts evaluate all sorts of data to determine the likely outcome of some event- usually a competitive sporting event. All sorts of information is considered in the calculation- health of the contestants, past win-loss records, positional match ups, even weather. Then they make their predictions.
The good ones have a secret formula that they use that, when combined with their experience and instincts, allows them a higher accuracy than their competitors. They call it their “system”.
For large account sales, I can give you my formula- the rest of the system you have to come to The Academy to learn.
- Start with zero
- Executive Sponsor: If you have a Executive Sponsor, add 30 points
- Buyer’s table: If you have established contact with three or more of the members of the prospect team’s buying group and have met with them face to face, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- The Eel: If you have identified the Eel and are engaged with them in the sales process, add 5 points. If you have not identified the eel, or if you cannot get their engagement, subtract 15 points.
- Hunt team connections: If you have introduced three or more people in a meeting or on-site visit for a period greater than 45 minutes to members of the prospect team’s buying group, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- Needs assessment: Add 15 points if you are able to perform an in-depth needs assessment as a part of the preparation of your proposal.
Having a Winner’s Mindset
If your thoughts are a direct reflection of the thoughts of the people with whom you surround yourself, you have to ask, “What people are feeding my thoughts?”
For a starter, let’s take money and your thoughts about money. Here is a quick self-diagnosis, especially for sales people. Answer these questions:
- Do I make more, same or less money than my parents did at my current age, (adjusted for inflation)?
- Do I make more, same or less money than the people with whom I graduated high school?
- Do I make more, same or less money than the people I spend the most time with in my life?
Chances are that if you make more money than two out of three of those groups, you are relatively satisfied with your earnings. This is true with most life endeavors, consciously or subconsciously we compare ourselves and determine our success based upon the people within our personal reference frame and circle.
Ten years ago, I realized that I was in the top 10% of success of everyone in my personal circle. So I expanded my circle. I found other successful people who were much more successful and added them to my circle. I didn’t get rid of my current circle; I just got a bigger circle. When I did that, my view of the world expanded significantly as to what success looked like. My perspective on philanthropy, education, wealth and influence was much different with broader horizons and great examples to follow.
Hiring is Awful – So Get Better at It
We are doubling our staff right now. Sales people, customer service account managers, administrative support. Hiring is the worst – the amount of time it takes, the expense and of course the frequency with which a great process produces an unsustainable hire. I have hired thousands of people over my career and I can claim a success rate only a tiny bit higher than the national average. I have made a few lessons law for us at Hunt Big Sales:
- Avoid “projects” – There is a temptation to hire people with potential rather than proven talent. The price is better and then you can develop them your own way, right? Not as a small company. You need real producers from day one.
- Forget “market rate” compensation – If you are a growing company, you need to set your sights on real contributors and pay for it. One “great hire” will out perform two good hires.
- Take the time – I’m always in a rush when it comes to hiring. That’s like going to the grocery store hungry. It’s better to go with multiple interviews.
- Standardize – Currently, this is our biggest mistake. If you want to get good at something, then you standardize and modify from the standard as you learn. Right now, we are making up our questions for each interview as we are meeting with the candidate. We are going to move to a template approach so that all of the members of the hiring team can get better with experience.
It is traditional at this time of the year to declare your goals and resolutions. I usually do this exercise like many other people. I often come up short on my accomplishments at the end of the year, but I have enough success to keep me at it.
This year, I have designed a different way of approaching this exercise. I’m calling it “The Ones.” The idea is simple; write the answer to each of the single challenges below and then execute against it. I’ll give you the list, and then my own answers as an example.
- One person to meet – Mine is a particular multi-millionaire financial adviser for 30 minutes. He has achieved success and balance and I want to understand some of how he did it and what he learned along the way.
- One habit to break – Interrupting my customers. (I’m terrible at this).
- One habit to make – Writing in my business journal daily. (I am reading old journals right now and am re-learning some great lessons that I learned once and seem to have forgotten.)
- One book to read – I have a stack, but for a project I am working on, “Dramatica” by Phillips and Huntley.
- One question to answer – What is the best structure to support our continued doubling growth?
- One fight to have – Stopping work at the end of the day. True, it’s a fight with myself, but it has to be had and I need to win.
- One fight to let go – Perfectionism.