Consigning all selling to the past – post 2 of 2

In the first of these two posts, building on earlier material about why selling is inappropriate in today’s society, about the new ABC of Sales, and about the death of the sales force, I argued that putting ‘Up’ or ‘Cross’ in front of ‘Sell’ doesn’t change my position one jot; and I highlighted the wrong-headed approach of the Post Office in the transformation programme they are currently implementing, focusing on a strategy heavily reliant on ‘Up Sell and Cross Sell’.

upsell_cross sell

I committed in the last post to provide a strategy that delivers a far more effective approach to growing the revenues (and thus the profits) of businesses than the traditional tools, techniques and tricks of the classic sales approach. I suggested that a little patience by you would lead to everything falling right into place. Thank you for your patience; your wait is over, here’s what you waited for.

Here’s my alternative – start with the customer. Find a way of identifying what the customer places most value on, what would be the best offering for them right now? Have no pre-formed idea of what you want to provide to them. Instead stay in a very simple question for as long as possible – ‘can I provide the best solution for this customer right now?’ There is very interesting social sciences research that shows how surprisingly effective this approach is.

The Post Office has a major, strategic challenge deriving from the demographic of its customer base and adopting my alternative strategy can better position the Post Office with newer, younger, time-poor potential customers. Other businesses can deploy it with great success. Some of my clients are already doing so; with the sweet spot of deployment being in highly bespoke person-to-person complex professional services environments. Think of businesses where the nature of the service is that it is derived from the knowledge, skill and expertise of the people within the business. Think of ‘solopreneurs’ deploying their personal capabilities to delight their clients (perhaps designers, including graphics designers; maybe HR professionals; possibly Healthcare and Well-being practitioners). Think of Professional Services firms such as law firms, accountancy practices or Insolvency Practitioners/Financial Advisers). All are operating in highly bespoke person-to-person complex professional services environments.

Can I_question

Many sales trainers teach people tools, techniques and methodologies that purport to improve sales effectiveness. Included amongst these approaches is often the application of ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ as an approach. It is far more effective to tell yourself you can successfully sell to the person in front of you than it is to have doubts about your ability to do so. I had years in this sales environment of P.M.A. and A.B.C. (Always Be Closing) and have no doubt that the attitude of this positive group is more effective than a second group that constantly has doubts and insecurities regarding their abilities.

However, the social science research indicates that there is a third group who are even more effective than those who use P.M.A. as the bed-rock of their success. This third group have been shown to be 50% more effective than the P.M.A. group who use assertive self-talk when in the sales process (‘I can do this!’) Instead the third group stay in ‘interrogative self-talk’ (‘Can I do this?) for as long as possible. I think it would be far more effective for the Post Office, along with other service organisations, to train people how to use this interrogative approach when interacting with customers and potential customers. The resultant jointly-crafted solution is far more attractive, and valuable, to those whose needs have truly been listened to and honoured.

Adopting this strategy would enable them to grow their businesses without selling but with a strategy of using ‘max-serve’ to provide the best solution to their customers. If they cannot provide the best solution it is better to let the prospective customer walk on by. The ‘max-serve’ strategy recognises that only delighted customers will join the army of ardent advocates that recommend your business to others. If you merely satisfy a customer they are very unlikely to stick their head above the parapet and recommend your business to friends and loved ones. Disappoint them and they will tell many people. Delight them and they will tell those they love and trust – the people they have high standings with who are more likely to change their behaviours as a result of a recommendation from them. I will be writing more about the ‘max-serve’ strategy in the near future – once I have completed the review I am currently undertaking of extensive research.

An army of fans

In my business, I use the ALIGNED framework as a way of ensuring I deploy the ‘max-serve’ strategy in every customer interaction. I also teach others how to use the ALIGNED framework to shift the focus of their customer interactions. The ALIGNED framework, concentrating so much as it does on understanding the situation of the prospective buyer, constantly asking the question ‘can I find the perfect solution?’, and avoiding premature searches for possible solutions, greatly improves the alignment between seller and prospective buyer. By staying as long as possible in the question, using interrogative self-talk instead of assertive, the potential seller creates the opportunity to identify the resources needed to provide the perfect solution and crafts internal, intrinsic motivations over externally referenced drivers. Keeping alive the possibility that the answer that may emerge could be ‘No, I cannot provide the perfect solution’ multiplies the effect of the interrogative approach.

There is still hope for the Post Office, but only if they can revive their moribund customer base and can attract new customers to establish a squadron of sincere supporters to supplement and replace their dying customer base. It was once widely held to be a much-loved and revered British institution. I hope Chief Executive Paula Vennells acts quickly enough to move it into this century, realising last century isn’t good enough.

I hope you consider carefully the growth (or survival) strategy for your business. Which of the three groups above are you in currently? If you are not in the third group – the one that is most effective – what are you going to do? If you want to get into the third group, how will you do it? A goal without a plan is just a dream. Don’t just dream, do.

all-you-need-to-succeed

 

 

 

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Consigning all selling to the past – post 1 of 2

Those of you who have read my newsletters this year will have noticed I have written about why selling is inappropriate in today’s society, and about the new ABC of Sales. If you follow my blog posts you may also have seen me writing about the death of the sales force. Putting ‘Up’ or ‘Cross’ in front of ‘Sell’ doesn’t change my argument one jot; and I decided to highlight the wrong-headed approach of the Post Office in the transformation programme they are currently implementing, focusing on a strategy heavily reliant on ‘Up Sell and Cross Sell’.

Post Office

I think there is a far better strategy, not only for the Post Office, but for all organisations aiming to survive, even thrive, nowadays. The articles that can be reached from the hyperlinks above advance the case that selling is inappropriate nowadays. Recent social science research has identified that there is a far better approach to growing the revenues (and thus the profits) of businesses than the traditional tools, techniques and tricks of the classic sales approach. The aim of the ‘Up Sell and Cross Sell’ strategy is to capture a bigger share of the spend of the customers, to leverage the relationship between buyer and seller such that the seller takes a larger slice of the buyer’s spend. On the face of it, it makes sense that a company that has invested in acquiring a customer reaps the relatively easier additional revenue and profit streams. After all, it typically costs somewhere between five and ten times more to acquire a new customer than it takes to sell to an existing one. The problem with the ‘Up Sell and Cross Sell’ strategy of any business, whether or not it is a British institution, is that it doesn’t really address the issue of acquiring new customers.

I am all for building deep and meaningful relationships with customers. Businesses, especially those involved in providing services, which successfully deploy a strategy of attracting and retaining an army of ardent advocates are on the right track. However the way to foster such fervent fans is not through up-selling and cross-selling – far better to focus on finding ways to ‘max-serve’ customers. In their transformation programme, Post Office staff are being trained to routinely offer additional products and services from the portfolio that they were taught about in an extensive training programme. Staff are being helped to understand where the most profitable products are in their portfolio and to then find ways of offering them to those who stray into their bazaars. Many companies have employed this strategy for years. I too was trained to Up Sell and Cross Sell; it was one of the sales mantras in the nineties and noughties in the ICT companies I was then working for. Times have moved on, even if the venerable British institution is still trying to drag itself into the nineteen nineties, so new strategies are needed.

In the second and final post on this subject, I will outline my alternative solution to the Up Sell and Cross sell strategy being pursued by the Post Office and many others including law firms, accountancy practices, and many technology companies, to name but a few. As I wrote above, social science research has identified that there is a far better approach to growing the revenues (and thus the profits) of businesses than the traditional tools, techniques and tricks of the classic sales approach. I won’t keep you waiting long; the second instalment will be posted next week.

in time things will fall into place_patience

 

The new ABC of Sales

einstein-always-be-closing

In my corporate career I had around 15 years in which I carried a personal sales target, one which substantially impacted my remuneration. As a small business owner, I am back to carrying a sales target that not only affects my remuneration but also affects the viability of my business. I recall all the sales training, tools and techniques and annual (or even sometimes quarterly) sales conferences designed to motivate, inspire and occasionally educate me and my peers. I remember the mantra of the sales organisation where I first carried quota – ABC!

Always Be Closing! Every working minute of every working day, and in emails outside of those times, I was encouraged to make the pitch and close the deal. Our Sales Director once told us ‘every day, you have 86,400 opportunities to close – don’t miss any of them!’ (I had to ask, and was told that’s how many seconds there are in a day, and it only takes a second to close a deal.)

Don' sell 2Previous blog posts have taken readers through the logic of needing a new paradigm to enable us to allow customers and prospective customers to say ‘Yes!’ eagerly, joyfully and enthusiastically to doing business with us. If ‘Always Be Closing’ is an out-of-date mantra, what is the new ABC that I refer to? Here it is – Always Be Congruent! Nowadays there are three congruencies required

  • congruence with you as a person,
  • congruence with your client(s) and prospective client(s),
  • congruence with your delivery organisation and capability.

Let’s start with you, because if you don’t get you right the next two congruencies will always seem false to others.

To be successful growing your business you must, as outlined in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ www.dancewiththeelephants.com Dance your own Dance. Don’t Dance the Dance of your competition, or some other Dance you think will allow you to flourish but does not truly represent who you are and what you stand for. If you are to compete with and win against your competitors, then your customers, prospective clients and all your stakeholders must experience the true essence of you and your company in all their dealings with you. That essence starts not with what you do, but why you do it.

authentic selfOne of the bonus materials that accompany ‘Dance with the Elephants’ is A Model for Alignment and it is available from the official website of the book http://bit.ly/1yx25aq The model illustrates what is necessary for you to achieve personal congruence. The Model for Alignment recognises that we interact with our world at different logical levels, ranging from environmental factors, through our behaviours, our capabilities and skills, our beliefs and values and, by way of our very identity, into our overall sense of purpose. The model acknowledges the different natures of these interactions. Your target is to have all logical levels aligned with your Big Dream (which is everything you want in life, crafted in such a way that it truly engages you and engages all the stakeholders that can help you achieve it), your Well-Formed Outcome (your nirvana, the equivalent of the nirvana you are helping clients to achieve through the use of the ALIGNED framework http://wp.me/P3sGMs-6r), your overriding sense of purpose – each of which should be perfectly congruent with each other in order for you to be successful in growing your business.

When you are aligned at all logical levels, people will be certain about you. Some people will decide not to align with you. This is good because it is a genuine choice based on understanding and incompatibility. You don’t want to waste your energies trying to align with these people. Those who really get you will choose to align with you, will choose to do business with you, and will choose to become ardent supporters and promoters of you and your business. There is much more guidance about achieving personal alignment in the book http://www.dancewiththeelephants.com

The second congruency needed to be successful in growing your business is congruency with clients and prospective clients. It seems so obvious that, given ‘people buy from people’, there should be a strong bond between the seller and the buyer, or prospective buyer. Yet so often the seller does not take the time to truly align with the potential customer, instead trying to get a ‘best fit’ between what they have and what the customer might possibly want, taking scant, if any, time to understand the needs and desires of the customer. Perhaps worse there is an expectation, a presumption, that the customer or prospective customer actually knows what they want.

So often, it is only by spending time together exploring what would be the ideal solution for both parties that true understanding emerges. The understanding that evolves is not only what is sought, but also why it is wanted, and what the associated benefits are for both parties – creating a far richer and more meaningful link between the parties and the solution; a solution that both parties have a greater interest in and commitment to because they have been part of the nascent solution.

Can I_questionThe ALIGNED framework, concentrating so much as it does on understanding the situation of the prospective buyer, constantly asking the question ‘can I find the perfect solution?’, and avoiding premature searches for possible solutions, greatly improves the alignment between seller and prospective buyer. By staying as long as possible in the question, using interrogative self-talk instead of assertive, the potential seller creates the opportunity to identify the resources needed to provide the perfect solution and crafts internal, intrinsic motivations over externally referenced drivers. Keeping alive the possibility that the answer that may emerge could be ‘No, I cannot provide the perfect solution’ multiplies the effect of the interrogative approach.

The final factor required to deliver success is your alignment with your delivery capability. I will be returning to this topic in future newsletters and blog posts on the subject of ‘aligned customer experience’ so will not write exhaustively on the topic at this time. It is without doubt a big topic; in essence success comes from those delivering your ideal solution being totally aligned with the values inherent in your brand. A brand is a promise kept, and the successful delivery of that promise, that which will enable your client to be truly delighted instead of merely satisfied, is a crucial element in building alignment between you and your customers. Everything in the delivery must be smooth, comfortable and natural for those delivering, particularly where the service is bespoke to the customer and delivered person-to-person.

For instance, in a care setting where highly personalised services are being delivered to individuals, those delivering must be totally aligned to the ethos of caring, not just changing bandages, washing or cleaning for their clients. The service delivery must be aligned with the values underpinning your brand, your promise to deliver the perfect solution. The environment has to be appropriate; as do the behaviours of the service deliverers, who need to have and demonstrate the right skills and capabilities. In delivering the promise, those delivering must be clear that doing so is entirely consistent with their beliefs and values, enabling them to really identify with their role, and enabling them to connect with their overall sense of purpose, their calling, their raison d’être.

Nowadays it is no longer ‘Always Be Closing’; instead it is about ‘Always Be Congruent’. The latter is more comfortable, allows us to be more fulfilled and enables us to connect with our overriding sense of purpose. It is also more effective (50% more effective) that the old sales methods, techniques and motivational tricks of yesteryear.

be congruent_gandhiIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Phil Walker

WTT Results Ltd

07764 658071

What’s more effective than selling?

Always sellingSales process

 

 

 

 

 

In the final post of this series of three I want to unveil the little-known research that shows selling as we traditionally have known it is inappropriate because it generates half the success of an alternative approach that very few people are aware of and even less people are using. Would you like to be twice as effective at enabling clients and prospective clients to say ‘Yes!’ enthusiastically to you? What would be the effect on your business if you could achieve that? If you had that effect on your business, how would your life be?

ideal lifeSo what is the third reason why selling is inappropriate? It is surprising and I am grateful to Daniel Pink for giving me access to studies I was previously unaware of that helped me to understand precisely why the ALIGNED framework that I use and teach is so effective. http://wp.me/P3sGMs-6r In essence the framework is successful because it is based on a premise that I don’t know whether or not I have the best solution for the client until stage 6 of 7. Step one is about setting up the rest of the process that I and the client will go though. Crucially steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all about questioning and gaining understanding. Through each of these four steps of the framework the question is ‘can I provide the best solution?’

So why is this so important?  Why is a questioning approach so effective? Why is the inherent doubt about whether or not I have the right solution so powerful? Surely self-doubt is limiting; that is certainly what the motivational gurus will tell us, the likes of Robbins and McKenna. Surely it is more effective to have our self-talk tell us ‘Yes, we can!’ This is the basis of a lot of sales training – developing the winning mind-set, banishing doubt, and having a positive mental attitude (I can hear the whooping of the sales force right now).

Yes you can toddlerThe studies do indeed show that having a positive, assertive, affirmative approach is better than having a negative attitude and approach. Positive self-talk is generally better than negative self-talk. Researchers concluded that the most effective self-talk does not just shift emotions; the most effective self-talk actually changes linguistic categories. This self-talk moves the subject from making statements to asking questions.

In 2010, three researchers from two universities in the United States published the results of a series of experiments that confirmed the effectiveness of ‘interrogative self-talk’. Participants were split into two groups and given the same task to perform. The only difference between the two groups was that one group was instructed by the researchers to ask themselves if they could complete the task, whilst the second group were told to tell themselves that they could complete the task. On average the self-questioning group were 50% more effective than the self-affirming group at completing the task.

Pink kindly explains why the ‘interrogative self-talk’ is more effective, giving two reasons. Firstly, by its very nature, the interrogative approach elicits answers, within which lie strategies for actually carrying out the task. The affirmative approach may go something like ‘I have a sales pitch to make. I’m the best. This will be easy. The sale is mine!’ This approach may well provide a short-term emotional boost. However, if your approach is ‘Can I make a great sales pitch?’ the research shows that you provide yourself with something that reaches deeper and has a longer-lasting impact. You may answer the question with ‘Yes, I have made great pitches on 6 occasions in the last month.’ Or ‘Of course I can, I have prepared meticulously and I know the material inside out.’ And you might also elicit the response ‘Last time I rushed the beginning a little, so I want to start off slower this time.’ Affirmation is good, but the interrogative enables you to identify and obtain the resources you actually need to complete the task.

Researchers found the second reason to be that interrogative self-talk ‘may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal’. People are more likely to act, and to perform well, when motivations derive from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures.

Positive Mental Attitude is important and is more efficacious than negativity, but it really only gets you halfway there!

belief is half-wayIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Best wishes,

Phil Walker
WTT Results Ltd
www.wttresults.co.uk

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Death of the sales force!

In loving memoryIn the second of this series of three blog posts I want to review how changes in our world have led to the inevitable demise of the sales force focused on delivering those artful, imaginative and skilful sales pitches. This is the second reason why selling nowadays is inappropriate, is ineffective and is inefficient – our world has changed and this demands changes in our behaviours.

No pitchThe second reason stems from the nature of the roles people play in the modern world of work. Previously, sales people sold and those not in sales roles didn’t. That was the conventional wisdom that led to companies investing large amounts of their resources in developing professional sales forces trained in all sorts of different sales methodologies, techniques and motivational mechanisms. A huge proportion of corporate training spend went on sales training. Graduates and those at the very top of the tree also enjoyed focus on them and were allocated precious funds. That was pretty much it – sales, senior management and graduates were developed through training; the rest got very meagre pickings.

Daniel H. Pink, in his excellent book ‘To sell is human – the surprising truth about persuading, convincing, and influencing others’, points out that one out of every nine workers in the USA works in sales (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). In the EU, approximately 13% of the workforce is in sales, according to Eurostat. In Japan, the number is 1 in 8. In these large and developed economies, around 1 in 8 people are in sales. Pink develops his argument thus; his point is that the other 7 out of 8 are engaged in ‘non-sales selling’. This is the art of moving opinions, advancing arguments and persuading others to your point of view.

The conventional view of economic activity is that the two most important activities are producing and consuming. Pink argues that nowadays we spend very large amounts of resource on a third economic activity – moving. That is we spend a huge amount of our time moving people in order that they part with resources (tangible assets such as money, and intangible assets such as time and attention) so that both parties get what they want. This activity isn’t easily classified and quantified. People do have titles such as ‘Sales Manager’ which the statisticians can capture; we don’t have ‘Moving Managers’.

Pink commissioned a survey of over 9,000 respondents titled ‘what do you do at work?’ Two major findings emerged:-

  • People now spend about 40% of the time at work in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing and convincing people in ways that don’t involve anybody making a purchase.
  • People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success – even in excess of the considerable amount of time they spend doing it.

The skills needed for moving, Pink argues, are not those traditionally associated with sales. The traditional view is that successful sales people are generally extroverts and that introverted people are less likely to be successful in sales. Pink argues that the movers today need to be ambiverts. He references research showing, on a 1-7 scale of introvert to extrovert (when 1 is very introverted and 7 is very extroverted), the highest performing sales people actually score 4 – right at the mid-point and the place where ambiverts are found. Peak revenue per head occurred in those scoring between 4.0 and 4.5, and tailed off over 4.5.These most successful sales people were neither highly extroverted nor very introverted.
extrovert_ambivert_introvertOur contemporary world requires us to have different skills that enable us to be effective at moving people rather than selling to them. Teaching the sales force various techniques and processes and trying to improve their performance through motivation, inspiration and positive mental attitudes is no longer a sound investment. Different soft skills, such as understanding and improving emotional intelligence, are what is required and this soft-skills focus is the way to go both now and in the future.

If you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Don't sell

Why is selling inappropriate?

No pitch

 

This is the first of three blog posts which will explain why the sales pitch has been banished to Room 101, is a thing of the past, and is no longer the way to grow your business. There will be three posts because there are three reasons why the ‘sell something’ approach is now inappropriate.

Don' sell 2

Let’s start in this post with the world as we buyers experience it today, compared with the world of yesteryear. I want to explain why the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ has been supplemented by the new adage ‘caveat venditor’. Why nowadays ‘seller beware’ is just as appropriate as ‘buyer beware’.

In previous times the balance of power between buyer and seller favoured the seller. Sellers knew the features and benefits of their products and services. They also knew their shortcomings and limitations. They had a good understanding of the salient characteristics of the products and services available from their competitors. Buyers on the other hand were relatively powerless as the information they wanted in order to make their decision about what to buy (and how much to pay) could only be obtained from the sellers.

In the corporate world this meant buyers would invite in a number of sellers of the things they were interested in purchasing. I remember well the various ‘dog and pony’ shows I attended as the various vendors came to my office to present their wares. It was like pulling teeth to get the information I needed; and when I eventually dragged as much as possible out of each of them, I was left with the task (and commercial risk) of trying to make sense of all the data which was almost certainly in different formats. It really was like comparing apples with pears; ‘buyer beware’ indeed!

Just think how different my procurement life would have been if I had the access to information that we all have nowadays. In the world today information is far more freely available. Indeed, we have the potential of the opposite problem – too much information.

Later in my career I actually became the seller rather than the buyer. Sales training was intense and regular and we were taught how to sell snow to the Eskimos. My world was ABC – Always Be Closing! If my product or service only delivered 80% of the solution desired by the buyer, that was fine because 80% is better than nothing, is better than what the buyer was current receiving, is better for me because my remuneration was based on the sale, not on the customer satisfaction, which was the responsibility of Operations.

einstein-always-be-closingThe availability of information has fundamentally changed the balance of power between buyer and seller. Buyers use their search engines to get internet access to all the information about the product or service they are considering. A lot of this information is provided by the suppliers of the products or services, so they retain some power in the sense they control what is presented and how it is presented. However, they have almost no control over the myriad of web pages providing information about their products or services that are published by independent reviewers that buyers can easily access. Even worse for sellers, user reviews are also widely available as sources of information for buyers giving sometimes brutally frank feedback (when did you last book a hotel room without checking out the feedback given by previous visitors?)

In days long gone there was information asymmetry, an imbalance of information between sellers and buyers. Nowadays, there is information parity – meaning ‘caveat emptor’ and ‘caveat venditor’ both apply. This is the first reason why the sales pitch is now inappropriate.

With information parity comes a need for each party to develop a deep understanding of the other party, to respect the information each party has, and to focus on finding the right questions to ask.

Right questions_DemingIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Don't sell