The new ABC of Sales

The last two newsletters have been on the subject of what is appropriate and effective in Sales, advancing an evolving argument that new skills are needed nowadays if we are to succeed in growing business and enabling clients and prospective clients eagerly, heartily and enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ to doing business with us. This third newsletter advances the logic one more step by offering a new ABC of Sales.

einstein-always-be-closingAs I sat down to write this piece I worked out that I had around 15 years in my corporate career 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 2‘Ah, the good old days, I remember them well’; the point is, whether they were good or not, they certainly are old and modern times call for different ways of operating. In the last newsletter I explained three reasons why

In brief they are:-

  • The availability of information has fundamentally changed the balance of power between buyer and seller. In olden days 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. Information parity drives 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, making the sales pitch fundamentally flawed.
  • The 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. In our large and developed economies today, around 1 in 8 people are in sales. As Daniel Pink pointed out in his book ‘To sell is human’ 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. We all 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, without there being a sales transaction.

Finally social science research has shown that the ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ approach that lies at the heart of most, if not all, of the sales conferences I have ever attended is not as efficacious as people think it is. There is a better way that is 50% more effective. Whilst studies do indeed show that having a positive, assertive, affirmative approach is better than having a negative attitude and approach, researchers in 2010 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. ‘Interrogative self-talk’ is more effective than ‘assertive self-talk’ – 50% more effective. Affirmation is good, but the interrogative enables you to identify and obtain the resources you actually need to complete the task and it draws upon intrinsic motivations more powerful than external pressures.

Good-QuestionsSo 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’ 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. As the best-selling author Simon Sinek explains in his 2009 book ‘Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’, people do not buy what you do, they buy 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 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, 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.

These are the logical levels:-

  • Environment
  • Behaviour
  • Capabilities and skills
  • Values and beliefs
  • Identity

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

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. (I recall a story from years ago where people working for British Rail almost universally identified themselves to researchers as ‘railwaymen’ (whether male or female, whatever their specific job role) rather than stating that they worked for British Rail).

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 is now available and can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms and as the Congruent Business Development System™ – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for you and your business.

Best wishes,

Phil Walker
WTT Results Ltd

Twitter   @PIW_WTT


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