Beyond Selling

by Daniel Batten on January 25, 2018

Lately, a few people have asked me for some of the secrets about how I’ve been able to work with companies to consistently increase their sales and pitching results within weeks. It’s been a point of competitive difference til now – but in the interests of helping raise the bar across NZ, I’m happy to “open source” some things I’ve learnt. Here goes:

The bottom line is that most companies have an intention problem. If you don’t address this – nothing else you do will work. Can you tell the difference in a retail store for example between 2 people who ask you “can I help you?” – where one intends to help you, and one intends to use this as an opening line to get a sale? Well, your intention is just as transparent to people.

The language of “hunting” suggests someone needs to lose in the transaction. The culture of most sales organisations is all about “I need to increase my sales” or “We need to crank the handle and get more out of our sales team every month.”

If an organisation’s intention is to extract more money from customers, what they end up doing will be an energy-drain for the whole company. And, you’ll also fail in your intention because your customers will smell it. So what, practically, do you do instead?

Here’s a way of really going beyond selling – in a way that makes sense commercially.

1.    Change the relationship model from “I try to persuade, you decide” (sales person as supplicant) to “I create insight, we decide” (Sales person as authority). If your Doctor badgered you into choosing certain medicines to meet a quota, they’d quickly arouse suspicion. Because we trust that our doctor’s intention is to help us first, we implicitly take the advice they recommend. In other words, they sell (services and medicine) because they are not trying to sell medicine, they are simply doing what’s best for us.

2.    Re-introduce the authentic, individual voice to the sales process.

Traditionally at some point in a company, every sales-person stops being themselves, or at least they stop being totally themselves. Rather than speaking in an authentic way the sales person is comfortable, they go through scripted ways of communicating. For example, a new sales person tries to fake confidence and becomes overzealous, rather than simply building trust by saying “I’m new at this so I might not get things quite right. But lets chat and see where things go. Is that OK?”

3.    Once you fix the authority and authenticity issues, sales results always go up. The next lowest hanging fruit is the referral process. We know from tracking client results that it’s easy to gain an average of one referral per client. In other words: perpetual business based on one change to the sales process alone. We tend to this next because it gets such a quick win.

4.    After referrals, the mid-hanging fruit is what we call “exit point handling”. There are specific parts of the sales process that routinely cause prospects and customers to exit because trust isn’t engendered, confidence isn’t demonstrated, or capability isn’t portrayed. These cracks are usually along the same stress-points. So it’s generally a matter of fixing the common strain points, rather than investing in bottom-up end-to-end sales training rollouts.

5.    Because 57% of a prospect’s buying decision is made before you hear from them (sorry, that one is research-based, not an intuition), traditional consultative selling has an issue: it doesn’t acknowledge the customer buying process is 57% ahead of your sales process. No wonder prospects feel bored, bemused, frustrated, or end up saying “Cut to the chase, just tell me the price.” What’s needed instead is a way to acknowledge and celebrate what the would-be customer has done themselves, then quickly check for correct understanding, and position difference with laser clarity.

6.    Stop selling as a counselor, start selling as a coach. The market is looking for value. As the Sales Executive Council found, consultative selling leaves prospects feeling “they really understand me.” However, someone who can challenge a customer’s thinking will leave them thinking “I never thought about it like that before.” This is a much more valuable result to have given them. We call this the “sell like a coach, not a counselor” model. Today’s generation are preferring coaching over counseling. Why? A counselor, like a consultative sales person, addresses past pain and leaves you feeling understood. But the coach talks about future potential, and leaves you with new ideas you can action. Coaches typically command 2-5 times the fee of a counselor too. In this step, we swap out low-value consult-and-inform conversations, and swapping in challenge-and-inspire conversations.

7.    Get tactical before you go behavioural. A few simple lead-generation tactics can make much more impact than a long behavioural change programme (especially if the behavioural change programme does not address intention). This is the right time to execute those tactics.

8.    Do behavioural change the way your people grow, not the way you’re your would-be training-provider grows. Training providers like to grow by doing big training rollouts. But that is not what best grows people. Behavioural change needs a programme-focus, not a training-focus. We think that large classroom training is about 10% of the solution, yet it can be where the buyer spends up to 80% of their sales learning and development revenue. To embed change in what sales people do, it’s better to share out content incrementally rather than in big chunks. Part of the focus should be peer-learning, developing reusable key-messages, brainstorming strategies already used by top people in the team, input from top sales professionals in the form of real stories. A programme needs to involve not only training, but regular group follow-up coaching.

9.    When it is time for training – train to hear “Their behaviours have changed”, not “They loved the training”. For this to happen, training needs to cover less width (less content) but in greater depth (more embedding). Typically training covers say 20 different sales concepts, of which the average sales person will remember 5 and implement 1. It’s better to deliver training with more breathing space and more embedding time. If you’re a sales training company, don’t cave in to the customer who want to cram more “content” in. It’s not in their interests and you are disserving them by acquiescing. Aim for a “cover 5 items, remember 5, implement 5” approach – with maximum opportunity for individualising, practicing and embedding learning.

10. Address mindset properly: most sales programmes address the mindset at some stage. However it tends to be the level of knowing what “peak performance” is and motivating the team to behave more like peak performers. This works for up to 10% of people, which is a lot better than nothing, and can sometimes be enough to shift a culture internally. However, what’s even more effective is providing mindset tools that allow them to proactively maintain and improve their own energy and motivation levels. tools that allow them to proactively maintain and improve their own energy and motivation levels.

Hope that helps. If you need to talk over any of it, or want any help implementing it – just ask.

Daniel Batten, a former hi-tech CEO, is New Zealand’s foremost pitching-coach, author of the book “How to change the world with one pitch” and a pioneers of a number of result-based methods that measurably impact sales performance.

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