Transform Yourself from a Salesperson into a BusinesspersonWritten by Dave Stein
If I told you that one of most important characteristics of sales excellence in today’s hypercompetitive business environment was not to be a salesperson, would you think you subscribed to wrong magazine? Well, I have a good reason for saying it. I’m not really saying you shouldn’t be a salesperson. I’m saying that to be a top sales professional, you have to be a businessperson — because businesspeople make most effective salespeople. And why is that true? Because what you are really selling is business improvement. In terms of selling, what do I mean by “businessperson”? A businessperson is someone who can transcend product or service she is selling to reach higher ground — ability to understand, articulate, and drive contribution her business can make to client’s business. What is business value of your product or service? To communicate this to your prospect convincingly, you must be more than a sales rep. You have to be a businessperson and, using business competencies, view and present your offering as platform upon which your prospect can achieve their business plan going forward. Characteristics of a Businessperson Being a businessperson not only means developing these business skills, such as ability to read and interpret financial statements, but it also involves a way of thinking and being. Here are some of behaviors and traits I have observed in sales winners — people I would also consider businesspeople: uThey know that if they give their customer what he needs, they will then get what they need. uThey make rational decisions, rather than allowing emotion to guide them. uThey follow orderly procedures and processes, rather than taking random actions. uThey plan for future and have discipline and motivation to execute that plan. uThey seek out truth through insightful, probing questions, rather than blindly accepting what they are told. uThey accept responsibility for their own actions and for those who work on their behalf. uThey know how to use technology to improve not only their own but their customer’s business position. uThey work for a win-win solution, knowing that anything else will ultimately be lose-lose. If you don’t want your client to treat your product or service as a commodity, you have to differentiate your offering from your competitor’s. It comes down to perception. If your clients see you as just a salesperson, they won’t respect you way they would someone they viewed as a businessperson. Here’s how they think: A businessperson is a professional; a businessperson is there for long haul. Salespeople are all same, interchangeable; they’re just after a quick buck. This perception, common among top executives, is unfair, but it’s a fact of life. That’s why people who sell for a living adopt titles such as Marketing Representative, Business Development Manager, and Client Acquisition Executive on their business cards. Take a good look at yourself. Read list of behaviors again. Can you identify areas where you need to improve? What should you do? First, accept fact that you, and you alone, are responsible for your own personal and professional growth. No one is going to barge through your door and change you. You’ve already recognized that a change is needed. That’s toughest step. Expand Your General Business Knowledge How much do you know about business in general? Do you know how businesses operate? What about your company? What about your three best clients? Can you articulate their visions? Can you identify their short- and long-term strategies?
How to Outsell a Competitor Who Slashes Their Price to WinWritten by Dave Stein
Back in March 2003, in my e-Zine, I featured an article entitled, Selling Against Goliath. In article I offered some coaching to smaller companies who regularly compete against big guys. The article was very well received, in fact it was reprinted in many sales publications. However a number of my subscribers and clients have come back to me with a question: I'm Goliath. How do I compete against smaller, more agile David out there who drastically discounts to win business? Red Alert. First of all, once you learn that one of your competitors in a deal has "bought" business in past at a price you could not (or would not) meet, your alert status should immediately shift to orange (if not red). Remember, early in evaluation cycles prospects may say that price is a consideration, but not first on their list. Later on, once they have ignored or devalued any unique capabilities that your product or service can provide--to point where they "can see no measurable difference between your offering and your competitor's,"--price gets elevated to number one consideration. We've all seen it happen. By that point its generally too late to remedy situation. You're trapped. So recognizing potential situations early on where a buyer will buy on price must become second nature. Here are some recommendations that will point you in right direction: ·Qualify. In any competitive sales situation you have to monitor prospect's decision criteria like a pilot checks her instruments--ever-vigilantly. During course of an evaluation decision criteria often change. In fact, aren't we often ones who attempt to effect that change to gain competitive advantage? Among most critical of all decision criteria these days is price. What are key evaluators', buyers', recommenders' and decision makers' requirements and expectations with regard to price today. If you are just getting engaged with a prospect and their number one decision criteria is price, you (or your management) will have to decide whether it's even worth competing. Clearly, knowledge of your competitor's historic actual selling price will be critical in this decision. So will an understanding of your prospect's recent buying patterns with regard to price. Buyers focused on price de-emphasize or entirely ignore factors such as: ·Supplier product or service quality ·Supplier viability ·Supplier post-sales support capabilities ·Post sales costs (contributing to total cost of ownership) ·The knowledge and experience a vendor can bring forth ·Areas of additional value that you may be able to provide above and beyond what they have specified ·Quality of vendor personnel ·References Address issue head on and early. "Is your company going to make a decision based entirely or substantially on price?" And please, make sure you are asking these questions of, and selling to, decision makers. All this matters very little to people at lower levels in organizations. ·Educate yourself. Here are just some of questions for which you need answers to outsell a competitor that dramatically discounts to win business: ·Is their discounting tactical or, in case of some very successful companies, strategic--a key component of a go to market strategy supported by their business plan? (It's hard to compete against Sam's Price Club on price...) ·When do they offer these drastic discounts and under what conditions? How do they dilute value of what you are selling in prospect's eyes? ·How well do they deliver post sales service? ·How often do they issue new products or upgrade their services? ·What is satisfaction level of their customer base? ·What is their financial position? If they are publicly held, look at their P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement for most recent quarter and going back in time. If they are privately held, get your CFO to create a pro forma set of financial statements that might "represent" what that competitor's financial position might look like. ·What do you know about their human assets? Look into staff and executive attrition rates, quantity and quality of SMEs (subject matter experts), levels of staffing, support hours, etc.--anything that will point toward discount-caused reduced margins impacting operating effectiveness. ·Look at their corporate culture. What do they value? Integrity? Quality? Are they doing right things for building a long, profitable future or are they highly opportunistic, with little regard to what will happen tomorrow? Can they sustain?