Are You A Trusted Advisor

Trusted Advisor

The Exciting Future of Sales is very bright for top producing sales representatives who can serve as a Trusted Advisor for their clients. Does this mean that if you are not perceived as a trusted advisor, there is not a bright future for you in sales? The short answer is Yes.

First, let’s define a professional sales representative. A professional sales representative who is capable of becoming a trusted advisor does not:

  • Misrepresent their company’s products or services.
  • Does not tell “little white lies” about their products or services.
  • Does not attempt to sell to a customer who will not benefit from the product or service.
  • Does not make claims that are not true.
  • Will walk away from a sale if it is not in the best interest of either the customer or the representative’s company.
  • Does not assert that they are salaried when they receive commissions or bonuses for attaining sales goals.
  • Does not promise anything that cannot be put in writing.
  • Does not sell for a company that tells them that they must do ‘anything it takes’ to make a sale without defining what that means.

So what is a trusted advisor? The Trusted Advisor by David H. Master, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford offers the best description of a Trusted Advisor I have ever read. While this book breaks the goal of being a trusted advisor into three levels, “it is the third level that is the pinnacle of being recognized as such. This is the level in which virtually all issues, personal and professional are open to discussion and exploration. The trusted advisor is the person the client turns to when a problem first arises, often in times of great urgency: a crisis, a change, a triumph, or a defeat.”

There is no need today for transactional salespeople. Complex sales require those who have mastered different skills including negotiation, strategic and complex thinking, empathy, deep product knowledge, innovation, and a team approach to satisfying customer challenges.

The recognition of being a trusted adviser is vital if a sales professional intends to have a sales job in the future. Virtually all products and services purchased today will be made by buyers who don’t need a sales person to persuade them to buy because they can easily make the right decision by purchasing online. They have done their homework and have used big data to help them make an informed decision.

We realize that there are many salespeople and sales leaders who do not believe this to be true, but the reality is that most sales positions are no longer needed. 22% of the 4.5 million B2B sales agents now in the United States, will lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020.  This projection is from Andy Hoar, a Forrester, e-business analyst.  Other analysts have projected that 95% of salespeople will be replaced with lines of code within five years.

Most salespeople do not want to hear this and claim that it is just not true. But, stop and think about it. What do salespeople offer today that buyers need? In the past, buyers wanted information about the products/services they wanted to buy, and they would interview 3 or 4 salespeople to learn how to separate the peanut butter from the jelly. Today, most buyers know more about the products/services they want to buy than salespeople do.

Other sales professionals insist that the relationship they have with their customers is vital.  To a certain extent, this is true. But, the nature of the relationship has changed. The previous relationship between wining and dining, giving tickets to the ball game, and other signs of appreciation have run its course and are forbidden by many companies.  Buyers no longer love Willy Loman

Top Performing Salespeople today are in demand as trusted advisors. They are the resource to which senior managers turn when faced with vital decisions about strategy and tactics necessary to help them change direction, design better products, or to gain a market advantage.  Buyers don’t view them as someone who will buy them lunch.

These Top Producers are dependent on support from within their company to help them develop products or services that fit specific needs. They spend most of their time working strategically with their client’s top management. They are supported by customer service representatives, assistants, and product specialists who help them craft meaningful solutions for clients.

You might be among those who ask who will do the prospecting, who will set appointments, and who will develop new business? Well, it won’t be salespeople. These functions will be performed by AI and Machine Learning. Top Performers will be supported by assistants who put them in the position to succeed. They will not spend hours entering info into a CRM. They will not make prospecting calls. They will not generate leads. They will not set appointments. Systems and Support will do that for the top producer.

Top Producers who are Trusted Advisors will play a vital role in the buying process. The marketing process and automated systems will put them in the position to do so. The Exciting Future of Sales is here today, and it’s going to get better.

You can learn more by reading The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister and Charles Green. Amazon carries it. (And you don’t have to talk to a sales rep. to buy it.)

Harrison Greene is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Unique Selling Systems.  His blog is TheExcitingFutureofSales.com.  He lives in Lake Nona, Florida.

Do Salespeople Lie?

LyingOuch!  This very question is a thorn in the side of most salespeople and sales managers.  Most CEO’s and V.P.’s of Sales don’t want to discuss it.  Yet, when ordinary consumers are asked “what is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “salesperson”, it is most often Liar.  Followed by Arrogant, Loud, Egotistical, Poor Listener, and Relentless to name a few.

Who would want to associate with anyone fitting this description?  Since sales are the vital link in the success of a company, you might think that employees who behave this way should have no role in any enterprise. It is surprising that most companies tolerate (and sometimes depend on) those salespeople who bring home the bacon at any cost.

Why would any company owner or senior executive tolerate those salespeople who lie, misrepresent, and shade the truth about the product or service they sell? When asked, these leaders usually quote the company policy that forbids dishonesty while disclaiming any responsibility for encouraging it.  When aked to explain why a salesperson lied, the most common managerial retort is, “I didn’t tell him/her to say that.”  They often point to a formal reprimand or point out that a salesperson was fired for lying to a customer.

Recently I had some experiences with a major corporation in the business to consumer sales field that was replete with customer claims that they had been lied to by the sales representative.  These customer complaints were so pervasive that the company set up a department to assuage the customers by offering something free or refunding a portion of what they paid.  The company sales training program is based on sales techniques and tactics from the 1960’s and their policy is that they do not hire managers or salespeople with other types of sale experience.  Their sales techniques are purely emotionally based sales pitches that are based on a one call close because they know if the customer does not buy when emotionally high, they have no chance of landing a sale.  This operation is driven quantitatively, not qualitatively.

This is not a new phenomenon.  I have seen few sales organizations that demand straight talk, complete transparency, and that are based on doing what is best for the customer.  The demands for growth that is levied on publicly owned corporations that focus on quarterly sales goals encourage senior management to drive sales, not ethics.  Companies need revenue and few know how to drive it ethically.

I am convinced that all of this is going to change as the sales process becomes an automated buying process.  I believe that Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Voice Response  systems will dramatically replace the selling function by enabling buying. I think that sales will focus on marketing that drives interest and systems that make it easy for the consumer to buy.  Top-tier, highly skilled  representatives who are expert at collaboration and consulting will thrive.

After all, who wants to have to endure salespeople who lie, are arrogant, who don’t listen well, and are relentless in their drive to ‘land that sale”?

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Harrison Greene is the Founder of Unique Selling Systems. He helps companies prepare for and capitalize on the changing role of salespeople today.

 

Selling With An Outward Mindset

Selling With An Outward Mindset

Professional sales people instinctively know that to be effective they must focus on the needs of their prospects, customers, or clients and not on their product or service.  This is often referred to as needs-satisfaction selling.  Sales Professionals have been trained  to place their client’s interests first by asking questions using a needs analysis and to finalize the sale only when the customer perceives that their needs will be satisfied.    Often referred to as a “consultative selling method”, it has been the engine of professional selling since the 1970’s when it was first introduced by Xerox as Professional Selling Skills.

There have been hundreds of books written about selling.  A quick Google search on ‘Books About Sales’ brings up about 202 million entries.  Their authors include highly respected sales experts like Neil Rackham, Robert Miller, Stephen Herman, Brian Tracy, Jeffrey Gitomer, Art Sobczak, Anthony Iannarino, and Tony Alessandra.   If you understand and apply what you learn from any of these authors, you will gain insight into how you can increase your sales success.

I recently read The Outward Mindset©, subtitled “seeing beyond outselves”, produced by The Arbinger Institute.  Arbinger helps people and organizations achieve breakthrough results through a profound change in mindset.  In my view, they have a vital message that business professionals, parents, clergy-people, educators and social workers must read.  It is an extremely practical, simple, and meaningful approach to leadership at any level.  It does not focus on sales, sales training, or sales technique.  And that’s why every person who engages in any aspect of sales or customer service should read The Outward Mindset.

The Exciting Future of Sales depends on sales professionals who can collaborate and communicate with others by having an outward mindset.  They must be able to change the way they see and regard their own connections with and obligations to others.  It is simply a matter of learning to see beyond yourself.   It elevates the consultative sales approach to a new level of effectiveness.  Here is an example of how an outward mindset can apply to a salesperson who wants to help a cleint:

John has a meeting scheduled with his client, Adam, whose company has  unexpectedly told him that he cannot renew contracts unless they have been reviewed by senior management.  Adam has lost his authority to renew contracts without approval.  Clearly, Adam feels his judgement and professionalism are being threatened and has concluded that  his job is on the line.  Adam tells John about his inability to approve John’s renewal and that he wants a completely new proposal that justifies why he should renew his contract with John.

Now John feels threatened because he thinks Adam feels that he has been price gouging him or thinks that John takes his business for granted.  John wants to react quickly, but what he really needs to do is to think with an open mindset.  He needs to ask himself what it must feel like to be Adam.  Adam is clearly threatened by this new procedure.   How can he help Adam gain the confidence of senior management to convince them that he is professional and competent?  How might he help Adam ensure senior management that he is acting in the best interests of the company with every contract he renews.

Having an open mindset like this might be difficult for a sales person who has always won business by dropping the price at the first sign of resistance.  Or he or she might have been trained that they need to establish a better ‘relationship’ with their customers and interpret that to mean they should entertain their clients, take them to football games, or to lunch and dinner more often.

With an outward mindset, John decides that he can help Adam learn how to negotiate better with his boss and with upper management because Adam has never had to do that before.  And, John knows of a negotiation seminar he can invite Adam to attend with him.  He is focused on helping Adam regain his confidence.

Addressing the question, “what must it be like to be Adam,” is far different than having a closed mindset that will cause John to want to make deals, delay the deadline for the decision, or figure out how to manipulate Adam to do what he wants Adam to do.

Sales professionals face an exciting future when they realize that the mark of a professional sales person is not tied to his or her ego and their need to be the best.  It is understanding that professional selling is not about selling; it is about helping the buyer succeed.

An Outward Mindset can guide you into an enhanced understanding of professional selling today and in the future.  It should be recommended reading for all sales, marketing, and customer service leaders and their teams.

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Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Selling Systems, focused on helping senior sales management prepare their sales people for the exciting future of sales.  He is the author of The Exciting Future of Sales blog.

What Do You Really Know About Your Company?

The recent debacle at United Airlines caused me to wonder if company leaders really know what is going on within their company, with their employees, and most of all with their customers.

I recently called one of the premier tourist parks in Orlando at 9:00 PM during a week night to get some information about rates for 5 adults and 2 children to visit and to stay in one of their hotels at the park for a week.

After waiting for on hold for 42 minutes, I was greeted by an agent who seemed to be in a trance about giving me information.  After explaining what kind of a package I needed, the agent quoted me a price of $17,460 that included a 2 bedroom suite and passes for everyone to the park and dinner every night.  Yes, $17,460.00.

I further investigated the park’s web site and found that the price the agent gave me was not correct.  So, it seems that this “premier” park has a multiplicity of prices and quotes depending on to whom you speak or what you can research on-line.

This type of situation happens frequently at most companies.  I think that a strong contributory reason is simply that top executives seldom actually check what their employees are doing.  They seem to rely on the mangers who are in charge ensure quality.

If  you are a senior manager or C-suite executive ask yourself:

  • When was the last time (if ever) that you called your main switchboard and asked to be connected to someone? You probably received a voice menu. Did you try it?
  • When was the last time (if ever) that you called the sales department to get information about your products/services?
  • If you are an airline executive or CEO when is the last time you went on-line, purchased a ticket on your airline, waited in line at the gate, and actually flew coach/economy?
  • If your company has an on-line order functionality, when is the last time you sat at home and ordered something from your web-site?

In short when is the last time you actually checked on what you think is being experienced by your staff, your employees, and especially, with your customers?

Give it a try.  You might discover why people do or don’t want to do business with your company.

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Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Selling Systems. He helps sales organization prepare their sales representatives today for the Future of Sales tomorrow.  He can be reached at 508-400-6103 or at harrison@uniquesellingsystems.com.

For-Profit Schools — Sign Up or Be Accepted?

accepted-rejected 

Here is the quandary for the management of for-profit (Proprietary) technical schools and colleges.  They are being clobbered by federal regulations that place requirements on them that are not placed on not-for-profit educational institutions.  This Department of Education has increased this heat in recent years and shows no signs of abetting.

Many proprietary schools have been forced to close their doors because they could not attain the Department of Education’s requirements.  The quandary is that fine proprietary schools that want to provide excellent education and training outcomes are now feeling a loss in student enrollment because of these restrictions and the bad reputation that has been broad-brushed to apply to them simply because many well known for-profit schools were not reputable.

The history of unsavory for-profit institutions that were interested only in profit is well documented.  Their success was obtained at the expense of students who enrolled based on false admission promises, lured by claims of guaranteed placement in jobs they were told paid extraordinary amounts of money, and who targeted those students who could receive the most financial aid. Proprietary schools that operated like that should not have the right to ruin the lives of people who were hopeful that the sacrifices they made to acquire a meaningful skill and to provide a  future for themselves and their families.

Now, reputable proprietary schools are forced to increase their marketing budgets in order to increase the number of inquiries they receive.  They can no longer rely on television advertising and are turning to new sources of lead generation like social media and inbound lead generation through content marketing.

Since most proprietary schools have adopted a qualitative admissions mindset that measures the number of inquiries that result in applications, it is doubtful that simply increasing inquiries will make a meaningful impact on student outcomes.  Quantitative admission systems were designed to put as many students in seats as capacity would allow.   But if those students are not capable of graduating because they had so many external pressures put upon them, are in lower socio-economic lifestyle brackets, and don’t have support from those closest to them,  they have a tough time staying in class for the duration of a program so they can graduate.

If an educational institution is truly interested in the success of its students, it must ensure that it is accepting them based on defined criteria, not just on whether they graduated from high school and have a GED.  For-profit schools often place their emphasis on securing admission deposits and scheduling a financial aid briefing.  Some of the schools that interview prospective students simply ask transparent questions designed to make the student feel that he or she is being interviewed.  Questions like how long have you been thinking about earning more money or how much would you like to earn as a (technician, automotive technical, medical assistant etc.).   Seldom would the student be rejected unless the school could not help them attain enough financial aid to enroll.

Few schools try to determine if the student has the support and encouragement of his/her significant others, or if it is realistic for him/her to work all day and commute to the school for evening classes, or how much time the student is willing to study outside of class, or if they have transportation to attend class.

There must be a fundamental shift in the psychology of admissions.  A good school that operates in the student’s interest,  will want to know that, if accepted, the student has the desire, interest, motivation, and support of his/her significant others in evaluating whether they should accept the student.  The mentality of getting another ‘sign up’ or ‘body in a seat’ must be shifted.

Instead, the applicant should feel that he or she is being carefully evaluated to determine if he/she will be able to become a graduate and that if they do, they will be considered for admission.

If the applicant can not be accepted it is the responsibility of the admissions department to propose another course of action or recommend a plan to help the student gain admission.

I have heard many school owners state that it is ridiculous to be qualitative because “I have seen many students who I didn’t think would ever graduate do so with great sacrifice and determination and others who I was sure would be a superstar student drop out after two weeks.”   Basing an admissions process on an exception is not a plausible way to make a decision that can affect a person’s life… forever.

The operating credo of senior management must be that the admissions department should be conducting an interview to determine if the student can be accepted and has a good chance of graduating.  They must ensure that admission representatives are trained to recommend acceptance or to help the student find another pathway to success.

When that is the mindset of senior management, they will quickly see an increase in two vital metrics that they are probably not presently measuring… the application to the start rate and the start rate to the graduation rate.  The real benefit will be that more graduates will find employment in the career for which they trained.

Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Enrollment Systems and has helped both small, independent proprietary and nationally known, multi-campus schools increase revenue through a qualitative method of enrolling students.  He can be reached at 508-400-6193 or through email at harrison@harrisongreene.com.

A Million Sales Reps Will Lose Their Jobs To E-Commerce by 2020

Yes, you read this headline correctly.  A million sales representatives will be displaced.

That is what Paul Demery, Managing Editor, B2B E-Commerce reports in an article that appeared on the Internet Retailer website.  He writes that those most likely to lose their jobs take orders for commodity products.

Paul’s website is https://www.b2bcommerceworld.com

He also cites a report “Death of a (B2B) Salesman by Forrester e-business analyst Andy Hoar, that projects 1 million sales reps, or 22% of the 4.5 million B2B sales agents now in the United States, will lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020.

If you are a B-B Sales Representative or Sales Manager, you must read the rest of this article.  Your career and your income are in jeopardy and you need to be pro-active now.

Here is a link to the complete article:  http://bit.ly/2iENN5i

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Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Sales System and specializes in help sales representative and their companies prepare today for the Future of Sales tomorrow.

He can be reached at 508-400-6193 or via email at:

harrison@uniquesellingsystems.com

Are You Like The Cobbler Whose Kids Have No Shoes?

cobbler

Buyers rule!  Remember that.  Today selling is different.  Sales people should understand that when a buyer seeks out that which you are selling he or she has probably done the research they need to decide if you are the vendor they want to consider.  If your company is not able to back up its claims on their website, the buyer will wonder why.

The last thing a buyer wants to hear is ‘we don’t have time to make sure that our website reflects the reality of what we are selling because we are too busy making quality products for our customers that we can’t keep our website current’.

If your company is unable to devote the time to keep its website current, why do they have it?  If the services, they offer are not accurately reflected in their public image (their website) how can they expect their prospects or customers to believe anything a sales representative tells them?

Recently I was told by the V.P. of Sales for a web development company that offers search engine optimization services (SEO) that the reason they don’t rank higher in their own web page listing is because they are like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes.  Well, if they can’t devote time to ensure they are ranking well themselves, why would I expect that they will know how to ensure that their customers rank well?

Is your company too busy to ensure that their public information and the tools you need to sell are current?  Can you engender the trust you must have to succeed when your company doesn’t provide accurate and timely information?

When was the last time you checked your company’s website?  Are you telling your customers the same thing they have read before they even contacted you?

Or do your kids have no shoes?


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Selling Systems and specializes in helping sales organizations prepare today for the Future of Sales tomorrow.  He can be reached at 508-400-6193 or via email at Harrison@UniqueSellingSystems.com.

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