One of my favorite business books is Jim Collin’s classic “Good to Great.” In chapter four he shares how a great company “confronts the brutal facts of reality head on” as opposed to the average organization that firmly plants its “head in the sand.”
As sales professionals we face brutal facts that conflict with our view of the world every day. The world around us is constantly evolving and shifting the requirements of our role. Some of this change is neither welcome nor easy to deal with. Nevertheless great sales people confront the brutal facts and create strategies and make decisions in response to current reality. Others waste valuable time trying to hold onto the way things were or searching for that elusive silver bullet that promises to make everything right again.
So … which are you? Are you David standing up to Goliath fully aware of the challenge? Or are you Big Bird neck-deep in sand? To help you ponder the question I thought I’d share my top 3 brutal facts of reality sales teams face today along with the implication to your sales success.
Brutal Fact of Reality #1
In the eyes of our prospects we all look and sound the same.
Ouch!! Sorry but it’s true. You think it’s hard to differentiate your offering. Well guess what? Buyers are finding it harder to discern relevant differences between suppliers. Simon Sinek sums it up in this quote from his best seller, Start with Why, “There isn’t a single product or service that we can’t buy from someone else for a similar price at similar quality with similar service.”
Implication to your sales success: If you rely on the features and benefits of your product or service to create differentiation… good luck! Start differentiating through the quality and relevant value of your daily interactions with your customers and prospects. Challenge their thinking in ways that serve them, regularly bring high value market data that supports their business success, demonstrate your understanding of their world in every e-mail, phone call, presentation or meeting. Stop trying to “look better” than the competition… develop your sales approach to be a valuable differentiator and “look relevant.”
Brutal Fact of Reality #2
No-one needs your information.
We are neck-deep in information overload. I recently read that over 150 billion (yep that’s a “b”) e-mails get sent every day. (I swear 149 billion are unsolicited sales messages, follow ups and updates sent by sales people.) And get this … out of curiosity yesterday I googled the words “sales training.” Within 27 seconds I received 332 million results! So why would anyone want to receive information from me about sales training!? The world is drowning in information so it’s the last thing we need from professional sellers.
Implication to your sales success: Putting out information is easy for sales people to do. And for many it counts towards your metrics. Frankly it’s lazy… and ineffective. As a potential buyer I don’t need your information… I need you to connect your information to me, my world, and my priorities in ways that contribute to my success by my definition. This requires you to do your homework … and to put deep thought into, not just the “content” of that next e-mail or proposal, but also the “context.” If you want to hit my radar or engage a response from me … then make the connection to what matters to me now!
Brutal Fact of Reality #3
No one wants to pay more than necessary for anything.
Of course they don’t. This includes you and me… right? But this doesn’t mean we always buy the cheapest option. Price has become a “scape goat” for buyers who want to let an unsuccessful seller down easy… and for sellers looking to abdicate responsibility for a lost bid.
Implication to your sales success: Selling isn’t easy … your success requires you to think deeply about any buying situation. If you can’t, or choose not to, compete on price it’s your role as a sales pro to be the catalyst to having the buyer feel the need to pay your fair price. And I don’t mean by preaching, convincing or persuading. If you lose on price, and it comes as a surprise to you, it suggests one of three things:
- You failed to understand that lowest price is in fact a primary condition of the sale.
- You failed to uncover the interests / priorities from the buying organization‘s perspective that would have tipped the balance of price versus value.
- You identified the priorities but failed to effectively connect your value in ways that hit home to the influential stakeholders. In short your proposal had the content but missed the context.
There are, of course, other brutal facts of reality in selling today. So here’s a valuable and fun exercise for your next team meeting … Have the group identify a common sales challenge and then consider the associated brutal facts of reality. Use the brutal facts as a starting point from which to make decisions or create strategies to address the issue. You’ll uncover fresh thinking that will help you move the sales process forward when competitors come to a grinding halt.
ABOUT JILL HARRINGTON
Jill Harrington is the President salesSHIFT, a division of potential2performance. Jill shifts the way sales pros think and act to enable them to drive bigger sales results faster in highly competitive markets.For over two decades, she has helped improve business top lines and bottom lines for a diverse… more