Are you using the right sales approach?

As we all know, the business world has changed dramatically in recent times. We have seen a near-revolution in the market-place, and in particular – the way that companies buy and sell their products and services. As a result, there are far greater numbers of competitors, much higher levels of commoditization, the ever-increasing pace of business as well as much smarter, more well-informed clients. Consider these facts for one moment:

  • Companies today have twice as many competitors as they did just 5 years ago!
  • Clients have twenty times more information available to them than they did 5 years ago!’
  • Clients see absolutely no difference between your product/service-offering than that of your competitors!
  • 50% of all buying decisions are made before the client even speaks with a sales person!

The impacts of these game-changing developments are as a result of an on-going transformation in the client-supplier relationship – what I call the ‘shifting market’. In the past, sales people were taught that skills such as ‘pitching’, differentiation and ‘closing’ were essential for winning business. Nowadays, these ‘techniques’ have no relevance in the modern business environment. Indeed, research has conclusively found that these kinds of behaviours not only will not win you the initial piece of work – but will seriously damage any possibility of working with that client in the future.

”85% of clients that met with sales consultants that demonstrated ‘traditional’ sales methods and behaviours – said that they would not wish to talk with that sales consultant or their company again”

Today’s sales consultants need to be far smarter and much more skilled in areas such as client meetings and discussions, asking and responding to questions, negotiations, ability to identify client needs, providing insights and value, reaching agreement and commitment. They need to understand clients and their businesses on a much deeper and commercially-focused level. They need to be able to challenge conventional thinking and demonstrate a greater awareness of not only their client’s individual business and industry sectors – but of the global market-place in general.

‘60% of all companies in business today use sales strategies that are ineffective, outdated and seriously damage their ability to sell successfully….’
(Source: Harvard Business School)

The problem is that many companies, sales directors and consultants are still applying ‘traditional’ sales strategies and behaviours. This is a highly dangerous situation – all recent research shows that companies and individuals using these ‘traditional’ sales approaches will fail to make the grade and literally ‘disappear’ from their respective industry sectors in the next 5 to 10 years. (this has already started to happen – the USA is expected to experience a loss of between 13 and 15 million direct sales jobs by 2020). Source: Leading sales ‘guru’, speaker and author – Sharon Drew Morgan

Even more astonishing than this is realization that whilst the market-place has undergone phenomenal and irreversible change in their buying behaviours – suppliers (and their sales teams) have not!

Why is this? Most companies embrace and openly welcome improvements that lead to greater efficiencies, higher performance and better results. Yet it seems almost an anathema to do this in the area of sales. Old, ‘bad’ habits are therefore perpetuated – and even encouraged. For example, during recessionary or difficult times, sales consultants are given unrealistic targets and pressured to bring in more sales. They are told to meet more clients, make more calls each day and so on. This is more-than-likely due to a strategy set in place by sales directors that is also based on an outdated model.

It is a recipe for disaster – and one that ultimately leads to failure. In countless studies on the subject, it has been found that there is absolutely no evidence to support the theory that speaking with a greater number of clients generates more sales. In fact, it usually has the exact opposite effect: under pressure sales people often resort to traditional ‘selling’ behaviours such as ‘hard’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘rushing to close’ selling techniques – which clients react very negatively towards. (‘studies on sales consultants being pressured to increase their sales volumes clearly displayed a tendency to be highly self-oriented, pushy, time-bound and showing signs of desperation to ‘do the deal’. All these ‘characteristics’ were picked up on by the clients and had extremely negative impacts on them’). Source: Cranfield School of Management

A better approach

To paraphrase the old quotation

‘A genuine change must first come from within the individual’

As our environment changes – so must we. The same applies in the business world and those that are not prepared to change, face a very uncertain future. The strange thing is, it is as easy to do something right as it is to do it wrong. So for those that are willing to embrace and apply a new, more effective and relevant approach – that is geared directly to meet the demands of today’s clients – not only will they position themselves far more powerfully in the market-place, but they will be able to generate long-lasting, mutually beneficial client-supplier alliances going forward.

How can you do this?

The solution is basically three-pronged:

  1. Un-learning bad habits. (re-training/re-educating of sales directors, sales teams and consultants)
  2. Learning a new and effective approach (understanding and applying the right kind of strategy and behaviours to ensure success)
  3. Follow-up (evaluation and measurement that the new approach is being applied)

This process of improvement will not be easy. It involves a major mind-set change in the way that sales people both behave and function. They need to take on a far wider range of skills and competencies that they may not have been aware of or exposed to before. (that of a researcher, educator, negotiator, accomplished communicator, business expert, insight-provider, trusted adviser and value creator).

However, if they wish to survive and grow in the current market conditions, it is a decision that they may not have any choice in. So the real question is:

Can you really afford not to change?

Laurie P Smith – Director & Lead Facilitator in Sales strategies at ADVANCE L&D (Laurie has been training companies and individuals in sales strategy for over 20 years. He worked for KPMG China, as well as with other leading companies in a range of business sectors in Hong Kong/China, Japan and more recently in Thailand). If you would like to know more – please visit  advancelearning.org or simply email/call Laurie at info@advancelearning.org / +66 0915808838 

Message Vs Messenger?

presentationMany people (including communication and presentation skills trainers) often compare giving a presentation to giving a “performance” – where the presenter takes ‘centre stage’. Words like ‘passion’, ‘enthusiasm’, engaging’ and ‘energy’ are regularly used to describe a good presenter.

Generally, I agree with this. In every study of presentation skills undertaken, there has been a clear and definite correlation between audiences enjoying a presentation if the presenter is engaging and enthusiastic (something like 70% of audiences like to be engaged by the presenter). So in many ways it IS a bit of a “show” and whilst most people fear standing up and giving presentations, there are ‘techniques’ to overcome this so that your ‘performance’ achieves the desired results in audience engagement.

But what about your ‘message’? It’s one thing to be an engaging, confident or humourous presenter – but is that really what it’s all about these days? Is the effectiveness of a presentation judged solely on the presenter’s ability to smile and use appropriate hand gestures and body language? If so, why do presenters need to have any messages at all?

Very recent research has shown that there has been a marked and definite ‘shift’ in presenting so that it is now the message that is often of greater importance to the audience. (what I call ‘message over messenger’) Afterall, we are all very busy nowadays, and to get people to listen to you (even for just a relatively short time) you have to give them an incentive to do so. Having clear, convincing and useful messages is therefore absolutely vital when presenting in today’s business world.

However, some argue that the ‘message over messenger’ approach is just an unproven concept – that the ‘messenger’ is still the dominant factor and that if a presentation is only about the message we could simply email it to our audience. But if that were true, would Barak Obama have been elected as US President? (his ‘We Can’ speech effectively won him the Democratic party’s vote). And going back even further in time, would we still recall powerful speeches by great orators such as Churchill and Martin Luther King? Indeed, I would challenge anyone to recall what body language ‘signals’ these speakers were demonstrating when they made their memorable speeches – yet we can all remember their potent messages!

And even more recently, Dr Amy Cuddy and Sir Ken Robinson have clearly shown in their TED Talks, how the message over-rides the messenger with an audience. Despite obvious limitations on their abilities (Cuddy was incredibly nervous, Robinson’s movement is restricted by his physical disabilities) it is their messages that resonates with their audiences and that people ultimately remember.

Of course, if a presenter can also be engaging, funny and interesting to listen to – that is a bonus. And again there are techniques even a novice speaker can apply to achieve this. (one approach I always recommend when I train people in presentation skills is to use a ‘story’ to communicate your message or an interesting image to stimulate thought). That way, you satisfy both needs – an enaging and useful presentation!

But essentially, it IS the message that most audience’s seek today. This has become even more relevant in the modern business world and delivering a talk which is neither interesting nor valuable to an audience (particularly clients) can have very damaging impacts.

So always consider how your message can help your audience, improve or increase their performance and produce better results. If you adopt that approach, chances are your presentations will be far more effective!

Negotiation skills

Negotiations have become increasingly relevant in business today – and particularly in sales interactions. (irrespective of whether you are the buyer or seller). Very recent research shows that negotiations are occurring far more frequently and much earlier in sales discussions than ever before. To make client negotiations even more challenging, the modern business world has become extremely competitive with much greater choices available in the market.  Quality, price and faster turn-round times are just a few key areas where clients look for improvements – and as a result they are constantly pressuring suppliers to meet their ever-increasing demands.

So the ability to negotiate competently and skillfully has become a vital capability for all business professionals.  Poor negotiation skills often lead to conflict, dispute and disagreement, resulting in very negative and damaging impacts on you, your organization and to your client relationships. Being able to negotiate effectively will result in much more satisfactory and mutually-beneficial outcomes with clients. It will also foster deeper, highly respectful, trust-based relationships that lead to long-term client-supplier alliances.

Effective Negotiation Skills Training

The overall objectives of this workshop are to introduce participants to an approach and set of tools that they can use to conduct and manage their client negotiations more effectively.

Skills focus:

  • Effective negotiation planning and preparation techniques
  • Understanding YOUR (and the Clients) “Interests & Options”
  • Negotiation logistics & tactics – key rules
  • Resolving areas of conflict and disagreement

 Desired outcomes:

To equip participants with the necessary skills and capabilities to:

  • Be a more confident and skillful negotiator
  • Achieve better negotiation outcomes
  • Apply an effective negotiation approach to build stronger relationship

 

If you would like to find out more or wish to register for the next available program, please contact us today at: info@advancelearning.org / 0915 8088 38

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Sales Strategies: Selling in challenging times

Selling in today’s highly competitive business environment has become incredibly challenging. Not only do clients have a much wider choice of options, but there are a greater number of suppliers out there offering exactly the same products and services as you do.  Added to that is the dramatic shift in the buyer-seller relationship – so that traditional sales strategies no longer serve.

‘Clients don’t want to be sold to – they want suppliers to listen and advise!’

These days, selling is not about having a great product and delivering a persuasive ‘pitch’ presentation to convince people to buy from you. Clients do not react well to the ‘hard-sell’ – traditional sales behaviours are not only no longer successful, but can be extremely damaging to you and your company’s image, credibility and reputation.

In today’s business world, it’s not WHAT you sell – it’s HOW you sell that counts…

To achieve greater sales success these days, you need to apply a much smarter and relevant approach. One that positions you as an expert consultant and trusted adviser who has the knowledge, skills and patience to first identify what the client really needs, and then help them obtain it. Not only will this foster deep referral (alliance) partnerships with existing clients that stimulate loyalty but also to develop new client acquisitions.

‘Selling in Challenging Times’ Training Program:

The overall objective of this training program is to enable participants to apply a more advanced and strategic approach to selling in today’s challenging business environment.  Participants will learn how to effectively identify the client’s needs and understand how to help them attain these as well as being more proactive in developing sales opportunities.

Skills focus / Key Learning:

  • Positive client meetings – planning focused, valuable interactions that create a better ‘first impression’!
  • Apply advanced questioning techniques to generate more meaningful client discussions
  • Be more pro-active in anticipating and identifying opportunities to help the client
  • Understand what clients value and your role as ‘value creator’
  • How to position you and your product/service-offering more effectively
  • Conduct effective negotiations to achieve better outcomes
  • Handle objections and difficult questions
  • Reach buyer agreement and commitment

Overall outcomes:

  • Be more successful in winning business – year after year!
  • Apply a smarter, more strategic and effective approach to selling!
  • Learn how to make customers want to talk to you – not your competitors!

 

If you would like to find out more or wish to register for the next available program, please contact us today at: info@advancelearning.org / 0915 8088 38