Promise or Goal?
The old year has come to an end, and we’re in the first days of the new year. Most people are looking back at their recent past, weighing successful and missed opportunities and achievements, and making plans for the upcoming year. This is a very good thing, only when looking back at the past can we arrive at solutions and plan our future activities.
Every sales rep and sales manager should take a step back and plan their year ahead. When you didn’t reach a goal you set for the past year, you have to ask yourself “Why?”
Isolate the reasons for the missed opportunities, and then break down the whole process into different steps. This helps to identify the source of the problem and gives each step its own importance.
There might be multiple reasons why a process step went in the wrong direction:
- It could be time-related—delayed reactions and replies.
- The wrong strategy might have been used—each product and service needs its own strategy.
- The issue might be customer related—the customer was not accurately identified, and the wrong strategy was applied.
- The direction of action was not goal-oriented enough.
When selling a certain product or product group, it is important to set up a strategy based on the right set of questions:
- What makes my product unique?
- Why is the product different from the other products in the market?
- Who is my target group, and what are their specific needs?
- What is the overall strategy for addressing my specific target group?
- How can the overall strategy be addressed to different groups based on their requirements and issues?
If you have identified the unique selling propositions (USPs) of the product or products you are selling, you need to isolate the differences to competitor products:
- Why do my products serve customer needs better than competitors?
- How much can I customize the product to the different aspects of the customer’s situation? This should be evaluated every couple of months with follow up calls.
- Work out all the other points of difference by evaluating the market you are in.
As soon as you have identified the uniqueness of your product compared to other similar products, you need to differentiate the service you are offering to that of your competitors.
Service means the ability to identify the pain points of your customer and range them on a scale from 1 to 10. Based on this and your experience, you can customize your approach and service in order to solve problems and create a win-win situation for your customer and your company.
A “one-size-fits-all” strategy doesn’t exist. Selling requires a lot of experience, flexibility, leadership skills, empathy (the ability to walk in your customer shoes) and excellent social and conversational skills.
As you can see, sales is a very high profile and challenging profession in every way. It requires educated, professional and highly skilled people.
One of the important skills a salesperson needs to have—one which is also crucial in the selling process—is the ability to create a narrative. This is a story built around the product or service and customized to the customer’s situation. Stories are the best means to transport a message and make it easier for the other “side” to relate to and sympathize.
Regarding leadership skills, I just want to point out one aspect of leadership that is very important for anyone in sales. To be a leader doesn’t necessarily mean to be in charge of a group of people or have the first position in a company. It means possessing a gift to organize a group of people and bring out their best as a team to accomplish their tasks (as with a sales manager), to serve others according to your talents, and react to changing situations in a timely and correct manner.
Leadership has a lot to do with solving problems, where you can circle back to finding the strategy described above.
The Ulysses Contract
I want to finish this article with a piece of advice that someone recently gave to me, and underscore it with a story that, I think, creates a wonderful picture relating to this whole subject.
If you are afraid of making the wrong decisions or taking the wrong strategy, you can set up a pre-correcting process to help avoid making bad choices. This is called the “Ulysses Contract.”
As legend has it, Greek hero Ulysses wanted to hear the alluring but fatal song of the Sirens—immortal maidens who lured sailors to crash on the rocks the maidens inhabited—as his ship sailed past them. To ensure he would not yield to temptation, Ulysses had his crew stuff their ears with cotton and tie him to the mast of the ship. Upon hearing the Sirens’ song, Ulysses ordered his men to change course toward the Sirens, but luckily—and literally—his hands were tied and his pleas fell on deaf ears.
So whenever you are unsure or afraid of taking the wrong path, think of the Ulysses contract!
When starting a new year, making resolutions and plans is like opening a new and blank book and beginning to write, creating something completely new.
Let creativity, flexibility, experience and all the interesting aspects of leadership guide you through the new year and make it a successful one!