Selling is a very dynamic process, probably the most dynamic in any organization. It has so many moving parts, so many variables that it often becomes frenetic, chaotic, and reactionary.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
The key to success (in pretty much any endeavor) is being able to clearly identify the goal, define the steps needed to achieve that goal and then cutting out any extraneous noise or distractions so that you can focus exclusively on execution and reaching the goal.
In today’s business world this is often easier said than done. Systems are forced upon salespeople that confuse and derail them. They are overloaded with tools that are supposed to help them but instead distract. Social media is constantly bombarding them, and they are never sure how much of it is really valuable. Above all, they have a informed, savvy buyer who has little appetite to indulge them unless they can offer some value very quickly.
Sales are often compared to warfare and we often hear about the “fog of war” where lines get blurred, truth and rumor become indistinguishable and chaos becomes the norm. The ‘fog of sales” is no different absent the lethal nature of the former.
How many times have we witnessed salespeople who look like they are trying to navigate through a dense fog of daily tasks, juggling opportunities at different stages of the sales lifecycle while torrents of emails flood their inbox, and calls and text messages melt their smartphones? They always appear to be playing “catch-up” while never quite catching up. And to be honest, we have normalized this condition. We expect our salespeople to be in perpetual motion and many are measured on activity levels, especially when revenue performance is falling short.
We immediately recognize the salesperson running through the airport, smartphone held desperately between cheek and shoulder, with a tablet in one hand and a carry-on case in the other, papers sticking out of the top pocket. This has become our stereotypical salesperson.
But what of the ones you don’t notice? Or that you look at but don’t recognize them as a salesperson. The ones who are calm, organized, unruffled and who haven’t just “caught-up” but are in fact “ahead of the game”. What do they know that so many others don’t?
The answer is focus and clarity. They know what to focus on each day and prioritize their activities intelligently based on a solid understanding of their buyer and a consistent review of their pipeline. They know what to do at each stage of their sales process so they can be very targeted and surgical in the actions they take. They know the characteristics of their target buyer and how to qualify them quickly by uncovering buying signals either by asking investigative questions or reviewing digital behavior and communication threads.
They make technology work for them. They know the data and insights they need and only leverage tools or systems that can provide them quickly and easily. And whether sitting in an office or on a plane or at a meeting, they use the technology to help them maintain focus and provide clarity.
They work off the adage that ‘less really is more” and an era of big data, they focus on smaller pieces of relevant data. They carefully and diligently replenish their pipeline with new opportunities even when caught up in the cut and thrust of closing late stage deals. They know that to do otherwise would be to succumb to the feast or famine, rollercoaster ride that many other salespeople fall victim to when they allow all their focus to fall upon the later stages of the pipeline.
In essence, these salespeople are challenging us to think differently, to set aside our stereotypes and the fleeting comfort that their “all-action”, activity-driven counterparts provide us. Instead, they want us to embrace process, to enable efficiency and provide tools that truly generate insights. These salespeople represent the future of selling and the sooner we all recognize it, the better it will be for all of us.