Off the Cuff Instant Interview Question: You emphasize in your writings that a salesperson must strive to be different. How would you advise a salesperson who is being forced to follow “best practices” and yet considers they could do a better job if left to their own devices?
The reality is that sometimes a salesperson is confronted with a culture that encourages sameness — copying best in class sales organizations, following academic pedagogy, complying with consultant expertise and conforming to internal company practices.
They feel stifled; stepping out from accepted norms in terms of how the sales job is performed is simply not an option if one is to avoid being labeled as a loner — not a team player — and if employment continuity is the end game.
So what options does a salesperson have if they want to be creative and be different but the culture says conform to established sales scripture?
Recognize that the world is not black or white; either fit in or step out are not the only considerations when faced with this dilemma.
This is the approach that I used in an organization that reeked of adhering to strict standards of performance.
First, define the areas of the job where conformance is expected and no deviation is tolerated.
If, for example, copying best practices is mandated for a specific sales function like funnel management in order to have everyone doing it consistently then accept it and perform the function in amazing fashion.
Second, look for other aspects of the sales role where compliance rules haven’t been defined. Innovate and step out in these areas. There is ample opportunity to be different in areas beyond sales process generally where defining compliance standards is more difficult.
These simple actions worked for me to perform my role differently than others and shed the shackles of compliance.
- Build your personal brand strategy on the principle of standing out from the crowd. You need a strategy to guide your actions outside of the conformity zone.
- Lead the teamwork process with marketing to get more support for the sales team. A simple act that will benefit the entire sales organization; be known as the person who championed the cause.
- Be the sales champion for relationship building with clients to complement a product sales focus. Long term success requires intimate customer relationships and loyalty; create your own rules for doing this and teach your sales colleagues.
- Outside of the compliance zone, do the opposite of what you observe others doing. Eliminate “boilerplate” thinking and create your own approach.
- Gather customer “secrets”; those deep innermost desires they have but will tell only their most trusted partner. Secrets pave the way to great sales at premium prices.
- Introduce a sales internal report card; rate others in how well they support the sales organization. This is an excellent way to enhance the support receives from other functions in the organization.
- Step up to be the customer’s champion in side your organization. Be that salesperson who does whatever it takes to get an issue resolved; shield the customer from the pain of having to deal with your bureaucracy, rules and policies.
You can be different in an environment that mandates compliance and sameness.
And you can be an effective agent in changing the culture of your organization from a copycat to a vibrant, innovative and creative one.
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