Sales are core to any business. If you don’t sell you don’t have a business. Successful selling is like any other career, it can be scientifically learnt; there’s no dark art magic to it.
Successful selling needs to be professional, needs to focus on the buying cycle (understanding the sales cycle from your customer’s perspective) and needs a consultative sales methodology. It’s the power of 3. Let’s investigate further.
I remember, not that long ago, if you were flying just about anywhere in the world, after landing there would be an outbreak of Nokia ringtones going off around the plane as everyone turned their phones back on. And now? Never.
As a young engineer I remember being proud to be the new owner of an Aristo sliderule. It was the very best you could get – the Rolls Royce. Where are Aristo now? Gone.
The Cutty Sark tea clipper in its day was one of the fastest commercial sailing ships ever built – the envy of all. Then steam was invented and these new fangled steam ships didn’t need to tack into the wind and hence could cut hours from the Far East route. There have been no commercial sailing ships built since.
A recent Vistage Open Day in Manchester proved thought provoking, invigorating and inspired some of us into action.
Jaynie Smith opened her session by asking us to stand up when we heard one of our company’s competitive advantage statements, then listed the 10 most common responses given.
Almost universally, the top three were service, quality and reputation. Jaynie called the top 10 list “Blah Blah Blah”. She demonstrated this by sharing that when you Google “customer focused” there are over 77 million results; as we looked around, there was a dawning realisation of how ineffective most of us are currently at selling our relevant competitive advantages!
There have been about 2,000 studies carried out over the past 30 years in almost every industry to see whether the top sales people are born, i.e. they have an innate personality type that makes them ideal for sales, or made, i.e. they have excellent product knowledge, trained in active listening and have great processes supporting them.
A meta-analysis of these studies came to the conclusion that the reality is that it’s about 50/50 between a born salesperson and one who’s learned their trade.
There’s an element of variation according to industry. In really technical industries, such as petroleum engineering, it’s more like 40% born and 60% made, while in businesses that rely on relationships, such as the fashion industry, it’s more like 60% born and 40% made.
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