Rather than follow shallow advice on how to succeed at sales, the real key to winning is developing and executing a high-level strategy.
As a long time business-to-business sales coach and strategist, it’s disappointing to observe that more and more “free” sales tips, tricks, shortcuts and silver bullets appear in dozens of blogs and websites literally every day.
It’s disappointing because the very salespeople and managers that seek out these tips are the ones that are hurt most by them.
The data is in (in fact, it has been for years): Salespeople need a strategic approach for selling their products and services to their customers as well as for growing and enhancing long-term mutually beneficial relationships with them.
When they don’t have a strategy, they don’t achieve their sales targets.
When you look into this subject as I have, these sales tips aren’t really free at all. They cost money. A lot of it, in the form of lost business opportunity — deals those reps will never win because they are seeking shortcuts and shortcuts don’t work in sales, just as they don’t work for surgeons, airline pilots, civil engineers, actuaries, or other respected professionals.
Let me further explain. Many salespeople think that these tips are all they need to win. Read enough articles and books and digest enough of these tips, they think, and they’ll never lose another deal.
For other sales folks, it’s that ever-elusive silver bullet that they seek. They scour book after book, website after website, webinar after webinar, anxious to unearth that single gem that will transform them into a winner.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that many of the hundreds of sales experts out there have something valuable to say. I certainly felt that way when I wrote “How Winners Sell,” as well as many dozens of articles.
Sure, some self-proclaimed experts merely copy what others have done before them. And sales tips that other so-called experts are writing or speaking about have been proven ineffective years ago, such as asking your prospect what keeps them up at night.
(These days you’re expected to have learned that by they time you meet with the customer for the first time.)
But all in all, I’m not questioning many of the sales tips available today. Many of those tips make sense, and if used at the right time and in the right way, they can be quite effective.
That’s not the issue. This issue is that these widely available sources of learning (websites, articles, sales books, webinars, podcasts) focus almost exclusively on tactics.
Sales reps need tactics. Tactics are required to win. But tactics alone won’t help any seller get where they need to be. The more tactics a salesperson reads about in the form of tips, the further he or she gets from the real key to winning — developing and executing a strategy — a higher-level, overall plan to win.
Salespeople have to be able to zoom out to that higher level. Sales tips force them to zoom in.
There is another problem with collecting sales tips. Since many salespeople don’t have the knowledge and experience to determine what works and what doesn’t — and no one is providing them with a curriculum, or testing them on what they’ve learned and successfully applied from these tips — they generally choose only the tips they perceive are easy to do.
And, if they try a tip once and it doesn’t work they’ll likely reject it — without giving themselves an opportunity to perfect that skill or technique.
As a result, they aren’t even availing themselves of what might be the best tips for them and their circumstances.
How do I know I’m right on this issue? Books and articles about sales tips have been around for a generation, right? So why does recent research by CSO Insights, Sales Benchmark Index, and other research firms show that nearly 50% of B2B salespeople don’t achieve their sales quota?
There are certainly other factors at play here, but it’s clear that the companies that have a formal, institutionalized sales methodology (read: strategy for winning) consistently sell more effectively than those that don’t.
These are the facts. Jumping from tactic to tactic doesn’t win deals unless they are integral to an overall plan.
So, if you swear by those valuable insights from your favorite sales experts, do your company, your customers, and yourself a favor. Integrate the most relevant and effective tactics into a strategic, documented plan to win. You’ll be glad you did.
Dave Stein is a large opportunity sales strategist and an internationally-recognized expert in hiring salespeople, managers, and senior sales executives. He has a rare and pragmatic view of sales methodologies, sales training approaches, social selling, and the cultural, behavioral, and operational changes required for corporations to excel at the sales function. Dave is co-author of “Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World.”
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