Thursday, April 10, 2014

Leadership in Sales - The Sales Power Triangle™

Rarely I write about sales. But when I do it’s about leadership. Leadership makes the difference also in sales. Leading a sales team is the frontline of a business. Hence, the expression frontline sales. It does sound pretty militaristic though. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s interpreted in the way of confronting. Confronting like in the military you confront your enemy. That’s not at all what is intended by the expression. I, actually, call it "Asymmetric Sales™"Maybe it’s time for a more constructive expression. An expression saying what it is. Anyhow, I leave that one to the sales experts to come up with.
Now let’s have a look into the 3 pieces of the “Sales Power Triangle™”:
The Foundation
The foundation is the 1st piece of the “Sales Power Triangle™”. As the leader of a sales team you must know and understand the world you are exposed to and part of. Yes, it’s repeated often and it’s true: it’s a complex world and it always was. What’s different nowadays is the speed shifts are happening. Entropy is progressing fast. Your environment is characterized by ambiguity, complexity, uncertainty, and volatility. Predictions were and are impossible. Yet, possibilities and their probabilities can be assessed.
Sales Enablement techniques, Sales performance, sales strategies in such a complex environment are the tools a sales leader must know. It is the solid foundation that determines your success or the lack thereof. Hence, a sales leader must study, learn, and train with these tools. You will need expert advice.
Seldom I recommend someone. When I do, this person stands out: One of the best and leading experts, globally recognized and respected in this field is certainly Tamara Schenk. Tamara Schenk is an accomplished, remarkable leader of her own right. She serves as the Research Director at the Miller Heiman Research Institute. I highly recommend as a start to study her blog Sales Enablement Perspectives. It will provide you with profound knowledge and know-how.
Keep in mind that knowing and understanding your product or service is a given. As a sales leader you must understand the foundation of sales. Missing that disqualifies you immediately.
The Expertise
The 2nd piece of the “Sales Power Triangle™” is expertise. And I mean profound expertise. As a sales leader you must have expert knowledge on your customers’ business. For instance:
  • Automotive Industry:
You need to know and understand the styling of cars. The engines and how those work. You must be able to distinguish types of engines. Understanding how drivetrains work, transmissions, manufacturing lines, etc. All that is important.
  • Aerospace Industry:
You must know and understand the concepts of aerodynamics. Know what thrust is. The difference of airspeed vs. ground speed and why it matters, to name a few. That is important.
Why is it important? Simple: without that I, at least, and most of my former colleagues wouldn’t take you seriously as a partner. You would be too much of a lightweight to be considered. Hence, it is your responsibility to know and understand your customers’ business. You are responsible to provide the necessary training, ongoing training, to your sales team. Whatever you teach you must have done before to understand in depth the problems. Theory alone leads to a stall faster than you know it.
The times are over for something like what I witnessed the other day:
  • Two younger guys sitting next to me in a coffee shop. It was obvious that they had technology based start up. And they wanted to solve a marketing and communication problem. A lady shows up representing a marketing service provider. Elegant and eloquent. It was the first meeting they had. And she talked for 30 minutes with all the most sophisticated buzzwords. Words and sentences Merriam Webster couldn't even dream up.
Then, one of the guys, a bit abruptly but friendly, finished up saying that he didn’t want to abuse more of her time. It was weekend after all. She left leaving her business card.
One of the guys said “She is a bright person.” And the other one said “I have no clue what the fuck she was talking about. And I have an even lesser clue why I would need that shit.”
Things go south fast when you don’t understand your potential clients business.
The Personality
This is the 3rd piece of the “Sales Power Triangle™”. Personality. It matters. A lot. Here are a few hints for you. Things you should know and master. Things, you as the sales leader should train together with your team:
  • What's the first thing I, as a potential customer, want to know when I meet you? Your product / service. Wrong, dead wrong. I want to know and understand you as a human being. I want to find out whether I can get along with you. If I can't, you are done. Then don't bother please. The likability factor is decisive.
  • You must be trustworthy. Without trust nothing goes
  • The foundation and the expertise are important. How you present yourself, your authentic personality, creates the impression that lasts. Without it you won’t even get to show the first two pieces..
  • I expect from you that you know and understand the foundation in Sales. Sales enablement, etc. I also expect you to have expertise about my business. If you don't then you appear simply as the proverbial sales buffoon. Hence, you’re out.
  • When you as a provider visit me rest assured that I have checked out your company and you in depth. Don't tell me the same stuff I have already read. Don’t waste my time, ever.
  • When you visit me be prepared that I will know much more about my industry than you ever will. Yet, you should know enough to be dangerous.
  • Have class and style. Be elegant. Your competence enhancers (like ties or shoes, for instance) won’t make up for the lack thereof.
  • Intelligence matters. You gotta be on par with your customer.
  • You must become the resource of choice for your customer. Even for issues not related with your product / service. You must always be the first one your customer calls when he / she needs something.
  • Master the Art of Communication. Master the Art of the Casual Remark. It is the most powerful tool in the hands of a true master.
  • Create a lasting impression by doing the unexpected ... sing along, so to speak.
  • Be unforgettable. Seduction is powerful. People are longing for being seduced. Let them dream their dreams. Yes, also and especially in B2B.
  • Don't talk with slides about your creative approach. Be creative yourself on how you get your points across. Complicated fields should never hinder you to be entertaining.
  • Have fun, lots of it for God's sake. Authentic, genuine fun. Enjoy what you do. Don't bore, I might fall asleep.
  • Don't appear playing a role. The role you learned in the common sales trainings. That's not being authentic, It’s not you. It's lying. People have a fine radar to detect that. And they might not have mercy for you. I know that I won’t.
  • And last but not least: Sales is not a science. Sales is an art. Be the artist.

So, here you go: the “Sales Power Triangle™” consisting of
  • The Foundation
  • The Expertise
  • The Personality

Mastering the “Sales Power Triangle™” distinguishes a true sales leader. As you might have noticed it’s about power, not force. Force always triggers a counterforce and is, thus, counterproductive. It’s the old fashioned “push approach”, which doesn’t work anymore. Did it ever work well? Power is allowing “Pull” to happen. Power is creating the ambiance where “Pull” comes naturally into existence.

Mastery of the “Sales Power Triangle™” not only lets you stand out. It sets you apart altogether.

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