Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Sales Professionalism: Now More than Ever

Sales ProfessionalismThis is a guest blog from my good friend Jack Malcolm who is one of the most talented sales and communication trainers in the world. In this article, he describes what it takes to be a professional salesperson. Although many people do not have a high opinion of salespeople, I happen to think that sales is a noble profession focused on truly helping your customer. Take a few minutes to read this article on sales professionalism, I know you will find it very helpful.

 

When you think of a professional, what is the first image that comes to mind? A doctor or lawyer or first responder, maybe, but certainly not a salesperson. Professionalism is unfortunately not a term that most people would associate with salespeople. Strictly speaking, of course, salespeople can’t be professionals because they are not accredited by a formal body, but I would argue that the ideal of professionalism is not only achievable, but essential to a profitable and personally fulfilling sales career.

Professionalism is not defined by what’s framed on your office wall—it’s a function of mindset, knowledge, and behavior. In other words, you become a professional by what you care about, what you know, and what you do.

What Do Sales Professionals Care About?

The first answer to this question is: more than themselves. The professionalism mindset above all includes dedication to more than simple self-interest. In other words, professionalism is not simply a means to have a lucrative career, or to charge more, or to take advantage of people’s trust.

Although sales professionals owe loyalty to their employer, they must put the needs and interests of their customers first. There are times when their duty to the customer will conflict in the short term with their obligations to their employer, such as when they may be under pressure to move product even though they know the customer would be better off using a competitive solution. They must be able to find an appropriate balance, although I firmly believe that doing the right—professional—thing will ultimately benefit the customer, himself, and his employer.

The sales professional also cares about excellence and professional standards, even though there is no accredited body which enforces them. Indeed, especially because there is no governing body, it is incumbent on those of us who care about the image of our profession that we act in such a way as to avoid giving cause for the continued complaints and jokes. Perhaps if enough salespeople act as if there is an agreed set of professional standards, their actions will become self-fulfilling. But this one also comes back to customers, who have the ultimate vote in whether our professional conduct meets their needs and standards.

Third, of course, a sales professional must care about his or her employer. Taking care of their customers and maintaining their integrity and professional excellence is not a recipe for ignoring the interests of those who are writing their checks. When you truly believe in the value you sell and the superiority of your solutions, there should not be any conflict. When you don’t, well… then remember your first two obligations and find another employer.

What Do Sales Professionals Know?

Success in selling, especially complex B2B sales, requires a surprisingly large body of knowledge; here are three tiers of knowledge that coincidentally all begin with the same first three letters: PRO. Think of them as what you offer, how it works, and why the customer needs it.

Product: You have to know what you sell and how it compares to alternatives, beyond what well-informed buyers can find out for themselves. The “product” includes everything that affects the delivery of value to the customer, and a professional has to know how to orchestrate every aspect of making their offering work within the customer’s system. But product knowledge is only table stakes. You begin to distinguish yourself as a professional when you learn to focus on the customer, which brings us to the next two levels, the how and why.

Problem/Process: You can’t sell “solutions” without knowing a about your customer’s problems, any more than a doctor can prescribe medication without diagnosing a patient. I’ve heard salespeople blather on about their solutions without ever once asking a question to confirm that the customer has a problem or to understand the nuances of their particular challenges. The best way to find and diagnose problems is to know intimately the processes that your customer uses to create value for their customers, and find ways to reduce inputs, take out steps, improve throughput, and improve outputs.

Profit: At the profit level, you become a trusted business advisor by connecting the thread from your product to process improvements to business impact. Armed with a deep understanding of your customer’s business goals and strategies, their business and industry environment, and general business acumen, you can collaborate to spot unseen opportunities to improve their business and quantify your value.

What Sales Professionals Do

Ultimately, caring and knowing won’t mean a hill of beans unless they are translated into action. What sets true sales professionals apart from their less accomplished peers is what they do differently, and what that means to their customers.

Take long-term responsibility for customer results. Professionals take personal responsibility for client results. A couple of years ago, I had a tooth removed. Although the dentist sent me home with explicit instructions, to him, the job was not done. He called me at home that evening to see how I was doing, and then again over the weekend. That’s what I mean by taking responsibility.

The best sales professionals think beyond the immediate transaction and consider every sale to be a link in a long and mutually profitable relationship chain. Another term for this professional spirit is ownership mentality, of having an attitude of co-ownership of the results to be produced.

Prepare and plan. The customer’s time is valuable, particularly at higher decision-making levels. Sales professionals respect the value of their customer’s time by taking time up front to prepare for sales calls and meetings. In surveys, one of the most common complaints executives have about salespeople is that they waste their time—and it almost always comes down to a lack of preparation.

There are so many factors to consider when pursuing a complex sale that anyone who does not write down and think about them is at an automatic disadvantage against a competitor who does. As the old saying goes, “you’re either working your own plan or someone else’s!”

Communicate. The reason salespeople exist is to help customers make effective buying decisions, and their sole vehicle to do that is their ability to communicate. This isn’t about being eloquent, which is surely valuable but not a prerequisite of professionalism. It’s about adding value in every communication, not wasting time in doing so, and clearly delivering the information and insight the customer needs. Do this and you will achieve the defining feature of a professional/client relationship: mutual trust and confidence. As an example a coaching client of mine has spent a year as a Global Account Manager for a European multinational. Recently they told his Managing Director that since he has been on board the once rocky relationship has been transformed because of his “straight talk” about what he can and can’t do for them, and his willingness to simply listen to their concerns.

Why Does It Matter?

As we’ve seen, it’s hard work to to be a sales professional so the obvious question is: why should anyone do it? Put another way, who benefits when salespeople act professionally?

The customer benefits because sales professionals increase their profits, lower their risks, and save them time.

The employer benefits because the sales professional puts a human face on their carefully nurtured brand image. Surveys across a wide variety of industries indicate that the number one reason that customers drop a supplier is the way they are treated by the salesperson.

The sales manager benefits because professionals can be a dream to manage. That’s because professionalism is self-policing and self-motivating—it’s stronger than rules, supervision, and even incentive plans.

Society benefits, because sales professionals are the catalysts of a healthy and productive economy. They spread innovation and improve business in countless ways. Innovations do not contribute to society until customers adopt them. Emerson was wrong: the world will not beat a path to your door because you invented a better mousetrap and it usually takes a salesperson to create the path and show the way.

Lastly (because true professionals put themselves last), true sales professionals quickly become known throughout the industry, precisely because they are so rare. Sales professionals enjoy more trusting relationships with their buyers, shorter sales cycles and higher closing rates, and more referral business. And those are just the measurable ways that professionalism pays off. What’s not tangible but infinitely

more important is the personal pride you get from pursuing excellence in a noble purpose, and I trust you would agree with me that improving the lives of others is the highest purpose of a true sales professional.

Honestly, none of these are a big secret—but neither are they common. The relentless push for quarterly earnings performance translates into tremendous pressure put on salespeople to produce results now, so it’s almost a given that the average salesperson will cut corners. The fact that so few salespeople actually take time to do these things.

To learn more about Jack Malcolm, his books and his area of expertise go to: JackMalcolm.com

Five Things To Focus On In 2019

2018 marked my 24th year traveling around the world to help people and businesses achieve more success. I went to some amazing places, spent time with old friends and made lots of new friends. It was also a great year for learning, as I worked on all kinds of projects from executive coaching, facilitating strategic planning retreats and doing some consulting to running lots of workshops and delivering dozens of keynotes. In this video I’m going to share with you the five major things I learned in 2018 that I think will be important for you to focus on in the coming year.

I hope you found this helpful, and if you do, please share it with your network. Thanks – John

 

How to Make Your Business MUCH More Successful in 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year I do a video with some ideas about how to make your business more successful in the coming year. This time I’ve changed it up a little bit and instead of giving you a list of “Big Ideas,” I’m going to give you a challenge, a great new tool, I’ll ask for a favor, and I’m making an offer to help you have a great 2019.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch the video and please share it with your network if you find the ideas of value.

Thanks so much – John

If you want to sign up for my free newsletter, click HERE

 

If you are interested in learning more about how to get a newsletter like this for your company, click HERE

 

I appreciate your referrals VERY, VERY, VERY much!!!

 

Be sure to tell me your business challenge for 2019 in the “Speak Your Mind” section below so I can find the answer for you.

 

 

Stop Selling & Start Leading

In this video, I will tell you about a great new sales book that I found very helpful, and I am going to ask you for some feedback and advice.

I hope you take a moment to share your ideas with me…

Who is Your Competition?

Last year I did a speaking tour of Australia and one of my session was a business excellence program for an organization called The Growth Faculty. A young lady named Kasey Patterson attend that workshop and recently sent me this question. I thought you might find a few ideas for your business in my response.

Hi John & Sheila

I attended the growth summit last year and saw John present. What an informative session. Thank you.

The reason for my email is that I have just watched your keys to success for 2018 video and have a questions in regards to competition and thinking outside your industry. We are a Financial Planning business and I have been thinking hard about competition outside our industry – ie banks, accountants, but that is where my mind stops. Who else would you consider our competition?

Kind Regards

Kasey

 

Kasey, it’s funny, I was just watching that video myself because someone else asked me a question about it. So as a financial planner/advisor you likely get paid a percentage of the amount of money you manage for someone, or at least that’s how it works here in the United States. But no matter what, here are a few things I might consider competition/replacements if I were a financial planner.

Anything expensive that someone buys would compete for them saving for their retirement. So vacation homes, private airplanes, boats, motorcycles, around the world vacations, buying a new home, sending their kids to an expensive school/university – at some level, all of these could be considered replacements for saving my money and allowing you as my financial planner to manage it.

Another competitor would be startup companies that are seeking angel funds. Instead of giving money to my financial planner, I invest it in a company in hopes that I will have a much larger return.

Here’s a big one, bitcoin!!!

You could probably throw gold in on that list too, as another type of currency.

You compete against collectibles: artwork, cars, rare coins, antiques, and other such items.

You compete against people who decide to do it for themselves and think they don’t need a financial planner. Or, they use someone in their family to help them invest.

You compete against ignorance and apathy; people who don’t know that they need a financial planner or who don’t care.

You compete against nonprofits and other charities that will seek major donations from your potential customers, again, reducing the amount of money they have to invest with you.

You compete with ill health. If someone gets sick and has to spend a lot of money on care.

You compete with death. If someone in their family dies and does not have adequate life insurance then your potential customer might spend a large chunk of their money taking care of the funeral costs and other financial obligations of the deceased person.

You compete with disasters. If there is a major fire/flood/earthquake that wipes out one of your customer’s businesses or homes and they do not have adequate insurance they will not have enough money to invest with you.

Okay, I’m starting to run out of ideas here, but those are a few off the top of my head. Give this some more thought and let me know if you come up with any more.

I hope you found this helpful – John

I followed up with this last idea…

Kasey, I forgot the most important competitor of all… You. You are constantly competing against other financial planners, but the number one financial planner that can do the most harm to you is you. If you lack discipline, if you are not working incredibly hard every day to keep your current clients exceedingly happy, if you’re not constantly studying and trying to get better, if you are not out networking and asking for referrals, if you are not trying to be among the best in your industry… you are your own worst competition.

So, who do you compete against in your business?

Here is a link to the video Kasey mentioned if you’d like to watch it: Click Here

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If you want to make more money: ASK

Several years ago, one of my clients asked me to put together a special workshop to help their employees increase the quality of their customer service. I told them that the single best way to figure out what it would take to deliver consistently superior customer service was… to ask their customers!

We, of course, pursued the standard route of sending out a general customer satisfaction survey and I also interviewed a handful of their customers to get some confidential feedback, but what really helped them achieve an entire new level of customer service excellence was inviting a panel of their top customers for an open and frank discussion about how they currently viewed the service they were getting and exactly what sort of improvements they would like to see.

On the day of the event we gathered every employee in the company (60+) to listen to what the customer panel had to say. The results were amazing! As the employees sat on the edge of their seats, key decision-makers from their seven biggest customers (representing nearly 70% of their annual revenues) spent more than two hours talking about what they loved about the customer service they were receiving; what they hated about the customer service they were receiving; and precisely what they wanted changed, fixed or improved.

Imagine having your very best customers tell you exactly what you would have to do for them to give you a larger share of their business and eagerly refer you to their friends and colleagues. In nearly 25 years of running training workshops this was one of the most powerful and motivating sessions I have ever had the pleasure of leading. By the end of the day every employee that attended felt like they understood what they personally needed to do to deliver outstanding customer service Interestingly, it was just as rewarding for the customers who said it was the very first time that one of their vendors had invited them in to share these sorts of issues in open forum. A true win/win for all involved.

So now the question is: how can you apply this idea in your business? Maybe this sort of customer panel is a perfect way for you to open the lines of communication with your customers and make significant progress in deeply understanding what it will take to consistently meet and even exceed their specific customer service expectations. Maybe your company isn’t quite as big and instead you simply invite two or three of your top customers to lunch and discuss how well your company is meeting their expectations and what they feel you need to improve. It seems pretty straightforward to me, if you want to make more money, ask the people who are currently giving you money what it would take for them to give you more money. Because, as Mark Twain so beautifully put it, “The only critic whose opinion counts… is the customer.”

Leadership and Disruption

There are several authors who have had a huge impact on my thinking and my career, and at the top of that list is Joe Calloway. I have read every book he has written, and then reread them, and then read them again. The title of one of Joe’s books is “Be The Best At What Matters Most”” which exactly describes Joe. I asked him if he would send me something that I could share on my blog to introduce him to any of my followers who did not already know him. Folks, this guy is brilliant, he has amazing business ideas, he has ideas that can change your organization and take you to a completely new level of success. He put this video together especially for us, and it offers you some very valuable business advice. I urge you to go look at his other videos and buy his books. Not because I’m trying to help him make money, but because I’m trying to help YOU make money. Here is my good friend and someone I respect and admire a great deal, Joe Calloway…

Here is a link to Joe’s author page on Amazon — it lists all of his books there.

Click HERE

 

 

Irrationally Passionate

I was driving into the office this morning (Saturday – and you notice I didn’t call it work) listening to a podcast about how to increase sales. The person being interviewed said that the best way to grow your business was to focus on “irrationally passionate” customers. People, who are fanatical about the type of products or services you sell. Good examples would be Star Wars fans who will buy just about anything that has to do with Star Wars, or a sports fan who is crazy about their team, someone into golf, knitting, gardening, dogs, cats… a target customer who is so irrationally passionate that they become a raving fan for your business because you offer something that they “have to have.”

I love this idea. It makes perfect sense for how to identify your key target market. If you start your focus on this potential group of customers, you will also appeal greatly to the folks that are not quite as passionate but still very interested. It also makes it so much easier to sell when you are offering your products and services to people that are enthusiastic about buying them. I see a lot of businesses waste time and money trying to sell to people that either don’t want or can’t afford their product. Here is a quote I use a lot when I’m delivering sales training, “Don’t try to sell to broke people.”

However, I also saw another application for the idea of “irrationally passionate.” This is the exact same thing that YOU need to be about your business/career if you want to achieve a high level of success. It’s very hard to become superb at something you are not deeply excited about. If you want to be one of the best of the best you must be fully committed… irrationally passionate… and willingly do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. So here are a few questions for you.

Are YOU irrationally passionate about…
  • Being better prepared than any of your competition?
  • Being insanely customer focused?
  • Delivering the highest quality products and services?
  • Delivering world-class customer service?
  • Operating with 100% honesty and integrity?
Is your company irrationally passionate about…
  • Hiring only top talent?
  • Building a winning culture of highly engaged employees?
  • Being fair and generous with your customers and employees?
  • Creating high levels of accountability across your entire organization?
  • Fostering lots of open, honest and transparent communication within your company?
  • Focusing intently on disciplined execution?
  • Demanding excellence and refusing to tolerate mediocrity?

These are just a few questions; I could easily add another twenty. The point is, you will never become truly great at something if you are not irrationally passionate about achieving greatness in that area. I know that sounds simplistic, but it is the truth. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people today that think that they can attain great success without great effort. That has never happened and it never will. All success comes from work, usually very hard work, and excellence comes from being irrationally passionate about the pursuit of excellence.

What are you irrationally passionate about?

Five “Easy” Steps to Dominate Your Market

 

Do these five things CONSISTENTLY and you will crush your competition.
I guarantee!!