Why Your Numbers Are Down

Nick Vaidya


Every activity, project or goal is built upon certain core elements. If these elements are not working properly then no matter what you do, you will find yourself frequently coming across hurdles in doing that activity successfully, or even failing the task completely. Take your health for example, if you want to be healthy you need to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get adequate rest, and live in clean, healthy surroundings. If you don’t do these things right, no amount of diets, supplements, medicines or fads are going to work for you. You will develop a variety of health problems over time. Fads and programs would at best work as temporary fixes and never ensure a truly healthy body and mind. Nor will simply focusing on one at the expense of the other provide you optimum benefits.

Sales can be approached from the same perspective. There are hundreds of books that attempt to teach us how to master sales, and many of them offer truly effective tips. But the fact remains, there are some core requirements for successful selling that, when not fulfilled, invariably lead to sales failure -- or at least create crippling inefficiencies in the process. When looking for the fundamental building blocks of sales interaction, there are three elements that stand out. When you focus on these fundamentals, you master the art of sales interaction:

All sales interaction failures can be deconstructed to three basic reasons why people don't buy from your company:

You are barking up the wrong tree

You don’t have a loud enough bark

You don’t know when to stop barking

Barking Up The Wrong Tree/Selling Ice to an Eskimo:This seems foolish, but innumerable salespeople are guilty of doing it at one level or another, either out of ignorance or desperation. They do not take the time to think whether the person they are pitching to is the right prospect, and worse, they may not even know the characteristics of their ideal customers. Successful selling needs comprehensive groundwork. One needs to assess the product/solution meticulously and objectively, and then create detailed profiles (customer archetypes) of your ideal customers from the perspective of serving their needs so that it becomes easy for you to identify them. Not doing so will result in inefficiency and an incredible waste of resources. 

On the face of it all CRM solutions are similar, but to the buyer they are not. While there are many CRM solutions, users have clear preference for one over another, and yet most users are dissatisfied to some extent with their solutions. This alone speaks volumes for the need to create customer archetypes. You have not thought deeply enough if you say that your goal is to get 20% of Fortune 500 clients. In fact, planning goals this way is downright bad strategy. Not all F500 CIOs can make for your target market. You may have skipped a lot of steps by making such a "pat" identification of your goals.

Customer archetypes need to be defined carefully taking intricate details into account such that among all solution providers in your line of business your solution is the best fit for a select group of customers. You may need to modify your solution and reduce the target population available for your team to sell to. It reduces the number of people your reps can pitch to, but at the same time you are dramatically improving your salespeople's closing rates and enhancing their sales efficiency. The customer archetype creation is a fairly cumbersome task but is worth the reward. The CIO of AMD may have different needs from CIO of Intel. It's your job to figure out the differences upfront.

Don't Have A Bark / Can’t light a spark if you aren’t kindled:It is imperative that your salespeople be sold on the product first before going out to sell it. They must project total belief in the value of that which they are trying to sell. For those who can do it, faking is not only dishonest and unethical but also inefficient. It does not always work and can be seen through by most, if not all.

If your salespeople don’t believe in it themselves, how can they expect to convince potential clients? Different salespeople approach their jobs in varying styles, some might be pushy and aggressive, and others might take a gentle and caring approach. These are all fine, but the core from which varying sales techniques flow should be the same -- a strong, unshakable belief that the product or service being offered will truly benefit customers. 

When your salespeople are passionate about what they are selling, they exude that passionate energy in both conscious and subconscious ways. For example, the fact that they don’t give up easily, that is something your prospects can experience consciously. The subconscious effects would work out in the way they talk about the product, their body language, tone of voice, and the look in their eyes. Salespeople should be supercharged and overflowing with positive energy, which will rub off on prospects, increasing their chances of conversion.

It may sound counterintuitive to some, but a sense of serving others can elevate sales efforts to unparalleled levels of success. Like a doctor, salespeople who consider their job as a service to others for their benefit will realize that their self-perception and that of the prospect will change. This changed attitude will result in better application of sales techniques.

Don't Know When To Stop Barking/Stop Cranking A Revved-Up Engine:Say your salespeople have identified the right customers, have gotten a powerful value proposition and have tried every trick in the bag to convince them with no success. Where have they gone wrong?

They probably have not allowed their prospects to air out their doubts or specific requirements. They may have only gone through the motions of listening but not actually absorbed and understood individual cases. They may have also lost customers who were almost sold but needed true attention. This is the most unfortunate scenario, not only because it means they have lost customers who were closest to conversion, but also because they might never realize it.

Even when a salesperson has been meticulous in creating customer archetypes and identifying prospects, he needs to keep in mind that every customer is an individual with specific needs and concerns.

The solution: Listen. Sales should be an interactive two-way process, otherwise what would be the difference between the salesperson and a billboard? Reps should build in strategic pauses within their sales pitches to allow prospects to speak up, or ask them questions to get a feel of where they stand. When they listen, they should try to see the situation from the customer’s perspective.

Make sure your salespeople listen and understand before they try to sell. They still may not be successful, but they would have put in their best effort. As self-awareness improves, a salesperson will see how often he does not follow this basic requirement. Converting knowledge into practice takes dedicated effort and constant checks. Most salespeople can improve their listening skills but they also need to focus on serving the prospect rather than making a sale. 

Recommit to serving your prospects and you will enjoy improved performance. 


Nick Vaidya is managing partner of The 8020Strategy Group, the President of the Global Alliance of CEOs, and the managing editor of The CEO Entrepreneur Magazine (www.8020ceo.com).