By Thomas Freese, author of Secrets of Question Based Selling
You might have been the best salesperson in your entire industry for years, but as the old saying goes, “What have you done for me lately?”
Like it or not, sales is a forward looking discipline. Companies need to budget expenses for the coming year, as well as plan production, manage inventories, set up viable distribution channels, and report earnings—all of which depend on the sales team hitting their numbers, which at the beginning of a new year often look like lofty goals.
So, here we are in a new year with the slate wiped clean, ready to go out and conquer the world. Ready is a relative term, however. Have you looked in the mirror lately? What are you going to do differently in 2014 in order to increase your return on invested sales effort?
Many people will continue to use their engrained approach—that’s fine by me. I hope my competition doesn’t do anything differently in 2014. It’s easy to win if your competitors aren’t trying to get ahead. Chances are good, however, that just like you, they have been hard at work trying to figure out ways to gain a competitive edge.
So what’s it going to be in 2014? Maybe your company’s next product release will cure cancer, in which case, sales are guaranteed to go through the roof without much selling effort at all. But, it’s more likely that you’re going to wake up on New Year’s morning selling in an environment where every competitor in the marketplace has a variety of different strengths and weaknesses.
The logical side of our brain reminds us that if we continue doing business as usual while other companies continue to advance their offerings and their messaging, we are likely to lose ground. The status quo is not your friend in a competitive marketplace. Therefore, we can easily look to the product development people and demand that they give us better solutions to sell. We can also pound the table to try and energize the marketing department, to get cracking on more press releases and better presentations. And yes, it’s a beautiful thing when an entire organization is firing on all cylinders.
The truth is, starting January 2nd, top performing salespeople at companies all over the world aren’t going to sit back and wait for the marketing department to get their act together. And, they will also realize that their product offerings have a list of strengths and weaknesses, just like everyone else’s. Essentially, the real question that needs to be addressed is this: “How can I win when it’s close?” Or more specifically, “How can I win those deals that come down to a virtual tie?”
The answer is simple. When the competition is tight, the vendor who will most likely win is whomever the customer feels more comfortable with. Now we must ask, what is it that will make your customers more comfortable with you, than going with a competitor?
This is where the softer skills come into play. Softer skills include your ability to gain credibility, to convey value, and to demonstrate your company’s competence, and your own desire to be accountable to ensuring the customer’s success.
The problem is, that wasn’t our industry’s focus in 2013, or 2012, or all the back to the 1990’s. Sales organizations have been so focused on implementing a sales process that they’ve forgotten about execution. Look around your organization and you will notice that some sellers are consistently more effective than others, using the exact same sales process. The difference does not lie in the process, nor with the products being offered. Instead, the difference is “how” they are positioning themselves to the customer.
The differentiator in 2014 is going to be execution. Look in the mirror again: Are you ready to take on the challenge of figuring out how to execute the various steps of the sales process more effectively, or are you going to maintain the status quo and hope for the best?
About the Author:
Thomas Freese if the author of the Secrets of Question Based Selling and the founder and president of QBS Research, Inc. A five-time bestselling author, Freese is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on sales effectiveness training and competitive positioning strategies. He lives in Atlanta with his family and is used to achieving 200% of his selling quota. Find out more at qbsresearch.com