You pick the parts that make the perfect selling machine; looks, personality, character , skills and knowledge.
If you went ahead with this exercise you’d identify the skills and knowledge that would be killer for selling – that is once you got past the looks and personality fantasy.
This mad scientist exercise would be like a super, self-help assessment to be remade from the ground up. A zero-based you, as the perfect sales machine.
The Greatest Sales Advantage
I tried this imaginary exercise. And it quickly became clear I’m not as smart as Dr. Frankenstein was. I fell into conventional wisdom and made my sales Frankenstein an extroverted super model – which was stupid because in real life I know many successful but introverted, homely-looking salespeople.
So I have to bow out of picking looks, personality and character for my gem of sales perfection.
I’m going to stick to the knowledge part of creation. After all, it’s the one area all salespeople can get up to Frank’s level without being genetically re-engineered.
All it takes is knowing what you don’t know – and then learning it.
And at your level, the most powerful sales advantage you can have is to understand your customers better than the competition. Even understanding customers more than they know about themselves; about business, organizational work, and human nature.
That’s your true advantage, not what sales brochures brag about.
So here are my four smart things the perfect salesperson would have as their knowledge foundation.
Understand them, and you’ll better understand business, organizations, and people. As a result, you’ll be better suited to create high value solutions that customers buy.
(Note: I think in terms of b2b selling so it’s likely I’m missing some obvious consumer/retail sales stuff.)
What would you add to this list?
The Knowledge List – the starting 4
BANT is a quick memory aid to remind you what you need to know before going down a long, involved waste-of-time sales dance. Get answers to these early, or move on to a more attractive opportunity:
Do they have the BUDGET to buy what you’re selling?
Do they have the AUTHORITY to pull the trigger and buy it?
Do you know the NEED driving them to buy?
Do they have a TIME when it needs to be bought?
When a prospective customer talks to you about buying your offer, run this through your head – and get answers – before you get too excited.
Technology Adoption Life Cycle
Yeah, it’s a mouthful but also a fantastic macro-level view that not all customers are the same. They jump into the buying pool at different times.
Some customers cant’ wait (innovators) and are likely to buy your vaporware without a lot of proof, while at the opposite end are those who likely will never buy your offering (laggards) – and then there are all the others in between (early adopters, early majority and late majority).
Understand your audience of customers as they fall into these groups and it’ll make your sales life easier and more successful. This is a great book about the life cycle in sales, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers (affiliate link).
Use this in your strategic assessment of how to position your offer to customers.
Understand how accepting, or resistant your customer is to change – and plan accordingly.
NOTE: your sales’ offer doesn’t have to be about technology, but it will be something new to that customer. If they buy your offer, it will change what they have. And that’s change.
So consider it the same idea. Technology Adoption Life Cycle = How accepting, or resistant your customer is to change .
Selling b2b, you’ve got to know where your customers fit within their firm’s value chain.
The value chain is a graphic relationship of an organization’s functions. And with that knowledge, you can identify and follow a sales path appropriate to your customer’s situation, needs and wants – within their firm.
This is the academic textbook, not light reading, but it is the source: Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance (affiliate link).
For example, how important is corporate security to a customers’ software development, or meat packing, or energy business?
If you’re selling to corporate security you need to sell to them as the support function they are – because they don’t add revenue, increase market share or raise profitability. Corporate security enables other departments to do that. Know this and you can chart a more successful sales course.
Use this as a starting point from which to articulate your customer’s challenges and objectives.
For infrastructure, support functions there will always be the need to perform their jobs effectively (do the right thing well) and cost-effectively. Because these functions don’t generate revenue or brand reputation – they’re only cost centers.
Take this knowledge and build your sales narrative about how you’ll help your customer do their job better and achieve their departmental objectives.
ServQual – Conceptual Model of Service Quality
OK, so this an oldie but goodie, and yes, there are more recent iterations of this. But this is an easily understood graphic showing how customers assess service quality. Quickly grasped for a life time of using it to sell. Read this to learn more than you probably ever wanted to know about service quality, but it’s a great deep dive: Delivering Quality Service (affiliate link)
But why is service quality important if you’re selling a product?
Because every product has some form of service attached to it. It may be at the checkout counter, or installation, or during recalls, but people or technology are involved at some level to facilitate service.
Whether you’re selling service or products, understanding how customers assess service quality is the yellow brick road to Oz. Follow it.
My greatest understanding from this model (and book) is that customers judge the level of quality by the distance between their expectations and their perceptions (the closer the distance, it’s high quality: the bigger the gap, it’s stinking service)
The big takeaway then is “It’s all in their heads.” No matter how well I believe I’ve served them, if the gap between their expectations and perceptions is large – then my service failed them. End of story.
Wow, there is so much to use from this book that will help you help your customers buy, it’s hard to know where to start.
First, when creating your sales position, seek to make as much of your service visible to customers. If they can’t see it, or know it was done, then you’re in trouble right off the bat.
Anything you can design into your sales presentation about making service performance visible is a good thing. So do it.
Also, seek to point out the reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and tangibles of your service. Why these? They’re “The 5 Service Dimensions All Customers Care About”, which is a post I wrote that was drawn from the book Delivering Quality Service (affiliate link).
Being a successful salesperson today is a monster of a job. Give your Frankenstein a beneficial foundation of knowledge. You’ll both be glad you did.