The ability to sell is especially important in leadership and business because failure creates the most severe problem an enterprise can face - lack of revenue. Almost every commercial problem is manageable except terminally low revenue, and forced cost-cutting inevitably moves a business into negative momentum. Sales people are therefore essential in driving the health of most organizations by providing the revenue needed to employ those in manufacturing, logistics, services, support, finance and administration.
Success in professional selling is dependent on operating in viable markets and being able to offer uniquely differentiated value. There can be no success without these two mandatory elements. On this foundation the sales person can succeed only if they can build good relationships providing accurate understanding of the customer's requirements and the competitive landscape. The next step is developing strategy for aligning with the political power-base, creating genuine customer value, and dealing with the competition. Finally, the sales person must understand and align to the customer's selection and buying process.
Whether selling products, services or solutions, all professional sales people must be competent in developing and managing relationships. Beyond this however, the sales person's value is defined by the level at which they operate. Relationship sellers usually regard themselves as responsive and service orientated but their behavior often manifests as 'professional visitor', often with 'sir-lunch-a-lot' entertainment expenses. At the low end of this category they are usually trapped in ineffective relationships and function as market messengers reactively responding to existing demand. Tactical sellers operate effectively in competing against the opposition and they are sometimes characterized as hunters or warriors. Transactional sales people, regardless of whether they have a relationship or tactical bias, are rarely strategic in how they operate.
Strategic sales people on the other hand are driven to create value for both customer and seller. They identify significant problems and opportunities, and engineer genuine business value by engaging early at the highest levels within an organization. Strategic sales people leverage strong relationships by aligning to winning agendas and political power. They ask insightful questions and avoid talking too much. Strategic sales people are best characterized as engineers, working with the customer to create a mutually beneficial bias in the requirements. They also ensure they have a balanced pipeline of medium sized short-term deals and large strategic opportunities.
The best sales professionals prioritize activities so as to be effective and avoid the busy fool syndrome by understanding the difference between what is urgent versus the truly important. They are tactically excellent in execution and strategically effective in their positioning and creation of differentiating value. Good strategy is always dependent upon positive relationships for execution. Understanding people and managing their unique needs is therefore essential for selling at the most basic level.
No strategy can succeed without competent execution and selling is a fundamental life skill for positively influencing others. Success demands that you pay attention and be fully engaged so in every meeting; decide to 'be there now, and somewhere else later'. Don't allow your mind to leave a meeting while your body is present. The seller must be fully there and focused exclusively on the buyer's needs and preferred method of communication. Be committed to being there for them and completely focused on their concerns, agendas, problems, and opportunities. Be masterful at building rapport, developing trust and gaining accurate understanding.
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image photo by Flickr: gfpeck
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