The Smartest Person In the Room!

I have worked with countless sales professionals.  Monetary success and recognition are mainstays for the best sales professionals, but even those who are not at the top of their game enjoy some of the special spoils of the position.   The next meeting, survey the room and give it some thought….knowing the benefits of the job, even though it is hard work, who is the “smartest person in the room?”

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If you were to do a little research you would find something fascinating about people and positions within your organization.  You would find that the successful sales executive usually out-earns most positions that are not considered upper management.

Let me explain it in different way.  When I was a sales manager, I expected that my successful professionals should make more than I made, and the best did so handily.  General managers, vice-presidents, even some Sr. Vice Presidents and up are at a disadvantage when it comes to the total compensation package, but there are good reasons for it.

So why do so many people believe that all the brains in an organization are in the engineering departments, finance department, and general management?  Well, because so many people don’t know the rigors of professional selling and the strategies and intelligence and skills needed to be accomplished at the role.

No Logarithms Needed

Think about the sheer brainpower needed to calculate the thrust to get out of earth orbit for a space vehicle with monstrous dimensions.  If you consider the brainpower necessary to design the new generation of space vehicles you would be correct in that it takes a ‘rocket’ scientist.  Now the big question:  Could they sell it?

Have you ever considered that those skills are literally worthless when they are used to try to convince a buyer that he or she should change widget manufacturers and do business with your organization?  You don’t need sophisticated mathematical formulae or extreme logarithms to make that happen, you need the ability to:

  • Create trusting and confident relationships
  • Apply sales techniques to influence buying decisions
  • Anticipate and answer the customer questions
  • Present effectively and with aplomb

Many people have trouble putting a value on these, but a sales manager and General manager know that this individual makes their job easier.  It is obvious that we all have our calling in life, and the role of a sales professional, as I have said before is to “convince someone to do something that they would ordinarily not do.”  Frankly, not everyone can do it.  It is an art, with some technical aspects behind it.

It’s Not For Everybody

Not everyone can play this role as it requires an individual who can:

  • Work with all types of people
  • Analyze and anticipate buyers needs and desires
  • Withstand rejection
  • Counter objections effectively

The best of these individuals are compensated highly for their skills and the uncertainty of the job to the degree that their annual income, which may include salary and bonus or otherwise are enviable.   Sure it is hard work, but so many know it is their ‘ticket out’ and have provided for their family in ways that draws jealousy from people in the other functions or departments.

I have seen sales compensation amounts in sales departments well over the $1M mark, and currently know a sales professional in financial services who 5 years ago, when the getting was good cleared over $1.2M.  Now, that is rarified air, and there are many who make more than those high numbers.  I am talking about b2b sales in these examples, and I am not talking about extreme or exotic products.

Machines Will Never Take Over

The occupation of professional sales is not unique, but it does stand out.  It might be one of those occupations that will not be taken over by computers or outsourcing.  The reason is simple, customer intimacy!  The sales professional does a lot of things, but the most importantly from the standpoint of the customer, they create the confidence that the customer needs to make the switch and stay put.

Even when we are talking about a commodity, the sales professional and the value that they bring can make the competitive difference (See Black Sales Journal 2/24-Selling a Commodity – The Difference is You).

The sale professional recognizes customer lifetime value (from the sales standpoint see Black Sales Journal 2/16 – All Customers Are not Created Equal) and seeks to extend the relationship as long as possible.

When the machines can create and nurture relationships we will be in trouble, but I don’t see that happening soon.

The Smartest Person In the Room

So the smartest guy in the room might not be the engineer, the architect, the computer designer, or the aerospace scientist, it might be the person who operates closest to the person that pays the bills.  We know that as the customer.  We can’t do without them, and they need to be nurtured and fed.

This sales professional role is best done by someone who comes in with the skills that we probably take for granted.  We will call them advanced sales skills.

So the smartest guy in the room may well be the Ultimate Sales Professional (Black Sales Journal – The Ultimate Sales Professional I, II, and III).  Read this and let me know what you think.

We will ‘just ask him not to wear a cape to the sales presentations.  So when the meeting happens, who is the smartest guy in the room?

Your comments are welcome. Reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

The Best Closers Do This!

It is said, “If you don’t ask for the business, you won’t get the business.” Every one of you has heard that comment stated in one way or another, and probably from your sales manager.

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Fact is that in the world of professional sales you probably need some skill in closing technique, yet I am of the belief that skill might be a little overemphasized.   Those who sell features and benefits normally initiated the conversations with their customers with an in-depth conversation about their needs.  If this conversation is conducted correctly, significant progress is made toward your close based on this conversation.  It is important to realize that, if you have a solid relationship (see Black Sales Journal 7/11/2011 Customer Relationships Revisited) your need to manipulate and maneuver someone into a ‘hard’ close is not as important as it is if you are selling with no relationship.  They will give you all of the signals in the world because they trust you and believe that they can be open with you.

The close can be a really simple part of the sales process. Many make it one of the most complicated depending on their view of the activity. Many organizations require their sales professionals to undergo much training about the close and close techniques. Realistically a close should be very natural. Basically a successful close is the natural result of probing, answering, supporting, and problem solving. The natural close is what happens when the objections have disappeared and the comfort levels are high.  That comfort is with you, your product, and your company.

It Begins With You – Know Your Relationship Level

Are you a trusted advisor, counselor, or business friend? If you are, you have developed a relationship along the way that will allow you to logically close without sounding like you are “Willy Loman” (Death of a Salesman). In this type of relationship you have done the ‘heavy lifting’ upfront and secured the opportunity to guide someone through the sales process with the close being much like a ‘soft’ landing. It is obviously the best way, as someone trusts you to help him or her make a good decision.

If you are not there, you may have more work to do with the buyer to develop their degree of trust.  That is not bad either. But attempts to constantly maneuver someone into the corner that you are calling a close could eventually backfire if your relationship is lacking. Asking the little questions to get the prospect used to saying “yes” is an akin to basic manipulation in the eyes of buyer. Let’s not insult the buyer’s intelligence.  Do you think they don’t know this is happening?  If you are adept at it, you might ‘tick’ them off even more. Know that the nature of the relationship governs your ability to move to the ‘soft’ landing that is a successful close.

If you read this journal you recognize my suggestion to ‘master the relationship’.  If you can’t develop a strong relationship before the time is necessary to close, I would definitely suggest being careful about a high-pressure close.  The objective is to be seen by the buyer you as a potential trusted confident and advisor, a professional who can provide value and solutions for their organization.

You never want them to see you as someone targeting them for a ‘hard sell’.  If they do, your calls will cease to be returned, and you will hear less and less from the buyer if they do not give you the ‘all out’ boot.

The Logical Conclusion

Remember to view the close as a logical conclusion to a sales process. This conclusion may, or may not, be successful, but it will disclose the buyers sentiments if done correctly.  If it is done prematurely, it will uncover objections that you may not know about, and at that point you will have an opportunity to continue to probe and solve. There is sound logic to this approach—if you cannot get sound feedback from the buyer, move to close then the objections will be stated and can be addressed.

Once again the relationship is key.  I do recognize that there are many types of products, sales cycles, and situations that do not give you an opportunity to develop the ideal relationship.  In those cases, you might be building the relationship over several sales cycles.  If you are lucky success will be early, but if not, you will naturally modify your close techniques when the relationship is strong.

Master the relationship.

We welcome your comments. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.