The Sales Mindsets
The four defining values that make salespeople exceptional in the eyes of the customer.
Introduction : The background
The Negative Mindsets
Having been 'oversold to and under-delivered to', customers are very wary of sales techniques. They can sense when a salesperson is listening inauthentically to their needs. Any sales qualification approach that manipulates the answer to a given result tells a customer where the salesperson's priorities are.
Many procurement experts are trained in the techniques that salespeople use, so they often spot and predict how salespeople will behave. Most salespeople are taught techniques of asking questions in order to obtain information that can enable them to qualify the opportunity, control the conversation, handle the objection, and close the sale. What many don't realise is that the nature of the questions they ask of customers gives the customers more information about the salesperson than the salesperson gains about the customer.
What the salesperson thinks is a good question is seen by the customers as a templated technique. It's often so leading in nature that it's clear it's asked for the benefit of the salesperson rather than the benefit of the customer.
This is driven both by the self-centred nature of the salesperson and by the influence exerted on them by the organisation for which they work. The self-centred salesperson filters data that they want to hear. The self-centred salesperson will shortcut the sales process to try to get a sale; they do not spend sufficient time finding relevant solutions for customers.
Often salespeople are not helped by the organisations for which they work — much sales training conducted by clients is better described as product sales training and puts scant focus on authentically solving customer problems. Even marketing doesn't help - what has been called solution selling is better described as product bundling.
As customers judge salespeople by their actions, they will also judge salespeople by their inaction. Arguably inaction is a stronger driver of dissatisfaction. Inaction promotes doubt, uncertainty and, in the extreme, outrage!
Complacency is observed when there is a perceived lack of investment (of time) in a customer. For example: if it's a key account where senior executive sponsors only get involved when a deal is due to be closed, where the only creative solutions to problems are those prompted by the customer, or when there is a dearth of new thinking and assumptions that the status quo should
This is a particular problem for larger organisations with dominant brands. Or where a particular product is in such great demand that the salesperson is better described as an order taker and spends too little time understanding the precise requirements of the customer and too little time understanding how they can be a better resource.
Films such as Wall Street (1987) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) have as their principal characters the super-confident, fast-talking salesperson, the one with the 'gift of the gab' — characteristics often considered key for a 'natural salesperson' by all but professional buyers. Too much confidence, assumed knowledge, quick responses are a big 'no'.
There is such a fine line between being confident and being arrogant. In some cases, suppliers see the organisations for which salespeople work as arrogant and 'tar' salespeople 'with the same brush'.
Scientific research carried out by Joseph A Vandello, Nadav P Goldschmied and David A R Richards of the University of South Florida in 2007 interestingly shows people consistently favour the underdog to win and conclude that those viewed as disadvantaged arouse people's sense of fairness and justice.
This puts those in a market-leading position at a disadvantage. Salespeople may assume that because they are the market leaders, the customer will welcome them with open arms; the reality may be different.
It captures many of the words that customers referred to, such as being transparent and acting with integrity, being honest and ethical. It also means of 'undisputed origin' and from that, being original.
Originality of thought and ideas helps salespeople stand out. The combination of being 'original' with transparency, being unpretentious and sincere creates a climate of trust, which is important in the origin of new ideas.
With this mindset, salespeople will be themselves and avoid what is sometimes perceived as a scripted sales approach - as in method acting. Buyers will observe unauthentic behaviour very quickly when a seller is using a sales method and will immediately see the salesperson as having a negative manipulation mindset.
Remember, buyers themselves will be trained on the current sales techniques of the day and can spot this behaviour a mile away.
It's not just about the customer - it's their entire ecosystem, including partners, suppliers, customers and competitors. Client centricity requires curiosity, interest, and passion for doing the right thing for the client, going the extra mile to find out more, going the extra mile to leverage more value for the customer, and demonstrating non-autobiographical listening skills.
It's consistently searching for new knowledge of the customer's business and looking for new ways to add value to their business.
Proactive creativity requires a more strategic thinker, being one step ahead, coming up with ideas that the customer has not thought about before, and believing that through collaboration new ideas can be formed - using subject-matter experts where they see they lack key knowledge from both inside and outside their organization.
These could be big ideas or little ideas or even crazy ideas — as long as these ideas are grounded in the first two values described above. Lead with the relationship - once trust is built, it's easy and more believable (from the customer perspective) and the salesperson will not be seen as complacent.
This is the art of knowing how far to go without going too far. It's very difficult to do if parties are not known to each other - an unsolicited approach from a salesperson may well trigger a great idea, but the customer may then go and talk about it with their preferred incumbent. After all, they already have a relationship with them.
The word 'tact' is important, as we know many customers see salespeople, particularly those who represent major brands, as assuming a cloak of arrogance. No one wants to be controlled. So 'tact' is key - emotional intelligence, coupled with the courage, ie audacity, to be bold and courageous in presenting news ideas or in the negotiating process in the right way will lead to salespeople being in the 10 per cent.
No one likes to be challenged innappropriately.