IMBIBES: Makes every interaction a learning opportunity for self and people
“Raghav and I go back 30 years” said Sudhir “So I’m absolutely delighted that my friend has been adjudged the best startup Sales Leader for the year. When we left the B School , Raghav with his Marketing MBA and me with one in Finance, we were sure that we would stay in touch. But little did we expect that our professional paths would cross. It is a double delight for me that the VC I represent has funded Raghav’s startup. I admire Raghav’s firm belief that sales should be the first source of funding for all startups. With such a frugal innovative sales head, it is little wonder his company has gone on to break all start up sales records. We share a professional secret that this young audience may find helpful. With your permission, Raghav, can I let it out here?”
“Of course” said Raghav “Please go ahead, tell them”
“It is this guys, our most precious professional lessons that propelled us in our careers, all came more from failures than successes. The number of wrong bets I made or the huge deals Raghav lost made up the school of hard knocks we both attended together after our MBAs. We made one resolution though. That, we will learn from each poor financial decision or botched deal how not to let that happen again. That taught us an avoidance which helped prevent costly mistakes being repeated. But it was because we cultivated learning as a positive life long behaviour. We decided we will make every single experience an opportunity to learn”
“Do you have a story to illustrate the point Sir” asked a young sales professional from the audience
“I will let Raghav do the story telling” said Sudhir, laughing “He is the salesman with a bag of endless stories”
“I will tell you what I haven’t forgotten in decades” said Raghav “This was 20 years ago when I was still a young salesperson. I was heading a manufacturer’s direct sales outlet for a refrigerator brand.
I got a call from a NRI professional on a visit to India who wanted to buy a fridge for this elderly parents. He wanted our brand because it was global. The deal was concluded over phone.
Fridge to be delivered in the afternoon. Cheque to be collected by 6 pm. Our outlet didn’t readily have the pearl grey color they wanted. So I left a word with the warehouse to deliver directly to the Customer’s address.
5.30 pm, I call up the Customer and ask him if I can come over. He says please do and drive to his place. Pleasantries over, I ask him if the cheque is ready. He says sorry and invites me inside their kitchen. I step in and what do I find? A brand new piece from our competitor!
Confused and embarrassed, I ask him what happened? He says your pearl grey fridge never came. Your warehouse folks must be able to tell you why. I’m leaving tomorrow and I wanted the fridge to be installed today. I’m sorry I couldn’t wait. I ordered from your competition and they delivered in 2 hours flat. Still, you’re a great salesperson. You advised me in a nice way and convinced me to upgrade to double door. So please do have some coffee with us”
“I recall how shaken Raghav was” said Sudhir “He had a long call with me that night. And that learning has stayed with not just him but with me as well. Cover your bases, check if your service or product is delivered to the Customer’s satisfaction. In finance, I learnt to check every information and every paper before committing money. Learn, learn from every experience and situation and don’t stop learning. Make that a part of your behaviour. That’s the only way to enduring professional success”
Are you in sales? You are whatever you do
You engage in sales activity , whether you are aware of it or not. As a Harvard Business Review article (May 22, 2017) by Rebecca Knight highlights dramatically “At some point in your career, even if you’re not a salesperson, you’re going to have to sell something – whether it’s your idea, your team, or yourself”. Resilient sales people and companies recognise this and keep their learning behaviour refreshed and running all the time. Mercuri International’s Global Sales Excellence Survey 2017 found that top performing companies have a culture of ‘everyone is in sales’.
5 Essential Learning Behaviours Defining Resilient Salespeople
Life long learners go on to become sales champions stealing a march over early learners who fall off the curve after the initial burst of learning. Sales champions use every sales situations as a learning opportunity. So they emerge a winner even from lost deals because of the learning they draw from such losses. They display learning behaviour around 5 essential aspects of selling:
(1) Appreciate what sales is and isn’t – They have assimilated that selling is not about pushing people to buy something they don’t want, don’t need or can’t afford. Rather it is about persuading, inspiring and leading. They create unforgettable sales experiences by taking genuine interest in helping Customers solve their problems or fulfill their needs It will be almost as if the sale happened on its own
(2) Understand what makes a Customer ‘buy’ – They understand the 2 primary drivers that influence most buying decisions - To solve a business problem or to accelerate the buyer’s progress. They use this learning to customize their proposals and pitch and make them irresistible
(3) Rehearse and practice their pitch – They learn everything that matters most to their Customers and craft a perfect pitch, which they diligently try out. The sales champions continue to see themselves as newcomers learning for and from every single deal they handle
(4) If pitch goes awry, refresh and reboot – Sales champs are as excited about failed efforts to sell as about their successful ones. Sometimes even more excited as failed pitches give them valuable learnings they can use to make their sales craft stronger
(5) Ask for the next step and think of the big picture – Resilient sales wizards know that every sale is not a single leap but a hop, step and jump. Their constantly-on learning behaviour helps them size up the Customer’s thought process and ask for permission to move forward even if with a tiny step. The learning focus on the go helps them gently probe the sources of resistance that holds up or stymies the sales process to address Customer reservations. And if a deal falls through, they muster the courage to learn what went wrong
The bottom line is … learning
The bottom line is this – Learning is a behaviour that defines champion sales people and it informs all their sales activities all through their career.
Mercuri Insight: Creating a learning culture raises the bar on sales effectiveness within the organization and across Customer touch-points, before and after the sale. Making this happen ….includes asking the right questions, being better listeners, understanding needs, designing better solutions, being win-win negotiators. What makes good salespeople, makes good human beings, with the converse also being true. The good news is, all of this can be learnt
Pause to reflect: Life long learners go on to become sales champions stealing a march over early learners who fall off the curve after the initial burst of learning. Sales champions use every sales situations as a learning opportunity. So they emerge a winner even from lost deals because of the learning they draw from such losses.
Action Question: How can you leverage learning behaviour to improve your sales outcomes?
Related Readings: Mercuri In Essence Document on 5 Easy Steps to Master Sales Skills
Takeaway Quote: ““You’re an engineer, you’re an accountant, you’re an MBA, you’re a person involved in the technical stuff. Oh no, you aren’t. If you’re going to be remembered for having gotten things done, you are a salesman in the morning, you are a salesman in the afternoon, you’re a salesman at lunch, you’re a salesman at dinner”.” – Tom Peters
About the series: This is the 91st in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your Sales Resilience ... as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.