Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Consultative Selling - Lesson from a King's Trusted Advisor

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Jan 02, 2013 @ 16:01 PM

Geoffrey Rush playing Lionel Logue resized 600

Take a quick look at your sales organization and count the number who are consistently selling consultatively.  If it's less than 100%, then count the salespeople who at least know what the term means.  Of that group, who could tell you with clarity and passion, how it differs from other forms of selling?  For bonus points, who could tell you why consultative selling is a more desirable approach in 2013?  If your company didn’t score high on this test, it might be time to question why some of your sales people consistently miss your targets.

Most believe they're selling the best possible way.  “I’m asking lots of questions,” they might say, adding “I have the solution to their problem, have great relationships and they trust me.”  All that sounds right until you consider that almost any seasoned salesperson can say all of that.

What makes one salesperson so much more effective than another?  It’s not about asking questions; it’s about asking the right questions.  It’s about drilling down to uncover issues which weren’t on the table beforehand.  It’s not about having a solution to their problem; it’s about defining the problem in a new way which plays to your strengths.  It’s not about having great relationships; it’s about standing apart from the competition so much so that you command your customer’s attention.  This is what Dave Kurlan calls “Speed On the Bases” or SOB Quality.  You want to be like the great base-stealer who forces the pitcher to pay more attention to you than the batter.  If consultative selling is the lock, then SOB Quality is its key.

There was a movie not long ago which demonstrated SOB Quality (among many other sales lessons) called The King’s Speech.  In it, Lionel Logue, a commoner from Australia, was the service provider.  The prince, the future King George VI, known as Bertie to his family, was the potential client.  The prince had a speech impediment which others hadn’t been able to correct.  Logue came recommended, but couldn’t prove that he could solve his problem anymore than the knighted doctors who'd previously tried.  Here’s an excerpt from their first encounter, before any agreement is made to contract his services:

Logue:  “Please call me Lionel.”
Bertie:  “I prefer Doctor.”
Logue:  “I prefer Lionel. What’ll I call you?”
Bertie:  “Your Royal Highness. Then Sir after that.”
Logue:  “A bit formal for here. What about your name?”
Bertie:  “Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George”
Logue:  “How about Bertie?”
Bertie:  “Only my family uses that.”
Logue:  “Perfect. In here, it’s better if we’re equals.”
Bertie:  “If we were equal, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be home with my wife and no one would give a damn.” Bertie lights a cigarette.  
Logue:  “Don’t do that.”
Bertie:  With astonished look, “I’m sorry?”
Logue:  “Sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.”
Bertie:  “My physicians say it relaxes the throat.”
Logue:  “They’re idiots.”
Bertie:  “They’ve all been knighted.”
Logue:  “Makes it official then. My ‘castle,’ my rules. What was your earliest memory?”
Bertie:  “What on earth do you mean.” Now visibly irritated.
Logue:  “First recollection.”
Bertie:  “I’m not here to discuss personal matters.”
Logue:  “Why are you here, then?”

What Lionel Logue goes on to uncover is that the Prince’s stammering problem, regardless of its original cause, might have been compounded by personal issues such as the unkind treatment he had received by members of his family.  Logue’s probing inquiry eventually uncovers that his self-image is more important than the stammering.  In fact, the breakthrough comes when Logue sits in the king’s cathedral throne before the coronation, angering and challenging the king, until he finally yells at Logue, “I have a voice!”  Logue calmly replies, “Yes, you do.” and gets up out of his throne.  The King never questions his credentials again.  Logue has become a trusted advisor.

That’s how a commoner with no credentials, title, formal training nor guarantee of success took the business away from his high-powered competitors who possessed the inside track.  That’s SOB Quality and it’s at the heart of consultative selling.

Do your salespeople push back and uncover the underlying problems?  Do they challenge the decision-maker and ask questions which could cause discomfort or even irritation?  Do they look past the original inquiry, listen intently and ask follow-up questions until something interesting emerges?  Are they always looking to disqualify (“Why are you here, then?”) and letting the prospect sell themselves?  If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, could they be trained? What would a sales force evaluation reveal about your company's potential for change and opportunity for massive growth?  Do you have the right people to help you realize your organization's full potential as you envision it?

January is a terrific time to reflect on questions like these.  Rather than wondering whether you can hit your 2013 goals, perhaps you should be looking further and asking which sales force changes you must make in order to achieve sustained, double-digit, year-over-year growth.

Topics: sales competencies, sales force assessment, sales blog, sales culture, sales assessment, Dennis Connelly, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Trusted Advisor

CEO's Want to Grow With the Right Sales People

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Fri, Dec 07, 2012 @ 15:12 PM

South Beach sunshine, sales blog, dennis connellyThe TechServe Alliance 2012 Annual Conference in Miami last month provided a great chance to meet up, share ideas, and forge new partnerships with many tech staffing people.  I can now share some insights which I think will resonate with many of you.  The theme that emerged for me was “growth”.  Firms are hiring.  They’re looking ahead with a positive outlook and their growth goals are audacious enough to make Jim Collins smile.

I must say a quick word to the “Water Coolers”, a music and comedy group, who managed to plant a few jingles in my brain – thanks guys.  We weren’t even in Kansas, yet somehow Nowhere Close to My Quota brought a nervous laugh to the room, as if we were all going back to address exactly that with our staffs.  As a sales growth expert working with Dave Kurlan, I was happy that his keynote address focused on tools which don’t require chasing rainbows.

Aside from the upbeat new growth push by many of our members, it’s not all South Beach sunshine out there.  Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo, an overseas IT-staffing association, pointed out that a survey of over 1,500 CEOs across 33 industries found that the biggest concerns are volatility, uncertainty and complexity.  “We are all operating in a massively interconnected system.”, she said.  In the IT-staffing world, this is both a problem and an opportunity, as I suspect it is in others as well.  Many members are taking advantage of this with new tools that exploit this complex, interconnected web of information.  We saw new products from exhibiting firms which demonstrated that you can make it work to your advantage as well.

In my conversations, I found that staffing company CEOs voiced many common concerns.  There are some helpful archived articles which address many of their questions.  Here are some of the comments which I heard:

  • “I’m not sure we have the right sales people.”
  • “Why is it so hard to find great sales people?”
  • “We’ve got people that have been with us a long time, but I’m not sure they can make the transition to the way we want to grow?”
  • “How can we get immediate impact and drive more revenue?”

Here’s a link to Dave Kurlan speaking about evaluating your sales force.   

Another question I heard from many companies was:

  • “We haven’t had a great track record hiring the right candidates.  What’s a better way?”

Here’s a link to several articles on selection and another to a white paper which Dave Kurlan wrote on selection.  And here’s a helpful article about what it takes to hire great people, from my colleague, Frank Belzer. 

Many people thought that Dave’s talk on assessments was extremely helpful.  Over the years, he’s written articles which identify a particular finding from a real assessment.  Here’s an article which describes a candidate who wasn’t recommended and the result was an email from the candidate which displayed exactly what the evaluation predicted! 

I look forward to seeing you again at the next event.

Topics: sales competencies, sales force assessment, sales blog, sales culture, Dennis Connelly, grow sales

Rejection-Proof Selling and the Presidential Debates

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 @ 13:11 PM

Blog RejectionProofIf your sales career started more than a week ago, then it’s likely you've already experienced a prospect's rejection.  And so has each member of your sales team.  It might have been an unreturned call, a “no”, a hang up, or any other put-off.  How deeply do you feel it?  What impact does it have on your immediate effectiveness?  How long does it take to recover?  When are you back at your best with an easy, natural confidence?  It's in these moments when you're most creative, insightful, powerful and effective, isn’t it?  When you're in this confident state, you're not inside your head, but very much in the present, both thoughtful and cheerful.  Wouldn’t it be great to have access to that feeling, anytime and all the time?

There's a rejection lesson to be learned from this year's presidential debates.  Imagine for a moment that, instead of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the debates, they were you and Mitt Romney.  And in the first debate, it was you who delivered Obama's performance (not the one which you know that you can do, but his).  You know your stuff, of course.  You’ve had years to prepare.  You’re interviewing in front of 60 million people for a job which you already have and half of the interviewers already like you and have made up their minds to rehire you.  You're simply off your game.  That’s all.  It apparently happens even to presidents.

The next morning, how would you have felt?  You can’t just call your brother, sister nor mother to tell them it didn’t go well.  They saw it.  Everyone saw it.  They watched your facial expressions even while the other guy was talking.  There was no escape.  And the other guy kicked butt.  He was sharp.  He was on top of his game hitting doubles and triples all night.  Who’d want to sell against Mitt Romney?  Like him or not, he’s pretty smooth.

What’s the result of that underwhelming performance?  He’s now the leading candidate for the sale.  And the professional pundits (or rather, influencers and judges from the sidelines) deride you to millions of people on TV talk shows.  You’re washed up.  You’re played out.  You suck!  Period.

Have any of your sales rejection experiences been bigger and tougher than that?  Could you brush off that experience and return to that same audience again, as if it never happened?  How did Obama do it?  His own answer was that he’s not a big up and down person.  He calmly thought about what went wrong and set out to do better the next time.  He did it by not getting emotionally involved.  He didn’t freak out.  His rejection recovery was world-class.

Which of your sales rejections was that intense?  Let’s look at the alternative.  What would have happened if he woke up the next day and said to himself, “This guy’s good. He’s got my number. I’m not as good as I thought I was. I’m not as good as they thought I was.”  If Obama’s performance in the following debate was as underwhelming as the first, we’d be in a lame duck period right now.

Obama simply moved past the rejection from the first debate, survived, thrived and proceeded to win the sale.

For salespeople, the severity of the rejection hurt is a factor.  The speed of their recovery is critical.  Negative self-talk will sabotage the desired outcome.  Yet, we saw what happens when people don’t get caught up in the bad stuff nor get in their own way.

Is rejection a problem for you or anyone on your team?  How do you get over it?  How much selling time does it cost?  Is it a possibility to immediately pick up the phone and make another call?  Rejection is just one sales weakness among dozens which prevent salespeople from consistently achieving success.  That inconsistency costs most companies millions of dollars in lost opportunities.  A sales force evaluation can bring these issues to light.

Topics: sales competencies, sales force assessment, sales blog, sales rejection, sales personality, evaluation of sales management, selling weakness, better sales techniques, better selling skills, changing behavior

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