Contemplate the Battle

IF THERE’S ONE THING most salesmen have, it’s a plausible excuse for not getting the business. “We lost out because of their internal politics”; “They stuck with the current supplier for price reasons”. Chances are the people giving those reasons have great selling skills. So why do they achieve only limited success and never bag the really big clients? Perhaps they lack the tactical thinking and persistence needed to go for the major prize and are under the impression that if you don’t get a quick result you’re wasting your time. For large-scale success, however, it’s important to recognise that selling skills alone are not enough. You also need focus. Effort and energy must be fixed on the right people, at the right time, in the right manner. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written linking military strategies to success in the world of business. Lanchester, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz – all can now be found in the business library – and the list goes on. There’s even one called Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun (although I don’t recommend it). The overuse of military analogies is a definite risk when talking about business, but a successful sales strategy is based on three battlefield concepts: concentration of firepower; attacking the competitor/enemy at their weakest point; and timely, comprehensive and accurate intelligence. Concentration of firepower In the early 20th century, Frederick Lanchester developed a principle of warfare which said that fighting strength equalled the efficiency of weapons times the square number of troops. In layman’s terms it meant that, with the right firepower, a smaller force could wipe out...

Making of a Salesman

THE PHILOSOPHER Aristotle in the Art of Rhetoric captured the essence of what makes people great at selling when he highlighted the Greek concepts of logos, pathos and ethos. With logos, we produce rational and logical arguments. Pathos is used to address emotions. But for success, we have to be believable and trustworthy – and that is where ethos comes in. The point was first made more than 2,000 years ago and has been repeated time and again – we buy things from people we trust. Does this apply to every purchasing decision? Not necessarily. For transactional purchases, we may put more emphasis on convenience or price. However, in most situations, clients are not looking for a transaction. They want a solution and a relationship built on trust. Selling professional services is a process that takes time, and deals cannot be closed in one or two meetings. Use this time to your advantage and build a perception of credibility, competence and compatibility – the foundations of trust. For some people this comes naturally, but for the others here are a few tips that should help. For credibility: Show confidence. If you appear in control, you will be more believable. Developing self-confidence is not easy. It is built on past success and a strong belief in who you are and what you’re doing. Create a strong initial impact. We’ve all heard it said that first impressions are lasting. On a subconscious level, all of us are very sensitive during the first 15 seconds of a meeting. We judge others based on their dress, voice, gestures, body movements and choice of...

Death of a Salesman

LET’S FACE IT. No one studies law, accounting, marketing, engineering or another field because of a burning desire to become a salesperson. We choose these fields because we want to be lawyers, accountants, marketers, engineers and so on. Unfortunately, business has changed. As professionals we are expected to be experts in our field. We’re also expected – and in some cases required – to sell. If we want to move up the corporate ladder, there’s a point where we must take on a client-facing role and along with that comes business development responsibility. So, whether you like it or not, it’s all about selling – yourself, your company, your product and your service. What is selling? If you look it up in a dictionary you may see something like “to persuade others to accept”. Not a surprise. And, what words do you associate with “salesman”? High pressure, fast talker, flashy, lying … the list goes on. Think about your past experiences buying from a typical salesman. If you have moved into a new flat lately, more than likely the salesperson only had self-interest at heart and used every trick imaginable to help get that commission. It’s the “foot in the door” and the “I’ll keep calling until you sign” approach. When salespeople go for the hard sell, they come across as pushing their agenda. What do we do when someone pushes us? We resist or push back. If you’ve ever taken a sales training course, this is called “dealing with objections”. There are thousands of books out there that will teach you how to “overcome objections” before going for...