Monday, 28 September 2009

Creating Emotionally 'Smart' Sales Teams

When rookies first come to selling they are told that (now repeat after me class…) the key points of selling are Features Advantages Benefits. After spending a number of years in selling you finally realise its all baloney. There is only one thing that counts in selling – the ability to create trust between you and the client.

There is no substitute for a relationship with a client where you are seen as a trusted advisor. That is why cold calling is of limited use today and why I tend to focus on networking or personal introductions (LinkedIn anyone?).

With the prevalence of answering machines, auto responders, the desire to avoid being ‘sold to’, PA’s – and the seeming lack of any professional ability to return phone calls in the corporate world – cold calling is, if not dead, then on its last legs.

To get in you have to realise the value of the personal relationship and that can only come about when you meet them through seeing the whites of their eyes - personal engagement at suitably targeted networking events.

This is where your potential client gets to meet you for the first time – in a neutral environment – where you can begin the process of establishing interest and need – and more importantly rapport (and without jumping in to sell to them at the first available opportunity!).

Rapport is critical because we are seeking to create an emotional bond with the prospect – because emotions are at the heart of decision-making. Manage their emotions and you go a long way towards managing their decisions.

It’s because of this that I also believe that the idea of USPs (unique selling proposition) is sooo last century. Today selling should be about what I call PCRs.

For year's in selling we've talked about USPs or Unique Selling Points by which we could differentiate our offerings and make ourselves stand out to prospective customers from the 'white noise' of competition.

However I would submit that in the current market that it's not USPs but PCRs that we need and by that I mean 'Points of Compelling Relevance'.

A Point of Compelling Relevance is one that makes the prospect want to give us their left/right hand for whatever it is that we are offering them. It makes them want to sign up NOW and commit whatever they have for whatever it is that we are offering.

USPs tend to appeal to the intellect or the reasoning ability of a prospect - it speaks to the surface of the sale - the logical benefits available by considering the offering.

However a PCR speaks directly to the emotions or the feelings of the client where the benefit of the message is so relevant, so emotionally compelling - that they buy now - the rationale is over-ridden in place of the emotion. That emotion can be trust, greed, envy, profit, ambition, status but it is a compelling emotional trigger.

Of course, to create Points of Compelling Relevance requires more thought and testing and tend to be unique to a particular prospect or prospect group but the effect is immediate and unconditional. They buy. Now.

To take on board the idea of PCRs (and create emotionally ‘smart’ sales managers and teams) we need to review how we train our sales managers and sales teams.

Yes we need to look at sales process – this has been the emphasis of sales training over the last decade or so. But now we need to look at selling relationships. The process might be the ship but relationship selling skills are the engine that drives it.

However there is something else that we need to take into consideration as well. Building emotionally ‘smart’ sales teams isn’t just about giving them the understanding of why emotions are important – we need to show how they are important.

The only way we can do this is to have the sales leaders be role models and examples of how emotional selling also works in the form of emotional leadership. Sales leaders need to review how they engage with their teams. I regularly see in organisations a split between the team and the leaders because they don’t trust each other.

We are seeking to lead in a time of fear or anxiety. People have been let go, the market news is poor, and no-one knows whose next, focus and motivation are low – this can cause tensions and breakdowns between leaders and sales professionals.
I’ve always believed that the most compelling of leaders are skilled sales people. They understand that everything needs to be sold and sold at an emotional level. I’m not sure today’s sales leaders understand that or that the pure meaning of selling is ‘to be of service’.

All selling must be a continuum – from the sales director to the sales managers to the sales team leaders to the guys on the ‘front line’ – the message and the way it is conveyed must be aligned and ‘congruent’. One message, one expectation, one belief.

In the few organisations where this is the case there is huge loyalty, commitment, motivation and productivity.

As leaders we must ‘sell’ the message internally – long before the team can sell it externally. To build emotionally smart sales teams first requires emotionally smart sales leaders who can successfully demonstrate the power of connecting, involving and engaging with their people.

The question is – does your organisation embrace the need to sell internally, to understand and demonstrate the power of emotion in selling and leadership and if not – what impact is that having on your bottom line?

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