Quick, what do you consider to be the number one job of sales people? Quick, answer it in your head.
Are you thinking about it?
I will give you a hint. It’s NOT selling stuff or driving revenue or some results oriented thing.
What do you think? What have you come up with?
Did you say:
- Building relationships
- Knowing how to close
- Negotiating well
- Knowing the product
- Setting goals
- Over coming objections
- Being strategic
- Giving killer pitches and demos
- or did you say something else?
All of these are relevant to some degree or another, but they are not the most important element of a sales person’s job.
The most important aspect of a sales person’s job is to influence or put differently, to get the prospect to let you help them.
Influence: a person or thing with the capacity or power to affect someone or something.
The core of a salesperson’s job is to influence a sale and the people engaged in the sale. Without influence, a sales person is not selling.
Selling is about change, and it’s salespeople’s job to influence that change. Salespeople who can’t influence change are simply order-takers.
Not enough sales leaders and sales people understand this, and it’s affecting their ability to drive revenue.
Not enough sales people understand this critical distinction between selling (influencing the sale) and order taking.
The best salespeople do, and they possess the ability to wield deep influence with their prospects and customers. They move deals right to left, up and down, north and south, east and west based on what’s happening in the account, and the goals the buyer is looking to attain. They influence the people, issues, objections, and challenges their buyer’s face through out the sales process. Great sales people aren’t victimized by them, they are reacting to them in a fashion that increases their probability of winning the sale.
Great sales people understand their worth as a sales person is derived from how well they can influence the sales process and their buyers.
Unfortunately, most sales people are victims of the sale, wielding little influence and simply reacting to the demands and requests of the buyer, ultimately hoping they win the deal.
Get the Buyer to Let You Help Them
Influence is given. It can not be taken without permission. You can not influence someone who has not consciously given you permission. Until a buyer lets a salesperson help them, nothing is going to happen. It doesn’t matter if the buyer allows the salesperson to do a demo or meet other people in the organization. It doesn’t matter if the buyer says they like the product or takes the sales reps call, if they buyer will not let the sale person help them solve a real problem or set of problems, the rep is not selling. They’re just taking orders.
However, once a buyer agrees they need help and are willing to let the sales person help them, they have given permission, and the sale has begun.
Too few sales people understand this vital difference in their job, and because of it, they are unable to position themselves as influencers. They pitch and push, taking orders and barking out the value of their product to all that will listen and who are willing to go on the ride. But they aren’t selling. When a deal goes south, they are powerless to stop it. When a new buyer enters the situation, they are neutralized, assuming they even see it coming. If a blocker starts making progress, they have no way to combat the threat.
Sales people who are unable to influence the sale or don’t realize it’s their job to influence the sale are victims of the sale, not drivers of it.
The value of your sales team can be easily measured by the amount of influence they are able to wield with their prospects and customers.
Evaluating for Influence
To many, it’s difficult to test for influence. How do you know if your reps are influencing the sale or reacting to it? How do you know if your reps are executing to an effective deal strategy designed to ensure they win the deal?
Deal reviews, that’s how.
The key to a solid deal review is to dig deep into HOW the rep is managing a deal (an opportunity.) You want to understand how they are influencing the opportunity, what elements the salesperson understands, what they are targeting and why.
Here are some questions to ask in deal reviews to ascertain if your sales people are influencing the deal or if they are just going along for the ride:
- Why do they (the prospect) need to buy (or why do they need a new solution), what’s their motivation to change?
- What happens if they don’t do anything?
- How are they doing it today?
- What is it about how they are doing things today that is causing problems?
- How is the problem affecting their business (competition, cash flow, product development, sales, marketing, productivity, etc.)?
- Why did they choose the approach?
- What’s the next customer “yes?”
- What other solutions are they considering?
- Which key stakeholders are helping vs. combating the solution and why?
- What are the prospects decision criteria
- What’s the reps deal strategy and how does it take into consideration the answers to the above?
- And more
A rep who can answer all these questions and more is likely influencing the deal, not being victimized by it. Data and knowledge are at the core to influence and therefore the more data a rep has, the higher the probability they are influencers.
Sales people can not be influencers without a massive amount of opportunity awareness and data. They have to have deep, relevant, business knowledge of their prospects and their prospect’s business challenges.
Sales people’s job is to influence the sale. It’s not to be an order taker. It’s not to react to whatever the prospect says or demands. That’s order taking.
It’s time we start taking more stock of the influence we have in the sale. Salespeople are not paid to be order takers. We’re paid to influence the sale, to provide information, insight, support, guidance, and advice that increases the opportunity the buyer chooses our solution over the competition or the status quo.
Let’s put an end to order taking and earn our keep by being powerful, knowledge driven influencers. It’s what we’re paid for.