• Have you realised you’re in Sales ?

    Take a moment and think back over the last few days. Did you find yourself putting a business related case across to your colleagues? In a negotiation with an investor or supplier? Or possibly convincing your kids to eat their meals?

    The chances are that you have been involved in some or all of these situations, so if I was to suggest that this means you’re effectively a salesperson you would probably reject the idea.

    Hold on though, could it be that you do so because your ideas about what it means to be a salesperson are constructed from assumptions and perceptions that really no longer exist? Certainly, I meet a number of people in business who say something like “Of course, I don’t really need to sell.” Perhaps their idea is that to qualify as a salesperson you need to be a slick talking, deal making individual who leaves behind a win/lose experience.

    Daniel Pink in his 2013 book ‘To Sell is Human’ puts forward the idea that in the modern world, with its abundance of information and choice, we are all in sales. However most people are stuck with outdated view of what that means.

    Being successful in sales in today’s world is built around establishing greater levels of trust and mutually beneficial ‘business partner’ relationships, requiring skills in emotional intelligence, insightful questioning, attitude development and behavioural discipline to name but a few.

    Think again, could your ideas on selling be a bit out dated? If you haven’t read Pink’s book I’d recommend you put it on your list, if you have, let us know what you thought.
    Gary McKinney runs Sandler Training in Yorkshire, based in Leeds, helping business owners regain control of sales and achieve significantly improved sales results.

    Gary McKinney

    Gary McKinney

    Gary McKinney runs Sandler Training in Yorkshire, based in Leeds, helping business owners regain control of sales and achieve significantly improved sales results.

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  • Checklists in sales? Shoot from the hip. Right?

    Let’s start with the premise you’re fantastic. In fact you are a highly trained, experienced sales professional, you regularly achieve your sales target and you routinely exhibit good judgment and make sound commercial decisions. Let me ask you a question.

    Should you use a checklist as part of your daily sales activity?

    If you answered in the negative or even laughed at the very idea, yours would not be a lone voice.

    I’m constantly amazed at how rare the use of checklists is amongst the sales profession but I’m equally amazed at the scale of improvement in the performance of my clients when they implement a consistent, disciplined use of checklists.

    Firstly let’s look at why others use checklists.

    In the world of aviation the use of a checklist is mandatory. The reason is an extremely well proven link between pilot performance and the use of checklists

    I show two videos in my class on this topic. The first is of a twenty year airline captain with 11,000 hours in command of a particular type of aircraft. He’s about to launch on his third flight of the day. Despite all of this experience and acquired skill, he reaches for his checklist and begins to run down the items with his co pilot one at a time. The flight departs and lands with the routine safety we have come to expect of this industry. The second video is of an aircraft that crashed on take-off killing the two highly trained display pilots on board. The crash was caused by the pilots failing to remove a Control Lock, a large clamp that is attached to the rudder of the aircraft overnight to prevent wind damage. The checklist for the aircraft states, in the External Check section “Control Locks ……. REMOVE” and in the Pre Engine Start section states “Controls ……CHECK FREE” The crash was attributed to the pilots failure to practice effective checklist discipline.

    The aviation companies and authorities have long recognised that there is a very powerful link between human performance and the use of checklists. But does that link extend beyond aviation? Atul Gawande is a surgeon who teaches at the Harvard Medical school. In his book,The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, he explores the value of checklists in the medical profession.  Time and again, he found that checklists were an effective antidote to uncertainty and complexity. “We brought a two-minute checklist into operating rooms in eight hospitals,” Gawande says. “I worked with a team of folks that included Boeing to show us how they do it, and we just made sure that the checklist had some basic things: Make sure that blood is available, antibiotics are there.” How did it work? “We get better results,” he says. “Massively better results. We caught basic mistakes and some of that stupid stuff. But the study also returned some surprising results: We found that good teamwork required certain things that we missed very frequently.”

    Now of course it’s true that both surgery and flying are situation in which mistakes put human lives at risk and that is rarely the case in professional sales. But if one looks at the use of checklists in terms of professional performance of difficult and complex tasks then their value is transferable to the world of selling. We too operate in a dynamic complex and often uncertain environment. However we too also operate in accordance with an underlying sales process. We too are human beings capable of omitting some important part of that process, no matter how experienced, qualified or trained we are.

    If you have ever had a difficult debrief of a sales meeting because the salesperson omitted to get a vital piece of information or an uncomfortable review of a prospect account at a sales meeting because the salesteam failed to stick to the Sales Process and invested resources and energy into a poorly qualified prospect, could it be time to consider implementing a checklist discipline into your sales operations? Is there a checklist you could develop this week that might help strengthen your work flow?

    However don’t expect instant buy in from everyone. Despite overwhelming evidence that checklist usage improves results even amongst elite performers, many salespeople will still resist. In the surgery trial mentioned above, even though checklists clearly raised the surgeons’ performance level and thus saved a number of lives a surprising 20% resisted the implementation of checklists beyond the trial.

    Why does Gawande think medical professionals have such a hard time admitting that having a reminder of the tasks that need completing might be a good idea “Partly I think we have a hard time admitting weakness,” he says. “And one of the things we have to grapple with is that we have to assume we are fallible, even as experts. Some surgeons saw their work as an art incapable of being reduced to a dry checklist. Sound like anyone you know in sales?

    The increase in your or your teams’ performance caused by replacing an element of uncertainty with predictability is unlikely to save a life but could it be worth doing anyway? Could a 2 minute drill give you “massively better results”.

    Steve Myers

    Steve Myers

    Steve heads up Sandler’s Manchester office. He is multi award winning coach, facilitator and mentor, currently working with owners and senior leaders of established and emerging companies in the manufacturing, technology and professional services sectors throughout the North West. A typical client will engage Steve because they face unresolved challenges in consistently and predictably matching their sales revenues to their growth expectations and because of Sander’s unmatched track record of success in implementing and permanently embedding transformative sales structures, processes and skill sets. Prior to Sandler, Steve enjoyed 25 years of successful sales and sales management on the international state. His experience spans small and medium sized enterprises as well as global corporate organisations. Steve is long standing member of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management as was elected a Companion of the Institute in 2007 having been appointed a Fellow in 1997. Tel: 0161 656 5779

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  • When a major account threatens to go south

    How often you have observed the following on a key account?

    The honeymoon: A period of hope where orders start to flow. Hiccups happen but are sorted with a few phone calls as staff pull out the stops to make it work. The new client’s rhythm and requirements soon become known. Meetings with the client focus on the immediate future and progression.

    Power phase: Following a settled period the client starts to play ‘power games’. Additional requests are made, payment terms seem to be slipping.… An uneasy culture of blame and complaints hits. It soon becomes a battle of wills but inevitably its an unequal situation where the client dominates.

    Settlement: The inevitable show down. Lots of ‘pre-meeting’ conversations internally and a tense time. Typically the account will be ‘rescued’ but at a cost to you, the supplier. Of course sometimes it ends in divorce.

    Stephen Karpman observed these power games happen throughout life. He noticed that such games always have a ‘persecutor’ (the client in the scenario above) and a victim (you). Drama Triangle


    The natural reaction of the victim will be to try to turn the tables and persecute the persecutor back with an inevitable escalation of the problem. Frequently an unasked for 3rd party intervenes to ‘rescue’ the situation with the result that both Victim and Persecutor turn on the rescuer who then in turn becomes the Victim.

    And so the cycle repeats with roles always changing and situation escalating. It’s a negative cycle with no ultimate winner.

    What can you do?

    Such games come from an emotional (child like) reaction that allows a situation to escalate. As a victim you will want to fight back but this will not help. React logically not emotionally and defuse the game.

    As the victim:  Become vulnerable, problem solve. Above all hold back the instinct to ‘fight back’ and become persecutor.

    As the persecutor: If you want to change the relationship be assertive rather than aggressive.

    As a rescuer: Be caring but don’t interject a solution. Leave that to the victim and persecutor to find.

    David Feldman

    David Feldman

    Many of David’s clients work within media and technology sectors so frequently have significant major accounts to handle. For these clients a knowledge of ‘Karpman Triangles’ and Transactional Analysis are vital skills. Tel: 0845 504 5151

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