• When Should We Respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs)?

    The RFP from a whale prospect lands in your in-box. What do you do next?

    Most salespeople get excited, tell their boss that all their hard work cosying up to this company’s middle management and procurement team has paid off. They’d spend a day or two reading through the tome that reminds them of War and Peace, written by an 8-year old lawyer. Then they’d get the team together to plan who was going to do what. Much resource would be thrown at meeting the unreasonable deadline set by the “prospect” … but not much actual thought.

    They wouldn’t ask some fundamentally important questions; questions to which answers are imperative to decide what we do next, because  NOT ALL RFPs ARE LEGITIMATE! In fact, most aren’t. Most are an attempt to get free consulting from vendors too scared, excited, lazy or stupid to check if the RFP is even real.

    Consider these questions…

    • How did we make the list for receiving this RFP?
    • How many RFPs were sent?
    • What do we know about the prospect’s history surrounding RFPs?
    • Do they have a preferred supplier list (PSL) and are we on it?
    • If not, do they always give the business to someone on the PSL?
    • If we decide to participate, what happens next?
    • What role, if any, will their incumbent supplier play?
    • Will the low bid be the one that wins?
    • What results is the prospect company hoping to achieve by implementing the contents of the RFP?
    • Why aren’t they doing it in-house?
    • Is the timescale realistic?
    • Do we understand what caused them to go to market with this RFP? DO we understand the different drivers and centres of dissatisfaction?
    • Do we have a sponsor, coach or advocate in the prospect company to whom we can submit a rough draft, have it critiqued to make sure we have identified their priorities and covered all the issues they consider most important?
    • Are they high enough in the company to be able to provide us with the answers we need or just the ones they are willing to give any vendor?
    • Should we involved our senior management?
    • Have we identified to whom the prospect’s decision-making committee already has allegiances by suing our personal networks, trawling through LinkedIn and the internet to see what connections they have to our competitors and the incumbent?
    • What is the likely cost of sale to participate in this bid, win or lose?
    • Is this even legitimate?
    • Can we win it?
    • Are there any conditions that we do not qualify against that will preclude us from winning this e.g not ISO9000 compliant, no sector experience and sector experience is a must have, we don’t have 3-years accounts, they want to use their T&Cs not ours, our non-negotiable payment terms are unacceptable to them?
    • Do we want to win it?
    • What opportunity cost will we incur if we plough time, money and resources into this bid and is there a better way to invest our scarce and valuable resources?
    • Is this RFP going to be profitable if we win it? By when?

    Once you have your questions clear in your mind, are you allowed to speak to someone, not in procurement or a technical buying capacity, at a high enough level to understand the business drivers behind this RFP invitation?

    Given that RFP responses are usually the second highest hidden cost in any selling organisation after wrong hires the killer question you need to answer for yourselves is:

    • What are our chances of winning it?
    • Should we participate in this RFP process?

    Take the emotion out of RFPs and never lift a finger until you have done your research and picked up the phone.

    A simple rule of thumb for management to eliminate wasted effort and falling into the free consulting trap is that selling the opportunity internally should be twice as hard as selling it to the prospect.

    Live by the principle that you should do less but better on purpose.

  • Why Negative Prospects Are Your Best Prospects and Positive Prospects Are Your Worst

    “Look for buying signals” I was told by most of my bosses in my early sales career. “Look for signs that they’re positive”.  Based on that advice I should have retied in my early 20’s instead of being up to my eyeballs in debt. I was afraid I was going to get fired every Monday morning as we relayed our forecast to the assembled team and our manager.

    I was a very hard worker, usually first in and last out. I researched my prospects’ companies, their markets, the competition and did a pretty good presentation. I regularly received compliments for the thoroughness of my research, commendations for my insights and ideas, and positive, reassuring statements like, “I’m impressed Marcus. You’ve clearly thought a lot about this. Thank you. You’ve given me some great ideas which I really like. Can you do me a favour and put it all into a proposal?”

    I was chuffed to bits when I heard things like that. I dashed back to the office, reported in to my boss that we’d had a really good meeting and spent the next day or so knocking up a work of genius in the form of a proposal that was tantamount to a blueprint on how they could address their issues using our services. I’d print it off, often multiple copies, bind it up, produce a snazzy cover (very important) and put a protective plastic cover over the top and post it first class. Then I’d wait a couple of days to make sure it had time to get there. I’d follow up with a call to make sure they’d got it. “It looks great. Marcus, give me a few days to read it through and talk it over with my boss” were words that sent me into elation. I hung up, reported to my boss what had just been said, s/he was happy and Monday came, I forecast it as 50% or higher depending on how positive the prospect had been … then I followed up.

    At this point they were usually involved in some kind of kinky act (tied up) or had been abducted by aliens since every effort I made to get feedback was met with a gatekeeper telling me the medium cheese I was chasing was not available. Six, 12, even 20 chaser calls went in until eventually Mr Abductee picked up when i called after Betty had gone home. “Marcus, there was nothing wrong with your proposal. The timing just isn’t right / my boss said no / our current supplier said they could do it cheaper etc” and all my hard work went up in smoke in my mind. I said some pretty rum things about them once I hung up (for which I am truly sorry), I worried I’d be for the axe as I needed that sale to make my target.

    What I find most galling is it took me 17 years to work out that my need for the approval of strangers and my belief that I should do whatever the customer asked me to, to make them happy was utter nonsense and misguided in the extreme.

    Every now and again, I came across a truly terrifying prospect. Usually the MD or CEO. He took no nonsense. He wasn’t interested in my presentation. He gave me a hard time, questioned everything, asked really tough questions and made decisions on the spot without needing a proposal, just an invoice. Many told me “no”, but they did so quickly and without hesitation or prevarication. I was in and out of their office fast with a qualified decision.

    What did it take me 17 years to learn?

    Beware the positive prospect. They usually have no money, no authority and want to know what I know but don’t want to pay me for it. Welcome the negative prospect. They’re negative because they’re busy, don’t want to make a bad decision, have money to spend and make decisions quickly and without playing games or trying to steal what I know.

    Are you a slow learner too? why not talk to your local Sandler trainer. They’ll listen and teach you some good habits.

  • Why Negative Prospects Are Your Best Prospects and Positive Prospects Are Your Worst

    “Look for buying signals” I was told by most of my bosses in my early sales career. “Look for signs that they’re positive”.  Based on that advice I should have retied in my early 20’s instead of being up to my eyeballs in debt, afraid I was going to get fired every Monday morning as we relayed our forecast to the assembled team and our manager.

    I was a very hard worker, usually first in and last out. I researched my prospects’ companies, their markets, the competition and did a pretty good presentation. I regularly received compliments for the thoroughness of my research, commendations for my insights and ideas, and positive, reassuring statements like, “I’m impressed Marcus. You’ve clearly thought a lot about this. Thank you. You’ve given me some great ideas which I really like. Can you do me a favour and put it all into a proposal?”

    I was chuffed to bits when I heard things like that. I dashed back to the office, reported in to my boss that we’d had a really good meeting and spent the next day or so knocking up a work of genius in the form of a proposal that was tantamount to a blueprint on how they could address their issues using our services. I’d print it off, often multiple copies, bind it up, produce a snazzy cover (very important) and put a protective plastic cover over the top and post it first class. Then I’d wait a couple of days to make sure it had time to get there. I’d follow up with a call to make sure they’d got it. “It looks great. Marcus, give me a few days to read it through and talk it over with my boss” were words that sent me into elation. I hung up, reported to my boss what had just been said, s/he was happy and Monday came, I forecast it as 50% or higher depending on how positive the prospect had been … then I followed up.

    At this point they were usually involved in some kind of kinky act (tied up) or had been abducted by aliens since every effort I made to get feedback was met with a gatekeeper telling me the medium cheese I was chasing was not available. Six, 12, even 20 chaser calls went in until eventually Mr Abductee picked up when i called after Betty had gone home. “Marcus, there was nothing wrong with your proposal. The timing just isn’t right / my boss said no / our current supplier said they could do it cheaper etc” and all my hard work went up in smoke in my mind. I said some pretty rum things about them once I hung up (for which I am truly sorry), I worried I’d be for the axe as I needed that sale to make my target.

    What I find most galling is it took me 17 years to work out that my need for the approval of strangers and my belief that I should do whatever the customer asked me to, to make them happy was utter nonsense and misguided in the extreme.

    Every now and again, I came across a truly terrifying prospect. Usually the MD or CEO. He took no nonsense. He wasn’t interested in my presentation. He gave me a hard time, questioned everything, asked really tough questions and made decisions on the spot without needing a proposal, just an invoice. Many told me “no”, but they did so quickly and without hesitation or prevarication. I was in and out of their office fast with a qualified decision.

    What did it take me 17 years to learn?

    Beware the positive prospect. They usually have no money, no authority and want to know what I know but don’t want to pay me for it. Welcome the negative prospect. They’re negative because they’re busy, don’t want to make a bad decision, have money to spend and make decisions quickly and without playing games or trying to steal what I know.

    Are you a slow learner too?

  • The Real ABC of Sales

    Who remembers Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross? No, not “Coffee is for closers” but “ABC – Always Be Closing!” That stuff works in films and boiler rooms but in the real world, people sometimes buy, but in spite of you pulling those stunts, not because of it.

    In Sandler we teach that you close at the beginning. We call it an Up Front Contract. It’s the single most important part of the sales process. It’s where you agree at the beginning what will happen at the end.

    Why do you always want to establish an up front contract at the start and end of every conversation or call?

    1. The contract IS the CLOSE. Close at the start when they are not expecting it or resisting it.
    2. The contract ensures you and your prospect start and end every interaction in an Adult to Adult. Without it, only about 15% of interactions start in Adult to Adult ego states.
    3. The contract protects both sides.
    4. The contract creates the right conditions for parity since you are never less than your prospect’s equal, even on your worst day.
    5. You never suffer from mutual mystification, so neither side is ever confused nor are expectations ever carelessly mismatched.

    For an upfront contract to be effective the following conditions must exist.

    1. No wishy washy up front contract terms ever.
    2. Up front contract terms MUST BE:
    • Clear
    • Specific
    • Certain
    1. The contract must be MUTUALLY:
    • Agreed
    • Accepted
    • Understood
    1. YOU must be willing to enforce the contract terms to achieve a Win-Win or No Deal.

    Without you making the effort to fulfil all 8 of these conditions, your contract will not hold water. Doing this requires you to be tough enough to plant your feet, to be ready to walk if you can’t reach an agreement that serves you both. Failing to meet these conditions means the prospect can drive a coach and horses through your contract and wriggle out, leaving you grasping at straws.

    A simple up front contract follows the ANOT model.

    • Actually
    • Naturally
    • Obviously
    • Typically

    “Actually Helen, can we agree some ground rules and and agenda before we get into the detail to make sure that we are working towards an outcome we are both happy and means our time together is well spent?”

    “OK. That makes sense.”

    “Naturally, you will have a lot of questions for me about who we are, what we do, what we are good at and not so good at, how much we charge, how we work, who we’ve worked for and our results? Is that a fair assumption?”

    “Yes.”

    “And I have a few questions for you so that I can see your business through my eyes and we can both decide if it makes any sense to continue our conversation based on the answers we both give. Are you OK with that Helen?”

    “Yes, that seems reasonable.”

    “Obviously we aren’t for everyone, and not everyone is right for us, so can we agree that if either side isn’t comfortable or the answers we give to one another’s questions suggest there isn’t a good fit, that we can both walk away form this without any hard feelings and no pressure to continue? Are you comfortable telling me “no thanks” if you don’t see a fit?”

    “Yes, I’d prefer we were direct.”

    “Good, that’s a relief. Me too. And you’d be OK if I told you “Helen, I don’t think we can help you” or “Helen, we aren’t the right company to do what you are asking”? You wouldn’t be upset if I told you that?”

    “No. Of course not. I’d rather you were up front about whether you can help so we don’t waste our time.”

    “Excellent. I agree. I hate wasting other people’s time or having my time wasted too. Typically if you haven’t said “no thanks” to us and we haven’t said “we aren’t right” to you, it makes sense to agree a clear next step at the end to make sure we keep moving the conversation forwards and don’t end up wasting each other’s. Have you ever met someone, hit it off, seen a fit and because you haven’t put a clear next step in place you realise that 6 months have gone by and you did nothing so the time you had together was completely wasted?”

    “Sadly yes.”

    “Can we agree we won’t ever do that to each other Helen? We won’t waste each other’s time and we’ll put 10 minutes aside at the end to map out who does what by when to keep the dialogue moving forwards, or we agree to part as friends and end the relationship cleanly without any wated time?”

    “That makes perfect sense to me. Let’s do that.”

    Take a moment to dissect this conversation. Both sides have reached mutual agreement, acceptance and understanding. The terms are clear, specific and certain. And the salesperson is in a position to enforce the contract at the end in the event that Helen suggests she wants to “think it over”.

    “I’m sorry Helen. I don’t understand. Has something changed?”

    “Huh? What do you mean?”

    “Do you remember at the start of our conversation ….?”

    Alec Baldwin got it wrong. ABC means always be contracting.

  • The Traditional Salesman’s 12 days of Christmas… 

    On the 1st day of Christmas my prospect said to me “What is your web address?”

    On the 2nd day of Christmas my prospect said to me “Can you send me something?”

    On the 3rd day of Christmas my prospect said to me “We’re always interested in finding out what’s new in our marketplace?”

    On the 4th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “Why don’t you come in and tell us how you think you can help us?”

    On the 5th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “OK, you’re here now, show me what you’ve got to offer!”

    On the 6th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “Why should we buy from you?”

    On the 7th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “You’re very expensive, I can get it a lot cheaper from my current supplier.”

    On the 8th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “You’ve convinced me, can you send me a proposal? Oh, and my boss is off skiing on Tuesday so can you get it to me by first thing Monday”

    On the 9th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “I haven’t had a chance to show it to him; it’s been mad over here, call me back in a couple of weeks.”

    On the 23rd day of Christmas my prospect said to me “I can’t take your call at the moment but it is important to me. Please leave a message with your name, the reason for the call and your number after the tone. Beep!”

    On the 26th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “Oh it’s you. My PA is away today. Er, um, yes your proposal. Yes, yes, sorry it’s been hectic since we got back from Christmas. Can I call you in a couple of days when I’ve had a chance to check back with my boss what he wants to do with this?”

    On the 31st day of Christmas my prospect said to me “He still hasn’t given me a decision, Try back next week.”

    On the 45th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “I’m sorry, our priorities have changed and we are no longer looking at this area. But I want you to know yours was the best proposal we received and if we were buying we’d definitely have bought from you.”

    The Sandler Salesperson’s 12 Days of Christmas

    On the 1st day of Christmas my prospect said to me “What, can you help fix those problems?” And I said, “I don’t know, why you don’t invite me in so we can find out? If either side feels it isn’t a good fit we can both walk away without any pressure, is that fair?” “Yes that’s fair”, he said

    On the 2nd day of Christmas my prospect said to me “Welcome. Can I get you something to drink?” “Thanks for inviting me in. I’ll have what you’re having thanks”, I said

    On the 3rd day of Christmas my prospect said to me “We have been really looking forward to you coming in. Our conversation on the phone got me thinking. I’ve done the homework you asked me to do in preparation. Do you need anything else?” “I’m not sure”, I said, “I need to ask you a few questions. Some of them may be a bit tough. May I ask you a few questions even if you don’t have the answers and perhaps you feel you should?”

    On the 4th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “This is killing our business. Blaming everyone but themselves, turnover in the salesforce, missing targets, wasting time on non-prospects, hidden cost of sales is costing us £millions each year and I am sick and tired of tolerating this. Can you help?” I said, “Perhaps. Depends on whether you can take direction. Can you?”

    On the 5th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “Will you be willing to help us fix these problems, please?” “We are still some way off that since we need to establish how you intend to pay for this help and who besides the two of us in involved in making the decision?”

    On the 6th day of Christmas my prospect said to me “I have no partners, it’s my money, and I take advice from no one else? I want you to help me and can I give you a cheque.”

    On the 7th day of Christmas I asked my prospect “Are you sure you really want to go ahead? And what happens when your current provider comes begging for the business back? And what happens when you realise this is going to cost you 4 times more than you originally planned to spend, are you going to back out? Because now is the time for you to back out. Do you want to rip up your check and tear up the contract?” He said, “No” and I said “I’ll take you at your word” and looking him in the eye, shook his hand as I spoke.

    Having hit my target I took the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th days of Christmas off to spend it fully engaged with my family, never once thinking about work.

    Want to stop wasting time and effort kissing frogs and just getting slimy lips and no princes? Want to eliminate time-wasters and tyre kickers, penny pinchers and prevaricators early and fast?

    If you are on Santa’s naughty list you may have to wait until 2016, but if you’ve been good why not ask Santa for a Presidents Club subscription in your Christmas stocking so you can spend your efforts with people who are serious, willing to pay you premium because they value what you do, and give your best to your family and loved ones instead of worrying about how hard next year is going to be…

    Merry Christmas and happy selling in 2015.

  • The Hidden Costs of Untrained Management

    Getting the best out of your people is what all managers are really hired for. What they deliver is too often the opposite.

    I’m not blaming managers since most were good at what they did (e.g. sales) and they were recognised and promoted. Their training involved being given a new desk, perhaps an office, their car was upgraded and they saw a couple of thousand on top of their base salary. Chucked in at the deep end they revert back to what they learned first; they routinely behave like their early managers.

    If they had a manager who rescued, and by that I mean, they helped without boundaries or permission, or they had a boss who allowed and worse encouraged upward delegation, or they had a boss who was “all about the numbers” and tried to manage them, they will try to adopt these behaviours.

    Managers who micromanage, who do the heavy lifting for their people, who tie them up in reporting and tracking metrics over which they have no direct control, hobble their talent and give their non-performers a place to hide. Managers who are not clear about what they expect from the member of staff, throughout the hiring and selection process to the exit interview, sow the seeds of their own failure as a manager.

    Untrained managers will typically hire in their own image, only weaker, so the problems catalysed by untrained managers is compound over time. Eventually what happens? The best people leave because they grow tired of missing out on bonuses because other people didn’t hit target, they grow tired of raising a sinking ship and they go to your competition. Your once allies become your competition and they know all about your weaknesses, your prize accounts, where they are vulnerable to predation. Meanwhile you are left with the middle layer of mush and the deadwood.

    You fall further behind and your conditioned response is probably to work harder and look for ways to “motivate” your team. Your efforts at bribery fail because you don’t understand that money is often number 5 or 6 in order of priority when people are seeking a new job and since you never knew you actually had to find out what makes each individual tick, you never asked. When that doesn’t work, you take to beating them with a stick as you see the p45/pink slip looking in your near future. Perhaps you start to take a closer interest in what each person is doing. You start micromanaging forgetting that by doing so you tell them you don’t trust them to do their job. You start muscling in on accounts when you see little or no progress. You play the role of knight in shining armour and without realising, you have created a culture of learned helplessness.

    I lay the responsibility for these circumstances squarely at the feet of the big cheese right at the top of the organisation. Lack of clarity at the top creates confusion, politics, departmental conflict, turf wars, silo and NIH (not invented here) thinking. If your people are spending more time competing internally than they are ripping business out of the competition and you are the boss, then look in the mirror. Take a long, hard look.

    Is it possible that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM?

    Owners who build successful small businesses frequently don’t yet have the skills to grow a bigger business. Of course they can be learned but because they have always been at the heart of things, and are always so busy, they don’t step back and invest enough time in thinking, planning or improving their own skills as a manager, leader or strategist. Small businesses stay small because their owners keep them that way!

    Few managers realise strengths are development areas; weaknesses are not. Working on a weakness (something you dread doing, take forever to do, do badly, time drags, you make many mistakes and when it’s over you look forward only to never having to do that again) is not a wise use of time or your resource.. Smart managers find people whose strengths make their own and their team’s weakness irrelevant. They structure roles around individual’s strengths. They hire to fill those gaps. They are always looking out for a better hire than their last one. And they are constantly interviewing and banking good people so when they need them they can cut months off their recruitment cycle. They have a planned, 90-120 day on boarding process to make sure they set up new hires to succeed and they implement regular, simple, consistent reporting and expectations.

    They introduce them to people they need to know and work with and make it clear that they are to be afforded the help they need. They set clear expectations from the moment the 1st phone interview is conducted. Once hired, they track a small number of leading indicators and manage behaviour. They help, encourage and give clear direction but the how of it, they leave to the individual. If individuals need more support they organise interim review meetings to make sure progress is happening and they aren’t throwing their hands up at the last minute complaining that the person has failed.

    How do you know you need help?

    If you died under a bus, would your business die with you?

    If you lost your biggest client would that hurt badly?

    If you weren’t there, would your biggest client leave your company?

    Do you sometimes hire senior, experienced people who fail within 12 months for salespeople, 18 months for managers and 24 months for Executive hires?

    Do you ever hang on to people who don’t perform because recruitment is a chore?

    Do you tolerate non-performance because you don’t want to upset anyone or don’t like conflict?

    Have you ever felt it was easier to do the work yourself rather than rely on someone you are paying to do it?

    Do you get frustrated trying to manage?

    Do you manage the numbers?

    Do you ever learn there’s a problem but it’s too late to do anything about?

    Does management involve telling people what to do, checking their work or doing their work?

    Is sales forecasting about as accurate as using the entrails of a goose?

    Do your sales fluctuate between feast and famine?

    Do you lose good people when you eventually manage to hire them?

    When you lost one top performer, did others leave soon after?

    Do you work stupid, unsociable hours and feel tired all the time?

    Do your children scream “Mummy who is that strange man?” when you walk through your front door?

    If you answered yes to any of these you have a serious and costly problem. If you said yes to many, you are probably sitting on a goldmine. If you answered yes to the last question, get your priorities straight!

    Call a Sandler Trainer if you want to make all the problems discussed in this blog disappear forever. Before you pick up the phone know that it is not easy, comfortable or cheap. You will be asked many uncomfortable questions and we don’t take everyone as a client. We are very selective because this takes a lot of hard work and there’s no point starting to learn unless you are fully committed to consigning the problems you’ve created to history and seeing this through to the end.

  • Ego is Your Enemy

    Ego starts to form at the moment you have your first painful experience in life. You begin protecting yourself with a wall which you build one brick at a time, outwards, and upwards. And as you receive slights, disappointments, you hurt yourself, you’re shamed for role failure (school, parents, peers) you keep building the wall to protect yourself.

    Shutting people out, never letting people in, being afraid to ask questions or ask for help for fear of looking stupid, weak, inadequate, becoming a perfectionist so no one can ever shame you again like you were shamed when you decided, “Never again will anyone make me feel that way again” are all reactions to our sense of Who we are, our Identity, taking some kind of beating and wanting to protect ourselves from feeling diminished like we did when at some point or points in our history.

    Ego is the voice in your head when you’re having an argument with your spouse that says, “Are you going to let her get away with that?” and despite the sensible voice in your head telling you not to do it, you do it anyway and you say something you are just about to regret for 3 weeks and suffer from a bad back from sleeping in the doghouse. Scoring points in a marriage or relationship rarely results in long term happiness for both parties, does it?

    And in sales, how often is our ego our own undoing?

    We are focused on our wants and needs so we project that to the prospect and they feel like we don’t have their best interests at heart. We are preoccupied with the row we are going to face when we get home so we don’t pay attention to what they are saying, and we ask a question that proves we weren’t listening, so we prick their egos and before you know it, we’re both at it. Scoring points, proving we are more credible, wise or knowledgeable than they are. If our egos are really huge we will not even realise what ewe are doing to others.

    A financial planner I know visited an accountants to review one of their client’s portfolios. He spent the whole time saying how good he was, how bad and stupid the client was and how badly he’d been advised. In the end the accountant asked him to leave and he was left with the impression they liked him, they see the value he offers and that they will refer future business his way. I know the accountant and they will NEVER do business with him. Some people are blighted with a high sense of self that far outstrips their aptitude or altitude.

    Ego is the thing that stops us from asking questions for fear of appearing ignorant, unprepared or naïve. Yet when I ask naïve questions I often get thanked by the others in the room who I’d assumed understood what was going on, but didn’t and my question and the answer that followed it helped them get clarity too. Ego is what limits us to charging market rate than premium based on the value you deliver to the prospect. Ego prevents you from allowing yourself to dare, to push to the limits of your talents and prevents you from turning your talents into strengths. Ego stops you talking about money with ease and comfort. It’s ego that is the nagging voice of self-doubt that undermines you so you regularly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    It is ego that makes us feel like we are not worthy to be in the presence of people more successful that ourselves. It’s ego that causes us to fail to take responsibility, to see role failure as a personality defect, to believe we are bad people or doing a bad, dirty thing when we sell, when we discuss money, when we talk to strangers, when we make money easily. And it’s ego that causes us to think we know best, “Here, let me show you how I’d do that” or “Do you know what you should do?”,and blames and diminishes others, “You always do that”, “You’ve ruined everything”.

    Ego NEVER serves you well and is guaranteed to find its match in someone else who as insecure and dysfunctional as you are (i.e. nearly every other member of the species). You will take one of three positions. That of Victim (“Why does this always happen to me? Life is sooooo unfair”), Persecutor (“You are a failure. You are a disappointment. You always ruin things. I might have known you’d mess this up! Typical!” and that of Rescuer (“I was only trying to help”, “You’re doing it wrong. Here! Let me have a go!”)

    Staying non-attached to the outcome, letting go of your ego, being mindful and focused on the present moment takes you out of this dark and dangerous place. It leads to clarity and cohesion between you and your prospect. It leads to partnerships where you co-develop solutions and move forward by mutual agreement. You develop relationships based on mutual agreement, mutual understanding and mutual acceptance towards shared objectives. No mind reading. No mutual mystification.

    Great salespeople never let their ego get between them and the reason they are in front of the prospect. Nor do they ever forget a good result is a clean Yes with an order, a clean No with a clear future next step, a clean No with a referral or a clean No with a lesson. Anything else and you have just wasted their time and yours.

    Never allow yourself (ego) to get between the prospect and their decision to buy.

  • Ego Thrives on Drama … and why there’s no place for it in your selling

    Buyers get whatever personality they need to buy from you unless you want to sell only to people who are like you are. If you make the mistake of thinking that there is a chemistry issue, then look in the mirror to see where the problem really lies. Granted there are some unreasonable people who no one in their right mind would want to do business with, and you absolutely have the right to decide, “I don’t want to ever work with this person”. And if that’s your decision, more power to your elbow. However, in most cases a lack of chemistry is down to you not really understanding yourself that well and not knowing how to adjust your behaviour to ensure the prospect feels comfortable with you.

    We teach our clients to use behavioural and communication tools like Extended-DISC (you may be more familiar with The Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI) or some of Thomas International’s products) to begin to understand the preferences and pet peeves of different personality types, your own perceived need to adjust, the kinds of people you are likely to feel comfortable with and make comfortable easily, and those you will find harder work. We teach this because the number one job of any salesperson is to help the prospect become comfortable with you quickly and up front. Failure to achieve this level of comfort can badly inhibit your chances of success in any sales situation. In complex sales with multiple characters on the buyer side (or the seller side for that matter) can result in a good deal going south because you had the wrong people on the job or you didn’t adjust to suit the audience you are selling to.

    Now let’s take a moment to discuss ego and drama. A smart chap called Stephen Karpman came up with a very simple model called the Karpman Triangle or the Drama Triangle which describes every dissatisfying, dysfunctional relationship you can or will ever have. The triangle is always show on it’s point with the Victim at the bottom, making this a very unstable and precarious position to find yourself in. Let me ask you this question. Who is attracted to Victims?

    No, not “no one”. Persecutors and Rescuers are attracted to victims (and sometimes, so are other victims – so you can both wallow in self-pity).

    The other 2 points are made up of a Persecutor and a Rescuer. Victims sound like “Why me? it’s so unfair! You always do this to me!” In the sales role it might sound like, “Why does this always happen to me?”, “It’s so unfair!”, “Hey, that’s my lead!”

    Drama Triangle

    In order to stay out of this game playing drama, it is essential you stay in the Present instead of being stuck in scripted behaviour where blaming, attacking and helping without permission or boundaries is the the norm. To stay present you must be mindful, that is, in the moment. You don’t allow yourself to be triggered into any of the 3 points of the drama triangle, instead you respond by being Vulnerable, Nurturing or Assertive.

    Assertive vulnerability is the most powerful position for you to take. It means you are wiling to be hurt but you do it anyway, and you are absolutely clear about the boundaries that you are putting into place. In Sandler we teach that the three most important words in sales are “Nurture, Nurture, Nurture”, because you should be tough of behaviour, ruthless on time and kind to people. You must tell your prospects the “kind truth” but to do this you have to get permission. You can’t just slap them with bad news and not expect some reaction.

    Authentic Traingle

    We teach our clients a strategy called “up front contracting”. This comes from our Adult ego state (as opposed to our Critical Parent or Child), where we set out the parameters of our expectations and what we want to have happen by the end of our meeting or conversation. They learn how to set the ground rules and expectations up front so that both sides are protected from ambiguity; both sides agree what will happen at the end, right at the beginning. This prevents mutual mystification and means we never have to resort to mind reading. We agree what we don’t want to happen and that it is OK for either side to say to “no” without feeling any pressure. We raise objections ourselves before the prospect does; that way they arise at our time of choosing and so we meet virtually zero resistance in the sale if we are doing it right.

    If we allow our ego, or our scripted behaviour, or our need for drama to get involved in the decision, we will invariably lose the sale, and end up upsetting the other person. If we make ourselves the issue then we get between the prospect and their decision to buy from us. How does this possibly serve the prospect’s selfish self-interest? It doesn’t and it never does. It serves ours. And who wants to buy from a salesperson who has their own interests at the forefront of their attention? No one!

    Think about it, when was the last time a salesperson made sure you were OK saying “no” to them? And how often have you recoiled when the salesperson tried to put their hand in your pocket and close you? Naturally, everyone loves to buy, but we all hate to be sold, don’t we?

    Obviously, staying present isn’t easy or we’d all be doing it and we would never end up in fights, or feeling slighted. Our attachment to the outcome is part of our handicap as sellers. We teach our clients to “Get out of the result and get into the process”. This means you do each step of the sale excellently before moving ahead to the next step. We don’t focus on closing the deal or getting their money. If you stay in the Authentic Triangle and genuinely pay attention (notice the verb that goes with “attention” is “pay” – making it an investment) to the prospect, how they are responding to you and their situation, and you are genuinely curious to understand them and their condition, their vision and their obstacles, then you are both on the same side kicking into an open goal.

    Stay present and happy selling …..