“85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate & lead.Shockingly, only 15% is due to your technical knowledge” The Carnegie Institute of Technology.
Early in my career, I attended an industry function when someone said that they had: 'been selling their particular product for 20 years and theirs was different'.
Fast forward 10 years I moved to another industry only to have the same conversation: 'I have been selling XYZ for 25 years and nothing else is like it.'
Another 10 years later different product, same conversation -mmm … interesting.
These days I spend a great deal of time speaking to a range of companies across a variety of industries, most think their product is special or different. As sales people, we all think that our product and industry is unique, when actually, it's not.
The reality is that all products in the same arena have a few nuances but most are the same, especially when it comes to getting people to buy your product.
In a country such as ours where the cost of living is high, it becomes extremely difficult for an organisation to compete on price. And quite frankly, no one wins that race to the bottom (though many still try).
The smarter businesses are differentiating through solution and relationship selling. And it needs to be a blend.
Technical sales people, although great at matching need to issue but cannot always manage the relationship. Relationship focused sales people may be great at the people side but don’t always match the need due to reduced technical knowledge.
So whats the solution?
We need to connect the dots between individual motivations, collective skill sets and commercial realities.
The best path for a person is the slow and steady method of professional and personal development: we need equal parts technical training, soft skills workshops, practice by doing, learning from mistakes, learning from the team and individual growth. This approach is far more effective than drinking from a fire hose at some half day gee up session
As Tony Robbins says:
“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year but underestimate what they can achieve in a decade”.
It begins, like all innovation, with the insights and awareness of an opportunity to improve something.
'You get what you pay for ... ' Anon.
I don’t know who first said this but there is no truer saying than the above. You get what you pay for. We have all been burnt by paying too little, but no one wants to pay too much.
Marketing, advertising and psychology combine to send us into apoplexy with 'Discounts' and 'Limited Time Only' deals.
Early in my career I had trouble rationalising how my Managing Director would have his people and himself squeeze every last drop out of a supplier, yet on the other hand push his sales team to charge 10 – 20% more in the marketplace.
My now 50 year old brain can reflect that sales people have the ability to say 'No' - if they are confident in the product or service they sell and more importantly within themselves.
They will win business because they CHOOSE to stand in their power.
This is the 'Game' and salespeople could do well by learning the rules: their companies, results and most of all self-esteem will benefit.
I bought a second-hand Volvo 20 years ago, every fibre of my body screamed at me not to buy it … except my wife. With smoke, mirrors and a trade-in I secured a cracking deal. Two years later after a new engine, air conditioning and gearbox, we sold it for a tiny fraction of the cost. Yep, it still hurts.
A couple of years ago my (still) wife and I went car shopping again. We had been up and down the highway for three weeks looking for a sales person we liked and trusted and came across Jeremy. He had the perfect car - a Mazda with $17990 painted across the windscreen. My wife gave me to the look to buy it.
I tried to negotiate and pulled out all my skills. I eventually paid, yep, the full price.
What I loved about the experience is that Jeremy read us both, treated us with complete respect and didn’t once make us feel ripped off nor did he carry on like a smartarse.
Last week I went back to see Jeremy, I hadn’t seen him for over a year and without blinking he said “g’day Charlie, how is Trudy and the Mazda” – boom!!!
There’s many lessons in this, one of the most important is to be aware of what is going on around you, stand in your power, enjoy it and reap the rewards.
I finished school in the late 1980s and headed straight off to University, it was kind of expected.
About that time, I read “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill which I found fascinating. It impacted me far more than six years of high school and four of University.
Fast forward to the early 2000s and I came across Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” which quickly became my favourite. The Napoleon Hill book may have started my personal and professional development journey but Carnegie’s book hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was captivated and amazed that I had not read this earlier. I went to the front of the book to see when it was published (thinking it would be the year before or perhaps the mid 1990s). It astounded me that it was written in 1936.
By the time I’d read Dales book, I’d been in business for 10 years and managed teams and people for over 20 years. It continues to surprise me why books like these and many others aren’t part of the wider education curriculum.
So why is it that even with this wealth of knowledge available to us, some people still really struggle to communicate and influence?
Some of it has to lie with schools and universities. Studies show that 80% of businesses believe they are not sufficiently preparing our children for the workforce.
My view is that we have particularly poor view of failure which has contributed to not a mental health problem, but more of a mental weakness one - soft play, getting a trophy for turning up, the litigious nature of our society and political correctness.
As Mahatma Gandhi says “Knowledge gained from experience is far better than any gained from a book”.
There are no silver bullets in life. We all need to take our daily dose of bitter pills on life’s journey - most of them are the size of a Panadol so that’s manageable as long as you are open to it. What invariably happens in life is we miss a few days (or lessons) and fail to learn so the pills become more like a tennis ball, much more difficult to swallow and it feels like you are going to choke.
The real life lessons come from the big challenges and failures we don’t think we’ll ever get over, these are the pineapples and most often there are not ingested through the mouth…
It’s not what happens to you in life that defines you but how you handle it.
** Charlie is an expert in developing external sales teams and people, particularly where relationships and solution selling are the key differentiators. www.charliepidcock.com.au
In my online program B2B Selling in the Covid19 World & Beyond I've been sharing sales best practice and tips and lessons around how to build a strategic sales process.