Perennial Advice

I wrote this article for a Latin American publication back in 2006, at the request of Christophe Cahen, a friend and colleague from my Media Vehicle days in London and Amsterdam. At the time I was also coaching a young sales team at SAS and they had some outstanding talent within the ranks. Many have gone on to lead teams and organisations of their own. 

As I reread the piece, I realise the same values still hold firm ten years on…. then I recently looked again at the teaching of two of the world's greatest coaches and realised why.

A lot of sales people I talk to, tell me they want more! 

As a performance coach I believe it is not my place to problem solve on their desires. My responsibility is to ask great questions, to see if the real answers are within their grasp. I begin by asking my clients…”Do you want to have more, be more, sell more, earn more, sleep more, give more or take more?” My advice to you…and to my clients is this: Before you ask for more, please have a very clear idea of what you are really asking for!

The key to more:

If you want more sales, ask more prospects to buy. If you want better sales, however, call better clients and be a better salesperson when they see you! Sounds too simple doesn’t it? It is. Yet I know that seventy-five percent of the people reading this article won’t try do it! 

When I was building a portfolio of media clients, there were always some that we all dreaded calling. They were rude, aggressive, unreasonable and demanding…and that was on a good day. It got so bad that I would rather do anything than make contact because I knew what was coming! In direct contrast, I thought of the very best people I spoke to and started to study the behaviours that I thought, made them my best clients. Were they easy, or soft, or pushovers? Not at all. One was Andy Tilley the head of the UK’s biggest media buying house and the other was Media Manager at Unilever, Nik Wilkinson. Tilley was sharp, quick thinking, incisive and very, very knowledgeable about his subject. Nik Wilkinson was a real thinker and a man who expected you to be able to prove the value of every piece of activity you did! Both very different men, but both were an absolute pleasure to work with.

Quality will lead you to quantity:

I spent some time asking myself what set them apart from the nightmares I dealt with at other companies. Answer…they were good people! They had the kind of personal qualities that you would look for in a friend. Honesty, openness, good judgement; great sense of humour, loyal, competitive, determined, positive thinking and friendly. So from then, I focussed on prospecting more clients that had those traits and qualities…Guess what? I won more business and made more friends at the same time!

If you don’t believe me, have a look at your activities and your client list for the last month. Were over ninety percent of your clients and ninety percent of your calls fantastic? No, they weren’t! That’s because neither your clients nor your presentation were consciously trying to be the very best they could be… were they? Once you gain some experience in a job, you tend to cruise a little and forget how great sales are made. For those of you that have the courage to admit I am right…here’s your next step.

Look at your industry and ask yourself: Who are the top fifty, very best people you could possibly hope to present to? Maybe you admire, respect or fear them. Great! Now prepare to call them and arrange an appointment to present your proposition.

If you want to be a leader… You go first!

First ask yourself…”If I were that great a prospect, what kind of sales person would I make the time to see?” Then you prepare to become that person. When you call prospects, make sure you are the very best sales professional you can be: Well informed, concise, excited and confident you and your proposition can be of great service. Oh and by the way, before you go in to see them…think about these qualities. Remember the kind of personal qualities that you would look for in a friend: Honesty, openness, good judgement; great sense of humour, loyal, competitive, determined, positive thinking, and friendly. Do you expect to get these from your clients before you display them yourself? If you are prepared to work on this, in every call you make…you will see a massive change of fortune.

The Primary Skills.

In fairness to many sales people I've coached, they are fully prepared to work on sales techniques and will make sure they are up to date with the newest books, blogs and podcasts from the best sales sources available. My personal belief is that too much emphasis is placed here. The primary success skills are actually those which help you get close to people in the first place! Marshall Goldsmith believes that the higher you get, the less it's about your technical ability, because everyone is switched on and well qualified. The more it matters, how skilled you are with people. Jim Rohn also focussed his work on the power of personal growth before success in business. He said "You can have more than you've got, when you become more than you are."

And now…the results.

For the small percentage of you, the readers that followed all of these steps; Please enjoy the profits…You will have truly earned them. We both know that many people in sales started to fall away from success right back at my first questions…Don’t they?

That’s one of the beauties of this profession.