Is there a more valuable ability in the race to be a successful business than the ability to sell? I think not. Selling solves everything. Financial problems. Logistical problems. Headaches. Ok, not everything but most. Providing, of course, that you’re selling properly, responsibly, offering a product or service that works and offers the value your customers seek. If you keep selling well, other problems are much easier to solve.
I want to you to consider turning everyone in your organisation into a salesperson, at least to some extent. There is a danger that only your sales teams read these articles or attend your sales training. Yet your accounts teams, legal teams, marketing, receptionists and all other roles (yes, I know many of you do all of that and make the morning coffee!) also interact with your clients on a day to day basis and the way they deal with your clients and partners affects your ability as a company to sell.
Regular readers of my blogs will recall that I believe there are four essential steps to successful sales conversations and, to date, I have written about the first two: 1. Earn the right to speak to someone; and 2. Ask questions to understand them, their company and the needs they have. Step 3 is to sell them something about which I will write soon. Today, I want to remind you all of the importance of encouraging every person in your company to tune into sales.
Peter Esders, a friend of mine and an international property lawyer, said to me at the recent event, “As a lawyer, I have no legal work to do, no means of using the skills in which I was trained for years through university and law school, unless I am first able to sell my services to potential clients. It’s only once they become clients that I start my work as a lawyer. Up to that point, I’m a salesman. If I fail in that job, I can never succeed in being a lawyer.”
Peter recognises something many don’t: if your company doesn’t sell stuff, nobody has a job. Employees that provide a poor service – rudely chasing up invoices only slightly overdue, for example – too often see no correlation between the terrible customer experience they deliver and the customer failing to return for more business. “That’s the sales team’s job!” they say before grumpily heading off for lunch! Wow, some job. Calling a client that has paid good money to your company only to hear them lament the lack of love they felt from people whose wages are paid by such clients. (I know you’re not all like this! But too many still are).
Jan Carlzon was the CEO of SAS Airlines 20-odd years ago now. He revolutionised the way they worked and turned around the fortunes of the company based, largely, on this simple idea that every member of the company needs to sell the company well by providing an outstanding experience to clients every step of the way. His book – Moments of Truth, which I highly recommend – explained the philosophy that every time a customer came into contact with SAS (seeing a brochure, calling their offices, checking in at an airport, boarding a plane etc) was a moment of truth. Using the unlikely comparison of the bull and matador facing each other in the bullring, he suggests that if his teams get this moment of truth wrong they lose the client for life. Get it right and SAS kept them.
The interactions with the non-sales teams in your company directly affect your ability to sell successfully. They don’t need to sell the benefits of product a, b or c or overcome price objections on purchases. But they do need to sell the experience a client or partner has with your business. That takes the same skills as salespeople engage every day: patience, empathy, dynamism, compassion, persuasion and warmth. It will pay you back many times over if you can develop this across the whole team. And your clients will love you for it.
Please, make everyone a salesperson.