In this last column of “In Closing …” our local columnists have been asked to sum up their last nine months of columns. Here's what they have to say, in closing …
The Futurist: Denny Clark, Execuquest
In one of my first columns, I set the tone for my role as “The Futurist” – see the future of sales and its relationship to human capital. Two key concepts bubble up:
One size does not fit all. There's no “general public.” Good sales people pinpoint specific groups and learn where they are going, then go along or try to beat them to the destination.
When I talked about the Millennials, I said that they can drive Boomer managers little batty. Actually, any new target group can do that because it is a new experience. Successful futurists enjoy the fact-finding that becomes the predictive element of the hunt. Don't hesitate to jump into the middle of the group. Ask questions. Observe. Accept what is new.
The Analyzer: Naras Eechambadi, Quaero Inc.
Listening has always been appreciated as a virtue in sales. The best salespeople are good listeners. Marketers, on the other hand, have always prized good outbound communication above all else.
Indeed, in many companies, marketing is synonymous with marketing communications and market research and analytics are backwater roles. The emerging marketplace, with its emphasis on dialog, has consequently become more challenging for marketers.
Listening is a hard skill to learn. It is particularly daunting when the data comes in a torrent from a multitude of sources including the Web, call centers, sales reports and customer surveys. Making sense of what you are hearing can be even harder, involving an ability to break down, analyze and synthesize. Marketers and salespeople who master the art of listening and responding, appropriately, will be more successful in a world where customers are better informed and more empowered.
So you want to close more often? Listen more attentively, and take the time to understand your customer before you respond.
The Professor: Tom Stevenson, UNC Charlotte
Effective B2B selling involves researching the client before the first visit, establishing rapport, asking strategic questions, interpreting responses in financial and human terms and offering comprehensive solutions. The process is facilitated by having a strong customer orientation and building trust through empathy, dependability and competence.
Finally, borrowing from the words of one of the readers of this column, “If you follow through on every promise you make, and deliver more than the client ever expected, keeping customers is almost automatic – and referrals can come about – without even asking.”
The Corporate Pro: Sherry Sutton, Think2Profit
My columns about being in corporate sales have a common thread – build consistency in sales quality from every angle. In a company, that can be a challenge because various people don't all think like the person on the front line.
A veteran negotiator warns that the toughest negotiations come from behind you, not from across the table. Maybe that is because the people inside the firm may not behave in a “pro-sales” manner. Hidden behind file cabinets or cubicle walls, you can't see what they have done – a late delivery, in accurate invoice – until it's too late.
A great corporate salesperson manages customers and internal relations, guaranteeing a unified corporate image of quality to everyone. Think of it like this: In a circus “hall of mirrors,” distorted multiple images confuse you. In a department store, we can walk up to a set of three mirrors and see the exact same clear image from three angles, and each image fits together. Don't let your company clown around with sales quality.
The Organizer: Carson Tate, Working Simply
There are only so many minutes in a day. The minutes don't match the calls to make.
Faster. More. Hurry. Everyone else made their quota. Time is money.
I say the “time is money” adage is dead wrong.
The problem: The time is spent, not invested for the best payout. Try this equation: Sales equals the quality of time on the revenue line.
It is the quality of the time you spend that results in revenue. Managing your assistant, effectively delegating, paper management and e-mail management (all columns I have written this year) outline techniques to ensure you stay on the revenue line.
If you want to drive sales, grow your business, or advance within your organization, know where your revenue line is and then structure your day and your tasks around that revenue line.
My final question for each of you – what one thing will you change tomorrow to ensure that you spend the majority of your day on the revenue line?