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3 Reasons Sales Leaders Are Losing Their Jobs

When I was back in corporate America, I remember moving from one role to the next in order to learn as much as possible and “climb” my way up the corporate ladder. I’d move from the field to marketing, to sales management, back to marketing, then to a higher level of sales leadership, all the while keeping my eye on the dream prize, Executive Vice President of Sales. One might think that a position of such importance and stature would be filled by the greatest minds in our industry and would very seldom come open. To my encouragement, and at the time naivety, that position seemed to open up every couple of years. As I got closer to the top of the pyramid, I began to notice the revolving trend. I began to ask what was causing the consistent turnover in that position. The answers I received were clouded and cloaked in politics, but always came down to the same three reasons:

 

1.  Not enough revenue growth

2. Not enough revenue growth

3. Not enough revenue growth

 

Were there other reasons, like managing budgets and developing better leaders? Yes, of course. But, ultimately, it always came down to one thing: not enough revenue growth.

 

In today’s landscape, CEOs and Boards of Directors are increasingly impatient for sales performance and results. The proverbial hatchet seems to fall most easily on the head of sales, regardless of the environment or extenuating circumstances.

 

As a result of this pressure to succeed, disparate and desperate attempts to solve the sales problem lead to cobbled-together solutions.

 

If we only had better leads…

 

If we only had a better CRM…

 

If we only had a more competitive pricing strategy…

 

If we only had better technology in the hands of our salespeople…

 

If we only had better product training…

 

If we only had better frontline managers who knew how to hold people accountable…

 

And on and on…

 

 

While these issues may be real and need solving, they aren’t the primary problem.

 

The real problem lies in your sales team’s inability to create true connection, differentiate themselves and your company, and bring industry-relevant insight into the customer conversation.

 

In other words, the problem is communication. Period. If your salespeople could create trust, educate the buyer around their unrecognized needs, and articulate a buying vision focused on a differentiated solution, you would never miss quota again. Yet…

 

Only 13% of buyers believe a typical sales rep understands their business issues and can articulate how to solve them. And…

 

89% of meetings between your salespeople and prospects are deemed failures (Forrester Research).

 

As you can see, there is no CRM, product training, pricing strategy change, or enhanced technology solution that can help your sales reps have a more productive conversation with your prospects. The harsh reality is that your sales reps’ ability to communicate effectively will help you hit your corporate growth number, or their inability to communicate will force you to hit the executive recruiter’s website with a fresh resume.

3 Reasons Your Sales Reps Miss Quota

Recently, I was filling my truck up with gas and went into the Shell station convenience store to get something to drink. There I was, standing in front of the open cooler door staring at seven rows of various brands of bottled water. Instinctively, I reached down and grabbed the 2 for $2 generic brand and headed for the door. As I was driving away, I glanced over in the cup holder of the passenger door of my truck and noticed an old bottle of Fiji water left there by my wife, and I remembered her comment about not liking the generic water compared to Fiji. But why? Water is water, right? It struck me how analogous salespeople are to bottles of water in today’s B2B sales landscape and the challenges that sales leaders face in helping them differentiate.

 

 

Why? Well, it takes us back to the Shell station. By and large, B2B salespeople today are perceived in their respective marketplaces as no different than bottles of water. A commodity. Is there anything less differentiated than water? The result? Your buyers, when they do choose to make a change, will reach in and pick the cheapest “solution” or continually challenge your sales team to a lower, more competitive price.

Typically, the reasons your sales reps are missing their sales quota has very little to do with poorly qualified leads, an outdated pricing strategy, poor sales collateral or an unattainable plan, yet most sales reps say that’s why they miss quota. The real reason is simple. When a sales rep misses quota, it’s directly due to their ineffective communication within the customer conversation. Period.

The term “Trusted Advisor” may be a bit cliché, but it’s still the goal of every salesperson, and it’s what executive buyers are asking for. Let’s take a look at the following equation we use to define a Trusted Advisor: 

Let’s break down each of the three into the behaviors needed to achieve Trusted Advisor status.

Personal Connection is the ability to demonstrate HONESTY, HUMILITY, AUTHENTICITY and appropriate VULNERABILITY to the prospect or customer. Professional Credibility is the ability to demonstrate KNOWLEDGE, SKILL, CAPABILITY and RELIABILITY.

Add the two of these abilities or characteristics together and divide them by the amount of Personal Agenda on display instead of the customer or prospect’s agenda. Forrester Research also found that executive buyers believe 80% of their time with salespeople is spent talking about the salesperson’s products, services and capabilities, with little to no effort in educating the buyer around insights relevant to their objectives and challenges to those objectives. This behavior scores very high on the Personal Agenda denominator.

As an example, if a salesperson is fantastic, they will score 4 out of 5 on personal connection, 4 on professional credibility and a very low 1 on personal agenda (meaning they stayed focused on the customer’s needs more often.)

If they are the opposite:

Essentially, Trusted Advisors earn both personal trust and professional trust through connection and credibility, and they have a low personal agenda rating because they focus the conversation around the buyer and their needs, not just their own products or solutions. That style earns them the right to be an “advisor” to the buyer.

When a salesperson fails to gain business and ultimately misses quota, it specifically comes down to three areas.

 

  • The buyer doesn’t trust the salesperson (a “bad gut” feeling).
  • The buyer doesn’t find the salesperson or the company they represent capable or reliable for some reason.
  • The buyer doesn’t see enough value in the solution, relative to the price you are asking.

 

All three of these areas can be corrected by changing the way the salesperson communicates to the buyer within the customer conversation.

Isn’t it ironic that we ask our salespeople to convince our prospective buyers to change, but we aren’t giving our salespeople a reason for them to actually change the way they have those conversations?

“Your buyers want to work with salespeople who have empathy for them, who understand their roles and challenges, and who can be prescriptive in helping them.” –Mark Lindwall, senior analyst, Forrester Research

Great Leadership: Connection or Credibility?

We have all worked with leaders that are on different parts of the “greatness scale.” Some landed on the high side and inspired us to work better, harder and faster. Those on the low side had us brushing up our resume. What was it that made the great leaders so great and the others not-so-great?

 

Recently, I sat in the back of the room during the national meeting of one of our new clients, while the CEO delivered the opening keynote. He kicked off the meeting by welcoming everyone and laying out the next three days. He then immediately segued over and navigated smoothly through the company’s results, calling out several people in the audience who had contributed to the success of the company. He moved from topic to topic with relative ease, but something was missing. As I looked around the room, I noticed that a large majority of the 500+ people were essentially tuned out. Some were sneaking peeks at their phones while others were literally sneaking in a nap.  Nothing the CEO said was off point. He was very commanding, articulate and statesman-like. Toward the end, he gave the “call to arms” and attempted to motivate the crowd with a rousing video of customer testimonials, followed by a few last comments on how they need to be even better in the coming year. Everyone cheered and the next presenter took the stage.

 

Juxtapose that with the CEO of a different client of ours. This client has been with us for two years. He took the stage at his national meeting with a slightly different approach. He launched into an incredible story about his father. He showed pictures of he and his dad when he was young and how his dad would take him along to work and teach him about problem-solving and how to treat others. He told very specific stories with visual examples of how his dad literally gave the coat off his back to someone on the street and how his dad was known all over town because of the goofy hat he always wore.  

 

He then shifted and told the story of his father’s funeral this past summer. You could see people in the audience begin to shift in their seats. Every eye was glued on the stage. He went on to tell how he and his siblings were tasked with organizing the memorial service for their father and how the family had asked him to give the final tribute to their father. Everyone always said he looked the most like their dad. This CEO went on to tell the story of the funeral and how he tried to do his father justice with everything he had learned from him. At the end of the story, the CEO pulled out his father’s old coat and hat from under the podium and put them on. He then looked over the audience and said, “We run a company that makes a difference. It makes a difference in the lives of our customers and it makes a difference in the lives of all of our families. This company embodies the characteristics of my father. We solve problems. We work hard. We care deeply for our clients and for each other. At the end of the day, to each and every one of us in this room, our family means more to us than anything. I consider each one of you my family and I’m honored to be your CEO.”

 

After the five-minute standing ovation, guess what he did? He navigated smoothly over the numbers and results, called out several people who had made significant contributions and then told them where the results were lacking, and what they were going to do to turn those things around. What he did was the exact same thing as the first CEO, but the response to his “call to arms” was significantly different. He had the entire room ready to run through a wall for him.

 

 

Connection vs. Credibility

Most leaders have bought into the myth that credibility trumps all. They’ve gotten into the same routine day after day of keeping their chin held high and making sure everyone is accountable to results. I’m certainly not suggesting those are negative leadership traits. What I am suggesting is that if results are what you’re looking for as a leader, you must understand that when you combine the power of connection with your credibility, magic happens. What’s really satisfying for me is that the second CEO I mentioned earlier wasn’t previously known as a “connector” in his organization. He was more reserved and a bit intimidating. He was known as a very intellectual guy who could unintentionally intimidate his team just by talking. After being part of the “Braintrust family” for a couple of years, he absolutely understood his “connection deficit” and took intentional steps to change.

 

Every one of you out there has a LEADERSHIP WHY. When you can dig deep and craft it into a compelling narrative, people respond differently to you. They feel differently about you than they used to. When we ask employees of clients what difference they’ve seen in their leader, we frequently get, “I’m not sure what it is, but it just seems like he gets it now.”

 

People follow people they trust. They trust people they like and connect with. Their respect will become even greater in the presence of connection. They’ve likely always found you credible, but when they know that you know your leadership why and have taken the time to communicate it to them, everything changes.

How Adopting From India Reinforced My “Why”

To my normal audience out there who might be used to articles and information on sales and marketing, I am taking a bit of a detour to share something a little more personal. My hope is that by the end, you will have found something in this article that inspires the “inner you” as well.

 

Not too long ago, I spent a couple of weeks in the country of India where my wife and I adopted Priya, our beautiful little girl. If you’ve never traveled to India, it is a country of great contrasts. So much beauty and such amazing people, surrounded often by so much hurt and poverty. I was moved to tears a couple of different times on our journey and humbled to my core at how much we take for granted.

 

As someone who leads a company that specializes in messaging and communication, I’m continually coaching clients on developing and communicating their “why” story. As part of this story, I ask them to dig in and uncover what it is that they believe. You know, those universal, fundamental human beliefs that unite us, not divide us.

 

I was lucky enough to be raised on a farm and my Papaw taught me several of those beliefs. He taught me about the value of hard work, as he’d let me drive our old, green John Deere tractor, standing between his knees, all around our 100-acre farm. He taught me that people who can help other people solve problems will always live a fulfilling life. He taught me that treating other people better than they expect should simply be the norm (we call it the platinum rule around my house).  Whether it was filling up a neighbors truck anonymously or literally giving the shirt off his back, he actively lived this rule. But the one thing he taught me that I cherish the most was that family matters more than anything else. Long after your peers and colleagues are gone, it will be your family that remains, so treat them accordingly.

 

If you’re like me, your personal “why” is a part of you, but can sometimes get drowned out by the noise and demands of life. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily grind of simply trying to grow a business or meet a quota, all in the name of “provision.” The reality is, most of us would be OK if our livelihood were suddenly taken away. For some of you, that’s happened…maybe more than once. The older I get, the more I appreciate perspective. Why do we work all those hours and chase all those leads and make all those phone calls? Because, as Papaw taught me so many years ago, family matters most. I have always believed this, but my trip to India brought it to a whole new level.

 

As I walked through the orphanage in Assam, India and played soccer with the orphans that we, unfortunately, wouldn’t be able to take home, I was overwhelmed with a large dose of perspective. After about an hour of playing with the kids, several of them began calling me “Papa” and hanging tightly to my legs. Perspective. As I took a tour of the hospice center in the back of the compound and saw 87 frail and dejected TB- and HIV-patients just laying in cots in the middle of a large concrete room, waiting on a nun to come by and help them, I was hit with it once again. Perspective.

 

People repeatedly tell us what a noble and selfless thing we have done by adopting Priya, but the reality is that it’s nowhere near enough. We pulled one beautiful, helpless orphan from a sea of desperate need. Will we change her life forever? Of course. Will she change ours as well? Absolutely. But my heart breaks nonetheless for those kids, the ones wrapped around my legs calling me “Papa,”  that we had to walk away from.

 

As human beings, we are all family. It’s a shame that we don’t live that way. There are over 30 million orphans in the country of India alone, all looking for someone to call “Papa.” Family matters most.

 

Our careers don’t define us. Our beliefs do. When you live out your beliefs, that’s when you really make a difference in this world. It doesn’t mean you have to travel to the other side of the world to live out those beliefs. It simply means that you have figured out a way to allow your beliefs to manifest themselves every day and in every interaction. I am thankful that I had a “sage” like my Papaw, who poured into me and taught me what really matters. I try to run our company with the same beliefs. Do we always get it right? Probably not. But in a world that has become increasingly transactional, we have developed some of the best personal relationships with our clients because the relationship is built upon the rock of common beliefs.

 

Why are we so afraid in our business culture to let our guard down a bit, letting those we work with and for really know who we are? What are we afraid of? Getting taken advantage of? Being fired? Having a prospect look at us like we have two heads? So what? Let them look. Nine of the other ten prospects are going to see something different in your eyes. Something that connects.

 

What are your beliefs? Who had the biggest influence in your life, teaching you those beliefs? How do those beliefs help you make a difference in the world today, both personally and professionally?

 

Sure, we can continue to try the traditional approach to business (and to life), but that generally leaves us feeling a bit empty at the end of the day, doesn’t it? I’d much rather people know the real me. The guy they can trust personally. The old farm boy from Ohio who’d travel across the world to live out the beliefs his Papaw taught him thirty years ago, not for his own accolades and glory, but out of humility for all that he’s been given and what’s been done for him. That’s the guy I want them to know. If they know that guy, then the business will take care of itself. Perspective.

Are You Getting Left Behind? The B2B Social Selling Wave

In 2002, Reid Hoffman and a few of his buddies came over from Paypal and SocialNet to start a networking site called LinkedIn. They knew people had extensive networks of people with whom they had built trust over several decades. After all, people buy from people they trust. What started with just 6,000 users the first month grew to 37,000 after six months and now sits at over 500,000,000 members today.

As individuals, we love feeling connected. We love sharing updates and information. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, the social media space, which was once just a playground for the individual on a personal level, has evolved into a must-have strategy for every organization regardless of size.

Depending on which study you trust, today’s B2B buyer is already at least halfway or more through their buying cycle before they engage the sales rep. If you don’t believe that to be true, I’d encourage you to look at your own buying habits. Where’s the first place you go when you realize you need something? The Internet. There is an endless amount of information available to today’s buyer. The key is to build trust prior to their realization that they need something.

 

 

What Is Social Selling?

 

Social selling is the new normal. In a nutshell, social selling is when a company and their people passively and (eventually) actively engage with their prospects through social media by providing useful insights and content that helps educate their ideal buyer, all while building trust and credibility subconsciously. In other words, social selling is about creating connection and building trust, without necessarily having face-to-face contact.

B2B buyers trust their peers, industry journals and forums far more than the telemarketer attempting to set a first appointment to discuss a product they didn’t even know they needed. When they see a large social network engaging in a discussion around a topic that you and your team are part of, it not only engages them, but it also increases your visibility and credibility. Eventually, the engagement builds to a point in which your sales people can begin to interact directly with interested parties. Ultimately, this leads to a prospect being entered into the active stages of the buying journey. Social Selling, when done properly and purposefully, can be one of the top driving factors in your sales performance.

 

 

The Buyer Journey

 

Let’s take a look at the “Buyer Journey Stages” below.

 

No Need  > Awareness  >  Research  >  Evaluation  >  Decision  >  Execution

 

Social selling is tremendously helpful in the first two stages of the Buyer Journey. When the buyer (a) doesn’t know they have an issue, but sees an article or post highlighting their challenge, it can trigger a question in their minds. Or, (b) the buyer knows they have an issue and is actively looking for content and information from trusted sources. If you and your company do a great job of educating the market around challenges that you are capable of solving, you will become a well-respected source of information for your buyers.

While this may all seem simple, most B2B sales companies are behind the times. They haven’t bought in yet and are losing to the up-and-coming tech-savvy companies who are actively leveraging social selling to grow their reputation as a trusted resource.

 

 

The Barriers to Successful Social Selling

 

1. Not enough content

One of the critical components of being a social seller and thought leader is to provide content. For many, this seems to be a monumental task. Do I have the ability to write enough content and have enough things to say to really drive interest in my posts? After all, we have learned that a steady stream of content is critical to the success of social media. Is the reality that you have to create a steady stream (weekly or even daily) of brand new content? In a word, no. Fresh content created by you or thought leaders within your organization is great but curating content written by others can also have a powerful impact.

2. Not having a documented social strategy

Like most things, a lack of preparation will doom a plan to failure before it even begins. There are a lot of nuances to Social Selling that, at the surface, may not seem to be major items. But when taken in the overall context, these nuances can really hurt the effectiveness of your campaign. A documented strategy for adoption across your entire organization (more on that in the next bullet point) is critical. To suddenly decide one day that your salespeople are going to stop cold-calling and concentrate on Social Selling might well result in your termination rather than phenomenal revenue growth. You have to put in place executive sponsorship, training, organizational adoption, alignment of goals, and, possibly most importantly, measurements of success. There is a great video by Mario Martinez, Jr., a recognized Social Selling leader, that speaks to having a plan in place for Social Selling. I encourage all of you to take a look at that here: Webinar: Social Selling

3. Not leveraging the entire organization

As I mentioned before, organizational adoption is critical to the success of a Social Selling plan. Ideally, your entire company is aware of the Social Selling goals and participates at some level. At a minimum, your Sales and Marketing organizations must be involved. Why is this so critical? One of the mains areas of power in Social Selling is connection. If Social Selling is only adopted by a few in the organization, the network of connections is relatively small. When the entire organization is involved, the network is virtually infinite. Your team could be looking to work with an executive buyer and find out that someone in your operations team is a friend of his or hers. That is power that can only be unlocked with strong organizational adoption.

Social Selling is not a fad. It’s here and it’s here to stay. It gives early adopting B2B companies a huge competitive advantage.

Neuroscience and Sales? Really?

 

Welcome to the first ever Science of Sales podcast! We are so grateful that you are here.

 

This first episode is all about laying the groundwork – really understanding how something as nerdy as neuroscience is related to sales situations, language and relationships. Our Founder & CEO, Jeff Bloomfield, will lay out the fundamentals of how understanding the neuroscience behind your customers’ decision-making process can dramatically increase your sales.

 

In addition, Jeff covers:

  • Why it is important to recognize that our brains were built for preservation
  • The basics of the “triune brain” and why it matters to salespeople
  • How our brains instinctively take in information, and therefore how your customers’ brains are reacting to your sales & marketing messages
  • How sales & marketing messages can bypass the skeptical brain and validate why a customer would make a buying decision

 

Throughout this episode, you will start to realize that most of these concepts might sound like you’re sitting in a lecture, but they’re often pretty natural responses. It’s understanding the why behind the what in a sales conversation that will help push you over the edge.

5 Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Listening To You

As leaders in today’s business world, we may or may not realize how deeply the our followers’ neurochemistry dictates how well our coaching and direction is received.

My daughter used to play competitive AAU Basketball. Her coach was great at the details and fundamentals of the game, but was a very intense fella with a strong tendency to be a screamer. He rarely screamed at the girls in practice, but something changed when it came game time. Time after time, I watched as he screamed at the girls in the middle of the game when it wasn’t going the way he thought it should.

There is one game I will never forget. He went into his usual tirade and then called a timeout just to yell some more. When the girls were gathered around him in the huddle, my daughter, who was known as the “princess” on the team (the sweet, kind type), spoke up. “Coach,” she said, “when you yell like that, my brain just shuts down and I can’t even remember what I’m supposed to be doing.”  A wry smile came across my face as I listened in from behind the bench. The red in the coach’s face slowly faded back to normal pink and he took a deep breath. Calmly, he said, “Ok…you’re right. Let’s talk about what we’re doing right and what we learned in practice that we need to do differently today.” He now had all the girls’ attention. The “stress” from the moment was reduced drastically. The girls left the huddle, went out on the court, and executed flawlessly.

So what does my daughter’s coaching moment with her coach have to do with neurochemisty? Quite a bit, actually. When the human brain is under stress, it triggers the release of cortisol. The basic reason for this release is meant for good, but generally leads to bad outcomes. When the right amount of cortisol is released in the right moment, our body uses it to help with all sorts of good and necessary functions, such as metabolism and immune response. But when cortisol gets out of balance, it becomes significantly debilitating to our entire body. Most specifically, it has detrimental effects on our brain.

The reasons cortisol is Enemy #1 to a leader are many, but let’s tackle the top five.

 

Reason #1: Cortisol induced stress reduces our ability to connect

Oxytocin is the neurochemical involved with care, connection, empathy and trust. Research shows that when we are under stress, cortisol production is high and oxytocin production is low. In essence, simple biology tells us that when we stress out our teams, they stop trusting us.

 

Reason #2: Cortisol induced stress actually kills brain cells

Yep, you heard that correctly. When you stress out your people, it actually aids in the production of free radicals that attack the cell walls of your brain cells, causing them to prematurely die. This leads to your employees experiencing forgetfulness, irrational emotion and illogical decision-making. Not good if you’re the leader.

 

Reason #3: Cortisol induced stress halts the production of new brain cells

As a sales leaders, we are trying to teach, train and equip our people. By placing them under stress, we actually inhibit their ability to learn new tasks and skills.

 

Reason #4: Cortisol induced stress makes your people sick

Literally. Cortisol can actually aid in the breaking down of the brain’s primary defenses against pathogens and toxins. This results in a stressed-out team that actually gets sick more often. It should be clear that sick days do not lead to higher productivity.

 

Reason #5: Cortisol induced stress actually makes your people more stupid.

Believe it or not, stress shrinks the size of the brain due to its inhibitory effect on cellular production. Our brain will seize up at critical times due to the survival mechanism when under stress, leading to faulty memory, irrational reactions and reduced overall cognitive function. This can subside in the case of acute stress, but in the case of chronic stress it can become permanent. Did you know that your stress induced tirade at the last team meeting actually made your team collectively dumber? You may have thought they seemed dumber…you probably didn’t stop to think that you caused it.

When you place your people in an environment of stress, their survival mechanisms are activated and they go into “escape mode.” They no longer have the biological ability to even hear what you’re saying. Just like my daughter expressed in the middle of the stressed out basketball huddle, their brains “shuts down” and they can’t remember what they’re supposed to be doing.

When you speak to your team, it’s imperative to remember that every word coming from your mouth is generating a neurochemical response in their minds. Sales results may be down and there may be a need for major changes in your business, but how you communicate this information as a leader will determine whether your team responds favorably and rallies behind you or responds with self-preservation and becomes even less productive than before.

The 3 Irrefutable Elements of Sales Growth

Over the past several decades, there have been a myriad of books written and talks given on how to grow your business, improve your marketing, increase sales performance, etc. Some of those lessons are good. Some are useless. I certainly don’t want to take the arrogant position that everything ever written or spoken prior to this post is garbage and that I’ve cracked the proverbial code that now transcends all previous sales and marketing strategies. That being said, the following is not just my opinion; rather, these are common strategies among successful organizations boiled down into three critical elements which guarantee results if executed effectively.

As you read, keep in mind that the key is not just to have these three elements, but to effectively communicate these elements to the world.

 

Element #1: Company “Why”

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he outlines many reasons why people don’t buy what you do – They buy why you do it. There is a neurobiological reason for this. As humans, we make decisions with the limbic system of the brain, and we make them emotionally and instinctively. The vast majority of companies today communicate what they sell, not why. It has to be larger than the money they can make. Revenue is simply a positive side effect of operating effectively.

As an example, let’s look at Toms Shoes. Their entire mantra is “One for One.” Founder Blake Mycoskie was deeply moved by the fact that as he traveled, he encountered so many children around the world who didn’t have shoes. He created his company’s purpose around helping those children. Now, for every pair of shoes his company sells, they donate a pair to a child in need. His company has experienced tremendous sales growth. People emotionally connect with his “why,” and because we all need shoes at some point, wouldn’t you rather feel like you’re helping contribute to a global cause? That makes you never want to go to Dick’s or Famous Footwear to buy shoes again, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t really matter what your company sells. If they don’t tap into the “why” first and foremost, you will limit the engagement of your employees and your customer base. In his book Grow, Jim Stengel found that over a decade period starting in 2000, companies that understood their “why” grew at a much faster rate than their peer group.

Your company’s “why” needs to focus on one (or two at most) of the following purpose-driving categories.

  • It brings Joy to people
  • It evokes Pride in people
  • It creates Connection for people
  • It encourages Exploration in people
  • It improves Society in a tangible way

Here are a few companies that have tapped into the power of purpose; Coke=Joy, Mercedes Benz=Pride, Starbucks=Connection, Google=Exploration, Tom’s Shoes=Improving Society. There are many others, but you have the idea by now.

 

Element #2: Brand “Why”

Many companies don’t understand element #1 above, leaving them without a true roadmap on how to do marketing the correct way. Marketing is all about understanding who your customers are, what motivates them to buy, and how your solution solves their problem. Once you know those three things, you must create an emotional connection with that audience and build authentic trust with your brand. How do we do that? By creating a brand purpose.

Your brand purpose is your brand “why”. It generally flows out of your company “why”. Step one is to determine whether you are a “branded house” or a “house of brands”. An example of a “branded house” would be BMW. Their purpose category is joy. In fact, their entire marketing campaign is laser focused on “the joy of driving.” They allow the house to be the brand i.e. BMW. Yes, they have the 3, 5, and 7 series vehicles, but everything revolves around the house brand. They know their category and they know their brand purpose. In this case, the company “why” and the brand “why” are the same. An example of a “house of brands” would be Procter & Gamble. They have a company brand but primarily communicate to the market through individual brands. Pampers, Tide, NyQuil are just a few of their brands. Each brand has to have its own purpose and shouldn’t be too far off from the company purpose for consistency. Once you know your brand’s purpose (or as we call it, your “brand driving purpose”), you can begin to create messaging that speaks directly to your customers’ emotional “buying” brain with laser focus.

I know you may be thinking that this strategy works well for consumer brands but not for business to business (B2B) companies. That’s absolutely not true. It’s simply a case of B2B companies not generally having the sophistication and knowledge on how to do this compared to the high profile marketing budgets of consumer retail companies. EVERY company needs to have a company “why” and brand “why.” There is no exception if you want to truly create trust with your market.

 

Element #3: Personal “Why”

When you look at the Fortune 100 list of top companies to work for, you generally see a consistent theme: The employees of those companies believe strongly in the purpose of the organization. I had the privilege of working at Genentech for most of my corporate career, and we were consistently in the top ten companies to work for. Why? Because the employees there knew our “why”. It was to create novel therapies to treat unmet medical needs. In some cases, we were literally curing cancer. Our “brand driving purpose” category was clearly to improve society. Now, it’s one thing to have a great company “why” and brand “why” but if you don’t understand your own personal “why”, then all you can ever do is try to use your company’s credibility to connect with customers.

What it all comes down to is the individual, especially in B2B. People tend to want to buy from people, not companies. That being said, we know emphatically through research that the number one driver of sales is trust. Trust is an emotion that happens at the subconscious level. How does one develop trust? You must first make a genuine connection. Guess what? I don’t connect with the facts and figures of your products or services. I don’t connect with your ten year track record of success and awards. I don’t connect with your resume of respected companies you’ve worked with. I connect with people who believe what I believe. I connect with people who come across with authenticity, humility and honesty. I connect with people that are real. The only way to come across as real is to be real. You must have a personal “why.”

Why do you do what you do? It can’t be for the money. Again, like with the company “why”, the money is a result of effectively executing the “why” before the “what.” What universal beliefs do you possess that I will connect with? Why are you trustable, and where did you learn that from? What’s the story behind your “why”? We teach clients to communicate their personal “why” in 90 seconds in a way that’s emotional, visual and experiential. It’s powerful. If you want to know why I do what I do, read my profile.

Neuroscience: You Don’t Make a Sale Without It

Recently, I was traveling to a speaking engagement to an area of the country I had not been to in several years.  When I left the office to head for the airport, I jumped on a conference call with a client and before you know it, I was standing at the security checkpoint at the airport.  I never even gave it a second thought. When I arrived at my destination, however, I was really unsure of where I was going. A few mental gymnastics and a Google maps episode later and off I went in my rental car, paying very close attention to the commands being uttered by my trusty iPhone.  I was completely locked into finding my destination and had blocked out all other distractions. This made me think about how the brain is involved in the B2B sales buying decision…and it’s likely not in the way you think.

The brain is made up of approximately 100 billion neurons.  Through this super highway of interconnected amazement, all learning and memory takes place.  Sensory information is transmitted by synapses along the neural pathway and stored temporarily in short-term memory.  The short-term memory area of the brain is a very volatile region. Think of Grand Central Station. This is where the brain initially receives all sensory information and encounters in our daily lives.

What’s really interesting about the brain is that it essentially throws all new incoming information or experiences up on the “cerebral whiteboard” and proceeds to run through the long-term storage area to see if you’ve ever experienced anything like this before in your life.  This process happens in an instant.

 

WHY THIS MATTERS TO YOUR PROSPECTS

From the sales person’s perspective, when we communicate information to a prospect, they are subconsciously determining whether or not they are familiar with that “story.”  Similar to my trip to the airport, my brain instantly recognized the task of driving to the airport and didn’t require additional information to execute on the decision. But let’s say you told me that the airport was in the opposite direction of the way I was traveling.  Due to the strong nature of the neuron connections my brain had created around this path to the airport, my brain would have run that new information quickly against the long-term database and dismissed it as useless (as well as you.)

A recent study done by CEB found that 86% of Executive Buyers saw no apparent difference from one supplier to the next. Why is that?

From the prospect’s perspective, when a salesperson engages them with transactional facts and figures and spends the majority of their time talking about themselves and the features and benefits of their solutions, the prospect subconsciously believes they have “seen your movie before.”  Their brain is quick to dismiss all self-focused, fact-based, transactional information as useless to them. The reason for this is that when they throw our information up on their “neural-whiteboard,” it gets instantly compared to all the other transactional, useless sales interactions in their long term memory and is immediately discarded.

 

THE POWER OF NOVEL INSIGHT

According to the University of Michigan’s Biopsychology research, when the brain selectively receives information through the five senses that it deems as novel or new, it pays special attention.  Essentially, when it runs the new information against the existing database, it comes back as “no match” to anything it has experienced. Now you have the brain’s attention.

In fact, another recent study by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that as the brain receives this new information from the various senses, it will assemble the bits of data into a complete picture and that “picture” becomes the memory of the event or data.  That’s why if we both see and hear something, it becomes more memorable.

In addition, when that information comes attached to emotion of some sort, i.e. fear, anger, laughter, or joy, the emotion becomes a central part of the memory and makes the neural coupling over 20 times stronger for future recall.  This explains why highly emotional events like a death or birth become instantly retrievable and unforgettable.

Now, back to the prospect.  They have likely seen hundreds, if not thousands of sales presentations and their long-term memory is full of preconceived notions on what to expect from the next one to walk through their office.  Subconsciously, their brain is looking for something novel and it’s looking for it quickly. If you simply communicate with him or her the way every other sales person has for the past decade, you will be instantly discarded as irrelevant and useless in the mind of your prospect.  This explains why Jill Rowley, renowned Social Selling expert, was recently quoted as saying that “trust between the buyer and the sales rep is at an all-time low, hovering around 30%.”

How can you expect to make a sale when you have been dismissed in the mind of your prospect?

 

HOW TO STAND OUT IN THE MIND OF YOUR PROSPECT

  1. Don’t open the meeting with a transactional verbal agenda or an elevator pitch about “what” you or your company does.  Start with “WHY.” Get personal. Build trust. It will work wonders.
  1. Use relevant industry insight to show your prospect something new and interesting relative to trends in their world that they may not have been aware of.  Make sure that insight evokes emotion and forces them to think critically about what it would mean to not take action on this information.
  2. Use visual storytelling techniques when positioning your solution.  Create contrast. The prospect’s brain will associate the value of your solution based on the contrast you can create between the cost of the problem and the price of your competition.
  3. Show them an easy and straightforward path to implementation and ensure they clearly see how your solution solves THEIR primary problem.

 

Remember, every word coming from your mouth has only seconds on the “whiteboard” of the short-term memory station of your prospect’s brain.  If you don’t show originality and novelty, like so many reps before you, you will be discarded on the prospect’s pile of “been there, seen that.”

The 5 Bad Habits Every Sales Leader Must Break – Immediately

Over the past two decades, I have been a sales leader and I have coached countless numbers of them. In my experience and the experience of all the leaders I have coached and interviewed, there are five bad habits that many unconsciously develop that prevent them from exceeding their revenue targets, developing themselves into great leaders, and developing their people.

These habits are consistent across industries and seem to be pervasive regardless of tenure. It does seem that the longer a leader has been in a management position, the more ingrained these bad habits tend to be. These bad habits can also plague the small to medium-sized business owner as much as the senior leader of a global sales organization.

 

Bad Habit #1: They focus on the wrong things

If you read the job description of just about any sales leadership function, usually 75 to 85 percent of the responsibilities revolve around coaching and developing others. When I interview clients both current and past on this subject, the average time spent on this category is less than 10 percent! Instinctively, we know in our hearts that the best way to drive results is through others, yet we get sucked into the chaos of firefighting every day, and before we know it, the vast majority of our time is spent trying to solve problems for our people rather than empowering them to solve those problems themselves.

What would it look like if you literally spent four days a week doing nothing but improving your team’s knowledge, skills and attitudes? If you’re not able to do this, my guess is that it’s due to two constraints. Number one, your organization’s administrative processes are too burdensome and time consuming. Number two, you stink at time management. Both are devastating to your ability to do what you were hired to do—coach for results.

 

Bad Habit #2: They measure the wrong things

The number one problem for most organizations is to improve top line sales revenue. With this in mind, let’s follow the normal school of sales leadership thinking. To increase revenue, my people need to be in front of more customers; therefore, I will measure every sales person based on their percent to plan and the number of sales calls they can make. The reality is, every sales team performs on the traditional bell curve. Ironically, the top performing sales people rarely make the most calls. Yet, we still employ the flawed logic that more calls equals higher performance. Rarely is this the case. So if it’s not the case, then what is really going on?

A sales person’s performance is ultimately measured by the revenue they produce but those sales totals are simply an outcome of sales behaviors. The great sales people consistently demonstrate great sales behaviors, not just activity for activity’s sake. What you should be measuring are the behaviors your sales people are demonstrating and to do that you must actually spend time with them observing their behavior in front of customers. As a leader, you cannot assume that your sales people have the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to be great. You have to define those sales competencies and expected behaviors and work backwards to measure their ability to demonstrate those behaviors in front of customers. What prevents you from doing this? See Bad Habit #1.

 

Bad Habit #3: They unwittingly reinforce poor sales behaviors

Producing more revenue for the organization is always in the front of every sales manager’s mind regardless of seniority. That pressure to deliver results is what gives them insomnia and ulcers. It’s that very pressure that manifests itself during the workday when they push that pressure down onto their teams. That pressure produces fear of failure, which gives rise to anxiety and stress. That consistent daily dose of cortisol causes most sales leaders to unconsciously reinforce poor sales behaviors in their teams. How does this happen, you ask?

Let’s say you get the month’s latest sales results one Friday afternoon and for the third month in a row, you’re behind the plan. You fret, worry, and stress all weekend on how to turn the ship around. By Monday morning, you haven’t necessarily come up with any innovative solutions so at the Monday morning sales meeting you simply do what comes natural, and that’s to go transactional. You begin the meeting by saying enough is enough and we need to do better! We have to do a better job at convincing our customers to buy our solution. We need to make more calls and close more sales. By the end of your rant, you have the cortisol levels so high in your sale team that they bottle that stress, turn around and go data dump as many customers as they can that week. It’s that stress coupled with measuring the wrong things that continually breeds poor sales behaviors in sales people. You are unwittingly creating in your sales people the very habits that cause your customers not to buy. The next month rolls around with underperformance, and the cycle continues. Customers buy from people they trust, and they trust sales people who are skilled at personal connection. Until you can get your sales team to improve their ability to establish personal and professional trust, the poor results will continue.

 

Bad Habit #4: They assume training happens elsewhere

Depending on your organization’s philosophy and resources, you will have varying degrees of sales training and development resources. For those at large companies, they tend to abdicate training responsibility to the training department. For those at small to medium sized companies, they assume they are hiring skilled sales people who can read a binder and “go get ’em”. In both scenarios, the sales person, even in the best case, gets transactionally trained on products and services but has no development whatsoever in actual sales behavior training.

A typical sales manager picks up the ball once a sales person has completed their customary “on boarding” training and managing them to the number from that point forward. A couple of months go by and they can’t understand why the sales person isn’t producing more. “Didn’t you go through training?” they ask, or, “I thought I hired you because of your experience?” Many sales managers have implemented their unique “sales process” for their teams that usually reinforces the wrong behaviors (see bad habit #3) and don’t equip their teams to have the skills necessary to truly drive effective sales behaviors. When underperformance happens, the finger pointing begins. Managers point the finger at training, and training says they did their job, so either you don’t know how to manage, or you stink at hiring, and the cycle continues…

 

Bad Habit #5: They manage instead of lead

You can only manage processes. You have to lead people. We know this to be true at the gut level, we just can’t seem to figure out how to implement the concept in our daily grind. Unfortunately, we have embraced the term “manage.” The term itself has a connotation of control. Managers spend their time fighting fires and creating administrative nightmares. Leaders empower others, cast vision, and allow the system to hold people accountable based on one’s ability to demonstrate results through behaviors.

Managers say things like, “Your sales are down. How many customers are you seeing per week?” Leaders say things like, “When you’re in front of a customer, where do you feel you’re losing ground? What skills do you need to improve to prevent that from happening?” Managers focus on expense reports being turned in on time and having every penny accounted for. Leaders focus on how well the sales person invested their resources to accomplish their objectives. Managers focus on activity. Leaders focus on behaviors. Managers point out critical flaws, while leaders encourage and empower development. I could go on for pages about the difference between the two. It’s the pressure and constant stress that sales leaders feel that turn them back into managers. Managers live in a constant state of worry, anxiety, and critical judgment. Leaders live in a state of vision, hope, and empowerment. Which one are you and which one would you prefer to work for?

As you might have guessed by reading through these bad habits, they tend to build on each other like an avalanche that starts small and innocent but by the time it reaches the valley, it has taken out everything in its path, including your career.