What are some things we know to be true? "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. A body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. And the best way to motivate salespeople is by offering them commissions." Daniel H Pink writes in his article, A Radical Presciption for Sales.
"But," Pink asks, "What if we're wrong, at least about that last one? What if paying salespeople commissions is rooted more in tradition than logic? What if it's a practice so cemented into orthodoxy that it's no longer an actual decision?"
Pink introduces the concept discovered by a handful of companies that "commissions can sometimes do more harm than good-and that getting rid of them can open a path to higher profits"
One finding is that the effectiveness of motivators varies with the task. They've discovered that "the promise of a reward, especially cash, excites our attention, and we focus narrowly on getting the job done. However, those same if-then rewards turn out to be far less effective for complex, creative, conceptual endeavors-what psychologists call "heuristic" work." For those more creative projects, this makes perfect sense because you need a broader perspective, which, can be inhibited by if-then rewards.
Thinking about sales, we know that in the middle of the last century, selling was fairly simple. You memorized your pitch, cold-called and gave your sample case. Over and over this was done until the "law of averages works in your favor."
Today, customers often have as much information as salespeople, and how we sell has changed. "Identifying new problems along with solving established ones. Selling insights rather than items." It makes sense to say that since selling strategies have changed, the effectiveness of commissions has changed also.
Pink then describes examples of sales managers who did away with commissions and how their teams flourished. "The result? Total sales increased. The cost of sales stayed the same."
While scrapping commissions has worked for many companies, and it is something to be considered, it is surely not for every company.
Simply challenging this orthodoxy helps us recognize that selling today is sophisticated, complex work- and that the people doing it therefore require incentives beyond a dangled carrot.
Effective sales cals need thought and preparation. You want to be thorough in your research and preparation, so when the meeting comes around you know everything you need to. In Dylis Guyan's article, Guyan explains why it is important to prepare for sales calls and meetings and then gives eight factors to remember when preparing.
However good you think you are at selling there is no substitute for careful preparation before each sales call and an understanding of each prospective buyer.
Guyan writes, "The fact is, it is the effective salesperson who takes time to research the target as an individual - not just another name on a list. Only when you have this knowledge can you highlight a need."
The eight factors to include in great preparation are:
- Have a clear objective: Just wanting a sale is not enough. Break down your goals and focus on what strategy to use specific to the buyer.
- Needs analysis: Get a good idea of possible needs.
- What do you have to offer? Use your knowledge to extract the benefits unique to the client.
- Answers for objections. Have ready-made answers for the most common questions.
- Unique selling points in terms of competitors: Research the competition.
- Extra benefits (support etc.) Add value.
- Return on Investment analysis. Make sure your sales conversation takes into account Return on Investment. The buyer will clearly need to see how cost is swallowed up by benefits made.
- Personality style. The most important part of your sales conversation will be unique to every prospective buyer. Consider personality and psychology in order to choose the right style, pace, and tempo.
In Mark Coxon's article, Coxon teaches how he learned the important skill that is useful in selling, which is good first impressions and showing intention. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" is what his manager at The Olive Garden taught him, and it has stayed with him ever since. In writing about his time at The Olive Garden, Coxon says, "But in that environment, the first impression was all that stuck. I only had an hour max with most people I met, and my financial situation depended on them liking me. I couldn't control cold food, slow kitchen times, etc but I could control my interaction with the customer." He averaged 30% tips and never left in a terrible mood.
Why? He's figured it out: "I just rolled with whatever came my way. Another waiter wanted to go home, I took his section. Kitchen was slow, I stayed out on the floor and talked tot he table to let them know I was waiting just like them. They knew I was present, and that I was aware of their concerns and was doing what I could in the meantime to make them comfortable."
C.S. Lewis makes a point in some of his writings to say that intent is more important than results for most people. If you make your intentions transparent, and they are good, then you can roll with almost any situation involving people and come out on top.
Many salespeople try to exercise complete control and control the conversation. "However, I have found the opposite to be more effective. There is a way to always lead the conversation in the right direction, while still being open to customer cues and to what they are interested in."
Most of all, remember to roll with how things go, and you'll win.
In this TED talk by Yves Morieux, Morieux gives solutions to simplifying the workplace. Why? Because people are feeling miserable and disengaged at work and this is because businesses are increasingly and dizzying complex.
His six rules are:
- Understand what others do.
- Reinforce integrators. Integrators are not middle offices, they are mangers, existing managers that you reinforce so that they have power and interest to make others cooperate.
- Remove layers
- Increase the quantity of power so that you can empower everybody to use their judgement, their intelligence.
- Give more cards to people so that they have the critical mass of cards to take the risk to cooperate, to move out of insulation.
- Increase reciprocity, by removing the buffers that make us self-sufficient.
The science behind finding these rules, and how Moieux got into learning about this subject in the first place is really interesting. Check it out.
In this post written by Nick White and published by Tom Augenthaler, White writes how he believes that it's a "dangerous fallacy to focus one's attention on only a single or handful of tactics at the expense of others such as SEO or content marketing."
But, this concern isn't about today's standardized integrated approach to marketing and sales but instead in management's endency to boil complex situations down to a single set of cause-and-effect statistics in order to simplify both the problem and its solution.
Don't take the issue with the research but remember "the importance of understanding ust how nuanced marketing is becoming - a phenomenon that we're seeing become resistant, most especially in the B2B sphere."
Beware the simple solution: It's far more rewarding and efficient to develop new avenues to engage industry inflluencers, are they're the key to converting your prospects in the first place.