The answer is …not a lot!

Both are driven by the signing of their contract in a world where the approach, the focus and the outcome is shifting to one of contribution toward our buyer’s growth.

Just ask Southwest Airlines CEO, Herb Kelleher, what he considered was important enough to give them 33 years of unbroken profitability. With a stock symbol of LUV, successful and sustained growth certainly wasn’t driven only by the dollar.

We have business leaders who are investing huge resources on analytics, CRM’s, pipeline development tools and teaching their salespeople how to become ‘challengers’ or utilise social media platforms to engage with the buyer more effectively, so that they can become the difference that makes the difference in delivering incremental revenues.

And that is a good thing!

But in many cases something is missing, and that something may not be at a front line level, but may just be at a leadership level.

On the surface things look, sound and feel like there is change, that there is a shift happening in the culture of selling, that perhaps the professionalism and care factor is surfacing more and more in some environments, that just maybe the outcome of contributing to the buyers business might be found on that insights driven path everyone is talking about, and that it will in fact create a win/win/win scenario for all involved.

But then people begin to wake up to a reality that surrounds them. Where that win for the greater good we appear to be striving for almost becomes a pipe dream, replaced with a drive that continues to be based on pipeline closing. Because as the end of the month draws closer, those famous last words are being uttered, right on cue, in sales environments around the globe :

• ‘where are we at with closing that contract?’
• ‘throw something at the deal to get it in on time’
• ‘go above her head to someone who CAN sign’ or
• ‘close him a bit harder’.

We all know the drill.

So in a world where the re-education of salespeople is key to being one that is aligned with the buyers journey, where ‘ ing’ to what buyers want is encouraged, where the alignment of values and what’s important to the buyer is high on our agenda, where it looks like the profession of selling is finally moving from the transactional sale of ‘Always Be Closing’, though the transitional sale of ‘Always Be Connecting’ to the transformational level where ‘Always Be Contributing’ through relevance, responsiveness and trust is expected of the salesperson, then what should we expect of the sales leaders?

Should we not expect them to walk that talk too? Or is it about walking to the beat of a double standards drum instead?

A discussion with a senior leader in an IT company prompted this post.

He shared with me the work the organisation as a whole had done by working on the Simon Sinek model and the ‘power of why’ in business. He then turned to me and said ‘but we’ve still got to get the numbers so we default to what we’ve always done – moving boxes.’

So, my point is: are our sales leaders purely transactional? How many have transitioned to a level that truly cares about the buyer, the buyers time frames and the problems behind the problems that the buyer actually has? And if not, then what hope do their sales people have?

Imagine that it took a little longer to reach your outcome. That you didn’t crunch the deal at the end of this week based only on your agenda, but it took a month longer. I’m not suggesting you don’t ask for the business – far from it, but you collaborate on a win/win/win – you both trust each other and have a level of professional respect.

In writing this article, I have been reminded of a deal I collaborated on many years ago and worth in excess of a million dollars. It was the end of the financial year and I was ‘told’ to go and close the deal even though I knew it wouldn’t be signed and I knew the two buyers would be more than annoyed, as they hadn’t signed on earlier attempts, plus I knew it didn’t suit their timing and I also had to juggle the fact that the competition were hot on our heels. I also knew they were not the typical buyer in that industry and they played by the rules and weren’t seduced by any ‘under the table’ incentives.

I sat with them and I got straight to the point, ‘You know why I am here, I’m not going to ask you to sign my contract even though you know that is what I have been asked to do, so let’s continue discussions on where we are going next ’. The words they came back to me with immediately were, ‘that was a smart move because had you asked, you wouldn’t have got the business at all’.

Was it a clandestine move that was against the grain? Yes! They signed a month later and referenced that last day of the financial year as playing a part in their decision making. Who you show up as and how you can influence people is more important than why!!

I wonder how many opportunities are lost because some leaders dictate transactional tactics for the short term gain when trust can be a natural closer and provides a longer term relationship and retention platform in the process.

I love Simon Sinek’s WHY model, but I love my ChangeMakers model better (read my article here where I think Sinek may have got it wrong), because we need to work on understanding what else goes into influencing buyers, outside of external manipulation and control and as a result it might pay to look inward to the influencer or leader as a person.

So what does it take for someone to shift themselves from a transactional and instructional level of selling and leading to one that is transformational and inspirational?

It takes:

1.   Having conversations and creating a focal point that is based on more than the numbers and deals we put on the table. It means ing and hearing and searching for more than a business angle but what the ‘real deal’ is all about, what the drivers mean to someone and moving them toward a decision. It means spending time with your people and coaching THEM and getting to understand what stuff means to THEM as people and their buyers as people.

2.   Having an intent to be in it for the person or business you are there to serve. As fluffy as that may sound to some, that head-space, heart-space and mind share will always be reciprocated. You give that which you want to receive. Want some business? Give some business. Want someone to dig deeper for you? Dig deeper for them. Want someone to shift their behaviour? Shift your behaviour first? Want different results? Change the way you think and get out from behind your desk to walk your talk and show your salespeople what insights driven, collaborative, transformational selling really is in this sometimes conflicting, sometimes confusing buyer/seller space.

3.   Having a level of conviction in oneself as a sales leader by understanding your values and your rules and your own strategies at a personal and professional level of leadership which in turn allows you to ‘read’ and ‘decode’ other people’s motivations and strategies which is critical in ‘moving people,’ because that’s what salespeople and sales leaders do – we don’t just sell stuff, we create change, we move people.

So, what do we WANT the difference to be between a typical sales manager and yesterday’s salesperson? In my opinion, it’s as simple, for many, as being open to fresh ideas, new approaches and the desire to change – to actually be that difference that makes the difference.

Be Bold and Brilliant!
Bernadette McClelland - Keynote Speaker

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