The Two Pillars of Sales

Sales is part art, part science. That is to say it’s a mix of social factors, like rapport and likability on the one hand, and scientific factors like cost-benefit calculations, on the other. Sales is more simple relative to the broader function of marketing. It isn’t easy but it’s less strategic, more tactical.

You could spend a lifetime in sales or read a hundred sales books and what you’d find are two fundamental truths that provide a foundation for the entire practice. I call these the two pillars of sales. Ensure these are consistent throughout your sales process and you will build a more powerful and predictable sales machine.

The 2 Pillars of Sales

Pillar 1 – Great Relationships

People buy from people they like and they like people they trust.  They like people that care about them as individuals and not as a check book.  Sales people and organizations that are easy to work with will outperform those that aren’t.  It’s far easier to expand on an existing relationship than it is to create a new relationship and this is why roughly 80% of your revenues should likely come from existing clients.  

Pillar 2 – Customer Focus

Understanding client’s goals and solving their problems provides strategic advantage.  Nobody cares about the “features” of your product or service.  They want to know how it benefits them and how a partnership with you makes them stronger, over the long term.  This is where your expertise becomes a competitive differentiator and how a flexible delivery team and powerful platform can best support sales.   

Pro Tip: Check each stage of your sales process and review your content to ensure these pillars are represented across your sales approach.  

The rest of sales is tactics and sits atop the pillars.  Tactics are important too, so I’m listing a few of The Most Essential Sales Tactics:

Tactic 1 – Activity

As the tactical arm of marketing sales is all about activity.  It’s a numbers game.  Automation can help keep you organized and achieve scale, and the social graph makes everyone a bit more reachable.  But essentially it’s the same game as it always has been –  Meetings are better than calls and calls are better than emails.   

Tactic 2 – Listening and Question Asking

Great sales people pull don’t push.  They do this by listening and understanding need, not by a lot of talking.  A good talk to listen ratio is 20/80 or 30/70.  The book “SPIN Selling” by Neil Rackham covers question asking and has a fantastic section on turning implied need (I don’t like my existing vendor) into explicit need (I need a new vendor).  Hint: this is done through question asking.     

Tactic 3 – Communicate Value and Insights

Bringing expertise, knowledge and insight to clients that they didn’t already have has tremendous value.  “The Challenger Sale” by Dixon and Adamson takes this a step further by adapting the sales methodology to challenge the customer’s status quo.  Use perspective gained from other clients, proprietary data, run new studies if needed, or help clients understand what they can disregard (what’s noise).    

Tactic 4 – The Right People in the Right Roles

The old adage holds true still today – “their hunter will kill your farmer”.  Make sure you have hunters prospecting and farmers overseeing existing accounts.  Use sales development reps for outbound only.  Build a bench and promote from within to create a top-notch sales discipline.

Tactic 5 – Preparation  

Know your audience.  Especially today with LinkedIn, blogs and news, it’s possible to know in advance who you’re talking to, both the person and the company.  Show you’ve done your homework and tailor your conversation accordingly.

Tactic 6 – Rapport Building

Getting to know clients and spending time with them is a worthy investment.  Establishing reciprocity builds a foundation for lasting relationships.    

Tactic 7 – Narrative

Are you telling people your story, succinctly?  Sharing with them your vision and your mission?  If not, you could be missing opportunity.  People respond to narrative stories.  Good stories are memorable and inspiring.  For more info, see my article on a fast and simple way to create a vision statement Creating Powerful Vision in 5 Simple Steps.     

Bottom Line

Sales, while not being easy, is fairly straightforward. It’s about building great relationships and focusing on the customer to deliver real value.  Embed these practices into every stage of your customer journey and your sales will improve.

Let me know what’s working (and what isn’t).  Until next week…

For Further Reading Check Out:

SPIN Selling

Challenger Sale

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