Success or failure in B2B Sales starts the moment you say “Hi.” Your tone of voice, your cadence, the connection between you and your prospect all starts with your initial greeting. It could go really well, or it can go terribly terribly wrong. Within those first few seconds, a prospect is already forming an opinion about you, your company and your wares; and in an instant, they will decide whether to continue the conversation or shut you down.
Last night as I reflected on my day; my conversations with customers and the nice contract I landed moments before , it occurred to me that in sales we are all given objectives, direction and training, but a lot of it is pretty much up to us, as individuals, moment by moment. I mean, I read a lot of books on sales strategy, “tips and tricks,” sales process ideas; probably more than most (except Doug Rice), but it occurs to me that when you call a client via the phone or meet face to face for the first time, it really is up to you to draw on all you know, your experiences and your own energy to build rapport with them, to provide value, to qualify the opportunity, to execute well on your strategy, to keep the conversation engaging, but on task, and so on. Reading all the books and classes are nice, but when it’s you and your client leaning across the table it’s not just a theory anymore, it’s on you to actually make this work.
What I find particularly interesting about new sales people is that you can teach them all the basics; what to look for, what to ask, what to say when this happens, but when it comes down to actually working with customers, they have to find their own rhythm and style or they can come off sounding very mechanical and insincere. (Reading from a script for example. Ick!) What’s worse, if they don’t care enough about what they’re doing to continually step up their game to serve both customer and company equitably, they will ultimately fail. In other words, you can’t possibly fill in all the blanks for them and you won’t always be able to motivate them to the level they need to be motivated. I think a lot of it has to come from within the sales person. Would you agree? (Sales managers, chime in anytime here.) It seems like there’s an energy, even in that first hello that sets things in motion for a winning situation and it’s hard to teach.
I’ve never managed a sales team, but I can imagine it’s very tricky giving new sales people enough rope to grow their own natural ability and respective approach while taking on enough of the companies proven methods and strategy to return the expected outcomes. I’d be interested to hear from hiring managers how they go about finding that energy and balancing it with the particular “molding” that must take place in order to achieve the desired outcomes. What do you look for as leading indicators that a new hire is going to be capable of sustaining and growing the needed energy and balance of art and science you need from your reps?