“One impediment to success is only 32 percent of respondents report being equipped with the right skills to deliver strong B2B customer experience, an 8 percent drop from last year’s report.” Marketing Dive Daily Newsletter, December 2, 2015
What are the “right skills” for distribution representatives?
Certainly industry knowledge, product and services knowledge, time management, and business acumen would rank high on any list of pre-requisite skills for success. Unfortunately, all those skills are only marginally effective without the skill to execute and influence others.
So as you inventory your skill set to insure your success in 2016, consider these influencing skills of the consistently top-performing distribution reps.
CUSTOMERS AS DECISION-MAKERS
The most successful reps see themselves as decision getters. Their role is to help their customers reach a well-informed and committed decision. So they are okay with a well-informed “yes” and a well-informed “no.” Any response that doesn’t end with one of those two outcomes is cause for further discussion and influencing. Now before every sales manager and executive out there goes nuts about accepting a well-informed committed “no,” be advised – more to follow.
While veterinary science maybe based solely on facts, veterinarians are influenced by emotions when making decisions. Like every other person on the planet, their decision making is the pursuit of that which gives them the greatest sense of confidence. That emotion is evident in how they respond and not necessarily the words they choose to use in responding. So the most successful distribution reps pay most attention to the customer’s voice (tone, speed, inflection, etc.) and their body language when listening. Then the words the customers use make much more sense.
Negative responses are a part of every business discussion and successful reps deal with that negativity much more effectively than others. Their focus is on the problem at hand and not on the person involved, so in response to negative remarks they remove the word “you” and replace it with one of the impersonal pronouns like “it,” “that,” “this,” etc. By focusing the conversation on the problem, the rep and her/ his customer become a team trying to fix “it.”
THE RELATIVITY THEORY
Not Einstein’s, but a method to communicate logically with any emotion. There is a slightly different logic path for every emotion. If we are problem burdened, help makes sense to us. If we see something as risky, mitigating or eliminating the risk make sense to us. If we are skeptical, proof is appropriate. If we are interested, more information and discussion makes sense. The most successful reps have the skill to make sense to the full range of human emotions and are willing and able to connect with their customer regardless of their reaction.
EASY TO FOLLOW
The most successful sales leaders make it easy for their customers to do business with them. Certainly they spend much of the face-to-face time following their customer to understand their perspective, needs and concerns. However once connected, successful salespeople switch from follower to leader and reveal their own motivation for advocating a particular product or service. They cover all the facts, answer all the questions, play with the possibilities and close with the biggest decision the customer can handle today. So rather than manipulating the customer (which everyone hates) they positively influence and help the customer make a well-informed committed decision whether or not to buy.
THE “NO” RULE
Every sales manager/executive’s blood pressure rose earlier when I mentioned “no” was an acceptable response. So in the interest of their cardiac health, let me clarify. When “no” comes up early in the conversation I believe the customer is saying “no, not that way.” So rather than quitting at that point, I simply need to recalibrate and ask some more questions to uncover the right logic path or the right benefit that the customer does value. When I hear “no” late in the conversation and I gauge that it is well-informed and committed, it registers as “no for now” with me. It is my role to move on and come back with a better idea the next time. So “no” is never really “no.”
These are an essential part of the right skill set that the 32 percent possess, which allows them to deliver strong B2B customer experiences and perform in the top 10 percent year after year. There are no magic pills or “killer” closes for the best performers. They have worked hard to develop their skill set and their customers appreciate their professionalism and competence as they pursue mastery of their craft.
So perhaps the only remaining question is “are you willing to make the appropriate changes and put in the necessary work to join them on the mastery journey as part of the consistently top performing group in your organization?”
Patrick T Malone is a Leadership Expert and Senior Partner at The PAR Group, an international training and development firm based in Atlanta, Ga. He is the coauthor of the business book Cracking the Code to Leadership and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org