To corral sales these days, cowboys need not apply
We recently spoke to sales guru Ron Karr about his new book, “Lead, Sell, or Get out of the Way: The 7 Traits of Great Sellers.” Karr, president of Karr Associates, covers all of the bases: strategic positioning, communicating persuasively, holding yourself accountable and building alliances. Building alliances has become especially important to driving sales these days, what with social media creeping into most every business. “In the past, if you were the top performer, you controlled the whole process,” said Karr, whose clients include Marriott, Morgan Stanley, United Foods and UPS. “Today, you sell more through the efforts of others.”
ZoomInfo: One of the main tenets of your book is for sales executives to place more emphasis on “outcomes.” How so?
Karr: There are two things sales executives need from a customer: time and undivided attention. If I have someone on the telephone it means I have their time but not necessarily attention. Before ensuring they have someone’s attention, sales executives make the classic mistake and start spewing about how all of the features of the product can help the prospect, and without engaging that person. Sales execs have to start the process with a “resource proclamation,” which is outcomes-based. For example, I sell sales training, books and consulting, but those are how-to; an outcome is how I help organizations increase their competitive advantage in the marketplace or help organizations sell more in less time. The challenge is where you want to go with the customer and how to get there, rather than getting wrapped up in the minutiae of the features.
ZoomInfo: Is that to suggest that sales execs waste too much time on “input,” which can be counterproductive?
Karr: Absolutely. Any sales call is an inconvenience to the prospect because you are taking time away from people. It’s critical to have a customer-focused mindset rather than a sell-focused mindset. Sales executives think they are doing the prospect a favor by talking about all of the features [of a product or service]. They think that can impress people and close the sale, but prospects don’t need a recitation of the product because that’s what they get from the Web.
ZoomInfo: You implore sales execs that when prospecting “DON’T ‘PUKE.” Explain that and how does that relate to reducing the sales cycle and closing more business?
Karr: It is sales execs talking too much. ‘PUKE’ stands for ‘People who Utter Knowledge about Everything.’ I know sales execs who have given prospects a Ph.D. on products and have not closed sales because they ‘PUKE’ about everything and make a mess on them and the prospect. Sales executives have to create a powerful value proposition and a compelling reason [for the prospect] to change. You need to position yourself properly, qualify the prospect, presentation your solution, gain verbal agreement and sign the deal. Most people spend 70% of their time presenting the proposal and only 30% on positioning and qualifying. If sales execs spend 50% to 60% on the first two phases of positioning and qualifying, they will spend less time on the presentation. When sales execs are talking they are in the least powerful position. It’s when they are truly listening that they can get themselves in the world of the customer.
ZoomInfo: How do you reconcile being able to establish leads through your own sweat and this notion that in today’s environment you must rely on others in order to be truly successful in sales?
Karr: Sales execs need a host of other sources to help them navigate the process, whether it is recommendations, media exposure or people who can influence others on your behalf. You also need to build alliances and networks to promote your services. Sales success is capturing dollars for your products and services and you can only sell so much through individual efforts. Top Producers are interested in dominating their market place. To do that, they have enroll others to support their cause. This is why you can’t be a lone wolf today and expect to be a top producer.
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