Sales Management – Selling and Business Development in the 21st Century

The marketing components that used to generate leads — product, performance, promotion and price –are no longer effective. The tools for selling — lots of sales calls, lunches, golf and give-always — are expensive and inefficient. In the 21st century, selling and business development require the following:

* Prospecting Using the Internet
* Relationship Selling
* Network Selling and
* Investigative Selling.

Prospecting Using the Internet

Cold calling is dead. It’s not productive. It’s demoralizing. It’s expensive. Prospecting in the 21st century involves setting the stage for people and companies to find you so that you can solve their problems. Flaunting advertisements and brochures is also a waste. Everyone goes to the Internet these days to find solutions to their problems. Therefore, the successful sales person will have to know how to use the Internet to generate qualified leads. Corporations should have an Internet program, but territory and product-line sales people should have their own Internet marketing program as well. And it’s not about having a website, it’s much more. This is the passive side of prospecting. This means that sales and business development professionals must set up an aggressive Internet Marketing process for their territory or product so that the people they want to do business with will come to them.

Relationship Selling

The other 21st Century prospecting element is the active side of prospecting. This is where you use professional relationships to find out about problems or opportunities where you can assist. There are so many opportunities for a sales person or account manager to discover within their existing and old/lost accounts. Using professional relationships make this prospecting method effective and easy.

Sales and Business Development people with professional relationships are seen as a resource to protect or enhance buyers’ careers. These people will be open to give information and coach you for cross-sells into their business unit, associate divisions and/or other product lines. If you develop professional relationships, these people will give you qualified leads, buy more and more from you, and refer you to others.

Network Selling

However, one has to learn how to use these relationships to get networked to others. There are two focuses for successful selling in the 21 Century:

1. You must spread like a virus in your customers’ organizations. I use the phrase – move up and out.

2. You must get to the profit-center leaders, C-level executives, and senior staff of the business units you sell into and develop professional relationships with these people to effectively close sales, cross-sell and be seen as the preferred supplier. Hanging out with the subordinates will never secure your position with your customers.

The only way you’ll move up and out and connect with the leaders is by using your professional relationships to network you to others. People with whom you’ve developed credibility — your Golden Network as I call it — will help you if asked. But if they are not asked for a referral and introduction to others, they will rarely offer to connect you with the leaders and others you should be meeting. So you must ask for their help.

To make the networking process productive, what you ask for, how you ask for it, and where you look for help will make all the difference between getting to the right people and getting to useless people for your initiative. This process is Network Selling.

Investigative Selling

Once a sales or business development person connects with a person of value, using his or her network connection, the goal is to convert that individual into his or her Golden Network. In other words the sales or BD person will have to develop a professional relationship with this new contact.

People will consider another individual a professional relationship only if there is something in it for them. So a sales or BD person needs to investigate the critical drivers of their target contact in order to learn what this person values that s/he can deliver. Everyone is different and without knowing each individual’s triggers, a sales person will flounder or worst yet, become annoying. But if the sales person can make the connections between the desires and the deliverables, a relationship can be established, and then this new contact will continue networking you up and out until you are connected to the leaders and their staffs.

The process for determining one’s triggers is Investigative Selling. It requires knowing the questions to ask and how to ask them. Although this sounds simple, it requires finesse, skill and confidence. Investigative Selling also requires effective listening, and the ability to expose and entice. Both of these are advanced skills never taught in schools and rarely taught in product or sales training. So the successful sales or business development person will have to learn these Investigative Selling skills and be able to take them seamlessly to the street.

The sooner the sales or business development person masters these Internet Marketing, Relationships, Network and Investigative Selling Skills, the sooner sales will close and closing ratios rise.

Small Business Development – Peanut Shells On The Floor

I hope by now everyone has had the opportunity to go to a pub, or bar where they encourage you to throw your peanut shells on the floor. If you haven’t yet been, then consider this a weekend challenge to talk to your friends, find the closest one, and go there by Monday.

I love that concept for three very important reasons:

It is:

Memorable: People talk about the bar that lets you throw your peanut shells on the floor. I have been to hundreds of bars, pubs, and restaurants in my life and I remember just a handful. Among the select few that I remember are the one’s that had peanut shells on the floor. I may not even remember the name of the pub, but I remember the experience, the people I was with, and that I had fun.

Consistent with Core Values: When a pub owner allows customers to throw peanut shells on the floor he/she is sending a clear message that they want customers to relax and have a good time; to have fun, and loosen up. It helps the patrons feel welcome, comfortable to be themselves, and wanted back tomorrow. What friendly neighborhood restaurant wouldn’t want to send that message?

Simple and Inexpensive: I would imagine it takes a little longer to sweep the floor at night, but you have to sweep the floor anyway. Compare that to the money you budget every year to let people know what it means to be your customer, client, or partner.

If your goal is to Build a Better Workforce: to make more money by working less, to create leverage for yourself through the success of your employees, and to transition from chasing dollars to chasing your dreams and experiencing wealth, then ask yourself this question.

Is Working for me memorable?

If the answer is no, then change something. Focus on your core values, and keep it simple. When you create an environment that is memorable, consistent to its core values, and simplistic in its execution you create an opportunity to increase employee and customer engagement like no other.

Other Benefits: By expressing your core values in a memorable way you are helping to set expectations to your customers, and future employees. If someone is in the mood for white glove service, elegant atmosphere, and expensive champagne they will know not to enter the pub with peanut shells on the floor.

When working for you is memorable, your employees will share their stories with everyone they know and meet. Every time someone asks them about their job they will share the cool things you do to be different and in the process reveal the core values that drive your business.

You will begin to attract new customers, business partners, and grow your talent pool from sources you never had the opportunity to explore or even think of.