Want to grow your company? Turn your sales team into strategic consultants. Here's how.
It's easy for both business owners and salespeople to get lost in the numbers of selling. Did a customer add $50 dollars or only $5 to his order? Was his order total today more than the one last week? Did the customer order 12 times this year or only seven? And while I definitely believe in measuring the quantitative returns of my sales team, I approach the concept differently. I teach my team that being an account executive at Metal Mafia does not mean being a mere order taker; it means being a business strategist for our customers.
The four-step lesson goes like this.
As a sales executive, help your customers think strategically, even if for just a few minutes. Your customers are business owners. They are trying their best to make their companies survive and, like most owners, they fight the constant battle between operational issues (the problems that must be fixed immediately) and following through with their overall vision for the company (that rarely-visited place when the smoke clears and they can see their way forward). Most days, they have to sort out personnel dilemmas, deal with financial concerns, make sure their in-stock inventory is right, which leaves them little time and even less energy for considering how to make the business thrive.
Investigate what's happening for your customers. This only happens when you slow down your call, stop pitching, and start inquiring. It's not about how much a customer buys, but what he buys. You are responsible for helping the customer identify opportunities for him to grow his business, not increase his spend.
Convey the value of your products in a way that matters to your customers' businesses--not yours. As you discover your customer's needs, obstacles, or problems, your part of the conversation should be focused on one thing, and one thing only--the value that a specific product can bring that customer. By this I mean, it doesn't matter if something is a good deal, or if all your other customers are buying it. What matters is whether the item in question makes real sense for the customer with whom you are speaking.
Every customer should hang up the phone feeling that he not only got his order placed, but that he got ideas and inspiration too. Your customer is not just taking a risk with the order he is making, but also with the direction in which this order is taking his business. He needs to feel he can trust you, as his partner on the journey--so how well you listen, and how carefully you match your products to his needs, is paramount. You are not just his contact and sales rep at our company, but--first and foremost--his business consultant.
The best part of selling this way is the fact that all those numbers and goals people spend so much time worrying about will take care of themselves: When you focus on growing your customers' businesses, you grow your own.
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Vanessa Merit Nornberg: In 2004, Vanessa opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg