Happy Customers are the Best Sales Strategy

The best salesperson I know on the face of the planet has this on her LinkedIn profile: "A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all." She believes it passionately and she knows what value she creates and exactly what a happy customer looks like. She profiles them and then uses it to positively discriminate in her targeted prospecting and business development activities to build pipeline… smart gal!

But she goes one step further, she thinks about how to connect publicly with industry thought leaders, and how to connect her happy customers with the prospects she is targeting. She positions herself and those who can assist her in LinkedIn and other online communities. This salesperson is genuinely humble and understands the maxim: It’s amazing how much can be achieved when you don't care who gets the credit.

Alignment beats evangelism for anyone wanting to be efficient in how they sell. Understand the business problems you’ve solved for your happiest customers and the tangible benefits they derived after implementing your solution. What was their ROI and what other benefits did they achieve (improved customer satisfaction, better retention, faster time to market, etc.). Insightful questions and telling powerful relevant true stories are the key to engaging in a sales conversation that’s sets a vision and the right agenda. As you plan a sales call, always ask:

- How can I lead with insight?

- What’s my main point?

- Why should they care?

- What questions will I ask?

- What do I want them to do next?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

main Image Photo by Flickr: Dan Queiroz

The Ten Laws of Relationship Selling

Definition - Transactional Relationship Selling: Building relationships of genuine rapport and trust for the purpose of gaining information and support for a buying decision that is in the best interests of all concerned. The sale is achieved through the transference of belief with positive emotion and supported logically with facts and evidence.

The following ten laws must be observed.

1. People buy from those they like and trust.Corporations do not buy but individuals do so from those they like and trust. Trust is built through shared values and genuine understanding. Do your homework and be a domain expert by truly understanding their industry and your market. Applying unwanted pressure and closing prematurely is a mistake. Anything that damages trust and understanding is to be avoided.

2. People buy with their emotions and justify decisions with logic and facts. Selling is the transference of emotion and belief supported by logic and evidence. Factual information supports rather than drives the decision to buy.

3. Listening is the most powerful form of influence. You learn nothing while talking. Listen and ask insightful questions. Talk no more than one-third of the time. People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover.

4. You cannot sell to someone who is unable to buy. Unless someone has a problem and the necessary money and the authority to commit; they are not a prospective customer. Your time is a precious finite resource; do not waste it.

5. People always act in their own best interests. Regardless of what a person tells you, trust only what is in their best interests. Thoughtfully validate and test commitments made to you or your company. Ensure that you understand what's in it for them personally.

6. Features are not benefits. Product or service features will never win the deal but can eliminate you, often without you even knowing. Features are only benefits if they solve the customer’s specific acknowledged problems. Over-emphasis of features can create unnecessary objections and concerns with price or the complexity and risk of implementation and ownership. Avoid PPS — Premature Presentation Syndrome.

7. The product is not the product. The product is you and the outcome that is achieved when buying the product, service or solution. In addition to this; the sales person, their team, methodologies and ability to deliver are essential elements of any solution. Does your LinkedIn profile sell you to buyers (rather than employers)?

8. Problem solving comes before solution selling. The size of the problem determines the size of the opportunity, and price is only relevant if they want what you are offering. Focus on creating value through delivering the best outcomes with the lowest risk. Never discuss price before agreeing value. Price should be no more than one-third of the equation in the buyer’s mind rather than the predominant determining factor.

9. A sale is only a sale when you have irreversible commitment. Verbal commitments can easily evaporate and letters of intent are not binding. Signed contracts and purchase orders are good but it is only when you have a client’s money in your bank account that a sale has been truly achieved. They are only a valid customer when they have realized the business benefits of your product, solution or service.

10. Attitude is everything. The selling profession is amongst the most difficult of careers. This is because it is highly demanding emotionally and intellectually. Success requires the solid foundation of positive attitude, self-belief, and adaptability; all combined with competence in execution and disciplined work ethic. Lasting success is always limited to the worthiness of the sales person as defined by their skill, values, habits and attitudes. Value for employer and customer is defined by your ability to positively influence and deliver results. Embrace challenges and difficulties because they create a barrier of entry to your sales competition, internally and externally. Scarcity creates value and there are very few masterful sales professionals. If success in your environment was easy, it would not be as rewarding or lucrative.

Although these ten laws relate to tactical and relationship selling, they all nevertheless also apply to strategic enterprise selling. There are however additional considerations as the complexity of the sale increases. The techniques and behaviors that work in simple relationship selling can actually damage the chances of success in large complex sales environments. Very senior relationships and dealing with complexity is what largely defines the need to be strategic. In large complex enterprise selling, having no strategy equates to having little chance of winning. Review the additional Laws of Strategic Selling.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: ky_olsen

Any Buffoon Can Cut Costs. Real Leaders Build

I was running the most successful region globally for a leading software company. We had just competed the year at 300% of annual revenue target for my region and with record margin. In the last two years we’d won 3 of the 4 biggest contracts for the company globally. All this from an office with just 35 people amongst a global workforce of 1,800 staff. This is where I conceived my RSVP deal management framework and it was a key factor in our success.

Then we were acquired by a larger software company and I was appointed as regional head of the new bigger entity. All seemed well… but confidence is often the feeling you have just before you understand the situation. 7 weeks into my new appointment I received an e-mail from North America. It included a spreadsheet with staff names on it and instructions to fire one-third of my employees. No phone call, no explanation, and no rationale for how the names were selected; just instructions to book 12 minute back-to-back meetings in a hotel lobby to hand people a lawyer's letter and tell them they were locked out of the office and IT systems. It was lunacy to wreck a healthy performing business… and the way HQ executed showed incredibly poor values. What happened from there is a story for another time.

3 years earlier I had been leading the Australian and New Zealand region for another company and they appointed a new VP for the Asia-Pacific region. My new boss had convinced the board in Europe that Asia-Pacific needed a clean-out and that he should be rewarded for improving net profit rather than on profitable revenue growth. They fell for it and he proceeded to destroy years of hard work and success while maximizing his personal remuneration. 40% of staff were fired and with much unnecessary angst. Again, very poor values.

Any buffoon can cut costs to temporarily created profit but cost-cutting is almost always a tactic, not a strategy. You cannot cost cut your way to sustained success because sooner or later a business must provide value and differentiate through innovation and service. The world needs builders, not destroyers, but building businesses organically (not just through acquisition) is tough work. It requires genuine leadership, commitment and passionate sales and marketing people to execute.

If you aspire to leadership you must be a builder, not a wrecker. You must be positive, not negative, You must encourage and lead, not criticize and push. Build people, processes and systems to innovate and provide outstanding value and service. Treasure great sales people who create the most valuable asset of a business… quality loyal customers.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Simon & His Camera

You Can’t Manage Revenue in CRM

According to Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana in Cracking The Sales Management Code, 83% of what is measured (typically in CRM systems) cannot be managed. Jason makes the valid point that you can’t manage results, only activities, and that we should focus on coaching and managing the right activities that feed into objectives (KPIs) that in turn create revenue and margin results. Most of the published research nominates the CRM failure rate at more than 30%... but it has nothing to do the CRM technology. Every organization needs a CRM; you have no chance of being truly customer-centric without one and it should be the platform on which process automation, research, planning and deal coaching occurs.

I’ve worked in large corporations where the almost insane focus of the senior executive team is on the forecast call… endlessly asking the same questions of the sales person, baiting them to go and blow the deal with inappropriate pressure or to train the customer about end-of-quarter discounts that will always be available (despite hollow threats to put the price back up). No wonder so many CRM implementations become manage-up tools with poor data and no real transparency.

Want accurate forecasting? Understand the customer’s process and timing for the necessary approvals and administrative tasks. Want more revenue? Coach and manage the smartest activities that create and progress opportunities. Here are the 8 things I recommend you manage in a CRM for complex B2B solution selling because there is an ‘activity lever’ you can pull.

1. Qualified pipeline as a percentage of target / quota. I recommend 3-5 times coverage and if it’s low, the sales person can execute activities to build the pipeline

2. Opportunity qualification score. A qualification snapshot should be done progressively as deal moves through stages. Poor scores should create actions to gather intelligence or execute tasks that improve the situation

3. Number of meetings that progress the sale (with call plans completed). Call plans should be forms within your CRM, not Word documents, and the meeting notes and actions from the call should also be logged in CRM.

4. Discovery completed. This is different to the qualification process. It’s all the information you need to be able to properly propose a solution. Again, this should reside within your CRM so that when you move from selling to implementing, and then to supporting; you have a single view of the client for all aspects of customer lifecycle.

5. Number of opportunities reviewed by sales manager. Again within the CRM with your sales methodology integrated (TAS Dealmaker and Pipeline Manager are excellent plugins for Salesforce CRM). This will be evidenced by a new qualification snapshot score and actions created.

6. Proposals submitted (accepted and validated by the customer) following documented discovery process.

7. Deal time in each stage (excessive time in a stage reduces likelihood of winning). This is the most difficult in the list to ‘pull an activity lever’, but we should nevertheless understand the customer’s process and timing.

8. Close plans validated by customer. Close plans are the secret to accurate forecasting. Best practice is to rename the document to ‘Project Alignment Plan’ and then sit with the customer to validate that we are all on the same page and can meet their expectations with resources and timing. (eg; have our legal people available for contract negotiations at the right time, have our project manager available for kick-off planning when needed, etc.)

Although you cannot manage what is not measured, Jason taught me that you can't manage everything you do measure. If you can't manage the metric, then is it just clutter? Decide what’s important and create focus and task clarity for your team. Measure and drive the activities that achieve sales objectives that then convert to revenue and margin.

Follow Jason Jordan online and also read Cracking The Sales Management Codewhich is without doubt the best book ever written on sales management.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Ken Teegardin

10 Reasons To Hug Your Sales Manager

Sales Management is without doubt the most important link in the revenue chain. It’s also the toughest role in a company because it’s where the person is squeezed between the relentless expectations of executive management and sellers who struggle to differentiate in ferociously competitive markets. Add to this the inadequate systems they have to work with and tsunami of e-mails and reporting requirements, and it’s no wonder they have little time to coach on deals and mentor their team.

If you’re a sales person you probably don't fully understand what your sales manager really does for you beyond approving your expenses and hassling you about the forecast. Here are just some of the things. She fights to provide you with a viable territory and achievable sales targets. She protects you from the avalanche of bureaucracy, fights for training budget, listens to your complaints and excuses, battles the organizational politics working against you, and pushes for resources to support you while also jumping in and helping you with key deals and bids.

How do sales people normally say ‘thank you’ to this incredible person who serves them? Forget the words used… talk is cheap. I look at what people actually do and here is a list of the common behaviors I see with sales people:

· Arriving late to sales meetings

· Rarely keeping the CRM up to date

· Inaccurate forecasting and poor pipeline reporting

· Failing to be across the detail in key deals

· Squirming out of commitments to deliver

· Reluctant to plan properly for meetings and opportunities

· Failing to utilize agreed sales methodology and process

· Rarely ensures a formal agenda for meetings

· Sends sub-standard communications and proposals

· Allows and contributes to people wasting precious time

And what does all this do for your Sales Manager beyond causing her to groan in despair? It makes her look bad in the eyes of her boss, damages her credibility and political capital internally, raises her stress levels and makes an already difficult job almost impossible, and unfairly consumes her time and energy. Leadership is about serving: sales people serve their customers and sales managers serve their team and the organization. If someone is committed to serving us, the least we can do is to be grateful. Beyond these ten common reasons to say sorry, here is why you should give your sales manager a hug: She believes in you and continues to invest her time and emotional energy in your success.

My dad passed away almost a year ago. He had an incredibly difficult, yet amazing life. He said something to me thirty years ago when I was struggling in my early adult life, and it has stayed with me: “All you need to succeed in life Son; is one person who believes in you.” He was that person for me when I had my start in the world of business. The later, in my first sales job, I had a sales manager who did more than take a gamble in hiring me, he also believed in me. These two men were critical in my professional success… belief is powerful stuff.

If you don't feel it’s appropriate to hug your boss… then show them you’re grateful by changing your behaviors to be a leader who is self-motivated, self-learning and exemplifies self-mastery. Become a person who is all about the success of their customers and being the best employee for their boss. At the end of the day, success is about being the person worthy of it… results always follow.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Manu Praba

How Much Should You Invest in Sales and Marketing as a Percentage of Revenue?


Warren Buffett (main picture) is investor extraordinaire and focusses on key metrics that drive profitable growth. He inspired me to dig deeper into WiseTech, a cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) provider for the global freight and logistics industry. They listed on the Australian stock exchange in 2016 and their share price has risen more than 600% in the last 3 years. 99% of their revenue is 'recurring' (SaaS) and with less than 1% customer churn. These are all very impressive numbers but here is the jaw-dropper...

They invest only 14% of revenue and have only 12% of their people working in sales and marketing.

WiseTech operates in 125+ countries and has 6,000+ customers. Here are some relevant benchmark companies for comparison in the illustration below (courtesy of Graham Hawkins and his book, The Future of The Sales Profession). Salesforce and NetSuite are the most relevant with WiseTech added to this illustration by me with Graham's permission.risen


With the exception of WiseTech, data in the above graph was sourced from Bloomberg.com published on May 18, 2016 in an article by Dina Bass titled: This $5 Billion Software Company Has No Sales Staff. She delivered commentary on Atlassian which means their 19% spend is all on marketing rather than sales (article here).

I invested in WiseTech when they listed publicly on the stock exchange so I have a vested interest here. I also have Salesforce as one of my clients whom I regard as running the best sales and marketing machine on the planet. Both sell B2B, create exceptional software for users, provide modern scalable architecture, embrace AI and deploy securely on high scale cloud infrastructure. They both provide excellent levels of support and account management.

"But holy bottom line Batman... 14% compared with 49% for S&M spend with companies effectively in the same industry! Which company is getting it wrong?"

I'm a curious guy so I recently interviewed Richard White (pictured below), CEO of WiseTech to dig deeper into whether it is genius or foolishness to invest so little in the sales and marketing effort. Here are his responses to some of my questions in the year after they listed on the stock exchange.

TH: What's the secret to your growth given the relatively low investment in sales and marketing?

RW: We are completely focused on building the best global logistics platform on the planet and with a business model that removes all possible friction with customers and our salespeople. No vapourware or undeliverable promises and no upfront fees. We invest in bringing the customer on board and have no lock-in contract, so the attrition rate we quote is without long term contracts or subscription pre-payments. We also bill monthly in arrears so customers only pay once they are deriving value. Our product actually sells itself once our sales team has been able to expose the product to customers. Proof of this is the fact that many cohorts of existing customers are increasing their usage with us at the rate of up to 1.5% compound growth per month without anyone selling to them. We provide free test systems for every customer and every customer has access to every module and function in their production environment. They control their own licensing and simply pay in arrears as they begin to use additional capability.

The other point is that we've designed our incentive (commission) plan for our salespeople in a way that creates alignment with the customer and our company. It's all about long-term customer success with everyone pulling together, so sales staff get a small share of newly signed customers for the first 36 months. We hire the best people and support them with quality resources. Most importantly, there is incredibly strong intrinsic value in our software solution for our target market and compelling product/market fit. Our sales and marketing efforts, therefore, don't need to compensate for any shortcomings. When you truly understand your market, and have customers and independent, global group of certified consulting service providers that advocate for you, then the sales and marketing process is much easier. Word of mouth and a positive reputation does more than any amount of sales and marketing spend could achieve.

TH: How do you support 'buyer's journey' with a relatively low level of sales and marketing spend?

RW: We have more than 400 short use-case videos available to our sales staff and the customers in the sale process and we make our comprehensive online learning tools and certifications programs transparently available all customers and their staff and prospects can also gain full access to our as well as customers. With our existing customers working for us as market advocates, and with independent consultants all over the world recommending us because of their real world experience with many successful implementations; we simply focus on educating and aligning with potential clients rather than pushing or 'pitching' to them. They can see the value and we remove their risk. We seem to spend more time educating prospects and planning go lives with recently signed customers rather than selling and persuading.

TH: How do you combat competitors who make huge investments in sales and marketing to create perceptions of market and product solution leadership?

RW: Its pretty hard to market yourself to brand recognition. Brand is almost always a creation of customer experience, with small abouts of marketing creating initial interactions. Customers speaking to the product power and quality is 100 times more valuable that advertising, social media or cold calling. We know that they love the fact that we invest a large and increasing amount each year in constantly improving and innovating the product rather than diverting funds unnecessarily to marketing efforts which do almost nothing for them as an existing customer.

TH: Do you worry that you are under-investing in sales and marketing?

RW: I look to evidence and facts rather than feelings. As CEO, I need to invest our customer and shareholder money where it provides the greatest return. I believe that creating the very best product and working environment for our staff results in a compelling market offering. We're not interested in spin or creating a facade. Product capability and market fit are more important than salesmanship. A product that returns real value to customers by being very complete and that can dramatically increase customer productivity repays customers many times the usage cost. A high-quality product that is high in functional and highly productive and expert staff that know how to keep building more and more power and productivity in, are more important than marketing, and we've now hit the tipping point where our market momentum is driven by our brand, reputation, network effect and the huge content driven sales, marketing and training libraries that we have developed.

TH: You recently announced foothold acquisitions in Germany, Italy and Brazil. Does this change your sales and marketing spend?

Yes it does, as we move into new foreign language markets such as Germany, Italy and Brazil, we will have to increase our content driven marketing spend in those languages and locales, thus, we expect some increase in our content driven marketing spend especially in the short term, to build that local capability. This is largely offset by increased efficiency in sales and marketing in our developed English speaking markets. But it's not trivial either, think of having every training, marketing and sales document and your entire local sales and marketing team in German, Italian, Brazilian etc. We will remain highly sales and marketing cost efficient, but as always, we need to be flexible and invest hard with new countries and languages.

As I drove home after interviewing Richard, I couldn't help but think that this could be the best SaaS company on the planet. I think Atlassian just got bumped to #2 in terms of next generation SaaS business models where growth becomes algorithmically hyper-profitable because the nexus is broken between the cost of customer acquisition and revenue per client. Add to this the fact that they have cured 'the cancer of customer churn' and it's a very impressive operation. No spikes in revenues, just predictable growth without having to pay huge sales and marketing costs. Wisetech jettisoned professional services and consulting revenues and built a loyal global work force of motivated consultants that work only for their customers as part of building their model but that's a story for another article.

How do you decide what the right level of investment is in sales and marketing and does it provide the right return on investment? Who is 'best practice' in your eyes? Please let me know in the comments.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image: Warren Buffett by DonkeyHotey

Sales Management Advice for CEOs

Back in 2005 when I was Managing Director for an international software company, I developed a simple framework for transforming sales. The results were staggering for our corporation at the the time. We won three massive contracts, achieved 300% of our full year target and with exceptional margins. I handed our leading sales person a commission cheque, for one quarter, of almost $500,000. All of our pre-sales people received commission cheques for a single quarter equal to their annual salaries. This framework led me to leaving the corporate world in 2012 to start RSVPselling and the framework has helped many of my clients win large new customers and contracts as big a hundred million dollars.

Whether you’re talking over a coffee or sitting in a board room, you should ask these four sets of questions of your sales manager or sales person every time you visit a client with them, every time you’re in an opportunity review or forecast call, and every time they mention a new business opportunity. You can embed these four sets questions as a methodology or as way of thinking. Here they are:

  1. Relationships: Do we have the right relationships? Followed by: Are we selling at the right level? Do they have genuine political and economic power? Do our relationships provide differentiating intelligence, insight and genuine influence?

  2. Strategy: Do we have an effective strategy for managing relationships and competitive threats? Followed by: Do we understand the power-base and have we identified the competition (external and internal including the risk of them doing nothing)? What's our strategy for winning while engineering a positive bias in the customer's requirements toward us?

  3. Value: Are we leading with insight and uniquely creating compelling business value in the eyes of the customer? Followed by: How are we differentiating and evidencing our credentials as lowest risk and best value?

  4. Process: Are we aligned and do we truly understand the customer’s process for evaluation, selection, approval and procurement? Followed by: Do we understand how they define and assess risk with suppliers and solutions? Do we have a close plan validated by the customer?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: pasotraspaso

How To Manage Stress

Professional selling is one of the most stressful careers a person can choose. There is fierce competition and endless pressure to deliver. You’re only as good as your last quarter and there are inevitable increases in sales targets, exacerbated by inevitable downward price pressure caused by commoditization. Amidst growing competition you are expected to be an evangelist, challenger, engineer, psychologist, negotiator, lawyer, business and financial analyst, project manager, and a magician. You need to be able to create value while screening-out noise and translating information into what matters for buyers. And sadly, they all tend to treat you like a commodity.

In a digital world and multiple communication channels, there is distracting noise everywhere. But stress is not created by workload but instead caused by feeling out of control. A successful life, as with a successful sale, requires planning, discipline, intelligence, creativity and a positive attitude. Instead of wishing that sales success could be easier, choose to become better in how you manage time, relationships and priorities.

Time and focus: Our ability to manage our time is key so always ask; ‘is this an investment of time or a waste of time?’ Plan your following day’s activities before you shut down. Learn to say ‘no’ because volume kills quality. Less really is more if we are to be effective. Focus on the job at hand, very few people can multi-task effectively. Importantly, watch less TV!

Choose your relationships carefully: Ensure you have aligned values with your boss, customers and partners.

Plan and prioritize everything important. Know what matters: family, health, your close friends and your ‘inner life’. Time-block and commit to actually doing the important every day… the things that create sustained sustained success.

Along with your ability to dream big, set goals, and execute masterfully with disciplined action, your mental and physical health is a prerequisite for your sustained success.

For your mental health, choose to be grateful and serve a higher cause. Focus on others and their needs rather than your own. Stop comparing yourself with others and surround yourself with positive people who have good values. Avoid negative television and feed your soul and mind with great books.

For you physical healthy, drink more water and less alcohol, exercise regularly and eat well. I once heard Dr John Tickell deliver a keynote on how to manage stress. He said: “The key to a long, healthy and happy life is exercise, vegetables, fish and sex… but not all at the same time because it makes a hell of a mess.” If you rate this post, please click the thumbs-up icon under the heading to let me know.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Matt Brown

The Future of B2B Selling is Contextualised Technologies

As Morpheus said in The Matrix, “I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?” Technology is redefining the way B2B buyers and B2B sellers engage before physical world conversations take place. The allure of ‘Social Selling’ is compelling and the necessity undeniable for using platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Yet the laws and algorithms that drive the dynamics of loosely connected social platforms are a mystery to almost all of us; and our ignorance makes the productive use of social platforms for attraction tactics in strategic B2B selling a difficult proposition – it’s not easy to create cut-through and strategic connection amidst all the noise.

Social Selling is powerful for B2C and advancements and also relevant for B2B in low margin commoditized environments to drive down costs and also for projecting communication via digital channels. But ‘Social Selling’ is a misnomer in complex solution selling, and we should instead think ‘Social Engagement’. LinkedIn is not a Social Selling platform, it’s a social community engagement platform, human resourcing database, and research and publishing platform. The power of LinkedIn is unprecedented and treating it as an online CV is professional negligence. We must instead create strong personal brands online and we must position as experts delivering exceptional value and insight to attract interest and earn conversations.

Our value in social platforms is therefore defined by our insights, relevance and connectedness. Make no mistake; the fundamental laws of relationship and strategic selling are timeless. For example; people buy from those they like and trust. What is changing however is the ways in which we can create trusted personal brands, extend our market reach, leverage networks, research buyers and engineer introductions. The smartest recognize that the power is not in the platform but in their ability to engage the right network in the right way with high value content. Retweeting and rehashing isn’t enough.

There is a new era upon us and it’s the 4th Industrial Revolution. Those who can execute the timeless laws of selling to create value, leveraging big data, AI, social platforms and mobile apps will reign supreme. There are algorithms that can be leveraged: As an example; LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ are separate and they categorize and rank content in different ways. Yet, I believe it’s possible to make 1 + 1 = 7 if the synergies can be unlocked via networked intelligence.

The brave new world upon us can be summed up in one ephemeral word: context. Engaging with the right stakeholders, at the exact place, in the precise moment in time to help them buy... you. If you like this post, please click the thumbs-up icon under the heading to let me know.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: epSos.de

Only The Customer is Qualified To Define Value

The market determines price and only the customer is qualified to assess value for money. Everything we sell must help customers improve revenue and/or margins; or reduce cost, time or effort; or reduce their serious risk.

The basic equation for value is: Business Value = Benefit minus Cost and this is why it’s so important to ensure all ‘benefits’ are expressed in monetized form wherever possible. Yes it’s true that not all benefits save or make money for our customer. As examples; less stress or risk, improved productivity, less risk in non-critical areas… all of these can be difficult to justify in financial terms. But the language of business is nevertheless numbers, not words, so always ask yourself: How does this benefit drop to their bottom line or improve their balance sheet.

But more sophisticated buyers seek Value For Money (VFM) and beyond Return On Investment (ROI) or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), they usually have a weighted selection criteria to determine whether a solution is Fit For Purpose (FFP) and from the Lowest Risk Profile supplier.

Think about this formula as you engage with customers who make comparative decisions, contrasting you with your competition. It is essential that we meet the exact requirements and also be perceived as representing the lowest risk. These two factors are then weighed against the total cost of ownership but take the effort to really understand how they assess this internally; don't make assumptions.

All of your assertions concerning value and risk need to be considered from the customer’s point of view… after all, the market determines the price and only the customer is qualified to call something a solution and determine the value to their business.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: striatic

Law of Delegation Magnified By Social

We are delegated down to people we sound like. This is an immutable law of selling and if we are to engage at the highest levels we must talk the language of leaders and business owners: Financial outcomes and managing risk; then underpinned by numbers, percentages and metrics for key result areas (KRAs). But B2B sellers in today’s are often delegated or blocked before they can even utter a single word to their prospect. This is because most buyers research, just as sellers do, before deciding to engage.

Imagine you’ve reached-out to a senior executive, you’ve got your value insight all ready to go… rehearsed, punchy, compelling. You call and reach the Executive Assistant or voicemail. What happens when your potential customer or their gatekeeper checks you out on LinkedIn? Hmm… salesperson. All quiet on the eastern front or if you do get a response: “She doesn’t have time to meet you but you can contact Seymour in the basement who will be happy to evaluate whatever it is you're trying to sell us.” The problem gets worse if you approach prospects through social, even using ‘warm introductions’ from your LinkedIn network. Click, click… salesperson, no thanks.

Websites can present attractive facades but LinkedIn creates transparency. Forget trying to project a persona because LinkedIn and social platforms create transparency at every level. You’re selling naked, not just in your network but in your ability to deliver insights and business value. You must be the real deal. You must be the person worthy of the success you seek… no gimmicks, no pretending, no shortcuts. How will you build your personal brand through what Koka Sexton calls Social Proximity? How will you become a thought leader? What is your publishing strategy?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Post by Flickr: JD Hancock

Re-gift Some Prospects To Competitors

Come on, admit it – you’re guilty of re-gifting and it haunts you every time you see the person who gave you the gift you secretly rejected. But what if the concept of re-gifting could be applied to strategically improve your sales performance and without any regret? Here is why I think you should consider giving some of your ‘prospects’ to the competition.

Time is the most important resource in sales. Our use of time, more than the number of available prospects in the market, is what constrains performance. The amount of effort required for winning small and more difficult deals is not that much different than the time and effort required in winning larger opportunities when there is value alignment. I see sales people regularly wasting their precious time with ‘prospects’ that represent a low probability of becoming customers. The best thing you can do as a sales person is to intelligently, not lazily, ‘qualify out’ of low probability business so you can invest heavily in the opportunities worth pursing.

The most successful sales people target well and then qualify meticulously. They out-invest their competition on the deals they know they can win. These are the opportunities where you have access to the right relationship to influence and create best value in their eyes, where you can discover and also influence their evaluation and procurement processes. And most importantly, where you can engineer a winning strategy.

How do you decide which prospects to re-gift to your competitors this Christmas? It’s simple – don’t become stuck or delegated down to people who exhibit these traits: They don't know what’s gong on in terms of timing, decision criteria and process. They are disconnected from real power. They endlessly ask for more information. They deny you access to senior stakeholders and decision-makers. They cannot explain the business case. They have no interest in discussing risk. They cannot articulate what the project or initiative needs to deliver in terms of business outcomes.

Be gracious as you cast your unsuitable prospects adrift as part of a deliberate strategy to treasure the time and resources of your organization. Wish them all the very best – it’s a small world and there is every chance they’ll be back if you do it right. Yes, you may also choose to move them into the lead nurture program run by marketing.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: comedy_nose

LinkedIn Centers Key To Outbound Success

Strategic selling is fundamentally defined by the seller targeting the buyer and proactively engaging to create value and set the agenda. Before LinkedIn we would rent databases and engage telemarketers to call and set appointments to build our pipeline. But cold-calling yields have been relentlessly trending down and currently have a success rate below 3%. This is because databases tend to be poor and phones are screened by either voicemail or Executive Assistants.

On the other hand, LinkedIn provides accurate contact information and context for targeting people who make decisions. LinkedIn is the world’s most powerful database for B2B selling with approximately 75% of professionals having LinkedIn accounts in the USA and more than 90% in Australia. These people are motivated to keep their profile up-to-date and accurate because it’s about "personal brand" and credentials. LinkedIn is the database-of-record from heaven for those who want to sell like hell. And Sales Navigator from LinkedIn is a massively powerful tool for both marketing and sales.

Call centers still have a role but if you’re in the world of B2B solution selling (yes solution selling is still very relevant and Challenger works with, rather than replaces it) you need to be making your own connection with the senior executives you are selling to. You need to build relationships and initiate physical world contact after strategically positioning yourself in their network.

Every business should invest in building a LinkedIn Center where sales and marketing come together to create highly targeted campaigns that build communities, engage stakeholders, create conversations and position sales leaders as credible partners. Here is my post/blog on how to do create your LinkedIn Center.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: nan palmero

YOU are the reason they don't care or engage

The Challenger Sale is essential reading for everyone in B2B complex solution selling. In the spirit of what Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson teach, here is my proactive insight for those struggling to create momentum and deliver results. 

You are the reason potential customers don't care.

It's not your company’s crap marketing, poor brand, average products and services, tough market conditions, aggressive competitors, or even the lack of leads you receive, nor is it the fault of your boss who won’t help you or your stupid customers who just don't ‘get it’.

Look in the mirror to see the real problem… it’s you, but you are also ‘the opportunity’ to transform results.

Give yourself a wake-up call, an uppercut, a kick to the groin. Snap out of your apathy and get pissed-off with yourself. Do what it [ethically] takes rather that your inadequate ‘best.’

Success leaves clues so learn the numbers for your industry: How many calls? How many meetings? How many proposals? How many people telling you no for you to then get to a yes? Who do you need to get into the customer organization? What does the conversation need to be about? What business problem are you solving? What’s the business case for implementing your solution? What's their process for making a decision and buying from you?

Become a student of success and accept the reality that your results will not change until you do. Some say 75% of success is determined by optimism. Others say that competence and work ethic is the key. For larger complex selling your ability to create value is important. But here are the four key ingredients for success in any sales role: knowledge, attitude, skill and activity. All four of these must be in play at all times.

You’re the reason they don't buy because you talk about you, your company and your product; rather than them, their industry, their customers, their challenges and opportunities. Your customers care about themselves and they are only interested in talking with you if you can grab their attention and then sustain their interest by being obsessed about them and their world.

Self awareness, accepting responsibility, generosity of spirit and being grateful are keys to a happy and successful life. If you like this post, please click the thumbs-up icon under the heading to let me know.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Sudhamshu Hebbar

Are Sex and Selling Dirty?

Someone once said to me, “sex is really dirty... but only if it’s done right.” But selling should never be dirty – no lying, no cheating, no duping others in any way. Selling can and should be done with absolute integrity. Values based selling, not to be confused with ‘value selling’ (business case selling), is an essential foundation on which every successful career is built. Our integrity and the strong personal brand that ensues is our most precious asset in professional selling.

But great sex and great selling do have one thing in common. It’s all about giving yourself to the other person; meeting their needs before your own. Zig Ziglar once said: “You can have everything you want if you can help enough people get what they want”…now the sex metaphor is getting a little weird and I’m quoting Zig out of context; he was a monogamous committed Christian.

Never go negative and never throw mud at a competitor. Most importantly, avoid any form of caustic criticism on social media as it leaves a permanent digital imprint that irreparably damages your reputation. Although dirty or negative tactics should be avoided, cunning orchestration is encouraged with thoughtful planning and stealthy execution (no, we're not talking about sex again). All great enterprise sales people are plotters and schemers. Their modus operandi is one of asking insightful questions and listening, careful planning, strategy, validating intelligence and masterful execution. They know the maxim that you don’t learn anything while you're talking. They also don't care who gets the credit so long as they achieve the objective.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Robert Huffstutter


Questions in Selling: Rackham Has Everything You Need

Everything you need to know about using questions in selling can be found in Professor Neil Rackham’s timeless book, SPIN Selling™. His work stands today as the only time in history that University PhD grade research was conducted to analyse how business-to-business (B2B) sales people interact with prospects and customers in the field. In the 1980s they observed 35,000 sales calls done by 10,000 sales people in 23 countries over 12 years and employed 40 researchers. The body of work was peer reviewed and validated. Nothing before or since comes even close to matching the level of transparency and integrity in the research data and findings.

The undertaking was massive and resulted in a selling framework that Huthwaite took to market before being acquired recently by Miller Heiman who are now the largest B2B sales training organization globally. When the research was originally conducted, people thought that the key to sales success was asking open questions rather than closed questions; but the study surprised everyone when they found this not to be the case. Instead, there were four types of questions employed by sales people and it remains the case today. The first type of question sales people use are Situation questions (fact-finding or discovery). The second type are Problem questions. The third type are Implication questions (exploring and deepening the pain). The fourth type are value or benefit questions but that would have created an acronym of SPIV or SPIB. They decided to go with the acronym of SPIN with the N standing for ‘Needs payoff’.

Neil Rackham remains a luminary in the field of professional selling today and SPIN is an evergreen framework for driving sales conversations with prospective customers. Even Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson who wrote The Challenger Sale invited Neil to write the foreword and also contribute within the body of the book (page 82). Here is the SPIN model with some annotation by me in red.

If you need a framework for helping your team have better conversations in the field, I suggest you combine insight selling or Challenger (Corporate Executive Board) concepts with SPIN. Lead with insight to earn the right to ask questions and then use the SPIN framework to structure the conversation. Importantly, don't jump from S to N which is a common mistake made by many salespeople. Leading sales people take the best from various methodologies and create a ‘mash-up’ that they combine with digital and physical selling techniques. It’s not about old school solution, value or insight selling versus new school Social Selling 3.0… it’s combining them all together that creates amazing results.

If you want SPIN selling training, contact Miller Heiman / Huthwaite. Don't deal with people who steal or imitate their IP or have inferior question based approaches. To Neil, thanks for your personal support with my own book and for all you continue to do in professional selling, including your tireless work in making selling a profession recognized through university qualifications.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo credit: NeilRackham.com

The 6 Sins of B2B Social Selling

1. Narcissism and selfishness: Let your content attract people without you pushing or selling. Be a person of goodwill who generously promotes others. Talk about yourself only when you’re providing examples within a quality piece of content. Find kindred spirits online and help build their brand. The law of reciprocity works big-time in social but don't give to get.

2. Acid-washing: Good manners are an important part of all social interaction, including on-line. Being caustic through sarcasm or negativity paints you in a very poor light. If you don't have something positive to say to an individual, don't say anything at all. Click away.

3. Blog-bombing: If someone takes the effort to create a post or blog to contribute to the community or conversation, you should never promote your own competitive products and insert links to your website. This is the behaviour of a blood sucking parasite… think leach.

4. Faking it: Never pay for fake fans or likes. By all means use tools to help you schedule posts and manage social platforms but earn your followers organically.

5. Stealing content: Plagiarism is theft, plain and simple. Acknowledge others any time you knowingly use their ideas or intellectual property. Be original or attribute the source.

6. Spamming followers: Respect people’s time and focus on providing quality insights. Don't post junk and don't push sales messages at people. Pushing high volumes of self-serving content simply alienates people and they turn-off. Less really is more. Leverage the law of attraction.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: mkhmarketing

CRM Hijacks Customer Experience Strategy

Customer Relationship Management needs to be a strategy that’s focused on creating the best possible customer experience, supported by well defined processes that are enabled by technology and with everything being driven by managers and staff committed to a customer-centric culture.

In the last few days I have been facilitating focus groups for a research study in Australia being conducted by The Eventful Group who are running a big CRM conference in Melbourne in July 2015. So far we’ve done half-day workshops in three cities with approximately 80 people ranging from senior business leaders to IT system managers. We asked the participants what they believed the biggest challenges and burning issues are in Customer Experience, and we deliberately avoided steering the conversation toward CRM software.

But CRM software quickly emerged as a burning issue and I made the comment that some research states 70% of CRM software implementations fail. I asked for a show of hands: “Who here regards their CRM software implementation a success?” On average, less than 25% and in Brisbane it was approximately 15%. Understand that I am a strong advocate for CRM software and I believe it’s an essential technology for every organization. I was, after all, the Managing Director for a global CRM vendor in Australia before leaving the corporate world in September 2012 to start my RSVPselling consulting business and career as a keynote speaker.

But here is the epiphany I had in working with these focus groups and capturing their issues and insights: Customer Relationship Management has been hijacked by software technology.

A common theme with delegates in these research groups was that they never ask for funding for CRM because ‘CRM as a dirty word’. This is because of the reputation that software projects have for being difficult, expensive and failing to deliver the desired business outcomes. Instead they talk about ‘customer experience’ initiatives and CRM is merely one piece of the puzzle (marketing automation, portals, mobility, social, etc.). There will be a research paper released early next year by The Eventful Group and I’ll post details in advance but here are some of the strongest themes that emerged from delegates:

1. Ensure that your corporate mission and values are aligned with the philosophy of customer-centricity.

2. Create a ‘customer experience strategy’ before anything else and ensure all of the organization is committed to it. Change management and executive commitment are essential.

3. Design quality end-to-end customer experiences focused on processes incorporating the entire customer life-cycle as they engage with marketing, website, social, call center, inside sales and field sales, solution architects, services, implementation, on-boarding and training, support, renewals and upsell or upgrades.

4. Build tailored interfaces and processes for staff, partners and customers and provide relevant interfaces though any channel including web, mobile, call center, field sales or social.

5. Create the right KPIs and clarity in execution and management for every role in your team.

6. Technology should come last and must deliver tailored relevance to empower every interaction.

7. Automate everything possible to drive quality, consistency and efficiency.

Customer Relationship Management should be a strategy, and Customer Experience Management should be positioned above CRM as a technology.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: cwillbounds

How to Build Your LinkedIn Center. Social Selling 3.0

2015 will see the dawn of the rise of "LinkedIn Centers" to steadily replace traditional B2B marketing activities for demand generation and phone based telemarketing for lead generation (in-house or outsourced). Large enterprises are notoriously slow to move so sales people will need to drive this in partnership with sales management and marketing. I recommend building a ‘skunk-works’ team and begin to experiment if you want to lead and avoid being left behind in a Social 3.0 world.

Here is how it can work. Create an initial team of 5 of your best sales people. They must all possess these attributes: already a top performer, committed to building an online profile, tech-savvy, have gravitas and be able to write. Then create a highly targeted list of named accounts within your best verticals; be thorough in your profiling and know what an ideal prospective customer looks like based on customer win review analysis. The team moves into the same physical work area and each is provided with a license, TeamLinked together (LinkedIn's new interconnected referral molecule) and trained on LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This Social 3.0 hit-team campaigns on two fronts:

  1. Engaging LinkedIn communities where the target executives participate or monitor. They become part of the conversation building credibility and precious trust. No creepy stalking, disempowering selling or inappropriate spamming. Most importantly, no sales messages to links being posted to selling websites or marketing videos. They must never mention your company in these forums. The marketing team supports with resources to create research based insights that help earn conversations – in line with Challenger from CEB and ensure everyone involved has read the book and workshopped ideas and actions for creating the necessary insights and resources.

  2. Using LinkedIn as the engine room for trigger event selling by passively looking for Trigger Events. The book Shift, by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto, is excellent so also ensure the team has read it and identified trigger events for the target customers and markets. The trigger events could be funding, promotion, started at a new company, expansion, etc. The Social 3.0 hit-team engages target prospects at exactly the right moment with personalized powerful relevance (think Selling to VITO by Tony Parinello) to grab attention and secure engagement. It could be via InMail or preferably an old-school letter in a hand-written plain envelope… how’s that for cut-through. The point here is that LinkedIn is perfect for monitoring and capturing trigger events and then engaging with context and credibility.

It is vitally important that the LinkedIn Center team has an embedded marketing resource with them and that they are all physically located together. This is so they can be coached by their manager who sits with them and they can all easily collaborate in each step of the funnel in the research and due diligence process itself. Instead of people on the phone doing outbound calls, the LinkedIn Center works together on LinkedIn engagement strategies, insight strategies and Challenger style provocations (CEB) using evidence-based research content to hook and engage.

All this could be tracked in CRM (Navigator syncs nicely with Salesforce and other CRMs) with custom dashboards for action management and KPI reporting. Automation tools such as Marketo could be fine-tuned by the team along with other front funnel products such as FRONTLINE Selling or Carburetor (Carb.io) to tap into external lead generation sources be they phone or e-mail based engagement.

Social Selling 3.0 is about powerful mash-ups. In this case:

  • The right individuals with all of the [hard to find] key attributes including Social Selling Index (SSI) scores over 70, collaborating in a skunk-works team. - SSI can be tracked and bonused as a KPI.

  • Sales and marketing collaboration for profiling targets and creating research based insights

  • Insight and Challenger Selling concepts to create conversations in social platforms and communities

  • Trigger Event Selling for monitoring within LinkedIn to create pipeline

  • TeamLink based selling based on referrals driven through the 5-seat molecule which the new TeamLink analytics view shows. In essence, how are you connected via your team by 2nd and 3rd degree to any client prospect.

  • Selling To VITO concepts to grab their attention with old-school panache

  • Manage the complex sale with a meta-framework such as RSVPselling

  • Bring best of breed marketing, CRM and social

  • Sales people, marketing person and manager all sitting together in one open area

Right now, you may be thinking: This is a great theory but has anyone actually done this in the real world… does this actually work? The answer is yes and yes! I’m mentoring someone right now in executing this exact strategy (plus elements they don't want me to discuss right now for competitive advantage reasons) and they are achieving mind-blowing amazing things with less people but using Social Selling 3.0 as outlined here.

Could you dare to implement this within your organization? LinkedIn is the most powerful research, connection and engagement platform on the face of the planet for B2B selling. 2015 could be the year for a quantum shift in strategy, execution and results in your world.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: 2ose

Cultural Fit – The Toughest Element in Hiring Salespeople

There is massive latent brand risk in any employee who is a cultural misfit or emotionally disconnected from positive values. For this reason, one of the most expensive mistakes an organisation can make is to hire or retain misaligned staff – especially sales people who face stress and pressure constantly. It is important to manage this commercial risk by understanding that skills are easy to measure and evidence but values often live behind a facade of salesmanship.

Know what you’re looking for beneath the surface of a resume or LinkedIn profile and understand how to penetrate the persona being projected during an interview. It is very difficult to change someone’s personality or values, instead we should seek those who are aligned. Here are characteristics that the best leaders seek when hiring new people:

  1. Guided by solid moral values. They treat others as they wish to be treated and place the well-being of the corporation, team members and customers above personal interests. They never bully or undermine others through gossip, negative politics or passive-aggressive behaviour. They clearly understand what is right and wrong and have the courage to always act with integrity.

  2. Committed to being part of the team. They ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role. They believe their personal value comes from the timely results they deliver and their positive influence; not from their position, knowledge or qualifications.

  3. Cares about quality in everything they do. They actively listen and ensure understanding before jumping to solutions. Proposals are well written and follow the brief or address the problems articulated. They proof-read everything, including e-mail, before sending.

  4. Driven to achieve results. They focus on what needs to happen daily to achieve outcomes and they treasure their time and respect the time of others. Although they have a bias toward action, they avoid the busy fool syndrome.

  5. Strategic thinker. They listen far more than they talk and they gather intelligence to create insight before making decisions. They consider the politics within an organisation and the various self-interests at play in complex decision-making.

  6. Focused on delivering value. They work intelligently but also know there is no substitute for a strong work ethic. They are committed to delivering tangible results with a focus on the customer’s business case and managing their risk.

Almost everything in this list is an attitude more than a skill. It begs the question: how do you hire for cultural fit and discover the truth about a person’s character? The psychometric tools that measure intelligence and identify dominant personality traits do not address the issues of values and attitudes. To minimise hiring risks it is essential to understand all the relevant factors, including how candidates think and operate. Sales people are especially adept at projecting a polished facade. When hiring sales people, focus on the following:

  • Past performance is an indication of likely future performance. Reject any candidate with a resume that fails to document consistent high performance against targets or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Be weary of people who claim to have achieved great things with past employers yet regularly move on within eighteen months.

  • Assess their LinkedIn and social selling profile for a focus on value and relevance along with a strong network. All this should be evidenced by the groups to which they belong, the posts they publish and the contributions they make to online discussions.

  • Explore their Social Proximity to you within LinkedIn and research them to either eliminate or validate in advance of an interview.

  • Use candidate skills, experience and qualifications to screen individuals out of the process and then obsessively focus on cultural fit with the remaining applicants. Dig deep using behavioural questions and push for real-world examples.

  • Ensure the candidate evidences claimed traits with examples of difficult situations they faced and the challenges they overcame. Ask them about their failures and what they specifically learned.

  • Ask them to define what strategic selling means to them and to provide examples of how they execute, both online and in the physical world.

  • Use reference checking early in the process, not as mere validation at the end. Most importantly, you select and request the referees you want to talk to and reject the ones proposed by the candidate.

How people sell and operate is incredibly important for every business as they represent the brand more than anything else. Hiring the wrong people is a massive mistake so never rush the process. If you have people in your team that you suspect need to be moved out, use my Rule of 24 to help make the decision.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Rory MacLeod