Steve Jobs

The Tao of Jobs in Sales

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

Is there still room to innovate in the world of sales? Emphatically, yes! Study the masters, the greats, study all styles and build your own. Realize buying habits have changed so study research from Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and make sure to factor in the real-time nature of the internet, as Andy Paul talks about in his books. The great salespeople I’ve managed and trained have had an inherent sense of curiosity, always questioning, always innovating, looking for new ways to blend the technology of sales: Old school meets new school. SPIN questioning is a technology, so is Challenging with new insight.

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Intuition is key in navigating deals of all sizes but especially in reading big complex deals with ultra long sales cycles. Many of you reading this have put in your 10,000 hours. My advice to you is simply, “trust your gut.” Sometimes you get split seconds to make a call, the Gladwellian thin-slice, nanoseconds to read people and pressure to react. Great managers empower their people, they train them through role play and ride alongs to hit their marks. There’s a temptation to play a character, to 'fake it until you make it' but ultimately, being yourself which requires that you muster courage and confidence, is going to trump everything else. Even a seller leveraging weaker tactics who believes in herself will outsell any contrived facade masking insecurity. 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone of voice and 7% is the actual words spoken so the nonverbal cues will be huge for you. Be comfortable in your own skin. Develop this. Seek to enjoy the selling process. To do this, simply move from interesting to interested, wholeheartedly hang on your customer's every word. It’s about them!

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

There’s something to be said for customer experience design, the design of a CRM, your Salesforce Automation, your enablement programs, your pitch and the insights themselves. It’s all a grand design, think hard on it. Measure twice, cut once. Coming from a design perspective is actually a unique way to look at it. “And one more thing…” Jobs was a master of suspense and showmanship in his legendary keynotes.

“Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”

Salespeople will like this. It’s definitely a field that requires pirates and ninjas level freedom of improvisation and creativity. Ultimately your gauge of success will be revenue and customer satisfaction/retention so it will be up to you to structure your day, week month and quarter to optimize the ultimate outcome. Perhaps the greatest form of rebellion is pushing yourself to total mastery of the art and science of sales which is a triumph over self. This requires extraordinary levels of patience. I’m not suggesting you fly the Jolly Roger from your computer but thinking differently is the Jobsian hallmark. There’s no one right way to success! Approach the playing field with out-of-the-box ideas and a lion share of intensity coupled with fresh energy. Never to be discounted, there are many lessons to be learned from military strategy also.

“.. almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Passion dictates performance. Find your niche, do what you love. If you figure that out, you’ll never work another day of your life. Jobs figured this secret to life and business success out early on. Fall in love with helping customers solve problems. Fall in love with serving and helping others, the time will fly!

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Setting expectations is key, always level set with customers. That being said, anytime you exceed expectations, you’ll blow their minds. Do you know how rare it is to receive a handwritten note these days? How about the Dale Carnegie simple strategy of just remembering someone's birthday. Dale kept it on notecards, you get notifications every day from social networks directly to your inbox; there’s simply no excuse. Customize, tailor and research for your presentations. Make agendas thoughtful. Be strategic. Take time to learn about clients before you meet with them. Winging it is the opposite of a quality experience. You are the face of your brand and the company. Going the extra mile is actually about little personal touches in this digital, always-on era. Excellence is in the execution.

“A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”

There’s an optimism conveyed in this quote. Know that you can sell, believing wholeheartedly in your product and the company you represent. Join a company that is growing where the energy you contribute can have a synergistic effect: 1 + 1 = 5. From acorns, oaks.

“To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.”

Discipline meets disciplines, we wear multiple hats as entrepreneurial sellers. We must stay laser focused on the daily activities that drive outcomes that we can influence. The therapist, the doctor, the technician, the customer service rep, the personal trainer. The analogies are endless. It’s a long game and you will gain the greatest payout sticking it out more than 18 months in one role. Outlive the enterprise sales cycle and set your sights on a bright horizon, knowing you can get there with consistent inspired effort each and every day. A positive attitude is your edge. It’s how Jobs continuously silenced critics and skeptics, creating something out of nothing, even releasing a phone when so many in the industry panned his breakthrough idea as "already done," predicting failure.

“In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

When you think about confusing sales processes or a hodgepodge of CRM data you get a sense for a need of design inspired thinking. With the customer defining the new funnel, designing a set of procedures to reflect this and allow reps to be nimble is critical. Customers being 57% through the decision making process, creates a bizarre asymmetry. Engaging upstream with critical insight requires designing a new sales process for your organization, getting closer to the buyer. "53 percent of B2B customer loyalty is a product of how you sell, not what you sell," according to CEB research.

“You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”

This quote has profound implications on sales. It may be the most relevant one when you talk about B2B complex selling in enterprise environments. Nine times out of ten, a customer will surface a symptom they believe is the problem. It’s up to us as sellers to peel the onion and to do much of this in advance. We can collect enough data during due diligence to provide an informed diagnosis, refine that diagnosis and work collaboratively on a prescription. We can come to the table with a rock solid value hypothesis and work to prove this out together qualitatively and quantitatively (Jeff Thull). Clients don’t always know what they want, what's wrong or what a solution could look like. They're often enamored with the status quo or a shiny object that they think will solve it. They've often been misdiagnosed and are drilling off into infinity compounding the problems. Executives do understand their core business drivers but sometimes they’re so close to it, they're blinded by familiarity. Moving off the solution to focus on their pain is a Mahan Khalsa principle that is an ingenious perspective on this. Fixing a set of symptoms is just a band-aid approach. Bring your subject matter expertise to the table to close this gap in understanding and help point customers in the right direction of incremental progress.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

Iterate quickly, take 100% responsibility for your mistakes. Own them to your manager, to your customer and to the executive team. If you operate with good intentions and integrity as your compass, you’ll inspire confidence and become a trusted advisor.

“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”

This is the Jobsian distillation of management science at its finest. Hire rockstars or train them to be so (take responsibility for grooming them) and then get out of their way, remove obstacles and push them out of the nest so they can fly. Watch the magic then unfold when you empower and enable gifted sellers. Drive comes from within in so unlocking this in people creates star performers who take pride in their work and self manage to an extent. I like this quote because it highlights the simplicity of the viewpoint of building a team of talented people and getting out of their way. Jobs lead by example and created a world class culture of innovation. He demanded this by the example he set. He brought in people he felt were even stronger and more talented than he was like Jony Ive, to expand his ability to put a “ding” in the universe. Despite foibles, he did not act alone even though catching heat as a misperceived solo flyer.

“I think we're having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we're always trying to do better.”

Spirit of play, élan vital, esprit de corps, there are so many ways to express this concept. Put into practice: have a blast, work hard and play hard. A sense of joy in what you’re doing is contagious with customers. In fact, "fun" unto itself can create customers even entire markets.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

I love this quote. You’d think setting huge goals would be demotivating. The old adage, "reach for the stars and you just might hit a mountain," is more realistic. I actually find I’m even more motivated when I think bigger. Set achievable goals but also put forward stretch goals to anchor your progress.

“So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.”

This quote is about handling rejection graciously and persistence. Jobs didn’t take no for an answer. He was hell bent on selling his vision. The sales will come, you have a good product, just know that it takes consistency and persistence over time.

“Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.”

Brazen, yes I know but Jobs was always willing to stir the pot. I really just think it shows the faith, tenacity, and unerring vision in the company he’s building. The takeaway here is to have an unwavering belief in what you’re selling.

“It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we'd given customers what they said they wanted, we'd have built a computer they'd have been happy with a year after we spoke to them - not something they'd want now.”

Challenger selling vs. relationship selling. You can give clients exactly the product they’re looking for and risk being commoditized out. Or, you can diagnose the larger complex problem which is typically comprised of many facets and build out a suite of solutions that even see around corners. This will protect your margins and buffer you from competitors nipping at your heels.

“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs was a game changer and polarizing force but he changed the world as we know it, millions would agree. His technologies live in our homes and most of our pockets. Market share? He created and won by literally creating new markets. Sales and product teams can unite with those in marketing and design. Getting the silos out of the organization and making sure to have meetings of cross-functional teams is critical to stay ahead of the breakneck pace of technology acceleration. Product can inform Marketing, can inform selling. Front line sellers are closest to the customer after all and can bring incredible insight back to the product team from the field. Sellers run the gamut in unique ability and life experience. I’ve found many that are extremely talented in another area like music, swing dancing, language learning, philosophy, Sudoku or Jai alai. Through his "reality distortion" field and Jedi Mind Trick intent, Steve Jobs was able to push through the barrier of skepticism and actually change the world. There is a great amount of resistance to change. We need to puncture through this wall with our advocates in the buying organization to foster true disruptive innovation from within, especially when we vault like David vs. Goliath against megalithic incumbents.

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:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: MIKI Yoshihito

B2B vs B2C Selling – Why Content Publishing Reigns Supreme

On average in business-to-business (B2B) selling there are more than 5 people within the customer organization involved in the buying decision (CSO Insights research) . Business-to-consumer (B2C) selling differs in that there are less people making the buying decision; the basis of decision is simpler and the decision time is shorter. Often the transaction is a one-off or very infrequent sale without an ongoing relationship to manage.

We live in an age of empowered consumers and their buying journey starts online rather than in a showroom. They seek the informed by the opinions of others online who have gone before them. Savvy consumers are skeptical of spin and the hyperbole of marketing messages and sales people. They look to their network, in the physical world and online to gather opinion and wisdom before engaging with the seller.

The illustration below shows the buyer’s journey in retail or consumer context. This is what B2C sellers need to align with as they seek to sell and market strategically. There is a huge role for quality content marketing to attract buyers. To illustrate this, let me share a true story from my own experience when buying recently.

Like all other consumers who decide to buy something, I experienced a trigger event. My son secured his probationary driver’s license and with it came the standard restrictions concerning high powered sports cars. Do we buy a third car or replace mine with something more practical. My wife and I decided that we did not need a third car yet so I sold my sports car through and started researching something we could all drive that was both very safe and I would not worry about minor damage. My first car many years ago was a Mini and the brand holds positive nostalgic value for me. My daughter is next in line to get her drivers license and she loves them. If my family and I had gone to a Mini showroom, it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel for the sales person. But rather than visiting a dealer I was instead doing research online, and not on the Mini website.

After having experienced a trigger event (son gets drivers license and cannot drive my over-powered car) and considering change (sensible wife says we’re not buying a third car) I was researching online and in social concerning the car I thought I wanted. It didn't take long before I had experienced the shock and awe of unhappy owners on social platforms… the Mini was clearly a nightmare. Catastrophic transmission problems were a risk with replacement transmissions costing a fortune. I considered a manual but discovered it’s more than a 10 hour job to replace a clutch… ouch; and they are also known to fail. Then there was the timing chain problem (‘Mini diesel death rattle’ caused by the auto-tensioner failing and the timing chain slapping the housing). YouTube videos were most enlightening for all these issues. I also read about excessive engine oil consumption exacerbated by a small sump reservoir and tortuous dipstick path that wipes to oil away making it difficult to see what the engine oil levels really are.

I decided to take one for a test drive but not from a dealer. I hired one on my next interstate business trip and the Mini provided had 35,000klms on the clock. In my opinion it however drove like a car with a 100,000klms and was very noisy and uncomfortable. I didn’t like the driving position or where switches were located. BMW are doing a fine job improving Mini quality since acquiring the car maker but the best Mini sales person in the world could not have sold me their product and nor did they ever have the chance. This is because the buyer’s journey usually starts for online where they research within the networks and forums that don't seek to sell.

Then I searched for ‘Japanese Mini’ and the Suzuki Swift came up. After 6 hours searching for anything negative of the next few weeks, the only thing I could find was that when the rear seats were folded forward there was no single flat surface in the rear boot. Nothing mechanical seemed to ever go wrong. I then spent hours on to establish price points. I talked to my friends in the car industry about the best time to buy. When I walked into my local dealer who had a new manual Swift Sport in stock, I was there to negotiate. I bought it at the price I wanted to pay with a 5 year warranty and low fixed price service costs.

When I looked in the boot I discovered that Suzuki had listened to their customers online and already fitted a false floor in the boot to create a secondary storage area and seamless flat surface when the seats are down! On top of all this, the customer experience the Suzuki dealer delivered to me when I serviced the car is better than some luxury brands I’ve owned. Here is the main point; the Suzuki salesman added almost no value, I had already bought and he couldn't negotiate – I had to do that with his boss.

In the next 9 months we’ll buy a third car, my sports car I hope, and I’m already doing all by research online, especially in social. When a dealer meets me it will only be to negotiate, not sell. Most companies focus their online marketing efforts around website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) using keywords and Google AdWords which is all very well for when buyers know they want what you’re selling and are seeking to select and negotiate. But the savvy online sales and marketing professionals create content to attract buyers much earlier in their journey… when they’re considering change and doing research. Content publishing is hugely powerful and the essential ingredient for online success.

For both B2B and B2C companies, here is the important question you must ask yourself: “What do my buyers look for online before they look for me?”

Here is another personal purchasing example. I'm a wakeboarder and when I wanted to buy a new vehicle to tow our new boat, there wasn't a lot to choose from that was rated to pull the weight of our rig at over 3,000kgs. Our Mitsubishi Pajero was only rated for 2,500kg towing capacity so I began my search online for the replacement. I didn’t search for particular brands but instead entered ‘4WD 3500kg towing’. I found review sites with lots of useful information and to my surprise, Jeep was rated highly by consumers on value for money and towing. I quickly gravitated to the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited but I had two concerns from my research: product quality and handling in an emergency.

As I continued to click I found an empowered Aussie consumer who created a way to get his money back on a Jeep with 20 defects and 4 years of consumer hell. He created a Facebook page and got busy raising money and awareness of big gaps in consumer rights under Australian legislation. He highlighted that consumers now have a powerful voice on social platforms. Mainstream media picked-up the story and the result was global coverage and worldwide brand damage that has cost Jeep millions of dollars in lost sales. But all manufacturers produce some lemons and this particular consumer experience was an exception, not the norm, for Jeep owners.

There are thousands of examples out there of how consumers can create massive negative impact on a brand without spending a cent. Just do a Google search on 'Uber' and you'll see the disruptive player in the Taxi industry has some real brand issues.

Next I found the Jeep Moose Avoidance Test video on YouTube showing potential roll-over danger. But I knew that American cars are typically made with softer suspension and the recommended tire pressures are designed for a comfortable 'floating' ride for a trip around the block at the dealership. Running higher tire pressures would deal with the problem combined with my philosophy on never swerving to miss a kangaroo. There was plenty of positivity about the vehicle in social and online, and the Fiat diesel that powers it received brilliant reviews. I loved the look, features and compelling value. A friend already owned one and I borrowed it for a test drive and I was sold.

By the time I contacted a Jeep salesperson it was by phone to negotiate and I only walked into a dealership to sign the paperwork. Bought it, loved it.

Here is second big question that B2B and B2C companies must ask: “Both on and off my website, what do buyers see online when they find me?”

Do they see transparency and genuine commitment to integrity and service or do they see a facade, easy to penetrate. In research by Corporate Visions, 74% of buyers choose to buy from the seller who first provides value and insight. This is why every sales person on the planet should build a LinkedIn profile that serves as their personal brand website. It is critically important to avoid having a profile that reads like an online CV seeking to attract the next employer. Instead it needs to show the value they provide customers and the values by which they operate.

When buyers research sellers they look for social proof that the person is worthy of their time and trust. They seek proof that the person has integrity, insight and is well connected and respected within their industry. Employers themselves are now facing this same problem with websites such as Glassdoor that enables past and present employees to anonymously rate the company.

Everyone today can peel back the façade of websites and social media pages to discover the real state of an individual’s credentials, product reputation and corporate brand. Content publishing is essential for both B2B and B2C sellers, so be the one online that provides insight and value. Manage any brand negativity online with empathy through social listening and demonstrate that you're listening and improving.

If you enjoyed this post, listen here to my interview with Kelly Riggs on Biz Locker Room Radio where we discuss Strategic Social 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:

Main image photo by Flickr: David Geller Steve and Bill at All Things DB2B vs B2C Selling – Why Content Publishing Reigns Supreme