Times have changed, and it’s time for sales leaders to take action. Making basic changes to the way you manage and motivate your team can lead to big results. Sticking with the status quo means getting left behind. Business performance expert Ryan Estis challenges conventional thinking on corporate culture, communication, client acquisition, brand ambassadorship and change. The former chief strategy officer for the marketing division of McCann Erickson, he helps companies, leaders, and sellers more effectively connect to their two most important audiences: employees and customers. Below, Ryan shares his five tips for people–even if they’re not sales people– to find more success in what they do:
Even if you don’t carry a quota or call on potential new customers, you probably spend a significant portion of your day doing sales-oriented work. How much time do you spend every week presenting new ideas? Working to get buy-in from your boss, someone in a different department, or a customer? Competing for tight resources? Convincing a colleague to support a new project?
We all spend an increasingly significant portion of our work days drawing on our sales fluency: presenting ideas, making a business case, building relationships, earning trust and working to align to common objectives. Your ability to communicate effectively, persuade and influence directly affects your success at work. Understanding core sales fundamentals and elevating your communication and negotiation skills makes good business sense. Here are 5 ideas that should help.
1. Move past any negative stereotypes about “sales.” When most people think about “sales,” they think about a bad buying experience that usually includes an overly eager or aggressive sales rep. We tend to associate sales with manipulating people into making decisions they’re not comfortable with, when, in fact, professional selling is all about understanding another person’s needs and helping them solve problems or accelerate opportunities. When you start thinking about sales as a collaborative, problem-solving effort you expand your perspective and new opportunities to advance a relationship (whether it’s with a potential customer, your boss, or even your spouse).
2. Focus on how you can be helpful. I call this the “service mentality.” When your goal is to convince or persuade someone, don’t focus on how you can get them to do something. Instead, focus on how you can be helpful. Think about what the other person’s goals and objectives are and how you can help get them there.
3. Provide context. Having the desire to help is the first step, but you’ll also need to give some context to demonstrate that your ideas can work. If you’re presenting a new idea to your boss, for example, come prepared with a detailed business case, competitive intelligence, research, other people’s opinions, and any other insight you can leverage.
4. Expect resistance — and plan how you’ll move past it. In any exchange of information, you should prepare to be met with resistance. I’m talking about that N-O word. The natural reaction is to shut down. But so often resistance can be an opportunity to move the exchange to the next level of engagement. Understanding concerns, objections and barriers is critical to making forward progress. Great sellers view resistance as an opportunity to learn, understand and advance the dialogue. Which leads us to…
5. Ask intelligent, open-ended questions. Asking good questions is one of the most important ways to communicate more successfully. When you are met with resistance, probe. Go deep enough so that you walk away from the conversation with new information and insight (instead of walking away empty-handed and frustrated). Learn more — their position, challenges, needs and areas of confusion — so that you can help them move beyond their resistance and into their comfort zone. Show up prepared with intelligent questions. Being prepared for tough conversations beats winging it every time.
Not everyone sells, but good persuasive communication skills are crucial in order to work from a position of influence. Developing your communication skills with a stronger sales orientation will help you navigate your work more effectively, build better relationships and thrive during increasingly complex times.