Developing sales ‘toughness’ in a competitive market
By Nick Baldock
Winning more profitable business to sustain growth is tougher today than it’s ever been.
Markets are becoming more competitive as barriers to entry fall. Established companies also face competition from newly established businesses with more than enough ‘savvy’. The rapid spread of new markets, new opportunities and players in your market inevitably puts pressure upon margins.
To make the situation even tougher, companies are doing business with fewer suppliers. Companies are changing, re-organising, rationalising. There are takeovers, the centralisation of purchasing, and direct poaching to buy market share that can all result in the loss of hitherto satisfied customers.
Customers have unprecedented choice in terms of when, where and from whom to purchase, and by what means. Buyers are taking advantage of their strengthened negotiating position.
In the light of all this, the people at the sharp end if any business – the salespeople – have to develop a great deal of resilience or ‘mental toughness’ to ensure their product/service shines in the way they would like. Those same salespeople need to develop mental toughness, whilst remaining totally customer focused. Yet they must also remain vigilant to misreading situations in a negative way.
Why would someone do that? Because habitually we tend to see the negative first in a situation, like it or not. For a salesperson, that could spell trouble! And that may be often down to something called a ‘schema’...
Be aware of ‘Schemas’ that limit your sales power!
'What on earth is a ‘schema’ and how may it affect my sales success?', I hear you ask. Well, it’s not someone who is trying to be devious!
A ‘schema’ put simply is when we can have a ‘blind-spot’ or we just can’t see something. For salespeople, this can be things like the way we can stereotype things thereby leading to false assumptions. For those of you that want a more definite definition, according to psychologist Kendra Cherry:
“A cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information in favour of information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established schemas”.
Simply put, it means we can form opinions, have fixed mindsets and make assumptions – and for sales people that can mean the kiss of death. So let me share with you some assumptions sales people nearly always make that can seriously damage your wealth!
For example, in your opinion (in your mind as you read it) what does this say?
Many people see it as saying ‘opportunities are nowhere’, which of course it could. However, if you look at it again, could it say anything else? How about ‘opportunities are now here’. It could of course also say that. It depends how you read it.
So what sort of assumptions could a salesperson make that may not necessarily be true?
False assumptions sales people often make...
- The buyer knows what he wants.
Not true – most prospects I see and those of salespeople we talk to don’t know what they want. They know what problems they may have but often it is the process of discussion through guided questioning that reveals what they want and the solutions they may find beneficial.
- You’ll make the sale solely on price.
Price may be good for getting people in the door, but when it comes to people coming back it is very rarely price. Have you ever paid more for something you could get cheaper? Are you the cheapest in your marketplace? Do you have existing clients who buy from you knowing they could pay less with a competitor of yours? Of course you do.
- The competition is all around you with better products.
The prospects may lead you to believe that, but only so he/she can strike a better deal with you? What’s your source of power? Why DO people buy from you? Why are your present customers buying from you? You’ll soon see that the competition ISN’T all around with better products.
- Your only real weapon is cutting the price.
This is probably the biggest one of all, and arguably the most dangerous. Be proud and defend your product/service. If we go into the meeting believing that at the start, then we have already agreed to cut the price – it’s just a question of how much.
All of these are real and dangerous mindsets (schemas) salespeople can have, and not one of them is true.
So today we know that:
• Customers have more choice
• There is more competition
• It won’t get any easier
For our own company we have both an opportunity and indeed a responsibility to cultivate and develop strategies that will enable us to forge strong relationships with our clients so we can tune into how WE can (through understanding our clients) deliver real value added solutions for them. Take time to realise your real power, your real potential about you, your product and your company.
At MSB we have been making such challenges our business for over 20 years. We assist businesses globally in their quest to forge a competitive edge in their market and develop mental toughness with their sales team. We have developed strategies and approaches that are practical, relevant and proven that can help underpin sustained growth
Yours may be a fiercely competitive marketplace, but don’t lose sight of what makes it competitive - you. Apart from your competitor, we can all be thankful for that!
Focus on the positive and don’t lose sight of your strengths. These are your strengths with your company, your product and you as a person. As Helen Keller once said “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows”.
This article was written by Nick Baldock, an MSB Training Associate.
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