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Conquering Sales Fears and the 'Wal-Mart Mentality'

While right now everyone else might be thinking of their Halloween costumes or what tricks or treats they may provide, as sales leaders we must consider the bigger picture. It is a scary world out there and many fears exist -- about the future of the business cycle, new taxes that will hit in 2015, consumers concerned about their livelihoods and the fears of your sales team as they face another challenging year. All of these fears impact your planning actions.

Emotion has always been a major element in the sales environment. Buyers today are more risk-averse, salespeople are more cautious and less self-confident and, worse than that, the relationships between buyers and sellers are caught up in "cost vs. value."

It is evident the Wal-Mart mentality has taken hold.

Wal-Mart for years has pressured vendors for the low-cost option. Just today, I listened to a prospective client describe how prospects are treating his sales teams and how his sales team dreads attempting to call on "net new" opportunities. "It's all about low-price vendor relationships versus how we like to work as a consultative partner with our clients," he stated.  

The good news is in the technology sector, two factors separate us from Wal-Mart mentality. In selling solutions, partners can sell productivity enhancements and business efficiency, as well as cost effectiveness. If you do it right, you can sell both at the same time! I challenge you to consider what other industries address these most important business challenges.

The question is, as an owner or sales leader, how are you lowering the fear in your sales teams and how are they approaching their prospects or clients to lower their fears?

At a recent conference I led three back-to-back breakout sessions. In reading the evaluations and in conversations afterward, I heard these fear-based questions: "What should I do...?" "What do you recommend...?" "How should I address...?"

What are your action steps to reduce fear and finish off 2014? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Create a sales theme. Most would consider this a weak action, but if you spend time creating a mantra or maxim that you believe in and focus your energies around reinforcing it with your sales team, the desired attitude will build. Displayed at the University of Tennessee, for example, are the seven maxims of former coach General Robert Neyland. His first is, "The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win." I have used "Be brilliant on the basics" or "We will dominate our market and take an assertive sales approach." Each of these is designed to build a certain sales mentality.

  2. Focus your sales team on selling to the business challenges of the non-IT decision makers. This requires sales training that includes adding roleplay in your sales meetings. The issues your team must understand are operational efficiency, cost containment, customer responsiveness, revenue growth and increased market share. What issues do the CEO, COO, CFO, VP of sales/marketing, VP of HR or VP of manufacturing care about? If you make the business case to the COO, they can find the money. Make your sales team more confident; give them the knowledge to hold their own in tough sales situations. Mental toughness is critical.

  3. Re-evaluate your marketing and messaging. To gain attention you need to be considered "edgy" and stand out in the market. The important element is to create multiple messaging that addresses the business challenges from No. 2 above. Campaigns should be focused to the specific job title you are attempting to address. Most partners use the same messaging to address all job titles or, worse, use a technology message expecting business decision makers to understand or translate the technology pitch into valid business benefits. Run your "Business Breakfasts" or "Executive Forums" campaigns aimed specifically to a job title with the appropriate message for that title. "Drive an increase in customer satisfaction and lower your costs" certainly would get the attention of the VP of marketing or COO.

Don't be scared; be aware. The important action is to take action. Sales leaders must recognize their environment and build a culture of success with an organized plan of attack.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 29, 2014


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