This past week I read an amazing blog post from my colleague Jill Konrath: I Sell #LikeAGirl and I’m Proud of It. As always, she is both insightful and SPOT ON with the truths about selling in today’s environment.
It got me thinking about where the discipline of sales is going, and what we as #likeagirl sellers bring to the table. Not only do I think this is a very important statement for women sellers, but it has the potential to be a wake-up call for the rest of sales people out there. Are you ready?
My introduction to selling started when I was a product manager. I had the bad luck of being in charge of the “dog” product in my company – the product that no one cared about, or understood, or thought was valuable. Except me. If I was going to be successful, I needed to shift the sales team’s attitude about the product. In my head, the “dog” product needed to become “the little product that could.” (For the uninitiated, this harks back to one of my favorite children’s stories: The Little Engine That Could). To get my sales team to sell this product, I needed to do two things:
- Figure out and clearly communicate why it was valuable to our top clients who bought it religiously every year (most of our top 100 client list).
- I had to sell those concepts to our sales force. Every quarterly sales meeting, the product managers (all women) trooped in and usually got challenged (and sometimes beat up) by the sales team. This was my opportunity every three months to sell to my hardest audience – my own sales guys.
I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m CURIOUS. (TWEET THIS!)
I knew that I had to make the sellers believe in the product’s potential. I also knew that it was going to be heavy lifting. What would it take? So curiosity became the first step in my strategy. I picked a couple of sales guys I knew I could talk to, and asked them about their challenges out there. What was missing? How could we do a better job of helping them sell? I didn’t even mention my product in those early conversations. I had already pitched my brains out to them previously with little result. It was time to walk in their shoes and see it from their point of view. I learned a lot from these two guys. I asked them questions, then I shut up and listened. Then I listened some more.
I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m OPEN. (TWEET THIS!)
One of my clients called and wanted to meet to talk about how to use the product for a few different initiatives they were considering. They were based in New York, so I set up the meeting and invited our New York sales executive to join me. I met him on Fifth Avenue, and up to the client’s office we went. I asked the client to share their ideas with us – so we could get a feel for what they wanted to do. Ten minutes into it, the sales executive interrupted them and asked, “Why do you use this product anyway, we have much better options that would meet your needs better.” Everyone in the room was quiet. This was the moment to be open, not defensive. So I said, “It might be a good idea to look at other options, but let’s be sure we hear everything that you’re thinking about first.” The client looked at him, looked at me – and picked up where he left off. Let me just sum up the situation: My own sales guy threw my product under the bus…with me sitting there…in front of the client. Then once the client finished talking about their needs, they started explaining to my sales guy why the product was valuable for them.
I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m RESILIENT. (TWEET THIS!)
After the client was finished speaking, I moved the discussion to how my product, and others we offered might best address their needs. My sales executive focused on higher ticket, sexier products. Still managing the urge to get defensive or adversarial, I focused on being resilient. I let him pitch other options and participated in comparing and contrasting them to see which would be the best fit. We figured out next steps and closed the meeting. On the way out, the sales executive said to me, “Yeah, they need something much better than what they have been using (my product). I’ll follow-up with them and take care of it. You can take it off your plate.” Then he walked away and left me there. I flew home discouraged but not finished. I needed to think through the situation some more. Two days later, I got a call to come to our president’s office. I walk in, and there is the sales executive. The client had called the president and told him that he did not want that guy in his office ever again. He said he was arrogant, rude, and clearly didn’t know anything about his business. I had to participate in a debrief on what actually happened in that meeting – with the sales guy in the room. I laid it out diplomatically, and didn’t flinch when the sales executive trashed my product in the course of the discussion. The president ultimately sent a letter of apology and made the situation right.
I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m TIRELESS. (TWEET THIS!)
The client kept my product, and also purchased a subscription to one more from another product line. I fielded several calls from them about how to use both products together. I went to the support team for the other product and asked for their help. They spent about an hour with me on what the product did, but told me they couldn’t go any further because they didn’t provide support for my product. So I sat down, and figured it out myself – what was the best way to balance and integrate the use of both so the customer’s specific and unusual needs could be met. I put together a process and a demo and did a webinar for the client’s team to show them the possibility. And it worked. Later that quarter I got a customer service award based on the letter that the client sent our president outlining the entire set of experiences they had in both the sales and service of their account for these two products. Net results: we increased their purchase from one annual subscription to a second subscription, more than doubling monthly revenue for 12 months – and we kept the client happy.
So here it is: customers today want a partner, not a sales person, not an adversary, not a stalker. Think about selling #LikeAGirl even if it is outside of your traditional comfort zone. It will not only impact your sales results, but also increase customer satisfaction in a big way.