The Makings of an Effective Leader

The Makings of an Effective Leader

When I consult with the next generation of business owners and key executives, I am frequently asked what makes an effective leader. This is an important question. As John Maxwell notes in The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” He asks, “What makes people want to follow a leader?” And, “Why do people reluctantly comply with one leader while passionately following another to the ends of the earth?”

Key leadership principles

Here are four stated leadership principles from writers I admire that address these questions:

  1.  Accountability – In The Oz Principle, the authors explain how we lead by resolving problems using these four steps to accountability: see it, own it, solve it, and do it.
  2. Influence – In The Go-Giver, Burg and Mann show us that influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interest above your own.
  3.  Trustworthiness – In The 8th Habit we learn from Steven Covey that 90% of all leadership failures are failures of character. He purports that an effective leader needs to be trustworthy and that trust is developed from strong character and competency.
  4. Multipliers – In Multipliers the authors explain, “Multipliers are genius makers who bring out the intelligence in others. They build collective, viral intelligence in organizations. Diminishers are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.”  A leader needs to be a multiplier.

Today’s successful leader

Experience shows us that these four character qualities are foundational to the makings of a successful leader. To be an effective influencer in your organization, show accountability, put others first, be trustworthy, and use your ability to bring out the intelligence in those you lead.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Boosting Inside Sales

Boosting Inside Sales

Tapping inside potential

Digitalization, combined with a worldwide pandemic, has caused significant disruption in distribution sales, especially inside sales. Advice on how to succeed on the new playing field, particularly in regard to servicing your 80/20 accounts (the 20% that generate 80% of your sales), is plentiful. I have written recently on the importance of using Enterprise Selling techniques to retain and gain customers in this digital age. However, there is also a wealth of information on another approach for distribution account retention — boosting sales from the inside.

Blending sales techniques

While each offers a different approach to sales, Enterprise Selling and Inside Sales Management, can work well together. By blending these two models, company assets can be coordinated to boost sales. Campaign coordinators and field specialists can offer support to the inside sales team. Project leaders can work with customer service and business development staff to improve results. In addition to supporting Enterprise accounts, this blended model puts resources into mid-size, high profit accounts and encourages more effective prospecting activity.

The inside sales team and digitization

While the pandemic temporarily closed the door to servicing customers in person, it opened wide another. Today, the level of communication between rep and customer can be far greater with virtual face-to-face call activity. Digitalization also provides better access to account information. To take advantage of new digital tools and boost sales, you need a well-developed team making outgoing calls.

Focus on customer interaction

The inside sales team should focus on these types of interactions:

  1. Next tier territory accounts – Direct your sales team to work with outside sales territory managers to focus on building business in the group below the 80/20 accounts.
  2. Attend to the In-store customer – Lead generation and midsize account development can originate from customers who regularly stop by a branch office. These clients may be picking up a purchase, renting equipment, or just visiting your showroom. The inside sales department needs to engage with the customer to see what additional products or services they might use.
  3. Marketing department – Social Media is now a major means of marketing.  Make sure your social media team works in sync with the sales team to capture new business leads.
  4. Business lists – Make a focused effort to have your inside sales team develop leads from vendors, SIC/NAICS coding, social media, website data, etc. To make these lists effective, have inside sales reps qualify listed leads before sending them to the outside sales team.

Be strategic

Be strategic with a blended sales model that works to retain existing customers and penetrate new accounts. Using Enterprise Selling and refining the efforts of your Inside Sales Team, you can boost sales and stop losing business to alternative channels.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

The Balanced Sales Team

The Balanced Sales Team

The changing sales landscape

In my 50 years of distribution sales and sales management, I have worked with all types of sales reps. By nature, I am a relationship builder. As a Chief Sales Officer, I tended to be most comfortable working with other relationship builders. For me, the time and marketplace favored this model and yielded successful results. The sales landscape is constantly changing, however, and recently, at an accelerated rate. To build a successful sales organization in today’s complex marketplace you need a mixture of sales types. Sales managers need a balanced sales team made up of individuals who can address varied needs.

Which type of rep are you?

In their book, “The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, describe five types of sales reps. Take a minute and see which one best describes you.

  1. The Hard Worker – These “nose to the grindstone” sellers are always willing to go the extra mile. They will make more calls, send more texts and emails, and respond to all RFQs (request for quotes). They are self-motivated. To the hard worker, sales is a numbers game.
  2. The ChallengerChallengers are assertive. They tend to “press” customers as well as their own managers and senior leaders. They look for a deep understanding of the complex issues at hand and will push customers to think outside the box. A challenger can teach a customer how their company can compete more effectively.
  3. The Relationship BuilderThese are natural networkers. They build and nurture strong personal and professional relationships. Relationship builders will advocate across the customer organization and are generous with their time.
  4. The Lone Wolf –These reps are self-confident, don’t like paperwork, and are difficult to control. They are loners but diligent in the pursuit of their goals and tend to be very successful.
  5. The Reactive Problem Solver – Detailed problem solvers fit into this group. Every organization needs them. Reactive problem solvers are more concerned with solutions than sales results, but they keep you out of trouble.

Achieving Balance on Your Sales Team

Each type of sales rep brings a particular strength to a sales organization. In a rapidly changing marketplace, a mixture of talent provides balance and the ability to meet new sales demands. Examine your sales profile to determine how you can make the most effective contribution to your team.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

How Enterprise Selling Works

How Enterprise Selling Works

Enterprise Selling occurs when you demonstrate where customer needs meet your company’s innovative capabilities. According to Mark Dancer, “B2B companies should work more closely with partners not to specify how they work, but to understand how they work. By comparing methods across multiple partners, new insights may be gained that can lead to unexpected innovation opportunities.”

Know your Customer

Spend time getting to know your customer’s business. Analyze that business in terms of your capabilities. A salesperson’s priority is to understand where each player fits in terms of the customer’s and the distributor’s business objectives. Build customer relationships with key executives in sales, marketing, operations, and administration. Question each on their specific needs.

Learn New Methods

Enterprise Selling involves the use of new sales methods. To make this type of selling work, both sales people and customers need to learn about these new ways to transact business. Train your sales team in Enterprise Selling techniques. Lead customers through any new external sales processes so they are aware of its value to their bottom line. For example, once a distributor makes the transition to eCommerce, he must teach the customer how to use it to their benefit.

Ask Questions

The goal of Enterprise Selling is to implement changes that enhance the traditional role of the distributor’s value chain partnership. To make this work, you need to ask questions. Are you training your field sales force to understand and take advantage of these changing trends in the industry? Are your reps speaking to the customer about how to achieve better outcomes in their own language? Do reps know the stakeholders and their reasons for making a decision to use your products or services?

Create Customer Value

As new ideas gain traction, intentional mindfulness is needed to stay aware of how value is created for customers. Remember, Enterprise Selling works when customer needs are met with your innovative capabilities.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Adjusting to change

Adjusting to change

Information technology is at the root of so many alterations in the way we do business, both internally and externally. We all need to learn, and continually be adjusting to change.

Study the customer

I was reminded of the importance of this at a workshop I recently attended on software trends. The software developer hosting the event specializes in providing independent gas distributors with customized, integrated ERP software solutions. Their products help streamline the many internal processes essential to running a gas distribution business.

The developers carefully studied their customer’s business in order to create software applications that met their specific needs. This brings to light the importance of recognizing business pattern changes and making adjustments accordingly. The innovations provided by the software developers will keep internal business functions up to date. Likewise, we must be ready to make adaptations to our sales process to keep it functional in the digital age.

Sales Channels Shift

The impact of online sales to the distributor channel is being felt. In their February 23, 2021, podcast, the Distribution Strategy Group  predicted a 5-year revenue channel shift in commercial sales. The group sees distributor revenues potentially dropping an additional 14%, from 66% to 52% of all commercial sales. Manufacturers direct sales, on the other hand, are expected to rise by 7%, moving from 22% of the total to 29%. Gains in other channel sales are also projected to be up 7%, rising from 12% to 19% of total sales. This analysis serves as a wakeup call for distributors. The distribution channel must realign its outside salesforce practices to meet the challenge of the shifts created by digitization.

Get Ready– Adjusting to Change

Is your organization prepared to meet the new demands in the field sales process? Get ready to adjust to the changing sales landscape by studying your customers shifting buying habits. Fine tune your sales process to meet customer need.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

The Transition to “Commercial Insight” Selling

The Transition to “Commercial Insight” Selling

Know your customer

So much has changed with the pandemic, including in sales. Commercial Insight Selling is on the rise! What do I mean by that? Read on…

As we edge our way back into a post-pandemic world, we find that customers’ buying habits have changed. The arms- length sales transactions enabled by digital platforms have enabled us to do business when an arms-length (and then some) was required. To keep the doors open during lockdown, distributors were forced to find ways to move customers to eCommerce buying platforms on their websites. Fortunately, these have been largely successful and customers have embraced them. However, making a sale using digital tools and techniques is quite different from traditional methods. Sales managers and reps alike need to find ways to adapt. We have seen historical transitions in ways to sell before. The late 20th century saw a move from transactional sales to relationship selling. In the early 21st century we saw a focus on solution selling. I believe the next sales model is commercial insight—knowing what your customers need.

Win customer loyalty

In their seminal 2011 work, The Challenger, Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, set the stage for the sales strategies needed for this digital transition. “Customer loyalty is won out in the field, in the trenches during the sales call. Over half of customer loyalty is not what you sell, but how you sell.”  

Education leads to commercial wins

A company’s outside sales force feels the impact of digitalization most acutely. While the inside sales team continues to operate from their computers and phones, many of the ways the outside team sold through personal contact with the customer are no longer in play. However, one of the major drawbacks of eCommerce is its lack of the very thing it has eliminated — personal interaction, and somewhat with that, insight to serve the customer. If you have a question or problem, getting someone to respond when there is an urgent need is near impossible. This puts the distributor’s field sales force at a distinct advantage. With their product know–how, they have an opportunity to teach the customer something new and valuable about their business. Using commercial insight reliably leads to contract wins for the distributor and the supplier.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.