Six Questions to an Expert.

Hello Dr. McCord,

Thanking you in advance for your availability, we would like to ask you some questions about some aspects of Sale and on your work, being you a worldwide expert on the matter. In a recent post on your blog “ Sales and Sales Management Blog” you write:

“ There have been hundreds of millions—billions and billions if not trillions and trillions—of words written about how to become a successful seller. Who knows how many tens of thousands of books and millions of articles have been written in the sales area? In my 30 plus years of selling I’ve read hundreds of the books and thousands of the articles. I’ve even written three books myself and written hundreds of articles. All of it designed to deal with one simply action—making a sale. “ I immediately liked this introduction because it perfectly matches with the reason that led me to create “Il Commerciale – The Salesman”.

1) It’s absolutely true that there are many texts and publications on sale, written by professionals who are much better than me. I realized though that what is missing is that there is no container where finding, selecting, collecting them all. It’s just from this observation that derives the challenge of “Il Commerciale – The Salesman” as well as my first question, by asking you if, thanks to your experience, you think is possible and useful to create a Community of Salespeople in the world that can share and make available to everybody the secrets of this beautiful job. Or differently is only possible to go on having only many suggestions given by many experts, bloggers or gurus who often try solely to sell their products to the other salesmen?

A) This is a tough question in the sense that I do believe that it is possible to develop a community of like minded sellers that can share knowledge and experiences to help one another grow as sellers. The problem arises in that people have differing experiences and thus different points of view as to what is effective and what isn’t. Even beyond that, people differ in their view of what is ethical, what constitutes best practices and even when and if it is ever advisable to try something that isn’t recognized as a “best practice.”

The biggest issue with a community seeking to advance an industry such as ours is simply human nature—we are built such that is you have 10 or 10,000 members you’re going to have 10 or 10,000 distinct points of view, and by that very nature, disagreements, which is good, and personality conflicts and rivalries which isn’t.

I would say that if there is someone—no matter how “big” a name–involved in the community who is blatantly using it as a forum to sell their products and services, they should be dropped from the community. Certainly if they are contributing quality content as a means to generating interest in themselves and what they do that shouldn’t be viewed as a problem. But if their primary involvement is geared toward self promotion and selling their stuff then that certainly crosses the line.

2) Thanks to your best-selling first book, “Creating a Million Dollars a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals” (John Wiley and Sons, 2007) you have been recognized as an expert in referral selling. Why do you think a salesperson must prefer adopting and developing this sales technique more than others in 2012?

A) Referral selling when done correctly is such a natural part of one’s relationship with clients and it eliminates so many of the problems sellers have that I can’t imagine why anyone, especially those in B2B sales wouldn’t adopt referral selling as one of their primary forms of finding and connecting with great prospects.

When you know that your client knows people in a company that is a great prospect for you, you have the absolute best introduction to that company you could ever get—if you simply ask. Would you rather cold the company, hope to maybe run across one of their executives at a networking event, or hope that they see and respond to your advertising, or would you rather have a direct introduction to the decision maker from someone that person trusts and respects and who just happens to be your client?

I assume most people are like me—I want that direct introduction to the decision maker made by a happy, satisfied client who can attest to the quality of the work I do.

I am a firm believer that the best way to prospect is to have your client introduce you to people they know that are great prospects for you.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy—you have to do all the work for your client. You have to become a detective and find out who your client knows that you know is a great prospect for you and then ask for the introduction. It is work, but work that pays off with great new clients.

3) Today, the global market, the media information, Internet and the new solutions of marketing and communication technologies provide companies with an huge amount of information and business opportunities. The role of the salesperson is consequently to interpret and use the best of these information and tools to achieve its objective, the sale. In this scenario, which is the percentage of a sale depending on the salesperson?

A) A great many buyers today begin their purchasing process on the Internet, doing research. Many will spend a great deal of time educating themselves about their options and by the time they are ready to write the check they already know as much or more than the typical salesperson they’ll deal with. But they will probably already have made contact with one or more companies or sellers that have supplied them with information and possibly some guidance. Trust has begun to be built. It is natural for them to then look first to these companies or sellers for the products and services they’re looking for. A great deal of the time they never get past these initial companies or sellers before making their decision.

Sellers need to find ways to connect with buyers earlier and earlier in the purchasing process. And, needless to say, that’s a time consuming and difficult thing to do.

Sellers have to be more proactive and sophisticated in how they find and connect with prospects. They need more training, more mentoring, more coaching than ever before.

4) Why then do the companies invest so little money to improve this important source of their business, the salesperson?

A) In the past companies have spent little time on sales training and concentrated on product training instead. Part of the reason is because many sales leaders and CEO’s mistakenly believe product training is sales training.

Another more prevalent reason is that sales training is universal and can be carried from company to company where product training tends to be company specific. Thus companies want to invest their money on things that are unique to them rather than on training that can be carried to a competitor when the seller quits.

Today, however, it is becoming more critical that companies provide deep, quality sales training in order to develop a sales team that can compete in the increasingly sophisticated sales world we live in.

The truth is that companies still are not doing this and thus sellers must be willing to invest the time and money in themselves if they want to become top sellers and top earners.

5) I noted that, in a technological world as the one we experience everyday, both in your blog and websites you differently and often advice to learn and train techniques with “traditional” methods. I would so like to know if you believe that it’s better to keep the traditional pedagogy as the base of the coaching of salespersons (so referring to telephone, contact, visit, etc…) or to use a new approach, more social, boosted by the spread over of social network. Or maybe if it’s mix of the two?

A) It’s a mix of both. I argue constantly against those who proclaim outside sales is dead and hail the advent of the internet as the only tool needed to be successful in sales. But I also argue against those who seek to discount the value and necessity of the social world and want to cling to the past.

Selling today demands sellers work in both the real and the virtual world and they must be proficient in the strategies and techniques of both. And I honestly don’t think there will ever be a time when this won’t be true as social media will not change human nature which seeks out a personal, warm relationship, not a cold, mechanical one.

6) I’ve always thought that one of the major problems of the Italian companies is located in the inability to select their employees and managers. A lack that, during a crisis like the one we are all experiencing, is even stronger as what is needed is the opposite quality: the capability of doing the right choice of the human resources. I’d like so to know which are, from your wide experience, the qualities to pay attention to while interviewing somebody in order to identify a good salesperson? And in your opinion, which are, if existing, the “DNA” characteristics of a great salesperson ?

A) This is a really difficult question because to some extent it depends on the market and product or service. In some markets a “geek” personality is ideal; in others someone who is gregarious would be preferred. But in all cases I think someone who has a drive to succeed and has a genuine interest in the product or service. If one has no interest in automobiles, they probably wouldn’t make a great car salesperson. If one had no interest technology, they probably would be lousy at selling technology.

That being said, I look for someone who wants to succeed; someone who is willing to invest the time and energy to succeed; and someone who defines success in the same way I do. If you define success as profitable clients, the person who is only interested in making sales at all costs might not be a great fit. If you define success as giving world class service, someone whose only concern is to sell and then move on to the next commission probably won’t fit in your organization.

A highly motivated individual who learns quickly and has a similar idea of success as I do is what I look for in a new hire.

Interview by : Marco Rasi

Photo by neil godding on Unsplash

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