WARNING: Buyer’s say what salespeople do wrong?..PRICE is not on the list!

images salesBusiness development has been hard enough over the years. Salespeople work hard to grow their existing business while opening new business. When we look at strategies for growing a business we have a number of options;

· Sell more of what you have to your current accounts

· Sell your current accounts new products

· Sell your current products to new accounts

· Sell your current products to new accounts in new markets

· Sell new products in new markets

· Acquire another business, sell their products to your accounts and sell your products to their accounts

I am sure there are more, but above are some that I have used, and I understand the difficulty and costs associated with each. The best way to accomplish any of the above strategies, (and I recommend you only pick 3) is to know your buyers buying process and match your sales process to that buying process. Not many organizations accomplish this, but if you do, you will create tools for each stage of the buying process to help the conversation continue. If you study buyers, what would you say are “the top 5 Sins of salespeople?” As a reminder, the word “sin” means to “miss a mark, or target, goal”. So where are most salespeople missing the mark?

#1 not listening

#2 does not follow up timely

#3 does not understand the problem I am trying to solve

#4 they talk too much

#5 never built a foundation in trust

If you study your market, and conduct win-loss analysis you will find as I have that in most cases 50% of lost sales are neither about the product nor price. 50% of lost sales are due to the process the salesperson is taking to close the sale. Maybe they are doing the all too frequent; “ring the bell selling?” You know what this is…the salesman starts rattling off all the features and benefits he learned in the 15 power point slides of sales training he had and he waits for you, the buyer to ring the bell when one connects. Other words we waits for one of the things he said to hopefully connect to a problem you have, and hopefully you have been able to translate that particular feature into how it will solve your problem.

Based on the above “top 5 sins”, how can salespeople close more sales and drive explosive growth in the markets they serve?

#1. Listen and observe

#2. Ask open ended questions, seek first to understand

#3. After you understand the buyer’s problems, explain how what you are selling solves those problems (since your sales tools probably don’t)

#4. Story-Speak, don’t speak in features and benefits (ringing your bell) but instead share stories of how what you are proposing as a solution to the buyers problem solved it for others who had similar problems

#5. “Serve” your customers, don’t “sell” them

I have personally taught this system to sales teams in various industries and it drives explosive growth in sales and profits. Profits? Yes! When you sell by ringing your bell of features until one connects, (and you may or may not know why) you quickly jump to the negotiation of price. You have not built trust. Sales people who know the buyers problem, understand their pain intimately focus on solving that problem. A buyer who has a salesperson who is speaking to their problems becomes so focused on solving their problem they connect to the solution more than price.

So how is your sales team performing today?

When was the last time you observed your sales people in the targeted group you are trying to grow?

How are you trying to grow your business?

In your target group(s) what are their top problems?


Are you creating a symphony for your market?…or just noise?


To create a symphony you need multiple instruments playing at strategic times to create something the audience enjoys. It require planning, practice, and integration. Each note played either adds to the total experience or takes away from it.

Marketing is lsymike creating a symphony in that you use instruments like the web, direct, blogs, PR, creative, social media,copy, media, and so on at just the right time , based on the needs of the market and its buying process. The only way you can insure what is pleasurable and more importantly useful to your audience is to thoroughly understand the markets needs and wants while understanding what each instrument does. You do not make those decisions in a board room or a weekly staff meeting. Your team does not make them by guessing, assuming, or relying on: “when I was in the market we …” You make them in the market speaking with customers and noncustomers alike. You gather data through open ended questions and your personal observations.

Buyers have patterns, processes,personas, and accompanying emotions connected to pain points. People buy with emotion then validate their decision with facts. One big emotion is trust;” can I trust you will do what you said you will do? That your product or service will solve my unresolved problem like you said it will?” Your integrated marketing therefore needs to build trust.


So what are the rules for integrated marketing that sounds like a symphony and not just noise?


1. Know your market and its problems

2. Know your buyers buying process and buyer personas

3. Identify where your buyers go to solve their problems

4. Create content that explains how your product or service solves your buyers problems

5. When they find you, “serve” them don’t “sell” them

6. Build trust

7. Be authentic, transparent

8. People buy from people

9. Attach the value of solving their problem

10. Speak with a unique voice for each of your buyer personas

11. Create learning’s -Measure and track everything you do

12. Feed the market in spoonfuls and not a fire hose


Are your buyers hearing beautiful music when they view your integrated marketing campaigns? Or are they inundated with noise? I don’t know about you, but when I hear a noise that annoys me I tune it out, I switch the channel until I find music that resonates with me.

Are your marketing instruments creating noise and your buyers and those who could be buyers are tuning you out? Chances are you are not connecting to the market problems and you are using instruments that may have worked fine 15 years ago but need fine tuning.

What are some other ways that marketing becomes noise, and worst an annoyance to the market?

What are some recent examples of marketing noise?

Want to add value to your bottom-line quickly?…Hire a Heretic!


hereticIn Art Kleiner’s book titled: The Age of Heretics , Kleiner‘s definition of a heretic as: “a visionary who creates change in large-scale companies balancing contrary truths they can’t deny against their loyalty to their organizations.”He discusses how managers get stuck into a rut and need heretics to point out new points of view to get past the deadlock and move forward. Later he describes some as “rebels unwilling to kowtow to the corporate bureaucracy.”

One example of a heretic (and there are many in the book) is Jack Welch who gained a reputation as he climbed the ladder at GE as “ignoring or pushing back against, the bureaucratic strictures of his parent corporation.”

In Art Petty’s recent post this week titled : Help Wanted: Visionaries and Dreamer-Safe Return Doubtful Art refers to individuals who create great works of art on a blank canvas, they run towards adventure instead of away from it. Art goes on to say how we should channel our inner-Shackleton,(after the leader and explorer Ernest Shackleton ) and provides four lessons that apply to the adventurers called Heretics today. It reminded me that some people are cut out for adventure and some are not.

Having played the role of heretic in most of the companies I have served, let me tell you what to expect if you have the guts to hire one. A heretic is someone who will not take the easy road agreeing with key influencers throughout your organization. Obviously if what your key influencers are saying and or doing is in alignment with market needs they will, but if they hear something that is inconsistent with the vision of the organization or market needs they will tell you. Team members may feel this is a lack of loyalty. However to the contrary a heretic is singularly focused and loyal to one objective and that is adding bottom-line value to the team he serves, to aligning the organization to win profitably in their market. They will tell the CEO for example that his recent directive to the troops is not in alignment with market needs nor the core values and mission of the organization. He will remind the CEO that the mission statement is as much about what you will not do as much as what you will focus on.

A heretic does not know, or more importantly does not care, your VP of Marketing is your sister in law. He does not know or care that your VP of Sales was your fraternity brother at Ohio State, but he will tell you if that VP is not demonstrating the ability to lead his team in a direction aligned with market needs and your vision. A heretic will come into your organization and ask a lot of questions. Some of his questions will make you uncomfortable and definitely rock the foundations of some silos that have built throughout your organization. How will you as the leader of your organization know? You will recognize incoming torpedoes when you see them. If key influencers and leaders in your organization start using their relationship with you to shoot torpedoes at “the new guy” you know he’s asking uncomfortable questions.

The heretic will then want to spend a great deal of time in your market finding what he does not know. They may ride along with sales people, and often may engage with your customers on their own…LET THEM! Sales will balk, marketing will object, finance may say it’s too expensive, but let him dive into your market asking questions. What you will find if you shadow him ( and I strongly encourage CEO’s to do so) is he has an innate ability to make people feel comfortable and get customers talking. When you listen to him you will hear open ended questions, not questions to validate a current corporate understanding. He will seek to get to “why’s” much more that “what” and he really does not care about “who” . Who did that? Who said that?…He’s not out to find who did things wrong, but he seeks to gain an understanding of the market and its problems.

After spending time in your various departments, (and I should mention he will not just speak with leaders, but every level throughout the team) and spending time in your market with customers, non customers and market influencers… the fun begins.

The easy part is they will share with you what you are doing well, but not in his opinion, but the voice of the markets’. He will also share gaps, misalignments like poor positioning, branding, or a lack of sales tools to support the buying process he observed. He may hold your customer service or quality department’s feet to the fire over interruptions he found in speaking with your team and your market.

Heretics reshape organizations to be market focused and thus the organizations become market leaders. Market leading companies are over 30% more profitable, grow faster, have higher customer satisfaction and higher morale.Their radical thinking throughout history has reshaped corporate management ( and our society) as we know it today, and they will create the market leading organizations of tomorrow.


So how about your organization, how do you know if you need to hire a heretic?


1. Lack of EBITDA growth

2. Your leaders speak in terms like “I think” verse sharing authentic market feedback and data

3. No one on your team challenges you as the leader

4. Your team has many meetings but you do not discuss topics that matter

5. Your salespeople sell your product or service like it is a commodity

6. The last two product launches failed to meet ROI projections

7. Your salespeople are creating their own sales tools

8. Your leadership team spends more time covering their own butts that talking about growing your business

9. If you are on your third advertizing firm in 18 months

10. If you answered a question with something like; “because that’s the way do things here…” in the last three months

11. If your competitor just released something that seems to “be selling itself” instead of your team introducing it

12. If the distribution of marketing funds to various vehicles like; print, web, trade shows, direct, social media, has not changed in the last 12 months

13. If reading this post made you feel uncomfortable

What are some other signs that companies should intentionally hire a heretic?

How would a heretic be received in your organization?

As the CEO, what’s more important …increasing the economic value of the corporation, or being the one who has all the answers?