Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Serious Seven

No, not the seven habits, the movie "seven," nor the seven deadly sins.  Dante's famous list pales in comparison to our topic:  The Serious Seven.  Imagine that you took a thousand customers (or a thousand salespeople) and locked them in a room for a day.  Ask them to come up with the most important skill sets that a salesperson must posses to be among the elite; the top "focus areas" that, if you could, would be taught to every salesperson alive.  Now ask these folks to categorize these topics into seven, easy to manage categories.  Viola!  You have the Serious Seven:

  1. SALES ENGINE:  This area includes developing a marketing strategy, a prospecting plan, a pipeline development program and a way of measuring your activity against specific goals/plans.  The absolute first step in determining the road map of success.
  2. PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE:  Always ranked as a Gartner Group top five characteristic of a great salesperson is somebody who knows everything about what they sell.  Whether you sell a product, solution or service - the more you know, the more likely you'll be able to match what you're selling to your customer's business/organizational issues.  Great salespeople know more than any prospective customer.
  3. MARKET:  This one is also known as "stay ahead of the competition and trends."  Know your competitors, your geography, your territory and the market trends working for you (or against you).  Included here is knowing what I call "Inside Information."  This includes all the political stuff that you must sniff-out through network connections.  Know how good or bad your competitive counterpart is.
  4. COMPELLING PRESENTATION:  Even if you are the master of the above three items, if you can't present your product/service in a compelling way, you're dead.  Customers are savvy.  They've seen the old routines before.  You must be able to present an argument that directly/indirectly ties to their issues and you better not look like the three jokers that went before you.
  5. HANDLING OBJECTIONS/NEGOTIATION:  Think you know how to negotiate?  Is your idea of negotiating simply lowering your price?  Think again.  This skill set is usually absent in 99% of all salespeople and is particularly sensitive given our "everything's negotiable" U.S. mentality.  Great salespeople must know this skill and be better at negotiating than the Accident Lawyers down the block.
  6. CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT:  Think the sale is over?  It never is.  Even if you're in an industry that will never see repeat business from a customer - don't you think word gets around?  Managing customers AFTER the sale is just as important as all the work you did to get the customer in the first place.  Knowing how to communicate, how to ask for referrals, and securing long-term, ongoing relationships is what will get you to the top.
  7. TIME MANAGEMENT:  No, we didn't the leave the best for last, but it is one of the most important ongoing skill sets that a Great Salesperson must embrace.  You only have a limited amount of time each day, and too much to do.  You need the most efficient, productive system you can lay your hands on to make the best use of your time and prioritize your life. 
If you're thinking, "Sure, that makes sense, but how do I get good at The Serious Seven?" you're not alone.  This is the skeleton - the road map and the outline of a plan to be a top performer.  What will you do to break these apart, and create something of value.  Be creative.  Start working on this now - like today!

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