Thursday, September 26, 2013

Understanding Your Top Sellers: Observation 2...They need to control


OBSERVATION TWO:  Need to control

A Chicago company that processed residential mortgages routinely hired new college graduates for their training program. Once trained, these young people would be assigned to field offices to sell their services to residential brokers. Part of their sales pitch was a commitment to processing loans quickly to enable the realtor to get a closing date quickly.

The training program was in the home office, and all trainees were immediately assigned to processors who handled the paper sent from the field. It would only take about three days to know who was going to be a top seller. By the third day, at least one new hire would realize that his/her future success depended on these office people. If the process was to be controlled after the papers were sent to the office, the processing team needed to be responsive to the person submitting the papers. Future top sellers saw this immediately, and they began bringing donuts and coffee or taking the processors to lunch on a regular basis throughout the training program. 

Top sellers fear they will fail. To manage that fear, they develop a strong drive to control. They believe that if they control enough factors in the sales process, they decrease their risk of failing. They are able to tell themselves that they are preventing the problems that will hurt them.

Anyone who has worked with a top seller has seen this need to control. As soon as an order is submitted, the top seller will be calling to see the progress on the order. He/she will be checking with production or the warehouse to ensure that the product will be available as promised. Although sales managers want their sellers in the field talking with customers, top sellers often spend much of their time trying to control the internal sales ordering process. It is not unusual for a sales manager to suddenly see a top seller wandering the halls of the office or filling emails with questions and follow-up requests for status reports.

When you ask a top seller what he/she wants in sales manager, you will often hear this control issue.  As a recent candidate told me, “I want a manager who can be a resource to work with finance or production to be sure that things get done.”  

When interviewing a sales candidate, one of the first things to look for is how effectively the candidate tries to control the interview. Top sellers are able to stay “on message” in spite of attempts to distract the candidate. They are polite but focused. They may refer back to an earlier question by saying, “You were asking earlier about…”, for instance. 

The top seller candidate also may not be eager to engage in small talk. The stereotype of the sales candidate who references the fish on the wall or the photo of the family skiing is misleading. The top sales candidate will stay focused and want to talk about his/her sales successes in the past as well as why he/she would be a great fit for the company doing the hiring.

A recent sales model referred to as The Challenger Model describes a seller as someone who wants to debate and push the customer. While this is not wholly inaccurate, it seems to miss the real point of the behavior. The top seller will push and advise only when he/she sees a need to step in and control. As long as a top seller feels in control, he/she will not push. There is no need, and the risk of being seen as pushy is too great. Knowledge that can be shared and the ability to lead the customer to trust the seller’s judgment result in the control a top seller needs. He/she does not have to be entertaining, assertive, or pushy.

Top sellers know it is not the customer who needs to be controlled. The top seller learns how to control the sales process, which includes influencing the decision to make the purchase by knowing what to talk about and how to make themselves valuable. Top sellers do not worry about “closing techniques.” They see ways to control the process long before the traditional close.

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