#CAPITALISE BLOG SERIES (8 OF 9)
By Mark Erskine, Director and Owner of Seller Performance
Master Trainer and Coach
When Sales Managers think of development for their teams, they typically consider programmes on negotiation skills, presentation skills, questioning and listening skills, objection handling and the like. Given that the average sales person probably only spends 10 to 15% of their time actually face-to-face with customers these skills in customer interactions are unquestionably important, but a more powerful approach and focus can yield better and more sustained results.
When people choose a career path they typically select a role that intuitively matches their behavioural style. If you had chosen a path into Accountancy or maybe I.T., for example, then you would expect a person to have a preference for a methodical, structured, analytical approach (in LIFO® terms a high preference for Conserving). If moving into Sales as a new business hunter then you would expect an individual to have strong relationship building skills, be a good networker and have flexibility (Adapting in LIFO®), combined with assertiveness and persuasiveness to close the deal and the drive to get results (Controlling). If instead you are looking at an Account Management role then more of the Supporting orientation is prevalent with an emphasis on customer service, doing a quality job, being responsive to customer needs and engendering long-term relationships through trust and reliability.
The problem, as we alluded to in our first blog of this series “changing profile of the buyer”
is that the world of sales has moved on and buyers and a structured buying process are now the norm. So relationship building, clever closing techniques and pushy sales people are now ineffective with trained procurement professionals. Unfortunately Human Resources and Sales Managers have been slow to recognise this trend and are still recruiting to an outdated model and then wondering why it isn’t working.
Recent research studying the success of sales people has shown that the stereotype extrovert sales person (Adapting orientation) is not the most successful any more. Conversely nor unsurprisingly is an introverted style (Conserving). What the research shows is that the most successful seller is what is now called an “ambivert” – someone who sits in the middle of the that scale and has the ability to “bridge” to either style when needed.
We have all developed our behavioural style as we grow up and this determines how we behave. We choose our behavioural preferences simply based on what works for us and gets us what we want. We can’t change our personality but we can manage our behavioural style. But we need do it more consciously especially in roles like Sales and Account Management.
What the research shows is that the most successful seller is what is now called an “ambivert”
It is interesting to note that Companies like Miller Heiman and others have carved a niche in sales training and developing sales people using a rigorous sales process and methodology which is logical, sequential, methodical and consistent. In the simplest terms they have attempted to fill the “Conserving” gap in sales people’s preferences
The graphic below demonstrates how use of each of the orientations contributes to success in the world of sales and account management. The profiling process enables individuals to manage their behavioural profile more effectively and to more consciously fill their blind spots by using each orientation productively. If this is managed in the same way that sales skills are managed through structured personal development plans it has a huge impact on results.
These behavioural traits can be mapped to a set of sales competencies in each quadrant and used at every 1:1 review meeting and appraisal process to create a common shared language for development.
The development map created by the profiling process is far more readily accepted because the outputs are based on the responses made by the individual – it is after all what they have said about themselves! This acceptance and ownership by the individual is key to its success. Line management telling people where their development is needed can often be rejected or denied. The LIFO® model in particular focuses on Strength development which further enhances acceptance as it is seen as a positive developmental tool.
Commonly new business hunters lack the Conserving orientation (diametrically opposite to their natural Adapting style) and need to learn a more structured, methodical and analytical approach to selling combined with development of their subject matter expertise. Account managers commonly have to work on their Controlling orientation, (the diametrically opposite orientation of Supporting) becoming more persuasive, assertive and results driven to cross and up-sell.
A further added benefit is that this simple model and shared language, can be used to profile customers enabling improved communication through the adoption of “adaptive selling” techniques. What we call the “mastering” of your behavioural profile.