Be Fierce but Graceful - and do Great Things

Mike Murphy by Mike Murphy on March 11, 2020
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Be Fierce but Graceful - and do Great Things

Not too long ago I was talking with one of the professional sales trainers at Hubspot and it got me thinking about just how much I enjoyed their bootcamp class. It prompted me to go back and reread a blog I wrote that was inspired by it. As it turns out, the concepts and tips in that blog are as relevant now as they were when I wrote it in 2017 – maybe even more so. If you work in the world of B2B sales and marketing, you may enjoy some of its insights. Happy reading!

At Acadia, we serve the manufacturing and industrial space, and many of our clients exist day-to-day in its long sales cycle. If you’re involved in complex sales or considered-purchase sales, you understand the challenges associated with them:

  • Long sales cycles
  • Many decisions makers
  • Justification and value proposition difficult to synthesize
  • Difficult to tie prospects goals to dollars
  • Getting all decision makers in the room next to impossible

….. and I am sure you can add to this list. In order to be successful, you must be prepared to adopt a process and stick to it, refine it, and forever continue to practice. But be careful, you do not want your sales process to become rote, stale, and come off as ‘salesy.’ We’ve all been on the receiving end of a rote sales process. It’s a very unpleasant experience.

Dangers abound for a salesperson on auto-pilot. Your prospect begins to experience a wide range of emotions and feelings. You can almost see the bubble over their heads:

  • Boy, you are just trying to sell me something
  • What a bore!
  • I hate sales people!
  • How can I get out of this conversation?
  • This person is not the least interested in what I have to say
  • Jeez, this guy doesn’t even want to know what we do here
  • I wouldn’t buy from this person if my life depended on it 

To your prospect, you begin to sound like the proverbial Charlie Brown teacher – wah wah, wah-wah-wah. So how do you avoid falling into this trap when working with a prospect that may be interested in your product and/or services? Everyone gets into a slump, whether in sports or in business, it happens to all of us. What do you do to bring yourself back to your winning ways?

You need to pick up your intensity and focus, and fall back onto your process, but use the process as a guide. Remember, you are in a daily battle to win new business. There are competitors you are up against. Additionally, you are dealing with prospects that don’t want to be sold, but rather they want to be engaged in meaningful way. A good way to remind yourself that you are in a daily battle is to remember to be fierce but always remain graceful in the process.

As a salesperson, you are a hunter but a good hunter knows how to bring a prospect along in a non-threatening way. This is where the gracefulness comes in. How many times have you been successful winning business by being overly aggressive? Now think about how many times you have won business by being aggressive but patient in the pursuit and let the process play out?

Remind yourself your goal is to grow your business as well as growing yourself professionally. I never liked the line in the movie – Glengarry Glen Ross – “Always Be Closing.” It conjures up images of the stereotypical salesperson you don’t want to be.

There are some things I like to keep in mind to keep me on track – but before I get to my list, the most important question needs to be asked – Do I like selling what I am selling? If the answer to that is a resounding no, you either need to find new things about what you are selling to re-energize or maybe it’s time to consider a new product or service. If you aren’t ‘jazzed’ about the product or service you are selling, you won’t be able to excite the prospect.

OK, let’s assume you do like what you are selling. Here are my top tips to help me stay on track:

  • Always be curious and genuinely interested in the prospect's business
  • Always try to understand and articulate back to the prospect their business challenges and what they are trying to accomplish
  • Ask the difficult question, even if it might make your prospect a little uncomfortable
  • Go for the root cause – Ask Why. We happen to service manufacturers, so this process will be familiar. In short, if you ask “why” five times, you will ultimately get to the root cause. (Note: It doesn’t always take exactly five.) For example, if the prospect states, “I need to find more sales opportunities,” you shouldn’t accept that at face value. A conversation might go as follows:

Q: Why do you need to find more sales opportunities?
A: My business from my existing clients is slow.

Q: Why has your existing client’s business slowed down?
A: Because most of my clients are in X industry.

Q: OK, why has that industry been your focus?
A: It’s where we started and we’ve never ventured outside of it.

Q: Why haven’t you looked beyond X industry?
A: We never really had a need to as business has always been good.

Q: What will happen to your business if you aren’t able to diversify?
A:
We may need to cut a shift and lay off workers, which is not something I want to do.

In short, you now know that the prospect needs more sales opportunities because he doesn’t want to be faced with laying people off. This will lead into a much more meaningful business discussion.

  • Always keep reminding yourself it’s about the prospect, not you. If you find yourself talking about yourself/your company too much during the early part of the sales cycle and haven’t gotten to the root cause and implicit need, you know you’ve gone off course.
  • Never forget your goal in a sales situation, look to advance the sales process. Don’t leave a sales call with a “call me in 2 weeks”. Look to close the next appointment or step.
  • Remember to lose early is to win big – if you’ve done your job, you will know if you and the prospect are a good fit. If not, don’t waste time pursuing “hope-ium”. Go hunting for the next real prospect. 

In short, you now know that the prospect needs more sales opportunities because he doesn’t want to be faced with laying people off. This will lead into a much more meaningful business discussion.

Always keep reminding yourself it’s about the prospect, not you. If you find yourself talking about yourself/your company too much during the early part of the sales cycle and haven’t gotten to the root cause and implicit need, you know you’ve gone off course.

"ALWAYS KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF
IT'S ABOUT THE PROSPECT, NOT YOU." -
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Never forget your goal in a sales situation: look to advance the sales process. Don’t leave a sales call with a “call me in 2 weeks.” Look to close the next appointment or step.

Remember: to lose early is to win big. If you’ve done your job, you will know right away if you and the prospect are a good fit. If not, don’t waste time pursuing “hope-ium.” Instead, go hunting for the next real prospect.

It is fine to be fierce in your sales approach. Let’s define fierce as an unrelenting commitment to your process. At the same time, be patient and do your job with professional grace.

Be fierce but graceful - and do great things!

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Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in 2017. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Topics: Sales

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