Whatever Your Job Title is, Guess What? You’re in Sales
Peter Clayton, host of Total Picture Radio talks with Brett Clay about the roles of selling and change in people’s careers. Peter argues that everyone must think of him/herself as a sales person. Brett talks about what that means and how to do it.
Check out more of Peter Clayton’s informative podcasts at www.totalpicture.com!
(audio player is below transcript)
Welcome a Success Strategies Channel Podcast on Total Picture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting.
Brett Clay is a veteran of two decades of international sales and marketing management. He is the founder and CEO of Change Leadership Group, a sales training company specializing in the areas of change, leadership and business performance. He is the author of Selling Change: 101+ Secrets for Growing Sales by Leading Change.
Brett, welcome to Total Picture Radio.
Brett: Thank you, great to be here.
Peter: I’m going to use a quote I’ve been using a lot lately but I think it’s particularly germane in this interview and this is from a friend of mine at Netshare, Kathy Simmons, who told me that she heard from one of her clients that no matter what job you were in before, you’re in sales today. And so your book – which is a statement I happen to actually believe because with the pressures that are going on in the workplace today, you really have to sell whatever your proposition is, whatever you’re trying to accomplish within an organization, you’re in sales. Would you agree?
Brett: Absolutely. People don’t realize how even if you’re a manager working with your own employees or working with other managers, you’re constantly seeking to influence those other people and so it’s a sales process.
Peter: Your book, Selling Change: 101+ Secrets for Growing Sales by Leading Change, which was obviously written specifically for people in sales, do you think someone who is in perhaps career transition could take some of these principles and adopt them to a career search?
Brett: Absolutely. In fact, from a marketing point of view, speaking of marketing and sales, I have to sell it as a sales book but I really believe that this applies to executives and job seekers and anyone who wants to influence others. I mean it could work within your own family, influencing your kids or your spouse.
Peter: Your book centers around five principles: force field analysis, change response analysis, power analysis, value creation, change actuation.
Which is the most important one and why?
Brett: Absolutely, this idea of force field analysis is by far the most important. The idea there is that people only take action when they feel a compelling force, whether it’s getting up off the couch to grab a drink or save money or whatever it is, people’s actions are responses to forces they feel. So understanding the forces a customer feels or whoever it is that you want to influence, is critical to understanding how they’re going to behave and what potential actions they may take.
Peter: You’ve been doing this for 20 years. You’ve been leading sales and transformation courses for like 20 years, right?
Brett: I’ve been a salesperson and a sales manager for 20 years and I recently, a couple of years ago, left Microsoft to train sales people full time.
Peter: What was the motivation for doing that, Brett?
Brett: In my role at Microsoft, I was in marketing, interacting with sales people at Microsoft and sales people at other companies, and a big challenge that they always have and I had when I was in sales is competing profitably, what I call competing profitably. You know customers in competition are constantly beating you down on price and you’re always struggling to convince the customer that you’re providing a good value at a fair price and one that you can afford to continue to stay in business at.
And so I felt that there’s a need out there in the market for people to understand how you sell value because we’ve all been taught to solve problems with solutions and as soon as you do that you’re back to competing out price and features and delivery. And so there’s this vacuum out there of understanding how you can overcome that challenge as a salesperson to sell value and be profitable.
Peter: Can you give us an example?
Brett: Boy, the examples are everywhere. The classic thing is like in the IT world is you develop software and you want to sell it to a customer, they wanted to deploy the software to accomplish some business process and along with that software, you have to provide system integration services, which are these IT consultants that customize it and install it and make it work and support it.
Well, there’s a tremendous value associated with improving this business process and helping the company compete or improve their efficiencies reduce cost but the customer always says, “I’m not going to pay you more than this hourly rate and I’ve got ten other companies that will do this at a lower hourly rate than you.” So you’re back down to just trying to compete on this commodity, which is time and hourly rate instead of showing the value in taking it and getting a piece of the action or just sharing in the value that you’re creating by doing that service.
Peter: Yeah and by the way, three of those companies are based in India and four of them are based somewhere in the Eastern block and are working for $4/hour, right?
Brett: Exactly. There’s a cartoon on the cover of the book actually where I joke that pretty soon we’re going to be competing against green extraterrestrials.
Peter: You bring up a very interesting point here. When you’re trying to sell your value, which is that’s what you’re trying to sell, right? Why should I buy from you? And of course an IT or most sales today are complex sales processes if it’s not going into a retail store and buying something. If you’re selling a service or you’re selling IT or whatever, most of these are complex sales processes that you’re going into where the chances are pretty good that half the people in the room really don’t understand what the hell it is you’re selling to begin with.
Brett: Right. And the typical, what we’ve all been taught to do in the old days is to go in there and say what’s your problem and I’m going to tell you how I’m going to solve it and that doesn’t answer the question you just asked which is why should I buy that solution from you? The answer why you should buy it from me is that I’m going to help you achieve your goal, not just solve a problem or deliver some feature to you. I’m actually going to help you achieve your goal and that’s the ultimate value proposition that anybody could make.
Peter: One of the interesting things that you wrote in your book. Is it true that people only buy when forced?
Brett: I joke that people would rather have a hole in their head than a hole in their pocket and lose a dollar on the ground.
So definitely, every time you pull your wallet out, something’s forcing you to do that and salespeople cannot be that force. You can’t force people to buy. That’s a myth that I actually parody throughout the book, that there’s this myth that great salespeople are bulldogs that just grab onto the customer’s pocket and keep biting until they finally rip the wallet out and that just doesn’t work.
What you have to do is actually very much the opposite; be a counselor, not a consultant but a counselor. A counselor who understands the customer and finds out the forces they’re feeling because they will buy it only when they’re forced but not by you but by some other force. You have to understand, okay, what forces are influencing their decision to take action and if you can help them harness those forces and take action, make a change and achieve their goal then the customer is going to love you.
Peter: Towards the title of your book, Selling Change; how do you create a change experience for a customer?
Brett: There are of course a number of ways. The most fundamental approach that has the most value is identifying what is what I call their most cherished goal. What are they trying to achieve, what do they live for? And if you can identify that that takes getting to know the customer really well and then understand the obstacles that are in the way then if you can help the customer remove those obstacles then you’ve created that all important change experience that helps them achieve their goal.
Now, you might not be able to do that kind of a sale in every situation. Maybe you’re selling a product that’s the same thing everyday over and over again and the concept of a change, it doesn’t really apply. Well, my comment there is be careful because if it’s the same thing over and over again then it’s likely that they buyer will have driven all of the profit margin out of that product because there should be many suppliers for the same product to having many, many substitutes and the key there then is to somehow make a simple change to that product or find out something else that’s going on in the buyer’s organization or business or life that where you can make a slight change so that you’re differentiated in some way.
Peter: Well to that point, you a lot of the people who listen to this show and a lot of people I see on a regular basis because I attend these conferences are recruiters, and the recruiting business has been hammered over the last couple of years. You’re looking at something that is a pretty well-defined commodity, recruiting with a pretty well-defined cost which traditionally has been 30% of the first year salary, right?
Peter: Recruiters today, of course, are just getting beat up left and right and nobody wants to pay 30% and because there’s so much unemployment and those are the kinds of challenges that they’re facing so what kinds of things could you recommend to them to help back to this idea of why hire them? What’s their specific value?
Brett: That’s a perfect example, Peter. As a hiring manager, I went through exactly what you’re saying. I had a couple of head counts to hire and a number of recruiters I could work with. They all wanted the high 30% and the economy had changed and I didn’t have to pay that anymore. Often that the recruiters are like many salespeople and all of us, we want to do the fastest path to a buck and that is give me job description and I’ll go search some databases and do some sourcing and come back with some resumes. That’s a very reactive process that doesn’t add a whole lot of value to me as a hiring manager.
If you apply this idea of what I talk about in Selling Change of adding much more value, understanding the forces that the customer is feeling, what they’re trying to achieve and helping them make the changes to achieve that then a recruiter could add way more value to me as a hiring manager… 10 times more value if they took the time to come in and understand what’s going on, what’s my business strategy, how does hiring these people influence and implement my business strategy, and what are the goals I’m trying to achieve myself as the hiring manager, whether it’s my own goals within the organization, my career goals, all that influences what I do and how I hire and who I hire. If a recruiter does that, I wouldn’t talk to any other recruiter for the rest of my life.
Peter: What you’re talking about here is creating relationships – back to what you were saying earlier – and not doing this as a transactional business and I think that’s the biggest mistake most people make to your point of just going for the buck, fastest, quickest way I can get a dollar out of this guy’s pocket.
Brett: Exactly. You said it very well. It’s a transactional mentality instead of I call it a change-centric mentality but you could also call it a customer centric or goal-centric mentality. The idea is to care about the customer, not just about the transaction.
Peter: Right, and really get an understanding of what the pressures are that individual is facing and how you can then bring your expertise to help that person accomplish those goals.
Peter: There’s an old saying that, the natural born salesman or natural born saleswoman and I think we’ve all met those folks – the Tony Robbins’ of the world – is it possible to learn these skills?
Brett: Absolutely. In fact it was funny; I was in career transition several years ago talking to a career counselor and made the comment, “Anybody can learn sales” and that really kind of floored him. He’d remember that to this day because he’s dealing with people in career transitions that are not in sales roles and his biggest complaint is people don’t understand that to get a job they have to be a great salesperson. So it’s very encouraging for him that I said that absolutely, you can learn these.
In fact, I just went to a Jeffrey Gitomer seminar recently and I was talking to a VP of sales in the chair next to me. I said, “What kind of sales training do you use?” and he says, “Oh, we don’t use sales training; we just kind of teach the people ourselves because, you know, sales is just something you’re born with so if they have it, that’s good. If they don’t, we just move on.
Jeffrey Gitomer about a half hour later said, “By the way, if you think that sales people are just born, get out of here! That’s absolutely incorrect. Anybody can learn the process of sales, what you can’t teach people and what you have to look for when you hire is happy, smart people. If someone is going to walk in and just be depressed and a sad sack, they are not going to succeed so don’t hire sad sacks but anybody that’s happy and is smart can learn sales.”
Peter: I just interviewed Gretchen Rubin who wrote The Happiness Project. Happiness is contagious and wouldn’t you rather be around someone who is happy and upbeat rather than a curmudgeon?
Brett: Exactly, that’s where positive mental attitude in sales and in job searching absolutely is fundamental. You have to start the day with a positive attitude and then absolutely, you can learn the process. You can learn the questions to ask. You can understand like in the case of change-centric selling, what are the four forces to look for that influence people’s behavior and drive their motivations and you can understand the steps that you can take to help the customer or if it’s the hiring manager achieve their goals. Anybody can do that.
Peter: What do you think is the most important takeaway from your book?
Brett: It’s the fundamental paradigm shift that rather than trying to look for problems and provide solutions, look for changes, look for goals and provide changes, if you will, that help the customer get to their goals.
Peter: Brett, thank you so much for taking to speak with us on Total Picture Radio. It’s been great to have an opportunity to meet you over the phone.
Brett: Thanks very much.