Recently, I was speaking at a conference and one of the audience members approached me to ask about a sales presentation that they had recently failed to win and wanted sales tips for the future. They wanted to know what they could have done about it and how they could improve their chance of winning a similar pitch next time. The main issue in this situation was poor sales positioning…
After asking a few questions it became patently clear that the reason why the sale had failed was that the salesperson had never been treated as an equal by the client and was never really in the running. They were not a valued sales partner.
Many things had not gone perfectly:
- Prior to the sales presentation the client had refused to answer any questions from the sales team making the presentation.
- The client had only informed the presenters of the time and date of the presentation the day before.
- The presentation was at 9am in the morning 200 miles away from the office of the sales team.
- The client was running late on the day and kept them waiting for half an hour with only a scant apology.
- The client’s team who attended the presentation deliberately refused to make any polite chat, refused to engage like normal human beings, were overtly rude and refused to answer any questions.
- No feedback was given at the time of the presentation and no promise of timely feedback was given.
- The sales team had no idea who they were “competing” against nor the criteria by which they were being judged.
A particularly bad example and I could carry on but I am sure that you have had to deal with many similar situations.
Far too many clients think that the way to conduct sales meetings and presentations is to treat their potential business “partners” as dancing puppets where all they have to do is tweak the string and you do the jig. And far too many sales teams accept this course of affairs as just the way things are or the way that they have to be.
One of my friends works for a well-known organisation who set up meeting after meeting for him to attend. At every one, by the time he attends, the client is looking down on him from a great height. It’s a totally one-way process. He performs, they yell to him from the stage wings, “Jump!” and he has little choice other than to scream back, “How high?!” Failure to do so would be unacceptable to his clients and unacceptable to his management team who are the very people who position the meetings so poorly in the first place. His management team think that this is how you do business.
Once you are out of position it is difficult to get back into position. Once you position yourself as less important that your prospects, it is unlikely you will repair the mismatch. Once you devalue your offering, you will struggle to create the value or the relationships that you want and need to build the relationships and the business that you want.
Far too many sales presentations are one-way affairs where sales teams effectively beg for business and prospective clients bestow their deity-like, benevolence on the lucky “winner”.
It doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be this way. If you want partnership relationships with clients who believe in you and appreciate the value that you add; if you want to be paid commensurate with the work you do; if you want sustainability, satisfaction and success then you have to get your positioning right and this has to be done right from the start of your relationship.
Getting yourself in position may sometimes prove challenging and it may not always be possible but equally getting out of position is not something that just happens, it is something that you allow to happen!
I talk about this in my sales masterclasses and even run one off seminars from time to time on positioning. It is that important and you can start to do something about it today by focusing on a few simple things.
Here are 6 to get you started…
- Define your clients. Who are they? Why do they work with you? How do you add value for them?
- Position yourself as an expert. Create a brand and a name for yourself that attracts clients to you because of what you can do for them. Clients come to me because of what I do and how I add value, not because I am just another sales speaker.
- Keep your engines running. Far too many salespeople take their feet off the gas when they have “enough” business and their sales activities career to a grinding halt. Lack of opportunities can create desperation and desperation makes it hard to not start playing the fiddle furiously whenever anyone instructs you to dance a jig.
- Get familiar with the word “No” — saying it and hearing it. If you are in the wrong place, with the wrong client or pursuing the wrong opportunity and you cannot do anything about it, “No” can be the most liberating, time saving and sales boosting option.
- Build huge value. It’s easy for clients to treat salespeople as “all the same” if they are pretty much interchangeable. Whilst technology and transparency may have made products and approaches pretty much interchangeable, your expertise, your personal approach and the value that you deliver is not.
- Be honest. Many sales and business people have long wooden noses when it comes to not admitting that they are dancing like puppets on a string. Without honesty about your current relationships and your current situation, how can you improve it?
Start now by having a think about the relationships you have, where they’re at, how you can add more value to them and what you need to do to be seen as more equal than your competitors in the future.