Every Employee is a Salesperson
This pandemic has leveled the playing field in sales. The way we previously operated no longer works. What used to set us apart as the top player in our space has changed. Demands and needs have shifted. The way we approach and engage our customers has been altered, perhaps permanently.
In talking with sales organizations and sales leaders, we’ve discovered that what used to make companies successful is no longer getting the job done in this new environment. So what can we do? Companies need to re-assess, reset, and rethink the way they operate. We need to look at new, creative, Other-CenteredⓇ ways to grow our business and serve our customers.
Part of that entails looking at your sales organization. You may not have the salesforce you think you need to accomplish everything you’re trying to do. But we should rethink how we can have influence on our customers – it doesn’t necessarily need to rest solely on the shoulders of your salespeople. And the question is, how do we make that happen with the resources we have? How can companies get the most “influence” out of every employee?
It’s All About Influence
One way we’ve seen several of our customers do this is very simple, but very effective. They called on even their non-sales personnel, for example field service engineers, customer service reps, and schedulers, to have those employees engage a bit more with customers they already served. Those individuals asked a few more questions than they normally might have, had more conversations, and used the influence that they gained by helping customers solve their problems to search for more opportunities to serve those customers in additional ways. While this is technically selling, it doesn’t feel that way. It allowed these “non-sales” employees to help the sales teams solve customer needs by uncovering new problems and helping solve them.
More companies need to start thinking this way. Every resource in your company is an asset that can be prepared to influence and serve customers.
Companies have certain resources that are close to the customer as part of the sales process. Every person in the value chain has importance: project managers, procurement, supply chain, integrators, etc… all of these people are touching the customer in some form or fashion. The truth is, even if they don’t sell, they have influence. Today, we’re all working to gain a piece of a smaller pie. With the pandemic, we all felt the market reset. So we need to be better than ever before. Every person that touches the customer has integral importance, whether you find new business, keep the business, or expand the business.
Selling versus Serving
The word selling gets a bad rap. In my opinion, there are some movies that are to blame for painting sales as a very dark, depressing profession – Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, and Wolf of Wall Street to name a few. Sales is depicted as a high pressure, win-lose, cutthroat profession. This is not true. It may be, in some cases, but at ASLAN we’ve built an entire company and served hundreds of clients, successfully, through our Other-Centered selling philosophy.
In a previous blog about increasing your sales force without adding people, I referenced a book by Dan Pink called To Sell is Human. In this book, the author unpacks the idea that we, as humans, are always “selling,” we are always influencing each other. We all have this innate ability within us, because chances are, we have to influence somebody about something on any given day (whether personally or professionally). So why not, as a company, put that innate skill set to use? It’s in the best interest of your business and your customers.
Sales does not have to mean shoving products down customers’ throats, it does not have to mean “show up and throw up.” Selling can, and should be, about serving. It’s the highest form of service. Mark Cuban of Shark Tank says that, “In business, you’re always selling.” Whether you’re engaging with prospects, investors, or employees, you are selling something.
How do we get the most horsepower out of our entire team’s ability to influence? Because in this current environment, it’s all hands on deck. We’re trying to get ahead of the game and create more value for our clients. Companies need to use all their available people and resources to make sure their customers are taken care of. It’s the only way to grow your business and be truly successful.
What is Other-Centered Influence?
There are two critical pieces to having a truly Other-Centered mindset and thus the ability to influence others: listening skills and the transparency of your motive.
The power of listening, especially right now, is not to be understated. Effective listening is critical, it’s always been paramount. The problem is that it’s not inherent. Most people have a natural default to self, which gets in the way of our ability to truly listen. People are listening with a lens. We need to “clear our cache” and listen for the truth, to learn something new. It sounds cliche, but listening is essential if we want to create value for our customers.
Every employee, sales or not, has the ability to listen, to be empathetic, and to do what they can to solve problems based on what they hear. If we don’t listen, we miss those opportunities to serve.
In addition to listening, we need to examine our motive for engaging with customers. Your motive is transparent. So before any interaction, we need to make a decision to shift our mindset and make the other person a priority. Customers can smell “commission breath.” They know when you are focused on yourself instead of on them. People are resistant, not because they are rejecting your solution, but because they are rejecting a sales call. As long as they hold to their subconscious belief that your motive is impure or selfish, they will remain unreceptive to you and your message. You will not be able to influence them and thus serve them.
So shift your mindset and examine your motive. Your job is to serve. Demonstrate that.
3 Ways to Adapt Your Organization
If you’re the leader of an organization, you recognize the challenges that we all face in the world of business today. In order to thrive in this “new norm,” most likely, some things have to change internally. What can we do to continue to grow, beyond just the load carried by our sales teams? What will be the business impact of leveraging each employee as influencers, or brand ambassadors? What can you do with the rest of the “horsepower” within your organization? How can we implement this mentality shift?
There are 3 simple things any leader can consider doing:
1 – Flip the Organizational Chart
Typically, org charts place the leader(s) at the top and layer down to your frontline people at the bottom, the ones who serve your customers. By flipping the org chart, you put the customer on top. They become (because they are) the driver of everything you do and all that you are. And when the customer is on top, your frontline people (sales reps, distribution, customer service, or marketing etc.) are now at the top of the pyramid.
This is the first step in a mindset shift, and it takes a strong leader to do this and send that message to the whole organization.
2 – Communicate New Job Descriptions
This costs nothing, but it changes a great deal. Leaders should step up and communicate to their organization that the customer is priority #1 – and part of that, for leadership, includes looking at the job descriptions of everyone that drives the support of that customer.
People in support roles may not view their job description as being an influencer. But they should. Their positive impact on a customer’s experience is critical. Market share comes from everyone doing their part to serve the customer.
Something as simple as rewording and restructuring employees’ job descriptions, so that everyone is accountable to that mentality (and it’s in writing), can have a massive impact. These updated job descriptions should point to every employees’ obligation to serve the customer first. Everyone is accountable and integral. Communicating new job descriptions will help leaders shift and cement a company-wide mindset of “We’re moving the customer to the top of the pyramid and using all of the horsepower we have to serve them well.”
3 – Invest in Your Extra Degree
I got this reference from a book by Sam Parker called 212° – The Extra Degree. The premise of the book is that one degree is the only difference between hot water or boiling water that creates steam – and steam can be used to drive a locomotive. It can create real movement and change, just with that one extra degree.
When I say “invest in your one degree,” I’m referring to your resources, your employees, outside of your sales teams. They can be huge drivers of that extra degree by impacting, influencing, and serving the customer by making them feel valued and appreciated.
There’s another book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, where the author discusses the different people and roles in organizations (not just sales), that take organizations from one level, to the other side of the “tipping point.”
Both books are great examples of how investing in that one extra degree can make an enormous impact. Invest in your employees to get them better aligned and better equipped to serve your customers.
This could be accomplished in a myriad of ways, for example opening up training to all employees. The goal is to have a strong and aligned culture within your company, where each employee is given the tools and acknowledgement to do their job and serve customers. Everyone is important and integral to your company’s sales, growth, and ultimate success.
The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.