The Incompetent Adviser

March 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Micheal Bosworth, back in his 1995 publication of Solution Selling, wrote, “Power buys from power.” He goes on to explain that executives (people with decision making power) are looking for someone to advise them, and that person must be competent (a person commands authority with advisory power). But how do they know you are that powerful person before they buy?  Over time it will become evident, but what about right now while you are working your way into the account.

A problem arises here – the typical sales person gets a new job, feels great about the new position, and goes out with a new brand behind them, hoping to conquer new and bigger accounts.  It feels great at first.  But, regardless of what the recruiter told you, the job is always harder than you expect.  Sale is hard work!  Weeks go by, calls are not returned, emails are deleted, and your ego starts to deflate.  At some point you start second guessing just how great of an adviser you really are.  Your message goes from abounding confidence to a gentler, softer sell.  You are starting to wonder if anyone will ever talk to you.

This often leads to steeper discounts, desperate measures, and pleading with the prospect to do something.  Anything!

I was on a coaching call the other day discussing this very dilemma.  In fact I spoke with two sales people back to back sharing similar stories.  It’s common for this to happen to anyone working a new region, or to a rep in new with a new company having a lesser brand in that territory.  So what should you do?

There are many factors here, and of course, the right marketing strategy is going to be important.  It’s clear to me that pure cold calling, brute force tactics, won’t do it in this market.  But that is not my focus here…my focus has more to do with the self-talk that takes us from feeling confident and able, to subdued and defeated.  A couple of words to keep you going are in order:

  • It’s tempting to sell everything, but the trusted adviser is a specialist.  You can’t advise on something you don’t know – that means picking an area and becoming the best in it.  Jim Collins gives us this advice in his book, Good to Great.  Collins is talking to companies, but the same applies to the rep.  You can expand later, but don’t be all things to all people – you’re just not big enough.  Instead, pick a hot area and learn how to sell it. Lead with it, and learn to expand your presence once in the account.  If you pick an area that is much needed in today’s business economy, you can be sure that most of the people you call need what you sell.  The secret here is knowing how to apply educational marketing strategies to drive your offering.
  • Stop listening to the local rock station while driving to appointments.  Instead, buy some of the great educational MP3s available today.  I’ve mentioned various titles in the past, but the point here is, stop wasting your drive time on empty entertainment.  Rock music actually puts your brain into a sort of trans that eases the pain, but does nothing productive for you (other than, perhaps keeping you awake after staying up too late).  Teaching tapes (MP3s) by successful people bring encouragement and structure to your sales call.  You want to enter these meetings with confidence, even if your numbers are terrible.
  • Use your downtime wisely.  The temptation is to thrash from email to email, reacting to anything that comes along.  Don’t be deceived – wise planning is better.  Take time to study.  Learn about the needs of the people you are calling on, write, read, plan out your calls, and make every thing you do into a quality effort.  When a call comes, plan and execute.  Build marketing materials, build your social brand online, and carefully plan out marketing efforts.
  • Don’t waste time networking over long lunches with people who can’t really help you.  Do reach out by phone to people who bring encouragement and perhaps sound input. Consider using a coach.  Coaches consistently show a strong return on investment because they do encourage and bring accountability to the process.  I know many people shy away from spending the money, yet often the coach’s six month fee is completely covered in one good sale.  That’s pretty strong if you ask me.

© 2012, David Stelzl

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