Photo by Meridican from Flickr
In this Interview Cian McLoughlin shares feedback from customers as to what the best salespeople do differently.
John Smibert asked Cian “What do customers see as the key reasons salespeople win or lose business“. In response Cian stated that the greatest salespeople were seen as humble and introverted. They were excellent listeners and were willing to teach and challenge.
The great salespeople brought adaptability, perspective and cultural fit to the table. They also brought ideal partners and third parties into the mix to help the customer with further concepts and insight.
And the great salespeople are story tellers. They share war stories, anecdotes and case studies. Why does this make them great? See the interview to learn more.
Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he’s a speaker, an author, and a leading advisor to the sales fraternity.
John:Welcome back, Cian!
Cian:Thanks, John! Nice to be here.
John:Cian, in our earlier discussions I came to realise that you’d spent a lot of time talking to customers about why they made decisions.
John:And therefore you must’ve learnt a lot about the key reasons people win business and the key reasons people lose business. Could you share some of that knowledge with us?
Cian:Sure. I think one of the most interesting learnings for me was how much of it relates to the people, and when I say “the people” I mean the sales reps. We all know the old adage of ‘know, like and trust’ is the way to win the hearts and the minds of your customers. It’s genuinely true, or at least that’s the experience I’m getting.
John:So customers tell you that?
Cian:They do. They talk about… they don’t use exactly those words, but they talk about things like cultural fit. They say “We could see ourselves working with this organisation.” What happens is really is that the salesperson or people become the personification of the brand, of the product, of the service, and therefore customers really see “Can we work with this product or service, can we work with these people? Will they fit with us? Will they add value to us?” What I’ve observed is probably six or seven key traits that seem to be coming through quite consistently in terms of feedback from key decision-makers.
John:What are they?
Cian:Things like “He or she was a really great listener.”
Cian:They asked us intelligent questions, but then they listened to the answers and they probed and they really wanted to understand what was happening behind the scenes.
Cian:They did, absolutely.
John:Customers see that as value?
Cian:It’s not just passively sitting there and saying “Oh, that’s great – let me take that down and go away and do that.” It’s saying “Okay, that’s interesting. Now, why do you want to do that?” and exploring that. Actually educating the customer as well, saying to them “Well, you could do it this way. But also, maybe we can explore how we’ve done certain things with other organisations. ”Because that’s value-adding from a customer, that’s not just saying “This is our perspective and we want to stick to it.” it’s saying “Okay, let’s explore some others”.
As an extension of that it’s also making connections. Really great salespeople are bringing in external partners, they’re bringing in different people from their organisation, or even from outside their organisation, from their network, to say “We think this individual or this company has a useful perspective that might improve the offering.” They feel very comfortable opening up a little bit and saying “Let’s bring some other people in to get the best outcome for the customer.” Customers really, really respond to that. So that’s a couple, but there’s one point which keeps coming through, and it relates to EQ as distinct from IQ
John: Emotional intelligence.
Cian: Correct, yeah.
John: Very important, isn’t it?
Cian: It is, and it’s such a funny thing that you see these individuals who are very successful in their own right but they tend to be very humble. They tend to be very customer-focused, but equally internally in their own companies they work very well with people across the business.
John: So you’re saying successful salespeople are the humble ones?
Cian:I am, I am. I’m saying they’re humble, sometimes they’re actually quite introverted; we’re seeing that more and more.
Cian:The other thing which is really interesting, or I found interesting, is that they’re great storytellers.
John: Oh, yes.
Cian: They almost accumulate, you know, little war stories and anecdotes and case studies, and then they liberally sprinkle them into conversation or discussions with their customers.
John:And that authenticates what they’re talking about and what the proposal’s all about and what the value of the proposal is; it all must hang together.
Cian: It absolutely does, it’s almost sort of the glue. The other thing it does is, if you think back to over the evolution of mankind. Through stories, that’s how we’ve learned, that’s how we’ve embedded knowledge and passed it down through generations. We’re hard-wired to respond to stories and they understand that and they use that.
John: So Cian, in that discussion so far you haven’t discussed the company, the product. What did customers tell you about that? Or they come all the way back to the salesperson every time?
Cian: It’s interesting. I think product, price, brand in the market; that’s your ticket to the dance, that’s what gets you access to start the conversation, but invariably that’s not going to determine whether you win or lose that piece of business – it’s all of these other things. Customers don’t necessarily rationally understand all of that or recognise all of that, but these are all of the different elements which influence. And let’s be honest, we don’t win and lose deals by 50% these days, it’s incremental – 2% here or 3% there – so this stuff is really, really important to recognise.
John: So, the good salespeople sell themselves first is what you’re saying.
Cian: No, I’m saying the great salespeople.
John: The great salespeople sell themselves first.
Cian: They do. They’re, to some degree, the product and the service before anything else gets put forward.
John: Okay, that makes a lot of sense to me, I’ve seen it many, many times. Great advice, the feedback’s wonderful – thanks, Cian!
Cian: Pleasure, John!
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