Successful business development: is it aquired skill or born with it

Successful sales person: Born or trained

Successful Business Development: is it aquired skill or born with it

Generally when we think of a salesperson our mind brings up images of being locked in an office at the Mazda/Hyundai/Lada dealership or held captive at a timeshare presentation. But all sales jobs are not like this. It is true that it takes a certain type personality to succeed in sales. A career in sales can offer the opportunity to earn an above average income and unlimited potential for growth. I call these professional sales executives; these are the business people that move the world forward.  For the longest time I wanted to change the title of “sales person” to something more expressive of the actual behaviour or tasks, example: Business Development or Business consultant, in another word, I truly believe that sales title applies only to those whom are selling Automobile, Life Insurance or aluminum siding or similar products. I do find the Title: “Sales Person” has become synonymous with the lowest acts of selling, and does not apply to the highly professional business executives. For the sake of this blog, a Sales Person is a Business Development Person
Everyone is selling someone something all the time. You can have the greatest product in the world but nothing happens until someone sells it. As people we are always selling ourselves to others and that’s the most important part of selling. I think one of the main things needed to succeed in sales is a love of people. A sales person is always out there, always meeting people, and always networking. So, just what does it take to succeed in sales?
A Business Development person must have a positive attitude.  Business Development, probably more than any other occupation involves rejection. With most products you have to ask a certain number of people to buy before the sale actually made.  You have to be able to ignore or deal positively with rejection. You most likely will ask about 10 people, in other words get 10 no’s, before someone agreed to set an appointment with you. You must have a positive attitude to digest that much rejection day in and day out.

A business development person must have a strategic plan. There are some jobs you can do that do not require a lot of planning. But when you are asking someone to sign a large deal which could involve millions of dollars you need to have a formula. You need strategy to penetrate the complex layers of business management, you need to develop allies, you need to have the users on your side etc… Some companies provide leads or territories for sales people but typically most business development people are responsible for locating their own prospects.

A business development person must be committed to their success. It has long been argued if a salesperson is made or born. My opinion is that you are born with a certain personality type and certain types do better in sales. Typically the more outgoing person ends up in business development but it really depends upon the product or services or deal you are brokering. For the introvert can be very difficult to be more outgoing and can succeed in deal making but they will always feel that they are out of their normal behaviour which can be uncomfortable in the long run. To be successful in business development a person must be willing to A) learn everything about the organization that they are dealing with; B) negotiation techniques and C) how to manage multiple types of personalities. This can take time. It takes 10 years to become a doctor, 5 years to become a lawyer, and 1000 hours to become a barber. Many times those in business development give up after just a few weeks or months, before they have had time to learn what is needed to be successful.

A business development person must be willing to continue learning and growing. Business development people are typically expected to be knowledgeable about their products and their company. They have to stay on top of what is happening in the industry, and various economic and political influencing factors as products change and situations change. Because they have so much contact with people they need to be aware of what is happening around them.  It has been said: The super-wise man learns from the experience of others. Top business people attend meetings, read books, and associate with business professionals.

A business development person must know how to set goals. Some jobs just happen whether you do anything or not. But business deals do not just happen. You have to make them happen. It is critical that a business development person know how many deals they need to make to meet their quota, how much money they need to propel their company forward, and what they need to do to make this happen. The best way to do this is to set daily, weekly or monthly goals, which should fit in the long term strategy

A business development person must be enthusiastic about their product. It is difficult to broker a deal on something you do not believe in. When you really believe in something, the other person can see and feel your passion. If you don’t like the product or the company, the deal will be more difficult. It has been said that nothing great was every achieved without enthusiasm.

A business development person you must work relentlessly hard and smart. A deal maker’s job is not easy. Much hard work is required if one is to be successful. But working hard is not enough. One must also work smart by managing their time and resources well, being disciplined, and following the example of others who have been successful.  I personally follow the principle of “and then some.” I don’t just give it my best; I give it my best and then some. At the end of the day when I’m ready to go home I would make one or two more business calls. Often these calls would be the one that produced results. By giving just a little more time and effort you could propel yourself from an average salesperson to a super star business development person.

For the most part, success in business development (like in any other type of job) is determined by the individual, by their attitude. Anyone can succeed, if he or she wants it badly enough
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Value added: Business cliché

"Value-added" A business cliché in need of desperate update

I have to apologize to my blog readers…it has been so long since I posted a new article. I have been traveling a fair amount, and my schedule was really uncompromising. To restart my tradition, I thought to start by writing about a topic that I hear often: “Value-added” I believe I need to discuss this topic and hopefully I can give it a fair assessment.

“Value-added.” The word is used so much it has become a cliché in business circles. There may not be a business in the world that doesn’t claim to be a “value-added” seller. The problem is that once a word or phrase becomes a cliché, it often losses it’s original meaning. This is true with “value-added.” What exactly does that mean?

 If you were to ask six business principles what it means when they say that they are a “value-added” seller, and you’ll likely hear six different explanations. One claims that they fulfill orders quickly, and that short waiting period is “of value” to their customers. Others claim that their experienced people bring value to their customers. Their customers do business with them because of the quality of their people. Others claim some unique technical expertise, others their sophisticated IT systems, some the breath of their inventory, still others reflect on the brand name products they handle.

I’m always a bit skeptical of this. Almost every business I work with claims to have better people, better service, and more technical expertise than all their competitors. What is puzzling to me is that their competitors say the same thing. Someone has an inaccurate perception.

The definitions grow even more obtuse when you ask salespeople what they mean by “value added.” Some will claim that their customers demand a regular visit by the salesperson. Their routine presence, therefore, is valuable to the customer. Others, like their bosses, claim expertise as valuable. Many point to the long term relationship as the factor that brings the most value to the customer. On and on it goes.

The truth that we often overlook is this: Value is defined by the customer, not the supplier. It doesn’t matter what you think your value is, it only matters what your customer believes it to be. And customers don’t always think alike, so that the operating definition of value-added varies from customer to customer.

As our economy has grown more complex and competitive, the demands of the customer and their subsequent definitions of value have grown more varied. What was more or less universally valued a few years ago, is not anymore. For example, local inventory may have been universally valued in the 1990s, but today some customers would rather buy direct and absorb a longer shipping time. Experienced people may have been valuable to everyone a few years ago, but some customers today would rather gather their information off the internet and pay lower prices. Technical expertise may have been universally valuable a few years ago, but some customers today would rather reduce their purchasing costs through an integrated supply contract administered by the home office 500 miles away.

It’s not that some of the things you have built into your business as value-added are no longer important, it is that some of them are no longer viewed, by significant numbers of your customers, as worth paying more for. They may be necessary, but they are not sufficient.
If you are going to be a true value-added seller in the 21st century marketplace, you must be flexible and capable enough to offer different things to different customers, responding to the individual customer’s definition of what is valuable to him or her.

That means that you must have some way of ascertaining what is valuable to each of your customers, and then some processes in place that allows you to package, present and implement those aspects of your offer that appeal to the customer’s individual definition.

The primary means of doing that is a highly trained sales force that is adept at the strategies and tactics that result in a deeper and broader understanding of what the customer really wants, what the customer really values, and what the customer will really pay for.

Unfortunately, much of the business world of is populated with technically-oriented salespeople who view their job as providing technical solutions to technical problems. While that certainly is a significant part of the job, and an excellent foundation for value-added selling, it is not sufficient. Others see themselves as face-to-face customer service people, visiting the customers on a regular, route basis in order to pick up orders and take care of details. Still others have evolved into comfort zones: working with the same customers, on the same product lines, in the same ways.

More and more, value is determined by deeper and broader issues than just those addressed by these limited perspectives. How the solution fits into the customer’s business systems, the philosophy of the customer relative to its vendors, the strategic plans of the customer, the potential integration of customer/vendor IT systems, etc. – all these and more are just as likely to be the issues that the customer values.

If salespeople are going to adequately uncover these deeper issues, they’ll need to excel at certain sales behaviors that go above and beyond just the ability to solve a technical problem, or show up regularly.

As a Sales executive, what must I excel at?
Specifically, value-added salespeople will need to enhance their ability to create positive business relationships with anyone and everyone. They’ll need to relate to a variety of positions and job titles, like CEO, CFO, Vice President, as well as production supervisor or engineer Additionally, they’ll need to expand their abilities to deal positively with a wide variety of personality styles. The sales person who remains in the comfort zone of production supervisors, purchasing agents and maintenance supervisors will severely limit his/her value.
Not only will effective salespeople need to create positive business relationships with everyone, they also will need to fine tune their skills in asking questions, listening constructively and ferreting out the deeper needs of those customers.
Those salespeople who can understand what each customer considers to be valuable to them, and then can bring creative solutions to those customers, will be the valuable value-added sellers.

What is encouraging about this is that each of these value-added selling skills is a learnable behavior. No one is born with the ability to ask penetrating questions, create positive relationships, listen constructively, or develop creative proposal and solutions.

These behaviors of the most effective value-added salespeople can each be learned. Once a minimum level of expertise is attained, sales people can continually improve on these behaviors of the rest of their selling career.

This is a great opportunity for the business who intent on maintaining and expanding their position as a value-added seller. Those who develop systems that encourage the key sales behaviors, who train their sales people in those behaviors, and who stimulate them to continuously improve their implementation will be those who rise to the top as value-added sellers.

At the end, remember “Value-added” is not something defined or determined by the supplier it is however defined as viewed by the client. Each business/client view “Value-added” in a different way. The successful business is the one that quickly identify the specific client’s interpretation of the perceived value and package a solution to meet their requirement.
Until next time…

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