He had a plan! Now he just had to remember where he’d left it

I’ve talked a lot lately about sales strategy. The plan you have to ensure you are going to win.  No, it’s not more complex than that. And don’t listen to anyone that wants to make it more complicated.

The problem is, too many of us have no idea of what we do that makes us successful.

I had an interesting meeting today where the subject of Malcolm Gladwell  and his book The tipping point came up. This is the book where he details three types of people.

1. Connectors – Those that know lots of people and are good at introducing acquaintances to those that might find value in the new relationship

2. Mavens – Those that revel in information ‘information specialists’ in fact. They are across all the new stuff, and are great at telling everyone about it too

3. Sales People – These guys are persuaders, charismatic people that have powerful negotiation skills.

It strikes me that this is a good assessment of how people ‘work’ and a good way to consider your sales strategy, or sales plan. Lets consider each type, and then how that might inform your plan.

Connectors seem to abound in the world of SME’s. Networkers who’s sole focus is to become known to as many people as possible. They are serial attenders of formal networking events. They have business cards to hand at all times and know exactly who you need to talk to about whatever business problem you may face.

The connector strategy seems to hinge on generally meeting as many people as possible. I have had any number of meetings with connectors. The first time was really interesting. I could not fathom why this person wanted to meet me. I am always happy to meet people, and like talking about myself as much as the next person. But an hour long meeting with no agenda other than to introduce each other to each other, and typically, to compare networks? Hmmm….

Mavens are also teachers in a way. They have lots on information and a knack and a way with their explanations that others find fascinating. They teach and therefore are close to sales people in my mind, being able to to persuade through their ability to position themselves as an authority in their subject.

Maven sales strategy is clearly based on technical knowledge. Exceptional sales literature for instance, useful websites with lots of links to other information. They consume as much if not more than they disseminate too, and are often ‘functional specialists’ in that they are expert in the product or service they have to offer.

Sales people as the name implies (for good or ill) tend towards closing type skills. They are all about leverage. They have an indefinable quality that makes others want to agree with them. The sales strategy inherent here is the most obvious. It involves leveraging the relationships they have for some sort of profit. A sort of ‘personality’ sales approach.

I see a lot of the problems with various sales plans in terms of these three ideas. Or rather, in terms of the abscence of two of the other ideas.

For instance, the chat I had today went something like this:

My Friend with whom the conversation was happening; “Ive identified a new market!”

Me: ‘Cool!”

MF: “Yeah. I’ve got a list of people in this market ready to go!”

Me: “What are you going to do with it?”

MF: “Ah! This time I’ve got a plan”

Me: “OK, what is it?”

MF: “I’m going to write to them and introduce myself! Hand written notes”

Me: “OK, Nice! Then what?”

MF (Triumphantly): “I’m going to tell them what I can do for them”

Me: “And…”

MF: “Er… What do you mean?”

This is the typical Connector sales plan. Meet as many people as you can. You never know who might be useful. And who might be interested in doing business with you. This logic seems to be backed up with some sort of anecdotal account of how a random contact once turned into their number one client.

The Maven wants to build websites, or write books, or do email database marketing. They want to explain why their services ‘does the business’. They are typically very honourable too. If you’re not right for them and their business they’d rather not do business.

Interestingly the second phase of buying behaviour, after need identification, is information search. So Maven’s will have a lot of success with people that are already looking to buy, or have identified the type of product or service they need. And because they speak with authority, and customers respond to that, they feel like they are selling.

Neither of these types are able to leverage the style they have for its own sake. My friend had simply not considered that he should follow said introduction up with a phone call actually asking for business. I’ve lost count of the number of times Connectors have wished they were able to make money from all the valuable introductions they had made for other people.

Mavens are of the opinion that they are the only people qualified to remark on their industry. “Ah!” Their logic goes “Its different for us in (insert industry here)” Therefore they are unwilling to experiment with that awful ‘generic’ sales technique that clearly would not apply to them.

And sales people without networks or technical expertise that creates value can only close for so long. Empty promises, lack of delivery and failing to follow through are the bane of their lives. They often lack the ability, knowledge or network to create value beyond the buy, and therefore generate long term profitable relationships.

So I guess your sales plan must at least answer some of these questions:

Who am I talking to? Where are they, and how do I reach them? How do they need to be communicated with?

What do they need to know, and what do I need to know about them, in order to leverage my product or service? What do they need to learn, and how can I best teach it?

And crucially, how do I motivate them to buy? What commitments are required, and how am I best served going about this? Where is the value in my product? How do I maximise it, and how do I differentiate my product service and price strategy in my market?

So there you have it. A sales strategy. A plan. Simple answers to simple questions. But most importantly, a plan that encompasses not just your own personality and strength, but the broader business ecology.

What do you think? Have I missed anything? Let me know by leaving a comment below, or tweet me @radiojaja

  1. Richard
    Richard says:

    Thanks for an interesting article Tony. I have a friend who also thinks that if he mails a lot of people with details about his product everyone will realize that they must have one, will want in, they will contact him and he will make a killing.
    So far surprise surprise no takers.