Recently fielded a brilliant question from a friend: are we our own best supporters or biggest critics? Do we put out a positive message only to undermine it with our own bewilderment and being overwhelmed? Do we inadvertently send subtle messages to our employees to where our word is no longer our bond?
For wherever our perch in the sales food chain, be it direct advocate to the customer, manager or executive, we present a picture that instills confidence or doubt in each and every recipient. There are a litany of interpretations your actions and mannerisms and responses may portray. The faith others have in your role and ability to support them hinges on this external persona and their interpretation of it.
There are important steps we can take to ensure the best persona possible is presented in our interaction with those who are counting on our support:
1) The initial impression. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Fair or not, ready or not, the first time we came across a new customer or manager we absolutely formulated an opinion of some sort. Certainly, it can evolve over time but many of those first statements they share with you are philosophies you associate with them and you latch on to that as the foundation of the relationship. You want to hear something inspiring and game-changing from that new boss, but ensure the new boss isn’t the same as the old boss. Putting the shoe on the other foot, when people come into contact with you for the first time, they walk in only with any potential pre-conceived notions (comments and feedback from mutual contacts, your public profiles and what they can surmise from some quick research online). They will likely have one set of expectations for you and another set of what they would like to glean from the encounter. You control these best by going in to ascertain what specifically they want to accomplish from the meeting. Have an agenda, set yourself apart while calling attention to potential issues and the process by which you can work together for solutions. Do not waltz in pretending to have all the answers or looking to make immediate changes; in many events, employees expect new bosses to come in and make lots of changes and that is their initial trepidation. The more you can do to quell any of their preliminary doubts and fears and the more you can do to truly involve the other party in joint decisions and solutions and show them you care about their plans for outcomes and their needs and wants – you have controlled what you can control of the initial impression.
2) Follow-up, Touch-bases, the working relationship. Akin to the initial impression, people have their assumptions about how relationships will go. They have seen new folks take the boss mantle or have seen new account managers come and go with few differences between styles. You are up against those variables each day in some way because when a contact thinks about you or the dynamic between the two of you, that connotation is positive, negative or lukewarm… and you have to do what you can to positively affect the relationship when possible. This becomes challenging when you in essence manage relationships with hundreds of customers or employees, but finding the most effective way to show you mean what you say goes a long way. Likely in that initial encounter, you pledged promises of what the recipient could expect. How quickly are you tackling these tasks? Do you send a summary to the others involved showing recapping your commitments and progress? Personally, I like to concoct the plans and connect any additional resources and send e-mails copying the person I’m meeting with in the meeting for real-time action. It’s unique, and it shows the person you’re meeting with just how seriously you take it – you’re doing it right now, rather than letting another moment pass by without action or result. Same day is also a great time to send a recap of the meeting and next steps and where the follow up responsibilities lie. By end of week is about the last acceptable timeframe for said communication. Your circle of influence’s opinion of your devotion to their cause and their belief in your campaign promises – like the probability of a prospect buying from you – diminishes a little each day and certainly with any passing milestones. If you commit to a firm date and miss the deadline, you cannot erase the miscue. Miss a few deadlines and you cannot recover the relationship. If your customer or team is counting on you or expecting you to deliver something, deliver… and deliver quickly and above and beyond expectation. Stay on top of it so that even if you are a connector or you are looping in other resources who are nonresponsive, you’re still reaching back out to keep it top of mind – and your customer/ employee sees it. Even if others are not living up to their end of the bargain, you are. You cannot win everything for your employee or customer, but they will see you working for them and you will win their trust in the relationship.
3) Scale. You will never be able to physically perform every task you wish to perform in any given project, day, month or year. With numerous customers, you are not able to be present for each meeting you could conceivably learn from or contribute to. With numerous employees, you will not be privy to all career conversations or coaching sessions. However, you have other members of the sales food chain (other team members, other contacts, etc.) who can help you stay at the pulse of the relationship. Work intelligently by maintaining a hand at the pulse through their interactions. Are your daily/weekly/monthly routines ALL adding immense value to your role? Are there any you can push or restructure or cancel that give you more customer- or employee-facing time? Prioritize based on your people and process. Find the mechanisms that give you the most quality touches possible.
4) Communicate. Communication in business is likely the most important and yet often sadly lacking component. Since under-communication is rampant, over-communicate. If your customers and teams want to be in the know about certain topics or want to be included or want to know you are keeping them top of mind, even just sending a quick note revisiting an open thread or showing you are still working on their behalf can make all the difference in the world. When there is lack of communication, that is when assumptions of apathy can begin or fester. Merely keeping the lines of communication open can ensure the relationship always has steam. Take the initiative and perform outreach at regular intervals – even if you are not getting a response. You never know when your correspondence lands at the opportune time and creates an opportunity with a prospect or has a positive outcome with the employee who needs to hear from you.
5) Genuinely care. Ask about family, wish them holiday greetings, talk about something other than business to lead off the conversation. The people you want to believe in you are people – it’s the common thread that binds us all together. Whatever everyone’s station or rank, genuine respect is so under-utilized and yet goes such a long way. Many of us have a wall up against the aforementioned pre-conceived notions or because of doubts in the dynamic. You can very quickly quell a hesitancy and garner some goodwill simply by treating your fellow man and woman like a person.
We have control over a finite number of variables in our personal and business realms, yet have unlimited control of our actions. We must accept our limitations in controlling the processes and employ processes that allow us the maximum and optimal level of engagement and involvement. When this happens, everyone wins, and you can be your own biggest source of support!
Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” and sequels “The Salesman Against the World” and “A Salesman Forever” which take the unique approach of serving as sales/leadership books inside of novels showing proven sales principles designed to birth you into the top producer you were born to be. If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICRVMI2/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_yGXKtb0G
Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership. You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving.
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