A few years ago, I started quipping that business books are dangerous. It’s hyperbole, to make a point, but there’s certainly some truth to it. Let me explain.
I’ll start with my concept of “sales nuances.” You may not have heard the term before, but you’ll understand it immediately.
Nuance Matters – Context is the New Black
Have you ever seen a top producer in one company fail miserably in another? It certainly happens, and it puzzles people. I’m not sure why. When you consider the massive variance in what constitutes professional selling today, I’m not sure that anyone can excel at every aspect in every situation. Think about it… we have:
• B2B vs. B2C
• Product vs. Service
• Tangible vs. Intangible
• High-Ticket vs. Low-Ticket
• Long-Cycle vs. Short-Cycle
• Initiating vs. Responding (RFI or RFP)
• Multiple Decision-Makers vs. One or Few Decision-Makers
• Self-generated Leads vs. Marketing Lead Gen
• Outbound vs. Inbound
• Outside vs. Inside
• …and more
It’s almost funny that we consider all of the above to fall under the simple heading of “selling.” In addition, there’s also the factor of industry and vertical specifics, which often make one an “expert” in their space. And today, the evolution of the buying process has certainly also thrown some sales professionals a curve ball.
All of that aside, about seven years ago, I saw a top sales pro fail when switching companies within the same industry, because she didn’t fit the culture and lacked the internal support team and mechanisms that fostered her wild success at her former employer (which she “grew into” over 7 years).
Hitting the Books
In a similar vein, when someone has a degree of success inside one or similar companies and writes a book about it, proffering advice about “what works,” I urge caution. If they are offering a methodology or process for how to figure things out in your company, I believe it’s much more valuable than when authors give generic sales advice that may work well in some situations, but not others.
I know this may ruffle some feathers, but it needs to be said. Especially when you or your reps can do an internet search on “sales tips” and find over 800,000 results.
The Best Sales Tip You’ll Get
So, as a sales leader, what should you and your teams do? AVOID advice from gurus?
Of course not. But you should proceed with caution when acting on outside advice, doing internal diagnostics to vet recommendations to ensure they fit your company, and then customize any recommendations you adopt, based on the nuances you and your team live daily. Most importantly, whatever you adopt must become a part of the big picture at your company… part of your sales process, your sales methodology, and fully-integrated into and supported by your systems. Pit a good performer against a bad system and the system will win almost every time. Your job as a leader is to create process, methodology, environment, tools and systems that enable greater success for your sales team.
Systems, Process, Methodology… Oh My!
Rather than paying attention to the glut of tips and out-of-context advice, I would strongly encourage you to do your own diagnosis and develop (or work with an expert to develop) your own custom approaches toward all aspects of selling effectively, for your business. This is why I encourage analyzing and studying your own top producers and selecting and prioritizing sales enablement initiatives wisely, based on your context and sales nuances. Then, continuing to add internal top-producer and effective sales practices over time, makes sense. It also could make sense to filter “other sales tips and advice” through a filter, only publishing those that support your proven internal practices.
And that, my friends, is advice worth heeding. Forget silver bullets; be wary of specific tactical sales advice from the outside. Instead, spend your time learning and using proven methods that will help you determine and hone what you should be doing, within an aligned sales system.
What’s your experience with this? Do you agree or disagree? I’d enjoy hearing your perspective, either way, and especially hearing about your challenges and successes. I’ll offer some related reading below and close with my best wish for your continued sales success and growth.