When it comes to selling, if the process you want to follow isn’t clear, your team simply can’t achieve consistent, reproducible results. It’s no use pushing people harder for results if the process isn’t clear and useable.
I had that very experience when I was a Sales Leader, I felt unclear about the sales process and so did my team, so results were sporadic. I see it now, of course, but I couldn’t at the time!
That’s why I developed my own Sales System, one that’s simple enough to recall instinctively yet comprehensive enough to be of use to all sales professionals, regardless of their experience. It’s called the INSPIRe Secret Sales System.
The INSPIRe Secret Sales System
During my many years as a salesperson, key account manager and sales manager, I received training on countless different sales processes and programs. Some of the content was excellent, and I gained useful insights that helped shape my career. One of the challenges I had early in my sales career was managing the process of selling consistently – and I noticed many people in my sales team struggling with this as well when I started as a sales manager. It could be confusing trying to remember what should happen in what order, alongside managing a portfolio, keeping the clients engaged, handling issues and working in sometimes stressful situations.
As W Edwards Deming stated, ‘A system must have an aim. Without an aim, there is no system.’
The system is important, as it helps with reproducibility and consistency. The aim is just as vital. Understanding both gives us the results we’re looking for. I never attended a programme that conveyed a clear, simple process that also incorporated depth, knowledge and experience. There was always a level of complexity that made the process difficult to adopt. On a number of training workshops, in a number of contexts, I repeatedly heard the acronym KISS (keep it simple stupid) but never felt that it was delivered in any of the sales training models I’d been taught. I was always left wanting. As a leader, the quote above from W Edwards Deming often played on my mind.
Developing a model
Shortly after I started working as a key account manager and began developing my skills as a people leader, I discovered coaching. In coaching, the GROW model is well recognised. GROW is a simple mnemonic (memory device) that provides the coach with a process that will allow them to be consistent in their approach and effectively deliver the result that both the coach and their client desire.
This model is used the world over and is recognised as the framework that underpins many coaches’ work with clients. I started to use the model with my team, family and friends and found it remarkable. It works every time. Here’s a summary of the GROW model:
G Goal (What is the client’s goal?)
R Reality (What is the client’s current reality?)
O Options (What options does the client have?)
W Will (What will the client commit to do now?)
This model is so well used that it has been expanded and adapted by various coaching organisations. A recent enhancement is To GROWME, which broadens the scope of the coaching session:
Topic – The priority topic of the session?
Goal – What is the client’s goal?
Reality – What is the client’s current reality?
Options – What options does the client have?
Will – What will the client commit to do now?
Monitor – What will the client do to stay on track?
Evaluate – How will the client know they’ve been successful?
I have successfully used the GROW and To GROWME coaching models (as have thousands of other coaches and leaders) because they are simple and effective.
When I started using these models, I wondered, ‘Why isn’t there a similar simple and effective model for selling?’ I searched through my previous sales training manuals, had discussions with colleagues and explored the internet but couldn’t find a model that I believed would truly deliver what salespeople (and sales leaders) needed, regardless of market or role. So, I developed my own.
The INSPIRe Secret Sales System is the result of over 20 years of experience in sales, sales leadership, business management, coaching and training. It is trusted by many sales teams and sales managers, and it will help you strengthen the important relationships in your life.
You may be wondering why the Secret Sales System is ‘secret’. There are two reasons. The first is that the system is unique. In all the years I served as a sales and business leader, I never found a system that delivered what the INSPIRe Secret Sales System does: the psychology, the skills and the process. The second reason is that, since its inception, the Secret Sales System has been known only to a select few high-performing sales teams who work with me and my team. When selecting clients for training and coaching on the system, we ring-fence customers in key segments, so that they get access to a true competitive advantage. The system has become a valued secret among those key clients.
Now, I am sharing the secret to help countless teams and leaders dramatically improve their sales performance. This is a fundamental part of my mission: to transform leadership, inspire teams and create legacies in organisations and communities around the world. I’m delighted to let you in on the secret.
When we inspire someone, we infuse into their mind. We connect and communicate with them deeply, enabling us to influence and engage them in a way that is incredibly valuable. As you review the INSPIRe Secret Sales System, I encourage you to keep this representation of the system ever present in your mind. The acronym INSPIRe is a mnemonic:
I Insight and Impact
N Needs Discovery
S Solution Discussion
P Proposal Agreement
I Immediate Action
The acronym will help you remember, on an unconscious level, the ‘right’ process when it comes to selling. It’s critical to get the process right – you must perform the right tasks in the right order. I like to use the analogy of flat-pack furniture. You can wing it, but if you don’t follow the step-by-step instructions, you inevitably end up with something in the wrong place or the wrong way around or with pieces left over. Sales is exactly like that. If you don’t follow a process, you’re likely to miss something important that your client needs to make a decision.
Sales Mastery: Roles in your client’s organisation
If you’re selling to organisations, no matter how large or small, it’s important to identify the roles of people working within these organisations. When I use the term ‘role’, I’m referring to the part they play in the sales and/or decision- making process.
Not everyone has the same power, influence or ability when it comes to making decisions. You need to understand ‘who’s who’ so that you can invest the right amount of time with the right people – something all successful salespeople learn to do, either consciously or unconsciously. Of course, you’ll use your rapport skills to engage and manage your relationships with all the people working within the organisation, but there are additional things to consider when dealing with certain roles.
Gatekeepers are people in the organisation who work to ensure time isn’t wasted. Specifically, they’re in place to prevent people, especially salespeople, from getting to their boss – your client.
It’s important to build relationships with gatekeepers. You want them to like you and to want to get you in front of the client. Here are a few tips on how to engage them:
• Learn a little about them and personalise the conversation accordingly, eg, ‘How’s your tennis coming along?’
• Find out something about them you like and genuinely flatter them, eg, ‘I thought it was really considerate of you to do that for your colleague.’
• Consider how your product or service would benefit them and tailor your impact statement to them (we’ll look at impact statements shortly).
• Use your rapport skills
Influencers are people in the organisation who will use your product or service and have an opinion about it – an opinion that matters. They will usually be well established in the organisation (a member of the senior team or progressing in that direction). They will be able to influence decisions regarding your product or service.
Influencers can help you throughout your sales process, so treat them as you would treat the decision maker (aka your client). They need to be understood and have their needs met. You may want to invite them to be part of the client meeting. This can be flattering to the influencer and help you get them on board more quickly. If they aren’t involved directly in your client meeting, it’s worth investing the time to keep them informed of progress and ensure they feel good about your proposals so that they’ll support your sales process in the background.
Decision makers will ultimately decide which product or service their organisation signs up for. They can secure your business. They are usually the most senior person in the organisation, or a partner, and have the final say in what goes and what doesn’t. This is the key role. Every time you sell, you must understand the decision maker’s needs and convince them that your product or service is the best option to meet those needs.
Decision makers are your client, so you’ll use the INSPIRe Secret Sales System when dealing with the them.
Champions are influencers who absolutely love your product or service – and you! They may also be a decision maker. Champions will rave about your product or service to anyone who will listen. They are likely to have overcome a significant issue with your product or service and/or to have a positive relationship with you or your organisation. They are one of your biggest assets in sales. The more champions you can create (and harness), the faster your business will grow.
Your champion is likely to be someone you are already managing well, but here are a few useful tips you may not have considered:
• Ask them about their personal interests to deepen your relationship.
• Ask them about their career aspirations and goals.
• Ask about who they know in other organisations or within their network, and if they could introduce you.
• Ask for their permission to use their name as a reference.
• Ask if there is anyone they would like to get to know.
• Consider the opportunity for them to champion your product outside of their organisation.
• Discuss opportunities for them to speak on your behalf (as an expert on a relevant topic for your business), or to become a leader in their field.
• Introduce them to your line manager – show them how important they are to you.
• Talk to your manager (or marketing department) about how your organisation might be able to work more collaboratively with them.
• Create some time to get to know them outside of their working environment, perhaps over coffee or lunch.
If you’re selling to organisations, no matter how large or small, it’s important to identify the roles of people working within these organisations. When I use the term ‘role’, I’m referring to the part they play in the decision-making process.
If you’re able to harness your champions, they’ll be able to help you broaden your reach and speed up your sales process with new clients, as you’ll already have credibility from a referral.
Budget holders are in charge of the finances. They’ll know whether your client can afford your product (if they’re not also the decision maker), and they’ll know if your client has contracts in place or stock to use or other options your client may not have considered. Ultimately, they’ll do what the decision maker decides, but they can slow down the process and even create barriers if they aren’t supportive of your product or service.
If your budget holder is a decision maker, manage them using the INSPIRe Secret Sales System. If not, you’ll need to consider these things:
• Are they a user of the product?
If they are, manage them as you would the influencer.
If they aren’t, ask how involved they are with the product or service (you don’t want to sell to them if they’re not interested).
• Give them the headlines of why your client has chosen the product or service:
‘[The client] has [xx] need.’
‘Our [product or service] will meet the need better than any other available.’
‘[The client] has decided that [product or service] will be introduced from [date] into [departments], and we have agreed on a cost of [xx].’
• Check that they are supportive and will process the order in the way agreed with your client.
• Thank them for helping to make the improvement your product or service will deliver.
Remember to confirm with your client that you have met with the budget holder and that everything is progressing as agreed.
As the term suggests, disruptors are those people in your client’s organisation who will try to get in the way of your success. They don’t want you to win the business. There may be any number of reasons for this: loyalty to a competitor, fear of change, a previous issue with your organisation, maybe they dislike you! Whatever the reason, you need to be aware of them and their intent and be clear on how you’ll manage them.
It’s important to be respectful of every member of your client’s organisation. The disruptor is no exception. Here are some pointers for managing them:
• Be calm, considerate and interested in their position.
• Don’t give them any reason to justify their cause/ issue/position.
- Understand their rationale, perspective or argument.
• Don’t agree with them – empathise and seek to understand.
• Consider how they fit in the organisation’s hierarchy – find out who they look up to.
• If possible, engage and manage the person who is senior to them (this will influence the disruptor).
In the worst-case scenario, if they just won’t change their mind:
• Consider how you can get them to a neutral position.
• Agree to disagree, but appreciate their points.
• Minimise their influence or impact (through more senior relationships).
• Be clear on their objection and how it could be overcome/handled, even if they can’t be persuaded.
Some people simply will not see another point of view. Don’t be overly concerned. Manage them as best you can and move on.
I’ve purposely left this role until last. Time sinks may have some influence in your client’s organisation, but they’ll be a real drain on your time. They will generally be people
who have been with the organisation for a long time and are stuck in the same position – they may be bored, less productive and unambitious. They won’t necessarily know they’re wasting your time and are often quite pleasant people, but ultimately, they won’t help you to be successful, now or in the future.
It bears repeating: be respectful of everyone in your client’s organisation. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will also make you feel better about yourself and it will be noticed by your client and their team. Plus, you never know how much influence someone has and where or when you might meet them again, so always be kind!
There are a number of techniques you can deploy for managing time wasters:
• Engage with them only as part of a scheduled slot of time and say something along these lines: ‘Hi, it’s good to see you. I’m on my way to meet with Bill, but I have a couple of minutes. What’s up?’
• In advance, think of a legitimate reason to leave your discussion.
• Show just the right amount of interest (but don’t be too keen or you’ll get yourself stuck).
• Ask questions that get to the point and keep them on track.
• If they get distracted, steer them back on topic. • Consider asking closed questions to keep the conversation short.
- Know when to leave, be firm and make your exit.
You must be able to identify and manage time sinks appropriately, otherwise they’ll slow you down, leave you feeling drained or frustrated, and prevent you from growing your business at the optimal rate. Before we move on, reflect on this chapter and write down your thoughts in your journal or notebook.
Get comfortable with a process
Many salespeople who don’t follow a process justify this decision by saying they’ll come across as sounding scripted. This is just a poor excuse, or a cover-up. It’s true that when you first start following the process you may have to concentrate on it – but that’s why we use a mnemonic. The acronym makes it easy to remember the order and flow. Once you’ve practised it and it becomes engrained, you won’t have to consciously think about it. You will flow through the process. And once you have it committed to your unconscious memory, you will naturally better understand and meet your clients’ needs. And you will win more business.
As you can see from the diagram below, the process is designed to be ongoing and continuous. It will help you establish a methodology that you can use in all your interactions with people, whether it’s a dynamic sales call or as part of building a long-term relationship with a client.
You may also have noticed that the process flows in both directions. INSPIRe is a fluid system, and each stage must be completed before the next can be successfully progressed through. If you get stuck or your client is resisting, orient yourself to this system and return to the stage that’s necessary to get you and your client back on track. You will find answers simply by letting the system guide you.
Once the process is imprinted in your mind, whether you use the acronym or the flow chart or a combination of the two, you will be able to relax and be yourself in your sales interactions with your clients.