Barefoot Sales Process

In 1968 Nike invented the modern running shoe – Nike Cortez. One of the founders of Nike, Bill Bowerman, stuck a large lump of rubber under the heel of the shoe to, as he said, to stop the feet tiring and give them an edge. With the heel raised, he reasoned, gravity would push them forward ahead of the next man. Before this runners like famous Roger Bannister all ran with backs straight, knees bent and feet touching the ground right under their hips, using their toes as a balance. Their only shock absorption came from the compression of their legs and their thick pad of midfoot fat. Thumping down on their heels was not an option.

In addition to Bowerman’s experiments finding the new modern running shoe, he wrote articles and books about a new running style; and it was the ignition of the Jogging Wave .

The rest is history. Today Nike’s turnover is around $25 Billions. The running shoe industry alone revenues over $20 Billions yearly.

But is this industry one of the largest fake in modern times?

According to the book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall it may be. McDougall uncovers a frightening truth: since the introduction of the Cortez shoe the injuries from running have exploded. Leading experts agree it depends on the fact that the modern athletic shoes package the feet so much that they become too weak. The muscles in the feet prevents to be strong, the more they get packaged.

barefoot

And despite some thirty years, all multi-national brands of running shoe makers and their marketing suggestions, no manufacturer has ever invented a shoe that is any help at all in injury prevention. The more expensive, the more injuries.

Some years ago two Nike managers were watching one of the top athletics teams they were sponsoring. They were confused since the athletes seemed to prefer – to run barefoot. “Haven’t we sent enough shoes”, the Nike folks asked. The athletes told they could train a lot more without getting injuried when running barefoot.

If we translate this story to sales strategy and process, it hits me that it’s very near the same. We invest millions of dollars buildning support systems, analytical models, big data, strictly KPI:s to follow, expensive CRM-systems…but do we really solve the real problems? Are we really making more deals? Do we really land higher sales revenues? Do we really find the most profitable opportunities?

My conviction is that we package our sales organization so hard, like machines, that we lose our creativity. We don’t let our feet – sorry: our sales reps – look for the best opportunities, because we tie them up to follow our one-size-fits-all sales process, supported by strictly and detailed KPI:s. The result is that everybody are looking for the same type of deals – even if the market and competition changes very rapidly.

Why not going for a barefoot sales process?

Your reps are thinking people, experienced enough to radar where to search, using the best method, building the most fruitful relationships. You will definitely get a flexibility to meet changes, meet competition; it’s an agile sales process. What you need is a support for Catching Point. That means, it’s rather the beginning that is important, than the process itself. The focus task, with this perspective, for a creative sales rep is to recognize and catch needs, as clever as possible and based on his experience of the industry or as a business man. The only support they need at this point is a sort of easy-to-use app to register what the need is, to whom and when it’s time to take the next contact. Nothing more. When times comes, the rep heavily spend their time to detail the potential customer’s need and the solution to it, but not until then. It’s a Lean Sales Process – or what I call a Barefoot Sales Process.

And like in barefoot running; set your sales reps free and you would obtain a lot more creativity finding revenues and profits. Let them BE true sales reps, not prisoners in stiff shoes – or processes, KPI:s and organizations!

Checkout the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.

Good luck and Best Regards,

Stefan

The Sales Letter Comes Last in Sales

Many years ago I was about to replace our account manager for one of our large key clients. At the same time, the intention was to discuss a new need they had where we may be solving by using our new exciting (and expensive…) product. The former key account manager, a very experienced and wise business man – my mentor, was with me in the meeting.

After presentations, I started out talking about our solution and there was a fruitable and interesting dialogue. A couple of hours later the meeting session was ended and I felt I’ve got some really positive response from the client. I was hoping for a fast sales process.

My mentor told me I would loosing this deal because I talked too much. Keep your mouth shut, he said, and start listen. If you do, our client would have been sharing his fear, real need and pain. Now he didn’t tell anything about that. How can we solve anything if we don’t know what to solve? Then he told me a joke: What’s the similarity between a crocodile and a sales rep…?

crocodile

I’ve just came across a blog post by Nancy Bleeke: Mouth shut, Ears opened. Bleeke tells the same as my mentor did. If you just listen and observe nuances in tone, choice of words or body language, you will gain so much more. Bleeke states that people would talk if you let them. I thought I did, but I didn’t. And you’re so busy talking and putting focus on your own pitches, you haven’t got the state of observation of the tiny messages your client is sending out. It’s about communication, but while the sender is ON the reciever is in OFF mode or vice versa.

My mentor was right; I never got that deal. Lesson learned: The sales letter comes last in sales, not first. If It’s not broken, why fix it? But you need to check first if it’s broken. Then investigate the complete environment around the broken thing; pain, fear, urgency, opportunity and so on before you can go on building your case.

The process would be something like this:

  • Build the relationship
  • Learn what the real needs and desires are about
  • Create your solution for these needs and desires, based upon benefits
  • Identify objections to your solution
  • Gather proof your solution is the way forward
  • Develop your guarantee it will be

When this is ready, only then comes the sales letter. It’s not any adracadabra. It’s a structured behaviour that has been working in sales since start of mankind.

Connecting to my blog post Early Customer Buiyng Process in a Social World I pointed out this behaviour also would be working in the new digital social world. Building relationships on a global level have never been easier using LinkedIn, Twitter and similar tools and following groups and forums will give you information about real needs and pains. Providing solutions should be more like giving advices and experiences without having any expectations of getting anything back.

In a lively discussion you will gain a lot of objections. Use them and train your self meeting them. Learn how the objections may develop your own solution. Finally, try to get buzz from different sources and people in your network, that will get stronger proof and guarantee.

Following the recommended behaviour you sooner or later will discover the major part of your sales process would go on without sending any sales letter at all. By the way, it’s no use sending sales messages in such forums anyhow. But it’s worth waiting for.

Keep listening and observing and your deals will go smoothly into your arms.

Oh, was just about to forget to tell you the right answer of the joke; what’s the similarity between a crocodile and a sales rep? Both have a big mouth and no ears…

Best Regards,
Stefan

Checkout the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.