With Boris Johnson’s resignation, speculation is rife with what he will do next – whether it’s a return to the world of business, or even sales. But despite being a good salesperson, it seems most businesses wouldn’t hire him as part of their sales teams. John Cheney, CEO of Workbooks gives a view on good practice when it comes to ethical selling.
“If Boris Johnson were to re-enter the jobs market, could a career in sales be his calling? There can be no denying he knows how to sell. But would you hire him as a Sales Director at your business? A quick LinkedIn poll suggests probably not – at least amongst my connections, only 9% of whom answered yes.”
So as a business, what constitutes good practice when it comes to sales?
At its core, ethical selling is about both parties benefitting from the transaction: the business acquires a client and generates revenue, and the client purchases a product or service that creates value for them, too. This is especially true in a B2B sales environment where a transaction can take several months. A relationship is built over time, which needs to be underpinned by trust.
Of course, making the sale is important. But when sales professionals come under fire for being pushy or aggressive, it’s often because they have adopted a ‘sales by any means necessary’ approach in the hope of closing a deal faster.
It may seem obvious that this isn’t a good strategy in the long term. However, it can be tempting to seek out a quicker route to short-term success, rather than taking the time to understand how a product or service will create value. This is especially true in times of economic volatility, when the pressure is on salespeople to hit targets and sell to a market that isn’t in a mindset to buy.
Good practice involves:
- Understanding how the product creates value for clients.
Sales reps need to figure out early in the sales process if they can create enough value for the prospect to justify the purchase. If they can’t, the prospect will either figure it out before they buy, meaning the sales rep has just wasted valuable time. Or worse, the prospect will figure it out after they buy, meaning the business has lost what could have been a long-term client because they felt they were missold. Sales reps shouldn’t be put off asking questions to determine their product’s value for fear of qualifying out a lead early. If the product isn’t the right fit, this is the best possible outcome.
- Identifying what an ideal customer looks like – your ICP.
This is key to understanding the customers that are likely to get value from a product or service and ensuring they are the ones your salespeople know to target from the get-go. This again is all about making sure the sales process adopted by your sales team underpins value creation.
- Building your sales playbook with value creation at its core.
Businesses need to foster a sales culture that encourages discussion around value, not just hitting the numbers. Value then needs to be communicated clearly in the marketing and sales processes. To achieve this, sales professionals need access to the right resources and training – they need to understand the value of the service they are selling and they need a playbook that underpins this approach.
Cheney explains, “As a CRM software provider, a lot of the value that we create for our customers is in enabling their sales teams to be more successful and implement the right sales approach. From inputting the necessary customer data to ensure their experience is a smooth and personalised one, to providing insight to build your business’s ICP, and applying the automation technology to inform your sales playbook, the right CRM system is key. A business can also utilise CRM to ensure ethical selling is taking place, and to capture and understand feedback from customers.”
“In terms of our own sales strategy, we take a ‘shared success’ approach – this is all about helping our customers understand the value before they buy through a joint workshop. The process enables us to get under the skin of each prospect and understand their objectives. Based on the outcomes of the workshop, we can then tailor our CRM system to meet each business’s needs. The trick to ethical and successful selling is understanding and communicating how your product or service creates value for each lead. Closing a deal and closing a deal that adds value to your business are two separate things, and your sales professionals need to know your company understands and supports that.”