Want to Succeed? Sell. Want to Sell? Relate.

My favorite partner at Accenture (my brother-in-law) likes to say that “delivery trumps all else.” He’s right, but “delivery” is only your ticket to play. People who do good work and also sell their work have far greater control over their success than those who just do the work.

In other words, the winner will usually be the one who can sell.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Three executive search firms were invited to pitch their services to run a CEO search for a large company. All of the invitations had come from company board members who had worked with one of the firms in the past. All of the firms had relevant experience, comparable pricing and similar systems. But only one firm ended up getting unanimous support from the search committee: the one that told relatable stories, asked the most questions and connected their pitch to what the search committee had said was important.

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The committee justified its decision with comments like:

They’re a good fit.
They understand us.
They will make it easy for us.
They seem well connected.
I like their process.

What that winning search firm understood was that people make decisions emotionally and later justify them logically. In his bestselling book To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink explains that we are emotional creatures motivated by connection and emotions.

So how do you evolve from being just a doer of good work to a seller of good work?

It begins with a process.

Good Process Creates Good Results

As head coach of the LSU and Alabama football teams over the past 16 years, Nick Saban has won three of the last nine national championships. It’s not that he looks for the latest and greatest offensive and defensive scheme. Instead, he works with his players and staff on “process focus.” He teaches them to stop actually thinking about winning and losing and instead focus on the daily activities that cause success. The more you focus on winning, the less you’re able to concentrate on what causes it. Good process produces good results.

A good sales process keeps you connecting with people instead of worrying about the scoreboard. Prospecting, networking and marketing are all elements of this process.

I remember meeting with the managing director of a successful global asset management firm. Sitting in his impressive office, I figured that his work involved only high-level strategy, client entertainment and deal making. That was until he showed me his week’s schedule on his desk calendar.

“See those hash marks on each day? That’s how many personal prospecting phone calls and emails I’ve made this week. I have a minimum commitment to report to my wife. I show her my hash marks to prove it. I don’t love making these calls, but I love connecting with people.”

That is process.

Can You Relate?

Establishing and building credibility with people is also part of the process.

Bob Moesta has developed product and marketing strategies that have generated billions of dollars in sales for some of the world’s biggest brands. His process is based on discovering and then responding in a unique way to people’s struggling moments. He thinks of it in terms of:

  1. What the person wants (struggle)
  2. When they want it (context)
  3. Why they want it (outcome)

Here’s an example of how this works. An event planner that I worked with recently interviewed corporate training leaders and learned that:

  1. What they want is to minimize the stress and effort involved with the logistics of centralized training programs.
  2. They want this when they are setting up and implementing all of the details of programs.
  3. They want it because these events are critical: they drive retention and engagement and are the primary reflections of the training department’s internal reputation.

Now when the event planner talks with corporate training leaders, he can share a relatable “struggling moments” story to build connection and identify opportunities. It might sound something like this:

We work with corporate training leaders who want to minimize the stress involved with the logistics of centralized employee trainings, especially the kind that occurs in the heat of planning and implementation. It’s important that these programs run smoothly, both because they drive retention and engagement and because the training department’s reputation is on the line. As a corporate training leader, is this something you can relate to as well?

Sales is about relationships. And relationships require us to relate…emotionally.

What process are you following to be a successful seller?



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