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You Cannot 'Wing' It

Oakstone International executive search: You cannot wing it

Blog By Simon Bennett

Would I have managed to produce the muffins in the picture above if I hadn't followed a recipe or really knew exactly what I was doing? I don't think so. I can imagine how they would have turned out if I had thought "I'll just wing it".

I've spent over 20 years in sales and have worked with many different types of sales people who all use and believe in various methodologies and approaches. I have found, however, that no matter which process is followed it is the attitude of the individual that is the main differentiator. The attitude of the more successful sales people I have seen really does differ from those that just manage to hit their numbers or fail completely. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to put themselves in pole position - to win the deal, to beat the competition, to smash their targets and hit the commission accelerators.

Yes, there are plenty of published and proven sales methodologies (Miller Heiman, Challenger, Spin, TAS (Target Account Selling) and so on) but I have seen so many alleged sales professionals that continue to wing it in sales situations. In most cases they have a good, but maybe not excellent, understanding of their solutions or products, and have some idea of who they are trying to sell to, but not enough preparation and research is done. Following one of the sales methodologies above will help in most cases, but they need to do more in order to succeed. The focus used to be on just sales numbers, but now there are so many other performance metrics in place - you need to be more organised.

How many new business sales people that are lucky enough to have new business appointments made for them do more research themselves? Do they even bother to check the company website, research the news sites for company updates or stories, or look up the contacts on LinkedIn or other social media to get some idea of the background, knowledge and experience of who they are due to meet? Information is now widely available and there is no excuse for not being informed and prepared. Things change, and plans can be interrupted or amended last minute, but I cannot think of one business situation where a sales person should be planning to wing it.

Technology has enabled us to do so much more, to have access to a vast array of information than we never had before, and to be informed about solutions, businesses and people so much more than just a few years ago. The older sales professionals among us will remember being given a Yellow Pages/Thomson Directory and a desk phone and told to get on with it, or if they were lucky they would be given a box of sales prospect cards from one of the data and list providers. It would have taken hours to do the research that now takes minutes, and it would take a series of calls to identify the decision makers - using charm and the right skills or questions to get past, or gather information from, the gatekeepers.

This process taught you how to engage with people in a variety of ways, how to uncover business challenges that you could potentially help them with, and to understand the process requirements that you needed to follow to get to the next step and more. Now it is so different - you are expected to know much of this information before engaging, and you need to use this research to get their attention. Even if you are an expert in your industry or solutions I'm sure there will be many things that you do not know about your prospects, customers, competitors and suppliers - you can not wing it any more.