Regardless of where you sit around the table, your “function” may involve more than what you think you were hired to do. All of us struggle to define our value to ourselves, our companies and our customers. And if you are finding yourself worrying the least bit about retaining your customers, then you are engaged in business development and sales. Yes, that’s right. Even if you are an engineer, IT professional or technical staff member.
Ah. Sales. Business development. What “loaded” words carrying such responsibility! Well, they should be. These words, and the actions we devote towards them, fund our jobs and our careers. How else to you think those invoices get paid?
When did you learn to develop business? When did you learn to sell?
Because, when you think about it, you’ve been “developing” and “selling” yourself for years. How else did you get into college or technical training school? That letter of acceptance didn’t just arrive in the mail on its own. You “heard” (aka, “prospected”) about an institution or training facility, you researched that facility (e.g., performed business intelligence research), you took the entrance exams and “applied” (aka, you marketed your credentials) and you were accepted (e.g., you “closed” the deal or consummated the sale). So you developed yourself. That institution or technical school “invested” in you. And they expected a return on their investment. And you graduated and you delivered.
What makes you think that the business development and sales process within your company isn’t simply an extension of this scenario?
It’s not some mystical club that only the sales guys and gals or the technical guys and gals can join. No secret handshakes. Developing business should be an extension of who you are and what you offer to the marketplace.
And once again, you need to do your homework and determine what that marketplace may be. The marketplace involves being comfortable walking the walk and talking the talk with individuals who are just like you and, then again, NOT just like you.
If you have a compelling story to tell, who wouldn’t want to hear what you have to say? Because a compelling story has meaning and significance to the listener.
So where in your technical or sales training did you lose the ability to tell a compelling story that “speaks” to your targeted constituents and decision makers? Where in your technical or sales training did you become dependent on techno-spiel or sales jargon? Nobody likes to listen to gobbly-gook. However, everyone enjoys a well-told story that speaks to them, their needs, their mindset and their context.
You know, there’s an anthropology to business development and the sales cycle that can be fascinating, engaging and a complete learning exercise for everyone involved.
Establishing context of the decision, and the historical and cultural factors influencing decision making, makes all the difference in the world in terms of getting your point across and “connecting.” That’s all it takes. The time to research and establish the context for your discussion. And tell your story in plain language.
And I don’t feel the sales guys and gals have a leg up on this one. Engineers, IT professionals and technical staff pay so much attention to details that you should be all over this approach.
But you aren’t. And business development is perceived as being right up there with root canal.
We simply make this discussion with our customers and prospects far more complicated than it needs to be. They want a story they can relate to and we give them some overblown features and benefits presentation. They want a message that underscores we “understand” their context and we provide facts and figures and far too many details.
We have lost the ability to be succinct and simple and to the point – with anyone regardless of their training or mindset. Even though these folks are the guys and gals who Own the companies we are prospecting or currently working with.
It’s just a story. Well told. To an engaged and empathetic ear. Think about it.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013-2016. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.