• Tips for Entrepreneurs

What Can Lack of Purpose Cost a Sales Force? Lisa Earle McLeod Explains

“Lack of purpose erodes employee morale and customer trust,” explains entrepreneur and sales expert Lisa Earle McLeod, our February 2014 Entrepreneur of the Month.

“When the customer becomes nothing more than a number to you, you become nothing more than a number to the customer—and your entire organization suffers,” adds the author of “Selling With Noble Purpose,” noting that the problem doesn’t stop there.

It has a ripple effect on salespeople, who:

  • Start thinking only about the short-term.
  • Fail to understand the customer’s environment.
  • Cannot connect the dots between their products and the customers’ goals.

Then the problem escalates, McLeod observes:

  • Customers view you as a commodity.
  • You have little or no collaboration with them.
  • Customers place undue emphasis on minor problems.
  • Customer “churn” increases.
  • Contracts are constantly in jeopardy over small dollar amounts.
  • Salespeople’s default response is to lower the price.
  • The rest of the organization perceives the sales force negatively.
  • There is little or no product innovation.
  • Sales force turnover increases.
  • Salespeople try to game the comp plan.
  • Top performers become mid-level performers.
  • Salespeople view their fellow salespeople as competitors.
  • Sales force morale declines.

What is the solution?

To combat those possibilities, McLeod encourages organizations to understand, embrace, and leverage their purpose because:

  • It works. The data clearly demonstrate that organizations with a noble purpose make more money.
  • It helps. This is the key to attracting and retaining higher-performing employees.
  • It matters. People want their lives and their work to count for something.

Scroll down for more information about how you can start “Selling With Noble Purpose,” from Lisa Earle McLeod.

Be Inkandescent: In your book, you talk about the dirty little secret of sales training. Explain that idea.

Lisa Earle McLeod: Most sales training is a waste of money. Companies spend millions teaching their salespeople how to better connect with customers, but then every single day, leaders only talk about sales targets. The internal conversation becomes the external conversation. If you treat your customers like a number, they’ll return the favor.

Be Inkandescent: The back of your book is filled with brass-tacks advice, which is incredibly useful. Can you give us some insights?

Lisa Earle McLeod: Most companies start their proposals with benefits, or worse, product features. We train our clients to start proposals with the client objectives, and then demonstrate how you’re going to help meet them. Not in a generic way, but in a very specific way at the front of the proposal or presentation. In terms of prep, the number one thing you should be thinking about—whether it’s 10 hours, 10 minutes, or 10 seconds before the sales call—is, “How will this customer be different as a result of doing business with us.”

Be Inkandescent: How can you use your noble sales purpose in negotiations?

Lisa Earle McLeod: Most negotiations start from the place of what you want. This is actually a terrible starting place, because it puts you and the other side on the defensive. A better starting place is what you want to accomplish. A sales person might be tempted to say, “I want to close this deal,” but again, that’s about you, not the customer. Instead, start with your noble sales purpose. With pricing issues, you can say, “If we cut the price, we are going to have to compromise safety, or potential reliability, and we’ve agreed that those are our primary goals.” A noble sales purpose doesn’t make pricing issues go away, it provides a framework for you to see pricing in the context of value.

Be Inkandescent: Once you embrace these ideas, how can you keep your noble sales purpose from being just a tagline?

Lisa Earle McLeod: It’s tempting to turn it into something that marketing talks about. But a noble sales purpose is supposed to be something that the sales force does.

For example, the noble sales purpose of one of our client is, “We bring health and hope into the lives of patients.” It would be easy just to put that on the sales collaterals and a signature line, and forget it. But then they’d be like every other company.

Instead, they ask themselves before each sales call, “How can we bring health and hope today into the lives of the patients at this practice?” They also ask the question in strategy meetings, or when facing important decisions, such as, “What will help us bring more health and hope into the lives of more patients?” A tagline is something you say; a noble sales purpose is something you do.

Learn more at www.lisaearlemcleod.com.

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