The Alphabet Article Series – The ABCs of Solving Sales Problems – The 3 “O’s”

As a cradle Catholic, my faith is simply a part of my fabric. In fact, it’s so interwoven into my persona, that I like to think it positively impacts my decisions as a business owner and leader. To foster the continual journey that faith is for me, I read voraciously. Jim George, an American author of faith-based books I have read frequently, is quoted as saying, “It’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish.” There’s wisdom in that statement, no doubt, but as it pertains to sales, I would modify it to “It’s how you start AND how you finish that matters.” I believe a good beginning can have a positive influence on an even better ending.  

Enter the 3 O’s: Opener, Optimize, Originality  

Opener. One thing I learned “growing up in a call center industry is something we call the “11 seconds principle”. It’s a concept that basically states that when doing any kind of cold calling, once we get the prospect on the phone, we have approximately 11 seconds to earn more time. So, whatever you say in the first sentence or two better matter. Otherwise, you’ll never get a real chance to go into the value proposition of your pitch. And it’s why I made the suggested modification to Mr. George’s quotation. 

Let me simplify it a bit. When we go to work for a client, we have to know them intimately. We have to understand their history, their current offerings, we have to become a seamless extension of their team. But one of the things we tell our clients is that the most important person in the room is not them (and sometimes they are shocked by this), even though they mean a great deal to us. The most important person we need to consider is their PROSPECT. We need to be able to answer the “so what?” question very quickly, so we don’t have a choice but to place a major emphasis on how we open. It’s quite literally the only chance we have to extend the conversation to a point where any pitch becomes possible. 

The other thing that I believe is important about your opener is you are given a chance to set a great first impression. Your team needs to understand if they educate and inform their prospects right in the beginning, with information that matters to THEM, the first impression that your prospects get is that you truly CARE about them and the problem for which they are trying to solve. Nothing will get you a second chance more quickly than having them feeling like you are sincerely concerned about them throughout this process and that this isn’t just a sale. 

Optimize. This “O” can be nebulous if we don’t dial it in. So there are three things I would like to focus on for your sales team, communication, follow-up, and process.  

Let’s talk about communication. As a company grows, so does it’s organization chart. And while it may be helpful to articulate who reports to who and in what capacity, it’s only as good as it is applied in day-to-day communication. Take a close look at your current forms of communicating with your team. Is there a legitimate hierarchy in place and does it serve a real purpose? Or, is it more willy-nilly and people just go in whatever direction they feel best? While I am a firm believer in “open doors” and accessibility, most because it’s always best to go to the source, I also believe that more your team and your company grow, the more important it is that you have clear lines of communication that are established with purpose. 

Follow-up. This has two facets, one with your prospect population and one with your team. Both are mission critical. I would argue that proper follow-up (or really lack there of) plagues many organizations big and small. The business day gets busy, there are fires to put out or new opportunities to chase, and follow-up flails around like a freshly-caught amberjack on the deck of a charter boat. Take a critical look at your internal and external follow-up and make sure it’s buttoned up. In this chaotic environment we call business, doing what you say you will do really stands out. 

Lastly, process. This is something that is not likely going to be much fun AND your sales team may groan a little as your review it. But I would say that, just like with follow-up, it is often overlooked and it presents real opportunity costs for your organization and your team. In many cases, a part of process is communication, making sure everyone is clear on the what, how and why. But it is also part discipline, which means it needs to be practiced, monitored, adjusted and enforced. 

Originality. Finally, we get to have a little funWhile I often stress the importance of data, discipline, process and components that are quantifiable, I try to never lose sight of the fact that we are all just human. As such, I would encourage you to think about your team and the personality traits they may have that are potential assets to the company, to the team, and to them developing meaningful rapport with your prospects and clients. I’ll use a simple call center example to illustrate. We use the term “conversation guide” internally when we are developing a mission for a client. Most outsiders use the word “script”. The reason we choose our vernacular is that we WANT the agents to insert their personality and make it a conversation. No one likes to read to or talked at – we aren’t wired that way as people. Something as simply allowing some room for personal judgement and flexibility in a real-life conversation can make all the difference in the experience on the other end of the line. 

Think about that with your team, your sales approach, and your dialogues internally and out in the marketplace. People LIKE dealing with people. And, they also LIKE being themselves. So, for the sake of both your team and your prospects, I’d encourage you to look to what extent you can leverage the originality of your team. 

Put people first, use the 3 “O’s” as they can benefit you best, and know that I am here to help or just chat, should you ever want to discuss what’s best for your team. Please share this with your colleagues, family, and friends.

To raising all ships! 

P.S. Be sure to join us next week when we talk about the 3 P’s – Positioning, Power Words, Promotions