As a leader in a professional service firm, you’re all about business development. You know your market, you understand how your clients think, and you recognize how valuable your services are to them.
But you can’t be everywhere at once. You can’t be the driving force in every sale that gets made.
What you want is for your team members to drive. You want them to play a role in selling, because they are the ones in the field. They are interacting with your prospects and clients more than anyone else. They have the access, and the relationships, and the opportunities.
You know what your team could be doing, but it’s just not happening the way you want it to be.
Why is that? What’s going on?
I think one of the most universal answers to this question is that your team members didn’t join your team to sell, they joined it to deliver the service that your firm offers. They developed their skills and their passion around your service, they won their way onto their team, and now, in a way, they feel they’ve arrived. They can relax and just do the job that they’re excited about. No more selling — they had to sell themselves to get hired, and that was a difficult and painful experience. Now that they’re in, they are done with that stuff and want to just get down to work.
The thing is, most people typically don’t have selling on their minds. With the exception of entrepreneurs and sales professionals, people are focused on just doing the work they’ve been hired for. Despite the Zig Ziglars of this world preaching that “everyone’s in sales,” not everybody has heard this chestnut, nor wants to believe it.
So, there’s a big mindset problem here. Your folks aren’t selling because they’re not thinking about it. They haven’t thought about it most of their lives except when they’ve had to — when they had to land their next position.
As a leader who has been motivated to sell for most of your life, you might find yourself simply not understanding how your team members could operate like this. Don’t they have any ambition? Don’t they want to move forward?
This fundamental lack of understanding might create a problematic division between you and your team.
So, what is there to do about this? Can you reduce this division between yourself and your team? Can you change people’s mindsets? Can you put sales on their minds? Can you get them to actually sell?
I say yes, to all of these questions.
Yes, you can reduce the division between yourself and your team. Just recognize that your team members — the ones providing the service you hired them to provide — do indeed have ambition. They do want to move forward. It just might show up differently for them than it was for you. It might be quieter, more subtle. Sit down with your team members and ask them about their professional goals. What is their ultimate goal? And what’s their current goal? Allow them to be fuzzy, and see if you can help them sharpen it. The clearer they are on their goals, and the more you understand their goals, the closer together you will become.
Yes, you can change their mindsets. You can change how they think of sales. They think of it as hard work; outside of their normal way of being; putting themselves out there; taking a risk; reaching out; potentially being pushy; telling somebody to trust them and do something because they said they should. There are any number of problematic thoughts about what sales is. You can change their mindset so that they recognize that selling isn’t necessarily any of those things. Selling is helping. It’s providing the solutions that they provide in their service jobs, and it’s also talking about those solutions that they provide. It’s being a good consultant.
Yes, you can put sales on their minds. Now that you’ve changed their mindsets around what sales is, it will be much easier for you to put the act of sales on their minds. Talk with them about what a good sales scenario looks and sounds like when they are interacting with prospects and clients, and what specifically you want them to do inside of these scenarios. And be patient with them. What might be obvious to you will not be obvious to them.
Yes, you can actually get them to sell. Now that you know what their goals are, you can position selling as an activity that will help them get there. There is no goal that consultative sales skills can’t contribute to. Once they understand that, their natural motivation will kick in.
After you’ve gone through these steps, your business development team will be better situated to take advantage of the position they’re in, interacting with your clients, engaging with them on a regular basis, finding out how they can provide value, and being an active ambassador for your firm.
What do you think of this? Are you a leader who sees more challenges than I’ve laid out here? Are you a team member who experiences more than what I’ve described? Share your thoughts below. As I see it, there’s far more to the question business developers don’t sell to their potential, and I’ll be exploring it further in a webinar hosted by Cosential CEO Dan Cornish. Learn more here, and join us!