POWER – It can be given without loss.
It has been said that there is power in choice. I believe this holds true whether you are giving choices or exercising them. The result will always be some form of shared and transferred power. One example of such power transferred through choice is when you need to convince a customer to buy your product. Such a situation requires that you to give them the power of choice. This is a lot easier said than done, because if we leave too much to choice we may not have what our customer chooses or wants. A very delicate balance is in order. That all seems reasonable enough, right? Great, Max, you have succeeded in stating the obvious — you can now share the limelight with Dr. Phil.
Here is my dilemma: What happens when you as the sales person do not have the power to give a reasonable amount of options to your potential customers? Whether it is price, product offering or support programs, I believe the customer must have choices. In a case where you are limited in what you are allowed to offer, you are not empowered. When you are not empowered, the customer loses their power and you lose your customer. Here is why. Everyone wants to believe they are dealing with THE person who can give them what they want and need. Think back to when you bought a car or other big ticket item. If you ever had to deal with the sales guy that developed a great rapport with you, listened to your needs and developed a solution that gave you what you needed and wanted, but when it came to a fair price he had to “get his manager’s approval.” Didn’t you feel like you were wasting your time?
This does not change in complex sales. Customer’s needs still remain the same. All customers have the need to feel they have choices and if they don’t get them from you they will find somewhere else to get them. Regardless of the relationship you’ve built, the support you give and extra effort you go through, you need to be able to offer the choices and you need to be THE guy you customer can get everything they need from. Of course our customers also need to know you are willing to solve problems (as addressed in one of my previous blogs).
If you are a sales manager reading this, I plead to you now. Please give your sales team the power they need to make your whole organization successful. When you create this environment of success (where choice is the number one sales tool) you will flourish in the rewards. If not, you simply have a team of purchase order takers and administrators. Don’t get me wrong — order entry and administration are the heart of an organization, but without pro-active sales people who have the power to offer choice the organization is limited to transactional business at the maximum bandwidth of the person who controls the choices.
Here are three steps to helping you determine if you are empowering your team:
1. Ask yourself (or better yet your team) if you are you a bottleneck. Are there sales and/or negotiations that are not taking place because you need to be a part of it? Are you aware of every detail of every opportunity? If so, could you be too aware? A microscope does not help a team as much as a pair of binoculars. If you spend too much time looking at what is going on you will never see what is coming.
2. Check to see if you create an environment that allows risk. Does your team feel they can stretch and/or make a mistake and know that you will have their back? If your team member does the wrong thing for the right reason, will you support them? Your team needs to know that you will always support them as long as they act in accordance with their conscience and the collective goals and strategy of the group. As long as they are doing what they believe is right to help your company win the kind of business you need, the team needs to know that you will support them. If this holds true, then the course corrections you need to make when something goes wrong won’t always be to reprimand a sales person for a mistake, but rather to correct the lack of empowerment and understanding of organizational goals that you have allowed that enabled the mistake to happen.
3. Where is the power? Are you a middle-man? Do you have to constantly (more than once or twice a week) check with your boss about budget, strategy or positioning? Do you even know what your cost is and profit goals are? You can’t transfer power you don’t have. This is a bigger problem than just acting as a buffer. A team that knows you are not the decision maker is just as demotivated as you are and this must be addressed. If you find yourself being bypassed by your team and your leadership is allowing this to happen, you may be in that tough spot of being a middle-man. This needs to be addressed head on and tactful conversations need to take place ASAP.
If you have taken the time to evaluate whether you have transferred your power to your team and created an environment that breeds success or not, you are half way there. Here is what I mean by that: The Hawthorne effect states that anything studied changes its behavior. So, by merely evaluating yourself to see if you empower your team, you will empower your team. If you already empower your time, stop here and share/comment how you do it and (if) why it works. If not, decide to change it and change it.
For tips on to make these changes and other organizational improvements check back next week. I will be writing about some of the key ideas from the Lean Six Sigma process improvement methodology and how those can be applied from a sales management perspective.