One of the most important departments, if not the most important, of every firm is the sales team. That said, sales personnel are often seen in a negative light. A survey from Happi.sg revealed that 64% of respondents believed that sales people are under “constant pressure to meet quarterly sales targets, leading to pushy behaviour and sometimes unethical decisions”.
According to the Singapore Sales Professional Association, of the approximate 700,000 PMEs in Singapore, one out of six, are in sales. This figure will likely grow as the competition intensifies amongst firms in the new digital age. To keep up the growth of the economy and dispel the adverse impressions of sales people, Singapore needs more sales warriors.
The sword, shield and target
Consider the image of a warrior in the Roman Empire. The most common kit of weaponry was the sword and the shield; The shield, being the defensive tool to ward off strikes yet (at times) be used as an offensive weapon to strike enemies that have become too close. The sword, the universally recognised offensive weapon designed to attack the target.
Bringing this back to the Singaporean context, this relates directly to how a local sales warrior should see their sales process, offense and defense. The shield is a person’s product and market knowledge, it protects the sales warrior from conversational strikes and allows for clarity on where to take the conversation and keeping it relevant.
The sword is the sales skill, experience and methodology allowing for the proper message to be expressed during a pitch. The target is the pitch itself (not the prospect) so that he or she can clearly and concisely express value and transfer that concept into the mind of the prospect for consideration.
The market is flooded with Shield-only sales
There are no fathomable means of predicting how or when deals will close, and product knowledge (your shield) alone will not do it at scale. Unless fortune telling is part of the sales job description, no matter how many times you “double confirm plus chop”, it’s not likely that a definitive sales outcome is 100% ‘predictable’ through simply stating what your product or service does for the world.
A professional salesperson may be able to influence the timing of a sale, but can never control that timing with absolution. Adversely, sales staff should understand the importance of empowering a prospective customer through connecting their business needs to your service (your sword). Yet what we find is an alarming trend of bombarding prospects with product specifics in order to excite them to convert as a customer.
The sword and shield together
To be a consummate sales warrior, first, compile a forecast of market trends based on supported data and offer it to the prospect for consideration if it helps bring a closer sales connection to their business needs. It is imperative, however, that the pitch mindfully deliver factual information for prospects to consider.
Second, be patient. It is all too easy for a prospect to become inundated with the onslaught of sales rhetoric, and falling quickly into an “analysis paralysis”. As new innovative solutions showcase themselves to the world, prospects are now beginning to play a waiting game for the winning sales story rather than being a realistic adopter.
Third, respect the clients’ intelligence. The modern-day prospect has evolved into a self-educated filter. In fact, companies today do more due diligence prior to making a decision than ever before. Online sources are ripe with industry trends combined with a daunting lists of justifiable praises and criticisms. Unfortunately, some sales representatives are still marketing exaggerated results they cannot possibly guarantee. Consumers still want to believe that ‘quick fixes’ are true.
Fourth, don’t cave to pressure. Unrealistic sales expectations can appear as early as the proposal stage. Prospects often ask for “guarantees” of success hoping it will amalgamate business. Most desperate sales professionals oblige, polluting the market with false forecasts. However we, sales warriors, must resist all temptation to participate in these charades.
Fifth, prioritise integrity. Discourage attempts to falsely persuade leads during sales pitches. Presenting any outcome as guaranteed should immediately be walked back to the realities of what the client can expect. Better yet, leave any expectation that doesn’t include access to flawless service and a consistent presence of communication out of the pitch all together.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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William Gilchrist, CEO and Founder of Konsyg, began his career within the corporate sector of Shanghai as a Media Relations Manager for Wai White Dragon, a publication for Shanghai's elite.
William then returned to the United States to work in school administration as Director of Admissions and College Planning at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago Illinois. He was hired to rebuild the admissions department by devising a plan to increase enrollment numbers amongst a unique demographic within the Chicago-land area.
After his time at Hales Franciscan, William decided to re-align his initial aspirations of Asia by working in Business Development in Singapore for TSL Marketing, a lead generation marketing firm. At TSL, WIlliam ran multiple lead generation campaigns in both English and Mandarin for top- tier tech firms throughout J-APAC.
He then moved to a position as Regional New Business Sales Manager for Google, Asia-Pacific. William has also founded and facilitated internal sales training courses for multiple departments. William transitioned to the APAC Knowledge Manager role where he focused on training and quality systems management for regional and global projects.
William then ventured outside of Google to build and direct the Outbound Sales Team for TradeGecko, a Singapore-based startup. At TradeGecko, William built and managed a team of highly skilled sales representatives in both Singapore and Philippines covering a global clientele.