Is there a Secret to Being Successful in Sales? We Spoke with Bob Burg Co-Author of Go-Givers Sell More to Find Out.
Salespeople are always looking for new sales strategies to help make them successful. Unfortunately, there is no magical formula for sales success. We all know that the traditional sales process includes prospecting, qualifying, presenting, overcoming objections and closing. While those things are important, does a salesperson’s ability to close or build rapport translate into being great at sales?
What Makes a Great Salesperson Great at Sales?
According to Bob Burg and John David Mann, co-authors of Go-Givers Sell More, what makes a salesperson great is his or her sincere interested in the other person. They write:
Genuinely great salespeople are not great because they have mastered “the close,” or because they give a dazzling presentation, or because they could shoot holes in any customer objection from fifty paces. They are great because they create a vast and spreading sphere of goodwill wherever they go. They enrich, enhance, and add value to people’s lives. They make people happier.
I had the opportunity to interview Bob Burg to talk more about his books, providing value in the sales process and The Go-Giver sales methodology.
Gryphon Networks: Unlike most sales books that take a “traditional sales training approach,” your original books The Go-Giver and The Go-Giver Leader were written as parables taking a more philosophical approach to sales. Why did you decide to take that approach to write both books?
Bob Burg: Many years ago I had a book titled, Endless Referrals. It was a traditional how-to book and while it has sold very well (over 250,000 copies and in its 3rd edition) I also realized that short, business parables have a way of really connecting with a reader and would most likely result in a much larger readership, thus the ability to share the message with so many more people. So, I thought, wouldn’t it be terrific if we could take the main idea contained in Endless Referrals (that “all things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust”) and put that into parable form.
Of course, I’m a how-to author, not a fiction writer. So, I approached the amazing writer and successful entrepreneur, John David Mann, and asked him if he would co-author this parable with me and be the lead writer and story-teller. Fortunately, he agreed to. I’m deeply honored to get to work with him. The Go-Giver Leader was written as a result of so many readers of The Go-Giver writing to us and asking, “Okay, The Go-Giver was mainly for salespeople and entrepreneurs. How would today’s leaders utilize these principles?” We thought it was a great question and that some of Pindar’s (the main mentor in The Go-Giver) protégés would have something to say on that. It turns out they did.
Gryphon Networks: Could you share some insight from Go-Givers Sell More that you think every sales organization should follow? And what are the most common traps you’ve seen salespeople fall into during the sales process?
Bob Burg: The basic premise of The Go-Giver itself – and thus, its follow-up book, Go-Givers Sell More, which is really the application of the Laws contained in the parable – is that shifting your focus from getting to giving (and when we say “giving” in this context we mean constantly and consistently providing value to others) is not only a pleasant way to conduct business but the most financially profitable way, as well. After all – and I say this at practically every sales conference of which I speak – nobody is going to buy from you because you have a quota to meet. They’re not going to buy from you because you need the money. And they’re not even going to buy from you because you are a nice person who believes in your product or service. (Thinking that the sale is actually about your product or service remains a surprisingly common trap for salespeople.)
No. They’re going to buy from you only because they believe they’ll be better off by doing so than by not doing so. And, that’s the only reason they should buy from you. With this in mind, it’s imperative that as a sales professional you place your focus exactly where it should be; on discovering what they need, want, and desire. Focus on bringing value to them (as they see it as being of value), and the sale will follow. This is why John and I say that “money is an echo of value. It’s the thunder to value’s lightning.” The value (through focusing on them) comes first, and the money/fee/commission you receive is simply a natural and direct result of the value you’ve provided.
Gryphon Networks: In Go-Givers Sell More you say there are Five Laws to Stratospheric Success: the Law of Value, the Law of Compensation, the Law of Influence, the law of Authenticity and the Law of Receptivity, which law do you think is the most vital in the sales process? Which do you think is the hardest concept for salespeople to grasp and why?
Bob Burg: They all work together, hand-in-hand. If you remove any one of them, then it immediately decreases the potential effectiveness. Once you understand the Five Laws themselves, then all you’d need to do is go through and remove any one of them, and you’d quickly see how doing that diminishes your potential for success. However, if there is one Law that somewhat encompasses them all, it’s the Law of Influence. After all, by the very nature of the thing itself, if one cannot influence another (move that person to act in a way that is beneficial to all concerned) then nothing significant can ever be accomplished.
Regarding the hardest concept for salespeople to grasp, it’s the Law of Receptivity. And it’s easy to see why. The world around us is so often negative, and as human beings, we’re constantly fed the misinformation that money and prosperity are somehow itself something negative. That seeps its way into the subconscious and causes potentially very successful people to sabotage their financial success. One of the nicest compliments we often receive is when readers email us to say that after reading about The Law of Receptivity they’ve now given themselves permission to receive!
Gryphon Networks: You have worked with hundreds of sales leaders and organizations. What are the biggest challenges these leaders face today and how have they evolved?
Bob Burg: The biggest challenge is probably that they no longer go into sales presentations with significantly more product knowledge than their prospective customers or clients. In other words, they no longer hold the key to the information. Thus, they absolutely must find ways to bring insights and solutions to their prospect’s problems; often to problems, the prospect doesn’t even know he or she has.
Of course, for those sales professionals who are willing to do the work to discover how they can bring immense value to their prospects, they are now way ahead of their competitors. Remember, while technology will continue to expand its reach, as my great friend and author of the terrific new book, The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony Iannarino says, “There will always be a market for high trust, high caring, deep insight.”
Gryphon Networks: What are the behaviors of all successful salespeople?
Bob Burg: They are absolutely, positively, laser-focused on bringing value to the other person, and everything they do, every action they take, is with that in mind. Regarding measurement and tracking, this is, of course, a vital part of the process. What’s most important, however, is that the correct activities are the focus (as opposed to the outcome being the focus). So first, identify the activities that will lead to building relationships that will then lead to sales and referrals? That’s where the focus needs to be. When you are doing the activities both correctly and consistently, the results will happen.
Gryphon Networks: In The Go-Giver, the underlining principle is value. Is there a metric for value and how do you measure it?
Bob Burg: The first thing to understand is that value is different from price. Price is a dollar figure; a dollar amount. It’s finite. It is what it is. Value, on the other hand, is the relative worth or desirability of a thing to the end-user or beholder. In other words, what is it about this “thing”…this product, service, concept, idea, that brings with it so much worth – or value – that someone will willingly trade their money for it and be ecstatic that they did? Value is both about the intrinsic aspect of the product or service itself as well as the overall customer experience.
Value is both about the intrinsic aspect of the product or service itself as well as the overall customer experience. How does the customer or client feel as a result of doing business with you? Are they ecstatically happy?
Key point: Value is always in the eyes of the beholder! It’s not what we the salesperson thinks or feels is valuable about it, or what we feel they should think or feel is valuable about it. It’s what they think and feel is valuable about it. If you communicate that properly, then the sale will occur. The metric of value is whether they choose to buy from you. Or, even more accurately, how well you communicated that value. It might benefit them greatly, but if you haven’t communicated it correctly (based on your focus on them), they are not going to see that. This is why professional salespeople are so important. A professional salesperson provides time, attention, counsel, education, empathy, insight, and…most of all…value!
Gryphon Networks: In Go-Givers Sell More, you say that four-fifths of selling is creating value. What are some things a sales rep can do to provide value to a potential client?
Bob Burg: While there are probably hundreds of ways that a sales professional can communicate value, they tend to come down to five – what John David Mann and I call – “Elements of Value.” And they are Excellence; Consistency; Attention; Empathy; and Appreciation. To the degree that you can communicate one or more (hopefully all five) of these elements of value at every touchpoint with your prospective customer, that’s the degree to which you will separate and – as my colleague, Scott McKain says in his excellent book, Create Distinction – “distinguish” yourself from your competition.
Gryphon Networks: Besides the Go-Giver Series, what five books do you recommend that every sales professional should read?
Bob Burg: Limiting it to just five is extremely difficult for me because I’ve read hundreds of books on sales and have learned so much from so many of them. Choosing just five means, I’m going to leave a whole bunch of them out that deserve to be mentioned. With that in mind, let’s go with (in no particular order):
- Sales EQ by Jeb Blount
- The Lost Art of Closing by Anthony Iannarino
- Selling with Noble Purpose by Lisa Earle McLeod
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Secret of Selling Anything by Harry Browne
Remember in sales it’s not about you; it’s about them.