Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Bernadette McClelland @b_mcclelland
Bernadette is a Keynote Speaker, Sales Leadership Coach, and published author of ‘The Art of Commercial Conversations’. As CEO of Sales Leaders Global 3 Red Folders, headquartered out of Melbourne, Australia, she ensures her clients create double digit, sustainable sales growth and marketplace differentiation through unique science-backed sales performance and sales leadership tools and resources.
SmallBizLady: What do you believe to be the biggest disruptor for businesses moving forward?
Bernadette McClelland: The buzz words are AI – Artificial Intelligence however, I still believe we have many years ahead of us where Amplified Intelligence, my version of AI, is what will continue to make the difference. Wrapping these conversations around competencies such as mental readiness, intuition and critical thinking is something that will allow us to work in parallel with the technological advances of Artificial Intelligence
SmallBizLady: What do you believe business owners can do to improve sales performance and sales leadership?
Bernadette McClelland: If a business is not making revenue and profits together, then they are dying. It doesn’t matter if it is a solopreneur in the front room of their home, a CEO of a family business or a corporate sales director. We all need to be selling whether it be ideas, products or services so that we can reinvest back into the business, the community and our pockets. So why would investing in educating, training, sales tools, stories and experiments be something a business owner wouldn’t do? Unfortunately, many business owners see this as a cost to the business rather than an opportunity to grow the business.
SmallBizLady: What is the focus of your sales book The Art of Commercial Conversations?
Bernadette McClelland: The essence of the book is leadership. Ultimately selling is about leadership. It doesn’t matter how you want to dress it up, what acronyms you want to use, what methodologies you want to think is the best. Ultimately it is about alignment of three distinct levels of leadership – Personal Leadership, Thought Leadership and Sales Leadership – all leading to a commercial Conscious Leadership. It is about being of service to others in a way that helps them run their business or their lives better (in whichever way ‘better’ may looks sound or feel like to them).
SmallBizLady: The first conversation is titled CONVICTION can you elaborate on how that plays a role in sales?
Bernadette McClelland: The meaning of the world conviction has its deep seated roots around rules. The word conviction conjures up images of people being punished, imprisoned and exiled for breaking the rules of society. But today we need to start breaking some of our own old rules because the game of selling is being rewritten and what worked in the past won’t work today. It’s more than selling and loving what we do, it’s having the courage to be seen, to rebel, to take our turn, to change our rules, to step outside our fears and bring our real value to the table – and more people need to do that to stand out from the competition.
SmallBizLady: How does CONNECTION, and Mindfulness come into play with selling?
Bernadette McClelland: As sellers we have been taught that connection and rapport building is very important. And it is. Typically, it’s external though – connecting with others. After all, people like to buy from people who are like them and who like them. However, in today’s VUCA world – vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, we need to down time every once in a while to recharge, refocus and realign our energy and our activity so that we can operate from a place of mental readiness. More often than not that means connecting with ourselves. Mindfulness is the opportunity to center ourselves so we can stand grounded and confident and be totally present to our role and our buyer.
SmallBizLady: Today making CONTACT is becoming harder for salespeople to create cut through and you mention The Art of Social, is that purely social media based?
Bernadette McClelland: We think when we hear the word social that it is social media based. But social is more than just technology. It can be online and offline, high tech and high touch. Being social is a need we as humans have and when making contact with buyers today, we need to be seen and articulate our message combining all platforms including phone, text, direct mail, social engagement and face to face networking.
SmallBizLady: Is storytelling a skill that is natural in salespeople or needs to be worked on?
Bernadette McClelland: I think salespeople are beginning to realize the days of pulling out a brochure and honing in on their features and benefits are gone. Buyers today are so much more savvy and educated and we need to know how to inspire poeple, not just instruct or even influence them. To inspire is to breathe life into something and storytelling does that. It captivates. We learn through story and we are compelled by story and when you can spread your story to the world through messages that deliver value, you can’t help but inspire people to action.
SmallBizLady: Being consultative is key in selling , but you believe that tension is also involved . Why tension and what makes it an art?
Bernadette McClelland: There is good tension and bad tension and our role is to release bad tension and build good tension. That, in itself, is an art because it takes patience, care and precision. Selling is more than asking questions and providing insights. It’s creating a space to be personal, to be bold, to push the boundaries for all the right reasons and to create change in our client’s worlds and being curious and creating a framework to take our buyer on a journey of both emotion and logic is key.
SmallBizLady: You talk a lot about CONTEXT in your book. What makes this so important to someone trying to sell and close business?
Bernadette McClelland: Context is nothing more than a broad framework that allows people to put their own interpretation on what we are saying. It allows people to ‘get’ what you are talking about without you actually talking about anything specific. Its essence is interpretation, variation, listening for understanding and being prepared to get it wrong. That is why it is so important for salespeople to find out what is important to their buyer, to find out what something might mean to their buyer and never assuming. To do this is to elevate the conversation to a conceptual and contextual level and not lead just with content.
SmallBizLady: Signing the contract is key in sales, can you explain The Art of The Ask and why it stops salespeople in their tracks with this conversation?
Bernadette McClelland: One of the biggest questions sales trainers or coaches get asked is ‘how do I close better?’ The truth is everyone knows how to ask for the business. What stops them though are their beliefs around wanting to be liked combined with unhealthy beliefs around money. Then you factor in their beliefs around how a salesperson is perceived. It’s not about closing the deal. It’s about learning to say no and learning to say yes and understanding the magic in between.
SmallBizLady: The Art of Collaboration is becoming more prominent especially with high-dollar deals. how can people CONSPIRE to collaborate more effectively?
Bernadette McClelland: I used to be keep in touch with customers, but that was when life was simple. With more than six stakeholders involved in decision making today, with competitors working together and acquisitions happening, it can’t happen without collaboration, working together and joint ventures. In the connection economy we are now in, it is about acting in harmony toward a common end with a focus on growth.
SmallBizLady: You write about CONTRIBUTION – The Art of the Start why is it so pivotal for business success today?
Bernadette McClelland: In the words of T.S. Eliot ‘What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start’. Our ultimate outcome is to make change happen. It is to sell change. Not just to move a product and make our numbers, but something bigger. To move people – to make a difference. ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business’ said Henry Ford, and for those salespeople who have reached a level where they inspire and make change happen, the outcome and intention is always, by default, contribution – to help their customers growth by helping their customer base.
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