Over 20 years I’ve coached hundreds of salespeople. Most could effectively deal prospects in their own peer level. But only a few could take it up to senior management and be treated as a valued equal. Here’s why.
Some of you will remember the old days when nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s they were the dominant player in the computer hardware industry.
And it was an open secret that their technology wasn’t as good as their main rivals, but they still trounced them. So what made the difference?
In my corporate sales career in IT selling software to big banks and airlines I observed different sales people had very different abilities to deal with people in different areas of the business. They were all excellent sales people, but some preferred dealing with technical people and users at that level, while others naturally gravitated and felt comfortable with the top brass.
IBM targeted the boardroom and the c-suite and hired salespeople who naturally fit into those circles. Their rivals did not, preferring to sell at more technical levels rather than take a top down strategic business approach that targeted at a board level.
But that meant IBM had to have sales people who could sell on that level. So how they recruit and train these people?
What I didn’t know then was that being comfortable dealing with very successful senior business leaders and being taken seriously as an equal was an innate personality characteristic now coined executive rapport.
You either have it or you don’t. Now this is not to insult anyone, but some salespeople instantly bonded with the common man while others naturally gravitated to dealing with people perceived to be high up in the pecking order.
And having coached and trained salespeople and teams in over 45 different industries I’ve seen this play out time and time again.
I give you a couple examples of our clients who are selling into factory shop floors. They had low executive rapport. The salespeople felt comfortable knocking at factory gates, meeting people at their level and even the shop foreman. They’d bond and they could secure a long term, loyal clients.
But when asked to move up the food chain targeting companies at a more corporate level where they needed to talk to senior management, they absolutely froze. No amount of training or role playing made any difference.
Conversely we’ve had examples where business owners were very comfortable dealing with senior management but unwittingly intimidated more junior staff.
So what was going on?
It comes down to a primal level of how we deal with people. We all use our intuition about people, scanning for threats or danger, whether they’re leaders or peers and act accordingly.
Some people are naturally confident. Others aren’t.
And no amount of training will change this. Nor interestingly enough will drive or determination.
I’ve seen people with tremendous drive and maturity still fail when dealing with the top. People will unconsciously impact us or not. And someone at the top will unconsciously take you seriously or not.
It’s not something that you can fake.
So summing up, as a leader of a business and a sales team, to be successful you must match the executive rapport level of your prospects and clients with the salespeople who naturally impact that level.
Which of course begs the question, if you’re looking for someone with high executive rapport, how do you find out in an interview scenario?
I would ask, as a consumer, what do you do when you have a major issue with a supplier? What steps do you take to resolve it? Especially if it’s a large corporation you’re dealing with?
Do they deal with the front line, get frustrated and go nowhere fast. Or once they figure nothing’s happening, quickly go right to the top and demand action?
Their answer will give you a good insight into their natural preference.
That’s it for now. Wrapping up we’ve written a book covering essential sales strategies including prospecting, how to handle sales conversations, managing sales teams, communication and handling objections.
It’s yours free with our compliments. Just shoot me an email and I’ll send it over.
And of course, if you find this video useful, please like, share and comment below.
Till next time, this is Rashid Kotwal.