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December 2017
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Do you have a selling system?

“I have my own style of selling.”

That is a remark I have heard a number of times, usually from relatively inexperienced salespeople. What they usually mean is something like this: “I don’t have any real system to what I do, I don’t want any scrutiny and I probably am not going to learn anything from you.”

How valid is this position? Does every salesperson have a unique style of selling? Are they just trying to hide from accountability under the cover of individual “style”? Or is there some other explanation?

More importantly, should your company allow every salesperson to have their own style, or should you have system for selling to which everyone adheres?

I will let you answer that question yourself in a moment. For now, let’s consider the concept of a “selling system.”

Can selling be systematic?

Almost any work can be systematic. “Systems” are how good work gets done. McDonald’s did not grow its business by hiring people and challenging them to figure out how to best do the job. Instead, McDonald’s works on the basis that there is a best way to take an order, greet a customer, fry potatoes and assemble a cheeseburger. Figure out the best way, get the necessary tools, document the most effective processes and train everyone in doing it that way. As a result, people
work the system – and the system works.

Because of the system, McDonald’s can make almost anyone, regardless of their capabilities, into productive, effective employees.

This truth — that good systems make people effective — operates in every area of work. Even highly skilled and educated professionals apply this concept. There are, for example, better ways to try a case, perform a surgery, fly an airliner and counsel a mentally disturbed patient. Talk to effective professionals in any of these areas and they will verify they use effective principles, processes and tools to complete these complex tasks. They use a system.

In fact, the more important and complex the task, the more likely that the effective principles and processes for successfully completing that task have been defined and codified. How would you feel if you buckled the seat belt on an airliner and listened as the captain announced that he has his own way of flying this plane?

This is not to say that there is not room for individual differences, for continuous process improvement, and for variations based on the specific intricacies of the situation. But those are more embellishments than structure — like the icing on a cake. Without the cake underneath, the icing is meaningless. The system provides the structure on which the individual can spread personal embellishments.

You probably apply this principle in every other aspect of your business. Don’t you have a system for almost every important process in your business? Don’t your accountants follow a well–defined set of principles and procedures? Aren’t your customer service reps expected to input an order in a certain way, and respond to a customer in a certain fashion? Don’t your purchasing people follow certain procedures, and aren’t they guided by certain principles and criteria to ensure that they make the best decisions? Don’t your warehouse employees ship, receive, stock and pick orders in a certain well-organized, duplicable fashion?

Why should sales be different?

It isn’t. There are principles, processes and tools that have been proven to be more effective than others in sales, just like in every other profession. It is like a football game. No coach says to his team, “OK, you guys go out and figure out how to be successful.” A successful coach develops the system, creates a game plan, and teaches his players that system and plan.

In a similar way, a selling system addresses the interaction between the salesperson and the customer, providing a “game plan” for success. Think of it as a template for the salesperson’s face-to-face tactical encounters. It is based on the principle that when it comes to selling a specific product or service to a certain type of customer, there are principles, processes and tools that are proven more effective than others.

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