“First, it is important to understand that the sale of services is not about convincing or influencing customers, it is about sincerity and helping customers feel like you both can and want to help them – truly. It is about authenticity,” Johan begins.
Relationships Are Critical
He believes that when a person feels like they are truly being helped, a sort of enthusiasm is created that is shared by both the seller and the buyer. This is where relationships are critical, especially when you’re selling services as opposed to products. Engagement is born out of the customer’s belief in and appreciation for the person selling the service.
“Private relationships and business relationships work much the same way and are built on the same core principles: mutual value, mutual trust, and dialogue. Just look at your own life; your friends and your partner probably didn’t choose you because you were the absolute perfect match for them in every way. You have chosen each other because you like each other and want the best for each other.”
What are the most important qualities to have for a leader who wants to build a sales-oriented organization and maintain a healthy work culture?
"Be kind but still demanding. Be a relationship builder and role model who can make demands of others in a caring and thoughtful way. Seek out authentic interactions with customers and try to understand them and their business as well as you can.”
How do you get employees in the organization to understand and support the company’s goals and vision?
“By involving employees when you are formulating the company’s vision, goals, and strategies. In doing so, you create collective engagement. Companies with strong cultures succeed when their employees create, live, and embody their culture.”
”BE KIND BUT STILL DEMANDING. BE A RELATIONSHIP BUILDER AND ROLE MODEL WHO CAN MAKE DEMANDS OF OTHERS IN A CARING AND THOUGHTFUL WAY."
Is it wise to bring in consultants to help build culture?
“It is often wise to bring in consultants, but they should not do the actual building. Consultants should only facilitate the process and make it easier. When it comes to building the culture, that is the company’s job. Putting together action plans isn’t hard, but following them is much harder. That step often requires assistance – ideally over a longer period of time. To use an analogy: it isn’t easy to improve an airplane when you are the one flying it.”
What are the most common challenges and pitfalls that companies run into when trying to build a sales-oriented organization? What should they do?
Some of the most common challenges include:
- Not involving the people who will actually carry out a company’s strategies and help achieve its goals and visions.
- Focusing more on results than on the activities leading to the results.
Johan explains that companies can overcome these challenges by being proactive, testing and evaluating different methods, and continuously evaluating the results. Companies can also more carefully segment and prioritize customers in order to hone in on the customers they create the most value for. Profitability per customer is an important metric.
How do companies adapt to market changes and evolving customer needs while still maintaining a stable work culture?
“An often effective strategy is to make the organization as decentralized as possible, where decisions are made and priorities are set as close to the customer as possible. Another very effective strategy is to involve the customers in business development.”
How important is it to establish clear and effective communication within a company?
“Extremely important. But the important thing is to have clear and effective communication internally as well as externally. The need for clear and effective communication almost never goes away, so companies have to set limits and be efficient.”
He says that when companies communicate decisions that have been made, it is more important than a lot of people think to explain what options there were, which ones were chosen, and why certain options were chosen instead of others.
“That way, companies show their thought process and reduce potential frustration arising from concerns over why certain decisions weren’t chosen. If possible, the process is only made better by involving employees in developing the options and evaluating each option.”
"IN TODAY'S CLIMATE, AN ORGANIZATION THAT DOES NOT LEARN TO USE THESE TOOLS RISKS BECOMING ABSOLETE VERY FAST."
How do you think technology and digitalization are impacting companies’ development?
“Technology, digitalization, and artificial intelligence are all powerful tools for sales-oriented organizations. In today’s climate, an organization that does not learn to use these tools risks becoming obsolete very fast. Companies should not be scared of AI; they should be scared of not being able to use AI. We just have to accept that, in the future, companies won’t be able to make it without AI and powerful support systems like CRMs.”
How can companies measure and determine if they are on the right track?
“Transparency and visualization are two main methods, followed by segmentation, differentiation, and positioning. It is also important to work with customer-specific sales processes and to have support systems that are directly connected to digital channels like experimentation platforms, sales support systems (CRMs), analysis and visualization tools (BI tools), and marketing automation software (MA).”
”EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE AND FEEL THAT THEY ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE, WHICH ALSO STRENGTHENS A PERSON'S SENSE OF FULFILLMENT.”
How do companies create an environment that fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement?
“It is important for employees to feel fulfilled by what they do. Failure should also be allowed – which applies to both yourself and others – because it opens up opportunities for creativity and to test limits. More specifically, psychological safety is vital.”
Johan explains that a structured and clear environment, in combination with clear mutual dependencies, creates a culture of productivity. Everyone needs to see and feel that they are making a difference, which also strengthens a person’s sense of fulfillment.
Lastly, what would you say is the most important thing to remember from all this?
“You reap what you sow. Sales is an advanced discipline and should be treated as an advanced discipline. Far too many people improvise. And results are not a matter of luck, they are a matter of structured, informed work – even if we’re talking about social psychology and soft processes like relationships.”
He says that sales is a team sport that requires the participation of everyone involved as well as a culture where everyone feels like they can accomplish anything as long as they really want it.
“Every company has the potential to create a sales-oriented organization with a positive work culture."
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- A service doesn’t exist – it occurs the same moment it is consumed. And you only know its value once it’s too late. Think of your dentist, hairdresser, lawyer, or any other service supplier. Those transactions are based on relationships and trust.
- Researchers, architects, and artists usually have the easiest time learning sales because they are passionate about helping others. You can tell when someone is passionate about something.
- The value of me as a person depends on who you ask – and that’s okay. You do not have to be everyone’s cup of tea. When you understand that and can segment and prioritize in a systematic, structured way, the sky is the limit.
- Always ask yourself the question: “What would I have done if I were the customer?” and test out different theories you come up with. Prepare as best you can by speaking with your own customer’s customer and potential suppliers in order to show your commitment and desire to understand them and help them achieve success. Ask open-ended questions and don’t be scared to ask the customer, “What do you think we should talk about?”
- And be the one to offer a helping hand. First. No one ever forgets a helping hand.
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about Managing Professional Services
Managing Professional Services (MAPS) is a specially-designed leadership training program for managers in knowledge-intensive service companies focused on advisory services and consulting. The program builds on the specific business logic of the knowledge-intensive services sector, helping you more effectively address the challenges and opportunities encountered.
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