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Brown and Kirkwood Sales Training, Sales Consulting

AN INTERVIEW WITH OUR FOUNDER

Brown & Kirkwood Founder, Wanda Brown

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Q:You talk about maintaining client focus. What do you mean by that?
Q: What about creating a comfort level with the customer?
Q: But certainly there's more to it than that? How do you feel about setting the stage with a certain style, image, or body language?
Q: Then would you reject conformity altogether?
Q: I know that some of your clients refer to you as a sales tutor. What do they mean?
Q: How does this differ from field sales coaching?
Q: When you consult with managers, how does this work?
Q: How does marketing fit into your consulting work?
Q: What about the traditional roles of marketing: Positioning, Promoting, Packaging, Pricing?
Q: In one sentence, how would you describe your work?


QUESTION: You talk about maintaining client focus. What do you mean by that?

Wanda Brown: Albert Einstein said "I do not know what your fate will be, but this I know; that those of you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." This is the foundation on which our client focus philosophy is built: As people grow, we change from believing we are the center of the universe to an awareness that not only is this not true, but even the people around us are not the center of the universe. So we keep asking, "how can I help?" - understanding that by starting with this question, mutual needs are met.

You know your worst experiences as a buyer are with sales people who don't really care about you. They’re interested in making the sale. Your best experiences are with those who want to help you meet your needs - who are willing to say, “I think you might consider other options, too. May I make some recommendations?” Back to Top

Q: What about creating a comfort level with the customer?

WB: I think that most folks, with a normal amount of empathy and an ability to relate to people are able to establish rapport in a sales situation - to attain a feeling of professional comfort with the customer. The most helpful skill is to ask sincere questions which reveal, quickly and completely, what the customer wants. What's troubling them? We help people ask the right questions - not to mimic speech and affect.

If you do an earnest inquiry (and know how to listen, not interrogate) it’s easy to make a human connection. When customers believe you understand them they trust your recommendations are in their best interests. Back to Top

Q: How do you feel about setting the stage with a certain style, image, or body language?

WB: It is important to maintain a balance between your personal comfort and your client's unique personality and corporate culture. People choose to work in environments where they feel at home. One of our clients owns a commercial building company - a good choice for him; he's successful and happy. His sales people are designers and carpenters, who sell to developers. Another is a Silicon Valley computer security company. Their sales people are engineers, with large government and corporate accounts. Different career paths attract people with different styles. It is appropriate within the industry you choose, to be true to yourself. This is not an excuse for being unprofessional, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of everyone conforming. A lot of sales literature is written with the assumption that most sales people are middle class men wearing suits and ties, working for major corporations. This has not been our experience over the past 25 years. Actually, more Americans are employed by women-owned businesses than the Fortune 500 combined. Most sales people work in small organizations, and are doing very well. Back to Top

Q: Then would you reject conformity altogether?

WB: Each of us conforms, of course. One hopes to have chosen the most comfortable work environment in the first place. We consult with large, medium and small sales groups around the world, careful to choose client companies that are nimble - willing and able to make decisions and implement constructive change. This agility (indicated by intellectual curiosity and an efficient decision making process) is important in our selection of clients because we want to see timely improvement. Decisions are made too slowly in some organizations. Selecting the right environment is a big part of the style question. Back to Top

Q: I know that some of your clients refer to you as a sales tutor. What do they mean?

WB: Sales tutoring is when we go into someone's office, to work with an individual or a small group, and through a series of meetings, teach them how to sell most effectively. We work with what their product or service is, who their customers are and what each of them needs in terms of personalities, desires, fears, strengths and weaknesses. The process is structured, yet completely focused on these particular individuals. So, although there is a constellation of skills which needs to be learned and applied, it's not training in the classic sense of a script or "tactics" to memorize. Back to Top

Q: How does this differ from field sales coaching?

WB: Coaching follows tutoring or teaching. Once someone has a fair understanding of how to function in a sales conversation (after they have experienced some formal sales education) we observe and discuss what happened in a call to give "real-time" advice. (We also do a lot of coaching with sales managers and executives who are frustrated, or ineffective.

Clients appreciate an independent, objective third party to observe what occurs. For example, ahead of the sales call, we ask the sales person questions about what preparation has been done, what is anticipated, with whom will we meet and why, what is the objective or business purpose of the call. We silently observe the sales call and take notes as it progresses.

Debriefing after the call reviews what occurred, to “play it back” from our notes, to identify specific areas of strength and areas for improvement

Now you may think, "This ought to be the sales manager's job." And good managers do this with their people. Yet, there is real value in coaching by an independent party. Salespeople respond to this with great honesty and candor, and by making noticeable improvements in how they manage and succeed in subsequent sales calls.

It is also possible to do coaching with a group of sales people without observing the call. The sales people come in and describe from their notes what happened, what they know, where and why they think problems occurred and what they did well. Then together, we dentify how to improve in the future.

We are affiliated with ContinuousCoaching.com, a Canadian company providing software to help managers and sales people perpetuate the coaching and skill development process on their own.

Coaching is building bridges, giving feedback, objectively identifying what's going on, in the customer relationship and in the sales organization, and influencing positive change. Back to Top

Q: When you consult with managers, how does this work?

WB: Coaching managers is somewhat different because it involves helping the manager understand what sales people need and what motivates them. A common mistake is for managers to project their own needs onto their salespeople. For example, entrepreneurs often assume their employees are motivated by the same things which motivate them. That is usually not true. If it were the case, their employees wouldn't be working for them, they'd be out starting their own businesses. The needs for security, independence, money and other rewards are often different for the manager or business owner than for the sales person. We can act as a bridge between the sales group and the manager. Back to Top

Q: How does marketing fit into your consulting work?

WB: As sales consultants we are involved in a variety of things. We are teachers and team builders, and marketing analysts to a degree. But it is not our role to do market research or design a marketing plan. We happily affiliate with our marketing colleagues when these needs arise. We are very concerned, however, that all marketing efforts begin with questions: "How does this benefit our customer?" "Does this marketing approach make it easier for the sales person to solve our customer's problems?" If these questions are asked every day, you will make better marketing decisions. What makes a company unique is sometimes only the individual salesperson's ability to understand the needs of a particular customer. Back to Top

Q: What about the traditional roles of marketing: Positioning, Promoting, Packaging, Pricing?

WB: In my experience, an important element is often left off this list: Problem solving. It directs how all the other activities are done. When you sit down face-to-face with a customer to discuss their problems and possible solutions, what you learn is vital in deciding how your product is positioned, promoted, packaged and priced. The customer's problem is your marketing department's most important determining factor. What's most valuable in your marketing strategy is direct personal exploration with customers.

We like to think about companies being sales driven rather than marketing production, or operations driven. We help our clients understand that the reason to be in business is that you have an opportunity to present solutions. Everything else flows from that. Back to Top

Q: In one sentence, how would you describe your work?

WB: We help people and organizations manage the sales process and client relationship to maximize their opportunities to solve customer problems. Back to Top

 

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