One reason to love criticism is that it means someone disagrees with you. If everyone loves what you do and how you do it, you have something wrong. An idea will never gain traction unless someone opposes it, even if you know it is true and reliable. Publishing articles each day and a book every year, I want to help readers that need information and value creation strategies.
In San Francisco, the host of an event pulled me aside to tell me that one person told him everything I said on the stage was exactly wrong. I told the host that I would have expected many more in the audience to oppose my view of B2B sales, which is progressive, despite the sales environment being too transactional for buyers.
The only feedback I receive on my second book, The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, is that the people who use the nonlinear approach to the sales conversation make more money after practicing the commitment-gaining approach detailed in the book. Several people believe the linear sales process is better than adapting to the prospective client’s needs.
In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, I describe what I call a 52 percent subject matter expert (SME). My experience is that you must create value in the sales conversation, even at the risk of preventing a second meeting. Some sales leaders disagreed with my recommendation because they wanted their sales force to begin the sales conversation and bring a SME only once the client was fully qualified. Unfortunately, this didn’t generate value in a first meeting, so another meeting is unlikely.
In Eat Their Lunch, you will also find a section on capturing your client’s mindshare by using an executive briefing designed to educate decision makers. The executive briefing should cover four trends or forces that will harm the client’s results and make it difficult for them to produce the outcomes they need. Many sales reps and a fair number of sales managers and leaders are horrified by the prospect of teaching a decision maker the context of the decision they will need to make.
You can reach back into ancient history and find powerful people who know the limitations of their knowledge and experience for counsel and advice. Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Winston Churchill, Harry Hopkins, and dozens of others. Most sales leaders want their teams to be consultative. Salespeople want to be trusted advisors, but they worry about providing the advice necessary to do so.
In Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, the major concept is being One-Up. I introduced this idea at the Outbound Conference in 2021. The keynote was just shy of 90 minutes. It was warmly received by the audience, but sometime later a number of people in the sales improvement industry suggested the concept was arrogant, without ever reading the book. The book has a score of 4.7 out of 5 with 136 reviews. A full 6 percent of reviewers gave it 1, 2, or 3. If you read this book, I’d be grateful for a review.
Criticism is often helpful. When a person suggests they don’t understand a strategy or some part of my proprietary methodologies, it means I need to find a better way to make it clear to the people who will use them. It’s also helpful when a person tries something new and fails. When a reader has a question about the execution and the challenge I describe, it provides me the opportunity to improve my explanation and the execution of strategy or some tactic.
I am on the wrong side of the efficiency and effectiveness argument. We’ve tried efficiency for more than a decade, only to see about every KPI and metric collapse, apart from prospecting activity. Everything I write and publish helps with sales effectiveness.
Lately, most of the criticism of my work has been around the modern sales approach. A lot of reasons might cause a person to challenge my view and approach to B2B sales, but most of the criticism is that the legacy approach still works and always will. As the environment continues to evolve at faster and faster rates, things change.
One reason some people criticize this approach is because they are tied to the legacy approach. Some are fearful that any change will harm their results. Others suggest that they have a sales approach they have used for decades and have no interest in changing. Many complain that their clients and prospects treat them like a commodity and fail to see the value of buying from their sales force. I recommend they explore an approach that would not only create value for the client, but would also differentiate the salesperson and their approach. This would create a preference to buy from their sales teams, but many salespeople and sales managers choose not to pursue this approach if it means making any meaningful change to how they sell.
Parity is a problem for sales organizations. When everyone has a competent company and effective solutions, fit might be important enough for a task force in determining their preference for one solution over others. It is more likely that the salespeople who distinguish themselves by being the most insightful and helpful win.
The reason so much of my interest and content focus on the salesperson and the sales conversation is because these are the two variables determining the outcome of a contest with only one winner. In the future, if you play the game, you will need to create value and present yourself as an expert and an authority. This future is here, and there is nothing you gain by waiting to start making the changes many others have already made.