Wikipedia Definition of “Selling”: “A systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, by which a salesman relates his or her offering of a product or service in return enabling the buyer to achieve their goal in an economic way.” Helping the buyer achieve their goals is what great sales people do, instinctively, and The Five Abilities™ is the methodology they execute by habit.
Companies don’t make buying decisions, people do. When people consider whether or not to bet on you, your company and your offering, their assessment centers on five needs. Addressing those needs is where to focus your actions, every day, to help people understand how they and their companies win by doing business with you. Turning these five things into a habit of execution is The Five Abilities ™.
That personal needs drive company decisions isn’t a revelation and, yet, most sales planning is focused on convincing the amorphous “company” to buy something. To be clear, you need traditional sales plans as they typically house great information about the market opportunity and expected results and they typically identify decision makers and influencers. Some plans even start to identify what’s important to decision makers but most often, in the language of balance sheets and income statements. The Five Abilities ™ is the personal selling that’s needed for a corporate sales plan to come to fruition.
These are The Five Abilities ™ sales people, and their companies, need to have in order to earn buying decisions from the right people and because selling is a ‘systematic process’ between people, it’s an exchange. The real-time, back and forth is what distinguishes selling from marketing in that the latter is typically a presentation or collection of information. The real-time, systematic process of exchanging information to find the collective win is selling and what The Five Abilities™ is all about. Let’s look at these five areas.
VisABILITY. You have to know who the right people are to ensure that you and your company are seen by those right people in the right way. You can’t target how you want to be visible until you know who you want to be visible to. General business value like reduced costs, increased revenues, share growth, etc., are needed components of your visibility but you also need to address the personal motivations, of the decision makers. While personal motivations can be articulated in many ways people are generally looking for safety, simplicity, recognition, reward and/or revolution. Low risk, minimum effort, job security, career advancement or being the bleeding edge innovator, might be other ways to state it. These are the opportunities you need to make visible to people who make decisions.
CredABILITY. People must believe what they see. They have to be confident that your offering will perform as advertised but, equally important, is that you and your company can deliver. Past success is one way to earn credibility but even with that people will want assurances. Deep knowledge of the industry, the customer challenges and your solution will earn you credibility. Accordingly, you need to know the people you’re selling to can actually make or influence the buying decision. The best indicator of this is in the questions they ask. Evaluators without decision authority focus on business results and, as stated earlier, you should have answers for those. But true decision makers will also ask about what your offer will mean to them and their teams. Again, the people who decide are looking for more than a result in the quarterly report. They need confidence that you can deliver their personal wins.
ViABILITY. You, your customer and the customer decision makers need to be confident that your offer is realistic. You have to address customer needs, ensure you’re not providing overkill and, equally important, the offering needs to be deployable. Features and benefits can be attractive but if the customer doesn’t have the experience or infrastructure necessary to utilize your offering then you don’t have a viable offer. Unfortunately, viability warnings are often hidden by the urgency to close but in the end, selling a non-viable product or service is often the most injurious thing to a long term customer relationship both at a personal and company level.
CapABILITY. This is about the readiness of both the seller and the buyer, to deploy the product or service that has been sold. Selling a result that your company isn’t able to make a reality generally leads to lost business, lost profits, lost referrals and, certainly, lost repeat business. Knowing how you’ll deliver the result and the role each your company and the customer plays is something you must know when making the proposal. The only other acceptable option is to have the customers understanding and commitment to develop the HOW together.
ReliABILITY. The unexpected will happen. It can come in many forms from real surprises to simple misunderstandings. Real decision makers know this so it’s not about totally eliminating the unexpected but more about how you and your company deal with it. Will you be accountable or invisible? It has to be the former and, if so, you’ll need to plan for what that looks like and ensure you have the support within your company to deliver. Likewise, it’s critical that the customer also holds themselves accountable and doesn’t just disappear when a surprise happens. So again, it’s a two way street.
When you summarize all the things people are looking for in deciding to bet on you and your company it boils down to The Five Abilities ™ that sales people, teams and companies need in order to be consistently successful sellers.