One of the advantages I had when I embarked on my first sales position was that I had a mentor who introduced me to people of influence around Charlotte, NC. Occasionally, he invited me to be with him at the beginning of his “kitchen cabinet” sessions. These sessions comprised people with accomplishments or status in business, contribution, and religion.
As I sat in the corner, listening and watching how they interacted, I learned many things. There were a few key things that I learned that had impact on me and helped me as I was beginning my sales career.
One was that they all had challenges they had to overcome. None of them got to where they were at by “dumb luck.”
Another was that they all had a servant-leader heart. They learned and practiced to serve before being served.
And one of the most important was they knew that they needed a coach or a mentor that not only they could bounce ideas off of but opened doors and advocated for them when they were not there.
As I shared in last week’s blog, everywhere you turn, you hear or read about AI, artificial intelligence. But I have learned that the way you grow is to have Real AI, authentic interactions.
Over the past week, I have had many people reach out to me about this concept of AI, authentic interactions. It spurred many discussions about how to use Real AI.
As I participated in my friends Meridith Elliott Powell and Mark Hunter’s Sales Logic Podcast live seminar last week, I heard Meridith say something in passing that reminded me of one of the first sales calls I made when I was with ADP.
When I started with ADP, my VP asked me to open up South Carolina as a territory for the office. That meant driving over 180 miles every day to get to my territory. To fill up my calendar, which was checked every Tuesday night’s at 5 pm at “roll call,” I used a strategy to leverage my bank relationship with South Carolina National Bank to help me fill up my calendar with sales calls.
My local bank relationships had relationships with the movers and shakers in their respective cities. At one of the first meetings, one of my relationships arranged an introduction with the State Comptroller of South Carolina. The State Comptroller was responsible for protecting the State’s financial integrity and promoting accountability objectively and efficiently through its accounting, disbursing, payroll, internal control, data management, eCommerce, and financial reporting systems.
Since ADP was a payroll company, this was the ideal person to speak with about how South Carolina was doing payroll. I told my mentor that I got this appointment and he was impressed how I developed a relationship in South Carolina so quickly.
Remember, this was my second sales position and one of my first weeks at ADP. When we attended the meeting, it started cordially. The banker made the introductions and introduced me as their payroll point of contact. As I started to speak, I quickly started to share the virtues of ADP and the benefits for the state to look at options. I quickly learned that I didn’t do my homework.
After sharing my introduction, the State Comptroller cordially looked at me, smiled, and said something I have not forgotten and will never forget. It became one of the best lessons I ever learned and has helped me tremendously over the past 36 years in sales
“I’m fixin’ to start to get ready to start thinking about doing something like that in a few years.”
I quickly learned that I was way over my head and what my friend Larry Levine would call an “empty suit.”
Why I remembered this sales call when Meridith said something in their seminar that I have seen play out many times with salespeople over the years. This is an example of the salesperson’s AI paradox .
Many sales people think that they are initially going for Real AI authentic interactions, but what are really going for is
What I learned that day was sales is a relationship business and how relationships develop is through time, learning what is most important to your potential client, what has to happen for them to realize their outcome and through time, showing them how you would provide confidence, competency and creativity through the relationship and how they would realize their most important outcome with you.
Attending those kitchen cabinet sessions with my mentor, helped me learn, through toil and effort to not have any fear to call and meet with a C Level executive and learn about them first and what drives them most. Each one has one driving need, it’s either certainty, variety, connection, significance, growth or contribution. And once I understand which one of the six it is, then and only then, can I start to build the Real AI, an Authentic Interaction.
It is rare to get Real AI at the first meeting. More often than not, you get the salesperson’s AI paradox, the “Heisman” because you are seen as going for another AI- Accelerated Intimacy.
To get the “Real AI,” do these three things and you will avoid the other “AI”.
- Do your homework before you engage- ask somebody who has a relationship with your prospective client, what they think is most important to the person you want to meet
- Leverage a respected third party who can introduce you to the person’s EA, their executive assistant. The person who usually makes the call who sees your prospective client and understands what is important to them.
- When you acquire the meeting ask these two questions and then shut up. What’s most important to you and what has to happen for you to realize that? Once they answer that, you will know which of needs is their primary need and if your product or service will help them achieve that need.
You will then have the basis for building Real AI, authentic interactions and not the other AI, accelerated intimacy. Your relationship will be based on confidence, competency and creativity and you are on your way to not only working with a new client but also,
Creating Opportunity out of Uncertainty, and creating your flight plan for a happy and fulfilling life.