At a recent sales training session, the trainer Kevin Hallinan asked “How many people hope their children grow up to be salespeople?” When I responded that I did, he told me that I was very unusual. Actually, I’ve found my sales training and sales experience to be very useful in selling my ideas, my research methodology, and my recommendations in all my subsequent jobs.
Selling is fundamentally about listening to the audience, understanding their desires, fears, and, oh yes, also their stated needs. Selling is communicating effectively. Selling is establishing a trust relationship. These skills can help CI people be effective in their jobs and lead to their next job.
So what did Kevin Hallinan say that could be useful for CI professionals?
Clarify every wishy-washy word. This applies equally to the information about competitors that you receive, the reports you generate, and the requests for information that you receive. Clarifying the requests that you receive will help you avoid wasting time chasing unwanted information and help you focus on the important questions, resulting in satisfied requesters.
When you speak with people say the unexpected. Most people start a conversation with the question, “Did I catch you at a good time?” Hallinan suggests starting with “Did I catch you at a bad time?
Set up ground rules for each presentation or assignment up front. Say, “If you expect me to develop a fully developed cost structure for your competitor in two weeks, I will not accept the assignment.” Instead of saying “I’ll do my best” when you know deep down that the request is unrealistic. This lowers natural defenses to help build a rapport.
Studies show that people move away from pain faster than they move toward reward. While there is a push to involve CI in generating new revenue with new market assessments as well as competitive evaluations, start presentations and reports with what the competitor can do to hurt your company, then add what your firm can do to take market share from that rival. You’ll have more attention on your work.
Add these concepts to your operating repertoire to gain more respect and response to your work.
Kevin J. Hallinan does sales and leadership development under the name Winning Incorporated in the Boston area.