All About Sales Warriors – Fighting For Customer Outcomes

Warrior, sales warriors, especially the 21th century sales warrior – this term is mentioned almost everywhere. Not only since this SAP campaign was so well received.
How do you feel being confronted with the term “sales warrior”? Do you perceive “sales warrior” as a positive term or as a provocative or negative term, or something different?

Honestly, when I heard “sales warrior” for the first time, I thought “Oh no, couldn’t we find a less war driven word, a more positive term?” I had – as always – an inspiring conversation with Nicholas Kontopoulos on that question, when he asked me a few weeks ago “BTW, do you like the term „sales warrior“? I said: “Honestly, I have mixed feelings with that, but I will structure my thoughts and come back to you.”
Here we are.

How should we define a warrior? How is a warrior different from a soldier? Are they fighting against something/someone or for something/someone?
First of all, a soldier is trained to respect authorities, to follow a process and not to question it. Isn’t it that soldiers (not in sales, but in war) are told to fight for something (liberty, freedom, whatsoever), but in reality they have to fight directly against their enemies?
How are warriors different? Wikipedia says it’s “a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics”. We don’t discuss politics here, but athletics  make a lot of sense because apart from competition, it’s about the aim to win. Let’s keep that in mind for a minute.
Here is the conclusion of my little warrior research, including research on spiritual warriors. In general, a warrior….

  • has a systematic and consistent approach to success
  • is constantly eager to get better, to learn how to improve skills and behaviors
  • is an independent person, self-responsible, driven by autonomy, meaning and purpose
  • takes responsibility for own actions, is aware of their consequences and lives with them
  • accepts challenges and fights for their solutions
  • doesn’t run away from challenges, because he/she knows that running away only means to need much more time and effort to come to a solution.
  • accepts a given framework, but he/she takes always a situational, flexible and adaptable approach to create the most value out of a certain situation
  • can act either as an independent person or as a team player
  • is based on compassion, integrity and operational brilliance that victory will happen, it’s only a matter of time.

Now, what do we expect from a sales warrior? How do our sales challenges look like, especially the challenges around the complex sale? We can summarize them as four sales milestones (see also Forrester’s sales outcomes) along the customer’s journey:

  • Gain appropriate access (to the executive owner, relevant decision maker)
  • Having successful meetings (with all impacted stakeholders)
  • Create shared vision of success and design solution
  • Create business case and proposal

Mastering all these milestones with brilliance, our sales person needs a few skills and behaviors and a certain attitude. Our “sales warrior”

  • is focused on talking about the customers, their specific roles and responsibilities, their specific challenges and how to solve them. He/she is aware that talking about the own company, the own products and services is of no added value for today’s prospects and executive buyers
  • knows, that the customers expect him/her to map the vendor’s capabilities to the customer’s specific challenges to show added value and a path to their desired outcomes.
  • is focused on driving value at each stage along the customer’s journey and at each stakeholder level (that’s all about dynamic messaging)
  • is focused on what a solution means for the specific customer challenges instead of what the own services and solutions do!
  • shows impactful commercial insights regarding the customer’s business that helps the customer to think differently about a certain challenge
  • shares best practices, creates urgency to drive change, to develop a shared vision of success which helps the customer to follow a step-by-step approach on how to achieve a desired desired outcome
  • enables the customer to sell a deal internally and enables him/her self to sell the deal internally at the vendor’s organization
  • works in a collaborative way to win

So, you get the picture. From my point of view, a sales warrior has nothing to do with fighting against something, being in war with somebody, playing the role of a lonely hero, or just following procedures without integrating passion, leadership, brilliance and own creative ideas.
The opposite is the case, the warrior needs all the above mentioned skills, behaviors and attitudes to fight for the customer’s success, for the customer’s desired outcomes, ideally in a win/win scenario – to create  the prerequisite for his/her own success. To do so, the sales warrior has to be a compassionate, collaborative person with a high level of emotional and situational intelligence.

Our sales warrior doesn’t put energy in fighting against competitors, or colleagues – what a waste of energy. Furthermore our sales warrior’s brilliance is to analyze and to predict the competitor’s strategy, in order to cross and to frustrate these strategies. That’s why we need him/her to take a systematic, well thought-through and consequent approach.

Execution along the customer’s journey is always focused on fighting for the customer’s success with the right set of customer stakeholders and with different partners – to win!
Execution is not focused against something or somebody.
Especially in the world of complex sale, all these efforts are no one man/one woman shows. These sales warriors are working in a team to win the deals. That’s why collaboration is so important. Collaboration within an account or a deal team, collaboration with the customer, collaboration with partners and last but not least – collaboration along the vendor’s internal sales support supply chain.

Last but not least: Our sales warrior doesn’t ignore a given, purpose driven and goal-oriented sales process. The opposite is the case. Nobody could say that better than a friend of mine, Dave Brock, with this wonderful Formula 1 analogy:

The best sales professionals, like Formula 1 drivers, don’t seek to drive on their own course, but learn how to exploit the course/process, adapt it to current situation and conditions and go to win. Formula 1 drivers never blame the course if they fail to achieve goals.

 

What’s a sales warrior for you?

How would you call these collaborative, energetic, challenging, goal and outcome-oriented, customer-centric, brilliant persons?

 



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3 Responses to All About Sales Warriors – Fighting For Customer Outcomes

  1. “The day will come when the only battlefields will be the markets open to commerce and minds open to ideas” Victor Hugo

    “But, not yet!” Brian MacIver

    The “warrior” metaphor is not only inappropriate for Sales, I fear it is dysfunctional.

    I read the main articles, your own included Tamara,
    but found little to move Sales forwards on.

    The “Battleground”, to clarify, is “shelf space” in the mind of the Customer.
    Sales and Marketing play the essential role in both acquiring the shelf space and filling it with relevant content.

    Sales has always been about their Customer’s “outcomes”, and it is in the Interactive and Interpersonal skills of Sales people that Customers perceive the outcomes we offer, which they need and want.

    Incentivising Salespeople for activities, not results,
    always sets up conflicts of interest and produces variable results.

    The successful Behaviours of Salespeople always has a large “emergent” component, they will find the way to succeed (or starve). Salespeople are not waiting on clever Staffers in SE or L&D to solve their problems and redirect them.
    SE can learn a lot more from Sales, than SE can “teach” Sales

    Everyone in the Firm may contribute to the Customer’s outcome, but it is the Salesperson who has to communicate the Customer’s outcomes effectively.

    Perhaps a more accurate metaphor for what you describe (sales warrior) is the Orchestral Conductor, the Salesperson as von Karajan, the Firm as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Customer as a select and appreciative Audience.

    Harmony, without conflict!

  2. Mike Kunkle says:

    Hi Tamara! Always enjoy your perspectives. You make me think.

    I understand the Dan Millman “Peaceful Warrior” or spiritual warrior sort of reference. I do.

    Personally, though, in my experience, when I have to seek out ways to defend or redefine or justify things, it’s usually a clue for me that it’s time to step back and reassess what I am saying or doing. I think we should reassess the use of military and war language for sales. It seems to me, that without saying it so plainly, you have just argued for the same exact thing in your post.

    I do see the parallels between business and warfare. I see the metaphor and get the analogies that people make. I also grew up with a competitive spirit that has tempered over time, so that now I am only competitive selectively, when it really matters to me. (I don’t care if I lose a card game or a dart match, for example. I once did.) So, I do also understand the competitive drive and spirit behind “waging the battles” and “winning the war” (separate thought: win/loss analysis reigns – although I wonder why we don’t just call it acquisition analysis).

    I fear that it is difficult to hold two opposing thoughts in mind at the same time and that perceptions of “battles” and talk of “warriors” too easily fosters a mindset and behaviors that are not what we’d hope for. (For example, do we really still want to be “overcoming objections” in professional selling?)

    I much more favor thoughts of collaboration, of self-competition (to be the best you can be), of servant leadership, of seeking first to understand and then be understood… to focus on helping the customer win, within boundaries that are also good for your company (you won’t be giving away everything for free to help the customer even more)… but “winning” their trust, account, business and if appropriate, partnership, as a by-product.

    And when I read your work in general, this specific post, and your well-worded, buyer-centric bullet points above… I have a hard time reconciling the empathy, collaboration, buyer-focus, and emotional intelligence therein with a battle, hard-fought, with the ultimate goal of winning and triumphing over an opponent.

    Seems like night and day to me.

    • Thanks a lot for taking the time and sharing your thoughts and concerns, Mike!

      It was exactly my intention – as you said – to “reassess the use of military and war language for sales”. Because I was also feeling very uncomfortable since the term “sales warrior” got more and more attention.

      Analyzing the term “warrior” in general, you can find much more positive aspects than people have normally in mind. That’s why I integrated a loop to the “spiritual warrior” which is in my opinion exactly the role description we are looking for in sales in this century.
      That’s what I tried to summarize in my post:

      “From my point of view, a sales warrior has nothing to do with fighting against something, being in war with somebody, playing the role of a lonely hero, or just following procedures without integrating passion, leadership, brilliance and own creative ideas.
      The opposite is the case, the warrior needs all the above mentioned skills, behaviors and attitudes to fight for the customer’s success, for the customer’s desired outcomes, ideally in a win/win scenario – to create the prerequisite for his/her own success. To do so, the sales warrior has to be a compassionate, collaborative person with a high level of emotional and situational intelligence.”

      So, my intention is to give the term “sales warrior” a new, positive identity (what I tried to do in my post). It could be a starting point to look at this debatable term from a different, holistic perspective which is always a customer-centric, value/outcome oriented and collaborative approach. I totally agree, that should always be our foundation.

      Sometimes, terms and view points have to be moved from the darkness to the lightness to be able to look at them from a different perspective.

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