Selling By Systems Not By Sweat

There is a story of a mountain village which experienced an unforgiving drought. The condition was deteriorating to the point that a village elders’ meeting was held. They decided to hire two men to solve the problem of bringing water to the village from the valley below where a well existed.

The first man got two large buckets and started going back and forth from the village to the well below. He sold the water at a handsome price. He brought his sons on board to the venture and made as many trips as possible to sell his water.

The second man was not heard from. There was plenty of speculation about what might have happened to him. Over time, the village wrote him off.

However, one day, there was an air of jubilation in the village square. The second man appeared. He was having a grand opening that day. He recounted how he attacked the problem of bringing water to the village. He spent his own money and started building a pipe which would transport water from the well below to his village. Now he was celebrating the completion of that pipe by turning on the spicket.

Immediately, he charged half as much as the guy carrying the buckets. The village could have all the water they wanted when they wanted.

The man carrying the buckets had to react and cut his prices and work twice as hard to compete. Meanwhile, the man who built the pipes patented his pipe design. He met with village leaders nearby and afar and had pipes built for them with handsome business rewards.
Systems or Sweat?

The question then is, “Are you carrying buckets or building pipes?” These are two vastly different mentalities. Sales people can be observed approaching sales one of the two ways: Working towards only what they can see in front of them or building something that will produce a predictable result.

Having worked with sales teams and leaders towards this end, here are the vital requirements to truly have a system for growing sales, relationships and people:

  1. A Growth Mindset: This is the first and most important ingredient. Otherwise, you are a bucket carrier looking for a gimmick to make the next sale. The work, discipline and repeatability will not get done.
  2. Process Mapping: You must know the steps of the customer experience. You must embellish it and put every step in to create a wow experience, affecting both the emotions and the intellect of the customer.
  3. Communications Flow: When and how you communicate with the customer is critical. On step 3, do you know what the customer receives? Is it consistent, refined and relevant? Sales is a dance. The dance happens in how and what you communicate.
  4. Defining Roles: We are not good at everything. Imagine a musician playing sports and vice-versa. They are gifted in their domains and not in others. In the sales process, there are likely multiple roles. You are good at some and not others. Team selling is effective because it leverages strengths and drives focus in specialized areas. Break your process down by roles.
  5. Enabling Technologies: All the technology exists to do whatever you want in your business. The question is whether you know how to put them together to create a continuous system. This takes talent. It is what technology consultants know how to do. If I gave you a CRM, would you know how to make money with it and how to tie it into other pieces of technology?
  6. Management Metrics: Agility and optimization are what is key. Setting up the first 85% of a business system is relatively easy. The last 10-15% require an immense amount of focus. It requires tracking the customer’s behaviors and responses. Having an ability to measure behavior and iterating based on those metrics separate people that have good technology and those that have a business method.
  7. Talent: Who is on your team makes all the difference. You can have the perfect system, but if you partner or hire “C” players, you will fall short. Talented and professional people who execute make a difference. The Air Force spends millions on jet planes which are at the peak of technology and systems. Getting the right pilots make the difference between gaining an edge in that investment or losing it altogether.
  8. The Woo Factor: A well designed system and team focuses on winning the desire of a buyer rather than convincing them through hard closing. Do you make your company, brand and offering attractive where a person wants to say, “Yes”? It requires a wholehearted desire to create an experience for the buyer that makes them want to say, “Yes.” If your system was a performance, would someone pay to experience it?

Being a friendly person with a smile is not enough. Systems which map to the reality of our new economy favor businesses and people who can win the hearts and minds of the customer. Those who are strategic by building selling systems will be building pipes that give them leverage for a long time to come. Those that merely behave tactically and charismatically will be working hard carrying buckets. Decide which game you will be playing. Take action to start building pipes and get ahead of your competition.

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

One thought on “Selling By Systems Not By Sweat

  1. This was an excellent article. I passed it along to our managers.

    The imagery was awesome as both positions required hard work . However, the results from the pipe builder must have brought real joy to him as he was able to see the fruits of his labor knowing this had the ability to help many more than the bucket carrier and his sons could ever imagine.

    Never saw myself as a ditch digger but if that’s what it takes to be a pipe builder – give me a shovel.

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