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Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes F1 Team Can Teach Us a Lot About Selling

29th April 2019

Nod your head if you

  • think Salespeople don't spend enough time in front of customers
  • can’t wait until Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes the place of Sales People (Sales Robots anyone?)
  • think Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes F1 are the standard bearers for the future of successful selling

The last bullet point about Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas may have thrown you or driven you quickly to another thought from the challenges of selling to how the hell can Lewis Hamilton help me increase sales. Don’t worry all will be explained shortly

However, leaving Formula 1 for the moment, when you look at selling in the B2B arena it has changed dramatically since the times of “Here’s the Yellow Pages, now just crack on and pick up the phone. Start at ‘A’ and finish at ‘Z’”.

We still use the phone but not as much as we used to as we use technology more in our goal of selling more of our products and services. We use CRM systems which haven’t yet replaced Excel spreadsheets but should do as there are some great systems available. (On another note our telesales sales training is our second most popular requested course which means salespeople still use the phone to prospect for sales)

Most importantly for us in B2B, technology has changed the way customers purchase and it is a fact that salespeople don't get as involved early in the process as they used to.

AI Sales Robots

So, what can we do to adapt to the way our customers buy and how do we align our AI Sales robots to sell more?

The answer is we can adapt to the new buying process, but we can't use robots to sell as we will always need human intuition and emotion.

What makes me say is that I have read two fantastic articles that got my head nodding like Duncan the drinking bird.

The two articles have different views of selling but both hit the nail on the head by talking about how the selling process has changed and how using AI in the selling environment can help improve sales performance.

The first article was titled Modern selling By Denis Pombriant and the second article was written by Mark Savinson and called Artificial Intelligence in Sales: Is It Worth the Investment?

 

 

 

Modern Selling

In the ‘Modern Selling’ post Denis Pombriant states that “Research has shown that customers like finding their own answers without the assistance of someone whose job is to sell. Selling comes later, once a customer has a good idea of their basic needs and the available solutions”.

We as B2B companies have put as much information available as possible on the internet for customers. “The result is that salespeople engage with customers further along in the process or down the funnel”.

By putting this information on the internet, it is great for the customer, but it means the salespeople are spending less time in front of customers. Our perception is that salespeople are wasting time on the internet doing ‘research’ or checking the latest football scores.

Dennis makes some great points and hands out facts on selling activities and non-selling activities. All of them are valid and his summing up is fantastic, if a salesperson meets a customer further down the process they should be “locked and loaded” for the meeting as the “stakes will be higher”.

I agree with him that sales research and preparation is important in higher stakes meetings so our salespeople should be spending this time wisely. I believe that we should be teaching advanced selling skills with sales training and coaching for our salespeople on activities such as researching, preparing for a meeting, questioning and listening and people skills.

If we are meeting customers further down the process, we should focus our sales skills on getting the best from these engagements which leads me back to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Botas.

If you look at Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes F1 team each bit of practice, preparation, and racing are like the current buying process. The car is a highly tuned machine however it wouldn’t win if it wasn’t for the human element of Lewis Hamilton the world’s number one driver.

Hamilton and Bottas are involved in the preparation and practicing however it is down to him to bring in the prize. His skills and decision making will go a long way to getting the first prize as he is on the front-line pushing for the win. This is the same as our top salespeople who enter the sales process later and are expected to bring in the sales and new customers.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have advanced driving skills and it will be worth training your salespeople with advanced selling skills to work alongside the rest of your team in lead generation. Included in the advanced selling skills should be people skills as well as unlike F1 Sales is still about people as well as process

Artificial Intelligence in Sales: Is It Worth the Investment?

What made me think of this was the fantastic article I mentioned earlier by Mark Savinson ‘Artificial Intelligence in Sales: Is It Worth the Investment?’. Mark aligns Formula 1 to the sales process but states ‘The Individual Still Steers the Final Outcome’.

This is an article worth reading as he covers how AI can help and is helping companies with their sales process and engagement with customers.

He states that “The International Data Corporation (IDC) recently released its Worldwide Semiannual Cognitive Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide, which predicts that spending on sales process recommendation and automation will reach $1.45 billion this year”.

This is a lot of money going into developing the sales process with AI systems so be warned. (Take a look at an earlier article from me Why Your Business Would Benefit From A Sales Process). What I like about Mark’s article is that it lists out what AI can do for us in B2B and how it will benefit us.

One of the benefits is that it can help develop and construct a Sales Model and Standard. There is a question I have asked for years to many customers that I always get ‘No’ as an answer.

I ask do you have a Health and safety manual and the answer is yes. I follow up with “Do you have a Sales manual on how you work with your customers” and the answer is “No”.

However, on rare occasions, I do get a ‘Yes'. At the end of last year, a national lawyer did answer Yes. They do use a sales manual and it does help them. They have a sales model and are using it successfully which is what AI could help you with and it can set a sales standard for your company.

Setting a Sales Standard

 

Setting a Sales standard Mark says, “It enables organizations to construct a sales model based on how it believes their ideal sales opportunities should be constructed to achieve business goals, not just how they have been constructed in the past”.

 

 

Mark views AI as a Highly Qualified Sales Assistant with intelligent built-in tools to guide sales teams through the buying process.

This must be of interest to anyone who wants to grow or scale up their business. Imagine having something that guides you on the best content to build on engagement and can also analyse opportunities through the pipeline.

As Mark writes it will be able to “analyse how close each deal is to the standard model and rate it, so that effort can be directed toward only the most winnable deals.”

This is where his analogy of F1 racing really caught my attention and agreement “the advantages seem pretty compelling. Like a Formula One car will get you around a track faster than a standard vehicle, modern sales enablement platforms will undoubtedly accelerate deal overview, reduce time to deal closure and improve selling outcomes”.

However, just like in F1, the vehicle can only do so much. The skill and knowledge of the individual still steer the final outcome. Despite dramatic changes in the way people consume information and make their buying decisions today, the age-old adage that “people by from people” still rings true. Soft skills, like emotional intelligence and empathy, remain key components to the sales cycle. Therefore, any fear that AI will eradicate the role of salespeople remains unfounded”

Summary

  • Your salespeople might be spending less time in front of customers but make sure that the time they are doing non-selling activities is time well spent practicing, researching, sales training, getting coached on advanced selling skills and generally improving their skills in readiness for their high stakes customer meetings.
  • As much as the idea sounds interesting AI Sales Robots are not here yet and nor will they be for the foreseeable future. What these two articles highlight to me is that you must embrace AI technology now to help you with your sales process as I am pretty sure your competitors will.
  • Lewis Hamilton, Valterri Bottas and the Mercedes F1 may not be the standard bearers for the future of successful selling but they do use a damn good model that you can replicate in your business to improve your sales process.
  • Remember never forget your customers as if you do you won't have a business but please don't forget your salespeople and please give them the best tools as they may just help you get a few chequered flags.

The two articles that you must read can be found by clicking on the titles

‘Modern selling’ By Denis Pombriant

Artificial Intelligence In Sales: Is It Worth The Investment?’ by Mark Savinson

Selling is important to every business and hopefully, this post has been of some benefit to you.

With these few tips, your sales engagements will become conversations that will help your potential customer move smoothly through their journey to buy off you.

If you are still looking to improve your selling skills or your salespeople’s selling skills, there are three other ways to help you improve your sales conversations:

If you want help on any sales issues or would just like a sales confidence boost please email me at michael@arrowsales.co.uk and I will get back to you.

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