#041: Lisa Earl McLeod – Why Differentiate with Noble Purpose Sales

July 12, 2020
Scale Your Sales Podcast Lisa Earl McLeod

Lisa Earl McLeod introduced the philosophy of the noble purpose in her bestselling book Selling With Noble Purpose. Her research documents how organisations with a bigger purpose than money – make more money or experience higher customer and employee retention. Her firm’s clients include Hootsuite, Volvo and Dave and Buster’s.

The first thing that Lisa said that Sellers need to do to survive this Pandemic, is to breathe. To pause, momentarily. Because what happens for the seller, fear takes over, and your brain goes at lightning speed from Oh, my gosh, it is a pandemic. I cannot meet my customers. Business is going to go down to that I am never going to make a sale again. This is not the right mindset for a sales call, even if you are not going that far, said Lisa, you do not want to come across his graspy – it is the worst energy ever.

So, the first thing you want to do is breathe. The second thing you want to do is identify how you helped customers in the past and get clear. The next thing you want to do is say Okay, that is how I have helped people in the past. Is that still valuable? Is that still helpful, or has it changed some?

And you want to have a super clear story in your head about how you could make a difference to your customers. Then you are in the right mindset to reach out.

I love the concept in the book Selling With Noble Purpose, of the caring more for your customers than making the sale; what Lisa calls, NSP noble selling purpose.

Lisa talked about why is it essential to have clarity around purpose in sales? Well, if you ask most people, what is the purpose of sales? They will tell you it is to close the business. But I want you to think of this from the customer’s perspective. Imagine there are two salespeople and they are both getting ready to make a sales call on you said Lisa.

One salesperson sits down with their Manager and gets the advice to close the sales and go hard as you need this business.

Then the other Manager said, to focus on how you can improve life for this customer and on how you can help their business save time, be more efficient, or more powerful?

So, one seller makes the call thinking they need to close, and the other seller enters the call thinking, how can I help them.

Whom do you want calling on you? 

The thing that is not so obvious is that second salesperson who is thinking about how they can be the most helpful. We have concrete evidence that sellers closed more business. And, they closed higher-margin deals, not commoditising themself and focusing on how they are improving life for customers.

Lisa demonstrates what happens when her client said, ‘we provide services for small business’ which shifted to ‘we help small businesses become more successful.’ Seems like just a simple nuance shift, said Lisa. but it is the difference to being focused on the product, rather than being focused on the customer.

Lisa said talking about what success means for you the customer is a strategic shift in the way you approach the business that results in 100 different tactical changes, and this is why you close more business.

It is both the macro and the micro said Lisa. How she landed on this idea of selling with Noble Purpose was studying it in the micro. She found individual salespeople, regardless of what the company messaging was at the top. The individual salespeople who had absolute clarity about how they wanted to make a difference to customers. That drove their day to day thoughts and behaviours. They were the top performers when they did studies across numerous organisations.

Then when applied in the larger when the company does it, those companies outperformed the market by about 350%.

And what is interesting when you talk about Mission. Many companies have a really dull and benign mission statement.

Lisa has a new chapter in the book coming out this Autumn called – Why Specificity Is Sexy. The problem with most mission statements like; we want to be a good member of the community, or we want to provide good service. The salesperson cannot do anything with these boring statements that cast too wide a net.

What we say a Noble Purpose, Lisa said, it must be clear about what your job is to do, such as, we make small businesses more successful.

Another banking client of Lisa’s changed their Noble Purpose to – We Fuel Prosperity. Imagine a bunch of bankers going out saying. ‘I am here to help you fuel prosperity – let us talk about what prosperity means to you and how we do it?’ They are entirely differentiated. The Bank’s CEO is on her website, talking about what the shift of purpose did for them. They became differentiated, increased their earnings, they had more employee engagement, and they were voted the best bank of the year.

It shifts the strategic lens on the business because the default strategic lens is how can we make more money, and this statement says, how can we best improve life for customers and the profit comes out of that said Lisa.

It does not mean you give away your services, but it happens at a strategic decision-making level. It is what of your organisation. It is having an impact on customers.

Lisa said, customer-centric as organisations practise it, and that could be anything from asking more questions to reduce our profit margin by giving away a product or just trying to be kinder to people. It is really difficult. But if I say we have a clear sightline on how we are trying to improve customers, so it is not just being nice to customers it’s trying to improve customers, then that becomes measurable. And that becomes something you can ask in a sales coaching session. ‘How’s the customer improved as a result of doing business with us. Explain it?’ It is something you can decide on a product standpoint. Is this the best way to improve customers lives? Is this the most important thing?

Henry Ford said, if I asked the customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

When you have clarity, it improves your strategic decision making because then you are not guessing what customers want. You must go find out.

How can we actually improve customers lives and not just serve up a non-differentiated offering?

Two things in the second edition of Selling With Noble Purpose. First and foremost, there case studies on 20 different companies detailing exactly how they applied the Noble Purpose and what results they got. Secondly, there is a whole section called the Manager as a Belief Builder. Lisa saw in these companies front line managers were critical to the success, and they needed to be armed with the techniques and tools to pivot their teams.

For decades companies have tried to move from transactional, and they have been attempting to transform themselves into customer-centric. We did all kinds of coaching, but it never really stuck, and the reason said Lisa, is because the cadence of frontline sales is close it.

Lisa came up with a bunch of tools and techniques and tested them so frontline managers can still have that same urgency, but it is around improving life for the customer and improved experience for the customer.

Lisa mentioned her secret weapon, her co-author an industrial psychologist, which gives the background in the new book launching in August, around why these things work and how to tap into the psychology.

Lisa offered three discovery questions as practical strategies that enable your buyers to buy.

  1. To identify how do I make a difference? How does my offering make a difference? So, you are moving from pleasing customers to improving customers.
  2. How does my offer make a difference? Then the second thing you want to identify is how do we do it differently than the competition?

And the third thing is to reflect on yourself and say,

  1. On my best day, what I love about my job?

These three questions help you to have clarity your Noble Purpose and shift the lens. Then, the seller ask – how am I bringing that to life in my sales process? It is shocking the difference that it makes, said Lisa.

Lisa goes on to explain how the Noble Purpose was born in an airport parking lot. A seller who was in the pharmaceutical business described to Lisa, one particular grandmother that took her company’s drug and how this changed the grandmothers’ life.

Lisa realised this salesperson had a different mental picture in her head compared to every other salesperson and that this is your most valuable asset.

Lisa said the pandemic has given us a reset. She said if you have ever lost a parent or been through a health crisis, you start to think, who am I and why am I here?

What has happened in COVID19, is we have all gone through it at the same time, and we are starting to think who am I and why am I here? What we know about humans across all culture and ages, that are two most core needs are belonging and significance. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want the work in our lives to matter. If you are not getting significance in your work, it is going to be a grind on you every day, it will have a chilling effect on every relationship of your life, and on your health. So, if you can get yourself in a situation of making a difference, and you have a clear sightline, it changes your whole life, said, Lisa.

Often, what we do is making a difference, but we lose the sightline to it. Lisa said if you can keep the sightline of how what you’re doing makes an impact on others, if you can keep that front and centre in your heart every day, The data tells us, you will be so much happier, and you will be a top performer.

Lisa and I went on to discuss Heroes and Sheros and the experiences of Black Lives Matter on both sides of the pond, make sure you to listen to part two of this discussion :-)


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