Tom Nies; The sales Rubik’s Cube

Tom Nies, Founder & CEO, Cincom

The Rubik’s Cube — you may have seen this toy as a child and either solved it or became frustrated with and discarded it, never to think of it again. However, I ask that you recall this strategic puzzle now, as it is more relevant than ever in your business life.

There are more than 43 quintillion different combinations in which a Rubik’s Cube can be exhibited — that’s 18 zeros. That huge number makes it seem as though it would be impossible to solve the cube and have a solid color on each of the six sides, but it’s not.

In fact, speed-cubing competitions are often held and people try to break Australian Feliks Zemdegs’ world record time of 5.66 seconds to solve the cube. Michal Pleskowicz of Poland even holds the record of solving a Rubik’s Cube with one hand in less than 13 seconds.

Sales cycles, or buy cycles as I like to call them, are growing increasingly complex like a Rubik’s Cube. Information is readily available on the Internet and sales representatives — while still crucial to a sale — are brought in at later and later stages.

In fact, some reports say that a customer can know up to 80 percent of the information they will need to know before making a purchasing decision prior to speaking with any sales representatives.

As all this occurs, the Rubik’s Cube of that sale becomes more and more scrambled.

The analogy of the cube

Not only does the complexity of the Rubik’s Cube contribute to this analogy, but the sides of a Rubik’s Cube adeptly describe a sale.

Each of the six sides represents a person or department a sales representative will interact with in a cycle.

The salesperson never knows which combination he will be given in the Rubik’s Cube each time he calls on a customer. Things change on a daily and even hourly basis as customers deal with situations in their business, staff changes, budget requirements and every other critical detail of sales cycles.

It takes a very adept salesperson to understand how to solve each of these new combinations of colors by working with the situation to finesse the colors into the solved puzzle and — in a buy cycle — close the sale.

An untrained salesperson may find a sale daunting, but like those who train to compete in speed-cubing, a salesperson who trains in the best practices of selling, a complex sale can seem relatively simple.

Just like with a Rubik’s Cube, there are salespeople of varying capabilities. Some can solve the cube in six seconds, some in three minutes, others in a couple of days, and still others take months. It all depends on how much time they devote to the practice of turning those blocks and learning the intricacies of the cube.

Make an assessment

I am not advocating that you go out and purchase your own Rubik’s Cube to practice your sales — though they are a fun puzzle to play with. Instead, making an assessment of your strengths as a seller and then working to improve those areas where you’ve been lacking would be a better use of your time.

Even bad salespeople will close a sale every once in a while. But just like a person might solve a Rubik’s Cube by turning the sides without a plan, luck is not repeatable. You must know, as in any science — and selling is definitely a science — what you’re doing if you want to be able to repeat the action.

Over time, discipline in how you approach sales can speed up the process. I’m not saying that practicing selling will lead to a very quick sale as customers set their own parameters on their schedule, but if you know what you’re doing, you can speed up your portions of the sales process.

Practice will also help you better anticipate the twists and turns of the Rubik’s Cube that the sale will present to you. ●

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. Go to tomnies.cincom.com/about/

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