Every now and then a boost in sales is called for. At times, you’re “feeling it”, and setting a new personal record might be up for grabs. Maybe you’re behind on sales and something needs to turn around. The normal…
While recently leading a webinar I mentioned how creativity, which I consider one of many selling strengths, can work against me. Being creative helps me solve client problems and present ideas in ways that help others understand. Creating is also something that…
Just for fun, imagine one of your prospects from a recent selling opportunity who has no sales experience is asked to join your sales team and sell in your place. They are now the salesperson and you are their coach. You can coach them from the office, but you can’t meet with prospects and customers any longer because that is their job. Would you be willing to put your income and job security in their hands? Here’s the scary part of this story. It’s already happening to most of you during your current selling situations. When you’re not allowed to meet with all the parties involved in the buying decision (the buying team) you’re left with little choice other than hoping your prospects can do your selling for you.
It’s not always easy to be granted access to the buying team, but it should be your goal to do so. Improving your ability to convince your initial contact of the value of having you meet with their buying team will be very profitable. Here are nine steps to help you be more successful at doing your own selling while better serving your customers.
Do potential client/customers trust you? Of course they do, right? How do you really know? Most of us base this answer on a gut feeling more than on factual information derived through meaningful selling conversations. The best indicator of trust according to Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig, authors of Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play is the “flow of meaningful information” between a buyer and a seller. This of course begs the question, “What is flow of meaningful information?” Let’s take a look at that question as well as eleven behaviors you can practice to build trust.
I’m thoroughly enjoying the book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play by Mahan Kalso and Randy Illig. The authors not only provide an easy to implement methodology but they address what we as sales people need to do to get and keep things real. So what is getting real? At the core of “getting real,” is honesty. This includes honest communication between a seller and a buyer during selling conversations as well as being honest with our self. Honest communication is not only about what we say, it also includes what we’re not saying. When our intentions are in service of our buyers and we are transparent and honest in our communication, we make room for the buyer to be completely honest with us. The four-letter word that prevents us from reaching this honest place during selling conversations or managing people is FEAR.
We sell in a time that has an abundance of sales communication tools at are our disposal. The more tech forward tools include email, smartphones, text, and social media for the most part. Then of course, there’s what might be considered “old school” tools like faxing, a hard copy letter and a hand written note.
Some of these “old school” methods are not being used much any more as times and technology has changed. At the same time some methods that took their place can become less effective due to the volume of messages being sent daily. To stay at the top of your sales game you can’t fall into a trendy trap. The smart sales person will assess what selling and marketing methods are obsolete, new and effective, and which need a retrofit. Let’s take a look at the old and new methods of communication and see if we can find some new ways to use them to keep our selling conversations plentiful and moving along.
The value that matters most in a sales conversation is the one the customer can connect with. Are your prospective customers making a value connection with your offering, or is it possible you are trying to convince them of the value you believe in?
When the iPhone hit the market I couldn’t see the value in paying $400 for a phone when others were free. On top of that I was required to toss in an additional $360 annual fee for a data plan. It looked cool, it was kind of big, but it wasn’t what I needed. At that time I believed my Motorola phone was the best value I could buy for my needs. It wasn’t till a year or two later that I made the connection with the value I was missing in the iPhone.
Steve Jobs and the Apple team understood the value. Why didn’t I see it? The sales person saw the value, they showed it to me, told me all the great things it could do, and let me play with it. Yet, I still couldn’t connect the value between the iPhone and my needs.
I’ve seen the hard work you put in all day. I see you making calls, doing research, sending emails and making more calls. You put in this effort to produce selling meetings required throughout your sales process. You then prepare for your meetings and engage. May I ask, “Are you really prepared as well as you should be for each meeting you enter?”
Selling meetings are where decisions are influenced and made. In most cases it’s during these meetings where we have the greatest impact on the outcome of a sale. If selling meetings carry this much opportunity shouldn’t we ask ourselves, “Are we really prepared for our next meeting?”
In my personal selling experience as well as watching others sell, I’ve come to appreciate selling conversations that are enjoyable. They’re not a struggle or stressful. There’s no guessing or worrying involved. They’re simply a series of conversations that are enjoyable. We keep the conversations enjoyable by staying in the present. When you focus on the end (the order) during a sales conversation you can easily remove yourself from being present. Of course “the order” is a point of reference and a job priority, but it’s important to keep it in the proper perspective. The order will take place at the proper time if your buyer chooses to purchase with you. Before that happens staying present in your selling conversations will keep the process enjoyable and profitable.
I remember when Angie joined our team. She was just out of college and eager to do her job well. It was her first sales job and she plunged right in. For months she was selling her quota of forty units per month. Being new to sales she would often worry her way to those last few sales to hit her goal. One day I asked her if she would be interested in increasing sales and earning more money. She said, “Of course, I try to but I can’t seem to get past forty.” I suggested we make fifty her new imaginary quota and she went for it. We posted a yellow sticky with the number 50 on her computer monitor to add a little focus. It worked! She started selling fifty that month and it become her new norm. Could it be that easy to increase sales?
We’ve all been in those situations when a salesperson is trying to build your interest after you’ve already decided to buy. If the salesperson would just stop talking you could place the order. Then there’s the times when you’re not ready to consider buying and you’re being asked when you would like delivery. In either case, the salesperson is not recognizing which stage of the buying process you’re in and is actually working against the sale. Staying in tune with your customer is key to having an enjoyable and more often than not successful selling conversation.
When you are at the check out at most big box stores you can expect to be asked, “Are you a rewards member?” The rewards are designed to encourage us to buy at the store more frequently. Loyalty is being developed toward the reward but not to the company or people working there. I wonder if this was intentional or simply an evolution? What about you? What type of loyalties are you building around you?
Most people will support the notion of having a narrow market niche as long as there is enough lead flow. Which sales person wouldn’t want to solely work with their ideal type of customer since it’s easiest to work with customers that appreciate the value and niche expertise they represent. It all sounds good until there aren’t enough leads. As a company or sales person are you tempted to reach outside your market niche to pick up some quick business, or do you stay committed to fixing the niche lead shortage? This is when you find out how committed you are to your focus or niche.
If you’re a top performer you’re always looking for more sales. You also know the details of wrapping up new business can be stressful and get in the way of finding new opportunities. It can seem like no matter how hard you work, it’s tough to find that breakthrough into a higher earning level. You’ve increased the revenue per account and you’re selling to more accounts, but the time needed to squeeze in any more business is becoming a challenge. You seem tapped out but you want to earn more. Sound familiar?
No one calls and asks me for help to improve their listening skills. I’m often asked to help with approaching people or phrasing sales messages, but not how to improve their listening. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because most people consider listening as passive and talking is active, which leads us to believe there is not much to improve with our listening. Would it be okay with you if you said less and sold more? You can do it, if you become a more active listener.
You can improve your sales winning percentage by improving your listening skills. Before making any improvement you’ll need to acknowledge that hearing is not listening. Hearing is passive and listening is active. Hearing is usually a part of listening, but it’s not all of it. If you can agree with me on this, the following process to listening improvement will make sense and can lead you to more sales.
In every selling process a buyer will make many decisions that lead to their final buying preference. They decide to research your product, take your call, meet with you, or visit your office. Every email they choose to respond to is a decision; each piece of information they agree to hand over is a decision they make. We, as sales people, often think in terms of sales stages as our yellow brick road to a sale. We will only reach that sale if the buyer’s decisions allow us to arrive at the final decision making event. So, what’s the most important decision to focus on to improve your selling results?
There was a season in my life where all I thought about was fishing. I didn’t take it up until my late 20’s and for about 10 years I couldn’t get enough. Looking back now, I can see how it was all part of my life preparation to teaching more people about sales. Since I didn’t grow up fishing, I needed to learn how catch trout and salmon on the river from other experts. You’re reading my blog to be more successful at selling; I was stopping by fly-fishing shops to learn how to catch big fish. The parallels between sales and fishing are uncanny. Here’s what I learned about fishing that applies to landing big accounts.
Two of my favorite things in life are watching NFL games and helping sales people figure out the game of sales. When you listen to many of the interviews by winning NFL players and coaches you’ll hear tips that can help you be a better salesperson and manager. When you have a chance to listen to others that have been successful, there’s an opportunity to apply what they have done to your profession or life. With that in mind, these are my Top 10 NFL Success Quotes for Selling.
Business becomes much more enjoyable when you can predict what your sales and profit margins will be. The problem is sales forecasts are usually less reliable than predicting the weather. Mark Denning, CPA and Author of “Drive Your Business to Financial Success” states in his book, “The key variables with the highest risk and level of difficulty to forecast are revenue and gross margin.” These are two areas your sales team plays a big role in setting and achieving. Rather than use a crystal ball, here are seven ways to have 20/20 vision with your sales forecasting.
There’s a verse in the bible that states, “Don’t cast your pearls among swine”. I’d translate it in sales terms to mean, don’t present what you know as valuable to someone who’s not ready to see it the same way. If people aren’t buying from you when your offer seems like a no brainer decision, you’re probably casting your pearls to someone who sees them as stones. This happens either because you’re working with the wrong type of customer or you haven’t helped them understand your value BEFORE your final proposal or presentation. Let’s look at the latter.
Are there times when your sales process seems longer than needed to win some business? You don’t really need to ask all these discovery questions or meet with multiple contacts and deal with the CRM input, do you? Here’s a scenario when many sales people are tempted to speed things up and take short cuts.
I recently received a 60% discount on a medical treatment when I was calling to pay in full. Are you giving away discounts rather than listening or having a difficult conversation with a customer or client? When you get to the finish line it’s tempting to let a discount help you close the deal or make the customer feel better. In the joy of winning a deal how much money is being left on the table? Working on your conversation skills that transpire at the decision making point is like working on your putting in golf. In golf they say you drive for show and putt for dough. In sales you market and present for show and listen well and manage difficult or uncomfortable conversations for dough. Here is how this medical office can earn over $14,000/hour by listening.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “he has dollar signs in his eyes”? It means the buyer perceives the salesperson’s more interested in their commission to be won or lost than they are with the buyers needs. Buyers don’t want us to be self-centered; it’s what’s given sales people a “bad” name. They want us interested in their needs and them, yet our company sales goals are all about revenue. How does a salesperson and sales manager find a balanced sales approach between the buyer’s needs and company’s requirements? I’ll share my take but I would love to hear yours. Use the comments area below.
Have you run out of people to ask for referrals or are you going back to the same well too often? I know a place where referrals might exist that most of you have never explored. As with all referrals, they must be earned so I can’t guarantee some of you will find a treasure but for others, there’s a bounty waiting to be tapped. Before I show you the map let me help you decide if it’s worth taking this journey, because you’ll only find treasure if you’ve earned it with your past efforts and actions.
My wife Carolyn, and I were discussing the topic of closing a sale.
I said to her, “A salesperson doesn’t have to close sales”, and she quickly replied, “Sometimes I want to be closed.”
I asked, “Do you want to be closed or do you need reassurance?”, she replied “Reassurance.”
The dialogue brought up a question related to closing and using closing techniques. What should a salesperson do when a buyer’s not ready to make a decision? Should they use closing techniques to close a deal, or help the buyer by using facilitating questions and sharing information?
When somebody calls in and starts asking questions about your product or service, they usually want you to be “the man”. They’re hoping your product or service is the answer to their problems. They really don’t want to shop around. They want to buy! Managing expectations will help you keep them in this frame of mind.
If we approach the sale with a perspective of the buyer wanting “us” to be their solution, it can simplify the sales process. When you really believe this to be true, you’re not “afraid” of losing the deal and you’re not so concerned about the competition (although it’s wise to understand your competitor). You can stop selling and start conversing.
Today’s buyer-empowered age makes it difficult to stand out in a buyers eyes solely through product knowledge. The importance and necessity of being knowledgeable remains the same, but it doesn’t provide the same differentiator as it once did. Standing out in the eyes of a customer and prospective buyer are what all sales people hope for, but what’s being done to make that happen? Being referred into a prospect is still the best way to start a new relationship with a selling edge. What are you doing to maintain that edge, and how are you recognized as different in your prospects eyes?
I’d like to introduce you to an alternative approach to presenting and reviewing proposals with your prospective buyers. Picture the key elements of your proposal laid out on one page, either Letter size (8.5 x 11) or Tabloid (17 x 11). You and your buyers each have a copy of the One Page Proposal in front you and your having great dialogue regarding your design, implementation, pricing and solving their key business objectives. You’re not flipping through 30 pages reading over data they’re not ready to digest. Instead, you’re having an enjoyable business conversation that’s leading to a decision. That’s what you can have using a One Page Executive Sales Proposal.
How successful are you at having your contacts make effective introductions to the right decision makers (being referred)? If you’re not having as much success as you’d like, you’re not alone. Here’s a question I ran across on LinkedIn.