Pay Attention Now!! -Or Pay Another Way Later

Too often in the selling cycle, salespeople find themselves “back on their heels” trying to figure out what to do too late in the process. They are often scrambling to meet last minute demands by the customer or to pull together that “homerun presentation” that really delivers all of the main points.  Many times, the primary focus of the salesperson and his/her support team has been what they will present or say in their “moment of glory” in the boardroom.

It has been my experience that we, as salespeople, need to be 100% focused way back at the beginning stages of the sales process in order to get in the customers heart and headdeeper and more thoroughly.  We need to understand their business and their most compelling business needs of TODAY so that we can not only offer the most compelling and specific solution to meet their needs, but also (if we do it correctly), can possibly even help them write the specific parameters of the solution.  These will be the parameters that we deliver best AND that the competition will be judged by.

Here is my main point:  Many times, customers don’t know how to buy!  On top of that, they really never want to own your product or service in the first place. (Let’s face it…is your customer waking up today excited to see you in order to OWN more of your stuff?) What they DO want, however, is to be able to cure a pain or put peace of mind to a fear or to accomplish something that your product or service can assist with. In order to truly show our customer that we are the best solution, we need to understand what that somethingis—and often we need to help them understandwhat that is—before we begin to dump information on them about our proposed solution!

Salespeople and leaders often seek guidance and coaching from training firms and consultants regarding negotiation techniques, objection management strategies, and closing skills.  While all of these are crucially important skills to master, it is my belief that the need to employ these skills too often is based upon a lack of focus on the discovery process in the early stages of the customer’s “buying process.”  You see, we are often so focused on our selling process and our need to execute that processthat we do not pay enough attention to the customer’s need to buy –it is NOT because they want to own your product or service!

The clues as to how to OWN the account and make the competition irrelevant are found at the earlier stages of the sales cycle.  We teach that there are two main questions that we need to get CLEAR answers to early in the dialogue with the customer:

1-Can you help me understand what it is that youare trying to accomplish?

2-Can you help me understand why that is important to you?

Now, there are a couple of “catches” to this!  (You didn’t think it was THAT easy did you?) The first catch, again, is that many customers do not know the answer to these questions—at least the rightanswers.  In fact, the questions are written in a way that a conversation is the desired outcome. “Can you help me understand what you’re trying to accomplish?”…begs for an explanation whereas if we asked “What are you trying to accomplish?” we would simply get aninformationbased answer.  By asking it differently, we are looking deeper and trying to help the customer understand WHY they want to buy—to get a motivation-basedanswer.

The second “catch” to this approach is that prospective customers won’t always answer these questions the first time that you ask either because, as above, they have not really thought about it so they do not know the answer OR you may not have earned the right to get that answer just yet. Therefore, we need to be patient and focused in our approach to this.  We may need to prepare to ask these questions in several different ways at various times throughout the discovery phase of the sales process.

Finally, as it relates to these two questions, please notice that both questions are focused on the individual and their motives are.  Each decision maker or influencer in the buying process has their own specific motives as to how and why they will make their choice.  We need to understand earlier in the process what the motives are of each “player in the game” so that we can “write the playbook” accordingly.

Engage in this approach and you will find yourself in much more meaningful and fruitful dialogue early in the process which will communicate your professionalism and expertise better than all of your presentation slides could ever do.  The result will be an exceedingly high level of irrelevance that will be cast upon your competition!  They are focused on making a sale—YOU will be focused on creating a buyer!

What Your Customers Really Want!

During the sales cycle, it is the goal (the desired outcome) of the sales professional and the company for which he/she works to close the sale and complete the transaction.  When this occurs, there is typically a transfer of funds that occurs which generates revenue resulting, hopefully, in a profit for the company.

Here is the interesting (painful) part:  The customer is not focused on nor do they care about this transaction.  They do not want the SALE!  They do not care about your profits!  What the customer wants are the things that occur for them based upon what the product or service does!  They want the benefits of ownership—not the ownership!

Here are 5 easy steps to discover what the customer wants:

1-Do your homework (pre-call planning)

2-Ask the right questions (relevance is key)

3-LISTEN with the intent to understand and add value

4-Restate what you heard to gain clarity and agreement

5-Provide a solution and speak to ONLY the solution

 

Let’s look at each step a little closer:

1-Do your homework

Invest your valuable time into the appropriate pre-call strategizing.  Do your best to not only research the company and the person on whom you will be calling, but to also “get in the prospect’s head.”  Ask yourself the following 3 questions:

A-What do we know? (about the person, the company, the decision-making process, etc.)

B-What do we need to know? (to move the sale forward)

C-What do we want to “get out on the table?” (what motivations will drive the sale?)

2-Ask the right questions

If you have done the right things in your pre-call preparation, you will have a clear purpose to your call as well as some relevant questions prepared.  Thinking through all of this in advance will help you ask (with confidence) the right questions which will make the prospect think in a different way about their situation. These questions will also position you as more of an expert and thus, will get better information from the customer.

3-LISTEN with the intent to understand and add value

The answers that come from your customer to the questions that you ask are the keys to your successful sale.  You see, as I said before, the customer does not want to own your product or service!  They don’t even want what it does!  They simply want the benefit of what it does for them.  If you are listening for what it is that they want, the secret to making the sale will come out.  Understand your customer’s motivations and you will understand their motives to take action.  Only then, can you add value and thus, make the sale!

4-Restate what you heard to gain clarity and agreement

The fact that you listened and thought that you understood the customer and their needs is not as important as the fact that the customers knew you were listening and understand them and their needs.  In order to make sure that they understand you were listening, use “re-cap sentence starters” as you feed back what you heard them say before you begin to offer a solution.  Example:  “OK Ms. Customer, let me make sure I understand your main areas of concern.  You…….  or  “OK Paul, let me make sure I’ve got this straight.  You…..  or  “Mary, let me make sure I heard you correctly. You…..”

Prove that you listened—show that you care!  Clarity creates consensus.  Consensus creates trust!

5-Provide a solution and speak only to the solution!

Many times, I see salespeople go through the discovery process (asking questions and listening) where the highest value needs (HVNs) of the customer become evident.  Rather than speak only to those needs, the salesperson breaks into the “presentation” part of the sales call and proceeds to puke all of the FAB (Feature, Advantage, Benefit) points about his product or service.  The Smart Selling suggestions above are designed to discover what your offer should be and what it should NOT be.  In other words, if you do a good job on the 4 points listed above, the customer will tell you which benefit to discuss.  Do that—nothing more!! Leave the other FABs out for now.

The Secret of Smart Selling

“If I put in front of the customer what they want more than anything else, they will, in turn, move heaven and Earth to get it AND pay a premium.”

Stop selling WHAT you want to sell, HOW you want to sell it, WHEN you want to sell it, and WHY you want to sell it!  They are most likely not the reasons your customers want to buy.  After all, aren’t they the boss?

Please Take My Call…

For many people in the profession of sales today, the job of prospecting to set up a meeting is about as exciting as a trip to the dentist.  (And more painful too!)  Although the art of prospecting into accounts is imperative to the success of so many salespeople, it is the number three skill that most say that they need help with right behind closing and time management!  As salespeople, we face a myriad of screens and gatekeepers that make our jobs much more difficult than we would like.

In fact, because of all of the non-professionals out there trying to make a living doing a horrible job on the phone, the prospective buyers of their service need to be hiding.  There are few of us who work the phones for sales or for appointments regularly that have ever received appropriate training in these areas.  The companies that hire us work by the philosophy of “Hire ‘em in masses-and kick ‘em in the asses!” We deserve what we get when our prospects hide behind voice mail, e-mail, and other gatekeepers.

As a matter of fact, as consumers, we have become so accustomed to the phone selling (or appointment setting) process being a bad one, we do the very things to those who call us after work that we loathe about those to whom we call during work.  Think about it!  A telemarketer calls you on a Saturday morning and starts to immediately go into a canned pitch for their product or service.  How long before you cut them off to tell them you are not interested?  How many of these calls do you take before you start simply hanging up on them mid-sentence or avoiding the interactions altogether by letting them go to voice mail?  And why do you do this?  The number one reason:  You’re afraid that they are going to waste your time.

Even though the caller on the other end of the line may have had a very valuable offering for you, it was the approach of several others before them that sabotaged their chances.  Do you ever feel this way when you are calling on your prospective customers?  Although you may have an incredible offer for them and their company, one that could save them time, make them money, put peace of mind to their fears, and/or make their lives easier, you don’t get a chance to talk about it because they won’t take your call!  Why?  Because they are afraid they you are going to waste their time!

When you are calling on prospective buyers of your products and services, be aware that they have become conditioned to the same fears that you have.  Knowing this, make sure that you either address these fears in your opening words or the voice mail that you leave.  State clearly the purpose for your call and keep concise the information about YOU and YOUR COMPANY.  Instead focus on them and their issues.

When leaving a voice mail, imagine that the person that you are calling will receive thirty or more calls from a salesperson like yourself today.  However, she will only return ONE of those calls?  Why should it be yours?  Keep the focus to only these three areas:

1-The Main Benefit of owning your product/service

2-How Your Product/Service will cure their pain, put peace of mind to their fear

help them reach a desired goal.

3-How easy it will be to accomplish all of this.

These things need to be communicated in a way that it grabs the attention of the prospect quickly and communicates that you will not waste their time, either on the phone or in a meeting.  It is very important that you are armed with examples stating that you have done these things for and with others (assuming that you have) but equally important that you do not go into exactly how you have done these things.  You need to leave some of the mystery on for the meeting itself and not allow the prospective buyer to make decisions based upon partial information form a phone conversation.

How do I say this in a simple manner?  The purpose of a sales prospecting call is to make a sale.  However, that sale is often that of getting an appointment and nothing else.  In order to get that appointment, (or whatever the next step might be) you need to speak primarily to the main motivators of the prospective customer.

They are only tuned into one radio station and that is WII-FM-What’s In It For Me?  It’s about Return on Investment. (ROI) Speak to them about what RETURN they will receive from the INVESTMENT in time that they make in listening to you on the phone and seeing you in person.  Focus on them and not on you and you will have a better shot of getting through.

Earn a Higher Price!

Image result for dollar sign picture

What is it that you bring to the table that your competition cannot or will not?  What is it that you offer that your prospects, customers, and clients would be willing to stand in line and/or pay a premium to have?  What value do you bring to the equation that creates a greater perception of value for your product or service and thus commands a higher price?

Would you buy from you at premium prices?  If the answer is yes….and I hope to high heavens that it is….Why?

We are selling in a marketplace today that demands more from sales professionals.  Communication tools such as cell phones, email, and I/M are creating a level of expectation from our customers that is getting harder and harder to meet.  The internet is leveling the playing field as far as access to information.  (Everyone can Google you and your competition before you walk in the door.)  The result?  Buyers that have a higher degree of sophistication (or at least a higher level of belief of their sophistication) than ever before.  Where there is mystery there is margin and the internet has removed much of the mystery about you, your company, your products & services, and your pricing.

If we keep selling into the marketplace the same way that we have in the past, we will get passed up by SMART competitors and passed over by SMART customers.

What can we do to keep up?  What can we do to get ahead?  What can we do to earn the top margins in our ever changing and competitive marketplace?

Below, please find a list of 15 things that you can start to do today to stand out from the crowd, differentiate yourself (and thus your product/service), and command the respect and attention of prospects, customers, and clients:

1. Start a strict regimen of pre-call preparation.

Do your homework before making that call on any executive or decision maker.  Google them, research their industry, read their industry magazines, learn about them and their company. The things that you learn will help you build a platform from which relevant questions and conversation can begin.  In order to have something relevant to offer, have something relevant to ask and something relevant to say!

2. Decision maker or decision influencer?

Clarity on who it is that you are dealing with will help you build the appropriate value proposition.  If you are developing a “champion” or a “flag-bearer” in an account, make sure that the value of your offer speaks to their needs.  Typically, the decision maker is motivated by, and thus will act upon a much different set of criteria than those you met on the way in—sell accordingly.  Never assume what their motivation is.  Always dig, probe, & listen before you diagnose.

3. Make a few phone calls in advance.

I suggest calling anyone who may know anything about an account before actually attending a meeting to get a flavor for what you are about to face.  Knowledge is power—power can be leverage.  In addition, if there are to be several people in the session, I suggest calling as many of them as possible in advance to discover or uncover any issues or expectations.

4. Speak the customer’s language.

We tend to present our value propositions in a language that is filled with our industry words.  The problem?  The customer doesn’t know your industry like you do so a “disconnect” or confusion can occur.  I suggest that you record your value propositions, presentations, conversations, and questions as often as possible.  Get these recordings in the hands of non-industry people and get their opinion.  You might be surprised that the reason you are not closing enough sales is that the door to understanding has never been opened due to a language barrier.

5. Read, learn, grow!

Commit to reading a book every month on how to be a better sales professional.  You will be amazed at the new moves that you will adopt for your sales success.  In addition, read at least 2-3 business or industry magazines every month.  You will learn things that you did not know.  This can add to your confidence and, if you figure out ways to use this knowledge to differentiate you from the crowd (adding value to your customers) it will add to your commission check!

6. Be the quarterback of your sales efforts.

Someone must call the plays.  Make sure that on every interaction with prospects, customers, and clients you clearly define the purpose of the call and stick to it.  When the call purpose is met, clearly identify next steps as well as who is responsible for what.  You guide the timelines, you run the plays, and you call the shots.  The result will be getting to yes faster. (as well as getting to NO faster…see next item.)

7. Ask for the yes once you’ve earned it-but don’t be afraid of the no.

Get out on occasion to drive your pipeline business further along towards a yes knowing that the result will most likely be a few fresh no’s.  Is this a bad thing?  Absolutely not! Stop wasting time on those who can not or will not buy from you.  A full pipeline of no’s is worse than no pipeline at all.  The time you invest on qualifying OUT the non-buyers will be well spent once it’s re-invested in prospecting for those who can and will say YES!

8. Get a coach or a mentor.

This sales game can be tough.  Having someone to bounce ideas off and to strategize with will give you a leg up on the competition.  Think your good enough to fly solo.  Think again!  Even Steph Curry has a coach or two on his team.

9. Make the CLOSE a natural conclusion to your professional sales process.

Don’t let the “closing” part of your sales cycle be a surprise to your customer.  Don’t shy away from it either.  Your customer should know that you are there to do business.  In order to earn their business, you will have to learn to ask in such a way that it is less painful for both you and the customer.  Right now, sit down and write 5 closing questions that transition you from the presentation and negotiation to the action phase of the sales cycle.  When you have them written, ask them each aloud 100 times until they become less mysterious and thus, natural.

10. Talk Benefits rather than Features.

The customer does not buy quality, service, reliability, innovation, integration, knowledge, experience, teamwork, or the other features that you are tossing out there in an attempt to differentiate your company.  They only buy what those things can do for them and  what it is they want to accomplish.  The sooner you start talking about what they GET rather than what it does, the sooner you begin to earn a greater margin.

11. Ask them what will happen if they don’t…..?

Attempt to attach a cost or a price to in-action.  When you prospect and customers say they are “staying the course with the way they currently do things” you need to help them understand that continuing to do what they are currently doing will only get them more of what they are currently getting.  If (and this is a big if) you have attached a PAIN to their current situation (from their point of view), then you can attach a FEAR of the future.  Your product or service at that point becomes the cure to the PAIN and thus, a peace of mind to the FEAR.  This is called a solution, and it is worth more than what your competitor is selling.

12. Don’t lie—PERIOD!

The word character is not used enough in professional sales.  It needs to be.  This world of Google has opened all of our kimonos so there are very few secrets anymore.  Often your customer will ask a question that they know the answer to just to qualify your character.  You must pass the 1st time because you won’t get a second shot.  (Remember, they are more aware of their options today) Customers pay more for character and trust—count on it!

13. Quid-Pro-Quo

This Latin term that means “something for something” or “this for that” should be paid close attention to in your dealing with customers.  It works both ways.  If you are looking for forward movement in the sales cycle or an introduction to others to help you get it, practice quid pro quo from your end first.  Give to get.  Give a referral, get movement.  Give an introduction to a lead; get an introduction further into the customer’s circle of influence.  Add value first; get things you value in return.  On the flip side we need to understand that when a customer asks us to jump through hoops for them (put together a demo, draw me up an analysis of the benefits, etc.) it is only fair that we now can ask for something in return from them.  Example:  “We will put together a demonstration of the software, customized to your needs as you requested.  If the software performs and meets all of the specifications that we discussed, will you be prepared give us a commitment to move ahead with the purchase that day?”

14. Never make a call without a purpose.

In order to be the most productive with your time and the time of your prospects, customers and clients, have a clear purpose for each of your calls.  Don’t visit the customer without the express purpose of bringing something of value to the table or moving the sales cycle forward.  Don’t make a call to “just check in” some other nonsense.  If you don’t take your call seriously, why should they?  By being able to clearly state the purpose of your call and sticking to it, you will become a professional worthy of investing time and money with.

15. Look sharp!

If your product or service is pretty similar to that of your competitions, the little things will often be the deciding factors when deciding who to go with and how much to pay. Don’t underestimate the fact that people initially form a perception about you and your professionalism based upon appearance before you ever get a chance to open your mouth.  You want a higher price?  Look the part!  (Use an iron…it’s becoming a lost art!)

These 15 points are a good start to get you heading towards higher margins and thus, better commissions.  You can see that there are no tricks and no shortcuts.  Simply applying more in the areas of focus, self discipline, commitment, and a customer focused approach will change the customer’s perception of value regarding you and thus, your company, product or service.

Make an IMPACT!

fine image of classic 3d newton cradle background

One of the main areas that I have found myself coaching salespeople the past few months is IMPACT.  I contend that, although it is important to be the best that you absolutely can be in every interaction with a prospect, customer, or client, you do not have to be the best that they have ever seen.  You don’t have to be the smoothest talker.  You don’t have to be the silver-tongued devil that has an answer for every question. You do, however, need to make an IMPACT!  What does that mean?  What questions might you ask yourself before the sales call to ensure that an IMPACT can be made? After some thought, I have chosen to define IMPACT as a combination of the following areas:

I-IMPRESSION  “What impression do I want them to have of me?”  There are a variety of impressions that prospects, customers, and clients can have of us based upon any interaction.  Unfortunately, not all of them are positive!  But, with proper preparation, we can focus on doing the things necessary to “stack the deck” in our favor.  The best sales professionals today are very cognizant of the customer perspective and thus, very aware of every move they make, how they look, how they prepare, and how they show.  Here are a few examples (both positive and negative) of impressions that we can leave:

  • Professional UN-Professional
  • Respectful DIS-Respectful
  • Interested Deal Focused
  • Resource Salesperson
  • Solution Problem
  • Investment Cost

M-MEMORABLE “What do I want them to remember when I’m gone?” One of the keys to making an IMPACT is being memorable in the minds of your prospect, customer, or client. This often comes from making strong statement utilizing your best “power phrases.” Every solid sales professional has their “go-to” phrases or “word-tracks” that truly drive home the desired point. It is often this phrase that makes an IMPACT. Here is an example of one of my favorites I’ve used for years when faced with a customer with price concerns:

  • “I understand that you can get a similar product/service from one of my competitors at a lower initial price. In fact, if what you pay is your main deciding factor, you most likely will not do business with me. However, if your concern is more about what you get for what you pay, then you will do business with nobody but me!”

P-P.P.O.D.  “What Positive Perception Of Difference will I make such that they will go out of their way and/or pay a premium to do business with me?”  The best salespeople are always attempting to create differentiation in the marketplace between themselves and the competition.  They furthermore realize that differentiation comes from their actions as well as their words.  They create a positive perception of difference through the way they dress, the way they ask questions, the way they “brand” themselves before, during, and after the sale, the way they present their opportunity, or the way they ask for the business.  The best realize that typically it is the companies that “stand out” that have the highest return of customers and thus they look to “stand out” as well.

A-ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN  “What do I need to know in order to increase my chances of winning the sale?”  The best sales professionals realize that the strongest sentence that they can put “out there” to a prospect, customer, or client ends in a question mark!  While their competitors are out there showing up and throwing up on sales calls, they are probing, digging, inquiring, going deeper, diagnosing, and finding out their customers highest value needs and motivators so that they can provide the best solution.  Defined as “The Shortest Course on Selling,” the art of asking questions and listening does more to make an IMPACT than anything else you could ever hope to do!

  • “If you ask the right questions and truly listen to your customer’s answers, they will explain your business to you!”
  • “Nobody ever LISTENED themselves out of a sale!” 

C-CHARACTER (Have one-Don’t BE one!) “How will I increase the perceived value of my product/service through my rock-solid character?”  It has been said that a well-rounded character is square in all his/her dealings. Selling is defined as a transfer of trust. Sales pros need to make sure that transfer is made early and often throughout the sales process.  That doesn’t happen by speaking negatively about the competition, a prospect’s prior decision, your internal sales support, or anyone else.  It also does not come from speaking about your customer’s competitor that you sell to.  What it does come from is sincere professionalism in every aspect of your interaction with prospects, customers, and clients (even behind the scenes.)

  • “Character is what happens when nobody is looking!”

T-TOUCH ‘EM  “How will I make sure that they know me beforehand, hear me during, and don’t forget me afterwards?”  It has often been said, “In business, it is not what you know but who you know.”  The best sales professionals believe, “It is not who I know but who knows me that counts in business!”  Companies spend millions of marketing dollars to “brand” themselves and create a “top of consciousness” in the minds of their customers through a variety of ways that they touch them.  Today’s top producers realize that the best way that can assure that their prospects, customers, and clients think of them when a need to buy comes about is through frequent, repetitious contact before, during, and after the initial sale.  These touches come in many forms and include a combination of personal contact, letters, e-mails, faxes, mailed articles, postcards, value-add newsletters, suggestions, referrals, reference requests, thank you cards, holiday/anniversary cards, and many, many more.  A word of caution, however, is to make sure that you don’t do what everyone else is doing. (See PPOD above!)

By making an IMPACT On your prospects, customers, and clients in all you do, you stand a better chance as a sales professional to earn their business now and forever.  Contrary to popular current books in the marketplace, the little things do matter so sweat them all!  Remember, there is a big burden on you to have to be the best and only one can achieve that.  But every sales professional has the ability (and duty) to make an IMPACT!  Happy hunting!

LISTEN UP!!

Girl listening with her hand on an ear

I have written many articles on the importance of preparation, planning, presentation, attitude, prospecting, objection avoidance, leadership, and more in this newsletter.  But there is one thing that runs as a common denominator for all of these topics.  There is one area I need to cover that actually fuels the success of all of the above initiatives.  This is an area that we all take for granted and yet, most of us literally STINK at it.  As salespeople, there is perhaps no more impactful of a skill to have than the skill of effective listening.

We all initially got into sales because we are good talkers, good negotiators, good persuaders, and because we are comfortable when doing all of these things with strangers.  We take courses on, attend seminars regarding, and read books about how to be better at “Getting our Point Across,” “Giving Professional Presentations,” “Overcoming Objections,” and “Power Phrases that Sell.”  We constantly work on better ways to say what we want to say.  We record ourselves on the phones talking and even video ourselves talking/pitching in role-play situations.  Although all of this is important, what I notice getting lost on most salespeople of today is the tried and true art of listening.

I have yet to ever run into a truly top shelf successful salesperson that is not a great listener.  Great salespeople realize that they MUST listen to the prospect/customer because:

  • When they are listening, they are learning about the prospect/customer
  • With more info on the prospect/customer needs, they have a better shot in recommending the proper solutions.
  • What they are listening to are typically the answers to questions that are designed to control the process and lead the prospect/customer toward the benefits or solutions that the salesperson has to offer.
  • When they are listening, they are building trust.
  • When they are listening, the customer is buying into them—They are showing that they care.
  • When they truly listen, the customer will tell them what to say (or ask) next.

I do a lot of training in the area of effective question asking to “open” a customer.  I work on the reasons why we ask the questions that we do and how to best structure and practice those questions beforehand so that they appear very “off the cuff” and centered on the prospect/customer’s specific situation.  However, I do not spend enough time discussing the art of listening to the answers and response strategies.  I can only picture a mindless set of drones out in the marketplace asking a question, checking it off the list, and moving on to the next.  Say it isn’t so!!!!

Enthusiastic Listening

Let’s take a closer look at this term, shall we?  How does one enthusiastically listen?  When you think about that term, what comes to mind for you?  I get a picture in my mind of someone leaning in (edge of their chair), eyes locked on whomever is talking, eyebrows raised, nodding in understanding, hanging on every word, and responding with requests for more.  I see in my minds eye a child listening to an exciting bedtime story for the first time and asking things like “What happened next?” “Who is that?”  “Why did she do that, Mommy?”  “What does he look like, Daddy?” and so on.

In the profession of sales, that same wide-eyed enthusiasm over the words of our prospects/customers may be quite appropriate to a certain degree.  INTERESTED is the word that we are going for here.  I feel that the best way for a prospect/customer to be INTERESTED in you is to be genuinely INTERESTED in them.  The problem is that most of us feel that we have to be INTERESTING!  We feel that we have to speak eloquently, have a solid canned “pitch” that is compelling, and through these tactics, we will win over the hearts and minds of our prospects/customers.  C’mon…. Get over yourself!!  It’s not about you!  It’s about them and their pains, their fears, their desires, and their highest value needs.

By listening enthusiastically, you will show the prospect/customer the greatest respect that you can.  You will show that you care about their needs-not yours.  You will show that you are interested in how to best create a solution for them.  You will show that you are different, that you stand out!  Below are a few tips to help you engage in the art of enthusiastic listening:

  1. Look’em in the eye!  When a prospect/customer is speaking (answering your questions), do your best to look them directly in the eye as much as you can.  It shows that you are focused on their response.  A great tip to help you stay focused intently on them is to pick just one eye and look directly into that.
  2. Use appropriate facial expressions and nods.  Use non-verbal feedback in the form of the occasional nod to show understanding and agreement, a head tilt with brow furrowing to show a lack of understanding (and thus a request for more info), a smile and nod to show clarity and agreement.  Also use winces and other similar facial expressions to show that you feel their pain.  Much can be said without saying a word.  Learn to master this art through practice in front of a mirror.
  3. Lean into the conversation.

There is nothing wrong with leaning into the conversation during particularly intense or emotional points in which pains and fears are being discovered and discussed.  Get on the edge of your chair and show them that you care.

  1. Take notes.

There is a term called “noteworthy” that seems to be appropriate for the purposes of a sales interaction.  By writing down some of the main points of the conversation, you will not only show the prospect/customer that you are listening and that you care, you will also show that what she is saying is worthy of making note of it.  Also, if you write down what they say word-for-word and how they say it (use quotes on these parts) then you will have a tool to use later in the sales process to assist in closing the sale.

  1. Ask follow-up questions with active probing verbs.

An example of some solid follow up questions might be:

  • “Why?”
  • “Can you expand on that?”
  • “Paint me a picture of that.”
  • “Can you give me an example?”
  • “How long has that been the case?”
  • “Have you always felt that way?”
  • “Why do you suppose that is?”

  1. Re-Phrase statements made by the prospect/customer.

When a customer has expressed concerns (another word for pains) regarding a specific issue, show that you truly listened by rephrasing the statement.  Example:

They say: “I am a little worried about how the fluctuating interest rates are going to affect my variable mortgage and also about buying this home in an area which has had several houses sell for under appraised value in the past.”

Salesperson says as a rephrase and a re-cap point: “I understand that your specific concerns are about interest rates and resale value, is that correct?”

**A word of caution here. Too much usage of this tool will appear to be practiced and fake.  It will have a tendency to show the customer that you are merely using a sales technique to create a bond and it will become a turn-off.  Use moderately.

So, in the future, think about that young child listening intently to his/her parent reading Peter Pan for the first time to them.  See if you can see the look in their eyes, the curiosity in their entire demeanor.  Create that same level of enthusiastic curiosity in yourself as you head into your next sales call.  Listening is a skill and one that can be learned.  Tap into as many resources as you can to sharpen this skill and tap into the world of sales success!

Customer Service MAGIC!!!

Customer Service

Customer Service is a dying art!  The average attendee in my seminars, when asked, states that they have had mostly average experiences of customer service in the past month compared to a few horrible experiences and just one fantastic experience.  Tony Alessandra calls these Moments of Mediocrity, Moments of Misery, and Moments of Magic.  It has been my contention that every company has the ability to stand out by focusing on simply striving for the WOW experience that Alessandra calls a Moment of Magic.

Most of us feel that the customer service departments in our companies are responsible for this experience.  While I agree that the customer service professionals on your team do absolutely drive the customer experience, I would like to challenge those of us in the sales side of the business to take a closer look at our role in this process.

Let’s see if we can break down that M.A.G.I.C. into an easy-to-digest (and apply) acronym:

Managing Expectations

The sales process really “tees up” the customer service process by setting up the customer expectations.  Let’s face it; anyone can get anyone to buy anything by telling the buyer whatever they want to hear.  In fact, it is exactly this fact that has given salespeople bad reputations for years.  The true sales professional understands that they seek a customer for life (a client relationship) out of every transaction.  Just as with any relationship, there are expectations that both will have.  It is the salesperson’s job to discover the true expectations of the customer from the onset and to temper those according to true deliverables.  In addition, the sales professional must explain in detail to the customer the role that they must play in the relationship.  With properly discovered and mutually agreed upon expectations set in advance, the customer service experience has been properly arranged in advance so that the customer “knows what they are in for.”   At that point, it is up to the entire organization (every touch point) to EXCEED those expectations!

Assessing Needs

The first and most vital conversations that are held with a customer are done so with the sales professional.  It is during these conversations that we are to gather information in addition to giving it.  We have defined the shortest course on selling for years as “Asking Questions and Listening.”  This process is not important only for the discovery of a potential customer’s hot buttons and motivators which will guide them towards a purchase from us, it also helps us assess their HVNs (Highest Value Needs) so that we may communicate them to our internal customer service teams.

Here is an idea:  Create a form that will allow your salespeople to capture some of the basic HVNs of your new customers.  On the form, simply list categories that are important for the smooth transition from the sales process to the service process.  In addition, capture the communication style of the customer and any pertinent information that will create a strong communication foundation for the service team.  What has been promised?  What does the customer expect?  Where are the potential “landmines that we need to avoid?”  How can we WOW them early in the relationship?  What do we need to know about them personally as well as professionally to best serve them?

Growth vs. Maintenance

There are two ways to look at every interaction that we have with prospects, customers, and clients.  We can simply strive to MAINTAIN our current status, relationship, or loyalty with these folks or we can strive to create GROWTH in these areas with every interaction.  From a sales perspective, it is my belief that there should never be such a thing as a MAINTENANCE call!  The purpose of front line sales reps is to GROW the customer relationship, GROW the trust that a customer has in you, GROW the value that the customers perceives in you, and to GROW their account within the organization, thus GROWING your company.  When your goal is simply to MAINTAIN, there is very little preparation necessary.  There is very little need for pre-call planning, practice, or customer focused thought.  Here’s a good drill: Write down the two words above (Growth and Maintenance).  Under each word, write down 10 things that you need to DO to either Maintain or Grow an account.  I bet the list is longer and requires more action under GROWTH!

Interest – Show one-before, during, and after the sale

As a sales professional, if you were to be judged and compensated on the overall length and value of your relationships with your customers and clients, I would bet that your actions would be more focused.  We are all guilty of “moving on” from a relationship in the mind of the customer.  The courting stage is full of surprise, passion, excitement, and over-the-top communication when we have the prospective customer in the pipeline.  Early into the customer phase, we will stay in touch, make the occasional call to see how everything is going with our product or service, and do some of the things necessary to grow the customer (one-time, price focused buyer) into a client (lifetime, value focused buyer).  However, it has been said that familiarity breeds contempt.  Too often, salespeople tend to lose interest in an account after a while and in doing so create the perception that they are taking the relationship for granted.  Although you may think this way, it is really not important what you think—the customer/client is the king.  Good drill here:  Identify your top 10 accounts right now.  Next, schedule a face to face meeting with each one of them within the next 60 days.  The purpose of that meeting is to reconnect; “to renew your vows,” and to get into their hearts by attempting to re-visit their business needs (they most likely have changed since you were dating.)

Communication

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why customers get fed up and leave is a lack of true communication on the part of the company with whom they are doing business.  Of course, people don’t do business with companies—they do business with people.  Think about the world that we live in today.  Phones are answered by machines that guide us through a seemingly unending series of “press this” or “enter that” before we can get a chance to communicate.  Our email boxes are so loaded with spam that we have a tendency to DELETE courteous correspondence before it is read.  We are forcing our customers to websites to interact with us.  We are using “self-checkout” lines at grocery stores.  What in the world happened to good old-fashioned one-to-one communication?  When we survey customers as to what it is that they are looking for in the “service experience,” the answers rarely, if ever, mention cost effectiveness, efficiency, and electronically based communication.  Instead, they say they are looking for knowledgeable help, follow-through, basic courtesies, dedicated attention, feedback, empathy, and respect.  This begins with the sales professional.

As a salesperson, how can you create all of this and still be focused on getting new “fish in the boat?”  It’s not easy—especially on your own.  Don’t fall into the trap of keeping others in the company away from your accounts.  Furthermore, don’t micro-manage every detail of the customer’s interaction with your company.  Instead, create a team to deliver consistent Moments of Magic.

Using the acronym above, turn “inward” toward your support staff, your delivery staff, your installers, your customer service team, your help desk staff, and the accounts receivable staff for assistance.  First of all, set and manage their expectations of you and what it is that you can and will do with the customer on the front end and throughout the relationship.  Next, assess their needs.  What is it that they need from you in order to best deliver on your promises?  Next, look for ways to grow their knowledge of the customer, the sales process, and the service expectations of the customer.  In addition, try growing your knowledge of their position and what it is that they go through every day to meet your customers ever changing needs.  Next, show an interest in them.  As a salesperson, you try to spend time with top accounts in the interest of building a relationship.  Why?  So they continue to buy from you and never leave.  Create a plan to do the same with your inside team.  Spend time with them.  Show an interest in who they are and where it is that they come from.  Meet their families.  “DO” for them and they will line up to “DO” for you and your customers.  Finally, learn how to best communicate with them on a regular basis.  If you communicate with them via email only, you will eventually create a disconnection.  Try to develop the habit of the regular “team huddle.” Regular, value-add communication on the inside breaks down the walls and allows for creative juices to come up with the best ways to take care of your customers!

The profession of sales is for sales professionals but you need to know that, as a sales professional, the customer experience is something that demands your attention and commands your focus!  Sell Smart all the way through and you will find yourself with a never-ending stream of referrals and leads generated by over-the-top loyal fans on the outside (customers) as well as the inside of your business!

The Top 10 Things That Top Sales People Do

Shot of two businessmen shaking hands

Top Sales Pros are a special breed of cat.  They engage in decidedly different activities on a regular basis.  Although they walk and talk the same at first glance, they do very unique things every day that, in and of themselves are not overly special but, when combined, these things create a vortex of success that attracts the best customers, the most referrals, the strongest relationships and the highest commissions!

I have been fortunate to be a sales professional for many years that others have placed in the “Top Sales Pro” category.  In addition, I have the pleasure of working with many top sales pros (and many more on the other end of the spectrum) every year in my business as a speaker and sales coach.  In doing so, I have witnessed some of the best practices that are consistent among only the best.  The 10 things that I have compiled below are not the only things that these Heavy Hitters do, but they are, in my opinion, the most important:

1. They Take Full Responsibility

The Best of the Best never place blame on others for their failure or misfires.  They realize that the only one responsible for their success or failure is the person that they stare at in the mirror every morning.  By accepting responsibility for everything, they NEVER become the victim of competition, market circumstances, pricing, or any other issues that are attacking their competition that whine, complain, and sit around waiting for the next big bad wolf.

2. They Guard Their Attitudes with Their Lives

The Top Producers understand that their Attitude is their most important asset to their success and they do everything they can to make sure they bolster it and protect it.  They never hang around with those who choose to place blame, point fingers, complain, and bellyache.  They go out of their way to associate with winners and successful people.  Although they may get invitations to the pity parties, they never choose to attend. In addition, these cats NEVER feel that they know it all.  In fact, they always seek other’s opinions, knowledge, and experience.  They believe anything is possible and you know what…most of the time, they are right!

3. They Feed Their Brains-Every Day

The Best of the Best did not just wake up one day on the top of the heap.  They actually worked hard to feed their brains the things that it needs to grow.  They realize that the marketplace never stands still.  They realize that customers needs will always change and they choose to stay ahead of the curve.  Consequently, they read books, articles, and reports in the areas that demand their attention.  They constantly “sharpen their axes” in the areas of salesmanship, customer service, empathy, and differentiation. They seek to become an expert in their field by increasing their knowledge every day on purpose.

4. Plan-Prepare-Practice

The Top Producers always seem to have a plan.  It all starts with major clarity on their goals.  They are very clear on the WHY so the WHAT and the HOW become their focus.  The Heavy Hitters go into every call with a purpose and a higher level of preparation.  They have run through all the “what-if” scenarios.  They have thought through, written down, and practiced the questions that they will ask.  They have mentally run through everything from the customer’s prospective.  They are prepared to “open” the customer more effectively and practiced at transitioning to the “close” of the sale.  They know the solid IMPACT statements and questions at the right time because they plan them, prepare them, and practice them ALL the time.

5. They Brand Themselves in Their Marketplace 

The Cream of the Selling Crop make sure that they are “known-for” something in the marketplace.  They create a buzz about who they are and what they know or do by becoming visible to those who may use their product or service.  They realize that being a vendor is a tough gig because vendors are a dime a dozen, unless the customer only wants to pay a nickel.  The Best of the Best want to be known as the EXPERT. They do the things necessary to position themselves in the marketplace as THE CHOICE rather than A CHOICE.  They take the time to write articles and have them published in magazines and newsletters that their customers read.  They get out of their comfort zones and look to speak at industry events that their customers attend.  They constantly and consistently “touch” their prospects, customers, and clients in a variety of creative and value-add ways to ensure top of consciousness in the minds of the buyers.  Top Pros always seek to create “Only Me” value to the sale.

6. They are Willing to Lose

All too often, most salespeople don’t take the risk of asking for the YES because they are afraid to hear the NO.  The Top Sales Pros understand that they are in the NO taking business.  They also understand that their success is highly dependant upon their willingness to “crash and burn” in failure.  Jeffery Gitomer once sated that “Most people won’t risk because they think they fear the unknown.  The real reason that they won’t risk is because they lack the preparation and education that breeds the self confidence (self-belief) to take a chance.”  The great Wayne Gretzky once said that “You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.”  And so it is with the best salespeople:  They get out in front and risk it all for themselves, for the customer, and for their career because they know that most of their competition will STOP when the pressure of the potential loss gets too high.

7. They Recognize Opportunity and Take ACTION Faster

Top Sales Professionals do not get more opportunities than all the rest.  It just seems that way because they are always on “high receive” looking for it.  They put themselves in situations where opportunity tends to be present.  They understand that opportunity at first can look like problems, challenges, or adversity.  They further understand that CHANGE is often at the base of opportunity.  They realize that this is true from their perspective and from the customers-and thus, their lies the opportunity. They don’t hesitate. They don’t sit around strategizing.  They take action!  When most people are wondering if it will work, the Top Sales Professionals are getting the awards for getting it done!  Events get attended with different purposes.  Articles get read with different eyes.  Conversations get heard with different ears.

8. They are a Resource

Top Producers are the go-to people for their customers.  They have the answers to their customers’ questions and the solutions to their problems.  They realize that the world is full of “Takers” that will come in and “take” the customer’s time, “take” the customer’s order, and “take” the customer’s money, but rarely, if ever, add anything of value to the relationship.  Top Producers realize that, in order to continually be valuable to the customer, they need to become more than a vendor.  They need to know the customer’s world as well or better than they know theirs. The Best of the Best always “bring something to the table” that changes the outlook of the customer and makes them think or perform in different ways.  The Top Pros are there for more than the order; they are there through thick and thin, providing the value of their expertise and knowledge to those whom he cares about the most-his/her customer.

9. They Take Time to Re-Charge

The Heavy Hitters do a lot of things that most salespeople will not do.  This takes time, energy, passion, commitment, and focus.  All of the results that they get come from hard-work and dedication to the job.  The Best of the Best not only know when to do these things, they also know when to “shut it down” and re-fuel.  Even the fastest cars (the ones that are winning) in Nascar races have to make their occasional pit-stop to re-fuel and get ready for the next leg of the race.  They cannot continue to win the race unless they do.  So it is with Top Salespeople.  In order to keep winning the race of professional sales, they need to have a quality of life outside the selling marketplace.  The Best of the Best know that the only reason to be in this game (sales) is to have a better life and more of it!  We find that these cats take longer/better vacations, schedule more time with their families, dig deeper into “outside work” passions/hobbies, and overall get more out of life than those who “work the grind.”  They realize that enjoyment and passion are synonymous with Success and if too much WORK goes into one area over another, the enjoyment and the passion start to fade.

10. They Take What They Do Very Seriously Without Taking Themselves Too Serious

The Best of the Best in sales realize that they are in a profession. Just like all professionals, there are expectations that customers hold them to.  A doctor has expectations that not only will she have a good bedside manner, but that she will know her area of expertise to such a degree that human lives may be placed in her care.  A lawyer has expectations to know not only the law (today’s law) but to also know everything else about his area of expertise such that success or failure at the hands of a jury is entrusted to him.  And so it is with sales professionals:  The Top Pros know that The Profession of Sales is for Sales Professionals.  As professionals, they know that the 9 areas that I have listed above require their constant attention.  They realize that the solutions that they can and do provide for their customers can change lives and affect so many.  And yet, with all of that in mind, they go into the battle each day with a light heart and a sound attitude knowing that they will hear no.  They realize that having FUN is a vital part of the game and that most people would rather do business with a friend than with a salesperson.  And so, they strive to be light hearted and heavily focused to gain the trust of the people with whom they choose to engage.

It has been said that Success Leaves Clues. Hopefully these success strategies of the Top Sales pros will give you some clue as to where you can get back on track to superstardom in the profession of selling.

8 Sales Dysfunctions that Cost You Dearly

8 mistakes blogAs sales professionals, we need to pay attention to all wins AND all losses. There are specific things being done by salespeople every day that create the LOSS of sales and the LOSS of customers. You need to make sure that you or your people are NOT doing these.

It’s challenging enough in the marketplace today gaining new business from existing customers and gaining the trust of new customers to take a chance with you.  On top of that, the competition is doing crazy things, dropping prices and trimming margins to all-time lows.  With all of the existing challenges that we face in the marketplace, we certainly don’t need to be adding to our woes by engaging in dysfunctional sales behavior!  Unfortunately, I am seeing too much of this today and it needs to STOP!  Pay attention to the following EIGHT areas of sales dysfunction and make sure that you are not participating in any of these:

1-Leading with your wallet

Although it seems price sensitivity is present in our customers today at much higher rate than in recent history, we cannot forget that “The price is the scorecard for how well you play the game.”  Too many times, the salesperson of today is more price sensitive than the customer.  Why?  It seems (in the mind of the salesperson) that whenever a sale is lost today, it usually comes down to price.  In fact, it seems that customers are actually getting programmed by the competition to discuss price earlier in the sales process.

Here is what happens:  Too many salespeople do not spend the appropriate amount of time building the value of their product or service offering.  Just when we need to be doing a better job of communicating and connecting value (see below), we tend to rush to the one thing that customers see as the common denominator; price!  When we “tee-up” phrases such as, “We want to make sure that we get you the best deal or the best rate” we only add to our problems.

We need to leave price out of the conversation as much as we can.  You know price will be a consideration in the decision.  They know it too!  But, for most buyers, the price is what it costs to get a result.  Do yourself a favor and discuss what result the customer seeks.  Learn to deflect price (set it off to the side) initially instead of avoiding it.  Leading with price turns into competing on price which leads to margin and commission erosion for you and no perceived value to the customer as to who you are and what you do for them besides lower prices.

Most customers will grind you on price if:

A.     They know that they can and you will react by lowering it—(you don’t value your offer as much as you should) or

B.     They don’t understand the value—(you have not communicated the value in terms of what they get for making the decision to go with you and your price)

2.  You stopped communicating your value

Anyone can make a sale or create a customer the first time.  The art of a long and healthy sales career is in building a long list of loyal clientele that continues to value you and your company over all others.  Too many salespeople today think the opposite; that getting the initial sale is the hard part and once that’s done, it should be all downhill from there.  WRONG!

The customer that feels unimportant begins to reconsider your value and that of your company.  In fact, I was on stage with another speaker recently that stated, “In a tough economy, customers get promiscuous!”  Listen, when you land a new customer, you have just created a new target for the competition.  They  will now strategize not only how to land the business, they will actually strategize how to TAKE it from you.

In the world today, delivering on what you promised is no longer good enough!   You cannot leave it up to the customer to stay “in love” with you on their own.  After a while, the things that you do for the customer will tend to get taken for granted if you let them.  It reminds me of the age-old question and answer:  When is the best time to tell your spouse that you love them?….Before someone else does!

The customer that takes their business elsewhere today costs much more than the one that never buys.  Why? Because you were counting on that business!  You had it!  Shame on you for letting them fall out of love!  We can’t afford to neglect to continually communicate what we “bring to the table.”

3-“Get it CLOSED” vs. “Get it OPENED” Mentality!

(I have to be careful with this one because it may seem that I will contradict myself below when I discuss closing—or lack thereof.)

The current state of desperation that exists in many sales organizations today has many salespeople focused on tactics and TODAY instead of strategy and FOREVER!  In fact, this is true with a solid majority of salespeople regardless of the economy.  Too many are more concerned with the sale that is made today than they are with the repercussions of the “scorched earth” that they leave behind in their efforts.

Salespeople are focused (often by management) to meet deadlines, hit sales quotas, earn bonuses and win contests.  Although I understand the importance of urgency in the sales process, we cannot run roughshod over the needs and desires of the customer in the effort to meet our agendas.  While me may occasionally win a sale this way, this behavior will not tend to endear us to the customer and thus, trust is low resulting in no referrals (who want their contacts to go through that?) and no relationship going forward!

Try to consider what the “lifetime value” of a customer could be if you do everything right.  Imagine what it would be worth if you make the right moves for and with the customer initially and then continue to grow with them and for them for years to come.

There are many differences between a one-night stand and a marriage.  Do you know what they are?

4-Use of URGENCY SELLING TACTICS and Tricks

I guess there used to be a day when buyers used to be somewhat regarded as unintelligent.  If not, I cannot understand where some of the hogwash tactics used today tend to come from.  One of the big ways that salespeople seek to secure a sale is the “buy-now-or-miss-out” tactic.  This mostly leads to more “push-back” and less trust on the part of the buyer.

Eventually, price dropping is what comes next for the seller and the nasty cycle continues.  When the customer is pressured to buy before they are ready, value moves down the priority list and price takes its place on the top!  Customers understand more and more today that they can buy on their terms from somewhere and if it cannot be from you, they will either look elsewhere or demand that YOU PAY for their urgency!  Again, even if you do win the business using this tactic, there is probably little foundation for a relationship there for future business.

5-Lack of AWARENESS and EMPATHY

Today’s seller needs to be hyper sensitive to the current frame of mind of the buyer.  They need to do their best to connect to the most compelling needs that the customer may have to purchase the product or service that they are offering.  This all goes back to the shortest course on selling; Ask Questions and Listen!  On top of that, today’s economy arms sellers with unending accessibility to information to help them prepare and communicate with the customer from their point of view.

Instead of a better process however, I tend to see a continued focus on the presentations of their stuff!  The rush to roll-out the Powerpoint Presentation is the goal.   The agreement to have us write a proposal or send a bid seems to be the entire purpose that a salesperson lives for.

In the world we live in today, the connection that a salesperson makes with our prospects, customers, and clients is the primary asset that we need to covet.  If we choose to NOT be the lowest price and we choose to NOT be a “one-and-done” vendor, we need to shift our focus and that of our sellers BACK to the customer.

Instead of preparing yourself and your sellers on the “what to say” part of the selling transaction, we need to prepare and practice the questions that create the dialogue that creates the connection.  It is through that connection that we will discover and understand how to best help the customer buy today and for the long-term.  More importantly, it will help the customer discover and understand that we differ from the competition in value and that our concern for them deserves their continued trust and business.

6-Afraid to ASK for the Business

If I had 100 salespeople in a room and told them that I had one-hour to train them in one specific area of the sales process and that they could pick from a list of our 27 different training topics, I bet that over 80% of the room would ask me to cover CLOSING!  You see, many sellers believe that if they could learn the secrets of CLOSING, then the sales process would be shorter and they would have to focus less on the other stuff.

I believe that closing is the natural conclusion to the professional, customer focused sales process.  If you are with a customer discussing the potential of doing business together, it should be a foregone conclusion that, if the connection between buyer and seller is correct and that the offer meets the needs, then a sale should be the result.  Right?  However, there is some small print attached that we are all too aware of.

I often state that there are two people that should be dismissed from the profession of selling:

The first one to go must be the salesperson who rushes to the close (see above) before garnering the customer’s trust and diagnosing their specific needs.  They use tricks and tactics (see above) and make all sellers look like a bunch of self-centered, product-focused, short-sighted hacks with commission breath!  They need to GO!

The second salesperson that needs to go actually does a good job for the majority of the sales process.  They prepare well and strategize a decent approach.  They engage the customer in conversation and discover (with the customer) the motivations for buying.  They present a customized and anchored proposition of value that speaks the unique needs of the customers and they communicate the value strongly in the customer’s language.  But then……they never ask for the business!   They need to GO too!

It is not the customer’s job to buy.  It is our job to help them do so in a professional manner when we see the mutual benefit of the sale.   Anything short of that and we have not done our job.  When the economy is tight and opportunities to sell are fewer, we cannot afford to be “professional presenters” or “hesitant product-pushers.”  EARN—ASK—GET!!

7-It’s NEVER a touchdown if you drop the ball!

When you are fighting for every opportunity you can find, dropping the ball on even one item is not acceptable.  Follow-up and follow-through are two major areas of differentiation for professionals in any arena.  The sales profession requires it daily!  There is no excuse for not doing what it is that you said you were going to do!

In today’s competitive and challenging marketplace, a salesperson can actually create a considerable level of differentiation in the way that they communicate next steps and then follow through with those steps.  It’s too easy to overpromise and underperform.  It’s too easy to justify a lack of follow up by complaining that you are too busy trying to secure new sales.  (You were the same one that justified your lack of follow up 2 years ago by saying that you were too busy with existing business.)   Stop buying into your own [email protected]#$%t!

Please remember that follow-up is NOT the customer’s job!  Timeliness today has a much different definition than it did a few years ago.  Technology has “turned up the dial” on customer’s expectations.  Technology has also created many tools for you to stay on top of your commitments and to do what you said you would do!  Use what is available.  Set the alarm on your cell phone.  Set a reminder in your CRM program.  Leave yourself a voicemail or send yourself an email.

When all of the smoke clears, here is what it comes down to: Either you will be a person who honors their commitments (to themselves, their families, the colleagues, the companies, and their customers) or you will be a person who does not.  Choose!

8-Referrals are by accident ONLY

When a customer decides to do business with you and you deliver exactly what it is that you promised (or more), when you promised it, you have earned the right to ask them to do so for someone else in their network.   The most successful sales professionals in any industry acknowledge that a major part of their success is due to the consistent stream of introductions and referrals from their existing customer base.

Too many sellers today do not focus on the power of the referral.  The main reason that they do not consistently ask for and get referrals is that they do not look at it as part of the sales process.  If the subject of referrals is ever brought up, it is often done so very weakly by the seller such as, “If you ever think of anyone that might be interested in…………..blah…blah…blah.”  Just as with anything that is to be duplicated and/or systematic, there needs to be a process/a system to follow!  And it needs to be followed with conviction and commitment.

Remember, two of the biggest concerns that a prospective new customer has about doing business with you are:

1-“Will I pay too much?” and

2-“Will this product/service meet my expectations (as set by the salesperson.)?

Both of these questions are answered in advance if you have been referred by someone that they trust.

Take a good hard look at these EIGHT customer, sales, and/or margin killers above and keep a good eye on the sales process in which you engage daily.  Are any of these things killing your sales?  Are any of these dysfunctions creating an “anti-sales” culture?  It’s time to streamline your efforts and “sweat the small stuff.” 8 mistakes blog

The Little Things Really DO Matter!

The Little Things Blog

There is a popular series of books that have been out a couple of years called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.  When it comes to sales, I do not believe the teachings apply as well.  In fact, it is the small stuff the separates the winners from the average players.

So much is taught in sales about the “big parts of the game” such as the cold call, the pitch or presentation, the sales cycle, working a pipeline, overcoming objections, and closing.  And yet, with all of this knowledge and training, the majority of salespeople still have difficulty managing the entire process through to the finish line.

At the same time, you will find there is a small group of salespeople that focus on, what most would consider to be the small stuff.  What types of things are these?  Here are a list of a few of the little things that matter in the profession of sales:

1-They schedule prospecting time every day!  They realize that, no matter how hot and heavy everything happens to be in their pipeline today, it is the plowing (prospecting) at the top of the pipeline that opens it up for continued results.

2-They build and consistently use a referral generation process.  They know that the best source of new business comes from existing clients and that by leveraging their existing relationships, they actually create a small sales force of their own that “keeps the leads flowing in.”  They also realize that they need to 1) Ask for the referrals, 2) Earn the right to ask, 3) Make it easy to refer, 4)and say Thank You.

3-They use target and personal marketing campaigns.  They realize that, in business, it is not who you know, but rather who knows you that counts.  They create a systemized “touch campaign” that not only reaches out to identified key prospects before they call upon them, but also continues to “whisper in their customer’s ears” regularly.  The true pro realizes that value-add relationships develop loyalty from their customer base so they make sure that all of their touches are unique and value-add.

4-They Say Thank You—A Lot!  Top producers sometimes go back and revisit the tactics used years ago and “dust them off” for use today.  One such tactic is the use of Thank You Notes in the sales process. Too many salespeople rely on brief email notes and voice mail messages to express their gratitude for a sales appointment, a referral, a sale, or anything else.  Although Thank You Notes were very common years ago, they are only in the arsenals of those who wish to stand out today!  By the way, can you say Thank You too much to your customers?

5-They do what they say they are going to do.  Although this seems like a very logical, natural thing for all to follow, the sad truth is that we live in a world where the broken promise is the norm and the “under-whelmed” customer is most common.  True sales pros focus on “managing the expectations” of their customers and adding value in the customer’s eyes by OVER PERFORMING on expectations.

In the marketplace, I suggest that, as sales professionals, we need to make sure that we are focused on ALL of the things that are necessary for our success.  The little things are what separates us from the crowd.  The good news is that, with a little work, you will build the confidence in your “scoring zone” to consistently achieve greater sales results.  So…Sweat the Small Stuff!