No Goals Typically Means No Growth!

As you prepare to close out 2018 and ready yourself to usher in a new year I suggest we take a closer look NOW at where you want to be at this same time next year—in 2019. Goal setting is a term that Sales Professionals tend to hear so often that they can become numb to its power and its strength. In our profession there are way too many “hacks” out there that basically “let things happen to them” (i.e. playing a “reactive role in their life and profession rather than an “active” role). Often, it’s these same people who sit back and say it wasn’t me, i.e., I am the victim. They haven’t given a single thought to “goal setting”. “Goal Setting” is a sure way out of the victim mentality and frees you to decide what you want.

Why not try a brand-new approach? Map out the success you want to achieve and go from good to great in 2019!

There is no better place to start than to take a look over your shoulder. Did you reach your goals this year?  Did you even know what they were?  Did you accomplish what you wanted?  Did you even know what that was?  Did you go forward?  Did you go backward?  Did you go nowhere?  Did you make more money, less money?  Do you have more accounts, less accounts?  How about the time you spent with your family?  How about your personal fitness?  How about your quality of life?  What are the top 10 events that happened for you this year?  What are all the good things that happened vs. the bad things that happened?

At Sales Coach International we believe in success by design, not chance.  I’m going to give you 7 steps that should be used by sales people, sales managers and professionals all across the board, to design what you want to accomplish in 2019.  These steps are a “take-off” from a book I read by Brian Tracy called “Eat That Frog!”

  1. You have to clearly decide what you would like to accomplish this year.Clearly decide what’s going to look different 365 days from today. Clearly decide what it is that you want inyour life and your career. Clearly decide what it is you want outof your life. Clearly decide what that change is going to be. Clearly decide what car you are going to drive. Clearly decide what house you will live in. Clearly decide how much money you want to make. Clearly decide what your book of business is going to look like. The key word here “CLEARLY”.  You have to be very specific.  You can’t use words like “bigger” or “better” or “more” or “different”. There are two different types of goals. One is “meaningful specifics” and the other is “wandering generalities”.  It is my experience, most people, if they even attempt to get into goal setting, lean toward the latter. “Wandering Generalities” have a lot of “wants” attached but no “specifics”: “I wantto do better”, “I wantto make more money this year”, “I wantto lose some weight this year”, “I wantto drive a nicer car” etc. These aren’t goals.  You’ve got to CLEARLY decide what it is that you want to accomplish—right down to the specifics.
  2. When you have clearly decided what it is you want to accomplish; write it down. Many people have trouble writing goals down because they are not clear on what it is that they want.  I don’t mean to just find any spot to write these down. I don’t mean to just put it in an email or write it on some Word document that can get lost on your hard drive.  How about this? Get a black Mead composition notebook. On the front 2 lines write “2019 goals” and your name. On the top of each page you write down your clear meaningful specific goal. If you don’t write it down, it’s just a dream.  Dreams rarely come true. Goals in writing often do. Once you write it down there is a level of commitment that is often missing when you are simply saying it or even just thinking it. Once you seal it in ink, your mind subconsciously starts to go to work on it.  If you don’t write it down, it isn’t going to happen.  It’s that simple.  So get a notebook!
  3. Set a deadline for reaching your goals.There have been many studies that show average business tends to get 65% more results in the 4thquarter than in the previous 3 quarters.  Why is that?  Because there is a self-imposed deadline.  There is a drop-dead date.  There is an “or else” attached to it!  Customers don’t change. Customers don’t change the way they buy; we change the way we sell.  In the fourth quarter we are more inclined to ask the uncomfortable questions we generally avoid throughout the course of the other 3 quarters.  We impose a sense of urgency on the buying process rather than the customer doing so. Our customers don’t change–WE just operate differently, and this happens when we set our goals– when the clock is ticking on our goals.
  4. Make a list of everything that needs to happen in order to achieve your goals. What got you here? What did your account base look like this year and how many dollars came in from your A accounts and your B accounts and your C accounts?  How much time do you spend on each one of those?  Where are the revenue streams for your commissions?  Where are the revenue streams for your business?  Where did you mostly spend your time this year?  If you keep doing the same things that got you where you are now than chances are you are going to stay here or, with the marketplace rapidly changing, you might even go backwards.  Can you afford that?  Open up your notebook that you recorded your goals in. On each page you are going to have a goal on the top and some of those goals are going to fall into buckets of your professional life. How many sales will you need to make? How much money are you going to make? How much account development are you going to do and how much account service are you going to do? The goal might be more personal such as “quality of life”, “health and fitness” etc. For example, most of you know I am very focused on golf. If there is a change, I want to make in my golf game, I write down exactly what I’m going to improve in 2019. I write how much I’m going to improve, what my handicap is going to be and how many rounds I’m going to play. I might write how many practice rounds I’m going to have, how many lessons I’m going to take, how many outings I’m going to take with the boys, how many top 100 courses I’m going to play in the country. I could focus on what I’m going to do equipment wise, what typesof lessons I’m going to take or how many putts I’m going to average. As you break a goal down in order to achieve your meaningful specific clear goal, there are many things that can be included.  Write down every single thing that has to happen or has to keep happening in order for you to achieve your goal. Don’t worry about the specific order on this step. We’ll cover that next.
  5. Organize your list by priority and sequence and put it into a plan—celebrating your wins along the way.What has to happen first? What happens after that? What is an absolute non-negotiable item that has to happen in order to achieve your goal? What’s going to be the most difficult thing to tackle? I’d probably want to attack that one first. I might have to spend more time on this or read up on it a little. I might have to gain additional training or education. Put some things down and organize that list into a plan. Now you have a plan.  Break it down into milestones and CELEBRATE these accomplishments along the way! If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, don’t wait until you’ve lost 25 pounds to celebrate.  If you lose 2 or 3 pounds in the first month, be excited about it. What do I get if I lose 3 pounds that first month? (I suggest it is something other than a cheeseburger—exciting as that may sound!)  What do you get for a personal reward when you land that big account in the first quarter? What do you get? Celebrate the milestones to give you the fuel to continue the next steps to accomplish your goal.
  6. Once your plan is written, start taking immediate action. Don’t hesitate. Don’t over strategize. Don’t polish it up. I don’t care how mediocre the plan is. I’ll choose a person who attacks a mediocre plan with incredible passion, commitment, enthusiasm and drive, any day, over somebody who’s going to sit back, strategize and polish up the plan. Days and months can be wasted in these types of behaviors and before you know it, nothing gets done.  The key is to take fast, instantaneous action on your plan.
  7. Commit to do something every dayto bring you closer to your goals. This is the “miracle step”.  Take that tiny step every day to bring you closer to what it is you want to accomplish. If you want to become a stronger sales person this year, you may have set a goal to read 15 books on how to be a better sales person.  That may seem like a daunting task but, reading a couple of paragraphs or a chapter every day certainly is not. You have committed a set time each day. You might have to get up a half hour earlier. These are the things that need to happen, a little step at a time.  Passing on that cheeseburger, or dessert, having a salad instead, these are the little things that will get you towards that weight loss. On average, most people spend only 20 days out of 365 working towards their goals. It’s easy to see that if you were to spend 365 days out of 365 doing little steps, you will surpass most on a regular basis.

To recap, the seven steps to follow to go from good to great in 2019 are:

    1. Be very clear on what it is you want to accomplish
    2. Make sure that you write it down and think on paper
    3. You are now the publisher and the editor of a magazine and you have to set a deadline for everything that has to happen.
    4. Make a list of everythingthat must happen in order to achieve your goal.
    5. Organize your list. Put it into a plan and celebrate your wins along the way.
    6. Take immediate action on your plan. Don’t over strategize.
    7. Commit to do something EVERY single day to get you closer to your goal.

If you follow this road map for successful goal setting, there’s no reason 2019 can’t be your BEST year ever. It won’t happen if you don’t design it! So, pick up your pen and get started today! Why wait until January? Design your plan and create the path to go from good to great in 2019!

Wandering Generalities vs Meaningful Specifics

As we are quickly heading into the last month of 2018, there are thoughts of New Year’s Resolutions running through the minds of many people.  I have often wondered what it is about the beginning of a new year that sparks so many people to turn over a new leafand begin to do the things that they know they should be doing right now!  It has been estimated that health club memberships increase by 20% every January. During this month, the gym is typically jam packed with new “fitness zealots.”  Unfortunately, the month of February finds the gym attendance plummet back to normal levels.

As salespeople, let’s make a pact to not fall into this pattern of New Years Resolution style goal setting.  The marketplace into which we sell is constantly evolving into one that is weeding out those salespeople that maintain the status quo.  This marketplace is becoming more and more demanding on sales professionals.  Customers have much more access to their options (our competitors) in the marketplace. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all salespeople to set a new goal for their own skill enhancement and growth for the New Year.

Year in and year out we find that it is the salespeople that regularly set their goals that show up on the top of the rankings.  Every time we do a seminar, we ask the question, “Who wants to be more successful next year than they were this year?”  Naturally, there is never a hand that stays down.  Everyone wants to improve, to make more money, to be more successful.  The fact is, most people do not define what MORE SUCCESSFUL is.  That is the main problem:  Most people have Wandering Generality Goals.

A wandering generality goal is one with no specifics to it.  “I want to make a lot of money.  I want to buy a new car.  I want a new house.  I want to be rich.”  While many of these may seem to be worthy pursuits, they have about as much chance of happening as does World Peace.  The danger with wandering generalities is that are not really goals at all.  What they are in fact, are dreams!

Wandering generalities are not written down, do not have timelines, and are very rarely accompanied by a plan for their accomplishment.  Hoping to accomplish something is not a great strategy. Wanting something really bad doesn’t make it happen!

If you, as a sales professional truly wish to accomplish something, that something needs to be written down and defined as specifically as possible.  A Meaningful Specific Goal is one that you have a clear picture of and a specific plan by which to achieve it.  For example:  I drive a new 2019 Jaguar Sedan which is black with tan interior.  I will lease the car by March 25thwith $3,000 down and a monthly payment of $575 for 36 months.  I will accomplish this by closing one more sale per week and saving an additional $1000 in commissions per month for the down payment and subsequent lease and insurance payments.  I will accomplish these additional weekly sales by making 10 additional prospecting calls per day every day for the entire year.  This will result in 4-5 more sales opportunities per week.  With my current closing ration at 1 in 4, I will meet this goal and drive this new car very easily.

Test your SUPERSTAR Sales Potential!!

RAISE THE BAR: TEST YOUR SUPERSTAR POTENTIAL

As a professional sales person, you should always be stretching yourself towards continuous improvement. To determine where you stand in relation to the Superstar Salesperson, take the following quiz. Grade yourself on each category/activity, based on the following:

3= I’m doing this now, consistently.

2= I’m doing this now, occasionally.

1= I don’t do this now but am willing to start.

0= I’m not interested in doing this.

Even if you are the consummate sales professional, the only hope of staying at the top of your game is ongoing and continuous improvement. As you read through and complete this quiz, look to identify how and where you can take your business actions and performance to an even higher level. As is true so often on tests of this nature, we will identify several things we already know, and in fact were once doing yet are doing them no longer. Use this exercise as the catalyst to reinvent yourself and your business!

GOALS

___Have a written one-year plan.

___Have a tracking and reporting system to monitor performance to plan.

___Incorporate life goals beyond pure business goals.

___Know the daily/weekly/monthly actions necessary to reach key objectives.

___Start off each day with a detailed to-do list.

___Follow a disciplined time management system.

___Have the necessary patience, realizing superstar results come from a process not an

event.

 

MARKETING

___Try new and innovative marketing ideas.

___Understand and implement an effective “perception of value” campaign.

___Have an ongoing “touch system” to stay visibly in front of my market.

___Evaluate my competition to gain and implement new, winning ideas.

___Spend at least 50 percent of my time each week talking with prospects, customers,

and clients.

___Seek out and develop niche markets to expand my marketing and business reach.

 

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

___Approach new markets and new business sources regularly.

___Identify a “Prospect Basket” of candidates to do new business with, and weekly

pursue a specific quantity, inclusive a proactive follow-up.

___Practice “Model the Masters”, by brainstorming with other superstar sales

professionals in your business.

___Be actively involved in both trade associations and community groups to ensure

visibility.

 

CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE

___Calculate the lifetime value of your customers.

___Be selective in who you work with and manage your time accordingly.

___Maintain a database of standard form letters for typical customer contact points.

___Provide value added suggestions, ideas and tools to help your database

be more successful and enhance your relationships.

 

REFERRAL BUSINESS

___Create the “Great First Impression”. Make it easy for first time customers to be

enthusiastic about referring business opportunities to you.

___Have a formal plan and process for asking for referrals at different stages where

appropriate.

___Refer business to your clients whenever possible.

 

ENTREPRENEUR BEHAVIOR

___Treat your book of business as if it were a business.

___Invest in your business and marketing efforts, don’t wait for the company to do so.

___Stay focused on business creating activities.

___Seek out a mentor to help you reach the next level.

___Master your key products and services.

___Attend industry conferences, seminars, and maintain a regular industry reading

program.

 

CULTURE FOR SUCCESS

___Align oneself with top professionals and a company with a solid reputation.

___Maintain ongoing recognition systems for 1) prospects, customers, clients,

2) fellow sales associates, and 3) sales support team.

___Focus on key revenue generating activities, delegating as much admin activities

to support personnel/assistants.

___Leverage the company resources as further support to your business.

___Maintain a practice of “under-promise”, “over-deliver” in daily business activities.

SCORING:

Add your total of the above criteria. If you scored 85-105, congratulations on your superstar performance and direction. Ensure you review this key activity indicator and work on your areas where improvement is indicated. A score of 60-85 suggests an acceptable direction towards sales professionalism, however there remain a good number of areas for improvement and opportunity. Pick two-three specific activities to focus on for improvement. Once implemented, return to this indicator and choose additional areas for improvement. A score below 60 is a wake-up call and suggests an overall relook and rework of your activities and commitment to excellence in the sales profession. Use this quiz as your starting point and begin to implement more of the activities that are reflective of those in the selling profession we recognize as SUPERSTARS!

*Note: Special thanks to the many Sales Professionals and Superstars for your guidance in assembling this tool. We at Sale Coach International wish each of you the best in your quest for SALES SUPERSTARDOM.

 

 

What Motivates the Buying Process???

Every time I run a session, whether with sales managers and CEOs or with salespeople, I ask the question: What do people buy…benefits or features? Without exception, there is a pause and then the word benefits sneaks out. (Like they are not sure) YES!  Benefits are what people buy!  I don’t want your product!  I don’t care to own your service!  I simply want the benefit of what owning it does for me!

An overused example: All of us who own a power drill do not care to own the drill.  At one point in our past, we simply wanted a HOLE!  The hole is the benefit that the drill provides.

So it is with our products and services.  The things that are important to you about your product or service are typically not what is important to your customers.

I perform the following exercise in many of my sessions:  Grab a blank piece of paper and very quickly write down the three main BENEFITS of doing business with your company.

Did you do it?  If you did (and you are like most of those who go through this exercise), you probably have some of the following words or phrases on the page in front of you:

Quality, Service, Reliability, Trust, Dedicated Staff, Technology, Local, People, Knowledge, Track Record, Me,                 Relationships, Blah, Blah, Blah…

You see, EVERYONE says the same stuff all of the time!  We go into the marketplace and tout the benefits of quality, service, and reliability (the holy tri-fecta of sales).  Our competition is saying the same things.  We all sound too similar.  We all sound like we attended the same school of sales.  We are all putting ourselves into the same box.

STOP IT!  Start telling the customer what these words or phrases (FEATURES) translate to in the form of benefits for them!  What does “service” translate into for them?  What BENEFIT do I get because of your products quality?  The answers to these questions will bring the customer closer to the reason that they will but from you.

Here’s a quick tip to help: Follow up each of your feature statements with this sentence:

So……what that (the feature) means to YOU is this: ________________________.

There are only a handful of benefits that your customer seeks.  What main benefits do you feel that your product or service provides for your customer?  Is it Peace of Mind?  Is it Greater Profitability?  Is it Ease of Use?  Is it Looking Good or Status?  Is it to Dominate the Competition?

What is it that owning your product allows me to have that I do not have currently?  If you can answer this and speak to this in your efforts to sell to me, I will not only go out of my way to own your product, I will pay a premium as well!

Proactive Vs. Reactive

The sales professional in today’s marketplace has more expectations thrust upon him by his customers than ever before.  In fact, most salespeople don’t understand this simple fact!  Instead of rising to the occasion and providing the value that their prospects, customers, and clients seek, they instead choose to do nothingdifferently and opt to lower price to get the business.  As my son Cooper often says, “What are you thinking?  Hellooooo?”

There is a major difference between the Reactive salesperson and the Proactive sales professional. Each person gets up each day with the same opportunity, the same challenge:  to enter the marketplace as a value-add component to the customer and to help that customer choose to buy (or to continue to buy) from them!  In today’s uncertain economic environment with rapid change and consistent inconsistencies in the buyer’s world, it is absolutely necessary to avoid the trapthat the Reactive approach will too often set for you!  Simply showing up to do your job no longer is enough!  Taking the order and delivering as promised is simply not enough anymore.  In fact, low pricing and quality products alone don’t even guarantee you the order anymore.

In speaking with a current Foodservice client of mine recently, I found myself addressing an issue that several of his team members were facing—a severe increase in the price sensitivity and focus on the part of the customer.

Some background info: The salespeople on his team are selling into the restaurant environment as “route salespeople” taking grocery orders weekly from owners and managers. Regularly these customers take calls from salespeople from competing companies that carry the same lines and often the same brands of products.  Left to their own thoughts, the customer will feel that many of the products (and thus those who sell them) are commodities!

The reason for the increase in price sensitivity (even nominal price fluctuations) is quite simple. The restaurant owner in today’s market is in the middle of a perfect storm.  They are seeing higher food prices than ever before.  They are facing additional fuel surcharges from the Foodservice Distributor due to out-of-control oil pricing.  They are seeing customer counts shrinking due to a lack of consumer confidence based upon current economic uncertainty in the financial markets, real estate markets, fuel prices, food prices, etc.  So, in a nutshell, they pay more, sell less, and see no end in sight.  The natural thing for them to do is to analyze where they need to cut back and guess who is naturally first in line?  The vendor that they pay the most—the grocery guy!

As an exercise, I suggested that we analyze the feedback from a sample customer—ABC Café.  This particular restaurant owner has stated that their business is “a bit off” with 3-4 fewer tables being served at lunch and 3-4 fewer tables being served at dinner on average each day.  With an average table at lunch producing $30 in revenue and an average table at dinner producing $50, a rough estimate over a month shows a decrease in about $8,500 in revenues.  That translates to about $100,000 per year in revenues!  That is often then entire take-home pay of the restaurant owner!

This needs to be addressed—PROACTIVELY—by the sales rep if they choose to keep the account and develop the relationship!

Think about this for a moment.  What the customer is saying to you is not as important as what they are saying when you are not around that can and will affect you!  Put on the customer’s “hat” for a moment.  What do you think the topics of conversations might be for him/her with their spouse at home at night?  What decisions do you think they might be weighing?

  • “Do we pay the rent on the restaurant OR the mortgage on our home this month?”
  • “How do we tell our son/daughter that we cannot pay to send them to college this year?”
  • “How much longer can we stay open?”
  • “Will our car get repossessed?”
  • “Maybe one of us needs to get another job to help support the family?”
  • “Who do we need to let goto cut back costs?”
  • “Where else can we cut?”

Every one of these questions is a point of considerable pain that started with just a few less customers per day.  Although it looks small, as you can see, it is not!

It has been my experience that the overwhelming majority of salespeople that have customers facing tight economic times simply choose to de-emphasize it and try to focus on what’s next.  In other words, “I know times are slow for you now but I still need to sell you something so listen up!”

Understand this, very few customers wake up in the morning and get excited about buying what it is that you are selling!  This falls true especially for business customers versus actual consumers.  For example, the restaurant owner didn’t open his doors today to buy groceries!  However, he did open his doors with the intention to make a profit sellingmeals!  He does this by creating a quality product, with over-the-top service, at a price that includes a solid profit margin—and he has to do that many times over each day!  Do you think that most salespeople are having conversations with the restaurant owner about buying more or selling better?   

The retail shop that opened his doors this morning didn’t do so to buy advertising!  He opened his doors to make a profit sellinghis product.  In order to so consistently, he needs customers and for that he needs visibility and differentiation.

The manufacturer doesn’t want to buy your machine parts!  They want to ensure (peace of mind) that their machines stay operational and running at capacity to stay productive and profitable!

When times are tough, each of these buyers looks to the vendors calling upon them. The conversations often come out as price objections and “nickel and dime” conversations.  Now is NOT the time for negotiation tactics or closing tricks!  Now is the time for strong, prepared PARTNER conversations.  Now is the time for YOU to proactively address the main financial concerns of the customer and really DIG/DIAGNOSE where it is that you and your company can help them to do a better job.

The natural human tendency is to assume that “If I spend less, I get to make more!”  Sellers face this very thought process every day and most tend to address it with mundane feature sellingby stating things like Quality-Service-Reliability, blah, blah, blah. It is obvious that higher quality should translate into a better product, but if you cannot connect the dotsfrom your higher quality, better products to their main goal (for example: PROFIT), then your product’s quality is not a desire!

So, here is a great drill for you and your team to get into over the next few weeks:

  • Have some internal conversations within your sales organization with the customer’s business the main topic. Engage the entire sales and service team to bring to the tablethe customer’s point of view.  What are you seeing?  What are you hearing?  What are they saying?  What might they be feeling?  What’s the word on the street?  Is business up?  Down? Why?  How can we help?
  • Set a specific meeting with your Top 10 customers with the specific intention to do a review of their business-with you and otherwise.
  • Steer the conversation during this meeting specifically to the current state of affairs financially.
  • Ask specifically how the current markets (fuel, interest rates, housing markets, etc.) are affecting their sales and their profits.
  • As them what, if any, tough decisions might be on the immediate horizon for them or their company. (Layoffs, cutbacks, closures, product line cancellations, etc.)
  • Ask them how their competitive marketplace looks.  What is their competition doing that they are not or cannot?  What are they doing about this?
  • Ask them what it is that they value most from the current relationship that they have with you as a preferred vendor/partner?
  • Ask them what you could do better to assist them in the profitable growth of their business?

***This is important:  Listen to what they say—with the intent to Understand! Listen to what they say with intent to Add Value!

In advance:

Make sure that you carefully prepare your questions.  Your questions should help you uncover pains and fears that you and your company may be able to assist them with. (Many of these may have absolutely nothing to do with your products but will have everything to do with your value!) Make sure that you are prepared for any and allthings to come up. Don’t get caught off guard!  If negative things so come up—and, done properly, they probably will, do not get defensive! (Remember, you asked for it!) Make sure that you are prepared to take notes.  Make sure that you come to some solid action steps as a result of the conversation—and DON’T DROP THE BALL!!

The very fact that you are willing to address what is going on in their business should differentiate you and your firm.  The very fact that you are willing to sit down and analyze their current business status should elevate you from “one of” the many vendors to “the” value-add partner.  Zig Ziglar said years ago, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”  Show them that you care more than the competition by having the GUTS to bring up their issues.

It doesn’t matter what business you are in.  Your customer is faced with challenges and choices every day.  Whether YOU bring it up or not, the issues and challenges brought upon by the current economic marketplace are still there!  Would you rather bring it up on yourtermsor have them bring it up on their terms? One may position you as a partner/advisor/expert and the other could very well position you as a victim.  Your choice—Proactive or Reactive?

How to Drive More Actions, Behaviors, and Results!

Every day, as a sales professional, each of us enters a competitive marketplace to face a variety of challenges to our success.  These challenges come in many forms and the thoughts that go through our mind before we enter the marketplace DEFINE our actions and behaviors.  Too often, salespeople enter the day’s activities in much the same way that many people enter the workforce; they just show up!  The actions in which they involve themselves each day are not a direct result of conscious thought, but rather repetitious activity.  They mindlessly go through the motions of making calls, leaving messages, visiting accounts, taking orders, and filling out reports.  When the dust all settles from the day, the results are very similar to yesterday, the day before, and the day before that.  As Earl Nightingale stated in his award-winning audio The Strangest Secret, “the enemy to success is conformity.”  In other words, we simply conform to the natural tendency to simply show up and do our jobs.  The first thing it takes to get out of this RUT is to think!!

In a 4-hour leadership session that I delivered recently, one of the attendees asked me a question: “What is it, Gerry that you believe that you sell?”  After pondering the question for a moment (thought) I answered that when I am speaking from the stage, I am really selling new ways of looking at things or new ways of thought!  Before anyone can or will take different ACTION towards something, they must first think about it in a different way.  Otherwise, there would be no motivation for the change in behavior or action!  Think about it for a moment.  Every bit of information that enters your head comes with it the seeds of new thought and possibly newly directed behavior or action.  When you read something that is new to you, you think about that topic differently.  When you view a documentary that provides a considerable amount of new information or data about a topic that interests you, your mind goes into a thought process that could potentially make you take action that you previously had not.  (At the time of this publication, ex-Vice President of the US, Al Gore has just received the Nobel Peace Prize for his documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth” which has led millions of people to think about their actions and thus behave differently based upon new thought!)

So, as a sales professional, what is it that you think about each day?  Pre-call preparation is an area that an overwhelming amount of salespeople could improve in.  Do you want to know the easiest place to get started preparing better for every sales call?  It’s in your thoughts.  Those of you that have spent any time in my training know that ONE QUESTION can begin this process.  That question?  “What is the PURPOSE of this call?” By simply starting with that question, it will force you to think about what it is that you wish to accomplish on the sales call that you are about to make.  Stephen Covey says that we need to “begin with the end in mind.”

Now, you need to go beyond the typical answer of the sales force: “We want to sell this guy something.”  That is the reward for achieving the result that you seek.  THINK!  THINK!  What is it that you need to accomplish?  What is it that you need to get the customer thinking about?  What is it that needs to occur for the circumstances (no decision to buy) to change in your favor (a decision to buy.)  Below, I have listed a few thoughts that you may want to take into consideration before making your next round of sales calls.  Turn off the TV (TIVO your favorites) for one week and spend your time with your thoughts.  Instead of simply showing up for next week’s sales calls and “spraying and praying,” try giving some thought to the ideas below in advance so that when you open your mouth, every sound brings you closer to your desired outcome.  Remember:  Talking too much usually follows thinking too little. 

Some thoughts to drive new actions, new behaviors, and hopefully new results:

“What is the purpose of this call?”

“What might this prospect/customer be thinking about me/my product today?”

“What are my prospect/customer’s highest value needs or most wanted outcomes?”

“What previous experience has this prospect/customer had with us in the past?”

“Where/who do they buy from now?”

“What is the benefit of ownership my product that they desire most?”

“How much time does this person have to meet with me?”

“Who else is courting this prospect/customer today?”

“How long has it been since my last visit and what have I done since to add-value?”

“What did we talk about last visit and did I take appropriate action on it?”

“What can I bring to the table that the prospect/customer will value?”

“How can I position myself as a resource versus a vendor?”

“How can I communicate my expertise without bragging?”

“How can I get the customer to want to know more about my product/service?”

“How can I create a need where there may not be a perception of one?”

“What do I need to get this prospect/customer talking about?”

“What do I need to know that they haven’t shared with the competition?”

“How can I avoid talking about price until I establish value?”

“How can I position myself as an EXPERT?”

“What stories can I share to communicate value?”

“What names can I drop to add credibility?”

“What does the customer value ahead of price?”

“How does the competition approach the customer and how can I differ?”

“How can I OPEN the conversation in a more impactful way?”

“How am I prepared to address the most common of prospect/customer concerns?”

“What will I say if they DRAG me to price early?”

“What 10 questions do I seek answers to and how do I best ask those questions?”

“How can I ask for the business once I have earned the right to do so?”

“Have I practiced the time condensed visit just in case we run out of time?”

“What information do I need to get from the customer to build a better case of value?”

“What OPTIONS have I prepared for the customer by which to say yes?”

“Have I made it easy to do business with me?”

“Am I thinking from my point of view or the prospect/customer’s point of view?”

Can you imagine having the answers to at least half of these questions before you made each of your sales calls next week?  Can you imagine the change in the level of confidence that you would bring to the market?  Can you imagine the change in your level of credibility?  Better yet, can you imagine the stronger you will be and the better experience that your prospect/customer will have because of it?  All this takes initially is thought!  Turn off the TV and turn on your brain!  Start developing a HABIT of running scenarios and thoughts through your head before showing up?  Start THINKING like a customer and you will start increasing your effectiveness in the conversations with them.  Dialogues will start becoming more meaningful and less about price.  They will begin asking advice of you because they will start becoming more aware of the fact that they are in the presence of a professional.

Always remember that a man is not rewarded for having brains, he is rewarded for USING them.   Understand and remember that thoughts lead to action!  Thinks better, act better, produce better, and earn better!

Or………you could make more cold calls!

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?

Get Fit to SELL!

Today’s selling marketplace is not the same as it was 10 years ago.  There are more demands on our time.  There are more demands on us.  Customer’s expectations have increased along with their price sensitivity.  We are connected 24/7 via email, voicemail, cell phones, and IM.  We have to move faster, more efficiently, and more often to meet the needs of those with whom we wish to do business.  Our managers expect us to stop what we are doing and jump on a plane, make a sales call, fix a problem, take a client to a ballgame, have a late-night dinner, and do a variety of things to make sure that we don’t lose an opportunity or a client.

What is the answer as to how to compete—how to keep up?  Well, I have chosen to address part of the answer in this article.  GET FIT for the challenges that you face daily.  Oxygen has become an amazing additive to my daily/weekly diet through exercise.  Now, before you sign off in disgust at another exercise convert, I challenge you to read on….but only if you are interested in an EASY way to gain some additional edge over your competition.

Oh….do I have your attention?

The brain apparently is an organ that gives back in accordance to what it is given.  I have, for years touted the importance of feeding the brain by reading, listening to tapes and CDs in the areas in which you wish to improve, attending workshops & seminars, and reading industry magazines (yours and your customer’s).  It has long been my opinion that the more you feed your brain in the areas of expertise you need, the better your “shot” at becoming what you seek.  Although that has not changed, I now firmly believe in the feeding of something else to the brain—OXYGEN!

By setting up and following a simple regimen of exercise, you may very well increase your sales ability dramatically.  Let me see if I can give you a real-world example:

As a speaker, it is absolutely imperative that I am ON when I am on the speaking platform.  There is no excuse for a lackluster performance.  A client has engaged me to deliver a well-prepared message-to deliver content-and to do so in a way that will spark changes in behavior and thus, changes in results.  I need to be on my game.  I need to be well prepared and set to handle whatever may be thrown my way by the audience.  (Almost sounds like a sales call, doesn’t it?)

A while back, I was in Canada delivering two separate sessions to two different groups of CEOs regarding the development of a World Class Sales Organization.  I was to deliver two separate 4-hour sessions that would cover a variety of subjects including recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, retraining, and retaining of sales talent.  Because of the audiences that I would be addressing, (CEOs) I had to be prepared to adjust my content to the desires of those in attendance and be prepared for group questions, challenges, and other interaction.  Although I have delivered over 500 of these sessions over the years, every group is different and something new may come up at any time—I must be on my game!

The night that I arrived, I made sure that I got into my hotel and got prepared to deliver for the next morning.  My plane arrived late and I got to the hotel about 10:00pm.  I immediately unpacked for the next morning (my 1st session was to start at 8:00am).  After falling asleep around midnight, I arose at 5:00am to get in a workout in the hotel gym.  I have to say, I was not particularly motivated when I got up, but 10 minutes into a 2-mile run, I was looking forward to the weight room.  90 minutes later, I was set for the day.

My session that morning to my first group of CEOs was fantastic.  I had a very engaged group of people that questioned and challenged me throughout.  The session was delivered with high energy and it came sooooo easy.  It seemed that I had just begun speaking when I was given the sign that the session was over.  The grades that I received were unanimously perfect.  Not only was the session an effortless BLAST for me.  Apparently, the group thought it was content rich and value packed as well.

The balance of that day went to a coaching session with a client of mine that flew in from Winnipeg followed by dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.  Needless to say, the evening was late and the next morning held no exercise activity before I was going LIVE again at 8:00am.  Although the session was very similar and the audience was equally engaged, I had to put in much greater effort to get similar results.  I had to think more and try harder.  Why?  In my opinion, my brain did not get that release of oxygen in the morning before the session.  Although the end result was pretty much the same (great reviews), the effort I had to put in to get there was almost twice as much!

Have you ever noticed some sales seem to be effortless works of art where you gain an immediate connection with the prospect?  The questions that you asked seem to move the prospect towards your offer.  The answers that the customer seeks are right on the tip of your tongue and they come out so smooth.  The rapport and trust that you built was done so with very little effort and you walk away with a sale that you didn’t even have to ask for.  I’m here to tell you that the majority of your sales can go like that if you get in shape for selling.

Here’s all you have to do:

First, you gotta want it.  If you don’t do it for your health, do it for the additional commissions!

Second, you need to design a plan.  Use the 3 C’s:  Clarity-Commitment-Consistency

(Be CLEAR on what it is that you will do each day—Stay COMMITTED to your plan—and stay CONSISTENT with your efforts to feed your brain every day.)

Third, Take immediate ACTION to get started.

Whether you choose to walk, run, swim, or hit the gym and stretch or push some iron around, I challenge you to take that first step to your health and selling success by setting in ACTION a plan to “Get Fit for Selling”.

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.

Are You ASKING For It?

ask for the sale

Here is an interesting question:  Why is it that we, as salespeople spend so long, invest so much time, energy, preparation, and effort on the phone with the prospective and existing customer during the sales cycle only to let the sale fade away or go to the competition?  Why is it that we place so much emphasis and commitment on the process of moving the ball down the field but yet design so very few plays to actually take the ball into the end zone?

We need to realize that whenever we do not actually attempt to create some closure–ask for the business–we literally destroy (or at least taint) all that we have worked for throughout the sales process.  We give up the connection and trust that we have built, the relationships that we have developed, the enthusiasm we have created, and the momentum of the process.  We simply let the sale wither away and die or get taken over by another more assertive, focused salesperson that was prepared (AND took the leap of faith) to ASK for the business!

Do you feel that you offer such irrefutable evidence of value throughout your sales presentations that the customer will simply give in?  Do you feel that your features, advantages, and benefits (FAB points) are so compelling that prospects don’t need to be asked to buy them?  Do you feel that you will offend your prospect or customer if you were to actually ask them to buy from you?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to GET OVER IT! (and possibly consider another career!) Here are a few very key RULES when it comes to closing the sale:

Rule #1—You MUST ask for the business!

Rule #2—You MUST earn the right to ask for the business!

Rule #3—The customer knows why you’re there!

Rule #4—Sometimes the answer is NO! Deal with it!

Rule #5—If you cannot, will not, or do not ask for the business, someone else will!

Ok, so why does it happen?  Why do many salespeople have a hesitance to ask for the business?


It is my belief that most salespeople do not ask for the YES

because they are afraid to hear the NO! 

Here are some other reasons

Little to no belief in their value proposition, their product, or their service.

  •     A lack of confidence or self-worth.
  •     No connection with the customer, thus no trust.
  •     The customer is in control-asking all of the questions.
  •     The salesperson doesn’t feel like they have earned the right yet.
  •     The salesperson has not discovered any motivators to create urgency.
  •     No time-lines have been discussed throughout the process.
  •     There is no defined sales process that the salesperson can follow.
  •     And many others

The good news is that ALL of these are within the control of the salesperson—the right salesperson.

FACT: is that it is not the responsibility of the customers to close themselves.  It is the job of the salesperson to get that done!  You are not paid to be a professional educator, a professional presenter, a hesitant visitor, or a walking-talking brochure-website.  You are paid to move the ball down the field and to score.  That’s it!!

The web site, the brochures, the advertising, and other marketing pieces often have very little to do with the Call to Action…but you do!  Your territory, products, prices, and your competition are what they are and they do not control your success…you do!  The prospective customer knows that you are there for a reason and that reason is to make the sale. Often, the only thing that stands in the way is you!  Are you willing to make the changes necessary to stay in the game?  If so, take a look at a few suggestions:

Learn how to ask better (more focused) questions to pull out true motivations (Pains-Fears-Desires) from the prospect.  Get to the WHY behind their answers!  Ask questions to gauge the prospects level of interest, understanding, and continued engagement in the process such as “So far, so good?”  “Up to this point, what questions do you have?” “Does that make sense?”

Have a clear purpose for each and every call that you make on the prospect.  If you don’t understand what needs to be discovered /uncovered and agreed upon in the sales process, how will the customer?  Going on a call without a clearly defined purpose and a clearly prepared Call to Action wastes both your time and the prospect’s.

Learn to “set the pace” of the sales cycle from the beginning.  Be in control by constantly and relentlessly moving the deal forward by calling the shots.  Get in the habit of thinking—and asking—“So what’s our next step?”