Posts

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.

10 Ways Salespeople BLOW Sales

Happy smiling business man standing out of the crowd with other people hiding their face behind a question mark sign.

Most salespeople are NOT tough acts to follow!  Most salespeople are simply moving through the profession of sales rather than working hard at it to earn their fortune.  In fact, in my opinion, 80% of salespeople UNDER PERFORM!  Here’s TEN reasons why:

1.  They’re focused on SELLING rather than HELPING THE CUSTOMER BUY.

The typical salesperson comes into almost every sales interaction with the same intent: To tell the prospect as much as they can about the product or service that they offer and then get them to buy it.  It’s no wonder that customers hide behind voicemail and screen us out!  Who wants to go through that?

2.  They have very little, if any, pre-call planning.

We wouldn’t expect our attorneys to go into court on trial day winging it, would we?  We don’t expect our doctors to go into the operating room without a plan.  We assume that the sports teams that we watch have a game plan that they execute for every opponent, don’t we?  If we wouldn’t expect any of these professionals to “fly by the seat of their pants” when it comes time to earn their pay, why in the world do we allow our salespeople to do it?

3.  They act and sound just like everyone else.

Most salespeople are NOT tough acts to follow.  And yet, most salespeople go through the same routine.  Most salespeople come in and try to “make a sale” (see #1 above) and hope that a customer appears.  SMART sellers come in and first “create a buyer” (ask questions and listen) and thus, the sale becomes the result.  Make it (your sales call) about them (the buyer) and you will stand out!

4.  They do not LISTEN to the customer.

The customer has all of the answers as to why they want to buy.  Sometimes they are aware of these answers and sometimes they are not.  If you ask enough of the right questions and ARE WILLING to truly listen to the customer’s answers, they will often times explain your business to YOU!  By the way, “Listening is different than waiting to talk!”

5.  They try to sell to someone who cannot buy!

Qualification of the prospect is one of the top priorities of sales professionals.  Often it is those that are hardest to get a meeting with that are the true decision makers.  And yet, salespeople meet with and try to sell to those who cannot write the check!  All of their correspondence, all of their time, all of their efforts, and their proposal has been geared toward the wrong people. Find out who can say yes and spend your time courting them.

6.  They bring NOTHING of value to the table.

Salespeople today need to understand that simply being there to take the order is no longer enough.  Anybody can do that!  A true sales professional in today’s marketplace needs to become a valuable asset to the customer by adding value at every opportunity. Giving information is no longer the main job of the salesperson.  Nowadays, if you don’t bring something to the table that will help the customer see that you are a vital component to their success, you can and will be replaced often.

7.   They are unaware of who (or what) they are up against.

The competition for a prospect or customer’s time, attention, and money is greater now than it ever has been.  We not only are up against competing companies and vendors in the marketplace, we are also up against things like internal competition, the current vendor, internal pressure to fund something else (another project), and indifference (no action).  When we are up against others, we need to be aware of who they are, how they sell, what they say, what they offer, and what it costs.  Getting blindsided by any competition is a direct result of lack of preparation (you need to know what your going to run into) and a failure to listen to the things both said and un-said by our prospects and customers.

8.  They steer the conversation to price and then complain about price sensitivity.

This is a big one.  Price seems to be come up more often and sooner in every sales conversation today.  Look at the buying environment today with customers having immediate access to information about product and price on the web and you can understand why price is (and always has been) an issue.  But YOU don’t have to be the one that brings it up!  Be prepared for price concerns, but don’t lead with your wallet!  The less you focus on the cost or the price, the less they will.  The more you focus on the benefits of ownership, the more they will.  And the more they focus on that, the more they will be willing to pay.

9.  They don’t have enough opportunity in the pipeline.

It has been said that the best sales strategy is a full pipeline of business.  What does this mean?  When salespeople have a lot of prospects that are in their pipeline of business, they make moves that position themselves and their companies in more of a positive, confident light.  When every meal depends upon every deal, the customer is fully in control—and you are NOT!

10.  They’re in the wrong job!

The profession of selling is for sales professionals.  Sales pros have certain characteristics and traits that are necessary for sustained sales success.  Too often we have people in the position of salesperson by default!   The position of sales professional for any company must be one that is filled with great attention to detail.  It used to be said that “any idiot can be a salesman!”  That cannot be further from the truth today.  We are in a world of hyper-competitiveness.  Only the best will make the cut!  Others need to move on and fill other roles—or go play the role of salesperson on the competition’s team.

Add up your scorecard.  How many of these areas are YOU (or your people) guilty?

There is a rule to winning:  Don’t SUCK!  If you are guilty of three or more of the areas above, get your act back together, pay attention, and make the changes necessary.  Sharpen up your skills, take control of your actions, and start to fight a better fight.

Personal Branding…What are YOU Known For?

TOP Salespeople use Personal Branding as a very special way to stand out in the minds of the market.  Most of them don’t even know that they are doing it!  Why do they do it?

  • Personal Branding gets your phone to ring.
  • Personal Branding separates you from all of the competition.
  • Personal Branding puts VALUE ahead of COST.
  • Personal Branding elevates you and thus your company/product/service in the minds of your customer.
  • Personal Branding, quite simply, creates more sales for you!

Companies spend millions of dollars every year to burn their brand into the hearts and minds of their potential customers.  This is done with advertising, jingles, and repetition of their messages.  Nike built a brand around that “swoosh” logo such that its worldwide proliferation is staggering.  You cannot go anywhere in the world of sports without seeing the “swoosh.”  In fact, the “swoosh” has become synonymous with excellence in sports.  The result?  An empire of shoes, clothing and sports gear that commands top dollar in the marketplace.

Starbucks did it with coffee in a different way.   They chose to create a customer “experience” that is consistent throughout the world.  They created a brand and invested their millions into teaching us (through their employees) a different way to order and drink coffee.  They train their people (The Barista’s “Green Apron Book”) and invest in the customer experience that we receive in any Starbucks.  The result?  We will go out of our way AND pay a premium to “find a Starbucks shop.

What is it that YOU can do as a sales professional to position yourself and your company as THE CHOICE rather than simply A CHOICE?  Through the appropriate Personal Branding tactics, you can:

  •  Establish yourself as an expert (Don’t just be “in” your field…be perceived as the “best” in your field.)
  • Be known as a resource (Don’t be a “taker” of orders….be a “maker” of profits and success for your customers)
  • Create a demand for your product or service  (Customer’s will call you…instead of the other way around)
  • Build prospective customer’s trust in you and your company (People do business with whom they trust and know….get KNOWN to gain their trust!)
  • Differentiate yourself from the competition (If you don’t stand out, you don’t stand out!)

How can you create a brand for yourself as a sales professional?  Let’s look at some of the first steps that you must take:

  1. Clearly define the “brand” that your desire to create and communicate to your marketplace.  How do you want to be known?  What words or phrases will your customer’s use to describe you?  How will you choose to differ yourself from the competition?
  2. Establish  a “special sauce statement” that states what it is that you bring to the table in a way that nobody else does.  This should be from the customer’s viewpoint (benefit driven) not from yours (feature driven.)
  3. Create a list of no less than 10 ways to communicate this BRAND every day in every way to your prospects, customers, and clients.  You must walk the walk that you wish to be “known for.”  Consistency is absolutely the key.  Every move that you make needs to be preceded with the following questions: “Is what I am about to do consistent with the brand that I have created?”

Personal Branding is the key to greater sales.  It is often the difference between you getting the contract or the other guy.  More importantly, it is most often the main difference between you having to sell your product or service and people wanting to buy your product or service!

It has been said that in the profession of selling, it’s not who you know, but rather who knows you that counts.  Call our office today at 866-979-LAYO (5296)—yes, the phone number is part of my brand—and get enrolled for any of our upcoming events.  You can also go to www.GerryLayo.com and enroll  for any of these events online.

Remember, if you can’t name 2-3 things that you are KNOWN-FOR, how can you expect your customers to list ONE?

Stop ‘closing’ the sale. Start ‘opening’ the customer.

How do you transition from the value proposition, or presentation, to the close? From telling them what we’ve got to actually asking them if they want to buy it – or from the dance to the romance as we like to say.

I hate to use the word or the term “closing.” Because we’re really looking to “open” a customer. We’re opening the relationship. We’re opening the right to do business with these people on a regular basis.

So in the smart selling process, we focus on the customer. To visualize, it, we first imagine a pyramid that’s upside down. And the upside down pyramid is broken into five specific horizontal lines going across it equal in width. I’m trying to paint a picture for you here.

So you have the upside-down pyramid standing on the tip, so the base is at the top. And the first chunk of that base is made up of five equal sections, if you can picture that. They’re not really equal, but the width of them is equal. It means we’re going to spend the most time where there’s the most space in that pyramid. At the very top, where the biggest chunk is. And that’s the relationship part. So this is the first part of discovery.

We’re looking for a few things to happen here: Read more

Asking the right questions, part 2

Continuing our mini-series on your six best friends – the five W’s and H:

When you’re going to make a sales call, you must be clear on the purpose of your call. What is the main message?

You may have about 4,000 words teed up, but they’re going to hear about five. So what’s that main message? What do you want them to remember when they hang up?

If you can’t identify it, chances of you communicating it are weak. So then you ask yourself another what: What will grab their attention?

Let’s think A I D A, the old marketing formula.

“A”, attention, what will grab their attention?
“I”, what will create the interest? The interest in our company the interest in me, so that …
“D”, the desire is there to potentially do the…
“A”, to create the action that I am looking for.

What will grab their attention? Do you think it will be something about you or something about them?

What will pique their interest? Do you think it’s something about you and your company, or something about them and theirs?

Read more

Three closing questions

A funny thing happened on the way to the recession… we forgot how to close!  

As we continue our forward-looking 10 Days of Christmas series of posts, let’s take a look at how salespeople today have faced so much stalling and price hesitance that some have gotten “gun-shy” about asking for the business once they have earned it.

I see this happening every day in the field and in our prep work with clients.  Too often, when sales take a dip and opportunities become fewer and farther apart, the salesperson hesitates to ask for the YES because they are afraid to hear the NO!

But more often today, I see salespeople who are taking on the role of “hesitant visitors” and “product demonstrators!”  They have lost focus on their role.  Although the purpose of every call is not to close a sale, every call must have forward movement towards the next call!   And that requires a CLOSING QUESTION!

Action Step

Write down three specific ways that you will ask for the business (or the next appointment) on each call.
The questions do not need to be difficult to come up with (So…do you see any reason why we should not go ahead with the order?) and do not need to be over-analyzed but there are three main rules to remember once you have come up with your three closing questions:

1.    Write each closing question down 100 times and then read them out loud to develop confidence to ask them. (Sounds silly?  How did we learn math as children?  Repetition is the mother of skill.)

2.    Earn the right to ask for the business! Do the proper discovery… ask the appropriate questions… dig… diagnose… connect the value.

3.  Use these three questions regularly. Too many times I see salespeople on the precipice of greatness in a sale and they forget to take that final step.

Closing is the natural conclusion to the professional sales process. But you still need to ask!

Photo by timsamoff, via Creative Commons 2.0.