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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?

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!

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.

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!

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

Be Exceptional….The Small Stuff Matters

small stuff

So much is taught 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 is a list of five of the little things that matter in the profession of sales:

  1. Schedule prospecting time every day!
  2. Build and consistently use a referral generation process.
  3. Use “Target and Personal Marketing Campaigns.”
  4. Say Thank You—A Lot!
  5. Do what YOU say YOU are going to do.

On the golf course, it has been my putting game that has held me back from some great scores.  While I hit the ball farther and more consistently sound than most of those with whom I play, it is often my putting that may cost me a few bucks in a match.  (What, do you think that we don’t throw down a few bets?  C’mon!)  While I often struggle with the little things, others excel at them.  As they have greater confidence in “the scoring zone,” it all too often becomes my “nervous zone” and thus, where it counts, I am at risk.   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.

Cast Your Vote for 2013 Growth

So…Election Day has past. Did you vote? Did you cast your ballot for what it is that you believe in? Did you put in the effort to understand the issues, the politics, and the possible outcomes of your vote? Did you go out of your way and stand in line to exercise one of the biggest honors and responsibilities that you have as an American? Do you understand that we have people fighting every day in foreign lands so that you can exercise this right? And now that the votes are all in and the results are all in place, are you happy with the outcome? Will you now take a stand to facilitate change that is necessary or will you complain about circumstances that are present?
As an entrepreneur, a leader/manager, or a sales professional you get up each and every day to cast your ballot. You make a choice every day (many times a day) to ELECT to do what is necessary to get the results that you desire. There are many people that every day follow the lead of others and ELECT to be told what they are due in this world…but not you! YOU decide the vote you will cast to make those extra calls. YOU decide the ballot spot you will mark in your preparation efforts before every meeting, sales call, or decision you make. YOU decide your strategy, your approach, and your follow through. Therefore, this election season, I offer to you, regardless of your party or politician of choice, a FIVE POINT PLAN for your the growth of your company, your team, and/or your personal book of business for the future:

1-Define it-Design it!
Right now, I ELECT to decide what my 2013 will look like. I will set my company, team, and personal goals by defining my VISION for results this year. My VISION will determine my mission and thus, the changes that I must make to accomplish that VISION. No longer will I suffer the dysfunction of the masses by letting things and circumstances decide my results. I will decide

2-Preparation Before Execution

Today I begin to start down the path of strategic thought before committed action.  I will spend at least 5 minutes prior to each sales call or each meeting deciding, in advance, what I have in mind for an ideal outcome of the meeting.  I will declare (and write-down) targeted take-aways prior to the meeting, forcing me to THINK from all perspectives and take into account all those involved in the sales call or the meeting.  I will always have a plan before I get into the battle.

3-Growth
I realize I cannot accomplish more than I have without becoming more than I am.  I commit to my professional growth this year by increasing my exposure to new ideas, new strategies, and new actions.  I must learn more than I know today and I must take paths that I have previously not taken.  The marketplace demands more from every sales professional.  Every sales team can grow sales and profits on the wisdom, guidance, and coaching of their leader.  And the marketplace certainly demands more from every sales professional.  This year, I will rise to meet those demands. I will read more, write more, speak more, seek more coaching, more mentorship, and never cease.

4-Visibility

In order for my organization, my team and/or my marketplace to engage more with me and thus, do more business with and/or for me, I must become more visible.  If I am not visible to those with whom I choose to grow, I am, in fact, IN-visible.  I will learn ways to network better and more often.  I will schedule specific visibility both physically and online every week.  I will add value though all of these efforts.  I will connect, engage, and offer assistance everywhere.  I will become known for these things and create a brand of excellence that is known to the masses.  I will become more than I am currently to all of those who know me and many that do not as of yet know me.  And I will define my brand.

5-Action

The greatest secret all accomplishment is ACTION.  With the focus of the Four points above, ACTION is the secret to ignite them all.  I realize that I do not have to be great to start, but in order to be great, I must START!  Every day, I will take a bit more action.  I will make 5 more sales calls, meet with 1 more employee (and listen to them), or offer a bit more coaching to my people.  I will not only plan my work but I will put more effort into working my plan!  I will get up earlier, stay a little later and truly be present as I morph myself and my team/organization into World-Class results.

As a professional today, you need to ELECT to follow a plan for a better future, if only for the upcoming year.  Cast your vote now to unseat the complacent, comfortable incumbent that resides in your office!  GO—BE—DO!

Get a Little “Esperanza” in Your Company….Earn Your Wows!

ImageJust got back from a fantastic long weekend with my wife celebrating 20 years together.  Our destination for this little getaway was Cabo San Lucas and the fabulous Esperanza resort.  The purpose of this blog post is both to gush about the experience and to lay out a few business lessons in the form of a handful of questions at the end.

Although this was not our first time at Esperanza, we were both extremely surprised and delighted by our welcoming reception when we arrived.  We were immediately welcomed by our personal concierge (Narcisco) and hostess (America…no I am not kidding).  We were offered a cold mango drink sample and a cool towel the moment we stepped out of the car. The genuine enthusiasm with which they welcomed us was nothing short of moving.

Narcisco immediately took control of our bags and had them whisked off to our casita and then proceeded to walk us through the property with a significant sense of pride and ownership.  Upon arriving at the casita a few moments later, we were greeted by the bellhop that brought the bags up as well as our hostess, America, and a personal bartender to hand-make our first margarita of the weekend.  To be honest, I requested the en suite margaritas upon arrival, but how cool is it that they offer it?  On the bed was a “heart” made from fresh bougainvillea flowers. So especial!

After settling in, we headed down to the cliff side restaurant for tapas and happy hour.  Every staff member greeted us with smiles and warm welcomes along the way and the staff at the restaurant was fabulous.

Our first evening was to be very special as I had arranged a romantic dinner for two on the beach.  I did not expect the level of WOW that we received during these few hours.  First off, the beach had been prepared specifically for the two of us with a half dozen tiki torches framing our spot.  Candles  were carefully arranged on the beach in the shape of a heart and a warm campfire was lit just a few feet away.  A special seating area with a private “beach sofa” was several feet away from our table for post dinner relaxing and stargazing.

When we first sat down, we were greeted by our personal server, Tomas, with glasses of champagne.  Shortly thereafter, he was snapping photos of us with our camera and one of his own. (We found out why later.) Of course the dinner and wine and company were wonderful but it was the level of attention and high degree of considerable detail that impressed even more.  After dinner and more wine than we should have consumed, it was back to our casita where, right in the middle of our bed, was a different, custom made heart-shaped pillow on top of a framed picture of…wait for it…..you guessed it….US on the beach during our romantic dinner!  WOW!

The next couple of days were filled with these types of moments around the pool, in the restaurants, in the gym and at the spa.  Continually addressed by name, we felt that we were the center of the Esperanza universe.  Little surprises continually were offered such as mango and piña colada Popsicles by the pool, a 3oz poolside frappachino just when the heat was getting to you, and cold fruit skewers offered by always eager to please staff.

Needless to say, we did not want to leave but alas, reality called.  On the plane home, I was taking inventory of all of the fantastic little touches that Esperanza engaged in and started a list on paper.  Each and every one of the things that the staff of Esperanza did seemed to come from a deep desire to serve and to delight.  Most of them in fact, we’re not expensive or lavish.  Those that were expensive (ok, the dinner romantic on the beach was a couple of bucks) were so special and so over the top that the price seemed more than reasonable.  Here is my opinion on all of this:

They get it!  They want a premium for their property and work their asses off to EARN IT!  No detail is too minuscule!  Even the chamber maids and the maintenance staff (we never saw sand or landscape that wasn’t intricately pruned and/or raked) had it perfect.  Could your business stand a little Esperanza attention?

So…..A Few Questions:

  • What do your customers notice about your extra effort?
  • What do you do to intentionally WOW (surprise and delight) your customers?
  • Does your culture support a customer first/customer last philosophy?
  • If you had to increase your prices by 30%, where would you EARN it?
  • Where can you pay a little more attention?
  • Can you (or your customers) point out Moments of Magic in your service?

Action Suggestion:

Rally an internal team….right now!  Call three of your top customers and clients and ask for their input.  Get the group together in a fun, creative setting and “erase all the boundaries of the way we do things,” and come up with no less than a demanding dozen ways to WOW your customers.  Each person needs to immediately take action on one idea the next day.  Action creates action and here is a good place to start.

Of course, you can always book your stay at the Motel 6…..so can your customers.

Give Yourself a Sales Pro Tune-Up Today!

Our work habits, over time, determine our levels of success. Use the following checklist to get an idea of your strengths and weaknesses as a salesperson. Be honest with yourself, and score realistically to get an accurate picture of your professional strengths.

1. Do I take responsibility for my own success?  Do I blame someone else if things aren’t going well? If I am, I am misleading myself.  No one ever has the best price, product or service all of the time. Superstars succeed despite periodic shortcomings of the company, or swings in the economy.

2. Am I truly knowledgeable? Am I doing my homework? Do I understand today’s environment, my products and my direct competition? Prospects are more concerned with knowledge and service than they are with product and price.

3. What am I doing that my competition is not?. Am I continuing my education? Do I have a reading program? Am I continually self-renewing and sharpening my skills? A professional who ceases getting better ceases being good!

4. Am I really sensitive to the needs of those with whom I interact? Do I truly understand their social styles? Am I versatile? People do things for their reasons, not mine. My future success depends on my people skills.

5. Do I understand that I can’t just sell anything to anyone? People buy only what they want. Do I work to learn their most important needs, and how I can help meet them? Am I mastering the sales process and do I know why it works? Do I really understand that selling is the transfer of trust?

6. Am I of good cheer? Is an interaction with me a positive experience? Do I maintain a positive attitude? Do I take myself too seriously?

7. Do I create a good professional image? Do I project whatever my message does and with whomever I meet? Am I visible, available, professional in my presentation, and am I businesslike? Do I exhibit self-esteem and competence? Am I known for resolving the problem – now?

8. Am I a good manager of business relationships? In my career, have I built loyal clients or just occasional customers? Clients give me 50 percent or more of their business while customers give me business sporadically.

9. Am I living on my own fat? Do I add a trusting client at least every quarter? Do I continually prospect for new client possibilities? Have I been a career salesperson for three years, or have I had a one-year career three times? Do I do my marketplace research and pre-market myself before I approach a prospect?

10. Do I make only quality calls? Do I avoid comfort calls with those who don’t produce? Do I understand that I should never make a call without a clearly defined purpose? Do I target my prospects and develop business opportunities, or do I do business with whoever will do business with me?

11. Do I conduct meaningful customer interviews? Do I determine my prospect’s or client’s highest value needs? Do I ask meaningful questions to focus on my prospect’s or client’s urgencies? Do I really listen and elicit what he or she is communicating? When on sales calls do I listen twice as much as I talk?

12. Do I provide quality solutions? Do I remember that the client’s needs come before mine? Do I know that no worthwhile effort is ever lost? If I do what’s right for my clients, I’ll be rewarded, and soon! Do I strive for win-win outcomes?

13. Do I exceed the expectations of those with whom I work-both inside and outside the office? Do I do exactly what I say I will, when I say I will, in the way that I say I will do it? Exemplary service builds customer loyalty and rich dividends.

14. Am I really goal oriented? Are my goals and objectives in writing? Have I defined a strategy to reach each goal? Do I know how much each hour of my time is worth? What motivates me? Am I controlling my time so as to be ruthlessly effective with it?

15. Do I make non-negotiable commitments to my family, my company associates, my clients, my friends, my industry, and myself? At times each of these must come first, and deserves my undivided attention. An absolutely balanced life is probably impossible; but we must continually try for it.

16. Do I express my sincere congratulations to those who have achieved greatness? Do I sit at the feet of the masters, sublimating my ego, and model them? Do I praise good deeds in my family members and support staff every day? Do I always remember to say “Thank you”?

17. Do I understand and practice the Japanese concept of Kaizen? (Constant—if only minimal—improvement) My future will be determined by my success in getting a little bit better every day!

Go ahead, run through all of these questions and give yourself that sales pro tune-up that you know you need.  If you’re willing to be honest with yourself and make the adjustments necessary, the exercise can pay huge dividends.  Or….you can just make some more cold calls!  Your choice.