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LISTEN UP!!

Girl listening with her hand on an ear

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

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

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

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

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

Enthusiastic Listening

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Take notes.

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

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

An example of some solid follow up questions might be:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assume Nothing!

The Top Ten Assumptions That Can (And Do!) Kill Sales Careers

assumptions blog photo

In today’s marketplace where there is more access to information, more knowledge about pricing and competition, and quite frankly, more choices for your prospects, customers, and clients, salespeople need to make all the right moves…ALL THE TIME!  Here at Sales Coach International, we are carrying around the banner that says “Assume Nothing.”  In order to illustrate the importance of this, here are the top ten assumptions that salespeople can make that can kill their career:

  1. Features Sell–  Salespeople of today go out into the marketplace and spew the many features of the products and services that they offer.  We call this “Showing up and Throwing Up!”  The people that buy your products/svcs. do not do so because of the features that your product/svc offers but rather the benefits that those features can bring to them.  Here is a solid drill for you.  Write this down:

“NOBODY WANTS TO BUY WHAT I’M SELLING!!”

Now that we have established that the customer doesn’t want to buy the bells and whistles that your product/svc offers, stop assuming that they will draw the line between what your product/svc offers and what it is that they need.  So how do we do this?  It’s easy:  At the end of every feature statement you need to bridge to the next statement with

“….so what that means to you is this!”

What comes out of your mouth next is the benefit statement that truly is the motivation for your customer or prospect to buy!  Don’t assume that your prospects, customers, or clients will know how to tie the two together without your help!

  1. Everyone Loves Small Talk– There have been many books written on the value of building rapport with a prospect, customer, or clients in order to gain their trust. While I agree with this, I find that too many salespeople feel that every sales interaction needs to start with the obligatory round of small talk about the weather, sports, recent news, or some other plastic nonsense.  Why is this?  It is my belief that salespeople do this for their own comfort only.

There is undoubtedly a need for some training in this area.  Small talk is just that:  Small Talk!  This type of banter is typically teed up so that the salesperson can gain some insight as to the mood, needs, style, and interests of the prospect, customer, or client.  However, it has its place.  Realize when getting down to business is necessary.  Realize when the person on the other end is faking it along with you and have the presence of mind to move on to the business at hand.

Once you have established some sort of relationship with a prospect, customer, or client (whether that is after a few minutes or a few months) the conversations should revolve around the things that they want to address, not the other way around!  Remember, the best way to get them to trust you is to get them talking about themselves, their issues, their challenges, their stuff!  If you still feel the need to have some initial banter before getting down to business, make sure it is about something that is important to them.

Don’t know what that is?  Here’s a suggestion:  Go out right now and buy “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” by Harvey Mackay.  In this book you will find The Mackay 66.  These are 66 individual points that sales reps of  Mackay Envelope were to find out about their prospects, customers, and/or clients.  With even 50% of this information, you could not help but have A) a strong relationship with this person and B) many topics with which to focus your attention and conversation during the sales process.

Most importantly, do not assume that you need to “tenderize the meat before you throw it into the skillet!”  Salespeople work very hard to get the attention of their prospects, customers, and clients regularly.  Once you have earned it, don’t spend too much of your time (and theirs) on non-relevant issues.

  1. Your Time Frame is the Same as Your Customer’s- I have seen countless salespeople spend many hours doing all of the things necessary to get a meeting with a prospect or customer. Once the meeting is set, they prepare a great value proposition and present their case very well.  In the best of these circumstances, they indeed find a prospect or customer interested in potentially pursuing some future possibility of doing business with them. (How was that for a bland, non-committal statement)  The meeting ends with everyone somewhat enthusiastic about the potential of doing something together.  Now…fast-forward a couple of weeks.  Your calls are not being returned!  Your e-mails aren’t either.  You are ready to move forward but the prospect has dropped off the face of the earth.  You have already counted this one as a top-level opportunity and told everyone it was in the bag.  What the heck happened?

One of the biggest assumptions that I see salespeople making in the field today is that the customer has the same interest in buying from you that you have in selling to him/her.  It needs to be understood that a customer does things for their reasons, not yours!  However, if those reasons (their motivators) are not discussed during the initial meeting, the salesperson has little to re-address the customer with when reviving interest later in the sales cycle.  In other words, we cannot assume that the customer will make all the right moves to buy from us at the speed and rate, which we choose.  Therefore, we need to ask appropriate questions to gauge and perhaps even set the customer’s urgency.

  1. All of Your Accounts Love You!-This is one of the most dangerous assumptions that can be made in today’s marketplace.  Yet there are salespeople out there that are taking their customer’s loyalty for granted even as you read this!  Think about what it is that you do for a living.  As a sales professional, part of your business life is dedicated to continually calling on and trying to capture part of the marketshare of your competitors.  You are continually introducing yourself and your company to the customers that are currently doing business with your competitors.  As a result, you are looking for a few of them to turn a cheating eye toward you and your company to “give you a shot” at earning their business.

Here is a news flash for you: 

Your competition is doing the same thing with your customers as you read this….and they just might be better at it than you!!

Therefore, we, as salespeople can never take our customer’s business for granted.  We need to be continually looking for ways to add value, over-deliver, and strengthen our relationships.  Here is a great drill:  Imagine that this scenario will follow every interaction that you have with your existing customers or clients:  One hour after you leave their office, they will be in a room with 100 of your top prospects.  What do you want them to be saying!!

  1. Your Customer Will Refer You To Others– Referrals to new prospective business from happy customers are one of the hallmarks of sales success that we all strive for as sale professionals. However, too many salespeople assume that their customers will automatically think of them, and then subsequently refer them when the opportunity presents itself.  WRONG!!  How many times have we wished for more referrals from our customers?  How many times have we hoped that the customer will think of us when they are networking with their colleagues?  Below, please find my Big 5 Rules for getting constant streams of referrals:
  • You must ASK for them—A lot!!
  • You must EARN the right to ask for them by over-delivering!
  • You must make it easy to refer!
  • You must professionally follow up on every referral!
  • Say Thank You!! (In different ways each time!)

If you make all of the right moves, a customer should turn into a raving fan for you and your company.  However, even the word should states there is an assumption.  So, leave nothing to chance and earn the right to ask, make it easy to refer, follow up on every one, and thank your customer from the bottom of your heart.  The best of the best in the field of sales realize that every great customer is worth several more great customers.  But, like everything else, it rarely happens on auto-pilot!

  1. Customers are Impressed With Your Knowledge– Zig Ziglar said it best when he said “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” One of the biggest faults of salespeople today is confusing the need to tell with the desire to sell.  Although there is a time to develop your prospect, customer, and client’s trust in you based upon your knowledge, that time is later in the process once other issues have been addressed.

As a buyer yourself, how impressed are you with all of the techno-babble that some salespeople feel they must subject you to?  Does this info draw you in or push you away?   Are you impressed with the salesperson who tells you what he/she knows or works (through questions) to find out what it is that you need?

Don’t assume that the buyer needs all the info that you possess.  Instead, find out what they need, and then meet those needs.

  1. My Product/Service Meets All of My Prospect’s Needs– We’d all love to think so, but that isn’t so!  Our product or service may not meet the needs or desires of the prospects, customers or clients that we are addressing today.  Sometimes the answer is no!  Sometimes they don’t qualify!  Sometimes, we don’t qualify!  Sometimes, there is no match!

Try this as a drill:  Start every initial meeting to introduce a new idea, product, or service with a variation of this statement:

“It is very important to us that we have a solid match with the companies or people that we do business with. Therefore, after reviewing your company’s needs, if it appears that we don’t have a fit, on your part or our’s, I will get out of your hair…time is money!  However, if, after an appropriate mutual assessment, it appears that we do have a match…AND, DUE TO INITIAL RESEARCH,  I THINK WE MIGHT, then I will show you how we can ___________________,” then I might ask you to explore with me how we may do business together today.  Is that fair?

If, after this initial discovery period, you discover that your prospects needs can not be met or are not consistent with what your company can and will provide, then your duty as a professional is to walk away.  If it appears, however, that you do have a potential fit, it is incumbent upon you as a sales professional to design a value proposition that will meet their highest value needs and lead them to the decision to do business with you. (Yes, this is the time to close!)

  1. The Customer Never Changes– In the past couple of years, many salespeople have been facing the changing of the guard inside their client companies. The person with whom they had the strong relationship suddenly has been let go, replaced, or has left the company.  In some instances, management makes the change in such positions because of the relationships that exist, thus making sure that all vendors are getting a shot.

I have seen many salespeople lose some of their bigger accounts because of these things.  What do we learn from this?  E—X—P—A—N—D your circle of influence within you accounts.  Get to know more than one contact or purchaser within the account.  Take an entire department out to lunch.  Ask to meet others within the company.  Earn your way into the doors of others.  Become a valued resource to many levels of the company.  Earn your way into the top offices and meet the decision makers.  Send thank you notes to everyone.  Make sure the buzz in that company regarding your service or product is about YOU!!  Don’t assume that your customer will never change…just be better prepared for when it happens!

  1. The Customer is Interested in My Issues– I read an interesting analogy recently in a book entitled “How to Become a Rainmaker” by Jeffery Fox.  The analogy was about a babysitter.  He stated there are two basic rules that a babysitter should follow.  The first rule states that no matter how much trouble the kids gave you while the parents were away, keep it to yourself.  When the parents come home after a much needed night away from the children and ask, “How were they?” the answer is always “Great-No problems!”  Rule number two states that the babysitter should leave the house a little cleaner than they found it.  Making sure that these two rules are followed should assure that the babysitter will have a repeat engagement with that family.  Why? Because she sells a relaxed evening and a clean house (Benefits!)

How does this relate to sales?  Once a customer hires you to do a job (create a solution), they don’t want to hear your problems about getting it done.  They don’t care!  Do a great job, do it on time, do it on budget, don’t complain, and give the customer a little extra.  This is the blueprint for customer satisfaction.

Your prospects, customers and clients don’t want to buy what you are selling! (Remember that from above?) In fact, they don’t care much about you at all.  They don’t care about your sales contests, your problems with traffic, your personal issues, or why your shipments are late.  They only care about themselves and their problems.  You are in front of them only because they believe that you might be able to help better their situation.  You are there by invitation only.  It is your duty to focus only on the customer. You must be on “high receive!”   You are there to ask questions about them, their issues, their pains, their fears, their desires, and their highest value needs.  And you are there to listen!!  Be very conscious of making sure that most of your sentences have a “you” in them rather than an “I.”  Never assume that they want to hear about you and your issues!

  1. Your Research Will Give You All The Ammo You Need­In today’s information filled world, it is much easier for the sales professional to gain access to vital data before meeting the prospect or customer. The best salespeople do a thorough amount of research to get well armed to fight the battle with the customer.  However, what you do (or don’t do) with that information is imperative to the sales call.

The fact that you have access to a lot of information does not negate your need, as a sales professional, to do a very thorough needs analysis with your prospect or customer on the sales call.  In fact, our experience has shown us that often times, the information discovered during the initial research is incorrect or outdated.  But besides that, lets remember one of the main reasons that we ask questions throughout the sales process is to show the prospect, customer, or client that we are focused on them and their needs. The questions will show them that we care.

We have all heard the old adage regarding “keeping a few cards up your sleeve.”  This is very appropriate in regards to pre-meeting info.  Knowledge truly is power if it is used appropriately.  Remember, the best source for the things that we truly need to know is the person or persons with whom you will be striking the deal.  Never assume that you don’t need to ask!

Be careful with these assumptions people.  Make sure that you go into every sales encounter prepared to make all of the right moves and do not get bogged down with assumptions such as these.  Many of us need to go back to our roots as junior salespeople and “Be just Dumb Enough (or is that Smart Enough) to assume nothing.”

 

Listening to add value

Now that you’re listening with intent, it’s time to up the ante: Listen with the intent to respond and add value.

So we’re not just listening to our prospects until they get their point out, and then spewing our point — showing up and throwing up.

We’re listening with the intent to respond and add value. Not reacting.  Actually responding in a thoughtful way to what they’re saying.

So instead of barking out a scripted list of features and benefits, you might respond with:

  • A solution
  • A clarifying question
  • A probing question

Your response is an opportunity to go a little bit deeper. And if you ask the right kind of question, often that will add more value than the solutions you offer.

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How do you land big accounts? Prepare.

Going after bigger accounts requires a higher level of confidence. And a greater degree of preparation.

And it’s no surprise that these two just go together. The greater your preparation, the more confidence you will have.

So how do you become better prepared? Of course we have to know exactly who our customer is. As always, this involves asking some questions:
•    Who is the customer’s boss?
•    Who’s going to be most affected by this purchase, and which way are they going to be affected?
•    What is their world is like, with our product and without our product?

We’ve got to know what are the biggest concerns, the biggest pains, the biggest fears that our customers may have without the use of our product. And what are some of the biggest cures that they can have by utilizing our product or our service?

So we have to be prepared with our opening statements and conversational points. It might be things going on in the marketplace, or some other things of relevance to them. Maybe we’ve read their website and there are things going on in their industry that we need to be talking about. Maybe we need to be knowledgeable about their competition and what’s going on, trends in their marketplace.

Then we have to know how to transition from that opening statement to the meat of our presentation.

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Test your sales approach — then change it

We’ve been exploring about how to deal with change, and in that context I want to ask you this: What does your approach look like? Specifically, what questions are you asking in your sales process?

Are the questions you ask getting you the desired answers? Are you getting information, or are you actually getting an understanding of where the customer is coming from?

Because that’s the difference between just getting data, and actually knowing the motivations they have.

What do those questions sound like? How do you ask them? Because you might need to enhance them slightly. Because we don’t want to ask a question without a purpose.

If you’re getting a bunch of information, but it’s irrelevant, then re-evaluate. Reassess your approach.

If I challenged you and said you cannot go out on a sales call unless you’ve got 20 solid, impact questions, the answers to which you are going to use to build your case, could you do it?

This is not just a good idea, it’s an absolute strategy you need to pursue.

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How to save time on every sales call

We’ve been looking at time management, and a big part of your day is the sales call, so let’s take a closer look at how to prepare for a more time-efficient sales call.

I’ve asked the question before: “What’s the purpose of this call?”

If you don’t have that question answered, in writing, the chances are, your call is not going to get the desired results — because you don’t know what they are. If you’re clear on your purpose, you’re going to be more focused on your sales call.

More focused on your sales call is better for you and your customer, because he wants this time-management stuff too. Because sales people take up his time. Asking yourself about the purpose of this call helps you design better questions.

To design better questions, you write them down.

You write them down, you practice them.

You practice them, then you are better at them.

You ask them better, they get answers.

They get the right answers, and they get the right answers the first time.

The right answers the first time give you more knowledge.

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Planning your sales call – and asking the right questions

If you’re a true sales professional, you take six of your best friends with you on all of your prospecting efforts.  They go with you before, during, and after, and they live with you. They are:
•    Mr. Who
•    Mr. Why
•    Mr. What
•    Mr. When
•    Mr. How
•    Mr. Where.

Let’s start with who.
•    Who are you calling?
•    Who are they?
•    Who are they in the decision-making process?
•    Who are you going to reference when you call to make that person somewhat interested in taking your call?
•    Who’s important to your success?
•    Who’s an influencer on your success?
•    Who are the decision makers?
•    Who are you going to engage with?
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Five more questions to get to “WHY?”

Take a shovel with you to every sales call this year.

The shovel is not to shovel more of your #%@ on them!  It is to dig a little deeper to get to the answer behind the answer.

Most questions yield  information and data.  Great questions get to the motives behind that information and data.  In other words, instead of just finding out

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • When
  • And how

(And all of these are important), ask FIVE additional questions to get to the WHY!

Rarely does any customer really want to buy or own what you are selling.  They do, however, wish to accomplish, cure or avoid something in their business or personal lives.

Your product or service can most likely help them do that.  Make sure your questions uncover their motivations.

Action Step

Go back to the drawing board and write down the main three or four BENEFITS that your customers receive from your product or service.  What pains will it cure, what problems will it solve, what fears will it offer peace of mind to, what goals will it help accomplish?

Make sure that the things that you list matter to the customer.   Remember also that, with the changing economic environment, customer’s motivations today may be different from last year.  Next, list a series of questions that you will ask to get to the “why” in the conversation.

Dig, dammit! Dig!

Photo by Perfect Picture Pose, via Creative Commons 2.0.