What is it that you bring to the table that your competition cannot or will not? What is it that you offer that your prospects, customers, and clients would be willing to stand in line and/or pay a premium to have? What value do you bring to the equation that creates a greater perception of value for your product or service and thus commands a higher price?
Would you buy from you at premium prices? If the answer is yes….and I hope to high heavens that it is….Why?
We are selling in a marketplace today that demands more from sales professionals. Communication tools such as cell phones, email, and I/M are creating a level of expectation from our customers that is getting harder and harder to meet. The internet is leveling the playing field as far as access to information. (Everyone can Google you and your competition before you walk in the door.) The result? Buyers that have a higher degree of sophistication (or at least a higher level of belief of their sophistication) than ever before. Where there is mystery there is margin and the internet has removed much of the mystery about you, your company, your products & services, and your pricing.
If we keep selling into the marketplace the same way that we have in the past, we will get passed up by SMART competitors and passed over by SMART customers.
What can we do to keep up? What can we do to get ahead? What can we do to earn the top margins in our ever changing and competitive marketplace?
Below, please find a list of 15 things that you can start to do today to stand out from the crowd, differentiate yourself (and thus your product/service), and command the respect and attention of prospects, customers, and clients:
1. Start a strict regimen of pre-call preparation.
Do your homework before making that call on any executive or decision maker. Google them, research their industry, read their industry magazines, learn about them and their company. The things that you learn will help you build a platform from which relevant questions and conversation can begin. In order to have something relevant to offer, have something relevant to ask and something relevant to say!
2. Decision maker or decision influencer?
Clarity on who it is that you are dealing with will help you build the appropriate value proposition. If you are developing a “champion” or a “flag-bearer” in an account, make sure that the value of your offer speaks to their needs. Typically, the decision maker is motivated by, and thus will act upon a much different set of criteria than those you met on the way in—sell accordingly. Never assume what their motivation is. Always dig, probe, & listen before you diagnose.
3. Make a few phone calls in advance.
I suggest calling anyone who may know anything about an account before actually attending a meeting to get a flavor for what you are about to face. Knowledge is power—power can be leverage. In addition, if there are to be several people in the session, I suggest calling as many of them as possible in advance to discover or uncover any issues or expectations.
4. Speak the customer’s language.
We tend to present our value propositions in a language that is filled with our industry words. The problem? The customer doesn’t know your industry like you do so a “disconnect” or confusion can occur. I suggest that you record your value propositions, presentations, conversations, and questions as often as possible. Get these recordings in the hands of non-industry people and get their opinion. You might be surprised that the reason you are not closing enough sales is that the door to understanding has never been opened due to a language barrier.
5. Read, learn, grow!
Commit to reading a book every month on how to be a better sales professional. You will be amazed at the new moves that you will adopt for your sales success. In addition, read at least 2-3 business or industry magazines every month. You will learn things that you did not know. This can add to your confidence and, if you figure out ways to use this knowledge to differentiate you from the crowd (adding value to your customers) it will add to your commission check!
6. Be the quarterback of your sales efforts.
Someone must call the plays. Make sure that on every interaction with prospects, customers, and clients you clearly define the purpose of the call and stick to it. When the call purpose is met, clearly identify next steps as well as who is responsible for what. You guide the timelines, you run the plays, and you call the shots. The result will be getting to yes faster. (as well as getting to NO faster…see next item.)
7. Ask for the yes once you’ve earned it-but don’t be afraid of the no.
Get out on occasion to drive your pipeline business further along towards a yes knowing that the result will most likely be a few fresh no’s. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not! Stop wasting time on those who can not or will not buy from you. A full pipeline of no’s is worse than no pipeline at all. The time you invest on qualifying OUT the non-buyers will be well spent once it’s re-invested in prospecting for those who can and will say YES!
8. Get a coach or a mentor.
This sales game can be tough. Having someone to bounce ideas off and to strategize with will give you a leg up on the competition. Think your good enough to fly solo. Think again! Even Steph Curry has a coach or two on his team.
9. Make the CLOSE a natural conclusion to your professional sales process.
Don’t let the “closing” part of your sales cycle be a surprise to your customer. Don’t shy away from it either. Your customer should know that you are there to do business. In order to earn their business, you will have to learn to ask in such a way that it is less painful for both you and the customer. Right now, sit down and write 5 closing questions that transition you from the presentation and negotiation to the action phase of the sales cycle. When you have them written, ask them each aloud 100 times until they become less mysterious and thus, natural.
10. Talk Benefits rather than Features.
The customer does not buy quality, service, reliability, innovation, integration, knowledge, experience, teamwork, or the other features that you are tossing out there in an attempt to differentiate your company. They only buy what those things can do for them and what it is they want to accomplish. The sooner you start talking about what they GET rather than what it does, the sooner you begin to earn a greater margin.
11. Ask them what will happen if they don’t…..?
Attempt to attach a cost or a price to in-action. When you prospect and customers say they are “staying the course with the way they currently do things” you need to help them understand that continuing to do what they are currently doing will only get them more of what they are currently getting. If (and this is a big if) you have attached a PAIN to their current situation (from their point of view), then you can attach a FEAR of the future. Your product or service at that point becomes the cure to the PAIN and thus, a peace of mind to the FEAR. This is called a solution, and it is worth more than what your competitor is selling.
12. Don’t lie—PERIOD!
The word character is not used enough in professional sales. It needs to be. This world of Google has opened all of our kimonos so there are very few secrets anymore. Often your customer will ask a question that they know the answer to just to qualify your character. You must pass the 1st time because you won’t get a second shot. (Remember, they are more aware of their options today) Customers pay more for character and trust—count on it!
This Latin term that means “something for something” or “this for that” should be paid close attention to in your dealing with customers. It works both ways. If you are looking for forward movement in the sales cycle or an introduction to others to help you get it, practice quid pro quo from your end first. Give to get. Give a referral, get movement. Give an introduction to a lead; get an introduction further into the customer’s circle of influence. Add value first; get things you value in return. On the flip side we need to understand that when a customer asks us to jump through hoops for them (put together a demo, draw me up an analysis of the benefits, etc.) it is only fair that we now can ask for something in return from them. Example: “We will put together a demonstration of the software, customized to your needs as you requested. If the software performs and meets all of the specifications that we discussed, will you be prepared give us a commitment to move ahead with the purchase that day?”
14. Never make a call without a purpose.
In order to be the most productive with your time and the time of your prospects, customers and clients, have a clear purpose for each of your calls. Don’t visit the customer without the express purpose of bringing something of value to the table or moving the sales cycle forward. Don’t make a call to “just check in” some other nonsense. If you don’t take your call seriously, why should they? By being able to clearly state the purpose of your call and sticking to it, you will become a professional worthy of investing time and money with.
15. Look sharp!
If your product or service is pretty similar to that of your competitions, the little things will often be the deciding factors when deciding who to go with and how much to pay. Don’t underestimate the fact that people initially form a perception about you and your professionalism based upon appearance before you ever get a chance to open your mouth. You want a higher price? Look the part! (Use an iron…it’s becoming a lost art!)
These 15 points are a good start to get you heading towards higher margins and thus, better commissions. You can see that there are no tricks and no shortcuts. Simply applying more in the areas of focus, self discipline, commitment, and a customer focused approach will change the customer’s perception of value regarding you and thus, your company, product or service.