Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 5, 2015

Objection? Buying Signal? Maybe Neither–Maybe You’re Being Put Under the Microscope

A few years ago I wrote an article titled “How to Take the Sting Out of the Price Question Early in the Sale.”  In the course of the article I argued that it is natural for a prospect to ask about price–and often to do so too early in the sale, before the seller has had an opportunity to create real value for the prospect—because price is one of the factors prospects use as they seek to qualify the seller and the purchasing opportunity.

In response to that article I received numerous emails and comments from salespeople and sales leaders that they had never thought about the idea that the prospect is qualifying them and their offering at the same time they are trying to qualify the prospect.

Yet the prospect’s qualifying the seller and the seller’s value/solution is the crux of the whole sales process.

We are all familiar with the concepts of qualifying the prospect, investigating needs, developing a solution and creating real value for the prospect, overcoming objections, and the other aspects of making a sale.  All of these concepts are views of the sales process from the seller’s perspective.  These are the constructs that we as sellers tend to concentrate on.

We then view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals.  For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.

What if neither of those choices is true?

What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering? 

What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?

If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them.  Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.

In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them.  When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them.  When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game.  Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale.  We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.

The prospect is going through the same process with us.  Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with, and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.

The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.

However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.

Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified.  It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.

 

February 3, 2015

The Myth of Selling as a Highly Paid Profession

We in sales work in what we like to claim is one of the highest paid professions, yet statistics indicate we are, in fact, employed in one of the lowest paying professions.  In fact, we are engaged in a business that is unevenly divided between a relatively small group of highly skilled professionals, earning some of the highest wages in the world, and a huge group of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, earning unskilled and semi-skilled wages.

One of the Lowest Paid Professions

Take a look at the following income statistics for some other professions (these are MEDIAN incomes gathered from various job and industry sites, meaning half those in the profession make less than the income listed, while the other half make more that the income listed):

Truck Driver:
Median income for those with less than 1-year experience:  $30,539
Median income for those with 10 years experience:                $48,654

Business Banker:
Less than one-year experience:   $42,000
10 years experience:                         82,539

Registered Nurse:
Less than one-year experience:    $44,969
10 years experience:                          58,988

Dentist:
Less than one-year experience:     $98,041
10 years experience:                         122,248

Family Physician:
Less than one-year experience    $101,423
10 years experience:                        130,593

CPA:
Less than one-year experience:    $47,218
10 years experience:                         68,968

Attorney:
Less than one-year experience:    $57,494
10 years experience:                        102,709

Engineer:
Less than one-year experience:    $55,011
10 years experience:                          81,221

Plumber:
Less than one-year experience:    $35,697
10 years experience:                          50,107

Carpenter:
Less than one-year experience:    $28,885
10 years experience:                          50,319

Now, here’s the median income for sales:
Less than one year’s experience:   $32,500
10 years experience:                           47,240

Notice something?  The only professions we start at a higher rate of pay are truck driver and carpenter-but by the 10th year we’re trailing them, as well as every other profession listed, in median income.

Can We Really Call This a Profession?

Why do so many of us make so little?  What do the other professions do that we don’t?

One glaring factor is education and training.  Seven of the ten non-sales professions above require a minimum of a college degree-along with additional specialized training.  Only two-banking and carpentry-don’t require a professional license of some sort (OK, some engineers don’t have to be licensed either, but a great many do). 

And sales?  With a few exceptions by product or company, no degree required.  Specialized training?  None required and little, if any, sales training provided by most companies.  Certainly, most companies provide product training; they want their salespeople to know the company’s products and services.  But most companies offer little sales training. 

Selling is one of the few professions where the ‘professional’ is often left to train him or herself because, after all, anyone can do it.  Give someone a phone and a list and they’re a salesperson, right?

Few professions or trades allow an untrained individual to “practice” their “craft,” because until trained, they don’t have a craft to practice.  That’s certainly not the way most companies and salespeople see selling.

No rational person would accept a doctor or lawyer who had not received extensive formal training in his or her profession and then proven a minimum level of competence by passing a professional licensing exam.  Likewise, we expect those engaged in skilled trades such as plumbing and truck driving to also have both formal training and certification in their profession.

The reward for their training?  For many, the rewards of their training are job satisfaction and enjoyment, but the primary reward is increased wages.  We naturally expect that the more time-and money invested in one’s professional training, the larger the income reward. 

A doctor will invest 8 to 10 years beyond college in learning the basics of his or her craft and is rewarded with one of the top wages in the country.  An attorney will invest 3 or more years beyond college and is likewise rewarded with top wages.  Plumbers go through an apprenticeship and extensive testing to acquire their license and are rewarded with a top hourly wage, and those plumbers who continue their studies beyond the Journeyman stage and proceed on to become Master Plumbers are rewarded with even more income.

Yet few salespeople have undergone extensive and comprehensive sales training.   We, as a group, are woefully under trained, yet we expect to make professional wages. 

The typical company gives their sales team members less than 50 hours a year in formal training-and the majority of that training isn’t sales training but is rather product training.  Studies have discovered that the typical salesperson invests less than 30 hours a year–two hours a month–in study and training outside of what they receive from their company.

As a group, we are among the least prepared and skilled of any profession or trade.  Is it any wonder we are also one of the poorest paid?

The Professionals Amongst Us

Nevertheless, there are a great many highly skilled professionals in the sales industry, men and women who through hard work and substantial personal investment of their time and money have developed the knowledge and skills to reach the top of their profession. 

Although many average and less than average salespeople rationalize these top performer’s success as nothing but luck, having been given a book of business by a favorable manager, or as simply being a ‘natural,’ that is seldom the reality of their success. 

Top producers for the most part entered the sales profession in the same way as most salespeople–by accident, without knowing anything about selling, without the contacts and skills needed to succeed.  Most struggled for months or even years before they discovered the ‘secret’ to success. 

Virtually all of these top producers were given the standard advice to always be prospecting, ask for referrals, spend time in building rapport, find and solve the prospect’s needs, ask for the order.  Like most salespeople, they were told what they should do but were never taught how to do it. 

It wasn’t until they began to acquire training on their own through reading, listening to tapes and CDs, attending seminars and workshops, and diligently applying what they learned that they began to move from unskilled laborer to true sales professional.  Many, if not most, in this group invest anywhere from 200 to 300 hours per year or more in personal training and skill development-that’s 7 to 10 times the investment in training as the average salesperson.  Is it then any wonder they are not only better prepared to sell, but make 2, 5, 10, 20 or 30 times what the average salesperson makes?

Professional or Semi-skilled Laborer-It’s Your Choice

You don’t become a sales professional or stay an unskilled or semi-skilled laborer by accident.  You either do those things that will make you a highly paid professional, or you do those things that will keep you in the unskilled or semi-skilled labor category. 

You get to choose whether you want to become a professional and enjoy professional wages-or whether you’re happy being an unskilled laborer.  There are thousands of quality books, CDs, seminars, workshops and other training opportunities available.  You can pinpoint your specific needs and find a multitude of training resources to address them.  All you need do is commit yourself to getting and applying the needed training, and then do a simple Google search to find thousands of learning opportunities.

If you’re waiting for your company to train you, you stand an excellent chance of never growing beyond a semi-skilled wage.  You control your destiny.  Yes, it takes a commitment of time, energy and money-but rewards are not only a far more enjoyable and satisfying job, but also one that will provide you with the income you dreamed of when you entered sales.

 

 

January 27, 2015

Do You Talk To Your Prospects and Clients or Do You Talk At Them?

Knowledge should be one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox. 

Knowing how to use specialized industry vocabularies should also be one of our basic and power tools.

In reality, for many of us, knowledge and specialized lingo are powerful—in costing us business.

Naturally a great many new salespeople are tempted to try to impress prospects and clients by demonstrating their product knowledge and slinging their newly learned industry vocabulary around.  They tend to oversell, answer questions no prospect has ever had, dazzle with words the prospect and client may not be familiar with.  They talk about the fine points of their product or service; discuss how their service or product will impact ROI; how best to onboard new employees or products or services;  how their product or service creates a new paradigm to address the prospect’s issues or needs; and the list goes on.

Impact ROI?  I see, you mean whether or not it makes me more money than it costs.  Onboarding new employees or products or services?  I get it, you mean purchasing and integrating a new product or service or hiring and orienting a new employee.  Creating a new paradigm to address issues or needs?  You mean a different way of dealing with the problem, right? 

You can say ROI, onboarding, or paradigm, or you could just talk to your prospect.  Some say that if you want credibility with your prospects and clients you have to speak their language.  I don’t have a problem with that in the least—if you’re actually speaking your prospect’s language.  But how many prospects actually talk about onboarding a new product or service or creating a new paradigm to address an issue or problem?  And there’s certainly something to be said about just talking to the prospect in plain English.

And very often new sellers butcher their newly acquired vocabulary and confound and frustrate their prospects with their enthusiastic demonstration of their knowledge of the minutiae of their product or service.  Many lose more sales than they capture because of their lack of discipline and their need to impress.

Unfortunately I’ve noticed over the past three years that this desire to impress isn’t confined to new sellers.  I consistently run across experienced sellers who should know better that are making the same rookie mistakes.  The only real difference between these experienced sellers and new salespeople is experienced sellers tend to have a better grasp of the industry lingo.

In the current tough selling environment even experienced sellers are falling into the trap of trying to oversell and to impress with their knowledge and ‘deep’ understanding of the prospect’s issues.  We tend to pull out all the stops and often end up losing our discipline and the prospect’s attention.  We try to force the sale.

Rather than creating new clients, we end up alienating them. 

Whether you’re a relatively new seller bursting with enthusiasm and wanting to impress your prospects or an experienced seller feeling the pressure to produce, you need to step back and relax.  Giving in to the pressure to oversell and force the sale is self defeating.  Address your prospect’s needs and leave the unnecessary demonstration of knowledge and the impressive vocabulary at the office. 

January 21, 2015

A Sermon on Selling: The Sin of Hearing Without Listening

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:12 am

We wicked sinners must beg forgiveness and change our sinful ways if we want to build sold relationships with our prospects and have them sign those sacred documents, our contracts.

A reading of much of the Old Testament sounds like a modern day sales meeting—a great deal of hearing, very little listening of what is being said.

When we read those passages where the Israelites hear the words being spoken but understand nothing because they don’t really listen, we self-righteously tend to think “oh, those evil Israelites, they deserve all the wrath that descends upon them.”   And in reality, they do.

But listen in on many of our sales calls and the only conclusion we can come to is “oh, that wicked salesperson, they deserve all the failure that descends upon them,” for we salespeople tend to be just as guilty of hearing without listening as the Israelites 2,500 years earlier.

Just as the wages of sin is death, the wages of not listening to our prospect is the equivalent of death in sales—no sale.

The problem is most of the time we aren’t even aware that we’re not listening because it is just plain human nature to hear what we want to hear and to be thinking about what we want to say instead of what our prospect is saying.

No, I don’t think listening is the natural human state.  Talking is.  Probably more correctly is talking without thinking is the natural human state.

In terms of hearing, what is natural is to be thinking of our rebuttal while the other is talking and to be listening for the words we want to hear and to skip over the ones we don’t.

Listening, really listening to what is being said rather than what we want to hear, is something we have to learn to do.

We have to force ourselves to concentrate on the words being said by our prospect, which means consciously NOT thinking about our next statement (more often, our rebuttal or possibly our excuse).

We have to force ourselves to listen to the meaning of our prospect instead of reading into their statement what we want to hear.

Let me give a couple of recent examples from a couple of my coaching clients:

“Paul, I’ve got a great referral coming from one of my new clients,” said Richard.  “He said he’d talk to his business partner and see if he could set up a lunch meeting with the three of us.”

A few days later I got this email reply when I asked if he had spoken with his new client about the referral lunch: “He said he hadn’t spoken to him yet and probably wouldn’t anytime soon since his partner is in the process of getting a divorce and is in a surly mood and pre-occupied most of the time.”

That’s not what I was expecting.  I asked Richard what led him to believe his client would be setting up a lunch meeting.  He said he had recorded his session with the client as he often does and would play the referral meeting request section for me if I wanted.

I wanted.

Here’s what his client actually said: “Well, I’ll see if I can set up a lunch with Don.  I’m not sure now is really the right time since he’s got some really serious personal issues he’s dealing with, but I’ll see if maybe there might be a good time to ask in the next few days.  If now isn’t good, can we wait until he has worked through the issues that are occupying him right now?”

My client heard “I can set up a lunch meeting with Don.”  The rest, to Richard, was just filler.  He heard the words he wanted to hear.

What I heard most loudly was “If now isn’t good, can we wait until he has worked through the issues that are occupying him right now?”  The client wanted to help Richard but was obviously uncomfortable asking Don for the meeting at this time and was asking permission from Richard to wait for a better time but Richard didn’t hear the request because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, consequently he was disappointed and a bit upset when the referral lunch didn’t happen.

Another example happened last week when I was doing a web meeting “ride along” while one of my clients was doing a web based presentation to a prospect.  I was a silent attendee of the presentation, in the background as an observer only.

My client, Henri, was sailing along with the presentation when the prospect said “I really like this.  I need to get you set up to do this for Grace Turner; she’s the one I’m using to compare the various systems and will make the final recommendation.”

Henri, in a stunned voice, said “I’m sorry, Bill, I understood you to say that you were the decision maker on this.”

“I am,” he replied, “but Grace is the primary evaluator of the systems.  She is the one who is comparing each of the systems, so will be the one making the final recommendation and I seriously doubt I’ll not take her recommendation.  I thought you understood that last week when we set up this meeting and I said I’d see if Grace could sit in on the presentation also.”

“I’m sorry, Bill, I guess I should have asked what role Grace would be playing in the process.”

Henri heard what she wanted to hear—Bill was the decision maker and therefore she ignored anything and everything else.  In her mind she had THE MAN.  And she did in terms of who would authorize the purchase.  But she failed to listen when he indicated there was someone else involved in the decision process, someone who was going to be the actual evaluator of the products.  Henri believed that since he was authorizing the purchase, he was the only person she needed to influence.

Ouch.  Both of these situations were easily avoided with just a bit of careful listening.

So if not listening is our natural state and we have to force ourselves to listen, how do we do that?

Concentrate on the Prospect:  Hard to do, at least at first, but the single most effective thing you can do is to consciously concentrate on each word your prospect says.

Focus on Context and Agreement:  While listening to your prospect, consciously focus on what your prospect is saying in the context of the overall discussion.  Are there hidden meanings?  Is the prospect giving a subtle message between the lines (i.e., “please give me permission to wait to ask Don for the lunch meeting”)?  Also, do the words your prospect is saying match their body language?  Concentrating on what they are saying in context and examining to make sure words and body language are in agreement force you to really concentrate on what is being said.

Pause Before Talking:  When we’re anxious to get our point across we tend to interrupt and break into our prospect’s discourse.  Not only is this rude, it is a solid indication we really aren’t listening.  Wait two seconds after your prospect finishes talking before putting your mouth in gear.  Not only will this keep you from stepping on your prospect’s tongue, that pause gives you a bit of time to think of your response and if you know you have time to construct your thoughts, you will feel less pressure to construct your rebuttal while not listening to your prospect.

Restate Your Prospects Statements:  Once your prospect has finished their statement, reword it back to your prospect to make sure you understand.  Say something like, “So, Ms. Prospect, I understand that your concern is . . .” or “I want to make sure I fully understand, you are suggesting that . . . . “

Although hardly natural for most of us, listening is a skill we can—and as sellers must—learn.

Now, go my children, listen well and sin no more—and if you catch me slipping up and interrupting you, obviously thinking about my next argument while you’re talking, or just plain ignoring what you’re saying, feel free to remind me that I deserve all of the sales failure I’ll experience.

Can I get an Amen?

January 15, 2015

Guest Article: “The Most Underutililized Strategic Advantage,” by Lee Salz

Filed under: Closing Sales,sales,selling,small business,success — Paul McCord @ 2:15 pm
The Most Underutilized Strategic Advantage
By Lee B. Salz

You have been chasing this account for six months and feeling optimistic as the buying process is coming to a conclusion. The sale is between you and two other firms. The competition is fierce, but you feel you are ahead. At 11am, the Procurement Agent asks for three references to be provided to her by the end of the day. In a panic, you send a company-wide email in search of these referenceable clients. At 4:58pm, you get the three references from your colleagues and quickly send them out to the Procurement Agent. Whew! Mission accomplished! They wanted three references and you got it done. And so did everyone else. You see the finish line, forgetting that many a sales person has fallen one step short of winning.

This scenario plays out in companies every day across the country. It doesn’t matter if the company is big or small, nor does it matter the type of industry. The request for references is a standard part of any buying process. However, few sales people use the reference stage of the process to their strategic advantage. They simply desire to provide a quick response to the prospect with their requested references. In the mind of the sales person, the speed of the response communicates supplier performance. While somewhat true, the discussions the prospect will have with the references carries more weight in the selection decision than the speed of the response from the potential supplier.

When I talk to sales people, one of their most common gripes is that they are selling a product that is viewed as a commodity in the marketplace. They cite “price” as their biggest bugaboo. Right behind that they lament about their inability to differentiate their product. (The truth is that price and differentiation are directly related, but that is a topic for another article.) When I ask sales people if they would like to learn of an easy way to get a competitive edge, they are all ears. After I share with them that they have the ability to differentiate themselves through managing the reference selection process, they look at me in shock as they can’t believe they have been missing this opportunity. Then the stories start to come out. “Yeah, I lost a deal because they called the reference and we had just screwed up their order. I should have checked before I used them” The stories just continue from there.

But why do prospects ask for references? Webster’s defines “reference” as someone who can make a statement about a person’s qualifications, character, and dependability. Interestingly, there is a perception disconnect on references between sales people and prospects. When I talk to sales people, I usually hear that references are just a standard part of due diligence. Some use the term “rubber stamp” of an award. However, when I talk to buyers, I hear a very different message. Many buyers look at the reference step of the buying process as their opportunity to validate the message that they have been hearing from the potential supplier. In essence, prospects are searching to ascertain whether a supplier can deliver on the promises made during the buying process. Can the supplier really handle this size account? Are they really that fast? Or that accurate? Is the service as good as they described?

In many cases, the change of provider carries with it the ownership of the supplier’s performance. If the new supplier does not perform to the expectations that have been represented, there is risk for those who selected it. Heads will roll! Sometimes, prospects ask the same questions of the reference that they asked of the sales person to see if there is a difference in response. Other times, they ask specific questions relative to their needs that may not have been shared with the sales person. For the prospect, this is their most critical evaluation step of a supplier’s expected performance.

It is the little things that winning sales people do that makes them winners. So, if all of the competing sales people are going to provide “good” references, can you provide the “best” references? You most certainly can! However, there is a process to do so as “best” is different for each prospect.”

The first step is a conversation with the Procurement Agent. “I received your request for references and I’m happy to provide them. So that I can provide you with the references that best support your initiative, what are you hoping to learn from our clients?” If you can gather that information from the Procurement Agent (don’t say it can’t be done until you try it), you have the roadmap to identifying references. Even if they can’t or won’t provide you with this information, you have at least shown that you care. And “care” can be the differentiator that pushes you across the finish line. All is not lost if you can’t get that information either.

Going forward by taking a step back, think about the account and what is important to them. Reflect on what was learned during the needs analysis discussions. Thinking about that, imagine a different approach to responding to the request for references. If they were concerned about implementation, you provide an account that your company recently implemented. Perhaps, the decision is being made by a CFO, and you provide a reference of a CFO from one of your clients that can speak to your performance. For the third reference, you provide a client that is purchasing the same amount of the same product. From the prospect’s perspective, how great is the opportunity to speak to three clients who can relate to their needs. They are able to gather the information they desire from someone with whom they share something in common. They feel confident in their ability to perform due diligence on their potential supplier. They can make an informed decision.

To take it a step further, imagine rather than simply sending the contact names and phone numbers to that Procurement Agent, you provide a brief narrative explaining to what each client was serving as a reference. How many sales people are doing that?

Still raising the bar, imagine contacting each of the three references and informing them that a call was coming their way to discuss your performance as a supplier. During that call, you share that this prospect is calling to discuss particular areas of the business. Thus, when the prospect calls the reference, the reference is expecting the call and is prepared for the conversation. What a great experience for your prospect and your client. Keep in mind, one great way to burn a relationship with a happy client is to surprise them with a reference phone call. No one likes to be blind-sided or unprepared. I’ve seen more than a few opportunities lost where the prospect cited the reference experience as the deciding factor. An unprepared reference reflects negatively on the supplier.

In a competitive marketplace, every opportunity that you have to demonstrate value to a prospect is critical. Leveraging the reference step of the process can give you just that little edge that pushes you over the top.

 

Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitects.net

January 14, 2015

The “Prospecting” Disease

During my three decades in the sales industry I’ve worked with, met, coached, and observed thousands of sellers from a multitude of industries.  They’ve been new and experienced, inside and outside sellers, big ticket and small, specialized products and services as well as common, commodity products, some very successful and a great many barely holding their own or failing.

Some have been hail fellow well met types, others have been shy introverts.  Some pound the phones, others pound the pavement.  Some are highly attuned to technology, others can barely turn their cell phone on.  Some like to hit the office or the road early, others prefer to work late, a few do both.

But with rare exceptions they all have one thing in common—they’re busy.

They’re all doing stuff.

And a great deal of the time when you ask them what they’re doing they tell you they’re prospecting.

They’re busy trying to find business.  They’re focused on getting a contract in the door and getting paid.

Some, not the majority by any means, are very successful.  Most are not.

So the natural question is what’s the difference?  Why are a few really good at finding prospects and brining in business and most aren’t?

Turns out that most of the time the answer is really pretty simple.

The successful sellers spend their time prospecting.

The majority are simply infected with the disease of “prospecting,” that is, the illusion that what they are doing is prospecting when in reality it is nothing more than busy work to keep them from having to do the tough work of actually prospecting.

These unsuccessful sellers can show lists of several hundred names and phone numbers they have spent hours and hours researching that they have on a call list—a few dozen will have check marks beside them, even fewer will be scratched through.  They can show stacks of fliers and letters they have mailed out.  They can produce a list of networking events they have attended over the past couple of months.  They can produce a passel of emails they have sent out.  They may even have their business card pinned to every corkboard in every restaurant, laundromat, and other business that has a board to display customer’s cards.

Certainly they’ve been busy; no doubt about that.  The problem is although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been “prospecting”—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, making a phone call here and there—and increasingly spending more and more time “connecting’ with prospects via social media, tweeting and updating their facebook page and searching LinkedIn for any warm body that might be a prospect to try to connect with.  They confuse preparatory and busy work for prospecting, with the actual activity of interacting with a qualified prospect.

Although they spend a great deal of time doing busy work, they spend very little time actually prospecting.  They “feel” they are always prospecting, but in reality they are always finding ways not to prospect by spending their time preparing to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity isn’t the activity that will produce business; instead, it is the activity that makes them feel good, feel productive, allowing them to convince themselves that they are being extremely active.

We salespeople tend to focus on activity—after all, activity is what gets us in the door, gets us the business we must have in order to succeed.  But activity alone is fruitless.  Activity for activity’s sake is just as sure a way to failure as inactivity.

Prospecting isn’t preparation to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t simply being busy all of the time.  Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting and interacting with qualified prospects.

If you cold call, that means being on the phone, not getting ready to get on the phone.  If you network, it means actually being in front of and meeting prospects or garnering introductions to prospects from referral partners, not researching events or even spending time at non-qualified events where you’ll meet few, if any, prospects, or spending your time at the event hanging with friends and co-workers.

Investing time and energy in the wrong activities has killed as many sales careers as inactivity has.

As salespeople we have three very basic duties—finding and connecting with quality prospects, working with those prospects to help them satisfy needs or wants, and insuring that they are taken care of during and after the sale. 

Everything else is busy work and busy work doesn’t make a sale, doesn’t generate income, and doesn’t move us toward our sales or income goals.

Before you engage in any activity consider whether that activity is income producing or not.  If it isn’t directly producing income, does it really need to be done?  If not, move on to an activity that will directly lead to a sale.

To succeed you need to spend your time prospecting.  Getting infected with the “prospecting” disease where you “feel” you’re prospecting but in reality are finding ways to keep from having to prospect is a career killer.

January 12, 2015

Take Action Now to Create the Success You Want this Year

Are you in control of your sales career or are you simply going with the flow hoping that you’ll end up somewhere on the plus side?

If you haven’t done so already, here are some things you need to do now to insure that this year is the year you not only meet your annual goals but that you exceed them–that, if fact, you blow them completely away.

1. Flush out all of the tail chasing “prospects” in your system.
We all have “prospects” in our pipeline that take up time and energy but that we know in our hearts will never buy. Get them out of your system now. Don’t spend any more of your precious time on them. Concentrate on real prospects not  the “hope someday.” Vow not to spend any more time chasing your tail.

2. Get organized.
Most of us spend as much or more time “organizing” each day as we do working. Take a day or two and get yourself organized and then 30 minutes each evening getting ready for the next day. Don’t waste half the year “getting ready” to sell.

3. Know who a real prospect is.
If you haven’t already defined your ideal prospect(s) in detail, do so now.  Many waste a great deal of time chasing unqualified prospects because they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves exactly who their real prospects are.

4. Focus only on real prospects.
Even many who have defined in-detail who their real prospects are find themselves chasing after those who don’t qualify.  Commit yourself to staying on track.  Defining your prospect doesn’t do any good if you allow yourself to wander.

5. Eliminate the success killing busy work.
If what you do isn’t directly involved with finding qualified prospects, making sales presentations and closing sales, or getting a sale completed its busy work.  Busy work may make you feel like you’re accomplishing something but it isn’t making you a dime. If it doesn’t make you money, don’t do it.

6. Learn to generate referrals.
Referrals are the best, most cost effective prospecting and marketing method there is. Nothing can beat referrals in terms of ROI, close ratio, and client loyalty.  Yet, few salespeople generate many quality referrals.  Less than 15% of all salespeople generate enough quality referrals to impact their business.  Learn the process that really generates a large number of high quality referrals and turn your clients into your marketing platform.

7. Create a consistent client communication campaign.
If you don’t already have a consistent communication campaign for your clients and prospects, create one now.  You should be touching each of your clients and long-term prospects 12 to 16 times a year.  Use a combination of media–calls, emails, newsletters, letters, postcards.  Make sure each of your communications brings value to your client.  The key question to ask yourself before making any contact is “does this benefit the client or only me?”  If it doesn’t benefit the client, don’t send it or don’t call. Never waste your client’s time.

You have a choice–you can either take control of your time, energy, and sales business or you can go from crisis to crisis putting out fires while desperately trying to get a sale here and another there.

Life’s a whole lot better when you’re in control than when you’re at the mercy of chance dictates.

January 8, 2015

3 Steps to Getting High Quality Referrals From Your Clients

Are you one of the majority of sellers that isn’t converting the majority of the referrals you get because the “referral” is nothing more than the name and phone number of someone who isn’t a real prospect?  Are you one of the sellers who have simply given up even asking for referrals because they have proven to be more of a waste of time than anything else?   Chances are you said yes because that’s the experience of most sellers–weak or worthless “referrals” that cost more time and waste more energy than they’re worth.  Oh, sure, we all have some clients that will give us referrals all day long.  Just ask and they’ll give you name after name.  Other clients, the majority, aren’t nearly as generous with their referrals.

The biggest problem in both cases is so often the referral we get isn’t much better than pointing at a name in the phonebook at random.

How can you guarantee that you get great referrals?  Simple.  Make sure the client gives you a great referral by creating the referral for them to give you, rather than relying on them coming up with a quality referral to give.

The reality is that clients really don’t know who we’re looking for and most of them just don’t have a real incentive to invest the time and energy to come up with a great referral.

But we know who is a great referral for us.  And certainly we’re willing to invest the time and energy to find a great referral (if we’re not, we have some real serious issues to deal with).

Since we’re the one with the need; and we’re the one with the desire; and we’re the one who knows who makes a good referral for us, why would we rely on anyone else other than our self to come up with the referral?

So how can we create a great referral for our client to give us?

Here are three steps to guaranteeing you get great referrals from your clients:

  1. Get Your Client On-board to Give Referrals.  Most sellers wait until after the sale has been completed before they bring up the idea of referrals.  Bad idea.

    Most clients need time to get comfortable with the idea of giving referrals, so bring up referrals early in the relationship.  Don’t ask for referrals; just let your client know that your business is built on referrals and then drop referral seeds as the sale progresses.  Since your prospects and clients aren’t stupid, if they hear you mention referrals often in a casual manner, they’ll get the impression referrals are important to you and they will be expecting you to ask for them at some point.

  2. Find Out Who Your Client Knows.  We’ve already established that in order to get great referrals you have to do the work for your client, so do it by discovering during the course of the relationship who they know that you know you want to be referred to.How do you find out? Through small-talk (who do they mention in conversation they know); paying attention to what’s in their environment (pictures, association directories, membership plaques, and such); their background (where did they work previously); their work (what vendors and suppliers do they interact with).  Your job is to be a detective and to uncover the relationships they have with people or companies that you know you want to be referred to.  The more you uncover the more quality referrals you uncover.
  3. Don’t Ask for Referrals, Ask for THE Introduction.  Now when it comes time to ask for referrals, you’re not going to be like every other seller and ask a weak question such as, “Donna, do you happen to know anyone else (or another company) that might be able to use my products or services (or that I can help—or any other such weak question)?”

    Instead you’re going to ask for a direct introduction to someone you know is a great prospect for you and that you have reason to believe your client knows:  “Donna, I’ve been trying to connect with David Jones for some time without success.  You mentioned that you’ve worked with David for several years, would you be comfortable introducing me to him?”  You know she knows David.  You have reason to believe David is a good prospect for you.  Don’t waste Donna’s time with that weak general referral question; ask to get connected to a person you know she knows that you know you want to connect with.

Referrals can be the foundation of your sales business if you just develop the skills necessary to be a referral-based salesperson.  If Donna knows three people or companies you know you want to be referred to and you can get introductions to them from her, how much time and energy have you saved getting those three introductions through referrals instead of cold calling or sending out direct mail or hoping to bump into them at a networking event?

Forget what you’ve been taught about asking for referrals.  Referral generation is a PROACTIVE process where you do the work, not your client.  Your client doesn’t have the motivation, you do.  They don’t have the understanding of who makes a good referral like you do.  Your client doesn’t have the time to invest in figuring out a good referral like you do.  It’s your business, not theirs.

January 7, 2015

5 Critical Steps to Regain Your Team’s Respect

Filed under: business,management,Sales Management,team development — Paul McCord @ 1:03 pm
Tags: ,

Everyday there are tens of thousands of sales leaders trying to manage a sales team that has lost respect for them—and many, possibly most, don’t even realize that they’ve lost control of their team.

Are you faced with any of these issues?

1. Team members are seldom on time and come and go as they please.  Are your sellers straggling into the office and scheduled meetings because of a lax office atmosphere—or because they simply have no respect for you and your ability to control them?

2. Your interactions with team members are usually monologues.  Are team members listening to you intently and respectfully and giving their opinion freely—or are they simply waiting for you to shut up so you’ll go away and they can go back to ignoring you?

3. Your team members try to talk over you.  Are they excited and want to get their ideas out—or do they think you have nothing worth listening to and don’t respect your opinion?

4. Your requests are ignored or assignments are completed in a half-hearted fashion.  Are they so busy with selling and taking care of their customers that they just didn’t have time to get to the assignment—or do they think the assignment was a joke not worth their time and effort, and besides, you’re not going to do anything about it anyway?

It’s easy for managers to ignore the above symptoms of disrespect.  In fact, it is far easier and a lot more comfortable to ignore them than to address them.

But if you’re in a position where you have a team that does not respect you, either you or they are short timers.  A manager—and the company they work for—cannot last long once they’ve lost the respect of their team.

But once the team’s respect has been lost, is it possible to regain it?

I’ve spoken to many management experts who have argued that once lost, respect is impossible to regain and the only solution is new management.

And for the most part I agree.  However, I have seen several situations where management redemption did occur.  In virtually every case, the manager took the following five steps:

  1. Personal acknowledgement.  The manager recognized the loss of respect and committed themselves to aggressively addressing and correcting the issue.
  2. Confessing to the team.  The manager confessed to each member of the team (either in a group meeting or during individual meetings with team members) that they had lost their commitment and had failed the team and have recommitted themselves to serving the team without reservation.
  3. Establishing new ground rulesand adhering to them.  The manager sets out a new set of rules that govern both the team’s and the manager’s actions along with the consequences for breaking those rules.  Discipline is not only needed, it must be demonstrated.  Consequently, it is necessary that the team know what is expected from them and from the manager and that both have objective rules and guidelines that all parties are aware of and can measure one another by.
  4. Encourage discussion–and dissent.  It is imperative that an open dialogue between the manager and the team members be created and it is the manager’s obligation to set the tone and get the ball rolling.  If the manager can’t break through the ice and begin a real conversation with the team, no amount of confession and fair rules will do any good.
  5. Treat team members with respect.  Very often the team begins losing respect for their manager not simply because they view the manager as weak, but because they feel that he or she isn’t treating them with respect.  A manager cannot expect respect from the team if they aren’t showing the team members respect.  Respect, more than any other aspect of relationships, is a two-way street.  Part of earning respect is showing respect and the manager must begin the process by making sure the team members know they are respected.

The above five step process isn’t an overnight fix.  In fact, regaining respect takes time—a lot of time, weeks and months worth of time.

Yes, once the team has lost respect for their manager the most expeditious solution is replacing the manger.  But that isn’t the only solution.  If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve lost your team’s respect—or if you have a manager that for whatever reason you cannot replace and they’ve lost their team’s respect, apply the steps above and you will, given time, repair the damage and once again have the team’s respect.

September 7, 2014

The Dark Side of Sales–It Ain’t Going Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 3:45 pm
Tags: ,

My father passed away in 1979.  I went with my mother to the funeral home to help her make the arrangements for my father’s funeral.  It was one of the most obscene experiences of my life.

The salesperson used every trick he could think of to manipulate my mother’s grief and emotional distress to up-sell her at every turn.  I grew up in a working class family.  My father was a Battalion Chief for the City of Garland, Texas fire department.  He had some life insurance, but not much. Money was always tight and would continue to be tight for my mother—tighter than ever since my father’s income would cease.  She didn’t have the money to spend on more than necessary for a nice but modest funeral.

A nice but modest funeral wasn’t in the best interests of the salesperson at the funeral home.  He couldn’t sacrifice any commissions just because he had a working class widow in front of him.

When my mother picked a lower price casket he pointed out that since dad knew a great many folks and was well liked there would be a large crowd at the service and certainly he deserved a casket that would reflect well to that large group.  $$$$ out of her bank account.

When she chose to go with the least expense concrete burial vault the salesperson described in great detail what would happen to my father’s body if she didn’t buy the most expensive lined vault.  More $$$$ out of her account.
When she chose to have a simple large picture of dad in his formal department uniform the salesperson discussed how most people prefer to have a large mural of the deceased that reviewed their life and their relationships.  Of course, more $$$$ out of the account.

No matter how I tried to reason with mom about the dollars and the need for a more modest funeral, the damage had already been done by the seller’s manipulation of her grief.  Money became no object as she fought to make sure everyone knew that dad was loved and treasured.

Last Thursday my father-in-law passed away.  To my great disappointment, but not to my surprise, the exact same indecent and repugnant strategies are being used today by funeral homes to wring every penny out of grieving families whether they can afford it or not.  And, of course, the question of affordability shouldn’t even be an issue as indecent selling practices are indecent whether used with someone who can easily afford the product or service or someone who has to sacrifice to do so.

I would like to think that we are making great strides in moving the sales profession to higher ethical standards, and in many industries I think we are.

Yet there are still many, such as the funeral industry, the automobile industry, some areas of financial services, construction and remodeling, and others, where a good many sellers find it more profitable to manipulate, lie, and cheat than to sell ethically.

Many of us try to convince ourselves that things are changing and that the bad apples won’t be able to survive—but I’m far from sure that’s the case.

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