Sales and Sales Management Blog

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.

August 12, 2014

Your Client has a Vested Interest in that Referral They Just Gave You

I hope you are generating referrals from your clients.  If you’re not you should be as referrals are one of the most effective, if not the most effective, way of growing your business.  But know that once you have gotten the referral your job is hardly done.  No, I’m not talking about contacting and selling the referred prospect, I’m talking about keeping your client in the loop.

One of the primary reasons clients are hesitant to give referrals is that they are afraid of being embarrassed in front of a friend, relative, acquaintance or co-worker by you not performing as you should.  So, when they do give a referral, they have a vested interest in what’s going on between you and the person to whom they referred you.  Their interest isn’t in whether or not the prospect purchases but in how the prospect perceives you and the value being referred by the client.

When a client gives you a referral, you learn a number of things:

  1. The client will give referrals.  Obviously, you just received one or more.
  2. How well the client understands what you do.  The quality of the referral will let you know how well your client understands what you do and who is a good referral for you.  The better the referral, the more the client understands.  The poorer the referral, the more work you must do to educate them for future referrals (and future sales to them for that matter).
  3. How much they trust you.  Generally, the stronger the trust relationship between the client and the referred prospect, the more the client trusts you.
  4. They have more referrals to give.  Seldom will a client give you all of the referrals they can make at one time.  If a client gives referrals, you can almost bet they have more to give—if you keep earning them.

How do you get those additional referrals?  Additional referrals are earned, just as the original referrals were earned.  You earn those additional referrals by:

  1. Giving your client the assurance that you’re trustworthy with referrals.  You must show through your actions that their trust in giving you a referral was well placed by making sure that the referred prospect has an exceptional experience with you.
  2. By keeping your client fully informed of everything that is occurring with the referred prospect.
  3. By continuing to deliver superior service to your client.

Does the above mean that you must perform perfectly with the referred prospect?  What if there was an honest mistake or miscommunication?  What if something out of your control happened during the course of the sale?  Will these incidents destroy any possibility of acquiring additional referrals?

No, not at all.

The keys to gaining additional referrals from a client are to treat the referred prospect exactly in the same manner you treated the client and to keep your client informed of what is transpiring between yourself and the referred prospect.

Your client gave you referrals because they understood that giving referrals was in their own best interests and because you earned them through the service you gave them.  You must now demonstrate that same level of service for the referral they have given you.  They expect—actually demand—you perform at the same level—or higher—for those they refer to as you did for them.  That level of service you gave them was what demonstrated to them that they could trust with a referral.  Anything short of that and they will reevaluate whether you should be trusted with additional referrals.

That having been said, most clients understand that mistakes, miscommunications, and problems arise in business.  A single issue during the course of the sale to a referred prospect, even a major issue, will not sever your ability to gain additional referrals from you client if you address and resolve the issue in an exceptional manner.

Clients don’t expect perfection, they expect exceptional service—both for themselves and for those they refer you to.  How well or poorly you handle the issues will be a major factor in determining your future refer-ability.

Keeping your client informed of the progress of the sale with the referred prospect reassures them that you’re doing your job—and that all is well.  It is also your source of informing them if there have been problems and how they were resolved.

It is critical that you let your client know of issues involved with sales to prospects they have referred you to before the prospect has a chance to relate the incident.  You can relate the circumstances and the resolution in the most favorable light—the prospect may not.  This doesn’t mean that you can lie or gloss over it, just that you can give the background and the full resolution without the emotional involvement the prospect will have.  Of course, if you’ve done an exceptional job of resolving the issue, the tale told by the prospect should also be impressive.  However, you always want problems to be related to your client by you—you don’t want to get a phone call from the client asking what happened.

Keeping your client informed doesn’t mean bombarding them with emails, phone calls, and notes.  A simple “thank you for the referral” card immediately after receiving the referral and the occasional call or email will suffice.  The object is to keep them in the loop and to reassure them that their referral was well made for both you and the prospect.  Even better than the occasional call or email is to explicitly ask the client how and how often they would like to be informed of the progress.

Clients are interested in what’s going on with the referrals they make.  They want to know the prospect is being taken care of in the manner the client expected, and they enjoy knowing that they have provided you with a quality referral.  More importantly, they want to know that they haven’t embarrassed themselves in front of an acquaintance.

Simple actions will earn those additional referrals your clients have—you just have to earn them.

August 6, 2014

Guest Article: “The Strengths of Sales Introverts,” by Alen Mayer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

The Strengths of Sales Introverts
by Alen Mayer

So introverts have game, and quite a bit of it to be exact. The advantages and strengths of sales introverts are multiple, and those who know how to draw upon such strengths have excelled greatly in the sales field as a result, many times catching critics by surprise.

Calm in the Storm

The first major strength of introverts involves composure. Often mistaken for being too reserved or shy, many introverts instead sit back to give themselves a better vantage point. They are able to then avoid getting emotionally entangled in the discussion and see all the players engaged as well as their various interests and directions. The more knowledge a person has obviously, the more he can strategize and manage the sale at an advantage.

Composure also has other side effects that work to the benefit of the introvert salesperson. Being calm and collected has the general effect of putting clients at ease rather than being tense or defensive. Too often, aggressive salespeople are either not trusted or annoying. Potential clients clam up and walk away early when they feel they are being led down a path, often switching to another provider who comes across a bit more honest and less “salesy.” The introvert, however, gets around this problem.

There is no emotional push, no aggression, no hard sell. Instead, he comes in, provides the facts, identifies the problem the consumer or client has, and then offers a viable, practical solution. By getting the discussion away from questioning a salesperson’s honesty and back to focusing on the product or service, a sale and deal is far more likely. By allowing a sales meeting to be comfortable rather than an event of heavy pressure and hard-selling, the introvert is able to land sales where the traditional salesperson would find significant resistance and often fails.

Making the Connection

Introvert salespeople put a high priority on relationship building with customers and clients. They’re not into the deal for a single sale and then off to the next one. Instead, they are far more likely to build long-term streams of revenue by working with the same customers again and again.

Introvert salespeople understand and take advantage of the fact that it was 10 times easier to work with known customers than trying to develop a new relationship with unknown leads. Instead, they leverage known contacts and client interests to keep producing new sales again and again. This is done by focusing on win-win scenarios where both the introvert and the client both realize a significant gain in the deal negotiated.

Lending an Ear

Introverts have a keen, well-trained ability at listening to people. Often, customers want to tell people what they are dealing with, explain the issue, and discuss what really matters to them. Unfortunately, many sales people already have a script they feel they need to follow to make a sale. The two don’t mix. Instead, the customer ends up being turned off because the salesperson won’t do the most simply, easy thing in selling: listening.

Introverts, on the other hand, are quite adept at letting people talk around them. They take in all the details and statements, asking questions for more information, and getting the big picture that matters to the customer versus a script. In fact, many introverts will spend more than two-thirds of the sales meeting discussion asking the questions rather than wasting time on a pitch.

Listening provides access to key information, especially details that are valuable to allowing the introvert salesperson to connect with a client personally versus in generic terms.

In short, the strengths of sales introverts named above (composure, listening, and relationship-building) allow introverts to make in-roads where many of the best traditional salespeople can’t often break through. And they do it with far less effort, time, stress and cost.

————–

Alen Mayer, Chief Sales Introvert, helps sales people who identify themselves as introverts to be successful in sales by writing articles and conducting seminars on how to maximize introvert’s sales potential.  Find more of Alen

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