There’s fancy French Cuisine and there’s meat and potatoes. Which one best describes your sales pitch? Do you proudly tick off your product’s features like they are the appetizers and hope to keep the prospect on the line long enough to serve them the Cognac Shrimp with Beurre Blanc Sauce, or do you recognize that with your initial call that businesses want you to hold the appetizers and straight up serve the meat and potatoes? The truth is that they are busy people who want to know what your product can do for them – and they see all your bells and whistles as simply the fringe benefits that belong in future calls.
Every prospect; every company is an individual with specific needs. Selling to them isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Do your homework. Find out enough about your prospect to know how you can actually help them before calling.
Identifying Right Benefits
- Are they a large, established company?
- Are they a smaller or start-up company?
- What is their product and/or service?
- Are they retail or wholesale?
- Do they do inside sales?
- Are they currently using a similar product that yours improves upon?
- How are market trends and the state of the economy affecting them?
What Do They Want To Hear From You?
- Numbers – how much time your product can save.
- Numbers – what percentage of revenue increase might they experience.
- How much easier your product is to use than their current one.
- They want to hear that over and above making a sale that you want to help them.
- They want to hear your respect for their time and your understanding of their needs.
- The want to know that you’re hearing them.
Take the time to analyze your sales approach and make sure that you’re not assuming that every person you talk to is a technology geek who will be enamored of your product’s ability to jump at the click of a mouse. That’s all fun stuff, but it’s not the meat and potatoes. If you budget time for the appropriate research before you start calling your prospect’s budget will reap the rewards that you’re offering.
Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. Michael Jordan
There is a reason that we have multiple governing houses making decisions for our country. They are meant as a check and balance system, but too, it is a division of responsibilities and a way to tap into the experience and expertise of many. So it works in business too. Even the strongest, most dedicated, hardworking CEO of a company could not be successful without a solid team of qualified professionals under him/her dividing up the responsibilities. The success of a team depends on level of leadership and the success of the company depends on the level of team work.
Some years back I lived in a small town that had just one grocery store. The store had every appearance of one that belonged to a major chain. It was large, well-stocked, and clean. Prices were competitive. Its owners were known to be involved in the community and they placed full-page, color ads in the city paper. For all intent and purpose it looked like “the” place to shop.
I shopped there for some time, but I eventually took my business eight miles up the road to a store in a larger city. Why? The store lost my business because every time a bagger saw me to my car they expressed what a hateful place it was to work. (Keep in mind, in a small town everyone knows everyone, and most knew me because I was the editor of the city paper – so to them it was just friends talking to a friend.) It may well be right that they should have never voiced their grievances with a “customer,” but the fact remains – the sales team in the store from the bagger on up were not being led in a way that made them an effective team, and sales were lost.
If a sales team is comprised of qualified people who understand the value in working together; if their leader instilled common goals and principles through explanation and example, the odds of achieving success climb. People live up to expectations.
With a solid team, you don’t make a sales call alone; you do it with
backup. The stress, responsibility and work is divided, which makes your jobs easier. The prospect relaxes when they know you rely on your team members because they know the process is fine-tuned; each step managed by the professional who is best at it. It is a win for all.
Quality Sales Team
- Divided Workload
- Diversified Expertise
- Shared Accountability
- Less Stress
Quality Buying Team
- Purchase Considered from Multiple Angles
- Right Questions Asked
- Strong Change Leadership
Remember even if you’re playing a game of Bingo it takes five spots covered to win. One base covered just can’t get the job done. Strong leaders build strong teams. Collaboration and teamwork are the backbone of successful decisions.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” ~Steve Jobs
While it is true that sales is a numbers game there is a fine line between what is best, quantity or quality, when it comes to filling your call list with prospects. You can argue that it’s a hit and miss situation so the more leads you have the better your chance of connecting with a voice, over a machine. You can tell yourself that if the person who answers isn’t the right person that they will gladly give you the number to call of the one that is. You can tell yourself that your supervisor will be happy just to see that you made an impressive number of dials. You can hang onto the idea that it is totally about persistence – but is it?
Statistically, according to Leap Job – “only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment.” Is that a statistic you simply have to live with, or could you change it if you thought about how to fill your call list with quality, instead of quantity? What if you took the time to actually differentiate between a good lead and a nonproductive one, and communicated that to those who are harvesting your leads? Gartner Group notes, “Typically if a firm has somewhere between 100 and 500 employees there are only about seven people who are actually involved in the buying decision.” Wouldn’t you like to find them?
Bad Lead – Quantity Harvesting
- A person who by virtue of their job title doesn’t have the ability or authority to invite a second call.
- A lead to someone in an industry that doesn’t fit your product.
- A lead with incorrect contact information.
- A lead that no longer works for said company.
Imagine how much time and money is wasted when your call list is filled with bad leads. You might make an impressive number of dials, but you won’t make an earth-moving number of sales, because it isn’t possible when you’re talking to the wrong people. On top of that – how frustrating is it for you to make dial after dial that is met with a negative outcome? How do you keep up your spirit – not to mention enjoy any measure of job security? It’s no wonder that there is such a high turnover in sales jobs. Anyone who can beat your success statistics can have your job. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different outcomes.” – Einstein
Good Lead – Quality Harvesting
- A lead with the job title that authorizes them to invite a second call.
- A lead who works for a company that you know that your product actually can help
- Leads that have undergone routine data cleansing and are verified to still work for the company.
Imagine how it would feel to be calling the right people. Trading quantity for quality means a higher level of success, higher job revenues and increased job security. While it may seem that finding the right person to call is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it really isn’t. It’s a matter of defining criteria, and then looking specifically for that. If you do an advanced search out on LinkedIn you can eliminate much of the hay and get down to the needle. Often times you can find the right person on a company’s website. An experienced sales person knows which job titles have authority and passing the word down to those who harvest the leads can make a difference. Setting up a schedule that keeps your lead’s job verification current within 6 months or a year will keep things cleaner and more productive.
There is one other important step. Once you have a quality call list you need to put it in an application that allows you to truly attack it. Incite2, a Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology will impart magic to your call list because it allows for momentum you can’t get anywhere else. It consolidates all Salesforce data so that on one page you can click through calls, schedule next steps, send appropriate communications and keep track of your sales history. A few clicks during and after your call, and you quickly move onto the next call. With Incite2 you can triple your call volumne.
Laws of Attraction
In the early 1900’s there was a “New Thought Movement.” Proponents wrote about, and lectured that “both people and thoughts are pure energy and like energy attracts like energy.“ The idea came to be known as the Laws of Attraction. The concept was sold to the populace with a biblical reference which gave it more substance for people. Writer James Allen’s best known work was an article written in 1902 entitled, As a Man Thinketh.” The basis for the article was a verse in the Bible from the Book of Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Opportunists took flight with the idea and made millions of dollars preaching it. The jury is still out on whether it is true or not.
Power of Positive Thinking
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking,” published in 1952 took it one step farther. Personally, I think there is more substance to the power of positive thinking than there is to the so-called Laws of Attraction because to me “confidence” is the epitome of positive thinking.
I came to understand confidence when I was very young. I learned that as long as I believed when I put on my ice skates that I was going to fall; fall I did. A little practice, and my confidence grew and I stopped falling. That scenario played out thousands of times over the years. Every measure of success that I experienced was directly connected to my level of confidence in my ability to accomplish.
How does all of this translate to sales? If the prospect hears your lack of confidence, the deal is off. If you don’t truly believe you have a solution; that you can get that coveted second chance to call, odds are good that you won’t.
How to Gain Confidence
Confidence Relates to Education
Make sure that you know your product; not just the basic product, but every upgrade. Know your competitor’s products. How do they compare to yours? What makes yours better?
Spend Time with Peers.
There is power in teamwork. Social time spent with coworkers will always have nuggets of wisdom in it. We all have people in our field that we respect for their ability to get the job done. Spend time with them; observe their style. Ask questions about how they landed successful deals. Don’t forget to ask about the deals that didn’t pan out for them. Learn from their mistakes.
We never get so good that a little practice will hurt us. When you make improvements to your sales script practice it out loud to a friend, colleague, family member; the dog if no one else is around. Things said out loud showcases mistakes and bring awareness to ineffective content.
Read Articles, Blogs and Books on Sales.
While you certainly have a life outside of sales, you will find that making time to read current literature on the topic, will inspire and energize you. It will keep you apprised of changes in the market, advances in technology, and what company is acquiring what company. Embrace the Internet; the more you know, the more confident you will be.
Find Value in Seminars; Podcasts; Webinars and Sales Events.
Tuning in and/or attending such events will raise your level of engagement in your profession.
Social Media is a Source of Knowledge.
Twitter, for example, is a great place to find out what people are talking about. You can get the jump on new trends and technologies.
Consider a Business Diary.
While not everyone finds a comfort with writing, keeping a record of your wins and losses would give you something to look back on that might give you a tool to progress forward.
Take the pause out of your sentences, the hesitation from your information delivery, and the nervous energy out of your sales pitch by shoring up your sales education. Your prospects can spot fear, inexperience and bluffing from a mile away. You can positively increase your sales by building your confidence – by increasing your knowledge.
“Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past… T.S. Eliot
Is it possible to see the future? Yes, if you take a look at the past. Time has proven again and again that history repeats itself. The repetition isn’t in a literal sense, it’s more conceptual. Mark Twain refined it. He said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” When considering the past as a forecaster for business decisions look for patterns, similarities and end results as the best indicators of what you might expect to experience again. With a firm hand on data collection there is the option to either repeat the past, or improve it.
MIT’s Weigh-In on the Purpose of Data Collection
Three years ago the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did a study on “Data Driven Decision Making” (DDD). They reported, “Using detailed survey data on the business practices and information technology investments of 179 large publicly traded firms, we find that firms that adopt DDD have output and productivity that is 5-6% higher than what would be expected given their other investments and information technology usage.”
Since the MIT study, technology has continued its upward climb and today the tools at the fingertips of business are even more efficient. Today there is software available that will literally measure everything and anything, and without a doubt your competition is utilizing such to measure not only dollars and cents, but the performance of their workforce.
When home computers first became available there were many people who thought that the machine magically knew everything. It took a little stumbling around for people to understand that the machine only knew what it was taught. The bottom line is that you can’t get out what you don’t put in, and guesswork is costly in this highly competitive age.
Does your CRM track the actual data that you need to make informed decisions? Do you have the ability to make tracking adjustments that make the collection more relevant? Do you need to consider an add-on to enhance the process and make it more seamless?
Is documenting sales activity in your CRM a user-friendly process, or is it complex and distracting? Is it all in one place, or is it spread across different pages? Is it intuitive enough to help fill in such details as dates and times? Does it recommend your next step?
Hit or Miss?
Is sales activity habitually documented or is it often skipped because reps find it too time consuming? Are reps so busy having to scramble to make the desired number of calls that they see stopping to document their activity as a deterrent?
Incite2, an ultra efficient Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology has taken the sting out of activity documentation. Consider a demo to see for yourself how beautifully the documenting process has been simplified. Incite2 not only makes tracking your history effortless; it also dramatically increases the number of calls that can be made.
You can’t know where to go, unless you know where you’ve been. Accurate data collection will open the door toward improving upon history.
Some years back I served as the editor of the city paper in a small bedroom community in California’s Central Valley. When you’re the editor of a small town newspaper you are also the interviewer, photographer, typesetter, public relations manager, and floor sweeper. You cover everything from fires and parades, to births, deaths, football games, bake-offs and award ceremonies. It’s definitely not a sit down, put your feet up kind of job. You lunch on adrenaline every day, more so as the weekly go-to-print deadline rushes in on you because there is absolutely, positively no excuse for not getting the paper out on time.
I learned something during those years. I learned that there is a distinctive difference between “stress” and “adrenaline rush.” Technically, the body responds in the same way, no matter which it is – but stress is bad and adrenaline rush is good.
Adrenaline is the natural hormone that your body produces that gives you heightened senses, boosts of energy, an increase in strength and stamina, and masks the pain and exhaustion that would have other-wise slowed you down. You use the adrenaline rush to meet deadlines, find all the right answers to all the right questions, and systematically get through your to-do list, and get the job done on time.
Stress is a product of fear; fear of mistakes and failures. More often than not we can trace our stress back to something we did or didn’t do that we were supposed to do or not do. More often than not, we create our own stress and panic.
Sales is a highly competitive field and sensory overload is the name of the game. Your time is spent talking to ever-changing, unpredictable personalities on the phone, attending business meetings, balancing relationships with co-workers, and managing your pipeline. You hear “No thanks, “more often than you hear, “Yes.” You have demanding goals to meet, and drawing a paycheck means closing deals. The question is, do you love it enough to ride the adrenaline rush, or do you allow stress it’s negative impact?
- Organization is at the heart of stress control.
- Keep your promises equal to your capabilities.
- Eliminate chaos and clutter from your environment.
- Give prospects honest facts about your product.
- When you don’t know the answer, admit it, and get it.
- Help colleagues; they will return the favor when you feel the crunch.
- Stay on top of technology developments.
- Avoid multi-tasking.
- Admit your limitations.
- Make conscious decisions.
- Open the window; fresh air feeds the brain.
- Schedule breaks and get away from your desk.
- Eat healthy.
- Get enough rest.
- Exercise eats stress.
- Don’t work during your time off.
- Indulge in a relaxing hobby.
- Enjoy a social life.
- Don’t skip vacations.
- Recognize it.
- Enjoy it.
- Use it.
- Relax when it passes.
When you take the time to reflect on what makes you tick; on how you spend your time, if you are honest with yourself you will find that you have the ability to control your processes. Avoid setting yourself up for stress and instead enjoy the thrill of the hunt and make more sales.
Whether you were born with a passion for your craft or whether you learned it along the way, the bottom line is that without the passion, your success will not be consistent. Consider the sales people that are recognized by the industry as being the best. If you do a little research you will find that almost without exception they either cut their teeth on it following in their parent’s footsteps or they were just naturally, genuinely driven to help people.
Very spiritually driven because of instances of what he saw as miraculous in his own life. As a motivational speaker he helped shape the modern vocabulary of sales.
Popeil is the hands down king of the infomercials. He says, “If I create a product, I can market it as well as or better than anyone on the planet. I have the confidence and the passion. People see that, and they know it is real.”
She sold over $41 million dollars in pianos for Steinway & Sons by taking the time to match-make people to the right piano. For beginning players she wore the symbolic hat of piano teacher; for the experienced she matched their personalities to the personalities of the piano. She made it personal.
It wasn’t the products he sold that he is remembered for; it is the drive he had to teach others how to sell.
Ogilvy’s mantra was that he believed the best way to get new clients was to do notable work for existing ones. His level of service is legendary.
Sales is Not a Profession for the Faint-Hearted
Even when you have the passion for your craft you have to be thick-skinned and resilient. Know that even the most successful have days of frustration, but they recognize when they need to refresh their energy and seek ways to do so, because prospects can spot a fake a mile away.
12 Ways to Stay Passionate
- Surround yourself with people who share your passion for sales. It really will rub off on you. It’s among the Laws of Attraction.
- Make lists – to-do lists; things that worked list; things that didn’t work.
- Carry a small notebook everywhere. Noting inspirational ideas can help you freshen up your sales methods.
- Take Breaks – Schedule in time to change the view. Leave your desk for lunch.
- Seek feedback on your efforts. Love the good and learn from the not so good.
- Collaborate. Brainstorming and sharing experiences with colleagues will energize you.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes; just make it a point to learn from them. It will make others trust and respect you.
- Practice, practice, practice. Give your sales pitch to family and friends and ask for their opinions. Everything can always be made better, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
- Get lots of rest. You can’t deliver energy if you don’t have any.
- Clean your workspace. You will think clearer and feel more professional without clutter and with organization.
- Stay on top of new technology.
- Attend webinars and seminars to gain new ideas.
Imagine having customers who both appreciate the product – and remember how energetic, passionate, and genuine you were when you sold it to them. It will get you repeat business.
When I was growing up we had a gigantic garden in back of the house. Actually maybe it wasn’t gigantic; maybe I was just small? Anyone who knew my grandmother said that she had a “green thumb.” No matter what she grew it had more flavor than the same thing grown next door. She grew the biggest, sweetest strawberries, tomatoes flavored by the vine and watermelon so perfect that you didn’t need salt. There were cucumbers, long white icicle radishes and sweet onions… Out in front of the house there was a roadside produce stand that she kept stocked with whatever was in season. On the counter there was a small wooden box with a slot in the top and a sign that said, “Pay What You Can,” and people did.
Whenever someone new moved into the neighborhood, or someone was sick, or maybe they brought home a new baby, my grandmother would fill a basket – not with strawberries, but with strawberry jam; not with cucumbers but with bread and butter pickles. When I asked her why she didn’t just give the fruits and vegetables, she said, “The fruits and vegetables are the things I sell, but the jam and pickles are what I give to make and keep friends.
When you think about your sales technique do your efforts lean toward selling a product or building a relationship? What’s the difference?
Just the Product
- Products are sold on retail shelves.
- A sale may be lost because the competitor’s product that is right next to yours, costs less, or has a more attractive package.
- A sale often depends on the store display.
- You never get to know the buyer, so your only feedback is quantity sold.
- You don’t get any recommendations or insight about how you could improve your product and encourage higher sales.
- Brand loyalty is hard to earn
- Quick sale and now it’s a wait and see.
- People buy more from people they come to know and trust.
- Your analytics are more predictable.
- Future upgrades of your product are watched for.
- You get testimonials when you do a good job.
- Your customers will help you sell your product.
- You get feedback from those who actually use your product.
When you make that sales call, remember the idea is to forge a long-term relationship, not one quick sale.
Build the Relationship
- Be trustworthy, reliable, objective, and available.
- Exhibit a care for the prospect’s needs and limitations.
- Listen to the prospect and respond in a way that shows you hear and understand.
- Don’t be all talk and no action.
- Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise at appropriate times.
- Keep everything confidential.
You can’t put a price on trust, but you can take the profits to the bank when you build it. My grandmother’s sales at that produce stand kept all of us kids in shoes and coats all the way through high school because the relationships she built, kept buying from her.
In 1974 I bought my first microwave oven from JC Penney. Whenever a technology is new to the consumer, the price is always high for a handful of years. The first microwave ovens hit the stores in 1967 so when I bought, I paid $750, which definitely taxed the household budget. The product came with a one year guarantee, and at the time of the sale I was offered an extended warranty – which I turned down. One year and three weeks later the microwave stopped working, and when I contacted the store, I was told, “Nothing we can do. You didn’t buy the extended warranty.”
I decided to keep the problem human. I sat down and wrote to the CEO of JC Penney’s. I told him that I didn’t buy the extended warranty because I had grown up with JC Penney being a part of my family, and I trusted that as family they would do what was right – whether I bought the extended warranty or not. I told him that their products were in every closet, on every shelf and in every drawer of our home. I asked him to not break the trust that I had grown up having for the company. He authorized the repairs at no charge.
When it comes to business, especially in this day of high tech everything, caution should be taken to not lose the human touch with your prospects. While everyone appreciates the speed, the accuracy and the convenience of technology; no one wants to be nothing but a statistic in your analytics.
Keep it Human
Keep it Warm
Talk with your prospects like they are professional “friends.” As you move through the sales cycle get to know them as people. Learn about their family, significant events taking place in their life – weddings, new babies, great vacations. Maybe they just built a new house; their child’s ball team took first place or they are thrilled with a new car they just parked in their garage. Share a piece of yourself to open the door of friendship; they will give back. You will build trust by letting them know you care about them beyond their bank account.
Email is awesome. It is fast, and it is free, and there is a time and a place for it. Some years back I was with a car insurance company that actually mailed me a birthday card each year, personally signed by my agent. Had he sent me a birthday greeting via email – I would have been a lot less touched. Yes, I know it was a marketing tool, but I still thought it a class act.
While you may think your customers are impressed when you have all the answers, know that they are equally as impressed when you admit that you don’t. There’s something reassuring and connecting when you admit to being human. If you promise to find the answer, and follow through, you’ve demonstrated your good character and earned their respect. Know too, admitting your mistakes and then responsibly fixing them, builds a level of trust that you can’t put a price on.
Let the Wisdom Kick In
The difference between a good teacher and a great one is that a great one will tell you that they learned more from their students than they taught them. Every prospect has something to teach you, even the ones who say, “No thanks.” It might be the questions they ask that drive you to research; it might be their leadership style that you get to observe, or it might simply be that they share something they’ve learned that makes your job easier. Learning from others is the best way for you to grow, both personally and professionally.
It’s a new day. Before you start calling consider your style. Will the prospect hear a sales shark, or will they hear a new friend who wants to help them? Will they hear irritation at a “No thanks,” or will they hear understanding and respect? What kind of impression will you leave? You can keep it business, and be real at the same time.
Our productivity is directly related to the length of our attention span. While advancements in technology have given us the ability to make lightning fast progress as we tackle day-to-day tasks, it also plays a part in our decreasing attention span, which is currently noted to be 15-20 minutes for the average adult. It is fact, our brains are effectively being re-wired by our high speed Internet that gives us the ability to rapidly click from one screen to the next; have multiple tabs open that we can move between and then be gratified by the instant delivery of information. We are in essence losing our ability to be patient; meaning that we get bored much faster than the generation before us. Boredom is often the heaviest contributor toward our inclination to give into distractions.
The negative impact that distractions have in the workplace can be substantial, but there are things that you can do to call a halt to them. There are subtle changes in habits that can make a world of difference that will make your job easier, while driving up revenue.
Staying on Task
- Work from a plan. A small to-do list that you can check off can be helpful. Seeing the check-off’s will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Tackle the task that least interests you, first thing in the morning while you’re still fresh. Getting it out of the way will give you more energy for the things you actually enjoy doing.
- Schedule blocks of time for different tasks that fits your personal attention span.
- Control your distractions by actually scheduling them as opposed to letting them control you. Let them serve as mini-rewards in between tasks.
- Determine exactly what things steal your focus. A little self observation will tell you what you need to fix. Do you need to turn off email notifications; put incoming calls on hold or just plain shut your office door?
- Avoid multi-tasking. When you try to do too many things at one time odds are good you will get nothing completed.
- Clear “stuff” from your workspace. While gadgets and decorations may be fun they give you something to do in place of work.
- Clear Clutter. Clutter is lack of organization and that stalks your focus. Use files, drawers, and cabinets to put away whatever you don’t need to complete your task. The secondary benefit to that is being able to find what you want when you need it for the next project.
- Consider the software that you use to do your job. Does it have enough organization built in to keep you actively engaged? For instance, if you work in Salesforce there is the ability to build call lists based on status. If you add a status field to your Contact’s page with the same criteria as your Lead’s page you can create an organized list to call from that maintains your momentum and super-charges your results, especially if you use the Salesforce add-on, Incite2, offered by ShadeTree Technology.
- Use white noise. If you are distracted by the noise in the office or things going on outside you can effectively eliminate the disturbances with “white noise.” There are several different applications available on the Internet, but I personally use ChatterBlocker. It runs in the background. I keep it at a low volume and it serves to mask the noises that distract. It is $9.95 at chatterblocker.com I have also used table top waterfalls, and soft instrumental music. The idea is a repetitive sound that is a loop of constant.
- Avoid eating lunch at your desk. You can’t mentally regroup if you don’t change the view.
Getting a handle on the things that steal your focus will allow you to accomplish a lot more, and you will take a lot less work home with you. Let some new habits take a bite out of an old problem.