“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.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and that’s too clear a vision to waste. It is human nature to tuck away memories of extreme moments, so more often than not, our greatest lessons stem from the mistakes we make.
In business one of your most powerful, money-making assets is the lessons you learn when things don’t go right. In 1959 Ford lost $250 million on the Edsel and in 1964 it turned out the Mustang. A million of them were sold the first year. In 1977 20th Century Fox made the mistake of signing over all product merchandising rights for all Star Wars films to George Lucas for just $20,000. They lost over 3 billion. In 1975 Eastman Kodak developed the first digital camera – and then opted to sit on it and the core technology for the cell phone, and in 2013 Apple and Samsung split the profit on the 120 million smartphones sold.
Take time to reflect on the call that didn’t work; the deal that fell through and the renewal you didn’t get, and use what you realize to take your mistakes to the bank. What can you do to improve the process that you used on the ones that got away?
- Was there any pre-call research?
- Could your call script be better; your tone of voice more confident?
- Did you call the right person; someone with the authority to invite a second call?
- Did you push for a sale instead of a second call?
- Were you able to separate them from the last “no thanks” you got?
- Did you offer them something helpful?
- Did you assume you had all the answers rather than listen for their need?
- Were you respectful of their time?
- Did you leave yourself available in the event they reconsider?
- Did you leave a quality last impression?
The Renewal You Didn’t Get
- Did you give your client a reason to renew?
- Did you give them reason not to renew?
- Did your product update to stay current with the needs of the buyers?
- How was your after-purchase service?
- Did you foster a business relationship that had the ability to grow?
- Did you keep your product competitively priced?
The only bad mistake is the one you don’t learn anything from; the one you repeat. When something doesn’t work, make time to figure out why. Life is supposed to be a learning experience. Turn “no thank-you” into revenue by using it to make you better at what you do.
Linguists will tell you that there are between 6,500 and 6,800 different languages spoken in the world today, but technically it would be more accurate if you doubled that number. The first thing that I learned in college was that along with every subject that I took there was a hidden language course. The language of my master’s field, which was education, was a walk in the park for me, and the language in my business degree was comfortable, but I have to tell you the language of statistics, algebra and chemistry remained forever foreign to my ear.
Most everyone owns a copy of the basic dictionary as first conceived by Noah Webster in 1828, but if you have a career, a passion or simply a relaxing hobby you may own a dictionary with all of the terms that go with it. I’m a writer and my novels embrace history so I have a collection of dictionaries with all of the terms from the Vietnam War; 12th Century Scotland; Gaelic translated to English; slang of the Old West, The California Gold Rush; Civil War Battles; Slavery in the Deep South, and WWII, etc.
Whether you have it in a bound book, or in your head, you own the dictionary of Sales. Interestingly enough the words and phrases are not exclusive to business. Mostly likely you learned them during your growing up years.
I know this one. It’s from The Sermon on the Mount -– “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” If someone were calling you, wouldn’t you want them to be polite, considerate of your time, patient, a good listener, be respectful, and say please and thank you? Wouldn’t you want them to be able to solve a problem for you?
I learned about leadership on my 2nd grade playground. I loved “Follow the Leader.” Someone has to be at the head of the line, and they best know where they are going. It takes years of learning to be a good business leader and to gain the skills that are reflected back through your confidence. Good leaders remember what it was like to follow.
I got all of those in scouting. I didn’t know at the time that they would serve as a foundation in all successful business deals. Scouting was a sneaky way to build my character, but where would I be without it? Turn your prospects into customers by polishing these traits.
My 7th grade History teacher insisted on it. At first I fought it, and then I came to love it because I finally figured out that it opened fascinating doors. In sales it might just be the details you know that garner you a second call; that close the deal. While the common comeback on this topic is, “there just isn’t time,” know that the time you make for it, will pay you back.
When I was a kid, my family ate all winter long because in the summer my sisters, my mother and myself divided the chores of picking the vegetables, peeling and chopping them up, and packing them in jars. When the sales cycle is long, a multitude of people are involved. It takes every hand, idea and the combined energies of the team to complete the steps in the process. Success is the result of quality teamwork.
All writers know about rejection. Not everything I’ve written soared. All rejection means is to increase efforts, improve your technique, and keep trying. That is the way it is in sales too. Even when you get a “no thank you” say “thank you” and dial the next number. There are people waiting for your call.
The more comfortable you are with the language of your trade the better you will be at doing your job. The words are nouns, but you won’t make money until you turn them all into verbs. Do have thoughtful conversations; do follow your leader; practice integrity, reliability, preparedness, and trustworthiness. Do the research, play nice with teammates, and shrug off rejection so that the person waiting for your call, gets it.
“At the end of the day, you are solely responsible for your success and your failure. The sooner you realize that, you accept that, and integrate that into your work ethic, you will start being successful.” Erin Cummings
Everything I know about work ethics I learned from my first employer. I was just 16 and I went to work for The House of Fabrics. I thought the $1.65 an hour I earned was a gold mine, so I tolerated the “warden” I worked for. Mrs. Feldon, bless her heart, was nonnegotiable when it came to the rules, and today she has my thanks because I’m never late for anything and I honestly earn my dollars.
People want to buy the best, which means you have to be better than average to make the sale. Sales is one of the most competitive fields you can be in. If you have a quality product, someone will improve it, and trump you. While it’s important to stay abreast of the advances in technology and constantly upgrade your product, the best way to hold on to the leading edge is by flaunting your good character; be known for more than your product. Follow a Moral Compass
Work Ethic; Moral Code for Success
Always strike a fair deal. Promise what you can deliver and deliver what you promise. Own up to mistakes, be quick with apologies, and make things better than right. Dishonesty will get you by in the moment – but it will come back and cost you in the long-run.
Sense of Responsibility
It isn’t the hours you work; it’s the work you put in the hours. Imagine you own the company and build the revenue like it’s your personal bank account. Be accountable.
Dedication to Quality
If you deliver less than high quality, those that trust your product will leave when the reality plays out. Know that no matter how good, everything can always be made better.
Develop an organized system that keeps you on task and leads you through the steps to get the job done. Have a clear sense of priorities and systematically follow it. It isn’t about clock-watching; it’s about delivering on your word.
If one person could do it all, there would be no need for colleagues. Hillary Clinton once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Know that it takes a team to run a company. Learn the fine art of respectfully delegating tasks, and when you have a spare moment, help a colleague if they are on overload with theirs. What goes around, comes around. Strong team; strong company.
What will all that get you?
It will get you repeat business, respect, and job security in a competitive world. Remember, you teach people who you are with your actions. When you know that your job is well done you get peace of mind that can’t be bought.
It is fact, Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times; Irving Stone’s, Lust for Life was rejected 16 times, and then went on to sell over 25 million copies, and Stephen King was told, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias They do not sell.” There is an uncounted number of authors who heard “no” tons of times before they got their foot in the door – William Faulkner; George Orwell; John Grisham; Joseph Heller, John le Carre, J.K. Rowlings; Rudyard Kipling…. Imagine the loss, had they given up.
Understanding the reasons for rejection and having a call list that is geared for success can increase your odds of garnering that second call. The bottom line is, when you work in a profession where you hear no repeatedly; you have to find your mettle and ramp up your persistence to turn the negatives into positives.
Human Factor in Rejection
Any number of a prospect’s personal issues may trigger a “no thanks.” Just thank them for their time, and call someone else.
- Discord at home
- Personal financial worries
- Discontent with their job
- In a bad mood
- Lack of confidence
While connecting with a live voice feels encouraging, if you aren’t talking to someone who can invite you into the sales cycle, your connection has no value, unless you can get them to give you a referral. Increase quality control at the lead generation level. Purpose is served if Sales talks to Marketing.
- Get selective about the job titles that are added to your data bank.
- Be aware in the subtle shift in language when you’re searching for specific types of titles. There is a fair amount of creativity at play when it comes to the exact wording of job titles. Some sound more powerful than they are: Sales Leader, Sales Representative and Sales Associate, for example.
- While it makes sense to import such titles as VP of Sales; Director of Sales and even to some degree Manager of Sales – don’t over look the terms “Sales Enablement” and “Sales Effectiveness.” They are titles less called, but they hold the power to invite the coveted second call.
Quality Control at Lead Generation Level – More Positive Calling Session
- Verify employment at LinkedIn and/or company websites before creating a lead.
- Know that software that mass imports leads – lacks quality control. It doesn’t check for employment.
- Set up a list based on date employment was last verified. By changing the date on it monthly you can re-verify employment on both your leads and contacts once a month, so no verified employment is older than a year – or whatever amount of time works for you. It sounds like a lot of extra work – but once you get it in hand and do it every month – it really only takes a brief amount of time, and the end result is that sales is more apt to connect with someone who is still actually working at the company. Save time; save money and live with a more productive call list.
When the Prospect Says No
- Know that it isn’t personal
- You haven’t reached the right person.
- You called at an inconvenient time.
- Your call script needs work.
If Your Enthusiasm is Low
- Engage in more shoptalk with your coworkers. Ask them about how they approach and handle different situations. Shared tricks of the trade are invaluable.
- Avoid the stress of stumbling. Be sure you know about all upgrades your product has under gone. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”
- Set reasonable goals for yourself to keep you moving. Make it a game of personal challenge.
- Attend some seminars where positive energy can be recharged.
- If you haven’t taken any time off and treated yourself to a getaway – consider doing so.
While in sales “no” is heard more often than “yes” know that it doesn’t mean the end of the road. Don’t give up without exhausting all possibilities. If your product makes life easier and more productive for people, every “yes” that comes back and thanks you, will make the “no’s” pale in comparison. Persistence is the name of the game.