Depending on which articles your read; whose studies you consider, it is said that as much as 60 percent of business deals are lost due to indecision. The prospect opts to hang tight to the “status quo.” While there are times that it’s prudent to keep the status quo most of the time doing so inhibits progress. Historically had our nation not undergone challenges to change the status quo we would still be attending the Church of England; plantation owners would still be buying slaves to pick the cotton, and women most certainly would not have the vote. Without challenging the status quo we wouldn’t have advances in medicine, science, and technology, nor would we be searching the Universe for a backup plan. Embedded in the very definition of life is the condition of change. Without change; without growth all things die or get swallowed by the competition, especially in this age of technology. Each prospect that you talk to who chooses to make no decision has their reason. The trick is to learn their reason and address their concerns by opening a dialog. Dig Deeper. Respect Prospect’s Perspective Even a “no decision” is based on something. You prospect knows their balance sheet and they know the team under them. They may see all change as a risk, whether the company is still trying to gain a solid footing or is in a comfortable holding pattern. Rule of thumb: Remember, when your mouth is open, your ears are closed. Let your prospect lead the conversation, and then reflect back your understanding with questions and comments that prove you are hearing what they said. Example: “I hear that your current system is effectively meeting your needs when it comes to call volume, but that it doesn’t track activity history at an ideal level. How does that affect your analytics?” A pro/con dialogue will give insight to both you and your prospect.
Validate the Difficulty of the Change Process
Discuss the different aspects of the change process ahead of time. There should be no surprises at the eleventh hour. Keep the conversations real and compassionate about how the steps will affect the prospect.
- It will cost time. Production may have to slow while new software is implemented and the users are trained. Time lost may show a temporary drop in revenue. The new efficient system will quickly make it up and continue to push revenue up.
- It will take energy. It will take structured effort to get everyone trained and comfortable with the new system. Schedules will have to be coordinated for training, and progress fastidiously monitored.
- It will take encouragement. Reassuring reminders about the benefits of the new software during the training process will ease the transition. When you know your product everything seems simple, but to the person trying to learn it, not necessarily so. Take care not to assume that everything is understood. Check and recheck. Patient, consistent re-enforcement will get the job done.
Give Control of Change Process to Prospect
It’s important that the prospect has control of the change calendar within reason, and that they choose the initial trainees. When customizing the software to meet specific needs, it’s crucial to keep an open dialogue and gain approval for significant modifications. Avoid buyer’s remorse by encouraging conversations that addresses any fears that develop during the transition, and make it comfortable for the prospect to put all issues on the table.
Just Guide; Don’t Take Over
There are two ways to teach. You can do it and let the learner watch, or the learner can do it while you watch. The fact is, people learn better with their hands on, and your position as just a guide will result in a smoother process. Mistakes during training are a great clarifier of understanding; easily fixable. Guide, and resist the urge to take over. Dissecting the sales process and digging a little deeper into the reasons for no decision being made will payoff for all concerned. Build long-term relationships through communication.
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.
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.
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.
All of us had all-knowing mothers who spouted tidbits of wisdom that we all swore we’d never say to our own kids. My mom would say, “Who did it?” I would say, “I don’t know.” She’d say, “No one named ‘I Don’t Know’ lives here.” I would roll my eyes, when I said, “I wish…” and she’d reply, “If wishes were horses we’d all go for a ride.” I was sure she was nuts every time she told me, “I walked to and from school, and it was uphill both directions.” Okay most of the funny things we remember mom saying we now look back on with a conservative fondness – and laugh when we hear ourselves repeating them to our own kids. There was one piece of wisdom that I’m happy to repeat – because mom was right. No matter the task, she’d say, “Before you get started, get all of your ducks in a row.”
Tailor your content to the leads and roles of your prospects. When your content is relevant to the prospect, it lets them know that you’ve done your homework, and that you’ve listened to what they had to say. When you can send content that gives your prospects resources they may have not uncovered themselves, it will show that you’re both on the same team, strengthen your business relationship, and shorten the sales cycle.
Finding the right person to call can be done with a systematic approach. Ideally the companies in your data base have quality leads with desirable job titles. If that is the case, you can build a call list based on status in Salesforce – by adding a “Status” field to your Contacts page with the same options that you have for Leads. If you are lacking in appropriate leads with desirable job titles, a quick search at LinkedIn using the advance search option can net you multiple fresh leads. InsideView is also a great source for new leads. Often times the right person comes your way via a referral.
Initial conversations can, and do, happen every day at random hours, but a study done a few years ago by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that research across the Internet still supports today, concluded that there are both days and hours that are richer for cold calling success. The study looked at six different companies over a three year period and determined that gold was struck more often on Wednesdays and Thursdays with Thursdays being the best – at 49% better than the worst day, Tuesday. The study also found that the hours with the highest rate of calling success were between 8 & 9 a.m. before business hours, and between 6 & 7 p.m. at the end of the day. The study is not meant to imply that the cited days and times are the only times to call. It is just meant as a leg up when you add the information to your own observations. Ultimately you will find your personal pattern. The Lead Response Management Study Overview
There is a multitude of ways to send your messages out. It’s important to realize that the medium that resonates with one person may not be effective with another. While your best bet is an actual conversation, you can reach prospects in many other ways. Short videos, slideshows, emails, and postcards will be effective with visual receivers. Well crafted conversations, voicemails, and videos will click with auditory receivers. Delivering your information in multiple mediums is a way to cover all bases and address the various ways that your prospects most comfortably process information.
A little organization goes a long way. If your ducks are in a row, the rate of success is driven up. Give your list building more power by using Incite2 the ultra efficient Salesforce add-on offered by ShadeTree Technology. It collects information from multiple Salesforce screens and presents it all on one efficient page.
Sales conversations inevitably follow a specific course, down one topical path. It is a well-worn and often quite predictable track called “product and price.” To improve your chances for a sale, you may try to steer the conversation in other, more intellectual directions. Your intention of course is to engage the buyer in a higher quality discussion that addresses their precise challenges and objectives.
What, does the term “Selling” mean to you? I decided to see how the various dictionaries define Selling–beyond the obvious. Paraphrasing what I found, Selling is “to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something; to bring about or cause to be accepted; to advocate successfully.”
Persuade. Influence. Advocate. To sell-and to do it consistently and successfully-you must communicate ideas to the prospective client. To really draw them into the process, you must first listen, then ask, and answer questions. Communicating is not the same as telling,just as hearing is not the same as listening. Indeed, if you measure a reps performance only by the number of calls they make, you may not adequately be emphasizing the distinction between holding a conversation with someone, and simply speaking with them. That’s becausetalking is not the same as conversing. Read more