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Stops & Starts

Tired of reading long & boring blogs? Paragraph after paragraph… feels like homework!

Today’s your day. Check out these lists: Stops & Starts.

Salespeople please STOP:

  • Talking so much
  • Leaning on canned company powerpoint presentations
  • Saying “Just following up…” or “Just touching base…”
  • Talking to Carl the Clerk (who can’t make a decision to save his life)
  • Selling the gatekeeper (he can’t make a decision either)
  • Talking about WHAT you do
  • Doing quotes & proposals to prospects who are not qualified
  • Waiting for people to call you back
  • Selling on price
  • Going on “social calls” in sales
  • Making friends in sales
  • Trash-talking the competition
  • Leaning on email so much
  • Being a “vendor” or a “supplier”
  • Being a poser… a wannabe
  • Making excuses for a lack of results
  • Taking shortcuts
  • Dumping your information on prospects (educating)
  • Chasing prospects for decisions
  • Complaining about your income

Now let’s START:

  • Understanding WHY your prospect will buy
  • Getting curious… really curious
  • Asking tougher questions
  • Uncovering budgets & target pricing
  • Talking to decision makers
  • Being a partner
  • Asking for introductions & referrals
  • Managing expectations in sales (Ground Rules)
  • Realizing that you are half of the equation in sales (you are worthy)
  • Answering your cell phone & email after hours & on weekends
  • Out-selling your competition
  • Listening
  • Using a system for selling
  • Prospecting for new business
  • Holding yourself accountable
  • Getting comfortable with the word NO
  • Being a professional
  • Being real… & humble
  • Making your family proud that you provide for them
  • Realizing you are in the greatest profession in the world

Have fun.

Sales is a Game of Inches

Where have all the “lay-downs” gone? You know a lay-down – the easiest sale you have ever made. It takes no work. A customer or prospect called or emailed & practically said, take my money, we need help! Have you had your lay down yet this year? If you did congrats – if not you will (maybe) but the rest of your sales are going to take work.

That’s just the way it is any more – selling takes work. It’s not easy (don’t let anyone tell you it is). When we make sales it’s not by a gigantic margin. We are not the only game in town. We have to work for every bit of the sale. If we are not on top of our game , competition will eat our lunch!

This means that every single thing you do counts. From your initial contact to presenting your solution – everything. What you wear. What you say. What you don’t say. Where you sit. What you send. What you ask. What you don’t ask. How you respond. How quickly you respond. Everything!

So how are you doing so far? Ever get the feeling your lunch is getting eaten? Stinks, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a look at hedging that bet. Let’s tilt the ice in our favor. Here is Top 10 List (David Letterman-style) of Sales Mistakes still being made in 2020 & what you can do about them.

A Top 10 List of Sales Mistakes to Avoid (from the corporate office in Plymouth, Michigan):

10. Leaving a voice mail for your prospect that says, “Just following up…” NO! Everyone you compete with says that! You sound like a stalker. Separate yourself from your competition by setting an expectation of when you should call to follow up & determine next steps & live up to that expectation. You’ll stop chasing prospects. 

9. Sitting across from prospects or clients on appointments. Remove the barrier that says, “Hey, you want to fight?” When you sit across from someone the space between you both is a barrier. Sit next to prospects & clients (not right next to them; Noon & 3:00 on the clock). Remove the barrier.

8. Giving everyone the same boring pitch. If you have been subscribing to this blog for even a week, then you know how we feel about pitches. Ask questions. Have discussions. Determine if you have a fit & be a consultative partner. No pitching!

7. Leaning on email like it’s a crutch. It’s easy to tell you NO over email. It’s easy to ignore an email. Stop taking the easy way out. Get in your car & go see people. Unless you are Amazon or eBay that’s how sales work in your business.

6. Listening like a 3 year old. Forget the terrible two’s… my wife & I clearly recall the terrible threes. Our kids didn’t listen to a thing we said. They were kids. Why do some of you still exhibit brutal listening skills?

5. Dressing to make yourself comfortable. There. Said it. It’s out there. Why do salespeople feel the need to let their self-expression rear its ugly head during the week? Save the trendy, flashy, casual garb for the weekend. Be professional. Dress to make your prospect (or client) feel comfortable.

4. Trash-talking the competition. Never, ever do you speak poorly about your competitors. If your prospect wants to dog your competitor that’s one thing. You stay out of it.

3. Not adding value. When salespeople fail to add value, they reduce their product or service to a commodity. Stop making it about WHAT you do & start determining WHY they would need it. Discuss the problem, not the solution.

2. Selling on price. Anyone can sell on price. Why do we need high paid sales pros to discount, lower prices, & cut into margins? Go back to #3 & start asking the tough questions. Then refer to #1.

1. Talking too much. Admit it. It feels good to tell people what you know. When you do that you make it all about you. When it’s all about you it’s not about them. When it’s not about them they want to look at something else or buy it on price. Would you shut up for once?

Inches.

Serious Question, Sales Pros: Would You Buy from You?

Might seem like an odd question to ask yourself: Would you buy from you? Pretty odd. Most salespeople will answer (without thinking), “Of course I would.” “Why wouldn’t I?” “Sure would… I’m good… really good.” It’s natural. What salesperson, who makes her living selling, is going to admit that she wouldn’t even buy from herself?

OK, so we’ll attack this from a different angle. If you were being screamingly honest with yourself, in a room by yourself, with nobody listening… would you buy from you? Would you?

Let’s do a quick survey:

Me neither.

It’s ALL MENTAL!

Yogi Berra is known for whacky sayings & quotes that make you say, huh? He had a lot of them. His best? Hands down it has to be, Baseball is 90% mental, & the other half is physical.

What’s so great about that quote? It applies to EVERYTHING! It applies to every sport from baseball to badminton. It applies to every profession from teaching to sales. It simply applies.

Sales leaders & selling professionals know this as well as anyone. In 2020, with products & services being so “technically” proficient, so well made & positioned it’s rarely the “physical thing” that gets you the deal. Think about it: is your product or service that much better than your competitors? If it is, then why is it so hard to sell it? Why don’t you have more market share? Hell, why don’t you have the entire market?

You know why. Because your product or service is not that much better. Are you good? Yes. Is everyone else good? Also, yes. Face it: the crappy companies with the me-too products & services went down the drain in the 2007-2009 mess we had. The companies that survived deserved to survive. They are good! You are competing with worthy companies & they are competing with you. It’s one of the things that makes America great.

So how do you win in this incredibly tight & competitive marketplace? Step one is to believe you can. You have to really internalize & believe in your value & the value or your product or service. My mentor used to say, “The first sale we make is between our own ears.” What he was saying is “Sales is 90% mental, & the other half is physical.” Such a great mind-set.

Need some context? Here goes:

When you have been calling on a company for a while, have provided a great solution that you know will work & you are waiting for them to “order it”. What gives you the umph to ask for the order? Mind-set.

If these examples don’t prove that the sales game is 90% mental, come up with a few hundred more on your own. You don’t have to think long & hard to come up with some. It happens every day. The 6 inches between the ears has broken more salespeople than Yogi Berra has quotes. It will continue to do so until the mental is mastered. Believe you can.

Charisma! A Great Quality To Have

 

Have you ever missed out on a deal because you had too much charisma? Doubt it

A better question would be, have you ever missed out on one because you lacked charisma? Much more likely.

What is Charisma?

Charisma is the ability to influence others positively by connecting with them physically, emotionally or intellectually.  It’s a compelling attractiveness (not necessarily physical attractiveness) or charm that can inspire devotion in people. It can be revealed only during interaction with others.

Does everybody have Charisma?

Yes, everybody you have ever met has Charisma.  Some say we are born with or without it – not!  We all have it. It’s not “wired” the same way in you as it is in another person – but we all have it.

7 Components of Charisma

  1. Your Silent Message

You “tell” people about yourself before you open your mouth. This is your “silent message”.  It’s the way you carry yourself – physically, emotionally & intellectually. This is also called your “posture” (not the way you stand) the way you carry yourself. You’ve seen 2 people enter a room & you form an opinion about each of them before they even say 1 word. Silent message – work on it – it’s critical.

  1. Your Ability to Speak Well

You may have the greatest idea in the world, but who will know it if you can’t articulate it well? Pay attention to how you speak – work on it daily. Have you ever heard a person absolutely BOMB a joke because they can’t articulate well? Enough said. Listen to great comedians. Their power comes from timing – which is related to their ability to pause. It’s all about the beautifully placed pause.

  1. Your Listening Skills

Listening skills are almost never taught. Listening is such an important key to communicating & making others feel special around you. Take a deep breath, pause, count to three & learn to shut up!

  1. Your Persuasive Talent

Your ability to motivate others to follow your lead & adopt your idea. No idea (however great it is) ever gets anywhere until it’s adopted. Be cool – nobody wants to “know” they are being persuaded. We’ll call it a gentle nudge. Remember, it’s OK to suggest that people come to “your side” – gently nudge them – not hard sell.

  1. Your Use of Space & Time

How you honor or violate another person’s personal space & time will have a direct effect on the amount of trust or miss-trust between the two of you. First off, don’t be late, ever. It’s rude. Next, not too close, not too far. In our part of the world – under normal circumstances –  18” to 2 feet is ideal.

  1. Your Ability to Adapt to Others

People (& prospects) get whatever personalities they want. If it’s important enough to you then you will need to treat others the way they want to be treated. Pay attention to what they do, say, mirror & match them & do it right – otherwise it looks contrived. Do you treat the maintenance person any different than you do the CEO? Charismatic people don’t.

  1. Your Vision, Your Ideas

What do you feel passionately about? What do you really, really care about? What do you love? You will never help anyone change their minds or ideas & take action if you don’t feel strongly about it yourself. It’s OK to have a position, a stance. No need to preach it everywhere you go, but charismatic people have a vision.

It’s one of the best qualities a person can possess – let alone a salesperson. Work on it.

Sales: What They Don’t Teach You in School

You’ve heard of the “school of hard knocks”: The (sometimes painful) education you get from life’s usually negative experiences, often contrasted with formal education. It’s reality. It’s when your mom & dad used to say, “Welcome to the real world.”

There are few professions other than sales that experience this “school” every single day – & now it’s in HD! Sales is different. It’s an art. It’s about people. People have personalities. People are different. Most salespeople get these lessons over their careers. They sometimes come at a huge cost (time, energy & money combined). Let’s shorten your learning curve & come to the hard realization that the following 10 statements are 100% true. Realize it fast.

Ten Things about Sales they don’t Teach you in School:

  1. You don’t punch a clock in sales.
    The great ones make it a life-style & are “always on”. Evenings, weekends, holidays, etc.
  1. It’s lonely out there.
    If you are a commissioned salesperson nobody will care that your prospect “said they would buy” or “is getting ready to buy”. Your boss does not care that you are sick (& that does not make her a jerk). We are measured by results. Closed sales. Period. 
  1. Sales is NO PLACE to get your needs met.
    If you are looking for friends join the Peace Corps or a bowling league.
  1. You fail more often than you succeed.
    Repeat: You will fail more often than you succeed. If you are working, prospecting, hunting for opportunities more people will tell you NO than tell you YES. Get used to it.
  1. When someone says they want to “think it over” they really mean NO.
    “Think it over” does not mean YES. You can’t cash a “think it over”. If you trust people that say they want to “think it over” you will have skinny kids. 
  1. If you are not comfortable talking about money you will starve.
    Your job is to sell products/services at profitable margins. This requires discussions about their money & where it will come from.
  1. Your colleagues in other departments think you have the life (& will begrudge you).
    They may not tell you, but they do. When you are out of the office people naturally think you are screwing off. It’s not true (unless it is)You will never convince them otherwise. Stop trying.
  1. It’s OK to be competitive & want money.
    If “for the money” is not in your top 2 reasons to be in sales get another job.
  1. If you don’t see yourself “worthy” in front of high level decision makers you are in trouble.
    High level decision makers are important. They make things happen. They are busy. They don’t have time for “social calls” or “idle chit-chat”. Stop talking to Carl, the clerk – he can’t make a decision to save his life!
  1. If you are not completely comfortable with the word NO you will struggle – seriously struggle.
    Back up to #4. You won’t go 10 for 10 every month in sales. This rejection kills some salespeople. I have seen some incredibly intelligent people drop out of selling careers because they could not stand to be told NO.

Don’t take 5 or 10 or 20 years to learn these lessons. Learn them now, get over it & move on. Despite what they don’t teach you in school sales is still the coolest profession in the world!

 

If I Could Be Gutsier in Sales!

Spend a few decades training & coaching salespeople & you see patterns develop. One that rings loudly is the tendency for some to take the easy way out, to not go for it. As a mentor of mine used to say, to Wimp Out.

With that in mind let’s talk a little about guts. A fair question to ask sales pros is, “If you could be gutsier in sales what would you do?” Guts is a strong word. We’re not talking cliff-diving amounts of guts. We’re not even coming close to the amount of guts it takes to serve our country in battle. We’re talking about stepping out of your comfort zone for a few seconds & asking a question. We’re talking about doing something that helps you stay in control of the sales process because you have rights.

A favorite comparison takes me back to the 1990 Detroit Pistons. Coached by Chuck Daly, the Pistons had a great team. Who can forget one of the best defenders & rebounders in the league at the time – Dennis Rodman (say what you will about him now… he was a really good player). 

Daly was one of very few people who could actually get through to Rodman – to rein him in. They had grand respect for each other & it showed. Daly would pull Rodman aside from time-to-time &, as only a great coach can do, get through to Rodman. He’d say, “I need you to play defense today, Dennis. But I don’t need you to play 48 minutes of defense (that would kill anybody). Can you give me 5 seconds of defense at a time? That’s it, Dennis. 5 seconds at a time. You do that & we will do well today.”

That’s what basketball is – 5 seconds of defense at a time. Sales is no different. Sales isn’t an hour & a half of guts. That’s hard sell. That’s obnoxious. Sales is 5 seconds of guts at a time. 5 seconds of stepping out of your comfort zone to ask a tough question or more importantly NOT ANSWER a question that could kill you. And you can do it.

Let’s identify some common occurrences where 5 seconds of guts would do your selling some good:

If ever you have gotten that feeling in your large intestine when any of these items pop up, you are not alone.

Question is: What are you prepared to do about it?

 

Hope is Not a Strategy for Selling (& Neither is Luck)

What a great day! For this lad that hails from the Isle of Man (great, great grandparents on dad’s side) it sure is fun.

Until the millennium, St. Patrick’s Day was never a big deal in Ireland. The whole fuss surrounding today was invented by ex-patriots around the world looking for an excuse to celebrate their Irish roots, not that there is anything wrong with that! So, today, we’re all Irish. Even with this crazy virus . . . we’ll all have the luck of the Irish today.

Once we get through this (& we will), it’s business as usual.

As soon as that happens, it’s back to Salespeople hoping to close more sales. Hoping she calls back, Hoping he replies to the email. Hoping the competition quoted too high. Hoping the buyer sends the P.O.

Too much hope. Not enough luck.

If you’ve been in sales for at least a week you know that hope is not a strategy for selling. You don’t “hope” yourself into success. Sure, you may get lucky. You may have a deal fall in your lap. Try explaining that as your sales growth strategy to your VP of Sales. “So, what will happen is… we’ll just get lucky again. And then again. It’ll be great!”

Hope is no strategy & there is not enough luck in the world for anyone to hit their sales goals this year. So, let this be today’s attempt at suggesting you follow a system for selling – a process. Your production department has a process. Shipping has a process. Accounting has a process. HR has a process. So why not sales?

We love the Sales Coaches’ Corner selling process. It doesn’t matter what process you follow – as long as you commit to it, stick to it, trust it & never veer from it. Your sales process should become a discipline that eventually turns into “muscle memory” for you.

Here’s a process for you:

Step 1. Identify an opportunity

We don’t take this step lightly (it’s the hardest step). AKA: Prospecting. Stop prospecting & see how far you get this year. Or, just hope for your phone to ring.

Step 2. Qualify the Opportunity & Get to Reality Quickly

Remember, this does not mean “they buy what we sell, so they are qualified”. This means qualify them for the reasons they will buy from you.

  1. No PAIN = No Sale. You know what PAIN is – question is: Have you ever uncovered it while qualifying a prospect (or current customer)? Ask: The 9 Knock-Out Questions (hit me up for them).
  2. THE MONEY CONVERSATION. No Money = No Sale. Your products & services cost money. You know that a discussion ahead of time about how much it costs &/or their expectation of how much they will pay benefits you greatly. Then why do you often not bring it up, hope they don’t bring it up & hope they ignore the number on the bottom line & just buy from you? Ask: What kind of budget has been set aside for this? Or What are you planning on spending for this?
  3. THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS.  No understanding of the Decision Maker(s) = No Sale. You know there is always a certain person (or people) who make the decision to buy what you sell. Ask: When it comes to decisions like this, how does it work here, & who is involved? Or, hope she’s the right one…

Step 3. Manage Expectations

Selling is nothing more than understanding what happens next – throughout the entire selling process. Get comfortable being the “quarterback” & setting the expectations. This is where you take subtle control. Not over-the-top control – subtle. Nobody likes to be controlled (at least not the people you sell to).

Step 4. Present, Propose, Quote (or do whatever it is you do to show your solution)

This step is what most salespeople know & love (product knowledge, technical talk, features, benefits, etc.). It is almost ALWAYS done to soon – especially if you are not using a selling process. Good news is: You do get to present, propose & quote as long as you have set crystal clear expectations & the opportunity is qualified (for PAIN, Money & Decision) prospect. Not before.

It’s easy to hope. It’s fun to get lucky. It’s hard to follow a process. So, you pick. Is HOPE going to be your strategy this year? Feeling lucky, enough? Well, are ya?

 

5 Times You are Acting too Nice in sales (adding NO VALUE)

Who wasn’t raised to “Be nice to people?” Growing up, how many times did you hear, “Don’t do that, you be nice to your brother or sister?” Your mom or dad often said, “That’s not nice, say you’re sorry.” That’s just good rearing. The kind of advice that you’d get in any parenting book.

So, when you got into the sales profession, there’s a good chance your mom or dad stayed with you (right on your shoulder) whispering to you, “Be nice, your prospect has feelings too.” And you did. And you do. You go on with your daily sales grind with the “Be nice to people mantra” ringing loudly in your ear. And it works. You’re nice. Most people would say you’re one of the nicest guys they know. “Yeah, Ryan, he’s a great guy. One hell of a guy.”

Ok, so have you ever wondered why you are getting out-sold?

Why is it that the “great guy” isn’t winning all of the deals? How can that other guy get the deal… I’m a lot nicer than he is?” We’ve got news for you (& it’s not even news – it’s been a fact for thousands of years). Nice guys finish last.

Hold on. Don’t take it literally. Clearly there are plenty of nice guys that aren’t always coming in last place. You understand the cliché. You also agree with it. You are living the cliché.

Let’s clarify. When we say, “too nice” we mean “overly nice, overly friendly”. Think of the constantly up-beat guy, ridiculously positive & over-the-top with his willingness to accommodate. The gal that continuously says YES, smiles incessantly (uncomfortably so) & drips with benevolence.

Great qualities for a Wall Mart greeter. Fine attributes for your 8-year old child’s summer camp counselor. But for a salesperson – not so much. Why do salespeople feel the need to go out of their way to be too nice & overly-accommodating to prospects & customers? It’s their nature. They think it’s helping their cause. NOT!

This does not suggest that salespeople should be mean, rude or obnoxious (as if we even have to mention that). In no way are we suggesting you be disrespectful (ever). It is only to suggest that when you go out of your way to accommodate, answer questions, help, be nice, etc. you give your prospects the power (& make your job harder). You put your customers on a pedestal that they don’t really belong on (& it’s tough to get them off of it).

In 2018 our prospects & customers have to see us on their level. They need to know that we can help them get where they want to go. This is next to impossible to do if we are in “awe” of them – if they are on that pedestal.

5 Times You are Acting too Nice in sales (adding NO VALUE):

  1. You find yourself saying YES a lot. There is no value to anyone when you are yessing them all the time. Tame it down.
  2. You say GREAT or AWESOME or PERFECT a lot more than you do in “real life”. Seriously? Nothing is that great, awesome or perfect – ever.
  3. You constantly respond with THANK YOU. My mother taught me that a THANK YOU was never inappropriate too. But not all the time. It’s too much too often.
  4. You smile too much & get excited on sales appointments. C’mon. Act like you’ve been there.
  5. You apologize too often (way more often than at home). When you over-apologize you weaken your position. Fact of life.

Sales is a tough gig. There’s no need to make it harder by giving your prospect all the power. The trick is to let them think they have all the power, but you maintain subtle control – that’s the art of this profession. But don’t do it by being way too nice (or pandering).  Do it by asking good questions. Do it by being the expert that you are. Do it by professionally selling.

Professional salespeople ask tough questions in a nurturing manner. Rarely (if ever) do they have a smile on their face when they are asking a tough question. Your prospects problems are nothing to smile or laugh at. It’s a discipline (&, yes, sometimes it’s an act) to stay focused & listen. Be on their level. Be there with them.

Act like you’ve been there.

 

Get to Reality Quickly!

In sales there is no better advice than to get on with it (or get off of it) as soon as possible.

How much time do you spend on opportunities that never pan out? How much time & how many brain cells get toasted spent hoping a deal comes through. How many real opportunities get passed by because of the time, money & emotion you have invested in your pipeline? C’Mon we all know there is no HOPE! Besides, hope a brutal strategy for selling.

You have got to get to reality quickly in this business. Plain & simple. Make it a point to qualify & disqualify with cat-like quickness to stay relevant & be successful in sales. Sometimes it hurts.

Hurts? The very fact that an opportunity is “dis-qualified” rubs many salespeople wrong. “You mean to tell me they don’t want what I have? That’s preposterous! I’ll show them. And what happens? Joe salesperson shows them, that’s what. Proposals, quotes, testimonies, education, trials, demos, literature, blah, blah, blah!

  1. HUGE WASTE OF TIME (if they are not qualified).
  2. GIGANTIC MISS-USE OF RESOURCES (if there is no fit)
  3. INCREDIBLE CASE OF LOOKING BUSY WITHOUT GETTING ANYTHING DONE (if they will never buy from you)

All because one of the simplest concepts in life (let alone sales) is not being followed. GET TO REALITY QUICKLY!  How many of you would stalk a guy or gal that clearly was not interested in you? Would you call them every day, camp out on their door-step, refuse to take NO for an answer? Of course not! We have a word for those people – – STALKER!

Why, then, do you feel the need to act the stalker in your business life? I know it hurts. Get over it.

The moment you start getting to reality quickly with your prospects is the moment you begin to take control of your sales opportunities – & it feels great.

How?

  1. Pay Attention & Be disciplined: In hockey they call it “head on a swivel”. Until you know better it’s OK to play defensively. Lean on history & be honest with yourself. What usually happens when this happens? The last 10 times we did this… that happened… Seriously, if they have an 8-year relationship with their incumbent supplier what are the chances they will switch to you?
  2. Get comfortable with decisions. NO happens to be a perfectly good one.
  3. Set strong Ground Rules: Expectations between you & them as to what will happen. This holds true throughout the entire sales cycle. A great rule of thumb: Don’t do anything unless & until you know what’s happening next.
  4. Ask all of the qualifying questions (to uncover the three qualifiers):

You want to get to reality quickly in sales? That’s how you do it.  It isn’t easy. Your production department, your accounting department & your HR staff may think that it’s easy. But if it’s that easy why aren’t they in sales?

How’s that for a reality check?