It’s the Holidays, I’m a Salesperson… Nobody Wants to See Me. 5 Reasons That is Total B.S.!

Nov 26, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would the holiday season be without the “It’s the Holidays blog…?

It’s that time of year. Time for a reality check.

How many salespeople do you know that go on cruise control between Thanksgiving & New Year’s Day? How many companies do you know that will actually admit to winding things down right about now?

It happens every year. So common. We could call it an epidemic at some companies & an easy way out for many salespeople. Saying things like, “Nah… they don’t want to see salespeople… it’s the holidays. Or, “I’m sure they don’t want to see us over the holidays”. Or, “Nobody’s even there, they’re all off, it’s the holidays”. Total B.S. 

Here’s an idea: Get out of the office. Go see some clients, customers & prospects between now & the start of 2020? Make it a point to capitalize on your competition’s weakness – laziness! Epidemic laziness!

It’s time to buckle down & do the one thing that you actually control in your daily selling lives. Pick up the phone & call prospects.  Go see prospects & customers. Yes, you control that activity. Nobody else will be doing it so you will stand out automatically. Nobody else thinks anyone is “in” – so I like your chances.

Strong salespeople don’t go on cruise control – ever.  Successful companies don’t wind down during the holidays. They make things happen.

The holidays are great times to see prospects & current clients & customers.  Here are 5 reasons to keep prospecting for new business & keep seeing current clients during the holidays:

  1.  It’s your job
  2. Companies review current year incumbent products & services & decide what to do for the next year
  3. Prospects will see you – it’s their job
  4. It’s a great time to plan new programs for 2020 with current clients (your competitors won’t be there)
  5. As my mother always says, a Thank You is never inappropriate – thank your clients for their business

Business does not stop between Thanksgiving & New Year’s Day. Some salespeople do. Don’t be one of ‘em!

Rejection in Sales: Goes with the Territory

Nov 12, 2019

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Did you know that by the time you were 6 years old you heard, saw & lived through 1,000,000 impressions of rejection. 1,000,000 impressions of the word NO. That’s six zeros! You did.

Mom, can we go to McDonalds? NO. Dad, can I stay out past the street-lights tonight? Nope. Mom & dad, can I go to the movies with Michael’s family today. I don’t think so.  Duggan, can I play with your XBox?  No way… it’s mine.

Safe to say that by the time you were 7 you didn’t want to hear that word ever again (like, ever!) It’s natural. It didn’t feel good back then. It doesn’t feel good now. Completely natural.

As a matter of fact, it is so natural that seasoned professional salespeople still do all they can to avoid hearing the word NO. They actually do things that make no sense (in smart selling). They waste time & look busy. All in an effort to dodge that horrible feeling that reminds them of their youth.

What are some of the things that salespeople do to avoid NO (not you, of course):

  • They accept the answer, “We want to think it over.”& really believe it when a prospect says it
  • They are quick to discount a price (let me see what I can do…)
  • They buy into a prospect’s stalls & objections & believe they can handle them (or that they will go away)
  • They re-work deliverables & develop a less-effective solution (another form of let me see what I can do…)
  • They spend tons of time with Carl (the contact that can’t make a YES decision to save his life)
  • They hold out HOPE (again, a brutal strategy for selling)

It gets worse! Not only do they hang in there far too long with a prospect, but they put it on their pipeline.

Imagine a Monday morning sales meeting. Sales Manager says pull out your pipeline. Charlie pulls his out & starts to review his opportunities. The same opportunities he reviews every week. Deals stay on that pipeline for weeks, months, quarters. Why?  Because Charlie can’t stand hearing the word NO. So guess what? Charlie never hears NO. Fearing the word NO creates false pipelines. Period!

Fact is if you don’t want to hear NO & your prospect doesn’t want to tell you NO (because he’ll need you in 6-12 more months to do this silly dance again) you will not hear NO. Your pipeline will be long. You will look busy. You will have a false sense that gives you confidence. YOU WILL STOP PROSPECTING. When you look at a long pipeline you will not prospect (I have a lot in the hopper…). If that hopper is filled with a lot of HOPE, you are cooked!

So, what do you do about it? You get comfortable with the word NO. You realize that NO is an occupational hazard for salespeople. You get to that reality & move on. You qualify strong early on. You set clear expectations & understand what’s happening every step of the way.

Takes a strong person. You up to it?

Can You Have Too Much Charisma?

Oct 29, 2019

Ever miss out on a deal because you had too much charisma? Doubt it.

A better question would be, ever miss 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 can be revealed only during interaction with others.

People follow charismatic people.

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 one 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 if you can’t articulate it well? Pay attention to how you speak – work on it daily. Listen to great speakers, interviews, talk radio, etc. Have you ever heard a person absolutely BOMB a joke because they can’t articulate well?  Enough said.

  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 & 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’re not talking about over-the-top convincing. We’re talking about a gentle nudge.

  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. Not too close – not too far. In our part of the world 18” to 2 feet is ideal. Nobody likes a close-talker!

  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.

  1. Your Vision, Your Ideas

What do you feel passionately about? What do you really care about? What do you love? Love it! It’s OK. You will never help anyone change their minds or ideas & take action if you don’t feel strongly about it yourself.

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

 

In Sales Throw ‘em a Change Up

Oct 15, 2019

MLB playoffs are in full swing, so let’s talk about change-ups.

Prospects are always waiting to crush your sales pitch – so don’t give them one. Change it up.

Every salescall you go on can really be an ambush in disguise. Current clients & prospects that you visit know exactly why you are coming – they know your intentions: to sell them something.  Seems fine, right? All is above board, no secrets, everyone knows what to expect. What could be wrong with that?

Here’s what could go wrong: One simple rule that you will find in Gitomers Little Red Book of Selling – Nobody wants to be sold.

Once people believe you are coming in to sell them, they recoil, put up defenses & rehearse reasons they don’t need whatever it is you are selling. They may disguise it or do it under the surface, but it’s there. Chalk it up to a basic human nature. We don’t want others to push things on us that we haven’t decided we need. We don’t want to be convinced of anything.

So, stop pushing. No convincing. You should disarm & surprise prospects so what they actually experience during a sales call isn’t even close to what they expected. Take it away from them (aka The Pushback).

How?

  • Avoid “old-school selling”.  No handouts.  No documents to read.  No PowerPoint presentations. Just a        notebook & pen.  Enter the room stripped of these crutches & you send an immediate message that something different is about to happen.  This is how you build credibility.
  • Control the agenda by opening with strong Ground Rules. Set expectations for what you bothwant to accomplish. This shows your knowledge & that you care about them. It also quickly reinforces to your prospect that you are there to ask for a deal.
  • Ask all of the qualifying questionsto uncover compelling problemsthey have (the real reason you are there in the 1stplace).  Have the money conversation to uncover budgets.  Make sure that you are in front of all decision makers (& understand how they make decisions) – if not in this meeting, then the next meeting
  • Only when you have uncovered all 3 items above (compelling problems, budget & decision making process) do you present a solution, proposal, quote, etc. This may happen at the next meeting (after you have prepared all appropriate information relevant to their compelling problems only).  In other words do not present “the kitchen sink”.  It’s too confusing & self-serving when you tell prospects everything you can do.  Be patient – they will buy.

People don’t want to be sold, but they do want to buy. They want to be informed & they want to be surprised (good surprises). They want to be the first to know. They want a competitive advantage.  You provide this.

Let’s rewind the film. Rethink how you enter the room, what you say & how you say it. Chances are good that the would-be ambush will turn into an embrace. You’re not the prey. You’re the trusted adviser – the solution provider.   When this happens, you won’t have to sell them – they’ll sell themselves.

Now go out & open up some opportunities – then be the closer.

 

Prospecting? Why we talkin’ ‘bout prospecting?

Oct 1, 2019

Most of you will remember the Alan Iverson rant (May 7, 2002) after the Celtics bounced the 76ers from the 1stround of the playoffs. He said the word “practice” 24 ½ times in a 2 minute span. It made Press Conference History. To a hockey guy that was one of the funniest moments ever in NBA History … I know… sad to say.

The press was questioning his commitment. And Iverson was having nothing of it! “Why we talkin’ ‘bout practice?” was uttered over 15 times alone. Not the way a ball player wants to be remembered but it is clearly the highlight of Alan Iverson’s career! That is BRUTAL! Some players enjoy practice, others dread it. All will agree it is necessary to the success of any team – without question.

Today we will talk about something equally as necessary to a salesperson’s success – prospecting! Yes, we are talking about prospecting. The superstars in sales know one thing for sure – the moment they stop prospecting is the moment they go out of business – period.

Prospecting (like practice) is not fun. It takes time. It has a high failure rate. It can be the most humbling experience a salesperson will ever encounter. Doesn’t matter. You still have to do it. Like practice, you don’t have to like it – but if you want to be successful, you have to do it.

Are we talking bout cold-calling? Not necessarily. We’re talking about reaching out to people that may not want to talk to you about something they may not want to buy. A risky proposition for some salespeople. Some salespeople would rather wait for a HOT internet lead. Wait for the phone to ring. Wait for an email from a prospect in desperate need. Well, let me ask you, how many times has either of those situations happened this year? Exactly. Maybe once. You had your “lay-down” this year. Now it’s time to go out & talk to people that may not want to talk to you about something they may not want to buy.

Let’s review ways to prospect:

  1. Referrals & introductions. When was the last time you asked a good client who they knew that could use what you sell?
  2. Current clients/customers. Bet you are not 100% entrenched in all of your current accounts. Find out who else (in other departments) you should talk to (& get introduced)
  3. Networking events, Organizations, Associations. Where do your prospects hang out? Go there. Most industries have organizations that are target-rich in prospects for you.
  4. LinkedIn. It’s expected. Find prospects. Engage them. Get invited in to have a discussion about their issues. Your competitors are.
  5. Stop in. Said it. Stop driving by facilities that you know by your products & services. Pull in the lot, get out of your car, & do your thing. It’s your job. 
  6. Introduction emails. But, make sure they aren’t the same old boring emails that get deleted as soon as your prospect reads your boring Subject Line. Need templates? Contact me.
  7. Cold Calls. Believe it or not there are salespeople that still open wonderful opportunities by cold-calling over the phone. There are more lists of prospects than you can imagine.

Or you can sit back & blame marketing for the lack of leads. Blame your company for your “crappy territory”. Blame your competition for having better relationships than you. Hell, blame Iverson – he hasn’t been in the news for a while!

Sales is NO PLACE for Shortcuts!

Sep 17, 2019

One of the most common characteristics of successful salespeople = impatience. Show me a patient salesperson & I’ll show you a salesperson with skinny kids! Most want to rush, get as much done as possible & move on to the next deal. Their mantra is more, more, more. Pretty normal.

The great ones are decisive, results-oriented, accountable to themselves, hunt for their next deal & as we have mentioned time & time again comfortable with the word “NO”. All great qualities – including the impatience.

No question about it, all great qualities for successful selling. Yet, nowhere on that list does it say, “Tend to take shortcuts”. Shortcuts kill sales. Shortcuts kill salespeople.

Think of that last two or three deals that slipped through the cracks. Good chance that in each case there was information that was missing. Information that you didn’t get – but your competitor did. Information crucial to qualifying an opportunity that you were too rushed & hurried to gather – but your competitor wasn’t. Good chance you took a shortcut or two.

When our clients do “post-mortems” on lost deals it’s almost 100% of the time that there is a gap in information that is critical to qualifying the opportunity. Sure, the salesperson will say the prospect did not share the information. Upon deeper inspection it’s clear the salesperson did not ask for the information. He took a shortcut.

If there is one thing you glean from this blog, it’s this – NO SHORTCUTS IN SALES. Your production department doesn’t take shortcuts. Your engineers don’t take shortcuts & by all means your accounting department does not take shortcuts. So why do salespeople? That’s the $64,000 question. The $64,000 answer = it’s easy to take shortcuts. Really easy.

That doesn’t mean it’s right.

Do yourselves a favor & be anal-retentive in your pursuit of the information necessary to qualifying the opportunity. 1. The compelling problem – the PAIN. 2. The budget (money conversation) 3. The decision maker & decision making process. Failure to get any of these items is a killer of deals.

Try this:

The compelling problem – the PAIN:

  • Ask what is happening/ what’s the problem?
  • Ask how long it’s been going on?
  • Ask what they have done about it?
  • Ask how much it’s costing them?
  • Ask what happens if they don’t find a solution?

The budget (money conversation)

  • Ask if there is money to pay for the solution (in the budget)?
  • Ask how they planned on paying for a solution?
  • Ask where the money will come from (you are allowed)

 The decision maker & decision making process

  • Ask how they make decisions & who is involved?
  • Ask who is involved in these kinds of decisions & how their process works?

Answers to these questions help to make sales opportunities qualified – help you get to reality quicker. It’s not easy but at the end of the day (or month, or quarter) it definitely pays off a lot more than the shortcuts you were tempted to take. Be disciplined. Be great. Leave the shortcuts to your competitors.

Are You a Cruise Director or a Salesperson?

Sep 3, 2019

Where do “nice guys” usually finish? Yep. Last.

What do “nice salespeople” usually do? They chat. They talk about easy subjects. They smile a lot. They say “yes” a lot.

Think of that overly-nice salesperson. That 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 cruise director. 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 we go out of our way to accommodate, answer questions, help, be nice, etc. we give our prospects power (& make our job harder). We put our customers on a pedestal that they don’t really belong on (& it’s tough to get them off of it). In 2019 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.

Do you find yourself saying YES, a lot? Do you say GREAT or AWESOME a lot more than you do in “real life”? Do you respond with THANK YOU too often? Do you say, “I look forward to speaking with you” at the end of every voice mail message (like every other salesperson)? Do you smile too much & get excited on sales appointments? All signs that you might be pandering to your prospects. You might be too nice.

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. Don’t do it by groveling. 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 (and, yes, sometimes it’s an act) to stay focused & listen. Be on their level. Be there with them.

Don’t pander. Don’t grovel. Leave that to Julie McCoy, the Cruise Director on the Love Boat (old-school TV show for those of you born after 1980).

The “I’s” DO NOT Have It!

Aug 20, 2019

Do you ever watch an interview on TV & count the times the interviewee says the word “I”? Fun game to play.

Worse, do you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone that can’t resist the word? It’s exhausting.

This image sums it up pretty nicely. In 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup Championship. During the post-game speech, Captain Jonathan Toews said the word “we” 14 times & the word “I” zero times.

A year later, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship. Post-game, LeBron James took the stage & gave a speech. He said “I” a whopping 18 times. We? None.

OK, we’re in the sales profession. A profession that involves working with prospects & customers where it behooves us to make it about them– not us. How many salespeople out there do you think screw this up? Lots. Be ridiculously honest with yourself. It might hurt. Ask yourself: How many times do I say the word “I” on sales calls? How many times do I write the word “I” in my emails? A painful exercise that will pay off for you. You have to remember this: IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU!

So many people want to make it about themselves (you know these people). They talk about what they’ve done, where they’ve been, where they’re going, who they know. You want to know how great they are? Just ask ‘em! Some people trip over themselves to remind you that they are there. Again, exhausting!

So, let’s review ways to make it about THEM. It starts with you being curious. You asking questions. You being a good listener.

Ask questions like:

  • “What did we discuss that caused you to invite us in?”
  • “What are some of the problems you are having?”
  • “What’s going on here, with you & your business?”
  • “What are you looking for?”
  • “Why don’t we ask each other some questions & see if we have a fit?”

Say things like:

  • “Makes sense.”
  • “Sounds interesting.”
  • “Appreciate that.”
  • “Hmm. . . that sounds tough.”
  • “You have given this a lot of thought.”

In emails, simply cut out the “I’s”:

  • “It can be difficult…”
  • “We were discussing…”
  • “We’d like to offer…”
  • “When can we get together to determine next steps?”
  • “When is the best date/time for us to connect?”

Read your emails. Then read them again. If you have the word “I” in the body of your email more than twice it’s probably too much. You can almost always insert “we”, “us” or “our” in its place. Your prospects & customers will appreciate it. Go for it.

 

For the Money

Aug 6, 2019

One of the most important things we do (as Sales Trainers & Coaches) is to determine what motivates our clients. Sometimes that’s easy to do – other times, not so much.

The question is an easy one to ask: “Why are you in sales?”  The hard part (for some salespeople) are the answers we have heard:

  • I really like people
  • I love the freedom to make my own schedule
  • I like to help people
  • I like to solve people’s problems
  • I’m a people-person
  • I’m really good with people

Sure, it’s a loaded question! We know what the answer “should” be. Most salespeople give the answer they “think” we want – the answer they think will win us over & make them look really good.  Mistake.

Sales pros out there hear this: IT IS OK TO WANT MONEY!Matter of fact, in our experience, if “for the money”is not in the top 2 reasons for you to be in sales, might we suggest a new career.

This gig is hard enough.  How many times have we said this? Let’s face it. . . We talk to strangers all day long. . . who don’t want to talk to us. . . about something they don’t want to buy. Who would do that? And if you do happen to do that, when you find someone that does want to buy, you had better be paid well. Simple as that.

But no. Most salespeople “say” they really like people (join the Peace Corps). They say they really like to help people (they’re always looking for nurses). They like to solve people’s problems (be a psychiatrist). They say they are people-persons (Wall Mart’s looking for greeters). They say they are really good with people (sounds like customer service at any cable company).

Why so tough on “people persons” you ask?  It has been our observation over the years that these people have a hard time making a living in sales. Why? They tend to do things that “nice people” do. Like what?

  • Talk to anyone that will talk with them (not always high level decision makers)
  • Discount pricing (after all I can’t get full price from my “friends”)
  • Trust prospects that want to “think it over” (chasing them for decisions…)
  • Make friends on sales calls (not sales)
  • Never, ever ask a tough question (not qualifying opportunities strongly enough)

Salespeople that are in it for the money have a different mind-set – & it is professional & appropriate. They see themselves as problem-solvers, that look for problems, not friends. They understand they work for “for-profit” companies & are comfortable charging for it. Most of all they appreciate the “economics of selling” & don’t waste time educating prospects so much that they end up chasing them for decisions.

It’s OK to be MONEY MOTIVATED! Matter of fact, it’s preferred.

If You Don’t Know Your Prospect’s/Customer’s Process, Good Luck!

Jul 23, 2019

 

 

 

How many times in the last 18 to 24 months have you been involved in an opportunity (a pretty good one), just like the last few with that customer. You got the call or the email from the customer about the project (the Binford 5,000 Project). You met with your contact(s), qualified the opportunity as much as possible, met with your internal people, developed a great solution, submitted your quote, re-submitted, followed up, followed up again, one more try. Uh oh, now you’re starting to get nervous. Barb always gets back to me…

After a few more tries you finally get in touch with Barb. But things aren’t the same. She’s normally pretty friendly, engages in small talk, even asks about you & your family. This time we won’t say Barb’s frigid, but she sure isn’t warm & fuzzy. The small talk has hit a wall & it seems as though she wants to get off the phone a lot quicker than normal.

It takes a few minutes, but Barb finally fesses up to you; the Binford 5,000 Project went to your competitor.

You think to yourself, WTF?

Time for a quick post-mortem in your head. You can’t think of one thing you did wrong.

  • You had good meetings with Barb & others.
  • You know the project
  • They know you & your company
  • You certainly have the technology they are looking for & a beautiful solution
  • Your pricing is right
  • WTF?

One question you should be asking yourself & one thing you would know if you spent more time at your customer(s) is: What has changed? On their end. It’s hard to know what has changed at the customer when you’re not there & if you don’t ask.

Don’t take this as a slam to your work ethic. It’s not. Salespeople have a lot to do. We get it. You have to work in your customer visits. You have to work around their schedules. The customer may be out of town. A lot goes into it. Let’s all agree that we should never miss out on an opportunity to be face-to-face with our customers (or as a client of mine likes to say,We need to get belly to belly with them!)

If you are not in front of your clients & customers on a daily, weekly or monthly basis (depending on geography) you are falling way behind. You are exposing yourself. You are missing out on ways to learn about your customer.

But, that’s only part of it. Being there is one thing. You have to be with them, engage them, understand them, ask them questions. It’s not enough to just show your face. You need to show your value. We say this often: You will gain credibility with your prospects & customers through the questions you ask – not by the information you Dump on them.

Let’s look at a list of items that can easily be obtained at the customer (but not so much in your office over email), especially the last bullet-point… that talks about their process:

  • The next project
  • Feedback on the current project
  • New players involved in the project (engineering, quality, facilities, purchasing, etc.)
  • Competitive information
  • Developing relationships
  • Understanding the customer’s process (decision making process, work-flow, tendencies, motivations, etc.)
  • Who is involved in the decision?
  • Who else is involved in the decision?
  • What is each person’s role in the decision?
  • How do they make the decision (the steps involved)?
  • What factors are considered in the decision (tooling, transportation, duty, logistics, acceptable cost models etc.)
  • How often do they meet & discuss?
  • Who else are they considering? What are theirvalue propositions?
  • What personal PAIN are you helping them with?
  • How is their relationship with their supervisor (office politics)?
  • Are we just a data point for them? (keeping the incumbent honest?)

Step one is being there. Step two is engaging, asking & understanding their process. Do ‘em both.