Are You Dealing with a Professional Shopper?

Window shoppers are not decision makers

If you are in sales you have experienced this before, “the professional shopper”. These are people that throughout the sales process have an amazing ability to come up with objections as to why they are not comfortable making a purchase.

It starts with a laundry list of features or requirements that are mission critical to the decision process. You evaluate them and feel comfortable that your product or service can address these requirements so you demonstrate your solution.   You begin to check off the requirements one by one.

It’s going well, but before you are through – the requirements list starts to grow. Suddenly, they want to know if you have this feature or that function that they may have seen in another solution. Lo and behold you do, so you continue to invest time in convincing them that you have everything they need.

But remember they are professional shoppers and they are not done with you yet. They have other obstacles to throw at you.

“Your price is too high”

“Your contract needs to be modified”

“Not sure your solution will address some future requirements (which have not yet been identified).”

You begin to feel as if you are playing “whack a mole” and this will continue unless you take control of the process.

How to Take Control

You’ve realized that this deal is just not going to happen, but you have invested a lot of time and your solution is a good fit for this prospect. You don’t want to just give up.

The challenge is that this person or group evaluating your solution does not have the authority to buy. You could be selling the only automobile that flies, but it does not matter if they cannot buy your solution which is why they continue to throw obstacles in front of you. They are paralyzed by their own process. The best path forward is for you to remove yourself from their process.

Be professional and write a letter to the evaluator(s) and to management suggesting that you reviewed all their requirements and demonstrated your company’s ability to effectively address every one of them.  Document each requirement and the solution so that they are in full agreement. They already know this, but by putting it in writing you have essentially asked the management why they have not made a decision.

The letter will generate one of three responses.

Response #1: They have other decision criteria that you and the evaluator(s) were not aware of.

Response #2: Other priorities have come up, placing this one on the back burner.

Response #3: They have a strong interest in your solution and will be in touch in the near term.

At this point you are not investing any more time and got them to agree that you have the right solution for their business.  Hopefully they will be back in touch in the weeks ahead.

Comfort Zones

By Dave Kahle

Q.  Do you have any suggestions that will help our local sales reps provide increased value across all markets?  Stretch out of their market comfort zones?

A.  Ah, comfort zones.  The bane of the B2B sales person.  I believe that the loss of productivity and sales effectiveness caused by the limitations of comfort zones is so widespread that it could be the number one problem for sales people.

What’s a comfort zone?  Since we are talking about sales people here, it’s some aspect of the sales person’s job with which he/she is more comfortable than others.  So, it could be that, as in this question, the sales person is only comfortable with some market segments, and is uncomfortable with others.  For example, you may be comfortable calling on schools, but uncomfortable calling on businesses.

Sales people create comfort zones composed of customers, or types of customers, as well.  For example, you may be comfortable calling on production managers, and very uncomfortable calling on CFOs.

And then there are products and services which inhabit their own comfort zones.  Sales people may be comfortable with one product or product line to the point where they ignore opportunities for others.

And, finally, sales people form comfort zones associated with the processes and tools they use.  For example, you may be very comfortable using a paper calendar, and not at all comfortable using a laptop and the company’s new CRM system.

There is nothing wrong with comfort zones, per se.  They are just the job-related expression of human nature.  Naturally we tend to be more comfortable with certain people, places, and things than others.  That comfort comes from a combination of our unique skills intertwined with our experiences.  The combination of those two things leads us to a position:  This person, or market, or product, or process feels more comfortable to us than another one.

The problem is the converse of comfort zones – ‘uncomfort’ zones.  The problem isn’t that you are comfortable with some element of your job; it is that you are uncomfortable with others.  There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable calling on schools, for example.  The problem comes when you are uncomfortable calling on businesses.  There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable calling on production managers.  The problem comes when you are uncomfortable calling on CFOs.

And, it’s not so much the lack of comfort that is the problem.  It is the fact that the uncomfortable feeling leads to a conscious avoidance of the uncomfortable and that, then, leads to a lack of action.  And the lack of action is the problem.

So, what to do?

It has been my experience that comfort is built on the base of confidence.  And confidence comes from only two sources:  Experience and practice.

So, ultimately, you must, to overcome your discomfort, practice, or gain experience in the uncomfortable thing or situation.

Let’s go back to the reader’s question now and answer it.  Here is a set of specific actions you can take to help your sales reps overcome their lack of comfort with certain markets.

1.  Create experience.  Give a specific direction.  Some sales people will respond positively to a direction from you that says something like this: “I want you to call on 10 new businesses over the next two weeks.  I don’t care if you sell anything.  I just want you to learn.  Fill out a little call report that indicates what you did, and more importantly what you learned about that market and yourself as a result of each call.  I’ll talk with you about them after you’ve completed them.”

In this case, you are forcing the sales person into the uncomfortable area and stimulating thoughtful learning.  I can guarantee you that he/she will be more comfortable and confident with the new market after those 10 calls than before.

2.  Help them tip toe into the experience.  Some sales people just won’t be ready to jump right into the water.  You may have to lead them a bit.  In that case, you can either have them come with you as you make calls into the new market, or, assign them to ride with someone who is comfortable in that market, and watch as he/she makes calls.  Again, after each call, I’d ask for a call report detailing the two items listed above.  After a few calls, you can then implement strategy number one, above.

Both of these two strategies attempt to build confidence by creating experience.  But what if you don’t see yourself pulling that off?  Then, fall back on practice.  Remember, your solution must either create experience or initiate practice.

3.  Bring them into the office for a training session on the product, market, customer or process that is the source of discomfort.  Help them learn about it by educating them in the details of that subject.  For example, if the problem is discomfort with a market, help them learn as much as possible about that market:  How big, how many people, who makes the decisions, what their problems are, what their objectives typically are, what they are likely to say, etc.

Build their knowledge, understanding that lack of knowledge contributes to lack of confidence.

But don’t stop there.  Help them practice by role-playing various scenarios.  Comment on the role-plays and help them learn from them.

If you do this effectively, at some point, they will begin to gain confidence in their ability to handle that market, or person, or product, etc.  When they have some confidence, that confidence will spill over into action.  And that action will lead to them developing comfort in what was previously a place of the opposite.

Thanks for asking.

Article was originally published on davekahle.com.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Is That Sale Fading Away?

Stalled sales opportunity | Commence CRM Blog

It’s a horrible feeling that every sales representative experiences in their career.  You get a new inquiry and the initial call goes well. There is an interest and follow-up activity planned.  Maybe you need to provide some detail specifications about your product, send a sample or perhaps schedule a demonstration. Over the next few weeks you complete the above and the interest grows stronger. The prospect asks for a proposal or quote and you get it over to them as soon as possible. You are elated as you start hearing those initial buying signals from the prospect such as;

  • We really like what you have provided
  • At this time, you are leading the pack
  • We are leaning in your direction

In some cases, the feedback is even more positive, and they even tell you they hope to move ahead with you soon. You have a serious buyer in front of you and you put it on the forecast. What could be better?

Then things begin to slow down a bit.

There is little to no interaction with the prospect for a week or more, so you reach out to them. You cannot connect over the telephone, so you send an email but get no response. You start to get an uneasy feeling that something is wrong, but you are not in a panic mode yet. Maybe your contact is on vacation or at a trade show? Maybe they are wrapped up in another project and will get back to you soon? Or maybe something is really wrong here.

You want some feedback and you want to hear that they will be in touch shortly and that the deal is yours, but you just don’t know. This wouldn’t be the first time you got positive buying signals only to learn that the deal has been put on the back burner. So now what? How can you find out if this is simply a delay or if the deal is starting to fade away? Here is a tip that can help you to find out.

Most people would tell you that you need to get to the decision maker, plain and simple. That you need to be persistent and if you cannot connect with him or her then it’s not a good sign. I don’t like this approach for two reasons. First, the decision maker may simply be the person that approves the purchase or signs the check.  They may not be personally engaged in the decision. Second, by contacting them you run the risk of alienating the person or people that you have engaged with throughout the process.

It’s best to start with contacting the people who you have built a rapport with. Express your concern then listen closely to their response. Give them a chance to provide you with an update. They may simply tell you that the decision maker has been out of town or that something else came up that was a higher priority, but that the decision will happen shortly so there is no need to worry.

They may however present some doubt by indicating that they do not know where the decision stands, when it may happen, or which product or company they are leaning towards. It’s still not time to panic, but this would be the time to make that call to the person whom you believe is the decision maker and express why you are calling. Be professional and tell them that you have been working closely with their team and look forward to working with them. This will open the door to a response which might be “Yes, we plan to move forward with you in the coming days” or they may suggest that you contact someone else in the firm regarding this. If it’s the latter that’s OK, because you can inform that person that you were instructed to contact them directly by the decision maker. This is bound to generate a response and hopefully a positive one.

How can I help a salesperson regain interest in the job?

By Dave Kahle

Question:
How can I help an experienced sales person regain his interest in the job?

Answer:
It sounds like you have someone who is just going through the motions.  That can be deadly for the career of a sales person, as well as detrimental to the company.

One of the challenges of a career in sales arises out of one of the unique fringe benefits of being a sales person.  Few professions offer the degree of freedom that comes with the job of the field sales person.  Sales people have the opportunity to decide what they do with almost every minute of every day. Freedom!

However, with that freedom comes a great responsibility to make good decisions.  It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, challenges to the job of the sales person.  That’s why so many sales managers concern themselves with “motivating” sales people.  If the sales person isn’t motivated to do as well as he/she can, then he naturally defaults to an uninspired, reactive mode of decision-making.  And that brings us to the question at hand.  If a sales person has lost interest, he/she is not motivated, and that means that he’ll default to reactive, “fill-in-the-day with unimportant stuff” mode.  And that means reduced sales production for the sales person and for the company.

Before you rush to an intervention, first determine how big an issue this is.  If the sales person is profitable and productive that’s one thing.  If he isn’t, then that is another.

The best way to do that is to use Kahle’s Kalculation, an objective, fair measurement of the productivity of a sales person.  You can download a free white paper that explains the concept and provides a line-by-line formula for creating the calculation. Click here to review it.

If that analysis leads you to believe that you ought to intervene with this sales person, then here are some options for you to consider.

It may be that the sales person is experiencing some adversity in his personal life that has caused him to lose interest in the job. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to help him to realize that, and develop a plan to rectify it.  Have lunch with him, probe into the issues, and see if you can uncover the cause of the problem.

It may be that the challenge has gone out of the job. So, put some challenge back into it.  Sit down with the sales person and create a set of performance goals that will stretch the sales person and cause him to push beyond his comfort zones to attain them.  Set some motivating rewards for the attainment of those goals.

Another way to put some challenge back into the job is to make a significant change in the accounts for which he is responsible.  Trade half his accounts with another territory, thereby forcing him to learn the new customers and stretching him out of his comfort zones.

Another approach is to find some responsibilities for this sales person above and beyond just selling to his customers. You may want to bring him into decisions about new products, or have him help interview prospective sales people, or solicit his opinion on key moves that the company is considering.  If you can find some contribution he can make to the company above and beyond the sales dollars, you’ll make him feel like a more valuable part of the company.

Finally, it may be the sales person doesn’t realize the extent nor the seriousness of his problem. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with him. Clearly identify the problem and the consequences of it for him and the company.  Then work with him to develop a specific plan to resolve the issue.  Finally, meet with him regularly to assess his progress and to hold him accountable.

Which of these approaches works best for you depends on your knowledge of this person.  Choose the approach that feels best.  Good luck.

Originally published on DaveKahle.com

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Exposure to New Ideas

hand drawing on paper "new idea"

By Dave Kahle

In order for an individual or a society to reach its potential, it must continuously grow and develop. That requires consistent, methodical exposure to new ideas. Unfortunately, many people have arrested their development by remaining within their status quos.

Do You Feel Threatened by NEW IDEAS?

We all try to make sense of the world and our lives within it by forming conclusions about the world.  For example, we have probably all concluded that the sun rises in the East every morning and that our mothers love us. We assemble these conclusions gradually over time and eventually consolidate them into a set of beliefs we call a world-view. All of this generally takes place on a sub-conscious level. Without these conclusions, we would have a very difficult time getting through every day.

We’ve formed some of these conclusions because we’ve observed them in nature.  The sunrise in the East is one example.  Others, particularly in the realm of politics and religion, have generally been taught to us in our formative years.  They are beliefs, as opposed to observations of natural phenomenon, and we believe them because we’ve been told to.

Beliefs

At some point in our development, we have formed beliefs about most of the important things in our lives.  It’s then that our maturation process dictates that, to continue to grow, we must replace some previously held belief with a different one.  For example, we may have attended a socialist-oriented university and been taught that capitalism is evil.  When we get out into the real world, we discover that it provides us with a job and opportunities, and we revise our beliefs.  We’ve replaced one belief with another.

This is called growth.

And, human beings have the capacity to think and grow for their entire lifetime, although few actually do. What seems to happen most frequently is that people level off at some point in this process and stop growing.

We are all familiar with the common belief that the older a person becomes, the more ‘set in his ways’ he/she becomes.  In other words, the less likely they will challenge their beliefs.  As a veteran sales trainer, I can personally vouch for the idea that the older salespeople are generally the most difficult to change.

But, resistance to growth doesn’t have to be an age-related phenomenon.  We all know people who have arrested in their development somewhere along the line.  This can happen to a 20-something as easily as to a 60- something.

Arrested development…

It’s unfortunate for the individual.  It robs them of a fuller and more complete life, of enriching discoveries and relationships, and often of economic enhancement.

In other words, when someone stops growing, they stop expanding their spheres of relationships and become limited to the group of folks they have known. They often plateau at an economic level, as they no longer learn new job skills or seek new opportunities. The boundaries around their lives become rigid, and they fence themselves into a shrinking, not expanding, world.

While arrested development of an individual is sad, when it becomes more common in a group, it becomes a danger to society. Just as the boundaries of an individual grow more limited when he/she stops growing, so too does the society at large.

One of the essential ingredients for growth and development is the continuous exposure to new ideas and new experiences. When we entertain ideas from those who don’t believe exactly what we believe, it helps us confirm or question our own beliefs, leads to a greater understanding of others, stretches our psyche and develops us into a more complete human being.

In our college-student example, above, it took the exposure to the real world economic experiences to change the recent graduate’s beliefs.  If she remained cloistered in the university cocoon, she would likely have never changed her belief.  It took the exposure to a new experience and new idea to cause a change in belief.

A Very Personal Example

My wife and I were foster parents for a number of years.  One of our foster children was a teenager who had escaped from then communist Albania.  One thing led to another, and we eventually hosted John, his 80-year old father, for a week’s visit to the US.  Upon leaving to return to Albania, John said this:  “For my whole life, I was led to believe that we were the richest country on earth. Now, I see that we are the poorest. It’s like my whole life has been wasted.”

We couldn’t help but feel for him. He had been led to believe a lie, and that belief shaped his actions and his attitudes and organized his life. Now, at an age where there was little to be done about it, he regretted his life lived in accordance with a belief that turned out to be false.  The entire country was deceived by a dictator eager to stay in power. There was a reason why it was the most closed society on earth at the time.  New ideas would threaten the movers and shakers.

False Beliefs

While not nearly as poignant and heartbreaking as John’s experience, we all allow the same thing – false beliefs – to impact our thinking and, therefore, our businesses and our lives.

Exposure to new ideas and new experiences is so fundamental to human growth and development that it can be used as a gauge for the growth that follows.  Where there is widespread and continuous exposure to new ideas and experiences, people grow.  Where there isn’t, they don’t.

What Causes Arrested Development?

Learning and growing is the natural state of human beings.  Our creator programmed that into us. Infants, toddlers, teens, adults are all programmed to continually encounter new ideas and experiences and fold new conclusions into their heads.  It takes the intervention of some force of sufficient power to knock us off the track and bounce us into mindlessness.  Here are three such sources:

Fear

At some point in our development, we become afraid of new experiences and new ideas.  We may not be aware of that fear, but it is still the source of avoidance. We get to the point where we value what we have and want to protect it.  That can be the physical things like our homes and our jobs, or it can be the image of ourselves that has taken us some time to develop.

In my work with salespeople, I see this fear take the form of fear of exposure.  They have developed an image of themselves as somewhat knowledgeable and competent and are afraid that new ideas and experiences may expose them as less competent than they want to think they are. The way to avoid that potential exposure is to fend off the new idea.

Very few people will admit to being afraid.

Normally, this takes the form of excuses which absolve them of having to confront new ideas: “I’m too busy.”  Or “I already knew that.”  Or, “I have my own system.”  All of these are fear-based attempts to defer being confronted with new ideas.

Of course, fear can manifest in ways other than fear of exposure.  I see more and more commonly today the fear of rejection as being a ubiquitous reason for people to avoid new ideas.  This fear says that if I encounter a different idea, I may be somehow changed by it.  And that will place me outside the pack.  Better to go along with the crowd and avoid contact with any new idea.

As I am writing this, the news is full of a well-known actor shouting “F.. Trump,” and the Hollywood elite giving him a standing ovation.  That’s a great example of the pack mentality.  The college kids who shout down a speaker with a point of view different from that which they have been taught provide another example of arrested development motivated by fear.

In these, and multiple other examples, to actually consider an idea outside of those accepted by your pack might put you outside it.  That is to be feared.  Better to just go along with the crowd.

Laziness

Face it, it is harder to make changes then it is to remain in the status quo.  It takes time, energy and often intentionality to confront a new idea, learn from that and roll it into your routines.    It is far easier to just not bother. Some people just don’t have the motivation or energy to change, and thus avoid new ideas because they are lazy.

Contentment

This can be a combination of the two mentioned above. Frequently, people develop to the point where life is good.  They have a comfortable income level, their family is settled, their job is well in hand.  They are comfortable.

That contentment serves as a counterweight to the prospect of encountering new ideas.  Better to just hang around with the people with whom you are comfortable and to remain with the ideas that have worked thus far for you.

Other People

I’m going to drill deeply into this in the next article.  For now, I have observed that much arrested development is brought by other people who have a vested interest in confining you within the constraints of a belief system.  Typically, when you accept their belief system, you are then cut off any ideas that oppose it.

The Opposite…

People who continue to grow and develop their entire life are those who actively seek out new ideas; they are unafraid of the potential challenges to the status quo. They are comfortable enough with themselves to take the risk.

Here are some pictures of what this looks like in real life:
One of my clients, the owner of a small business, ‘tries to have lunch once a month with a good thinker from outside the industry.’  In so doing, he methodically encounters new ideas.

Business executives and salespeople who regularly buy the books, download the podcasts and attend the seminars and conferences. Exposing yourself to experts or those who have deeply studied an issue is a time-tested way to encounter new ideas.

Housewives who read the magazines, search the internet and talk to other folks to gain new ideas on their issues.  The world is full of good ideas, and by seeking them out, you find them.

Students who attend the occasional class taught by someone at the opposite end of the political spectrum. The courage to listen to someone with whom you may disagree with seems like a rare commodity these days.

Bottom Line

While the trend in our society is toward more and more mindlessness, if you are going to continue to grow and develop and come close to achieving the potential you have, you must actively seek out new ideas and new experiences. That is just as true for organizations and societies as it is for individuals. When we, as a society, aggressively avoid new ideas and new experiences, we arrest the development of the society and put it at risk.

Originally published on DaveKahle.com

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.