Beliefs that limit a salesperson’s performance – the problem with passion

This is a best practice for sales people by Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Article by Dave Kahle

Go Get 'Em Go!

This is one of those pieces of conventional wisdom that no one seems to question: “It’s good to be passionate about your product.” Like so many of these conventional myths that ingrain themselves into our psyche, this one has the potential for frustrating countless thousands of sales people, sales managers and chief sales officers.

Let me reassure you: It is not necessary to be passionate about your product or service in order to sell it effectively. In fact, your passion may be a detriment to an effective sales process.

Before you impale me on the skewers of this deeply-help belief, let’s consider this together.

The dictionary definition of “passion” is this: “enthusiastic — showing or having intense emotion.” In a business sense, we commonly think of passion as arising from a conviction that our product or service is a great value, or has some really unique features. So, when we are passionate about our product/service, we are so enamored with it that we become enthusiastic promoters of it. This enthusiasm is thought to be a good thing, and managers everywhere promote it.

Enthusiasm about your product is, however, greatly overrated, for a number of reasons. Let’s look at them.

First, enthusiasm comes out of you, the sales person. It arises out of your unique combination of life experiences and values. It says something about you, but has nothing to do with the customer, and says nothing about the product.

For example, you can have two sales people viewing the same product. One, a young, inexperienced sales person, is enthusiastic about the product. The other, a more experienced veteran, is much more objective and less emotional about the product. In that very real example, does the sales person’s passion arise out of the product or out of the person? Clearly, it says something about the person, and that person’s lack of experience.

I believe that experienced purchasers often view a sales person’s enthusiasm about a product as an indication of that person’s naivety and inexperience.

But, that’s not all. In fact, enthusiasm can be a detriment to servicing the customer because it clouds the communication process and weighs it heavily on the side of the seller. It holds your (the sales person’s) opinions up as more important than the customer’s.

When you are passionate about a product, you naturally want to talk about the product – after all, it’s so great that you are enthusiastic about it. And that enthusiasm then means that you don’t inquire deeply into the customer’s needs, interests or desires. Your enthusiasm often overrides your attention to the customer.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are looking for a car, and have in mind a used, small SUV. You visit a car dealer, and a sales person introduces himself. You explain what you are looking for. The sales person walks you over to a new car – a model that has just been introduced. It has some really great new features, and the sales person is clearly enthusiastic about it. He goes on and on and you can tell that he is passionate about this new car. You listen politely, and then excuse yourself.

His enthusiasm got in the way of your needs. Perhaps if he weren’t so passionate, because he liked the new car, he would have spent more time trying to meet your needs. While he may have liked it, you weren’t particularly interested.

His passion was based on his opinion, his needs, and his interests, and not yours. So, passion comes out of the sales person’s experience and needs, not those of your customers. Passion can interfere with the sales process.

Passion can also blind you to the truth. Here’s an example. There was a reality TV show on for a while that rated people’s inventions. One inventor has created a wooden board game. It required a large wooden construction, larger than an ordinary card table to play. It looked like an interesting game, but the judges criticized the need for this construction, particularly in a day when far more fascinating games are routinely available for a fraction of the cost on smart phones and tablets.

The inventor stuck to his guns. He was passionate. He had invested his life savings in this game, and was enthusiastic about it. His passion and enthusiasm blinded him to the truth: It wasn’t very saleable. He would be better served by cutting his losses and moving on. Alas, his passion wouldn’t let him do that. His passion had blinded him to the truth, and interfered with a more rational decision.

Early in my career I was engaged by an entrepreneur in a similar situation. He had created a device that would alert the parents of school age children when the bus was about to appear at their bus stop. He was passionate about it, and invested lots of time and money into the product. Unfortunately, the market just did not want it. It took a couple of years and hundreds of thousands of dollars for him to find that out. His passion stood in the place of a wise decision.

As a veteran sales consultant, I routinely see people who are suffering in the aftermath of a passion, misplaced. They find or create an effort or company based on a passionate belief in something. However, their passion blinded them to the realities of the market. In a last ditch effort to rescue their vision, they call for the consultant. Unfortunately, I can rarely help them. Typically, they have depleted their resources in a mistaken effort that just a little more of some marketing effort would open the flood gates, and the world would share their passion and recognize their product.

The self-improvement literature is littered with exhortations to be ‘passionate’, to follow your passions, etc. Various examples are put forth of people achieving great things by being enthusiastic and following their passions. But very seldom does one see the far more common story – a misplaced passionate enthusiasm resulting in defeated dreams, mediocre performance and human potential squandered.

From my perspective, I’ll take experience, commitment and skill over passion every day of the week. There is a problem with passion.

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Copyright MMXIII by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image by MyEyeSees on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Top Tips for Using Social Media to Enhance Your Reputation

Did you catch that Clydesdales commercial during the 2013 Super Bowl? Budweiser had just a bit of an audience that day, yes? Now – think back. How did it end? How many names did they collect?

Baby Clydesdale

What’s the last action you can do to be a tiny part of this masterful piece of marketing?

If you can get your audience to respond, act, remember, engage, think, click, create, offer, contribute, participate, like, tweet, take action – or  even name a baby Clydesdale – you have successfully used your social media marketing tool.

Think about what actions you can ask your consumers to take. If they become the slightest bit personally invested in your business, your name and product will stick with them.

It’s a fact: A whopping 63% of consumers are using social media. That is a massive amount of exposure, and if you aren’t using social media to cast a wider net, now is the time. The list only seems to grow each year: Twitter, Instagram, Quora, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc. Each and every one of these forms of social media is a golden opportunity to spread the message that you want to spread and to attain an even stronger reputation for your business. Just ask Budweiser.

Think of the connection between horses and beer. It seems like a far stretch, until you involve Clydesdales – make that a baby Clydesdale – and combine it with a warm-spirited, handsome, sentimental, and dedicated trainer. Budweiser created a story around that nameless pony, and what’s a viewer to do? Retain the product, retain the story, and of course, retain the question. No doubt, a fair portion of viewers will want to participate in the game of throwing into the ring a name for the pony. This is a superb example of how to create a buzz and get people talking after the commercial is over.

So what else can you do to get some of those 63% of buyers to bring some energy to your online presence? Every time they do, your online reputation is going to get a boost. Try some of these engagement techniques:

  • Take a vote. Offer a few ideas for potential products that you’re thinking about bringing to the market, and have them cast their ballot with a simple click.
  • Create a contest. Maybe it’s a trivia question of the week, or something light and fun that gets them to take a quick break from their daily tasks at hand.
  • Let them inside. Create a short video that highlights you and your employees’ stories and pride. This will help your customers to feel a little bonded to the folks who work hard to create your product or service. We’re all in this thing together – this thing called life.  Share that mentality, and you’ll grow both your reputation and client base. Keep it real, and they will respond. Maybe your viewers of the video will provide a comment or reaction. ASK them to!
  • The direct involvement is always worthy, but you can also encourage your potential customer to participate in an indirect involvement question. Remember your first love? Maybe it was Fido, when you were five years old. Maybe it was your mom or dad, or maybe it was that little cutie in the back row in Algebra. For an indirect involvement question like this, you’re not actually soliciting answers, but you will still be getting them to respond. It’s an action, and that’s exactly what you want. Tie that indirect involvement question to an aspect of your business, and you’ve got them connected.
Rocket Drag Race
Get them to take some action, and watch your reputation skyrocket!

Engagement. Action. Response. Contribution. Connection.  Your reputation and sales will increase if your social media viewers get involved.

Valerie J. Wilson is a freelance writer who writes about marketing, business, and the economy.

Image “Baby Clydesdale” by Bill Garrett on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Image “Rocket Drag Race” by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Using CRM to Leverage Sales

10079414 Businessman With Idea Lightbulb by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot
Including CRM in your sales cycle is a smart business strategy

In part one of this paper, we discussed how critically important it is to select a sales model that is appropriate for the products or services you are selling.  In our case study the ‘NewCo’ company needed to transition from a high cost direct sales organization to selling via the internet and channel partners.

The second and equally important strategy to ensuring good sales execution is to implement a structured sales process or methodology that standardizes how you sell. This is important for two reasons.

1. Simplified Sales Management

First, you cannot manage and properly direct your sales team if every representative has a different approach to selling.  Remember sales people traditionally come from all walks of life – from teachers, accountants and engineers to college students just entering the work force.  Unless you establish a specific sales training program every member of your team is going to conduct their business according to what they feel is right.  Using this approach some will perform better than others will. However, one thing is clear you will not have a uniform approach to selling.

This is something many companies continue to struggle with.  CRM systems do an excellent job of providing structure for companies that don’t have one, or are unsure what theirs should look like.  This is not rocket science.  Start by outlining the steps that occur during your sales process.  The steps will vary from business to business, and the number of steps depends on the length of your sales cycle.

100152759 5 Steps by samuiblue
What are the steps in your sales cycle?

For example, the sales cycle typically begins with qualification or a needs analysis. This ensures the new opportunity is real, and that the prospect has a need for your company’s product or service, and the budget to pay for it.  Next step may be a product demonstration, followed by a quote, a trial of the product, verbal agreement then closure.

sales-process-pipeline-by-stage

2. Consistent Sales Forecasting

The benefit here is clear.  Having a definitive sales process such as this allows management to see a snapshot of every new sales opportunity. If you are managing every new sales opportunity in a structured fashion, you know where each one is in the sales process and what is required to close the sale.  This leads to highly accurate monthly and quarterly sales forecasts.

sales-process-pipeline-by-stage

Using a set of pre-built analytical reports sales management can follow each opportunity through the pipeline and take a proactive approach to help win the sale.

sales-dashboard2-commence-crm
Graphical and spreadsheet view of sales by stage

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is president of Commence Corporation a leading provider of online CRM software.  Caretsky has more than 30 years of experience in the client management software industry and has written numerous white papers on the subject along with an eBook “Practices That Pay”. He leads a consulting team that assists small to mid-size businesses implement best practices for sales execution and sales performance.

Image “Businessman With Idea Lightbulb” courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “5 Steps” courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reaching Buyers at the Right Time

It's the right timeInternet marketing experts estimate that at any given time only a fraction of the market is interested in the product or service you are selling.  The problem is if you don’t know who they are or when they plan on buying, how can you earn their business?  Here are some things you can and need to do.

1. Implement a marketing strategy using a lead nurturing system

What I am referring to here is a series of direct or e-mail campaigns that serve one purpose, and that is to ensure that your company, your product and the value you offer is consistently in front of potential customers for months on end.  Marketing people refer to this as “the rule of seven” which simply means that people may not recognize your offering until they see it seven times.  So many companies make the mistake of sending a single message. If the prospect does not respond they move to a new list, convinced the first one was no good.

2. Make sure your message delivers value to the prospect

Stop selling for a minute. Special holiday discounts or offers for “free anything” don’t make sense.  In fact they can irritate the buyer.  I get these all the time; buy now and get 50% off. I don’t even know what they are selling so why would I have any interest – discount or no discount.  Instead offer something you would have an interest in reading.  If you wouldn’t click on it why would you expect a prospect to?

3. Try to differentiate yourself from your competition

Some people call this “thought leadership” which is nothing but a fancy title for being smarter than your competition. Present ideas that are outside the box, ideas that inspire creative thinking for both you and the potential prospect. If your message is educational or intriguing and gets them to think about what they read, chances are they will remember you.

4. Don’t stop marketing

People seem to think marketing is a part time job. Send a mailer and you are done.  It’s not. Let’s go back to what we said earlier – You may not know the right time when a prospect will decide to buy, but as long as your product and service is consistently in front of them you can bet that when they do decide to buy you will be on the call list.

Creating an automated marketing program without the proper tools can be quite the challenge.  The good news is that there are several very good CRM software programs that can automate this process and make life easy for you.  In part two of this paper, I will discuss the automation process and how CRM software has matured and is delivering value for marketing professionals.

This article is sponsored by Commence Corporation, a leading provider of web based CRM software.

Image by Federico Raviele on Flickr under Creative Commons license.