Struggle – On Purpose

This is a Sales Tip of the Week from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Which is more important? Selling your image or selling product.

The STORY:

Greg walked into the office of Able Manufacturing, sat down across from Harold Covill, the President, and smiled.

“Greg,” said Harold, “I know that grin.  For the past five years you’ve been selling us the lubrication oil and whenever you have that grin, you have something else to sell us.”

“I don’t know how to tell you this.  You may be upset,” responded Greg, as his grin disappeared and was replaced with a look of pain.

“What, nothing to sell me?”

“Worse.”  Looking at his left hand, Greg loosened his tie with his right.

“Worse?  You’re leaving the Linden Oil?”

“This isn’t easy for me…I wanted to put off telling you…”  Greg took a deep breath and looked up at Harold.  “They are changing the formulation of the lube oil.  In six months, all of your equipment will have to go through a three month change-over.  Or you can switch to the competition.  I’d understand.”

Greg averted his eyes and stared at the company pictures on the wall behind Harold.

“Is this new formulation any good?”

“Probably.  You know what they say…”

“Yeah, newer and better than before.”

About a minute of absolute silence ensued.  Greg fiddled with his tie, his sleeve cuff.  Then finally looked back to Harold and saw he was grinning.

“Never thought you’d be grinning about this.”

“Well,” began Harold, “I guess I shouldn’t let you keep squirming.  I appreciate that you didn’t try to sell me, but you are going to anyway.”

“Our competition has the old formulation.”

“Don’t care.  I’ve been thinking about upgrading all of the equipment, and with the new lube coming, I think I will.  I’ll get you the specs for the new units by tomorrow.”

Harold got up from behind the desk, “Stop looking pathetic, Greg.  You’ve solved my problem without even knowing what it was.”

The RESULT:

Greg made this sale because he made it “safe” for the prospect to talk. The prospect came up with the reason to buy, not Greg. Since it was the prospect’s reason, the need to buy became very important and had to be acted on as soon as possible.

DISCUSSION:

Greg has made the long journey that many salespeople never make.  When he started out in sales, he knew nothing and still made sales which he attributed to beginner’s luck.

He then journeyed on to educating himself in-depth about products.  He knew everything.  His sales went up.  Then, deciding that product knowledge was obviously the key, he spent untold hours learning every nut and bolt.  His sales then started dramatically going up, and just as dramatically, going down.  Up and down like a yo-yo.

Something wasn’t right.

So he found himself struggling to make sales and discovered a wonderful result.  Watching him struggle on purpose, the prospects told him what they needed.  His sales were higher than ever but more importantly, they were consistently higher, month in, month out.

Greg has journeyed to become a professional salesperson.

APPROACH:

The biggest difficulty a salesperson will have in trying out this approach is one of self-image.  The stereotypical salesperson is in a three-piece suit, perfectly groomed, well-spoken, has an answer for any objection that a prospect will ever voice and knows every closing line ever invented.

So you have to ask yourself, which is more important, selling your image of a salesperson or selling your product?  Don’t answer this too quickly.  Think about it.

Allowing the prospect to see you struggling, which you know you are doing on purpose, allows him to relax and open up.  He wants to help you make the sale if your product works for him.

You “struggle” by asking questions, not giving answers.  You may already know the answer, but ask the question anyway.  The prospect may surprise you.  You may find an answer you never considered.  And that new answer, which the prospect gave you, may be the one to make the sale.

Consider this for a moment, if you already know all the answers, why bother with a meeting?  Just call the prospect up, rattle off the answers and take the order.

But we know it doesn’t work that way.

THOUGHT:

It should not be the goal of the salesperson to sell his image. Selling your image doesn’t put money in the bank. Selling product does.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Breakfast is included in this workshop.

To view the latest Sales Tip of the Week please click on the link below:

SALES TIP OF THE WEEK

Question and Answer #56 – How to get a timely decision?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Sales frustration with trying to get a decision

Q. In a situation where I have made contact with the decision maker, I have provided samples and prices but it needs to go to the prospects’ quality control department. Assuming that I have not been able to pre-schedule an in-person appointment or specific call back date for results, I end up wasting a tremendous amount of time to get one of three answers:

a. No thanks.
b. QC still not done.
c. Yes, I’d like to plan an order.

I repeatedly call back and leave voice mail requests for an answer with no response. Any ideas of how I can be more effective in this scenario? Many sales people simply keep returning physically to the customer to try to get an answer, but I don’t think this is any more effective than phone calls.

A. Let’s look at the situation from the customer’s point of view. He probably has more important things to do than test your product. Your project has become a low on the to-do list item. He’ll get to it when he gets to it.

Why isn’t it any big deal to him? Because you haven’t made it one. In your proposal to him, you haven’t hit any sufficiently sensitive and intense hot buttons to motivate him to push the project out of the mode of standard operating procedures and attach some urgency to it.

Let’s say you’ve shown him that you can save him 3% on one component of his product. Yawn. That’s nice, but you aren’t going to unleash any torrents of energy devoted to pushing your deal through. And, really, from his perspective, does it make any difference if he decides to buy it today, or he decides to buy it next month? Probably not. As a result, your deal continually gets pushed down the ever-growing and changing list of things he has to do.

So, the problem is that your customer isn’t motivated to push your project ahead of other things he has to do. And the reason he isn’t motivated is because you haven’t given him a reason to be motivated.

The place to address this issue is not after you have made the proposal, it is before. Do two things. First, in your information collecting, concentrate on finding the prospect’s hot button. Find some things that the prospect is already passionate about. Then when you make your proposal, show how your product helps him reach those goals and helps him achieve the things about which he is already passionate.

The issue is motivation, and you don’t interject motivation, you discover it. Discover what he’s already motivated about, and link your product to it.

Second, give him some reason to act by a certain date. Maybe you have a special price promotion, or some service that he would value, etc. There should be something the customer gains by acting by some date. So your proposal should be “X” if he orders before some date, and “Y” if he orders after. That gives him a reason to push your project up the to-do list. Then, when you call and get voice mail and leave a message, you can remind him of what is at stake if he makes the decision by that date.

If you are able to put either or both of these pieces into play, you’ll find that most of the frustration with projects that linger forever is eliminated by preventing it on the front end of the sales process.

Good luck.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.

Don’t Start – Then You Can’t Lose

This is a Sales Tip of the Week from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Don't procrastinate... stand at the plate and do something.

The STORY:

Do any of these scenarios seem familiar?

Bill knew he should do some prospecting, but it was getting near the end of the week.  Heck, he thought, most of the people I’d call will be thinking about the weekend.  Might as well put it off until Monday.  Or actually, Tuesday would be better.  On Monday I’m sure there will be a ton of stuff on their desks, and they definitely won’t have time for me.  Yeah, hit them on Tuesday between 10 and 12.  That’s the ticket.  But maybe mid-afternoon would be better.  I’ll have to think about that over the weekend.

Jane, the Sales Manager for a sales force of 24, knew she could increase sales if only everyone followed the same sales strategy.  With this in mind and the blessing of upper management, she had scheduled all of the salespeople to attend a mandatory week-long sales training session.  Once that happens, she decided, then we can really start turning some numbers.  Now all she wondered about was how to make sure that no one wiggled out of the mandatory meeting.  She had, over the past day, decided on the steps to take if someone tried.

Nick, during the past two months, had watched his sales slide into a black hole.  At first he figured it was the competition from across town that was causing it, but now he wondered.  He was spending more time than ever before with prospects and former customers, actually tons of time, and with poor results.  He was losing them all.  “What am I doing wrong?” he wondered.  I chat them up, and they dump me.  All the time I spend with them and nothing happens.

The RESULT:

All three examples above perfectly portray “not starting.”  If you don’t start the sale, you can’t lose the sale.  And losing is defined by 90% of the salespeople as “not getting the sale” or to put it another way, “I got a no.”

Getting a “no” is not losing.  Getting a “no” is success.  Getting a “no” allows you to go out and find a “yes.”

DISCUSSION:

There are hundreds of ways to avoid “starting,” and every one of them will seem perfectly reasonable at the time.

Bill wanted to make sure that his prospecting was done in a way to get the best results.  He was convinced he was approaching it correctly.  Result – no prospecting until next week.  And, does next week ever arrive?

Jane truly believed that once everyone attended the sales training, sales would go up.  Result – no sales were expected in the meantime.  But Jane was doing her job.

Nick felt that he should concentrate on establishing rapport with prospects.  He believed that the more rapport he established, the higher the likelihood of a sale.  Result – since all he was doing was establishing rapport, he never got around to selling.

APPROACH:

Just for the moment consider that you are a baseball player.  You can take batting practice for weeks.  But anything you hit during practice doesn’t count.  The only thing that counts is standing at the plate during a game.  Fortunately for the baseball player, he is eventually forced to stand at the plate and do something.

Unfortunately, salespeople are not forced to “stand at the plate” and do something.  Short of running out of money and not being able to pay bills, salespeople and Sales Managers will have the best reasons in the world to avoid starting.

How do you start more often than not?  By recognizing those behavior patterns that fill up your sales time and do nothing for you.  Write down how many hours you work a month.  Now keep track for a full month of how much time you directly spend with prospects.  Compare the two.  Then decide if you are “starting” or just “practicing.”

THOUGHT:

Start often.  The sooner you get a “no,” the sooner you can get the “yes.”  Start often.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Breakfast is included in this workshop.

To view the latest Sales Tip of the Week please click on the link below:

SALES TIP OF THE WEEK

What do you do when a customer becomes abusive with you?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

The customer is not always right

Q.  How do you recommend I handle profanity from a customer?

Q.  What do you do when a customer becomes abusive with you? Loud, screaming, and personally threatening?

A.  I thought I’d put both of these together because they speak to similar situations.

“The customer is always right” is a nice cliché, but like every cliché, it is only partially true.  Sometimes the customer is wrong, and sometimes he/she is a jerk.  Just because he/she is a customer doesn’t give them the right to be abusive to you, or to anyone, as far as that goes.

First, on the issue of profanity.  I try not to use profanity, and I am uncomfortable around people who do.  The same is true of crude, vulgar or highly sexualized conversation.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not talking about the occasional suggestive joke, or the forwarded email.  I’m talking about crude and vulgar conversation.

My typical reaction to any of these kinds of comments is to:

1.  not join in or respond in kind,

2.  ignore them and move the conversation on as best I could, and

3.  not be judgmental about the customer.  After all, it was me who was uncomfortable, not him.  So, that made it my problem, not his.

I have, on at least two occasions that I can think of, had an encounter with an abusive customer.

Many of you know that at one time in my sales career I sold surgical staplers.  We used to “scrub” surgery, which meant that we were in caps, masks and gowns and part of the sterile team.  That allowed us to be very close to the application of our instruments, and help assure that they were used appropriately.

I was working with a surgeon who was a former college football player (a lineman).  He was a big and intimidating guy.  At some point in the middle of an extremely long and complicated surgery, he misused the stapler.  That caused complications which, at the least, meant that the surgery was going to be quite a bit longer, and, at the most, that the patient’s life would be impacted.

The surgeon blamed me.  Loudly, crudely, and with profanity.  All sense of finesse and good people skills left me, and I replied in kind.  For the next five minutes or so, we screamed at each other, pacing up and down across the table with the patient between us.  In retrospect, I didn’t handle it well.  My natural reactions took over and overwhelmed my good intentions.

After the surgery, by the way, we apologized to each other, made nice, and he became a great customer.

I don’t think that was the model of how to respond to an abusive customer.  Here’s my advice.  If a customer becomes abusive with you, tell him/her that you are uncomfortable with his behavior, and leave.  Almost anything else that you do will either exasperate the situation, or be a detriment to your position and reputation.

For example, if you trade insults for insults, you’ll only drive the customer to more aggressive behavior.  It could escalate into something ugly.  If you back down and cower, you’ll be forever seen as weak and spineless.

Maintain your dignity, tell him/her how you feel, and then leave.  I suspect that more times than not, the customer will regret his/her actions, and be more accommodating to you in the future.

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten 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 Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”