Sales Q&A – How much time should you expect from a customer?

Posted by Dave Kahle on March 31, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

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Q. How much time should you expect from a customer for an appointment?

A. This is one of those many questions about sales issues for which the answer always begins with “It depends.” It depends, first of all, if this is a prospect (someone who has not purchased) or a regular customer (someone who buys regularly). Generally speaking, you can expect more time with a customer than with a prospect.

It depends, secondly, on the understanding your customer has about the purpose and agenda of the call. For example, if you asked for 60 minutes in order to detail your response to his request for a proposal or a piece of equipment, then you should expect 60 minutes. If you asked for a short period of time to introduce you and your company, then you are probably lucky to get 30 minutes.

It depends, next, on your personal reputation. If you are a seasoned rep who, over the years, has built a reputation that you won’t waste your customer’s time, and that you are always prepared to share something you think will be of value to the customer, then you should expect more time. If, however, you don’t have such a reputation with the customer, then you should expect less time.

It depends, finally, on your objective for the sales call. If you want to check up on the delivery of an order, for example, it probably shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes. If you want to get a tour of the facility and meet four of the key people, it could take a couple of hours.

Minutes

As an overall rule to guide you, the call shouldn’t take any longer than it needs to take. In other words, have a purpose, have an agenda and move methodically and professionally through that agenda.

Remember, of equal importance to how much time you think the call should take is how much time the customer has to devote to it. As you know, time is the scarce commodity of our age, and your customer doesn’t have much of it. You need to respect your customer’s time constraints. If you expect an hour of your customer’s time, that’s 16 percent of his day. Are you that important? Will you bring him/her enough value to justify that? Never allow your preconceived notions to override your customer’s time constraints. To read more about this go to this section of my website and read my article, “S-2: Dealing with Your Customer’s Time Constraints.”

Q. If the time allowed for a sales call is too short, should you cancel or reschedule?

A. Good question. To put my answer in perspective, remember that I believe that time is the customer’s most scarce asset. They never have enough time. That’s why they use voice mail, gate keepers and set agendas – to help them get the most out of their days. It is so difficult to actually get face-to-face selling time, that any time you get should be respected. I’ve said all of that in order to say this: Take the appointment, even if you know you don’t have enough time to do what you want to do.

That gives you an opportunity to make a personal contact, and to learn a little bit about the customer. Do as much as you can during that first appointment, and, before you leave, make an appointment for the next visit to complete what you started.

Copyright MMXV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

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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.

Image by Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Best Practice #23 – Makes persuasive presentations

Posted by Dave Kahle on March 25, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

A best practice for salespeople by Dave Kahle.

Best Practice #23: Routinely makes powerful persuasive presentations.

In my first professional sales position, I spent six full weeks in sales training before I was released to go out into my territory. That included memorizing two five-page, single-spaced sales presentations, presenting them to the sales training class, critiquing the video-taped playback of the presentation, and then doing it all again – for six weeks! At the end of those six weeks, every one of us could give those two presentations masterfully.

It takes time to practice the presentation before you actually make it.

While the use of prewritten, memorized sales presentations still continues today, it’s only rarely used in the business-to-business selling environment. It may be that today’s frantic pace of new product development makes the time it takes to memorize a sales presentation seem less valuable. I’d like to think it may be that today’s salesperson is more sophisticated and able to adjust the sales presentation to the needs of each individual customer.

While memorized presentations may be a vestige of years gone by, that in no way reduces the need to make a well designed, practiced sales presentation. The ability to routinely make powerful, persuasive sales presentations, regardless of the customer or product, is one of the practices of the best.

The world is full of salespeople who take a casual attitude toward a sales presentation. Some think that they know the product so well that their superior product knowledge will ooze out during the presentation, impressing the customer into buying. Others do not put in the necessary preparation and practice time, and, in an attempt to cover their lack of confidence, focus on those parts of the presentation with which they feel most comfortable. Still others feel that their ability to improvise will eventually lead them to a persuasive presentation.

The truth is that there is no shortcut to a persuasive presentation. It begins with studying the customer as well as the product or service. It takes preparation to decide which of the customer’s issues to address, and which specific features of your offer to emphasize. It takes time to organize the facts and features into a cohesive presentation. It takes time to build in interactive elements, and to gather the right samples and documents. And it takes time to practice (yes, practice) the presentation before you actually make it. A persuasive presentation begins with methodical preparation.

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Maybe that’s why so few salespeople give this aspect of their job the attention that it deserves. And maybe that’s why routinely making powerful and persuasive presentations is a practice of the very best.

To learn more about this practice, review these resources: The CD, How to Make Powerful and Persuasive Presentations, or the Video version: Persuasive Presentations, Part 1 & 2.

You may also want to review

* Chapter eight of How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
* Chapter twelve of Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch.

If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center®, consider The One Month ‘Persuasive Presentations’ Course, or The Six Month ‘Consultative Selling’ Course.

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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 most recent book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been named one of the “five best business books,” by three international entities.

Copyright MMXV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image by stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Myths of B2B Sales #1 – Great Relationships

Posted by Dave Kahle on March 16, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

The world is full of sales people who claim, quite proudly, to have great relationships with their customers. If that were true, it really would be great. But unfortunately, “great relationships” is too often a veil that sales people hide behind to keep from exposing the weakness in their sales skills.

Here’s how it works. An experienced sales person believes that he/she has developed great relationships with customers. Therefore, he spends his time visiting these great customers, and focusing on maintaining the relationship. He can’t really dig deeper into the motivations and needs of the customer because he’s never really had those conversations before, and to do so would interject a new and disparate element into the relationship. Better to not take the risk.

He doesn’t present the new product or service too strongly, because, after all, it might jeopardize the relationship. And besides, he knows this customer well enough to know that they would never be interested in this new product.

He never closes or asks for a resolution of an offer, because he doesn’t want to hear a rejection from that great relationship. Too risky. And he continues to invest selling time in this account, regardless of its potential, because to do any less would be to jeopardize the relationship.

Businessman avoiding risk to keep relationship with customer

The relationship becomes the end, instead of a means to an end.

Paralyzed by the idea of “great relationships” the sales person forgoes the basics of consultative selling, and loses track of the essential function of sales and the heart of the sales person’s job – to bring revenue into the company. Striving for, and protecting “great relationships” becomes a deterrent to effective selling. It is, particularly among more experienced sales people, one of the biggest obstacles to sales productivity.

I’ve often thought that some marginally-performing sales people, aware of their lack of sales skills, intentionally hide behind the screen of “great relationships” to excuse their lack of results.

The cold hard truth in sales is this: In business, the relationship is a means to an end. Business in general, and sales specifically, is not the same as family, friends, or romance in that the relationship is not an end in itself. In sales, if the relationship doesn’t result in revenue coming into the business, then the relationship is not valuable.

The result is the reason for the relationship. The measurement of the depth and power of a business relationship is not how much you know about the customer, nor how well you get along. The measurement of a business relationship is the amount of dollars generated. If the relationship really is great, then the account would be buying everything from you.

What should sales managers do?

If you realize that I have put into words something that has lingered under the surface of your consciousness, something that you have suspected for quite a while but have never put into words, then there are implications for you.

First, assume that “great relationships” for all but your top performing sales people is probably a smoke screen, directing your attention away from the real issue – lack of confident and competent sales skills.

If the sales person is a consistently good performer, leave him or her alone. Their relationships are probably working for them.

Focus, instead on the marginal performers. When they claim to have great relationships ask this question; “If your relationships are so great, why aren’t they buying everything from you?” Begin to measure the quality of relationships by the cold hard reality of account penetration.

If the account is not growing disproportionately, then the relationship isn’t really an asset. Consider two actions:

1. Training the sales person in the principles and practices of consultative selling. It is the unfortunate truth that most business2business sales people have never been educated in the paradigms, principles, processes and practices of consultative selling. They often just don’t know how to do their job well. Before you can expect that of them, you must educate them.

2. Trading accounts among sales people. Take some of those “great relationship” accounts – particularly those that aren’t growing, away from the sales person and assign them to someone else. Often, a fresh sales person, unburdened by the baggage of the precedents and expectations of “great relationships” can often focus on sales issues and grow the business.

Emphasize in one-on-one conferences and in sales meetings, that the relationship is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The purpose of the sales person is to grow revenue. Improving the personal relationships is a helpful step to that end.

What should sales people do?

1. Analyze your accounts, not in terms of the relationship, but rather in terms of their potential for future sales. Adjust your time to invest more highly in the higher potential accounts, and less heavily in the lower potential accounts.

2. Strategically build relationships. Focus on building personal relationships with those key people in the higher potential accounts. The focus on the account comes first, the relationship follows – not the other way around.

3. Look objectively at where you are spending your time. If you are not gaining sufficient and growing revenue from your good accounts, make a strategic and cold-blooded business decision to demote them.

Successfully selling in the Information Age demands a professional and cold-blooded analysis of the strategic role of personal relationships. Remember, the result is the reason for the relationship.

Would you like to comment on this article? Visit our blog.

By the way, you’ll find this kind of insight into dozens of sales issues in our Sales Resource Center®. It houses 435 training programs to help every one live more successfully and sell better. All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

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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.”

Image by pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Q&A – Anything else?

Posted by Dave Kahle on March 9, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

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Q. In your seminar, you used the question “Anything else?” as one of your ‘really good sales questions’. I see it as a close-ended question. Is “What else can I do?” as effective, or more or less effective?

A. What a great question. Let me applaud you for thinking this deeply about the language in the questions that you use. This “thinking about it before you do it” is one of my key commandments for success in sales. And this kind of thoughtful discussion brings out the best in all of us.

I’m sticking with “Anything else?” as a “really good sales question.” Yes, it is a close-ended question, but that doesn’t make it bad. There is a time and place for close-ended questions. Remember, “Anything else?” is always used to follow up on some piece of information the customer has given you. Typically, it follows an open-ended question, as in, “Tell me what you look for in a vendor.”

Salesman getting question from fishing - image by bplanet

Here’s the scenario. You ask an open-ended question, like “Tell me what you look for in a vendor.”

The customer explains something like, “stable company, responsive customer service, market pricing…”

Your response? “OK. Anything else?”

At this point, you’ll generally receive one of two answers: Either some more explanation or information from the customer, or the answer, “no.” Either of those two answers is good. More explanation gives you more information, and that’s good. “No” tells you there is no more, that you have acquired all the pertinent information, and that’s good.

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The real difference between “Anything else?” and “What else can I do?” is the purpose to the question. “Anything else?” solicits information, and can be used in a broader set of circumstances. See the example above. “What else can I do?” is a more specific question, probing deeper into a more narrow range of possibilities. For example, you couldn’t use “What else can I do?” to follow up on the “Tell me what you look for in a vendor” lead.

There is also an implied commitment to the “What else can I do?” question. The implication is that you will do what he/she asks you to do. Since you are asking, “What else can I do,” it implies that you are willing and able to do more. And that may not be the case. Asking this question may force you into the uncomfortable position of saying “No” to the customer. For example, suppose you say, “What else can I do?” and the customer says, “Drop your price by 10% and deliver twice a week.” You know you can’t do that, so you say, “I can’t do that,” thereby interjecting a negative into the conversation. You would have been better off not bringing it up.

Once again, thanks for bringing this up. This is the kind of dialogue about the specifics of our job that makes us all better.

By the way, you’ll find this kind of insight into dozens of sales issues in our Sales Resource Center. It houses 435 training programs to help everyone live more successfully and sell better. All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

And check out Question Your Way to Sales Success for the ultimate handbook for sales people on asking better sales questions.

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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.

Image courtesy of bplanet/freedigitalphotos.net

Sales Best Practice #15 – Quantity of Presentations

Posted by Dave Kahle on March 2, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

A best practice for sales people from Dave Kahle

Best Practice #15: Regularly makes a sufficient quantity of presentations for the products, services and programs that we sell.

By Dave Kahle

“You’ve got to show it in order to sell it.”

That simple advice given to me decades ago by a wise sales manager seems so simple and common sense. Yet, we tend to become so involved in the ceaseless onslaught of tasks, emails, phone calls, etc. that we lose sight of some of the fundamental truths of what it takes to become an effective sales person. When it’s all said and done, if you haven’t presented your product or service a sufficient quantity of times, you are not going to be successful.

In the world of effective salesmanship, there is a necessary element that has to do with the quantity of your efforts. Here’s a phrase to think about: the quantity of sales presentations.

You make a sales presentation whenever you lay a piece of literature down in front of a customer and talk to him/her about it. You make a sales presentation whenever you present or demonstrate a product; when you deliver a proposal; or when you submit a bid.

In each of these, you are, in effect, saying to the customer: “Here’s this, how about buying it?”

Making a sufficient quantity of sales presentations is one of the best practices of the best sales people.

A few years ago, I was working with one of my clients on revising their sales compensation plan. One of the practices that they wanted to promote through compensation was the quantity of sales presentations. I asked them how many sales presentations they thought the average sales person was making per week. They replied that “week” was probably not the right measurement. I asked, “How many per month?”

Their answer? “We think we’d be lucky if they averaged one per month.”

I was astonished. If they are sales people and they aren’t making sales presentations, what are they doing? In this case, as in many others, they were filling their days with administrative busy work and routine purposeless sales calls. They are more like mobile customer service reps than sales people.

The best sales people make sure that they continually deliver a sufficient quantity of sales presentations.

Here’s a way for you to step up to this level. For the next month, keep track of the quantity of sales presentations you make. Create a spreadsheet for each day of the month, and simply create a hash mark under that date for every sales presentation you make.

Add your sales presentations to the CRM calendar to track the number presentations you make each month to your leads and accounts

At the end of the month, count up the number of sales presentations you made. Now, give yourself this goal: Double the quantity of sales presentations you make in the next month. Once you have committed to that goal, ask yourself this question: “How can I double the number of sales presentations I make?”

You’ll come up with a plan. Then, test your plan by continuing to keep track of the quantity of sales presentations the same way you did the previous month.

As you begin to present more frequently, you’ll find yourself focusing on this fundamental and extremely important activity. You’ll generate more opportunities, and create more business. It is just that simple.

That’s why this is one of the best practices of the best sales people.

To learn more about this best practice:

* read chapter 19 of How to Excel at Distributor Sales.

* read chapter 8 of How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime

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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 most recent book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been named one of the “five best business books,” by three international entities.

Copyright MMXV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part Five

Posted by Dave Kahle on February 23, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing. Here is number five of my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

Mistake Number Five: No investment in themselves.

Here’s an amazing observation. No more than 5% of active, full time professional sales people ever invest in their own growth. That means that only one of 20 sales people have ever spent $20.00 of their own money on a book on sales, or subscribed to a sales magazine, taken a sales course, or attended a sales seminar of their own choosing and on their own nickel.

Don’t believe me? Take a poll. Ask your sales people or your colleagues how many of them have invested more than $20.00 in a book, magazine, CD, etc. in the last 12 months. Ask those who venture a positive answer to substantiate it by naming their investment. Don’t be surprised if the answers get vague. You’ll quickly find out how many sales people in your organization have invested in themselves.

Sales is the only profession I know of where the overwhelming majority of practitioners are content with their personal status quo.

Why is that? A number of reasons.

Some mistakenly think that their jobs are so unique that they cannot possibly learn anything from anyone else. This attitude dooms them to a lifetime of mediocrity.

Still others think they know it all. They have, therefore, no interest in taking time from some seemingly valuable thing they are doing to attend a seminar or read a book. They are destined to be obsolete in a world that is changing faster than at any time in the past.

Some don’t care. Their focus is hanging on to their jobs, not necessarily getting better at them.

But I think the major reason is that the overwhelming majority of sales people do not view themselves as professionals and, therefore, do not have professional expectations for themselves. They worked their way up from the customer service desk or they landed in sales by chance, and they view their work as a job to be done, not a profession within which to grow.

They are content to let their companies arrange for their training or development. And between you and me, they would prefer that their companies really didn’t do anything that would require them to actually change what they do.

Overcoming this tendency

Decide to fix it. It really is that simple. If you rarely, if ever, actually invest in your own growth, then decide to fix it. Decide to view your job as a profession, and decide to be a professional. That means that, of course, you‘ll invest in your own growth.

Invest in your growth - Image of Dollar plant by digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net

Once you make that decision, then it’s easy to come up with resources to do so. Decide to go to at least one seminar a year, and start watching your mail box for likely suspects. Decide to read a book once a month, and visit the library or your local book store regularly. Decide to expose yourself to new and good ideas, and regularly visit the websites and newsletters that support sales people.

Once you decide to do it, the doing is easy. It’s the decision that’s required.

One source for all the sales training you need. Consider The Sales Resource Center. 455 training programs available 24/7 for one low monthly fee.

These are the five most common negative tendencies that I see. It may be that you and your colleagues are immune to these dampers on success. Good for you. But if you are not immune, and if you spot some of your own tendencies in this list, then you are not reaching your potential for success. You have tremendous potential for success — for contentment, confidence and competence – that is being hindered by these negative behaviors. Rid yourself of these negative tendencies, and you’ll begin to reach your potential.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

Image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part Four

Posted by Dave Kahle on February 9, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing. Here is number four of my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

Mistake Number Four: Poor questioning

This is a variation of the third mistake. I am absolutely astonished at the lack of thoughtfulness that I often see on the part of sales people. Some use questions like sledge hammers, splintering the relationship and bruising the sensibility of their customers by thoughtless questions.

Others don’t use them at all, practically ignoring the most important part of a sales call. They labor under the misconception that the more they talk, the better job of selling they do, when the truth lies in exactly the opposite approach.

And others are content to play about the surface of the issue. “How much of this do you use?” “What do you not like about your current supplier?” Their questions are superficial at best, redundant and irritating at worst.

The result? These sales people never really uncover the deeper more intense issues that motivate their customers. Instead, they continually react to the common complaint of customers who have been given no reason to think otherwise: “Your price is too high.”

Fewer sales, constant complaints about pricing, frustrated sales people, impatient managers, and unimpressed customers – all of these as a result of the inability to use the sales person’s most powerful tool with skill and sensitivity.
Drawing necessary thing for success by pakorn at freedigitalphotos.net

Overcoming this tendency

We’re back again to planning and preparing. This time, the focus of our planning time is creating good questions. By taking the time to prepare good sales questions, word for word, before the sales call, we ensure that our questioning will be far more effective than if we rely on our spur of the moment ability to create on the fly. Spend some of that planning time doing just that – creating good questions word for word.

You’ll find a much more detailed explanation of the role of good questions and how to create them in my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

Image courtesy of pakorn / freedigitalphotos.net

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part Three

Posted by Dave Kahle on February 2, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing. Here is number three of my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

Mistake Number Three: Contentment with the superficial

There are some customers on whom you have called for years, and yet the sales person doesn’t know any more about them today than he/she did after the second sales call. These are accounts where the sales person cannot identify one of the account’s customers, explain whether or not they are profitable, or identify one of their strategic goals.

Most sales people have a wonderful opportunity to learn about their customers in deeper and more detailed ways, and often squander it by having the same conversations with the same customers over and over. They never dig deeper. They mistake familiarity with knowledge.

What a shame. I am convinced that the ultimate sales skill — the one portion of the sales process that, more than anything else, determines our success as a sales person — is the ability to know the customers deeper and in a more detailed way than our competitors know them.

It’s our knowledge of the customer that allows us to position ourselves as competent, trustworthy consultants. It’s our knowledge of the customer that provides us the information we need to structure programs and proposals that distinguish us from everyone else. It’s our knowledge of the customer that allows us to proactively serve that customer, to meet their needs even before they have articulated them.

In an economic environment where the distinctions between companies and products are blurring in the eyes of the customer, the successful companies and individuals will be those who outsell the rest. And outselling the rest depends on understanding the customer better than anyone else.

Overcoming this tendency

Here’s where a couple of these negative tendencies spill over on one another. The best way I know to overcome this tendency toward superficial is to think about the sales calls you want to make, to think about your customers, and to plan, before you are in front of the customer, what information you would like to gather. And the best way to do that is to ask yourself what you would like to know about this customer.

Ask yourself what you would like to know about this customer

Create a series of questions that you ask yourself. Questions like these:

Do I know how this product application fits into the rest of their systems?

Do I know what the consequences are for them if they don’t get a good solution to this problem?

Do I know what the positive implications are for them if they do solve this problem, or achieve this objective?

Do I know what those consequences and implications mean for the key decision makers?

Do I know how this account makes their money or how they appeal to their customers?

Do I know this account’s vision of their business, their mission and their basic strategy?

Do I know what motivates the key decision makers?

This is just a start, but you have the idea. Once you create a set of questions for yourself, the next step, for any question for which the answer is “no, I don’t know that,” is to seek out that information.

When you seek and discover the information prompted by these questions, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your accounts.

Want to dig deeper into this issue? Consider the book, Question Your Way to Sales Success. Click here.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part Two

Posted by Dave Kahle on January 20, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing.  Here is number two of my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

455 lessons for sales people and sales managers, available 24/7 for one low monthly fee. The ultimate resource to improve your sales effectiveness. Click here to learn more.

iThinking businessman

Mistake Number Two: Lack of thoughtfulness

The typical field sales person has, as a necessary and integral part of his/her personality, an inclination toward action. We like to be busy: driving here and there, talking on our cell phones, putting deals together, solving customer’s problems — all in a continuous flurry of activity. Boy, can we get stuff done!

And this high energy inclination to action is a powerful personality strength, energizing the sales person who wants to achieve success.

But, like every powerful personality trait, this one has a dark side. Our inclination to act often overwhelms our wiser approach to think before we act.

In our hunger for action, we neglect to take a few moments to think about that action. Is this the most effective place to go? Have I thoroughly prepared for this sales call? Do I know what I want to achieve in this call? Is this the person I should be seeing, or is there someone else who is more appropriate? Is it really wise to drive 30 miles to see this account, and then backtrack 45 miles to see another?

Customers these days are demanding sales people who are thoroughly prepared, who have well thought-out agendas, and who have done their research before the sales call. All of this works to the detriment of the “ready-shoot-aim” type of sales person.

On the other hand, those who discipline themselves to a regular routine of dedicated time devoted to planning and preparing will find themselves far more effective than their action-oriented colleagues.

Overcoming this tendency

Unfortunately, it almost always takes hard work and discipline to overcome a bad habit that is easy for us to create. That is true of this tendency. The habit of thoughtless action is easy to create, because our basic personalities so easily gravitate toward action.

To change it, we need to use discipline to create the habit of thoughtfulness. I’d suggest that you build dedicated planning time into your schedule. During this time, you plan and prepare (in other words, you think about it before you do it). Here’s the schedule of thinking time that I recommend:

  • an annual planning retreat of one to three days
  • a monthly planning time in which you create a specific plan for that month
  • a weekly time to plan and prepare for the coming week
  • a daily planning time at the end of every day to prepare for the next
  • a two-minute thought-time before every sales call to focus and ground yourself in the objectives and strategies for that call.

All of this sounds like a lot, and it is. My rule for years has been to spend 20% of my time planning and preparing (thinking about) the other 80% of my time. The discipline of thinking about it before you do it will make you much more effective in the 80% that is dedicated to actually doing it.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

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The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part One

Posted by Dave Kahle on January 12, 2015 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my top five. Here’s number one, not necessarily in order of priority. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of it.

Mistake Number One: Over concern with strategy instead of tactics

Gather a group of sales people together around a coffee maker and listen to the conversation. After the obligatory complaints about all types of things, the conversation inevitably drifts to questions of strategy. How do I accomplish this in that account? How do I get this account to this?

In my seminars, I often hold a “clinic” where sales people write down any sales-related question and submit it to the group for discussion. These questions are almost always related to strategic issues. In one form or another, they ask the same question: How do I achieve this effect in this account?

While this thoughtfulness is encouraging, it reveals an erroneous mindset. The belief behind these questions is this: “If I can only determine the right sequence of actions of my part, I’ll be able to sell this account, or achieve this goal.”

This, unfortunately, is rarely the case. These sales people, based on this erroneous belief, are looking for a solution in the wrong place. Almost always, the answer to the question is not a more clever strategy, but better execution of the basic tactics.

It is like the football team whose players don’t tackle well, miss their blocks, throw erratic passes, and fumble frequently. The solution is not a better game plan. The solution is better execution of the basic tactics. Learn to do the basics effectively, and the strategy will generally take care of itself.

The real problem with this over-concern for strategy is that it reduces the sales person’s energy, substituting the pursuit of a better strategy for the real solution – better execution of the basics.

When I’m asked these “strategy” questions, I find myself asking the sales person to verify the fundamentals. Have you identified the key decision makers and influencers in the account? Have you created trusting personal relationships with each of them? Have you understood the customer’s situation at a deep level? Have you presented your solution in a way that gives them reason to do business with you? Have you effectively matched your proposal to the intricacies of the customer’s needs?

This line of inquiry almost always reveals a flaw in tactical execution. It’s not the strategy that is the problem, it’s the tactics. Focus on doing the basics first, and the need for a clever strategy diminishes.

Overcoming this tendency

Clearly the solution is to focus on improving the basics. What skills are the “blocking and tackling” of sales? Here’s a short list:

  • gaining access to the right people
  • making a positive first impression
  • creating rapport and building positive business relationships
  • asking questions and understanding the customer
  • making an articulate presentation
  • gaining commitment for action
  • following up to assure satisfaction.

Now that you have the list, how do you improve these skills? The same way a football or basketball player would improve their skills. You study the techniques, and then you practice them. That means that you search for good models of each of these skills. It could be books, seminars, audio program, Internet classes, or the teaching of a competent manager or sales trainer. Regardless, you regularly expose yourself to the best practices of those who have a record of success. You gain ideas from them, and then you practice.

The same way a football or basketball player would improve their skills, study the techniques, and then practice them.

I have been a Detroit Pistons fan for years. In their Bad Boy days, they were led by All Star Isaiah Thomas. One year, the Detroit News reported that Isaiah had a new home built. In it, he had a basketball court, so that he could practice free throws in his spare time. Imagine that. An All Star practices the most basic basketball skill in his free time. That dedication to excellence in the basics is exactly the same thing to which I’m referring. Focus on the basics, practice forever.

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Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
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