Ways to influence the customer to want to see you again

Posted by Dave Kahle on November 20, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Sales Best Practice #40: Has several ways of influencing the customer to want to see you again.

By Dave Kahle

Rarely is a business2business sales call a one-call close. Our products are too varied and sophisticated, and the customer’s buying processes are too complex for that.

If we see a prospect for the first time, and aren’t able to identify an opportunity or start a project in that first call, we don’t want that one sales call to be the only time we see that prospect. We want to see him again.

For example, let’s say you sell industrial supplies. You have 25,000 items that this prospect could potentially buy from you. Just because you don’t discover a likely project on your first visit doesn’t mean that you won’t on the next. Or, you may have had a customer call you with a specific need. You presented your solution, and the customer bought. In his eyes, he may think that the need has been filled, the project is finished, and he has no need to see you again. You, on the other hand, recognize that there are an additional 24,999 things he could buy from you.

In either case, your on-going success is dependent upon you uncovering additional opportunities within your accounts. And that means that your customer must be willing to see you again. And again. And again.

The best salespeople understand this nuance, and have developed specific strategies and tactics to influence the customer to be open to seeing them again. They take a long-term approach to sales, and understand that every call represents a new beginning in a developing relationship. Just like a romantic relationship, if the other party doesn’t want to see you again, the relationship is not going to progress.

Win-Win Blackboard means Outcome Benefiting Both Sides by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why would they want to see you again? They must receive something they value for the investment of time that they spend with you. In other words, they have to get something that warrants their investment of time. Probably the most powerful “benefits” have to do with helping the customer do his/her job more effectively. For example, if your customer is a purchasing agent, he/she sees time with you as likely to provide him a source he doesn’t have, or some information he can use. A small business owner, on the other hand, views his business as his job, and looks for things that can help his business.

There are personal “benefits” as well. You make him feel good because you express sincere interest in him and listen intently. Or he enjoys talking with you because you have things in common.

Regardless, the best salespeople understand this sophisticated issue, and develop ways and means to continually ensure that their customers want to see them again. They think hard about it, collect useful information for their customers, and plan specifically to influence people to want to see them again.

That’s why it is a practice of the best.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

The Question is the Key

Posted by Dave Kahle on November 12, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

Focus, focus, focus. That is the phrase that I find myself repeating constantly in every sales seminar that I present. I believe focus is the greatest challenge for sales people today, and the greatest single solution to their challenges. There are so many demands on our time, so many tasks calling for our attention, and so many opportunities available to us that we can easily become scattered and dissipated.

And in my 30 plus years of experience in the sales profession, I have identified several places where focus will gain you the greatest results. At the top of the list is focusing on the skill of asking better sales questions.

If there is only one practice within the scope of the professional sales person upon which you can focus, let it be to gain mastery in asking better questions.

Asking a good question is your single most powerful sales tool.

Of all the things that you can do and say when you are talking with a customer, there is none that even comes close to the power of asking a good question. It stands alone, apart from every other tactic, as your single most powerful sales tool. Nothing even approaches it.

Of all the ways that you can think about your job, nothing comes close to formulating powerful questions to ask yourself, and then answering them in writing. The question you ask yourself is your single most powerful thinking tool.

That power springs from a simple principle: When you ask a question, they think of the answer. I know that sounds incredibly basic, but the most powerful truths are often very basic. If you consider this, you’ll come to the conclusion that the language in your question influences, shapes and energizes the thinking of the person to whom the question is asked.

In the case of asking the customer, the question influences, shapes, and energizes the thinking of your customer. Not only that, but the language in the questions you ask yourself direct and focus your own thinking.

Where does the decision to buy your product or service ultimately take place? Isn’t it in the mind of the customer? And what one tool allows you to shape what takes place in that mind? A good question.

Let me prove it to you. Answer this question. Did you enjoy what you had for breakfast this morning?

Now consider what you did when you read that question. Probably, in a split second spent thinking, you conjured up a picture of you eating breakfast this morning. You reviewed that by considering the picture, and then made a judgment about it: You either did or did not enjoy it.

In other words, my question caused you to think a certain way, about a certain subject. And every person who reads this book will do exactly the same thing. My question will direct and influence the thinking process of thousands of people in some small way.

Our natural reaction, when we are asked a question, is to think of the answer. While it is possible to be asked a question and to not think of the answer, it generally takes some planning and an act of willpower to do so. Even then, our conditioning often takes over and supplants our intentions.

For example, decide, right now, not to think of the answer to this question. I’m going to ask you a question, but I want you to not think of the answer. Ready? How old are you?

Don’t think of the answer!

If you are like most people, by this point the answer has crept into your mind and oozed out into your consciousness.

That’s the ultimate power of a question. When someone asks a question, you think of the answer. These two questions that I asked above were both relatively trivial. Imagine, however, the power of a more significant question, or better yet, a series of significant questions, to direct and influence the thinking of your customers. Are you beginning to gain a sense of the tremendous power of a question?

Here’s an example of how this operates in a practical selling situation: You’ve just made a proposal or a presentation of your solution. You ask the customer, “What do you not like about my product?” That’s a terrible question. What is the customer going to think about as a result of your question? All the faults he can find with your product.

On the other hand, you could influence the customer to think much more positively about your product by asking this question: “In what ways do you see yourself (or your company) benefiting from this product?”

I’d much prefer to have the customer think about the answer to the second question, rather than the first question. In this scenario, it was your question that influenced the direction of the customer’s thinking. That’s the ultimate power of a good sales question.

The power of a question to direct thinking applies just as powerfully to you. When you ask yourself questions, you direct, influence and energize your own thinking.

My work with questions has led me to conclude that the question is your most powerful thinking device, shaping and prompting excellent analysis, great prioritizing, powerful creativity, and excellent plans.

Your ability to think well depends on the language in the questions that you ask yourself.

Here’s an example. At one time, I sold for a distributor of hospital supplies. I was instructed by my manager to make sure that I always had something to present to every customer on whom I called. I thought he probably knew what he was doing, and I followed his direction. Every time that I mentioned a product line that I carried, or handed over a piece of literature, or provided a sample, or demonstrated a product, I’d call that a “sales presentation.” Thus, I was prepared to make a sales presentation on every sales call. At some point along the way, I thought that if I could increase the quantity of sales presentation that I made, I could probably correspondently increase the number of opportunities that I uncovered, and thus, eventually, the volume of my sales. So, I asked myself this question: “How can I double the quantity of sales presentations I make in my territory?”

The answer to the question was obvious: Take two things with me on every sales call. While the answer was obvious, it took me asking the right question to uncover that answer and the resulting strategy. I determined to do just that, and saw my sales increase dramatically.

Some time later, I asked myself a similar question: “How can I increase the quantity of sales presentations I make in my territory?” Again, the answer was obvious: Take more than two!

Once again, the answer was obvious. It was laying there for everyone to see. But it took the right question to uncover it. It wasn’t until I asked the right question that I discovered the resulting strategy.

So, again, I implemented that strategy and saw my sales increase again.

Some time later, I asked myself a different question: “How can I cause the quantity of sales presentations in my territory to be increased?”

Notice the difference in the language of the question. Now, it wasn’t just about me. Since I asked the question in a different way, it led me to a different answer, and a different strategy.

The answer to the most recent question? I could influence some of the manufacturer’s representatives who sold the lines that I carried to work on my behalf in my territory. If one of them made a product presentation in my territory, it would have the same impact as if I had made it myself. So, I determined to identify and then work with a core group of manufacturer’s reps, with whom my company had exclusive relationships, and who I determined to be competent, honest and reliable sales reps.

The eventual outcome of this strategy? I did five times the volume of the average rep in that field.

Notice the sequence of events. Let’s start at the end. I did huge volumes of business – five times the amount of the ordinary sales rep. One of the reasons I did that kind of volume was that I created more opportunities than any one else. One of the reasons I generated more opportunities was my routine of working closely with a core group of manufacturer’s reps, and thoroughly preparing to show several items to every prospect or customer in every sales call. The reason I implemented those strategies was that I arrived at the obvious answer to some questions I asked myself.

What was the stimulus that created this whole sequence of events? The questions I asked myself.

If there is only one practice within the scope of the professional sales person upon which you can focus, let it be to gain mastery in asking better questions.

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.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is a sales person’s role in the collection process?

Posted by Commence on October 27, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By

Q. We do not want to turn sales people into collection agents, but there certainly is a role that sales people can play in the process. Do you have any thoughts?

A. Yes, I do. Like you, I don’t want to turn sales people into collection agents. Let’s consider this piece by piece.

First, I believe the credit department has the responsibility to ascertain an account’s credit-worthiness and to provide specific and timely direction to the sales people. If an account’s credit line is reduced, for example, that decision needs to be clearly communicated to the sales person in a timely fashion so that the sales person doesn’t spend inappropriate time trying to sell to that account. Nobody wants sales people spending time selling to an account when the company won’t accept an order from that account.

Sales people, then, should follow the credit department’s lead in determining to whom to sell. As always, a little bit of prevention is worth a whole lot of time and effort trying to fix a bad situation.

Second, what about those situations where you have sold and invoiced an account, and now it is slow in paying? Does the sales person have a role? I think so.

Let’s consider some of the economics in a scenario where the customer pays 60 days late. Is there a cost to the company for an account paying late? Of course. Consider all the costs involved: Bank carrying charges on the balance, the cost of additional invoices and statements, the cost of the time of the accounts receivable personnel, and the opportunity costs lost due to additional inventory not being acquired because the money is tied up. It would not be unusual for the cost of a 60 day late payment to approximate 3 – 4 percent of the total sale.

Now before you make light of that, consider that there are many industries whose bottom line, in the best of days, hovers around three percent of sales. In other words, it’s entirely possible that a 60 day late payment wipes out all the net profit from that transaction.

Now let’s also say that in this scenario, the sales person receives a five percent commission on the total sales price.

Should there be some impact on the sales person of this account paying late? Honestly, I think so. I think the sales person’s commission should be adjusted to account for the reduction in gross/net profit.

Now, I am aware of the arguments against that. The biggest one is this: “The sales person should sell, not collect.” Generally I agree with that statement. But the purpose of selling is to bring revenue into the company. If the revenue is decreased for whatever reason, the sales person’s reward should be directly impacted. The sale really is not completed until the revenue has been received.

Hand with dollar by jannoon028 at freedigitalphotos.net

To do anything other is to put the sales person and the company at cross purposes. The sales person gets paid for selling anything to anyone, regardless of the payment history. The company gets paid for selling profitably. That’s a conflict of interest. I always favor aligning the interests of everyone in the company.

Let’s also keep in mind that the sales person often has a better view of what is going on in that account than anyone else. And the sales person often has relationships with the account that help facilitate the process of reviewing and correcting errant invoices.

My opinion? Sales people’s commissions should reflect the length of time it takes to collect the invoice. They should look over their accounts receivable on a regular (monthly) basis. When they see an account going too long past due, they should have a vested interest in intervening. That doesn’t make them collection agents, but it does align their interests with the company’s interests. They can act, by exception, in those cases where their intervention can make a difference. One or two calls a month can clean up and prevent a lot of lost revenue. And revenue is the ultimate measurement of both the company’s and the sales person’s performance.

So, should sales people be totally responsible for collecting past due receivables? No. But should sales people have a vested interest in looking at the exceptions and intervening to help keep an account within terms? Yes.

Access 20 years of Dave’s wisdom and insight. Join The Sales Resource Center. Learn more here.

Image courtesy of jannoon028/freedigitalphotos.net

Sales Best Practice #38 – Maintains a good filing system

Posted by Dave Kahle on October 20, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Sales Best Practice #38: Maintains a good filing system, with all the useful information readily available.

By Dave Kahle

“I’m just not a very organized person.”

That from one of my recent seminar participants.

“You’ll never be as successful as you could be until you overcome that,” I said in response.

If you are not organized, fix it.

Highly successful salespeople, the top guns, are highly organized. They maintain a good filing system that allows them to collect, store and use useful information.

The average field salesperson spends only about 25 – 30 percent of the workweek actually talking to customers. Imagine what would happen if we could dramatically increase that number. One of the things we waste time doing is fishing for information. A good filing system dramatically reduces that wasted time, and provides us with good information that helps us improve the quality of our sales calls.

This is the information age. Information is an asset to a company, and particularly to a salesperson. Collect good information about your customers, and you are able to more closely connect with them, more sharply focus your selling time, and more finely hone your proposals. Maintain a system that allows you to access product information and you’ll rarely keep customers waiting, you’ll rarely look unprofessional, and you’ll be able to quickly access things you need to know.

In today’s world, there is no excuse for not having a good filing system and using it to collect and store useful information.

At this writing (2009) you probably need to have duplicate systems, one hard copy and one electronic. As your company moves towards a paperless system, you’ll eventually do away with the hard copy system.

The system should consist of hard copy and electronic files for each of your A & B customers and prospects, in which you maintain account profiles, logs of everything you talked about, copies of old quotes, etc.

The system should also provide you, either/or electronically or hard copy, access to all the important sales and marketing literature for all the products and services you sell.

You should have at your fingertips a complete listing of each of your internal people, with phone numbers, extensions, and a description of what each does as it relates to your job.

You should have files for “learning” or personal development. These files (electronic and/or hardcopy) contain the things that you need to read about your industry including industry trends and reports, as well as the new products or services with which you need to become conversant.

All of this should be well organized, maintained, and readily available. Refer to the appropriate files before every sales call.

You can see what an advantage this provides to the serious professional salesperson. That’s why this is a best practice of the best. If you want to be one of the best, do what the best do.

For more resources on this best practice:

a. Chapters three, four and five of How to Excel at Distributor Sales

b. Chapter three of Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch

c. Chapter eight of 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople

d. The one hour “Best of Dave Kahle” telephone seminar: Get Organized! Managing Information Before it Manages You

Motivating Yourself to Succeed Every Day

Posted by Dave Kahle on October 7, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

“I really struggle with the highs and lows of field sales. Most days I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Any suggestions?”

This is one of those rarely voiced issues that every sales person confronts sooner or later. The job of the sales person produces an emotional roller coaster, and unless you figure out how to manage those emotions and keep yourself motivated, you’ll have a difficult time succeeding.

We really do need to motivate ourselves.

Which brings me to the first principle of personal motivation. At the heart of motivation lies a powerful belief which you must embrace. Without a wholehearted commitment to this foundational belief, all the techniques and tactics for self-motivation are like spreading wall paper over crumbling plaster. It may hold temporarily, but it is soon going to deteriorate into a mess.

Here’s the foundational principle: You must believe that you can do better, and that it is your responsibility to do so.

Sounds so simple and common sense. However, the more I observe people, and sales people specifically, the more convinced I am that the majority of people do not share this core belief. Rather, they are in the habit of making excuses for their situation. Or, they believe that it’s really fate that determines their success, not their actions. Or, they believe that success is for someone else, not them. They never really grab onto the first part of this foundational principle.

Others believe that they can achieve greater degrees of success. They accept the first part of this principle — “you can do better” — but they never accept the second – “it is your responsibility to do so.” They become content with their situation, no matter what it is, and remain in comfort zones. Or they look at their manager as the person who has the responsibility to motivate them.

So, the first principle really is foundational. Test yourself. Do you really believe that you can do better? Do you really believe that it is your responsibility to motivate yourself to higher levels of performance?

Once we’ve established that, the question now becomes how do we do so? Here are some time-tested ways to motivate yourself.

Businessman Dream by jessaphorn at freedigitalphotos.net

1. Have some purpose, larger than yourself, for which you are working.

As long as your world is limited to yourself, you will find it easy to rationalize your mediocre results. One of the most motivating things in the world is the need to provide for a family. That will get you out there on the dreariest days, under the worst of conditions. Love is perhaps the greatest motivation in the world. When combined with the responsibility for the economic well-being of those you love, it can be an incredibly powerful motivator. I’ve often wondered what I would have become had I not had a large family and a sizeable monthly obligation. It sure caused me to step up to the plate when I’d really rather not.

I’m not suggesting that you immediately begin to procreate if you haven’t yet. But, in the long term, understand that the responsibility for a family will, over the years, create a sense of purpose in your life that will spill over and impact your career, and probably bring out the best in you.

2. Consistently expose yourself to positive thoughts.

This is one of those techniques that I have learned through experience. One of my greatest challenges as a sales person occurred when I had decided to leave my current position, and accepted a position selling surgical staplers.

This was a major risk on my part. I was the number one sales person in the nation for my current employer, had a good salary, a company car, and great prospects. However, I was bored and looking for another challenge. So I accepted a position that was the opposite in many ways. It paid only straight commission, I had to buy my own demonstration samples from the company and purchase my own sales literature.

However, before I accepted the offer, I calculated the amount of current business in the territory. I felt that, if I could double the business within the first year, I’d be OK. After that, any increases would be real increases in my standard of living.

So I took the plunge and went off to New York for six weeks of intense training. While I was gone, the district sales managers changed. When I returned home from training, I was quickly met by my new district sales manager, who announced that he had changed the territories. The territory for which I was hired wasn’t exactly the territory I was going to receive. In fact, the territory I ended up with had only about 30 percent of the existing business on which I was counting.

I was outraged! That change seriously threatened my ability to make a living on straight commission. I didn’t think I could do it. How could they do this to me? What kind of a company was this who would treat their employees that way? I immediately decided that I didn’t want to work for them and began looking for a different job. However, it only took a few weeks for me to realize that I was seen as unemployable. Most companies with whom I interviewed saw my quick desire to leave as a weakness in me, not my company.

One thing led to another and, after six months, I was doing very poorly. I owed the company $10,000 (a lot of money in the mid-70′s), my draw was finished, and I had few prospects for finding another job. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

This article is available in an extended version on our web site. Click here to read it.

That was adversity, compounded by my failure to effectively sell the product.

Then I realized, in a moment of blinding clarity, that my situation was pretty much my own doing. Yes, the company had dealt with me unfairly. However, it was still a great product, fun to sell, and had the potential to make me a lot of money. The reason I wasn’t doing well was my attitude. It was my bitterness and my negative thinking that caused my poor performance. When I realized that, it was like a great weight off my shoulders. If my situation was my own doing, then I had the power to do something about it! I wasn’t a victim anymore. Then change was in my head. And since it was me, the power to do something was also in me!

So I determined to take control of my thoughts. I searched out, and wrote down on a set of 3 X 5 cards, all the positive saying and quotes I could find. I remember one in particular, from the Bible, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I had about a 45 minute drive from my home into my territory every morning. So, I’d hold those cards between my hands on the steering wheel, and flip them over and over, reading them to myself on the way in. While I wouldn’t recommend that driving technique, it did wonders for my attitude. I began to become more positive, to look for opportunities, to feel more confident.

Six months later, I had paid off the debt I owed the company and was making more money than I had at any other time in my life.

Access 20 years of Dave’s wisdom and insights. Become a member of The Sales Resource Center. Learn more here.

You certainly can copy positive thoughts onto cards like I did, or program them into your smart phone, or whatever electronic device is most comfortable.

An easier way to implement this same strategy is to purchase motivating CDs or podcasts, and regularly listen to them. That’s a great use of drive time, and you don’t even have to be consciously listening to them for them to impact your emotions and thus your motivation. Try it. Just buy one and listen to it three or four times. Then notice your own emotional state. You’ll find yourself more positive and optimistic.

You can do more, achieve more, earn more and become more. It is your responsibility to become the best that you can be. Implementing either one of these proven practices will help you consistently operate at the highest levels.

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

Image: jessaphorn/freedigitalphotos.net

Sales Best Practice #36 – Accurately measures the potential in each account

Posted by Dave Kahle on September 15, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Sales Best Practices #36 – Accurately measures the potential in each account

By Dave Kahle

Every day, salespeople are confronted with the necessity to make these three time management decisions well: Where to go? Who to see? What to do?

The master salesperson understands that consistently making those decisions well will, more than any other one thing, determine his/her success.

In order to make those decisions well, you need to collect good information. And one essential piece of good information is the potential for purchases in each of your accounts. I call this QPC (Quantified Purchasing Capacity).

QPC is the answer to this question: If this account bought everything they could from me over the next 12 months, how much would that be? The answer to that question is a dollar amount, and that figure is a necessary part of the information that a salesperson needs in order to make good decisions about the investment of his/her sales times.

Don’t confuse QPC with historic sales. QPC has nothing to do with how much they bought from you last year. It has everything to do with how much they could purchase from you in the coming year. It should be accurate, specific and quantifiable. In other words, you ought to have a defendable answer to that question for every account.

You don’t estimate QPC; you collect it. The number that answers that question exists in every account today. The master salespeople understand that, and seek to collect it from every account, every year.

They use a combination of several techniques to assure themselves that they are accurately collecting QPC. First, they simply ask their customers. Many, maybe 50 percent of them, will have that number and will be willing to share it.

Businessman hand drawing graph by twobee at freedigitalphotos.net

The remainder may not be sophisticated enough to have it, or will have it and don’t think you should have it. In those cases, the master salesperson creates or finds some formulas that accurately calculate the QPC based on other measurable variables within the account. For example, people selling to plumbing contractors can create the QPC for each contractor by multiplying the number of trucks on the road by a certain factor. People selling to schools can calculate supply needs based on the number of students. And so it goes. There is almost always some variable that can be collected, measured, and calculated to turn into a defendable rendering of QPC.

In some industries, the QPC is available from sources that collect and sell that information. You may be able to buy it.

One way or another, the master salesperson collects QPC. Equipped with an accurate rendering of QPC for every account, the master salesperson is then equipped to make much better decisions about the investment of sales time. That, more than any other single decision, will impact your success. The masters know that, and seek to collect QPC for every account. That’s why they are the best.

For more resources on this best practice see:

a. Chapter Four of How to Excel at Distributor Sales

b. Chapter Three of Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch

c. Chapter Five of Eleven Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople

d. Tools number 20, 21 and 22 of Time Management Tool Kit

**************************************************************************************************

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.

All rights reserved

Image by twobee / freedigitalphotos.net

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make

Posted by Dave Kahle on September 9, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By

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 are my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

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 do 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 more clever 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 seduces 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.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

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.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

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 customer 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.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

Mistake Number Four: Poor questioning

This is a variation of the mistake above. I am absolutely astonished at the lack of thoughtfulness that I often see on the part of sales people. Most 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.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

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.

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.

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.

Challenge yourself, show some motivation, goals, and determination

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

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.

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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. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at 800-331-1287, or dave@davekahle.com.

Image by Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Q&A – How to manage customers calling at night?

Posted by Dave Kahle on September 2, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By

Q.  Dave, how can a sales person have a life at night and not be reactive to customers calling at night – seven or eight per night?

A. This is really a time management issue. I have a hard time imagining why you would need to receive seven or eight calls every night from customers. I think the issue lies in your view of what the job of the sales person really is, and what strategy best brings success to the sales person.

A lot of sales people view themselves as merely extensions of the company’s customer service operations. In other words, they believe that the reason their customers do business with them is because they (the sales person) bend over backwards to respond to every whim of the customer. These sales people then inadvertently train their customers to call them with every problem and need they have. Many times, many of these calls and problems could and should have been better directed to the company’s customer service representatives.

This is a common trap that sales people, particularly new sales people, fall into. In an effort to fill up their days, to be seen as important to the customer, the sales person becomes the ultimate lap dog, dutifully chasing after every whim and responding to every request of the customer. That creates a huge list of “things to do” for the sales person, which makes him/her very busy and feeling needed.

Man with laptop by ambro at freedigitalphotos.net

However, it is a miserable and unwise way to define and go about your job. The sales person should be seen as a professional consultant to the customer. Someone who cares about the customer’s business, who creates and presents creative solutions to the customer’s deeper needs.

Questions and issues about back orders, invoice problems, delivery dates, pricing on routine orders, etc. are all more appropriately handled by an inside sales person or customer service representative.

A sales person does himself no good in the long term by attempting to handle every customer question or issue. If you train the customer to call you for every possible issue, think about what message you are sending to the customer. You are, in effect, say, “Sir, my company has no reliable people other than me. We have no effective systems. That’s why I have to handle every call. Without me, the company would be worthless.”

As a buyer of goods and services, from my perspective, I wonder how substantial a vendor’s business is, and how good a vendor’s sales person is, if I can’t get my routine issues taken care of by a customer service representative. If the sales person has to call back to handle every question, I really wonder about the value of that sales person and the reliability of that company.

So, the real issue is how you define your job. Are you a lapdog, responding to every whim of the customer, or are you a professional, capable and wiling to respond to the customer’s expressed needs?

Once you resolve your definition of the job and how you want to position yourself, then the answer to the question above becomes clearer. If you want to be the customer’s lap dog, then rejoice that you are getting seven or eight calls per night. Gives you something to do, keeps you busy, and makes you feel important.

However, if you view yourself as a professional, then you need to train your customers to take the routine issues to your customer service or inside sales group, and use the time with you for more substantial discussions of their needs and your solutions.

Retrain your customers. Give them your company’s 800 number and directions for what kinds of issues to take to the inside staff. Stop answering your phone after 5 PM. You deserve to have a life, too. But you must train your customers to respect that.

Expose yourself to the best practices of the best sales people. Learn how to do this job well. Consider the Kahle Way® Selling System course. Learn more here.

Image courtesy of ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

First Impressions: 5 Things Not to Screw Up

Posted by Larry Caretsky on August 29, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Business woman shaking hands with a clientProfessional sales tips by Larry Caretsky.

All it takes is seconds for people to start forming a picture of who you are. Make sure they like what they see.

Read more: First Impressions: 5 Things Not to Screw Up | Inc.com

Image “Business woman shaking hands with a client” courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Best Practice #14 – Creating rapport with new contacts

Posted by Dave Kahle on August 26, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Best Practice #14: Is good at quickly creating rapport with new contacts.

By Dave Kahle

I like to break the sales process down into its simplest components:

  1. Engage with the right people.
  2. Make them comfortable with you.
  3. Find out what they want.
  4. Show them how what you have gives them what they want.
  5. Get an agreement on the next step.
  6. Follow up and leverage satisfaction.

One of the essential early steps is to “make them comfortable with you” in other words, to create some rapport with the other person.

Trust is essential in creating rapport with your customers

According to the dictionary, rapport is “an emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual liking, trust and a sense that they understand and share each other’s concerns.

We can understand why this is so important. If your contact doesn’t feel comfortable with you, then he/she won’t be nearly as open to sharing information. And, if we can’t get information, we can’t “find out what they want.” We all have stories to tell about an incident in which we were the buyer and a sales person was rude or self-interested to the point where we decided to terminate the relationship and go somewhere else.

The same thing is true of our customers. If they don’t feel comfortable with us, if they don’t feel that we are interested in them, they form negative impressions of us and consider some other source.

I’m surprised by the quantity of sales people who get this exactly wrong. They’ll talk about a customer and say something like, “he’s a really nice guy,” as if that mattered.

Their first reaction of the immature sales person is to judge the customer by his/her own feelings about the customer. That’s exactly backwards. It doesn’t matter how we feel about the customer. What does matter is how the customer feels about us.

And, it is the responsibility of the professional sales person to interact with the customer in such a way as to make this particular human being comfortable with us.

Not surprisingly, the best sales people are masters of creating rapport with all kinds of people, understanding that it is the essential first step in a successful interaction with a customer. The average sales person never takes the time to study this issue, instead relying on his or her hit-or-miss people skills developed outside of the job. The average sales person views the customer through his/her reaction to the customer, whereas the best sales people understand that it is their job to create rapport with the customer.

Like so many specific aspects of the sales person’s job, there is no magic, no secret to this task. Creating rapport is a widely researched issue, and best practices for doing this well are widely described.

To understand some highly effective ways of accomplishing this:

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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.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net