According to industry reports…
More than 41% of all small to mid-sized U.S. businesses reported that their sales and marketing efforts fell short of achieving their Q1 revenue goals.
“This is nothing new.” says Larry Caretsky, president of CRM solution provider Commence Corporation. “I think the biggest challenge facing small to mid-size companies today is dealing with the evolution of how products and services are sold today. The Internet has created an on-demand mentality for all kinds of products and services – products that were once sold by professional sales people, either face to face or via the telephone. While the bigger guys have adapted to this new sales paradigm, many small to mid-size companies are trapped in old school thinking. They tend to stay with what they have done for years even though it is no longer working.”
Let’s look at an example.
THE GOAL The ‘NewCo’ company sells sales management software and consulting services to mid-market companies via a direct sales team. They have an average sales goal of $20,000 to $30,000 per customer – not huge but enough to cover the cost of sales salaries, commissions, and overhead and still make a profit.
THE CHALLENGE Over the past 5-7 years, the industry has changed substantially and has become even more competitive. Web based programs can be deployed via a cloud-computing environment, and require no hardware or software. The competition’s software is available over the internet at a fraction of the cost of NewCo’s original sales software.
THE STRATEGY NewCo responds with a new web based offering of their own at a competitive price, and retains their highly skilled sales team as their only sales channel.
THE RESULTS While they are winning sales, they are losing money on every one. Why? Because their cost per sale is simply too high. Competitors are selling their products over the internet using lower cost telesales representatives. If NewCo doesn’t find a way to reduce costs and improve their efficiency they will likely be out of business.
There are three selling models to consider (excluding retails sales).
- Direct Sales – a well-trained in-house sales team employed by you
- Channel Sales – third party companies that sell your product or service based on a percentage of revenue or business they close
- Internet Sales – low cost telesales staff that simply process orders or assist customers with the order process
Of course, you can have a combination of the above. Your decision with regard to which one(s) are most appropriate for your business will be based on the overall cost of your product, the cost associated with selling the product (i.e. , salaries and commissions) and your margin or profitability on each sale.
In NewCo’s case, it is clear that relying solely on direct sales will no longer work for their business, but perhaps adding a telesales team with some regional channel partners will.
The world has changed, industries change and you have to be willing to change with it. It’s that simple.
Meeting your quarterly or annual marketing and sales objectives is not as simple as just adapting to the right sales paradigm. This is critical, but the next step in the road to success has to do with implementing the proper sales structure and process. I will discuss this in part two of this whitepaper – “Using CRM to Leverage Sales”.
About the author:
Larry Caretsky is president of Commence Corporation a leading provider of online CRM software. Caretsky has more than 30 years of experience in the client management software industry and has written numerous whitepapers on the subject along with an eBook “Practices That Pay”. He leads a consulting team that assists small to mid-size businesses implement best practices for sales execution and sales performance.
Image “Money With Magnifying Glass” courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As a sales manager when I get together with some of my colleagues the conversation is often centered on what deals each of our teams has closed. My colleagues seem focused on the size of the deal or the number of deals coming in. One day I decided to ask a question that seemed to confuse them all: where do your sales opportunities actually come from?
I received various answers from leads, customers, phone calls and even the internet. The real question that I should’ve asked is “what steps did you or your team take to win those sales and how are you tracking that.” When I did pose that question; I received mostly silence and one of my colleagues even challenged me on why it is even important.
Quite simply; it’s critically important to track the steps or processes you used to generate new sales so you can emulate what is working and stop doing the things that aren’t. If you aren’t tracking what you did to generate a sale; how do you know what made the customer buy or how that customer learned about your product or service. Personally, I don’t like to leave the sales of my company up to chance.
My colleagues of course demanded to know how I do this and again my answer was simple. I use an automated online CRM system to track where my sales opportunities come from.
The system called Commence CRM has a customizable sales source button that allows me to put in my sources and track them accordingly. Some examples of my sales sources are cold calls, referrals, website inquiries, e-mail campaigns and inbound calls. It also allows me to track new business opportunities by industry so that I can determine if we are doing better in one industry sector verses another.
When I started using Commence CRM to track how sales were being generated I discovered that I had a sales person who was a very strong prospector; he was getting appointments, doing presentations and closing sales. His formula seemed to work very well, and the key was knowing where the lead was being generated from and what industry the prospect was in. He used the strength of the company’s customer base and testimonials to support that he had a solid solution designed specifically for their industry the prospect was in. His success drove me to want to emulate this process for the entire sales staff.
Needless to say my colleagues became convinced that tracking what sources you are using to generate sales can play a vital role in increasing your chances of winning business. They also had an increased interest in using a CRM tool to track this sort of data.
About the author:
Tom Gibson is a sales manager who is considered an expert on sales techniques, CRM and business development.
A best practice for sales people by Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.
The best salespeople are habitual goal-setters. There’s a good reason for that. When you set a goal, you survey the world of all possible things that you could possibly do, and decide which of those things are the most important. You then turn that decision into a goal. And that goal then influences your day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month decisions.
I’ve often maintained that a field salesperson has a set of decisions to make, over and over in the course of every single day. Those decisions are these:
Who to see?
What to do?
Where to go?
The ability to consistently make these decisions effectively will, more than any other single thing, impact that person’s productivity and eventual success as a salesperson.
When you create a handful of specific, measurable sales goals, you develop a set of criteria which help you make those all important decisions more effectively.
For example, let’s say that one of your sales goals is: To penetrate my “A” accounts more fully by selling each at least two more categories of product.
It’s Tuesday morning, and you have a number of conflicting demands on your time. You have a “C” customer who has a problem and has asked for you to visit to help them solve the problem. You have a quote to prepare for a bid request by a “B” prospect. You have a list of materials that you need to pick up at the office. You’d really like to have a conversation with your boss about the competition’s action in one of your accounts. And you have the opportunity to discuss one of your categories of product with an “A” account. You can’t possibly do all this today. What do you do? Who do you see? Where do you go?
Refer back to your sales goal. There, you identified the most important things that you can do, and committed to them in a written goal statement. The answer, then, is a no-brainer. You go to the A account and have the new category discussion.
Too many salespeople see sales goals as arbitrary and sometimes unrealistic expectations. That ignores the incredible power of a sales goal to influence and direct our daily decisions about the investment of our time.
To dig deeper into this issue, see Ten Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople, and visit www.salestimemanagement.com for a variety of resources.
If you’d like a multimedia training session, visit The Sales Resource Center® and view Pod-69.
Image by Found Animals Foundation on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
This is a Sales Time Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.
Article by Dave Kahle
Effective sales time management is the greatest challenge facing sales professionals.
I just had a conversation with a sales manager at my last seminar. The gist of it is this: he has so many competing responsibilities; it is difficult to spend time with his sales team. Sound familiar? It should. I have heard that idea expressed countless times by executives, sales managers and sales people. In one way or another, sales professionals find themselves increasingly occupied by trivial tasks at the expense of the important ones. Effective sales time management is the greatest challenge facing sales professionals in this turbulent economy. It is an epidemic that is raging unabated in our economy. It renders people unproductive, and organizations operating at a fraction of their potential. It often comes from what I call “other stuff.” Over the years, I have seen this phenomenon to be so pervasive that years ago I labeled it and gave it its own acronym: OSE. That stands for “Other Stuff Expansion.”
The rule is this: When you give a proactive sales person “other stuff” to do, the other stuff will always expand, taking more in time and energy than you anticipated, and rendering the proactive sales efforts to an unacceptable smaller part of the person’s labors.
Here’s how this looks in practice. A branch manager needs someone to fill in a couple of hours a day for a customer service person who has taken a maternity leave. “The salesman can do it,” the branch manager thinks in a flash of inspiration. “He’s got time.”
Presto. The problem is solved.
But, alas, the couple of hours a day turn into a half day, and sometimes more, as the sales person gets caught up in reacting to the inbound calls. Those proactive sales calls that should have been made in that time are never made. The silent costs of that decision and the inevitable “Other Stuff Expansion” begin to be felt months down the road.
Or, you have a sales manager check out that promising new product line, or write that new procedure because he/she “understands that,” and, of course, you’re too busy.
Or, you have inside sales people who also answer the phone and respond to inbound calls, and you are constantly frustrated that they don’t make enough outbound calls.
The example can go on and on. A quick perusal of your sales efforts will unearth dozens, I’m sure.
There’s a simple explanation for this. Making proactive sales calls is a high risk effort that requires initiative, motivation and self-discipline. In other words, it’s hard to do. That’s one of the reasons why most people aren’t sales people. On the other hand, taking care of “other stuff” is usually low-risk, easier and somewhat fulfilling. And, it keeps you busy.
That’s why, “When you give a proactive sales person “other stuff” to do, the other stuff will always expand, taking more in time and energy than you anticipated, and rendering the proactive sales efforts to an unacceptable smaller part of the person’s labors. “ It’s the law of OSE.
In a bigger picture, OSE for sales personnel is just the specific application of a deeper rule. That rule is this: When you give someone something to do, you are, by that act, preventing him/her from doing something else. Or, to be more personal, when we accept the responsibility for doing something, we, by that action, eliminate the possibility of our doing something else.
What sounds blatantly obvious is open reflection, so often violated that it has become one of the major productivity killers, and one of the most common mistakes made today by managers and self-managers of all kinds.
Here are two solutions
a. If you have given, or are tempted to give, anyone who has proactive sales responsibilities, other things to do – don’t! There is always a greater cost than meets the eye. If you are a salesperson who has other stuff to do, try to hand it back to your manager or pass it on to someone else.
Be very careful about giving responsibilities, or accepting responsibilities, that detract from your core focus. In today’s hectic, multi-tasking world, it is more powerful to say “no” than it is to say “yes.”
b. OK, you can’t do that. For whatever reason, your sales personnel must also do other stuff. Plan B. Keep the division between the two sets of competing responsibilities as clean and sharp as you can. So, the other stuff should be well defined, have clear guidelines for completion, and be limited to a specific period of time.
So, for example, don’t say this: “John, we want you to do this other stuff.” Instead say, “John, I’d like you to spend ½ day every other week doing this other stuff.”
By keeping the divisions clear between the competing responsibilities, you limit the damage done by other stuff expansion.
In the long run, it’s those organizations and individuals who focus on the core tasks and don’t diffuse their efforts who succeed.
About the author:
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B sales people and sales managers to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He’s authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and eight countries. His latest book, Eleven Secrets of Time Management has just been released.
Sign up for FREE sales course at The Sales Resource Center.com, as well as the free weekly Ezine.
Copyright MMXIII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.
Image “Focus” by ihtatho on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
If you’re a sales executive you have got to be tired of explaining why the monthly or quarterly forecast keeps coming up short? I understand because I have managed large teams of sales representatives ranging in experience from 1 year to more than 20 years. I shared your experience then I decided to fix it. What I learned is that there is one main reason why the forecast consistently disappoints and a fairly easy way to address this challenge.
The problem starts with lead qualification. Your sales team is most likely made up of a few senior representatives, several others with 3- 5 years of experience and some that are just starting out in sales. Each representative sees a new opportunity differently. Some think it’s highly qualified while others do not, and that’s the problem. What I discovered is that the sales representatives who were doing well and delivering new business were doing a good job at vetting each new lead while others were chasing tire kickers. Knowing this my team and I then embarked on a simple task and that was to create set of criteria for rating and scoring each new opportunity.
We then incorporated the criteria into the Commence CRM system which automated the process and ensured that every sales representative regardless of experience level was qualifying new business opportunities according to a specific set of criteria. The results speak for themselves. The team became laser focused on the most promising new opportunities instead of wasting valuable time on those that were not. Our close ratios went up, our forecast was much more accurate and we realized higher monthly and quarterly revenues. The Commence CRM software became a simple affordable solution to a difficult business problem.
Image “quality decisionmaking (271/365)” by Allix Rogers on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
This is a Customer Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle
Q. How would you suggest I respond when a customer gets abusive and uses profanity with me?
A. That’s a difficult call. I have had only a couple of these experiences in my career. Let me do a little thinking out loud (or as it may be, on the computer.)
First, let’s clarify the situation. We are not talking about a customer whose conversation is routinely laced with four letter words. In that case, there is no animosity, anger or abuse directed at you; this is just how he/she speaks. These customers are crude and vulgar, but they are crude and vulgar with everyone, not just you, and there is no negative impact intended. We all know customers like this.
In that case, we keep our dignity, refuse to lower ourselves to that level, ignore the four letter words and carry on.
I don’t believe that is the situation to which this question refers. The writer is describing a situation where the customer is verbally attacking the sales person, and using profanity to sharpen his verbal assault.
This is a particularly tricky situation because it moves out of the realm of the purely “professional” and into the realm of the “personal.” In other words, it is not just about the customer/sales person interaction, it’s about you, personally. It’s not just a “sales person” who is being abused, it is you. That makes the basic direction of the response dependent on who you are.
Let’s examine that situation. First, I don’t think your use of profanity is ever appropriate, particularly in a sales or a management situation where you are dealing with people as a representative of your company. It reduces you to that person’s level, diminishing your stature and reputation. So, let’s rule out the option of reacting to someone directing profanity your way by spitting it back to him/her. Responding in kind is, then, off the table.
On the other hand, the option at the other end of the spectrum; to meekly accept the verbal abuse and allow yourself to become the whipping boy for the customer’s vulgarity – to just meekly accept it and not respond to it – is also, I believe, an unacceptable response. That also diminishes you and makes you seem less valuable and worthy. So, let’s take that option off the table as well.
We have now narrowed down the range of options considerably, having ruled out the two positions on either extreme.
The issue then becomes persona — one of identifying where your personal lines are drawn. There are some sales people who would not find this situation upsetting – who have the ability to let it roll off of them and move on to the next customer without giving it a second thought. There are others who would be devastated, upset and off their game for days.
It really is helpful for you to think it through before you find yourself in this situation.
Where is the line for you, personally?
How affronted would you be?
What would be the emotional impact on you?
Once you have given those questions some significant thought time, you’ll be better prepared to react on the spot. Here are some possible reactions:
1. Stay calm; respond to the content of the customer’s remarks, and not to the emotionally-laden language.
2. Let the customer know that you are personally affronted by his/her language, and try to continue the conversation in a more civilized manner.
3. Let the customer know that you are personally affronted by his/her language, and leave.
As an experienced sales person, sales manager, sales executive and business owner, I can tell you that I would not have any problem with you choosing any one of the three options, were you a sales person working for me.
Which of those you choose depends on the answers you came up with to the questions we asked above, as well as the variables inherent in the specific situation. I can tell you in the two of these kinds of situations in which I recall being involved, I chose option two on both occasions. I also have vague recollections of hanging up on someone who got abusive in a phone call.
The bottom line is this: You have a right to protect your personal dignity. Where the line is and what you choose to do depends a great deal on you – your experience, your emotional make up – and the specifics of the situation. Take some time to think it through beforehand, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with the situation when, and if, it arises.
If you’d like some specific direction on option number two, above, you may want to check out my “Best of Dave” seminar, #15 How to Skillfully Handle Difficult Customers
Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.
Image “News International in front of the Select Committee / Speak No Evil See No Evil Hear No Evil” by Surian Soosay on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
A best practice for sales people by guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.
By Dave Kahle
“Mañana.” It will wait until tomorrow.
There are times when it is so tempting to tell yourself that, and to actually believe it. Clearly, sometimes it is true. However, when we continually put off for tomorrow those things that could and should be done today, we become less effective today. And while it is true that it is only one day, the truth is that we will never have that day back again.
If we accept mediocrity in our performance for one day, we will never be able to gain that time back, and live that day over. And a day wasted can easily become another day, and another, and eventually turn into a habit. Habits turn into character traits, and character eventually determines our performance.
Procrastination, the character trait of putting far too many things off to be done later, is one of the insidious cripplers of sales performance, lurking under the surface of sales performance, and sucking the energy out of a sales person’s performance.
The best sales people guard against procrastination. They work hard, with discipline, to ensure that every day is spent as effectively as possible. They recognize the temptation, and build tools, practices and disciplines into their routines to prevent themselves from falling prey to it.
Top 3 Tips to Overcome Procrastination
There are proven tools and techniques to help with this.
One is scheduling appointments as fully as possible throughout the course of the day. If you have an appointment for this afternoon, it’s difficult to put that off until tomorrow. The best sales people are in the habit of making appointments for at least the first call of the day, as early as they can, and the last call of the day, toward the end of the day. That way, the temptation to put something off until tomorrow conflicts with the need to stay mentally in the job until you are finally finished.
“To-do lists,” re-organized at the end of every day, with firm priorities and deadlines, is another effective tool utilized by the “do-it-now” group. By creating a prioritized list of the things that you must do, and assigning deadlines to each of them, you force yourself to confront the necessity to get things done. By developing this daily habit, you regularly force yourself to confront the urgency and importance of the tasks in front of you.
And, of course, the regular discipline of developing realistic goals and attaching clearly envisioned rewards to them is one of the most common devices used by the pros to keep themselves in the moment and on top of their games.
The best sales people understand that they need to manage their weaknesses. They understand that their ability to manage themselves is one of the keys to sustained sales excellence. That’s why they excel at overcoming procrastination.
If you’d like to learn more about this best practice,
If you are a subscriber to The Sales Resource Center ®, view Pod-24: Motivating Yourself to Excel Every Day; and Cluster CL-86: Managing and Motivating Yourself.
For Sales Managers…
Use this rating scale to assess the extent to which each of your sales people evidence this best practice.
-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5
To help a sales person build this practice into a habit,
a. Share your assessment with them.
b. Talk about how that impacts their performance.
c. Refer them to one or more of the resources listed above.
d. Ask them to commit to a couple of specific changes.
e. Monitor their progress at a future, pre-determined date.
Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved
Image “Mañana mañana” by toettoet on Flickr under Creative Commons license
Small to mid-size businesses want to take advantage of the same technology the big guys are using for lead generation, efficiently managing the sales cycle and improving their customers’ buying experience. The good news today is that they can. Online CRM programs are affordable, easy to implement and easy to use. So why do so many companies fail to realize a return on their investment with CRM software? The answer is simple. CRM software is nothing more than a set of tools like those you see on a carpenter’s belt. The difference is that he or she is an expert, trained in one or several specialties who already know how to use the tool set and get real value from it.
Small to mid-size companies often have trouble recruiting experienced marketing and sales management, and often promote from within the ranks. This is fine, but it also means that newly promoted sales managers may not have the experience to create and manage the internal processes that drive improved business performance. They may not understand how to maximize the value they can realize from CRM software. If you are looking to implement a CRM solution, whether online or on-premise, you need to consider the following:
- SALES EXPERTISE – Does the company I am interested in offer any sales or marketing expertise or do they simply sell their CRM software.
- LIVE SUPPORT – Is there a support organization available for assistance with a real telephone number to call or is there nothing more than an e-mail address
- BEST PRACTICES – Does the company offer any documented “best practices” for the implementation and use of their software or are you flying solo?
These questions can be quickly addressed and will make a substantial difference in the value you will realize from the CRM software. Every company regardless of size can use a bit of expertise from their software vendor. It’s important to realize that CRM software does not run your business, people do, but don’t fly solo when it comes to CRM.
Image “Two Thumbs Up!” by Carlos on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
This is a Customer Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
There is not a salesperson in existence who hasn’t repeatedly heard of the need to “close the sale.” Every new sales manager must view the process of encouraging his/her sales force to “close the sale” as an initiation into the profession. If you’re going to be a sales manager, you, therefore, must improve everyone’s ability to “close.” Doesn’t it come with the job?
The sales training literature is awash with advice. Some of it tedious and trivial: “If he says this, you say that.” Other advice is grandiose: “35 new sure-fire closing techniques.” Still other is harmful. “Overcome that objection,” as if selling in the B2B world was a contest between you and the customer, with one of you winning (overcoming) and the other losing (being overcome). That’s an attitude that won’t get you far.
All of this advice shares one common element. It’s incredibly overdone. There is no one aspect of sales (at least in the B2B world) that undeservedly receives more disproportionate time and talk than the subject of “closing the sale.”
Not that there is no need to “close.” Every project must come to a conclusion, every offer be resolved one way or the other. It’s just that, in my experience, closing has never been the result of verbal gymnastics on my part.
It’s not my clever refrains, my slick tactics, my memorized “objection over-comers” nor my manipulative perseverance that has brought me business. Instead, it was the suitability of my offer to the needs/desires/values of the customer.
On those occasions where my offer precisely met the customer’s combination of desires, values and preferences, I got the business. Where my offer was off, and some competitor’s offer was a closer match, I didn’t get the business.
I don’t mean to imply that every sales opportunity is that black and white. Clearly there is a lot of grey area in the process. But, from my perspective, the grey area tipping point was most often the personal factors of rapport, relationship and trust, and almost never the tactical manipulations of the salespeople involved.
I learned early on in my sales career that it was far more important and profitable to “open” the sale precisely than it was to close strongly. If I spend a lot of time, energy and mental acuity on learning the precise dimensions of the customer’s needs, and if I crafted an offer that matched those precisely, there was very little need for concern about closing.
I realize that I am tramping all over the hallowed ground of a vast number of sales managers, sales trainers and sales consultants. I am, however, reflecting thoughtfully on my 30-plus years of selling all kinds of things, and my 18-plus years of training and developing sales people. I believe that most thoughtful salespeople will line up on my side of the issue.
Customer Follow up Steps
All that said, there some principles and simple rules that can give us direction on this issue. Let’s start with our language. Instead of “closing the sale” let’s first call it “resolving the next step.” Not only should the project in general have a resolution, but also every sales interaction (a conversation with a prospect or customer), should have as its goal the identification of a next step in the sales process and the natural and logical commitment to that step.
So, for example, when you are seeing a prospect for the first time, the ideal next step is to get a commitment from the prospect for a second meeting. Without that, you have no hope of getting the ultimate purchase order. To walk away from the sales call without resolving “what happens next” is to leave the sales call incomplete and relatively worthless.
The ideal next step for a meeting when you are collecting information about the customer’s needs is the customer’s commitment to view your presentation of your solution.
The ideal next step following a sales call in which you present your solution is for the customer to identify the next step in his/her buying process, and commit to that.
On and on we go. Every sales call should end in some resolution of the next step in the process, even if the resolution is “no next step with you.”
Notice that in each of these occasions, the definition of the “next step” is a commitment on the part of the prospect or customer to do something that moves the project forward. Acquiring that commitment, in each and every sales interaction, is one of the habits of the most successful salespeople. It’s what I term “resolving the next step.”
If the goal is to successfully arrive at the ultimate resolution, the perceptive salesperson understands that the means to that is a step-by-step process. Every sales call is an investment of time and energy on the part of the customer. And every investment of time and energy should result in some kind of an action step. Unless you are so entertaining that the customer looks at his/her time invested with you as a substitute for the movies this weekend, he/she probably doesn’t want to squander his time with you. He probably wants to accomplish something as a result of his investment of time with you. The something will take the shape of a “next step” in his process.
So, the thoughtful and effective salesperson recognizes that, and merely asks the customer to identify the next step. When he does, it’s nailed down with a deadline. The project moves forward, the sales process continues, and you know exactly where you and the customer stand.
Powerful Sales Strategy
All of that brings us to one the most powerful “resolution” strategies. I call it “Alternate next steps.” The definition is this: An alternate next step is an offer made to the customer following the stated or implied rejection of a previous offer. It always involves a smaller risk on the part of the customer, like plan B. If the customer agrees to the alternate offer, it always keeps you in the game and the project moving forward.
Here’s an example. You are offering a one year contract on a product which the customer uses every month. The customer indicates that he’s not ready to sign that. Instead of confronting the issue, you resolve it. You offer plan B, an alternate next step.
You suggest, instead, that the customer buy two months worth of the product to see how it works out, and then you and he will get together to assess the benefits of continuing. Instead of a 12 month contract, your offer is a two month trial.
Does that offer represent less risk to the customer? Of course. If the customer agrees to that step, are you still in the game? Is the project still going forward? Yes to both.
You see, the reason the customer didn’t say yes to your original offer has to do with his concerns – perhaps issues that have nothing to do with you or your product. By offering an alternate next step, you reduce his risk, and provide a mutually acceptable way to resolve the next step. The reason he didn’t offer a positive solution to your original offer has more to do with you missing something in the customer, than it did with your lack of verbal dexterity.
- Forget “closing the sale.” Instead think, “resolving the next step.”
- Remember that effective “opening” is the best single tactic for closing.
- Create a habit of always asking for action as a way to resolve every sales interaction.
- Develop the habit of offering “alternate next steps.”
If you can execute these four things with ever growing excellence, you’ll enjoy your customers respect, you’ll maintain positive relationships and become far more important to them, and, you’ll far outsell the manipulative “closers” surrounding you.
Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.
Image “a step in the right direction” by downbeatpuppet on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
By Dave Kahle
Q. I have long enjoyed your articles. I am in my second year of being a full commission salesman and wanted to get your advice. When I make an onsite visit or pick up the 500 pound phone and call the customer, I feel like I am begging for work… asking the headmaster for another cup of gruel. I know this isn’t healthy and I genuinely believe my product is of great quality and valuable to the customer.
I get very anxious and apprehensive to, first, pickup the phone, then, to call the customer and try to wade through my nervousness and then try to act confident to get the sale. I work out of a home office separated from the main office which is about two hours away. I can call down and talk to the owner or my production manager for a pep talk or product updates. My challenge, I guess, is self confidence and conviction.
A. Ah…call reluctance. We’ve all been there. There is not a sales person alive who hasn’t, at some time or another, felt the same things you are feeling.
Congratulations on taking the first step. You’ve recognized the problem and correctly diagnosed that the issue lies within yourself. I’m not so sure that conviction is an issue. You’ve indicated that you are convinced that your product is of great quality and valuable to the customer. So, I expect that conviction is not the problem.
The issue is your thoughts and feelings. If you can somehow gain control of those, you’ll control your reluctance, you’ll make more calls and you’ll make them more effectively. Your results will improve; you’ll make more money, enjoy life more, and maybe even retire early to a home in the Caribbean!
It does come down to working with yourself, managing your thoughts and emotions. Sooner or later, almost every sales problem comes down to this. You recognize, of course, that it is your responsibility to manage your thoughts and emotions. Accepting that responsibility is the next positive step to take.
So, you’ve diagnosed the problem, and it is you. You’ve accepted the responsibility to change you, and you’ve bought into the idea that you can, and should, do so.
Now, the question is how.
There are a variety of specific techniques you can try to gain control. Keep experimenting with these different ideas until you find a combination that provides you the control that you want.
The first set of techniques is based on this premise: The reason you are so reluctant is because you are allowing negative thoughts to occupy your mind. The negative thoughts paralyze your actions. So, the key is to eliminate the negative thoughts. You do this, not by focusing on the negative, but rather by substituting positive thoughts. Here are several proven techniques.
1. Commit to a life’s purpose.
Create a specific, detailed statement of your purpose in life. Clarify that. Then post that in front of your work station. See each day’s work, and each set of phone calls, as a means to a much more important end. Focus on achieving your purpose, and the small things will fall into line.
2. Focus on a specific and powerful goal.
This is similar to the technique discussed above, only with a smaller focus. It’s not your life’s purpose that provides you emotional power and strength; it’s some annual or short term goal. Create a written statement of exactly what you want to achieve or acquire. Maybe a new car. Set a deadline.
3. Visualize that goal.
Picture it and put it in front of you in your work station. Now, consider your day’s activities to be minor steps in the process of achieving that goal. It’s not about this phone call; it’s about doing what you need to do to achieve your goal. Focus on the goal, and allow it to overpower any negative thoughts that may enter your mind.
4. Put in positive thoughts.
Somewhere along the line you have picked up a number of negative thoughts that occupy your mind. One way to get rid of them is to push them out of your mind by substituting positive thoughts. Search out a number of positive thoughts and write them down. I have used quotes from famous teachers – like Shakespeare, and positive quotes from the Bible. Here’s an example, “If God can be for you, who can be against you?” Now, read that group of thoughts to yourself before you start every day, at every break, at the end of the day, and every time you feel yourself getting negative. In a few weeks, you’ll find yourself thinking positive, not negative thoughts.
5. Picture success and what it brings.
This is a variation of number two, above. Picture yourself having a great day. Lots of sales, wonderful calls, positive things happening. Now, enjoy the feeling. Relish it. Explore it. Really, thoroughly, experience how it feels to have a successful day. Now, every day, in the morning before you begin, and several times throughout the course of the day, bring up those feelings. Work toward creating them every day. Focus on how it feels to be successful, not the negative thoughts that have occupied you.
The second set of practices is based on a more behavioral approach. This approach skips over the “thoughts and feelings” part of you, and focuses on your action. Here are a few specific techniques to implement these kinds of techniques:
6. Give yourself specific activity numbers and specific rewards.
Set a daily goal. Let’s say something like 20 successful conversations with customers. Then attach a short term, specific reward to the attainment of that goal. When you attain it, for example, you could give yourself one hole of golf to be played that weekend. So, you’re working to reward yourself with a round of golf. You do it by focusing on your behavior.
7. Line up your calls, and discipline yourself to make another call immediately after you hang up from the first one.
So, for example, you set up a list of 20 calls. As soon as you hang up from one, you dial the next with absolutely no time between. The time between is time to think, and that has not been positive for you. So you manage your behavior to focus on the things you need to do, and not allow the thoughts to intervene.
8. Make a warm call first.
Call your production manager, boss, or customer service person first, before you make any cold calls. That gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, makes you feel like someone really does want to talk to you. Then, immediately jump into the cold call list. Focus on the behavior.
Finally, there are a couple of techniques that fall somewhere between these two approaches.
9. Use positive affirmations.
Write a group of statements about yourself that are positive and specific, and relate to the task at hand. Things like “I have a warm and confident presence on the phone.” “I look forward to every contact I make.” These statements reflect who you would like to become, and are not necessarily reflections of reality. Then, read those affirmations to yourself repeatedly, every day, several times a day. Eventually, you come to believe them. And, eventually, you live up to your beliefs about yourself.
10. Learned optimism.
This is a specific set of techniques that arise out of the research of Martin Seligman, PhD. I’d refer you to his landmark book, “Learned Optimism”, to read the very powerful techniques for self-management.
Every sales person has to come to grips with his greatest enemy and most powerful asset – his/her mind. That often means we need to create disciplines to help us manage ourselves – mentally and emotionally. As you acquire these disciplines, you mature as a sales person, and learn to manage yourself to exceptional performance.
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.
Image “Pep Talk” by joellevand on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
About the Author:
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leadng sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and for a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
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