I am taking the next few weeks off, a well earned vacation to stimulate the mind and satisfy interests other than sales. Talk to you all again at the start of June.
I am taking the next few weeks off, a well earned vacation to stimulate the mind and satisfy interests other than sales. Talk to you all again at the start of June.
No, I am not doing a bad imitation of Donald Trump; I am talking about something we all need to do with clients from time to time. It may sound a bit odd, but there are times that you have to fire a client. At times it is because they are not profitable; there are times when due to changes in the market, the fit is no longer there and it makes more sense for both to find alternatives. Or there are time where you face a scenario like the one I am facing right now, where the client’s market and their position in it has changed to the point where they are completely reactionary, and is unable to even begin to think or act in a proactive or strategic way. As a result, they are unable to execute their plan, and spend more time rationalizing things than making things happen.
In the process they are totally demoralizing and de-motivating their teams from the top down. One director describes the atmosphere as that of a “sinking ship”. Their desperation is causing them to heap process on top of process to where their sales teams are unable to meet sales requirements because they are too busy completing menial tasks to satisfy senior managements’ need to cover their own inability to impact positive change, so they fall back on forced activity, documented and analyzed (twice) becomes the goal. The latest initiative was to update the titles of reps to better reflect their role (imagined or real).
So here we are at an odd cross road, more than ever the organization could benefit from what we deliver; more than ever they are they are to preoccupied to take in and do what needs to be done; more than ever they are looking for things people and gods to blame for their inability to react to a changing market. After numerous attempts to work with their leadership to address critical issues, it has become clear that the old saying is true, “a fish stinks from the head”, and so the leadership is proving to be ineffective in turning the ship around. Sadly, the only thing left for us is to fire the client.
This is not purely giving up, but we hope it serves two things. First the shock of being “fired” by a vendor may cause them pause, and wake them up to the challenge they are facing. Two, a new vendor, with a different view and approach may strike a chord and allow them to turn things around and start their long struggle back to being successful. And yes, selfishly, will free up time and resources for us to find another client to work with, maybe not any more profitable, but at least maybe happier.
I participated in The Corporate Sales Challenge in
What was great for me about the experience, was not just seeing some great sales people in practice, and exchanging views with some very talented peers. More interestingly, was having to focus the key aspects of my topic cold calling, in to a crisp 10 minutes, that lets people get the core concepts, give them a practical means of doing it, and then applying it to a real product in a real way.
Wow, having to focus your thoughts, engage a group of people and impart practical knowledge that helps people make money. I was worried about how I was going to be able to condense everything down and still deliver value, but as always it is incredible what you can do if set a goal, and work to it. It’s easy when you have a gun to your head, not so easy if you have to set the limits yourself. What I noticed is that as the day went along I got better, more content in a more concise way, with greater impact.
So I am thinking, how do I apply this to the way I sell, what if I can take down a sales meeting to such a net net experience. Not just the way I eventually present Renbor, but come up with those key focused questions that would crystallize things for the prospects, and elicit the information that will make the sale make sense to the prospect and facilitate a shorter cycle with a happier customer. So it’s a project, I’ll keep you posted.
I am sure that I am not unique in this, but when I look back on my career, I can pin point a few key conversations and events that had tremendous impact on my success, both good and bad. One specific conversation happened very early in my corporate life, and it is one that has helped guide me and others I have passed it on to.
A few months after I started my first real corporate job, I met an “old timer”; I mean that in the most positive way, on Bay Street, (Canada’s answer to Wall Street). Jim, (we’ll leave his last name out for privacy) and I met at a one of those events they used to hold to introduce IPO’s (initial public offerings), where they would serve food and drink so everyone can be merry. The events usually attracted two type of people, there were those with genuine interest, looking for good investment opportunities for their clients and this type of opportunity gave the a first hand look at the people involved in the IPO. Then there were those who came for the free food and drink, usually young retail broker types who drank, ate drank and drank some more and knew no more about the stock or opportunity that they did before they drank. I was a young employee at a bank having just finished my securities course and wanted to experience things first hand. I did have a glass of wine, but was there to learn and experience not to party.
Jim and I started talking about the IPO, his years on the street, I saw it as a real opportunity to learn and network. As we were drowned out by some of the retail eaters, Jim looked at them, then at me and said: “Remember Tibor, you only have one real thing of value when you come to Bay Street, and you have to work at making sure you keep it and maintain it so you have it when you leave, I am talking about your reputation”. This from a man who I came to find out had a crystal clear reputation after some 20 years on the Street.
Among the many ways this has manifested itself for me has been try and stay above the fray by never slagging your competition or opponent, no matter how easy or tempting it may be. This includes those that are clearly inferior or offer less value than your product or service. Don’t get me wrong, I am aggressive in pointing out where we are superior or better, but not in a way that knocks the competitor. There are ways of doing it that help the client understand your value without demeaning the competitor or making false or inaccurate statements, innuendo or comparisons.
I always remember Jim when I need to make a comparison or when a client legitimately asks, “why you and not them?” Often it would be easy to slag the others, but it is so much more artful to demonstrate why you period. Not be tempted to degrade the others and risk tarnishing your reputation in the process.
I bring this up because we just won a deal, not a huge deal, but a deal, where the decision maker told us that one of the key reason he went with us was they way the “why you?”, question was handled by us and the other party in the hunt. We highlighted our strengths and track record along with some references. Apparently our competitor spent time knocking us, our approach, and reputation. It seems they said they had heard many bad things, and questioned our ability to deliver; they pointed out that they couldn’t get into specifics, but “this is what we hear”.
The prospect, now our client did not like this at all, as he has been stung by this sort of thing, and because the references had painted a different picture.
It is always easy to slag, take unsubstantiated shots, and sling half facts half wishes, but in sales, as in finance, as I suspect in life (perhaps not politics), it only takes one misstep to bring down your reputation, a life’s time of work, but it takes constant vigil and hard work to grow and maintain it, but it is a life time of reward and growth. Sell well,
Today I am introducing our first guest contributor, and I am pleased and honoured to have Jonathan Farrington be the first guest contributor. I have always found his view and understanding of business and sales to be of great value, I am confident you will too.
“If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him you are his sincere friend.” Abraham Lincoln
Nowhere is this truer than in selling, where you are trying to persuade another, often a stranger, to make a decision they may not even have considered prior to your meeting.
The buyer-seller situation – like any human contact – is an exercise in human relations: the interplay, cause and effect of behaviour by two or more people on each other. In the buyer-seller situation, the seller must be responsible for shaping mutual behaviour.
What’s the difference between human nature and human relations?
• Human nature is the instinctive behaviour that governs action concerned with the self and with self-interest.
• Human relations are concerned with how we think and act in terms of other’s interests.
Successful selling demands that human relations be dominant over human nature.
Selling is not something a salesperson does to a prospect. Selling is something you do with the prospect in a process of discovery and interaction – human relations at work.
The greatest barrier to success in this process is the “Egocentric Predicament”. This consists of being overly and unnecessarily concerned with self. Our ability to be perceptive and concerned about others is inversely proportionate to our self-concern.
When self gets unnecessarily in the way, the fruitful cycle of good human relations stops producing.
The key to understanding and accepting others, is to first understand and accept oneself – starting with the realisation that, rather than strive for an unattainable “I should be” image, we should settle for our real self as “I am” – accepting shortcomings along with strengths.
The following points provide a practical answer to the “I am” versus “I should be” conflict.
Recognise it – and recognise that its source is rooted in the views of others.
Either (a) accept your “I am” image or (b) decide on attainable, constructive steps to achieve “I should be” in the future.
Our behaviour is a reflection of our attitudes; and our attitudes grow out of our values.
Each is an integral part of the other. Do your life values make it easy for you to put the other person’s interests first?
Sincerity is a much-used word in relation to selling.
Integrity is a kindred word. Integrity implies a consistent kind of honesty: acting outwardly the way you truly feel inwardly. That’s why sound values are so important to your success with others. Remember: “People buy our product not so much because they understand the product… but because they feel that we understand them.”
There are many effective ways of doing this: The best way to create this kind of buying climate is to “transmit on their frequency.” This opens their mind to you…makes them willing – and eager – to listen.
A sincere, specific compliment on a point of real meaning to them gets the other person talking about things of interest to them. It opens doors.
“Before I sell my prospect what my prospect buys, I must first see my prospect as they see themselves.”
Empathy is the magical word in the lexicon of human relations. It means feeling as the other person feels, not just with them. It means putting yourself in their shoes and shaping your attitudes accordingly.
Beyond getting the order, the plus factor in selling is to make people look good in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Rather than sell to them, we help them buy.
We do this best by building their self-image. This helps them grow. And as we help others grow, we grow. To do this, we must be open and honest – this is the essence of good human relations.
These concepts are applicable to every facet of our lives and in selling, they pave the way to the truest and most fruitful success.
Copyright © 2008 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved
Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognised business coach, mentor, author and consultant, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels.
Formerly, Jonathan was the Managing Partner of The jfa Group which he established in 1994 and then early in 2007, Jonathan formed Top Sales Associates (TSA) to promote the very best sales related solutions and products. TSA is now a subsidiary of The Sales Corporation – www.thesalescorporation.com based in
Tomorrow is the end of the quarter, for many the first quarter of the year, for some of our clients it is the mid-point of the year. Either way a great time to stop for a quick review of where you are vis-à-vis you targets, not only in terms of revenue, but activity targets and other specifics you set out to accomplish at the start of the year. Similar to a start of year plan and review, this one should look at a number of key variables that will impact your success. First and most obvious is where you are in YTD revenues. Others include but certainly are not limited to the following. Review your ratios:
Based on where these are compared to the start of the year and current market conditions and outlook you may (or may not) need to make adjustments. Time allocation to specific activities based on the above or key activities that your business demands. Sometimes the easiest way to get back on track is to readjust you time allocation. People often talk about market conditions, certainly with some of the uncertainty in today’s market that is a consideration. Not much you can do to change the broad reality. But you can take note of your current deal size versus last year. You can look at the length of your sales cycle and again build that in to your approach.
The reality with a third of your year gone, and if you have a sales cycle that 60 – 90 days, if you do not review and adjust now, you are risking your whole year.
Here we are in the last week of a very tumultuous quarter, and exciting time in sales. I was talking to a client Thursday, and she was saying her team is having its best quarter in the last ten years. She was looking forward to the Easter weekend, hoping her team enjoys the buzz of their work, rest enough to come out swinging Monday, but not cool off too much by for that last week to push things to great new highs.
She felt good because the one thing the team had done consistently all year is spend time prospecting on a regular basis. They adopted the mantra we instilled in them: Focus on the end of your sales cycle every day, because today is the last day you can impact that sales cycle!” So for those sales teams who are going to be “closing” this week two questions:
One of the things I love about what I do is I get as much of a chance to learn as I do to deliver knowledge and related skills. I was working with a telesales group for a major Canadian B2B supplier; they are in a highly competitive industry that is facing price pressure and commoditization daily. We were conducting a live call out session to real prospects, when one of the participants in the workshop, we’ll call her Joan, was confronted by a prospect who threw the following at her:
Prospect: “You know I’d love to look at what you have, but my best friend works for LMNOP Inc.” (LMNOP Inc. is my client’s major competitors)
Joan: “Well, that’s great, but let me ask you this, if I can show great value, service and support, would you like your friend any less?
Silence at the other end, seemed like a life time, more like five seconds, but then came the thrill of victory:
Prospect: “you’re right, let’s talk…..”
I loved it, Joan was great, game, set and match!
Objections 0 Sales Rep 1
Productivity and cost efficiency are key drivers for corporations adopting new technologies. While it is hardly new and few can dispute its overall benefit, voice mail is one technology that has greatly reduced the productivity of Business-to-Business sales people and increased cost for their employers. This however can be fixed. Here’s how.
No question that trying to engage with a live prospect has become increasingly challenging as voice mail has become ubiquitous. Contrary to what most reps think it is not always a case of people “hiding behind voice mail”, most people are truly busy and use voice mail to cope. However, consistently successful reps always leave voice mail, and as a result get more appointments and generate more sales and revenues There are a couple of dynamics at play. A lot of reps say “I never get a call back”; “No one ever returns voice mails”. Not true, I get return calls from five out of ten messages I leave.
More importantly you also benefit from messages left even when they don’t call back. Studies show it can take anywhere from four to seven approaches before someone responds to or consider something new, i.e. your product/service. Many reps will call numerous times, not leave a message hoping they will eventually get the person live; most will give up after three attempts at reaching someone, and move on. There is a difference between being persistent in getting on a prospect’s radar, and pestering; most reps give up too soon. When you do not leave a message, then you may have tried three or even four times, but as far as the prospect is concerned you’re at zero; you didn’t leave a message, no “calling card” telling them you want to talk to them.
Some reps waste time dialing someone dozens of times, not leaving a message. When they finally connect they let the built-up frustration out on the prospect, as though it was his fault that they called and called and called, instead of leaving a message and having them call back, while making use of the wait time to reach out to more prospects. Another thing to consider is that a vast majority of reps, who do not leave messages, still listen to the entire outbound message on the voice mail, so why not take a few more seconds and leave a message. It’s a no brainer. On the one hand, even if they don’t call back (within 72 hours), you are on the prospects radar (yes initially at the fringe but better placed than the those who don’t leave messages).
On the other hand, you have a 50-50 shot of getting a call back, good odds, and certainly many more conversation leading to more appointments. The technique for getting a call back is very simple. The human mind hates a mystery, given the opportunity to erase a question mark most people will do it. Most messages ask you to leave “a detailed message”, because they want to be able to full evaluate and prioritize who and what they call back. Your goal is to be contrarian and minimalist. Create a need for them to call back if they want to close off or resolve the issue. Using third party references and brevity is the key. Consider using a message like the one below. Assume ABC is a company you currently do or have done business with that the contact will recognize, (competitor, supplier, customer, but one that you are or have dealt with).
“Hi Ms. Smith. This is Paul Drake from Safety Software. You can reach me at 416-555-1212, and I’m calling you with reference to ABC Company.” Keep the messages short!
If you leave a message like the one above, elicits curiosity and leverage the work you are doing with ABC Company to schedule an appointment with your target. As mentioned above, I get five return calls for every ten messages left. That is five more conversations than those who don’t leave messages, which means more appointments and more sales.