Before I started my sales training business in 2002, I used to work for a large consumer electronics retailer in Canada. One day I was working with the sales staff in one of our stores and was amused (and dismayed) as I watched one salesperson chase someone around the store in an attempt to get a sale.
The customer stopped at a particular product shortly after he entered the store and the sales person immediately pounced on him and started talking about that item. The customer ignored him and continued to wander around the store and each time he stopped to look at a product, the sales person would start yapping about it. He reminded me of puppy dog desperate for attention.
The salesman made several mistakes including pitching his product too soon but the biggest blunder he made was chasing a person who had little interest or desire to buy. Unfortunately, he ended up wasting his time when he could have focused his attention on someone who was serious about making a purchase.
Far too many sales people fall into this trap. They fail to qualify the quality of a particular lead and end up spending valuable time chasing a low-quality prospect.
Time is a precious commodity, not only for decision makers, but for sales people, too. You only have a limited number of hours in a given day and if you’re spending them talking to low-value prospects, you will have a difficult time reaching your sales targets and goals. Plus, chasing low-value leads creates an unrealistic expectation for sales achievement and often causes people to think they will reach their targets when, in reality, they won’t.
Although chasing low-value prospects creates a sense of achievement, it’s not simply the activity that generates sales; it is engaging in the RIGHT activity. And trying to convince someone who has little or no desire to buy your product or service is not a good use of your time.
Stop chasing your tail and focus your attention on pursuing high-quality leads and prospects.
Many sales reps have been instructed by someone in their company to open their sales meetings and presentations with an overview of their company. In some cases, this amounts to a five-slide presentation that takes 2-3 minutes to deliver.
Contrary to popular belief, telling your prospect about your company is NOT an effective way to open your conversation or presentation. In fact, it the worst way to start a sales call or presentation. Here’s why.
Your prospect doesn’t care about you.
The only thing prospect wants to know is how you can help them. Talking about your company simply does not accomplish this.
Look at it this way…
Have you ever met someone at a networking function who talked and talked and talked? Okay, maybe they only talked for a few minutes but if that conversation was focused on them, chances are you tuned them out real quick.
The same principle rings true for your prospects.
You have very little time to capture a decision maker’s attention. That means you should open your presentation with something that demonstrates your knowledge or understanding of your prospect’s situation, their business, or a potential problem they may be facing.
Objections are a natural part of the sales process. Yet, after 15 years of working with sales people I have found that many have a difficult time dealing with price objections. Here are a few strategies that will help you overcome price objections more effectively.
First, it is critical to know that price is not the primary reason make their buying decision. I have written several articles about this topic before but unfortunately too many sales people fall prey to the myth that price is the only reason people buy a product or service.. While this may be the case in some situations, it is seldom the focal point of person’s final buying decision. Unless you are dealing with someone whose sole focus is to get the lowest price, the best strategy is to effectively demonstrate the value of your product or service.
Simple in theory; however, it can be difficult to execute.
Many sales people use an approach that is ineffective. They fail to clearly demonstrate the value of their product because they use the same approach when presenting their solution. They used a “canned” pitch which seldom addresses the prospect’s key issues. Even though their solution may be the best, they fail to present it properly.
The key is to ask enough of the right questions to determine exactly what is important to their prospect. Although this is a fundamental step in the sales process, too many sales people short cut their way through the qualifying stage so they can talk about their product. But this means they end up presenting elements or features of their product that are not relevant to their prospect and every time you talk about something that is not important to your prospect, their desire to buy drops.
The trick is to uncover their hot buttons or the impact of their existing problem and focus on showing them how your solution will overcome those problems. Here are a couple of key questions you can ask that will help you achieve this.
“Mr. Prospect, you mentioned that your current vendor was late with their last two deliveries. What did that cost you?”
“What problems did you encounter as a result?”
“How did that affect your business? You personally?”
“What will happen if you don’t make a change?”
These are tough questions and they require a certain amount of courage to ask. However, I have learned that most executives will share this information if you summon up the courage to ask them. You may think that these questions are too probing or too personal but it’s important to know that executives are used to asking tough questions and they respect sales professionals who can do the same.
Let’s say you have asked these types of questions and effectively presented your solution. Your prospect may still say, “Your price is too high.” In these situations, the first question you need to ask is, “Compared to what?” This will help you understand why they made that statement. This will help you prepare an appropriate response.
This sounds great Kelley, but what about situations when the prospect has a certain budget and the price of my solution exceeds that amount? I will be the first to admit that budgets are always an issue. We all have to work with budgets and corporate buyers are no different. Here are a few strategies that can help.
1. Deal with the highest level of decision maker possible. High level decision makers will always find a way to pay for a solution IF it makes good fiscal sense. Once again, I bring you back to the importance of demonstrating the value of your solution. If you can effectively demonstrate how your prospect will achieve a good return on investment (ROI) they will find a pay for it.
2. Sometimes budgets can be reworked. I once contacted a company to help me develop a training video. When I mentioned that I had a specific budget to work with the sales person immediately asked me when my fiscal year ended. I was working with my current year’s budget and that our new year began in three months. He suggested that we arrange the billing so that half of the project was billed in the current year and the remainder was billed at the beginning of the next year. This helped me arrange the financing and he secured the project.
3. If budget is a key issue, consider offering a partial solution (if possible). In some cases, a partial solution may be enough to get the project started while meeting your prospect’s limitations. It doesn’t always make sense but it can be an alternative.
4. Be prepared to negotiate. Are there aspects of your solution that can be eliminated or changed so that you can secure the sale AND your prospect gets what he or she wants? Be creative. Consider barter. Think outside the proverbial box and look for ways to make the deal happen without resorting to a straight discount.
Price is a factor in every sale; however, it is seldom the primary reason someone makes a buying decision unless of course you fail to demonstrate the value of your product or service.
Yesterday seemed to be the day for sales people to keep selling even after hearing ‘no’ several times.
The first happened to my wife when she answered the telephone and the person at the other end started pitching a subscription to a national newspaper. My wife listened patiently to him (she’s much more empathic than I am!) and at the end of his pitch she told him that we already subscribed to another newspaper. The caller ignored her objection and continued to press her about signing up for his paper. After all, “Don’t you want to compare and see how our paper is different?”
Um, not really. One newspaper is enough; we don’t need a second publication especially when, in my experience, a good portion of the content is similar.
After the conversation with the person representing the newspaper, my wife said, in no uncertain terms, “I doubt that I would ever subscribe to that paper now.”
A couple of hours later, as I was purchasing a pair of jeans at a large Canadian-based retailer, the cashier asked if I wanted to put the purchase on my STORE NAME credit card. I told him that I don’t carry store-branded credit cards to which he replied. “Oh, but you can get double points on our card.”
Thanks but no thanks.
However, he persisted and said something to the effect of, “Lot’s of people get our card once they find out how many points they can accumulate.” For the third time, I declined and politely said, “I’m really not interested. I only shop here once or twice a year so I don’t want or need your credit card.”
I know it’s their job…
I know that both these people are just doing their job and that they are told to make sure that everyone they talk to know knows the merits of their individual products. However, sometimes ‘no’ REALLY does mean ‘no.’
As a sales trainer, I struggle with this concept.
On one hand, I believe that sales people need to be persistent. On the other, I don’t believe that they should be so persistent that they annoy the other person.
It is critical to understand the difference between a knee-jerk ‘no’ and a sincere, honest ‘no’ and when to persist or when to drop the subject and move on to someone else.
I attended a webinar last week that was hosted by a software company. The webinar was followed by a product demo which I didn’t watch because I was only interested in the content, not the software.
The next day I received a call from one of their sales reps who was “following up.” I give the company credit for making these calls because one of their goals was to generate new leads. However, the caller made a fatal mistake…
In a 45 second call, he used my name six times. Six times!
Obviously he had been taught that it is important to use a prospect’s name during a conversation but his approach backfired. After stating my name for the third time, I started focusing on how many more times he would use it. Plus, I couldn’t wait to get him off the call.
In forty-five seconds he managed to alienate me and come across as sleazy and slimy. In short, he made me feel icky.
When you’re making calls to new prospects, it is important to use their name. However, reciting it repeatedly during your conversation will NOT create rapport. In fact, it will actually cause people to mentally retreat and make it more difficult to move the conversation forward.
A recent post generated several emails from people who disagreed with my suggestion that the Howdy visit was outdated and no longer relevant in today’s sales environment. Here’s what one person wrote;
“I enjoy reading your regular newsletters, and generally think your comments are right on the mark. But, this time I take exception to your ‘anti-howdy’ theme.
“I have been involved in direct selling for 40 years—from the sale of cars to financial services. You delude yourself if you think that building relationships is passé by staying in touch. If salespeople didn’t stay in touch on an ongoing basis then the only thing they are selling is price. This may work for tendered situations but, certainly doesn’t work in situations whereby remembrance, service and expertise wins the business.
“It sounds like you’ve been “sucked into” the blackberry/email non-personal sales technique where everybody pretends they’re too busy to deal face-to-face. I’ll place my long-term money on personal relationships that are based on regular face-to-face and ear-to-ear communications.”
I still believe that relationships are VERY important in sales today; in fact they are more important than ever. However, just dropping by a customer’s place of business and saying, “Hi, I was in the area so I thought I would drop by” is outdated and a waste of time IF you don’t have anything of value to contribute to your customer/prospect’s situation.
A more effectively approach is to provide some type of value to that customer on a regular basis will help develop that relationship and keep the sales person in front of the customer or prospect. Face-to-face selling is still the most effective way to sell and your approach of providing service and expertise is far from the “Howdy” approach.
Another person asked;
“Instead of the “howdy” calls, what do you think works best when we’re out cold calling in an area, visiting with clients / competitive accounts and touching base. Are you suggesting that we should always have “something” to discuss with them? “
Yes, I believe that you should always have something of value to talk about, something that will contribute to your customer/prospect’s business. The only exception to this is if your call or meeting is strictly for qualifying purposes only. Although it is critical to keep in touch with existing clients, it does little to drop by and say, “Hi, I was in the area so I thought I’d drop by.” It is MUCH more effective to say, “Since the last time we spoke, I’ve come across 3 new ideas that might help you…” This adds much more to the relationship than a typical “howdy” call.
The key to success selling in today’s highly competitive business climate is to constantly provide value to prospects and customers which will help you develop a solid relationship with them. This means providing them insights and solutions to the challenges they are facing or encountering in their business. The more effectively you can do this, the greater the odds of that person doing business with you.