I admit that I enjoy watching American Idol once the initial auditions are completed and they start narrowing down the number of contestants. Here are six reasons why sales people should watch this show and the lessons they can take away.
EVERY performance counts. Many think that this “next performance” is their most important one or that it’s okay to make a mistake because their previous performances have been good. However, in a competition like this, you seldom get a second chance. You are only as good as your last song or performance.
Every sales call is important, regardless of the dollar value to you or your company. A small sale must be treated with respect and importance because it can lead to a larger opportunity. Small sales give you the chance to refine and improve your approach so that when you are faced with a big opportunity, you will be better prepared.
Winning requires emotional strength. What’s also intriguing is the number of contestants who don’t have the necessary mental or emotional fortitude. It’s not uncommon to see emotional breakdowns and watch people choke under pressure. They often complain when they are cut but they fail to realize that it will only get tougher as the competition continues the emotional challenges will only intensify.
The world of sales is no different. It gets tougher every year. The competition becomes fiercer as time goes on. And it requires grit and determination to achieve long-term success.
You need more than natural talent. In addition to having talent, the people who progress through the competition are the ones who listen to the judges and incorporate their feedback into their subsequent performances. They work extremely hard at improving each and every performance which means they are much better performers at the end of the show than they when they first auditioned.
How hard do you work at developing your sales talent? Do you read books, attend webinars, workshops and conferences? And do you actually apply the concepts from those learning opportunities into your routine?
American Idol winners make good song choices. They choose songs that fit their voice and their ability. They know that the wrong song can make or break their chances of moving forward.
Are you selling a product or service that you believe in?
Willing to take a risk. Several of this year’s contestants chose songs that they had written and in every situation, they moved past the pack. Others put their own spin on an existing well-known song and this also helped them stand out from the crowd.
Put 100 percent effort. This ties in with the first point but it goes a bit deeper. It is critical to put 100 percent effort into every performance, every practise, and every song. One performer put so much effort into his performance he burst into tears afterwards—he left everything on the stage.
Do you put EVERYTHING into all of your sales calls, meetings and presentations? Are you emotionally drained at the end of a day?
If you watch this television show, what other sales lessons do you think it offers? Take a moment and add your comment.
A recently conversation with a client struck a chord with me. We were conducting a follow-up conference call to a workshop I delivered a few months earlier and several of the participants admitted that they had not applied any of the concepts from the program. I can’t say I was surprised but I was disappointed, especially for the owner of the company who paid good money to help improve his team’s selling skills.
Change is difficult for most people. Although we have good intentions at the time, integrating new techniques into our sales process or approach is difficult.
Let’s be honest here…most of the time when you try something new it doesn’t work properly or it feels uncomfortable. Anyone who has tried learning a new sport, language or hobby knows how awkward it feels at first.
Modifying your sales approach is no different.
It takes a concerted effort. It takes discipline. And, above all, it takes persistence.
The daily pressure of getting things done, of dealing with customer issues, and of finding new customers or increasing your sales, directs your attention away from the goal of improving your approach.
That’s why most sales training doesn’t work.
Too many companies rely on event training rather than embarking on a program that will help their reps integrate new principles into their approach. Getting a team of sales people to change their approach requires on-going coaching and help from others such as their manager or leader. Yet, the vast majority of sales managers are run off their feet just trying to keep up with their day-to-day tasks, let alone invest valuable time coaching their sales people.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
You CAN improve. You can get better. You can achieve better results.
Stop waiting for your boss to provide coaching and hold you accountable to improve your efforts. Make a commitment to yourself to incorporate one small change into your sales routine or one concept into your approach.
Focus on doing ONE thing differently.
Determine what could have a positive impact on your results IF you consistently incorporated it into your daily routine.
Write down EXACTLY what you need to do. Post that someplace where you will see it…all the time!
Don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t work at first. Instead, keep trying to perfect that concept and adapt it your natural style.
Modify, evaluate, and adjust. Repeat.
Here is a personal example of how this concept has worked for me.
One of my goals this year has been to learn how to play the guitar. I have never taken a music lesson and I have never read sheet music. This means that I have to learn how to read the notes on a page, while at the same time, play them. This has been REALLY tough for me.
I thought I would be smart and took a short cut by writing the notes above the staff so I didn’t have to try and do everything all at once. This got me started but I quickly realized that if I continued doing this I would never really learn how to read sheet music and that would ultimately cause problems down the road as the music became more complicated.
So, I went back several lessons and started practicing without the cheat notes. It’s taken me longer than I expected and it’s been VERY challenging and frustrating. However, I am making progress. And, for the first time, actually believe that I can learn how to play the guitar.
If you are serious about improving your sales results, you need to make a concerted effort to improve your approach. It takes effort, energy and lots of practise. But in the long run, it’s definitely worth it!
Problems are a fact of life in business. It doesn’t matter what you sell or to whom, it is inevitable that you will encounter problems from time-to-time.
However, how you approach these situations will determine your outcome.
Allow me to share an example…
My wife runs a secret shopper program for a client in a niche market. She has several shoppers who conduct visits and complete reports. This past weekend a relatively new shopper encountered a couple of problems and she emailed my wife to advise her of these problems and to tell her that reports were going to be late.
Not surprisingly, my wife was more than a bit frustrated. And rightly so. The agreement with our client clearly states that all reports are due within 24 hours and my wife makes this standard VERY clear with our shoppers.
She had given this shopper her cell phone number and instructions that clearly stated if the shopper encountered ANY problems to contact her immediately so the shopper could be given new instructions. Unfortunately, the shopper ignored these instructions and didn’t bother to contact my wife until much later when it was too late to correct the situation.
It was obvious that this shopper was not solution oriented; she was problem focused.
Years ago I had the good fortune of working for a boss who was solution oriented. He rarely focused on the problem or spent time pointing fingers or assigning blame. Instead, he focused on finding a solution to the problem and implementing it as quickly as possible.
One of the best business lessons I learned from him was to come to him with a solution whenever I encountered a problem. In fact, the first words he expressed anytime anyone brought a problem to him were, “What is the best solution?” or “How do you plan to handle that?” or something similar.
Sales people often spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the problems they encounter. They gripe about lost deals, difficult customers, and aggressive competitors. However, if you focus on the problem instead of looking for a solution you lose valuable time and miss sales opportunities.
Instead of focusing on the problems you encounter in your business, concentrate on developing solutions. If you work for an organization, instead of approaching your boss with a problem and asking him for the solution, explain the situation and suggest a remedy.
Not only will you learn and grow, you will demonstrate that you are a valuable resource.
As I was thumbing through the newspaper a few days ago I came across a regular column written by a relationship expert. I admit that I skim her suggestions because I’m always interested to see what she tells people (plus I’m also amazed at what people ask!).
In this particular instance, the person was actually seeking advice on a sales-related matter. Needless to say that caught my attention!
The question referred to dealing with price issues and the writer said they usually try to defer the price conversation by saying something like, “I offer my clients value”. However, it appeared that she failed to engage new prospects in a meaningful dialogue. As a result, the conversation kept returning to price
Unfortunately, the columnist basically suggested that the writer take low paying jobs to get her foot in the door and to look for additional sales opportunities once she had established her value with the company.
I firmly believe the columnist’s advice was completely off the mark.
Low balling your price to get a job just sets the base for future negotiations. Plus, if someone is focused solely on price, it is unlikely that they will ever see the value of paying for additional services or quality.
Price is a factor in EVERY sales transaction. However, it is seldom the primary reason people make a buying decision. But, if you don’t manage the initial conversation properly, price will continue to be the focal point.
It is much more effective to change your approach during the initial sales call. This means taking control of the conversation and asking high-value questions to learn more about the other person’s situation. You can achieve that by saying,
“I’d be more than happy to give you a quote. Before I do that, let me ask you a couple of questions to gain a better understanding of your situation and what you need.”
Here’s where I’m going with this post…
Be careful who you accept advice from.
I believe that people should seek advice from others when they encounter a problem that stumps them. However, if you listen to the wrong people and try to incorporate their ideas you could be doing yourself AND your customers a disservice.
BTW: I sent the columnist an email expressing my concern that she dispensed the wrong advice and that she should leave matters of this nature to people who are experts in their field. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard back from her.
Is it just me or does it seem like we’re getting deluged with emails and electronic newsletters that we KNOW we didn’t subscribe to or request?
Some are from companies who state “you recently requested information…” However, I usually remember what companies I contact for information and agree to subscribe to their mailings. I get too much junk email already so I’m very cautious what I sign up for. I suppose these companies think that using this approach circumvents anti-spam laws but it certainly doesn’t endear me to their brand or product.
However, there is another disturbing trend that I’m noticing more frequently.
I’ll meet someone at a conference or networking event and we’ll exchange business cards. Then, they start sending me their stuff. Sometimes it’s relevant, more often than not, it isn’t.
Just because I gave you my business card or we had a business conversation does not mean I want your mailings! Give it a rest already, buddy!
Gulp, now it’s confession time.
Having gone on this rant, I almost hate to admit to being guilty of this when I first started my business almost a decade ago. But, sadly, I was.
I grabbed every business card I could and added them to my mailing list thinking that it was better to ask for forgiveness afterwards than request permission beforehand. As you can imagine, not everyone was happy to receive my weekly email broadcasts. And not surprisingly, I received a few abrasive and caustic responses telling me in no uncertain terms that I had better remove that person from my list. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to bring a halt to this practise.
The same concept holds true for sales people.
Just because someone requested information about one of your products two and half years ago doesn’t mean they want monthly updates or press releases or brochures dumped into their in-box.
I know that email is cheap and easy to use but there’s no point sending information to people who don’t want it or aren’t interested in it. That self-serving behaviour only serves to piss people off and encourage them to hit the unsubscribe button.
Oh, and that brings up another point (I was afraid this would happen when I started writing this post!)
Don’t make it difficult for me to unsubscribe from your mailings by sending multiple emails to confirm the change or by telling me that it will take up to 30 days to update your records. That kind of response will only rile me up and further confirm that I have made the right decision.
Okay, I feel better now…
If you think your newsletter or email broadcasts will be of value to me, give me a quick overview and ask permission to add me to your list. If you position it effectively, I will likely say yes and it’s more likely I will actually read it.
Last week I wrote a post about an encounter with a car door that left me with a black eye. Fortunately, my eye has healed quite quickly and is almost back to normal.
Unfortunately, for some sales people, recuperating from a lost deal can take much longer.
I always find it fascinating when sales reps talk about the deals they lost or the challenging customers they have dealt with even though those situations occurred many months earlier. In fact, I have heard sales people complain about a lost sale as much as a year or two later!
Get over it!
It doesn’t matter if your competition undercut your price by 18 percent.
It doesn’t matter that your prospect didn’t see the value in your offering.
It doesn’t matter that you needed that sale to reach your quota.
It doesn’t matter that your competitor out-performed or out-maneuvered you.
It doesn’t matter that your prospect changed her mind.
What matters is how quickly you heal and get past that failure.
Failure is part of the equation when you sell for a living. No one likes to lose a deal but it is next to impossible to close 100 percent of the sales opportunities that come your way.
Too many sales people spend too much time talking about the “big one that got away”. You may enjoy lamenting the fact that a prospect gave you his word only to cancel the deal a few days later. But this type of behaviour does not offer any positive benefits.
You objectively critique and analyze YOUR performance. What could you have done better? What did you miss or forget to do? What factors in your control did you mismanage?
If you did everything you could to secure that deal but it slipped sideways or fell off the rails, then chalk it up and move on.
This blog post was prompted after reading a chapter in Gair Maxwell’s book, Nuts, Bolts and a Few Loose Screws. I recently met Gair at a conference where we were both speaking; his focus is branding and his book has a different look and feel than many books on the market.
In his book, Gair talked about Bland Brands and I immediately thought of the bland and dull sales presentations I have encountered over the years. I’m not talking about the sales person’s personality—although that can count, too.
I’m thinking more about their approach to sales conversations and presentations especially from a prospect or customer’s perspective.
Here is what makes sales people bland to prospects and customers.
Starting a telephone prospecting call with, “Hi, how are you today?”
Beginning a sales presentation by talking about your company, your products, your awards, etc.
Focusing on your agenda (usually closing the sale) rather than your prospect’s situation.
Failing to clearly demonstrate how your offering will help your customer.
Reciting product features instead of discussing the benefits.
Attempting to present every detail of the product even when several aspects of that product are irrelevant to the buyer.
Neglecting to pay attention to the reaction or interest of the other person.
Initiating follow-up calls and emails with, “I’m just touching base…”
Failing to differentiate themselves from every other person selling a similar product or service.
Delivering a sales presentation in a monotone voice.
Failing to engage their prospect in a meaningful conversation
If you want to stand out from your competition and make your prospect sit up and take notice, add some spice to your sales calls, conversations and meetings.
Here is just one suggestion that will help you achieve that.
The next you are called on to deliver a sales presentation, start that presentation saying, “Mrs. Jones, in our call last week, you mentioned that these three problems are plaguing your distribution…is that still accurate?”
Before you dismiss this fundamental step, recognize that most people fail to open a sales presentation by acknowledging or reviewing the prospect’s situation and immediately launch into their “pitch.”
Don’t be blah, blah, blah, bland.
Are there other things that make sales people bland? I’d enjoy getting your perspective.
So this morning I’m buying a few things at the local grocery store and as I approached the check-out area I looked for the shortest line. I spotted a line with just one person with a handful of items to ring through. Ha! Success!
It wasn’t until I took my place in line that I realized that I had made a fatal mistake!
You see, the cashier working that checkout lane is one of the slowest in the store. Although she is extremely friendly (which I can’t object against), she has a compelling need to talk to every person. However, because she has these conversations, she is very slow to ring through orders. She likes to pause and make a point or comment and she moves at a snail’s pace.
Now, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time you probably know that I am NOT the most patient person on this planet. In fact, my wife often chides me for being impatient and frequently reminds me to slow down and relax. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen!!!
Add to the mix (and the line up) an elderly lady who wanted to talk about her kids, the weather, her house, and her plant and that short line became a major exercise in patience.
I find that this happens in B2B sales conversations too.
Many sales people are so caught up in their own world or so focused on discussing every aspect of their product or service that they fail to see that their prospect or customer has completely tuned out or is becoming impatient.
Our customers and prospects are exceptionally busy, running from meeting to meeting, putting out fires, and dealing with a host of problems, both internal and external.
That means we need to find that delicate balance of being friendly and efficient at the same time.
While it’s important to invest time on small talk and social chit-chat, most people simply don’t have time for that anymore. It’s not like the old days when you could spend the first 15 minutes of a 30 minute sales call catching up with a customer or establishing rapport.
In today’s hectic business world, you actually increase rapport with customers by quickly getting to the point of your meeting.
You can still be friendly.
You can still develop that relationship.
You can still create a personal connection with the other person.
It’s just that you need to do it differently than in the past.