I still remember the first two sales calls I made although they were almost two decades ago.
One was a cold call and the other was a face-to-face meeting. I think I made every mistake in the book but these two stand out the most.
Sales Blunder #1
It was 1995 and I was in transition.
I had left the restaurant business and thought I would pursue my dream of training and speaking. I created a seminar called, “How to Make Incredible Tips” and it focused on helping servers and bartenders increase their income. And, it would also help a restaurant increase its sales and make more money.
I knew I need to make appointments and had never cold called so I picked up and read “Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work.” I read the book, studied the principles and made my first cold call.
It was a disaster!
After I stumbled through my opening, my prospect growled, “What are you selling?”
I threw away my script and launched into my natural voice and told him about the seminar I had created. He said, “Not interested” and I heard a loud click in my ear.
As I hung up the telephone I thought, “This book is crap!”
However, I re-read it and eventually realized that I had overlooked a key point…
“Verbally practice and rehearse your opening so it sounds natural and comfortable.”
I had mentally run through my opening but when my prospect answered the phone it was the first time I actually stated my opening aloud. No wonder I stumbled and sounded like an idiot.
Sales Blunder #2
Later that week I managed to secure an appointment with the manager of a local restaurant. Although I was prepared (I had a nice glossy presentation prepared since PowerPoint hadn’t been thought of yet) and I arrived for my appointment a few minutes early, I completely botched the call.
Here’s where I made my next BIG sales blunder.
After the initial introductions, I sat down with the manager and spent 5 five minutes telling her about my business and my background (hospitality and restaurant). Then I talked non-stop for about 15-20 minutes (it quite possibly could have been longer but that’s what I recall!) and I walked her through each and every page of my slick presentation.
I didn’t ask any questions.
I didn’t know what the average sale was for the restaurant.
I had no idea if they did any type of training.
And I didn’t know if my seminar would actually benefit them.
I shudder when I think about it.
But that wasn’t all!
I hate to admit it but once I finished my pitch I just sat there wondering what to do.
My prospect said, “This sounds good” and then didn’t say anything.
After several moments of uncomfortable silence, I gulped and meekly asked, “So…would you like to go ahead with this?”
“Yes, let’s look at when we can schedule it.”
But, here’s the really funny point…
I didn’t have a DayTimer or calendar on me!
PDAs and Smartphones didn’t exist yet so I reached into my pocket and pulled out my package of cigarettes (yes, I smoked then and actually carried the cigarettes in my shirt pocket—didn’t everyone?). The cigarette pack had a calendar on the inside flap and we proceeded to schedule my first seminar.
When I look back on those situations I realize how much I have learned since then. Here are five…
1. Be prepared. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a cold call or a sales presentation, you need to be fully prepared BEFORE any type of sales call or appointment. In the mid-90s you could get away with winging it but that just doesn’t work in today’s business world.
2. Focus on the buyer or prospect. Instead of pitching your product, service or solution, focus on helping your prospect solve a problem.
3. Spend less time talking and more time asking questions. I know you’ve heard me say this before but it still one of the most common sales mistakes people make.
4. Ask for the sale.It sounds simple but I am continually surprised how few sales people actually take that step.
5. Be ready for the next steps. It is certainly much easier today with Smartphones but sometimes sales people don’t always manage the next step as effectively as they could.
The school of hard knocks is a great teacher and I firmly believe that everyone can improve their results if they take the time to learn the lesson contained in each botched sales call.
What about you?
What was one of the best sales lessons you learned from a mistake?
Several years ago I met with a small business owner who had a product that I thought might be suitable for one of my sales training programs. I had a particularly hectic schedule that day so I told him that I only had 30 minutes available for our meeting.
He quickly launched into his pitch but his focus was on how the product could be used for project management training, even though I mentioned that I was considering it for a sales management workshop. He obviously didn’t hear me make that point.
Anyway, after several minutes of listening to him drone on, I decided to buy the product.
I said, “Looks good, I’ll take it” to which he replied, “I haven’t told you the best part yet” and he continued talking.
Once again, I said, “I don’t need to hear anymore, I’ll take it.”
He put up his hand and said, “Oh, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you about…”
At that point, I leaned forward, took the product from his hands and said, “I’ll take this one. Send me an invoice” and I stood up.
He sputtered and looked completely confused. It was obvious that he expected me to object or that he wanted to continue telling me more about the product.
Why is it that so many sales people want to continue selling AFTER the prospect has made a positive buying decision?
When a prospect or customer is prepared to move forward with the buying decision don’t create an opportunity to talk them out of it.
Shut up, take the order and go!
Planning a sales conference, meeting or training? Need a dynamic presenter who can help you get more from your meeting? Give me a call 905-633-7750 or email me.
If you have read this blog for any period of time you probably know that Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank are two of my favorite television shows.
A couple of weeks ago, a sales trainer made a pitch on Shark Tank. His goal was to raise money so he could expand his sales training business.
He was confident and smooth for the first part of the conversation. It was obvious that he had invested a significant amount of time preparing his presentation and he delivered it well. I was impressed.
However, at one point, three of the five sharks had opted out so Mark Cuban—who is a pretty aggressive sales person himself—made an offer that was exactly (or very close) to what the sales trainer was requesting.
This where the pitch started to go off the rails.
Rather than accept Cuban’s offer the trainer turned to Barbara Corcoran and asked if she wanted to make a better offer. As their conversation dragged on, I could see Cuban’s interest waning. Cuban interrupted that conversation and told the trainer to “sell me this pen” which is one of the oldest hiring tactics when interviewing sales people.
The sales trainer launched immediate into an aggressive, hard-driving sales pitch without bothering to ask Cuban any discovery questions and I couldn’t help but shudder and wonder if this was the approach he outlined in his “sales system”.
Needless to say, he didn’t sell the pen. And he didn’t get the investment capital either.
He blew the deal.
He had the opportunity to display his own selling skills and resorted to high-pressure, outdated sales tactics in an attempt to close the sale.
He had the sale in his hands but he got greedy and ended up losing that opportunity.
But, most importantly, he lost sight of his primary objective which was to secure working capital in exchange for part of his business.
His ego got in the way and he lost a sale that met the requirements he had personally established.
Before every sales call, meeting or appointment it is imperative that you determine the specific objective(s) you want to achieve. Then keep your eye on those objectives.
Selling is not about showing the other person how good you are. It’s about knowing what you want to accomplish, recognizing when you have achieved that goal and having the sense to shut up and move on.
As my wife and I frequently say to each other, “Keep your eye on the prize.”
I’m a big fan of the television show, Fear Factor and am pleased that it’s back on the air after a 5+ year hiatus.
If you have never watched the show, four pairs of contestants compete for $50K by completing three sets of stunts with water, heights, speed and eating being the main themes. The eating test would always be my downfall because it usually consists of eating something exotic (aka gross) like scorpions, worms, etc.
I think that’s what makes the show such a hit.
Viewers can watch people do crazy stunts that they would be terrified to attempt.
Sales people deal with the fear factor, too. Here are a few of the fears, concerns and hesitations people mention in my sales training programs.
The most frequently stated fear is making cold calls. Whether it’s a telephone call or a face-to-face drop-by, this ranks at the top. Part of reason is that they don’t know exactly what to say or they are afraid of being perceived as a pest or intrusion.
Some sales people are afraid to ask for the sale usually because they are concerned about the potential rejection. Although I don’t like rejection, I would rather a prospect be upfront with me and tell me no rather than simply ignore my calls or emails.
Some sales reps are fearful to ask tough probing questions while others experience anxiety when the dialogue veers away from a product-specific conversation.
There are sales people who won’t ask for referrals because they believe that their customers will think that they’re begging for business or that they’re desperate for a sale.
Susan Jeffers once penned, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
While it is easy to say, fear in sales can be challenging to overcome. Some people say to just jump in and do the task while others suggest that you recite affirmations to build your confidence.
What suggestions do you have to overcome the fear factor in sales?
During a recent sales training workshop I conducted, we discussed the various personality styles and how they affected a person’s sales efforts.
One style that is common in sales that require technical expertise is that of the critical thinker.
These analytical individuals love data and details and usually prepare extensively for important sales calls and meetings. Once they are face-to-face with their prospect or customer, their typical approach is to dump all that research and information on the other person.
However, they usually end the sales dialogue by saying something like, “So, Mrs. Smith, I’ve given you all the information and specs on the nine new products we’re launching later this month. I’ll leave that with you but if you have any questions, let me know.”
Then they leave the customer’s office and wait patiently for a return call or an order.
Mr. or Mrs. Critical Thinker…
This is NOT asking for the sale!
Yes, I know it sounds like it in your mind but you haven’t actually asked the other person to make a buying decision.
You see, all you have really done is give your contact the details and information.
I know that constitutes asking for the sale in your eyes but unless your customer is also a critical thinker like you, they probably won’t even read through those details.
Shocking isn’t it?!? I mean how can they possibly ignore all of that great data?
Well, not everyone is an analytical person.
And that means you’re using the wrong approach. Try this during your next face-to-face sales meeting…
Instead of reviewing every slide, every page of information, or every detail, start your meeting by asking the other person how much detail they want.
Don’t be offended if someone says “Just give me the highlights” or “Just bullet-point it for me.”
Resist your belief that people need lots of detail in order to make an educated buying decision. Instead, adapt your approach accordingly and outline the key points without going into detail. Yes, it will be painful for you but here’s the ace-in-the-hole…
You can leave the comprehensive version behind.
Now, there’s just one more thing you need to do…
Don’t leave the sales call without some type of commitment for the next steps!
That means you actually need to ask for the business. And you can do that by saying, “Mrs. Smith, I believe you have the information you need to make your decision…would you like to go ahead with this?”
This approach will be uncomfortable at first but I can assure you that your prospect will not feel undue pressure or that you are pushing them into a buying decision.
What is critical to recognize and understand is that leaving the appointment without the next steps CLEARLY identified only results in confusion and missed sales opportunities.
Could your team use some help improving their sales approach? Give me a call and we can discuss the way to achieve this. 905-633-7750 or Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca
During my vacation to Mexico a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go zip lining.
Zip lining means you hook yourself up to cable and zip across a rainforest, or in my case, a swamp. Suspended several stories above the ground, you zip along the cable from one landing area to another.
I love theme park rides and this was an equivalent experience.
I admit that I was nervous; my hands were wet with sweat as I waited my turn, especially at the first line. However, it was another person in our group that really inspired me.
Peggy admitted that she was afraid of heights but she still embraced the challenge. Her knees were actually shaking she was so apprehensive. But, when it was her turn, she hooked herself up to the cable and off she went. At the end of the day, she was excited and proud of herself.
I found her courage inspiring and it got me thinking about the fears people have about selling.
Very few people enjoy cold calling. However, if you develop a great opening script and make the effort to start dialing that fear often diminishes relatively quickly. The key is to believe in your product or offering and to take that initial plunge.
Asking for the sale
Many of the people in my sales training workshops (LINK) are reluctant to ask for the sale. What they usually find is that when they summon up the courage to ask for the business, they don’t get the negative reaction they thought they would. After all, most prospects and customers expect you to ask for the sale.
Trying new sales approaches
If you want to succeed in today’s new economy and business world it is imperative that you use new approached. However, many people balk at this because the approach is uncomfortable. Resist the natural temptation to revert to your old tactics and try something new.
If you are serious about improving your sales, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You may be surprised with your results.
Could your sales team benefit from a program on this topic? Call me and we can discuss the way to approach it. email@example.com or 905-633-7750
This past Monday I wrote a post called, “You Don’t Understand” that prompted a newsletter subscriber to ask me several questions in an email. Lauren’s questions are listed below along with my responses.
“The product I work with made immediate sense to me—and so I am probably particularly frustrated when it doesn’t make sense to others. It was so commonsense to me when I learned about it eight years ago that I never understand why people don’t get started right away (although there are lots of cases where people make the decision to get started many months or years down the road).
Q: How do I learn how to ask the questions that will help me understand what they understand – and don’t understand – about what I am offering? A: I have a list of high-value questions here; although they are directed to B2B sales, you may be able to adapt them to your situation.
Q: Sometimes, people say it makes sense and then they still don’t get started or they back away from earlier interest. How does the salesperson find out what the real concerns or issues are? A: In your conversations with new prospects ask, “What concerns would have about moving forward with this?” or if you’re following up ask, “You expressed interest when we initially spoke and I’m curious to know what’s changed?” You can also say, “Some people are hesitant to start this because (fill in the blank). How does that compare to your thoughts?” Also, are you actually asking them to get started (asking for the sale)? If not, you are missing sales opportunities.
Q: How do I, the salesperson, get over my own feeling that everyone should get this product right away and get started? (Even though I’ve seen people change their impressions over time – and now they love it – I never know what finally clicked for them. Granted, I grew up in open-minded northern California and am building this business in skeptical and slow to grasp new concepts Massachusetts.) A: Every time you get a new customer ask them, “What prompted you to start now?”
Q: How do I better understand what health concerns they are looking to address, so I can better share the benefits of interest to them? A: Once again, ask… “What health concerns are you looking to address?” “What prompted you to consider this product?”
As you can see, most of the approach is to ask more questions BEFORE you start talking about your product. Find out what’s important to them so you can address it when you discuss your product. Here’s a personal example:
I take greens every day. I know there are many benefits of taking greens but I’m not interested in them because I take them for one simple reason: I know it reduces the effects of spring/summer allergies. If you started telling me how greens would improve my digestion, lost weight, etc. you would lose my attention…quickly…because you wouldn’t be addressing what’s important to me.
Lauren’s situation is not uncommon.
Many sales people kn0w they should ask more questions but they are afraid of being perceived as being pushy. However, salespeople who consistently increase their sales know the importance of developing the courage to ask. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Silence can be a powerful sales weapon; however, it is seldom used to its full potential or as effectively as it could be.
For some people, the cone of silence is easy to invoke. My daughter is very comfortable with silence which drives me crazy because I’m a natural talker. Over the years I have become more comfortable with silence but there are times when I succumb to its power.
Remain silent AFTER:
You ask your prospect or customer a question. This gives them time to think about their response. It’s a simple concept but many sales people feel compelled to add more detail to their question or give the other person suggested answers. I have also seen sales people continue to talk and completely forget that they asked a question.
The person expresses an objection. It takes courage and some spunk to use this approach but it can be an effective way to get the other person to add commentary to their objection, or in some cases, even withdraw it.
The other person has answered a question. Known as the pregnant pause, it encourages people to elaborate on their response. Many years ago I spoke to a sales person about a training video I wanted to develop. During the conversation, he asked me several thought-provoking questions and after I answered each question, he remained silent for a few moments. I caught myself adding more detail and sharing additional information with him.
You ask for the sale or other commitment. Don’t talk yourself out of the sale! When you ask for that commitment bite your tongue and remain silent until the other person responds. I once talked to a sales person who was selling me a training game and he came VERY close to losing a sale because he kept talking after I said, “I’ll take it.”
Turn on the cone of silence BEFORE you:
Answer a question. Remaining silent for a few moments before you answer a question increases your credibility because you come across more thoughtful. Most people wait for their turn to speak and resisting the temptation to speak immediately after you are asked a question can give the other person more time to think of something to add.
Respond to an objection. This gives you a few moments to think of a rebuttal and an appropriate response. It also gives you time to consider the objection and why the prospect is expressing it. Plus, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the other person may withdraw the objection.
Respond to a demand or request such as a discount or price break. This is critical! Too many people give away too much money or make too many concessions because they didn’t consider their response. In some cases, staying silent after a particular demand can cause the person to rescind that request or make their own concession.
Many sales people feel awkward with prolonged silence and tend to fill in ‘dead air’ with more dialogue. However, this impulse can work against them and cost them sales opportunities.
A few weeks ago I went to get my eyes checked because I needed a new pair of reading glasses. After updating my records, the person at the optometrist’s office asked in a very hesitant tone, “Will you be getting your glasses here or…”
It was evident from her tone of voice and the way her sentence trailed off at the end that she was extremely uncomfortable asking me if I wanted to buy new glasses from their office.
This is not uncommon. Many people are uncomfortable asking others for the sale or any other type of commitment. However, corporate decision makers expect you to ask and they expect you to be confident when asking for a commitment.
The most effective way to become comfortable asking someone for their business is to practise. Here are a few questions you can use.
“Would you like to go ahead with this?” “Can we do business together?” “How you would like to pay for this?” “Are you available to meet next Thursday?” “If I don’t hear back from you by Friday, can I call you?”
The key is to recite these questions aloud until they start to feel natural and comfortable. Don’t wait until you meet with your prospect; practise them beforehand so when you are in front of your prospect, you can ask with confidence.
Being a sales person is not an easy task especially in today’s business climate. However, you can improve your results by learning how to ask. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Ask for help. First and foremost, if you need help it is essential that you ask. Ask the top sales person in your company for ideas, advice and feedback. Ask your boss for coaching or direction. Ask people in your network for insights and suggestions to improve your results.
Ask for the appointment. Too many people beat around the bush and don’t ask a new prospect for an appointment. This strategy can result in more meetings which will lead to more sales. Try asking, “Does it make sense for us to meet?”
Ask more high-value questions. After 15 years of training sales people, I have found that the majority simply don’t ask enough high-value questions. High-value questions force your prospect or customer to think and will give you insight to their current situation, problems and desired outcomes. It sounds simple but more people feel uncomfortable asking these types of questions because they think they are too probing and they feel that their prospect will be offended.
Ask for clarification. When someone says something that is vague or unspecific, seek clarification. Ask, “Can you elaborate on that?” or “Tell me more” or “What do you mean by that?”
Ask for commitment. When a prospect or customer says, “Call me next week” pursue that statement by asking, “What day should I call?” If they say, “Anytime is fine” ask, “Does next Tuesday work?” Then ask what time is the best to connect with them. If they respond with, “Anytime is good” ask, “Is mid-morning at 10:15 a good time?”
Ask them to schedule the call in their calendar. Once they agree to a specific day and time, ask them to place that call in their calendar and follow up by sending them an Outlook (or other time management system) appointment.
Ask for the sale. Many deals have been lost because the sale person did not want to ask for the sale so after every sales presentation, sales call, or meeting, make sure you ask for the sale. It’s as simple as asking, “May I have your business?”
Ask for a referral. Whether you get the deal or not, you should ask you contact if they would be willing to refer you to someone in their network. It helps when you can clearly describe your ideal client.
Ask for a testimonial. When you have completed your work with that client, ask them for a testimonial. Video testimonials work best followed by an audio recording. At the very least, get a written endorsement of your work.
Ask why a prospect does not want to do business with you. If someone does not choose you as their vendor ask, “I’m always looking to improve. May I ask what influenced your decision?”
Ask what concerns they have. Most sales people I have worked with hesitate to ask this because they don’t want to know if their prospect has any concerns. However, my perspective is that you need to know this upfront
Ask who else may be involved in the decision. You can easily phrase this by asking, “Who else will you need to discuss this with?” When they tell you, ask, “Can we set up a day/time to collectively talk about this?”
I can guarantee that when you learn to ask you will close more sales and make more money.