As I mentioned yesterday, I’m on vacation so I asked George Torok to fill in for me today.
Recently I listened to a group of senior sales and marketing executives speak at a networking meeting. I also served as a judge at a speech contest for 12-year-olds. These two unrelated events prompted me to compare the presentation skills of each group.
1. Guess who was more engaging, attention grabbing and memorable?2. Guess who was boring, uninspiring and easily forgettable?
The answer to question one is the 12-year-olds. They were good.
The answer to question two is the sales & marketing executives. They needed improvement.
Why did the 12-year-olds deliver better presentations than senior sales and marketing executives?
The 12-year olds were competing in a speech contest. Many of their parents were there. Money and prestige were on the line, so they were well rehearsed.
Each presenter had a focused message. Their presentation was designed to deliver that message. Some were deep and serious while others were light and whimsical. In all cases the message was clear and easy to summarize.
The presenters spoke to the interests of the audience. The topics ranged from “the influence of the media”, “tourism in third world countries”, “the family van”, “peculiarities of the English language”, and “homework”. Yet each speaker related the topic to the listener.
Each speaker told colorful stories. That sparked images in my mind. Many said things that were funny and made me laugh. Some statements challenged my opinion. I was impressed by the carefully selected words and phrasing. All were simple and understandable.
Each speaker conveyed passion for their message. Each radiated that they were happy to be speaking to us.
These speakers were bold. They stood before the audience, looked people in the eye, delivered their statements and performed.
What did the Sales & Marketing Executives (SME) do poorly?
The SME seemed to be winging it – even though they were competing for attention, memorability and jobs. These SME were between jobs but seemed reluctant to compete and rehearse. Yet, clearly a lot of money was on the line. If their family had attended, would they have prepared better?
There was no focus or purpose evident. It almost seemed that they first were reciting their resume and then what they had for breakfast. Okay, I’m exaggerating the breakfast part – but it seemed as boring as porridge.
Each speaker seemed to be caught in their own self-centered world. Most didn’t relate to me or how they might fix my pain or that of my contacts. How could I help them if I didn’t know what they were offering? Stating “who you worked for” tells me little. They needed to speak of pain and solutions.
Facts, history and blah, blah, blah. Some related recent experiences but none that were worth remembering. Many used filler, self-sabotaging and jargon words. I was bored, confused and unimpressed.
I didn’t feel it. The emotion that I felt was remorse. “Why am I here?”
You might think that Sales & Marketing Executives would be anything but humble. You might think that Sales & Marketing Executives would grasp the difference between benefits and features. I thought so too.
All of the SMEs sat while speaking, crunched in their chairs, some with an arm draped over the back of the chair. It was as if this was a family picnic instead of a possible career defining meeting. I found it curious that none of the men wore a tie. Did they want to be taken seriously? Or was this just a social club?
Presentation Skills Contest Results: 12-year olds -1, Sales & Marketing Executives – 0.
Some of you might think that I’m too hard on the Sales & Marketing Executives. That I’m expecting too much from them. Maybe, but I bet that I’m not the only one.
George Torok is the Speech Coach for Executives. He coaches business leaders to deliver deal-closing presentations. Find more free presentation tips at SpeechCoachforExecutives.com Find more tips and ideas for your presentations at http://www.facebook.com/PresentationSkillsClub . To arrange for training for your team call 905-335-1997.
To achieve long-term success in sales means that you need develop a variety of habits. Here are nine sales habits that will help you improve your results.
Habit #1: Prospecting. Top sales pros devote a significant amount of time to prospecting for new business and this habit prevents the peaks and valleys that many other sales people experience. Colleen Francis suggests that having 300% percent of your targeted budget in your pipeline will ensure that you reach your quotas.
Do you have a prospecting plan in place and do you execute that plan?
Habit #2: Asking great questions. Many of sales people I have encountered do not ask high-value questions when meeting with prospects. Top sales people have learned to ask tough, probing, thought-provoking questions that make prospects think. The challenge with this is that many sales people are uncomfortable asking these types of questions because they feel that questions of this nature are too intimate or too probing. The key is to verbally rehearse asking these questions BEFORE you meet with your prospect or customer. Experience has taught me that most people will tell you anything you want IF you have the courage to ask.
What powerful questions are you prepared to ask?
Habit #3: Listening skills. The best sales people I know are excellent listeners. They listen carefully to what their prospect says and listen for underlying clues and hidden messages. They also seek clarification when necessary. They use prompters such as “tell me more” or “go on” which encourages the other person to divulge additional information. And, they also make strong eye contact which demonstrates that they are paying close attention.
How can you improve your listening skills?
Habit #4: Creativity. In today’s ultra-competitive environment, the ability to stand out from the competition is critical. Top sales reps look for creative ways to achieve this. They use creative approach in their prospecting methods, in their sales calls, their voice mail messages and emails. In everything they do, they try to ensure that their prospect will remember their name.
What are you doing to differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Habit #5: Effective Presentations. During my tenure in the corporate world, I endured many sales presentations and most of them were ineffective because they focused on the seller’s company or product. Great sales presentations focus on the prospect’s situation and clearly demonstrate how they will benefit by using your product, service or solution.
How can you improve your sales presentations to ensure they are client-focused?
Habit #6: Persistence. We all know that it takes more than one call, one letter, or one email to connect with decision makers. In fact, it’s been reported that it now takes up to 14 touch points to connect with senior level executives. Successful sales people know that it takes persistence and diligence to make contact and they use a variety of strategies to achieve this goal (see creativity).
How many attempts do you make before you stop trying?
Habit #7: Organizational skills. Let’s face it…sales people have a ton of responsibilities in addition to meeting their quotas and targets. Juggling multiple priorities, managing dozens of accounts, filling out paperwork and dealing with client concerns absorb a lot of time. Successful sales people prioritize their time and use technology to help them manage their workload.
What can you do to improve your organizational skills?
Habit #8: Asking for Testimonials. Most sales people don’t seek out and use testimonials even though they know the importance of doing so. The challenge is that they don’t know how to ask or they are afraid that their customer won’t provide a testimonial. Top sales people consistently ask for testimonials and even help their customers develop an appropriate endorsement.
What can you do to develop this habit?
Habit #9: Follow up. Many a sale has been lost due to lack of follow up. And given the technology we have at our fingertips today, this should be a no-brainer. However, too many sales people fail to follow-up after sending a proposal mistakenly thinking that the prospect will call them if they are interested. News flash! It’s up to you to follow through afterwards and I guarantee that you are losing sales if you are waiting for people to call you back.
What follow-up system can you develop?
I’d enjoy hearing what other habits sales people need to develop. Post your comments or insights!
Many people wonder what separates a top performing sales person from the rest of the pack. In most cases, it’s because they apply a number of best practices in their daily routine. Here are 17 best practices of top performing sales people.
1. They set HIGH TARGETS and goals. Top performers don’t wait for their manager to issue an annual or quarterly quota. They set their own goals which is usually more ambitious than the corporate targets.
2. They carefully PLAN their quarter, month and week, as well as their daily schedule. Too many sales people fly by the seat of their pants and only look at the day or week ahead instead of planning their month and quarter. Look at the big picture.
3. They set OBJECTIVES for every sales call. It is essential to know exactly what you want to accomplish before you make your call (face-to-face or telephone).
4. They ASK high-value questions that probe to the heart of the issue. Sounds simple but most sales people fail at this and ask weak, feeble questions. Top performers are comfortable asking tough questions that make their prospect think.
5. They LISTEN carefully to what their prospects & customers say. You can ask all the questions in the world but if you don’t hear what people tell you won’t be able to present the proper solution. Instead of waiting for your turn to speak listen to your customer.
6. They CLARIFY the issue when they are unclear what their prospect means. People often say things that are unclear and most sales people assume they know what their prospect means. Top performers take the time to fully understand by asking “What do you mean by that?” of “Can you clarify that for me?”
7. They WAIT to present their product, service, solution or idea until they know exactly what their prospect’s situation is. The majority of sales people jump too quickly into their ‘sales pitch’ but top performers are patient and wait for the right moment.
8. They begin every sales presentation with a brief RECAP of their understanding of the prospect’s situation. Again, a simple concept but one that is greatly ignored by many sales people. A quick summary of your customers’ situation give you the opportunity to ensure that your presentation addresses their key issues.
9. They know how to ADAPT their sales presentation if their prospect’s situation has changed. Making changes on-the-fly is challenging but it is one way to stand out from your competition. Learn how to modify your presentation when customer’s situation has changed from the time you initially met to the time you are delivering your presentation.
10. They know how to properly and effectively POSITION their product, service or solution. The vast majority of sales people fail miserably at this. They talk, talk, talk but usually end up talking about aspects of their product or solution that have little or no relevance to their customer’s situation.
11. Their sales presentations FOCUS on the prospect. Most sales presentations focus on the seller’s company, their product, or other trivial information that is of no interest to the customer.
12. They are PREPARED for potential objections. Top performers anticipate objections and plan their response before their sales call.
13. They always establish the NEXT STEPS. Decision makers are busier than ever which means they are more difficult to connect with. Avoid losing contact with a prospect by agreeing on the next steps after every sales call. Do this in face-to-face meetings and telephone calls.
14. They FOLLOW-UP after the initial call or meeting. Many a sale has been lost because the sales rep failed to follow up after the initial call. You cannot rely on your prospect or customer to call you; you need to take this initiative. Set this up during your call or meeting.
15. They PROSPECT continually to keep their pipeline full. It’s not uncommon for sales reps to experience peaks and valleys in their sales. This is usually a result of failing to prospect for new business on a regular basis. Avoid the highs and lows and schedule time to prospect for new business every week.
16. They deal with the DECISION-MAKER whenever possible. Dealing with people who have little or no buying authority is a waste of time. However, many sales people fall into this trap because it is easier to connect with people other than the decision maker. And that may be true. However, in the long run, they end wasting their time because they don’t close the deal.
17. They look for ways to KEEP IN TOUCH with their customers. A sale is not a one-time deal. However, you need to find ways to keep your name in your customer’s mind to prevent a competitor from squeezing in. Top performers incorporate this into their schedule and make it a priority.
Can you think of other best practices? If so, please leave your comment below.