Every month I interview a front-line sales person to get their perspective on what it takes to be successful in sales. This month’s guest is Michael Rudd, Account Manager for Radio Ohio. One of the reasons I chose to interview Mike was how he framed his initial email.
He introducted himself and went on to say, “But enough about me. What are you looking for in a guest?”
He was the only person to take this approach and right away I knew he would be a good guest.
I wasn’t disappointed.
This was one of best interviews I have had.
Mike offers some terrific ideas on how to stand out from the competition in a highly competive market. He REALLY knows how to sell and make a difference with his clients and how to stand out from the competition. We talked for 23 minutes and I could easily have talked to him for at least an hour.
I was especially intrigued how he got his start in sales by selling hot dogs. This was fascinating!
Do yourself a favour (Canadian spelling) and listen to this podcast; it will be worth your time. I guarantee it.
**If you would like to be guest on this series please drop me a line and let know why you would be a good guest. Please note: I am not interviewing sales guru’s, experts, trainers or authors. I want to insights from front-line sales people.
Today’s guest in this edition of How to Succeed in Sales is Dan Henderson, Regional Sales Manager for Schneider National Carriers. The transportation and trucking business is a highly competitive industry with dozens of shipping options available to businesses. In this interview Dan explains how he manages to stay ahead of the competition, achieve his sales goals and expand his business WITHOUT resorting to heavy discounting.
I trust you will find this interview as enjoyable and insightful as I did.
BTW: If you would like to share your sales success secrets and be interviewed for this series, drop me line and tell me why you would be a great guest for the series.
Ever get one of those ah-ha moments when you’re selling?
My first ah-ha moment was more than 15 years ago.
I was in-between careers at the time and had developed a sales training program for the hospitality industry called, How to Make Incredible Tips (my first career was in the restaurant business). I just presented the program to the General Manager of a restaurant and even though I made almost every selling mistake possible, she expressed strong interest in the program. I didn’t know what to do next so I asked, “Should we schedule a day for this?” We set a day and I floated out the store. The ah-ha moment was recognizing buying signals and summoning up the courage to ask for the business.
Since that time, I have had many other ah-ha moments in sales. In no particular order, here are a few (okay, maybe more than a few!) that immediately come to mind:
1. You don’t have to talk as much as you think.
2. It’s okay to pause before you respond to a question or request.
3. Silence is a powerful sales weapon when used at the appropriate time.
4. The person asking the questions controls the sales conversation.
5. The sooner price is discussed the more of a focal point it will become.
6. If you keep your pipeline full at all times you will seldom have to worry about reaching your targets and quotas.
7. Selling is not telling. The title of one of the first sales books I read and a concept that is still relevant.
8. It’s NEVER about you. This applies to your sales calls, meetings, and presentations.
9. Questions make the difference but it can be challenging to ask tough penetrating questions.
10. A slump is only temporary if you are willing to take action to break out of it.
11. Most people will not react as negatively as you think they will.
12. You have to believe in the product/service that you sell if you want to achieve long-term success.
13. Scripts work providing you personalize and deliver them properly. You also need to be flexible.
14. Relationships are still one of the most effective ways to build business and generate new sales.
15. It’s okay to screw up a cold call and call that prospect back in a week because it’s doubtful he will remember you.
16. People will tell you anything you want (and need) to know if you have the courage to ask.
17. It’s okay to walk away from a deal if it doesn’t make good business sense.
18. Little things such as consistency make a difference.
19. Following up when you say you will follow-up seldom goes unnoticed especially by new prospects.
20. You MUST constantly evolve and improve your skills; it is no longer an option.
21. To make networking pay off you need to attend the events that your key prospects attend.
I could probably add another dozen ah-ha moments but I’d like to hear from you. What ah-ha moments have YOU had in your sales career?
I recently watched a construction crew prepare to pour curbs in front of my house and along the rest of the street. The footings were already in place so I assumed that a cement mixer would pull up, dump concrete into a form, and move on.
Boy, was I mistaken!
What surprised me was the amount of preparation that was done before any concrete was actually poured. In addition to ensuring that the footings were clean by spraying them with pressurized air, they set horizontal guide lines and checked the height of that line numerous times. I watched one worker kneel on the ground and take a sight line along the cord and instruct a coworker to adjust the height by a centimeter or two. They continued this exercise along the entire street. Next, someone came by with a huge level and double-checked the lines to make sure they were completely even.
All this for curbs! Who woulda thought?
But as I thought about it, it struck me that these guys are pouring concrete and they really can’t afford to make mistakes. Measure twice and pour once.
Measure twice and cut once is a well-known expression and here is how it applies to sales.
It is not uncommon to find sales people who measure once and miss the cut because they didn’t think about potential problems or outcomes. They lose the sale because they didn’t do any research on their prospect before calling them. They didn’t think about the questions they would ask once they were face-to-face with a decision-maker. They didn’t think how they would position or present their product, service or offering. They didn’t anticipate potential objections. And they didn’t plan their follow-up strategy.
In today’s business world you seldom get a second chance which means your first meeting, presentation, and solution had better be on the money. Sales people don’t get the second chances like they used to; decision makers are far too busy. That why you need to get it right the first time. No if’s, but’s, and’s or maybe’s. That means it is essential to plan your strategy and approach.
Here are a few differences between measuring once versus twice.
Measuring once means mentally reviewing the key questions you need to ask your prospect just before you head out the door to your appointment. Measuring twice means writing those questions on paper so you don’t forget them AND verbally reviewing them immediately before your sales call.
Measuring once means reviewing the key points of your sales presentation. Measuring twice means rehearsing your presentation AND video-taping or recording it so you can actually see and hear your approach.
Measuring once means anticipating potential objections. Measuring twice means determining what evidence you will provide when you respond to those objections. Better yet, it means pre-empting the objections BEFORE they are even expressed.
Measuring once means making a mental note to send a prospect a thank-you card or note after the meeting. Measuring twice means using a CRM system so you can stay in touch with high-value prospects in a variety of ways.
Before you dash off to your next sales call or appointment, slow down and determine what you can do to improve your odds of success.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-vCbpurUuU] I was recently reminded how important timing is in sales. You can approach a potential prospect with the greatest idea in the world but if your timing is off, you likely won’t move forward in the sales process. This presents a potential problem because if a competitor approaches your prospect when they ARE ready to buy, then you will miss out on a valuable sales opportunity.
So, how can you manage this? You certainly can’t be calling your prospect every week to ask them if they are ready to meet or move forward. You can’t read their minds (at least I know I can’t!). And you can’t rely on them to call you when they’re in the position to buy.
Here’s a simple concept that can help: develop a plan to keep your name in their mind. Here’s what you do.
Create a file or repository of valuable, industry-related information and regularly send your prospects something. At least monthly, perhaps every couple of weeks. Use a variety of approaches including; email, snail mail, fax, voice mail, courier, and face-to-face contact. This keeps your name in their mind while demonstrating that you are a resource, not just a supplier.
One word of caution: this strategy requires forethought and planning. It’s easy to start and difficult to maintain. The key to results is to keep the plan in action.
I don’t know many businesses that have LESS competition than a few years ago. And many of these competitors are beating at YOUR customers’ door in an effort to get their business. Here are three strategies you can employ that will help you keep your competition from gaining a foothold.
1. Increase face time. You don’t need to increase the number of appointments sales calls you make. Instead, think of networking events, conferences and trade shows your customer’s may attend and make arrangements to be there too.
2. Increase touch points. Increase the number of times your customer receives contact from you. This can include; email, telephone, face-to-face meetings, direct mail, etc. Many of your customers will accept more contact from you. The key is to provide some type of value in each of these contacts.
3. Increase the value you bring to the equation. Every time you see, meet, connect or interact with a customer, make sure you add value to the interaction. Industry insights or information to help them achieve their goals and objectives or trends in the marketplace can all add value.
Although these strategies sound simple, the execution requires planning and forethought. However, the investment will pay off when your competitors hear, “We love our vendor.”
Your ideal client are those “suspects” you target, not prospects
To be successful in sales, you must not just understand the selling process, you also must know where you are in the process at all times.
In no area is this more important than realizing who is your ideal client.
Too often top salespeople and managers make the mistake of “customizing” their ideal client depending on the situation. Much like the initial benefit statement, there is no customization. The reason is that delivering your ideal client refers to how you target “suspects” – not “prospects.”
What is the difference? With suspects, you don’t know what you don’t know- or simply you don’t know with who you are speaking- so how can you customize it?
suspects become prospects, prospects become hot prospects, and hot prospects become clients.
Of course, you will have customers (who are first prospects) beyond your ideal client. But when it comes to deciding which networking events to attend, which companies to cold call or door knock, and who are the best referral sources, knowing your ideal client- as defined per above is critical.
The best way to understand the ideal client is to ask yourself:
1. Can I create a list of potential clients by typing in criteria on the Internet – or speaking to the receptionist?
2. Can a referral source send me prospects without talking to others?
For instance, TBN Sales Solutions idea client is as such:
a. Company with between 10 and 100 salespeople b. Company with between 50 and 1,000 employees c. Revenues between $1 million and $100 million d. Company has multiple locations e. There is no director of training f. There is a VP of Sales d. Salespeople have had formalized training, but not in the past 10 years
(info can be answered by receptionist)
e. Outside salespeople (same as above) f. Salespeople have salary plus incentive to surpass $100,000 (same as above) g. Salespeople compensation part “farming” and hunting (same as above)
1. Look at your 10 best clients (or your company’s clients) 2. Write down 10 distinguishing characteristics of each 3. Narrow to 10 total characteristics (per above definition) 4. Now you know your ideal client
Lastly, your ideal client is that whose characteristics you – or a potential referral source – can discover without talking to the decision-maker.
If not, you need to get cracking because if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there? Here are a few simple strategies that can help you make the most of the upcoming year.
Write down EXACTLY what you want to achieve this month, quarter or year and use the SMART formula:
Specific Motivational (for you) Achievable (for you) Relevant (to your situation) Time framed
Next, create a mental image of yourself completing the goal and how you will feel, act and think. For extremely powerful results create a visual representation of your goal and place it where you will see it all the time.
The third step is to record two to three action steps you can take that will help you achieve your goal. The more ambitious your target is the more action steps you will likely need to plot out.
Finally, take some form of action within the next 24 hours. This is a powerful strategy because it tells your subconscious mind that you are serious about attaining that particular goal.
Avoid the “I’ll just let things happen” syndrome; plan your outcome. Smart business people know that time invested in planning always pays dividends.