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.
This month’s issue of “How to Succeed in Sales” features a non-traditional sales person.
My guest is Val Hilliker and she is a ventriloquist. However, she got her first taste of sales many years ago when she sold Filter Queen vacuum cleaners. Anyone who has ever tackled door-to-door sales knows how challenging it can be. However, she quickly became a top performer and she now uses several of the techniques when she’s selling her entertainment programs.
** If you’re a front-line sales person and would like to be interviewed for this podcast series, drop me a line and tell me why you would be a good guest. Please note: I am not currently interviewing sales experts, trainers, or authors.
Want to know exactly how to capture a prospect’s attention? Watch this video by Tim Carter aka Tim the Builder (it’s less than five minutes) and then read the rest of this post.
Address a specific problem.
Tim opened this video by addressing a specific problem…clutter in the garage. Fortunately, I don’t have this problem (honestly!) but I know many people who do.He demonstrated the impact of a cluttered garage and used this to open the video.
Sales tip: When contacting a prospect address a particular problem they might be facing.
It was targeted
He also made it very clear that his video was directed towards DIY home improvement guys (and gals). Anyone who is not interested in building a shed or DIY projects would likely tune out pretty quickly.
Sales tip: The more targeted your prospecting efforts, the more likely your prospect will sit up and pay attention.
Use different perspectives
Tim addressed the same problem but he attacked it in different ways. Instead of focusing just on garage clutter, he also addressed the common solution of placing everything in a storage unit. And, he presented some of the key problems of using that solution in a few sentences and single video clip.
Sales tip: You need to use different approaches to capture and keep a prospect’s attention.
He was passionate
It was obvious that Tim was passionate about his business. You could hear it in his tone and see it in his body language.
Sales tip: Are you passionate about your products and services?
Make it visual
He used a model of a shed to reinforce every point he made. When he talked about windows, he pointed to them in the model. He did the same thing when he said he would help viewers learn how to cut and install roof rafters. And he repeated the process for each aspect of the project.
Sales tip: What props can you use to enhance your sales presentation?
He painted pictures
When he talked about keeping the shed affixed to the ground, he referenced the house that Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz lived in.
Sales tip: What stories or picture can you use to create a memorable sales presentation?
He used a great hook
It wasn’t until the latter part of the video that I realized this was “fund-raising” video. Well, fund-raising is a stretch. The guy wants to create a new video series on how to build a great shed and he needs to build a shed to do that.
This takes a substantial amount of money so he used a creative approach to try and raise the funds. I figure with more than twenty-three thousand subscribers he will raise more than enough money to build the shed.
Sales Tip: What hook can you create to capture and keep a prospect’s attention?
He had a call to action
He made it clear what he wanted people to do…make a pledge.
Sales people can learn from this because far too often they don’t include a call to action in their emails, proposals or face-to-face meetings.
Sales Tip: What’s your call to action?
Tim the Builder may seems like a good old country boy but make no mistake…he is a brilliant marketer and sales person. Regardless of what you sell, you can learn something from this guy.
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.
Today’s post is the second in my series of interviews with real, front-line sales people.
During this podcast I talk to David Hannah who works at Myers Hyundai in Ottawa, ON. I have known David for about 10 years; in fact he was one of the first people to buy my book Stop, Ask & Listen. David was actually the inspiration for this podcast series after I read an email he sent me last December. When he outlined the success he had achieved in a particularly difficult industry I thought people could benefit from hearing sales success secrets and strategies directly from sales people who work the front lines every day.
I hope you enjoy it.
BTW: If you’re a sales professional who has acheived better-than-average success in your career and would like to be considered for a future podcast, drop me a line.
Every year I get asked to make predictions about sales and selling for the upcoming year. One of the trends I have noticed in B2B selling is the challenge of connecting with decision makers.
It used to be difficult to make contact with key people in corporations. Now, it seems next to impossible at times.
I don’t see this trend changing.
In fact, if anything, it will become increasingly more difficult to connect with senior executives.
Several factors contribute to this challenge.
Every executive I know has more work on their desk than they can possibly get through. A few years ago I read that most executives have approximately 40 hours of unfinished work at any given time. Based on the conversations I have had with my clients in the last year, their workload has increased substantially.
This all means that they are reluctant to meet with sales people because is a precious commodity. If you do manage to get their attention (via telephone or face-to-face) it is imperative that you make the most of that time.
Practically every business person has fewer resources available than they did in the past. Headcounts are constantly being tightened as companies seek ways to manage expenses and maintain their profitability.
That means your contacts are under increasing pressure to do more with less. Many people who once had an executive assistant no longer have that luxury. And executive assistants have more work on their plate as well.
Virtually every industry has more competition than ever which means more sales people calling your prospects. As a result, your prospects and their executive assistants (aka gatekeepers) are spending more time fielding calls from people trying to sell their product or service.
As a result, executive assistants are carefully guarding their boss’s schedule which makes it more difficult to get on their calendar.
So, what’s the answer?
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix. Connecting with senior executives and busy decision makers requires tenacity, discipline and persistence.
It also means you need to use every strategy possible. You can no longer rely solely on email or cold calling.
You need to use snail mail, fax and face-to-face visits. You have to attend networking events, trade shows, and conferences that your prospects also attend. You also need to tap into social media platforms such as LinkedIn.
You also need to develop a powerful value proposition that gives prospects a reason to sit up and listen. And this includes your prospect’s executive assistant.
However, on a positive note, most decision makers are constantly seeking ways to improve their business so once you do connect with them, clearly demonstrate how your solution will help them solve a problem. Differentiate yourself from other sales people by addressing the specific business issues and problems your prospect faces and show them exactly how your product or service will benefit their business. If you can accomplish that, your efforts will pay off.
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.
Several years ago I approached a PR firm about enlisting their services to promote my second book but after an initial conversation with the owner I declined to use their services. However, every six or seven months, I receive an email that states:
“I just wanted to touch base with you to see if you’re still interested in getting more publicity. If so, please give me a call so we can set up a time to chat. I’d love to speak with you about how our company can assist you get the results you want faster and easier. You can send me some of your available dates and times in the next couple of weeks and my assistant will get back to you to confirm a date.”
While it is critical to keep your name in your prospect’s mind this email missed the mark because it does not give a compelling reason why I should respond and it is obvious that it was part of a generic email campaign.
A more effective approach is to send your prospects information that will help them solve their business challenges. Provide insights to help them improve their results. Personalize everything to their specific situation. Give them a compelling reason to call you back or do business with you.
[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.