Selling has become more difficult and challenging in recent years. However, if you think it’s tough to sell, try being a corporate decision maker.
Anyone who is responsible for making buying decisions experiences stress when they are faced with these decisions. Even if they like your product or service they will have questions and concerns about making a decision.
The problem is that many of these questions will NEVER be verbally expressed.
Here are just a few of the possible concerns and questions that occupy their mind space during your sales conversation.
1. How can this sales person or his company help me?
2. What’s in it for me? How will I personally benefit?
3. What happens if the company fails to execute or deliver what this sales person says they will do?
4. Are the claims about this product accurate?
5. How will this decision affect me and my position?
6. I’ve heard other sales people say that before, why should I believe this person?
7. What will happen if I do nothing?
8. How hard am I going to have to fight to get approval for this? Is it worth the fight?
9. Who is going to challenge me and oppose this decision?
10. How will this decision affect my boss’s perception of me?
11. What will my boss think about this decision?
12. We tried something like this before and it didn’t work; why should I consider it again?
13. How difficult is it going to be to implement this solution?
14. Is it worth the headache and hassle to make the change or is it simpler just to deal with the status quo?
15. Is the problem really big enough?
16. How much is this going to cost in terms of soft costs such as people, time, meetings, etc.?
17. What hasn’t the sales person told me?
18. What hidden costs haven’t been factored into this solution?
Not every decision maker is going to have ALL of these questions running through their head but I guarantee that ALL of your prospects will have several questions or concerns at the very least.
That means it is critical that you find out what questions your prospect has on their mind.
Unless you uncover AND deal with these questions and concerns, it is unlikely that your prospect will actually make an affirmative buying decision.
The next time you’re talking to a prospect about your offering think about the questions running through their head and figure out how you will deal with those concerns.
Looking for speaker for an upcoming sales meeting, training program or conference? Give me a call and we’ll discuss how to best achieve your goals. 905-633-7750
I recently read a quote from Adam Levine—front-man for Maroon 5—that went something like, “I believe I am entitled to what I have achieved.”
He wasn’t bragging or boasting about his success.
Rather, he was expressing his belief system which is different than the average person. Many people say things like, “Money is the root of all evil” or “Nice guys finish last” or “I don’t want to be greedy” or other similar statements.
Unfortunately, this belief system prevents these individuals from achieving their full potential.
The same concept applies to sales and selling.
Top sales performers have a different set of beliefs than their coworkers or average sales people. Here are 7 beliefs they possess that the average sales person does not.
1. I deserve to earn a great income
Top sales performers seldom sell for the money but they enjoy the lifestyle their results bring. And they don’t feel guilty or apologize for earning a six or seven figure income.
Personal admission: When I left the corporate world, my salary was in the mid-high five figures and in less than three years my gross income more than tripled. However, during this time my brain constantly shouted to me, “You’re not worthy” and “It should be harder than this” and the following year, my income dropped by more than 65 percent!
Needless to say, I have since changed my thinking and belief systme. I believe—and know—that I deserve to earn a great income and live the lifestyle that I want.
2. Prospects need my product, service or solution
This is the most important belief because it sets the tone for the rest.
If you don’t believe that your prospects or customers actually need your product, serfvice or solution, you will not achieve long-term success in sales.
A participant in a sales training workshop once asked me what type of sales was the best one to make lots of money and I told him that he should sell something that he believes in. I also said that I knew a salesperson that primarily sold shirts in a men’s fashion store who earned more than $70K per year.
3. I can ask my prospect any question
Most sales people ask superficial questions or questions that are easy to answer because they believe that they don’t have the right to ask tough, direct questions. Or, they believe that these questions are too personal or probing.
However, great sales people ask great questions. Their questions are hard-hitting, direct and thought-provoking and they make their prospect sit up and think.
Top sales reps know that they need to ask these tough questions in order to get to the heart of the problem and to really determine the best solution (and how to present it).
4. There will always be someone else to sell to
Don’t confuse this with complacency.
Top sales people don’t like to lose sales but they also realize that they will not close every deal that comes their way.
Successful sales people constantly prospect for new business and look for new sales opportunities. They keep their pipeline full and allocate a significant amount of their time to prospect for new business.
This gives them the luxury of being able to walk away from any deal that doesn’t make good business sense and it prevents the peaks and valleys that many people experience in their sales.
5. Senior decision makers are just people
Many sales people are intimidated when selling to senior people in a corporation. They get flustered, uncomfortable and this nervousness shows through in their conversations, meetings and sales presentations.
Top performers recognize that top business leaders are just people and don’t allow themselves to become intimidated.
They treat the other person with respect but they do not take a subservient role or position during sales conversation. In fact, the best sales people will actually challenge a senior decision maker’s perspective…but they do it in a professional manner.
6. Sales is an honorable profession
During my 17-plus years as a sales trainer, I have encountered many sales people who have said, “I’m only doing this until I find a real job.” After all, very few people finish school and say, “I’m getting into sales.”
However, selling is an honorable profession…when it’s done right.
I’m not talking about the people who will say and do anything to close a deal (and there are LOTS of them out there!).
Professional sales people do what’s best for their prospect/customer AND their company. They genuinely love selling, helping prospects and customers solve problems and making a difference in their customer’s world.
7. I earn the right to ask for the sale
I still can’t believe how many sales people never ask for their prospect or customer for a buying decision!
Top sales reps never hesitate to ask for the business because they know they have earned the right. They ask great questions, present their solution in a manner that makes sense to their prospect, and prepare for, and deal with, objections.
Change your belief system and change your results!
Relationship selling has long been the “go-to” approach for many sales people. However, research has shown that most decision makers no longer want a relationship with sales people.
The days of the drop-by visit, the “I’m just checking-in” call and sending brochures and other corporate literature to keep your prospect and customer are gone.
Your customers and prospects are too busy to sit and chat and they can’t afford the time to thumb through your latest catalogue of products or listen to you discuss the merits of your latest and greatest product update.
Relationship selling is no longer as effective as it used to be. At least, not in the traditional sense.
A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the importance of sales people improving their business acumen if they want to achieve long-term success.
On the surface, this seems like a simple concept.
However, the practical application is considerably challenging. It means that we, as sellers, need to become more knowledgeable. Not in our products but about current business issues.
I recently received an email from a sales person who asked how she could develop this business acumen.
Aside from reading trade magazines, the business section of the newspaper and scouring the Internet for new trends and issues, you can meet with existing customers and ask them what trends they are noticing, what challenges they are encountering in their business (unrelated to your product or service), or what changes they anticipate. Be upfront by telling them that you want to broaden your knowledge.
The key is to use this new-found knowledge to help other non-competing customers and prospects improve their business results.
I love meeting with business executives because I enjoy discussing business and hearing different perspectives and insights about changes in industries or trends. This type of information fascinates me because these issues affect business results and ultimately influence buying decisions.
I have found that most senior level business people are willing to share their expertise and wisdom providing you reciprocate.
This approach is much more effective in developing strong relationship than the traditional, old-school methods. Not only will you stand out from your competition, you will be viewed as a peer which will give you immediate access to your customer.
Relationship selling has changed…have you?
If you’re planning a sales meeting, training program or conference this year, give me a call and we can discuss how to get the most from it. 905-633-7750 or Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca
Yesterday I posted three ideas to help you increase your sales in the upcoming year. After writing that post I decided to post a few ideas every day this week.
Here are two more suggestions.
Increase your Actual Selling Time
I know, you’re probably thinking that you already spend 40 hours a week selling.
Well, the truth is most sales people do NOT spend as much time selling as they could. Productivity expert, Mark Ellwood, has discovered that most sales people spend as much as 78% of their time on non-selling activities.
This includes: travel time, admin work, planning, researching their prospects, fulfilling orders, dealing with client concerns and problems, attending meetings, training sessions, conferences, and trade shows. This does NOT include distractions, socializing, and interruptions.
If you want to have a great year you NEED to maximize your selling time.
This means doing pre-call research, completing expense reports, and other admin work during non-selling times. The most successful sales reps do this type of work early in the morning or at the end of the day after they have returned to the office.
If you want to be achieve your sales targets in today’s new economy you need to discipline yourself to do this additional work at a time when it doesn’t interfere with actual selling activities.
Improve your Ability to Connect with Decision Makers
This is one the biggest challenges because decision makers are so busy in today’s business environment. Decision makers are incredibly busy which makes it extremely difficult for sales people to actually connect with them. It can even be difficult to connect with existing customers.
It used to take about 7 attempts to connect with a decision maker but now it takes as many 16 tries. And that’s just to connect with them for the first time.
Maintaining ongoing contact is another challenge.
This means you need to change your approach.
Instead of taking a shotgun approach and trying to connect with decision makers in dozens of companies at the same time, you need to focus your efforts on trying to get into a few businesses at a time.
And to achieve this you need to use a variety of strategies. This includes; calling, snail mail, networking, email, tapping into your network, referrals and using social media.
The key with any of these approaches is to create a compelling message or to demonstrate your expertise on a particular business problem your prospect may be facing. This does not include sending self-promotion emails, corporate brochures or leaving long-winded voice mail messages.
If you want more ideas, tips and strategies that will help you increase your sales this year listen to my latest audio program, “Make 2012 Your Best Year Ever.” Get the details here.
In today’s fast-paced, hectic business world, more and more decision makers are prone to making that statement. And that makes it more difficult for people like you to connect with them.
Here’s how you can manage this objection.
First, it’s important to recognize that virtually every C-level executive you contact will have these words on their mind although the only ones likely to express their actual thoughts are the hard-driving, type-A personalities.
The average senior executive has more than 50 hours of uncompleted work on their desk at any given time so it’s no wonder they are quick to tell you that they don’t have time. The last thing they want is another project piled on their already overflowing plate.
One of my client recently told me, “I never, ever pick up the telephone or return a call from a sales person because I don’t have time to listen to a pitch for something I don’t need or want. Plus, I can’t possibly take on another project.”
Ultimately, this means you need to capture their attention—FAST!
Opening a call with something like, “Mrs. Smith, it’s Stan Prospector from HR Capital Inc. calling and I’d like to schedule a 60 minutes meeting to discuss the possible human resources challenges you’re facing…” is NOT going to work.
I mean seriously…would you meet with someone if they started a telephone conversation with something like that?
The key is to say something that addresses a potential business problem they may be encountering or to shed new light on an industry trend. People who occupy the C-suite want insight into new information, trends, or solutions.
Several of my clients want to know what I’m seeing in the marketplace every time we meet. They are hungry for new information. They want to know what their competitors are doing. They want ideas that will help them improve their business.
If you can achieve this in 30 seconds or less, you are less likely to hear, “I don’t have time” and more likely to move the sales conversation forward.
BTW: This applies to email correspondence, telephone calls, voice mail messages, snail mail, and face-to-face encounters.
Could your team use some help with this concept? Please give me a call and we can discuss the best approach to take. 905-633-7750 or email.
The vast majority of sales proposals I have read during my career miss the mark. They either don’t address the key issues that the prospect is facing or they fail to demonstrate how the prospect will benefit from buying the seller’s solution.
If you need to create sales proposals here are a few ways to make yours stand out from the competitions’.
Open with a situation summary.
One of the oldest and still most effective sales techniques is to summarize your understanding of the other person’s situation before launching into a sales presentation (aka sales pitch). And this is how you open the proposal.
The very first paragraph in your document should highlight or summary your prospect’s situation. What is their problem? What are they trying to achieve? What they experiencing or going through right now?
This single paragraph grabs your prospect’s attention because it speaks directly to the problems or challenges they want to fix, resolve or remedy.
The next component of the proposal should contain four to six bullet points that outline the customers’ key objectives. In other words, what do they want to accomplish or achieve?
You should have generated this information during the discussion(s) you had with your prospect.
The value to the company
Once again, this is a list of several bullet points that describe the value of achieving those objectives. It can be an increase in sales, higher customer loyalty, faster time to market, reduction in expenses, improvement in morale, etc.
The key to developing this page is to ask the right questions during your sales conversation(s). Essentially, you ask the other person questions that uncover the answers to these areas. And you take their comments and insert them into the proposal.
All of this information is placed on the first page of the proposal and you’ll notice that it focuses strictly on the customer; not you, your company or your product, service or solution. This is the fastest way to grab their attention and demonstrate your understanding of their needs and issues.
After that, the remaining pages outline what you will do to help the customer achieve the objectives listed on the first page.
Don’t be fooled by how easy this sounds…
Many sales proposals open with a page or two (or sometimes three!) describing the seller’s company. And it can be tough to wean yourself from this addiction.
However, every piece of information you include in a proposal MUST be interesting and relevant to the person reading it. You seldom, if ever, need to include every single feature or aspect about your solution.
Finally, make it easier to read by adding headings and including white space. A five page, single-spaced proposal written in a 10-point font is not easy to read which means many people will skim through it, or worse, flip to the last page to see how much it costs.
I recall receiving a proposal from one company that spanned 24 pages. Twenty-four pages!
Who has time to read that much information?!?
Certainly, there are exceptions for complex solutions but generally speaking, the shorter your sales proposal, the better. I have never had a prospect say, “Your proposal was too short, Kelley. That’s why we can’t consider you.”
Changing your approach and creating a sales proposal as outlined here will help you stand out from the other people who also submitted a proposal for consideration.
Getting an appointment with a new prospect has never been more challenging. It takes persistence, dedication and lots of hard work. This means you need to make the most of your time once you are face-to-face with them. The last thing you to want do is to lull them to sleep with your sales pitch or presentation.
However, many sales people manage to achieve just that.
Here’s what they do to cause their prospect to lose interest.
1. Open with corporate background
Spending the first ten, or even five minutes of your meeting, presenting details about your company, its products or services, your client list, and other corporate information is the fastest way to put a prospect to sleep.
I know you’ve probably read this before; in fact, I’ve written about it numerous times. However, far too many sales people still remain addicted to this approach. Let’s face it; you can’t sell if you don’t talk about your company, right?
While there is a slimmer of truth behind that thinking, it’s the timing that makes a difference. Opening with this information simply does not give your prospect a compelling reason to continue listening.
If you want your prospect to stay awake for the entire meeting you need to open with a different approach.
2. Ask “qualifying” questions.
This certainly goes against advice that I have written extensively about in the past.
In the “olden days” (pre-2009) it was perfectly acceptable to take the first 15 minutes of a sales meeting or presentation to ask your prospect a series of qualifying questions to get a good understanding of their situation and how you might be able to help.
Unfortunately, this approach is not as effective as it used to be.
Your prospect may answer your questions but they will also be wondering, “Why didn’t this person do his (or her) research? I don’t have time to educate him.”
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but how can I position my offering without knowing my prospect’s situation?”
That’s a valid question.
In today’s ever-changing business world, key decision makers expect you to have a basic understanding of their key business issues BEFORE you step foot in their office. You don’t necessarily need to know every problem they’re dealing with but you do need to know enough about their business so you can initiate an intelligent conversation.
3. Make the presentation a one-way monologue.
One of the fastest ways to lose a prospect’s attention is to make your presentation a one-way monologue. Standing (or even sitting) in front of them and launching into a 15-20 minute pitch about your solution may seem like the natural thing to do but it is one of the fastest ways to put a prospect to sleep.
Key decision makers like to be involved in a conversation and a one-way sales pitch causes them to quickly lose interest because you end up sounding like every other sales person they encounter.
A more effective approach is to engage them in a conversation. One that gets them thinking. A conversation that involves them and helps position you as a thought-leader.
Selling has changed. And that means you need to change to.
Once you have secured that all-important meeting with a valued prospect, don’t put them to sleep.
I do more than write about sales. I conduct sales training workshops and deliver sales keynote presentations at conferences and sales meetings. Contact me to find out how I can help enhance your upcoming event.
People buy for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they make decisions that seem irrational but in their mind, that decision was the right one to make at that time.
An acquaintance recently left a voice mail message that reminded me of a particularly important concept.
In today’s business world many decision makers are looking for reasons NOT to buy. It’s not that they don’t need and/or want you’re your solution. It’s just that they have completing priorities. They have limited resources. They have time restrictions. And, most importantly, they have too many projects, tasks and assignments on their plate.
Although your offering may appeal to them, they have to weigh the importance of it compared to everything they have to deal with.
Let’s face it, making a buying decision requires more than saying “Yeah, let’s do it!”
Time, cost, internal politics, return-on-investment and required resources are just a few of the considerations that run through a prospect’s mind.
Executives, buyers and other decision makers know that EVERY solution, even simple ones, require resources, time, effort, energy and additional work. Considering that the average executive has at least 40 hours of unfinished work on their desk at any given time, it’s no wonder they look for a reason NOT to make a buying decision.
This means that you need to present an extremely compelling reason why they should move forward with your solution. This also means that you need to clearly demonstrate and articulate that your solution offers a pile of advantages and benefits than their pile of hesitations, concerns, and objections.
It may sound like a simple argument but a solution that requires even a few hours of your prospect’s time can be enough to prevent them from taking action. It is critical that you clearly show your contact how that time investment will pay off for them—both personally and for the company.
Is your pile of reasons to buy bigger than your prospect’s pile of reasons not to buy?
During a recent client project I had the good fortune of observing a face-to-face sales call from both the seller’s perspective and that of the potential buyer.
The seller had previously dealt with one of the two decision makers although it had been a few years since that prospect had purchased from the seller’s company.
The sales person invested a few minutes on social chit-chat before getting into the heart of the meeting. He asked good questions that prompted one of the buyers to say, “That’s a good question, I hadn’t thought about that.” However, he did veer off topic several times to tell a story and he tended to spend too long on matters that were unrelated to the actual meeting.
After a 90 minute meeting (he did not confirm how much time his prospects had available at the outset) he determined the next steps and got confirmation from his buyers.
However, as soon as he left, one of the prospects looked at her colleague and said, “Was he ever going to shut up and leave? I didn’t plan to spend an hour and a half in this meeting. Didn’t he see that I was ready to go at least 20 minutes ago?” Her colleague said, “Yeah, he does that all the time.”
Here’s the interesting thing…
When I spoke to the sales person afterwards, he too, expressed his surprise that the meeting took so long. However, he had absolutely no idea that it was his fault. He was completely unaware that his stories and explanations prolonged an otherwise productive meeting.
I questioned him a bit further and he explained that he thought his stories were relevant and that they helped him establish rapport with his potential buyers. He also said that since it had been a while since he had seen the one person he had done business with in the past, that it was important to invest time catching up and creating a dialogue.
With all due respect, he was wrong.
Establishing rapport IS important but it is more important to respect the time of your prospects and customers.
That’s how you create rapport in today’s hectic business world.
The sales person should have picked up on that when one of the buyers said, “We’re in back to back meetings all day.” When that comment was made, he should have said, “We scheduled an hour for today’s meeting, does that still work for you?” Assuming it was, he then needed to make sure he stayed on track and on schedule.
Regardless of the relationship you have with existing customers or new prospects, it is critical to recognize that time is a precious commodity and your prospects don’t have time to waste. It is far better to end a meeting early than to go into overtime by talking about non-related topics.
My focus in life is helping sales people avoid mistakes like this one. If your sales team could use help call me 905-633-7750 or send me an email.
Ever wonder why that high-value prospect didn’t call you back even though he gave you the impression that he wanted to implement your solution? Let’s take a peek into a typical day of a corporate executive…
Rick Johnston, VP Business Development, sank into his office chair, dialed his voice mail pass code and heard, “You have seven new messages.”
“Hi this is Sean Preston from HiTech Corporation. We’re providers of customized software solutions that help companies like yours streamline their ordering processes. I’d like to…” Rick pressed the delete button and started listening to the next message.
“Mr. Johnston, Susan Meyers from Analytic Metrics. I’d like to schedule a short meeting to show you how our newest product will save you time and money…” Delete.
“Rick, it’s Brian from logistics. We have a major problem with the Global Software program. Call me right away.”
And it continued. Fortunately, Brian’s voice mail was the only one Rick needed to take action on. However, his email in-box was another story. Forty-two new messages waited for him and that was just since 2:30 this afternoon. Today, like every other day, was a blur.
He had arrived in his office at 7:15 AM and spent forty-five minutes responding to outstanding issues from the previous day. Then, for the next several hours, he hustled from meeting to meeting. A half-eaten sandwich on his desk reminded him of the minor crisis that had interrupted his lunch. Unexpected problems with their new CRM system they had recently implemented company-wide absorbed his afternoon forcing him to cancel two other meetings and delay a decision on yet another project he was overseeing.
On top of that was the directive to reduce spending yet again.
The CFO seemed completely out of touch with reality with his demands to cut back expenditures. Marketing, training, and other operational expenses were continually under the microscope. Employee lay-offs were rampant and head count is rapidly shrinking.
“How can we possibly run so lean and still cut resources?” Rick had challenged. The CFO simply shrugged and said, “That’s why we pay you the big bucks.”
But the biggest thorn in Rick’s side is the political battle he is fighting with Drew Strick, VP New Accounts.
Every time Rick attempts to implement a change that will improve the company’s results, Strick challenges him and attempts to derail his efforts. The VP has an uncanny ability to uncover the slightest shortcoming in Rick’s plans to improve the business and is more adept at aligning himself with the other executives. In fact, Strick makes every effort to publicize the fact that he frequently dines with the CEO, CIO, CFO, and President.
Rick broke away from his reflections and sighed. Another three hours of work to do and I still feel that I haven’t made any headway. He grimaced and dialed Brian’s extension to discuss the problem in logistics.
And that, my friends, is a typical day in the life of an executive.
Internal politics, budget cutbacks and spending freezes, an impossible amount of work to accomplish, and limited resources. It’s little wonder that they don’t return your calls or seem to take forever to make a decision. Even if you have a solution that is a perfect fit for your prospect’s company, it’s going to take a lot of work and patience to get through to your decision maker.
Planning a Sales Meeting, Conference or Event?
Kelley helps sales people master sales conversations so they can win more business and increase their sales. If you’re planning a sales meeting, conference or event and need an engaging & informative speaker, call him at: 905-633-7750 or Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca. Here’s Kelley in action: http://bit.ly/ef5P5l