- Sell yourself first! Then sell the organization… then sell products and services. By building strong customer relationships we can conduct more comprehensive situational analyses (because customers and prospects will tell us more…), which provide us with important insights into what each customer or prospect is trying to accomplish and how we might best help.
- Objectively qualify sales opportunities; this promotes process efficiency and can also result in greater levels of mutual respect between seller and buyer.
- Conduct comprehensive need analyses; the most effective sales people seek to optimize each situation in a fashion that delivers maximum benefits to their customers; this means our assessment must go beyond the business-at-hand, and must go beyond what customers “think they need.” We must understand needs as well as implications, and seek multiple opportunities to deliver value.
- Incorporate trial closing questions into selling conversations – frequently! As summarized in a recent article, trial closing questions seek opinions rather than decisions. They enable sales people to not confirm a mutual understanding of priorities, but also (and more importantly) to confirm buyers’ receptivity. When we receive positive responses to these questions it also builds confidence so we can more comfortably seek commitments.
- Focus on customer benefits. It’s not about what we do or what we offer… it’s about what they get! To maximize relationships as well as opportunities, we must understand and focus on what’s best for the customer; on the “benefits” that each customer will receive as a result of the sale. However, be warned, distinguishing between “features” and “benefits” is not as easy as one might think!
Selling is a people business. People buy from people, and most often, from people that they like. But what makes one sales rep more likable than the next? Surely all, or at least most sellers try to be likable!
Attitude makes the difference.
A positive attitude is not only easily recognizable, but it’s catchy. Sellers who possess truly positive attitudes honestly expect the best from customers and prospects, and they offer their personal best as well. They tend to react to things in an upbeat way and, more importantly, tend to bring about positive return reactions.
Every sales person and every sales manager should recognize the importance of developing and maintaining such an attitude within themselves and within their organizations.
A final testimonial to this discipline is a poem, author unknown, entitled The Winner. The final verse:
Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man;
but sooner or later the man who wins
is the fellow who thinks he can.
Selling is a process, not a one-time event, and it is best to adopt the proper long-term perspective if we’d like to achieve long-term success.
Using the sample circular visual below as a guide, there are two important yet often over-looked fundamentals to consider:
- The selling process never ends; once we meet a prospect and go through the cycle once, our goal is to maintain an appropriate contact frequency based on a number of need-based variables, and to both retain the customer and identify a new need at some future point
- The ability to move at an optimal pace from one step to the next and to do so in unison with our customers is the key to success
Once we adopt the proper long-term view, the means by which we will move from step to step is follow-up. In fact, we often refer to effective follow-up as the “glue” that keeps the process together and moving forward. If we follow-up diligently, on a value-added basis and with the right frequency, we’ll be able to keep the process (and the customer) moving toward our ultimate goal.
But be advised! If we move too slowly, we run the risk of losing-out to a competitor or to shifting priorities; if we move too quickly, or skip steps, we’re likely to alienate or lose the customer.
Therefore it is imperative that we maintain a keen awareness of the process steps, establish goals for each, continually seek customer feedback, and master the art of value-added follow-up.
You can review a detailed summary of the activities and goals associated with each step on our website.
In addition, and as noted in an earlier post, others have used the “GLUE” analogy with respect to managing customer relationships, and have suggested it is an acronym for Give Little Unexpected Extras!
Please note, these little “extras” need not be material in nature – the simple act of “thinking” of someone and sending or giving them information or recognition can go a long way…
Did you know that over half of the criteria on which others interpret our communication is based on the non-verbal component of the way we interact?
Here’s one of our “Sixty Second Success Tips” that provides additional perspective and suggestions for better non-verbal communication:
“What’s the one thing your company has that none of your competitors have, nor would they claim to have?”
At first people rack-their-brains to identify that illusive feature… “Ease of use!” or “Simple integration!” or “Exceptional support!” or “An extra whatever…”
But these answers are not correct… because competitors most likely have, or at least claim to have the same things.
The correct answer is always the same… YOU are the one thing that is truly unique… the one thing that can not ever be duplicated by anyone!
Our competitors will all claim to have similar or better things to offer; they will talk about “high quality products, excellent technical support, the latest technology, great customer service, return on investment, on-time delivery, guarantees, the best of the best…, and so on, and so on.”
In one of his daily sales tips, author Jack Falvey states, “If you’re part of the sale, there’s no such thing as a commodity!”
He goes on to explain that our product or service becomes a commodity purchase only if we declare it so; because if we are part of every sale, our product or service is automatically differentiated and becomes unique (and worth paying a premium for!).
So the real question is, what can YOU add to every transaction… to every proposal or quote?
Whatever it is, it does NOT need to be tangible. We’re not suggesting an extra discount or a “throw-in.” Rather, what can YOU add that is truly unique?
- Better analysis?
- Better advice?
- Superior buying experience?
- Honest interest?
- Faster turnaround?
- An extra set of eyes?
- A conversation with a support expert?
- A referral to solve an unrelated problem or satisfy a different need?
- Preparation of documents…?
Obviously the answers will vary depending upon your buyer’s needs, interests and priorities . But if we consistently probe to determine what “little extra” they might value and make sure it is part of our value proposition, we will then differentiate ourselves and our offer from all others.
When a person is passionate about their work or an activity it has a profound impact on others – whether they are customers, prospects or colleagues.
Passion is powerful! It is contagious; it promotes credibility and buy-in. It shows that we care!
In a recent article posted on salesnexus.com, author Craig Klein asks, “What’s Your Passion?”
In the article Klein references a very inspiring book which we also recommend; it is entitled “The War of Art“ by Steven Pressfield, and it shares some excellent perspective on achieving goals and unleashing our passion.
In it Pressfield quotes W.H. Murray of The Scottish Himalayan Expedition: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now.”
As Klein points-out, the idea is not to fall victim to procrastination. “Start today. Even if you’re not sure you’ve chosen the right path. The best way to know for sure is to begin the journey.”
Cory Treffiletti, President of California-based Catalyst S+F, seems to have had a similar perspective when he suggested adding a “fifth P” to the four basic principles of marketing, which are commonly referred to as the four “P’s” — Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.
The “fifth P,” Treffiletti suggests, is what unites a community and motivates individuals; the “fifth P” inspires desire and instills loyalty; it encourages word-of-mouth.
The “fifth P,” Treffiletti says, is passion!
While this final example may be a bit “over the top,” I’m thinking you will agree it’s hard to ignore the obvious passion exhibited by “the tambourine guy” in the video below.
The reference was made in a LinkedIn article by Dana Therrien, at SiriusDecision, who suggests, “No matter what your part is, and whatever band you play in, be exceptional, be passionate and try to have some fun. Isn’t that what we all want to do? We all want to work somewhere where we can feel free to be expressive, where things are interesting, where people are creative, and where all the players bring out the best in one another by knowing and performing their parts.”
Here’s a short (approximately 1 minute) video that is part of our Sixty-Second Success Tips series.
This installment covers some business development fundamentals that might help you grow your sales territory or professional services practice.
As noted in the video, you can also download a free business development action plan from our website, which will help you to balance your approach and set a more strategic course for the year.
Instead, it’s best to be prepared with a strong “elevator speech” that is concise and benefits-oriented.
If we hope to engage others and maximize their interest, we should make our clients the stars of this introduction. In other words, rather than sharing the details of “what we do,” we can share an overview of what our clients typically “get” by identifying the problems or objectives they commonly have and how we help them solve those problems or achieve those objectives.
And we should be brief… no more than 30 seconds.
Here’s a free worksheet that can help you craft the best personal introductions or elevator speeches, a term that originated with the “short” introductions made during an elevator ride.
Effective business communication is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.
While there are obviously many facets of communication, there is one simple habit that, if well developed and consistently executed, will improve your business communication and success level significantly.
When asked to identify this habit, most people think it involves the conveyance of one’s message – either a smooth or powerful delivery, or a pleasant voice tone. Others suggest that the best communicators are good listeners, and some opine that the art of asking good questions is the key.
These are all very important elements of good communication, but none of these represents the habit to which we refer. The critical skill we have in mind is the one that helps you make things happen. It is the habit that brings about action! And, as promised, it is simple…
It is the practice of specifically identifying and scheduling the next steps that are consequential to your communication — consequential to your discussions, your meetings, your teleconferences, your interviews, your sales calls, and so on — and doing so while the details of those interactions are fresh-in-the-minds of all parties.
If this seems too simplistic, please think again. Consider the fact that all business communication, regardless of its form, must be purposeful. We conduct meetings to share information on which people must act. We make sales calls so that people will buy. We run training sessions to help people perform better. We go on interviews with hopes of being hired; we conduct interviews with hopes of hiring. Each form of business communication has a purpose, and that purpose involves action.
So, for example, at the end of each sales call, what can we do to make something specific happen… the next step in the process? What can we say at the end of each staff meeting to make sure everyone is on-board with the conclusions drawn and that each participant is clear on his or her role in implementing agreed-upon solutions or processes? After meeting a new prospect at a networking event, is there a way to end our conversation that will result in a meaningful future discussion about a business relationship?
The answers to all of these questions may vary in content, but in principle they’re all the same – we must identify and then arrange the next steps, and we must do so definitively.
For instance, after meeting a good prospect at a trade show, it is far better to arrange a specific follow-up plan such as, “I’ll call you Monday at 3pm,” rather than a vague plan such as, “I’ll call you next week!”
“It has been nice meeting with you today, Ms. Buyer. Based on the information you’ve shared, I’ll put together a formal proposal for outfitting your facility with widgets. Can we schedule a brief meeting to review the proposal’s details? How about next Wednesday or Thursday…?”
“OK sales team, our goals for the upcoming week are clear. Along with our regular sales calls, each of us will make twenty-five additional courtesy calls to current customers because we’ve all agreed that retention levels must be improved. These calls will be documented in the newly-created section of our CRM program, and we’ll get together on Wednesday at 4pm to discuss progress – any questions?”
Many report having to reiterate the same policies and procedures, only to have them fall on deaf ears again and again.
If this sounds familiar, there is a simple solution for today’s leaders!
As presented in a recent newsletter, storytelling has proved to be the key leadership technique for increasing understanding, buy-in, and compliance.
For example, in a recent Forbes article, author and consultant Steve Denning suggests, “Rather than merely advocating and counter-advocating propositional arguments, which lead to more arguments, leaders establish credibility and authenticity through telling their stories…
“When they [leaders] believe deeply in them, their stories resonate, generating creativity, interaction and transformation.”
“Stories can change the way we think, act, and feel,” says the editorial team at mindtools.com.
“They can form the foundations of an entire workplace culture, and they have the power to break down barriers and turn bad situations around. Stories can capture our imaginations, illustrate our ideas, arouse our passions, and inspire us in a way that cold, hard facts often can’t.”
Research by Paul Smith, a consumer research executive, indicates the following as being among the most common reasons for the use of stories by business leaders:
- Inspiring the organization
- Setting a vision
- Training or teaching important lessons
- Defining culture and values
- Garnering organizational buy-in
- Leading change