Category Archives: selling skills

Are You Interested?

interested3Whether you are a sales professional, sales manager, business executive or business owner, becoming “interested” is an important component of driving your organization’s sales and business development effort.

While great amounts of emphasis are more commonly placed on striving to become “interesting” in our interaction with others — that is, we focus on our “speaking points” and things we might say.

Instead, consider the concept of becoming more “interested” and how it might influence the various people involved.

Read the full article…

How to Close More Sales

salesWhile there are multiple objectives associated with the various steps of the selling process, closing the sale is the ultimate goal.

Sales people of all experience levels often talk about closing techniques. We’ve determined five key activities that enable sales professionals to close more sales and to to so with more confidence.

  1. 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.
  2. Objectively qualify sales opportunities; this promotes process efficiency and can also result in greater levels of mutual respect between seller and buyer.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

The Winner?

cards_on_the_table_400_clr_14651“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

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.

What is the One Thing Your Organization Has That No One Else Has?

glueWe frequently ask sales teams to answer this simple question:

“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?
  • Convenience?
  • 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.

What’s Next in Communication?

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…

message_in_the_sand_18916It 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?”

 

 

Ask All to Buy!

salesOur previous post referenced a well-known quote in which Arthur “Red” Motley defined the selling process in fifteen words: “Know your customer, know your product, call a lot of people, ask all to buy.”

That post focused on the quote’s opening three words, “know your customer.” Today’s focus is on the ending… “Ask all to buy.”

Clearly this part of the definition is all about closing the sale; but there is more to it than just asking for the order. If we consider the various steps in today’s consultative selling models and extended business development processes, the “close” might be better described as a “call to action.”

Further, if one is to maximize effectiveness, then every prospecting call, selling appointment or business development interaction should include a call to action.

Since many of these conversations with customers and prospects are not “transactional” — i.e., they do not involve the execution of an order — the “call to action” frequently does not take the form of asking for an order but rather asking for a next step; some type of action step that keeps the overall process moving forward.

These next steps might include a follow-up meeting, an exchange of additional information, a time to present a proposal, a subsequent appointment or conference call involving higher-level managers, or a follow-up telephone call. Of course there will hopefully be instances when the next step will involve the completion of an order but, as a general rule, we typically suggest a next step based on the relative success of the interaction; in other words, we ask for whatever it is we believe we have earned the right to request during the sales call.

Fore-armed for Success!
To enhance the quality and execution of sales or business development calls, it’s best to anticipate the possible calls-to-action or next steps that we might request during upcoming calls, as pre-call planning is a best practice shared by the most successful sales professionals!

In addition, the ideal call to action will include a commitment of some kind or an agreement-to-act made by the buyer. For example, there is a big difference between ending a sales call by saying, “I will call you next Tuesday” versus “Can we schedule a follow-up cal for next Tuesday at 2 o’clock?” If the buyer agrees and schedules the follow-up call, then he or she has agreed to take action.

Read the full article… for a few guidelines you might consider when crafting your list of possible outcomes and when proposing them to your customers and prospects…

And also for a “top 10” list of the most common things a buyer is likely to think if we FAIL to ask for a next step or commitment! (HINT – none of them are good…)

How Do You Know Your Customer?

questionmarkwordsIn a previous post we referenced Arthur “Red” Motley’s well-known and frequently cited fifteen-word definition of the selling process, noting that it was probably not by chance that the quote begins with a reference to customers:

“Know your customer, know your product,
call a lot of people, ask all to buy.”

In a more recent post by Jack Falvey, founder of makingthenumbers.com,  referenced some good sales advice from Rudyard Kipling, who wrote, “I had six serving men.  They taught me all I know.  Their names are Who, What, Where, Why, and How, and When.”

These words are are ageless, Falvey explains… .

“We are so busy telling people about what we sell and who we are, we lose sight of who they are…”

“Let’s find out what is going on in our customers’ world before we try to change it.  Who is doing what? Where are they doing it, and why?  How are they getting it done, by when?”

Falvey suggests writing specific informational and directional questions for each sales call.  A directional question is one you think you already know the answer to but is asked to direct the conversation along the lines you hope to take it.

For example: “When is the current contract up?”

You know the date, but want to move toward refining next year’s specs in your favor!

“Who is the most important person in the process?”

You know you are talking to them, but they would like to tell you how big they really are.

Use all six “serving men” every day on every call.

Good advice, we think!

Step Outside-the-Box for Personal Growth & Achievement

boxSales professionals, sales managers, and business owners all share the need to maintain consistent personal development.

Many speak of stepping outside of one’s “comfort zone” as being a requirement for growth and skill development.

But as we all know, most of us do not readily embrace change, even when we are well-aware of the potential gain!

In a recent PULSE article,  Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and President at TalentSmartexplains that the very act of stepping outside of our comfort zone is critical to our success and well-being.

“Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some stress and discomfort,” Bradberry writes. “In fact, performance peaks when we’re well out of our comfort zone.”

Maybe, as Bradberry suggests, it might be easier for us to step outside-of-the-box if we took smaller steps?

Here are some of the “little steps” he lists — which qualify as examples of not only as stepping out of our comfort zone, but also as potential catalysts leading to greater levels of personal growth and success:

  • Get up earlier
  • Meditate
  • Focus on and achieve one “impossible” goal
  • Volunteer
  • Talk to someone you don’t know
  • Bite your tongue!

“Staying in our comfort zone means stagnation,” Bradberry says. “Just as an oyster only makes a pearl when it’s irritated by a grain of sand, no one has ever accomplished anything remarkable when comfortable.”

 

What’s Your Story?

story3In a past post we shared some simple yet powerful insight on the power of storytelling. Among other things, stories are much more memorable when compared to selling presentations or lectures, and they often inspire others to take action!

During the selling process, the ideal times to incorporate a story are when trying to reinforce the value proposition or when addressing a concern or objection. Stories area also an excellent way to engage an audience when making presentations.

But it is also important for sales professionals and sales leaders to recognize that a poorly-told story can have the opposite effect!

Here are six guidelines for crafting and telling the most compelling stories when engaged in selling or making a presentation:

  1. Start with a character your audience can relate to. Make your ideal customer the hero of your story.
  2. Set the stage. One quality of a bad story or storyteller is the feeling that you being subjected to pointless rambling.
  3. Establish conflict. You can’t have an interesting story without conflict.
  4. Foreshadow.  Foreshadowing is a simple technique of hinting at what is to come, thus building suspense and value.
  5. Use dialog. Stories are about people, and people talk. This can enable us to vary tone and “voice” during presentations as well.
  6. Keep it interactive. Use receptivity tests or rhetorical questions to keep the audience engaged.

Read the full article…

Who’s In Charge of Our Sales Calls?

sellwithconfidenceWe all strive to take control of the sales calls we make, hoping to comfortably lead each conversation to a productive conclusion i.e., closing or advancing the sale.

But many sales people struggle to articulate exactly how they go about controlling their sales calls, often confessing that they more-or-less go with the flow.

If this sounds familiar, you might consider making a more strategic approach to taking charge during sales calls by applying two simple principles:

  1. Ask more questions. Consider that the person asking the questions tends to be the one in control of most conversations. This can be challenging for some of us because we tend to talk too much! But, truth be told, we’re better-off asking questions and listening before we speak.
  2. Commit to the practice of pre-call planning, and do so in writing! Be sure to identify multiple objectives, list benefit statements you’ll make and, to support the suggestion made in item #1, make a list of the questions you’ll ask. Make sure to include both open-ended and closed-ended options, which can be used strategically to either promote or control the flow of conversation.

Those who have been able to apply these two simple suggestions have consistently reported significant changes (for the better!) in their sales calls, indicating not only improvements in maintaining control but also in optimizing results.

But more significantly, we’re not the only ones who will notice the difference in the quality of our sales calls our customers and prospects will notice the difference too!