Tag Archives: selling skills

Find Out What’s On Their Minds…

The following reprint of today’s “makingthenumbers.com” sales tip is a solid testimonial to the importance of probing, trial closing, and listening within the sales process…

In most states you can turn right on a red traffic signal, but the law requires you to come to a full stop before you do.

In sales, it is vital that you work with a specific detailed pre-call objective so you know exactly where you are going (or want to go). Before you get into gear, come to a full stop!

Not just a “How you doin’ today?” or “How are things?”

That’s not a full stop.

You have to ask specifically, “Is your quarter coming in on schedule?” “How is the new production manager working out?” “Is the new product launch of your competitor having any real effect on your key customer?”

Then let them say what they want to say. Let them tell you what is on their mind. They might tell you some things that you can play to when it’s your turn in the barrel. They may tell you they are having a “bad hair day,” and in that case you might decide to cut them some slack, cut short your call, and sell in a future appointment as a professional courtesy.

One way or the other, test the water before you take the plunge.

Not only the temperature, hot or cold, but the depth and what’s on the bottom as well. Give them a break. They will give you the business in return.

What’s Next in Communication?

Most people agree, communication is among the most frequently-used tools in today’s business world; and it is a critical component of success, whether selling, managing, marketing or just trying to get along with others.

One Simple Little Habit…
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 in a BIG way!

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.

The act of setting a date and time for the next step is simple, but not necessarily easy. But once you make it a habit, you’ll be able to enhance your productivity as well as the productivity of others… you’ll save countless hours of trying to connect with others to finalize plans for next steps after sales calls, meetings, or conversations, because you will have already done it!

One Hurdle to Jump…
There is one obstacle of which to beware. This hurdle is often referenced as being the “thief of time,” and it can make it difficult to accomplish this habit and many others. We refer, of course, to the bad habit of procrastination.

If this seems too simplistic, please read on…

Try, Try Again

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Like most of us, you’re probably familiar with this phrase… but if you’re wondering about the validity of the statement, or about the value of persistence, then read on.

Babe Ruth was the home run king with 714 home runs to his credit. What few people know is that during that same time period he also held the record for striking out at bat more than anyone else with 1,330 failures.

R.H. Macy failed seven times, before his store in New York caught on.

Author J.K. Rowling had her Harry Potter manuscript rejected time after time. Today, after successful books, movies, toys, clothing, etc., she is one of the world’s richest authors with a net worth of $1.0 billion dollars and 400 millions books published.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. His coach justified the cut by pointing out that Michael had little or no potential.

Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

The Take-away?
So, what’s the point of these lesser-known examples of perseverence? I suppose it is to realize the absolute importance of persistence… the value of staying the course; of not giving up too soon.

In our previous newsletter we referenced data indicating that, on average, it takes five-to-twelve contacts to make a sale; yet 80% of sales people make three-or-fewer attempts and then give up. Thus, the vast majority of opportunities are siezed by just 20% of the sellers.

The persistent ones.

Evolution?
Let’s also think about the buyers and how they may have evolved. Based on the statistics above, most sellers make one or two attempts to reach a potential buyer, and then they move on (give up!).

So, has the potential buyer “evolved” to somehow realize that by simply ignoring the first couple of queries from a seller, there is an eighty-percent chance that seller will simply go away?

Hmmm… food for thought?

If you’d like a few more surprising examples of the importance of persistence, consult this list of 50 well known successful people who didn’t start off quite so well.

Call a Lot of People?

Arthur “Red” Motley was known for his conciseness and, true to form, each section of his famous definition of the sales process says a great deal in only a few words:

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

In a recent post we shared some thoughts on the first three words of his definition, and today’s focus is on the third component of the quote, “call a lot of people,” which refers to the total number of sales contacts – i.e., telephone calls, personal visits or appointments, and emails – that we make each day; and which brings-about an important question: when involved in professional selling, does call volume matter?

We believe the answer is a most definite, “Yes!”

Making a sufficient number of sales calls is important because without an adequate call volume we are likely to miss opportunities and leave ourselves vulnerable to the competition, which might well be making a stronger impact on our marketplace.

But “call a lot of people” does not mean we should call, email or visit lots of people on a haphazard basis, and it doesn’t mean we should contact a lot of different people once or twice.

In fact, too much focus on top-of-the-funnel call volume can be costly, and it’s important to recognize that “call a lot of people” encompasses “all” sales and follow-up calls – those made to unknown prospects, known prospects, and customers!

To optimize results there are four additional factors to consider.

The first of these factors is targeting, as we must contact those who are likely users of our products and services, and who are in a position to evaluate and buy them.

Then, as the data in the text box shows, in addition to call volume we must also pay close attention to call frequency.

If we make only one or two attempts to reach unknown prospects and then move on, we will be missing-out on most (80%) of the opportunities! Further, if the average frequency needed to make a sale ranges between 5 and 12 contacts, then we must contact “known prospects” multiple times after they are entered into the top of our sales funnel in order to advance these opportunities through our sales process.

But calling the same people over-and-over-again or with too much frequency is not effective either, as we can quickly alienate these prospects or customers.

Thus we must also make every call value-added. Simply making calls or just “showing-up” is never enough; the quality of our sales calls is critically-important, and we must have a value-added message and a value-added agenda for each contact.

This will require a degree of pre-call planning.

Finally, we must keep score! As sales professionals we should establish a goal for exactly how many sales contacts we would like to make, on average, each day – and we should maintain an awareness of where we stand with respect to this goal throughout each business day. In addition, it is wise to maintain data on the various types of calls we’re making, such as prospecting calls, assessment calls, presentations or demos, etc. These metrics are the true measures of our productivity.

Yet surprisingly, a multi-year survey indicates that a high percentage of sales people cannot definitively answer the simple question, “On average, how many sales calls do you make in a day?”

In some cases this lack of awareness is due to over-reliance on CRM systems, which are very effective at managing call frequency, but do little to keep a sales person aware of the actual number of calls they are making as each day unfolds. Similarly, in many inside-sales environments the telephone system keeps track of inbound and outbound calls, but this data tends to be shared with the sales people after-the-fact, thus resulting in the same lack of real-time awareness.

In other cases, an absence of proactive front-line sales management is the problem.

Regardless, the best course of action a sales professional can take is to set a personal standard for call or contact volume, and to also maintain personal accountability for maintaining that “successful” average as well as a successful standard of quality and frequency.

As author and founder of makingthenumbers.com Jack Falvey often says, “This is how the best get better at sales!”

60-Second Success Tip for Better Outbound Sales Calls

If making outbound sales or prospecting calls is part of your job, then you know it is important to continually improve your approach so that you will:

  • Stand out from others in a positive way
  • Increase conversion rates

You might find this short video a good place to start:

We might also suggest that you measure the “4 C’s” during implementation:

  1. Call volume
  2. Connects
  3. Conversations
  4. Conversions (i.e., # of conversations that convert into next steps)

Remind Me?

How often should / must we remind our customers of the value we bring to the table?

Is a once-per-year reminder sufficient? How about twice per year? Three times?

Most people agree that, ideally, they’d like to “remind” their customers many more times each year; in fact, they say they’d like to keep a reminder of some sort in front of their customers as frequently as possible.

This leads us to a couple of critical questions:

  1. How often should we remind our customers of the value we provide?
  2. How should we do it?

Questions about the ideal contact frequency are among the most frequently-asked (see our previous post for some added perspective…) Generally speaking, sales calls and marketing messages become “over-done” when they fail to provide value to the customer or prospect.

This leads nicely to our second question how will we accomplish this value-added approach? Here are three simple and proven best-practices that can help:

Master the practice of pre-call planning. The most successful sales people plan their calls very carefully, based on research and record-keeping (i.e., effective use of a C.R.M. system), thus their calls tend to be more value-added. These sales people are able to accomplish more during each call and have a stronger impact on each customer or prospect. Even better, they use the written pre-call plan as a post-call review tool.

Questions are the answer. If we do plan our sales calls or presentations, many of us tend to focus on our “speaking points.” In other words, the things we plan to say.

When planning and executing sales contacts, it’s better to put an equal amount of focus and thought into the things we will ask.Asking the right questions is how we learn about our customers’ needs, interests, priorities and challenges; it is how we determine what to do and say next; it is how we solidify true selling relationships. As a rule-of-thumb, try to craft questions that focus on what people are trying to accomplish rather than on what they “think they need.”

In addition, a frequent by-product of asking good questions is enhanced listening. It’s much easier to listen if we stop talking! Good listening also sends a strong implied message to our customers: we care!

Develop a proactive style. This simply means that we end each interaction with a specifically-defined consequential next step a call to action in which we take the proactive position. This helps in several ways.

  • It sets the stage for a higher contact frequency
  • It shows the customer or prospect that we care and that we value their business
  • It often makes things easier for our customer, by helping them to get things done in a timely fashion
  • It shortens the selling cycle
  • It confirms our professionalism

 

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…

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.

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!

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…