The Power of Five

I was asked to give a talk on sales not long ago. There are so many topics relative to sales that it is difficult to choose one that will appeal to everyone. Out of nowhere came The Power of Five. The five topics I covered were:

  1. Define Markets
  2. Create Personal Financial Goals
  3. Build a Prospecting Plan
  4. Own a Sales Process
  5. Get a Coach

I maintain that these 5 are the foundation of sales success. Are there others? I’m sure they are out there but for October 21st these will do.

Market definition, who buys from you, who you should prospect for, what does a perfect client look like are all pretty much the same thing at least in a general way. I started with this one because it helps to know who you need to sell to before you put together a prospecting plan. When I work with clients whether they are individuals or companies I ask that they profile existing accounts to determine if there are common characteristics among them. Again, not rocket science.

Here are a few characteristics:

  1. Industry
  2. Products they buy from you
  3. Company size
  4. Why the customer buys from you
  5. How did you get them as customers
  6. How often so they buy
  7. Do they buy an assortment of products or services

The other important question to ask is: What are You Good at? This has tremendous implications on market definition. What you are good at doing and who you sell to are flip sides of the same coin. Through trial and error (probably more errors than are necessary) I discovered that I am at my best when I work in a small company environment. That has played out over the last 10 years as I morphed from pure sales training to helping smaller companies grow their business. What I am good at also relates to what I like to do. Very large on my list of ‘likes’ is seeing people grow their talents. Nothing makes me happier than to see a salesperson or a company moves past obstacles that previously held them in check. And frankly, it is not about me! Providing the knowledge and experience and showing someone why that knowledge can propel them past their current level of mediocrity is more than enough for me.

Also, be wary of trying to be all things to all people! It is tempting to say “I can do that” when a prospect asks if you can provide specific expertise in an area you are not particularly familiar with. Dollar signs trump experience! My advice is don’t do it. Broadening your markets may mean that you are diluting your efforts and losing opportunities in your main market. And if you don’t succeed in a new market what does that do for your reputation and confidence?

Here’s the last question worth asking yourself: What are the Characteristics of What You do That Appeal to Potential Clients? It really comes down to the more you know about yourself, what you do and who your best clients/customers are.

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FEAR

I’ve had fear and it is not fun. A lot of people will tell you that fear can be a learning experience, one that will sear itself into your brain and be easy to recall years down the road. Can’t argue that. Learning about fear and what causes it changes people, it changes the way they deal with life and I suppose that can be both negative and positive.

I don’t think fear is such a bad thing but that might be because I’m 67 and there have been times when my sphincter was so tight with fear you couldn’t have wedged a toothpick in there. I survived. Maybe God has some plans for me down the road that I’m not privy to and that’s why I’m still here. I’ve been fearful enough times in my life to know that there are ways to deal with it. And let’s face it they don’t always work. If you’re sitting in a movie theater and some nut bag 2 rows in front of you opens up with a gun you may not have time to execute a way to deal with it.

Fear is nature’s way of telling you that you were not prepared! I’ve talked with clients who have a mortal fear of calling someone on the phone to schedule a sales meeting. There is a pretty simple reason why they feel the way they do. They have no earthly idea of how to sound professional when asking for 10 minutes of someone’s time who never heard of them. About how I felt prior to asking out a girl for the first time. Of course I stuttered my through that one but did manage to close the deal.

Ya just can’t wing things that cause fear. It does not work and I should know because I spent most of my life “winging it”. A good solid plan helps deal with and avoid much of the emotion of fear. Don’t we already know those things that emotionally paralyze us? So think about them and come up with options on what you’re going to do when the paralyzing situation surfaces. Think of several ways to deal with the situation and role-play them in your head or with someone else. The more you work through the language or the actions the more comfortable you will become in the sphincter closing moment.

Then there is the second thing you’ll want to think about. Let’s assume you’re not in the movie theater! How bad will it be if you screw something up royally? Or if your worst nightmare materializes? What is the worst thing that can happen if you should experience a fearful event? Anger? Embarrassment? A royal chewing out? Chances are pretty good that you will live to review the moment. And that is really the secret of fear. Reviewing the moment. How did the event happen and what can I do to deal with a similar event down the road because the event or one like it will happen again.

CSR 8: Prospects Won’t Buy Unless There is An Emotional Need!

This no doubt sounds like an over simplification but I’ve witnessed too many sales calls (many of them recently) where salespeople don’t understand this statement. Picture this. You are an avid golfer (defined as someone who plays 2-3 times per week with a handicap of 9) and you have just walked into a store specializing in golf equipment. You say in an excited voice to the salesperson who just walked up to you, “Hi, I need a new driver and I mean I need a new one in the worst way.” The sales dolt says to you, “Come on back with me I have just the driver for you and it’s cheap”.

What the hell is wrong with the sales dolt? In short he fails to comprehend the intensity of the need that you have for a new driver. There is pure unadulterated emotion oozing out of your mouth. One could almost see the weight of the emotion and the need! Our positively dull-minded salesperson only sees a potential sale of a driver; he never thinks even for a moment that there might be something really irritating that’s bothering the prospect. On top of that the sales dolt says c’mon I’ll fix you up with a low-budget club!

Do you know how many times this is played out in every industry by thousands and thousands of salespeople? The sales gods are bent over retching their disgust! PROSPECTS BUY FOR EMOTIONAL REASONS. Who knows what those emotional reasons are? Sometimes even the buyer isn’t completely sure of what those reasons are. You can look at practically every product on the market and find some emotional reason why it appeals to specific buyers. Picture this #2. When I buy a yellow lined pad I only want one specific kind. Know why? Because it tears evenly at the top. I hate pads where there are scraps still attached to the top of the pad after the tear. As insane as that is it is an emotional need.

Suffice to say there are many levels of emotional need. The golfer described above has lost 3 strokes off his handicap because he’s begun to slice every tee shot. (Along with being emotional the golfer is dumb because it isn’t the club that’s the problem.) A buyer at a two billion dollar company bought the wrong color of raw materials which threw off production by three weeks. His emotional need? He loses his job if it happens again.

Tip: When you hear a prospect say something like “We’ve been looking for someone to provide packaging for a new product line we’re introducing” don’t glide by that statement with a dumb ass statement like “Well you’re talking to the right person”. Don’t ever assume that you have all the information because nine times out of ten there is a hidden pearl of emotion that is driving the prospect.

Just for the sake of really believing this go back to several people who recently bought whatever you sell. Ask them if there was something else driving them to buy your product, determine if there was something emotional driving the process.

CSR Number 5: Adopt a Sales Process or Live in Mediocrity!

Someone close to me mentioned that my writing style is too in-your-face. It may be that “living in mediocrity” is a tad on the direct side, yet is it really all that bad if you are really driven to achieve and generate a healthy income? I’ve told this story before but it is worth repeating. I was having a networking breakfast several years ago with a gentleman. Since I’m always on the lookout for good salespeople I asked this person what he wanted to earn annually. He said, “oh, I guess, somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five thousand”. Bear in mind this is for a sales position! Sales!

Let me bring this back into the perspective of the title. I strongly believe that salespeople will never generate 6-figure incomes unless they use a sales process during their sales calls. Will my breakfast buddy make more than $55K with a sales process? If he doesn’t want more than fifty-five then I doubt it. Salespeople (everyone for that matter) need to create a goal income. Without it people have a lower sense of what they are worth, they will be satisfied just taking a job, they will have no sense for reaching lofty goals.

Would you hire a lawyer who knew law but didn’t really understand legal proceedings or jurisprudence? How comfortable would you be with a plumber if he or she showed up with a 6 inch thick book on common household plumbing repairs? Every individual attached to a profession has been schooled in the steps, processes, techniques that provide the professional with the knowledge to deliver the service to their client or customer. Then why wouldn’t a salesperson, sales manager, company owner want the same thing for the sales organization? This is a Duh!

I’ve worked with salespeople who make a sales call like they’re shopping for groceries without a list. Strolling down the aisle picking up items that look good, making impulse buys based on nothing more than emotion. Yet companies hire these kinds of salespeople. Don’t ask me why. Maybe they’re cheap, who knows.

Opening a face-to-face sales call, responding to a Request for Quote, handling objections, qualifying a prospect can be orchestrated based on specific principles that apply to those situations. Good salespeople don’t just “wing it” when they are faced with objections. They call to mind a method that deals with how to handle an objection and then implement a technique. When salespeople do this they are using a process!!! If this makes so much sense why don’t salespeople adopt a process? I’d give one month social security for the right answer!

Companies assume that the newly hired salesperson knows how to sell; they are OK with turnover if the first three reps don’t work out; they figure that they can survive with a “cheap” comp plan. CEO’s, company presidents, sales managers do not understand that investing in a sales methodology or process nets more sales. (The caveat here is that whatever training is done needs constant reinforcement. No reinforcement equals waste of money.)

Do you have the feeling that I am passionate about this? Salespeople need to be that passionate! Learn a sales process!

Common Sense Rule (CSR) # 4: Prospects Buy The Salesperson First

There are countless sales training programs available and I’m guessing that most of them touch on how important the salesperson is to the sales process. I’m not so sure, however, that enough emphasis is put on the importance. One of the very best salespeople I ever met was a chameleon and he understood the importance of adapting his style to that of the prospect.

The best sales call I ever went on was with “Jim”. We came face to face with a prospect most salespeople have nightmares about. This guy made a corpse look animated! He was the antithesis of “chatty Kathy”. If the room was silent enough you could hear the synapses clicking in his brain. There were times in the call that were honestly unnerving. It brought a whole new meaning to the phrase  “silence is deadly”.

Faced with a prospect like this most salespeople go into talk overdrive. Not ole Jim. This guy had mastered the ability to adapt to prospects. He let people dictate to him how he should act during the sales call. Do you know how hard that is to do? All of us tend to act as if we have one gear. You’ve seen most of them in sales. The person who always has a smile, the glib word smith, the technical genius, the hard closer, the joke teller, mister shifty. These are the gears and God help anyone who gets in the way.

During the sales call Jim’s prospect mulled every statement over like his life depended on it. Through all this Jim sat and waited for the prospect to make a statement. There were situations where minutes passed between interchanges. Try going 180 seconds without uttering something! Jim did. What happened was extraordinary. About 30 minutes into the call the prospect opened up. Hold onto your hats, folks, there was an actual dialogue taking place! Why? The prospect bought into Jim. There was trust!

Jim and the prospect were on the same communication page. The prospect had found a comfort level with Jim. In essence the prospect made a decision that Jim was like him and therefore he could let down his guarded method of communication. Both had reached a point where there was a bond between them and that bond allowed an openness that did not exist at the beginning of the call.

Mastering this takes time and the ability to accept being uncomfortable with people who are different styles. Enormous amounts of knowledge does not built trust; a sales methodology does not alone build trust; the ability to maneuver through a company’s decision hierarchy does not build trust; being mentally quick does not build trust.

Bonding happens for those people who have the gift of reading people quickly and adapting their style to the style of the other person.

Common Sense Rules about Sales, Salespeople, Sales Managers and Life-Rule # 1

A friend of mine commented that ‘getting old is about as much fun as putting your mouth over the exhaust of a bus’! I think he was having a bad day or maybe a bad year. Getting older or seeing the bright light at the end of the tunnel will never be fun at least not fun in my lexicon but it can be interesting, filled with opportunities, and a learning experience. My father failed at aging. The man was 80 and he continued to put on a white shirt, a tie, and a suit coat every day. Mind you, he was not working! I think he did it because he did not know what else to do.

Since I flunked retirement in 2010 it dawned on me that I needed to be productive during my remaining X number of years. One of the things I always wanted to do was share a list of common sense rules covering sales, salespeople, sales managers, family, and life. I very definitely do not want these CSR’s to be heavy and humorless. Good Lord, there’s enough of that crap emanating from D.C. and the media. I don’t need to add more negativity. So here goes. There’s about 100 of them so, well, enjoy ’em.

If you can’t accept “NO” then get out of sales. The answer no starts early in life. No touching the stove, cookie jar, drugs, cigarettes (I wasn’t listening that day). I mean really, aren’t we programmed from an early age to “not do” certain things? Don’t bother me, I’m busy. Don’t hang around with….he’s not a nice boy.

Wilbur and Orville Wright really didn’t pay any attention to people who laughed at them. The candle manufacturer’s were having a good belly laugh when Edison talked about electric lights. Successful people do not take the word ‘No” seriously! There is something in their gene pool that dreams louder than the spoken “no”.

So why do salespeople have problems with the word No? One, they take it personally. Two, they have been programmed since diapers that the word “No” was bad, bad, bad! They don’t prepare an initial message that may yield a yes; instead they go into many sales calls on a wing and a prayer. Not enough people reinforced the concept that a no today did not mean a no for all time. And last. With the volume of potential prospects that most salespeople have what difference do nos make in the scheme of things?

If the word No truly makes you sweat through your freshly starched shirt then don’t go into sales! It’s not worth it and you won’t make enough moolah to keep the bank from foreclosing. Do you really want to wake up everyday to fear that someone will say no to you? There is no shame in admitting that a career in sales isn’t the right career path for you.

Adversity Is The Forge of Courage

I am a voracious reader. For more than a few years I did not admit to many people that science fiction was my genre of choice. What can I say, I grew up on Robert Heinlein and once you’ve read him the addiction to SF is entrenched. The adage above came from a book I’m currently reading. The saying stopped me cold because it so aptly connects to almost every part of life.

But like so many of these sayings I run across it needs to be altered a bit. It could just as well read “Adversity Is The Forge Of Success.” How many times has adversity affected you? And how many times has something good come from it? Adversity is defined as a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress. Doesn’t adversity forge many of the best characteristics in people-leadership, knowledge, experience, achievement, fortitude, patience, mental toughness etc.? Working through misfortune or any other obstacle builds toughness.

Do you ever know how really good you are without some version of adversity? Prior to going into the army in 1968 I had experienced little in the way of adversity, other than flunking out of a couple of schools. Did I have the right stuff to survive? Basic training, advanced infantry training, OCS, airborne, Ranger schools, and a year in southeast Asia did the job of “forging” an individual who understood how adversity prepares you to not just survive but grow! I was able to learn about leadership, thinking on your feet, risking, examining options, preparation, courage and much more.

I learned perhaps the most significant lessons low crawling through the red clay of Fort Benning, Georgia. What is a mistake other than choosing the wrong option? So you fail? Making bad decisions can lead to adversity but people can survive adversity. What’s worse than adversity? Never putting yourself under the gun making important decisions or executing tough business decisions. How will anyone know what they’re made of if they don’t put themselves in the way of adversity?

I want to take just a minute to thank all of the people who serve our country, many of whom are in harm’s way. Recently a Chinook helicopter went down in Afghanistan with 30 soldiers aboard. Their deaths left a trail of sorrow across the country. The men and women in the armed services are true heroes. Often times their version of adversity will leave them mentally or physically challenged or dead! Keep them and their families in your prayers. Thanks!