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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Seed Meetings!

I was driving back to my office today and the phrase “Seed Meetings” snuck into one of my synapses. I was actually coming home from one such meeting. For years everyone has called the meetings we have with prospects, referrals, friends of friends networking meetings. Information is swapped and once in a while these meetings lead to real prospects who turn into real clients. Hey, the process works.

Today was different though. Several weeks ago I was introduced to Jim (not the real name) over a great lunch. I gave him a copy of my book and we agreed to meet in the future, which was today. An hours worth of a plant tour and several side conversations on sales ensued. Prior to leaving I asked Jim if he would like for me to provide one of my services to him free. We discussed it and Jim thought the idea was worth pursuing. (I’m vague on the type of  service because I have not seen this particular service anywhere on the web. I’d like to keep it that way for the short-term at least.)

Yes there was some networking going on as well. Jim has several people with whom he will connect me. This was really more than a networking meeting. It was a seed meeting. I remember that as a salesperson I dropped a lot of seeds with prospects and customers. Somewhere during the seed meeting I usually made a comment like this:

  • Have you ever thought about….
  • What if I came into your company and provided….
  • What can I do for you…..
  • I realize that money is tight. What if I came into your company and gave….
  • I’d like to give you a sense for what our service can do. I’d like to offer….

If you have been a loyal reader going back several years you know that I am not a proponent of  ‘free consulting’. But let’s face it, these are different economic times so perhaps they demand a different approach. And let’s not forget the adage that “the more you give the more you get”.

Give some thought to how you can package your product or service in a way that allows prospects the chance to see it and you in action. Drop a few seeds at future meetings. This does work. In one of my analytical phases as a salesperson (they were few and far between) I tracked the seed theory. In a one year period of seed droppings I converted 4 accounts and received trials in another 6. Not great but respectable.

Sometimes sales and revenue is a function of creativity.

Enjoy Life Because You Never Know When The Bolt Out Of The Blue May Hit You!

One of the things that I learned about myself is that I like to write when I need comfort. Now is one of those times. If you read my last post you know that young Jackson is our latest grandchild. Jake (my name for the little hombre) was two pounds when he was born. For three days he was doing really well. Tonight the little guy had a setback. How will that setback play out? Who knows?

If you have ever seen a 2 pound preemie you know that anything can happen. Of course, doctors will never tell you the good news; they have to tell you the worst possible outcomes. That is their job after all. But wait!! Who the heck makes this world of ours happen? It is the people who think about things in a much different way.

Will young Jake make it through all this? We do not know. Regardless of what happens in this situation there is something that needs to be said. Life is chuck full of enormous roadbumps, avalanches, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and an assortment of other catastrophes. At this very minute there are people I know who are concerned that one of their perfectly normal kids has ADD and dyslexia. Be still my heart! What a joke!

There are mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, classmates, salespeople, managers, CEOS, owners, presidents, siblings, young kids, old kids, old people, customers ad nauseam who are worried about something in their lives. Well, guess what folks, your worries are meaningless in the flow of life! They are the pimples on the backside of mankind!

There is a purpose to this post aside from the rantings of a father and grandfather who does not quite understand how the Big Fella plays his game. At different times in our lives or the lives of people we care about some very bad things can happen! Those bad things can range from from lost sales (at the very bottom of the “I care heap”) to enormous losses of people we care about.

Every person who reads this has to understand that there is hierarchy of worries. Some of those worries we need to cast aside; others we need to put into perspective. Things like social networking, the customer collective, closing business, not closing business, prospecting, training, competition, networking, linked in, twitter, and all the rest of the things that people think are important aren’t!!!!!

When you read this, I want you to  connect with your spouse, your kid(s), parents, sibs, boss (???), customers, prospects, customer service rep, friends, acquaintances et al and either hug them, thank them or tell them that you love them. Life tends to speed by and all of a sudden the time that we think we had isn’t there. Don’t wait another minute.

Jackson, all two pounds of him, is telling you that life is short and what you had yesterday could be gone tomorrow. Don’t wait to enjoy your moments with the people that matter most-now and in the future. As of right now my buddy Jake is alive and kicking-literally. He wants to live. He told me so. (That’s another story.) I believe that Jake will live because I am a “glass half full kind of guy” and Jake is too.

And here is the point of this rather long post. My friends, life is for seeing outcomes, positive outcomes. It is for seeing past the mundane, the horrible, the problems, the frustrations, the worries, the cancer, the horrendous managers, the bad prospects, the ungrateful customers, the bad spouses, the worrisome kids, the…glass half empty inevitabilities of life. Those inevitabilities will never go away. They are what makes us strong, successful, vibrant, believers, faithful, staunch, optimistic, joy-filled, and responsive to whatever awaits us around the next corner of living.

Stop where you are right now and think about how lucky you are. I am doing just that. I have a beautiful and caring wife, two phenomenal natural born kids and and an inherited kid, four grandkids (Jake included) , a meaningful profession, several awesome clients, more good friends than I can count, a great sib, nieces and nephews whom I love as well as their kids and hosts more.

And Jake just said to me, “hey old guy, go to bed. I’m alive and kicking but I could use you tomorrow-fully awake”! Darn kids, they always keep us awake!

The Final Thought: “Love and touch someone N-O-W!” TJS

Sales Management Issue (SMI): Fear of Calling at C-Level-Part 2

Earlier this week I wrote about the rep who has bone-chilling fear of talking to the person in the corner office or the ultimate decision maker or the person two steps up from their contact person. The pundits on the blogosphere can quip about tactics and cure-alls but the bottom line is how do you coach a salesperson to overcome their fear of the dreaded “Big Chalupa”?

Coaching tip #1: Bring value into the equation. When I sold a product that provided value I felt that I could and should talk to any decision maker. The theory was that if I didn’t talk to the decision maker I would be doing him or her a disservice. Think about that! It is powerful! What provides value with my product, me, the company, customer support, R & D, industry standing? Dissect all of these and discuss these with the salesperson.

Coaching tip #2: What we do is separate from who we are. We all perform multiple roles every day. We are also individuals with a strong sense of purpose and identity. Separating those two is key to losing fear. I worked hard to teach salespeople that they were all perfect tens on their identity side. Hell, we were born tens! On the role side we fluctuate between ten and one depending on how we perform those roles. Role performance is an objective exercise that can be evaluated and then  improved by technique. No prospect can get into my identity and change the ten status. I can perform poorly in my role but I can change that! This is a ridiculously hard concept for people to understand but separating identity from role helped me and a whole bunch of salespeople deal with fear. (Thank you Sandler Systems.)

Coaching tip #3: Research, research, research. Do any of us buy anything these days without researching the options? Why don’t salespeople do the same thing prior to calling on accounts? One of the best tools on the planet is the book written by Sam Richter called Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling. In my world (as in Sam’s) knowledge equals confidence. If a salesperson knew that the CEO of a company was active in Big Brothers or Big Sisters and the rep had a Big Brother growing up how do you think that would affect the rep’s ability to make an appointment with that person? Done deal folks!

Coaching tip #4: Listen, listen, listen. One of the best questions I ever asked a rep was, “My gut says that something might be holding you back from seeing certain people. What do you think that is”? I stumbled on that after I tried to “convince” a rep to do uncomfortable behaviors. Sometimes you have to get inside someones head and that takes listening skills.

The Final Thought:     I Like this quote I dislike this quoteThe major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.” Jim Rohn

Sales Management Issue (SMI): Fear of Calling at C-Level

Let’s face it, everyone at some point in their life has fear about calling on the person in the corner office. I had it until 1978 0r 1979. How I overcame it is worth noting. I was working in the medical device world at the time. I was trying to convert business at St. Mary’s Hospital (The Mayo Clinic) in Rochester Minnesota. I brought three key Cardiologists from the hospital to our company headquarters in Billerica, Mass. Due to excessive amounts of socializing on the night I arrived with these physicians I was without a hotel room for that night. Digging deep into my “guts bag”  I called one of the physicians from the lobby and asked if I could bunk with him for the night. The time was 2AM and the doctor in question was the director of the medical department! Can you say trepidation?

Everything worked out for the best but making that call took some serious mental effort. So how do you deal with a salesperson who has this fear of calling or seeing the owner, president, CEO type personality? I don’t think that you can just invoke the Nike tag line-Just Do It. Not going to work for most people.

There is something deeper that will not allow some people to comfortably call on top executives. My guess is that some people are programmed from a very early age not to do certain things. The mental tapes that are running probably say, “don’t bother important people”, “go through the chain of command”, “they’re too busy to want to talk to a salesperson.” We all were taught to act a certain away by parents, teachers, friends and a host of others. We tend to merge our actions into neat little boxes that fit other people’s expectations for us. If you act in a way outside the box there exists risks that we are unprepared to face comfortably. How much different is this than being programmed not to touch a hot stove?

Before a sales manager can deal with this salesprson’s fear it is absolutely necessary to have a serious one-on-one with the rep to discuss why the fears exist. Providing techniques to deal with the fear is pointless. Nine times out of ten the salesprson will not execute the technique until the deeper issue is addressed.

More on how to deal with this in Thursday’s post.

The Final Thought:     I Like this quote I dislike this quoteIf fear alters behavior, you’re already defeated.” Brenda Hammond

Don’t Let The Dogs Out Until You Know What The Prospect Means!

You would think that being 63 I would have remembered that one of the most important elements in sales is knowing EXACTLY what the prospect means by their words! Good Lord, how many times do I need to be reminded?

I attended a seminar on Leadership for the 21st Century yesterday sponsored by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. http://www.ajg.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&mode=2&objID=5126. (This was through the Minneapolis branch of AJG.)

The presenter paired us up for the “dreaded” exercise, which as it turned out made the bulb go off in Schaber’s head. One of the elements of good listening (which leaders have) is paraphrasing what you hear an individual say. And this technique applies to every situation where one person talks and one person listens. And let’s face it, listening is tricky business. I have written this before but it is worth mentioning again-what a person says is not necessarily understood by the person listening. The assumption is that the listener understands but that is not always the case.

This applies so perfectly to sales. The prospect states an issue or problem and what do so many salespeople think? Because they want to be the hero and close the sale they are already thinking of a solution. As soon as the prospect stops talking the salesperson presents the perfect solution. And so often the prospect presents the salesperson with that deadpan look that signifies “how is that going to help me”? Sayonara to the sale.

The answer to this is so simple that most of us forget it. Before you assume that you know what the prospect said paraphrase what you heard so the prospect can confirm that you heard right. There are no statistics kept on this but I will bet my declining IRA that at least 30% of the time we do not completely understand what prospects mean by their statements of need.

The cure for the “I want to be a hero complex” is simple. After you have heard the prospect explain a situation say something like, “let’s see if I understand the situation” and then paraphrase what you heard. Or you could say something like “what I heard you say” and then paraphrase.

As a general rule of thumb women do this better than men. And men, if you ever hear your wife state a problem or an issue don’t solve it immediately. Crank up the dialogue knob.

As a general rule of thumb women listen to understand. Men tend to hear in order to solve.

The Final Thought:     I Like this quote I dislike this quoteWhen a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes” Victor Hugo

Some Other Blogs That Are Worth Reading

I’ve been at this blogging thing for the better part of 18 months and along the way I have made some electronic buddies or EB’s for short. What qualifies as an EB?

  1. Their blogs contain intelligent content.
  2. They offer objective feedback on my posts.
  3. They were nice enough to read my book that I sent them.
  4. They have directed me to other blog sites and individuals.

All in all this little blogging adventure has been well worth the time and energy. So here are a few sites worth visiting:

Adrian Miller writes at http://adrianmiller.wordpress.com/. Adrian’s comments are useful and can be applied immediately after you read them.

Will Fultz writes at http://www.topsalesblog.com/. Will is an ex-marine-what’s not to like? I have learned things from Will’s posts. He has a lot of creativity and is doing several things on his site that we should all do.

Jill Myrick writes at http://tipsforsalesmanagers.blogspot.com/. Jill’s comments cut to the proverbial chase on issues relative to sales management. I have a feeling that Jill also has a great sense of humor.

Jonathan Farrington writes at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/2008/02/03/empathy-has-become-more-relevant-as-the-whole-world-of-work-changes/. Jonathan has tremendous insight into sales and sales management. You will also catch some very dry wit in his blogs.

Scott Allen and Jim Berkowitz write at http://www.sales2.com/authors.shtml. More good stuff on sales and sales management. Their podcasts are worth a listen.

And last but not least Pat Schaber writes at http://www.lonelymarketer.com/. And yes, Pat is my son. In my opinion he is one of the smartest marketing sages on the web. Unfortunately, due to an extremely heavy work load, he has not been able to continue the lonely marketer but his earlier posts are worth reading.

Next week I’ll pass along some web sites.

The Final Word: “Friends are like four leaf clovers-hard to find and lucky to have.” Irish Wisdom