Sales Training: Day 119 – Improve your hearing

Once, as a sales manager, I had a sales rep whose pipeline always had more potential deals in it than anyone else in the group.  The problem was that he also had the lowest number of closed deals.  For a while I thought this was because he was attempting to show how much positive activity he had going on.  However, after several meetings with this sales rep, I discovered the sad truth; the customer was telling him one thing and was hearing what he wanted to hear.  Note; this was not done to try to fool me.  He actually believed what he was telling me through his pipeline until I started drilling down on each deal.  I asked questions like:

  • Are you speaking with the decision maker?
  • Are you speaking with the person who can sign the order?
  • Do they have budget or can they get it?
  • When do they want to implement our solution?
  • Have we delivered a proof of concept?

After hearing the answers to these questions, I realized he was somehow convincing himself he had a good prospect.  He had made the leap from hearing “I’m part of a team that’s evaluating solutions” to “I’m the decision maker.”

As a sales rep you have to be realistic.  Good news or bad news, you have to hear…and face…the facts.  Nothing will get you into more trouble with your sales managers or disappoint you more, than inflating your pipeline based on what you imagined you heard.  Again, I am not suggesting this is intentional on your part, but it is extremely self-destructive nonetheless.

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Part-Time Sales Management

Sales Training: Day 118 – Prospects hear what they want to hear

Words can be very powerful.  And they can get you into trouble.  I have said to a sales prospect, “James, if you can commit to a three-year contract, I can probably get you a discount.”  What James heard was, “I can get you a discount.”

It is very important to follow up conversations where you are discussing pricing, terms, special considerations, etc. with written correspondence of what you actually said.  Then, make sure your prospect received it.  The next time you speak with them say, “James, I want to make sure you receive my email regarding….”

Never take for granted what you think they heard.

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Part-Time Sales Management

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Sales Training: Day 117 – Make sure their objection is resolved

I’m a guy, so I’m pretty literal.  This is a source of real frustration for my wife.  If you don’t spell it out for me, it usually goes over my head.   It occurred to me during the course of my sales career that a lot of sales people, men and women, don’t act like my wife has decided to act.  When it’s my sister’s birthday, she’ll say, “It’s your sister’s birthday.”  Hah, like I didn’t remember (I’m about 50% sure I did).  Then she’ll add, “You’re supposed to send her a gift.”  Why does she add this part?  Because she wants a confirmation from me that I:

  1. Definitely know it’s her birthday and
  2. Definitely know I need to send her a gift.

When you hear an objection from your prospect and respond accordingly, you need to get confirmation from them that you have answered the objection to their satisfaction.  If you don’t, your prospect will not move ahead in their buying cycle.  Ask questions such as:

  • Did I answer that to your satisfaction?
  • Does my answer make you feel more comfortable?
  • Is that okay?
  • Have I addressed your concern(s)?

Remember to take nothing for granted.  Assume nothing.  It can cost you big.  And you might miss an important birthday.

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Part-Time Sales Management

Sales Training: Day 116 – Optimism

Optimism is a multi-dimensional street.  You can have it, give it and you can receive it.

Optimism is your internal belief that things will work out well.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your health, money, relationships or anything else.  If you are an optimist, you believe in your core that whatever you are experiencing, life will work out for the better.

I believe some people are born optimists.  They have, and always will, see the positive side of life and its possibilities.  Not all of us are that lucky.  But I have good news for you; optimism can be learned!  It’s like any other mental conditioning skill.  If you work on it with diligent practice, you will achieve the desired result.  Here are few tips that will help you become an optimist and elevate your sales career:

  • When faced with a potentially negative situation, stop and think of the other possibilities. If there is absolutely no other way around the situation think how you can make the best of it with the least amount of damage.
  • Look back and remind yourself. You have probably faced many tough situations that you made it through.  Think about those situations and what you did to help yourself and what you did to adjust.  And remind yourself that you did make it through.
  • Read and listen to positive and inspirational books. Seek out stories that can lift you up and show you how anything is possible.  The Chicken Soup books are a great compilation of inspirational stories.
  • Finally, and most importantly, surround yourself with other optimists. Negativity will bring you down.  Stay away from negative people.  They will drag you into their world.  There is a reason the old cliché “misery loves company” has been used for so long.

People (except negative people with no desires in life) love being around optimists.  It makes them feel better.  Your prospects and customers are no different.  They don’t want to talk with Mr. or Ms. Downer.  They have enough of their own problems.  If you are an upbeat breath of fresh air in their life, they will look forward to talking to you.

In sales, if you approach each deal optimistically, meaning that you believe in your heart you will win it, your chances greatly increase in making the sale.  You can believe that or not.  I take every advantage I can get.

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Part-Time Sales Management

Sales Training: Day 115 – When you’re pushed with unreasonable requests

Sometimes a prospect will push you for as much as they can get.  Who can blame them?  One of the best things you can do is relate what they’re asking you to do back to their company.  For example; you sell software with a 30-day evaluation period and your prospect keeps pushing for another week and then another week, and on and on.  In your best non-confrontational voice ask, “Mark, how much time does your company allow your prospect to evaluate your product?”  Be a good lawyer and make sure you know the answer to this question before asking it.

It’s always easy to throw stones when you’re holding all of them.  But having one thrown back at you isn’t as pleasant.  Unfortunately, this task of throwing back a few stones in your list of sales duties, can be difficult.  You run the risk of insulting your prospect and having them tell you their done.  So, it’s important to be aware of a few things:

  • Know where you are in the customer’s buying cycle. Pushing back too early and before you have established trust, can be trouble for you.
  • Be willing to walk away from this prospect.
  • Be polite and have a professional attitude.

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Part-Time Sales Management

Sales Training: Day 114 – Dealing with a difficult prospect

Some sales prospects can very difficult to work with.  It’s one of the hazards of the job.  The Difficult Sales Prospect feels they can bully their way through a sale.  There can be several reasons for this including:

  • They feel empowered because they work for a larger company that purchase in large amounts.
  • Unfortunately, they may be a lower level employee and they feel that they finally have someone to boss around…you!
  • They feel that if they don’t drive a hard bargain their status will be diminished in their boss’s eyes. If they are the person who can sign your order form, they really don’t care if you make a decent profit or not.
  • They just are not nice people.

Whatever the reason, if not handled correctly, these “problem children” can waste your time, your money and sap your energy.  You will not always be able to control their behavior.  However, there are steps you can take to minimize their impact and ways you can actually conclude quickly if they will ever be worth your effort.   You do not want all of your prospects to be your customers.  It’s natural to think the more, the better.  However, if the Difficult Sales Prospect is trying to bully you before they pay you, they will be even harder to work with as a customer.   Here are few tips on dealing with the Difficult Sales Prospect:

  1. Determine early. The quicker you can figure out if the sales prospect is worth investing in, the less aggravation you will face down the road.  One tipoff is if the sales prospect is talking about price at the start of the sales cycle.  They’re letting you know they don’t care as much about the relationship as they do about coming out on top.   Good relationships are evenly balanced.
  2. Show one additional good faith gesture. You should do this with any potential client.   If it gets to the point in the customer’s buying cycle where you must threaten to cut off the deal, you will have a cushion against being the “one who was difficult.”
  3. Ignore them for a while. If they have a real need, they’ll be calling you back.  When they do, it’s time to explain to them what real business relationships are about and for you to restate the ground rules.
  4. Go above their head. You can always throw a Hail Mary and call the CEO.  It’s not a step you take every time, but it should be an option if the sale is in jeopardy.  In taking this measure you should consider what your relationship is going to be with the person whose head you went above after the sale.

Give them one last chance.  When you realize dealing with this person is never going to be good for you and your company, it is time to pleasantly and diplomatically say, “We are not on the same page.  This is best we can do for you.  If this is not good enough, we wish you well.”  Then, hopefully, they will find your competitor.

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Part-Time Sales Manager

Sales Training: Day 113 – Persuade with statistics and numbers

What’s the difference between the two statements below?

  1. A majority of our customers let us know they like our new features very quickly.
  2. 43% of our customers call within 18.5 hours of a new release to say they love it.

I look at statement #1 and think, that’s very nice.
I look at statement #2 and think, these guys must be awesome.

Why?  Few a few reasons:

  • People believe statistics and numbers.
  • People can use those numbers and statistics as a “logical” reason to buy.
  • Numbers don’t lie.
  • It looks like we track our data very carefully so we must be concerned about customer satisfaction.

However valid or invalid this logic is, it exists in people’s minds; your prospect’s minds.  Whenever you can, you should include numbers and statistics into your presentations.

  • 4% of our customers see a Return On Investment in less than nine months.
  • 7% of people who call our support line get a return call in less than 17.5 minutes.
  • Our average customer stays with us for 7.6 years.

The one obvious key to using numbers and statistics is they must be true.  I once heard a comedian tell a story that was really amazing only to conclude with, “And that’s a fact I just made up.”  You, however, cannot make up facts.  They have to exist.  But if you do use them wisely, they will reward you.  And that’s a fact!

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Part-Time Sales Manager

Sales Training: Day 112 – Objection: I’ll be back

I have a friend that has owned a used car dealership for many years.  He told me that on his tombstone he wants written: “I’ll be back.”  This objection is heard most often in B2C selling but its ugly cousin often shows up in B2B deals as something like, “We’ll revisit your solution in a few months.”

Similar to most objections this is really a stall because you haven’t done your part to get your prospect to understand and want the value your product offers.  They do not feel enough urgency to move it up the priorities list.  For example; while making a follow up call, you hear from your once-thought-hot prospect, “We’ll revisit your solution in a few months.”  The first step is to acknowledge, cushion and respond with a question; “I understand Tom.  This is probably an important decision for you and the team.”  You continue; “Can I ask, what will be different in a few months?”  Now shut up and let your prospect respond.  They may have been hoping they were dealing with an amateur and you would simply crawl away.  They were also thinking that in three months, if you did call back, they could put you off for another three months and on and on and on.

The reason your prospect gives for putting off their purchase may sound logical:

  • We lost funding. Can you get funding from another department?
  • We have to do more comparisons. Which part of our product are you looking to compare against?
  • Priorities have shifted. How do you evaluate your priorities?  If I could show you, based on your priorities how we could <whatever their top priority is> would we be a top priority?

The point is, don’t take their answer at face value.  Keep asking questions and get creative.

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Sales training

Sales Training: Day 111 – Yikes! I sent the wrong information

We all have probably done it:  Sent an email or a package with the wrong information or sent it to the wrong person.  It happens.  Simply apologize then send the correct information to the correct person.  The real question is, how did this happen?  It’s one thing to make a mistake.  But, unless you uncover why you made the mistake, you’re prone to do it again.   Unfortunately, this cuts into the trust you are hoping to, or already have, built with your prospect or customer.

In most cases we simply rush too quickly through what we think are mundane sales tasks.  So, we tend to do them without much concentration or while multi-tasking.  This can have serious consequences for a salesperson.  In the case of the errant email, I once had a sales rep that received an email from a prospect that was being unusually difficult.  The prospect indeed was being tough to work with and I was about to suggest cutting off contact and wishing the prospect well.  My sales rep responded to the email, and thinking he was forwarding the email to me, sent it to the prospect.  Fortunately, as I mentioned, we were going to cut this prospect loose. Because after reading the email and what my rep had to say about this woman, she would have been gone regardless.

But what if it had been one of our best customers?  What if a $100k deal was on the line?  We would have destroyed our chances for any long-lasting relationship or deal.  Take your time.  Slow down.  Focus.  And don’t ever put ANYTHING in an email that you wouldn’t want the whole world to read.

Your wallet will thank you.

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Sales training

Sales Training: Day 110 – Show then tell

This is a very simple point but one that’s often overlooked.  There is a grocery store near my house that I frequent.  If I’m looking for an item there and I cannot find it, I usually just ask one of the store employees.  What happens next is the important part of this lesson.  The store employee drops what they are doing and walks me to the item.  This is a subtle, but effective sales strategy.  Aside from me feeling important and good about their service, it solves an issue for me; time.  I usually squeeze going to the grocery store in between my other tasks for the day.  I want to get in and out as quickly as possible.  They know that about me, and most of their other shoppers.

As you’re giving a demo or presentation, one of your prospects may ask you a question about an additional feature or some additional functionality within your product.  Don’t simply say, yes we can do that.  If you were planning on showing that later in the presentation, and there are other features that need to be shown first because they build on each other, say “Good question. I am going to cover that in a bit.”  However, if it is a standalone feature just go ahead and show them how it’s done.  If you don’t, they’ll be thinking about their question when you want them focusing on what you are presenting.  They may also think you are hiding something.  Relating this back to the grocery example – you are getting a request of something that is important to them and showing and/or acknowledging it, and “walking” them to what they want, right then.  You also start to build trust with this approach because it shows you are listening and are considerate of their time.

An exception; if the decision maker is on demo and asks to see something, stop and show it right then.  And compliment them for asking the question.

Tip:  Set the stage for your demo by having your questions written out and mentally placed at the right point in your presentation.  This also gets them engaged and makes the session interactive.

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Sales training