Always consider business to be a game. It’s a sport that we are playing. Be mindful we’re not involved in life and death decisions, we’re not confronted with sickness and sadness as we conduct our daily selling tasks. Considering the misfortune some people experience in the world, there is no such thing as “having a bad day” when you’re working in sales.
Enjoy what you do and have fun in your work. You should still want to win, you should still want to beat all your competitors, but it’s a game that we play, the game of transferring profit from one company to another.
You should never give up or compromise, but it’s not life or death. It’s a choice to do what we do.
You will never depress or bore anyone into buying from you so yes, be dedicated, be serious about succeeding but always see it for what it is, It’s a game – be happy and enjoy it.
Because they lack product knowledge, they listen more closely to customers. They believe everything they’re taught. They take to the sales field and do everything they’re employed to do – without question and without distraction.
New sales people are blind to fear and the risk of losing a sales order as they’ve not yet experienced it. Most new sales people tend to sell more in their first two months than they do in their second two months.
It’s from the third month onwards that the seed of doubt develops in a sales person’s mind.
Two kinds of events generally occur to create this seed of doubt:
• They lose a potential sales order to a competitor for reasons they didn’t think possible. This could be due to a lower-priced product or to a product with capabilities theirs didn’t possess.
• Upon receiving customer feedback the sales person discovers that their employer’s products and service aren’t perfect and that they’ve made mistakes with some customers.
While disappointing, these issues create fear; the fear of failing which dents their confidence.
Pure enthusiasm and utter conviction are suddenly tempered by real life experience!
It’s important to deal with these negative experiences and put them into perspective.
Remind yourself that the world isn’t perfect. There’s no perfect job, perfect employer, or perfect product. In business, as in life, things can go wrong!
Customers can inadvertently have a bad experience. Just because your employer has room for improvement and some of their business systems may not be ideal, this doesn’t imply that your competitor is any better than your employer; your competitor will face similar challenges.
Understanding how to deal with a lost order is also very important when it comes to preventing the growth of your seed of doubt.
If an order is lost this doesn’t mean “doom and gloom” or failure.
Take a step back from the deal and look at the way it played out. Acknowledge the things you did right. Assess the things you should’ve done better, or differently. Be fair to yourself by looking at the positives as well as the opportunity for improvement.
Regardless of any disappointments you may face always prevent any negative attitudes from forming. Protect your positive enthusiasm and always work with utter conviction.
While you may see yourself as distinct from those you compete against, it’s important to appreciate where the customer, who hasn’t met you or your company, is starting from when you first attempt to meet with them.
To better appreciate your customer’s view of your industry, look in your local business directory for a product type you have little knowledge of. For example, roof restoration, window double-glazing, or insect pest control suppliers.
You’ll see advertisements and listings for many suppliers, whichever category you select.
On face value, most suppliers will look the same to you. It’s valid to suggest that you are indifferent in your preference because they appear that way.
The reality may be that out of ten suppliers you look at:
• Some will be very reliable, with good quality products
• Some will offer products of barely acceptable quality
• Some will take your business for granted and be difficult to deal with
• Some will provide poor quality products and service
• Some may not be totally honest, even unethical
Your initial perception and the reality for each supplier are often vastly different.
This lack of appreciation of the reality is also the starting point for your customers.
They see you in the same way as you see the “double glazing” list of suppliers. The customer may not have knowledge of your industry, so the starting point of their decision-making process is that all suppliers look the same.
Remind yourself of this reality as you craft your sales stories around the competitive advantages you offer.
You have to earn the right for the customer to see you as a knowledgeable industry professional.
It’s also common for customers to think they know more about your product and industry than you do, despite the fact that you do this every day!
Try to respect the fact that they have no choice but to be indifferent to you and your product – at least until they get to know you – given the many options available to them.
Every sale should go through a structured process involving a series of 7 steps.
We know from experience that sales people who follow these steps – from locating a customer to securing a sales order – will experience an increase in sales, or their sales will provide a better financial return.
The first step is about finding someone to sell to, someone who is, or should be in the market for your product. The action you take to generate a sales lead is called cold-calling, prospecting, farming, or canvassing, among other names.
Lead generation can take the following forms:
• Cold-calling – physically attending, without invitation, a potential customer’s premises.
• Telemarketing – telephoning a potential customer.
• Mailers – letter drops, posted letters, flyers, hard copy and 3D mailers, etc.
• Calling upon current customers with a view to upgrading or selling them additional products.
• Social media or electronic marketing activity.
There are many other forms of marketing and promotion conducted by companies that are not created by a sales person’s direct efforts.
A first appointment is the first chance you get to meet a potential customer and to establish what it is they need or want, if anything. This could be called a ‘needs analysis’ meeting.
While this discussion can take place over the telephone or via email, it’s best to have a face-to-face meeting. Meeting with your customer in person is the ideal way to communicate with them as you’ll understand their situation better by seeing it for yourself. You also get a chance to judge their reactions by watching their body language.
This is the step where we get to show our product to the customer.
We show them why they should select our product, as opposed to selecting a competitor’s offering, or retaining their current product. Where possible, we invite the customer to touch, feel, see or experience the product so they better understand what we’re offering. It should be more than a sales pitch – it’s not just “talk”, it’s “show and tell.”
A proposal is the step where we summarize the issues our customer wants addressed, outline how our product will address those issues and improve their situation. We also explain what the investment cost will be, i.e. how much they have to pay.
This is when the customer has questions or you address any concerns they may have with proceeding with your proposed solution. Discussions could be about the product, the after sale service and support, or the payment or payment method you’re requiring the customer to commit to.
The customer places an order and agrees to purchase from you, thereby becoming your customer.
This is the most forgotten step of the sales process. When you don’t receive the order from a customer because they selected an alternate supplier it’s not a pleasant feeling.
You need to establish why this happened because it is a valuable element in your long term sales success. Always ask why you didn’t get the sale and learn from this.
By appreciating every sale as a series of steps, you not only maximize the chance of securing an order from a customer, but it will help you sell at higher price points, obtaining higher gross profit.
Knowing what will be sold this month and the following month is an important part of doing business. It enables stock control and helps companies supply services and resources necessary for fulfilling customer orders.
If you understand where each of your customers are in the selling cycle, it’ll be easy for you to know what orders you’ll receive in the current week or month and in subsequent months.
By following the 7 steps of the sale and asking questions of your customer, you’ll know if it’s likely they’ll be placing the order with you.
If you’re expecting to receive the sales order in the current month then it’s reasonable to expect that you can answer the following questions:
• Does the proposed product satisfy all the customer’s requirements?
• Does the proposed after-sale service satisfy the customer’s requirements?
• Does the proposed payment method satisfy the customer’s requirements?
• Is the customer happy with the proposed expenditure required?
• By when does the customer need to make a decision?
• Does the customer exclusively make the decision within their organization?
• What is the customer’s approval process?
• If not you, what competitor is most likely to receive the order and why?
Only when you know the answers to each of these questions can you include the customer on a sales forecast list.
You’ll establish the answers over the course of the 7 steps of the sale by asking the right questions and doing your job properly.
Don’t guess or hope to get lucky by confusing a sales forecast list with a wish list. They are two very different things.
In business, we don’t deal in wish lists. Your sales forecast is a list of potential sales orders.
There’s no need to make it any more complicated by documenting the probability in terms of percentages of success for each potential sale.
Whether you’re 70% or 99% sure of getting the pending sales order is irrelevant. If you missed out on the sale the end result is the same.
If you don’t know if you’ll be receiving the order then it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that you’ll not be getting the sale.
Have a list of potential sales and focus your activity on these each month – this is at the heart of what you do.
Remember, not being sure of what you’ll sell is not an option. It’s also a clear sign that you’re not in control of your role.
Convey to them the security that your solution offers, compared to your competitors.
Business-to-business customers will differ in what they see as the merits of the product or solution you are supplying.
But these customers will also share the same fundamental concerns about your product – and these concerns will motivate and influence their purchasing decisions.
Let’s face it. Customers who are buying on behalf of a business generally don’t want their decision to appear a foolish one, especially to their work colleagues.
The last thing they want is for the product or service to fail, or for the after-sale service to be lacking.
No-one will let them forget a decision like that!
If you’re a new supplier for example, the decision-maker responsible for choosing the product is likely to have an underlying concern about its reliability.
But they’re unlikely to voice these concerns.
So in addition to solving the customer’s specific problems with your product or solution, it’s especially helpful to structure your discussions and your presentation around the concept of ‘peace of mind’.
Convey to them the security that your solution offers, compared to your competitors.
When you build a sales argument around how you’re the best solution provider for this customer, remember that you’re dealing with emotions and perceptions, not just facts and logic.
Don’t underestimate the power that emotions play in a business decision!
Always position your product as the “safest” available option for the customer to select.
This will be valued, despite the fact that the customer is unlikely to talk about this aspect with you.
Add to your chances of success by always positioning your product as the most “fail-safe” option on the market.
It’s the unspoken motivator.
This approach removes all risk and is quicker than waiting for a lead.
In the world of sales, you can find a million reasons for not cold-calling. By contrast, there is only one reason to cold call – you might actually sell something!
Here are some of the most common reasons for not cold-calling:
• It’s old-fashioned.
• It’s a waste of my time and skill set.
• I’m too busy.
• I don’t need to because I’m busy enough.
• I don’t need to now that I’m established.
• It’s not my job.
• It’s a better use of my time to pursue my contacts and business relationships.
There are plenty of reasons – or should we say excuses – for not picking up that phone. You probably have more.
But does it not make sense to want to generate as many sales as you can?
Why would you leave all lead generation to someone else, thereby passing control of your success to a third party? Why leave it to chance that a referral and lead will come your way?
In sales there can be nothing simpler than this thinking:
“I have a product I want to sell. There is a customer that uses or could use what I sell. I’m going to ask them if they’d like to speak to me. If they don’t want to speak to me now, I’ll find out when I can go and see them.”
Yes, you can pursue other lead generating activities, such as obtaining referrals, engaging in social media, electronic marketing, sponsorship, attending local business network meetings, or whatever is in vogue this week or appeals to you.
But don’t disregard the direct, simple and foolproof method of asking someone if they’d like to sit down and talk to you about what you have to offer.
This approach removes all risk and is quicker than waiting for a lead.
And remember, a very small amount of lead generation activity can quickly become effective. Conducting only three cold calls in the few minutes you have available before and after your daily appointments can lead to success not often seen in your company or your industry.
Do the math. If you do those 3 cold calls per day for 4 days of the week then over 48 weeks of the year you’ll create 576 potential customers!
Go on, pick up the phone now.
From time to time it’s easy to become overwhelmed, even distracted by your volume of work, or simply lost amidst all the available opportunity.
These counterproductive periods usually translate to poor sales performance. So what do you do?
You may not need to go to the extent of assessing your sales statistics and sales ratios, i.e. your conversion and activity statistics of cold calls, appointments, demonstrations and sales orders won and lost.
It may just be a matter of keeping things simple. Never underestimate the power of common sense!
To restore your confidence, temporarily set aside many of the performance enhancement sales techniques and sales theories you may lose yourself in.
You need to clear your head and concentrate on what matters – do nothing other than getting yourself out into the sales field.
Do this and this only.
Forget rehearsing your presentation, improving your sales arguments, enhancing your written proposals – forget it all!
Simply get back to basics and build from there.
By concentrating on what matters, what really matters, this will simplify things for you.
In sales, talking to people who don’t currently buy from you is something that needs to be done above everything else. Concentrate on doing this and only this.
Then, when you’re back on track, start to build your sales skills again.
Take the pressure off yourself. Remind yourself that you don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be the best salesperson in the world.
When two people are running from a hungry lion in the jungle they don’t need to run at record-breaking speed to be safe; they only need to out-run the guy next to them!
In sales it’s no different. Understand your sales role for what it is – don’t complicate it.
An Olympic sprinter doesn’t look at the clock while they’re running. They’re focusing on what matters, each step they take. Their official time is the end result of this focus.
The same applies for a football team. The players concentrate on what they need to do to be successful. The score on the scoreboard is the result of them focussing on what needs to be done to gain success.
Unfortunately, when they’re in a sales team, people seem to forget this logic.
Sales Managers often talk about sales budgets and concentrate on the outcome in discussions with sales people, i.e. they talk about sales achieved.
However, spending your time talking about sales budget numbers is looking at things from the wrong end.
Sales people who ensure that their lead generation and other sales activity is maintained and who value monitoring the number of cold calls, telephone calls and customer appointments, are the people who are measuring what matters.
The sales results will always follow, as long as the right numbers are going into the top of the sales funnel.
The field of sales is, after all, a numbers game. Putting big numbers into the machine will increase your chance of seeing big numbers coming out.
Lead generation and other sales activity is the only statistic worth measuring and monitoring within a sales role.
The sales results – the results that pay the bills – will take care of themselves
When you’re out and about generating sales leads there’s a high probability you’ll receive information from a potential buyer that isn’t entirely true.
That’s because potential customers will use any number of excuses to terminate your telephone call.
• We just bought one.
• Head office does the buying.
• The person responsible isn’t here.
• We don’t have funds in our budget.
You should see these excuses for what they are, i.e. another way of saying, “It’s not convenient to talk right now” or, “We’re not interested at present.”
Don’t let excuses demotivate you. And don’t interpret them as a true reflection of your prospect’s circumstances.
While the potential customer or their receptionist/protector is essentially lying, you shouldn’t take it to heart!
Worse than being misled by a potential customer while cold-calling is the ‘stomach wrenching’ discovery that the customer bought from someone else – despite the fact that they promised to buy from you!
And despite the fact that they assured you they would call you when they were ready to buy.
Most customers don’t believe that a sales person is telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” This misplaced assumption tends to be their unspoken justification for not being honest with you.
Until you break through and form a relationship with your customer you need to accept that they may not always be honest with you.
The solution to this frustration? Accept it, forget it and move on.
Oh and be sure to never use this as a justification for you to reciprocate.
Sometimes in sales we may need to justify the price our customer needs to pay to enjoy our product or solution.
This is especially the case when you are selling high value products such as capital equipment or machinery.
The best way to address the potential ‘shock’ of a large price tag is to factor in the lifespan of your product – by dividing that period of time into your selling price.
This enables you to talk about an effective cost per day, per week, per month or even per year. Whichever period makes most sense for your product.
This breaks the overall price down into smaller units. Talking about those smaller amounts of expenditure helps to paint a better picture of the value you are providing to your customer.
It somehow seems cheaper to the customer too!
For example, let’s say your product has an effective lifespan of 3 years (36 months) and it costs $80 000.
Asking for $80 000 seems more expensive to your customer than talking about an effective expenditure of $2 300 per month for the use of your product.
(You may need to factor interest into the discussion, but often this isn’t required.)
The customer may still be paying $80 000 at the start of your agreement, but by discussing the cost to them as a monthly amount tends to make the sale move more rapidly due to the perceived value you are presenting.
The lower the figure you can discuss with your customer, whether it’s a cost per day, or a cost per transaction, the greater the value it appears to the customer and the easier it is to transact the sale.