Archive for the ‘negotiations’ Category

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Practice to Win, or You Never Will

February 9, 2011

Your biggest competition in business is “don’t know”.

If the customer doesn’t know what your product or service can do, they’ll never buy. And, if your competition is telling your story for you, then the customer will never know how you can make a difference. (And, by the way, it’s “the” customer, not “your” customer, because of what they don’t know).  The same concept applies to the management of sales teams, where “don’t know” can mean the difference between a lost sale and a major victory. The way to defeat “don’t know” from a management perspective is to create an environment for sales practice.

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Professional sports teams and performers practice much more than they actually play – but in business, it’s just the opposite. How do you get better at sales, if you never practice?

If you are really in the advanced class for weekly sales meetings, then you have the skills to explain exactly what to watch out for, and what to do in particular situations. Ask for volunteers to answer the tough questions! In a “What would you do if…” situation, you play the customer, or the client. Call somebody up to the front of the room and let them shadowbox a little on the competition, or pricing, or other key objections. Let the best come forward and show their stuff. It takes guts, but if you do this right you will teach volumes to your team!

Look, I know that sales management isn’t acting class, but if you want a great performance from your people you better show ’em how it’s done. Practice makes perfect, but you can’t expect perfection if you don’t demonstrate it first.

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“Please Just Send Me Some Information…”

June 22, 2010

Have you ever heard that one before?  When you’re talking with a prospect, and you just know that what they need isn’t information – it’s an exit strategy from your conversation?

For me, when I’m not interested or if a service isn’t appropriate, I say so and I also say why.  I sell for a living, and I always appreciate honesty, so I try my best to provide it when I’m in the customer’s seat.  I have found that people like to know where they stand; polite honesty is what I seek and what I try to give.

Still, if you are running into this objection more than you’d like, you may be getting the brush off.  Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at your approach.

“Sell Your Cleverness and Purchase Bewilderment” – Rumi

So, is “more information” just another way of saying, “I’m not interested”?  You have to trust your instincts. If it feels like a blow off, it probably is. My question would be: Where does their interest go away? Is there a point in your story or your value proposition that is a turning point (or turn off, I guess you could say)?

The obstacle probably appears before they ask for the information. There are a lot of choices for products and services, but there should be a strong reason to invest (if it’s the right prospect and the right product).   But how do you know if it’s the right prospect and the right product?  After all, it could be that everything’s right…except you.

If I were you – and I felt like I was getting a brush off from a good prospect – I would put a great big pile of truth on the table. When I’ve been in situations where I’m getting a lot of pushback, I’ve used a version of this speech and it always breaks the ice.  It takes courage and sincerity to lay these cards on the table, but it has been very effective for me in the past.

If someone says, “Just send me some information”, try this response [with comments in brackets]:

“Yes, of course. [You can’t say “no”, because then you might look sneaky, evasive or even unprofessional!]  But I’ve run into this request a few times before, and it seems to always end with no interest. Quite frankly, I’m starting to think that there’s something I’m leaving out. Maybe you need to know more before you can agree to a meeting, or maybe it’s just not a fit for you right now. Either way, that’s ok. [Always always make it OK to say no –  unless you know how to squeeze people until money comes out 😉  ].

“But, would you help me to know if there’s one particular reason that you need additional information? Maybe [my product or service] is not a fit for you – but I’m interested in getting your opinion, so I don’t keep repeating a pattern that doesn’t seem to be productive. I’m sincerely interested in meeting with you, if for no other reason than to make my approach as professional and effective as possible. Would you be willing to give me 15 minutes of your time, and a little advice, so that I can understand what information is missing – and what you need – so that I can be more effective?”   (Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment…and get ready for a fastball from your prospect.  Summon your courage for what you hear in reply; it may not earn you commission, but you won’t get a sale until you find what’s missing.)

This approach changes the conversation: you are asking for advice, not for sponsorship. You must be sincere in this request (not a bait and switch, where you push them hard for $$), or it won’t work. And the prospect has to be willing to be really straight wtih you (not everyone is). It really does have to be OK for them to say no to the sale, because now you need info (not revenue, that comes after the learning). If an actual prospect can give you some advice, it would really help. With some clear feedback, you would know if “send me information” is sincere, or a smokescreen.

It’s also a good idea to call someone who did decide to buy in to your product or service, and ask them why. Then, use that information as a testimonial to explain to prospects what another customer saw as a key benefit. Step your prospects through that process – the one that ended with a sale – and explain how you would like to begin the same exploration with them.

The antidote for objections is always truth serum.  Get the issue out on the table, and see if the prospect can help you to find what’s missing.  Focus on the customer with a sincere curiosity, and it could give you just the clues you need to close that next opportunity.

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Sales Leaders’ GPS

June 2, 2010

A personal story:

As a young salesperson, I was in a training session at AT&T, getting bombarded with all sorts of “Latest & Greatest”  verbal kung-fu, cleverly disguised as sales strategy.  How was I going to remember all this stuff, in front of a customer?

Cerebral Iguana

My Brain at Work

My lizard brain was on overload!

I was concerned that I might not get everything out on the table, when I was with a prospect. What would I do if I forgot something?! I raised my hand and asked the sales manager, “there’s a lot of detail here…what happens if I leave something out?”  (Ever felt that way?)

He replied with one of the wisest things I have ever heard, and a piece of advice that I use to this day. Beyond the concepts and the process, you have to focus on the customer.

FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER AND YOU WILL NEVER LOSE YOUR WAY.

I keep this technique front of mind for myself personally, and for all who I have the opportunity to coach. Specifically, it means getting the attention off of yourself – you product, your process, and your “concepts” – and asking questions to make sure you are qualifying your prospect, meeting their needs, getting to their goals. At the same time, you will qualify your answers and create your own roadmap to the purchase decision. There’s no substitute for knowing your offer in detail, but knowing the customer trumps all else! By focusing on the customer, you will make sure that you find what you may have forgotten – and arrive at your destination (along with the order)!

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“I Only Want the Toughest Customers”

April 29, 2010

Asking for the toughest customers is like trying to pet a shark, or date a nun – you instantly know that it won’t end up well, so why ask for it? I was out to dinner last night with my friend, BigTime.  Surprisingly, he let me know that he only wants the toughest customers.  Say what–?

My friend is one of the best salespeople I know – he deals with an ultra-elite clientele in the Big Apple.  This guy specializes in the demands of high-net-worth individuals with a skill that is both rare, and easygoing.

His customer logic goes like this:  I want only the most difficult customers because, if they even think of shopping me with competitors, I will win every time.  The toughest customers will chew up my competition, and disqualify them right out of the gate, because that’s the kind of service and solutions that my company can provide.  He’s looking for the clients who are so tough and so demanding that other service providers get scared by their demands, and struggle to prove they can meet them.  It’s not a problem for BigTime, and that’s the way he knows a qualified lead.

Interesting perspective.   We bounced the idea around some more, and I came away with some additional thoughts.  If you are faced with a tough customer, thank them for helping you to be better.  If you are taking a beating over something you did, or your company did, or you are about to do, I have two words of advice:  don’t duck.  Here are six more:  Face it, take it, fix it.  It’s that simple.

Face up to the challenge of the difficult customer, and you will learn what it is that you need to know.  For BigTime, he always looks forward to the toughest possible client as the greatest opportunity.  He knows that he can offer what others cannot, that’s why he’s BigTime.  A demanding client, in his business, means that the competition is out of the mix.  The best way to defeat your competition is unequaled customer service.   Disqualify your competition by being the one who doesn’t duck the tough stuff.  When you resolve the really scary issues, you learn, you grow, and you create customers for life.  The only way to know if you have what it takes, is to get started.   If you’d like one suggestion on what you could do today, make up your mind to astonish the most difficult customer you know (and yes, the people you work with are internal customers).  What can you do to make a difference, and show that when it comes to customer service, you are BigTime?

Difficult times show us what we are made of; difficult customers force us to be better and help our companies to demonstrate competitive advantage.

[ The names in this post have been changed to protect the guilty 😉  ]