Stop Selling Like “Stan” – 3 Simple Ways to Break the Mold
When you think of a salesperson, it’s likely a certain image comes to mind. Let me guess, it’s a middle-aged, slightly overweight male, wearing a short sleeved dress shirt and a striped tie ending six inches above his belt buckle. He’s carrying a worn briefcase, sporting a salt and pepper mustache, and has a distinct sheen coming off his greasy, slicked back hair. He loves to “spin” your questions and lives by the motto, ABC, Always Be Closing. Am I right? For the sake of this article, let’s give this standard salesperson a name… we’ll call him “Stan”.
“Stan” is a pain in my ass and if you’re a salesperson, it’s likely he’s a pain in your ass too.
That’s because every time we cold call a prospect, every time we go in for the close, every time we send an email following up on a proposal, the image of “Stan” flashes in our client’s mind; it’s hurting our business and making our jobs more difficult.
So the question becomes, how do we keep our clients from imagining “Stan”? How do we show them that we’re not just another standard salesperson?
Here are 3 ways to break the mold:
Adjust your purpose:
When you go on a sales call or pick up the phone, what are you trying to accomplish? For the standard sales person, the answer is easy: “Close Business.” Average salespeople are focused on the short term “win” and although they pretend to act in the best interest of the client, they generally only act in the best interest of themselves. They use lines like “let’s put ink to paper and worry about the details later” or “if you can sign on the dotted line today, we’ll include additional added value of XYZ.” Over time, these techniques have created a negative image of sales in general.
Try this: Instead of making your main priority to close the deal, shift your focus to adding so much value to the client that the deal naturally closes. The outcome is the same but the path by which you get there is very different and this difference can be felt by the client. I’m certainly not discouraging you from creating urgency, in fact, quite the contrary. Consistently adding value results in urgency being naturally created; it shows your clients just how valuable working with your company can be, and why they can’t afford to wait.
Stop “pushing” clients:
It’s 2017, buyers are educated, have access to more information than ever before, and don’t want to feel pressured to buy. When we “push” for the sale, we end up pushing clients away. Instead of pushing, “pull” your clients towards you by adding value and clearly understanding how you can help them. Use the following guidelines to avoid pushing like our friend “Stan”:
- During meetings, speak no more than 30% of the time – 20% is even more ideal. It’s your job to listenand first identify the client’s needs before you propose a solution. This means in a standard 30 minute meeting, you shouldn’t speak more than 6-9 minutes. Sound crazy? Try it out in your next meeting, you’ll be amazed how well the conversation flows when you actually let the client speak.
- Be genuinely curious about your client’s business. Ask great questions about their company’s history, their revenue model, the biggest wins that led to their success, etc. Not only will this build strong rapport, it will also allow you to understand how you can best add value to their organization.
- Be willing to admit when a product isn’t right for the client. After a meaningful conversation with your prospect, if there are parts of your product/service portfolio that aren’t a fit, proactively identify them and quickly scrap those ideas (preferably in front of your client). You can cross the product off the proposal with a sharpie, rip the page out of your deck, crumple it up, and toss it in the garbage (dramatic effect), delete the slide, or simply verbalize “this idea clearly isn’t a fit, let’s get rid of it and pivot to some options that will address your needs.” This technique immediately builds trust as your client realizes you’re not going to “push” a product on them when it’s not a fit.
Stop “Just Following Up”
Newsflash, your client didn’t forget to tell you they’re moving forward with your proposal – that has neverhappened. After years of selling, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are zero good reasons to “just follow up”. In fact, as soon as your prospective client reads “Hi Jim, just following up on the proposal I sent last week…” an image of “Stan” begins to creep into their head and you’re back to square one. Try this instead:
- If you feel the need to follow up, find something of true value that you’re sure the client hasn’t seen yet. It could be competitive intel, newly released market trends, relevant research that your firm conducted, etc. Most times, the client will thank you and reply with some variation of “by the way, we’re still reviewing the proposal but should have a decision made by next week.” This gives you the opportunity to request a meeting to discuss their decision and best next steps.
- Never leave a meeting without setting the next meeting or touch-point. This might be the single most important sales technique to shorten your sales cycle and avoid having to “follow up”. Before leaving a meeting, ask, “when would it make sense to reconnect on next steps?” the client will respond one of two ways:
- Option 1: They’ll say, “2-3 weeks” (could be 2-3 days, 2-3 months, depending on your industry’s cycle) to which you’ll reply, “great, my schedule is a bit tight over the next month so let’s pencil in a time to make sure we can connect, how is February 10th at 3PM?”
- Option 2: They’ll reply, “let us review these ideas and we’ll follow up with you” (the polite way of saying, don’t call me, I’ll call you). You’ll give a similar response to option 1 by saying, “my schedule is a bit tight over the next month so I’d like to pencil in a time to reconnect on your feedback, that way we’re not wasting time trying to coordinate later on – how is February 10th at 3PM?”If they still resist, they’re likely not a real prospect and it might be time to shift your focus (remember, every situation is different).
- If a client asks you to send a proposal, always insist that you meet with them to review that proposal upon receipt. If they’re not willing to meet with you, it’s quite possible they’re price shopping and potentially wasting your time. A strong salesperson will go as far as refusing to send a proposal if the client isn’t willing to review it with them. Every situation is different, however, most of the time I completely agree with this approach. There are ways to use finesse and clear rationale to request a proposal review, after all, it’s in the best interest of all parties involved. (Message me for some specific language I’ve found to be successful)
As salespeople, we’re in a constant battle against “Stan’s” reputation and it’s our job to break the stereotype. The simple tips above, utilized in your daily sales routine, will help to ensure your clients see you as a true partner versus just another standard salesperson. Let’s throw out “Always Be Closing” and replace it with “Always Add Value”. This is a surefire way to increase sales in the short-term, and in the future.