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Would You Buy What You Sell?

Thursday October 11, 2018 8:49 pm
Posted by SuperAdmin

As salespeople, we’re told we need to be confident. We take courses, read books, seek out mentors, and sift through countless articles searching for tips and tricks to help our sales process. All of these things are important. As I mentioned in my article “3 Ways to Stop Selling Like Stan” people buy from those they like and trust; it’s not all about the product.

But what if we’re not completely confident in the product we’re selling? How can we expect to exude certainty and convince our customers to buy if we wouldn’t buy the product ourselves? One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “would I buy, what I sell?”If the answer is YES, save yourself a few minutes and stop reading this article now. But if you have even an ounce of doubt regarding the value of what you’re selling, read below for a few tips to rebuild your belief.

Ask Your Best Customers

We all have (or at least should have) a select group of customers who we consider more friends than clients. These people have bought from us year after year and are true champions for our brand. They’re also people who we know will provide honest feedback, whether positive or negative. In an attempt to better understand the value of your products or services, ask your best clients why they buy from you. At first glance, this seems like an insane proposition. Why would you ever want to plant even the smallest seed of doubt in your best customer’s mind? The truth is, if you position this question properly, it will actually strengthen your relationship with the client as they see your efforts to improve your offerings. Tell your client your firm is looking to understand which products/services bring the most value to customers so you can continue to reinvest in those areas. This not only shows your firm’s commitment to excellence, but also let’s your client know how much you value their opinion and trust their insight.

Once you receive feedback from several clients, share the learnings with your product team and ensure they continue to focus/invest in the appropriate areas. This is the right thing to do for your business and it also shows your client that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is.

From a personal standpoint, gaining important feedback will reaffirm the value that you bring to clients, and let you know where you can improve. It will also boost confidence in what you sell and give you anecdotal stories to leverage for future sales.

Build Case Studies

Long gone are the days when a salesperson can get away with saying, “TRUST ME, this is going to work for you…” Buyers want to see proof. They know that measurement capabilities have improved and expect an estimated (or sometimes even guaranteed) ROI. If your company doesn’t have in-depth case studies, you should make it a priority to get these made as soon as possible. Effective case studies will help increase sales in the future while also helping to build confidence within your sales force.

While creating or advising on these case studies, remember the initial question, “would I buy what I sell?” Ensure that your case study addresses this question by creating proof points that truly show how much value your company provides. The case study should highlight as many stats and facts as possible, shying away from opinion.

If you’re having trouble creating the case study in a way that shows value, you may need to look at enhancing your measurement capabilities or improving your product overall.

For Managers: Regularly Evaluate Your Sales Team’s Confidence Level

Sales managers put an incredible amount of emphasis on the sales process, attempting to ensure their sales team is confident in their abilities. They invest heavily in sales training, use in-depth systems to track productivity, and focus on flashy marketing materials to impress clients. Although these systems and techniques are important, they all fall flat if the sales person isn’t confident in the product/service itself.

As a sales manager, it’s important to regularly meet with your individual salespeople and get a sense of their confidence in your offerings. Ask your team where they recommend improvement based on client feedback, and what you can do to ensure they stand behind your product/service 100%. These questions will help address areas of vulnerability and also show your staff that you value their opinion – a win-win.

While discussing this approach with several sales managers, I’ve been asked a common question, “how do you gauge your team’s confidence without it appearing as if you’re not confident yourself?”Obviously this takes a certain amount of finesse, but the best place to start is by emphasizing your commitment to improvement. This approach focuses less on what’s wrong and more on what could be better to further your superiority in the market.

A very well known sales trainer once told me, “if you don’t believe 100% in what you’re selling, you have one option… quit.” I understood his point. I mean how can you expect to sell something that you wouldn’t buy yourself? However, upon further evaluation of the dozens of salespeople I’ve worked with, I’ve come to realize that quite often, the problem is not with the product/service, but rather the firm’s inability to appropriately quantify the value. The simple steps above will help you significantly boost confidence in your products/services and allow you to stand wholeheartedly behind what you sell.

3 Lessons Salespeople Can Learn From Journalists

Thursday October 11, 2018 8:48 pm
Posted by SuperAdmin

At first glance, it may seem that salespeople and journalists have nothing in common. The former is known to focus on revenue and closing the deal, while the latter seeks to build an amazing story, oftentimes with little concern about the associated revenue. After working in the publishing industry for years, I’ve built up a tremendous amount of respect for the editors and journalists I’ve had the privilege to spend time with. I often envy their ability to build a story that can inspire action and create an emotional response from their readers.

Although we sit on opposite sides of the publishing firewall, I’ve realized the similarities between a great salesperson and a great journalist far outweigh the differences.

Here a 3 traits of great journalists that we can learn from:

Journalists Ask Great Questions

Great journalists aren’t the ones who have all the right answers, they’re the ones who ask all the right questions. Sales is the same way. While building a story, journalists are tasked with unveiling information that most people don’t have access to. In order to successfully accomplish this, they must ask strategic questions that tease out the information they need in order to create compelling content.

Key takeaways:

  • Focus on open-ended questions, avoiding yes/no questions unless absolutely necessary. Oftentimes, yes/no questions can be easily converted to open-ended questions by asking “how do you feel about XYZ?” or “what are your initial thoughts about XYZ?” versus a yes/no question like, “do you agree with XYZ?”
  • Approach each meeting with a prepared list of questions and a vision (question map) for how you’ll respond to each of your client’s anticipated responses. With experience, this process becomes very natural so you can easily avoid coming across as intrusive.
  • If the client doesn’t fully answer your question, don’t be afraid to ask for more clarification. This shows the client that you’re truly curious and want to be well informed in order to ensure you’re recommending the best solutions (and be truly curious). Great journalists are amazing at the “deeper dive”.
  • Get clients talking about an area of their business they’re passionate about. When a client starts “selling” you on their business, you’re in a fantastic position to start discussing ways that your company can help.
  • Let your client answer! Great journalists don’t cut their interviewee off in the middle of an answer and neither should you. As salespeople, we’re often so excited to speak that we fail to listen. You asked the question for a reason, now listen to the answer!

Journalists Arrive Fully Prepared For The Meeting

Preparation is key to any successful meeting and journalists are some of the best in the business at making sure they’re fully prepped. Although most journalists speak far less than the subjects they’re interviewing, they need to be very educated on the topic in order to come up with appropriate questions.

Key takeaways:

  • Know everything you can about the client’s business. How long have they existed? Who are their current partners? Who makes up the executive team? How do they source revenue and what drives their success? What’s their company stance on XYZ? It’s very easy to find these things using simple searches on Google or social media and it makes all the difference when you walk into a meeting.
  • Learn about their competitors. A good journalist, like a good salesperson, researches the market thoroughly and gains as much “unknown” information as possible. If you can bring in an important piece of information about a competitor that the client hasn’t seen, you’ll reach a whole new level of credibility.
  • Find a local expert. Before you meet with your client, utilize your network to get the opinion of an expert in the client’s field. This will allow you to say, “I spoke with John Smith and he mentioned XYZ, what’s your opinion on that?”Not only does this show you’re willing to do your homework, it also brings in an additional topic of conversation that will add to the quality of the meeting.

Journalists Break Down Their Interviewee’s “Wall”

All great journalists know the importance of finding out what their subject is feeling, not just what they’rethinking. In sales, we need to do the same thing. People make decisions based on what they feel, not what they think. In order to make a client feel a certain way (excited, confident, safe, inspired, etc) you have to be able to break down their “wall”. Journalists are some of the best people in the world at doing this and we can learn a great deal by watching their techniques.

Key takeaways:

  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. If you want the client to share information with you, first you’ll need to share information with them. During introductions, don’t be afraid to share why you love working for your company, what drives you, and why you and your company do what you do. Depending on the situation, there may be times when it’s appropriate to share stories about your family or kids, although it’s important to approach this area with finesse (too much personal info can make some people uncomfortable). Sharing information shows the client that they’re in a safe place and encourages them to open up.
  • Ask, “where are you from?” as a first question (generally while walking to their office or conference room). Instead of talking about the weather or your “trip in”, asking where the client is from can spark an entire rapport building conversation that will start the meeting on a great note. In addition to finding potential commonalities, asking where a client is from encourages them to share as little or as much information as they want and allows you to gauge the height of their “wall”.
  • Clearly define the reason for your meeting. Once the formal conversation begins, clearly state why you reached out to the client to set up this meeting and what you hope the group will get out of it. You should inject specific details into this explanation. For example, “I’m glad we could all find time to meet. After seeing that your company recently acquired Company X, we were excited to speak with you as we work specifically with Company X’s line of business. From our perspective, there seem to be some natural ways that our companies can partner, however, we felt it was important to learn more from you to see if there’s a fit.” This statement clearly defines the reason for the outreach, the purpose of the meeting, and the potential outcome if everything aligns. Depending on the industry/situation, this statement will certainly vary, however, the structure has proven to be very successful.

Overall, it’s important to remember that the more information we can gather from the client, the more likely it is that we can provide a solid solution for their challenges. Like journalists, it’s our job to learn as much as possible from the people we’re meeting with. This requires preparation that most salespeople aren’t willing to do… Don’t be like most salespeople. Remember, the sign of a great salesperson is notsomeone who has all the right answers, but rather someone who asks all the right questions.

Stop Selling Like “Stan”​ – 3 Simple Ways to Break the Mold

Thursday October 11, 2018 8:48 pm
Posted by SuperAdmin

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.