Tips & Tactics

Buyers want prepared salespeople….

More than 62% of sales professionals spend fewer than 20 minutes preparing for sales calls, according to a study conducted by Hebert Research and Knowledge Anywhere, Bellevue, Washington. Although sales managers and vice presidents expect sales representatives to spend at least 30 minutes preparing for calls, 33.3% spend just 1-10 minutes preparing.

In a related study by Purchasing Magazine, buyers indicated that their number-one dislike is an unprepared salesperson. They also said that lack of interest or purpose on behalf of salespeople is received negatively.

During October 2005, Hebert Research conducted a study with vice presidents and sales managers of mid- to large-size enterprise companies in North America. The purpose of the study was to determine how salespeople prepare for sales calls. They also completed a random probability sample of 141 sales managers and vice presidents based in different parts of the United States via the telephone using professionally trained research staff.

More than 20% of respondents noted that their sales cycle, from initial contact to a signed contract, is three months to one year. Another 32.8% indicated an average sales cycle of less than one month.

In addition to the lack of time spent preparing for sales calls, another interesting finding is that the Internet is the most widely used tool by salespeople in preparation for sales calls. The Internet is cited as the most regularly used tool for gaining industry knowledge prior to a sales call by nearly half of respondents, with Google specifically providing almost 43.8% of all information to salespeople. Only 1.6% used the Wall Street Journal Online. Tapping the knowledge of colleagues and coworkers is also considered a normal and frequently used source for seeking industry knowledge.

According to the study, more than 50% of salespeople rate the public Internet as the most effective (54.8%), accurate (41.1%), current (51.1%) and easiest to understand (58.9%) source of information available. Newspapers were rated the least effective source of information by 34.2% of respondents. Newspapers rated the lowest in terms of comprehensibility, accuracy and possessing current information.

Avoiding sales mistakes….

An interesting follow-up to the findings of the study in the preceding article is found in an excerpt from a new book, The Nine Biggest Sales Presentation Mistakes & How to Avoid Them, Second Edition. Written by Terri L. Sjodin, CSP, the book points out that in today’s competitive marketplace, whether selling a product, service, philosophy, an idea or, most importantly, yourself — everybody sells something. An individual’s success often depends upon his/her ability to deliver a polished and persuasive presentation. Salespeople spend 80% of their time verbally communicating and many suffer from common shortcomings in their sales presentations that adversely affect their results. Consider all of the different types of presentations a business professional might deliver: promoting an idea at an office meeting, delivering a three-minute elevator speech at a networking event, or giving a sales presentation to a prospect. All require the ability to deliver a solid professional performance! Among the “biggest” mistakes covered by the author are:

  • Winging It — When you “wing it,” it’s very common for your presentation to “hop and pop” around all over the place, lacking logical, progressive flow. It takes too long to deliver, and prospects may find it hard to follow. Frequently, you may leave out half the points you want to make, including effective illustrations that bring the presentation to life.

Take time to prepare and practice using a logical outline. Be sure your presentation covers all the points you want to make, clearly and concisely. Don’t be afraid to give a copy of the outline to your listener.

  • Being Too Informative vs. Persuasive — It’s very easy to deliver an informative rather than persuasive presentation. The reason? A prospect can’t say “no” when you’re only disseminating information. Remember, it’s a teacher’s job to be informative, but a salesperson must be persuasive.

Learn how to build a presentation that creates needs rather than just covers the standard needs analysis. Think “proactive” vs. “reactive.” Design a presentation that anticipates objections and overcomes them before they become reasons not to buy. Think like an attorney, and build arguments for why a client should work with you, your company and why they should do it now.

  • Boring, Boring, Boring — Many professionals do not realize just how boring their presentations are — too many facts; a flat, boring, monotone voice; the same old stories. Sometimes professionals have been giving the same presentation for so long they just slip into autopilot. In today’s competitive market, your presentations must be entertaining in order to obtain and maintain the attention of prospects.

Be creative! Put some energy into it! To stay sharp, practice with a tape recorder and listen to the playback to determine where your presentation begins to fall apart. Make improvements accordingly. Be sure to use material that is appropriate for the audience, whether it’s made up of one or 10 people.

  • Relying Too Much on Visual Aids — If brochures, handouts or slides could sell a product or service on their own, companies would not need salespeople. Depending too much on visual aids can give us a false sense of security. We tend to think it isn’t necessary to prepare thoroughly because our props will lead us right through the presentation. We let the visual aid become the star and virtually run the show.

You are the star and the visual is the bit player! It’s your job to bring the presentation to life. Strategically place visual aids in your presentation for emphasis of a major point or argument. You must practice with all handouts or aids to ensure that they enhance rather than detract from your presentation. Remember who’s in charge — you are!

These four points give you a brief overview of the some of the most common mistakes salespeople make every day in their presentations. Such mistakes can cost you thousands of dollars every year in lost sales and commissions. Do a simple self-evaluation of your next presentation. Do you make any of these common mistakes when speaking to your clients and prospects? When you can identify the weaknesses in your presentation, you can begin to correct them. As a result, you will become more confident, more polished, more persuasive and more consistent in delivering effective presentations.

Ask and you shall receive….

The point was strongly made at two industry rep conferences last fall that if the rep doesn’t ask for something — he’s not going to get it. The cases we’re speaking about concerned product liability indemnification, receiving progress payments and contract negotiating. While a number of reps were complaining about their lack of principal consideration in these cases, one rep asked the question, “How many of you have actually asked for help in these areas?” It was surprising how few in attendance raised their hands. The point was really made when one rep explained that twice in the last month he had principals add him to their product liability policies. “Once I let them know that it would cost them little or nothing, they both figured it was an effective way to further solidify their commitment to us.”

End of article