“Selling is more difficult now then it was just a couple of years ago.” Most of the participants in my sales seminars nod solemnly when I make that statement. And then they begin to fidget in their seats when I follow that up with this: “And it will be more difficult next year than it is today.” They become really uncomfortable when I extend that idea: “And it will be increasingly more difficult every year thereafter.”
That’s a sobering truth that we don’t like to face. Yet, just a little bit of reflection will convince us of the likelihood of … Read the rest
“Good salespeople are problem solvers.” Or, so the illusion goes.
That belief ranks high on my all-time list of the beliefs that most limit a salesperson’s performance. This one is especially insidious because it is so commonly held, without reservation, by such a large percentage of sales managers and salespeople. And it sounds so reasonable.
The world is full of sales managers who gravely proclaim that good salespeople are good problem solvers. Salespeople who use that belief to give direction to their jobs are to be found in every sales force.
The problem with this self-limiting belief, as in many … Read the rest
I sell for a living. In our pay plan, we compete with our revenue numbers from the previous year, and approximately six percent is added to the previous year’s revenue number. That becomes your goal for that particular month. We get a salary plus commission and have a stair-step commission that starts at 80 percent of our goal. The problem is there is no motivation between the salespeople due to the fact that we are competing with numbers from the year before. When we have talked to management about it, they say that if we changed the pay plan, … Read the rest
I’ve been pondering an e-mail I recently received. In it, the young salesperson described his most pressing challenge: The sales roller coaster. When things go well, he’s up, emotionally; and when things don’t go well, he’s down. The swings from up to down were wearing on him. His real question is one every salesperson must confront and successfully resolve: How do I manage myself to keep my emotions up and my energy high?
I’ve often thought that this is one of those fundamental challenges for a salesperson. It’s one thing to focus on closing the sale and presenting to a … Read the rest
“I’m spending more and more time managing information. It’s squeezing out my selling time.”
Welcome to the information age. You are not unique. This problem of information inundation is a relatively new but almost universal threat to your livelihood. Four or five years ago, salespeople were not too concerned with it. Today, dealing with information is so critical that it is an important part of almost every seminar I present.
Here’s the issue. Technological advances in recent years have multiplied the amount of information that you must handle. The quantity of information landing on your lap has increased from sources … Read the rest
How do I sell to an account that is firmly in the hands of a competitor?
In one form or another, I hear that question at almost every sales seminar I teach. It’s a great question, reflecting one of the most perplexing and frustrating situations every salesperson faces. If you haven’t yet been faced with this problem, be patient, you will soon be.
Here’s how this usually develops: You’ve called on a high-potential account a number of times but can’t seem to get anywhere. The more time you spend in the account, the more apparent it is that one or … Read the rest
“Every profession expects the serious practitioner of that profession to continually seek out the best practices of that profession, and then to roll them into his or her routine with discipline.”
That statement comes out of my mouth in almost every seminar or keynote that I present. Sometimes I follow it up with the ironic observation that there is, apparently, one exception to that rule — and that is the profession of sales, where we don’t expect anyone to improve.
That is, of course, nonsense. The truth is that better salespeople produce better results. The best salespeople produce the best … Read the rest
Focus, focus, focus. That’s the phrase that I find myself repeating constantly in every sales seminar that I present. I believe focus is the greatest challenge for salespeople today, and the greatest single solution to their challenges. There are so many demands on our time, so many tasks calling for our attention, and so many opportunities available to us that we can easily become scattered and dissipated.
And in my 30 plus years of experience in the sales profession, I have identified several places where focus will gain you the greatest results. At the top of the list is focusing … Read the rest
Are things changing rapidly in your business?
Silly question, isn’t it? Of course they are changing. Rapid change is the distinguishing characteristic of the millennium.
Take that rapid change and add to it growing competition, increasing complexity, consolidations at every level, and increasing demands from customers and you have the recipe for a business climate that will turn anyone’s hair gray.
This rapid change whirling around every company puts great pressure on organizations to change themselves. Not only must the organization as a whole change, but the individuals within each organization must themselves change, learn and grow more rapidly than … Read the rest
We’re living in incredibly turbulent times. In spite of newspaper headlines proclaiming growing employment and a slowly growing economy, many business people admit to a pervasive feeling of uncertainty and confusion about their businesses.
The well-spring of this uncertainty lies in one of the characteristics of the newly-arrived information age. Business people are being buffeted by an increasingly rapid rate of change. Consider this: In 1900, the total amount of knowledge available to mankind was doubling about every 500 years. In 1990, it was doubling about every two years. Today, according to some, the rate of change is doubling every … Read the rest
Every client I deal with, in one way or another, eventually asks that question. The words may be different, but the question is the same. In this economic environment, it’s a universal question. If you haven’t confronted the issue yet, it’s only a matter of time before you will.
Here’s the context in which this question surfaces. The company needs to make some change that impacts the sales force: A new compensation program, a new automation tool, a new sales process, a new way of working with inside salespeople — a new something. Most sales forces are made up of … Read the rest
Ten years of competitive hell!
That was the title on the seminar brochure I received recently. As I survey some of the forces flowing through our economy and witness the way in which they affect my clients, I have to agree. “The Information Age” is certainly one of the most turbulent times business people have ever seen.
And the force causing the greatest turbulence is rapid, unrelenting change. Consider this: in 1900, the total amount of knowledge that mankind had was doubling about every 500 years. Today, it doubles about every two years. And the pace continues to increase. One … Read the rest
One of the most debilitating myths about the sales profession is this: Salespeople can learn on their own, on the job, and eventually become good at their jobs. They’ll eventually develop their own style, this myth implies, and that will bring them the maximum results.
That myth is true for about five percent of the salespeople in the world. For the other 95 percent, nothing could be further from the truth. The overwhelming majority of field salespeople perform at a fraction of their potential because they have never been systematically exposed to the best practices of their profession. Instead, they … Read the rest
We all know the feeling. Your key contact in one of your good accounts sheepishly admits that they have moved some business to a competitor. No problem with your service, it was just a price issue.
Nothing is more discouraging. You’ve spent years developing this account, building relationships, working hard at meeting their needs, and then, in the blink of an eye, you lose the business to a price-cutter.
Is there anything you can do to prevent this? Of course. Here are four proven strategies that will help you prevent your hard-earned business from disappearing into the hands of price … Read the rest
The sales presentation is the ultimate purpose of every sales process, of every sales call, and of every sales system. The job of the salesperson revolves around the point in time when he offers the customer something to buy.
The sales presentation can take a variety of forms. If you demonstrate a product, for example, that is a sales presentation. If you use a hard-copy brochure or a presentation on your lap-top, that is a sales presentation. If you deliver and detail a sample, that is a sales presentation. If you respond to the customer’s request, and provide a price, … Read the rest
Last month I made the point that thinking better is the ultimate success skill for a salesperson, and that good thinking always came from asking yourself the right questions and writing down the answers. Sounds so simple. Yet, only a handful of true professionals adhere to that discipline.
Personal Improvement Questions
The personal effectiveness questions that we reviewed in part one are based on the premise that you can choose to do things that are more effective than others. You have a choice of how to invest your sales time, and you make those decisions about that investment … Read the rest
For a sales professional, there are two basic sets of questions with which a dedicated salesperson should gain competence:
- Questions to ask prospects and customers.
- Questions to ask yourself.
Questions we ask ourselves are just as important, if not more so, than those we ask our prospects and customers. The reason goes back to the ultimate power of a question — it directs our thinking. Just as a good question directs the customer’s thinking, so, too, does a good question direct our own thinking. And thinking well is the ultimate success skill for a professional salesperson.
Some years ago I … Read the rest
We’ve all heard the numbers: consumer confidence is down, retail sales are down. And for many of us, the markets we serve are down as well. There is an important relationship to note here. Confidence — an attitude — is down, so sales are down. When confidence is up, sales follow. The principle at work here is this: Our actions follow our attitudes. The relationship between actions and attitudes is so close that the two go hand-in-hand, and our actions can be seen as outward expressions of our attitudes.
Ok, so what does that have to do with you? Here’s … Read the rest
One of the habits often practiced by highly successful people is the habit of regular goal setting. There is a reason for that. Long-term goals compel you to work with discipline and concentration rather than going about your job mindlessly and routinely. Goal-setting is a discipline that helps you focus.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do your job without goals. You can, and many salespeople do. But the discipline of goal setting forces you to think about what you do. It moves you out of the realm of being reactive — doing what other people want you to do … Read the rest
Sometimes it is so frustrating. You know you have a better product than that which your prospect is currently using. Your price is attractive, your service is outstanding. If the prospect would switch to your solution, you know they’d be delighted. You’d save them money, smooth out their processes, reduce their inventory and generally make their life simpler.
So, why won’t they switch? Are people really that stupid? Or, is it you? Did you do something to put them off?
While there are some circumstances where the answers would be yes to the questions above, the most likely answer is … Read the rest
So, you have created a customer, you’ve actually sold something, and you have some money in the bank. Feel free to celebrate and luxuriate in the good feelings that bubble out of you. That’s one of the fringe benefits to selling — it feels great when you succeed.
Before you become too enraptured with yourself, let me remind that you are not finished. There is a greater goal, and a larger and more encompassing strategy into which this transaction fits. If you focus all of your time and energy on creating sales, you will, unfortunately, miss the mark.
In a … Read the rest
“I have my own style of selling.”
That is a remark I have heard a number of times, usually from relatively inexperienced salespeople.
What they usually mean is something like this: “I don’t have any real system to what I do, I don’t want any scrutiny, and I probably am not going to learn anything from you.”
How valid is this position? Does every salesperson have a unique style of selling? Are they just trying to hide from accountability under the cover of individual “style”? Or is there some other explanation?
More important, should your company allow every salesperson to … Read the rest
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, from the First Steps to Success in Outside Sales.
Keep in mind that you are in it (this job) for the long-term. This is not a six-month job. You’re going to be doing this work, calling on these customers and developing this business for some time. Rarely will you make one sales call on someone and then never see them again. More likely, you will come to know these customers. You can’t expect to sell everything to everyone on the first call. That means you will see them again and again and again.
… Read the rest
There is not a salesperson in existence who hasn’t repeatedly heard of the need to “close the sale.” Every new sales manager must view the process of encouraging his or her sales force to “close the sale” as an initiation into the profession. If you’re going to be a sales manager, you, therefore, must improve everyone’s ability to “close.” Doesn’t it come with the job?
The sales training literature is awash with advice, some of it tedious and trivial: “If he says this, you say that.” Other advice is grandiose: “35 new sure-fire closing techniques.” Still other is harmful. “Overcome … Read the rest
Are you serious about your job?
“I wish my people were more professional,” executives and managers often commiserate to me. Even with those who don’t voice it, that unspoken yearning often hovers just under the surface of their conversation.
Ah, if only the people around us were more professional. Our lives would be easier, our businesses would grow more effortlessly, we’d find our jobs more fulfilling…. the list of dramatic benefits can go on and on. But what does it mean to be more professional? More important, what can we do to make sure that we, and our associates, are … Read the rest
Oops! Got a sales meeting coming up in two weeks, better get ready for it. Let’s see, what should we do? I’ll go over last month’s numbers, that’ll take a half hour. Then…I know! The credit manager has been complaining about the state of receivables lately. I’ll have him come in and complain directly to the sales guys. That’ll take about an hour. Now what…?
Does that scenario sound familiar? All too often that’s how we plan our sales meetings. The focus is on how to fill the time, what information we want to transmit, and who we want to … Read the rest
The Problem With Passion
This is one of those pieces of conventional wisdom that no one seems to question: “It’s good to be passionate about your product.” Like so many of these conventional myths that ingrain themselves into our psyche, this one has the potential for frustrating countless thousands of salespeople, sales managers and chief sales officers.
Let me reassure you: It is not necessary to be passionate about your product or service in order to sell it effectively. In fact, your passion may be a detriment to an effective sales process.
Before you impale me on the skewers of … Read the rest
I just had a conversation with a sales manager at my last seminar. The gist of it is this: he has so many competing responsibilities; it is difficult to spend time with his sales team. Sound familiar? It should. I have heard that idea expressed countless times by executives, sales managers and salespeople. In one way or another, sales professionals find themselves increasingly occupied by trivial tasks at the expense of the important ones.
It is an epidemic that is raging unabated in our economy. It renders people unproductive, and organizations operating at a fraction of their potential. It often … Read the rest
Every sales organization and every sales process begins with identifying a group of suspects. Suspects are people and organizations you suspect may one day conduct business with you. They aren’t yet prospects, because you don’t know if they have a legitimate need for what you sell, or if they can make the decision and buy your product or service. That determination comes later.
But in order to get a group of prospects, you must begin with a list of suspects. Here are eight ways to acquire such a list.
1. Buy a List
This is the information age, and lists … Read the rest
“How do you create a perceived value to differentiate yourself from the competition when you are both selling a commodity?”
That’s a question I’m often asked in my seminars. It uncovers a problem that is spreading to almost every industry. The rapid pace of technological development and our ultra-competitive global economy means that no one can keep a competitive edge in their product for very long. Develop a hot new product or service and before you can take your first check to the bank, a competitor has a hotter or cheaper version. As a result, customers are more and more … Read the rest