Too many salespeople find themselves running on fumes when it comes to prospects. “I get up every morning and ask myself the same question: Who am I going to talk to today?” asked a life insurance salesperson who had been in the business for 30 years. He’s far from alone.
Closing sales is the goal, but that takes keeping the prospect tank full of gas. So, what can you do about it? If you go to the supermarket, there’s someone giving away free samples. If you watch what’s going on, some of those taking samples buy the product; it’s the … Read the rest
Hard skills and soft skills aren’t enough.
The job world is changing so rapidly it’s next to impossible to know what to do even in the short term to get ahead, let alone five years down the road.
Now, a debate rages between which is more important, hard skills or soft skills. Those for hard skills focus on the need for specific knowledge to meet job performance standards and expectations.
On the other side of the table are those who say the hard skills path can lead to dead ends, to obsolescence. They bet on possessing interpersonal skills, such as … Read the rest
“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking like a customer. If you do, you’re done!” This warning has been pounded into the heads of salespeople — and it will follow them until their last day on the job.
Changing the Sales Narrative
Why is thinking like a customer dangerous? It’s the noxious notion that leads down the dark and dismal path to serious trouble — lost sales. If you dare to let yourself think like customers, you may be distracted from your mission and become overly understanding and sympathetic, even finding yourself walking in a customer’s shoes.
Yet, successful salespeople … Read the rest
The unspoken question in every customer’s mind.
“I want to believe you, but can I trust you?” is the unspoken question customers ask salespeople. The devil in every sale is customer doubt. Specifically, a salesperson’s lack of credibility. Slow down. Forget about “updating” your “professional profile.” Why? To put it graciously, too many are being “massaged” by salespeople who think they need to “enhance” themselves. But, customers aren’t fooled; bad experiences make them suspicious and they back off from saying “yes.”
The tool that helps bridge the “credibility gulf” is the customer testimonial. But wait a minute; don’t roll your … Read the rest
There’s everything right about looking out for yourself and your career. Right now, with more jobs than people to fill them, it’s easier than ever.
One month in mid-2018, job postings exceeded the number of unemployed by an eye-popping 659,000. With this happening, it’s no surprise that 3.6 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in the first seven months of 2018. This 2.4 percent quit rate was the highest since April 2001.
No one can miss the message: more vacancies and not enough takers to fill them equals better opportunities and higher pay.
But not so fast. All this may … Read the rest
Thousands of salespeople work in conditions that are stacked against their success. Even though it’s 2019, the belief persists that “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Repeated so often, no one challenges them.
Yet, those six words help explain why salespeople are given “special treatment” by management and barely “tolerated” by others. Salespeople are frequently viewed both as separate and more than equal. When co-workers complain about the sales department, someone says, “Hey, they bring us the business, so suck it up and smile.” This dismal view has long passed its expiration date. Even so, it’s disturbing since so much … Read the rest
When things aren’t going well, salespeople often give in to the quick and easy sale in an effort to get through the troublesome “dry spells.” Others become so addicted, they never reach higher. It’s easy to fall under the spell of the lure of low‑hanging fruit.
Yet, those who excel in sales develop skills that add value to their careers and enhance their confidence. They also know that going after low-hanging fruit prevents them from raising their sights, caps their capabilities, and keeps them from embracing challenges.
It also earns them a reputation they deserve, but not as members of … Read the rest
There’s nothing more amazing than the endless incidents of mind-bending foul-ups by otherwise successful companies. Every employee has stories, ranging from miscalculations and costly errors of judgment to downright avoidable mistakes.
It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Years ago, “silos” were a serious issue causing poor communication, confusion, misunderstanding, and counter-productive internal competition.
Then came the “We’re all on the same team” movement that morphed into the “knock down the office walls” movement with everyone having a “desk for the day.” Now, we’ve moved to silos of 2019, with employees donning head phones, sending emails rather than chatting … Read the rest
Why do so many meetings with prospects fizzle out and go nowhere? Is it just the way it is, so we should just accept it? Or, is it possible that our “this is what went wrong” explanations are merely excuses for failing to turn prospects into customers?
As sure as Friday is pizza night, salespeople are drawn to prospects like kids to puddles of water. No argument. But what about the other way around? How much thought do salespeople give as to whether or not prospects are drawn to them? Is it possible that the drive to make the sale … Read the rest
Most everyone has figured out that performance expectations keep going up. To put it bluntly, we face the challenge of doing more in less time. And it’s not about to change anytime soon.
In the past, those with lots of experience fared well, but not today. Experience can hold us back, like running against a strong wind. Experience is about what we’ve done in the past and it has value in a never-changing environment. On the other hand, expertise prepares us for what we must do next so we can face the future with confidence.
The question, then, is how … Read the rest
Many times you hear a salesperson say: “We service the heck out of our customers. They’ll never leave us.” But then a competitor walks away with an account. No one saw it coming or what went wrong.
You work hard getting new accounts, take servicing them seriously, and yet they still leave. Why? Think about it this way: you buy a new car — it’s just what you wanted. But after a year or so, you start thinking about the new models. That’s when little things about your current car start bugging you — it doesn’t have this-or-that, there’s a … Read the rest
What to do before, during and after presenting.
To put the importance of proposals in proper perspective, they are far more than a vehicle for conveying your message. They are your message. Sadly, proposals that could be winners are often rejected. They may be filled with information, but the message gets lost and they fail to capture the recipient’s imagination.
To make sure your proposals get the attention they deserve, it helps to view them in three phases, before, during and after the presentation. Each one plays a part in moving your proposal closer to winning the business.
Preparing Your … Read the rest
How to get prospects to find you.
Twenty years ago, salespeople were expected to get in front of prospects. Today, those doors are sealed shut. Voice mail and e-mail messages are ignored. If all that isn’t enough, few customers are willing to stick their neck out and make referrals.
All of which makes prospecting frustrating and, unfortunately, bordering on useless. No wonder salespeople across the board plead for leads and, hoping to get lucky, keep their fingers crossed.
If you’re looking for an easy, quick way to find prospects, forget it. No matter what anyone may say, it doesn’t exist. … Read the rest
Questions that keep prospects talking.
When asked why salespeople don’t close more sales, a company president answered instantly, “They don’t ask enough questions.” He went on to add, “They’re so focused on getting prospects to buy, they don’t engage them. That takes asking lots of questions.”
He’s onto something important. We’re in such a hurry to get across what we want to say to our prospects that we ignore what they want from us. As it turns out, today’s prospects won’t tolerate such insensitive behavior. They’re gone.
So, where does this leave salespeople? What are they to do if they … Read the rest
Why Salespeople Lose Sales
Contrary to what many people believe, most salespeople want their customers to make good decisions. They want them satisfied, whether it’s buying shoes, home improvement, a vacation package, a car, or an insurance policy.
Even so, salespeople accidentally lose sales. They leave customers unsatisfied, not dissatisfied. Customers become dissatisfied after making a purchase; if they’re unsatisfied, they walk away before buying.
Intent on rattling off features and benefits, salespeople forget they must understand the customer’s need to buy before the facts will make sense. In doing so, they overwhelm customers.
Why do salespeople do this? They … Read the rest
Lots of money, effort and time go into acquiring customers, but not nearly enough thought goes into keeping them coming back. Sure, there’s the occasional offer or the “We’ve missed you” discount. All too frequently, we don’t pay attention unless they’re unhappy or turn up missing. Then, we get busy and try to get them back.
Such business behavior has unintended consequences. The cable companies are an example. Customers have learned to complain and threaten to leave unless they are given concessions. And how do you feel when a company unleashes the sweet talk after they haven’t heard from you? … Read the rest
It always comes as a shock to learn that others see us quite differently than we see ourselves. More often than not, it can be distressing, particularly at work. “I don’t get it. I’m not that way.” Maybe not. But it happens. And when it does, a bad rep can stick tighter than super glue thanks to word-of-mouth and social media.
In today’s highly competitive workplace, reputation makes a difference. Your competition can be down the hall, across the country, or 10 feet away. It can be someone who wants your customer or your job — maybe both.
When it … Read the rest
For most of us, what we learn first sticks with us for a long time, often throughout our lives. Nursery rhymes, along with what we consider right and wrong. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It happens to salespeople, too. Because our early training is indelible, it stays with us to guide us. But new demands and expectations call for strategic changes to keep up, stay relevant and close more sales. Here are several of them:
Change Your Thinking About What You Know
Salespeople are known for being sure (sometimes overly sure) of themselves. Although it takes self-confidence … Read the rest
Most mistakes are just plain stupid. “I just wasn’t thinking,” we say. Stupid mistakes aren’t intentional. But the genie is out of the bottle. The damage is done.
Sure, we can try to “minimize the damage” by claiming “We’re only human” and dismiss it with “Everybody makes mistakes.” Not today. As the news makes clear, there’s no place to hide. Everything is transparent. Both individuals and businesses suffer from the harm caused by stupid mistakes.
So, what do we do about it? Hope for the best? Ride it out? Or, pretend it wasn’t that important? Here’s how to avoid making … Read the rest
Try Something New
In their “Habits Across the Lifespan” study, Duke University researchers found that nearly half of human behaviors are habit-based, regardless of age. For example, we not only have favorite restaurants, but we tend to choose the same menu items over and over again.
It’s the same in business. After receiving a promotion, her boss asked her to serve on the selection team for her replacement, but cautioned her not to look for someone just like her.
If half of our thought processes are habitual, it takes conscious effort to try new things, whether it’s a different color … Read the rest
The challenge is the same for every salesperson who gets an order. What it takes is capturing the customer’s imagination. The competition isn’t another brand or a better product or service. The competition is another salesperson, one who knows how to hook customers.
The primary task for every salesperson is getting customers to want to do business with them. Without that, customers move on, looking for someone, as they say, “who makes us feel comfortable.” This applies to everything from selling paint to political ideas. Here’s what it takes to do it:
Of course, it’s important … Read the rest
Think Your Way to Success
There are plenty of people in the workforce who do “something,” but not so many who do what needs to be done. And this is both a problem and an opportunity.
Success depends on being among the few others count on to get the job done right — and that takes thinking. Here are questions that can serve as a guide to thinking your way to success:
- “What if this isn’t what my customer needs?”
What if I’m trying to force it, attempting to make it work — and it isn’t? Most of us tend … Read the rest
Behind their assertions of self-confidence and annoying arrogance is an undeniable fact: It takes guts to get the endless unknowns and oddities of customers. But that’s what salespeople do.
At the end of the day, it isn’t how many calls you make, appointments you go on, or proposals you prepare. It’s how much revenue you chalk up. Some sales are better than others, but every sale counts. After losing a sale, how many times have you said, “I can’t believe it. I was sure I had that one”?
No one sets out to lose a sale. But it happens. That’s … Read the rest
Sales pitches are shortcuts that save time and don’t require thinking. They’re the stock-in-trade of salespeople, rolling off the tongue easily and unconsciously. They once worked well with customers, but not so much today.
Here are some of them:
This one gets top billing on the list, and deservedly so. It’s leftover from the last century, when customers needed assistance and relied on salespeople and marketers, as well as the iconic Sears catalog, to point them in the right direction, followed by the ubiquitous shopping mall. While the former is long gone, the latter is … Read the rest
The famed author Thomas Merton said we value people, not for who they are but for their usefulness. This is the same mistake companies make with customers. They value them for their usefulness — for what they spend.
Customers see it differently — quite differently. As Gallup, Inc. researchers point out in commenting on the economy, “Consumers are spending money, but they’re more inclined to spend it only on businesses they feel good about,” not businesses they may like or where they’re treated nicely. In other words, their money is going where they feel valued.
Most businesses do a fairly … Read the rest
Most of us work at finding ways to do a better job, advance in a career, and become more successful. That’s commendable, but we may differ on how to go about getting there. While most are straightforward, tackling one challenge after another, others do it differently and their actions leave marks that affect our success.
Most of us can’t choose our co-workers, team members, or business associates. Nonetheless, we can avoid being blindsided by those who, often unintentionally, would throw us off course. Here is what to look for:
- Those Who Act Too Quickly
In school, they raced to get … Read the rest
How Presenting Makes Careers
It’s easy to understand why so many otherwise capable people are distressed, anxiety-ridden, and almost paralyzed if they’re called upon to make a presentation — even to a friendly audience of three — let alone 300. They often reveal how they feel by starting out with “I only wish I had more time to prepare” or “I’m not really good at public speaking.” Unfortunately, what follows proves it.
It isn’t surprising that with successful presenters the story is different. We view them as possessing leadership capabilities, as well as being committed, competent, and rising stars. As … Read the rest
Salespeople are always alert for “buying signals,” those indications that the customer is ready to say yes. When this happens, the savvy salesperson knows it’s time to stop talking and ask for the order.
But salespeople often miss the warning signs that all is not well. Mostly unspoken, these are the “no-sale signals” customers send when they’re dissatisfied with a salesperson. Here are several of them:
- You Don’t Connect With Me
You think you do with your small talk and feigned friendliness. It’s all an act, the same one you put on for every customer. Your efforts at manipulation are … Read the rest
Engaging prospects so they want to find you
Prospecting is arguably the number‑one hot topic in sales. In spite of all the seminars, podcasts, training programs, books, and pressure from managers, most salespeople are prospecting excuse experts. Even when cajoled, pushed and incentivized, salespeople have a tough time getting their prospecting engine to run on one cylinder — at most.
Why is there so much resistance to getting out and finding new customers? Why do people who enjoy selling find it so difficult to sell themselves to prospects? The answer may be that selling and prospecting require two different skill … Read the rest
If a company wants its brand to stand out from the competition, differentiating it from its competitors is the place to start. Subaru has done this more successfully than most. Its customers give new meaning to brand loyalty. Many are passionate if not downright fanatical in their allegiance.
According to Forbes, the Subaru brand has the most loyal customers in the industry, with the Forester leading the way.
Subaru customers are quick to say their cars are safer, handle flawlessly in all types of weather, and keep their value far better than other brands. All this flies in the face … Read the rest