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
Marketing rarely fails because of a lack of interest, ideas, or even adequate resources. However, it always fails when it doesn’t turn prospective buyers into believers.
Marketing derails when it’s little more than a series of loosely strung together and uncoordinated “tactics”— e-mail campaigns, promotions, presentations, blogs, social media engagements, charitable support, newsletters, collateral pieces, webinars, events, and all the other stuff intended to “get the message out.”
While this is a high-activity picture, it’s also a fruitless one. It helps explain why marketing budgets are cut and market managers last a year or two and move on. Then, the … Read the rest
The Skillset That Puts You at the Head of the Pack
If you think doing a good job is what it takes to get to the head of the pack, you’re naïve, confused, delusional, or all three. Take your pick.
And here’s why. Doing a good job is the starting point, the baseline. It’s what’s expected. There are plenty of people doing a good, even a great job. But they’re dead in the water. They aren’t going anywhere, other than out the door in the next restructure.
Tough words, but they don’t need to be the last words. Here’s what … Read the rest
“Martha has so much going for her, but she could be doing so much more for herself.” How many people do you know or work with like that? What keeps us from getting to where we want to be or what we want to do? Sure, it may be a lack of the right skills, bad luck, having other goals, or just being plain lazy.
More likely, however, the answer is elsewhere and much closer to home. We can call them “everyday” attitudes that are so much a part of us we don’t know the damage they’re doing. Here are … Read the rest
Sales managers scratch their heads. “Right from the start, I was so sure Carl would be a top performer. I would have put money on it. But before I knew it, he crashed and burned.”
It’s an old story, one that often ends with the same words, “I wasn’t cut out for sales.” Maybe. But probably not. Poor training, inadequate support, and unrealistic expectations can each play a role.
Even so, what causes potentially good salespeople to fail has little or nothing to do with poor sales skills. The real harm is self-inflicted. Salespeople sabotage themselves. And here’s how they … Read the rest
No matter their strengths, businesses, like people, are always at risk. Some dangers are so blatant they dare being ignored. But others, far less obvious, cause untold — and even fatal — damage, eating away and undermining a company’s best efforts. Their work is insidious and relentless, going unnoticed until it’s too late. And it all happens without anyone breaking a sweat.
Even so, there are clear, but unseen, indicators that a business is in trouble. Here are several to consider:
Wanting to Believe Everything Is Going Great
Business people don’t like bad news. They reject it as they would … Read the rest
Selling is a tough profession — and from all economic indicators, it may not be getting much easier anytime soon. Just about everyone in sales will experience cautious, reticent, buyers who are expecting more for less. Don’t expect to see this change. While the cup is at least half full, buyers may be seeing it differently for quite some time.
If this is what the real world is like today and is where salespeople find themselves every morning, what should they be doing? To get ahead of the competition and to put more business on your company’s books, here are … Read the rest
It’s amazing. So many salespeople with great potential either drop out or have limited success. Most have good skills, possess the right attitude, and want to get ahead. But something holds them back.
What are they missing?
Simply put, they don’t know the rules for getting to the top. Here are several rules that will help get the job done:
Do It Now
The world has changed and the message for everyone is fast forward. Wells Fargo’s FastFlexSmall Business Loan program tells the story. Online and funded as quickly as the next business day, there are no meetings with a … Read the rest
Most customers would like to believe salespeople, but they’ve been burned so often they don’t let themselves do it. That’s why salespeople make the mistake of trying to overcome distrust by “playing the part,” offering phony friendliness, or making exaggerated claims. All of that only further complicates their predicament.
Happily, there are salespeople who refuse to be tainted with the questionable practices of their less-than-reliable peers. They know the value of being viewed as trustworthy. Here are several ways to go about creating credibility and establishing trust:
- Never let customers’ doubts taint you.
It’s a fact: customer distrust creates a … Read the rest
It took a long time but it had to happen. And it did. Finally, there are schools, summer camps and weekend experiences where kids learn how to tinker. This is far from what some call “futzing around” and others label wasting time. It’s serious business.
Tinkering was once a valued profession. Adept at analyzing and solving problems, tinkerers tackled anything that needed fixing. They were skilled problem solvers who figured out what was wrong with equipment and machinery and fixed them, as well as found ways to improve their performance.
Tinkering is anything but a lost art. Spotting and dissecting … Read the rest
Trying to get fish into the boat before catching them sounds crazy, something that wouldn’t make sense to experienced fishermen. Even so, it’s the most common error salespeople make and accounts — more than anything else — for lost orders and prospects who never become customers. That’s what happens when you try to get the order before you have a customer.
What salespeople are doing makes perfect sense to them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t compute so well with their prospects and customers. They are so focused on making the sale, they don’t think about what’s going on in the customer’s head … Read the rest
If you want your associates to roll their eyes, look at you as if you’ve lost your marbles, or walk away shaking their heads, tell them that thinking is the best business tool ever made.
Like oil and water, Tom Brady and Roger Goodell, and culture and the Kardashians, thinking and business are usually at odds with each other. Taking action is the key to success in business, not sitting around thinking.
“I will act now,” Og Mandino, the venerated sales guru urged in his bestseller The Greatest Salesman in the World. To make his point, he repeated, “I … Read the rest
Ask salespeople what customers want from them and you’re likely to hear such words as friendly, positive, responsive and problem-solver. Whatever else they may be, these are “the comfort words of sales.” It’s how salespeople picture themselves.
Ask customers what they want in a salesperson and the words they use may be quite different. What they are looking for is integrity, responsiveness, initiative, knowledge and guts.
This suggests that it’s in a salesperson’s best interest to align their performance with customer expectations. It’s not only the way to keep them happy; it’s the best way to keep them as customers. … Read the rest
No matter what we sell, there are times when the brakes are on. Something is holding us back, keeping us from moving forward.
Then, we feel even worse when hearing about someone who gets ahead by overcoming unspeakable adversity. “You can do it. Just change your thinking.” It sounds easy and most of us have tried it dozens of times. And it works — for about five minutes.
As most salespeople know, moving forward is tough, but changing our behavior can help knock down obstacles. Here are eight ideas to get the wheels moving in the right direction:
1. Get … Read the rest
No matter what you do, getting ahead shouldn’t depend on lucky breaks, favoritism, or even hard work. It should be in our control. To make that happen, certain behaviors will help you stand out from the crowd. Here are eight of them.
1. Be Suspicious
No one likes getting blindsided, yet it’s all too common in business. More than anything else, a little paranoia helps avoid the sucker punches.
Even when some coworkers are bracing for a layoff, others are shocked when it happens. “I didn’t see it coming,” they say. Is it possible that we can get so wrapped … Read the rest
Even though we know that “telling isn’t selling,” we can’t stop doing it. It’s become “second nature” to tell customers what to think, believe and buy.
In a sense it is, since most of us were raised to “respect authority,” whether it was the police, teachers, clergy, bosses, doctors, accountants, politicians, reporters, bankers, business leaders, coaches and news anchors.
It worked well for selling just about anything, but not now. The air has gone out of respect for authority, including marketing and sales.
Even so, playing the authority card continues. From actors in TV ads wearing white coats with stethoscopes … Read the rest
It takes smart, highly competent salespeople to meet the challenges presented by today’s informed and savvy customers.
Even so, there are many in sales who believe that success depends on a friendly smile, a gift for small talk, and a large dose of enthusiasm and optimism. Others might toss in a passion for selling, listening, the ability to close, and coming across as sincere. Yet, possessing a great attitude and excellent sales skills doesn’t guarantee success.
Many salespeople who “do everything right” underperform. With so much focus on personal qualities and skills, the sales process doesn’t get the attention it … Read the rest
First impressions make a difference when the goal is winning a new customer, moving up the career ladder, gaining acceptance to a group or, of course, attracting a new special friend.
That’s a lot to ask when some experts say first impressions lock-in in the first three to seven seconds. A Princeton University researcher drops it to less than one second.
To make first impressions even more daunting, some claim first impressions are indelible, with no second chances. To put it bluntly, first impressions are a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
That’s one view, a frightening one at … Read the rest