All across the nation, thousands of salespeople are preparing for sales meetings. Sales calls. Cold calls. Networking sessions. You name it.
All are variations on the same thing. All are wastes of time. All are counterproductive. All are based on clich�s taught by "sales trainers" who have never sold anything.
It's time to change all of this Willy Loman nonsense, toss it in the waste basket and reject it as busy work that leads to the big looming question that haunts so many would be salespeople: "I wonder why I didn't close the sale."
Here's why: You don't prepare for a sales meeting. You prepare for The Kill! That's one of the primary differences between an also-ran salesperson and an elite producer--a Heat-Seeking Sales Machine.
What do I mean by The Kill? Probably the opposite of what your mind has raced to on hearing the word. It isn't manipulative, deceitful, slick or based on brute force. Instead, it means creating a circumstance whereby the prospect or customer is surprised, caught off-guard and finds the offer you are making irresistible if not impossible to embrace.
It's not hoping to make a sale--it's setting out to create The Kill.
Some years ago, I was seeking to land Smith Barney as a client for my firm, MSCO. I called the chief marketing officer about a half dozen times and was stymied by his gatekeeper, who put me in his e-mail or brushed me off without even granting me that courtesy. I had a plan for The Kill, but I wasn't getting past the gates of corporate protection to execute it.
Then one evening I decided to give the mission at hand another try and I got the CMO himself at his desk. But as soon as he heard my name, he put up a line of resistance. Thanks to The Kill I had prepared for, it turned out to be a Maginot Line.
"I've heard your messages Stevens, and I'm not interested," he scolded.
That's when I went against conventional wisdom and upset him further.
"Well, you should be interested," I retorted.
I wasn't being confrontational. I had a plan. I was creating an opportunity for The Kill.
Clearly peeved, the CMO was determined to let me know that I had crossed the line.
"How do you have the temerity to tell me that I should be interested in your firm's sales and marketing services?"
Just as he was about to hang up on me, I raised the temperate again.
"I have the temerity," I said, "because your marketing sucks."
I knew The Kill was working with gale force, but I had to keep him on the line for another second or two in order to level the coup de grace.
"I'm not saying this to be disrespectful," I continued. "I am saying it because I am a client of the Private Banking group. Here's my account number. Please punch it in as we speak. You will see that I have substantial assets with Smith Barney but you will also see that I have failed to invest new money with the firm for more than five years. In that time, my money has gone to your competitors."
He was on the line. He was silent. He was listening. He was mine. Now I was silent. And then he spoke.
"Yes, I am looking at your account. I hear you. Let me ask you a question," he said, a bit sheepishly. "Are you willing to talk to our marketing department this week and share your insights?"
I had gone from the appearance of a pesky salesperson to a wise man whose insights would be valued. The Kill had worked its wonders. Here are five ways to make it work for you:
- Don't ask the prospect for business. Establish a scenario whereby what you have to say is highly intriguing.
- Demonstrate with a subtle approach that the prospect needs you more than you need them.
- Bring a form of leverage along with you, such as a customer relationship or the power to have an influence over their business if you make the sale to a competitor.
- Say something that drives the tables to turn, prompting the prospect to ask you for the business.
- Demonstrate that what you have to offer is indispensable.
Set out to make a sale and you will likely go home frustrated. Set out to make The Kill and the chances are great that you will go home with a true business relationship--and a check.
Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm based in New York, and the author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He's a regular media commentator on business matters including marketing, management and sales. He's also the author of the marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.