- What key characteristics do you look for in a successful vendor relationship?
- What am I or my company not doing that we could be doing to serve you better?
- What is the one thing we would have to do to lose your business?
- What are the three most important criteria you look for when investing in our types of products and services?
- Who are your main customers, and what are you trying to accomplish with them?
- What's your biggest turnoff when dealing with salespeople?
- If you were running our company, what would you do differently?
- What could we do to make life easier for you?
- What have vendors or sales reps (from any company) done that really impressed you or made a difference in the sales process?
- If you were in front of a room filled with newly hired salespeople, what would you tell them not to do, and how would you advise them to be successful?
- Drop the word "recession" from your lexicon and replace it with "opportunity." People are buying homes, cars, shoes, software, copiers and even yachts. Find out where the opportunities are and make that your market.
- Experiment with sales and marketing initiatives you've never tried or have avoided. Say, for example, that you detest the idea of hosting a seminar. Well, seminars are a powerful way to sell through education. And today, with impulse sales on the decline, selling by advising and informing can deliver a strong advantage.
- Remember that buying is linked to key human needs and emotions that prevail regardless of economic conditions. The drive for success, wealth, beauty, security, entertainment, peace of mind and love never goes away. This may be the ideal time to change your approach from a product or service focus to a pitch based on these enduring drives and values.
- Make sure you're still focusing on the small and midsize accounts as a base. This will give you a safety net in the event that you lose a large account. Having solid small and midsize accounts will also give you the confidence to go big.
- Once you have a large account in your sights, figure out who's at the top.
Learn as much as you can about his or her company and its goals. How can you help them sell what they sell? Next, go directly to the top--to the CEO or the president. This will give you a clear picture of the organization, its decision makers and its hierarchy. There is nothing more powerful than the CEO walking you into the vice president's office and saying, "Susan, please look into this idea with Barry. It can help us with the new line of children's products."
- Become the mayor of the account. I often travel in the field with a select group of top performers from certain companies. They typically have relationships with everyone in the account, from the receptionist to the office manager to the president. Many times, those contacts get promoted or assigned to other locations where they can use your services or recommend you to other individuals inside the company. Never underestimate the power of networking.
- Look for problems, challenges and solutions. As I've always said, problems are opportunities. They allow you to focus on providing valuable ideas and solutions and help you stand out from competition that might only be interested in pushing their own product. Look at the company's website, talk to its sales force and take the time to understand why its customers buy. If you can identify a problem, you can provide real-world solutions and new ideas.
- Forget about what you sell. Sell what the account sells and learn how they run their business. Who do they sell to? Who's the competition? What's stopping them from growing and succeeding? This kind of sales focus turns you into an asset.
- Most important: If it's right, don't stop the fight. Most people give up when they're on the 1-yard line, not realizing how close they are to closing that large account. If you're certain you can add value to the account, then be persistent. If the value isn't there, then it's time to move on.
- If there are two versions of you, the salesperson and the civilian, people will see you as disingenuous. There must be only one you.
- Relate to people exactly as you are. Imperfections are not seen as reasons not to do business with you. Just the opposite, your willingness to be transparent is seen as vindication that you are the genuine article--a trustworthy individual one can reliably do business with.
- Tell your clients and prospects what they don't want to hear when you believe that the painful medicine will be in their best interests. They may be upset with the messenger in the moment of truth, but you will stand out from the yes-men when the dust clears.
- Always carry yourself with great pride, knowing that a salesperson is a "prince of the company." Others can work the books and make the factory hum, but as IBM founder Tom Watson said, "Nothing happens unless a sale is made." And you're the one who makes that happen.
- Prospects are not doing you a favor by making time to see you. I always view it as their good fortune to see me. I have ideas. I bring solutions, experience and knowledge. I'm not there for favors. I'm there to help grow their business. I'm confident my company can
accomplish that. I don't act or mean to be cavalier. I just know that the smart people I'm privileged to work with can deliver, and that confidence is always contagious.
- Sell yourself before you enter an initial meeting. Send the prospect a copy of an award, a media clip, a paper you wrote--anything that distinguishes you as a person of importance and authority. By establishing your credentials in advance, you change the entire dynamic of the meeting. You're not simply another salesperson. You are a force to be reckoned with.
- Remind yourself that prospects need you even more than you need them. They are the ones with the needs. You are the one with the solutions.
- Start off strong: Give new contacts a firm handshake and look them in the eye. An upbeat attitude and a sincere eagerness to meet them will be reciprocated.
- Listen more than talk: You can't really start to build a relationship until you're locked into the other person's hot buttons and listening to what makes him tick.
- Ask questions to build rapport and understanding: Once you hear his answer, do you have him go into greater detail? Great salespeople know how to move the conversation forward with the right open-ended questions.
- Find common ground: Doing so allows you to connect with contacts on a deeper level, whether it's sports, hobbies or family interests. When my customers start talking about their kids and how they are interested in the same activities as my own, the conversation flows.
- Do your homework: When the customer sees you've invested time into understanding his business, there is a certain level of trust established right away. Even better is when the homework you did brings new ideas and additional value to the customer.
- Sell what they sell: You know who your customer is, but do you know who your customer's customers are and how you can help sell more to them? Help your customers build their businesses, and they'll end up building yours.
- Offer outside help: Can you offer a resource--say, a personal trainer or a good book--that assists them in an area outside of what you sell? Going out of your way to help can get you in the door and keep you connected.
- Keep your network strong: Surround yourself with people your contacts would want to meet. I am always thinking about the company my contacts keep. It tells me a great deal about their intelligence and integrity.
- Be true to who you are: People cannot connect with you when you're trying to be someone else. Being honest about what you do, who you are and what you believe in says a lot about your character.
- Follow up and follow through: In the world of networking, connections and building relationships, this is the glue that holds it all together.
- It's what you put in your head. We are--and we become--what we think about all day long. Each day, I plan who I will see and what I will read. Those are the two biggest influences on my actions. What are you learning and who are you surrounding yourself with? When you think of time management, realize that you don't really manage time--you manage activities. What activities do you surround yourself with each day? What are you reading? Keep copies of industry magazines and newsletters that educate and update you. I also read biographies of history's best, books on energy and other titles like The Oxford Companion to the Mind.
What does this have to do with selling? Well, it's amazing how many ideas you can get when you learn how life works. Learning new and interesting subjects infuses you with enthusiasm and keeps your mind open to new ideas.
- It's right under your feet. Opportunity is all around us--we just have to be aware of our surroundings and keep asking ourselves, "What is this telling me?" Question everything and ask yourself how it can be done better or differently. It's the commitment to learning from the first point that allows your actions to come alive.
I remember a quote by J.M. Barrie: "I'm not young enough to know everything." Children teach us amazing, creative selling ideas. One of my business associates designed and created Sky Dancers, which made more than $300 million worldwide. He came up with the idea when his kids were outside playing with their dolls and catching "whirligig" seedlings from a large maple tree and throwing them in the air, then watching them twirl back to the ground. He started wondering what would happen if you attached those kinds of natural "wings" to a doll and made flying dolls--and there it was.
- 1. Develop a professional greeting. Don't just say hello and jump into your telephone presentation without taking a breath or allowing the other party to participate. Your greeting should err on the side of formality. Begin with Mr., Mrs. or Ms, as in "Good morning, Mr. Smith." Or "Good evening, Mrs. Jones." Everyone else says, "Hello." Be different. Be professional.
- 2. Introduce yourself and your company."My name is Sally Smith with ABC Company. We're a local firm that specializes in helping businesses like yours save money." Don't get too specific yet. Don't mention your product. If you do, that allows the other party to say, "Oh, we're happy with what we've got. Thanks anyway," and hang up. By keeping your introduction general, yet mentioning a benefit, you'll peak your prospect's curiosity and keep them on the line longer.
- 3. Express gratitude. Always thank the potential client for allowing you a few moments in his busy day. Tell him that you won't waste a second of his time. "I want to thank you for taking my call. This will only involve a moment of your time so you can get back to your busy schedule." Don't say that you'll "just take a moment." The feeling evoked by them hearing that you'll take anything from them will put them off.
- 4. State the purpose of your call. It's best if you can provide the purpose within a question. "If we can show you a way to improve the quality of your product at a lower cost, would you be interested to know more?" This is very likely to get a yes response. At this point, you're ready to start selling an opportunity to meet this person or to get their permission to provide them with more information. You're not selling your product yet--you're selling what your product will do for him.
- 5. Schedule a meeting. Get a confirmation to meet, either in person or to teleconference to get the information you need in order to give a solid presentation. If he's so interested that he wants to do it right then and there, that's OK.
- 6. If a face-to-face meeting is the most appropriate next step, use the alternate-of-choice questioning strategy. Offer him two times, "Mr. Johnson, I can pop by your office at 2:15 p.m. today to discuss this further. Or would 9:45 a.m. tomorrow better suit your schedule?" You didn't say, "When can we meet?" When you use the alternate of choice, you take control of getting the appointment. And note: Asking for an off-hour gets you noticed. There's something about setting a meeting at an off-hour that says you're a salesperson who'll be punctual and respect your prospect's time. Try it.
- 7. Thank them for their time today and for the upcoming appointment. Reconfirm the date, time and location of the appointment. Ask for directions if you need them. Tell him how much preparation you'll do in order to make the best use of the time you'll share. Give him your contact information this way: "If anything else comes to mind that I should be aware of prior to our meeting, please contact me at (212) 555-1212."
- 8. Follow up. If your meeting is more than a few days in the future, send a letter of confirmation immediately. If the meeting is tomorrow, send an e-mail confirmation. Keep it short and upbeat.
- Acknowledge the other person's anger quickly. Nothing adds more fuel to someone's fire than having their anger ignored or belittled. The faster you verbally recognize their anger, the better.
- Make it clear that you're concerned. Tell them you realize just how angry they are. Let them know you're taking the situation seriously. Make notes of every possible detail they give you..
- Don't hurry them. Be patient, and let them get it all out. Never try to interrupt or shut them up. In many cases, the best move is to simply listen. They'll wind themselves down eventually. In some cases, they'll realize they blew the situation out of proportion and feel foolish for it. They're then likely to accept nearly any solution you offer..
- Keep calm. Most angry people say things they don't really mean. Learn to let those things pass and take them up after you've solved the present challenge--only if you feel it's necessary to do so..
- Ask questions. Your aim is to discover the specific things that you can do to correct the problem. Try to get precise information about the difficulties the problem caused, rather than a general venting of hot air..
- Get them talking about solutions. This is where you'll learn just how reasonable this client is. By the time you get to this step, their anger should have cooled enough to discuss the challenge rationally. If it hasn't, tell them you want to schedule a later meeting, even if it's in an hour, to come up with some reasonable solutions. Let them do the rest of their fuming on their time..
- Agree on a solution. After you know exactly what the challenge is, you're in a position to look for some kind of action that will relieve the challenge. Propose something specific. Start with whatever will bring them the best and quickest relief. Don't get into a controversy over pennies at this point..
- Agree on a schedule. Once you've agreed on a solution, set up a schedule for its accomplishment. Agree to a realistic time frame that you know you can handle. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that can't be done. If you do, you'd better be ready to face another bout of this person's anger when you don't come through.
- Meet your schedule. Give this schedule top priority. You've talked yourself into a second chance with this client, so make sure you don't blow it. Once you've satisfied the client with regard to this situation, you'll have earned another opportunity to serve their needs in the future...and the needs of those they'll tell about how well you handled it.
- Question your source. Who is the person you're dealing with that's telling you your idea won't work? What's his knowledge and experience in the field you're pursuing? What makes him think he really knows what you're capable of on the inside? Only you know.
- Cultivate three or four mentors. These will be the people with whom you can consult on a given situation. Surround yourself with them to build the strength and enthusiasm you need to continue in rough waters.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. It is in these uncomfortable spaces that you will experience the most growth..
- Absorb, adapt and break through. Changing your strategy based on why the customer is saying no can help you gain access to that difficult account.
- Detach yourself from the conflict. When you come back to it, you'll be in a better frame of mind to decide on the best course of action.
- Make sure the no is where you want to go. In other words, sometimes it's time to walk away from a situation that will never end up going anywhere. The person or account might be unqualified and unable to benefit from your product, service or expertise.
- Continuous preparation and action ensure unshakable confidence. You create and maintain depth of character every day. Everything you do contributes to how you stand on what you sell. What is your follow-up like after meetings and after the sale? Do you stop and think several times during the day and ask yourself, "What is the most productive use of my time right now?" Do you put your heart and mind into everything you do? Do you take care of the details or just fritter away your time and energy on senseless activities? Think about it. We build confidence by planting seeds for future opportunities and not becoming complacent when success comes our way. As soon as we stop and coast for too long, our skills decay. You've heard that success breeds success; that's because we come to a high point in our actions and our enthusiasm is the culmination of all the hard work that went before.
- The belief in who you are and the value of what you're selling must be solid to the core. Don't second-guess who you are and what you believe in. The goal is to improve who you are rather than try to be like someone else. Are you comfortable with who you are? Think about whether you are operating from your core belief system and taking the actions your gut tells you to take. Most people don't realize how powerful they become when they don't have to think during their actions. In the middle of an important presentation, for example, you don't hesitate because you know what to say and you say what you mean.
- Charm 'em. Every day you run into people and make an impression on them that leaves a mental picture of who you are in their minds. Do people see you in a positive light? What makes them more open to doing business with you? An enthusiastic and positive attitude is one way to make a difference. First impressions make lasting ones, so don't forget these important points: Give a strong handshake, look people in the eye when you're speaking or listening to them, smile, put yourself in their shoes, find something about them that's interesting, and put them in a better mood than they were in when you met them. Some people have a natural way about them that charms others, but these points can help the rest of us improve our luck.
- Steer clear of unlucky situations. One way to increase your luck is to get rid of prospects who take it away, such as those who:
- Always argue with you on price and don't see the added value you bring to the table.
- You always seem to spend a great deal of time on, but the return on your investment is small compared to other accounts.
- Always argue with you on price and don't see the added value you bring to the table.
- Don't have the opportunity to really benefit from your product or service. I've found that reviewing my current account activities and cleaning up my target account list helps bring more luck to my day. It's not easy walking away from situations we've worked hard to create, but sometimes it's the walking away that creates the luck in new, more qualified accounts.
- Visualize success. How do you create luck? Live your vision every day. Create a clear picture in your mind's eye of where you want to go and crystallize that vision in your mind every day. I started realizing how powerful this was years ago, whether it was playing out the scenario of speaking in front of a large audience or selling out products on QVC. I would create minimovies of my goals in my mind and tweak them every day. The mind is where it all begins--and luck seems to have a funny way of catching up with you when you start becoming what you think about all day long.
- Be different and daring. When you step out of your comfort zone, exciting things start to happen. What three things separate you from the competition? An outrageous guarantee that only you can deliver? How about going after the top 10 companies you'd like to sell your product to and creating unique packages for them? Or perhaps finding other ways to get their attention? One sales rep who was selling corporate hotel events delivered a box of doughnuts to the meeting planner's office. Taped on the inside of the lid was a full-color, glossy picture of the property for their next event! Everyone who reached for a doughnut got a visual impact of the meeting site. If your aim is true and your product is strong, luck will come when you dare to be different.
- Keep your eyes on the oak tree. Re-establish your key sales goals, write them down and have them clearly in front of you every day. Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal. A successful businessperson once told me that the biggest reason people fail is because they take their eyes off the oak tree. When he was young and plowing on his farm, he would never look down at the ground. Instead, he would aim for a row of oak trees and plow a straighter furrow as a result. If you look at all the adversities--a rock, a tree stump or a small ravine--you'll wander all over the place. But if you've got an oak tree in your sight, you'll get past the rocks and accomplish your goals.
- Combine deep learning with qualified activity. I can't think of two stronger activities to build your sales confidence. As we engage in learning--whether it's about our customers, skills or strategies--we increase our value and take our mind off the worries of what we need to do, focusing instead on the knowledge that will help us do it. Combining learning with qualified sales activity helps you shake off rejection more easily.
When I'm customizing a seminar for a specific company, I often interview its top producers. If there's one statement most of them share, it's this: "I just see lots of people, and good things happen." Another common statement: "I make cold calls during the good times so the tough times aren't so bad."
- Falling isn't failing--as long as you don't fail to get back up. It's not just about the knowledge you gain from picking yourself up and trying a new strategy; it's also about the awareness that when you're trying to accomplish something challenging, bruises and difficulties are part of the game. When I first started martial arts training with a 6-foot bo staff, my teacher said I would get welts from whipping the staff and catching it under my arm, but eventually my skin would toughen up. It's the same with setbacks in the sales process. In the long run, the setbacks won't be as damaging to your confidence and won't deter you from getting back up and trying again. Many of my hardest deals came with a lot of obstacles. But those are what toughen up your skin and open your mind for the next round of challenges.
Sales Killer #2: Talking too much. When you're talking, you're telling. When you ask questions to get clients talking about their needs, you're selling; you're finding out what they want to own. Only then can you guide them to the right product or service.
Sales Killer #3: Your vocabulary. Words create pictures in our minds. Certain words that are inherent to selling turn people off. For example, I caution people in business to avoid using the word "contract" when handling the details of a large-ticket sale. We all know that contracts are legally binding documents and require legal efforts to get out of. If appropriate, call your contract an "agreement," "form" or "paperwork." The mental image is less threatening. Think about the words you use and replace any negative word-picture images with gentler, more positive ones.
Sales Killer #4: Not investing time in building rapport. Good rapport builds trust. No one will want to make a purchase from someone they don't like and trust. Don't just jump right into a presentation on your product. Get to know your client a bit.
Sales Killer #5: Lack of a qualification system. A certain percentage of the people you talk with won't be good candidates for your product or service. If they don't have the need or the money for your product or service, there's no sale. Your challenge is to figure this out as early in your communication with them as possible. Come up with at least three or four questions, the answers to which will tell you if they're qualified to own your offering.
Sales Killer #6: Not knowing when to stop presenting and close the sale. Too many salespeople think they have to tell potential clients everything they know about the product. Even after a client has indicated that the product is right for them, the salesperson keeps talking. Doing so could easily turn the client off about working with you and cost you the sale.
Sales Killer #7: Ego. Selling is a service business. You must set aside your wants and needs to serve the wants and needs of others. Get the dollar signs out of your eyes when you're with clients. If they suspect you're pushing the sale because of what's in it for you instead of what's in their best interests, they'll find another company to do business with.
Sales Killer #8: Not knowing how to close. In many cases, all you have to do is ask a direct question in order to close a sale:
- "Will you be making your purchase today by cash, check or credit card?"
Sales Killer #9: Not paying attention to details. If you skim over details or shortcut your presentation because you've done it so many times that you're bored with it, you'll lose sales. Remember: Every presentation is new to your client. So give it with enthusiasm and without shortcuts, unless your client indicates that certain details you would normally cover aren't of interest to them. This carries over to your paperwork and ability to handle a computer (if your orders are entered that way). Any missing information can cause clients to quickly lose faith in their decision and walk away.
Sales Killer #10: Poor fulfillment. This ties into paying attention to details. If you or your company don't have the practices and policies in place to properly fulfill the expectations of your clients, you'll find yourself working harder and harder to get new business. Invest some time and effort in laying out procedures that can be standardized and followed by everyone who works with you. Salespeople shouldn't promise anything above or beyond the company standard. Everyone should be expected to meet or exceed it.