Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sure Things Are Never Sure in Sales

I can't tell you the number of times I've been right on the cusp of doing business with a prospect in my sales career. I've had all the buying signals present and then the order never comes. It seems as if the "sure things" are just never sure in sales. As a matter of fact, when it looks like a slam dunk it is time to take off your boots and start running in retreat in the desert.

Why do these sure things or slam dunks just never work out? It is usually found the qualifying process you are using. Most likely, you didn't ask the correct questions when you were trying to "qualify out" your prospect. Your sure deal was never sure, it just seemed this way because you missed some key elements in your prospect's buying process.

The deals I seem to close (whether they are big or small) usually involve at least some mild resistance. This makes sense, because customers generally do not like change (as most people in general don't) as this creates a feeling of instability in their business.

I'll throw a little wrench in the mix here, also. If any kind of proper use of a referral is involved, than a sure thing actually will be sure most of the time. The reason why is because the credibility gap is closed so fast by your referrer. When a proper referral is present, business can come relatively easily.

Remember, when a sure deal exists with a prospect, try to dig a little deeper in the sales interaction to make sure you aren't missing anything. Better to find out the beginning, before tons of your time has been poured into a prospect that has no intent of doing business with you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friends Must Be Approached with Caution When It Comes to Turning Them into Customers

I am a big believer that many customer relationships can end up turning into some wonderful friendships as you go through your sales career. Hey, when it comes to referrals, these friendships are vital to your future business. As you grow in your sales career and come into contact with many other business people, you will also be able to refer people to some of your top customers to enhance their business as well.

What I have a problem with, however, is when you go after a friend's business the same way you would any other prospect (what I am specifically talking about here is an existing friendship that was developed before entering your sales career). This will make you seem very petty, and will be perceived in most cases as leveraging pressure on your friendship in order to make a sale. Not only could you lose a friend, but you won't get the sale either.

There’s nothing wrong with doing business with friends and family, but you must approach each of these situations with caution. Make clear what you do for a living. Maybe even tell them if they ever need anything you can cut them a good deal, but always let them know in a subtle way that you are friends first. Take the pressure off, and let them come to you. Believe me, if they know what you do for a living and understand it could benefit them, they will certainly make a move in your direction at some point. Never push business on a friend in any shape, matter, or form, unless the friendship is of mild consequence to you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who Every Salesperson’s Biggest Competitor Will Always Be

Many salespeople give a variety of responses when asked, “who is your biggest competitor?” No matter which industry you represent, the answer is always the same to this question. The biggest competitor will always be the status quo, or who the prospect is currently doing business with when it comes to the products or services you represent.

Yes, this means your biggest competitor can be Billy Bob’s shack down the street all the way to a top Fortune 50 company. Don’t assume all big companies do business with other big companies. I’ve been surprised in my sales career to see some very big hitters who are serviced and sold to by relatively small companies.

Knowing who your prospect does business with is obviously very important and is always a priority in the information gathering process. Who your prospect does business with will tell you a lot about them. Assumptions in selling can lead you down a very dreary road and take you off of your game. Always remember that your biggest competitor is not that Fortune 500 Company that you hate running into; it is instead the status quo company that your prospect is currently involved in doing business with.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Electricity is Important In Running a Blog

I apologize to everyone, my power was out as a major storm came through my area. It is important to have electricity if you are running a blog! I hope to be back up and running soon. Thanks to all of you...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting Up After Getting Knocked Down in Sales

I'm a huge boxing fan. One of my favorite fighters is the world middleweight champion, Kelly Pavlik. We all get knocked down in our selling career, but it is always about getting back up. Kelly Pavlik got knocked down in his bid to become world champion, too. In the end, however, he got up to provide a KO to take the belt. I hope this video inspires you to get back up when you get knocked down, also. Enjoy the video that HBO provided to youtube.com...

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Flashback" Friday: If You Are Going to Cold Call, This Is When You Should Try

To me, cold calling is the last avenue of attack. Let's say you know of a prospect that absolutely could use your product or service. You have tried finding another method of getting in the "door", but all of your efforts have fallen flat. This is one of the few situations where cold calling is still applicable.

Ok, now we have a prospect that we need to place a cold call on, right? Well, not so fast. I happen to think the timing for yourself has to be in place also.

What do I mean by that? Quite simply, if cold calling is going to take place, it needs to be done when your energy and confidence is at the highest. When are you at your best? You are at your best right after closing a deal with a new customer or finally getting a purchase order for that big order you have been working on for weeks. There will be no time better for cold calling than this.

Trust me, regardless of the outcome of the cold call, any negative feedback will bounce off of you like bullets on superman. While negativity is very damaging to a salesperson’s mindset (which is why I have a problem with cold calling), this will be the one time where you will be invincible in this area. Do yourself a favor the next time you close a big deal. Instead of hitting the golf course early, make just a few cold calls (on well-known prospects) and you will see that my advice rings true.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Glengarry Glen Ross in Review

Glengarry Glen Ross was an award-winning Broadway play that was from the middle 1980's. It became a movie in 1992. It also has an all-star cast, including Alec Baldwin and Al Pacino (though for some reason, I don't think they actually share a scene in the movie).

This movie presents everything wrong with sales, and I can promise you that someone who has never been in sales would walk away from this picture believing it is a dirty profession.

If you haven't seen this movie, I can tell you it is certainly worth the price. The one thing it will teach you (if you are in sales) are the viewpoints potential customers have of salespeople. For this reason alone, you should see this movie if you are in sales. Knowing how prospective customers are going to view you (in the beginning of the relationship) will make you understand how important building credibility and trust are when working in sales.

On another note, the opening speech from Alec Baldwin is great. This one scene sent me rolling on the floor in laughter. Al Pacino does a pretty good job, also. Glengarry Glen Ross will forever remind me of how many crumby sales jobs are out there. Again, this picture is a must-see if you are in sales.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Your Prospects & Customers Need to Hear Their Names

My post yesterday dealt with how important it is to record names as you come across them from prospective customers. Chances are, the big sales you are trying to close will involve several people within a company. Just knowing their names is only the beginning, however.

Your prospects and customers need to hear their names when you speak to them. This will slowly build the needed rapport that is necessary in closing sales.

Make sure you engage your prospects and customers with their names. The more they hear them, the more likely they will view you as a known quantity and warm to the idea of doing business together. Do not underestimate the value of engaging prospects and customers with their name. And always remember, the sweetest sound one can hear is one's name.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Having a Great Memory Is Both Good and Bad When Working in Sales

Having a great memory is both good and bad when working in sales. I actually have a great memory that most people would like to have; however, it has gotten me in trouble before.

I can't tell you the number of times I have forgotten an important name or piece of information critical to landing business. In my view, forgetting a name is one of the biggest sins when working in sales. And we, of course, work way too hard in uncovering critical information that leads to closing sales to lose it due to bad organization skills.

Take the time to keep your notes straight. Whether you work out of your car or office, please make it a priority to stay organized. We certainly work way too hard to allow crucial information to be lost.

Monday, September 8, 2008

You Must Like Your Customer Types If You Are in Sales

If you are in sales, you have to like the types of customers you will be doing business with on a regular basis. This sounds easy enough, but many people who get into sales do not realize the types of customers or prospects they will need to forge relationships with to steady their ship towards a path of success.

I'll explain further. If you enjoy wearing a suit and tie, an industrial sales job will be a poor fit for you (unless you enjoy having to buy suits on a regular basis). If you have a general dislike for doctors and nurses, how in the world will you be able to forge relationships with them? If you don't like dealing with the general public, why in the world would you go into retail sales? If cars don't excite you, how are you going to be able to excite a prospect that shows up on the lot?
Many of your customers should be people that you can be friends with outside of work. Building these types of relationships can take your sales to a whole new level. Friends will always readily help with referrals that turn into new business, and everyone enjoys helping someone they like succeed.

Remember, no amount of money will make you happy if you are continually having to deal with a group of people you don't enjoy being around. Before you accept that next sales position that comes along, think hard about whether or not you will enjoy being around the types of customers for that particular industry.

Friday, September 5, 2008

"Flashback Friday": "Sharpening Your Pencil" a Little is Alright to Close a Sales Deal

Many times, when a customer is right on the edge of doing business with you, they might ask you to sharpen your "pencil" just a little. Especially if it is large business deal, you will have to think really hard about whether or not you need to do this. If the deal is still profitable, my advice is to go ahead and get the dotted line signed.

I'm not talking about a huge price drop here, either. When I refer to sharpening the pencil, it requires a reduction in price by less than 5%. While your price might be justified and already strong, it is simply a last bit of leverage the customer is exercising on the "deal". Sure, you could hold your price and still get the business in many cases, but at worse the deal could fall apart if the customer gets the least bit insulted.

By agreeing to this concession, this also puts you in a position to ask for something in return. There will be no better time than now to get the type of quality referral we dream about as salespeople. I'm not talking about a name and a phone number here, either. This will be the best time to ask for a three-way lunch or personal referral letter to a prospect of huge importance that this customer knows. If you ask this in return for your price concession, your customer will gladly help you in this area as this will not cost them anything.

Negotiation is relevant in all aspects in life, and this includes sales. Don't ever be afraid to ask for something in return, especially if you are making a concession on price.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Black Coffee" & "Latte" Sales Authors

One thing that I am really concerned about these days is some of the latest sales authors I've seen out there on the net. These authors may write some great material, but come from a position of being out of touch with their audience. They seem to be older or have the slicked back Wall Street hair look, and just present an overall image of someone who has not been in sales for a long time.

I've coined a new term here for these authors - the "Latte" Sales Authors. I'm reminded of someone sipping on a Starbucks's cup looking at his latest art piece. Somebody that turns his head when his hands get dirty or despises having to deal with anyone considered "entry" level (unless a five or six figure contract is attached). Someone who generally looks down on other people, especially the ones who get up every morning to go to work (by the way, these are the people who make America the greatest country in the world!).

It really burns me up at times that the minority of salespeople (the ones that seek out additional education) are handing their money over to these people who are out of touch with the 21st century sales world. Salespeople who seek out continuing education at their own expense have worked really hard for the money that is being wasted. Salespeople simply deserve better than what they are getting, especially at book stores.

On the plus side, the rise of sales authors (both young and old) in blogs gives everyone in the sales community hope. For these straight-shooting authors, I have also coined a new term - the "Black Coffee" Sales Authors. These are the authors that stay in touch with the selling community and have a very engaging personality. This by no means is limited to young or start-up sales authors, as I would include Jeffrey Gitomer (for example) in this group.

I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone who drinks a latte now and then, as you can be a latte drinker and still be a "Black Coffee" Sales Author. Black coffee simply comes to represent someone who pulls no punches, and throws the ball right down the middle of the plate. Whatever you do, think twice about handing your money over to a "Latte" author when a "Black Coffee" author is readily available.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tony Soprano Selling

I am still a very big fan of the show The Sopranos. The episodes were crafted so well that it seems like you see something new in them every time you watch. It really was one of the best shows to ever grace a television screen.

My favorite character, like most fans, was Tony Soprano. Now Tony always made a lot of mistakes, but he also had some attractive qualities salespeople should pay attention to when it comes to selling.

No, I'm not talking about giving anyone a "beat down". Nor am I talking about "whacking" a prospect or customer (I hope you were not thinking of that!). What I am talking about, however, is the power and respect that the Tony Soprano character carried through the series. So few salespeople view themselves as powerful, and emulating Tony Soprano in this way would be very helpful to salespeople looking to put strong sales numbers on the board. Ask yourself this: Would Tony Soprano take abuse from prospects or customers on a regular basis?

Tony Soprano also realized at times that his position was weak and he would even go to a "bended knee" if it was necessary. While he never made a habit if this, he was smart enough to understand it was his best position to take in certain situations he encountered in the series. He didn't give the farm away to solve a tough issue, but gave just enough away to maintain order for the moment.

Salespeople should realize they should act as powerful individuals, but also have enough instinctive ability to understand when a "bended knee" is necessary. The Tony Soprano character provides a great balance between both of these positions we must sometimes take in the business world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A "Thank You" to My Readers

I just wanted to give a quick "thank you" to my readers today. This sales blog has now been viewed in over 50 countries and in all six inhabited continents of the world (thanks Africa - I recently just hit your continent a few weeks ago!).

My fundamental goal starting out was to become the best sales blog author on the net. My primary method of attaining this goal has always been focused on providing quality material to do this. It is my firm belief that any successful blogger places this as their number one priority.

I have much more to provide in the future. Please hang around, as I have other ideas in the pipeline that you will find extremely helpful. I'm currently working on a book right now, too. I don't want to give details or a timeline, but I'm certainly in the process of doing this. Thanks again - you (my readers) have inspired me to make Top Sales Blog one of the top and best sales blog on the net!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The "Cold Call" Blitz

I'm not a big fan of the old fashioned "cold call" blitz. If you haven't heard of this term before, it refers to setting aside a "cold call" day, in which you go out to see numerous prospects in the hopes of generating leads. I just feel this method of trying to prospect has really seen its better days, and there are much better ways to use your time.

There actually is a "spin" you can put on this old fashioned method that will get results, however. I'll post in the future on you can take the "cold blitz" to a new level in achieving prospecting success.