Friday, October 31, 2008

As the Election Draws Near, I'm Reminded That it is The Fight & Struggle in Life That Makes It Worth Living...

As the election draws near, I can't tell you how much I am reminded that it is the fight and struggle in life that makes it worth living. For the Presidency, one side will lose and one side will win. No matter your political affiliations, this is always a very exciting time in America. Fighting and striving for the most powerful position in the world also seems to me to be the ultimate sale.

For the winning side, they will gain much power and influence. They will be able to take the country and world in their direction. But make no mistake, with this new found power will come great responsibility and hard work. For the supporters and volunteers of the campaign, their will be a sense of rejoicing and celebration.

For the losing side, heartbreak and disappointment will set in quickly after the loss. For the supporters and volunteers, there will be a sense that all is lost and all their hard work was for naught. But in their election loss, they will realize at some point that the seeds of victory are always contained in the ashes of defeat. They will rebuild, and come back to fight another day.

Nobody sums this belief of fight and struggle in life better than former President, Teddy Roosevelt. I wanted to leave you with his "Man in the Arena" speech, which still inspires me today nearly 100 years after it was given:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

- Teddy Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Low Approval Ratings for President Bush Can Be Traced Directly to a Lack of Sales Ability

During President Bush's second term, he was hit with a poorly managed Hurricane Katrina relief effort, questionable government appointments, increased government deficits, and a quagmire in the Iraq War (although it has now gotten much better). Even after the Iraq War had turned around for him, he got hammered with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as the stock market plunged along with an overall increase in the unemployment rate. With all of this in mind, it is certainly understandable that his approval ratings have reached all-time lows.

Maybe no sitting President governing under these conditions could have mid 70's in their approval ratings. I do believe, however, that President Bush could have had much higher ratings for most of his second term had he possessed better sales ability. It seemed no matter what happened during his administration in his final term, he was never able to sell his ideas effectively to the American people.

There is no better profession when starting out in your adult life than sales when it comes to learning how to influence people. Maybe if the President had a sales job at some point in his 20's, he could have had the background to influence the American people more to his favor. In any case, his lack of sales ability certainly cost him dearly in his second term in regards to his approval ratings and getting things done for the American people.

Historians concur that it takes about twenty years after a President leaves before you can judge a presidency. With a final grade that will most likely be low from the American people on his way out, President Bush must now leave his legacy in the hands of future historians and American citizens. We will never know, however, how the President could have been regarded and what he could have accomplished if he had a better ability to sell his ideas to the American people.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making a Sale is More Like a Sprint; Not a Marathon

Making a sale is more like a sprint, not a marathon. Look at the comparison between these two races. A sprinter in the Olympics will usually win gold by a couple hundredths of a second; a marathoner can win gold by whole minutes leaving their opponents in the dust.

The difference between making the sale and losing it will usually turn on a couple of small differences. When major competitors compete, the pricing, service, credit terms, and quality will usually be very close. The sale will instead turn on finding the answer to one more question or presenting a more qualified profit-justified solution.

My main point here is simple. Don't get down on yourself too much if you lose a big sale. Chances are, you were running very close in making the sale happen. Don't be afraid to go back and ask your prospect why you didn't get the sale. A good salesperson is always inclined to analyze what has happened. If you don't take the time to investigate, you will miss an opportunity to grow in your selling knowledge.

Remember, just like a sprinter, you probably lost by a couple hundredths of a second. And remember that in sales just as in life, we always learn more in defeat than in victory.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Must Leverage Your Current Business Relationships for Sales Growth

There are lots of great salespeople out there who can build a great business relationship from scratch. When I say "scratch", I literally mean starting from a cold call and working your way up to being a trusted business advisor or favorite salesperson with a customer. This is still, without a doubt, the hardest way to grow new account sales for even the most experienced salesperson.

When you are new to sales with no clients or customers to speak of, this is the primary (or the only) method you will use to garner new business. When you start becoming successful, however, the drive to go through this process over and over will diminish. Let's face it, when you become highly successful in getting a great deal of customers to turn to you for business advice in your area of expertise, it is darn hard to go back to being a "hungry" cold caller who gets no respect with prospects.

But at the same time, all of us in sales have to continue the process of opening new doors to grow sales. This aspect of sales can never be forgotten and always needs production. How can we do this if we don't have the drive to make the cold calls we did in the beginning?

This is where leveraging your current relationships comes into play. And by the way, the method of leveraging relationships to become successful applies to all areas of life and not just sales. No man or woman becomes a CEO, business owner, or even President of the United States without using their existing relationships to create new ones. Becoming successful in life can all boil down to the relationships you have, both business and personal (or a combination of the two).

We usually have two distinct choices in sales to grow new business - either we cold call or get qualified referrals from existing customers. It is really that simple. I can't tell you the number of salespeople who never even try to use some of their best customers to get them in new doors. If you are successful and don't like cold calling, you must implement the "leverage" strategy or your numbers will tank in the future. If you can't or won't do this, then get back to cold calling.

I'll publish more articles in the future on how to properly use leverage with your existing customers to gain new business with qualified referrals.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

To Talk Presidential Politics or Not with Prospects and Customers?

I often get asked if it is alright to talk politics with prospects and customers. During a Presidential election season, it is bound to come up at some point with some of your better customers. While I would not make it a habit of bringing politics up, the chances are very good that your customer will.

If you are asked directly who you support for President, my advice is to go ahead and answer. Just make sure you back your answer up with a business point that supports your position. After all, both of your businesses are tied together. If your customer is successful in their business, this allows you to be successful in selling your products or services. Just make a brief point in why your support translates into what is good for both of your businesses.

It might seem easier not to answer and I believe this is the default position of most salespeople. But when a Presidential election is in full swing, no customer or prospect in their right mind will believe you have no opinion. In my book this will make you seem petty and gutless. These are a couple of attributes that you should never aspire to be identified with.

Just make sure not to get into verbal sparring with your customer on this issue. This is where the conversation needs to end. State your point and move on. If disagreement arises, empathize with their belief structure and then move the conversation on to something else.

In the end, your customer will respect your opinion and your willingness to share it if you limit it to both of your business interests. Be respectful, be yourself, and don't claim to have no opinion when everyone with concern for their country will clearly have one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Give Your Prospect a Way Out

I have always hated cold calling. Yes, I use to be one of those people who would try to put a good face on it and claim that I loved to cold call. But in reality, I never liked it and always believed there were better methods to get new customers.

There are times, however, where cold calling is still applicable. Sometimes you will run into a prospect that is a known purchaser of your products or services. If no other method of introduction is available, a cold call will most likely be your only avenue of attack.

If I get the opportunity to speak with the decision maker, my conversation will include a way out for the prospect if they are not interested. While most people in the sales world believe this is a bad idea, I believe it is extremely important to find out immediately if a sale has a reasonable expectation of taking place. Wasting time on prospects who will never buy is the #1 reason why people do not succeed in sales. Let me say this once again, wasting time on prospects who will never buy is the #1 reason why people do not succeed in sales.

While making the first face-to-face contact with the primary decision maker, my conversation usually will follow as listed below:

Me: "Bill, my name is Will Fultz and I'm a representative of XYZ widgets. I do quite of bit of business with companies just like yours. Part of my mission is reaching out to companies that don't do business with us, and today I just wanted to stop by and introduce myself to let you know there is another option out there."

Prospect: "Well, we do purchase quite a bit of widgets. We have been purchasing from ABC widgets for quite some time and have been happy with their service."

Me: "That's fine, I understand how important great business relationships are. I have quite a few of them myself. I certainly don't want to waste your time or try to break-up your relationship with ABC widgets. If you don't want me to come back around, that's no problem and I won't come back to interrupt your day again."

There is the out, but here is what will transpire if the prospect has some interest.

Prospect: "Well, do you guys carry the express widget, this is what we mainly use. I wouldn't mind looking over your product along with pricing."

Alright, now we have a prospect that has returned some interest to our cold call. This possible sale is still a long way from taking place, but the prospect has opened the door far enough for you to call on him. You have now also picked up the critical information needed to make the sale. You know the current vendor, main product that is being used, the decision maker, and you have generated some interest. The known product or service that is being used can now be investigated to be picked apart for you own profit-justified proposal.

However, at this point there are still several seperate motives that your prospect might have. Your prospect might be wanting a product with pricing to negotiate with his current vendor. The credit situation with the company is also unknown, so a new vendor with a fresh line of credit might be needed (meaning you might not get paid or this company might get turned down for credit). Additionally, the prospect might just want to see what is out there but has no real interest in ever buying from you. You must assume that all three of these motives are in the mix and be on the lookout for signs that these things are happening.

At the end of this cold call, you have now managed to at least somewhat qualify your prospect. There is still a lot of work ahead to get the business, but you now have the critical information to move forward in advancing the sales process. Isn't this truth finding way of cold calling much better than hearing the typical misleading responses from prospects that cause a loss of your time?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Honesty is Needed More Than Ever Right Now in Sales

There is no doubt that honesty is needed more than ever right now in sales. With a worldwide economic crunch that was caused by a combination of corrupt governments and businesses, none of us can afford in these times to be perceived with even the smallest amount of deceptive qualities. It is certainly time to reinvent and rediscover a new way of doing business - the honest way.

Now more than ever, study your prospecting and presentation methods to remove anything that can be perceived as deceptive or dishonest. I will publish more in the upcoming weeks about how you can take advantage of these times that are upon us.