Sales Training – The Sales process changed – did you get the memo?
There is not any one one single magic Sales Training Solution, no one single guide or course to becoming good at selling in this attention economy. But there are techniques, styles, approaches and great advice, to help you get better at sales or selling in your particular industry in the 2020’s.
“Show me a person of ordinary ability, who will earnestly tell their story to 4 or 5 people a day and I’ll show you a success” Frank Bettger”
The Challenge is to find the 4 or 5 suitable people every day who are actually looking for what you have to sell today. And then use the right approach with each one, to help them find a solution that adds value for them. And do it online too!
If you are lucky then 3% of your target market is currently active in the market, looking to buy your type of product or service today. Do not waste time just spray and pray cold calling as it is mainly a numbers game. Or trying to sell with or sell to someone who does not presently want to buy what you have to sell. That is old school and was always wrong, as it wastes, so much of your time. Instead, focus on the best potential client options, the 3%, the people who do want to hear from you. The other 97% need a different approach as they are not yet aware they have a problem or have a current need for whatever you are selling.
Likewise, do not fall in to the trap of thinking that Marketing Automation software or Social Selling is the new way of selling and that it replaces conversations between people. The aim should be, to be of service and build long term relationships, that will be mutually beneficial. Your job is to influence decision making, but in a way that always adds value for the client.
Even if the 3% do some research on the net, they still only amount to 3% of your entire possible market. Maybe this 3%,the aware, the curious, are not right for you at all. Sometimes we spend too much time focusing on ranking well in Google in order to compete furiously for the attention of this aware 3% who are actively searching. It could be better to focus instead on the unaware 97%. Perhaps email marketing would be better for you. Every business is different, as is every market, so find the approach that works for you. It may mean trying a lot of different approaches, until you find the right one for you.
This is a very long article with about 12,000 words which covers many different aspects of selling. Below as sales training we offer the following – click on whichever you need today:
1. Sales Tips
2. Some Sales Advice
3. Sales Future Forecasts
4. Closing the Sale
5. Value Based Selling
6. Recommended Sales Books
7. Recommended Sales Podcasts
8. Recommended Sales Tools
9. Favourite Sales Quotes
“If you see John Smith through John Smiths eyes, you can sell John Smith what John Smith buys”
Sales 3.0 is here
Be aware that buyers now typically do their own research online before making a purchase decision or even meet a sales person, in person or online. The buying cycle has gotten longer and the selling cycle shorter. Buyers will Google what they want and look at their options. So, when they call you, they have already decided to buy and just want to ask a few questions to confirm their decision. They could well be totally confused by all the information available. You may become a purchase facilitator and the only differentiating factor, for a buyer when making a final decision. You are there to address a client’s problem or opportunity, a desire or requirement, all very different motivators. If you do get calls, do not waste time talking about you, your company or even the nuts and bolts about your product. Just listen carefully, answer the questions and take the orders, if your solution is suitable. The answers may well be in the questions. It is important to find out why a prospect wants to change something, why they are considering you as an option and why they want to do it now.
Stand out somewhere
If, on the other hand, you are not getting enough calls, then find out where the ideal potential buyers are doing their online research and get yourself seen or included in that space. Show at that point on the web that you are capable and ideally an authority figure. Find out what questions the potential target audience members are asking and answer them in that space, whether it is on Linkedin or in Forums, on Facebook, newspapers or industry journals, wherever they hang out. You will hear people say that you need 7 or 9 or even 11 touch points to get to an opportunity to make a pitch for a sale, but whatever the number, many of these points now happen without you being present. This is where Social Channels can help connect you and where Marketing Automation can help inform you. It does not replace the cold call or initial approach, but it does help with creating awareness. With proper prior preparation, the cold call need not be so cold and can be effective, instead of just annoying. If your intentions are good, you can bring true value and you have the customers best interests at heart, then do not be afraid to make the call. Or send an email, possibly with a short video intro.
1. Listen – “Sales is 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration”
To be a good salesperson, start by putting yourself in the position of the buyer – see things from their perspective. This is generally referred to as ‘discovery’. By understanding the needs of the buyer or their desired outcome, you can appreciate the problem before trying to offer your solution if is the right one. Listen hard, like about 70% of the time, ask questions, do NOT try to sell what you have, unless it is what the buyer needs or actually wants. Focus on what is being said to you, rather than thinking about what you are going to say next. The buyers will tell you what they want from you, if you just ask them the right questions. Their questions may be your answers, a new starting point for more questions. When you get an answer, say “tell me more” or “how does that affect you” or other similar probing questions to dig deeper. Treat every potential customer as if it was your best friend and you want to do your best for them.
Remember that ideally buyers need to know, like and trust you or at least trust you. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you listen well, you will determine what is best for the client and can assert that in confidence, then facilitate the purchase. Be 100% there, in the conversation, no distractions. Ask and ask and ask and listen well. If you have listened well and asked the right questions, the buyer will tell you why they want the solution you have to offer. What would you like to accomplish as a result of this meeting? Every meeting will need a close, but the close may not be an actual sale.
Note: Listen to win – If the buyer is having to listen to you 70% of the time, the chances are that they are not thinking what you think they are thing or ever hearing what you are saying.
2. Research – The Kipling 6 – “I kept six honest serving men they taught me all I knew. Their names were; “‘what’ and ‘why’ and ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ and ‘who’ “.
Identify the problem or pain point, or required result, then, if you can do so, position yourself as a solution or someone who can deliver a value proposition competently or refer to a better option for the client. Do the right thing. The buyer will have to be able to trust you, so build that trust by showing an understanding of the problem or challenge and how it affects the buyer personally as well as the company he or she represents. What solution is required and how can you deliver it. If you asked enough questions, you and the buyer should be crystal clear on what is required and why. Is the customer willing to invest time, money or reputation, buying in to you and your solution. How will you eliminate any foreseen or perceived risk involved in working with you? The buyer will have done research before getting to you, so you should do the same, check out their Linkedin profile. Google the company, find out what they do, how they do it, why they do it and look for potential problems and opportunities that you can help with, if you work together. Find out why the buyer might think a product like yours might make a difference to their business. It may seem obvious, but do make sure that you are talking to a decision maker or the decision maker. Using the waterfall approach, aim high, so that you get the right person or get to someone who can guide you to the right person, ideally now with the blessing of their boss. If you invest the time to understand the prospect’s business, you will see a return. Try to understand the customer of the customer, the end user or consumer. What do they want?
3. Plan – “Always start with the end in mind”.
Look at sales as a process, a science, not totally an art. Even though, I would say it is a science that can be applied in an artful way or is it an art backed up with the science. This science or technology used in selling has changed dramatically in the 21st century, thanks to the attention economy. It morphed with the advent of the Digital Age. Email, Slideshare, Powerpoint, Webinars, YouTube, Vlogs, Websites, eCommerce and all the digital tools or various parts of your ‘sales stack’. Plus Zoom, Facetime, Teams or Skype video.
But still you need to connect, build a relationship and help the buyer through the sales process, using a well honed sales cadence. Your job is to facilitate the purchase, by clearing the blockages, wiping out the doubt and answering the questions they ask. Only by banishing doubt will you get a decision. Most buyers will do their own research before they meet you and will have moved a long way through their own buying process already, before they consider investing in your product or service.
Having a plan is a start, but living the plan is what is critical. Remember that buyers buy based on emotion and later will back up a purchase based on logic. Look at the buyers side of things, what stages do they go through, what qualifiers do they use to reduce the options. How many people will have a say in the final decision. Even if you have the best solution, a buyer will probably not buy it, if they do not like or rather trust you.
Trust in your process
If you have a ‘good’ process, focus on it rather than the results. For most sales people it is still going to be a case of working out how many qualified calls or leads you have to make to get a sale. Multiply the number of deals in your funnel by the value of an average sale, multiplied by the average conversion rate and divide that by the time required. If I need to convert one potential lead to a sale per week, how many calls do I need to make per day to get a lead. Maybe the Marketing Department will feed you sales qualified leads, so go straight to making those calls. If there is no Marketing Department, then start by building a list and invest time every week yourself to keep adding to it. ? Leads X avg Value X Conversion rate / Time.
4. Technique – “Fail to plan and plan to fail”
Assess your presentations, to ensure that you are explaining the problem and the solution in a simple manner. Work on your processes, techniques and ask for feedback from the successful and the unsuccessful pitches. Your process will vary depending on the customer type or persona and the approach will have to suit each one separately.
Hone your skills in your mobile university, as in whilst travelling, listening to Audiobooks by the Seniors such as Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Guy Kawasaki, Tom Hopkins, Neil Rackham and Zig Ziglar, but also to the new kids on the block such as Victor Antonio, Amy Porterfield, Anthony Iannarino, James Muir, Will Barron, John Barrows or Andy Paul.
Ideally, you will be strategic selling and using aligned strategic marketing, so that the potential clients call you looking to buy your procucts or services. Prequalify or work out a way to disqualify unsuitable callers, as early as possible. Become aware of the likely objections and always be prepared to address and answer these concerns, encourage them, acknowledge them, get them out in the open. If you create scripts, make sure you tweak them based on the niche or market segment. If you lean towards consultative selling, then focus on which solution would best suit potential customers and explain why to use a particular product or service – that is solution selling. SPIN selling is still a great structure to follow, if somewhat dated – discuss the situation, identify any problems, discuss the potential implications to your client and work together to find a needs benefit from using your product or service. Sandler have a popular system too, again a bit dated. But do make sure you do not go to a meeting and start going through your system, without asking questions first, to see if you need to deliver through some full rehearsed set process or company system. Sometimes just turning up is enough to get the order, because the client has their research done and just wants to press the flesh and sign on the dotted line, if they like you and you do not blow it.
Remember to ask for the business. Responding to leads quickly is critical to success, then schedule an appointment and attend with the research done and a plan in mind. Someone recommended we should all have a Purpose Benefit Check – “The purpose of this meeting is to find out how you could benefit by having a better web presence“.
Note: Lead with the benefits and NOT the features. Benefits are what sells, whereas features are there to support them.
Cold calling is far from dead. Doing all the social content and posting is great, as it helps generate awareness, but you still have to make the calls. Who are you targeting ? How many calls do you make a day? From that how many appointments do you get? From that how many sales do you get? Know the stats and continually tweak your scripts to get the appointments and the sales. Getting these numbers right is crucial to your success in targeted selling, so make good calls, leave good short non technical, non salesy messages, improve conversion and work on it every day. How you engage in a cold call will dictate your results, so if you are getting no continually, change tack. When you call have a script or guide that engages, hopefully delivers some value and gets a conversation going which will avoid the knee jerk “Not interested” reaction. Remember like you, nobody wants to buy or be cold called, so get the script right. A good result from a cold call is to agree a suitable time to talk.
5. Results – “Sell the product of the product”
Not the specs, the features or the price, sell the results, benefits and advantages. Do not focus on what the product can do or its technical specs of features such as weight or speed, as the potential client does not really care. They only care about the “product of the product” or the benefits of having the product. If you are selling eCommerce solutions, the product is more sales revenue, if you are selling heat pumps, it is a warm family home and reduced heating bills. You could be providing or selling systems, which could save time for customers, time that could be invested elsewhere – the benefit is time. “What is the product of your product?”.
Also, measure success, set up targets with the client for desired outcomes, set up metrics to measure success. What would make an investment by the buyer truly worthwhile? Will your value proposition increase sales or reduce costs or save time? Having decided before you arrived that your product or service is suitable for them, the potential clients may just want to discuss how you both recognise success, is it more enquiries generated or more sales orders, more visitors, time saved etc etc.
Quantify risk for the client, if the buyer invests 10k with you what is the risk of getting it wrong or not getting results? Answer or allay these fears, early on, to take away any perceived risk. Cover all the usual objections in your presentation, hiding nothing. Write up the targets and set a future time to review performance. If you believe in your product or service and that it will deliver results for the client, share the burden of risk. Put your money where your mouth is. If you find out where the client is now and where they want to be in 3 years, then work back towards where they are now, to find out how they will get there, break it down. A three year horizon is usually a good time frame. Be curious, be interested, dig deep.
6. Social Selling – This can get a bit confusing as a term, but you can use social in a number of ways. You can advertise or promote in Social channels very effectively. But possibly more importantly, you can create and share useful or entertaining articles via social, to attract attention and get enquiries. You can now sell directly within social too and that will become more prevalent especially for big brands, much less so for unknowns. Social Selling is destined to become more mainstream, so get your head around it and create a digital strategy to encompass social as a supporting channel, either for sales or promotion. Being in the space frequented by your potential clients will put you in their minds when they are in the market to buy whatever you are selling. Being seen as an acknowledged ‘Authority’ will help you greatly, so post useful valuable content online.
Remember that everything you get in life will come from another person, so learn how to communicate well in your social channels. Do not be afraid to show a bit of your personality – people buy people. If you get this right, the buyers will come to you to place an order and save you having to make any cold calls. But Social Selling is not a replacement for Selling.
7. Price, Cost and Value – Remember, (to paraphrase Bob Burg), the cost price of a product or service is simply a figure, whereas value is the relative worth of it. Once you set a price stick to it. If someone thinks it is high, convince them of the value or return on investment, that the result will be of more value than the investment sum required. And to paraphrase Zig Ziglar, apologise once for the perceived high price at the start rather than apologise forever about the low quality. Always charge enough to afford you the time to deliver a good result. If you sell on price alone, you commoditise your product or service and it becomes a downward spiral. Platforms like Amazon will ensure that people can buy things at low prices, so ensure that you sell something where you bring added value. Often selling means getting over objections about price or an increase in cost or switching vendors or getting a new item added. Rejection is an inevitable part of sales, just take note of the reason given, accept it and move on. Price is not usually the reason you lose a sale, but rather because you are trying to sell the wrong product or because your pitch was just not good enough. How can you help a buyer make a ‘yes’ decision. No, is just a way of saying that you have not presented or informed well enough.
8. Behavioural style – It is worth studying a persons behavioural style, starting with your own, whether it is adapting or controlling, supportive or conserving. Have a look at IMA Strategies or Nigel Risners Animals in the Zoo or Lifestyle Orientation. Effectively you want to be able to recognise your own traits and personality features, then learn to spot traits in others. This will help you approach people in the style that makes them most comfortable. Identifying a personality type will allow you tweak your presentation and get better results. According to the Lifo method, “People who are adapting or controlling are big picture thinkers whereas someone who is supporting or conserving will be focused on the details. Supporting and adaptive people are people focused, whereas people who are controlling and conserving are task focused.” Someones personality will determine how long a meeting should last and what needs to be covered. Todays business buyer has become used to the B2C attention they get when buying for themselves personally, so they expect that sort of personalisation from their B2B buying experience. This means more initial leg work or research for you, but now that the buyer is doing much of their research online, it gives you the time to get personal in your interactions. And this can help create a relationship that will allow the customer be a repeat customer, possibly even one of your raving fans. Since COVID many buyers are working from home, doing their research and using Zoom for meeting sales people. For the introverts this is ideal as it saves time and avoid having to actually sit with a sales person.
1. Why – Never ever sell for the sake of selling – ever. What is your own why? What energises you to do what you do? Ensure that you know it and express it.
2. What – Believe in your product or get a better one to sell. Selling something you believe in is a pleasure, flogging a poor product will always be soul destroying for an honest person. You need to be an expert in your industry or on your product or service.
3. Who – Define your target market. Niche down as much as you can. Only sell to the right market, rather than trying to force a sale to someone who is unsuited or under budgeted. Budget – Ensure that the buyer can afford what you are selling and that they will use the product to their advantage. On a planet of circa 7 billion people, there are loads of potential customers for whatever you are selling, find them and give them what they need and want. If budget is restricted, look at delivering in stages, where each stage generates revenue, that in turn pays for the next stage.
4. Referral – Think of every customer as your referral to the next customer. If you look after your customers properly they become “raving fans” and will send more people your way. You can help them do that, but it happens organically when you are doing your job well. Do not be afraid to ask a happy client who they know who could also benefit from your product or service.
5. Rejection – Treat every “No” as a step on the way to “Yes”. Rejection is a big part of selling, it is not personal. Potential customers may say no, based on the information or understanding they have at that time, so give them new information or understanding. Or if you get a clear no, you are freed up to move on to the next call. Learn from any no and tweak your technique. Sometimes you get a no and you need to look at how you communicated, to see where you lost the client, so that you can do better next time. Or try with that client again. Is this really a real potential client? Learn to block objections by covering the potential sticking points early. If pricing regularly loses clients, tackle it head on and early in the presentation, explaining why you merit the price.
6. Mindset – Selling is a Mindset, get it right, make it a process, a semi mechanical system and stick to it, then try to perfect the art of practising it. The skills involved will come from practice, lots of it. Having a set plan will help you follow a set of steps and make it easier to be consistent, which will make you more comfortable and therefore better able to listen well. Question everything, every yes and every no, why did you order and why did you not order – this will help you perfect your communications. “All salesmen are born salesmen” is a myth. Some innate traits will help, but many technically knowledgeable people can be trained to be good at selling their product or service. Always have a positive mental attitude and assume the sale.
7. Research – You must have an understanding of the clients business, get to understand it and the perceived problems, the desired outcome and what would constitute value or a good return. “Seek first to understand before being understood.” What would make it a good transaction for both parties. Offer more value than than the cost price to get a sale. Verbalise it at the start and repeat it at the end. How will investing money with you be of benefit to the buyer, so that they are happy to give you their money. It is not generally about cost, it is about return on investment. Buyers spend money professionally, that is their job, so they just want to know that any investment is well founded. They want to know that the value you offer is worth more to them than the money you want from them.
8. Process – Sales copy – your pitch should short & succinct, but always include the name and a (product description) that helps (customer type) do whatever the (benefit is) using the (unique feature). “Our Monthly Website Support Plan helps business owners securely maintain their website to ensure that their potential clients can find and engage with them”. What problem do you solve and for who? Have a sales process and refine it continually. Likewise, have a presentation process and continually refine it, to improve it.
9. First touch point – Try to effect a small transaction, even a download of a Checklist or eBook, subscription to a newsletter, to get the potential buyer to change attitude towards you or to engender trust and start on the way to a more meaningful relationship. Someone who signs up to your newsletter or free ebook is someone who will consider you, when they need your product or service. Someone who agrees with a statement you make about their business is starting to get to trust you. Have a follow up process for these people as well as for existing clients. Use Automation to do this fast and effectively.
10. Technology – By all means use a sales stack, but do not get hung up on the data either. There are so many tools nowadays, so many digital apps, but remember that selling is about people, so the data can be more confusing than helpful when you get too much of it. And you can get too busy with the sales stack tools. Use a process or plan, use any useful supporting tools, but do not over rely on these these things, as the client will tell you what they want, if you simply ask the right questions.
Spending half your day populating your CRM, will not deliver sales for you, just more data for your current employer. Your successor might appreciate all the groundwork you did, before you were let go, but get a balance and leave CRM time until after 5.00 pm. Pipeline management is important, but it should not be the focus of your day.
11. Remember Reciprocity – People will always want to return a favour to someone who does something good for them. Sometimes, all you will do with a lead is refer them elsewhere, but that gesture may lead to a referral or a revisit at a later date. People buy because of reciprocity, as well as authority or scarcity. Existing trusting clients are also the easiest sell when it comes to up-selling or cross selling.
12. Calendar – Create time management habits, such as having a clear calendar, with time carved our for preparation, reading, networking and appointments as well as follow up after meetings and catching up with existing clients or preparing a to do list for tomorrow. If you do not plan things in your calendar, your time will simply disappear. Things get done when they get booked in your diary, so book everything. Likewise, using a diary will help avoid over booking, so that you provide enough time for each meeting.
13. Habits – It is crucial to create good habits and work at them. Do not try to make huge changes overnight, try to do it incrementally, bit by bit. Make one small change and when that is bedded in, make another, one small bit at a time, until you get the desired outcome. Your habits will determine your success in sales.
14. Close – Be sure to ask for the sale, rather than just talk and talk and talk. Listen for a sign that the client has decided and then wrap it up. You can just ask does it makes sense to go ahead with this solution?
15. Talk the right talk – Buyers differ and pitches die. Give your buyer what they want. Some people will be the type of buyer who wants the skinny quickly, so they can make a decision. Others want to hear about the features and specifications. Some are just researching and some do not have the authority to make the final decision. Some are just tyre kicking and some could not make a decision if their lives depended on it. By taking your time, letting them talk and then repeating it back to them, find out which type of buyer is in the room and speak their language, and at their pace. You may have to speak with a few different people who have an input to a purchase decision. That could mean talking big picture stuff with the CEO, talking numbers, financials and projections with the CFO or talking about engaging with their own customers with the marketing department.
Salesman – Use my LAD method. When you get a meeting with a qualified prospective client, ensure you focus on the engagement, on the client, on their needs and be 100% present in the room to hear what is being said. Then ask good questions to challenge the client, but also to get the information you need. If you listen intently it will allow you decide if you are a good fit. Do not start pushing your solution until you fully understand the problem. Then you can deliver the right results to exceed any agreed target. This will lead to organic referrals for you. Do not depend on someone else to qualify the leads, unless you are sure that they will do it well.
Sales Manager – Use my DOC method. Firstly study the data, the numbers, the wins and losses, to get a picture of how each sales person is doing. Then observe in the field, to see how a salesperson performs. take notes, but do not step in and take over a meeting or undermine the salesperson. Then armed with the data and the observations, you are in a position to coach, to help the salesperson improve on the way they do things. Then repeat the cycle with the next person. Keep doing it round and round and as you are also learning yourself from your coach or mentors, you can bring that knowledge to your team, as required and leverage it.
Sales Director – The approach will differ depending on the industry and the size of the company and the size of the sales team. As the Sales Director at a busy small Web Design Agency, this is where I focus. Continually creating a database of potential clients and sending a weekly mailshot with useful web related tips, to keep us ‘front of mind’ when they want the services we offer. We work on creating Authority and giving value over and over. We share our knowledge and our learnings. Plus we attend about two Networking events a week, usually business related. We post tips in Facebok and Linkedin. Do small very targeted ads in Google and Facebook. Most new business comes through our own website which is well optimised or from referrals from existing clients. Plus referrals from our local Business Network and some Digital Marketing agencies. Google My Business also helps.
I like Frank De Raffele‘s 9 or 10 SPIN style questions.
- What is the greatest challenge in your business today?
- Why is that happening?
- How is it going to affect you?
- If that situation lasts for another 12 months, where will you be, if you do nothing?
- If I had a magic wand and could make it perfect, what would that look like?
- What changes do you think need to be made?
- That seems like a very big change, why do you want to do that?
- Why is this important to you?
- If I can lay out a plan, are you willing to commit to it?
Conclusions about selling
At the outset, ask great questions and listen to the answers, verbalise the problem or challenges faced by the client, imagine the pain, look at the options, get permission and buy in. A good honest conversation will result in both parties finding out what is needed together. Use the clients own language to find their frustrations and find out what they have tried, what has worked or not worked – listen! The clients questions may be your answers. At that point, you either do or do not have a good solution. If you do, that is great. But, if you do not, you may well be able to help by referring the most suitable supplier. Always be of as much service as you can be to potential clients and to your contacts. Avoid annoying *cold calling, unless you have a successful methodology. Stay in touch, send useful information or tips, be of some service before trying to sell anything at all. Be seen where your market hangs out, whether that is Newspapers, Facebook, LinkedIn or a Forum. Give buyers a reason to want to trade with you. People generally buy based on emotion and justify the purchase based on logic later.
‘Sales agent wanted – no humans need apply’
According to research in the USA millions of so called sales jobs will be made redundant over the next few years. Innovation and things like AI or AR mean that chat bots and artificial intelligence or machine learning can be used to do a lot of the basic repetitive jobs currently done by humans. At first glance this would appear to be very bad news for anyone who has chosen sales as a profession. It sounds like really bad news, but personally I think it means that people who or jobs that do not bring new value add to the table will be looking for a new job elsewhere. But equally I do feel that a person who has experience and good intent, can bring value to the client and will be able to make use of the same AI technology to be even more successful in sales. This could in essence separate the men from the boys. With pattern recognition some functions can be done by so called AI, but they would be very basic functions.
Innovation will actually make it easier to gather information or data and hard facts, but when it comes to judgement calls or making a decision based on experience then our veteran salesperson will always beat artificial intelligence (for the foreseeable future). Anybody who has a career in sales will also know that much of selling is that emotional connection you make with the people you meet. The eye contact and that establishment of trust and rapport for someone to believe that you will deliver a product or service that is of more value than the money that is about to be invested. This is not something that the buyer will do with a chat bot or artificial intelligence. Commodity sales or transactional sales on the other hand will certainly be made easier using artificial intelligence or machine learning, where the questions are straightforward and the answer is one option from a set of choices. “I want to buy a pair of Levi 501s in 32 blue regular boot cut”. That is an example of where sales can be a science, but it does not exemplify the art of selling which is something practiced by good salespeople. The aim is to help a buyer make the right decision for them.
………Do not discount the potential effects of AI or machine learning, if you are an ‘order taker’ for commodity products, but for serious sales people it is just another useful technology to be used to deliver more value and better customer service. Want to get started with AI in your business? Have a look at Mitsuku or Rose or www.chatfuel.com for Facebook or read the ChatBot Magazine. You can create your own chatbot to respond to frequently asked questions and offer 24/7/365 service. This will become the norm very soon. Chatbots are an easy start, but voice recognition bots are also being trialled.
* Cold calling tips – how to make a cold call warmer
Most people hate cold calling, so warm up your target audience with a personalised introduction email of some sort and make a personal connection in LinkedIn and/or Facebook. Yes it does work, so find out how to do it successfully for you, then rinse and repeat.
Try the advice below
1. Set aside a dedicated time of your day to do your own prospecting. Do the research needed to ensure that you approach the right people and that they may actually need your product or service
2. Pick the time of the day when you have the most energy and positivity, but give people time to settle in at work before you call
3. Connect with the person who answers the phone whether it is the person you want or an assistant or a gatekeeper. Have a script or two as a rough guide, so that you do not waffle. Be prepared for the usual objections and what to say to get around them to move things forward
4. Be confident, but not cocky – believe in you and your product – know why you are calling. Be prepared to be happy to get a more suitable time and date to call back. Do not take any rejection personally 🙂 Learn from it
5. Avoid Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, so focus on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, ideally 10 to 12.30 and maybe 2.30 to 4.30. Expect the usual afternoon slump in energy, yours and theirs
6. Do some prior research and connecting in LinkedIn and Social channels before making the first call, see who you know is a connection or become aware of any recent events that may affect the potential client, local news or game. Be well aware of their business and their likely business or personal challenges. Find out what interests them if possible, their sports or charities etc, in order to better understand the person at the end of the phone.
7. Selling on the phone is not likely, although nowadays it may be necessary, so the aim may still be to arrange a meeting in person or online using Zoom or Teams. In most cases there is no selling of products or services in a first cold telephone call. If you do have to start selling on the telephone call, promote the benefits of your products features for that business rather than the features themselves, the product of the product – what problem do you solve? What is the value to that particular client?
8. Voice messages are generally a waste of time – if you leave one make it very short “I called and will call back on….” Have a script for this and do not waffle on, in some frantic sales pitch, just to make you feel like you achieved something. That is not selling, so do not fool yourself.
9. Be sure you are offering value, that your product or service will be of benefit to the person at the end of the phone and that you can explain this in the shortest possible way. Send value bombs by email and post, in advance, to generate awareness and to show that you do actually care enough to invest your time or give complimentary value
10. Be politely persistent, if you believe you can deliver value for the client, make the follow up calls and stay the course until you get an appointment, an order or a definite no. It is not a numbers game and yet it is IF you are calling the right people. So find the right clients and stick with them. Find a way to connect, to get your message across. If it is in any way a complex sale, you may have to work hard to connect and get a personal relationship going, but you should then get repeat sale number 2 and 3 and so on, based on that same groundwork. Ideally, y0u will look to get relationship clients who will be recurring buyers, rather than investing all your energy to get just one single transaction, before moving on to the next potential customer and the next and so on. Do consider the Lifetime Value of potential clients.
Great acting, great cast, great delivery, but poor advice, from a by-gone era. The film hammered that point home in spades.
ABC – Always be communicating.
Closing a sale begins with the start and not the end. The All Blacks win their games on the training ground long before the final whistle goes on the pitch after 80 minutes. And like set pieces, you will do many closes during a sale that will result in an order.
1. Prepare and plan – Read about the potential customer, their company and their industry. Familiarise yourself with this and look for their potential likely problems, that you may be able to solve with your product or service. You need to be industry informed. Be insightful, be able to ask questions that they had not asked themselves. Make them think, challenge them, rather than tell them what they already know.
2. Begin with the end in mind. Visualise the meeting, the discussion and the outcome. Do it in your head before each meeting and sort out any kinks. Look for issues or challenges before they crop up to be prepared for them. Practice handling the recurring objections. Role play in advance, even if you do not like it.
3. Earn the right to be in the room – From the very first encounter, by always adding value, offering advice or assistance and close every step of the way along the process, from first email or telephone call to a meeting, a presentation or demo etc. Be insightful, ask those questions that they had not asked themselves. Show that you have been doing your homework on them, that you care enough to do that and therefore deserve a seat at the table, to help them come to the best possible buying decision – hopefully for your product or service.
4. Raise potential issues – Address them, including likely objections to you like price or delivery times. If you were the buyer what would you want to know.?
5. Process – Do have a process, but do not process potential customers. Find out what their problem is by asking relevant questions and listening intently, then work out if you have the solution they need. Have a set of steps and continually work on refining these to improve your presentation and speed it up for you and for the customer.
6. Payback – When you give something of value, then you are in a position to ask for something in return, maybe a chance to ask more questions or get time to meet, do a demo or meet the CEO or ask what the budget is or what is their normal buying process. That is reciprocity, you give value first, then they give back in return.
7. Authority – Make sure that the person you are pitching can actually buy. Or close that meeting by booking a meeting with the actual buyer(s)
8. Value – Sell on value not price. It does not matter what the price is if there is no return from the investment. Buyers make the mistake of going low, your duty is to try to help them to avoid that mistake and ensure they get something that delivers value for them. Show case studies of happy clients who paid your prices and are happy with their return on that investment.
9. Listen again and learn to shut up – By all means ask for the order or the objection and then say thank you for the order. Or move on to addressing any outstanding objection, as you obviously missed something in your presentation.
10. Customer first – There are books and books about ‘Closes’ and many read well, many are worth reading, but they are not needed if you just put the customer first every time. Think of the potential customer as a friend and do what is best for them. And to paraphrase Andy Paul, Be present, Ask good questions, Listen like a lover, Deliver what is needed by repeating back what is said and define the exact requirements in writing BALD.
ABC – Always be communicating.
Tip – Remember as the sales person that you are probably the determining factor between vendors. In the buyers mind, your product is probably the same as the next product, so you have to help them understand the differences, especially in the value of working with you particularly or investing in your products or services.
Value based selling – value of a customer based on results. Some people approach selling on the basis of value based selling. That is to say that they price the project or the client rather than the work to be done. So the outputs rather than the inputs. Many potential clients like the idea of paying just a percentage of the gain. If we told you that by investing in a new web presence with us, you could increase your sales by €200k and your gross profit by €100k – how much would you invest for that return? €20k, €50k €90k €99k ? Most people would be very happy to invest 10% or 20% for that gain, if they have the available funds. Someone turning over €100k can generally invest €10k. If they turn over €1m, then surely they would invest €100k to increase their sales a further €1m or even by €200k. You could offer a price for getting €200k and a different price for getting €500k and for getting €1m. It is then as good as commission based, so it is a win win for the client. If they increase the sales by any figure, whereby their investment is lower than their extra profit, then they are quids in. And, they get the benefit of the increased sales in the following years too.
Determining a budget
To determine the likely return on any investment we would need to ask how many customers do you have, what is the average sale value, if you have multiple routes to market such as B2C and B2B which has the best profit after all costs. What is the size of the potential new business/market, put a value on that and the likely profit. Now what is the available budget? If we can get you €1.20 on every Euro invested, how much do you want of that action?
It is possible that if a client has an existing customer list and a blog that we could sell more to that list using an existing blog, with a landing page that will upsell something. This could increase sales and the lifetime value of a customer – what is that worth to you Mr Customer?
A Good Salesperson – The Buyers Perspective
“Someone who does not try to sell me. Someone who can connect with me at a personal level, who will really listen and ask good questions. Someone who gets to understand enough about my business and my challenges to allow them be qualified to discuss solutions with me and tell me things that I do not already know. Someone who can understand both what I want personally and what the business wants too. Someone who will work together with me to help me make the right purchase decision. Someone who is confident in their own product or service and can convince me that it is right for me, that I will get the benefits we discussed – use case studies or examples of how the product or service help someone like me. Show me that the investment asked for will worth it for me. Take away any worries about the investment for me. Someone who is very clear on what is going to happen, through the purchase process, the sequence of events and on to the results or benefits. Someone who does not try to sell me.”
Top 29 in no particular order, all worth reading, just one a month.
1. How to Sell Your Way Through Life by Napoleon Hill an oldie from Hill who encourages us to be of service, to offer value, in order to succeed in sales. Find out what your client wants and give it to him.
2. The Go Giver by Bob Burg – a story of reciprocity. Give value and be rewarded – a simple concept, rarely practised. Another parable, with advice from Pindar
3. The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy. Ideas, methods, strategies and techniques to help you make more sales, faster and easier.
“Psychological Make-up of the Superior Salesperson
1. High levels self-confidence/esteem
2. Accepts 100% responsibility for their results
3. Above-average ambition and desire to sell
5. Intensely goal-oriented
6. Belief in themselves, their product, their company, and the value their giving to the customer
8. Turns strangers into friends”
4. The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. Be prepared for brash and dictatorial, but the energy and advice in the book make it well worth the read. Some good strategies and methods to employ in your day, even if some are ‘old’ sales techniques.
5. The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer. A distinguished prolific writer on the topic of sales, Jeffrey Gitomer is referenced by action coaches worldwide. Read it to understand what advice is given by these coaches and save yourself thousands in fees.
6. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Another book to read as a must. Written in 1936, but still a must read, in an old fashioned language style – push through it
7. The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and the team at CEB Corporate Executive Board, based on their own studies in to how the best sales people work. They offer a system and some very good advice, especially for new people in sales. Do your clients a favour and learn to challenge them when they ask for something specific. Learn to be more than an order taker and to deliver more value to your clients. Push back and get deeper.
8. Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden a renowned basketball player and coach for 12 years at UCLA winning 10 NCAA Championships. Here he lays out 12 lessons in leadership and his own pyramid for success. Always be the best you, that is success in itself.
9. To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink. The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. From the author of Drive and again Dan flips accepted truths to give us some good insights, which may change the way you look at sales.
10. Secrets of Closing a Sale by Zig Ziglar – Down home advice from a proven sales master with a real southern drawl and a brilliant mind for sales. This is also a must read for any professional sales person.
11. The Secret of Selling Anything by Harry Browne. A great book for any sales person who feels that they do not have what it takes to be a success in sales. It helps put paid to the old description of what it takes to be a good sales person.
12. High-Profit Prospecting by Mark Hunter. A good read for 2017, as Mark helps us tweak cold calling to script emails and set up a good way to get your emails read to fill your funnel.
13. Spin Selling by Neil Rackham. The sales bible for a generation, this book encourages you to use a format to openly discuss the current situation with the prospective client, then discuss the problems that they are facing and the implications for the client, before jointly looking for a solution or need. Then you can agree what the client should buy.
14. Zero Resistance Selling by Matthew Maltz. Learn to craft your own you, to reframe your thinking, to get over existing bad habits or poor beliefs to become a more successful closer.
15. Never Be Closing by Tim Hurson. A tip of the hat to the old adage Always be Closing the ABC that featured in Glengarry Glen Ross, a great movie, with wonderful acting and a flawed view of the modern salesperson. Tim basically says that a good sales person cares about the client, about delivering the right solution and about building a long lasting relationship.
16. Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan who defined a strategy which is widely practised where the sales person works hand in hand with the prospective client to find the best solution to the clients problem. No hard selling, just working hand in hand, but in a way that allows you stay on top of the situation, in control. Another must read for any serious salesperson.
17. The Challenger Customer by Matt Dixon. Here the team at CEB who wrote the very successful The Challenger Sale now give some direction in 2015 on how to sell through influencers to get to your customers.
18. Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount. How to fill the funnel and keep the phone ringing. No simple solutions, just a guide to hard work, done in a prescribed fashion day after day to generate leads and sales. With guides on cold calling physically, on the phone or via email.
19. The Only Sales Guide You Will Ever Need by Anthony Iannarino. Good book, good advice, well written and up to date, although the author is working on a second guide.
20. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino – from 1968 this small book with its Parable about Hafid and the 10 Scrolls passed from elder to younger man may seem old fashioned and reads like an old biblical story, but it carries some great messaging about habits and persistence, gratitude and humility.
21. How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins. Tom reads like a man who swallowed everything Zig Ziglar said and then added his own bits, to come up with a very very useful guide to selling and crafting the art of selling. Well worth the read, if a bit dated.
22. New Sales. Simplified by Mike Weinberg. http://www.newsalescoach.com/ The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development. Identify a strategic, finite, workable list of genuine prospects to keep your machine going. Great sharp advice, with a fast paced delivery style.
23. Start with No by Jim Camp, The Negotiating Tools That the Pros Don’t Want You to Know. A contrarian view of sales where you do not start with win-win, but rather start with no instead. Then work out what problem needs solving and whether you have the right solution.
24. The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge. Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million – big claim
25. Cracking the Sales Management Code by Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana. The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance.
26. The Science of Selling – David Hoffeld wrote a book called The Science of Selling which tries to cover a lot of the technical content in many of the books listed above. He offers his 6 Why questions Why change? Why now? Why your industry solution? Why you or your company? Why your product? Why spend the money? A really excellent science based approach to sales.
27. The Coaching Habit – Likewise, Michael Bungay Stanier wrote The Coaching Habit to help Sales Managers help their salespeople, to empower them rather than just help them close a few sales. That book also collects the wisdom of many distinguished authors and distills the main points about coaching in to one book. He offers 7 What questions – What is on your mind? And what else? What’s the real challenge here for you? What do you want? How can I help? If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying not to? What was most useful for you? One for the sales directors.
28. Lets get real or lets not play – Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig explain how to move from being the sales person to the trusted advisor. Great book.
29. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto – Blair Enns This one is just for the Creatives amongst you, just 144 pages of pure gold about value based selling.
Here are Blair’s 12 Proclamations and they are worth highlighting here:
We Will Specialize: “We must simply choose to take control, first by specializing and shifting power back from the client toward us, and then we begin to shape our future.”
We Will Replace Presentations with Conversations: To be truly free of the pitch we must change the tone of these meetings with our prospective clients and move from the presenter/compiler role to that of the expert practitioner.
We Will Diagnose Before We Prescribe: From here forward we will view the act of prescription without diagnosis for what it is: malpractice.
We Will Rethink What It Means to Sale: We will seek out those that see a fit between their needs and our expertise and how are willing to let us lead the engagement.
We Will Do With Words What We Used to Do With Paper: Let us be clear to our clients and ourselves: we are not in the proposal writing business.
We Will Be Selective: When given a choice to operate from the position of power that comes with deep expertise or to pursue work outside that area for clients who will not allow him to lead, the expert will refuse.
We Will Build Expertise Rapidly: We will build a culture of continuous learning by hiring for skill, by developing it through training, by empowering our people to form their own professional development plans that we will approve and fund, by holding them accountable to these plans, and, most importantly, by leading with our own example.
We Will Not Solve Problems Before We Are Paid: Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation.
We Will Address Issues of Money Early: We will resist putting ourselves in a position where we have overestimated in the buying cycle only to find the client cannot afford to pay us what we are worth.
We Will Refuse to Work at a Loss: We will leave to our competition those clients that would neither bring us profit nor merit for charity.
We Will Charge More: We will invite the client to tell us that he would prefer to work with a more affordable firm.
We Will Hold Our Heads High: We will seek respect above money, for only when we are respected as experts will we be paid the money we seek.
Footnote: Blairs new book is called Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour
If you invest a little in and read half of these books, you will be well armed to sell professionally in 2020, to avoid common pitfalls, to build lasting relationships and enjoy a very fruitful career in sales, the oldest profession in the world, bar none. There is a lot of reading here, but if we choose to work in sales, we do need to understand the psychology behind it. Try to invest in yourself by reading a book a month, attend training with specialists at live events, via webinars, podcasts, Youtube or read their blog. Invest time and money in yourself and/or your sales team. Each book title has a link to its Amazon listing and reviews.
1. SalesMan Podcast with Will Barron – great guests, good questions, fast and incisive
2. The Anthony Iannarino Show – in depth interviews on deeper topics around sales
3. Sam’s Business Growth Show with a hard working Sam Dunning, a new entry in 2020
4. Blissful Prospecting with Jason Bay
5. The Advanced Selling Podcast with Bill Caskey and Brian Neale
6. The Why & the Buy – Jeff Gitomer and Christie Walters
7. Daily Sales Tips with Scott Ingram who keeps a much longer Sales Podcasts List than me or his Sales Success Stories
8. Inside Selling with Josh Braun
9. Make it Happen Mondays with John Barrows
10. Predictable Revenue Podcast with Aaron Ross
11. Sales Gravy with Jeb Blount
12. Sales Logic with Mark Hunter
13. The Sales Development Podcast with David Dulany
14. The Sales Excellence Podcast with Daniel Kuperman
15. Superfast Business with James Schramko – varied topics around business in general
These podcasts come and go as the presenters get tired of creating them or get contracted by a bigger firm to work with them, possibly doing a new podcast.
Useful Selling Tools: Have some of these in your tool box or sales stack, IF they can be useful and not become a time suck.
1. CRM – Client Relationship Management software
Salesforce, Infusionsoft or OnePage CRM or any CRM – to help organise and collate all the client info and record the touch points, as well as scheduling communications. Mine the main data for answers. Use the tool to maintain records and relationships. The big platforms are very heavy tools, as in expensive and time consuming, so possibly even start by using something smaller like Insightly, Drip or Zoho or Nutshell. Or even You Dont Need a CRM which is very sales person focused. If you just want Marketing Automation. Marketo will offer a better MA Marketing Automation tool set, but at €600 a month, so will you use it enough to get a return on the money and time invested. Never buy in to a CRM, just to play a numbers game. Filling your funnel with any old names will keep you a busy fool. Make sure that your prospects are good before adding them. Quality over quantity. Try to disqualify as much as to qualify potential clients and keep niching down. Any CRM should help record all the touch points, so all the team members should use it. As a company do not just use the CRM as a command and control tool, otherwise the sales team will not buy in to using it.
2. Mailchimp – Newsletter
Use any newsletter app to manage Newsletters, pitches, updates to connect with your marketplace. Again, use Drip as a low cost Marketing Automation tool or ActiveCampaign or Klaviyo as a fairly low cost option to replace the free Mailchimp or Constant Contact or Aweber to get a few more bells and whistles. ABM or Account based marketing is becoming the buzz word again for simply targeting good prospects rather than everyone under the sun. And targeting anyone at a company who may have influence over a purchase. This is just common sense. Again, do not get distracted by people selling systems to help you sell to the right market.
3. Audible – Learn whilst you drive, invest in yourself
Get good audiobooks and listen incessantly, learn to earn and read for speed. You can never know enough. Buy the hardbacks of the books you like and re-read as reference books, as well as taking notes and applying the tips.
Automating processes is a good idea, but remember that people buy people, so at some stage you need to press the flesh. All the Marketing Automation tools in the world will not replace the human element. It could actually lead you to be seen as a spammer, through annoying re-marketing and appearing all over personal timelines etc. In 2019 this is something to be very careful about. The fact that something can be done, does not mean it should done. Avoid the shiny new toy syndrome of new applications to eat up your time. Non sales people will love getting their teeth into new apps and recording data.
“Everyone lives by selling something” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“To succeed in sales, simply talk to lots of people every day. And here’s what’s exciting – there are lots of people!” – Jim Rohn
“If you see John Smith through John Smiths eyes, you can sell John Smith what John Smith buys” – David Cowper CLU which is so bang on the money.
“Don’t sell life insurance. Sell what life insurance can do” – Ben Feldman
“The secret of man’s success resides in his insight into the moods of people, and his tact in dealing with them” – J Holland
“Confidence and enthusiasm are the greatest sales producers in any kind of economy” – O Smith
If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will. -Bob Hooey
“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise” – Patricia Fripp
“The key is not to call the decision maker. The key is to have the decision maker call you” – Jeffrey Gitomer
“Timid salesmen have skinny kids” – Zig Ziglar
“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it. But if you love what you are doing, and always put the customer first, success will be yours” – Ray Kroc
“We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects” – Alexis de Tocqueville
“Show me a person of ordinary ability, who will earnestly tell their story to 4 or 5 people a day and I’ll show you a success” – Frank Bettger
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature” – John D. Rockefeller
“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect” – William Clement Stone
“Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages” – Terry Pratchett
“How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
“Forget about the business outlook, be on the outlook for business”- Paul J. Meyer
“The sale begins when the customer says yes” – Harvey MacKay
“Internalize the Golden Rule of sales that says: All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust” – Bob Burg
“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard” – Estée Lauder
“A smart salesperson listens to emotions not facts” – Unknown
“For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough” – Zig Ziglar
“In sales there are going to be times when you can’t make everyone happy. Don’t expect to and you won’t be disappointed. Just do your best for each client in each situation as it arises. Then, learn from each situation how to do it better the next time” – Tom Hopkins
“Always be closing…That does not mean you are always closing the deal, but it does mean that you need to be always closing on the next step in the process” -Shane Gibson
“It is not your customer’s job to remember you. It is your obligation and responsibility to make sure they don’t have the chance to forget you” – Patricia Fripp
“Sales is about helping people break down information so they can make better decisions to positively impact their business” – John Barrows
“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later” – Og Mandino
“Your income is related to your philosophy, not the economy” – Jim Rohn
”Think like a man of action – act like a man of thought” – Henri Bergson
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” – George Addair
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” – Zig Ziglar
“It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right” – Mark Hunter
“Approach each customer with the idea of helping him or her to solve a problem or achieve a goal, not of selling a product or service” – Brian Tracy
“Sales is a transfer of enthusiasm from the sales guy to the buyer” Brian Tracy
Michael MacGinty is our Business Growth Specialist or the Sales Guide and it is his job to listen to potential clients and to sell our tailored solutions or value propositions to ‘suitable clients’, but he always starts with the customer and the end in mind. Business and specifically Sales are his favourite topics and areas where he is an avid student. Opinions expressed are his own.
As a Sales Trainer Michael has the experience of being a sales person, sales manager and sales director, with various companies, selling everything from giftware to software, training to coaching. As a small business mentor he has a vast experience in developing sales for SMEs.