Tag Archives: salespeople

How High-Performing Salespeople Persuade

Are there qualities or attributes that enable the best salespeople to be persuasive? I have only been able to identify one. When a prospect or client looks into a great salesperson’s eyes, they see their own greatness reflected. High-performing salespeople see the best in people.

Dr. Wendell Johnson devoted 35 years of his professional life to serving people in Northern Canada. As he was about to board a plane and retire to Winnipeg, an aging Inuit woman approached him. In a halting voice, she expressed her appreciation by saying, “I like me best when I am with you.”

The first principle in selling is: Focus on the other person.

See also: Dear Sales Leader: Read. Digest. Apply.  

High-performing salespeople are genuinely interested in the people whom they meet. Intuitively, they know that other people appreciate someone who expresses a genuine interest in them.

In his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Dr. Adam Grant, shares empirical research and anecdotes that demonstrate that the most productive salespeople are givers. Because they also see the best in other people, they become enablers in drawing out the potential of others, who see their own greatness magnified in the eyes of the salesperson.

Let me give you an example. My friend and mentor, David Cowper, was a high-performing insurance adviser and a great salesperson. David learned that a successful entrepreneur who sold his company at age 60 was buying it back at 65. The company had his name on the door and was being run into the ground by the conglomerate that acquired it. The trouble was breaking the entrepreneur’s heart. He was in the process of arranging a leveraged buyout, and David knew he would need life insurance.

He called the entrepreneur, who told him he already had proposals from four leading insurance advisers. David said: “Then, why not a fifth. It will take me less than 15 minutes to show you how I can save or earn you money. I understand that you get to your office at 6:45. I will meet you at that time on any morning you choose. I will bring coffee and muffins. If I cannot demonstrate value in 10 to 15 minutes, I will gladly leave. Does that seem fair?”

The entrepreneur laughed and suggested they meet the following morning. When David met the entrepreneur, he asked: “How much life insurance are you contemplating?

The entrepreneur responded: “$50 million.”

“How did you arrive at that amount?”

“That is the value of the business.”

“Are you buying the business for today’s value or tomorrow’s?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you buying it for today’s value or for the value you will create over the next few years?”

“Obviously, for the value we will create.”

“What do you think that value will be in three to five years?”

“If it is not worth at least $100 million in five years, I will be very disappointed.”

David was the only one to propose $100 million of life insurance and made the sale.

The second principle in selling is: Let the other person set the pace.
High-performing salespeople earn the right to be trusted. Their prospects and clients feel as if they are setting the agenda. These top salespeople have internalized the adage: “People hate to be sold, and love to buy.”

See also: 6 Tips to Augment Sales and Prospecting

One of the most effective ways to let others set the pace is to ask questions and listen well. Another adage is: “People are most comfortable with their conclusions, not ours.” David’s questions drew out the entrepreneur’s aspirations. To create a $100 million business, he needed time. The life insurance guaranteed that, if he did not have the time, his goal would still be achieved.

High-performing salespeople not only bring out the potential in others but also show them how to realize their goals. That is the singular quality that makes them so persuasive.

Want to Make More Sales? Try Not Selling

A CEO recently told me a story of the best sales call she ever received. As she explains, a sales rep for a payroll-processing firm reached her by phone and said:

“I heard you talking about your company on the radio recently, and I was really interested. I've been doing some research on the company and your industry, and I think you are going to be hit with some real challenges on compliance costs and healthcare issues. We've been working on this for a while at our company, and I have some research on where things are going that you might find interesting. Would you be interested in looking at it together?”

They met, and the sales rep presented the research and the implications as to what the challenges were going to mean specifically to employers like the CEO and her industry in general. He made a number of observations and recommendations for the CEO. He did not talk about his products, services, or even much about his company.

He then asked, “What are you going to do about these challenges?”

She told him that she really did not know and was going to have to think about them. He explained that the CEO could take a few different approaches, and he outlined the choices — still not talking about his company or its services. He gave the honest pros and cons of each and then said, “Thanks for the chance to come talk to you about your business, I really enjoyed it.”

You probably know the rest … he's going to get the sale, and the CEO also expressed interest in hiring him to come sell for her. The lesson to be learned here is:

If you want to land sales, don't get caught selling.

Great sales people know this, yet the natural motivation to close deals pushes us to make bad mistakes or to “Always Be Closing.” Sorry, but that quote and approach comes from the archives of things that don't work any more.

Let's break down what the sales rep did well:

  • Focused on issues relevant to the buyer's business–Having done his homework, he discussed the buyer's business first. This included the coming challenges and what competitors would be doing to deal with these challenges.
  • Provided insights about the buyer's problems — He offered valuable information about the challenges the CEO would face in the context of her business rather than in the context of what he had to sell.
  • Remained curious about the buyer's options — He asked what the buyer was considering as solutions to her problem before offering his solution.
  • Discussed the buyer's options — He provided an adviser's perspective without pushing his company. It is more than possible he presented disproportionately the benefits of outsourcing, but he was still not pushing his company.
  • Waited to be invited to solve a problem — By focusing on the prospect and her problems, he was invited to help solve those problems instead of having to push his company's offering.

I have watched some of the best of the best follow this format in their approach to customers. More often than not, they become trusted advisers on the way to the sale, rather than after the sale.

Friday Tip For Agents & Brokers: The Most Important Part of the Sale

The most important part of the sale is the salesperson. Do you believe this statement? I am telling you from years and years of experience that this statement is 100% true. As a salesperson, you are not only in charge of selling the product, but selling yourself to the consumer. Knowing who you are and what you represent is very, very important.

What It Takes To Be A Salesperson
I hear this question all the time. What does it truly take to be an all-star, professional salesperson?

For one, it takes commitment. A professional salesperson is committed to improving. A professional salesperson is committed to being the best salesperson in the world. If a salesperson is not getting better each and every day, he or she is doing a disservice to his or her consumers and clients.

A salesperson’s job is to convince a potential client to purchase a product or work with a service that the company provides. If that potential client decides to pass on the product or service, they are making a huge mistake — and a professional salesperson will tell them that! As a salesperson, if you do not sell yourself or the product, you are not doing as an effective or efficient job as you need to be! The funny thing is, I will end up apologizing to a client if I do not make that sale.

For example, a client will state that he or she is not going to do business with our company. I respond with the following:

“I have to apologize to you. I let you down. I was not as good of a salesperson as I should have been because you said no to me. I feel sorry that you will not be utilizing my product and services to grow your business. Therefore, I am sorry for not being as effective or as efficient as I should have been.”

It takes a real salesperson to admit defeat. It also takes a real salesperson to improve after a defeat! A professional salesperson is someone who is working on themselves by constantly undergoing training, reading new books, and striving to grow. That is when a client will honor your service and you will make that sale. The sale begins with you — and your attitude.

A Rock Star And Positive Attitude Is Everything
Negative thoughts will yield negative results. Can you guess what positive thoughts will yield? You guessed it! As a salesperson, having a positive attitude is so important. Think to yourself for a second. How much do you like spending time with people who have a negative attitude? Chances are, not very much! What makes consumers any different? If a salesperson with a negative attitude is face-to-face with a potential client, you can bet that the chances of closing that deal are slim to none.

What type of salesperson does the consumer want to be around and buy from? A positive, enthusiastic, and genuine salesperson, of course! These are the people who give off energy. These are the people who enjoy life, like themselves, and like other people. In return, others will feed off their energy and like them. Attitude is everything as a salesperson. When you pick up a call from a client, you should be smiling. You should be enthusiastic. You should be helpful, upbeat, and positive.
Even during those moments when a potential consumer is a little grumpy, you have to remember that everybody has a story. Some days are better than others, but that should not stop you from impacting his or her life in a positive way. Positivity is infectious, and that is what you must bring to the table when you are ready to make a sale. Why? Because the most important part of the sales process is the salesperson.

Are You Cut Out For A Career In Sales?
You may be starting to wonder: Wow, am I even cut out for a career in sales? Let’s take a look at a few questions together and discover whether or not you are cut out for sales.

Question #1: Do you turn to the lowest possible price in order to make a sale?

The answer here is simple: If you need to turn to the lowest price and are an order taker, you are not a real salesperson. A real salesperson builds value in the products and does not devalue. The people who are the real deal will find a way around the situation!

Question #2: Has a potential client ever changed their cell phone number on you?

If someone has not done so, you probably have not followed up enough to close the deal. The greatest salespeople out there have had this happen to them!

Question #3: Has anyone every moved out of state or put a restraining order on you?

Kidding! This is obviously a little extreme, but the principle is simple. Consistently following up may seem aggressive but that is the way it works. If you have not tried a number of sales strategies on a client, you are not doing all that you can to service them. Your job is to find a way around a customer’s insecurities and concerns. Once you figure out how to do this, you will make the sale.

The Life Of A Salesperson
The Death of a Salesperson — I know it is a cliché, but here is a new cliché for you: The Life of a Salesperson. Why should we add a negative word to such a fulfilling, wonderful career path? The salesperson is the most important part!

If you are a salesperson and you are reading this, I want you to remember this: The most important part of the sale is you. Sometimes, it is not necessarily about the product that you are selling, but it’s about who you are as an individual. Consumers are looking to trust someone to help their business or brand. As a professional salesperson, it is time for you to realize that if you are not a good person, honest person, or a person who is consistently improving, you do not have the right to earn someone’s business.

Today, the most important part of the sale is you.

Sales Advice: Are You An Expert Or A Consultant?

The concept of “consultative selling” revolutionized the world of selling back in the 1980s, and held the stage for almost three decades.

Once upon a time, salespeople were encouraged to be product experts, capable of answering any detailed question about their wares and cheerfully demonstrating the long list of advantages of their offering over the competition’s.

“Consultative selling” turned this idea on its head: Instead of memorized presentations and choreographed demonstrations, a salesperson should enter the sales meeting as a consultant — asking questions and letting the customer guide the conversation. By asking questions and probing for customer issues, a salesperson could demonstrate attentiveness, service orientation and a tailor-fitted solution to a customer’s needs.

Time For A Change?
These are great qualities — and they’ve served professional salespeople well for the better part of 30 years. But they are no longer enough. The world has changed and buyers now respond to a very different type of salesperson: the Expert.

Buyers have become more demanding in the buying process. Many have less experience in their own position. Recent studies indicate that what they want is a salesperson who knows enough about the prospect’s business to be of value. They want a salesperson who can teach them something, interpret the tea leaves of their own market and guide them.

Which kind of salesperson are you? Here are a few important differences to understand.

1. Experts Tell; Consultants Ask
An expert enters a conversation with a prospect knowledgeable about the buyer’s industry, marketplace and competitive position. The expert should be able to speak to what the top business pressures are of the buyer based upon that background with specificity. The old approach of asking, “What’s your pain?” or “What are the big issues you are facing right now?” has been replaced with “Organizations in your industry with whom we work are facing these top three business pressures …”

2. Experts Lead; Consultants Follow
An expert can take a prospect through a process of assessment compared against best practices in the market, to let the prospect know where the prospect stands. Instead of saying, “Where do you want to be?” the expert can ask. “Here is where you are in comparison to others and here is where they are going.”

3. Experts Teach; Consultants Learn
An expert shows up in the sales call with insights that are valuable to the buyer regardless of purchase outcome. This gives the buyer additional motivation to take the meeting, because of the promise of stand-alone value.

4. Experts Are Full; Consultants Are Empty
There was a time that showing up with an empty pad of paper to take notes, “learn about you and your business,” and ask lots of questions was a sign of respect and openness. Now it looks like a lack of preparation. Buyers expect you to come with answers as well as questions. More than that, they want you to establish value and credentials by leading with the answers.

One Caveat
I have cast this comparison in stark tones to demonstrate the differences — but of course I recognize, as you probably do, that the consultative approach is still an important part of the sales process. It’s just no longer enough on its own.

Through questioning, openness and discussion, we can get the important details necessary to craft a solution. If all you bring is knowledge, with little inquiry, you risk being seen as a blowhard — not a trusted advisor.

Let’s leave this article with the idea that the world has changed — and that what buyers need now are experts who bring a consultative touch.

3 Sales Myths That Are Killing You (And You Probably Don’t Even Know It)

You don’t have to sell everyone and you don’t have to serve everyone. The idea that companies should chase every piece of business out there and that if they don’t they’re leaving money on the table is antiquated. The negative impact of chasing the wrong prospects and serving the wrong customers is huge. To change your approach you may have to remove the myths that you may believe. Here are three:Myth #1: The Law Of Large Numbers
“More means more” is the core of this myth. More prospects means more sales … The only time that I see this myth become truth is not when you are a salesperson, but when your role is truly just order taking. Order taking means that the purchasing energy is driven by customer demand, not salespeople demonstrating value and securing new customers and contracts. All prospects are not created equal and the most successful salespeople who truly sell are successful in part because they prune their list, reducing the number of prospects regularly.Myth #2: The Funnel (Hotel California) “You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave…” These lyrics from The Eagles song “Hotel California” are just as true for CRM and sales tracking systems. There is a belief that once a prospect has been added to the list of qualified targets that companies should continue to communicate, sell, participate in RFPs and generally pursue those companies. I was in a session recently during which a company’s leadership bragged about chasing a deal for a decade. What a waste. Think of it: Ten years of newsletters, trade shows, prospecting campaigns, RFP participation and so on. How much margin would there need to be above regular business margin to pay for the huge investment made?

Myth #3: Money Is Money (Even When The Client’s A Jerk)
Some clients are just not worth having. I see companies clinging to the old idea that “the customer is always right,” allowing low-profit and bad-cultural-fit clients to eat away at their businesses. A great quick read is Robert I. Sutton’s book, “The No Asshole Rule.” It was written about employees but is every bit as true for customers. The negative blast zone in a company that a bad employee or a bad client creates is far more damaging than the revenues they produce.

Here are quick reality checks for you to test how your company is doing in regards to these myths:

  • How many prospects in your pipeline have been there longer than 15 months without an order? Fifteen months may be the wrong window, but there is a period after which the prospect is just an expense, not a real opportunity.
  • How many of your clients violate “The No Asshole Rule?” Determine how they became customers and then figure out how to avoid those prospects in the future.
  • Do you have a threshold for your salespeople as to how many prospects they can have active in their pipeline at any one time? Salespeople can be blocking real activity by “claiming” prospects when they haven’t made progress after a defined period. They can’t land the opportunity and your company is not landing another client either because your salesperson is tied up in a dead pipeline.

Myths are fiction passing as facts. Clean out the myths and you can refocus your sales efforts.