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.
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.
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.
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.
Let me ask you something: Do you believe in the products and services that you are selling? Do your employees believe in the products and services that they are selling? If the answer is “no” to either one of these questions, you are in danger of losing the sale.
I will tell you right now that as a CEO, Founder, and Salesperson, I refuse to sell a product or service in which I do not believe. I refuse to sell a product or service that I am not proud of. Why? Because if you yourself do not believe in a product or service, how do you expect consumers to believe in it? You cannot possibly expect to make a sale if this is the case!
In order to make the sale, you need to 1) develop a belief system; and, 2) coach both yourself and your sales team to believe.
Developing A Belief System
There are two very important things to believe in when trying to successfully sell a product or service. Number one, you must believe in yourself. Number two, you must believe in what you are selling. Having confidence in both areas will work in your favor and it will ultimately shine through to the potential client with whom you are sitting face-to-face. If you truly believe that you are serving the customer the best possible product or service, it will show.
People are not interested in being sold things. Let's face it! People are afraid of salespeople. The reality of the situation is that people want to buy from somebody who is not selling them, but helping them to make an educated buying decision. If you know everything there is to know about what you are selling — and you believe in it — the consumer will trust your judgment. The consumer will see that you have the facts laid out right in front of them. As a professional, it is your duty to develop belief in all areas before you head out and push a product or service on potential buyers. If you have a belief system in place, you can communicate what you are trying to do very effectively.
Coaching Yourself To Believe
If you are not a believer in your own product, you have a whole new set of problems to deal with. As the CEO and Founder of Astonish, I know that our company has the greatest digital marketing system in the world. I know that we sell the best product, have the best technology, the best training and the best digital marketing strategies for local insurance agencies across the country. I am telling you right now: The reason I want to be the best at sales is because I truly believe that at the end of the day, insurance agencies that don't work with Astonish are making the biggest mistake that they have ever made — and I will tell them this! And guess what? They begin to think. They begin to second guess. They can see the passion I have. They can sense that I am genuinely concerned.
If you do not truly believe in your products and services, then what do you do? Whatever it is that you are in doubt of, you need to fix! You need to pinpoint exactly what you do not believe in and improve it — because if you do not believe in it, you will never be in danger of selling it.
It is your ultimate goal to have a client believe you, trust you, and see that this sale is coming from some place much deeper than just the point of making a sale and making money. Once you achieve this, you will absolutely, positively sell more.
Coaching Your Salespeople To Believe
For all the salespeople out there, I say this: If you do not believe in the company for which you are working, leave. If you do not believe in the products or services that you are trying to sell, please just leave! If this is the case for you, sticking with a company in which you do not believe will not do any good for anybody involved — not you, not the company, and certainly not the consumer.
If you are a business owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that you have a team of salespeople who truly believe in what they are selling. How do you do this? You have to coach them. You have to amp them up. You have to prove to them that the product or service that they are selling is literally the greatest product out there.
The first step to coaching your salespeople is to train them on what they are out to sell. They must know the ins and outs and everything in between. It is your job to make sure these people have a full understanding of what their purpose is! You can do this by hands-on training, tutorials, providing manuals, documents, and more. Once they have a grasp on the product or service, you send them off … and then what? Measure and monitor.
How can you tell if a salesperson is passionate about selling? Numbers, numbers, numbers. Take a look at metrics. By the way — numbers do not lie! If a salesperson is not meeting goals, chances are, he or she is not trying hard enough to push the product. Why? It's a lack of passion. Without the passion or belief behind the product, their sales pitch is merely words. Mindless words with no enthusiasm. Chances are, they are either not cut out for sales or they are not interested in the product or services that they are promoting. If this reads on their face during a meeting with a potential customer, guess who is not going to believe? Bingo.
Do You Believe?
If you are a true believer in the product and services that you are selling, you have every right in the world to look a consumer dead in the eyes and ask for their business. If you would not sell this product to yourself, your friends, or your family, why would you sell it to an important customer? Until you trust that the product or service that you are trying to sell is the best decision that the buyer is going to make — I repeat — you will never be in danger of making a sale.
So let me ask you one last question: Do you believe?
Sales is really simple. It’s a contact sport — being in the presence of the prospect or client either by phone or face-to-face. Sometimes when we get away from the basics and fundamentals we find ourselves full of fear, worry and anxiety. I heard a wise man once say, “Work, don’t worry.”
I remember what Tom Vanyo said to me at a sales meeting in May of 1984, “If you don’t make a major change today, you will be doing exactly the same thing next month or next year.” I had been putting off keeping track of the number of calls I made each day and how many new prospects I talked to. I personally thought that keeping track of my numbers was a waste of time and paper.
At first it was depressing. The numbers were so revealing. I thought I was so productive. I couldn’t believe how much time I was wasting each day. The numbers told me how few new prospects I was actually talking to each week. After all, prospecting is the foundation of all successful salespeople. After disciplining myself to keep track of each dial, contact, prospect, and sale, I was able to determine how many dials it took to reach a qualified prospect which turned into a sale. By keeping track of my numbers it began to motivate me. Each day I could see real progress.
I know that sales is more than a numbers game. But how will you ever know what’s working and what’s not unless you keep track? You see, it’s too easy to get faked out by being busy as I learned by keeping track of my numbers. By keeping track of my numbers each day it revealed how productive I was and how much time I was wasting with prospects who would never say yes.
There are two major reasons for keeping track of your numbers each day:
- Number one, you want to know what’s working and what’s not. Most salespeople avoid keeping track of their numbers because it reveals too much about what they really don’t want to know.
- The second major reason for keeping track is the discipline of doing it. The discipline of keeping track each day will affect all other disciplines. In my search for the secrets to success in sales I have found there are no secrets. Sales is a highly disciplined activity repeated every day.