3 Ways Selling Has Changed In The Last 10 Years

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Most of us in Sales began our career with the Yellow Pages in hand.  Sales training consisted of two words – start dialing.  Call your family, then friends, and work your way down to those you didn’t know at all..  COLD!  You started with the “A”‘s and worked down to “Z” dialing the phone 150 – 175 times a day.  If you were lucky you spoke with a handful of potential buyers and perhaps made 1 sale.  Your success depending solely on a rapid fire approach.  Dialing as fast as you could, ending the calls that didn’t present an immediate opportunity and on to the next call.  No strategy.  No connection.  No value.

Today things have changed but many Sales organizations are still operating with a pre-80’s selling style.  They refuse to accept the reality that there is in fact a softer side of selling.  This side of selling acknowledges a great deal of strategy and includes the elements of education, communication, and value.  Here are 3 areas that have changed dramatically in the past decade with the flow of available information on the web:

  1. Gamesmanship versus Education.  Not more than 10 years ago a sales persons goal was to outplay or outmaneuver the prospect.  This is not to say that salespeople were bad people.  They did their jobs with the tools at their disposal and the direction given to them by their managers all of whom were trained the same way and advanced in their careers accordingly.   Given the scarcity of information buyers were completely reliant upon the salesperson.  While best case scenarios involved a sales person simply being viewed as pushy, worst case extremes included those sales people who mislead, misinformed, and misguided their prospects into making a poor purchasing decision.   Thankfully today there is an abundance of information available starting with the Web and including education content made available directly from companies selling their goods and services.
  2. Push versus Pull communication.  Remember direct mail with all those post cards that companies sent out through the U.S. Postal Service?  Or the letters that were sent out offering 3, 6, or 12 months free.  Urgency words and phrases like “For the first 100 callers”, or “in the next 90 days”, or how about “while supplies last”?  Sellers created a sense of urgency for the buyer that if they didn’t act quickly they would lose out on this incredible deal.  By stating the offer was only available to the first 100 callers, sellers attempted to manipulate prospective buyers into believing that there were swarms of ready-buyers who were crashing the gates to gobble up all product being offered for sale and soon there would be no more.  After all, we all need at least one if not two “gophers“.
  3. Discounts versus Value. Imagine Mercedes-Benz, ExxonMobil, Apple, or Goldman Sachs giving their work away at a heavy discount or even for free.  Premium brands only become premium by protecting their brand value.  Any offers that include give-a-ways do nothing more than diminish the value of your brand.  Think for a moment about your sales experience with a premium brand company.  You’re almost shaking with excitement to hand over your money just to say you own what they sell.  Remember your first iPod, iPad or Macbook?  You never complained that there were no discounts.  And what about the UGGs you bought?  Premium companies stand by the value of their brand, selling it for the price they believe is justified to not only make a profit but to also protect their brand’s value.

Respecting your prospect, your buyer, and your current customer is paramount to your continued growth and success in selling.  Taking the time to educate your prospective buyer through high-value communication will help position you as more than just a sales person.  The sales professional able to do this most effectively will be the one that the buyer can’t live without.  They will become an indispensable resource to the buyer and will become the go-to person for all their needs.  Said simply, the one who delivers the most value wins today, tomorrow, and the next.

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The anatomy of a great Sales presentation

Over the years I’ve read hundreds of sales books.  I’ve attended countless sales training sessions with various philosophies from Spin Selling to Solution Selling, and Relationship Selling.  As I’ve sat through these courses as both a rep and ultimately as the head of Sales I began to watch expressions and reactions to the material being presented.  I have seen the excitement, and the hunger, in people’s eyes as they listened intently with the hope that “this will be the training that changes everything” for them, and that “this class will provide the silver bullet” that has eluded them throughout their career.   Most often times they’re wrong.

A recent article on training cited a statistic that 87% of sales training was forgotten within the first 30 days.  This begs the question, why?  Is it because the philosophies being taught are not good?  Are the different sales processes wrong?  Is it just bad information?  Is it because the rep tried it and it didn’t work?  I would offer that all of these sales methodologies have great aspects to them. They all offer tremendous insights and perspectives on various sales situations.  But there’s no such thing as one-size fits all when it comes to Sales training.  Why?  Because all people are different and as such react in different ways when they are being sold to.  That means it’s incumbent on the sales rep to be savvy enough to know what elements to apply in any given situation.

No Sales training methodology will work 100% every time.  The key is knowing what pieces to take from each perspective and incorporate them into your own style and process.  The best sales people know what to say, when to say it, when not to say anything, what questions to ask, how to ask them, and when to ask.

Recently I participated in a discussion on “What makes a great Sales Presentation?”  Some of the responses were very classroom-ish.  The fact is, the more complex you make something the less likely it will be tried, let alone followed.  As such I put together my own step-by-step recommendation for delivering consistent, high-quality sales presentations.

To get the most out of every Sales presentation follow the steps below:

1. Prepare – know the buyer persona you will be meeting with, your competition, your own products and services.

2. Be early. If you’re on time you’re late.

3. Dress the part. I can’t tell you how many sales presentations I’ve sat through where the reps tie was not straight or a blouse had one too many buttons undone. Attention to the small details says a lot about you.

4.SMILE – no one wants to spend time with a grouch or scary person!

5. Listen twice as much as you talk – that’s why we have 2 ears and one mouth.

6. If your product requires a formal presentation use an iPad and get theSlideshark app. It is a powerful tool and demonstrates your ability to “integrate” various tools into a process…the sales process.

7. Boil your presentation down to 3 salient points…be clear and concise but have back-up and detail should the buyer want to dive deeper.

8. Gain continuous buy-in. Throughout your presentation make sure you check in with the buyer to gain their continued approval and agreement. When you get to the end you can sum up your presentation by saying, “we agree this solution makes sense for your business so lets talk about next steps”

9. No matter what the outcome, shake hands, smile, thank them for their time and let them know you will keep in touch…then do it!

Give this a try for a month, or however long it takes you to do no less than 25 presentations.  Then let me know what your results were.  Remember, to be successful in Sales you MUST be a continuous learner, broadening, and deepening your perspective each and every day with each and every presentation you give.  Not even the 9 steps above are a silver bullet but they can certainly help you improve  your overall sales effectiveness.

Like this if it helped.

Happy Selling!

What’s happening at Apple?

With last week’s financial results posted by Apple showing a $1.3 billion decrease in year-over-year profits, is it possible we are about to witness one of the greatest rise and fall from corporate stardom?  What’s going on at Apple?  What are the employees thinking?  Better yet what is Tim Cook thinking?

Sure Apple returned a nearly $19 billion to shareholders via dividends and share repurchases, but their operating numbers raise some eyebrows.  While revenue was nearly flat at $35 billion this quarter, over the same period last year, what is more concerning is the drop in profit.  This year’s quarterly profit was $6.9 billion compared to a $8.8 billion profit a year ago.  And to make matters worse, sales of iPads dropped by more than 2.5 million units along with a 200,000 unit-sale decrease in Macs.

So what’s happening at Apple?  Have they lost their swagger.  Perhaps.  But why?  Is the answer fear?

Apple has been one of the most, if not the most coveted brand for the last decade.  People rush to buy their products, attend their conferences, and hope to work for a company whose founder is no doubt the greatest visionary of this generation.  Apple’s goals and desires rose above Wall Street’s performance expectations.  They operated with this notion that they could really change people’s lives…and they did.  And, as a result of changing millions of lives they in fact changed the world and how we consume information, use it, access it, and show it off.  Apple products carry a certain cachet with them.  All these accomplishments are the result of many things but perhaps the single biggest driving force behind their success was Steve Jobs.  A bold visionary who bucked the pressures of Wall Street and critics and moved in directions others wouldn’t dare.

Today Tim Cook is at the helm with some big shoes to fill.  It’s hard to expect a mere man, while a good man, to become superhuman like Jobs.  Cook may be a good operator but he’s no Jobs.  He may have walked into the worst CEO seat in the universe.  After all, following in the footsteps of someone like Steve Jobs would be difficult even for many of the greatest CEOs of all time.

Signs are already showing that Apple is becoming a “me-too” company.  After the strange introduction of the iPad mini, I began to wonder what was next.  Perhaps a gaming system like Xbox, or getting into selling flat screen TVs like Samsung?  Apple seems to be flailing about trying to find their way.  They’ve shifted their strategy in their retail stores from a laid-back, informative, fun experience to the typical “gotta sell them something” model used by all other retailers.  Unfortunately this shift has been noticed by consumers and they have voted with their feet as sales slipped to $4 billion, down slightly from a year earlier.

While the fear of failure affects people and companies differently, with Apple it may not have a positive result.  Companies throughout history have turned to visionaries when facing troubled times.  Chrysler turned to Lee Iacocca, GM turned to Bob Lutz, JP Morgan turned to Jamie Dimon, and Xerox turned to Anne Mulcahy.  Leaders that have clarity of vision along with a strong sense of conviction.  These leaders took bold actions, dismissed Wall Street, and focused their attention on the priority of turning their respective companies around.

Apple needs to find its hunger for innovation and market disruption once again if it expects to stay on top.  The out-of-the-box thinking driven by Jobs, along with his obsession with elegant, yet simple-to-use designs, created a Disney-like company where dreams are made of.  Let’s hope the dream is not over.