Get Specific -4 Ways to Make Your Business Conversations More Effective

Business People Meeting Growth Success Target Economic Concept

 

Your eyes are glazed over.  You’re trying to be discreet but you can’t help looking at your watch.  Is it over yet?  As meeting standards go this one is pretty brutal. It’s dull, boring, lacking insights, not informative, it’s basically a disastrous waste of your time.  Have you ever encountered one of these meetings?  Here’s a daring question – have you ever been the one driving one of these meetings?  If your answer is “no way, I’d never run such a terrible meeting”, I’d say you should probably spend a bit of time on self-reflection.  We all have coordinated and run meetings like this.  We’ve all wasted someones time at one point or another.

Here are 4 Ways to Make Your Business Conversations More Effective:

  1. Prepare – Do some homework on the individual you’re meeting with and the company.  It’s not enough to just throw out facts about the company or industry.  With the advent of social selling you’ve got to know your buyer – the human behind the decision.
  2. Ask good questions – Dump the “what keeps you up at night” question. So boring.  So predictable.  Kind of shallow.  A rookie question.  Have a hypothesis of what you believe keeps them up and night and throw it on the table.  Of course that requires having completed Step 1 above.
  3. Know what’s going on in the world – Don’t take a political stance, but know what’s happening in the world, the markets, etc.  Election year impacts, the Brexit issue, the Middle East conflicts, the Puerto Rican debt default. People enjoy spending time with people who have a bit of depth.  You don’t need to be Alan Greenspan, Warren Buffet, or Seth Godin, but you do need to have ideas and opinions beyond your company’s.
  4. Manage your time – Arrive early.  If you’re on time you’re late.  I get tired of hearing how bad traffic was.  Sales people today, especially in bigger cities think they can use traffic in Seattle, LA, NY, Boston, Atlanta, etc., as an excuse and people will just understand.  If you want to be like every other sales person walking in the office than great.  You will be – just like every other.  You want to be different?  Give yourself extra time.

One final extra tip.  Please show up with some energy.  No, you don’t have to drink 17 Red Bulls before you walk in the door.  Likewise you don’t want to be Eeyore either. Find the balance between excitement and control.  Do all of these together and you’ll run an awesome meeting.

 

 

Reverse Prospecting: Your Buyer’s Looking For You

 

Reverse

Understanding your buyer’s journey is the first step to delivering explosive growth results.  The age of the buyer has arrived and the seller no longer is in control.  Buyers today are prospecting more than sales people.  How?  By scouring the internet and leveraging social channels to learn and make decisions.  In fact, if you’re the seller, you’ve become the passenger on this purchasing trip.  So make yourself comfortable, stay observant, and most of all have fun on the trip.

Your buyers know more about what they need than ever before.  There was a time (and it goes further and further back each day) when the buyer had to rely on a sales person to identify his problem and present a solution…the seller’s solution.  Not any more.  Have a runny nose and sore lower back?  A quick trip to the website WebMD can provide you with information on what may be going on with you.  You need to put in a new garbage disposal?  There are hundreds of how-to videos on YouTube that provide step-by-step instructions that take a job that previously required a plumber and turned it into a DIY project.

We have all become addicted to information.  In fact, more than 80% of 18 – 44 year olds say the first thing they do in the morning, immediately after opening their eyes, is to check their phones.  Information.  We want lots of it, all the time.

Buyers have this access to information and are using it more and more.  They Google, Facebook, YouTube, Tweet, and ask their LinkedIn groups for information, recommendations, and ideas.  If you’re a seller without a social selling strategy you’re already trailing the pack.  And if you think your product or service is too complex to promote via social channels think again.  General Electric has hundreds of videos on YouTube on MRI equipment, jet turbines, and lighting.  Toll Brothers, a national builder of custom homes, provides a website that allows someone to design and build their dream home and see it!  Buyers are not just using the internet to shop for shoes, sweaters, or books.

Having a social presence isn’t enough. You can’t set up a Facebook or LinkedIn page and check off the box and say its done.  You have to be active…engaged.  You have to create content, share content, weigh in on content others have shared.  This is where your buyers are looking for you.  Your paradigm must shift.  Buyers are now conducting a form of reverse prospecting.  They’re looking for you…you just don’t know it.  So if you’re a seller, and you’re not visible in the areas your buyers are looking for you, you simply won’t be found.

So get started.  Take it slow.  Don’t try to boil the ocean in a day.  A retweet here, a LinkedIn post there, a blog here, are all activities to get you on the road to being found by your buyer.

Where are your buyers? How finding their hang-outs increases sales.

boss-hiding-facebook

Ah, prospecting.  The art of finding your next customer. The part of selling that makes even the most seasoned and successful sales people cringe.  Why is that?  What is it about prospecting that causes people to start twitching, flinching, gasping for breath?  It’s not talking to strangers that cause concern, nor is it hearing “no I’m not interested.” What really creates prospecting frustration is not knowing where your customers are hiding.

Networking is one of the keys to success in sales.  The more people you talk to, the more likely you are to sell something.  But networking for the sake of networking can be quite demanding and draining, physically, emotionally, and financially.  Time is your most valuable resource.  Time is more precious than the Hope Diamond or the Seven Seas (Steven Spielberg’s yacht). You have a finite amount of time.  You can never have more time, but you can always waste time creating a shortage.  Spending this precious resource wisely is your best chance to succeed in selling.

Imagine if you knew exactly where your prospective customers hang out.  You know where they will be, when they will be there, and for how long. Knowing their hang-outs is critical to maximizing your sales results.  After all, you can’t sell something to someone you don’t know how to find.  If your prospect is a restaurant owner, her hang-out may be at a state restaurant association trade show. If it’s a CIO, his hang-out may be CIO.com. No matter who your prospect is, he or she has some typical, and predictable spots they go to learn, question, and advance their decision making process.  Knowing where these hang-outs are reduces the number of networking events you need to attend.  If you knew that all your prospects were gathering at a specific venue every Wednesday evening from 6 pm – 7 pm, wouldn’t you be there?  Of course you would.

How can you find out where your buyers hang out?  Ask them!  What publications do you read on a regular basis? What types of events do you attend and why? Who are your trusted advisors? How do you research potential solutions for a business need? Sure, this is buyer persona work and it takes time. Sure, your Marketing department should be leading this work.  But if they’re not? Do it yourself. What you’ll discover will help you serve more buyers, more quickly.

These questions will help provide the answers and the insights into where your prospects are spending their time during their decision making process.  Once you know that, you can focus your energy on being visible at these hang-outs whether that means in person, or through content posted on a specific social channel.  There’s great power in knowing where your prospects go to learn and decided. When you know that you’re more than half way to the sale!

If this is something you’re interested in learning more about let me know.

Sales 13 Deadly Sins

Deadly

Whether you are new to Sales, or have been selling for 30 years, a true Sales professional must always guard against these 13 deadly sins:

  1. Winging it.  Don’t be too confident that just because you know your product inside-out, and may be working for a market leader, that the buyer will simply sign on the dotted line.  Plan, focus, and prepare for each sales interaction.
  2. Judging a book by its cover.  Never assume that you know the buyer before you’ve met her.  Sure, you may have sold 100 buyers like her in the past but no two buyers are “just” like another.  Take the time to learn what’s different.
  3. Careless.  No one likes a careless person. It takes several forms from sloppy hand writing, to inappropriate dress, to bent presentations…just plain old messy.  If you don’t care, why should your buyer? Be neat. Be presentable. How you present your whole self shows the buyer your respect for yourself and for him.
  4. Being late. Don’t be late…ever.  Traffic isn’t an excuse.  Sure there’s a late plane, train, or bus.  The unexpected accident you get caught up in.  But normal traffic is not a reason to be late.  Plan accordingly.  If you’re on time, you’re late.
  5. Being uninformed. Shallow?  Ugh. People don’t want to interact with a sales person who brings nothing else to the table other than the product they’re selling. Take the time to be aware of your surroundings and world happenings.
  6. Relying too heavily on your company’s brand.  Don’t assume because you’re the biggest you’ll get the business. No doubt some companies spend huge resources on building their brand. You can either leverage it and get the sale, or assume it, appear arrogant, and lose the sale.  Earn the buyers trust…you + your brand.
  7. Not identifying all the contributors to a buying decision. Your contact may not have all the power. Too often I have seen mountains of effort placed in developing one relationship only to find there were others providing input to the buying decision I had not met, or invested in.  Know those who will be a part of the buying decision.
  8. Unadaptable, inflexible.  Don’t let your presentation, or agenda, become an anchor. Years ago my boss and I traveled together to do a presentation to a big prospective partner.  Within the first 5 minutes the buyer changed directions. Much to my boss’s surprise I ditched the presentation, adapted, and won the business due to my ability to flex with my buyer’s changing needs. Have one, but don’t become married to your agenda.
  9. Stretching the truth. Just don’t do it. Don’t lie, embellish, exaggerate.  Making promises you, your company, or your product can’t keep is a sure way to kill both your personal brand and your company’s.
  10. Competition bashing. Never badmouth your competition…even if the buyer tells you they said something bad about you. Defend it but end it.  When working for Paychex, the founder, Tom Golisano, provided a stern warning for any sales person caught badmouthing its competition. He believed if someone had to sink to that level to win the business the company probably didn’t deserve to win it in the first place.  Take the high road…always, win with respect.
  11. Knowing it all. Don’t be a know-it-all. Buyers don’t expect you to be omniscient. A little humility goes a long way in earning trust and respect.
  12. Knowing little or nothing. Invest your time to learn what it is you need to know about your company, product, and industry.  Your company can’t, nor should, do it all.  You’re responsible for your knowledge, and accountable for your results. 
  13. Talking too much.  You can learn a lot more about your buyer by asking great questions and sitting back and listening to them answer.  We demonstrate respect, caring, and professionalism by listening.  Remember, two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Let me know if you have a deadly sin to add to the list.

Stop Selling, Start Asking: 3 Questions That Will Improve Your Results

Ask

For many companies January represents the start of a new year.  A new beginning when all numbers are at zero and the uphill climb to reach the new year’s sales quota gets under way.  And whether your company sells cars, computers, insurance, or consumer staples it’s likely its increased its goals in 2015 from the prior year, and to you that means a bigger sales quota.

How do you reach that new number when last year’s number seemed big enough?  Where will you find the time to sell more and still have a chance to see your family, hit the gym, travel a bit, or simply sleep a little?  The fact is, making more calls isn’t the answer.  The more calls you make, prospects you talk to, emails you send, or LinkedIn invites you issue won’t be enough to hit a higher quota.  You’ve got to operate differently.  You’ve got to change your approach.  The most effective way to increasing your sales results is by asking better questions…the right questions.  Start with these 3 questions below when meeting with a prospect for the first time.

  1. In looking back on your results last year did you accomplish what you hoped?  Asking this question provides insight into the prospects priorities and values.  It also offers you a glimpse into how likely they are to provide you with the critical information you’ll need to construct a proposal or recommendation that adds tangible value to their business.
  2. What are your top goals or priorities for this year?  If you don’t understand your prospect’s business you have little chance of doing business with them.  Likewise, how much time, effort, and energy is wise to spend on a prospect who doesn’t know where he or she is headed?  With limited hours in the day, and that big goal in front of you, your best chance of success lies in working with people who all have clear goals…grow revenue, reduce expenses, improve turnover, etc.
  3. How do you currently determine if you’ll buy again from one of your providers?  It’s important to know up front if the prospect makes their decisions based solely on price, service, future product improvements, or ease of use.  Whatever their criteria is in sending you more business, be sure to take note and not only build it into your proposal but more importantly deliver on that expectation.  If innovation is important to the prospect don’t promise product changes if your product hasn’t changed in years or has no planned changes on the horizon.  Once you lose trust and credibility your reputation becomes worthless.

If you’re not comfortable asking these questions there’s likely a good reason which most of the time will be due to the lack of rapport built immediately on the front end of your interaction with the prospect.  Remember, if you approach a prospect like a typical sales person their natural defenses will be up, but if you approach them as a business person who has passion around your product and deep-rooted beliefs and experiences that showcase the value of that product you’ll find your prospect will be more open, more engaging, and inclined to forge a relationship with you.  Authenticity is your key to success and its something that has to be real and heartfelt, it can’t be pretend.

The Coercive Contactor Versus the Caring Connector

Sales people have been taught the importance of the numbers. The number of dials made each day, contacts made, and presentations scheduled, are all metrics sales professionals have had baked into their thinking. You want more sales, make more dials. You want more presentations, make more contacts. We grind it out every day focused on persuading, manipulating and influencing the prospect just enough to get them to see things our way and then…BAM…a sale is made. I refer to sales people that fit this description as coercive contactors…make the contact and then through sheer force of will, or fear-selling, make the sale.

But times are changing. The buyer today is far more educated than in the past thanks in large part to the internet. Most agree that a majority of the buying process is completed before a buyer ever meets with a sales person. How did this happen and what does it mean to you as a sales person?

Google has changed our world. In a couple clicks of a mouse we can find information on virtually any topic or question that we could dream of asking. Volumes upon volumes of data and content reside on the web, there for the taking. In the comfort of our homes and offices, cars or restaurants, we have 24/7 access to all the information we could possibly need to make informed decisions.

For the typical sales person this poses a huge threat. Most of us were trained in the art of persuasion, manipulation and influence, in order to bring the pain the buyer is feeling front and center. And while shining a light on the buyers pain isn’t wrong or inappropriate, it is a less effective selling tool if the sales person doesn’t know what to do with the buyers pain once they’ve identified it. You see, buyers have a much better sense today whether your solution will actually help them. They’re no longer completely reliant upon the sales persons power of persuasion and instead draw from their own research and education as to what may improve their circumstance.

Whether it’s an outsourcing solution to improve business performance or a new medication to improve your health, just about any information you’re looking for is available via the web. As such the dependency on the sales person has evolved from a pitch person to a “caring connector”. A caring connector is how an authentic sales professional presents themselves in what they say, how they say it, what they do, and how they act. Forget about the super slick, fast talking sales dude. Today the successful sales pros are ones who take the time to listen, ask thoughtful questions, and perhaps most of all, be honest enough to tell the prospect just how helpful their solution will be. They demonstrate genuine care in how they connect with the buyer. This is a huge mind shift in sales. In fact, many recent studies conducted by Harvard Business Review, as well as, in many books authored on sales including Jeff Thull’s recent Exceptional Selling, show proof that being willing to walk away from a sale because there’s simply not enough value there, actually enables you to sell more. The premise is that once someone trusts that you have their best interest at heart, and in mind, they’ll come back to you again and again. Additionally, once you’ve determined that there is little value to the prospect to move forward with your solution you stop forcing a sale and move onto the next opportunity, again freeing your time to engage with a buyer whose needs and circumstances better align with the value you provide.

So try it. Try shifting from that coercive contactor to the caring connector and watch your sales grow.

Your Doctor May Be Your Best Sales Coach

doctor

In my previous blog post I talked about a selling strategy that helps to eliminate lost sales.  Lost due to a disconnect between the prospect and the sales person.  A communication miss fire on either end is responsible for every sale not made.  If the sales person is communicating and observing the prospects response, or reaction, there should be no last-minute surprises of lost business.  In fact, if you were really honest about it, most of the time you knew deep down that sale was going nowhere.  But the sales gods have been clear for decades that you never give up, never walk away, always be closing, and never take no for an answer.  If you’re into self-deprecation that might be exactly the approach you’re looking for.  But for those of us who are interested in transcending the age-old image of a product pusher to one of a true sales professional, looking for the “no” is how you should approach each sales opportunity.

For years I have taught and coached sales teams across a variety of different industries to approach a prospect as a doctor approaches a patient.  Curious, thoughtful, prescriptive and honest.  Here’s how:

  1. Curious.  The first thing a doctor does when he/she enters an exam room is begins asking questions.  What’s going on?  When did it start?  Is it like this, or like that?  Do the symptoms increase in intensity during certain times or are they constant and unchanging?  The doctor is beginning to diagnose your problem.  Asking questions, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, is the first step to a proper diagnosis.
  2. Thoughtful.  In my experience (and to be completely honest I believe I have the world’s greatest doctor) great doctors never provide knee jerk responses.  They go through their diagnosis phase and take a moment to process the information they’ve just gathered.  Sure this process step may take seconds, but in most cases pay attention the next time you go to the doctor and watch for that “medical processing pause”.  This refers to the time it takes for the doctor to thoughtfully provide their assessment and prescribe next steps.
  3. Prescriptive.  Depending on the assessment of what’s wrong with the patient the doctor may have one to many different prescriptions to offer the patient.  The prescription may not be solely medicine related.  A doctor may prescribe physical therapy, or eliminating a specific food from your diet.  He/she may also prescribe a mobility aid such as crutches or a walker, or even a sling or splint depending on the injury.  The point is that in many cases there are a variety of paths forward and the doctor presents these options in the form of prescriptions.
  4. Honesty.  This element of the doctor-patient relationship is the most important.  No matter how good the doctor is, if there is no trust that exists between him/her and the patient the above 3 ingredients are useless.  By the time the doctor gets to the prescription phase of the patient examine, he/she is presenting options along with their personal choice.  How many times have you heard a doctor say, “if you were my son”, or “when my mom went through this we decided to do…” The trust and honesty that exists between a doctor and patient – their ability to communicate transparently with one another – is the ingredient that results in the patient’s ability to improve their condition.

The relationship between a doctor and patient exists for one of two reasons:  to fix something currently broken, or to avoid something breaking in the future.  Isn’t that the relationship between you and your prospect?  The prospect has either agreed to meet with you because something in their business is currently broken or because something may be changing that may cause something to break that they’re trying to avoid happening.  Regardless of whether it is a current problem or future, follow the 4 steps above and you’ll find a more engaging, trusting, and action-oriented relationship develop between you and your prospect, soon-to-be customer.