New year, new accounts, new opportunities for many sales people and account managers. Then, as we enter 2017 many markets seem to be heating up and so some sales people start to get a little complacent, some even aggressive (thinking they are being assertive!). Even in an up-market taking time to build rapport is still important, so here are 5 reminders for building rapport:
1. Be empathetic - put yourself in the customer's shoes.
2. Use good listening skills - ask open questions, prove you are listening with active listening techniques.
3. Be assertive not aggressive - if you are "challenging" the customer be careful how you do it.
4. If you say you'll do it, do it - promises are easy to make and even easier to break.
5. Talk at the customers level - you are there to understand the customer's needs and explain what you do, not show off what you know.
If you want more detailed information about rapport and empathy email me and I'll send you a white paper.
Rapport - make it happen, don't wait for it to happen!
The current presidential election campaign in the US has me talking to quite a few clients and participants about negotiation skills. As one candidate claims to be such a good negotiator it has become a hot topic!
In any real negotiation there has to be two conditions in play. Both parties must have the will to vary the terms and both parties must have the authority to vary the terms. So here is the challenge in many negotiations - unless you have true executive authority in your organization, the ability to really vary the terms may not be yours - no matter how willing you are to vary them!
This means preparing and planning for your negotiation. You need to work out before you go into any negotiation three factors. 1) your "walk terms" (your last resort terms, the lowest $ amount for example, that if you don't get you will [have to] walk away. 2) your "like terms" (this is what you ideally would like to get and this would be a very good deal for you. 3) your "accept terms" (this is what you would accept and although maybe not what you would ideally like, is still an acceptable deal for you).
Of course you have to be at the right stage in the sale too. Most sales people start [trying] to negotiate too early - see my earlier blog / Sales tip no. 6 "are you negotiating too early?" http://bit.ly/2esPY75
Are you cold calling (yes many people still do it) or following up on leads or cleaning lists - but can't get hold of the right contact, especially when the target company has a "no names policy" on the switchboard?
Try this - it sounds counter productive but its not. Do the research call and the sales call as two separate calls.
Call the target company's switchboard - in a very friendly non threatening tone say "I wonder if you can help me, please do not put me through to any one, I do not want to talk to anyone. I am sending an invite to a seminar to your [job title / description], who would that be please?". Get the details, get off the phone, wait a couple of days and then call them (using your get past the gatekeeper techniques).
If you want a white paper on calling for appointments, getting past gatekeepers - email me.
Interesting situation with a sales team I am coaching at the moment. They have been taught to find the technical, business and personal pain - exactly the right thing to do. Recently on a particular campaign they were finding the people they were approaching had "no pain".
When we dug down into what their solution actually did we found they delivered benefits that could be "of gain" - not just "address a pain". So when their prospects were saying everything is great we don't have any problems our client was able to put forward arguments to make them "even more productive", "even more efficient", "free up even more staff".
Sounds obvious but with careful positioning and good questioning skills "the pain" became not taking advantage of "the gain".
Do you want to .........
Annoy and upset more customers?
Give out wrong information faster?
Pass the caller to the wrong extension efficiently?
Get your customers' name wrong with increasing frequency?
Handle complaints with no empathy?
Keep your customers on hold for as long as possible?
Generate sales leads you don't contact for ages?
Completely screw up your sales forecasting?
Then you need...........
A Customer Relationship Management system.
There are many benefits to installing and using properly a CRM solution, on premise, in the Cloud, a few users or thousands of users CRM can be an absolute boom to any company. In fact we have been CRM centric for 20 years except when we started out it was called "Sales Force Automation (SFA)" or "Automated Contact Management and Prospect Tracking".
Whether upgrading from an old or less sophisticated system or going into CRM for the first time (yes some companies DO NOT have CRM) most organizations see CRM as the answer to all their problems. Sadly what most end up doing is not solving their customer information, customer management, prospect tracking or service problems they automate them, inadvertently delivering even poorer service even faster.
So how do you avoid this? Here are some considerations:
Firstly think of CRM as business solution based on technology, don't leave your CRM solution entirely in the hands of the IT folks. The project lead / sponsor should be a sales, marketing or service advocate.
Secondly have a project and change management approach that analyses and maps out your present lead generation, sales, order, implementation, service processes and then with all the appropriate stakeholders map out what you would like those processes to be. No matter how simple draw a flow chart of the process and at each stage what the outcomes or deliverable s should be for each process.
Next engage some change management principles define how the new CRM will be used to achieve the business change you need, define what the usage rules (governance) are going to be, write up and publish the Standard Operating Procedures. Have a roll out plan with dates and goals, arrange training and familiarization workshops. The system may look simple but looks can be deceiving.
Finally explain to everyone WHY you are changing the system. Some sales and service people see CRM as a necessary evil (enlightened professionals see it as a sales, marketing and service tool) and if your CRM is either automating the problems or a simply a glorified rolodex then ALL your sales, marketing and customer service people will see it as evil but not necessary.
Just when you are expecting the order the competition side swipe you by being politically aligned with the decision makers, unfortunately you were speaking to the wrong people - has this ever happened to you?
Time and time again we see sales and business development people doing a great job at presenting their products, services and solutions but sadly they are doing a great job with the wrong people. They are in their comfort zone - talking with IT and technical people, administrators, HR folks - everyone except the "line of business managers" who own the business problem that their solution addresses.
Understand the Power Base (the people in the organization making and / or influencing decisions about purchasing what you are selling) and get people other than technical and operations people voting for you.
So get out of your comfort zone - identify the people in the business that own the business problem and contact them too. Not about technology but about what you can do for them from a business and personal perspective.
|Business Plan Speak||Plain English True Meaning|
|Acquisition strategy||The current products have no market|
|Broadly on plan||20% below plan|
|Complex architecture||Unworkable design|
|Core business||Only activity|
|Currently revising the budget||Financial plan is in total chaos|
|Cyclical industry||Made a huge loss last year|
|Entrepreneurial MD||Slightly mad, totally uncontrollable and definitely irresponsible|
|Illustrative projections||Don't blink|
|Investing heavily in R&D||Trying desperately to catch the opposition|
|Leading edge technology||Doesn't work|
|Life sciences application||You won't live to see it work|
|Limited downside||It can't get much worse|
|Long lead time||We haven't made one that works yet|
|Major opportunity||Last chance|
|Marketing-driven||One salesman: with a Ford Mondeo|
|Niche strategy||A small time player|
|People business||The only assets have two legs, one interest and no loyalty|
|Performance ratchet||Heads we win; tails they lose|
|Pro-active stance||Quick to latch on to other people's ideas|
|Proven technology||It nearly worked once before|
|Repositioning the business||We're lost|
|Revised budget||Downgrade to actual|
|Salaries are not competitive||CEO wants a rise|
|Shorter project life cycles||We've just finished copying market leader when he brought out a new model|
|Strategic alliance||Know their phone number|
|Synergistic acquisition||Two minuses make a plus|
|Temporary cash flow problem||About to go bust|
|Under-capitalised||Negative net assets|
|Unique||No more than ten direct competitors|
|Uniquely positioned||No-one else mad enough to be in this position|
|Upside potential||It's stopped breathing. An investment could be the kiss of life|
|Vertically integrated||Series of rotten business piled one on top of the other|
|Volume sensitive||Massive fixed overheads|
|Window of opportunity||Without more money, the company is dead|
In my long, and some would say illustrious, sales career I have seen two paradigm shifts in the sales business. One was the in the early 1990's - the adoption of en masse telesales in the B2B market, the second is Social Media Networking.
Telephone selling is, by and large, great. Over the past two decades my company has developed for and with our clients many skills and techniques for B2B solution selling by telephone it can be productive, increases profits and lets you win incremental business by increasing your reach often globally with dramatically lower operating costs.
Social Media (Social Media Networking - SMN) on the other hand worries me, let me tell you why.
It used to be that the seller proactively generated the sales lead and controlled the sales process whilst the buyer controlled the purchase (with the sales person admittedly running interference!). Now with SMN the prospect or customer controls YOUR lead generation, YOUR sales process and THEIR buying process. Sometimes you don't even get to pitch and your superior product loses out to an inferior product that was marketed and sold "differently".
I am not against SMN but I think particularly for B2B selling - we all need to get it into perspective and not be quite so quick to abandon some of the tried and tested prospect lead generation and sales techniques ask how many people are using targeted snail mailers again, ask why if SMN is the instant panacea General Motors and others have pulled multi million dollar campaigns.
Remember, in the gold rush the people making the money were the people selling the picks and shovels not the people digging for gold. Sometimes we are so busy social media networking that we mistake activity for results and whilst all the popular SMNs and inbound marketing organizations are generating huge revenues, are we so busy being busy we are forgetting we still need to generate leads and sell.
I come from the old school literally; my post high school education was a traditional 5-year apprenticeship, during which time I went to college one day and one night a week to get my electronics qualifications. At the end of this period which seemed like an eternity to a teenager I had my "tickets" but I was sick of school and sick of fixing things. Mostly, I was sick of seeing the sales guy in the sharp suit doing the talking, driving the nice car, and earning all the money whilst I drove a van, wore a lab coat, and earned a pittance.
So I thought, "I know I'll move into sales. It's easy, you just dress sharp, drive flash cars, do lunch on your expense account, and talk fast nothing to it." Well that's what I thought; so I went for my first job in sales.
"We can offer you a choice," said the sales manager who interviewed me. "You can join us with a territory, reasonable salary, good commission, and a large quota or you can come and have a small base, small bonus, small territory, a small quota BUT we will train you."
Well it was a no brainier I went for the trainee option. The problem was that these guys spelt trainee G-O-F-E-R. There was no training worth talking off, there was no money, and there was a big quota. Whilst I learned a lot, it wasn't how to sell.
Disillusioned, I very nearly moved back to engineering; but I didn't. To cut a long story short, I ended up at the London City Branch of Rank Xerox as a trainee copier salesman.
I loved it! Very quickly, I developed two passions selling and trying; whenever possible, to help other people sell, hoping they would avoid what had happened to me in my first sales job.
Now, over the years and around the globe, between managing people and companies, undertaking business development consultancy, interim management assignments, coaching, and delivering training programs, I have had a hand in developing the sales skills and careers of literally thousands of people.
Long may this continue; and with the help of social networking, blogs, and the Internet, perhaps I can reach out to even more people.
Good luck, Good selling
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