Category Archives: Sales
Shortly after I started my first outside sales role, I traveled 9 hours from my home office to see a small account. I continued to see them on a semi-regular basis even though growth potential was limited. I made that nasty trip two more times in the first year.
In some warped sense of reality, I thought I would impress my boss by doing the extensive travel.
The two other painfully long trips and lack of growth in the second year gave me an “ah-ha” moment!
I realized that these trips were not productive uses of my time. I ended up dropping them altogether the year after when sales diminished to almost nothing.
I would sign up any account early in my career, because that is how sales people are wired right? When you are on commission, every sale counts, so you have even more incentive to bring on new business. True, but only to a point.
What I soon realized is if negotiations with a prospect are difficult and time-consuming, there is a real possibility that they will continue to give challenges as a customer in the future. This is not true all the time. But I have “broken up” with prospects before we have had our “first date”.
I learned a very valuable lesson from an ex-manager several years ago. He stated,
“The best business deals occur when both parties give something to the deal”
Rarely do business relationships work when one party gives, gives, gives and the other party gladly takes, takes takes.
I have dealt with customers who were always upset and/or angry with myself and the organizations I was working for. Although these occurrences were rare, I ended up letting them go too. There was negative energy, and since they were smaller with respect to revenue, it was an easy decision based on the value of my time.
I serviced the occasional account who did not support my companies at all, but were more than happy to ask for pricing when a customer specifically requested our products. Eventually they were dropped too. Those were very sad relationships!
Selective = Success
Once I realized that every company is not a suitable business partner, I gained much better perspective on my account base and territory in general. Some tough decisions were made, but at the end of the day I focused my attention on the accounts that had the most growth potential.
- When was the last time you looked at your customer base and identified troublesome relationships?
- Can you scale back the time you spend with them, or drop altogether?
- On the flip side… Do you spend enough time with your largest customers?
Tom Petty was right. The waiting is the hardest part!
We always seem to be waiting. On the surface waiting sucks, but why not take advantage of the down time? Waiting can equal learning while you are:
- Waiting for, or riding public transportation
- Commuting to work and/or driving to meetings
- Waiting for an appointment
- Waiting in line at a store
- Waiting on a golf course between holes
… You the idea. There are many other examples.
- When you are on public transportation or waiting anywhere with respect to your role, have some “catalog time” with your company’s literature. It is incredible how much more comfortable I became with catalogs by focusing on them as little as 10 minutes per day.
- When you are commuting to work in your vehicle, or driving to appointments, listen to podcasts or audio books that will help you with business and/or personal development.
- When you are waiting for a business appointment, go over your notes to prepare and focus before the call. Don’t get distracted by email or phone calls. That can wait until later
- When you are in line at a store, always be in engagement mode (check out earlier post here http://bit.ly/KAcGXS )
- If you are golfing with customers, take time to really get to know them when you are waiting between holes. You have their undivided attention.
I used to get VERY frustrated with all the waiting that goes on in everyday life. But now I embrace it, and get as much done during business hours when I have time to spare. If I have put everything in to my work during the day, it gives me more time to devote to my family out of “office hours”.
- Do you make valuable use of your “waiting”, or do you just waste time?
- If not, what improvements can you make going forward?
Remember, waiting can equal learning if you use your time wisely!
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I often tell people….
“I’m in sales, so I will always ask the question. The worst they can say is no”.
Although this logic may come across as a little generic and obvious, are you guilty of not asking a question because you think you already know the answer?
Some key situations where I have asked questions and had positive results include:
- Receiving referrals from current customers that would turn in to new business
- Offering other products that resulted in unexpected add-on sales
- In the mattress business, I would ask that my products be moved to higher visibility areas of stores to increase exposure
A couple of “fun ones” include:
- I have about a 95% success rate of returning products outside the return policy time frame and/or without a receipt
- I rented a beer sales representative a vehicle many years ago, and asked if I could sample some of his product upon return of the car. I was more joking than anything. To my surprise, he brought me back a case of beer on a Friday of a long weekend.
Two events happened recently that got me thinking about this topic again:
- I went to pick up 3 pizzas and new the restaurant owner quite well. I said, “Oh is it buy 2 get 1 free night?” He laughed and said “yeah right”. As I was about to walk away with my order he put a free order of garlic bread on top
- I was out for lunch with friends, and one of the guys got married over Christmas. The owner of the restaurant knew him, and when he walked over to say greet us, I mentioned the recent nuptials and how his meal show be free. It was a total joke, but the owner ended up taking care of his meal.
So what does this all mean?
The real “ah-ha” moment as I reflected back on these events was….
I planted the seeds to get the results that I wanted.
If I had not taken the time to ask questions with confidence and in a casual way, I would have never achieved the desired results.
When you are in sales, you need to get used to hearing the word “NO”. That is an occupational hazard of this line of work. If you can’t handle the rejection you are in the wrong industry. But a few tweaks to your mindset like I have illustrated can give you more positive results than you ever imagined.
So next time you are predicting a “NO” why not just ask anyways for the fun of it?
You may like the answer!
Recently my son decided that he did not want to play ice hockey this year. He was more interested in Tai Kwon Do and wanted to give it a try. My wife and I had several conversations with him to see if there was another underlying reason he wanted to stop playing “Canada’s National Sport”, but his passions just seemed to lie elsewhere.
Our stomachs initially felt weird thinking about missing all the great friends that we had made over the two winters while Elliot played hockey. I also felt sad about not coaching anymore because I really enjoyed being involved with the kids, and seeing them progress every time they laced about the skates.
My wife and I soon had a reality check. It is NOT about us. It is about our son and his happiness. We are going to support him 100% in whatever he chooses to do in life.
My thoughts quickly turned to the sales profession. So often people get caught up in their own agendas, goals and motivations, that they tend to forget that they are supposed to be acting in the best interests of customers and/or prospects.
- Remember the great quote from Frank Tyger,
“Be a good listener, your ears will never get you in trouble”.
Don’t just “barf” your sales pitch on them.
Find out what they really want to buy!
I would love to hear your thoughts about a time that a sales rep acted in your best interests, or maybe a time that they did not.
How quickly from the start of an interaction did you know if it would be a good experience or not?
Thanks in advance for your contributions!
One last thing… I would love to connect on Facebook (if we are not already) at http://www.facebook.com/SellLeadSucceed
“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky, ex National Hockey League Super Star.
My sales spin is,
“If you don’t ask, there is no chance that you will get the answer you want”.
Confidence in the sales profession is paramount to success, but does not happen over night. If you are not in sales, please keep reading. This post has merit for whatever you may be “selling” in your personal or professional life. We have all been selling and negotiating from the moment that we could speak as toddlers!
Confidence allows people opportunities in life that they may not experience if they are tentative and uncertain. When people feel good about themselves, are not afraid to ask questions and involve themselves in potentially challenging situations, they will generally like the outcomes.
Do not mistake confidence for arrogance though. I have seen both, and one is very appealing in business and personal interactions. The other… well not so much!
When you combine confidence with most (or all) of the characteristics below in sales and/or life, very cool things can happen!
- Driven to succeed
- Independent worker and thinker
How did I know if somebody would make it in sales?
I have seen a lot of outside sales reps (retail reps too) come and go during my career. It took me a few years to really get a sense of what the signs were if they would succeed. I was quite certain most of the time, after our first couple of meetings.
What typically tipped me off?
- How they carried themselves (do they have a bounce in their step?)
- Dressed neatly (not necessarily the most expensive clothes) and cared about how they looked
- Solid handshake
- Maintained good eye contact
- Engaged well in conversation
- Wanted to learn / Inquisitive
- Enthusiastic / Excitable
- Personable / Outgoing
If you take a moment to digest that list, many of those attributes can be directly related to being confident. Imagine how different that list would be if you did not feel good about yourself and your abilities?
I urge you to start networking with people who are working towards similar goals if you are not already. It has become common knowledge that you start to portray similar characteristics to the 5 people who you are the closest with. Work on feeling more confident in areas of your personal and professional life that you don’t feel as comfortable in as soon as possible.
For me, getting up in front of crowds to speak was frightening for many years due to my stutter, and now there is nothing I would rather do. It was a long road, but I am glad that I am getting closer to where I need to be thanks to a strong support group of family, friends and Toastmasters.
Confidence does not happen over night, and you cannot push a “magic button” to change how you feel about yourself and your abilities. If you don’t try, you will never know what the outcome could have been. Once you “flip the switch” to knowing you will succeed, and not being afraid to fail, you will see positive changes in your life.
When I was recently preparing a speech to up and coming sales reps, I realized that I had compiled a list of selling tips that I wanted to share today. Here are the best of the best:
#1 Consult, Don’t Regurgitate – better to listen to your prospect and find out what they really need, rather than “barf out” everything you know
#2 Share, Celebrate and Support – be a fantastic teammate!
#3 Manage Time, Plan and Prioritize – not the “sexy” part of selling, but crucial to success
#4 Fly Under The Radar, Don’t Be “On It” – if your boss does not have to follow-up with you about things not getting done, that is a good thing!
#5 The Path of “Most Resistance” Pays Dividends – anyone can do the easy stuff, but tough it out and do the difficult (or less desirable tasks) day in and day out
#6 Customers And Prospects Are Human Beings Too – get to know them on a personal level, make notes and show that you care about them as people too
Keep these close by and refer back to them when you need a gentle reminder of what it takes to succeed in sales!
Good luck this fall selling season!
I planned a Saturday golf game with my friends last spring. I was very excited because it was my first game of the year, and I really needed some time to unwind with the guys.
I ended up shooting one of the top 10 games of my life. I reflected that evening on why I had done so well, and there was a very simple answer. I was relaxed. I had only played two rounds of golf all winter, so my expectations were low. I just wanted to have fun, and did not think about scoring.
I started well, and kept the momentum going throughout the entire round. Typically (due to my infrequent play) I will have a great front nine, then a rough back nine, or vice versa. But this game was consistent throughout. I still had some bad shots, but was able to recover quickly.
With my golf game, relaxation and good shots breed confidence. I heard a humorous golf analogy many years ago and I often think of it when I am struggling.
- Pretend the golf club is a tube of toothpaste. What happens when you squeeze the tube of toothpaste too hard?
- Well of course too much toothpaste comes out!
- If you are squeezing the golf club too hard, inevitably you are going to make more bad shots than normal.
What happens if you have a bad day of sales calls, or perhaps a bad week or month in general? We all have confidence and feel great when things are going well; that is the easy part. The true test of character is how we respond when things don’t go our way.
Sales people and golfers need to have short memories. If you are “squeezing the tube of toothpaste” too hard on your sales calls and during the sales process, things may not go according to plan. If you feel under pressure to close more sales, you may “squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste” out on each call! You press, you are not yourself, your presentations and discussions have no flow, and you are off your game in general.
I asked my friends about their golf game that day last spring, and they said that it was not uncommon to have 10-15 stroke swings from one nine-hole round to the next. It proves that we have the ability to bounce back if we stay focused and regain confidence.
As usual, I watched the Master’s Golf tournament in April of 2011, and it was more exciting than normal. There were 7-8 golfers in the hunt until the last few holes. I am always amazed how golfers can keep outside distractions to a minimum and just focus on the next shot. Their focus is superhero-like, and they handle pressure remarkably well.
Rory Mcllroy was in first place after three rounds, the proceeded to shoot the worst final round in Master’s history. After the last round he said that he will learn from the experience and knows that he will be in the running for many more major championships down the road. His positive attitude was impressive.
To show his resilience, he came back at the next major tournament (US Open) and destroyed the competition by nearly 10 shots. That is an incredible example of putting a negative experience in the past, learning from it, and moving on quickly.
Sales and golf have many similarities which I look forward to exploring more in the future. Relaxation, confidence and a general sense that you will excel are all keys factors while “working” on the golf course and in a sales territory.
- Do you find that you are squeezing the tube of toothpaste too hard in your sales or business role?
- What factors contribute to these feelings “invading your body”, and making things more difficult in the field than they should?
If you are struggling right now, reflect back to when things were going very well, and you were full of confidence. Make some notes about those times, and do more of that!
Summers are short in Northern Canada, so I have to make the best of the warm weather and longer days!
I actually do sell in the summer, and just wanted to get your attention with a catchy title :-)
Here are the top 5 things that I like to do with customers and/or prospects when most of my competitors are on the golf course:
- Drop by later in the day with cold drinks and snacks. Most people are stuck at their desks just counting down the minutes until they get to leave and enjoy the sun too!
- Take them out to lunch! Make sure to sit on a patio and take in the great weather.
- Attend an outdoor sports game, concert or other outdoor event. No better way to get to know them than enjoying these activities together
- Plan a trip with key customers. Every time I hear about customer trips they rave about the good fun for years to come!
- Have a “there are still people to sell to” mentality vs. “everyone is off ’til September so I will just coast” mentality.
These business building activities will pay dividends in the long run. Nobody likes being stuck in the office when the weather is balmy!
I am sure there are many other great ideas that I am missing. But the key is to:
- get creative
- build rapport
- get sales!
You don’t want to risk your competitors having all the great ideas!
Managing, coaching and/or leading a team can be a very rewarding role when things are going well. There’s a method to the madness in motivating and inspiring team members. When things don’t go well, the accountability has to fall back on the manager, and tough questions need to be asked. One of the questions that has always intrigued me is,
“Do you know your team members?” (yeah, yeah I do!)
“Do you really KNOW them?”
I heard a story once about a sports star who was allegedly upset that his General Manager did not phone or visit him while he was in the hospital recovering from surgery. This caused a great debate – whether the manager should have had to make personal contact, or if it was satisfactory that his support team did the checking in.
I had a strong opinion on the situation initially, and concluded that the player was another over paid athlete who was whining and wanted a “big hug” from his adoring fans! A radio announcer quickly put it in to perspective for me. He said that although it was ridiculous to expect a General Manager to make calls to a player in the hospital, he needed to know his players. If all it took to keep a multimillion dollar player happy was an occasional phone call or visit to the hospital, was it really that big a deal? Maybe he only had to do things similarly with a handful of players, but it would have kept harmony within the team. Speculation ensued and the player ended up being let go in a very public dispute.
“The Blind Side” movie provided another great lesson about knowing players. A high school football coach had an offensive lineman on his team who was having difficulties blocking opposing players. The coach got frustrated, and did not know how to teach the player to block better, and protect the quarterback. The player’s mom was watching that practice, and went on to the field and gave some insight to her son. She knew that he had scored very well on testing at school when the topic was protection. She gave him examples of how he had protected the family and others close to him over time, and how it related to the football team concept. It really sparked something inside him.
From that point on, he did an incredible job protecting the quarterback. The mom commented to the coach that he needed to know his players better. Every time the player struggled and was not blocking as well in the future, they just had to remind him again that this was his “football family” and he needed to protect them too!
In today’s business environment, now more than ever, Sales Managers and Executives need to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of each of their team members. In the sales profession, some reps will be better at presenting, others will have more technical knowledge, and some will be customer relationship building standouts.
Work your butt off to understand the different personalities that you are managing, and adjust your style when dealing with each of them . Focus on assisting them in areas of weakness, and capitalize on their strengths. Well-rounded reps will be much more successful on your teams in the long run than those who are one-dimensional.
Managers need to be prepared to change-up their leadership strategies based on their team member’s needs. If your team genuinely knows that your number one priority is their success, life at work should already be good if not great. If things aren’t going well with your team, ask yourself:
- How well do I know each individual?
- What motivates them day-to-day?
- What are their long-term goals?
- What can I do to get to know each person better?
- How can I further their career development? (i.e. one-on-one coaching, encouraging continued education, job shadowing, mentoring)
Taking time to get to know your employees gives you valuable insight into leading your team effectively. Happy employees are more productive which is a win-win for everyone.