As you’ll gather from my blogsite straps, a wish I hold dear is for more sales people to become chief execs. Flicking through an old back-up drive from 2003, I discovered a document from a thoroughly engaging chap I knew back then called Paul Morris. In 2004/5 I learned that after 33 years at one of my then customers (Lexmark, previously a division of IBM), during which time he progressed from sales exec to chief exec, he then left to branch out on his own.
When he gave me the doc I remember him lamenting that he reckoned it contained the basics to which many a salesrep forgot to adhere.
It was from a presentation on selling fundamentals that he believed stood the test of time, and was called “10 Ways To Win”. His sage view was that these provided a platform of “professionalism” (the eleventh way to win) which could exert he felt up to 20% more influence on any given sales situation. Here’s the ten tips, and see if there’s one ‘basic’ that you could re-introduce into your process from the famed blue-suited IBM old school of sales:
1 Confirm In Writing
With the advent of email there really is no excuse. Even the laziest of reps should fire off some kind of summary or call to arms. Each meeting should generate two pieces of documentation at a minimum; one confirming what will happen beforehand, one confirming what did happen afterwards.
It is vital to keep on selling while you are not there. Quality documentation achieves this.
Remember the adage ‘people only remember 20% of what you said’? Well, even if its trying to recount what happened last night at the bar, or last week in the sales meeting, no-one ever remembers everything, so write and they always have a reminder.
Writing also gives an air of professionalism. Do not allow them to think ill of you in the age-old “idiots pre-sale means idiots post-sale” manner.
And of course, confirming in writing allows you to put your conclusion and its special spin in, and to emphasise the key points all over again.
Finally, wherever possible, develop and use standard letters. It both saves time and makes the whole process so much easier.
It is extremely difficult for someone to stay annoyed for any length of time. Everyone likes to deal with “mister nice guy”.
You can say virtually anything with a Smile on your face.
Smiling puts you and your prospect in the right frame of mind – think of all the telesales people that have a smiley face drawn on a post-it stuck on to their phones…. Smiling works.
3 Do Not Argue With The Customer
Arguing belittles customers.
Arguing makes you appear arrogant, and no-one buys anything off arrogant people.
Occasionally it is sensible to be fallible, and let the other person “win”.
There is an unwritten rule of sales-etiquette, that you never talk over, steam-roller and argue with a customer.
4 Listen To What They Are Saying
How often do you hear someone say “you’ve two ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion”?
Employ “Active Listening” where you summarise what has been said and test your understanding of it back to the customer.
People only buy from Listeners, as opposed to Pitchers.
Wait for your customer to finish. Not only is it courteous, the odds are butting in will lead you to miss out on a vital point.
Listening identifies what people really like about your solution.
5 Be Interested In Them & Their Company
How often have you been in a meeting and delivered a cracking opening pitch, for the customer to start by saying “let me tell you about our business”.. Everyone loves to talk about what they do.
Look at their share price. It’s a great way to open up someone as to how they’re really doing.
Look around the office. Even a calendar on the wall can betray a secret passion. The usual suspects are pictures of golf-days, trophies and children’s portraits. Probably in that order…
Show an interest in their job. What exactly does their role entail? I bet even their spouse doesn’t ask that…
Never Guarantee Anything. There is nothing worse than setting an unrealistic expectation and then seeing your credibility completely shattered by falling short
Make yourself look good tomorrow, rather than today. If something can happen in a fortnight, quote a month, and be seen to exceed expectations and revel in the glory.
Provide Health Warnings. Be prepared to warn the prospect that everything might not be perfect. After all, it could be the first time you’ve ever worked in that environment, so teething troubles might crop up. And it’s not about what the settlement cracks are, it is how you sort them out that counts.
7 Repeat The Selling Campaign
Prospects only remember a fraction of what you talked about in a phone call, in a meeting. Studies into this suggests only ever as high as 20%. So, consider single-issue transactions where applicable – it’s like the old adage about eating an elephant, a mouthful at a time.
Many buyers will fail to realise the significance of what you say at the time you say it Ram home the message after, via email, letter, fax, carrier pigeon, and by their colleagues reminding them.
People forget. Constant reminders are necessary. There is a wonderful sales concept that being a “rep” is not about “representing” your firm, but about “re-presenting” your ideas.
Personnel change – how often do you find yourself having to build rapport with a brand new person?
Competitors are sneaky. Amazingly, some of them actually canvas our prospects regularly. Be prepared for this and their traps by repeating the selling campaign.
8 Remember The Short & Long Term Objective
Don’t get sidetracked. It can be easy to go down a blind alley, getting back with different quotes or meeting someone deemed ‘influential’. Understand where each task fits in the grand scheme of things.
Make sure you ask the Questions. Find out if your objectives are feasible and the reasons why that’s the case.
Make sure your prospect understands your objectives. After all, to truly succeed, aren’t they really shared objectives?
9 Sell To Everybody
Make Friends Not Enemies.
Anyone from the Janitor to the Chairman could tip the balance out of your favour, even programmers or PAs.
People Need To Feel Involved – so ask them to do things for you, and spend some time debriefing them, even if it’s only for 2 minutes in the canteen.
10 Cut & Run
Always leave them smiling – positive outcomes mean buying prospects.
Drip feed with information – don’t shoot all your bullets in the first 2 minutes.
Don’t talk yourself back into trouble – Once you’ve sold, shut up
Keep the ball in their court – get them to do something after you’ve gone – send info, arrange a phone call.