Believe it or not, old school sales still tops new sales skills. So what are these historic old ways?
#1 – Pick up the telephone – Sure some people like texts, but using the phone is the first old school sales skill and still works. People want responses now, not later. Technology of emails is not fool proof and does fail.
#2 – Honor your word by doing what you say you will do. This means return phone calls, send promised information, etc. Be a person of character.
#3 – Focus first on the sales lead, the potential client instead of your needs. To embrace this old school sales skill requires you to up your active listening skills and SHUT your mouth. As has been said by many others “If the good Lord wanted us to talk more than to listen he would have given us 2 mouths and only one ear.”
#4 – Forget those sales scripts. Sales scripts are good as a reference. No one wants to hear a robotic delivery, those folks have had their fill of automatic messaging. Refer to the previous sales skill – LISTEN.
#5 – Relationships are the foundation for long term customer loyalty. Relationships take time to nurture and develop. Earning a sale doesn’t happen overnight. Sales research suggests less than 2% of all sales are made on the first contact.
#6 – Deep six the sales presentations. Unless you are selling in a complex sales environment, the majority of sales presentations are for the benefit of the salesperson not the sales lead. Again sales research suggests a significant part of the buying decision has already taken place before you receive that first phone call. The Internet has become a gold mine for research by your sales leads. If you need to present something, send a handwritten thank you note.
#7 – Leave your ego and expectations are the door. Accept each sales lead as a fresh experience, do not think you know what the person wants or needs or how much you expect in financial compensation from this prospect.
After over four (4) decades in sales, I know the old school sales ways seem to be eagerly desired by today’s sales prospects. Maybe these words of President Teddy Roosevelt may help reinforce the old school ways:
“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Being coachable is a popular topic especially when looking at the rise of the coaching industry. With that said, not everyone is a coach.
Sure people get coaching certifications, tout all their years of experience or lack thereof. Yet the majority of people confuse coaching with consulting or even with teaching.
The best definition I have read is from a “Leadership” process published by The Trusted Advisor’s Network. This definition looks to the behaviors of the coach and more importantly the behaviors of the “coachee.”
“The role of your coach is not to provide answers or solution. It is to help you develop the potential that lies with you, so that you may increase your capability to overcome all obstacles and achieve your goals.”
Did you notice “not to provide answers.” In simple speak, coaches do not tell you what to do. They do not provide knowledge.
This definition allows this result:
“to help you discover for yourself where you are today and where you want to be in the future.”
To be coachable requires self reflection. To be a coach requires self restraint.
When coaches provide the answer or answers, the potential within each individual is greatly diminished. Giving answers is the quick fix for the person posing as the coach and for the person receiving the “advice.” Then everyone can feel good and move on. The quick fix is not the true desired end result of the coaching process.
Human beings by their very nature want to help others. Being a coach requires incredible self-restraint because jumping in and providing the answer, the solution doesn’t help the coachee.
Good to great coaches will not sidestep or skip any steps in the process. And yes good to great coaches have a process. This coaching process may be strengthened with published content, yet it is the process that ensures the integrity of the coach.
Marketing lies abound and speak to the unethical behavior of many salespeople. Just two days ago I received this email headline marketing message “Per Our Conversation” with “Leanne, it was great talking with you” in the body of the email. As I read this message, I scratched my somewhat old brain for this conversation without success. I checked my notes and my contact data base. This person’s name did not appear. So I responded to this email with the following:
“ABC… – I realize I am old so please understand this question – When did we talk as I don’t remember speaking with you less alone about (name of company removed) as I know all about this service? Thank you”
ABC… responded without answering my question:
“I’m very sorry for this trouble, Leanne….and I thought I could help you with your contacts. I’ve unsubscribed you. No problem. Please enjoy your weekend!”
This individual does not believe in permission based marketing. She got caught and she ignored my question because she blatantly lied.
When salespeople engage in marketing lies, they are demonstrating their complete and total disregard for business ethics and reveal their internal character. They are more concerned about the ability increase sales at all any and all costs.
What they fail to realize is when I or others speak with people and are asked about this person, I will share my experience. I forwarded this email marketing message to several colleagues. They all agreed the marketing message as completely unethical. The sales professionals who engage in this type of marketing lies do not realize the current and future damage they have done to their desire to increase sales.
Yes we all want to increase sales. There are good, ethical ways to achieve that goal. Permission based marketing is essential even if you have a list or are a member, associate member of any organization. Lying about “Per Our Conversation,” is not the way to increase sales.
How often have salespeople heard this sales demand when discussing how quickly they can deliver their solution be it a product or a service:
I want it now!
The human desire for immediate delivery is because the customer really wants the solution. The rationale behind this desire varies from an actual pressing need (emergency) to the quick fix mentality of “Fix my problem so it will go away and make me look good. ”
Delivery of your solution is the final buy by your customer. Even if you have been bought, your company has been bought, your solution has been bought, your price has been bought, if you delivery fails to meet the desire of your customer, you won’t be able to increase sales.
This is why it is important to show in real illustrations when presenting your solution the impact of your solution. The quick fix has little to no impact.
Also this is the time that you may have to walk away from a particular sale because you know your solution will not deliver the desired end results the customer wants in his or her allocated time frame. His or her sales demand wants may be unrealistic. Your own personal ethics will not allow you to “sell” something that won’t work within the customer’s parameters.
Many customers are lied to about delivery times because the salesperson wants the order. This lying makes it more difficult for the next salesperson.
Years ago I lost a six figure sale because I was honest about delivery of a large, manufactured new industrial valve. My customer said “so and so can get it to me in one fourth of the time.” I responded so could I if I was willing to sell the customer a reconditioned valve. However the specifications required a brand new manufactured valve. I said I could not meet the delivery based upon what I knew to be true. The customer placed the order with the competition.
A month later, the customer called me after receiving the valve from the competitor and said it was reconditioned. He need the valve I initially quoted. I had to quote him at a higher price because this was now a single item purchase and had to add on another two months for delivery. The customer was not happy but because he had already bough me, my company, my solution, he placed the order.
The sales demand of “I want it now” will always be a factor. How you as a salesperson frame your delivery just may help you earn or lose the sale.
Yes price may be a significant factor in formalized bids or for those folks seeking the quick fix at the cheapest price. However for the majority of SMB business owners and sales professionals, the sales price is the fourth “buy” from sales leads, not the first “buy.”
When salespeople jump into the sales price discussion before having established a solid relationships or even more importantly before providing a solution to the wants and needs of the sales prospect, they have already started to lose the sales opportunity. How does the potential ideal customer understand the connection between price and his or her desired results or what is important to him or her?
Foe example, I have a high arch. Even though I like the looks of many flat sandals, I cannot wear them. The solution does not meet my need (arch support) even when the price is cheaper than the sandals with better arch support.
Sales coaching is another example. By sharing the return on investment (ROI) and emotionalizing that return on investment is probably one of the best ways to introduce price into the sales conversation. Now many sales coaches and salespeople will say determining ROI is difficult or even impossible. That is a false belief.
ROI can be easily computed for many solutions through wasted time. Most people agree they waste 12 minutes a day. Some time management studies suggest one hour per workday is the amount of wasted time. Just do the math and it is easy to determine the value of wasted time.
Yes the sales price is important, however price is not the first buying decision factor. To embrace that belief maybe why you or your sales team continue to fail to increase sales.
Your sales solution be it products, services or a combination must be buyable. What this means within the current sales training, sales books and even sales coaching jargon is about this concept called “value. ”
Now some will suggest and even vehemently argue value can be created. This is a false belief because if this was true then why do people like different colors when buying a car, a dress, etc?
Value is created by the buyer. Let me repeat that “Value is created by the buyer.” It cannot be created by a salesperson unless the salesperson discovers what is called a latent need or want, something the buyer has not consciously considered.
What successful salespeople do is to create a bridge that connects their solution to the sales lead’s or potential customer’s value drivers. For the bridge to successfully reach the other side (the buyer’s side), the salesperson uses data, information, knowledge and wisdom based upon what he or she hears. Unfortunately, some salespeople think they know what is important to the potential qualified prospect and the bridge never connects to the buyer’s side.
This bridge may require new research from the salesperson to understand the decision maker’s potential value drivers. Additionally having a buyable solution may result in more than one or two meetings.
Within my sales coaching practice, one question I discovered when connecting to the latent value drivers is the following:
Imagine you are in a social or business networking event and are introduce to someone. The other person recognizes your name. What would that person say about you as in “Yes I have heard your name, you are….?”
This question almost 100% of the time reveals a latent value driver, something that is important to the prospect, but something that has yet to be revealed.
A sales coaching often unasked question: “Would you buy from your company?”
If not, possibly, now is the time to consider answering this sales coaching question, truthfully.
Before your solution can be bought by your ideal customer, your company must be bought. With the availability of information courtesy of the Internet, sales leads, ideal customers, prospects can discover whether your company is credible.
Is your business buyable?
With more than 70% of businesses within the US being single owner, the company is synonymous with you. As both the salesperson and the SMB owner, you must walk a dual buying path of you being bought and having your business being bought by each sales lead.
In many instances when companies are bought by prospect, this is an emotional experience reaffirmed by facts. Some will call this being bought brand loyalty. My sense is brand loyalty is not just about the solution (product or service) but the individual experience with the business.
Brand loyalty should not be confused with salesperson loyalty. This again is a mistake many SMB owners make. Salesperson loyalty usually wins over brand loyalty because people buy from people they know and trust. Customers buy your salespeople first before buying your SMB. This is why many small businesses lose customers when the salesperson leaves.
After you answer the first question, then it may be worthwhile to consider these questions:
What makes your company buyable?
What is keeping your company from being buyable ?
What actions can you take to make your SMB more buyable?
These questions should be asked of any SMB owner or sales professional who is engaged in sales coaching. Yes having your solution being bought is the desirable end result. However when SMB owners and salespeople fail to understand the necessity of having their company being bought, this may help to explain the inability to increase sales.
People continue to confuse the essence of sales and this confusion or lack of clarity is responsible for missed sales goals, unhappy customers, etc.
My Dad said to be successful “people must first buy you.” Unfortunately many sales professionals believe they must sell the solution first and therein is their first obstacle to earning a successful sales or in the common vernacular “close the deal.”
Some may call this buying “establishing rapport,” but it goes way beyond just having a positive connection to that sales lead or prospect. How often do we see or hear of people making the sales pitch within the first couple minutes of meeting a new prospect? These folks don’t even know if the person that just made that pitch is an actually qualified.
Zig Ziglar said “sales is the transference of feelings.” That transference takes time. Buying you as a salesperson takes time especially in today’s crowded marketplace where people are even more educated as well as jaded.
For people to buy you, then this question naturally arises:
How do people buy me?
Possibly the first action is to answer the phone. It is surprising the number of people who have made the comment to me about “you actually answered the phone.” Even with all the spam phone calls, I still answer all “unknown callers” because one of those unknowns could be my next customer.
The second action is to honor your word. If you say you will undergo a specific action, then do that action in a timely manner. For some, this action may be called follow-up.
As in all personal interactions, the third action would be to actively listen. What this means is to STOP talking and listen to what the potential client is saying. This is not the time to up sell your solution.
For the last ten years or so, salespeople have grabbed onto the idea of being the trusted advisor. What I believe the next evolution is and it is already happening is being the trusted authority. When you are the trusted authority, the go to person, as perceived by your ideal customers, you have been bought.
Next blog will look at the second “buy” by your sales prospects.
P.S. This blog has been inactive for a while. My goal is to resume this blog at least three times per week. Thanks to those who have continued to comment and read these words.