Archive for October, 2009

One of the pitfalls as a sales professional is getting so consumed by making the sale, hitting the quota that we often forget what it’s like to be a customer. When is the last time you put yourself in your customer’s shoes?

Imagine walking into a store or calling a business and you are greeted by you — that’s a weird thought — me selling to me. How would the “customer you” respond to the “sales professional you”?

Can you honestly say “I’d like doing business with the sales me”? If not maybe you should evaluate your sales technique or rather your customer service technique. Customer service is integrally tied with sales. If you lack the service side of sales you will definitely struggle in successfully winning and more importantly keeping customers.

I’m a firm believer that if you take care of a customer or a prospect it will pay dividends. Sometimes I will steer the prospect in a completely different direction other than my product set – a direction right for him.

Now you may think that’s crazy, but I know if I take care of the customer instead of selfishly pushing for sale it will most likely lead to a future sale. A sale may not come directly from him but in the way of a sales referral. Because I guarantee if someone asks him to recommend a software/hardware provider my name will be at the top of his referral list.

A few keys to thinking like a customer:

  1. Customer’s want to buy they don’t want to be sold.
    Confession I hate to shop but when I’m shopping I’m committed to buying so what are YOU going to do to help me open the wallet. Don’t sell me, show me.
  2. Customer’s want honest straight answers
    If you don’t know the answer to a question straight up tell the customer. I typically respond “I don’t know the answer to that question but I will find out and get back to you by ….” Notice I’m accomplishing three things answering the question, finding the answering and telling him WHEN I’ll get back to the customer.
  3. Tell the customer’s the real cost of a solution or product
    Don’t shy away from cost. If you’re product is worth $20,000 confidently say it’s $20,000. If you’ve presented the business case, the value and shown ROI cost is justifiable. But if haven’t outlined these points customer’s won’t justify your price.
  4. Follow-up
    Don’t leave a customer hanging. Send a thank you email. Send additional information about your product or links to industry blog articles. Give them information and service so they’ll turn to you for answers and ultimately the sale.
  5. Be gracious!
    Gratitude is a secret key to ongoing success. When you have a personal meeting, get a referral or win a sales contract make sure to send a thank you note. I guaruntee if I get a referral from today’s unqualified prospect he’ll get a note of thanks from me. Everyone wants to be appreciated so show your customers and prospects a little love

This are just a few thoughts. I’m sure open to hearing some of you ideas for thinking like a customer so you can better serve the customer

Happy Selling!

Advertisements

I’m revisiting this old blog post because of an experience I had recently where I was sitting on the outside listening in to a sales conversation.

You always hear “you gotta drive the sales process” or “manage the sales process to success”. These are great mantras but how do you really do this?

Are you listening or selling?

Are you listening or selling?

One of the keys to driving your sales process is to simply listen. I don’t mean going through the motion of listening but truly listening.

How often do you find your self “listening” but really are truly planning your tactful response?I’d be willing to bet your doing the later more than listening. The number 1 clue your’re not listening or listening poorly….you’re stepping on your customer’s conversation. DON’T Interrupt the customer!

Keys to effective listening:

  1. Give 100% Attention to the customer.
  2. Be patient. Take a breath and wait for an answer – there’s a rule of thumb if you ask a question wait 4 secs to get a response. Someone across the table will respond.
  3. Take Notes – not only does this help your listening it also gives you a record to review after the conversation to identify obstacles or opportunities that you may have missed during the conversation.
  4. Repeat the customer’s response to ensure understanding — “So what you’re saying is…”. Not only are you validating what they said you also creating an opportunity for them to confide even more information to you.
  5. Keep your eyes on the other person. This will keep you focused on the conversation. Peering out the window or looking around the room invites distraction. Stay focused on the conversation at hand.

Remember listening is an active process. It requires you to be engaged. Too many sales people confusing the art of selling with the art of gab. The real art to successful sales is the art of listening

Try it for a week and notice the difference in your sales calls.

Happy Selling!

I’ve been thinking about the importance of effective communication after meetings I’ve had the past couple of days.  There came a point in the discussions where we both realized we were at a deadlock in our conversation.  It wasn’t that our discussions were confrontational, in fact they were quite open, they just weren’t progressing in the direction either one of us intended.

It's a rope. No, It's a pillar.

It's a rope. No, It's a pillar.

We finally realized that we had talked ourselves into the proverbial Elephant Discussion. You know the story where 6 blind men touch an elephant and then attempt to describe what he “sees” to the others.

“The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A wise man explains to them:

“All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.” (Wikipedia, Blind Men and Elephant)

This is the exact position I found myself in with this partner. Once we came to this conclusion we were able to take a step back and see more clearly the position of the other.

A few lessons learned through this experience:

  1. Take a break: If you’re not making progress in a conversation take a break. It’s ok in the middle of a tough discussion to say “…we seem to have hit an impasse why don’t we take a short break and regroup in 15 minutes to pick up our conversation”
  2. Take a step back: The easiest way to step back is to ask an assumptive question. For example -“Let me see if I understand you correctly. You are saying ….., Is that correct?” Asking if your understanding is correct will ensure you are on the same page and allow the customer to re-articulate his position if you misunderstood.
  3. Be willing to compromise: Don’t entrench yourself so deeply that you can’t compromise. I’ve found that when I’m willing to compromise new options arise that hadn’t been discussed. I believe people want to work together. If they see you are willing to compromise they will usually follow your lead.
  4. Listen: The majority of miscommunication is caused by poor listening. Are you really listening to your customers? Or are you distracted by the slightest thing? Listening is a discipline. Listening will diminish your chance of missing nuances in discussions or voice inflection that are critical to your success.
  5. Be Patient: Some of the most powerful relationships I have started with difficult discussions. Remember most purchase decisions, especially large ones, take place over time. You need to be patient with your customers. Patience through discussions will help you identify the key business motivators, budgetary processes, decision processes, key decision makers and key influencers. This knowledge is crucial to your long term As you patiently work with your customer you will discover each one of these key items and thus help you build a long lasting relationship.
  6. Don’t Give Up: Many sales people get frustrated and give up to early. Remember working with your customer through the sales process doesn’t always go smoothly. Hang in there! Be willing to pay the price to earn their business.

I promise you if customers see that you’re in there working with them, listening to them and identifying new solutions you will win their business. Don’t give up! Get in there and work. Be willing to see the elephant from a different perspective and then combine your perspective with theirs. As you do this you’ll see the solution more clearly and in a better position to win the business.

Happy Hunting!

This week I’ve been pondering the art of Negotiotation. I’ve come up with 5 (Ninja Tips) Rules to Negotiation which are as follows:

1. Be willing to walk away!
This is the number one rule of Negotiation Strategies. If you’re not willing to walk away you have no power.  Remember you’re not only negotiating to win the sale you’re also negotiating your ability to deliver.  I can tell you from experience it’s better to walk away from a sales or partner opportunity than to take bad business.

2. Know the strength and weakness of your position.
If you don’t honestly look at each of these you are going into the negotiation blind. Most companies understand their position of strength – it’s what attracted the customer. But many don’t understand their position of weakness and are thus crippled when the customer exposes this weakness during final negotiations.

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses enables you to articulate payback and consequences to key negotiation points. Don’t forget to build and re-build value for your products and services during your negotiations. This will solidify in the mind of your customer that they are making the right decision choosing you and your product.

3. Know the position of your customer.

Understanding the factors motivating your customer are key to successful negotiations. Factors could include time constraints, regulation compliance deadlines, bleeding money due to inefficiencies, etc. Identify “HOT” buttons that are motivating them to purchase. Through your sales process you should already have discovered these and revisiting the astutely will help your negotiating position.

Also it’s important to anticipate negotiation points they may request – price reduction, support, extended warranty etc. If you don’t anticipate these negotiation points you can’t prepare a response.

Curve Ball4. Expect a curve ball
Every once in a while, no matter how well you prepare, you’ll have a customer through a request so obscure you left asking “where did that come from”? The key to handling a negotiation curve ball is how you respond.  The sales amateur will react instead of acting. A good example of this is an amateur batter who when he sees the ball streaking for his head physically and mentally flinches thus missing the ball when it curves into the strike zone. The professional batters stand in the box with courage and anticipating a curve ball because they’ve studies the patterns of the pitcher and are prepared for a curve when it comes.

5. Expect Reciprocity
Remember negotiations aren’t a one way street. If you give up something expect something in return. If you find you can’t find this balance then you have to return to rule #1 Be willing to walk away.

Honestly I view every negotiation as an opportunity for both parties to win. Negotiation can and should be synonymous with collaboration. The question is what are you bringing to the table?

Happy Negotiating!