Categories
Planning Sales Tech

If the Customer is Bored, It’s Your Fault

The sales rep I was working with that day had started his PowerPoint presentation, plowing through the thirty-five slides with maniacal fervor.
I was watching the customer; she was beginning to roll her eyes. She looked at me as if to plead for relief. I bumped the sales rep’s foot to get his attention, but his focus was intense.
Then I reached into the sales rep’s computer bag and brought out a sales agreement. That finally diverted his attention from the computer screen.

If the customer is bored

Simply put, it is your fault. Imagine an auditorium full of people; the entertainer’s job is to read the room and perform his best material for the pleasure of the audience. Sales reps need to do the same. Be prepared with your material and a plan of execution.
However, you need to take cues from the customer. You made this elaborate PowerPoint presentation. You included beautiful pictures and the perfect font with just a shade of color. Just know—it means nothing to the customer if it doesn’t fit the need.
You’re not there to entertain, but you must engage.

How does this happen?

This is a bad situation. In working with new sales reps in the field, I’ve witnessed more ways to bore a prospect or customer.
Here are a few:

  • You ARE boring
  • Your presentation is boring
  • You haven’t engaged the customer
  • They feel you are wasting their time
  • You haven’t shown any value

You ARE boring
What if you are boring? Why? Are you speaking in a monotone, trance-like manner lulling the customer to sleep? Maybe you didn’t sleep well and are just tired. Or a tiff with your spouse causes a foul mood.
Whatever the reason, you have to put the customer first and be vibrant and attentive.
Your presentation is boring
The last thing most customers want is a thirty-minute lesson on the history of your company. I promise you this will bore them to tears. Also, if you have more than five slides, you are bordering on too many. If your slides have more than a dozen words each, pare them down. If they include dozens of facts and figures from some study from a decade ago, it has to go.
Think about what you include on your slides. They aren’t a crutch for a lack of knowledge.
You haven’t engaged the customer
If you are doing all the talking, you are failing as a salesperson. The customer has more critical items on their list than to listen to you drone on about your issues.
Your call plan should have the right questions to engage the customer and get them talking about their company and their problems. How will you fix what you don’t know is broken?
The Customer thinks you are wasting time
Wasting their time is similar to the above. If the customer perceives you as a waste of their time, you will get nowhere with them. You have to be considerate of the time they carved out of their busy schedule to speak with you. If you have fifteen minutes, use it wisely so they don’t feel like they should be working on something else.
You haven’t shown any value
Why are you wasting their time if you have nothing to add to their company. Why are you there? What help are you? Is it budget-friendly?
What is the value you are bringing to them?
You are not paying attention to the customer
The worst problem of all is if you are not paying attention to them. The sales rep I was working with was so focused on HIS preparation, HIS PowerPoint, HIS sales plan, HIS problems, HIS time, he forgot why he was there: to help this customer solve a problem.
Think about how that looks to the customer.

How do you resolve the issue?

First, don’t be boring. Prepare well and have a meeting plan but remember to read the customer. You may have to “wing it” once the meeting starts, and it moves over to a tangent. Just because you think you know their problems, you might be off base.
Pay attention to the customer—their feedback—to stay on track. It will pay off in the end.
If they begin talking about a problem they have, stop thinking about your reply and pay attention to what they are saying. You might learn something.
And if you are listening to them speak, you cannot be boring.
Think about it!

What was My Salesrep’s mistake?

He wasn’t paying attention to the customer and was talking past the sale. She was ready to buy, but he needed to finish “selling” her. She was prepared to buy after the forth slide, but he was power pointing ahead. He spent so much time building those thirty-five slides he didn’t want them wasted.

Driving to the next appointment allowed a discussion about a customer first approach.

Categories
Planning Sales

4 Factors of Sales

Plan your work & work your plan

I’ve been thinking about different factors in sales lately. Most salespeople focus on two or three of the four elements.

  • Time Management
  • Territory Management
  • Prospect Management
  • Sales Cycle Management

Most salespeople concentrate their effort on the first two and are ambivalent about the last two until the end of the month, and sales are short. The last two are just as important as the first two because of two things, chasing bad prospects and weak sales projections.

Time Management

Time management is the classic definition of the quote at the top of the article. If you do not make a plan and carry it out, you will waste time. Period.

Example: I remember one of my first days as a salesman with no experience. I headed out to “make calls” without a plan. I spent the first part of the day, driving around “looking” for a business that appeared “good” to call on. By noon, I have made one or two cold calls with poor results. That afternoon I knew I wasted a day and needed to figure out a better way. A long conversation with my sales manager helped put it in perspective. I got better by planning.

No plan results in wasted time.

Territory Management

Territory management is crucial to sales success. Some territories are small, and some cover multiple states. 

Example: If you covered Texas, Lousiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas, you wouldn’t think of making one call in Dallas, then drive to Oklahoma City for your second call then back to Houston for the next one.

A few years ago, I worked with a sales rep in San Antonio. After leaving the office, we made a call in Southwest San Antonio. Then, to my surprise, we headed north on the highway ending up West of town about ten miles. Our next stop was back inside the 410 Loop South of our last call and finally headed Northeast to call on a customer outside of the outer loop about five miles. Mapping this comes to 74 miles and over 1-½ hours of travel time. 

In discussing the day, I discovered this was a typical day for them. We quickly went to work on her territory management skills. Think about your territory and put together a management plan that gives more prospect time and less windshield time.

No plan results in wasted time.

Prospect Management

Prospect Management goes back to the proper qualifying of prospects. To manage your business, you must spend your time with the best opportunities in your territory. If you waste time with people or companies that are not a good fit for your company, you will make unreal sales projections and frustrate your sales manager to no end. 

Example: A salesperson working for me projected the same sale to close for the third month in a row. In my office, the salesperson insisted the deal was good for the month. I said, “Fine. Let’s go see them and get this done.” They were not a prospect, and they were not closing that month. After that, we spent some quality time on qualifying an opportunity.

No plan results in wasted time.

Sales Cycle Management

Sales Cycle Management is a combination of time, territory, and prospect management. From my experience, sales cycles can get out of control if a salesperson doesn’t focus on the first three factors. 

Sales cycles vary with industry, products, and sales experience. An inexperienced sales rep can stretch a 15-day sales cycle to more than a month without coaching. A six-month sales cycle may never close because it falls through the proverbial cracks.

Some industries are one or two call sales. Though they require a plan, it doesn’t have to be as extensive as a long close cycle.

The longer the sales cycle, the more management it requires. If you work in a long cycle sale, what is the plan to keep it on track and moving forward? 

  • Do you owe the prospect answers to questions? 
  • Do you owe the prospect additional specs?
  • Are they waiting for your proposal?
  • Are they waiting for the results of your walkthrough?
  • Do you owe the prospect a summary document of your meeting with key personnel?
  • Are they waiting for your financial analysis of their problem?
  • Have you scheduled your company expert for his input?
  • Did you schedule the next meeting? What is the purpose?

You get the idea. If a salesperson does not manage the sale, it will die.

If you don’t continue to manage the sales cycle, a sale can stretch beyond normal limits or, worse, be lost.

No plan results in wasted time.

Responsibility

The above sales factors should be a part of the onboarding training with every new hire. Just because a salesperson had years of experience doesn’t mean they are efficient. A sales manager needs to feel comfortable that the salesperson understands time, territory, prospect, and sales cycle management. 

Time for some self-reflection. How do you measure yourself at the four sales factors that influence your sales? I only managed to get better after realizing I didn’t understand the basics and needed guidance.

Books, tapes, and CDs make learning easy in “automobile university,” as Zig Ziglar said. Make use of the windshield time and hone your craft. 

Thoughts?

Categories
Business Planning Sales

3 ways to increase your sales

There are three ways to increase your sales.

I don’t know a salesperson that doesn’t want to increase their sales. It means more money and greater job security. The problem is that many companies don’t provide the training necessary to accomplish this goal.

My experience might not be typical, but of all the companies I’ve sold for, only one offered a substantial training program that addressed parts of the above. That company didn’t cover the how-to for all three.

Increase your sales funnel

I wrote about this in How To Calculate Your Monthly Sales Projection, but the takeaway is the more abundant your funnel, the more you sell. Sounds easy and is compared to the others.

Increase your close ratio

Increasing your closing ratio is a great way to increase your sales, and I encourage you to learn how. It requires expanding your skillset in a couple of areas.

  • Qualifying
  • Asking better questions

The first step is knowing your products better than anyone. What problems do they solve? How do they incorporate into a company’s workflow? I wrote about product knowledge in this article; Product Knowledge is King. Here is what my experience shows.

Scenario One: A salesperson gets the appointment with the right person, and in that meeting, tells them everything they never wanted to know about your company. Your sure to include that your company has the best customer service. They’ve never heard that before.

Getting back to the office, you enter the prospect into the CRM and give it a 90% chance of closing. Then you project the sale to close the next month. Chances are it never happens.

Scenario Two: The same salesperson gets the appointment with the right person. His quick research gives him enough information to know what the company does and some of the challenges they are facing in the coming year. You discover who they compete with and their target market.

Then in the first meeting, you discuss the needs of the prospect. You find out about their criteria, their buying process, their timeline for implementation, and their budget. You also find out who makes the final decision and when they expect to make it.

Getting this information can easily take several appointments, meeting with different people.

From all this information, you decide if this is a prospect for your company. If so, you know how to enter them into the CRM and mark the percentage.

If not, you can enter them and tag them for followup at a later date. The company may be a prospect later.

If they are not a prospect at the current time, DO NOT WASTE time “checking back” and leaving telephone messages that don’t get returned.

Questions

Qualifying requires better information, and to get it, you need to ask better questions. They go hand-in-hand. Ask a lot of bad questions is worse than not asking any.

So how do you ask good questions? Here is my acronym reminder to stay on track.

Q = qualify
U = understand
E = engage
S = state
T = timing
I = image
O = objections
N = notify
S = send

So what does this mean?

Q = qualify

Do your homework. Determine a good set of questions before you arrive. [See above]

U = understand

You are required to understand their problems. What ideas have they tried? Why didn’t they work? Understand where the person you are meeting fits into the overall situation. Are you meeting with the end-user, an influencer, or the decision-maker? More and more, the decisions get made by committees. Is that the case with this current prospect?

E = engage

Engaging the prospect is vital to the process. If they aren’t engaged, they will not share information. They need to know you want to assist in solveing the issues they are experiencing.

Two things to remember. GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) and the old saying, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A multitude of bad questions will result in a multitude of bad answers but if they sense you care, they will engage.

S = state

I am fascinated by the number of misunderstandings I witness in meetings. Recently, four of us met with a gentleman, and afterward, during our discussion, it was apparent we attended four different meetings. As you understand and engage the prospect, it is important to ask good followup questions and to restate what they said for confirmation. (Example: “If I understand you correctly, your thingamabob is causing a loss of three hours labor every time it breaks?”) Gaining confirmation assures the prospect said what you think you heard.

T = timing

The timing always refers to the prospect’s timing, not yours. You need to know when they plan to purchase, when the budget is ready, what is the expected timing for delivery and implementation. All this is critical to your sales projections.

I = image

Building a word picture for the prospect helps clarify the problem and your solution. Lost labor and additional repair expenses can seem like intangibles, but with word pictures, they come alive.

O = objections

Initially, I like to answer the prospect’s questions with a question to gain clarity. Is the question a real issue, or are they just curious? Are they hiding something or misleading with the answer? You need to know.

N = notify

Never skip this step! You must notify your prospect or customer what your next actions are. When will you followup? When can they expect your proposal? This step is critical and can gain a lead over the competition. Your prospect knows precisely what to expect from you.
NOW MAKE SURE AND DO WHAT YOU SAY.

S = send

Always, always, always send a thank-you note after a prospect has spent valuable time with you. It says something about you when you go the extra step.

  • You will give a little more than the competition
  • You will not skip the details
  • You are good at followup
  • You care about their time and appreciate them.

Do you want to move from salesman to Professional Salesman? Start using QUESTIONS today, and the journey begins.

Increase your margins

This third step to increase your sales is for professionals only. It is harder to implement and dangerous if done wrong. However, done correctly, it is a great strategy to increase your sales and your paycheck. We’ll dig into this in a later article.

Categories
Business Information Planning

Goals, Motivation, and Leadership

One of the constants in my life had been my interest in Motivation, Leadership, Management, and Goal Setting. That interest led me to run a website and podcast back in 2005 called Motivation on the Run. It revolved around those particular interests.

Then life happened and it slowly passed into insignificance. My wife and I began a new business and made a physical move to get nearer to our new granddaughter.

Now life is happening again. I’ve wanted to revive a website and podcast on these topics but the needs of others are taking precedence. No complaints, just the facts.

So where does this leave me? With planning.

What do I want the new website and podcast to focus on? Only one aspect of the four intetests specializing on one topic? It’s difficult to pair down since all these topics are highly integrated. One cannot exist without a relationship to one or more of the others. Intertwined is the word that comes to mind.

Hince the planning. Between the mindmaps in Xmind and outlines in Evernote I can be as confused as all get out.

Confusion is my middle name the last five months.

Currently I’m in the local Whataburger having a completely free breakfast. I redeemed a reward for a taquito topped off with a senior coffee. Best deal in town.

Categories
Business Planning Sales

Pursue The Top 4%

Do you want to be a professional salesperson? Are you sure? If we acknowledge that selling is a profession, you must make a few decisions.

Are you willing to do what it takes to be a professional? Do you have the desire and motivation to be a professional? Selling is a profession. It’s that simple. Unlike other professions though, it doesn’t require a board of review or a certain standard to achieve before calling oneself a salesman.

Many professions require a license to practice. Doctors, Lawyers, Beauticians too, are required to pass a minimum set of requirements to get a license. Then there are the continuing education credits to keep the license in good standing.

Selling is a job many “just fall into” without the real knowledge of what it takes to succeed. How many people do you know that went into sales because it “beat working for a living?” The dropout rate is high because of one thing: SELLING IS HARD!

Training

Sales training was non-existent for every sales job I’ve had, except one. One company handed me a 3-ring binder with a few pages inserted. Pointing at a map of the area, my new manager said, “You can call on anyone you want east of this line.” That was it: my training was complete. Go forth and sell.

The truth is you must take responsibility for your own training. If the company offers it, great. Participate with zeal and enthusiasm. If not, take charge and begin your own “self-training.” It’s more difficult but completely possible,  speaking from experience.

Professional Sales

What does it take to become a professional in selling? More than most people are willing to give. There is a difference between selling and becoming a  professional salesman. Professionals take selling seriously.

It’s not “just a job” for a pro, it is more than that.

All the real salespeople I have known had a genuine desire to succeed. They quickly determined where their skills were lacking and then took steps to correct and improve.

The Top 20%

The top 20% make 80% of the sales in an organization. My experience as a salesman and a Sales Manager bears this out. If you want to be considered a professional, you must strive for the top 20% in your organization. Amateurs settle for average.

The top 20% act with integrity and take pride in their work. They take the extra time to stay up to date in their industry. They work on their profession of sales. They develop habits that allow them to succeed.

What does it take to succeed at this level?

  • Study your craft of sales
  • Read books on sales
  • Watch videos on sales and training
  • Take courses in subjects that apply
  • Listen to sales podcasts and tapes
  • Attend sales and motivation conferences
  • Form a Master Mind group
  • Hire a coach

Now that you are a member of the 20% club, you need to step up to the next goal. The top 20% should be the first goal, but not the end game.

The Top 4%

The top 20% of the top 20% are the most professional of all. This usually takes the additional desire to achieve the best. It is not easy to reach this distinguished level but it’s a worthy pursuit.

Think about it. This group is 4 out of every 100 salespeople. It is such a small percentage because it is the hardest to break into.

Attaining this level makes you part of a very elite group. It is the pinnacle of the profession made up of people that never have to worry about a job. Companies are seeking these people and recruiters look for them. The 4% are the best.

How Can You Get There?

It is a simple 5-step process. Simple in form, but difficult in implementation.

  1. Determine you want it enough
  2. Develop a plan
  3. Implement the plan
  4. Make course corrections
  5. Rinse and Repeat

It doesn’t take the smartest or best looking. However, it does take a person that understands the hardships at the beginning and the knowledge that it gets better with time.

It does take effort.  Hard, dedicated effort. Oh, and determination.

So is it worth it? All this work? Absolutely. Selling is the most gratifying profession.

Categories
Planning

The Art of Technology

Motorola bag phoneThe word technology means different things to different people. To some, it refers to a specific item, like a cellular telephone or a computer. Others use the word generically to describe an industry, equating it with the steel or farming industry. It really is both.

Early Technology

One of the earliest technologies was the lever. It completely changed the way people moved and lifted objects, regardless of size. It allowed one person to do the work of many, thereby increasing the efficiency and productivity of a single person. Later, applied to many people, huge stones were placed just right, forming the pyramids. That technology has seen many improvements through the years, but the fundamental lever still works.

The wheel is another great technological advancement still in use today. It has advanced with new shapes, sizes and processes, but the basic concept is still unchanged; A round device that spins on an axle. We install them on automobiles, wagons, dollies, and vacuum cleaners, making them easier to push and pull.

A little History

Slide-rule In school, I was not allowed to use electronic devices in math class. We were taught to use slide rules instead, because they required a degree of intelligence that the calculator did not. Today calculators are present in every classroom, and if I’m not mistaken, allowed in SAT/ACT testing rooms.

I converted a 6-volt Plymouth sedan over to 12-volt so I could install a 4-track tape player. Yep! Open top, manual levers, and two speakers! Tunes to go for 1967. Today an iPod can hold a hundred times more music than I even own, playing digital tunes for hundreds of hours. In fact, the iPod can play for over a month, 24/7,  without repeating a song.

My first mobile phone was a Motorola bag phone, like the one pictured above. It was analog, plugged into the cigarette lighter for power, and worked like a charm. Yes, it was big and clunky, but it beat using pay phones at the quick stops. Today, my cell phone is so small, it gets lost on a messy desk.

Change in Technology

8 ball The technology industry is advancing so rapidly that computers are “out-of-date” before they’re unboxed and put into use. The accounting software you bought a few years ago, won’t run on the computer you bought yesterday. The small businessman fears the industry is moving too fast, and is feeling the pressure to either keep up or die. Getting a handle on this is of major concern to most small businesses who operate without full-time IT people.  

The World Today

The rapid changes that are taking place in the technology industry, as a whole, require a small business to work with a better plan. Strategic planning keeps companies from purchasing the wrong products, buying too quickly, and getting something that won’t integrate with their existing technology.

Planning requires the answer to these questions and many more.

  1. Will the accounting software run on the new computer?
  2. Will the new computer connect to our network?
  3. Will the new computer talk to the server?
  4. Do we need a server?
  5. If we need a server, should it run Windows or Unix/Linux?
  6. What’s our plan for backups?
  7. What is our catastrophic recovery plan?
  8. Do we need to upgrade our software to the latest version?
  9. What are these web applications all about?
  10. How do we keep our remote workers productive?
  11. Are we a viable candidate for home-based workers?
  12. What affect will Windows Vista/Mac OS X Leopard, Ubuntu Linux have on our business plan?

As a salesman,  I lived by, “Plan your work, then work the plan,” which is also appropriate for a business technology strategy plan. Plan the strategy, then work plan.

The questions above, and others like them, will form the basis for the future of this web site. I will explore how to form and implement a plan.