I am truly optimistic that 2021 is going to unleash a lot of pent-up demand, particularly in the last two quarters.
That said, so much is changing relative to selling with more remote meetings, less travel and less personal contact. On the other hand, I continue to believe successful selling will still come down to a combination of the quality of the market/service and the appeal of the salesperson who represents it.
So, as we move through 2021, we will continue to talk about selling through relationships as a key element of high-performance sales, but certainly with an eye on the changing landscape.
I once asked one of the greatest salespeople I know what the secrets were to his success. He said there were not secrets, but there were definitely two things he tried to manage very well.
One was listening. We talk more about listening in another post but he listened differently than most people. The second, he said, was time management.
According to my friend, he learned early on that because of the lack of formal structure or routine in the sales profession, time management was a challenge that had to be mastered directly by the salesperson. As he looked to peers and mentors for guidance, he realized that most salespeople did not manage time very well. Most of them were spending their time doing anything BUT selling – meetings, paperwork, transportation, personal business, whatever – and that if he could discipline himself to spend more time actually selling than his competitors, it could be a huge, fundamental advantage.
In this context, it is important to note that he defined selling as active communication with clients, so that could be a formal sales meeting, phone call, meal together or entertainment. Anywhere he had the chance to interact with both information and emotion was hopefully solidifying all aspects of a growing and healthy relationship.
I know this sounds a little like Sales 101 but in our workshops, when we ask people to map out their typical day, they are often shocked at how much time they spend “not selling.” And we are seeing this amplified with working remotely. It is easy to get distracted at home with kids, spouses also working from home, pets, package deliveries and even the temptation to turn on the TV.
There are so many things salespeople cannot control – the economy, the competition, the market – but one thing you can absolutely control is your time, and that may be the most important element of all.
This is one of those elections that most of us would like to get behind us, and we are apolitical in this blog so we will leave it at that.
But I do like to remind my fellow communicators and salespeople every four years to watch the show from the perspective of identifying and learning from the different techniques the candidates’ staff are using to sell their “products,” as well as how the candidates themselves are communicating, good and bad.
What gets your attention?
What turns you on or off?
What colors are being used in ads?
What are the candidates wearing?
What is their body language and what does it signal?
And certainly, when the debates come, take the position as a buyer and note how the candidates are answering questions – techniques they are using to answer them directly or how they handle it when they get uncomfortable.
Some of the best minds in marketing, sales and communications are being paid millions of dollars to run these campaigns and coach these candidates. I know the temptation for many is to conclude they are doing a terrible job, but even that can be a lesson for us of what NOT to do when we are selling and communicating ourselves.
For better or worse, it’s a great laboratory that only comes around every four years, watch and learn.
For such a small word, it is amazing how much power the word “no” carries in our language. “No” can completely short circuit a conversation. “No” can stifle creativity and stop collaboration cold. “No” can harken back to all sorts of negative emotional experiences, even some we cannot consciously remember.
In improvisation classes, such as those taught by Second City, participants are taught to never use the word “no” since it interrupts and throws cold water on the improv/communication process. Rather, the students are asked to help each other build scenes and stories together by adding to, rather than blocking, the next round of give and take.
We can all learn a lot about communications during the current Covid/Economy/Civil unrest situations. Emotions are obviously running incredibly high and communication can be shrill, inconsistent and fearful. But of course, that only adds to the stress in a self-fulfilling cycle.
As salespeople, you can also encounter high-stress situations during the sales cycle, often near the closing when emotions may be highest. When emotions are running high, including your own when an important sale is on the line, it is often in your best interest to not take the emotional bait and to actually become the calming voice in the discourse.
When preparing for sales calls or presentations, salespeople often forget to K.I.S.S . . . Keep it Simple Stupid.
Salespeople, as a rule, talk too much. WAY too much. One study determined that on a typical sales call salespeople talk 78% of the time. That is not collaboration. That is domination . . . and buyers don’t like it.
One way to face off with a price objection when a prospect points to a competitor whom they say is offering a lower price, is to politely ask the client to define the value and benefits the competitor is offering at that price point.
This is a great way of moving off the numbers and getting the client to think about real, apples-to-apples value.
Let’s say, for example, that you are selling IT services and you ask the prospect to describe the competitor’s less expensive bundle of benefits. The prospect now needs to, in effect, sell you by recalling the competitor’s program, and when you spot an opening, you can say something like,
While we are all more isolated than we would like to be these days, we need to keep jumping on the phone or video conferencing to solve problems and generate creativity with our colleagues. Here’s why.
In our workshops we always open up with a parlor game called Boggle. Boggle features a square jumble of letters we put up for everyone to see. Each person individually has five minutes to write down as many words that can be formed by connecting the letters in various ways . . . up, down, sideways, diagonal etc.
After five minutes we go around the room. The first person reads all the words that popped out to her – say ten – everybody crosses those words off their lists. Then, we go to the next person and ask if he can add any more – usually another seven to ten. Then, the third person adds another five or six and so on.