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Monday, October 18, 2010

Part 2 of my original blog post: There Is No Magic Formula

As I've stated before, there is no magic trick to becoming a top producer in your industry. And I know from experience that even top producers have peaks and valleys in their selling. However, there are certain characteristics that come to mind again and again, which I didn't mention in part one of this extensive post. I am a little reverent of posting an epic such as this one, but I've decided to put it all out there, so hopefully those that read it can benefit from my experiences. First, however, let's take a look inside the mind of a top producer, and how they view their company, and themselves.....

1) A top producer is someone who, regardless of what could happen to them, will put it all on the line. They're willing to put themselves in what could at times be considered an awkward position. Not only to advance themselves, but their entire team. It's a rare quality!

2) They are not intimidated by the success of others. Yes, they are competitive by nature, but mainly with themselves.

3) Top performers are not excuse makers. They get the job done, regardless of whether they are comfortable or not. They realize that there are certain things that need to get done, and may even use some of their personal time to do them.

4) They never stop striving to achieve. When others are relaxing, they're thinking about their next prospect, preparing, and ready to do the work. They constantly rehearse how they will answer certain questions from potential customers, and know ahead of time what the best answer will be.

5) They are known as experts in their field.

6) They respect their time and the time constraints of others.

7) They know when to drop a bad client, or a bad prospect.
Controversial, though it may be, this needs to be discussed if we are to get anywhere in our field. Let's face it! There are some clients who are just plain time wasters. There are some prospects who are just a plain waste of your time, too. And you need to know when to let go. Now, being in inside sales is a bit tricky sometimes, especially if you work for a corporation whose focus on customer service is a bit one sided. I'm sorry, the customer is not always right. Especially when they don't keep anything they buy from you, or in some other way make your life a lot harder by assisting them. You know who I'm talking about, right?

8) They know when to walk away. We've all encountered those kind of customers before, who have an over-inflated sense of entitlement, and think that you have to take their over-aggressive, bullying, or jerky behavior because they're a customer. Let's address this once and for all. You don't have to take their crap! If a customer proves to be too frustrating to deal with, if they constantly return the products you painstakingly sell to them, if they bully you or are rude, you don't have to take this. Step away, and find someone else to help them. Maybe they'll be better off with a different salesperson.

9) Top producers nurture the relationships with their regular clients.
Keep in touch with those clients who are regularly nice and pleasant to work with, who have integrity, and who are honest with you. If a client tells you they can't afford a new feature of your offering right now, but maybe they will expand on the service you're providing later, then respect that. This is a client you know, and they are now your friend. Don't put that relationship in jeopardy by being pushy. Wait until they are ready. When the time comes for them to expand, they will let you know. In the meantime, nurture the relationship.

10) Don't be a Grumpy Gus
Yes, that's an actual name! It's a nickname for the archetypal grumpy salesman. Don't be a grumpy salesperson. Some people have a preconceived idea of what we're like already, and some look at all of us like we're used car salesmen. They don't want to talk to us as it is, but they really won't want to talk to a grumpy salesperson! So, put that smile on, and get out there! Show them what a real salesperson's attitude is like. And be as genuinely friendly and nice as possible. There are some really great salespeople out there who are nice people. Two great examples are Elinor Stutz and Dan Waldschmidt. Two of the nicest people you could talk to, who have made it to the top of their industry by caring about their clients. A foreign concept to some, I know. But let's turn things around, and hopefully change the image a lot of people have about us. It all starts with you, and your attitude when approaching a customer.

11) They know the difference between a real salesperson, and a con artist (and they strive to be the real deal)
Let's face it! We've all seen these guys on the internet touting some kind of fake scheme promising to help you   get rich quickly, or who trick people into buying something based on false promises. They call themselves salesmen or saleswomen, but frankly, I find this insulting. It's an insult to me and my profession to see a con artist try and align themselves with a respectable profession, and say that they are true salespeople. They're lying! They're con artists! They're the reason people don't want to talk to us real salespeople, because they've been victimized by those who are just out to make a quick buck, and will say anything to sucker unsuspecting people into buying their bogus products! These jerks are the reason why people ignore us when we approach them, because it's people like them who have given our profession a bad name. Let's not let them get away with this! Whenever you step up to a potential client, you need to show you are truly proud to be in sales, and  sell with integrity.

What other qualities can you think of that would describe a top producer?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Relationships, And Their Role In Selling

I didn't realize until I took a job in sales how valuable your relationships with people really are. Whether it's your neighbor, your family, your friends, or your clients. Whoever those relationships involve, there is value there if the relationship is a strong one you've spent time and effort building over the years or months. I've heard some unsuccessful salespeople say that they don't care about "those customers"...that they're just a sale that will get them by, and they don't really care how those clients respond to the sales pitch. That they don't really care how their message is received, as long as that person buys something! Huh???? 

The truth is that with that kind of nonchalant attitude, these salespeople don't really care about much, do they? If they approach their work this way, imagine what else they think of in the same way! And the kind of clients they attract will be the same kind of clients that they are as salespeople. Disengaged, nonchalant, and lacking in passion. And probably one time buyers, too! That is not the way to build a relationship, or a business. It's definitely not the way to keep a business going! You have these kind of salespeople working for your business, then your business is going to fail! Their approach to selling is not really selling! It's called clerking! You're just a clerk when you have that kind of attitude, and in the long run, you will not succeed in sales! 

Where is the passion for their product? Where is the drive to excel? Where is the dedication to a craft? And selling is a craft, even an art at times! You go ahead and watch some of the best salespeople in action, and you tell me that what they do is not magical! And the best salespeople know that it's the repeat business with clients that they actually treat as friends that are the real bread and butter for their company! Not the smaller one time buyers.(Not to say that those customers aren't important, but they are not on the same level as the former, by any means!)

So, I've always approached my customers as if they are friends! That's been the key to my success in sales. You not only want your clients to see you as a professional, who is fully engaged in helping them achieve a goal, but the great clients (the ones who will give you repeat business) are the ones that truly want to feel as though they are building a relationship with you that is valuable. That's the most important lesson in selling! I cannot stress this enough. The customer can tell: 1) If you're lying to them 2) If you're faking being interested in what they have to say, and 3) If you don't truly value the relationship you have with them. Believe me, your best clients are those that view you as an extended part of their family, and who absolutely LOVE talking and engaging with you. They are the ones with whom you've built trust and communication throughout every interaction you've had together.

Sound complicated? Well, you're in sales for a reason....to add value to an interaction, and to add value to a person's life through whatever it is you happen to be selling. So, really take the time to provide that quality interaction, and let your great clients know how truly important they are to you. And take the time to show them how much you appreciate their business. After all, without them, you would not have a job! 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How Listening Affects Your Sales Cycle

The question has often been raised, "How well do we listen to our prospects?" The answers are sometimes astounding! There are some salespeople who become frustrated that they're not closing enough deals, and they get discouraged. They look back on the entire encounter, and need some help understanding why it fell through. They cold called, set up that initial meeting with their prospect, and described their product in full. All the while, they asked the questions that they felt would be important to the prospect, and got some great answers, maybe even a little encouragement.

The prospect seemed to respond well to their presentation, and everything seemed promising. Then, they followed up, and set up another meeting with them to discuss signing the contract for the lease to use their company's product for, let's say, four years. Okay, then they started to hesitate. They raised objections to the lease agreement, and the salesperson felt they had helped the prospect to understand that their product was the perfect fit for their business. Then, they suddenly backed out of the deal! What happened? The salesperson didn't listen to his prospect as well as he thought. He needed to understand that a great sales presentation isn't all about pointing out the great features your product has to offer. It's also not all about YOUR presentation! It's about giving the prospect a platform to let you get to know them, and their business. It's about giving them room to ask serious questions, and for you to be able to deliver honest and accurate answers to those questions. It's about listening to your prospect's concerns, and NOT talking over them to get your point across!  YOUR point is not important. Your potential client's point isn't just important! It's everything!

The most important aspects of the sales cycle are:
1) Gaining your potential client's trust
2) Making your potential client feel that you are listening and responding to their unique business needs.
3) Gaining the good favor of your potential client by giving substantiated evidence that what your presenting is genuine, and that your product or service is worth the investment of their time and money.
4) Making the prospect feel comfortable doing business with you, not expecting your prospect to make YOU feel comfortable with them! Again, it's not about you! It's about putting your prospect at ease.
5) Understanding that the prospect has some legitimate concerns, and knowing how to address those concerns accurately and professionally.
6) Possibly giving the prospect a little breathing room, and time to think about everything before making a decision.
7) Following up with your prospect as many times as is necessary to put them at ease about buying/leasing your product or service.
8) Did I mention listening to your prospect?
9) Gaining referrals by doing ethical business with your prospect.
10) Hopefully closing the deal, and making that prospect into a client.

Okay, I know I put gaining your prospect's trust at the top, and I think number one should have two parts, A and B. And those two parts are: 1A) gaining the prospect's trust, and 1B) listening to the prospect.
These two factors go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other, because one hand doesn't clap!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Understanding The Business Side Of Sales

I must admit, the way I look at sales is pretty business-like. If you met me while I was doing my job, you might think I'm not thinking about business. The truth is, I always am. I know my clients think I'm a "fun" sales girl, or that I'm like family. I get that a lot. And I like someone looking at me as if I'm part of their family, like a daughter, for instance. I'm surprised when this happens, because even though it's nice to make those friends along the way, that wasn't my main objective when I came to work. 

I look at selling as a means to make money for my company, and for myself. It's what I get paid to do, and It's what makes me happy. When I'm doing great in my sales, it gives me a lift in everything I do. I just feel better in general, because it's what motivates me to keep going. When I'm doing business, that's when I am happiest. Not to sound corny, but sales is my life! I live it! It's what I love, and so is business. 

A lot of salespeople fail because they don't seem to understand that the main objective for a company hiring them is to make money for the company. They get caught up in other aspects of the job that don't involve making money, and then they complain when they are let go! Well, they weren't selling enough for the company they were hired to make money for, but they thought the company should keep them because they are a good person. I've met plenty of great people who got hired as salespeople, and I really like them, too. And I outlasted almost all of them! Because those really great people weren't meant for sales. They didn't understand the business aspect of a company. 

Now, I'm not saying that great salespeople are all business all the time! No, sir! If I was all about business all the time, I would never have any fun! And if you know anything about me, I think you know I'm all about having fun. But here's my take on having fun....I always try to incorporate business into it! In other words, I'm always trying to think of ways to make business more enjoyable, and that's what's fun for me. To have a great time with those other amazing salespeople, while taking care of business together!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Making Time For Self Development

I truly understand how we can get caught up in our work life. Sometimes that's all a person will talk about, because they get so much out of their professional environment. I am one of those people as well. I'm always learning something helpful in my life from work situations, and from colleagues. To be honest, my work environment is a very positive and uplifting one...and I'm grateful for that! I know it could be a lot worse, that's for sure!

Still, I also want to stress the importance of self-development outside of the work place. You can get caught up in your job, because you love it, and base your identity on the ability to make a living. Or, maybe you're trying to get a promotion (like me), and you become consumed by that one goal. There's nothing wrong with having professional goals. In fact, it's necessary to have them in order to get anywhere in your life. But it's also important to develop those parts of yourself that maybe you've put on the back burner, because you think you don't have time any more. You always have time to better your spirit!

Maybe you want to take up a hobby, like fishing, or knitting! Whatever it is, you have time, trust me! For example, I have plenty of time on my hands, even though I work full time. I have time to be on Blogger, writing my blog! I sure do! And I blog because it is fun, not just because it's a professional blog! If that was the only reason for me to do it, I would quit! But the truth is that I LOVE writing. It feeds my spirit:) Essentially, I'm killing two birds with one stone. Getting my professional persona out there for the world to see, and doing something I adore, that makes me happier. See where I'm going with this?

Whatever it is that makes you a happier person, or that can help you to better yourself, you can make the time for it if it's important enough to you. For example, I have an hour lunch. I know, I'm spoiled:) What do I do during my lunch? First, I take my time getting to the break room, because I'm a shopper, and I love to look at our new merchandise. Don't always buy, but sometimes I do! Then, I get up to the lunch room, and eat. By that time, I have about 15 to 20 minutes left, and I read! I'm always carrying a book around with me, because I'm on a constant quest for knowledge. And I'm not able to go on extensive trips right now, so I've found that reading is an escape for me. It often can take you to another place, and give you insight into another person's imagination. What could be better that that?!

I've finished many books just by reading for those 20 minutes a day! The truth is, that is one of my monthly goals....to finish a new book or two by the end of each month! It's amazing what you can accomplish in small increments of time spread out through a month, or even a year! If you're looking to learn something new, now is the time! If you're looking to get in better shape, now's the time! Trust me, if it's important enough to you, you will find the time to do it, and become more fulfilled as a result.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's not about quantity

One of the most important questions in any sales career...exactly what kind of clients are you hoping to attract? I've learned through experience that not all customers are equal. They should all be treated with respect, but when it comes down to making money, you know what you need to do. So why is it that so few salespeople understand this? They don't want to be unkind. They want to be liked. Okay, maybe they should realize that the whole idea of being liked by everyone is over-rated. You can't make every client like you, and why would you want to attract clients who are one item buyers in the first place? Why would you add a customer to your C@D who is known for shopping cheap, and makes you do the most work? They make you crazy with their demands, while you see your colleague get that customer you really wanted to help. I think the one question you should be asking yourself is, "is this really fair to me?"

Again, you know the answer. No, it's not fair to you. It's downright detrimental to your success! You think the customer will be offended. You think they will try to get you fired. And so on....Hey! You should wake up, man! Nobody is going to hand you a trophy for getting the most customers who shop during a sale! Those are not your real money makers, and you know it! So why is it that you forget to add that client who's a doctor to your C@D, who adores you, and always comes back only when you are there? See the point I'm trying to make? It's just plain silly to send emails to your clients that a sale is coming, when you know there are going to  be multiple ads everywhere! So why do it? Focus on those clients who would come in on ANY day you ask them, simply because they have the money, and want to shop with only YOU....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

There Is No Magic Formula

I wish I could say there is a magic formula to being a top salesperson. That it's just a natural talent for some, and all they have to do is flash a charismatic grin for the sales to start raining down on them. However, this is the real world, where sales dollars do not magically rain down on us like diamonds rushing down on our heads. Especially in these tough economic times, it's become imperative to work harder just to maintain a quota, let alone surpass sales goals. Here's what I've discovered in my experience as a salesperson who has thrived in the business....

What sets successful salespeople apart from the pack?

1) Willingness to take risks
I call it throwing yourself into the fire. I believe there's a song about just that! by Garth Brooks. He talks about standing outside the fire, how it's safe, but you're merely surviving, and not doing what you're meant to do in life. It's all about taking risks! The greater the risk, the greater the reward! How many times have I stuck my neck out when nobody else would? A lot more times than most, I'll tell you that! And do I have any regrets about that? Absolutely not! Nobody will ever notice what you have to offer unless you make put yourself out there, so stick your neck out every once in a while. You might be surprised at the rewards and recognition you receive(even if you don't achieve that sought after goal, you might just achieve something else simultaneously).
2) They are not hesitant to approach a stranger
9 times out of 10, if that first interaction is positive, that customer will no longer view you as a stranger, but as a budding friendship.
3) Motivation
They keep working, even when their body hurts, their voice is practically gone, and they're tired (but they don't show it.)
4) Game Face
A simple decision: to smile:) A smile tells a customer so many things about you. It says you're friendly, you feel good about yourself, and that you're approachable(and harmless). As a salesperson, this is exactly the image you want to project. An approachable person makes more sales, so smile and make yourself accessible to the customer. They will appreciate your openness, and want to buy more from you if they like you. It's a documented fact that salespeople who are all selling similar merchandise sell very different amounts. Sure, this has something to do with luck. And your selling area is important, too. However, the #1 indicator of a person's success in sales is the willingness of that person to extend themselves further than the average salesperson. The ability to set themselves apart from the pack, literally.

Let's say you're in an area where sales stink...(it's happened to the best of us.) Does that mean that YOUR sales have to stink, too? Absolutely not! I've worked in many departments where the sales in that area were down, but I was always up. It was because of my flexibility. I realized that if I saw a customer who was sort of far away from me, that I could still get their attention. And I did!! How? Simply by smiling and waving to them. A lot of the time, they would go out of their way to walk over to me! Even if they didn't really have something to ask me about, they would make up something, just to start a conversation. I've made many great sales this way! And it all started with a smile:)

5) Knowledge
They study their product up and down, side to side. They never relax when it comes to product knowledge. You need to know what you're selling, and the benefit to your clients. The more you know about your products, the more respect you'll gain from that client that asks difficult questions, and always gets a quick and accurate answer from YOU...great way to gain repeat customers.
6) Willingness to teach others
Great salespeople are willing to mentor others, whether it be through training them, or simply being there to share their experiences.
7) Willingness to be assertive
You can be an aggressive salesperson who never intimidates or puts people off, as long as you know what you're talking about is important to the client, and you are comfortable being in the same space. And as long as you know the difference between persuasiveness(positive aggression) and force of action, and pushiness(negative aggression).
8) Honesty
They don't lie to sell a product. Their expertise makes it so they don't have to.
9) Focus
They always keep the main objective in mind. That they will achieve success, and stay on the right track. They set daily goals.
10) They don't get caught up in what others think of them.
If  I worried what people think of me, I would never have achieved most of my goals in sales, because whatever I do, I realize people will criticize me any way. So who cares! People scoff or laugh at you when you are going after a goal. I just tell myself that I will be far ahead of them in the next 5 years. And keep going!
11) They have a "can do" attitude
Okay, I know I put this at the bottom of the list, but it is probably the most important of all! When someone asks you for help, you are not doing THEM a favor by offering your assistance. You are simply doing what you are being paid to do. It is your obligation to help them to the best of your ability. Trust me! People are always watching, whether it be your boss who happens to pass by at exactly the right moment, your co-workers, or even the owner of the company! You never know, so always put service first. And if you can't get a particular item or service for that client, then at least explain why in the most friendly way possible. Then make them another offer for comparable product or service. Remember, they could always decide to go somewhere else, so make a conscious effort to keep them coming back to YOU....