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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!