By Polly Anderson of Salespunch
I,m told that parts of Southern Europe are littered with T.I.R.E.D.s (Thirty-Something Independent Radical Educated Drop-outs)- people who have walked away from big jobs because they just -weren,t happy...
Salespeople should be as far removed from T.I.R.E.D.s as it is possible to be. Creating wealth is a big job - and this most misunderstood role is about creating wealth for your business... or it should be...
Have you got the right people? Are you getting the best from them? Here are 10 sign-posts to help you decide.
1. Do be clear about why you are in this profession
Lots of companies template the role. Fewer template the human being who is likely to succeed in the role. A good starting point is to be clear about the attributes you really need. We advocate the construction of a template which we call K.A.S.H. . It breaks down the profile of the type of person you require under the columns of ,Desirable, Essential, and ,Unacceptable -within four broad categories:
In considering the ,Attitude, category - your salesperson should be passionate about his / her role.
,Age wrinkles the face, but a lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul....
You must have enthusiasm. In a personal sense, this is one of the most central attributes. All successful salespeople possess enthusiasm. They will meet plenty of apathy and inertia along the way- but apathy and inertia can,t live for long with real, unadulterated enthusiasm.
Your customers will very often base much of their opinion of your company upon what they have seen and heard from your salesperson. If your salespeople are not enthusiastic how on earth can they expect their customers to be enthusiastic?
You also require energy of your salespeople-and you need people who can be bold. Both of these qualities are essential if your salesperson is to really penetrate your customer,s organisation -getting to new contacts to influence decision-making - and gaining referrals to new opportunities.
T.I.R.E.D.s lack enthusiasm and are neither bold nor energetic....
In the UK in 2003 the number of employees went up by 9,000. The number of self-employed people rose by 282,000. I bet these people aren,t T.I.R.E.D s either...!!
2. Do look and act as if you mean it...
First impressions are SO very important. At Salespunch we believe that the first impression is one of the great missed opportunities in selling.
Research has shown that it can take up to 15 subsequent meetings to correct a bad first impression. Harvard studies have shown that 93% of our first time impact on others is non-verbal. Given such compelling evidence, it is hard to understand why so many foul up their early meetings with customers and do not give it a second thought. The basic ,stepping stones, are not complicated:
. Check the name of the person who presents themselves (to ensure that you,ve got the right contact) and introduce yourself - your name alone will suffice at the moment because you are just about to...
. Swap business cards early (the spelling of your contact,s name and job title are then right under your nose)
. Clarify the time available (shows respect for the customer,s time and yours)
. Be better and different from the herd by getting down to business promptly and politely avoiding the ,nonsense talk, which so many people lean on
. Have a carefully prepared ,thumbnail sketch, to briefly introduce your company in a relevant fashion.
. Clarify the objectives of the meeting succinctly
. Motivate your customer to answer your questions (give a reason why he should answer your questions - rather than a reason why you are going to ask them...)
. Be ready and prepared to make notes (i.e. have writing material in front of you ready to go-rather than fishing about in your briefcase for pen and paper wasting time and losing eye contact)
To strike a mercenary note: studies from London Metropolitan University show a direct link between earnings and what we wear. A badly dressed man will earn 15% less and a poorly dressed woman will reduce her earnings by 11%. In short, it is vitally important to look like you mean business. Books have been written on this subject and there isn,t the scope within this article to cover the necessary detail comprehensively but here are a few thoughts:
. Whether we like it or not, we are being assessed from the moment we walk through the door -and people usually -whiteness test- visitors within a few minutes
. I once worked with a very savvy lady who said that she ,couldn,t take a man seriously who wasn,t wearing leather-soled shoes...
. Business people carry briefcases. Market researchers in anoraks carry clip-boards and folders
. It,s hard to present a modern message in an old-fashioned outfit. Your appearance says a lot about you. A chalk-striped suit and braces might be right for a merchant bank but might not be right for a dot.com enterprise.
. Casual clothes often sub-consciously trigger casual behaviour
. Consider the words / phrases you use. Are they right for your customer? Are you using ,jargon, which is inappropriate / incomprehensible?
. Do you look and act like the kind of professional (and de facto representative of your company) your customer would trust and rely upon?
3. Do know your sales propositions back-to-front
,One of the most important things an organisation can do is to determine exactly what business it is in.-Peter Drucker
I recently went around a room of 15 people at a sales conference - and got 15 different descriptions of the business they believed they were in....!
Starting with a consistent (i.e. company-wide) view of what you deliver for your customers, consider specifically where you potentially ,zoom-in, and add value for the prospect you are currently focused on. This will be driven by your pre-call preparation.
Think through in some detail where and how the differentiated advantages of your products / services are likely to connect meaningfully for differing types of decision-influencing contact within the organisation. Then, critically, think through the acknowledged needs which you would ideally like to identify which will allow you to connect the differentiated advantages in a quantifiable fashion.
Moral of the story: know where and how your product / service adds its value -and be clear about the needs you must establish to highlight this value to the customer..
4. Do be aware of the customer,s position
Every ,why didn,t we win? / why did we lose it? survey we,ve ever seen says:-THEY DIDN,T UNDERSTAND OUR BUSINESS....
Over and over again we see that salespeople just do not take the time and trouble to find out about their prospect,s business. They rarely get beyond the headline facts about the people they are selling to. A genuine interest in the business of the person sitting the other side of the desk surely should be a pre-requisite...? In a technologically-empowered age there is so much at our fingertips. Knowledge is power... so... to position yourself most favourably to win, here are some hints:
. What does their business position look like? How has it grown? What are their future plans?
. Market position
. Overall size of business
. Profit levels
. Business unit structure
. What do they sell and what are their value propositions?
. Who are their competitors? Where are the competitors a threat?
. Where are the sources of influence within their industry / industries?
5. Do avoid assumptions
Given the right level of preparation, our ability to fit the right, mutually profitable solution in place depends on how well we can identify the problem. You will not identify the problem by telling your customer how wonderful you are -or by dumping a lot of data in his lap before you understand the full extent of his problems and issues... in fact you will not identify the problem, FULL STOP, by telling him anything....
But it,s tempting isn,t it...? There might be some early signs, or even some early comments / signals of interest from the customer -and because you,ve heard it all before, there is a real urge to segue straight into a technicolour description of what you can do for him... But you must not...
Remember the N.A.F.O.F. principle:
6. Do ask plenty of questions....
By a nose, making too many assumptions is the 2nd biggest make which we see salespeople making. The biggest mistake is ..... they pitch far too early...!!
In ,frothier, times gone by, salespeople have hit their targets by taking orders from people with decent budgets to spend. More recently we have noticed though that the budget-setters (as opposed to the budget-spenders) more regularly intercede and expect to see clear evidence that the products being presented to them represent a real return on investment for their business. Without this evidence the cheque is unlikely to be forthcoming.... and what,s more it is not likely that the ,frothier, times are ever coming back... The ROI will continually need to be demonstrated. What this means to you is:
. You must appreciate in a deep and wide sense where and how your product / service potentially achieves business value for your customer (see section 3 on sales propositions above)
. You must be very well equipped to drill into the quantifiable needs and wants (needs are logically based; wants are emotionally based) of your customer to make the connection with your sales propositions.. Thus - you need to be accomplished at asking incisive and thought-provoking questions...
Your questions should gradually explore where the needs and wants for your propositions are - in particular you need to know where the pressure, cost, pain etc is.
On each broad subject ensure that your earlier questions are quite broad and less obviously associated with the subject matter - then use more searching ,leading, questions when you have plenty of information obtained from the broader questions.
As a rule of thumb keep your questions -open- so that you optimise the likelihood of a fuller answer.
Group your broad subjects in a logical sequence - but be prepared to move them around according to the way the conversation shakes out.
As your questioning progresses take every opportunity to quantify the cost, pain, pressure etc. This of course will provide you with the hard -evidence- required when you are ready to present your solution later.
7. Do listen to the answers you get to your questions
Listening is a skill which most of us need to develop. Having asked the incisive questions, it makes a lot of sense to listen carefully to the answers...!!
. Are you active with your listening...?
. Are you watching and listening carefully...? (E.g ...that,s a little outside of my budget... as opposed to: .. that,s much too expensive for us... or the sharp tactical intake of breath when the price is presented: h --- o ---w much....?)
. Are you avoiding distractions?
. If you do not fully understand, do you politely challenge the speaker...?
. Do you make enough notes? (See below)
8. Do summarise en route
A meaningful summary will be difficult if you haven,t made good notes (unless you have a phenomenal memory...!!)
You almost cannot summarise too often. There is no better way of clearly demonstrating that you are genuinely interested in what the customer is saying and that you have been listening. Also, if your summary is a little off-target, your customer can re-interpret for you without any ,loss of face, on your part (...no.. that,s not quite what I meant...)
A full summary of your customer,s needs and wants is necessary BEFORE you present your solution. Furthermore, you should not move into the presentation until you have received firm affirmation that your summary has hit the target.
9. Do get to grips with how decisions are made
It makes sense to understand how the buying decision is made (the process). My view though is that it is vital to identify who the people making the decision are - and how the dynamics between them work. Three ,Magnetic North, themes are:
. Organisations do not buy - people do
. All men are equal, but some are more equal than others
. Do not confuse the process of evaluation with the process of making a decision.
The relevant players need to be categorised in relation to their influence and support for your proposal in this kind of fashion
This should then become the template for organising yourself to convert the ,Threats, and capitalise on the support of your ,Drivers, and ,Advocates.
10. Do ensure that your solution is on target and fits your customer,s needs & wants
I read recently that when Alistair Campbell rescued someone from a mugger he was greeted with: You,re Alistair Campbell aren,t you...? I f****ng hate you...
Moral of story: trying hard to meet the real needs & wants of the customer with your solution just isn,t good enough-your solution must meet the needs as the customer sees them.
Along the way, with good questioning, rooted in your sales propositions, it is possible to develop these needs & wants significantly. In the final strait though you must ensure that what you present corresponds with the position as the customer sees it.
Reach back into your summary and take one need & want at a time. Link it with the applicable advantage of your product / service (with a ,proof, if appropriate) and tie this in to the very specific, quantified, benefit which (if your questioning earlier in the dialogue was incisive) should ,ring the bell, loudly. You will need to repeat this cycle as many times as you have needs & wants in your summary.
You should ask ,gentle, commitment-related questions at the end of each cycle (how does that sound? ,Is that on-target...?) except at the final stage when a more finite commitment-related question is appropriate. (So when can we do some business together? ,Do I need a purchase order number?)
So there you have it. Ten do,s for success in selling:
. Do be clear about why you are in this wonderful profession in the first place...and from the manager,s perspective, be clear about the attributes you need. (You may wish to avoid T.I.R.E.D,s ....)
. Do look and act as if you mean business
. Do be exceptionally well immersed in your sales propositions
. Do take the time and trouble to really understand the depth of your customer,s business position
. Do avoid assumptions
. Do ask incisive questions which are driven by your sales propositions
. Do listen carefully
. Do recognise the power and relevance of the summary
. Do carefully quantify the influence of the players within the customer,s decision-making process
. Do ensure that you present your solution in a way which is bolted into the quantified needs & wants of your customer.