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I spend about 80% of my time working with sales professionals to perfect their ability to structure the questions that need to be asked. They all understand the importance of asking questions but need some assistance in creating their own tailored versions. Salesmen often enjoy the exercise of deciphering which questions uncover the compelling reasons the prospect should do business with them.
Sandler Training has many novel approaches to selling. But back in 2000 when I started my sales training business, there was one topic in particular that I wasn't expecting in a sales training curriculum. There was an entire section dedicated to insuring that salespeople's self-identity was separate and distinct from their sales role. I figured that since salespeople get rejected a lot, this chapter was there to ensure salespeople had methods to deal with rejection and not take it all too personally.
Have you ever given thought to how people decide to buy a product or service? Consider yourself in this analogy - do you employ any of these strategies? We believe we have a need or we determine that we have a need for a product or service. With the Internet at our fingertips we immediately do some research on whatever we are in the market for. This process may take minutes or it may take hours depending on whether you are a detail person or just want a quick overview. In addition to our Internet search, we may also ask family and friends for their recommendations.
The good and bad of relationship-based sales.
Relationship-based sales methods are ideal. Most of the time those relationships are the only thing protecting you from competing solely on price. In sales training, we have a saying: "All things being equal, people buy from people they like. All things being unequal, people still buy from people they like."e
In regards to your business, the expertise you have gained over the years is completely worthless... until someone gives you money for it. If you have a medical doctorate, all you really have is a bunch of student loans until you have patients, and get paid for your knowledge.
Prospects like to play games with salespeople. The purpose of games prospects play is to make a salesperson feel not-OK.
When a salesperson feels not-OK in front of a prospect, they are more likely to give up their time and information in the hope that their prospect will make them feel OK again.
Some of the games prospects play with salespeople are:
Why Don't You, Yes But - your prospect rejects every one of your suggestions with some version of "yes, but" (e.g. "we'd love to implement option A, but our budget was cut last week.")
When you get an email from a prospect with one of the following requests, what do you do?
Send me a quote for..
Provide us with more information about..
We'd like a proposal..
Forward us a brochure on..
If you thought, "reply by email," you just put your prospect firmly in control of the sales process.
The reason is found in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)
Before you choose to answer your prospect's "how much" question, consider if you are unintentionally helping your prospect lower your prices.
While a common trick of the amateur salesperson is offering increasing discounts to win business, I haven't met a professional salesperson who uses this tactic.
Unfortunately, the professional salesperson can still be guilty of helping their prospect lower their prices by "anchoring" their prospect
The bottom line of selling is going to the bank; however, prospects are more likely to offer hope instead of an order when meeting a salesperson.
"Hope is the only thing stronger than fear,"---President Snow, the Hunger Games. "A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous."
Because hope is stronger than fear, a salesperson is comfortable taking their prospect's hope ("we're giving you top consideration") instead of overcoming their fear of losing a deal and gently asking what does "top consideration" really means
The two words that are guaranteed to trip up most sales people are "better" and "value." The latter we'll talk about in another post.
Typically the "better" trap is set by a prospect at the beginning of a meeting. After introductions and polite conversation your prospect says, "so tell me how you are better than my current supplier."
If your instinct is to jump to a features-and-benefits presentation, STOP! There is no way for you to answer that question and have any chance of closing the sale.
There are three reasons why your prospects set the "better" trap
Over time, every successful salesperson comes to the conclusion that having the proper selling posture during the sales interview is critical. Many sales people are still struggling to understand this concept.
When we talk about posture, we are talking about the attitude reflected in the communication of the salesperson. We know that the message we send in our communication is made up of our body language, our tonality, and our words. However, how we mix those three elements creates a particular attitude that is palpable to our receiver.
There are three primary language postures
I am fascinated by the way clients, prospects and salespeople, in general, define success. It is usually very personaland intimate, and reflects their perspective on their own life. Some define it in terms of income as in "he who dieswith the most money" is deemed successful. Others use the importance of their job to determinewhetheror not theyare successful. A third group speaks of balance, though it is rarely achieved.
Do you "sell to live" or "live to sell"? I have been training sales people for over 16 years and have found a common trait in the highest performers: they "live to sell". They love prospecting for new business opportunities. They love being in the role of "closer". Their sales quota is a benchmark that they regularly exceed because just hitting quota makes them "average". They don't hide from the fact that they sell by putting words like "account manager" or "territory manager" on their business cards.
If you're like most salespeople, you don't know how to network effectively. Usually you'll wing it, improvise, or spend time with colleagues or clients you know really well instead of engaging prospects.
When I ask, "why you don't approach prospects at networking events?", I'd get a lot of "I don't knows." What you don't know, or don't even realize, is your problem is mom. Specifically in influence the messages mom drilled into your head in your first six years like
Have you ever killed a sale by bringing up an irrelevant feature to your prospect? Something you, or probably your marketing department, thought you prospect should know about before they signed up?
At Sandler, this is known as "painting seagulls in your prospect's picture." Unfortunately, your seagull can quickly turn into an albatross.
Traditionally trained salespeople who sit through hours of product training before being let out in front of prospects can't wait to share all their product knowledge when they get in front of anyone, qualified prospect or not
How do you convince someone to buy your product or service? Think about how you buy a product or service. Even the richest people in the world with "money to burn" do not buy for the sake of buying. Yes they can buy whenever or whatever they choose, however there is a reason that they buy. People love to buy, they just don't like to be sold.
I had an interesting conversation at a social event that made me recognize that I, along with people in general, seem to want to make decisions for other people. This is an interesting observation from a sales perspective and it's also applicable in our everyday lives.
Let me share the story
Why do we think that by asking a question we'll hurt the prospect's feelings? What you need to remember is that that you are not responsible for how a prospect reacts to a question that you ask.
Clients share with me daily the questions they've avoided asking for fear of upsetting the prospect. Sometimes they get frustrated with themselves because they feel they lost a sale or an opportunity of a sale because they lacked the guts to ask questions. They would rather bite their tongue than ask a question that they think might make the prospect uncomfortable
You may not recall the first time you heard the word NO; however, that first time and the many times you heard it after all happened when you were a toddler. You continued to hear the word NO through your childhood years and eventually it became ingrained in your psyche.
Sure, it's easy to externalize your problems if things aren't going well. Remember: as a salesperson, it's your job to sweep those excuses aside. You'll never grow as a sales professional if you leave every call thinking you're just unlucky to run into the world's pickiest prospects.
No, we're not advocating neglect. Just understand that the salesperson should be looking for neither approval nor acceptance from his or her prospect. Learn how you can leave your emotions out of the equation.
To really sell, you've got to step out onto that stage, choose the right performance for the right audience and be prepared to analyze their reactions. Do everything right, and you may just get asked for an encore.
I've spent a lot of time considering why the occupation of selling has been given such a low approval rating over the past 40 years. It wasn't always that way. Here's a story that got me thinking about this again.
A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him
How's your memory? Do you fall into the category as described the old adage, "I'd forget my head if it wasn't connected to my body"? Are you constantly setting traps for yourself to be on time for meetings or where your car keys are placed or what's supposed to be happening on your schedule from hour to hour?
In today's environment we have to stop acting and looking like beggars with briefcases and begin to recognize that the name of the game in 2010 is taking business away from our competitors. Let the others wrestle it out at the procurement department and with the low-level influencers.
Why do people buy milk or bread or cereal or soda at the gas station convenience store when those items are far less expensive at a grocery store? Obviously, they have a need for the items. More importantly, buying at the convenience store is quick, and you guessed it, convenient. And "quick" and "convenient" represent value. They fill up with gas, run in and pick up the items they need, and they're on their way. No hunting for a parking space. No grocery carts to dodge. No long checkout lines.
The other day, people in the training center were discussing how they go about building trust. The group shared lots of ideas, and every idea they shared would probably do the trick. When all was said and done, we had a list of about twenty things people could do to build trust.
How would you answer this question: Why does someone or a firm engage you or decide to buy from you? Take a moment and write down the reasons you think people buy.
From what I have seen in most professional schools, people compete to have the best grades, the most outstanding ideas and the most highly thought of papers. I have noticed that students who do well often get the most attention from teachers
"Equal business stature, that's all I want--to be treated as an equal. I have earned that right. Yet to a gatekeeper or prospect, I am the lowest form of humanity."
So lamented a friend of mine over a recent lunch of burgers, fries and a heaping plate of frustrated sales efforts
I don't know about you, but I have never liked being told what to do. I don't think I've ever met anybody who did respond well to that kind of instruction, even when the person in charge-a coach at sports, for example-clearly knew what he was doing if the message is delivered wrong. It doesn't matter if what you are saying is true, if it's not delivered properly. You can be the authority, but no one cares if you can't deliver your message in a way that others can accept. The fact that you have good prudent knowledge, the fact that you're correct, doesn't matter if not delivered properly.
While some salespeople might see voicemail as a dead end or a link in a long game of phone tag, opportunists see it as a chance to learn even more about the prospect before interacting with them.
If you listen closely to a prospect's outbound voicemail message, you can pick up clues to help you adjust your style to be more like theirs