I think about where technology was 10 and 20 years ago and I’m amazed by how far we’ve come.
I’ve had times of greatness and times of not-so-greatness. Times where deals close when you want them to and deals that continue to fall out of the sky and you continue to close. Opportunities that come up and opportunities that you can never find. The life of sales is like a wave: when it rises high up you’ve got to catch it before the next crash and if you catch it right, what a great ride!
What if, however, your sales aren’t closing? Do you change your strategy? Listen to Dan Lok, who gives fantastic and innovative advice on why people don’t buy and how to improve your strategies!
Here’s another article by WorldLeaders that gives more reason’s why you might not be selling or closing.
Let’s go through the scenarios one-by-one……
- Not working with real decision makers. Are you calling high enough up the food chain or dealing with lower staff that don’t have budget? I think all of us have fallen into this trap and it comes with the territory because often times you just don’t have access to the top decision makers.
- Is there a strong business case? If you are selling on feature and function, most likely you are not giving the decision maker enough ammunition for the business to make the investment.
- Quotes instead of proposals. Are you providing enticing proposals with justification to the business or just price quotes with how much it costs to purchase? You need to make sure your proposal is rock solid.
- Submitting instead of proposing. Emailing a proposal instead of presenting it. Not good. You need to meet face-to-face and present it.
- Not asking for the sale. You have to ask and ask continuously! You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t ask.
- The customer will inundate you with objections. Just human nature. Be prepared for a stall or pricing objections. On either front, you need to come armed with redirection and ways to engage in meaningful discussions that involve the value to the business and what they are about to buy.
I just recently watched Will Ferrell’s USC Commencement speech and felt his story telling combined with identifying and encouraging his audience to dream big and push through obstacles was awesome.
When I was younger I employed humor all the time at the workplace. Not only as a motivator for people I worked with to complete tasks or work in partnership to do a better job, but also as a way to break the ice and keep customers. Somewhere along the lines, over the course of many years in the business, I lost it. Or, I forgot it. Perhaps I became so focused on closing deals that I forgot about the people involved. Maybe I became disconnected after life challenges started to mount.
Either way, I’m going back to it. Nothing relieves the daily stress and the daily grind better than a laugh, building a connection with someone, and sharing an amusing story that people can relate to.
In the Forbes article regarding “Why Humor is a Key to Success at Work”
they talk about how humor tends to have an edge and therefore often encouraged to be toned down at work. I get it – make sure your humor is mild, appropriate, tasteful, and not offensive. From my perspective, once people engage in humor they tend to let their guard down which in many cases increases creativity and productivity. As mentioned, if humor becomes a natural part of anyone’s style it can be harnessed and leveraged!
As the Robert Half International Survey cites, 91% of executives believe in a sense of humor to advance one’s career and 84% believe that people with a good sense of humor helps facilitate career enhancement. They go on to talk about the most important career traits are a strong work ethic and sense of humor.
People will want to work with you: don’t make work miserable. People don’t want to work with someone that takes everything and everyone seriously all the time.
Humor reduces stress!
Humanizing aspects: Yes, 100%, humor brings everyone together whether you are a warehouse worker or the CEO of the company.
It puts others at ease.
Ha ha brings the aha moments: As mentioned, it brings creative thinking.
It builds trust.
It makes you approachable: There is no question if people know that you are willing and able to have a good laugh or they’ve seen you having fun at work, they are more inclined to approach you.
Humor helps the company stand out!
It increases productivity.
As our company continues to expand and grow I understand because I’ve been a founder or one of the first employees before. The goal, at a startup, is to learn from your mistakes and as you build out the business make it better, smarter, and faster than ever. As you evolve, learn from the different personalities, processes, and adapt a framework that has worked before – understanding that the marketplace has changed and, especially in Information Technology, that things shift very rapidly.
Tony Robbins talks about these challenges in his article regarding the pain points of growing a business:
Systems and Process Problems:
Certainly, back-office and HR systems should change, as Tony mentions, those systems and processes that worked for a handful of employees probably aren’t going to work the same way for thirty plus. Be sure to hire productive, innovative, and self-starting employees that can not only adapt to change, but can help bring it as well.
It’s important to keep your ear to the street and close to industry to understand changes and trends. I’ve been stuck in the “one trick pony” scenario before where alliances and offerings were starting to work great and soar, only to lose a year or two later because I hadn’t adapted enough to differentiate for customers farther down the road.
Culture = your people and vice versa
As the company grows you might start “noticing a change in the disposition and attitude of your original employees.” I completely relate to this. I personally was an original at a company that was infiltrated by strangers. It’s important if you are sales manager or salesperson #1 to negotiate, negotiate, negotiate your package and your pay structure. It just makes sense. If you are not a founder or principal of the company, that company is going to use you for all your talents to build a great organization and make it stronger, but once there, management has very short memories. Praise and gratitude from company leadership is helpful and there is a time and a place for celebration and comradery, but business is business and money is money. Get your agreements signed and approved by legal to capture as much company stock, ownership, bonuses, and potential future payouts so you can enjoy the beginning as well as a successful exit.
Zig Ziglar’s shares the obvious, but important to be reminded, and perhaps not reminded enough, regarding the necessity of being a King or Queen networker.
Dress to be the best:
Zig talks about how dress has become so casual that business owners are starting to underestimate the importance of it. In Southern California I find it fairly rare that people wear ties, however, I do wear a good suit or sport coat when meeting with executives and important decision makers, especially for the first time.
Always have them, ready to go along with brochures. I do this out of habit, whether I’m at lunch or during an evening social event. Inevitably someone will ask for your card or ask what you do. If you have a business card and brochure, at the ready, your potential client or business partner will be even more impressed.
Yes, avoid them at all costs. In a relatively negative world, people want to hear things that make them happy. Positive and uplifting comments or what I like to call my “dark humor” goes a long way. If I’m thinking something negative I turn it into a joke or a witty comment to make the person laugh. It’s just common sense. Any person, that includes a customer or business partner, will want to see you more if you make them laugh, make them feel comfortable or at ease, and are helpful towards their mission.
Smile, nod, and act appreciative. People want to talk about themselves. Customers with big budgets don’t care about you or what you have to say about yourself because they already have a million vendors trying to convince them to buy and do what they want. So, give it a rest. Listen to them, their lives, their concerns, and their work challenges. Problem solvers and listeners get paid. If you are talking over someone, speaking one-uppers, and trying to convince someone your point of view is more correct then you should consider getting out of sales.
Following up – the little things that go a long way:
Hand written thank you cards with a personal note. I continue to try to do this on a regular basis, but given the high tech age with social media, email, texts, twitter, and more, a good old fashioned hand written note goes a long way!
Cold calling for a salesperson should be as normal as breathing or walking down the street. If you are a salesperson and you don’t cold call then make it a priority, a daily or a weekly habit. If you are salesperson that doesn’t cold call, but you are hitting your quota or making a great income, congratulations, because you are probably benefitting from cold calling you did early on in your career. Can you imagine how you might increase your sales if you cold call even with an established account base or even to others you might not know within that same customer organization?
You may have a great product or have others prospecting for you, but you are only going to able to process orders for so long before the competition swoops in or your quota gets big enough that you have to pick up the phone or get in front of customers more often in order to stay competitive.
Great sales closers cold call to get appointments set, continue to touch base with existing clients, and network to new clients over the phone on a regular basis building rapport and developing relationships.
Brian Tracy provides 7 tips in his blog “7 cold calling tips to improve your closing rate.”
Step 1 – Focus on the Client – Make sure to focus on the client and their companies needs. Don’t talk about yourself or your company, but focus on their issues.
Step 2 – Elicit responses from carefully planned out questions. From general to specific, be armed and ready so that you can handle immediate objections and address potential challenge areas.
Step 3 – Don’t use cold calling scripts. Ask questions about their business, their market, their budget, and their challenges. If you are in technology, like I am, learn as much as you can as a sales consultant about the product you are selling so you can immediately identify a customer “gap” or need that your technology might be able to fill.
Step 4 – Don’t overwhelm the prospect on the first meeting. Just bring a basic notebook, but don’t break out an entire briefcase of brochures, etc., as this may be too intimidating.
Step 5 – Don’t try to sell anything on the first call! You want to gather as much information as you can so that you can come armed with a more customized presentation and use case based on the information shared.
Step 6 – Keep the prospect relaxed. Keep it light and easy. The more comfortable they feel the easier they are going to want to open up.
Step 7 – Uncover the real customer benefit. What are the challenges that you will solve with your product? What drives them? How strong are the politics within the organization? Will they get promoted based on making the right architectural decision? Do you know enough about their environment that your product will integrate well and correctly? Have you, as the advisor, truly suggested the best approach and the best formula to make their organization successful?
No matter what product or service you sell, make sure you deliver. One of the best rewards for selling, closing, and keeping the customer happy, is for the happy customer to refer you to another potential customer at another organization.
This article gets right to the heart of many sales pipeline calls.
“I don’t give a shit about sales status” is great!
Taken directly from Kira Moore’s blog:
Sales Manager – “Hey Bob, what’s the status on the Techform opportunity?”
BOB – “It looks good, we’re waiting on the results of the demo and for the CIO to approve the solution.
Sales Manager – “Are we going to close it?”
BOB – “Yes, things are coming along. I should hear about it next week.”
Sales Manager – “Is there anything we can do to move things along?”
BOB – “No, we’re good. I spoke with them last week and they told me everything is good.”
Sales Manager – “Great, keep me in the loop.”
Unfortunately this is often a realistic depiction of what happens. I can really appreciate the pre-programmed response from the sales manager that I’ve heard throughout my career. In many businesses, mid-level management is stuck in a process oriented reporting box where he or she is required to format, edit, and review potential sales, both pipelines and forecasts, and send them up the chain. I have worked for great sales managers and not so great managers over the years. Unfortunately, some managers have never sold or haven’t sold in years, but I’ll give them credit, most managers have to deal with similar pressures from management above them and are forced to answer much like the salespeople below them.
Interestingly though, sometimes an MBA and a great resume is just not enough of a pre-requisite to managing talented salespeople in an aggressive results driven environment. The best salespeople, the ones that close the biggest deals, need to be left alone to do what they do. The sales manager, as discussed in Kira Moore’s blog, needs to ask the right questions.
- Is there a chance the results of the demo won’t be favorable?
- If so, what happens?
- What is the customer looking for in the demo?
- Will the demo provide the results they want?
- How will they be measuring “success?”
- When’s the last time you spoke with the CIO?
- What does she need to approve the deal?
- What evidence do you have that even if we get approval it will close next week?
- You said you are waiting on the results, what exactly are you waiting on?
- What evidence do you have that is going happen?
- Could the results divide the customer into two camps?
- If so, what will we do?
- What is our backup strategy?
- What can we do now, that can influence the decision?
- What is OUR next step, besides waiting? Why?
I have to laugh when I hear the question “is there anything you need to help move things along?” This is a polite rhetorical question because the manager doesn’t really expect a response other than “no” and if they do that salesperson might be considered difficult or needy. So, posing the question is sheer courtesy or lazy habit rather than anything else.
Salespeople do need to be educated, trained, and coached by talented leaders. If management is pinning them on a conference call or in a room once a week asking status on their pipelines, and only talking to their salespeople during this time, this is problematic. Management should be looking at creative strategies to drive sales like aligning better resources; finding the best trainers and coaches to make their salesforce better. Also, focusing on what is going on in the territories in order to gauge what the competition is doing and ensuring that quotas are realistic and attainable.
If the sales force within your organization isn’t making their quotas, it’s time to set appropriate expectations to senior management, align realistic quotas, get better resources for salespeople, potentially find better salespeople, train and make the good salespeople even better, and revaluate your services or product offering to ensure that it is unique and strong enough to sell in a competitive marketplace.
I read a lot about sales techniques and how to harness the most productive strategies. As a sales consultant I want to be the best and at the top of my game. Brian Tracy, and his article “The 7 Sales Training Tips of Sale Success”
provides the most fundamental guidance I can think of:
- Get serious – That means studying, certifying, and most importantly, getting out in front of key decision makers with real value propositions and great technology services and offerings.
- Figure out what is holding you back – identify that weakest skill and then set your mind to making it better. For me, as with many salespeople, sometimes I lack the best organizational skills to consistently manage my time the most effective way possible. As a salesperson you should be focusing on the most important tasks, which usually revolve around customer meetings, follow through, and post sales customer service. If you’re spending your days updating reports and spreadsheets and emailing other people internal to your company, you might want to focus more on prospecting and touching base with customers that have budgets.
- Get around the right people – This is 100% true! If you are spending time around people that complain, make excuses, and generally want to do things other than be productive you are not flying with the Eagles.
- Take care of your health – this is a critical one for me that I really need to work on as well. There should never not be not enough time in the day to focus on the most critical aspect of your life – your body and your health. Stress, overwork, lack of exercise, poor diet, and bad habits like nicotine and alcohol can turn your life upside down if your body decides enough is enough. Figure out a time to exercise, eat right, and do things in moderation. As Mr. Tracy mentions, you will be dealing with constant rejection and discouragement throughout the work week, so find a way to deal with it positively and productively.
- Imagine yourself at the top – try to visualize success. I have the hardest time with this as the mind most naturally will gravitate towards the negative and it becomes an easy habit to harbor negativity when customers consistently say no rather than yes. Turn it around. Visualize the win and visualize a year and years of abundance and success!
- Practice positive self talk – absolutely. Do it. Never get down on yourself as you are the designer and creator of your destiny. If you can’t be positive about yourself then others won’t gravitate positively toward you either.
- Take positive action towards your goals – be action oriented and move quickly. Get out there in front of customers all the time. The more customers you meet, as Tracy mentions, the more chance to sell. Make seeing customers, moving quickly, and talking to decision makers a top priority.
I’m a big fan of good movies especially movies that involve my profession. I can appreciate Lee Black’s blog:
“7 Classic Movies for Salespeople” because the movies he picks are some of my favorite sales movies!
Glengarry Glen Ross
This is the Godfather of sales movies. It’s packed with resonating and iconic one liners that any salesperson can reference at will before and after a sales call. “Put that coffee down – coffee’s for closers.” “You see this watch? You see this watch? This watch cost more than your car – that’s who I am pal.” I can dish them out over a few drinks with business partners and it never fails to illicit a laugh or a smile.
The reality is that most of us aren’t selling swamp land after hours at Chinese dive restaurants to random husbands that just want a few moments away from difficult marriages, but one thing is true about the situation in the movie, and Al Pacino’s character reflected his error made during the sales process: he only sold his grand idea and land contract to the husband when, in reality, the wife gets involved with 95% of the financial decisions or any decision involving a family investment. Lesson learned after a history in various sales roles. If you’re going out on a “sit” or a sales call, make sure you present to both the homeowners, otherwise you are wasting your time. Both members of the family have to be sold in order to close the deal.
Gordon Gekko “greed is good.” Must I say more?
Much like the heated sales meeting with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, Ben Affleck delivers another epic grandstanding monologue in front of his young men, young brokers, whom are excited and optimistic to get to the next level in the world of stocks. Boiler room portrays many sales techniques and sales situations, but ultimately highlights what sales is and can be all about: a rollercoaster ride of uncertainty and often times the markets or any business potentially being manipulated by opportunistic capitalists that remain in the shadows.
The Wolf of Wall Street
I think this movie as a follow up to the original is entertaining. Is it as subtle or realistic as the original? No. Does it provide entertainment and content that salespeople can identify with? Absolutely! Is it outrageous and somewhat over the top? Yes. Would I recommend the original, along with GlennGary and Boiler room first? Of course! Either way, enjoy all the movies on his list, learn what you can, and laugh about them with your sales colleagues and business partners as you move through your career.
I can appreciate Jonathan Farrington’s thoughts in his article “Why I take an Interest in Anybody and Everybody – Do You?”
because I don’t and I should. I can appreciate the notion of giving and sharing versus bargaining and keeping score because as a salesperson I think we often fall into this, especially the younger version of me whom was seduced with the ideas of getting to the top any which way possible.
I have to remember this behavior really is contrary to human nature and that human happiness stems from helping, interacting, bringing value, as well as providing help and support.
As discussed in his blog, successful networking is about those most important tenants:
Receiving – Giving
It’s great to receive, close deals and make money, but it’s always great to donate, give, and provide for those that are less fortunate or in need. I do believe in Karma, or rather, a harmonious flow that exists between giving and receiving. It’s important we give thanks every day for what we receive and have and then give back when we can.
Contributing – Accepting Support
This is all about keeping an open mind. If you are self aware then you can certainly accept support as well as criticism. Now not all criticism is good, however, some is very critical and if you can move past the personality ego, and in many cases with salespeople a very strong personal ego, you may learn, evolve, and adapt along the way.
Offering – Requesting
This is very important. Remember to offer guidance, help, support, opinions and request feedback as well.
Self Promotion – Promotion of Others
I definitely feel like you should always be promoting your best and most valuable asset – yourself. And while you’re at it, certainly promote those within your network and group that are valuable and help you succeed!
Being Truthful – Being Persistent
When a customer or anyone wants to know more or they ask a question, especially a sales consultant in IT that might not know the answer to every question, always be truthful. If you don’t know the answer and you need to consult an engineer than do so and tell the customer you don’t have the answer, but you will do research and get the answer for them. The customer will appreciate the truth more than a sales angle.
Persistence is the key to most things in sales. That means follow up with the customer, follow up with the project, and everything else associated with keeping them happy and the business successful. If a door closes or continues to close – never give up – another one will open that will be even bigger and better than before.