The Sales Advantage

The Sales Advantage

What End Of The Banana Are You Holding?

I recently watched a colleague demonstrate the easy way to peel a banana. While most of us here in the United States peel a banana from the stem, the proper and more efficient way is to start by pinching the other end, and peeling back, just like you may have seen a monkey do it at the zoo. It is amazing how simple the banana opens up when starting from the opposite end. In many countries, people open bananas this way, but we continue to open them the more difficult way. Why is that? It is because we have always done it that way and most of us didn’t even realize there was another way to peel a banana.

Many sales professionals fall into a similar selling problem. They do things the same way they have always done them, never questioning or looking to discover a new, better and simpler way to sell. Yes, there might be a better way out there to help sell within their industry, but if they were unaware of it then opportunities are constantly being missed.

How do you make sure that you are not still trying to sell from the wrong end of the banana? Here are three tips to help slip into better habits:

1) Hold – Most sales people are used to selling in a vacuum. They don’t get to interact with other sales professionals on a regular basis. Take the time to identify at least one sales person per month who you can shadow. Hold yourself accountable to spend a few hours with that person and see what techniques they have to get things done better and more efficiently.

2) Pinch – Look at your own sales process and decide what you are doing that is not adding value to your customers, prospects or sales process. Once you have identified them, pinch away those bad habits. Each month, pick one bad habit and work on eliminating it from your routine. Tell someone what you are working on so they can help to hold you accountable.

3) Peel – Just like opening a banana, we have to take action by peeling it or it will go to waste. Likewise, we need to take action implementing positive techniques and developing new effective sales habits to help fill the void of those we have pinched away.

Sales is as easy as opening a banana, but if you are opening it from the wrong end, you can make it a lot harder than it needs to be. Hold, pinch and peel your way to more successful sales habits.

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Are You a Superhero?

When I was a small child, I enjoyed reading comic books, so as an adult I am looking forward to the release of Iron Man 3 in May. Something deep inside me still enjoys the thought of someone with extraordinary powers coming to the rescue. Most of us have imagined ourselves as a superhero when we were children and everyone at one time or another has had a hero they looked up to. Do superheroes exist today? For years, I have taught in my sales courses that sales is a noble profession.

Sales is that type of position you can actually become someone’s superhero. Think about it logically. What do superheroes do? They save people who need help. What do sales people do? They help people and businesses that are in need. Is it that simple? Are we all superheroes? No, it takes a little more to become super. We have to act with the same characteristics of a superhero.

Here are five traits of a superhero to start you on the right path:

1) Attitude – The first thing a superhero needs is a positive mindset. You never see one saying. “I don’t think I can help.” Sales people have to adopt this attitude and know that you are helping those that need your product or service.

2) Moral – Honesty is essential for a superhero. The ones who are not honest are considered villains. Sales people who rise to the top usually have the same moral integrity. They never try to play games or trick customers. Rather, they are seen by customers as the type of people who they don’t have to second guess.

3) Sympathetic – Superheroes will not sacrifice others for their own benefit. They go out of their way to help those that can’t help themselves. If you care enough about your customers you want to help them succeed. As a sales professional, you can help businesses and consumers by providing them products or services that get them into a better situation.

4) Dedicated – A superhero never thinks twice about helping. Sales people have to have the same dedication to their customers. What separates the average sales person from the super sales person? Constantly helping and never passing the buck to someone else because you just don’t feel like helping, or ignoring someone who you don’t think will spend the money on your product or service.

5) Driven – Superheroes never give up. Sales people get frustrated with the rejections they receive. For many, rejection is like Superman’s Kryptonite, it will kill you over time unless you do everything you can to battle back and succeed.

When you approach your sales with a positive attitude, morality, sympathy, dedication and drive you will become a sales superhero.

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Sales: Are You Losing Customers?

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, dissatisfied customers tell 9-15 people about their experience, and around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. The companies that I most often talk disappointingly about are few in number, but fall into that category. One area where I tend to tell several family members, friends and sales people about is when I experience a lack of follow-through and customer service. I will use one particular company as an example of what not to do.

About five years ago, I wanted to purchase a new car for myself, as well as a minivan for my wife. I have purchased four vehicles from this particular dealership. I had been happy with all my prior purchases and would tell people how much I liked my cars. However, my experience after this particular sale that made me vow to never buy another car from that dealership again.

Several weeks after my double purchase, I received a message from the dealership telling me I “forgot” to sign some papers. I had all my copies with me and went through them to see everything was signed. Finally, after I pressed them hard enough, they admitted that they had lost ALL of my paperwork. I was greatly concerned because my personal information, including my social security number, was on this paperwork. The dealership said it was just misfiled, but when I insisted they look harder, I was told they could not look through their thousands of files to try and find mine. The dealership acted like it was my problem and how dare I inconvenience them by asking them to find my private information that they had lost. Finally they agreed to send someone to my home with new paperwork so I would not be required to spend my time to go back to their dealership.

In this economy it is more important than ever that you conduct business with high integrity. Because the dealership was not honest and upfront about what happened, they lost all my future business and referrals.

Here are three simple steps to keep customers loyal when a problem arises:

1) If a problem does occur, be honest and apologize for the inconvenience it may cause your customer.

2) Always keep your customer in the loop with how you are rectifying the situation.

3) Follow up after the problem has been resolved to  make sure the customer knows you care and they are important to you.

When you follow through with good service and honesty you can earn referrals and continue to grow your sales, even in the unfortunate event of mistakes or problems.

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What Is Important?

This past weekend, I took my son to the store so he could pick out his birthday present. When we approached the cashier, he started to ask my son questions about our purchase and playfully joked around with him once he found out it was his birthday. As we left the store my son said, “Dad, I like that guy. He was nice.” While my son is not old enough to go and make purchases himself, he does have the ability to tell me the store where he wants to shop, and I bet the next time he will choose this same store because of that cashier.

Whether we sell toys, automobiles, office equipment or technical solutions, we need to remember what is important: the relationship. One way to build that relationship is to think about what you are selling and how it adds value to your prospect’s business or personal life. Does it protect them? Does it make them more profitable? Does it help them stay competitive? Once you figure out how your product or service adds value, you will know that the service you provide is not only helpful, but also necessary. You will be able to explain the value with excitement and personal gratification.

In October 1912, 100 years ago, Dale Carnegie started teaching professionals how to build productive relationships. He wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936 to compliment and reinforce his coaching sessions. It is important to see that his motivation style was not one of manipulating the other person, but changing the way we think, act and treat the people around us. This common sense approach, however, is not common practice. Many sales people approach prospects as someone to be sold to. Those who transcend the “average,” are those who approach prospects as someone they hope to serve. Yes, if you want to excel, you have to have the heart of a servant.

The good servant always has their master’s interests in mind. Knowing what is important will give you the ability to connect with your prospects and give you the foundation to build life-long relationships.

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Can’t Sleep?

I was speaking with a sales representative from a local company last week who said he was not sleeping very well. When I asked him why, he said he was worried about making enough commission to pay his bills. Are you waking up in the middle of the night thinking about prospects, presentations or how to hit your quota?

You can’t perform your best when you are stressed and tired. This is not uncommon for people who are struggling to make a living in sales. The best thing to do is be so prepared and sell so much that you don’t have to worry. But how do you do that? Here are a few tips to get back on track and sleep better:

1. Be the Best Possible Sales Person You Can Be – Often sales people are complaining about not being able to sell without taking the necessary steps to improve their performance. If you want to be great, take time every week to improve your sales skills and industry knowledge. Get a mentor or sales coach, take sales seminars and read sales books on a regular basis.

2. Get Organized – One of the most challenging aspects of sales for many professionals is staying organized. When you have a large pipeline of prospects and customers it is important to keep them all close. With technology available on smart phones and laptops, you can do this by using a good CRM like Zoho or Salesforce.com. Put notes after every meeting and set next steps before you leave.

3. Remember Your Successes – Often, sales people try and reinvent the wheel, time and time again. While it is important to try and customize each presentation and adapt to each prospect, most prospects in similar industries and positions will have similar challenges. Don’t think you have to start from scratch every time. Use the techniques that have worked well with similar prospects and make small adaptations to fit their business.

4. Take 15 Minutes to Recharge – Don’t think more is better! I have worked side by side with sales people who work through their breaks and lunches to try and get ahead. I have always taken 15 minutes to walk around the building and recharge or step out for lunch. This makes you more effective because your stress goes down and you are better prepared, mentally, to handle the objections and rejections that sales people face on a regular basis. I have been able to exceed my quota on a recurring basis because of this rule.

When you start taking control of your sales ability and become the best in your field, you will sleep soundly with visions of dollar signs dancing in your head!

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Perceived Value

I received an email from the vice principal of a Santa Ana middle school that I spoke at last week. She thanked me for conducting some free workshops for the parents and children at the school and told me how valuable it was. I told her that I was happy to give back. I had actually approached over 150 high schools and middle schools in Orange County and her school was the only one that wanted to take me up on the offer to conduct a free session for the parents on “How to Win Cooperation and Influence Your Teenager in the Digital Age.” Was it because they did not need these skills? No. It was perceived value; because I offered to do it for free they thought it must not be any good.

This is an important lesson for sales people to remember. When you reduce your price, the perceived value is lowered. “Perceived value” is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. This directly effects what they will be willing to pay in the future. They may perceive a more expensive product is more valuable simply because of the price.

If you want to increase the perceived value of your product or services follow these three rules:

1. Translate the Value

You must be able to communicate the value of what they need in terms that they understand. This requires asking focused questions to find out the “why’s” before recommending what they should buy. When you find out what motivates your customers, you have one of the most powerful tools to get them to take action. Then you can reframe what motivates them in terms of your product and services. You increase the value in their mind because they can now visualize the outcome and its direct impact to their lives.

2. Use Powerful Evidence to Increase Importance

Leverage evidence to increase the importance of your product or service in the minds of your prospects. In other words, if you simply vocalize the benefits they may doubt your claims, but if you have testimonials, case studies, third party reports, statistics or exhibits to back up what you say, they will be more willing to believe what you offer is valuable to them and more likely perceive it as being worth what you are asking for it.

3. Be Enthusiastic

Author Dale Carnegie was right when he said, “The little know secret to success is enthusiasm!” He stated that almost 100 years ago and yet it is still a secret. Sales people don’t understand how valuable enthusiasm is in a sales environment. You have to be excited about the value of what you are selling because that excitement is contagious. Your enthusiasm will also get the prospect excited about what you are selling. People like to buy from people who have a heartfelt belief and excitement about their products.

By increasing the perceived value of what you are offering, your prospects will understand, believe and be excited about what you can offer.

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Sales: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Last week, I was coaching a world-champion fighter on presentation techniques. As a fighter, he knew how to prepare for every fight and walked into the ring with the mental attitude that he would be victorious. However, he said that he turned down multiple speaking opportunities because he did not have an understanding of how to prepare his presentations in the same way. This is also a challenge for a lot of people in sales. They are not doing sales activities because they don’t know how to prepare for success in those other activities. If you have fallen into this trap: “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!”

The fact that you don’t like certain activities is different from being afraid of doing things you don’t feel knowledgeable about. As a commission sales representative, you are dependent on creating a sustainable pipeline. If you are avoiding sales activities such as cold calling, presentations or handling objections with confidence because you don’t know the proper way to prepare then you should be afraid. Five or six years ago the economy allowed sales people to become comfortable and avoid activities that they had not perfected. In today’s marketplace, there is no room for timid sales people who won’t do the necessary tasks required to make the sale. To quote Zig Ziglar, “Timid salespeople have skinny kids.” In other words, you are not going to make a living to support your family unless you do what is necessary.

In order to overcome the anxiety that comes with doing sales activities you are not comfortable with you have to tell yourself: “I can and will do it.” Attitude is the biggest obstacle to success next to knowledge. Once you have the right attitude you can seek knowledge on how to become better at those sales activities. This knowledge can come from mentors, books, seminars, sales coaches, etc. Make sure to practice with your mentor or coach to develop the right habits. This practice breads confidence and eliminates fear.

Applied knowledge combined with attitude is an unstoppable force. Once these things are in alignment, you will be able to knock out your quota and succeed at all aspects of sales. And then there is no reason to be afraid.

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What’s Your Agenda?

Last week, I was at an important meeting with a prospect that I had been trying to speak to for some time. We came in with a prepared agenda for a group of 12 people we had never met before. The meeting went exactly as planned. By the end they were discussing with each other how they could integrate us into their next event and sharing success stories with each other about the last time they attended a Dale Carnegie event. These are all strong buying signals! This was a well-executed meeting.

Unfortunately, many sales people miss the mark with their meetings. This problem is typically an organizational issue. Companies create a canned presentation PowerPoint that focuses on the products, services or applications that they sell. They tell the sales people to follow the presentation. They talk a lot about themselves and spend little time talking about what the customer needs. This highlights the difference between selling and order taking. Every situation is different and canned presentations won’t give us the ability to use a discovery process. To truly sell in a meeting we have to start with a strong BASE. You have to prepare an agenda that will create a buying atmosphere.

Here is the BASE needed to create a successful agenda:

Benefit – When planning the meeting, think from the prospects point of view. What do they need to get out of this meeting for it to be worth their time? After the typical pleasantries and rapport building, this should be how you open the meeting. An example of this would be, “We are here today to share some ideas that can assist your National Account Managers to increase your average transaction size from under $5 Million to the $10-$15 Million range. We will explore ways to equip and support them in targeting mid-tier businesses with appropriate credit ratings. This will, in turn help you achieve your bank goal of growing and increasing profitability.” The prospect now knows what the benefit of the meeting is to them.

Agenda – Next, it is important to lay out a structured agenda so prospects are open and willing to discuss their world. These agenda points should not be about your company or products. Here is an example:
The proposed agenda will include:
• Discuss goals for the National Account Manager Team
• Identify possible areas of support for National Account Manager Team to expand their mid-tier customer base
• Explore support for part-time and full-time sales teams
• If appropriate, discuss how you can help meet their objectives
• Determine the next step

Step – Finally, ask a question to make sure that everything the prospect wanted from the meeting is being covered. This would sound like, “Is there anything you would like to add to the agenda before we begin?”

Engage – Encourage them to talk with a follow up question. An example of this would be, “Do you mind if we start by asking you a few questions?”

Many sales representatives skip these steps and pummel the prospect with questions from the start. This will quickly put the prospect on the defensive. You can easily tell if you are guilty of this by thinking of your last few meetings. Were your prospects openly giving you all the information you needed to help them achieve their goals?

When you use a strong BASE for your meeting agendas, you will Sell Like A Professional!

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Are You Kicking the Can?

Many kids grew up playing the game “Kick The Can.” This tag game required a person to tag players, where they are then sent to “jail” and frozen until rescued. Free players had to “kick the can” in order to release players sent to “jail.” This tag game mirrors what is happening to many sales people today.

First, we have the person who is “It.” These sales people run around contaminating the rest of the sales team with negative excuses like; “The economy is bad!,” “Our prices are too high!,” or “They can find it cheaper on the internet!” They are essentially freezing the rest of the team and sending them to jail because of the attitude they have.

Next, we see the sales people who are getting sent to “jail.” These are the sales people who feel like they are frozen, powerless and can’t do anything. They get tagged by whomever is “It,” listening to everything negative that is being said, and can feel frozen. They are waiting for someone to “kick the can” and rescue them because they perceive themselves as helpless.

Finally, we have the sales representatives who have been making a lot of money through this struggling economy. They are closing deals despite obstacles that are preventing others from succeeding. They are an inspiration to the rest of the sales team. It could be said they are “kicking the can” with their positive attitude to free the rest of those who would otherwise be “in jail”.

Which one do you find relates most to you and your sales team? If you want to move forward and close more deals, then your attitude is key. Getting out of your slump and getting your sales team out of “jail” may be as simple as having a proactive and positive mental attitude and kicking the can.

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Sales Evolution

Last week when my wife picked up our youngest son from school, she met someone new. During the conversation, she was asked what I do for a living and she mentioned coaching and Dale Carnegie Training. Typically this type of conversation leaves the other person asking more or nodding politely. To my wife’s surprise, she was met with a pessimistic response coupled with an unfriendly attitude: “I took some sales training through work before and didn’t find it worked to well.” I laughed when she told me his response. It is usually the sales people that don’t like to be trained who struggle month to month trying to make quota and blaming everything except themselves when it comes to their performance. If you reach a point in your life when you think you can’t learn anything more about sales, it is time to retire. You are obsolete!

The world is constantly evolving and changing. Do you think you can sell the same way today as you did five years ago? The answer is NO!! Sales professionals know that every time they add a small tool to their evolving sales arsenal, they will make it back in commission tenfold. Sales professionals need to understand how sell better, faster and with less in order to take advantage of new markets, technology and changing regulations. If you want to continue to evolve and grow your sales, think BIG.

B – Bring an attitude of humility. The biggest obstacle that most sales professionals have is their own attitude. Be open to learning new techniques, reading new books, and networking with other successful people in your industry.

I – Incorporate small changes. It will feel a lot more comfortable for you to make small adjustments, rather than waiting until you have to make a big one. The key here is to evolve over time with new techniques and information you have gathered. The stumbling block for most sales people is that they try and change too much, too quickly and only when it is too late.

G – Guide others. There is no better way to learn than to teach others. Become a mentor to those in your company. Set a weekly or monthly meeting and teach them the new things that you are learning on a regular basis. You will quickly find that they can teach you as much as you can teach them.

If you want to evolve and be a BIG success remember to never stop learning!!!

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