Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Art Of Selling: Sales 101...The Proposal, and Work Leading to it.

In the first "class" on the Art of Selling (see immediately preceding post) we "talked" about getting and conducting the first appointment, the "tell me" interview. It's called that because the job of the seller in that meeting is to LISTEN to, and LEARN everything about what the client knows about his business and his perceptions of the opportunities for growth. The objective of the meeting is an agreement between the parties as to what "problem" the sales representative will try to solve at which point he will re-visit and propose his solution (or to be crass, sell).

Next step: That day, or the very next, send a brief letter, email if you like, expressing appreciation, reconfirming your assignment on behalf of the client and your eagerness to have a promising solution when you visit next (insert appointment time and date).

The Work: Use your first meeting notes as bullet points to be researched.
a. What's the market size for his product or service?
b. What are the geographic considerations (where is the market that he can
c. What is the profile of his consumer?

1. Age
2. Sex
3. Income
4. Education
5. Household size
6. More? (Think)

d. Who are his competitors?
e. Is this a high or low margin business?
f. What is the brand position of your client and those of his competitors?
g. What share of the market does he control?
h. What are the product and price differences between him and his competitors?
i. What is the lifetime value of a new customer?
j. What can he afford per new customer acquisition?
K. More? (Think more).

The Proposal:

A. The executive summary: Re-state the agreed upon problems/opportunities
identified in the first meeting
B. Next, summarize your findings from your "work" and conclude this section
connecting the salient findings to the solution objective.
C. Next, present the specifics of your proposal.

1. Here's what to do.
2. Here's the suggested consumer messaging
3. Here are case histories supporting this approach and their favorable
4. Here are my projections for new sales, the
cost of sales and the profit margins resulting from this program

Shut up! And get ready to HEAR and Respond to questions and objections.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Remember: This "course" is to be good; great is a whole other course.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Art of Selling: Sales 101

My fantasy is that at least a few followers of this blog will be inspired to become great sellers. (Wow, can you imagine if I asked you ten years ago what a blog was?). It's hard work to be "great" at anything. It's just as hard to be "good" at anything. However the jump from good to great requires much more commitment, discipline and time than does the jump from beginner to good. Great salesmen bear the gifts of betterment to all with whom they come in contact. But both Good and Great salesmen need to sweep the arena within which they play before each event, if they hope to record a "W". That's because their predecessors didn't clean up after themselves. The Art of Selling will help clean up the predisposed cynicism of the "buyer" and get you the permission to help him.

Here's the truth. You come to sell me and promise me great benefits from a purchase of your wares, and I just don't believe you. I do however believe you will say or do anything to get your fingers inside my wallet and get as much as you can for the least you turn over. Sorry, but that's something you'll need to come to terms with and learn how to overcome in "the work you have chosen."

If you're to have even a shot at selling me, other than for an obviously and ridiculously low price, you are going to need to artfully neutralize my mindset. How to do that, is the subject matter of Sales 101.

THE CONSULTATIVE SELL: Starting with the appointment setting phone call or visit, the correct approach communicates selflessness; "Mr. Jones, I'd like to visit with you because I think I can help you. I AM NOT COMING TO SELL ANYTHING, BUT RATHER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. IN THAT WAY WE'LL BOTH BE ABLE TO SEE IF I CAN HELP YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS. I NEED A HALF HOUR OF YOUR TIME. CAN YOU INVEST A HALF HOUR WITH ME? I'D LIKE TO HELP".

Now if you are, or at least sound, sincere you will get one appointment for every 15 - 50 calls you make. (More appointments for fewer calls will happen as you get better at phone work). So the first thing to notice is that it is not easy to get an appointment to sell something. The other thing to take away from the low success ratio between calls and appointments made, is that it has much less to do with your worth than it does with how people feel about sellers in general. It's not a rebuke of you personally, it's a disdain for your profession. (Doesn't that make you feel better?). Don't get discouraged. Instead make long, no, a very long list of prospects. You've heard that sales is a numbers game and Sales 101 supports that proposition.

Preparing for the Appointment: You will want to do the research on your prospect. ("Search" makes that easier than ever). What does he produce or sell? Who is his consumer? What is the size of the market? Who are his main competitors? Where does he rank among his competitors in share of market? Is this a high or low margin business? How important does brand recognition seem to be versus price? In addition to search and after you've done the initial work, ask your manager if he knows anything more about this prospect?

The First Appointment: "TELL ME"--The first appointment is for you to question the prospect all about his business with the research you've accumulated as your outline:

"Mr. Jones, how much money is spent in your marketing area for the product/service you offer?"

He answers and you write it down. Write down his every response. In your questioning and your writing down his responses you are giving very clear signals that you take this meeting seriously and are vitally interested in learning about his business. You want to be of help! Remember, that is how you got the appointment in the first place and now you are demonstrating your sincerity.

"Mr. Jones, how many competitors do you have for the $167,984,305.97 that is spent annually in your marketing area?"

"And where do you rank in share?"

"And what factors seem to control the rankings?" (Could be number of years in business; Could be advertising budgets; Could be perceptions of quality, pricing, number of sales people). If he doesn't volunteer all these factors, you can ask about them. For example, "Mr. Jones, you didn't mention which competitor has been in business the longest. Who has? Do you think that plays a part in market share?"

After your list of questions and others that arise during the course of the conversation are answered, you are ready to ask the key question or two that sets the banquet table.

"Mr. Jones, of the following three competitive issues we've (you are now starting to allude to this as a joint effort, a partnership) uncovered so far today, which do you think, if solved, provides the greatest opportunity?"

He answers and then you say...

"Mr. Jones, I think we've agreed that blah blah blah provides us ("us", get it?) with the greatest opportunity to grow. I'd like to leave off here, go back to my office, think about and review this conversation with my associates, in confidence of course, and see if we think we can come up with ideas to make it happen for you. You'll want to hear about that if we can, right? Why don't we pencil in mid-week to go over the ideas we come up with to help you grow? Would Tuesday or Wednesday morning be better for you? I'll get back to you Monday to either wish you well or excitedly confirm the appointment? OK?"


And, that also concludes the first lesson in Sales 101; getting and conducting the first meeting. Assign yourself some homework.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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P.S. Remember, we're "taking" Sales 101 to learn to be "Good" at sales. "Great" is a whole other course.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tell Me About the Blog's Title Again

Frankly, whatever part religion plays in my life has little to do with business, but the title for this blog came to me when I found myself thinking how important an altruistic mindset is to help set the stage for extraordinary performance in sales. So while one's spirituality is nothing to take lightly, I thought it made for a catchy title. If I've transgressed, may I be forgiven.

Great Sellers Go To Heaven because they live by a set of core values that center around honesty in their communications and devoted service to others before self. It seems to me, that these qualities tenaciously adhered to, begin to make a good argument in favor of admission. The other core values that I believe lead to uncommon success are in support of these two so as to ensure the greatest benefit to the greatest number of clients. Here again are the five core values which I propose can guide anyone to remarkable sales performance:


Numbers 4 and 5 will be the "evidence" from your business life supporting your "case."

There is a common ground you share with all those upon whom you call. You each want to benefit (in various ways) from your labor. You each want to invest, acquire wisely and benefit those who are counting on you. You are each prepared, or ought to be, to sacrifice to achieve these ends. If you are the one in a given interchange offering to provide the goods or services, your success will be in direct proportion to the degree to which you make paramount the needs of those you would serve.

Behaving this way will fire up the engine of rough justice karma that will ensure your uncommonly substantial payment for services rendered. Aside from logic there is substantial faith based evidence that a life spent this way helps on judgement day. A search of "service to others" in the St. James Bible,
the Old Testament, the Koran and readings on Buddhism reveal the following:

1 Peter 4:10
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

Exo 24:13;
"Great leaders are people who have no problem with serving
others if that is their lot in life; indeed, it helps prepare
to them to lead"

Koran: "You are the best people created for the good of mankind." (3:111)
This verse claims that Muslims are the best people and have been raised for the good of others.

Buddism: "Human Dignity in Buddhism," by Ven Dr.K Sri Dhanaranda:
"By being of service to others, we develop great virtues which are inherent in us. By being of service to others we show a spirit of understading, kindness, compassion, honesty, simplicity, gentleness and humility."

Pick a religion or look about you at the stand out performers who month after month and year after year do all, and more, that is expected of them by their bosses and clients. They serve and serve again and are going... you know where.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spend the Rest of the Week Visiting Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia Dealers

It took way too long but Toyota corporate is finally on the right track with their messaging. In short--they are apologizing to their consumer base, assuring one and all that they are 100% focused on solutions and very mindful of their obligation to communicate openly and honestly and live up, once again, to the heretofore perception of being a top quality auto company. One that we can trust with our safety.

Toyota dealerships should be piggy-backing this marketing strategy locally coupled with an appeal for an appreciation of their years of service to their communities and sincere pledges to double and redouble that good citizenship. A promotion with an obvious and meaningful community service component would likely go a long way to support the sincerity of the message.

Meanwhile, as Toyota pushes uphill with the weight of the negative PR world on their shoulders, Honda, Hyundai and Kia should be attacking frontally and from each flank. Honda's begun to do so taking the high road using "safety" as almost, that is almost, a throwaway word in its national advertising.

Kia, having overcome its original U.S. image as a cheap-only car and graduating to an inexpensive and pretty reliable car, and Hyundai with its ten year/100,000 mile warranty also have only a handful of weeks to seriously and perhaps permanently prevent Toyota from regaining its top imported car market share. Certainly these same weeks provide an unparalleled opportunity to sell cars that might have gone to fill new Toyoda family coffers.

I know that there are dealers who tell media sales people that they are waiting to see how things shake out before they invest. Any great seller who hears that will probably answer with something along the lines of, "Actually Mr. Jones, it seems to me that plan is a little like waiting for the enemy (well, competitor anyway) to resupply its troops with ammunition so as to ensure a fair fight."

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toyota Doesn't Get It

The Wall Street reporter from FOXNEWS on Imus in the Morning yesterday quoted auto analysts as predicting that Toyota is, and for a while will be, losing $150,000,000 per week in new car sales as a result of the recall due to "pedal sticking problems." (Today there are reports of brake problems with the Prius so that forecast could go way up). Toyota may lose $150,000,000 million or more in sales per week, but not because of the recall or the new Prius brake problem. Rather it'd be because of the way they continue to mishandle the outreach to their customers, present and potential, since discovering the problems.

Toyota manufactures and sells. I think that the skills that individuals employ to generate trust and sales, are not fundamentally different than those that companies should use to sell consumers on their brand. Honesty, good will and excellent service rank right at the top of those necessary sales attributes.

This is hardly the first time a quality product or service faced a disastrous consumer confidence setback. The Tylenol recall comes immediately to mind as does the breakdown in the AOL technical infrastructure after a marketing coup doubled or tripled usage overnight. The folk running and advising those companies at the time got it right. Confront the issue head on. Solve the problem. Communicate immediately, directly and honestly to every constituency. Remind your customer base how much you owe them and how little you won't do for them, including an immediate fix to the problem.

Toyota's misfortunes have been sharing the number one "breaking news spot" with the earthquake in Haiti and mass drug cartel murders in Juarez for more than a week. Yesterday I went to their WEB site (www.toyota.com). Ninety-five per cent of the home page displayed a brand new Toyota Highlander, beautifully shot against a pastoral background. In the very low left corner of the page (any WEB designer worth his salt will tell you that this is the least noticeable spot on any page) was a small bar entitled "recall information." It looked like the bar was placed there almost as an afterthought, rather than to honestly update the world on Toyota's effort to remedy the problem and well serve their customers.

Toyota makes a terrific car. But few folk are of a mind to go out of the way to buy one today. First we want to be assured that the problem has been solved; but we also want to be assured that we are cared about, that Toyota is sorry for the trouble and anxiety it has put so many of us through, and that it is prepared to make good in all cases where it has caused harm. In short, we want to be loved and protected.

Instead on their WEB page Toyota told us how much we ought to love them and their brand new Highlander. Jim Letz, head of Toyota in America, ought to have plastered the home page with his apology, fix and promises for the future. Then maybe he could talk to us about staying with or moving over to him.

Yesterday on NPR, Amy Eddings, reporter for All Things Considered, interviewed Mr. Letz as part of his press tour, and she asked a particularly interesting question: Letz had just explained that new Toyotas would have brand new accelerator "packages" to replace what might be defective ones, and recalled cars would be fitted with an oversight-approved metal "shim" which corrects the defect. Ms. Eddings asked, "what if an owner of a recalled car opted to have the whole package replaced rather than the "shim-fix?" Mr. Lentz replied that "would be a local dealer decision."

Excuse me Mr. Letz. In the face of very serious brand destruction, and with current and future disastrous potential consequences to Toyota owners, you want us to negotiate how well we will be treated by you and yours? And then you show us beautiful pictures of new Toyotas to buy at the same time. Uh, not sure you really get it, Sir.

Hey Toyota, search the case histories on the Tylenol recall and the AOL price change that brought their servers and service down, and see how the heads of those companies and their advisers blunted the adverse effect and grew their companies bigger than ever by communicating honestly and fearlesly with their consumers and demonstrating their respect and appreciation. Maybe you can borrow a page from their playbooks.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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Serve, Don't Sell

Monday, February 1, 2010


In "have a little faith," written by Mitch Albom, the protagonist, a 90 year old dying rabbi laments, "...the word commitment has lost its meaning. I'm old enough to remember," he goes on, "when it used to be a positive. A committed person was someone to be admired. He was loyal and steady. Now a commitment is something you avoid. You don't want to tie yourself down." The rabbi, was referring, of course, to interpersonal relationships, and marriage in particular.

But shifting focus to the world of business, and qualities that separate average sellers from the great ones, I would suggest that "commitment" and the degree to which it is imbued within by a seller, is an accurate measurement to forecast enduring exceptional results. Yet perhaps in business as well as in interpersonal relationships, commitment has lost its glow as a quality attribute. As the world changes at an ever increasing pace, the "winners" keep forcing growth and change upon themselves so as to stay ahead of the curve. In some cases that process of change may be throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Two salesmen come to visit me. The first shakes my hand and tells me breathlessly of a spectacular offer he's able to make me but he'll need an answer right now. The second comes in and asks me my name. So far, I'm more likely to do business with number two. The second guy begins to tell me what made him call on me and then asks a few questions to test out his original perceptions. Now we're in a conversation and at some point he mentions that his primary purpose in this meeting is to ascertain if, as he originally guessed, he might be able to help me with his product or service. (Number one seller meanwhile is sitting in the reception room shaking his right leg up and down, all the while giving my receptionist updates on how many minutes are left to take advantage of his once in a lifetime offer).

Number two finally finishes his visit with a promise to review our talk back at his office and do some research and ideating to see if there's benefit to us working together. He wants to know whether if he has a few questions after he leaves, he can follow up with a call? He wants to get this right if he's going to suggest that we, that's right, we,commit to a partnership.

We do. His servicing of the account is remarkable. My investment with him is safe and rewarding. He's hardworking and creative and I never have any reason to believe that I don't come first with him. This is one committed salesman. And I've never been quite so committed to a vendor as I am to him.

Oh him? He's down the road offering once in a lifetime deals to everyone he meets.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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