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.

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