Thursday, September 23, 2010

"I Understand How You Feel" for Great Sellers

Back in the sixties and to this day, most sales training has focused on the "consultative" approach, features to benefits transitions and the memorization of objections and how to o------- them. (Right, "overcome"). Most sellers learn how to deal with these interactions within weeks of starting their careers. And all buyers have had hundreds of these conversations per year times the number of years they've been buying. The outcomes for all are average. Sellers get average shares, buyers make average buys and clients get average results.

A small percentage of sales people would just as soon play Russian roulette as this game. Rather they are in the business of expending all of their energy and creativity toward developing enough credibility (trust) from their customers, to be able to partner with them in throwing conventional wisdom to the wind and struggling to identify opportunities for growth and gauging the risk and reward attendant to their discoveries.

They do that by learning what they can about the customer before any contact is made, rather than, "Hi, I'm here. Can you teach me all about what you've learned in the past couple of decades that you have been in business so that I can see if I can help you?".

They do that by telling the customer the truth as they see it about what challenges they suspect lurk, and those as yet undiscovered by them and perhaps even by the client.

They sincerely express their desire to help!

They suggest they and the client should get started partnering together the sooner the better so that the rewards of their work are enjoyed sooner than later.

Phew! How do they do all that?

The answer is they are committed to the above and disciplined to tenaciously adhere to those pathways...and they learn more than a little about selling. One of the tenets the great ones learn early is the importance of empathy. "Mr. Jones, I don't understand why you are struggling. Your business isn't brain surgery and everyone else seems to be doing just fine," is probably not going to be received all that well. Now the seller might be correct in his assessment of the situation, but the approach may fall short in its attempt to forge a trusting relationship which might otherwise open the door to meaningful work together.

Another very tired and unfruitful tact is the all too popular "Yes, But"..." (You know, I've had other customers say the same thing, but I have found)..

Likewise, The attempt to demonstrate empathy by employing the tried and untrue, "I understand how you feel Mr. Jones but," has almost no value in demonstrating empathy.

Here's what does work:


Mr. Jones says, "I cannot bring myself to spend money this month on marketing. Business stinks and if it does't pick up I might not make rent in two months."

You say, "I too have made irrational and disastrous decisions because I was afraid to take a risk."

Here's what that does. By saying "I too" you have implicated your buyer with the same irrational and potentially disastrous outcome as you say you have experienced by being too cautious. You just served an ace. And, you've demonstrated Empathy.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Advanced Appointment Securement 201

First permit me to posit that you are not a cold caller using the phone book from A to Z as your prospecting tool. That's because, if so, none of what follows applies. That's another course entirely. Having set that stage, the only possible description of the recipient of this first call, that is if you are at least on the way to becoming a Great Seller, is that of a well researched prospect, who unless proven otherwise, could benefit meaningfully from interacting with you, much less buying or subscribing to your product or service.

You've only one goal then on this call. That is to receive a commitment for a meeting at a set day, time and place. Remember, you've taken the effort to qualify the prospect as well as possible without an in-depth first exploratory meeting.

The Advanced Seller has already internalized the fact that no matter what time of day or day of the week he makes the call, his will be the nine hundred thousandth call for an appointment in the preceding hour. Ninety-four point three per cent of those calls sounded exactly alike to Mr. Buyer, and consequently failed to result in a committed appointment. (The Advanced Seller Congregation is small and the Great Seller Congregation is tiny). That’s because non-graduates of the course don’t understand that the telephone is not the communication vehicle best utilized for further qualification much less to close anything.

Left to its own devices the telephone is actually an enemy that is unfriendly, impersonal, and unreliable and can be used deceptively. You must neuter it. How can you do that?

Here's what the Advanced to Great Sellers do: In addition to communicating honestly and fearlessly, they are friendly, rational, not didactic and honest. In short, everything the telephone is not--and more.

Here's how the Advanced Appointment Seller thinks: Whether or not this prospect that I have chosen to serve takes advantage of my offering, will depend solely on how effectively my first communication sets me apart from the preceding supplicants and fires my "target's" imagination that help is on the way. So at the beginning of what is hoped to be a productive relationship, this seller tackles his introductory objective (a commitment for a meeting) without creating pressure points or ingrained resistance. Often a light hearted or whimsical approach serves to mitigate what would otherwise seem like a "make or break" point.

“Mr. Jones, I’m Joe Blow and I’m associated with XYZ. I’ve been doing a good deal of homework on you and your company. Call me crazy but in a half hour I truly believe you and I would agree I can help you grow your business. Can we have a quick cuppa at your place next Tuesday morning, or would afternoon be better? I’m buying.”

No Challenges. No proclamations. Just a tease that there is information that may be new and you'd love to share it and help him. And you are nice, you really are!

Folks, you still won’t get them all. But after a while, you’ll be surprised when you don’t.

(With thanks to Great Seller Dave Nelson for suggesting the topic).

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve,Don't Sell
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Do it For Them

Clients, that's who!

How many clients have you talked with over your career? How many of them share similar obstacles and growth opportunities? How many of them have complementary skills and don't really compete with each other? Or, how many of them with complementary skills and competitive products or services, could grow their respective businesses if they could get a third player (LEGALLY) out of the way?

How many of them would cause you anxiety if they knew, as you do, that they are missing a terrific marketing opportunity, that wouldn't involve buying from you?

How much Respect, Gratitude and Credibility would you earn from those among these clients that you put together to help them each grow? What's the value of that RGC to you?

Today, I wrote two quick emails suggesting to people who had never worked together that they make contact and explore situations where they each might benefit from strategizing opportunities together. I've known the parties for years and enjoy a good relationship with each, so my guess is that they will follow this up.

Oh, you wonder what's in this for me? I haven't the foggiest; never even wondered about it. That's because I know that working for the benefit of other people is the first step in forging a sustainable, successful career.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for a client or prospective client is to step aside when you put them together with other people who you know can do them some good. When you do, who gets the credit? Whose reputation is enhanced? Who gets the call?

How many people this day will you have been in contact with by 6:00 P.M.? That's how many people drew their first impression of you or added some additional data to their perception of you; that is to say, your reputation with them.

Great Sellers Spend All of Their Time and Energy Doing it for Them.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"All You Need is Love...da da da da da"

When you are really in love, there's no limit to what you won't do for, or give to, your love object. Isn't that true? " for...or give to..." In other words, devoted service to others is a clear symptom of respect and even love. For many years I have proselytized that loving one's work allows him to work tirelessly and accomplish so much more than if one spends his day begging the time God to move the clock along until five P.M. Bosses, customers, co-workers and employees alike, can't help but be impressed by, and responsive to the energy, good will and preparedness exhibited by sellers in love with their work.

As a seller, loving your work implies a belief based upon experience that the product or service you offer is of meaningful value to a number of thoughtfully targeted customers. You have something important to give; something that can change for the better the course of the buyer's day, week, month or year. You exalt in the "OK, I'll try it," not because you've made another sale, but rather because yet again you have helped (served) another.

Accordingly a second core value that uncommonly effective sales people and their mentors share is "Serve, Don't Sell." John Hope Bryant, the founder of Operation Hope, and advisor to the past two U.S.presidents, in his book "Love Leadership" makes the case that the best way to get ahead is to figure out what you have to give to a world seemingly obsessed with: "What's in it for me?"

As you grow your career, I would suggest this book is a must read. There are a handful of very successful top executives whose leadership styles are fear based. But only a handful. The great preponderance of high performing O level folk are supportive, encouraging and yes, loving. The comfort they provide creates an atmosphere and culture in which people are encouraged to and can learn; in which they are not terrified to take reasonable risks and in which they are encouraged to spend their days looking for ways to serve others. I promise you, that a seller who goes out to make ten sales tomorrow will make far fewer that one who goes out to help ten people.

John Hope Bryant suggests, and he couldn't be more on the money, that "Love makes money: The expression of love in business--creating long term relationships with customers and employees based on caring for others and doing good--makes everyone wealthy."

Fisherman and salesman have war stories. I am both so here goes. Today at lunch I was catching up with a friend I met through business when I was head of sales at AOL and he was a top e-commerce executive at one of our clients. We had two business meetings during the course of our respective stays at those companies, and that was eight years ago. We've done no business since then but have probably talked fifty times over the years, perhaps twenty-five of them at lunches or dinners. I've advised him when asked about his career pathing and helped his brother think through an opportunity. And I did all this frankly because David is my friend. There's little I wouldn't do to help him. Among the companies I consult, and with which I have a stake, is one that his professional experiences and contacts can all but ensure the success of the company. I suggested at lunch today that he permit me to suggest to the "board" that he join in an advisory role, for which I was sure I could arrange an economic incentive. He responded, "for you, my friend, I'd do it for nothing." I won't take him up on that but I believe him because I would do the same for him. From the first meeting, David and I have only looked to do what we could to make life better for each other. Business aside, it's a nice way to live.

Great Selling!

Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
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