I recently performed an audit for a mid-sized company in which I examinined their sales staff against a standardized assessment test as well as their performance data. The results may confirm some of the things you already know, but there were some surprises. Here is a brief recap of the analysis.
When you look at the qualities of the great sales representatives for non-transactional sales–those sales that are larger and more complex in nature–they tend to share the following traits:
- They assume parity with their customers–There is an imaginary hierarchy that average and poor-performing sales people place between themselves and their prospects. It includes head-trash like, “The customer is always right,” and “You’re the customer so you’re the boss.” The data says that the top sales representatives see themselves as problem-solvers worthy of equal respect with their customers. Respect always, deference rarely.
- They are comfortable talking about money–This quality often starts back in the home in which they were raised and the beliefs that were held there about money. If there was a belief that money was a rare and precious thing to be horded or feared, then it shows up with a fundamental discomfort in discussing large numbers. Individuals that look at money as a measure of value, not as a number outside of personal grasp, typically do better in sales.
- They challenge the decision-maker–The best sales representatives have a strong confidence in their understanding of the customer’s market and their own solution–enough so that they are comfortable challenging inaccurate statements made by the customer.
I love Jean. She’s a salesperson extraordinaire employed by one of my great clients. Every call or email from her is a double shot of espresso to my spirit. We all have a Jean in our lives–the opposite of the “soul sucking oxygen vampires” I wrote about in a recent post. They give so much more than they take–and that’s why her call gets answered or returned no matter where I am or what I am doing. And I’m not the only one. Jean usually gets responses from whomever she contacts. Her approach is simple, but it is so effective. Over the course of dozens of contacts, I think I have figured out why. Here are the things Jean does well:
- Set time expectations–”Do you have just 3 minutes for a quick one, I really need your help on this.” Now I know it won’t be three minutes, but I do know that I can tell her I’m slammed and need to connect later, or I can take the call always being able to tell Jean that we have to wrap it up.
- Re-connect first and fast–Every call starts with an “I was thinking of you the other day when I was at…” and a very short story putting me in the picture with Jean.
- Give before you ask–She then gives me a boost to my spirit, “Something you said in the past stuck in my mind, and it was…..” and then she tells me why it was important and helpful.
Every house has a junk drawer. I was going through mine the other day and it was filled with stuff that seemed like it was worth keeping at the time, but on reflection, you can’t really understand what you were thinking. I found a half of a needle-nose pliers…? Why would I save that?
There are some things that you may be keeping that no longer have real value. They were good ideas at the time, but that time has passed and it is time to move on. I warn you in advance, some of these you are going to want to hold onto, but I think you should really consider tossing them:
1. Hand written notes–The handwritten note is an iconic, almost mythical, fixture in the lore of sales people. This is a tradition that you can discard. It is no longer the preferred method of communication nor does it carry the same personal connection that it did in past days. In a digital world it is slow and for a digital crowd, say younger than 45, it is clunky.
2. Birthday wishes–We should keep these, right? No. If your buyer has a LinkedIn account or is on Facebook, they receive dozens if not hundreds of connections wishing them some version of Happy Birthday. Digital cards from Hallmark or other online sources fill their email. It’s numbing and you are just one more in the pile.
3. Prospects on your list longer than 18 months–Your pipeline is more than dusty if the prospect bin has a contact with whom you have not done business for over 18 months.
I recently started making a list of all of the mentors, advisers, and smart friends that have helped me over the course of my career. I ran out of time when the list got to 39 people—I’m not finished yet. It made me think of just how many people over the course of our lives have contributed to our success through their words, actions, and examples. Some have little idea of the impact they have made because their seed was planted a long time ago and did not really mature until much later. Others we have near us all of the time and that is a great gift.
Here are a few pieces of sales advice that I received in the recent past that I am grateful for and wanted to pass along.
- You get sent to whom you sound like–Tom Schaff, author and sales coach. I cannot remember a week in the past several years that I have not quoted this insight. It so clearly explains why certain people get to speak with decision-makers while some are relegated to non-decision makers. Every prospect in a sales situation is qualifying and sorting out whether or not the conversation has value. Busy people are looking to deflect and defer any non-crucial interaction to another time or another person. If you are speaking with someone about their problem in their language, then you get to stay. However, if you are not tuned to the language of the decision-maker, you will get moved.
With New Year’s resolutions just around the corner, why not get a jump start on your sales diet? Here are tips on trimming down your sales process and increasing results.
Diets are pervasive to the U.S. culture. There seems to be a diet of every sort for just about everything. My recent favorite is the “digital diet” that limits the number of minutes you spend on digital activities in a day–not a bad idea in this time of hyper-connectedness. All of these diets promise to create a positive improvement in your life by changing what you take in as well as what you do. They are frequently aimed at solving the issue of excess.
I see the same with sales programs–too many calls, tracking documents, reports, CRM entries, and customer visits. Wasteful excess. I want you to consider a diet from the things that are actually killing some of your productivity. Slim down to a more effective and energized sales effort.
Like any program to improve yourself, you should make certain you are ready for the change. Here are a few qualifying questions:
Check your company first before engaging in any diet:
1) Are your people really sales reps? They have to be spending more than 40 percent of their time seeking out NEW customers or selling NEW products to current customers. If they are monitoring and replacing inventory, providing quotes on current products, providing in-service training or installation assistance, or handling transaction processing, they are not in fact sales people.
I recently asked John Ruhlin for some advice on gift giving, specifically on which gifts to avoid this holiday season. Click here to read about the 5 worst high level business gifts and solutions to “fix” them.
Last week we gave you advice on what gifts to avoid, so this week I thought I would turn to John once again and get his holiday gift guide. Here is the list of John’s 13 Most Memorable Executive Gifts for 2013.
1. VITAMIX Professional. This powerful machine (don’t call it a blender, as it has a 2.5HP motor that spins faster than a jet engine) will get used daily by the whole family to make everything from your morning smoothie to ice cream, almond butter, margaritas, and 100+ other creations. If you have been to a Starbucks or Smoothie King, you have experienced this product in action. Family owned and made in Cleveland Ohio for over 80 years. $689 www.vitamix.com
2. CUTCO Santoku Classics. Everyone these days has become a “foodie” and loves entertaining in their monstrous kitchens. This set from Cutco is handcrafted in NY with the finest materials, can be personally engraved, and is guaranteed with their famous FOREVER guarantee. 3 Pc Set comes with Santoku Chef Knife, Utility, and Paring Knife. $250 www.cutcogiftcollection.com
3. GRAIN AUDIO Portable Wireless System. This Bluetooth wireless speaker leverages the Grammy Winning Waves MaxxAudio® suite found in many famous mixing boards.