Sales Doughnuts

Secret Sales Weapon

One of the things that always surprises me about experienced sales people is that they still tend to believe there’s a secret sales weapon out there. They go to conferences, they hire coaches, they read books, they buy DVDS of motivational speakers and then after all that their sales are still down. “What am I doing wrong?” they ask. “What’s the secret?” The secret is in understanding people — how they work, how they think, what they feel. You don’t need a degree in psychology to figure it out either, but understanding the four sales types helps a lot.

You just have to be honest, authentic and focused on them, their problems, challenges and needs. You have to be able to listen well, to recognize a need, whether spoken or unspoken, and you have to find things you honestly like about them as a way to connect with them on a personal level. And finally, you have to make them feel good about you, about your product and about doing business with you. That’s it. That’s the secret of sales, of life, and of relationships.  You have to genuinely care.

Quote:
“My advice to salesmen is this: pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” ~Mary Kay Ashe

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The Diplomat

1949 Dodge Diplomat

We’ve all known at least one great diplomat in our lives — you know, the person who can tell you to “go to hell” in such a way you look forward to the trip. It’s an amazing skill and one not easily acquired. But it’s worth pursing, particularly in sales. Why? Because you’re going to meet hundreds of people who are right, even though they’re wrong. You’re going to meet people with chips on their shoulders, anger issues, control issues, and all kinds of personality issues that are going to make it impossible for you to simply tell them the truth and keep their goodwill. For most of us, the art of telling someone they’re wrong, or off base, or even clueless takes a lifetime to acquire. To get started though, start practicing these four things:

  1. Never take anything personally, even if the person makes it personal. People act on their belief systems just as you act on yours. Set your system aside and try to understand theirs and speak their language where possible.
  2. Disengage emotionally when you feel yourself needing to defend something, argue or prove you’re right.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Clarify why a person said or did what they said or did. Their reasons or rationales will make sense only when they explain them. Most people are doing the best they can with what they know, and who they are, and that includes you.
  4. Right or wrong, always give people an out, a way to save face and to salvage their pride, dignity and power. Never back anyone into a corner just because you can, or because you think they deserve it. Be the bigger person. Compassion and mercy are never misplaced or misspent.

Quote:
“If you want to please people who are mistaken, you can’t simply tell the truth. You’re always going to have to add some sort of padding to protect their misconceptions from bumping against reality.” ~Paul Graham

image compliments of exfordy

Thriving in Tough Times

A friend of mine was telling me about a story she’s writing about marketing in tough times. She pointed out that companies like Hewlett-Packard, Airstream Trailers, Fender Guitars, Les Paul and Adolph Rickenbacker guitars, Coleman camping gear and other iconic companies were all started at the peak of, or like Coleman, were in business around the time of the great depression. Although Coleman started in the early 1900’s the depression hit them hard. The others though were all actually founded during the great depression. The remarkable thing is, they stumbled a bit, and then thrived and are still around today, all of them classic symbols of American culture.

Think about it. These companies weren’t selling food, shelter or necessities. They were selling art, camping, electronics, music and leisure products in a time when most folks were unemployed and impoverished, and scrambling to buy groceries. Makes you wonder what kind of sales people and techniques they employed, doesn’t it? The lesson is that it’s not the economy that determines sales success.

I thought about it a bit, and then looked into it. Lo and behold, the philosophy that all of them shared, some to a greater degree (and thus greater success), was “Listen to your customer and respond to the feedback.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it. “Listen First, Sell Later.” That mantra has worked for more than one hundred years through lean times and fat. They knew it. I know it. Trust it. It works.

Quote:
” There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.” James Nathan Miller

image compliments of theunquietlibrarian

Be a Better Person First

Personal growth trumps skills every time. A salesman I once knew, let’s call him “Sam,” (not his real name), was the best real estate agent in his 20 person firm in terms of real estate knowledge. When it came to knowing real estate law, contracts, how to get the best deal, anything having to do with the business of being an agent, Sam was all over it. Sure, he was brusque and impatient with customers, and he treated those who didn’t understand contracts like they were idiots, but who cared. He knew his stuff.

Betty, on the other hand, could never quite understand contracts. She had to have others run her numbers, and hands down was the worst agent in the office when it came to real estate knowledge. She had barely passed her agent’s exam. However, she was also the only agent with multi-million dollar sales every year. She consistently outsold every agent in the office year after year. Sam just didn’t understand how she did it, and neither did anyone else. But within 10 seconds of meeting Betty, I did.

When you met Betty you felt like you’d met your long lost friend and soul mate. Betty had a knack for engendering trust in her right off the bat. I asked her how she’d learned that. She told me the first book about sales she’d ever read was Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” She was horribly shy in high school, so she was forced to work on her personal skills, and people skills before she ever discovered real estate. By the time she got her real estate license the strongest skills she had were personal ones. Every year her real estate skills get better, but it’s her attention to her growth as a person that has made her the company’s golden ticket. Ninety percent of sales are about the relationship you develop with a customer. You can’t fake it, at least not for long. Skills that win customers are the personal ones—compassion, patience, empathy, sympathy, listening abilities, the art of easy conversation. If you’re going to focus on sales, focus on becoming a better person.

Quote:
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.Theodore Roosevelt

image compliments of kid.mercury

Don’t Be a Knucklehead

In a blog post last week, I wrote about not taking business advice from professionals such as attorneys and accountants. Today, I’m here to tell you that when you find yourself in a situation that feels like you need legal advice or you just got a letter from the IRS about anything, it is definitely time to call one of those two professionals.

Too many times I see people asking their friends for advice on legal matters. I’ve even seen people solicit advice on forums from strangers about things that scream stop talking and go hire a really, really good attorney.

And, yet they keep on talking and trying to get free advice. I’m also amazed at how many non-attorneys and non-accountants are willing to give advice because they’ve been “down that path” or someone they know told them blah, blah, blah.

Don’t be a knucklehead. And, don’t try to save money by asking your auto mechanic for legal advice. Please don’t ask your friends wife who is “good at keeping books” for advice about how to set up your accounting system or answer an IRS inquiry.

Your friends and associates are there to talk with, get sloshed, cry, scream, and whatever it takes. They aren’t there to give you professional advice so don’t ask them for it.

Use the correct professional for the job and you’ll find that both your short-term problem and your long-term business and personal life will be better off.

Quote:
Most people who ask for advice from others have already resolved to act as it pleases them. ~Khalil Gibran 

image compliments of cogdogblog

Advice

There are good accountants and not-so-good accountants.

There are good lawyers and not-so-so-lawyers.

There are good bankers and not-so-good-bankers.

You’ll have to choose based on references and your own intuition – at least the first time you use their services.

If you own your own business or are thinking of starting one, then the the most important thing to always remember about lawyers, bankers, and accountants is that they offer legal, accounting, and banking services.

Get your business advice from someone who has successfully been there and done that.

And, never, ever get it from a professor of business at the local university.

Quote:
Those who can — do. Those who can’t — teach. ~H. L. Mencken

image compliments of laughlin

Belief is Strong

A friend stopped by today. We shot the breeze about a bunch of stuff and then he started talking about his business. He’s had it for 20 plus years now and is well thought of by his customers. I’m one of them so I know how important customer satisfaction is to him and he makes a point of trying to always be exceptional.

But, he told me this year has been the most difficult one that he can remember. He believes that things are really worse than we are hearing when it comes to our economy. A sense of dread is apparent in his language when he talks about business and the world in general.

He may be correct. He may be incorrect. Maybe the economy is worse than it has ever been. Time will tell, I suppose. But, for him it doesn’t matter as he has already made up his mind and is selling with the belief that people don’t have the money to spend, or won’t spend it with him, and, if they do, they will take advantage of his generous terms and make him wait extra-long for payment.

He has turned his beliefs into self-fulfilling prophecies. His sales are down, people are spending less, and his accounts receivable are higher.

Our beliefs are all-powerful. What beliefs are you holding near and dear that might be acting as anchors on your own success and fulfillment? Why not try pulling up anchor and steering your personal ship with a different map. A map made up of beliefs that focus on the outcomes you want. It can’t hurt to try since the anchor has you swinging slowly in circles.

Quote:
All business proceeds on beliefs, or judgments of probabilities, and not on certainties. ~Charles W. Eliot

photo compliments of uglyagnes

Being Square

I don’t carry a lot of cash. I carry plastic. My clients carry plastic. I mean, unless you’ve stopped at some “cash only” mom and pop business along a rural road 100 miles from an Internet connection, most businesses in America take credit cards. More and more of sales everywhere, including soda and snack machines, involves the coin of the realm, which these days — is plastic. So when your primary method of payment is plastic (credit and debit cards), and 99% of merchants are set up to take plastic, the machine that takes plastic isn’t the problem you’re trying to solve, right? So if paying for something with plastic is pretty standard stuff, why are consumers leaving Paypal.com in droves to go to Square.com? They both have mobile card readers that attach to a cell phone that let consumers pay with plastic anywhere. Commentators claim Square’s reader is “Apple design chic,” and Paypal’s reader looks “like it came out of a McDonald’s Happy Meal.” So design is part of the attraction, but what’s really so different about Square that their business could pull consumers away in droves from a heavyweight like Paypal?

In simple sales terms? Square understands how people sell and how people buy — and I don’t mean they know we use plastic. The real reason Square is winning the plastic payment showdown as nothing to do with card reader design or transaction costs. It has to do with what all great sales people know really brings in sales — customer loyalty, customer engagement, customer appreciation and a knack for getting customer attention. Square understands its users.

Square engages their customers. They understand them and they understand that shopping is supposed to be fun, that it’s not just about acquiring stuff or spending money. Shopping is an experience and Square makes it that way, allowing people to “pay by name,” or merchants to customize their displays, award loyalty rewards and offer coupons to frequent buyers. Square understands there are real people spending real money behind all those plastic card transactions. Do you?  If you don’t, maybe you should.

Quote:
“Consumers don’t really have a mobile payment problem. Ninety-five percent of the time, paying with cash and credit cards actually works pretty well. Consumers have a mobile shopping problem. There’s a difference.” ~Jack Stephenson, JP Morgan

Be Prepared

I seem to be returning more calls than usual these days. Everyone from the carpet people to politicians, to people trying to sell me stuff, to people wanting to buy things from me. Most leave their name and their company number, which makes it easy for me to know who they are, but not so many remember who I am. Returning the call for a company or person you don’t do business with regularly has its pitfalls. More than once I’ve called a company and asked for the person who left the message only to get them and hear them say, “Bob Poole? Why are you calling? What conversation were we having?” Nothing screams, “You’re just another name on my list and I don’t know or care about you,” more than returning a call only to have the person not know who you are. I’ve been on both ends of those calls—feeling like a fool for not knowing who the person is, or feeling like I’m bothering the person I just called, even though I’m returning THEIR call.

With the immense availability of client management software this shouldn’t be a problem, but apparently it is. The solution? If you make a lot of sales calls and a prospect calls you back and you have no idea who they are or what they want, after they give you their name, act enthused and glad to hear from them. Then say this: “Hi (NAME). I’m glad you were able to call me back, but I’m just about to wrap up a project and can’t talk. Can you give me your number again and I’ll call you back in 15 minutes?” Almost everyone will give you their number. Take the next 15 minutes to track down that number (Google it even), and determine what company they’re from, why you called them and refresh any information you have about them. Then call them back. You’ll sound engaged, interested and personal, not like you were caught flat-footed.

Quote:

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” ~ Sam Walton, Walmart

image compliments of PSD

Doing is Learning

Most of us experience giving a car with a dead battery a “jump” by watching someone else do it. We watch our mother (or father) cook. We sit in class for 12 years and nod while teachers explain all kinds of things. When we start a sales job we watch others go through their presentation and we think we’ve learned. But it’s not until we jump our own dead battery, break our own eggs, burn our first meal or have to give our own presentation that we truly learn. Don’t be afraid to just do whatever it is you’re learning. You won’t figure out what it really means to bomb, to be boring, to succeed, to wow a client until you do it for yourself. No one and nothing can take the place of personal experience. No matter what happens, fail, succeed, survive or thrive—you’ll learn 200% more than you’ll ever get out of someone’s description about it.

Most sales training is overrated.

Quote:
“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.” ~ James Russell Lowell

image compliments of djnik