How to be a great salesman – A few tips I’ve learnt along the way

How to be a great salesman – A few tips I’ve learnt along the way

Sales can be a dirty word to a lot of people. For me, it’s the life blood of any company, after all without sales, you have no work and without work you have no money. SO I’m sorry folks, if you were thinking of starting your own business and thought you could side step this one, you’re going to need to be incredibly lucky or have invented the next big widget that everyone wants!

I’ve been selling for 13 years. I started when I was just 19, in Exeter (UK) in a world that was dominated predominately by guys that were 40+ and had been in business as long as I’d been on this earth! A scary place and one that I made lots of mistakes in. Here are a few tips I’ve learnt along the way.

1). Qualify, qualify, qualify

When you get to that wonderful point where people start making enquiries, you need to qualify whether they are a fit for your business. The gut reaction is always to take anything that comes your way (especially when you start out). The truth is this leads to lots of unnecessary running around for nothing, dealing with people who don’t respect you and bad business. It may well be that you need to pay the bills but my honest feeling is that if I had my time again, I’d have spent a significant amount of time working out who to target and going for them rather than the scatter gun approach I used back in the early days. Does your sales process include a qualifying step?

2). Make friends

It’s a cliché to say that people buy from people. That said, it’s completely true. If you can’t bond with a prospect within 10 mins of meeting you’re going to struggle. No one wants the sleezy sales person with all the answers (did we ever want that?). We want someone human that understands our needs, our problems and then demonstrates knowledge and the skills to help us with both. Quick tip: When you first go into someone’s office, take a look around the walls for things you might share in common; pictures showing a certain sports persuasion, certain types of books, posters or pictures. Don’t go overboard or change the lifelong football team you’ve supported to that of theirs – it may just be that when the time is right you can bring something less sales related into the conversation and take the pressure off the meeting.

3). Talk openly about money

How many times have I sat there talking to someone I thought needed a website and in my head I know this project is 10k but after two meetings and a proposal I’ve found out they only have a budget of 2k? Too many to embarrassingly mention! How about using a line like this to get you started (yes in your first conversation). “So John, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here. Our ecommerce sites start at around the 10k mark. There are cheaper alternative options which certainly have their place in the market. Before we meet to discuss all the exciting functionality, how does that sit with you as I know neither of us would want to waste the time of the other?”. You need to work on delivering this in a nurturing way but it can be done and it will save you days and days of wasted time.

4). Build relationships

There are lots of quotes about how much easier it is to sell to current clients than it is to secure new business. Some say 5x, some say 7. Whatever the true number is, you need to work out a strategy for building your client base and selling within it. I tell you one great way of keeping clients loyal – look after them. Amazing isn’t it! Don’t look for the quick buck, keep an eye on their needs using social media sites, be there to help them when they need it. Try and hook them up with your other clients, try and find them sales without the expectation of getting something back in return. Don’t allow yourself to get so blinkered that all you do is look for that next new sale or you’ll make really hard work for yourself.

5). Connect

In this day and age, my clients and prospects can connect with me in many different ways and where possible I always do my very best to respond quickly. They can get me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, Google+, my mobile and a number of other places if they want. I don’t turn off at 5:30pm (maybe a bad thing in some people’s books). I’m available because I want the edge and if that edge is helping someone after hours because I can then I’m there.

6). Become a student

…of your industry. Sales these days is about positioning yourself and becoming a trusted advisor for your clients. If you’re the goto guy for something (a product/service etc) because you know the most about it and how it can be used to solve your client’s challenges then you’re going to make sales. If you simply turn upto work, make a few cold calls and go home at 5:30 then good luck to you, I’ve got a felling you’ll be looking for work elsewhere soon.

I’m interested, do you consider sales a dirty word? What are your experiences of selling and can you add any more tips to this list which will help the people reading this?

 

Photo Credit: Lacey_and_Cielle via Compfight cc

A case for failing

A case for failing

Today I have a guest post from a guy that I consider a close confidant to my business and me personally. I’ve worked with Andy for over two years now in the areas of sales and management. He’s delievered huge value to my business as a coach and trainer. Andy is, in my view, the sales and management guru in the South West. In this great post he talks about a particular favourite topic of mine, failing! Take it away Andy.

When was the last time you failed, didn’t complete an important project on schedule, fell short of achieving a meaningful goal or simply didn’t accomplish what you set out to do?

If you haven’t failed lately, that’s unfortunate.  Because accompanying every failing experience is an opportunity to learn and to grow.  People who never fail are, for the most part, people who never take chances.  They typically don’t set goals, or if they do, they are ones which are easily achieved or within their capabilities. Those people rarely suffer major disappointments but at the same time, they rarely accomplish anything great.

Life is richer and work more fulfilling when you set goals that take you out of your comfort zone – when you have something challenging to aim for each day.

But you can’t set goals, especially stretching goals unless you’re willing to risk failure.

Why?

Because you won’t succeed at everything you set out to accomplish, even after several attempts.  But don’t let that scare you – a valuable lesson will have been learnt.

If you’ve been afraid to take risks, afraid to fail….STOP.  Think about what you’d like to accomplish in life, what you’d like to be known for, where you’d like to go and the relationships you’d like to have.  Take time to let the idea of moving your life to another level sink in.

Identify the steps or tasks necessary to accomplish each of your goals.  This gives you a sense of control over the outcomes and allows you to work steadily towards success.

Challenging goals can make the difference between a mundane life and an exhilarating one…but only if you’re willing to risk failing.  Are you?

You can find out more about Andy here.

Photo by fireflythegreat

 

Guide to Setting Up a Meeting & The Upfront Contract

Guide to Setting Up a Meeting & The Upfront Contract

Do you find yourself spending too much time in meetings? Do they often over-run? Do you leave them feeling like you don’t really know what the outcome was or what you actually achieved? I did…for years I had meeting after meeting without clearly defining my outcomes and objectives and I dread to think how much time I wasted. As time is such a valuable resource I recognised I needed to do something about it and have recently enlisted on the Sandler Sales Management Training in my area (which I can recommend highly). One of the first things I learnt was a process they teach called the ‘Up Front Contract’ It’s taught for sales meetings really but I’m adapting it and using elements now for all my meetings. I’ll expand.

Here are the stages (and quite often this will be done on the phone pre-meeting)

Step 1 – Define the point of the meeting – a clear statement (what’s this meeting for)

Step 2 - Define the length of time required for the meeting and check that is ok with the person you’re going to see – do both parties feel it’s adequate.

Step 3 - Define the other parties objectives and expectations – what do they want to get from the meeting?

Step 4 - Define your objectives & expectations for the meeting – what sort of things are you going to cover, what type of meeting is it likely to be? Is it an informal chat or a presentation for example.

Step 5 – Outcomes – What will the outcome be? In a sales situation you either want a yes or a no ideally but if it’s not a sales meeting I’m adapting that to actionable items on both sides and if another meeting is required, getting that in the diary there and then. You shouldn’t end the meeting without this clear cut off point.

No one will hate you for having a structure and it will save you hours and hours of wasted time. If you’re interested, by the way, in Sandler training, drop me a mail and I’ll personally introduce you to their team.

Now Your Thoughts

Do you have any systems like this? Are there spins on the above that work for your business?

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited by thebestof to attend a seminar by legendary American sales trainer Jeffrey Gitomer in London. Not really sure what to expect, I booked my place purely on Nigel Botterill’s (CEO of thebestof) account of him. I have a great deal of respect for Nigel as a businessman so knew it couldn’t really go wrong. It was a full day and I came away with pages and pages of notes and action points, all of which I’ve written up today, while still fresh in my mind.

If you’re interested, Nigel also posted on his blog about the event entitled, ‘Are you a Winner or a Whiner?’. Well worth a read.

Now I’m not going to try and break down a whole day into one post, so I thought I’d pick up a few of the key points for you, especially if you’re in sales yourself or are starting/just started a business.

People buy people – we know that right? Well I guess most do but I’m sure sometimes we forget. Jeffrey pointed out on MANY occasions that ‘sales’ is quite simply about being friendly – to EVERYONE!

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

If you make yourself an industry leader in your sector, so indispensible that people want to buy from you, then the time spent doing that will be far better used than making sales calls and giving people your brochure (Jeffrey refers to this as puking on people lol – he also has a fantastic New Jersey accent which I really wish I could convey in this article). So the main premise of the day was to stop thinking about how to sell to someone and starting thinking about how to make them buy. I’m afraid though that this isn’t easy, it takes hard work, something many sales people simply aren’t willing to put in. Do you think just because it’s a Saturday it means I’m not going to blog about work! If you have that mentality, this probably isn’t for you – and neither is a career in sales!

A few top tips from the day that I’ll certainly be actioning myself in the coming weeks:

>> Get creative – Your business card should be a talking point – If the person you give it to doesn’t say ‘wow – cool card’ rip it up and start again!

>> Get video testimonials from clients – This is 100 times more powerful than saying how great you are yourself. If you can walk into your prospects and show them other happy clients waxing lyrical about you you’re on a winner.

>> Talk to your customer’s as if they were your Grandma – I personally love this one. He literally says, add ‘, grandma’ onto the end of any line you’re about to say to a customer and if it doesn’t sound right, don’t say it!

>> Use Social Media – It ain’t going away – THANK YOU JEFFREY – ‘nuff said! J

>> Become your client’s friend – if you make a sale, you make a commission, if you make a friend you’ll earn a fortune. A nugget of gold.

If you get the chance to see Jeffrey then don’t question the money – you’ll make it back 100 fold. You can see and get more information about him on his website here: http://www.gitomer.com or follow him on twitter here: http://twitter.com/gitomer or become a fan on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/JeffreyGitomer

I have already (before the event) purchased a number of Jeffrey’s books and would whole heartedly recommend you consider buying them.


The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness – You can buy it from Amazon here.

Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a Yes! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success

I’m now off to buy these other books in his range (I didn’t even know these ones existed until yesterday!):