Are You In It to Win It?
It’s time to start strategizing for the new year, but maybe you’re still feeling the sting of a subpar 2016. Chalk it up to bad luck, overly ambitious goals, failure of the economy to run at its potential—whatever lets you sleep at night. The important thing here is that you learn from these sales shortcomings to get the numbers you want.
Think about where things went wrong. It could be that the prospect didn’t want what you were selling, or maybe you simply didn’t do your job. Did you provide enough information? Did you plow through objectives? When closing a deal, there must be a willingness to let things naturally unfold. Here to help with some of their best tips are Linda Bishop, president of Thought Transformation, Atlanta; and Bob Gray, salesman for Public Identity, Los Angeles.
1. DIG DEEPER
The biggest mistake salespeople make is failing to understand the needs and values of prospects. Oftentimes, this miscommunication is a direct result of not asking the right questions. Bishop explained that questions should define the benefits buyers are looking for and how important those benefits are to them. In other words, is it a case of “must have,” “want to have,” “nice to have” or “don’t care”? “Buyers are only willing to pay for benefits they must have, and sometimes for what they want to have, if the salesperson presents those benefits correctly,” she said. “For example, sometimes meeting a delivery date is more important than any specific promotional product. By understanding that, you can frame your pricing correctly.”
Bishop encouraged salespeople to nurture the conversation by using the following framework:
- How are you using this product? • What is the most important to you on this project? (If prospects say, “price,” dig deeper.)
- Have you had any problems with a product like this in the past? (Bishop offered the examples of cheap pens that don’t write, T-shirts made from flimsy material and embroidered logos that were less than desirable.)
- When does this project deliver?
- What else would you like me to know about this project?
And, of course, make the call when appropriate. “If the client says, ‘We need these in three weeks,’ and you know it is a 10-day production, common sense should prevail,” Gray remarked.
2. KNOW YOUR WORTH
Clients are interested in what you can do for them. In a world of product pushers, it’s up to you to be a problem solver. However, that’s not to say your time doesn’t matter. Before you spend a ton of creative energy on meetings, dinners and proposals, determine whether or not the other party is serious about doing business together. Gray prefers to present an if/then scenario. “I use a direct question: ‘If I provide you with what you are asking for, can we work together?’” he said.
3. KEEP IT MOVING
Timing is everything. Let the sales process drag on too long and a competitor could swoop in; act too fast and you may frighten off a prospective client. Strike a balance between patience and enthusiasm. “[To quote musician Tom Petty,] ‘The waiting is the hardest part,’” Gray quipped.
All things considered, know when to follow up. “Remember the old saying, ‘ABC—always be closing?’” It is true,” Bishop reminded. “Very few sales are made as a one-time event. Most of them are a series of smaller decisions that take the salesperson in the direction of the big, ‘Yes, I will buy’ agreement to purchase.
“As a rule of thumb, however, once you send a client a proposal, you need to be asking for feedback within 24 hours,” she continued. “Asking for feedback does not mean you will get it, but the odds go down for closing a sale if you wait a week before you request information.”
4. TOUGHEN UP
Because many transactions are impossible to close on the first try, as Bishop pointed out, salespeople need to be mentally prepared. “In sales, you need to be a ‘happy loser,’” Bishop said. “This is a term coined by psychologist [and anthropologist] G. Clotaire Rapaille, who has studied what makes salespeople successful.
To become a happy loser is dependent upon personality and learning. Personality is how resilient you are at your core. Learning is finding ways to take negative situations and turn them into positive, meaningful experiences for you that help you find success in the future.”
Gray agreed, and gave some tough love of his own: “If ‘noes’ bother you, get your nose out of this business.”
5. FIND THE GOOD IN ‘NO’
“Every ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes,’” Gray insisted. “‘No’ is actually the second best thing a customer can say to me.” It’s all about perspective. Learning what “no” means when you hear it comes down to what Bishop described as “account qualification.” Yes, a “no” might mean “no forever,” but it also may mean “not today” or “not yet.” “Turning a ‘not today’ into a future opportunity is selling,” Bishop said. “To do that, you must convince a buyer that you can provide value for them, and it is worth it for them to consider you on a different opportunity today or on a future opportunity tomorrow.”