Category: Habit of a Successful Salesperson

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself

You are about to send the proposal. You want to get your team’s perspective on your offer. This team may be your technical pre-sales, your manager, your manager’s manager, your finance guy, your implementation team, etc. Many people can give you insight into the proposal for your account. Each person on your team will help you with trade-offs to make your proposal more attractive to the prospect. Their suggestions will be valuable.

You should learn from them and adapt their opinions to your strategy. But you may want to say, “No thank you” to many of the suggestions. Every suggestion that is something like, “We should add X to the proposal to sweeten the deal.” Or maybe, “We should discount this service.” These are probably inappropriate suggestions.

Your team should focus their suggestions on things that tie back to statements of concern or goals by the prospect. It shouldn’t be about adding items or discount.

Whenever you are trying to fine-tune a proposal, and you discount or bundle things together that are not standard in your product line, you are negotiating with yourself. You are trying to anticipate an objection from the prospect and react to that objection in advance of the conversation. This is “negotiating with yourself” instead of with the prospect. You will always lose a negotiation with yourself.

Please understand, I am not saying that discounts are not appropriate for a given customer. There are many reasons to offer a discount:

  • Your list price is significantly higher than the street price.
  • The customer has already offered something in return for a discount such as a reference call or presentation at a user meeting.
  • You know that you are at a product or company disadvantage and you need to offset that technical disadvantage with a lower price to achieve parity with the benefits offered.

Negotiations are always a give-and-take between two parties. Whenever there is a request for a concession, the other party needs to ask for something in return. This cannot be possible if you are negotiating with yourself – what are you going to ask for and then offer in return if it is just you negotiating? By definition, you are going to give and not get anything in return if you are negotiating with yourself. It is a lose/lose proposition rather than a win/win proposition.

Of course, the objection to this is that you may be in a situation where the proposal has to be delivered, and there will be no negotiations. These are real situations, and they are painful to lose, but you need to eliminate them from your pipeline. How can you have a great relationship with an account that has such a closed relationship with vendors? Nearly every time this is the case, you have not developed a long-term trusting relationship with that prospect. You were probably late to the deal. You are probably acting like a Hunter or a Farmer and definitely not like a Trapper. In other words, you are probably going to lose a considerable percentage of these deals especially if you have a fierce competitor that is working the account like a Gatherer or a Trapper. If you don’t understand these terms, you need to read my book, Eliminate Your Competition as it will help you plan to be successful. You need to build a pipeline of deals that will allow you to win and not be challenged by losing propositions where the prospect doesn’t value you. My book will help you develop that pipeline.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Header Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
Salespeople Should Stop Making These 11 Social Media Mistakes

Salespeople Should Stop Making These 11 Social Media Mistakes

There is no question that salespeople need a positive impression on social media. You can save the Facebook account for friends and family arguments and fun posts, but your LinkedIn account and your Twitter account need to be professional.

Remember, every sale is composed of three things that you are selling:

  1. Your product (and your product is probably not better than your competitor’s product).
  2. Your company (and your company’s reputation is probably not better than your competitor’s reputation).
  3. YOU!

So if the first two things probably tie with your competitor, the real thing that you sell every day is YOU. You are the difference maker in the sales process. You influence the sale every time that you interact with the prospect. The goal of social media is to affect the deal even when you are not in the prospect’s office.

If you want to understand more about how selling YOU is the most crucial part of what you sell, you can reach out to me, and we can discuss. You also may want to purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Social media is a great tool. It isn’t the entire sale, but it can be a definite difference maker in selling the third and most significant part of what you sell – YOU! So you cannot screw up your social presence. You need to make it work for you. Hootsuite is a great tool that I use, and they regularly advise on using social media. My article here was inspired by their original post. Here are eleven social media mistakes that all salespeople need to avoid:

  1. Overusing hashtags – stop at one or two and make sure they are relevant to what you are saying.
  2. Jumping on every trend – You look foolish when jumping on the buzz-bandwagon for a hot topic, rather than being relevant. Instead, you need to add value, not noise.
  3. Oversharing – You look silly, phony, and pretentious when sharing pics of your breakfast. Remember that your brand is a public figure. Sure, be entertaining, witty, and bold as long as you’re professional, useful, and savvy about what you post for your intended audience.
  4. Not responding to your audience – Social media is about being social (hence the term). When a friend says something to you at a party or when they see you at the grocery store, you don’t just walk by them, do you? You interact with them. Do the same with social media.
  5. Automating thank-you responses. – It is no very easy to hit a button on LinkedIn to say Thank You. Guess what – everyone on LinkedIn knows that you just hit a button. Don’t do it. Type a quick couple of honest words. It takes maybe a minute longer than the quick button and is 1000% more valuable.
  6. Posting for posting’s sake – if you have nothing to say that day, then don’t say anything. Be relevant, not a pest.
  7. Posting rather than talking – It is vital to evolve your social presence to speak to your followers. Don’t just put up a link to an article, explain why it is essential to read. I slightly break this rule for posting to Twitter for items that you wrote, that is okay. But, if you found a great article on WSJ or Forbes or some other business-oriented channel, explain why you are putting it on to your social channel.
  8. Worry less about the number of followers (corollary: Don’t buy likes or followers): It doesn’t do you any good. You need to have a relationship with those that matter to your career. False likes and false followers don’t matter. You won’t make more commission because you have 1,000 false followers!
  9. Don’t post about sex, politics, or religion unless it is to your friends and family on Facebook. Even then, remember it is part of you, and your future employer will read it. If you don’t want your next boss to read it on Facebook, then don’t put it out.
  10. Don’t share only other’s stuff – you need to offer your commentary about the world and your business.
  11. Stop auto-posting the same message. It is okay to repeat a post once or twice separated by a couple of days. These are streams of information, and your followers may easily miss a single post. However, the limit is three duplicates, and they each need to be at least 18-36 hours between posts (or longer). BTW, Hootsuite is an excellent tool for managing this.
Header Photo by juaniraola
Don’t Ever Give Up

Don’t Ever Give Up

In the past, I have written that there is no crying in sales. When you lose, you need to get back on the horse and keep going. This is excellent advice, but you also cannot give up on that prospect that just rejected you.

There is a chance that your product is a “one and done” type of product and therefore the customer will never repurchase a similar product. However, most products are not that way. In fact, many products that are sold from one business to another business are continuously used and repeatedly purchased. The first order is just that, only the first order.

In most situations, you only lost the first order. Yes, this might put you in a disadvantage for the longer term purchases, but it doesn’t disqualify you.

I still remember the first time I lost to a DIY (Do It Yourself) solution which is a frequent competitor in the software industry. I was calling on a company in Minneapolis MN (I live in Cincinnati OH). The company was a high-tech company, and they had a lot of astute, young professionals. I was very late to the sales cycle and found out about the prospect’s need after they had done a lot of work at identifying how to achieve their goals. If you have read my book, Eliminate Your Competition, you can easily guess that I was in trouble from the very beginning.

I only had a few people identified in the Power Matrix. I had not had the time to develop relationships with multiple levels of the organization.

Being that late caused me to lose the deal. The engineering team at the customer convinced the division manager that they could engineer the solution themselves with some open-source software and off-the-shelf computer add-ons. Four weeks after learning about the customer’s need, I received a phone call that I had lost.

The loss was my fault. I was outsold by the internal engineering team. Time to get back on the saddle.

My manager told me to shake it off as I was obviously column fodder. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, column fodder is when the customer only looks at your product to prove to “management” that the evaluation was complete and covered enough competitors to ensure that the assessment was fair.

I don’t like being column fodder. I don’t like to lose either.

I called up the admin of the VP of the division and asked for an appointment with him in two days. This is back when most executives had an administrative assistant and that person actually answered the phone. I had met with him once before, but it was a brief conversation, and I was still learning what was important to him. The only thing I knew for sure is that he was very demanding of his team and that he had severe deadlines on this project. She informed me that John (not his real name) was in all day, but his calendar was booked. I told her that I understood that he was busy, but I really needed to see him, and I would be sitting in the company lobby all day in the hopes that he could see me.

I flew to Minneapolis and arrived in the company lobby at 7:15A. I had two documents with me that I thought would make a difference to John. It was the dead of winter, and it was frigid outside. The lobby was merely a security entrance with a security guard and three plastic chairs against a window that let much of that Minneapolis cold seep through the glass. Unfortunately, it was not the employee entrance, so I was not able to “ambush” John as he came to work.

The two documents that I had in my possession were the tools to set the only trap that I could set. I didn’t know if it would be good enough this late in the decision cycle. It was the same trap that I would have wanted to set weeks or months earlier, but I couldn’t because I was late. This one trap had to be so good that John would need to use it to override the wishes of his own engineering department. I was a Trapper and just like I would write in my book many years later, I knew exactly what I had to say to make the trap work. I assumed that my internal competitor had left me this one opening and I had to play it. My major goal was that this meeting would allow me to stop an existing decision. My minor goal was that maybe they would implement the homemade solution once, but they would turn to my company for the rollout of a purchased solution. Failure of either of those goals would mean that I was going home to Cincinnati empty-handed.

Larry, the security guard (his real name), was amazed that I was there to see a VP without an appointment. But he was kind enough to call John and tell the admin that I was there. At 8:30 (1 hour and 15 minutes after I arrived), Larry took pity on me and called again and said I was still in the lobby. This time John walked out and started laughing. He said he had heard about annoying salespeople camping in a lobby, but he had never seen it himself.

John brought me back to his office. He explained that he had full faith in his engineering team to create a solution that would satisfy his needs and that I wasted the plane flight to MSP. I thanked him for his time and explained that it was my fault that we were in this situation. If I had known about their needs earlier then we would have had this exact meeting several weeks ago. It was my fault that we had not had this conversation and I appreciated that he was allowing me to have the discussion now. I told him that I just wanted him to look at two documents and then I would leave. He agreed to see the documents.

The two documents that I placed on his desk were the annual report for his company and the annual report for my company. I asked him to find where in his annual report his company attested to being experts in the creation of this type of software. I followed up this question with a request to look at my company’s report and how many times we explained how we were experts in this area. He didn’t reply (I didn’t expect him to).

Then I laid it out to him. “John, you told me when we met three weeks ago that you demanded excellence from your team and you were proud of their accomplishments. You also told me that this project was critically important to your company and, in fact, your CEO says in your annual report that your company is in a highly competitive industry and constant improvements in this area are critical for the health of the corporation. Our company is obviously excellent in this area, but yours is obviously going to be learning for the first time. What are you going to tell your CEO if your engineering team is not excellent enough? Your excellence is in making your product. My excellence is making our product. Don’t you think you should reduce your risk and not hope that your engineering team is as good as mine when we have been doing this for years?”

And then I was silent. I didn’t say a word.

Finally, John said, “How do you know we cannot create this solution?”

“John, I don’t know. They might pull it off. But I do know that there is no question that my software can do everything that has been described to me that you need. Why are you taking this risk?”

“My engineering team says they can do it cheaper than buying it from your company. Especially, since we have to roll it out for over 100 installations.”

“Your annual report doesn’t say that cost is an issue. It says that if you don’t drive improvements in your product, then you will lose your position in the market. Why are you talking about cost when the risk of failure is the driving factor?”

It was silent for a long time after that question, but I knew that won when he finally responded.

“Can you wait in our cafeteria while I meet with my team? I promise it won’t take more than an hour.”

After 45 minutes of drinking hot coffee in the cafeteria (I was still cold from sitting in that cold lobby for over an hour), John walked into the cafeteria with the two lead engineers on his team.

I closed the deal two weeks later for list price. The deal doubled in size 6 months later with a repeat order due to the success of my product and the customer’s product. I blew away my quota that year. I would never have done that if I gave up on this order. I would never have won the order if I didn’t understand my prospect’s true issues and align the benefits of my offering to those issues.

Don’t ever give up. No means not yet. You will never be column fodder if you understand what is really important to your prospect. You must be prepared to explain how you help your customer achieve their goals even if the customer doesn’t want to hear it. The opportunity will come with persistence and perseverance.

I leave you with a quote by President Calvin Coolidge almost a century ago.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Header Photo by skeeze (Pixabay)
Calvin Coolidge photo courtesy of Wikipedia and in open domain
Be An Accurate Forecaster Of Your Business

Be An Accurate Forecaster Of Your Business

Most of the stress in forecasting comes from a lack of realism on the status of the business by either the individual salesperson, the manager, or both. This is unfortunate and unnecessary.

Having managers push for business to close that isn’t ready to close creates forecasts that are bad (this is a case of a lack of realism by the manager).

Having an individual salesperson that has “happy ears” and thinks that an opportunity is better than it really is. Or the individual salesperson is a sandbagger and pretends that the opportunity is worse than it really is. Both scenarios create stress at some time during the forecasting period (this is a case of a lack of realism by the rep).

The worst scenario is when the individual salesperson doesn’t understand the business and is in over his/her head, and the manager hasn’t taken corrective or coaching action or is unable to recognize the missing skills of the individual salesperson (this is a case of both the manager and the salesperson not being realistic).

Forecasting is easy when you have a competent salesperson that understands the status of the business and a competent manager that is aware of the status of the business. A great manager is helpful to the rep in accelerating any deal that needs more attention, but also accepts that a forecast is a report on the status of the business. A great manager doesn’t use the forecast process to belittle the rep.

In the case when a salesperson would rather see a dentist than do the forecast, it is typically first and foremost a manager problem. If the salesperson is being accurate, but the manager cannot accept accuracy, then the manager isn’t helping the situation. If the salesperson isn’t being accurate, then the manager needs to support the salesperson with tools and guidelines. The manager should also assess if the salesperson is not capable and then encourage the salesperson to take a different position where his/her skills are more appropriate.

Header Photo by Tumisu (Pixabay)
Your Personal Brand Is Important

Your Personal Brand Is Important

I have had the privilege of working with some of the best salespeople in the world. At the very top of that list of excellent salespeople would be Dean Wiener. Dean recently put out a post on LinkedIn giving advice to other salespeople as to the importance of his personal brand. With his permission, I am posting it here in its entirety.

Dean’s advice is perfect for all salespeople to follow. It follows with my oft-repeated advice from my book Eliminate Your Competition where I point out that all salespeople need to make sure they are effectively selling three things:

  1. your product
  2. your company
  3. YOU!

Since nearly all companies are outstanding, you will almost never win or lose because of your company. It is virtually always a tie in an evaluation. The same is true of your product. In today’s competitive environment, it is unusual to have a product that is a slam dunk better than the competing products. Yes, you can have a product that is better at a specific time than its competitors, but eventually, the advantage weakens as competitors step up against your leadership. There is one item though that you completely control and you can personally make better every day – YOU! You need to be as strong or stronger value to your customers as the first three legs of the selling stool.

Re-read Dean’s advice again, and I am sure you will see value in his approach. Learn from his leadership.

Thank you to Dean for sharing this advice with the selling community at large.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Header Photo by OpenClipart-Vectors (Pixabay)
Stop Selling and Start Helping

Stop Selling and Start Helping

Zig Ziglar frequently told his audiences and students to stop selling and start helping. This is great advice. This is one of the critical steps of becoming a Trapper as opposed to one of the traditional salespeople: a Farmer, a Hunter, or a Gatherer.

I spend a lot of time in my book talking about starting the sales process early in the sales cycle. You cannot just show up at the last minute, make your pitch, and then expect to win. Sure, that scenario happens but it also ends in defeat more times than not.

In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I discuss the decision-making process. Since all buying is merely making a decision and all selling is just influencing a decision, it is critical that you understand how a typical organization makes decisions. It is even more critical that you understand how your prospect makes decisions.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

When you are spending time with a prospect early in their decision-making process, you aren’t asking them for an order. Your prospect is not ready to buy so asking for a rush the decision is merely a waste of your time. If you conclude that they are not prepared and walk away until they are ready, they will learn about the capabilities of the products in your space from others and not from you.

So it is essential that you help the raw prospect learn about your product and your industry. It is much better to help the prospect through that process and be patient with the evolution of their thought processes. It would help if you created standard documents, reports, and white papers to help the buyer become more informed about your product. You want these to be readily available for the customer because you don’t want to work at the education too hard. Essentially, you need to map out the key elements that all of your customers and prospects need to know and send this information to them over time. Think of this plan as a weekly lesson on your marketplace – every week you send prospects that are interested, but not quite ready to buy, a new lesson.

You also want to teach prospects that don’t even know they are prospects yet. People that you think will eventually need your product, but today they just haven’t acknowledged that they have a problem that you can solve. To do this, you need to show up and see them on a regular basis, not to sell them but instead to offer your assistance. What can you do for them today? You also need to send them a regular newsletter on your industry that makes them more intelligent about what is going on. This newsletter isn’t to sell them, but instead, it is to help them become more intelligent. As Zig famously said, “Stop selling and start helping.”

Header Photo by madsmith33 (Pixabay)
What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

There are three components to the benefits to every sales transaction. Those component benefits are the product that you sell, the company that you represent in that sale, and yourself. It is easy to understand the benefits of the first two, the latter can be more difficult.

Invariably, we all see ourselves through rose-colored glasses. It would be very difficult to do our job if we did not have a positive impression of ourselves but we cannot let that impression get in the way of our sale.

Create a standard Ben Franklin “T” chart on your Benefits and Detriments. On the left side, record all of the Benefits that you bring to your customer. On the right, put your Detriments. Make sure that each statement is in benefit format NOT feature format. You should be able to say each statement verbatim to a prospect and they will not respond with a “So….”

A bad example would be “I have been selling this service for the last 8 years.” A more appropriate statement would be “My 8 years of experience with this service allows me to guide a prospect through the decision-making process.” An example of a Detriment may be “I don’t understand the business drivers of my prospect’s industry.”

After you have created the chart, you need to use it. Make sure that all of your Benefits have been communicated to your customers and prospects. If you ask them the benefit that you bring to them, would they say any of the items on the list?

More importantly, look at your Detriments. How are you going to get them fixed? If this was a problem with the product or the company (the other two components) there would be a committee formed and people would be working hard to fix the issues. You need to do the same – sit down with your manager, your peers, and your trusted existing customers. Find their perspective on how you can improve the items on your Detriment list. You may even want to sit down with your significant other and let them guide your thoughts.

Another worthwhile endeavor in this process is to sell against yourself. Argue with yourself as to the true worth of a Benefit. This will make you defend its importance and develop a stronger case. Similarly, by internally berating a Detriment, you may discover how to make it a positive or at least diminish its negative influence.

This exercise only works if you are 100% honest with yourself. This is not your resume. You are only going to share this with 3 people: “Me, Myself, and I.” Use this list to focus on your Benefits and to take corrective action on the Detriments.

Photo by MinaLegend