Monday, November 24, 2008

Rules 1-3 From The List

1. Your product is the star of the show. Know it well.

Nothing undermines a sale person quicker than being stumped on a question about your product. That’s not to say “I don’t know” is always disastrous. It can actually be a great sales tool given understandable circumstances (i.e. assessing the feasibility of an alternative application for your product), but nobody wants to risk making the wrong purchasing decision because they got shaky information while serving as guinea pig for a sales person learning on the fly. Your job is to position yourself as a credible expert showing off the merits of your product, and you just can’t do that effectively while pausing to check the manual or ask your manager for specifics. If your product is positioned well enough in the market, simply knowing what it can do could be enough to win you the deal. Conversely, knowing the limitations of your product helps avoid wasting time on an opportunity that is a poor fit. As great of a natural sales person you may be, you won’t close many deals without taking the time to become an expert.

There’s not much to it. If you don’t know your product and industry, your competitors will. No level of charm or killer instinct can compensate for getting caught not having done your homework. Expertise sells, so stay current.

2. Study your prospect before making contact. Know their business and history.

A little reconnaissance goes a long way when approaching a decision maker. Anything you can find out about what this person likes is potential ammunition for building rapport and solidifying your place in their psyche. Also, knowing about the prospect before initiating contact shows them you care while building in natural talking points for your eventual conversation.

Whether the prospective buyer is a business owner or executive at a large corporation, there is probably some available biographical information about them available on the web. Make note of where they were raised, where they went to school, what charities or organizations do they donate towards and what you can find out about their family, religious beliefs and political affiliations. What are they most proud of, and how can you show that you share the same values? Any commonalities or anecdotal trivia relating to their history should be queued up for conversation to make a positive initial impression and fill the inevitable gaps in what you hope will be a naturally convivial dialogue.

Learning what to avoid can be even more valuable than what to bring up. You don’t want to ruin momentum by mentioning an embarrassing incident or painful memory. Nobody wants to buy from someone who reminds them of times they’d rather forget.

You should also be on the lookout for clues heading into the first meeting or conversation. Signs of ego, such as naming the company after themselves, flashy cars or apparel, or anything else indicating a pension for the spotlight mean that you should tailor your pitch towards the more self-serving aspects of your product (form over function). Indicators of humility, such as understated surroundings and a stress on the company as an organism, indicate that you should stress the more practical elements of what you have to offer (function over form).

Not only does doing your research help you steer the prospect towards thinking of you as a likeminded pea in their pod, but it also speaks well about your level of diligence and attention to details in taking care of customer needs. Poking around for intel to develop a strategy ahead of time if far easier than backing out of a poorly planned approach.

3. People buy from people they like.

It makes total sense to prefer giving time and money to someone whose company you enjoy over someone you’d rather avoid. Given a somewhat generic or interchangeable product (and truly, most products are), simply being the preferred person to interact with could swing the balance of favor in your direction to win a deal. You won’t find many successful sales people that don’t make a generally well-received first impression.

So, what makes someone likable? The answer is an affable sense of humor balanced by the right mix of confidence and humility. If you’re not likeable, either get out of sales or represent a miracle product that can’t be replicated. Monopolies on reputable miracle products are difficult to come by, which means you’d better be funny.

If a joke worked once to lift the spirits of a dull exchange, it will probably work time after time until you can’t stand to hear the words come out of your mouth and you have found a suitable replacement. Yes, I’m telling you to tell the same jokes over and over again like you just came up with it. Your coworkers will roll their eyes at your stale delivery then copy your gimmick all the way to the bank. Professional comics do routines, and the best get ripped off mercilessly. Sales is no different

You know what else people like when giving away money? Getting their ass kissed a little bit by the guy collecting the check. Just a little bit, no drooling. Stroking egos while maintaining your own dignity is a delicate balance made simple by stressing accomplishment over naked praise. Praising accomplishment: “I’m sure you got to where you are by…” or “This could be just like the time you were successful at…”. Embarrassing ass kissing: “My wife loves you.” or “It’s an honor just to meet you.” Sucking up a little doesn’t mean sacrificing your pride.

I work with a supplier who greets me every time with "You're looking good as usual." He obviously says this to everyone he meets in business and his social life, but I still love the guy for making me feel good about myself. We buy his crap, and all it costs him are a few basic compliments he spurts out by habit. Ok, I'm vain, but everyone likes to feel good in their own skin.

Confidence is infectious, and everybody wants it. If you carry yourself with an authority reinforced by the warm conviction of your voice, people will want to buy from you. Winners are easy to see and follow.

The other 29 rules will all help to make you likeable in the eyes of the buyer, but being a funny source of renewed self-esteem is the most simple way to get your phone ringing at decision time. Just make sure you still like yourself enough to want to answer when it does.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sales Basics - The List

In no particular order, here are my top 30 basic sales rules that will serve as topics for posts in the near future as I get this blog some actual readers:

1. Your product is the star of the show. Know it well.

2. Study your prospect before making contact. Know their business and history.

3. People buy from people they like.

4. Be the person the buyer wants you to be. Mirror them.

5. Start memorable. Stay memorable.

6. Always be approachable. Always be interested.

7. Never act desperate, unless you are.

8. Find the buyer’s pride points. Relate them to the sale.

9. Offer to do more than what is expected.

10. Keep the buyer saying Yes.

11. Position yourself as an educator/authority. Be an industry advocate/evangelist.

12. Destroy all acronyms and words with negative connotation.

13. Admit when you don’t know. Find the answer. Close with it.

14. Keep the conversation 65% buyer / 35% seller.

15. Ask open-ended questions to keep building a database of buying wants/needs.

16. Solution ≠ Product. Speak to their pain by presenting solutions to problems.

17. Note and constantly reference the core selling points.

18. Use examples to explain benefits.

19. Dismiss the competition as inferior or jealous. Never take the bait to bash.

20. Close on every contact by asking for the final decision.

21. Always give a specific time to reconnect instead of a vague timeframe. Set an appointment.

22. Leave your full name and contact information twice on all voicemails.

23. Follow up with a purpose. Never just ‘touch base’ or ‘check in’.

24. There is no substitute for persistence.

25. If it’s not documented, then you didn’t do it.

26. Eye contact and a handshake will get you in the door. Empathy will keep you there.

27. If you can’t make a physical connection, make up for it with sincerity over the phone.

28. Constantly seek referrals. Every prospect is an opportunity for additional prospects.

29. Honor the process and review your checklist constantly.

30. Proactively contact customers to maintain the relationship.