10 N Martingale Rd. Suite 400 60173
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60173 USA

Get The Green Light

“Second Place is just the first place loser,” is a quote attributed to Dale Earnhart, the famous NASCAR race driver, and it aptly describes the result of any competition in life, including an unsuccessful meeting between a salesperson and a prospect.

Oftentimes the difference between first and second place is not large at all. In fact, it can be insignificantly small. For instance, the 2006 PGA Tour statistics are indicative of just how small it can be.

Although the difference between first and second place may be small, the rewards are huge. Sales is an all or nothing game with a clear winner and clear loser determined at each face-to-face encounter. However, in the sales game, sometimes the smallest of changes can transform a second place loser into a first place winner!

It has been said that the greatest demon in the world is the six inches between our ears—and this is absolutely true in the sales profession where the key to success is in defining a ‘slump’ as one missed sale.

Highly successful salespeople recognize they must control every variable they can, because there are so many they cannot control. Just like athletes, they set themselves up for success by honing their skills. The three specific areas they focus on are:

  • Personal sense of presence
  • Activity based planning
  • Showtime

Personal sense of presence
‘First impression’ is the basis for prospects’, peers’, and managers’ initial judgment of a salesperson.

It goes without saying that a salesperson has to dress the part, but what I am alluding to is the formula: Attitude + Confidence + Enthusiasm = passion. Salespersons who are ACEs exude excitement and are perceived as successful and as winners. That perception is what sets them apart from all of the other salespeople the prospect comes in contact with. Let’s break it down:

Attitude: no fear, no limitations, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Confidence: in their product knowledge, understanding of the prospect’s problem, and that the proposed solution will solve the problem—almost an air of entitlement.

Enthusiasm: the contagious positive energy exhibited by someone who has the right answer and won’t give up until the problem is solved.

Activity based planning
The old adage, ‘plan your work and work your plan,’ comes to mind. Planning, preparation, and practice are key elements in this phase of setting oneself up for success.

Focusing on the finish line (closing the sale) is only important when the finish line is in sight. At the beginning and all through the race your focus must be on the activities involved in running the race. If you manage activity effectively, sales will come.

The four key elements of activity planning are:

  • Setting and achieving activity based goals
  • Developing presentation techniques
  • Time management
  • Practicing effective communication skills

Activity based goals consider such things as the number of sales leads that must be generated, the number of appointments that must be set, the number of presentations that must be made, etc.

The planning process begins with the answers to six critical questions:

Where are you right now? This question is asked relative to sales performance and selling skills. It considers your company rankings, overall growth in your territory, development in your top accounts, the success your competitors exhibit in garnering business from your customers and the prospects in your territory, the challenges you face and where you have the best opportunity for growth.

Where will you be this time next year if you do not effect any change?

Where should your growth goals/objectives be? Growth objectives should be analyzed and set for total sales, customer mix and product mix.

What strategies will you employ to achieve your goals/objectives? Strategies are the elements of your action plan that detail the approach you will utilize to achieve your goals/ objectives.

What initiatives (tasks) do you have to flawlessly execute to implement your strategies? These are the detailed tasks you will perform each and every day, which typically answer the questions—Who? What? Where? When? How?

How will you measure your progress? That fact that sales is referred to as ‘a numbers game’ is no surprise to anyone; however, success is measured by our effectiveness in minimizing the number of activities and time required to achieve each sale. This is accomplished through time management and effective communication.

Developing and practicing sales presentations is a key element in preparing for ‘Showtime.’ As one sales advisor is fond of saying, “make sure you know what you’re going to say before you say it.” It’s pure insanity for both you and your prospect to be surprised by what comes out of your mouth 100% of the time.

Showtime is where it must all come together — when you are face to face with a prospect. Highly successful salespeople methodically apply their skills in a six step process:

  • Identify the behavioral buying style of the prospect
  • Assess and quantify the sales opportunities
  • Tailor the presentation of solutions to prospects buying style
  • Address and overcome objections/obstacles
  • Confirm agreement and commitment
  • Confirm the order

Behavioral buying style
Identifying the behavioral buying style of your prospect makes the difference between an easy sale, a hard sale or no sale at all.

Selling is a matching process whereby you align your product or services to solve a problem, achieve a goal or satisfy a need of a prospect/customer. This can only be accomplished successfully if you also match your selling style to that of your prospect.

Although everyone has a little of each buying style in them, when confronted with a prospect it is crucial to quickly identify their dominant style. Most prospects fall into one of four styles— directors, socializers, thinkers or relaters.

Directors are driven by the need to control and achieve. They are results oriented, no-nonsense individuals who have little time for small talk and are most comfortable when they are in control of other individuals and/or circumstances. They are problem solvers who take charge, embrace challenges and seek expedient resolutions. They aren’t afraid to bend the rules if it gets them the result they require. They are aggressive, driven and domineering which causes them to appear to be insensitive, impatient and stubborn. Since they are task-oriented and operate at a fast pace, delays annoy them.

A Director will have a large busy desk with numerous projects separated into piles. Their walls will typically contain diplomas and awards.

Adapt to them by being organized, efficient, direct and to the point. Present them with bottom- line information, options, assessment of risk and probabilities of success. Acknowledge their power and prestige, and appeal to their sense of accomplishment and ego by supporting their ideas. Let them have their say and make the decisions. Argue only the facts if you disagree with them, as emotional arguments carry no weight.

Socializers are more relationship-oriented than task-oriented, thriving on acknowledgment and compliments. They are enthusiastic, charming and persuasive people who prefer interacting with clients over office work. Their eternal optimism and charisma assist them in influencing individuals and building relationships. They are risk-takers who let intuition drive their decisions. Since they like to be ‘where the action is’ they tend to have an aversion to being alone, are impatient and may have a short attention span. They are not detail oriented, prefer to generalize and are inclined to exaggerate.

The walls of their offices will be adorned with upbeat art, recognition awards and photographs of celebrities or high profile executives.

Adapt to them by being interested in them. Show excitement about their ideas, opinions, dreams and visions (regardless of how naïve they may seem). They thrive on personal recognition and are the focus of any conversation they initiate. Listen politely to their stories and give them the time they need to socialize. You can win them over with jokes and lively, stimulating and entertaining conversation.

Thinkers are task-oriented problem solvers who prefer to use their analytical skills and persistent, systematic attitude to perfect processes and produce tangible results. They tend to work at a slower pace as a result of a desire to double-check their own work. They are detail- oriented individuals with high standards and expectations, which sometimes causes them to be considered overly critical. Their perfectionist tendencies cause them to be slow and deliberate in their decision making process since they insist on performing research, comparing, assessing risk and calculating margins of error prior to taking action. They are good listeners who ask a lot of questions and have an eye for detail and accuracy. They are skeptical by nature, do not like surprises, and prefer to see all commitments in writing.

Thinker’s desks tend to be organized, structured and neat. Their walls typically display charts and project exhibits.

Adapt to thinkers by being sensitive to their time and giving them data to satisfy their need for details. Friendship is not a prerequisite and can only come after working with them. When communicating with thinkers it is important to be logical, exact, systematic and well prepared. They need to be supported in their organized, thoughtful approach to problem solving and given time o make decisions and work independently. You will be best received if you appear thorough, business-like, detail-oriented and patient.

Relaters are excellent team players, people-oriented, supportive and reliable individuals. They are relaxed, slow paced, good listeners, loyal and very risk-adverse. They are more likely to tolerate unpleasant surroundings than risk changing what they know and have grown comfortable with. If forced to change, they deal with change by thinking it through, planning and assimilating it in a manner designed to maintain stability and balance. They willingly share responsibility and are excellent at follow-through. They may choose to go along with others merely to avoid confrontation, even if they do not agree with them. They are slow decision makers who like to include others in the decision making process and avoid risk whenever possible.

Adapt to relaters by taking things slow, showing interest in what they say and supporting their feelings. They are relationshiporiented and require you to earn their trust. You should speak in terms of feelings, not facts, as they have no interest in upsetting anyone. Give them time to solicit coworker’s opinions, which will assure them everyone approves of both them and their decision.

Backing them into a corner is a recipe for disaster.

Access and quantify the sales opportunity
Most sales and marketing pundits will tell you that being a good listener is the key to selling, when in fact, being a good listener is only one third of what is required. First, ask the right questions, then, listen to the answers, and then, act upon what you have heard. How you act upon what you have heard will determine the true measure of your selling success.

Early in this process it is important to separate the ‘prospects from the suspects.’ This means identify and access the decisionmaker. The greatest misuse of a salesperson’s time is making a presentation to someone without the need, authority or capability of buying.

The ultimate aim of all the direct questions a salesperson asks a prospect is to get the answer to the one question that will never be directly asked, “What do you want to buy?”

The successful salesperson asks openended, in-depth questions to glean from the answers what problem the prospect wants to solve, what goal the prospect wants to achieve or what need the prospect wants satisfied.

Tailor the sales presentation
Armed with that knowledge, the salesperson is able to design a buying style based sales presentation tailored to solving the prospect’s problem, achieve the prospect’s goal or satisfy the prospect’s need.

When developing the tailored sales presentation, it is important to adhere to certain time honored rules:

  • Never present products or services until you have agreement with the client regarding their problems, goals and needs.
  • Differentiate between what a prospect needs or must have, and what a prospect likes or wants.
  • Present only those product or service features and benefits that are relevant to the prospect’s problems, goals or needs.
  • Avoid such overused phrases as: “I know you are busy so I won’t take up much of your time,” “I think,” “can I ask you a question,” “I was wondering,” “can I be honest,” “what can I do to earn your business today,” “how soon do you need it,” “so—what do you think?,” etc.
  • Never offer a better price without getting a concession from your prospect (e.g. larger quantity, additional goods, an extended warranty or longer contract term).
  • Only present value- structured proposals, never price-driven quotes.
  • Never assume your prospect sees the value in your proposal; quantify it for them. As the old adage goes “when you put a price on your value, it allows you to put that value into your price.”
  • Prospects can be motivated by many things; however, only fear or greed are assured to motivate them to action.

Avoiding the pricing trap
Why does it often seem that price is the most important consideration in a person’s decision to purchase a product or service? In today’s competitive business environment prospects constantly compare competitor’s prices, ask for discounts and negotiate packaged deals. Most business owners and salespeople face price objections on a regular basis.

Without a doubt, price is a factor in every sale; however, it is seldom the primary factor. If price was the sole deciding factor in every transaction, premium product companies and high-end restaurants and boutiques would not exist.

The two pricing myths in the sales process
Myth #1 – Features sell products/services
Prospects do not buy features of products and services; they buy a solution to their problem. Effective salespeople identify the problem, position themselves as experts and demonstrate how their products or service will solve the identified problem.

Myth #2 – Features justify higher prices
Prospects expect features will influence prices; however, prices are only justified when the products or services offered provide the best perceived solution and value. The prospect’s circumstances should be assessed so that the product or service can be offered in a manner that emphasizes the benefit that will be received. Simply put, the cost-benefit analysis justifies higher prices.

Once price is communicated, it often becomes the focal point of the discussion and detracts from further efforts to demonstrate value. When price is raised early on, all subsequent conversation may be perceived as an attempt to justify it. The value and benefits of products and services should be firmly entrenched in the prospect’s mind first. Then, and only then, should the cost associated with them be discussed.

Less experienced salespeople sometimes drop their price at the first sign of price resistance— sometimes before the prospect asks for a discount. This type of sales behavior reduces profits, exposes price flexibility, and conditions the prospect to ask for additional price concessions, not only on this sale but on future sales as well. Most consumers, and certainly all corporate buyers, have learned “pushing-back” early on can result in substantial savings.

High price = higher quality
High price = luxury
As consumers we have been taught that the greater the value of a product or service, the higher its price. A Mercedes is superior to a Chevrolet. A Rolex is superior to a Timex. An Armani suit is superior to a suit from J C Penney.

Higher prices become a significant factor when the average consumer has difficulty in evaluating the quality of a product or service (e.g. doctors, attorneys, accountants, consultants). When consumers do not have sufficient knowledge to evaluate what is being offered, they will most likely gravitate toward the higher priced item/service because of the perception that higher price equates to higher quality.

Two effective uses of discounting
# 1- Using discounts to hide price increases
Consumers respond poorly to frequently fluctuating prices. So, if the cost of key components of a product or service change frequently, it is best to set a very high price and then perpetually sale-price or discount the item (varying the discount as your key component cost varies). The consumer’s perception is that the price remains constant and the item is offered at a special price from time to time.

# 2 – Using discounts to conceal penalties
It is possible to turn the negative perception associated with a penalty into a positive. For example, if a company determines it will charge a 3% fee for credit card purchases, it is better received by consumers when a 3% discount is offered to cash purchasers rather than charging a 3% penalty to credit card purchasers, even though the net result is the same.

When is the best time to ask for the business?
The best time to ask for the business is as early as possible in the selling process, but never before you:

  • Ask all your questions to establish what problem the prospect wants to solve, or what goal the prospect wants to achieve or what need the prospect wants satisfied;
  • Match your product or services to the identified problem, goal or need; and
  • Quantify the added value of your product or service.

How should you ask for the business?
The most successful approach to ask for the business is to inquire:

Do you have any other questions? No? Then let’s proceed.
Do you have any other questions, or are you ready to take the next step?

What should you do to motivate procrastinators?
The favorite day of the week for procrastinators is tomorrow. In their mind, they aren’t certain of what the next step should be. So, to help them along the way ask the question:

“What would have to happen for you to place this order?” This forces the procrastinator to decide what the next step ought to be, convey it to you and commit to doing it.

What is the most effective way to deal with objections?
Objections should be viewed as a prospect’s response to an unasked question. If you ask all the right questions prior to making your presentation, you will uncover every potential objection and modify your presentation to address them.

For example, if you ask, “How much do you currently pay for the product/service,” you can adapt your presentation to avoid the objection, ‘your price is too high.’

If you ask, “What do you like about your current supplier, and what would you like to see them improve,” you can adapt your presentation to avoid the objection, ‘I’m loyal to our current supplier.’

If you ask, “What features of the current product/service do you find beneficial and what features would you like to see added,” you can adapt your presentation to avoid the objection, ‘I prefer your competitor’s product/service over yours.’

When an unforeseen objection arises, merely ask questions to understand the objection and identify possible solutions.

Prospect resistance should be treated as a series of concerns, questions, or misunderstandings that need to be answered and/or clarified prior to proceeding with the sales process.

Green light to a sale
When a salesperson uncovers a prospect’s intense, unwavering desire to solve a problem, achieve a goal or satisfy a need, the green light to a sale shines bright.

The only thing remaining to do is to show your ACE and complete the six step Showtime process to close the transaction. And, if you are lucky enough to hear a prospect say “I have to have that . . .”, you will know you have made the ultimate sale—because the prospect just closed themself!