Posts Tagged ‘sales techniques’

Your Sales Ingredients to Success

February 11, 2008

In sales, there are many approaches to 4 specific processes each with their own special ingredients that you will need to cook up a great recipe for your sales career. Having read many sales books from many professionals, there are 4 common themes and some very critical parts to those themes that create a successful sales career which I have personally used and trained others on using to their success. These 4 processes, in order: Finding the Prospect; Presenting the Solution; Negotiating the Details; and Making the Close.

Be Careful About the Process!

One of the challenges in looking at a process like this is to believe that these areas are finite, or in other words, you have to accomplish one before you get to the other. While a part of this train of thought rings true (in part because you can’t sell something to someone you haven’t met yet), the reality is these processes compliment each other and one without the other is a recipe for disaster. But like a good recipe, the order of the ingredients does not always matter, yet having all of the ingredients there is critical. Have you ever eaten a batch of cookies without the salt? More on salt later…

So this first article is going to focus on the Prospecting piece, and then future articles will cover the other 3 categories in a recipe for a sales process that will help you get the deal done without “overcooking”.

Finding the Prospect

Let’s get started with the first step in the process, which is finding someone to sell your product or service to in the first place. So here are the ingredients for this part of the sales recipe:

  • Cold Calling – Ah yes, the one thing that most sales gurus will tell you is the worst ingredient in the recipe. But I will tell you right now, that cold calling is like the salt in your recipe. While most recipes only require a very small amount that almost seems insignificant when compared to all other ingredients, it is a critical part of the recipe. In fact, the truly successful sales professionals will tell you that cold calling is the one thing that keeps them at the top of their game. It is a chance to practice new ideas, products, etc. Cold calling was the very thing that helped me practice on what to say and how to say it before speaking to some of those prospects where it really made a difference in my career. If you can’t cold call, you can’t sell. Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that cold calling is the best way to source for referrals; I am just saying that it is one of those arrows in the quiver that should be sharpened and prepared to go when needed because you never know when you will need to be ready to shoot.
  • Scripts – Most sales people work from a script. Not because they do not know what they are talking about. On the contrary, they know very well the subject matter, the product, what they are going to say, etc. But the script allows you to have a specific guideline. In fact, if you have a script but haven’t been using it, I dare you to go back to it and see if it makes a difference in a week. Having a script is like lifting weights, running, biking, etc in preparation for a big tournament. You have always heard the cliché that preparation is the key to everything. Well your script is that preparation.
  • Preparation Before the Call – This is probably one of the most overlooked parts of the process at this stage, but is one of the most essential skills in finding the prospects and is closely related to scripts. You need to invest your time in learning about the prospect or the company that you are trying to reach. The more you do this, the more prepared you will feel when you call. This also builds confidence and knowledge in how to approach this person or company for the first time. Plus this will lead to more active referrals as you research and try to find out more about the organization, opening more doors than you may be able to keep up with. And even more important than that, one of the most common mistakes sales people make is talking to the wrong person. I have had many calls in my career of sales people that are so excited to get me on the phone that they frantically try to set me up for another appointment to speak to me in more detail without even verifying if I am the decision maker. You need to ask up front. In other words, are they the ones that sign the check? If not, then you have not prepared enough yet. Ask them several times if they are the decision maker with different questions just to be sure.
  • Breaking the Ice – Again, the gurus will tell you that the best way to start any conversation is to ask “How are you?” or something along those lines. I call this smoke (which is a very fancy term for something that clouds what it is you are trying to see) or in this case, clouding the purpose of the conversation. Bill Brooks in his book Sales Techniques calls it unsolicited small talk. The Brooks Group has done studies as well that have shown that the majority of decision makers in the sales process are completely turned off by this, and they do not start any conversation off well at all. This is due to the fact that you are not building any credibility by asking such questions, and can be seen as unprofessional. Instead, get straight to the point. If you have a script, this will already be listed out as your statement of intent. The purpose of the call is to discuss the ways in which you could be of service, so why not get right into it? Small talk can come a little later, especially if initiated by the other person on the line. Then welcome it, but keep your goal in mind; the purpose of the call.

In Conclusion for Now

So now that you have done your research, you have prepared to make the calls, and have now started finding prospects, it is time to move on to the next step. Next we will get into Presenting the Solution and the common problems most sales people run into and what you should consider when presenting to your prospects.


Are you Ready for Sales Marriage? (Part III)

November 1, 2007

So I hope that the first two posts about sales marriage have been extremely helpful as you discover what sales marriage is and what it should be, and whether or not it is a relationship that you want to be in. In this final article for creating a sales marriage we are going to discuss the organizational attributes of the company you are looking at and focus on several questions that you will need to find answers to in helping to complete the marriage so that a fulfilling life together will be successful.

Here are some of the questions that need to be considered and are going to be discussed in a bit more detail in this final article.

How flexible does someone need to be to survive in their sales environment?
What is the sales management approach in training and thereafter?
What are they willing to teach you as a salesperson?
What aren’t they willing to teach you?
What corporate baggage does the organization have?

So with these questions in mind, let’s get started!

Consider the organizational Attributes that Makes it Successful

Stretch for Flexibility
Flexibility in a sales environment can do two things: it can either be extremely beneficial in stretching you to become better (which should be something you are seeking) or it may be the very type of environment you are already trying to escape from, not allowing for growth. As mentioned in the 2nd part to this article, you need to avoid the rebound relationships, because most rebounds are an escape to the core issues at hand, and without digging deep to focus on those core issues, the relationship will fail. So what make a sales professional successful in their environment? Does compensation change often or not at all? Is it different in different divisions and what accounts for those differences? You need to clearly define the long-term or strategic aspects of the position. There needs to be a demonstration that there is indeed more opportunities to stay on a faster track if the individual does indeed perform at a high level.

One of the very things that attracted me to TrueNorth in the first place was the “newness” of the organization, yet they have a very solid foundation within the industry. Just in the short 6 months that I have been here I have seen some incredible growth, including new partners that are increasing the standards of what we already offer, which in turn has also increased the standards of the interview process in our hiring practices to find top talent that are attracted to growth. Those who are successful in our environment are those that see sales as a process, not a hard close. Having a passion about what we are doing for people in coaching them is also a key point in that flexibility. This is a new industry for you, or a new environment from what you did for a competitor. At the same time, how flexible are you to being stretched? When I played baseball I had some great coaches, but I have to say that the coaches that I respected the most were the same ones that I hated on certain days because of the push for me to excel and go beyond what I had done before. I am grateful for those “stretching” exercises.

Approach and Training
So in addressing this area of questioning, understanding the sales approach is a must. Is it a hands-on type of training, or more of a distant observer? What kind of feedback is given and how specific are the details in that feedback? With that feedback, how often are goals set to achieve something greater and how often are reviews conducted? What are you being graded on? Do those measures make sense in your own personal development? Is there classroom training, or do you just watch someone from the sidelines?

Understanding the answers to these questions is critical. Knowing how well you deal with a certain type of management approach is extremely important, but at the same time, you also need to be coachable. Just because you were the #1 sales professional at your last organization does not mean you will be #1 in this new organization. You need to personally sit down and focus on what makes you YOU. I will be writing another article at a later date in regards to how you can focus on you and who you are, where you are at as a professional sales person, and really determining whether or not you should even be in sales. Sometimes it is not the coach, but the player. Not everyone is fit to play, not because they can’t learn it, but because it just isn’t the right match. Understanding what approach is good for you is important, and understanding how the new organization is going to approach YOU in training and beyond will need to be known and discussed.

The great part about TrueNorth Academy in this area is that our training approach has been set up to mimic the very coaching programs that we train our clients on. As a result, you will enjoy a classroom setting as well as personal one-on-one attention. Part of the training puts you on the phone as well, since that is where applying what you are learning is key to you being successful, giving you the ability to focus on some weaknesses that may be troubling you.

Coach or be Coached
I am going to address the next two questions in this section since they are related in several ways. What the organization is willing to train on or not will reveal one of the most important observations: What is the quality of the team that you will be working with?

So why is this so important? Because the quality of your future as a coworker, making new friends at work, and possible leadership roles in the future is critical to your satisfaction in the “sales marriage”. There is a proverb I have always enjoyed that says “Keep company with good men and good men you will imitate”. I took this advice seriously when I started my professional recruiting career. I figured that if I hang out with those that are wealthy and make 6-figures, then I should be making 6-figures. By my second year, I had achieved this goal and have ever since. Sure I worked about 80-90 hours per week that first year, and yes I missed my little girl’s first year of life (pretty much) but now I can enjoy the rest of her life and the work has paid off. The growth is tremendous and I love what I do. (And for those that think recruiting is not sales related, we need to talk).

Will you be in company with good men and women? Are you surrounded by people just getting started in their careers, or seasoned professionals in your same situation learning a new industry? Understanding what they are going to teach during the training and what they are expecting from you already is very important so you can go into the relationship with no surprises. They may even have some materials you can read or focus on prior to starting to prepare for the new relationship.

In looking at TrueNorth, we are looking for a little more seasoned professional that is willing to train and learn. During the interview process, we address all the questions that we feel are extremely important for you to be successful in the role. It is because of this process that we hope those that do interview are honest with us be even more honest with themselves about these questions since we want to see the success of others in these roles. We are also working on a new program that will be used to train better, certify you in SPIN selling (a concept that we use in our approach) and overall create a successful environment for you. There are also several books I can recommend to really improve your sales career, irregardless of how long you have been selling or how good you think you are. We can always improve.

The Baggage We Carry
This last question is a fun one for me because it can be such a controversial subject. But let’s be honest: all of us have baggage. So do organizations. One of the things I learned in working with the “good men” of my professional career is not only to eliminate the hype, but also to leave nothing on the field (I know, another baseball analogy, but you understand right?).

Relationships are built on trust and communication. So are organizations. If you cannot trust the people that you work with, why would you even communicate with them? If the organization cannot take the time to answer your questions thoroughly and be up front about the roles, how honest are they going to be once you are hired? By the same token though, you have to be careful not to interpret information into what you want to hear. You will just be deceiving yourself, and later you will be bitter and it will be your own fault.

So what is baggage? While I will not go into the Arabic origins of the word, what I will do is give a definition using questions based on what you should be looking for. Why is the company hiring? Is it because of recent layoffs? Is it because of a high turnover rate? Is it because of growth? These are important questions to ask in terms of baggage.

Other baggage items to consider are the challenges that sales people in this role experience. One of the best ways to do this is to speak with some of the sales people. Some companies do not allow people to be available (which is understandable, because you may be a competitor trying to steal someone away or find out secrets or whatever), but if you hang around a little bit afterwards you are bound to run into someone you can talk to. Just simply ask if it is possible to speak to someone else within the role first. If that doesn’t work, I promise if you are really serious about looking, you will find someone to speak with.

Ask about the most challenging things to come with selling the product or service. This requires true introspection and honesty, so if they think about it first, then you probably are getting an honest answer, but if they go right away into an answer, they are probably saying what they have said over and over again to overlook the question and not hit the question head on. Look for signs that tell you whether or not they are coming with more baggage than you want to handle right now.

Every sales organization has some baggage, but it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes those baggage items were great learning experiences, and unfortunately it was a phase that they went through, but what’s done is done now. The experience was taken into consideration, new concepts and principles were applied, and they are moving forward. Find out about goals and where the company sees their current model going, as well as the ideas and plans in place to get them there. They may not be able to go into all details or specifics, but most will have a general idea.

In regards to TrueNorth in this scenario, I will hold those details for a personal interview, since most of our “secret sauce” is extremely important to our business model, and there is only so much I can share. So you will get a taste, but I won’t give you the recipe!

So there you have it! Your deep commonality of needs and values coupled with those of a great organization will make for a successful “Sales Marriage”. So get wooing!

Are you Ready for Sales Marriage? (Part II)

November 1, 2007

In the first part of this article, we discussed the characteristics of the product you will be selling and finding out if this fits with what it is you would enjoy doing. The second thing you should be thinking about is the “processes” in joining an organization. Oftentimes the process can reveal many things about the organization before an offer is even made. While this section will cover many of the questions you need to find answers to during your interview process, this is not a comprehensive list. There are probably dozens of others, but suffice it to say, these are generally some of the most important.

Consider the Processes: From the Interview, to Being Hired, to Training and Continued Development

When you are considering a new career option, you always need to consider the process that it takes to land you the position and then continually evaluate the processes in place to make you successful. Now obviously not every organization is going to be completely perfect when it comes to all of these processes, but if you could give them a grade, how would you rate them? Here are the main processes to consider:

– What is the interview process like?
– What is the process like after the interview?
– When and how is an offer made to join the organization?
– What is the training like?
– What benefits exist and how will you be able to continue to development and stretch yourself to grow in your career?

The Interview. There is much that can be said about the interview. Obviously every organization will do it differently, but there are probably a few things that you should take note on.

The first thing is when you go in to interview and see the atmosphere. Is this an environment that looks professional, inviting, and somewhere you can see yourself working? Again, no company is perfect, but there does need to be a genuine sense of cleanliness, professionalism and overall “care” that has been taken in the office environment. In the interview itself, think about the interviewer, the questions being asked and the information covered. Obviously there is not a lot of time to cover everything, but the interviewer is all talk and really is not finding out more about your career and qualifications, it may be just about the hype. Do you sense there is desperation in their attempts to recruit you? Or are they genuinely trying to find a good fit based on experience, education, environment, etc? The questions themselves should be well thought out and organized to allow the interviewer to truly cover those things that are important to the organization. If you feel the questions are too basic, or do not go deep enough, you may want to consider this in your search for a fit.

Another practice I have unfortunately seen in our industry as well as other sales industries I have recruited for is the need to “bash” the competition. If the interviewer feels the need to speak about the competitors, it should be in a good light or should focus on the value of what their personal organization offers rather than on what others can’t do. Now in your personal research (which I would expect you to be doing), I know you will be very interested in understanding the differences and understanding the competition which is very important, so it is definitely appropriate to ask and find out more, just take note on how this type of question is handled by the interviewer.

The last thing to think about in the interview process has been mentioned briefly already, but I mention it again because it is very common in sales organizations: HYPE. It’s rather funny to me that some people feel that hype and boasting wins someone over. In almost every case I have seen, no one wants to be “sold” to. I remember an interview with an organization near Bountiful during my last move that I made. I hardly said anything in the interview because the interviewer did most of the talking about things that were not important to me. He focused on making money at whatever the cost and brought in several people that seemed like slick city folk looking to make money no matter what, which they must have because they were making thousands and millions. Were they rich? Absolutely. But my question was how wealthy were they? Hype often means you will be using the old school method of selling using torture techniques to close a deal.

Just talk about the features. Have a list of doubts with answers to rebuttal anything. Apply pressure, and close. Oh, and don’t forget to not let them say anything about what they want, because they don’t really know. Apply more pressure, close again. Repeat if necessary.

Silly isn’t it? I will NEVER work with those types of people. Just like true professional sales should be, if the partnership and doing business together makes sense, why would I have to hype it up into something it isn’t or ramble on about the money when it should never be JUST about the money anyway? Besides, in my sales experience, this type of practice leads to refunds. In hiring, this same practice leads to turnover. In a sales marriage, it’s kind of like the rebound relationship right after a break up. You jump from one to the next, wondering why you keep having such bad luck. Well luck can be controlled if you know what to look for and avoid the rebounds in the first place.

Post Interview. So now that the interview is complete, you are on an emotional high right? Well you should be if the interview process fulfilled what we have just talked about. If you don’t have any excitement about it, or if you didn’t lose sleep that night, it may not be the right type of relationship. There needs to be a passion, and remember passion can exist without hype. One of the best ways to measure this is thinking about ho many people you spoke to about it after the interview. Did you speak to a spouse, a roommate, a friend, mom, or dad?

So now you need to think about the next step. Did the interviewer explain the process or just send you on your way? Did you even ask what the next step was? In my experience, I always leave a homework assignment for those who have come in. Why? Because I am trying to see if they have that passion I just mentioned. If you truly felt the passion, you will call me back, or leave a message or send an email. I make it simple: I give you a homework assignment called the “Interview Script”. It accomplishes two things: first it tells me that you are genuinely interested in moving forward since you took the initiative to call me and leave it on my voicemail. Second, I do grade them, and let’s be honest: at TrueNorth, everything you do is over the phone. So this allows me to hear you on the phone saying some of the very things you are going to be saying to our clients’ every day. So of course I want to know what you sound like on the phone and more importantly, if you can read a script without sounding like you are reading it to me. Is the company you just interviewed with taking it this seriously as well?

The Offer. Written documentation is a must. If verbally they just say you will start next Monday and there is no written agreement, I would question their hiring practices. If they are a good sales organization looking seriously to find the right types of candidates, there should be some formal agreement that is created and distributed to you. For TrueNorth, no offer is made without something in writing signed by myself. We will be very up front about everything in that offer letter including any legal documents that need to be signed before coming in. There is no reason to hide anything, and if they can’t take the time to formally agree to a position in writing, why would you agree with an offer that does not technically and often does not legally exist as well?

The Training. There is much that can be said here as well. How long is the training? What are the expectations during training? Will you be getting one-on-one attention, or just sit next to someone and shadow for a few days? The more serious the organization takes training, the more committed you know they are in YOUR development (which we will discuss in the next section). That should be very important to you and the organization in establishing this “sales marriage” we have discussed here.

One of the added benefits of working at TrueNorth is not only the 3 week “Sales Academy” (which is our training program for new folks) but after 90 days, all of our employees gain access to our coaching materials as well. It’s kind of like a library, where you can check out those items that are interesting to you in learning. So the training goes beyond just the sales roles. In fact, in our September 2007 newsletter, The Compass, our CEO Mike Gillespie said,

“Regardless of what you do for the company, just know you are a key part of our mission to Educate and empower people to make positive change. So if you’re ever having a challenging day, don’t lose perspective on the impact your life’s work is having on others. I would also challenge you to take advantage of the programs we offer, learn how to invest in the markets, buy and sell real estate, and reduce your debt. Our mission includes educating and empowering YOU to make positive change. Thanks for all you do.”

Continued Development. So if the role does not offer an immediate stretch from what you have done in the past, you may get bored quickly. Continued development of your career and abilities is crucial to your remaining happy (believe me or not). It is amazing to me to see people that at one point were quite successful, but decided to “take a break” from the stretch that helped them achieve that success in the first place. If the role is not challenging, why take it on? There is always something exhilarating about taking on a new challenge. When you think about it, those people that pushed you to excel are the ones you respect the most. They saw the potential in you when all you could see was the list of leads staring at you from the desk next to the phone you had to pick up again. (Yes, I have had days where my Toshiba SD20 and I were not on the best of terms).

So how is your sales marriage so far? Is it on the verge of divorce? Blossoming more than ever? Next time, we will discuss the final area of importance to look at when making your career change in sales. Until then!