2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

I’ll pontificate with the best.   And there are a couple of things I don’t agree with regarding sales advice of late that are bothering me enough to do just that.

Difference here of course is that when I pontificate I am right.  🙂

Presentations Should Never Lead With Info About Your Own Company.   Wait, what? If I had a dollar for every post, newsletter, tweet, LinkedIn post and e-book of late that said this I would be rich and then actually I would be poor cuz’ I wouldn’t sell anything.

I get it.  Everyone says your presentations should lead with and be about your client, the result of your research, your discovery and how your company solves problems or drives revenue.  Yes, I get it.   But the reality is your company, its credibility, its experience, the friends it hangs out with and the intelligence of its people are always a concern for a prospect especially in this democratized world where a 1 person operation with a slick website and a social media presence can look like a big boy that has done nothing but looks like it has.   Buyers and prospects are more wary than ever because while a national and global marketplace is advantageous to buyers, it is no assurance that providers are inherently credible.

I’m not saying blather about your years of experience, testimonial and client lists in slide after slide in your presentations but you must at least lead with stories that build the trust and credibility of you and your company with like clients and prospects and then move into your key learnings and what your company brings to the table for the client.

The Client Should Do All (or most) of The Talking:   Really?  I’ve heard and read this like from the beginning of time – and I still see it and hear it daily.   But talk to the best sales reps out there.  It’s not true.  These sales people who are killing it are experts, challengers, loaded with insight and play a consultant role with prospects and clients.  They do a lot of talking, a lot of teaching, a lot of the story telling, and a lot of the credibility building as well as some of the listening.  They don’t just sit back 80% of the time and just take notes through the sales process.    The key here is these sales folks inspire their clients to share and talk honestly about their needs and their ambitions as a result of sharing their insights and by asking great questions.  It is far closer in effective sales to be ~ 50%/50% between client and sales rep than 80%/20% in favor of the client.

These reps know that Interrogation is Not a Sales strategy.   These reps know that what they provide has to be different and more worthy than what the client or prospect can find on the company website or brochure and that requires communicating.  These reps know the mastery of communication and conversation is not excelling at a mute Freudian analysis absorbing the soliloquies of the prospect or the client.

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You may disagree with my take on both of these nagging feelings about sales advice.  In fact, I expect many of you do.  But you would be wrong.  (Or maybe, it is possible, remote-though possible, that I am wrong).

Either way – only good comes from thinking about these two or discussing with your teams or colleagues; They are important places to focus

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

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Seriously, Which Is Better?

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Somebody walks into your shop or calls you.  You can ask a series of silly questions or a wicked awesome one.  Which will you do?    First of a series on the topic!

 

 

 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Amp It Up: Prefacing Questions

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Amp It Up: Prefacing

Asking questions in sales, service or support is important.  There are a million theories, books and articles on what questions to ask. 

I don’t care about any of that today.

I’m going to give you 3 powerful tips however that will amp up the results of your questions and they take all of less than 3 seconds in a tactic I call Prefacing.

Each of these is additive in that if you apply just one tip, you’ll get better results than you do today with your normal questions  but  if you do all three – watch out, you’ll see amazing results immediately.

Preface #1: “I always ask…” Begin with “I always ask..” as a preface to your question of the customer or prospect.  Let’s pretend you are on software sales –   “I always ask business leaders if you see enough data on a daily basis to measure the health of the business…” Or let’s say you sell online marketing “I always ask owners where they think the best social media place to be to drive business.” Whatever your purpose is in asking the question is fine.  But prefacing it with “I always ask” makes you sound like you’ve been there before; that you have experience, that this is not your first rodeo.  In less than a second you’ve built some credibility in the minds of the listener and that psychologically will result in a more thoughtful answer by the recipient. 

Preface #2:  Add an Affiliation:  Remember this is additive – so for example “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations if they see enough data… Or “ I always ask my HVAC folks where they think….”;  This addition is incredibly powerful – not only are you credible already by adding  “I always ask” but now you’ve imparted in just one more second,  that you know something, have talked to, have hung out with people like them in their world or in their industry.   You’ve talked with CFO’s (and even better talked with CFO’s in financial orgs) or you’ve talked with HVAC owners and understand what is happening.  Immensely powerful – your questions now have an even better chance of getting thoughtful and deep answers which translates into better sales service and meaningful conversations.

Preface #3:  Put a Number on the Questions:  This too is additive so in our examples let’s take it to the 3rd level, “I always ask the CFO’s of Consumer Financial organizations these 3 questions about visibility….”  Or “I always ask my HVAC folks these 2 questions about where they think the best place is…”  The theory is simple and powerful.  Placing a number on the questions helps lower time tension.  People are busy.  When you articulate the number of questions you are going to ask in a particular space then the listener knows when it will be over and in essence will stay focused for those questions and give you great information.   Not articulating a number can lead to that self-talk of “When will this be over?” or other distractions.  Prefacing with the number of questions needn’t be limiting.  You can easily move on to other subjects with for example “I always also ask 2 questions of HVAC folks about how hard it is to get paid quickly….”

Are the types of questions you ask important?  You bet.  Does everybody forget or not even think about the value of Prefacing a question?  Without a doubt.   In my opinion prefacing is as important as any aspect of questioning.

Here’s the beauty of today’s post.  It’s easy.  It’s less than 3 seconds of your time.  If you are in sales, service or support as a pro or perhaps a leader, or you are a business owner, consultant or entrepreneur looking to get better conversations and more business; print this thing, spend a few minutes wrapping your head around and go to it – you’ll be amazed at what you get in return.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

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10 Things You’re Doing Wrong at Work

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You’re Doing It Wrong

Duh.  Sad part is at some points in my life (and some more recent than others) I’m guilty of every one of these.

  1. Coaching to “gaps” first.  Neurological and observation data proves coaching to strengths first and more often than coaching to gaps, results in better performance.
  2. Thanking a customer for calling.  How silly.  Welcome them, Greet them or Wow them and then Thank them (profusely) for the business at the end of the call.
  3. Nobody has ever asked anyone, in the entire history of the world, for more PowerPoints to help them learn something. But we keep on giving.
  4. If what you bring to the sales or service party is the exact same thing that can be found on your website, brochures or catalogs, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Thinking that in this global, democratized and highly connected world that the real selling is over when they “sign on the line that is dotted”. Au contraire – it is just beginning.
  6. Time snobbery.  Obsessing and devaluing content, books, blogs and videos if their origination date is more than 6 months old. Newer is not always better or different or smarter. Quit it.
  7. 8 days and near 24/ 7 hours spent in a war room to fix a run of bad performance and just 8 minutes on a conference call celebrating landing a large client or exceeding performance for the month.
  8. In your office.  All day.  On the phone.  And you haven’t seen a manufacturing floor, the call center, some customers, suppliers or a lunch with a department in months.
  9. Asking a question of a client or prospect that has no apparent immediate benefit to them to answer.  That’s just not smart.
  10. Reading this post and agreeing (or not) and just leaving it there.  Pick one, two or six that resonate with you and make a plan and execute upon it today.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

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Platinum Question(s) Are Better

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Longer post today, but I think worth it.   Scroll worthy for sure – maybe even print worthy.  Hang in till the end but only if you want to be more successful.    

If you are in sales or marketing, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase the “Golden question”.  It’s usually a crafted discovery question in which the answer tells you the sales person, whether the client or prospect is “ripe” for a sale, cross sell or upsell. 

Golden questions are fine.  Many aren’t that golden however.  [Although I do remember one from a pet supply mail order company where the agent asks the inbound caller “Are you going to get little (insert pet name here) something for Christmas this year?” and if the caller says “yes” – then release the hounds ( pardon the pun) of sales pitches, cross sells and upsells now!!!  That one wasn’t bad.]

Golden questions are fine but have drawbacks.  They usually come out of no where, reek of “Here comes the sales pitch” and have no perceived immediate value to the customer or prospect that has to answer them.   Platinum questions are much better. 

Platinum questions are a term I use for questions that give you the same valuable information as a golden question but do so in such a way that does not raise sales tension or customer fatigue in the interaction. 

In more detail … Platinum questions are presumptive discovery questions that make sense to the customer or prospect. They make sense because the answers are beneficial to them and the reason they called, stopped by or visited your site.  In addition, Platinum questions give you the seller, vital information and credibility to leverage and transition from in the sales process. 

That’s a mouthful so let’s put it to real life.  Let’s say you work in a print shop that does lots of things for a small business like a wide range of print, to designing logos, to providing websites, to offering online marketing products etc etc.

In walks a customer who wants to reorder some business cards.  Perfect.  Now, you could do what you’ve always done and say “Is everything staying the same on these on these cards?” and then (unless you feel like getting rejected) you could start pitching all of your other services.

Or you could ask a Platinum question or two.

  • “You’re ordering more business cards.. Great. Since you last ordered these have you made any changes to your website, your email address or social media sites you use for the business?”

Anything the customer answers is valuable.   Even the simple “No – nothing’s changed” (which tells you a lot) to “Um…I don’t have a website yet” to “..What social media sites do you mean?” to just asking “Why do you ask?”  are awesome answers.

And the answer to “Why do you ask?” of course is the truth – you ask because you are a pro and know that many small businesses put their website address via a QR code and all their Twitter/LinkedIn/FaceBookr logos on the business cards these days (I’ve even seen them on printed checks).  So these questions make sense to the customer as to why you are asking them – these questions are in their interest to help you get this business card order done just right.   And the answers give you amazing, as good as golden information with half the pain. 

Here’s the real beauty of the question; It’s presumptive ( “…have you made any changes?”)  – it assumes the client already has a website and uses social media generously.  You ask it like you’ve been there before and that other small businesses do this all the time.  That’s brilliant on your part because you are educating and teaching at the same time.  It also tells you in an instant; (in a way that does not sales stress or fatigue the customer) whether they even have a website (or ever thought of a QR code)  and how they feel or don’t feel about online marketing (i.e. if they use social media for business that’s a good hint they may have interest in focusing more calories there).  In so many ways, you have a painless transition point to talk about other services much more easily than by just pitching and praying.

You’re not done with Platinum questions just yet in your print shop.  Let’s go for two.   

  • “Any major changes in your business since last time you ordered business cards – any new services, products or anything?”

 “Why do you ask?”

  •  “Oh, well sometimes folks want to call it out on their business cards, or even update their logos to reflect the changes”.

Ding Ding.  You get it.  You asked a presumptive question in the interest of the client’s need to get the business cards done right. Makes perfect sense.  And you learned if you have inertia to talk about a logo refresh.

Platinum questions take some crafting- so do those supposed Golden questions.  But Platinum is soooo much better.

It doesn’t matter if you sell forklifts for a living and are moving into propane delivery services or maybe you sell commercial insurance and are branching into risk and compliance consulting – when those customers call you for maintenance or to renew policies- you’ll have crafted those Platinum questions optimizing the customers current need and setting the stage for further help and sales.

It doesn’t matter if you are in customer service or technical support and have some obligation to upsell or generate leads – crafting Platinum questions works perfectly well here too.  Those discovery questions that help the client get their problem fixed well but tell you much about them and lead to great sales conversations are doable (I know, I’ve helped craft them before). 

In the end, you don’t have to do Platinum questions and can continue to do discovery the old fashioned painful way:  ‘Do you have a website?” “Ever thought of updating your logo”?  or “Who is your current propane delivery provider?” You can do that and raise sales tension, customer fatigue and get what you’ve always got right up to through your golden years.

Or, you can spend time right now by yourself or with your team – and go Platinum. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

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1 Minute Helpful Videos Anyone?

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I’m experimenting with a new media but with the same goal of giving you something to help.   I’m a little addicted to it I admit this week while traveling.   So two for you today.

3 Powerful Words and How to Avoid Sales Pain in the Shower.  How can you resist?  

If they help you grow your business even a little bit, that would be (as we say where I’m from), wicked awesome!  Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter