Attitude and actions go a long way
in today’s selling environment. That’s what
the pros will tell you. Salespeople who aren’t
constantly honing their knowledge and
skills risk becoming relics. And developing
relationships, the pros say, counts more than
ever in our information-rich, Internet-based
world that provides buyers the tools to be
smarter than ever.
Bottom line for the seller: Nothing replaces hard work
and innovative thinking. “Today’s salespeople better be
question-based, value-driven, customer-focused and be able
to prove their product rather than try to sell it. Proof comes
from testimonials, not sales presentations,” says Jeffrey
Gitomer, president of Buy Gitomer and author of The Sales
Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling.
Top-selling self-improvement author Paul J. Meyer
agrees: “You’ll succeed in direct proportion to your willingness
to focus and concentrate on your task—that is to make
yourself a master in your craft and in your specific field
Meyer, who began selling insurance six decades ago and
rose to the top of his field in a short time, founded Success
Motivation International in 1960. As a trainer, speaker and
author, Meyer says contemplative goal-setting is an early
preparatory step that sets the
stage for success throughout
the entire sales process. Having
tangible short-term goals that
go out six months, as well as
longer-range goals that can
span up to a lifetime, are well
and good. Just as important, he
says, is setting intangible goals
around your spiritual, mental
and emotional aspirations.
We’ve all heard it before:
Write down your goals. Meyer
goes further to ask if you’ve crystallized
your thinking about the goal and have a solid plan
and deadline for meeting it. Iron-willed determination, a
burning desire and the confidence in your ability to succeed
in meeting the goal are also essential. “Ask yourself the
results and benefits of your goals and you’ll learn a whole lot
about what motivates you,” Meyer says.
Discovering Your Motivation
“You have to be motivated by what you value,” says Jim
Cathcart, author of Relationship Selling and The Acorn Principle.
Look behind your goals to discover what motivates you.
“Motivation is motive with action. Motives are not brought to
people; they are discovered within people,” he says.
Cathcart says society often trivializes motivation as an outward
activity. “Too many people think of motivation as a superficial
energy-generation thing. That’s simply being excited,” he says.
“For someone to be motivated by action, they must find meaning
in their actions.” Ask yourself if what you’re doing matters and if
anyone cares, he says. Cathcart’s process of intelligent motivation
is defining what’s important to you, what action is needed and
then doing things to generate and sustain that action.
Why People Buy
Buyers must find meaning or relevance in what you’re selling.
“People don’t buy because they understand your product; they buy
because they feel you understand their need,” Cathcart says. To
that end, start with understanding your prospects and customers.
“Be better at listening. If you want someone to find you interesting,
spend more time being interested in them,” he says. “Give them
their answers, but respond after with a question to them.”
Gitomer says, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to
buy.” Touch the true emotional nerve and you’ll sell. One tactic to
uncover what motivates buyers is to examine customer testimonials,
which reveal other people’s motives to buy, he says.
“Selling is a business of emotions,” says Tom Hopkins, a sales
trainer and author of How to Master the Art of Selling. “People want
to believe they make decisions rationally, logically, but in reality
they make them emotionally first. Then, they defend those decisions
with logic. They rationalize.” This holds true for a piece of
manufacturing equipment, life insurance, clothing or dessert at
a restaurant, he says.
Hopkins recommends devising both emotional and logical
reasons for your clients to own your product or service. In the
case of a corporate executive making a decision about building
new manufacturing plants, he says, “Emotionally, the executive
wants to look good in the eyes of the stockholders or the board.
Improving production and economizing for the company are part
of their rationalization.”
The Process Rules
Focus on the sales process and not your particular personality,
advises master seller and personal-development expert Zig Ziglar.
“Your personality will only carry you so far. People are looking for
systems or processes. Selling is a process, not an event,” he says.
Whether you’re an analytical type like Bill Gates or a gregarious
one like Bill Cosby, any personality can sell if you have a process.
Ziglar says, “It takes the pressure off the person.”
"Selling is a business of emotions.”
One simple process Ziglar’s team uses in its corporate sales
training programs is T-R-U-S-T, which stands for think, relate,
uncover needs, sell solutions and take action. “This
good set of customer-centered selling skills to
have,” says Ziglar, author of Secrets of Closing the
Sale, among other best-sellers. When markets ebb
and times are tough, it’s imperative to increase
training and avoid the inclination to cut back on
education. “Salespeople have to be a lot sharper
today,” he says. “More than ever, decisions are
going to be more critical, and buyers will look
at the solution and make their decisions with a
more analytical perspective.”
Upping Your Game and
Especially in difficult market conditions, Cathcart agrees
about the importance of training. Learn a new skill or more about
the customer or your marketplace. Infuse value in your prospect
or customer check-ins by finding innovative things to do that
serve your customer. “You have to give meaning. Otherwise, it’s
a greed call,” Cathcart says. Also, increase outreach. “Innovate
while sticking to your disciplines, whether that’s increasing
the number of sales calls or keeping good records,” he says.
Increasing sales outreach may mean sending out 5,000 pieces
of mail, not 1,000, or making 100 calls a
month instead of 50.
Seek greater volume from
current customers, recommends
Gitomer. “It may be at the same
location, a different branch or
even a different division, but
sales are out there and the easiest
path is through people you’re
already doing business with,” he says.
Make improvements to your product or service.
“Serve your customers beyond their expectations
with faster deliveries, error-free order processing or ease
of doing business with you,” Gitomer says.
Learning where and how your customers are hurting and
helping them is how sales are captured in a down market or any
market, Gitomer says. “Now is the time to keep your customers
loyal by providing extra service, not cutting back. Now is the
time to invest in attitude training for everyone in your company,
so they can have hope and a better outlook than portrayed in the
media,” he says.
"You have to be
what you value.”
In stepping up your own game, get specifi c about how you open
each phone call, your choice of words and even how you title your
e-mails, Cathcart says. “Don’t waste time with the old warm-ups,”
he says. Ultimately, you may discover a new way to communicate
your vision of how your product or service makes life better
for people. “Whether you are selling health care or ice
cream, the purpose of business is to make life better both for
the customer and the company,” Cathcart says.
Don Hutson, co-author of the One Minute Entrepreneur
and a sales growth specialist, recommends identifying and
tracking marketplace trends by closely listening to your prospects
and clients. “Lead with your ears. You can project trends
into the future to identify windows of opportunity, changes in
consumer sentiment and ideas for fine-tuning how you go to
market,” Hutson says. That information is used to constantly
Initiating Relationships by Word-of-Mouth
In boom markets, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit. When times
are challenging, sales professionals have to strive to become better
tree climbers, says Terri Sjodin, founder of Sjodin
Communications and author of New Sales Speak: The 9
Biggest Sales Presentation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
For starters, that may entail doing more homework
before you execute your first call to a prospect.
Initiating new relationships is at the heart of what
the salesperson does, Sjodin says. “It’s important that
we begin establishing new conversations with people
who may not be interested at first,” she says. “It’s our
responsibility to introduce them to who we are, what
we do and explain to them what’s in it for them if they
listen to us and ultimately how they will benefit.”
In addition to referrals, Sjodin says seeking introductions
is another way to cultivate new relationships. She
points out the difference between a referral and an introduction,
noting referrals are testimonials that come from
having worked with someone in a professional capacity.
“Referrals come with the weight and strength of someone
who has worked with you,” Sjodin says. “Introductions
can be from a friend, colleague or associate. The person
may not have worked with you but they can testify to
your capabilities, kindness or professionalism.”
Use introductions and referrals gracefully, asking for
them at appropriate times in a simple manner, Sjodin
advises. “There’s a lightness about it. You don’t want to
push too hard,” she says. “We’re not entitled to a person’s
time. We need to be invited and earn the right to be
heard.” The era of winning sales through hard, aggressive
tactics is over. “If you are very consistent in your sales processes
and request graceful introductions, you don’t have to be a hard sell in
order to be a consistent sales professional,” Sjodin says.
Pumping the Pipeline
Prospecting is hard work and rife with rejection, Hutson says. To
increase outreach, he cites the 3-2-1 Plan used by
a colleague: Every day, without fail, call three past
clients to touch base, share new ideas and solutions
and update your contact information on them. Next,
find two new prospects in any manner that works
for you. Finally, learn one new thing about selling
One strategy for keeping your pipeline full is to
analyze who your true gatekeepers or centers of influence
are, Hutson says. “We need to stay in touch with
those who can influence our business and expand our
vision for more quality contacts,” he says. “At any given
time you have people in six categories: suspects, prospects,
customers, clients, advocates and confi dantes.”
Pick the 20 percent on your list who represent the
best opportunities for business in the near term, then
work to move them up to the next category. Hutson
calls this the rungs of the Loyalty Ladder and says it’s
a useful tool for organizing your database and seeking
new and additional business.
So the process goes, onward and up the sales
ladder to success. Selling is indeed an invaluable
skill, art, science and a fluid process. “You have
no alternative except to sell because we move
commerce,” Sjodin says. “Nothing happens until
somebody sells somebody.”