A Word On Who You Are Speaking With

With my recent move from Vancouver BC to Wilmington NC has come a change in local clientele. That is the biggest challenge I’ve had to work on over the past couple of months. The difference in clientele is this: it has changed from primarily CEO-types to small business owners. And I’m here to tell ya, they ain’t the same.

I am very proficient at CEO-speak. I look and talk like an accountant (probably another reason why I do well as a sales professional: I don’t appear to be one). I’m used to speaking with CEO-types who are hired guns. They have metrics they’re accountable for, targets they expect to achieve and goals to stretch for and reach. Many businesses in Vancouver are run by people like this, and they’ve made up almost every one of my previous clients. Even the smaller firms have been run by university-educated types.

Contrast with the small business owner: worried about angry Mrs. Smith, who they have to call back; got to pick up shop supplies because no one else will; never looked at an income statement; are happy if their bank balance remains positive through the year. That’s it. Oh, and a key discovery: CEO-speak scares the heck out of them.

If you’re in a big city, CEO-speak is fine. However, in smaller towns you’d better tone it down. Don’t let phrases such as “gross margin” or “amortized cost” pop out. The stresses of a small business owner are very different from those of a CEO-type. They’re much more interested in the operational side of the business: getting things done rather than shaving steps off processes. I have much yet to learn.

A well-known east coast sales professional and his organization keep offering me a program to get better at connecting with “VITO”, or the Very Important Top Officer of the company. I won’t be signing up while I’m working in this market. That kind of talk is, firstly, what I’m already good at, and secondly, precisely the kind of noise that will freak the small business owner out.

Take some time to consider it now: who are you speaking with? Choose your approach accordingly.


How To Get Qualified Prospects To Talk With You

Last entry we discussed why features and benefits-driven scripts aren’t an efficient or effective means of finding qualified prospects. Then I suggested that finding out some typical reasons people have done business with you would be a useful task.

So let’s say you’ve got several of those reasons, understood and written down. If the main reason is that you have the lowest price, that’s a problem and we’ll work on it in a future entry. But let’s say you’ve got some good reasons…you sped up the completion of a process, retrieval of data, helped people work collaboratively on documents, increased uptime and decreased downtime…and you have some specific, measurable results of how well your products or services have worked out for your customers.

Now you’re in a good position to go find people at similar companies, and talk with them about problems that they, too, likely share. If your customer XYZ Company had this issue, you can bet ABC Company in the same industry has it too. And here you come along, able to speak directly about experience solving that problem!

Who is going to sound more knowledgeable, more industry-specific, more “in the know” about what’s going on in the organization you’re calling: some product pusher throwing features and benefits at the wall and hoping one will stick, or a problem-solver with experience fixing issues in very similar situations? Who do you think the top officer is going to listen to more closely? Have the deeper conversation with?

Put in the effort to get the typical reasons and try this out. Then drop me a line to find out how we can conduct the process even better.


Cold Call Scripts That Don’t Work

Nearly all of the sales training advice you’ll find on the Internet tells you to get your features and benefits together in a list, and then start writing your cold calling script based on those benefits. Then you’re supposed to head on out there, start talking to people and hope that one or two of those benefits sticks enough that they’ll keep listening.

What’s wrong with this picture??!

Talking to all of those unqualified prospects is a great deal of work. And even if they will listen to you, there’s no guarantee that they won’t take the free education you just gave them and disappear. Off to find what you offer for the cheapest price. Yes, you turned it into a commodity.

What deserves high prices? Things that are scarce! If you tell them all about the things you do and how you do them, give away designs, layouts and expertise, you have made that thing commonplace to them. The price then becomes negotiable. “Bad Salesperson!” Swat.

Start thinking in terms of what problems your current customers have solved by using what you offer. Call them up and ask them why they chose to work with you. Be sure you get a deeper-than-surface-level answer. Although they probably have some level of trust with you now, it may take a minute or two of chatting and questioning before they tell you the real reason. Maybe they’ve even forgotten, temporarily, and need to remember.

Their main reason could be that you were the lowest price. That’s good feedback, but it also indicates something you must work on.

Their main reason could be that you helped them complete a process more quickly, and that saved them money (I’d start asking how much in round figures).

Their main reason could be that you gave them the capacity to start doing something they couldn’t before. Again, ask more questions.

Once you get four or five of these typical reasons people do business with you together, it’s time to start working on your script.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author


What Happens When You Sell On Features & Benefits?

So we’ve learned that customers buy for their own reasons, not yours. They don’t buy something because of all the features and benefits you spouted out: they buy because some of those features and benefits accidentally matched up with solving some of the problems they have.

This seems an awful lot like walking down a twisty path while blindfolded and hoping you reach your destination successfully, doesn’t it?

Experienced salespeople like to show off their knowledge. That’s why they start listing off features and benefits the moment anyone shows the slightest interest. We call this “verbal diarrhea.” Unfortunately, this leads to one of two outcomes in a selling situation:

The potential buyer becomes overwhelmed, shuts down and backs away

The potential buyer gets a free education, thanks you, and then heads off to use that education to get what you offer at the lowest possible price.


We’re not functioning right here as salespeople, are we?


Something Different In Sales

We left off in the last entry with a serious question. Since trying to push or pull the prospect along to a sale results in an inefficient and ineffective sales process, what’s left to do?

This can be a very disturbing question for salespeople. I was in technical sales for several years, and worked with features and benefits selling because that’s all I knew there was. Here’s the kicker: I didn’t know why in some situations I’d get the order, and in others I wouldn’t.

Talk about a weird situation! Here I was, supposedly experienced, knowledgeable about the products and services offered by the companies I worked for…and I had no idea why things worked some times and didn’t others.

Here are some key indicators of sales confusion:

No documented sales process

No sales coaching

Doing a great deal of quoting to prospects who then disappear

Consistently getting squeezed on price.

Trying to push or pull my prospects into buying from me, based on features and benefits, resulted in this situation! Recognize any of these indicators in your own work?

Yes, there is a way to improve your sales efficiency and effectiveness and at the same time eliminate these sales confusion indicators. Remember from the last entry, customers buy from you for their own reasons, not yours! So how do you find out their reasons? Ask Them.

And that process, the systematic and effective questioning of prospects, is the real key to sales success. It’s something different in sales, and hardly anybody does it well or at all. I’ll bet 95% of salespeople have no idea, just like I used to think, that there is another way than features and benefits selling. It takes time and practice to learn. So this is the powerful alternative to trying to push or pull your prospect over the “passion fence” to buy from you: help them find out their very own reasons. Consultative Selling is what it’s called, and it will completely change how you go about the sales process.

Another take-away thought: If they say it, it’s true.


Push or Pull?

Let’s talk about the intent of your sales process for a moment.

Are you trying to push your prospects into buying from you, or pull them into buying from you?

In my opinion, both those approaches are wrong.

Selling based on features and benefits results in trying to make the prospect buy from you. Whether you attempt to:

Push them into buying from you, by forcing your values of the features and benefits of your product or service on them, or

Pull them into buying from you, by trying to attract them with those same values, and hoping they will match up with their own values,

and you will have an ineffective and inefficient sales process.

If you’ve read some of my articles on resume writing and the job hunting process, you’ll note a similarity here. The employer does not hire you (and the prospect does not buy from you) for your reasons. They buy for their reasons.

So if you can’t push and you can’t pull in the sales process…what can you do?

Stay tuned for the answer…


So You Really Want To Be A Top Salesperson?

All right! After several months of searching for the right fit, and hopefully something that would meet my income requirements while allowing me to stay in Wilmington, NC, I’ve found and been working in a good role. I’ve found a sales training organization here with a process that matches up very well with the consultative methodology I learned in Vancouver.

Since the sales process is now the main topic of my work, I’m starting a new category and series of entries on it here. Now, the stats say it takes 10 years of dedicated practice and study to become a top-level salesperson. Many other people exist who know more than I do, including the founder of the organization I’m working with. However, that is a goal of mine, and I’ve been on the path for some years. Compared to most people I am pretty sure I know quite a bit about sales.

Just being a salesperson for 10 years doesn’t cut it, by the way. You can put in the time but not the heart, and be not much more competent than you were the year you started at the end of the decade. So if you want to get really good at the sales process, answer me these questions:

1. Are you committed to selling as a profession?

2. How many articles and books are you reading on sales every month?

3. Do you have a sales coach to help you improve your performance?

Here are some comments from me to you about answering those questions:

1. That means no parachuting out back into another field of work when things get a little uncomfortable!

2. As many articles as you can find, and at least one book, I hope!

3. This will probably cost you money, but will be well worth it—especially since the vast majority of companies provide no or ineffective coaching!

You are not likely to get any help out there if you truly want to be a top salesperson. You’re going to have to commit, learn and get coaching on your own.

I’ll leave you for now with this thought:

Selling is both the worst paid, lowest work and the most highly rewarded, intelligent and passionate work out there.

Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author