As a salesperson in today’s world, chances are good that you are working harder to generate the same (or fewer!) dollars than a couple of years ago.
“Every day every self-respecting salesperson is in the trenches, fighting for market share and trying to keep his existing client base,” says Eric Taylor, co-author along with David Riklan of Mastering the World of Selling: The Ultimate Training Resource from the Biggest Names in Sales. “Often, all it takes is one good idea to give you a competitive advantage and repay your investment many times over.”
Their book presents hundreds of great ideas from the best people and organizations in the sales business—including Jeffrey Gitomer, Dale Carnegie Training and Zig Ziglar among others. PPB picked out a few of our favorites and added some additional pearls of wisdom from some of our own industry’s sales stars.
The Master: Dale Carnegie Training
Master Of Selling Tip No. 1: Dig for sales opportunities. In today’s business environment, it is critical that sales professionals uncover sales opportunities rather than wait for leads or for customers to come to them. The best performers recognize that even if there is a lot currently in their sales pipeline, a regular percentage of their time must be focused on uncovering new sales opportunities. Here are four ways the sales masters at Dale Carnegie Training suggest for finding new opportunities:
1. Create an opportunity chart. Many average salespeople assume their existing customers already know about everything they have to offer them. This belief is nonsense and actually opens them up to having their competitors walk into their accounts and service their clients’ additional needs. To address this issue, create a spreadsheet that has a list of your full range of products and services in the left column. On the top row, list your existing accounts. Then simply fill in which products and services each client is using with an “A.” Place a “B” in empty boxes that represent good selling opportunities for clients. Then call your clients to discuss with them how you can help fill these areas.
2. Ask for referrals. Think of your buyers as partners who can refer you to a steady stream of new business. Salespeople quickly discover that using the name of someone the prospect knows, admires or respects opens doors. Make it a habit at the conclusion of every sale to ask for a referral.
3. Look for champions. Look within your existing accounts for individuals who have benefited from your products or services in the past. Your champion should clearly understand what makes your products or services effective. He or she should be someone in an existing account who is well-respected within your company and is able to communicate effectively to other people.
4. Effectively network. Become involved in organizations that would include your typical prospects. Be sure to follow through on all of the commitments that you make so that you will build credibility that will transfer into your sales efforts. To be successful in sales, it’s not really who you know—it’s who wants to know you.
The Master: Jeffrey Gitomer
Master Of Selling Tip No. 2: Know what it means to be a sales rock star. When you hear bosses talk about their best salespeople, they often refer to them as “rock stars.” It’s the highest praise a boss can give. Every salesperson aspires to be referred to in this manner, but very few make the grade. If you’re a rock star, it means (among other things):
• You have superior talent—you can play and sing.
• Your fans don’t just like you—they love you!
• You are respected by your peers.
• You have proven yourself over time with consistent quality.
• You know the business of rock and roll.
Most salespeople would like to think of themselves as sales rock stars, but they don’t display the talent to match the definition. Think about the best rock stars: Elvis, The Beatles, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen. These people (and lots more like them) achieved their status by putting in years of hard work. All of them love what they do. They wouldn’t trade their positions or situations for anything in the world. They rose from humble beginnings to stardom by taking advantage of their talent.
Remember, the love of what you do, combined with your belief in what you do, will not determine your success. It will determine how hard you will work and how dedicated you will be to achieve it. Success just shows up from there. If you want to become a sales rock star, that’s great. If you want others to refer to you as a rock star, that’s greater.
The Masters: Zig Ziglar And Tom Ziglar
Master Of Selling Tip No. 3: Sell with integrity. The No. 1 tool in your sales arsenal is integrity. Belief in your products or services is essential but not enough unless you build this belief on the foundation of integrity. No matter how much a prospect believes that you believe in your product, he or she will not do business with you if he or she does not trust you, and trust begins with integrity.
It works like this: Values determine behavior. Behavior determines reputation. Reputation determines advantages. In today’s sales world, you need every advantage you can get. Long-term sales success is absolutely dependent on your integrity. With integrity you do the right thing. Since you do the right thing, there is no guilt involved. With integrity you have nothing to fear because you have nothing to hide. You can talk to customers whom you sold to yesterday—you can talk to them tomorrow, next week, next year—because you know in your heart that they made the best deal, and that’s where the integrity comes in.
The Master: Sharon Drew Morgen
Master Of Selling Tip No. 4: Become a decision facilitator. Often we’re stuck with the perfect solution, waiting for a buying decision that has nothing to do with us. Indeed, the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. We must add another skill set and outcome to our jobs: By becoming decision facilitators, we can use our knowledge of our fields to be virtual GPS systems for the decision makers, guiding them along without bias to their ultimate destination. Will we end up placing a solution? That depends on how well the buyer’s system can manage change. But we will:
• Know on the first call if it’s a viable prospect.
• Shorten the sales cycle dramatically.
• Save the buyer’s time and our time.
• Greatly enhance the number of buyers who can buy.
Is it sales? No. But since buyers must do this anyway and we sit and wait for them to do it, we might as well add a decision facilitation skill set. We will then be true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, guiding them through their systemic, offline buying decision issues.
The Masters: Eric Taylor And David Riklan
Master Of Selling Tip No. 5: Evaluate how you communicate. Unless you’re a hermit, living in a cave or under a rock, you’re communicating virtually every waking hour of every day. In sales, or in any activity, the level of your communication will often equate to the level of your success. It’s critical to assess the clarity, likeability and effectiveness of your messages.
Consider all of the mediums to which your communication is now exposed. You are speaking to prospects, clients, service providers, internal customers, tech support and administrative assistants all day, every day. You are communicating face-to-face, over the phone, by e-mail, text messaging and fax. Hopefully, you are using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. And remember, it’s not just words. A look or a gesture communicates volumes.
It’s endless. And your ability to communicate effectively, with confidence, cuts both ways. The great challenge, and the tremendous opportunity, is that you express your personal brand to others 24/7/365. So how successfully do you communicate throughout every day? To help you evaluate, ask the people who are closest to you to appraise the effectiveness of your communication. Accept the feedback and evaluate what you are willing to change without compromising your self-beliefs.
Industry Sales Pro: Amanda Cunningham, Marketing Director, Crazy Aaron’s Puttyworld
Industry Selling Tip No. 1: Offer free spec and virtual samples to distributors. Because we do all of our printing in-house, we can quickly mock up a spec sample that is printed and applied to our product within a day. This enables the distributor to bring an individualized sample to a sales meeting and show the client what is possible. Our art team can also take a logo and easily produce a virtual proof at no cost to the distributor. We find that distributors who go to a meeting with a spec sample in hand make the sale more often than not. Distributors tell us again and again that they bring the spec sample of Thinking Putty into a sales meeting and hand the clients the putty before sitting down.
They will play with it throughout the entire meeting and at the end of the meeting, the distributor will show the client the personalized tin that it came in. It’s only then that the client realizes that they’ve been playing with it the entire time.
In addition, previewing our product to the client through a virtual proof increases the likelihood that the client will ask to see a real sample, and at that point we’ve got them interested. Since our product is so tactile, if we can get it into people’s hands, we are much more likely to make a sale. So we believe that offering free spec and virtual samples is a service that we give our distributors that pays us back in sales.
Industry Sales Pro David J. Hawes, MAS, Brand Architect, Geiger
Industry Selling Tip No. 2: ‘Be early, if you are not early, you’re late!” He’s right. Arriving five to 10 minutes early for a meeting is always appreciated and it demonstrates respect. With workloads increasing, customers covet their time and appreciate promptness. The same principle applies to shipments. By delivering early we eliminate stress and complete the sales cycle on a very positive note. It’s what they’ll remember most and it will help us earn an encore.
Industry Sales Pro Jarod Thorndike, Distributor Sales Manager, SAGE
Industry Selling Tip No. 3: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. I think that most salespeople tend to focus on the bells and whistles of their product instead of focusing on how the product can actually help that particular customer’s business.
Industry Sales Pro: Trevor Gnesin, President, Logomark, Inc.
Industry Selling Tip No. 4: Innovation. Logomark will continue, as we have from the beginning, to offer our distributors new and inventive products, along with cutting edge technology and unsurpassed service. Logomark’s sales team is dedicated and knowledgeable, allowing us to provide the best distributor experience possible. These differentiating elements keep us at our rock star status despite the challenging business climate.”
Industry Sales Pro Steven Meyer, MAS, VP Sales, Molenaar
Industry Selling Tip No. 5: Deliver. Deliver creative and unusual ideas to the distributor salesperson and then deliver the goods on time, imprinted correctly and to the right place. You might not get the order every time but you will often get the call to share in the creation of an order. For a good supplier, anything you do that makes your customer a superstar to the end buyer helps you down the road.
Industry Sales Pro Charley Johnson, CAS, Executive VP, SnugZ USA
Industry Selling Tip No. 6: Don’t talk business when visiting distributors in their offices and at tradeshows. I want to know them as a person before business ever comes about. I can’t stand people who start every conversation with a sales pitch and I assume most people are becoming the same way in this age of so many products and marketers.
Industry Sales Pro Teresa Moisant, MAS, President, Moisant Promotional Products
Industry Selling Tip No. 7: Open doors. Let your customer know you want your business to grow and by growing your business it increases your buying power, which will be beneficial to them. Ask them for referrals. The easy question is: “Do you have business associates, friends, family who could use my services?”
Another thing, use more promotional products for your own self promotions. If you are sitting at an ad club meeting with seven other business people, pack seven self promotional items and hand them out. Trust me, it will stimulate conversation. I have been around a long time and have grown my business through one main medium—promotional products. Practice what you preach.
Another idea that consistently helps me sell better is when I am putting together a presentation of ideas for a client, I make sure I include in the presentation two items that I couldn’t say no to. When I operate under that rule it pushes me to look a little further, a little harder and do a better job.
Industry Sales Pro Chris Orcutt, National Sales Manager, Sweda Company, LLC
Industry Selling Tip No. 8: Remain relevant to your top customers. You’d better have a plan prior to walking in their door on how you will partner and help them grow their business. Knowing your customer and how your products can impact their projects and make them successful needs to be top of mind in all dealings with your distributor account executives. Gone are the days where simply showing up is good enough to grow sales.
Industry Sales Pro Andy Shuman, General Manager, Rockland Embroidery, Inc.
Industry Selling Tip No. 9: My sales strategy is relatively simple: Get to know people. I honestly think this is the best cumulative tactic and the great thing is it doesn’t really seem like work. Networking and interacting with others on a business and/or social level opens all kinds of new doors. Forming relationships with colleagues and acquaintances who can either use your services or refer your services to others puts you at a distinct advantage over your cold-calling competitors. This is an industry in which we have the luxury of selling so many different items to a vast variety of potential customers. That makes coming up with ideas quite easy.
Industry Sales Pro Bruce J. Felber, MAS, Account Executive, Felber & Felber Marketing
Industry Selling Tip No. 10: Show interest in your prospect and listen to their challenges. You must be sincere and offer to help meet their expectations. Don’t offer quick-fix solutions but show the prospects you are there to be their partner in success.
Tapping Into What Really Matters
PPB sits down with co-author Eric Taylor to ask more about the secrets to driving sales.
What have you found is the biggest challenge most salespeople face?
The economy. People are holding purse strings tighter. The next biggest challenge is getting in front of people who have the ability to say yes and pay for it. The sales game has changed. By the time you meet with a prospect, he or she may have already eliminated your product or service. Salespeople need to be innovative, creative-collaborative and assert themselves in what they are recommending. Collaborative selling is a big-buzz word now—transactional sales are over.
In Time magazine there was an article about what kind of jobs will survive and what kind will be obsolete. It seems sales jobs are among those with a greatly diminished growth potential. Salespeople are on the endangered species list. What can they do to increase their value to an organization?
Be more innovative, more collaborative and bring fresh ideas to clients. Everyone will cry commodity but that is why a salesperson is most important now—you differentiate yourself and bring solutions the customer may not have thought of.
The second thing you can do is to be a student of your industry: marketing, psychology and human dynamics. It comes down to really mastering your craft through persuasion, influence, stepping out of the box and forcing yourself to think more creatively. Everybody is working twice as hard for the same amount of money. As a value provider, are you positioning and promoting yourself? Again, it comes down to your marketing. [Business philosopher] Jim Rohn says, “Success is what you attract by what you become.” Are you positioning yourself to attract more clients? When they are looking for more solutions, do you show up?
What’s the most important thing salespeople need to remember to reach their goals?
They need to work smarter, harder and look for the low-hanging fruit. Your network is your net worth—how well you connect with people on and offline. I’m a huge proponent of personal development, including communication skills. The fundamentals are critical. People can tell if you are all in and 100-percent passionate about what you are selling—you need to have some steak with the sizzle. So, know your industry; be a student of it.
In compiling the advice in your book, did you find a common theme among the comments?
The interesting thing is there’s not one way to sell; there’s not one style that fits everybody. But there was one theme: passion—their belief in sales as a profession and creating value through being innovative.
About The Book
Mastering the World of Selling: The Ultimate Training Resource from the Biggest Names in Sales (Wiley, 2010) is $19.95 and available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. www.masteringtheworld.com.