Where Do We Go From Here?
Dave Packard, the great founder of Hewlett-Packard once said, “Talking with successful people is a great way to learn about what it takes to be successful—but not to bank on them helping you be successful in the future.” I’ve talked with successful business people about what they thought made great salespeople. Here’s what they said.
1. Humility with knowledge works wonders. Imagine you wanted to sell your consulting services to a CEO of a company. You talked down to him and showed a pompous attitude. While that is a selling strategy, how effective do you think it is? Not very. This is what one CEO told me, “Sure he was smart, but I certainly didn’t like the guy. Why would I want to work with him?”
Humility is just the beginning. You do need some expertise to offer as well. Keeping up with business is part of what you’re selling. How do you know what to read? Ask your customers. Once you understand their challenges, ask them what they think is the best book in those areas. Those are the books you should be reading, too.
2. My way or the highway. Look back at your own selling. Have you told a customer, “That’s not the way we do it here” as you turned down a special request? This attitude is a quick way to stop the selling process. Worse, there are salespeople who are resistant to change their sales process because “that’s the way they’ve always done it.” When you try something new, you just might find a better way to improve your process. It reminds me of the restaurateur who told his staff, “If a customer requests any item that’s not on our menu and we have the ingredients to prepare it, take their order. That’s how we work here.”
3. Avoid bad assumptions. Listening is a critical sales skill. Assuming you understand what you’ve heard is what makes listening so hard. You’ll be far more successful in sales when you ask a customer for clarification when you say, “And what do you mean by that?” rather than assuming you know. When customers say, “I need this quickly” they could mean anything from the next day to the next month. You need to find out what they mean before you start jumping through hoops or make others at your company jump along with you.
Another bad assumption is when you present too soon because you assume your customer is interested. One salesperson said, “You’ll get push back and get objections if you present something that doesn’t interest a customer.” Instead, when you uncover a need, you need to ask, “And is that important to you now?” When you hear “no” you can stop pushing them to change their mind. Instead, use the energy to find out what issues your customers do care about. When they care, they might buy something to address that concern. When people are indifferent, it is very unlikely that they will spend money on the issue.
4. They leave them hanging. Many salespeople complain about how difficult it is to reach prospects after a successful meeting. Prospects will talk with you when they need to talk with you. If you’ve uncovered a need and have a reason to follow up, you can and should expect your prospect and customers to take your calls. Too many salespeople do a poor job of creating their next steps while at their sales call. Every salesperson should ask at the end of every sales call, “What should our next steps be?” When the customer says to follow up at a certain day and time, they will be more likely to take your call.
As Packard noticed, talking with successful people is just the beginning. It’s up to you to do something with what you’ve learned. That’s the key to your successful selling future.
The Selling E-Letter ® Volume 217 9723800200
Maura Schreier-Fleming, author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results, writes The Selling E-Letter®. The Selling E-Letter is a semi-monthly subscription service for sales professionals who want to close business faster. For subscription information, contact info@bestatSelling.com. Have her speak at your next meeting or conference.