Life is filled with danger signals and warning signs. If you pay attention you can avoid the potholes and the problems that they cause. An oil leak in your car can be fixed with a $3 gasket. If ignored, your engine could seize and you’ll pay $2000 for a replacement. Selling has its own danger signals and warning signs.
Not reading is dangerous. You need to learn about changes in business. Change is a warning signal. Any change is an opportunity for you or your competition. When staff or company needs change, salespeople need to respond quickly to ensure that their products continue to meet customer needs.
Reading the newspaper is a source of knowledge about change. When you read the newspaper, you learn about changes in business that impact your customers’ businesses and then your own. How else can you easily learn about mergers, strategic focus issues, competition, growth and failure to meet business objectives?
Remember sales and business books, too. Even incorporating 15 minutes a day of additional reading will have a positive impact on your business knowledge and ultimately your business.
Having difficulty making call objectives for a sales call is a sign you’re in trouble. Your job is to bring value to your customers. Another greeting by a smiling face is not a source of value.
Objectives that add value to your customers’ operations involve avoiding costs, reducing costs, or simplifying an operation for your customer. Planning before the sales call should include the steps to accomplish your objective. Having difficulty establishing your call objective is a clue that you might not be giving your customers a reason to do business with you.
Not knowing key decision makers is a bad sign. All accounts have critical decision makers. The economic decision maker reaches decisions based on cost. The technical decision maker decides based on specifications. The user makes decisions based on satisfaction with using your product.
If you’re only calling on one decision maker; if you’re unfamiliar with all decision makers; or if you’re unaware of each of their concerns, the red light goes on. Pay attention when your contacts move on and are replaced by others. You need to reestablish relationships with the new contact by identifying their key concerns and motivators.
Forgetting to do the work to make a new contact loyal will leave you vulnerable to the past loyalties they’ve established with other suppliers.
No systematic process for prioritizing accounts is serious. Your selling time should be given to your accounts based on their probability of buying, their importance to your sales goals, and their need to see you.
You need to ask and answer, “When is this account likely to buy? Is this a strategic account because of location, a particular product or volume? Is this a significant problem that warrants my time now?” In all cases the answer will determine what you should be doing and how much time you spend with each account.
In all cases determine that your customer’s needs are met with your lowest cost solution. If a phone call will work, why make a sales call? All customer contacts should be made after you identify your sales priorities and determine appropriate levels of service according to those priorities.
Do you find yourself saying what you would have, should have or could have done after you fix a problem? This is a sign that you ignored a danger signal. It’s so much easier to avoid a problem than to fix it. When you hear yourself saying, “If only I had called on that new project engineer earlier I wouldn’t have lost the account” it’s time to start looking at your other business. You’re probably missing some warning signs there, too.