Have you ever talked yourself out of a sale
(and what should you have done differently?)
It is important to understand when to talk and when to stop. When we are being sold ‘to’ none of us likes to be with someone who talks constantly; it is irritating and it can make us feel resentful because it is taking up our time. This is especially true if we have already made our mind up to buy.
When you are the one doing the selling, you should also be aware that not every customer needs to know everything about your product or service – all they really need to know is whether it will solve their problem or meet their objective and how. Anything else is just clutter and can put the sale at risk. Read More
1. Cancelled meetings
Especially when they ‘forget’ to tell you and you’ve physically travelled to the venue before you find out. Also annoying when you have done tons of preparation and they no longer want to see you.
2. Being stereotyped as a pushy charlatan
This image persists, yet nearly every salesperson I know is a thoroughly decent (normal) human being. In fact, the people who are best at sales are usually highly focused on helping clients. They are some of the kindest and most empathetic people out there, but everyone else thinks salespeople are a cross between Attila the Hun and Gordon Gekko.
3. Being nice to people who you don’t like, but who have the power to approve the sale
You get to deal with all sorts in sales and so by the law of averages, you are going to come across a few you don’t like. However, if their money is good and they are a good fit, you must still deal with them and try and make it look like a pleasure.
4. Shaking on it then they change their mind
You do the work, you agree terms, everyone is happy so you shake hands (or get verbal agreement, or whatever your standard is for the thing you do). Then, you get that call (and often they just leave a message) saying they no longer want to go ahead or they have changed their mind. Can you get back to them to talk about it? Of course not. The draw bridge has gone up. Leading me on to ….
5. Not returning calls
When they are interested or want your help or advice, clients will talk to you. In fact, they may call you at all sorts of strange times. However, when they have other things on their mind, or when you just need a bit of feedback to move the sale forward, what happens? Yup – suddenly it’s impossible to get through. Messages go unanswered, colleagues can’t say when your contact will be available and you hit a brick wall. You know what’s coming next don’t you?
6. Answer machines
I prefer speaking to actual people. I suppose we all do – but now everyone has an answer machine, somewhere between 50% and 85% of calls go straight to voicemail. Do you ring once, twice, 5 times, 10 times? And at what point do you turn into a Stalker? And then there are the messages left on your own phone that you miss, then 3 days later you just decide to check, only to discover that something urgent needed to be dealt with yesterday.
7. Asking for a discount
I blame car boot sales for this. It’s acceptable to ask for a discount when someone is selling their leftover and unwanted things from their home, but actually it’s not OK to ask for a discount when you are discussing a high quality, well crafted, bespoke product or service that is probably priced fairly for the market place. Yet still prospects do this. Even if, as the person selling, you have done everything right; showed the value of what you offer and demonstrated how many of the prospects needs and objectives you solve, you can pretty much guarantee that, before you get the sale, you will be asked if you can drop the price.
So, if you’ve been in sales for more than 5 minutes, I’m sure you recognise a lot of these. Fortunately, nothing comes even close to that feeling you get when you smash that target!
Janet Efere is an award-winning sales trainer based in Enfield, North London
Inbound – how good are they in your company?
Whether you are a one-man band, or a multinational organisation, you will inevitably be spending a chunk of your budget on marketing and promotion. The idea of course, is that you will encourage sales, or at the very least, leads and enquiries. So what you do with these leads is critical.
I do a lot of work with companies who have a front line sales/customer service team and, despite pouring loads of resources and effort into generating interest, suddenly seem to lose the plot a bit when it comes to responding to the leads that marketing generates.
Let me tell you what I mean.
These are just 4 of the things I see frequently when inbound calls are not handled properly:
No proper introduction
Have you ever rung up a company to be greeted with just ‘hello’? It doesn’t inspire confidence. After all, have you got the right phone number? As a potential customer it makes you feel uneasy and slightly wrong-footed. So use this SIMPLE formula every time – it’s clean, professional and straightforward:
• Good Morning/afternoon
• Name of company
• Your name
• How can I help?
So for me, this would be: “Good Morning, Tadpole Training, Janet speaking, how may I help?”
Don’t ask the person’s name
What is one of the easiest ways to build rapport? Yes, use a person’s name. How do you get their name? You simply ask: “Who am I speaking with please?”
Don’t get a contact number
I used to head up business development at an international college. We got enquiries all the time from overseas and often, the line was dreadful and conversations vanished. If we lost an enquiry, that could mean that £6,000 in fees had potentially just evaporated. So we developed a simple strategy to ALWAYS get the phone number as soon as we had the person’s name. Try this:
“[their name], just in case we get cut off, what’s the best contact number for you?”
It is simple and people then understand why you are asking.
Don’t find out the source of the enquiry
Remember that we are talking about your marketing money here. Often inbound staff don’t ask how people get to the stage of picking up the phone to enquire. You need to know how they found out about you. Apart from anything else, you need to understand which of your marketing pounds are pulling in the punters (spend more if required) and which are not (get rid, reduce or change).
This simple question will not only tell you how they heard about you, but it also gives you the opportunity to position yourself as a trusted company to work with:
“Who recommended you to us?” [wait for answer]
Whatever they say, then respond with:
“The reason I ask is that most of our business comes to us from personal recommendation.”
And before you worry that ‘most’ of your business does not come from personal recommendation, simply adapt the wording to ‘a lot’ or ‘X%’, whatever is authentic and accurate for you.
So there you have it, some simple tips to get your inbound team answering the phone more effectively and making sure they have the most important details of every single call.
If you would like more information about how we can help you transform your sales team, please contact Janet on 07748 994 334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
How a split second decision as an 8 year old changed my life
About this time of year, 43 years ago, I was sitting in my classroom at Goldsworth Middle School in Woking. The teacher was asking us to audition for parts in the Christmas carol service. The format was simple: come up to the front of the class and read a passage. Then the class would vote for whoever they thought did the best reading. The winner would take part in the carol service as the representative of our class.
Many hands went up to volunteer, all of them belonging to boys. Read More
I’m subsituting MAN for FAN because it’s time to move with the times!
Those of you in sales will be very familiar with the acronym MAN as standing for:
(in other words, a simple way of identifying the best person to have a sales conversation with). So, it’s simple and it works, but of course the thing is, it’s MAN (i.e. not WOMAN or female or whatever you want to call it).
I’m sure it isn’t a deliberate thing, but there are undertones of ‘You’ve got to be a man to make the decision’. Now if you’re an [actual] man reading this, you might be thinking ‘what’s the fuss all about – it’s just an acronym?’ So, to all the women out there in sales, I bet there are a few of you who wish there was, well, just a better acronym.
Well my lovely clients on in a recent training session nailed it.
We had a conversation about MAN and they came up with ‘FAN’ ! It’s so simple:
So obvious, so brilliant. So guess what I’m going to be using from now on!
Janet trains sales teams and provides one to one sales coaching to business owners who have got a bit stuck with their sales. For information about how to work with Janet, book a discovery call here
Do you have one big account? Something that brings in a huge chunk of your business? Well don’t go relying on it.
You may have heard of The Pareto Rule – 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients. So what would happen if one of your big clients decided to leave you (or if they went bust, or relocated, or lost one of their own major clients and used you a lot less)?
‘Churn’ in business is a reality – stuff happens and customers leave. So take a long hard look at your client portfolio – would the loss of one or more of your biggest customers have an impact? How much of an impact? Would it be enough to cause you to downsize, to not make a profit this year, to close?
Even if you did survive, what effect would it have on morale, on the confidence of your staff, your reputation in the market place? Sometimes it’s about a lot more than money.
So, you should have a plan in place to win more big accounts and develop existing ones to spread your risk.
However, what if that ‘big’ client was a lucky recommendation or a small account you grew. Yes, you did everything right once you had it, but do you have anything up your sales sleeve to duplicate this success or to gain more similar clients? Many companies don’t.
Losing a ‘big one’ is a horrible place to be, but the reality of business is that it will happen eventually.
So I have a question for you: What are the implications for your business if you lose your biggest client suddenly?
If the answer was a bit scary and you would like a chat about how to prevent this happening, schedule a discovery call and see if this is something I can help with. Here is a link to my diary: Book here
He’s 13 years old, so obviously he knows how to cold call better than me!
OK – It’s Hallowe’en and I’m doing Trick or Treating with my 2 children and their 9 year old cousin. Clear instructions are issued:
Only go to the houses with pumpkins or decorations outside
Don’t be too scary (he’s a good kid, but at 13 my son towers above many of the householders)
So off we go. Instructions are followed, sweets are collected, everyone is happy.
After a while, we meet with another cousin, the same age as my son. His loot is so impressive he has nearly filled a rucksack. We join forces and continue. His strategy, however, is different from ours. Read More
Sometimes it’s better to sell backwards
Do I really mean that? Well maybe not everything should be done backwards. But it is certainly worth setting out at the beginning of the meetings, the expectations you have for the end of the meeting!
Let me clarify.
OK – here is a familiar scenario to anyone who has been in sales. Have you ever been in the situation where you talk to your prospect. You do pretty much everything right and then you struggle to pin them down to a start date, or a date to sign? This, by the way, has nothing to do with the prospect creating objections. We will assume they are happy with everything but they are just reluctant to actually commit. It’s very frustrating and, short of just ringing them to ‘check on progress’ or ‘see if it has been signed off yet’ there is not much you can do.
So if this is something that is happening to you a lot, then try this strategy:
When you begin your discussion, start straight away by asking about the date of installation, or use or application. So in other words – the date they need your product or service to be in their possession, doing it’s thing.
This means you can use this date as a starting point and work backwards. You can explain your turnaround times and included details of important stages such as production, delivery and testing (depending on what you do of course). After all, that’s exactly what you would do if you were managing a project. And in many ways, selling is exactly that – project management.
Once you have done this, the prospect has a clear picture of time frames and you can guide them that they need to make a decision by a certain date in order to achieve their desired outcome. This gives them clarity and it gives you a genuine reason to chase them if, for any reason, they start to slip beyond the dates you have discussed.
Not all sales solutions are complicated!
Come and have a chat about how we can grow your sales. Here’s a link to my calendar
Positive Language can make a huge difference to your sales conversation, so don’t go using language that makes customers avoid you.
There are certain words and phrases that are considered clichés in the world of selling. If you want to avoid looking like an insincere salesperson, or one who is just following a script. Then it is a good idea not to fall into the trap of using tired, unimaginative words and phrases. That doesn’t mean that you need to have the vocabulary of Shakespeare. But you should at least try to say things in your own way.
One of the key things you can do is ensure you use positive language. Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t use clichés – instead, use your own words.
- Listen to yourself – if you can, record some of your calls – you will notice all sorts of things that you didn’t realise you were doing and then you can work on eliminating bad habits.
- Never start a call with “How are you?” Why? Well it absolutely screams “You’re trying to sell me something” (particularly if you don’t care, because then you seem insincere as well – see 5 below).
- Always remember you are talking to a real person – for all you know they could have had 20 other people calling them today. They would be trying to sell to them. Therefore, put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel if someone rang you up and talked to you like you were just a number.
- If you sound insincere, then as far as the customer is concerned, you probably are insincere. Work hard to show that you are genuine.
Edwin was new to sales and he was determined to do well. He had been out with his boss during his training and now he was starting to go on visits by himself. Edwin was bursting with enthusiasm, loved the products. Which were advanced water treatment systems – and he really enjoyed going out and meeting new customers.
He started to close sales but soon realised that selling was not always as easy as his boss had made it look. In particular, he really struggled with some of the seasoned and experienced buyers that he had to approach to stock his product.
One refused to give Edwin an appointment. He tried every week to arrange a visit, but the buyer just wasn’t having any of it. In frustration, Edwin asked his boss if he could listen in to his phone conversation to see if there was something he was missing. In fact, his boss went one step further – he recorded the call. When Edwin asked for feedback, his boss told him to listen to the call and see if he could work it out.
Edwin was horrified. He heard himself using what seemed like every cliché in the book. “How are you today”, “To be honest”, “Quite Frankly”. It was as though he had suddenly lost the power to speak in English!
More about Edwin’s situation.
His boss kindly explained that the buyer didn’t want to talk to an automaton who only spoke in trite sales terms; rather he wanted to talk to a real human being who cared about what was important to him. He also pointed out that by using phrases like “Frankly” and “To be honest”. He was coming across as insincere and was giving the impression that he was either hiding something or worse, lying.
By asking “How are you today?”, Edwin was coming over particularly insincerely – as his boss pointed out, his job was to sell, the buyer knew his job was to sell and, apart from wasting time it was probably actually annoying the buyer and eroding confidence in Edwin’s product. He explained, the moment you hear someone you have never met before say that on the phone, you know they don’t care. That they are trying to appear polite, but actually couldn’t care less how you are – they just want to sell you something.
Edwin’s boss gave him some other pointers too – for example, making sure he was never rude or disrespectful to the competition, never starting a conversation by asking if the buyer wanted to place an order and to just use his own authentic and real words.
With his boss standing by him, Edwin rang his elusive buyer again. When he got through, he apologised for his previous call, saying he was new. He used his own language. Explained that he thought he had something the buyer might be interested in seeing and politely asked for an appointment. The buyer said ‘yes’, on the condition that Edwin did not use the word “Honestly”. Edwin unreservedly agreed.
So often, we fail to get the basics right. Sometimes, all we need is a little help from someone to point us in the right direction. To be smart about using positive language appropriately.
This is an adapted excerpt from my book “Small Business Sales Dilemmas – 50 Real Life Case Studies to Help you Sell More.” (Which is available on Amazon.)
Do your staff struggle with sales?
If you know they are, then they might need an introduction to selling. Check out our regular course “How to Sell”. Currently run over 6 weeks part-time (normally a 2-day programme, but obviously subject to current restrictions)
This covers all the main issues faced by today’s salesperson:
- How to prospect effectively.
- Best way to convert leads to sales.
- How to close.
- Proven techniques to overcome objections.
- How to avoid giving discounts to win the sale.