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
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
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 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 toclose 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.
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 and 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 wasnew. 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 and 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.
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:
What is the single biggest tool that will transform my business?
All around us, ‘gurus’ (of varying degrees of credibility) are pushing this system, or that product, or some package or another which will miraculously ‘transform’ your business. Some are excellent, but some are not and there is, of course, a price point for every pocket.
However, I am a great believer in simple things. I have lost count of the number of wonderful sounding tools or gizmos which I have invested in, but which were too complicated to learn or I just never used.
So, as a sales trainer and small business owner, what is my favourite transformational tool? It’s a CRM.
OK – I bet you thought it was going to be something a lot more exciting didn’t you? Or perhaps that I was going to prefix it with words like “Secret” or “they don’t want me to tell you about this”.
Well I am just as fed up as you are of hearing about the NEW BIG THING only to find out it’s a recycled version of an existing thing.
So let me explain. I don’t really care what sort of system you have, but you MUST have some way of tracking your leads and your customers. For some people it’s a pile of business cards (don’t really recommend that, but it does work for some people). Others use notebooks, scraps of paper (ouch!), their phone or products like Microsoft Access.
Many people who are new to sales experience the frustration of thinking they have made a sale, but then, when it comes to the delivery of the product or service, confirmation in writing, or payment of a deposit, the customer does not seem to be able to finalise things and get going.
It can be difficult to work out what has happened and it can feel awkward re-approaching the customer to say the equivalent of “what is happening then?”.
Have a formal process in place, which might include a contract
When a sale has been agreed and the delivery of the product or service is not immediate, it is normal to put everything in writing and then both parties know exactly what to expect
Has the customer said ‘yes’? Make sure that when you close, you have not misinterpreted what they said. For example, they might mean ‘yes, but not for 6 months’ which makes a considerable difference.
If a deposit is needed and they haven’t paid the deposit, then do not start work until they have!
If they said ‘yes’ and then you can’t get hold of them, they may have reconsidered going ahead.
Why Outstanding Customer Service Doesn’t have to be Complicated (or expensive)
This morning I had an almost flat tyre. Not an actual puncture, but something I noticed last night and forgot to deal with.
I was on the school run, so I had to make sure the children were dropped off on time, then I gently drove the car to the nearest petrol station and parked up by the air machine. Then I realised – I had been on the school run, so all I had was keys and my phone. No money. I needed 50p.
I did the regulatory scrabble under the seats, in the nooks and crannies and glove compartment and came up with ….36p. Not enough.
Faced with the choice of driving home and possibly damaging the tyre, or throwing myself on the mercy of the staff at the petrol station, I chose the latter.
“Excuse me, I need your help – I’ve got a flat tyre and I’ve only got 36p. Is it possible…….?”
I never got the chance to finish. The man behind the counter walked off, grabbed something and plopped a 50 pence coin into my hand.
I started to thank him and promised to call by later. He just waved me away and smiled.
Now, I am sure he is a kind man who just wanted to help a fellow human being, but he actually did so much more than that – through his simple act of kindness he made a potentially complicated day suddenly simple and helped a rather frazzled mother on the school run calm down instantly.
Longer term though, he will be the winner. Of course he will get his 50p back. But he will get much more. Because of my gratitude and the fact that I will remember that feeling of panic which he diffused, I will use his petrol station again. In fact, I will probably make a point of using it even more. So he will sell me petrol, the children will ensure we buy sweets and drinks, I will definitely use the car wash and it is likely that we will make various spur of the moment purchases, just as everyone does.
He will reap far more than 50p. Maybe knows it, maybe he doesn’t, but if he treats all his customers like me, I have a feeling he will have a very successful business.
So, if you are in Edmonton, London, go to the Jet Garage at 134 Hertford Road. There! Now he’s got a referral too!
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
5 Things that could be scaring your customers away (and what you can do about it)
Let’s face it, customers can be tough to win, so the last thing you want to do is scare any of them away. However, if you are involved in selling in any way at all, make sure you are not doing anything on this list:
It doesn’t matter whether it is business or life in general, we can always sense if someone is desperate and we don’t like it. In fact, we are likely to react by withdrawing, because that’s the human response. Remember your focus should always be on your customers and their needs (not your salary, bonus cheque, meeting your target or anything else financial). So even if you are struggling, push it as far to the back of your mind as you can and concentrate on helping your customer.
You don’t look professional
OK, we are not all supermodels, but can you honestly say you project the right image for whatever it is that you are selling? By the way, you don’t necessarily have to turn up in a suit and tie – if you are in an office environment, then that is fine, but you should dress appropriately for the thing you do. I go to a lot of networking meetings, full of serious businesspeople and all of them dressed differently. But the constant? Even the people who work in the more manual type of organisations can always manage to look professional. Clean, neat, tidy. See – it’s not so hard is it?
You promise everything
Seriously, the chances of you being able to give every customer every thing they need is small, so don’t feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to each request – if you do that and then the customer wants it, you are going to be in big trouble further down the line. It is better to be honest (or perhaps sell them an upgraded package with the ‘thing’ they want for more money!). It might not be easy, but a lot of sales is about compromise anyway – just give them all the facts and keep mentioning the benefits of your solution. If you do your job well, there is a good chance you will get the sale anyway. Better than a false sale followed by a refund!
You don’t take notes
This is about two things:
Listening carefully and paying attention to the person who has been kind enough to grant you some of their time. This is respectful. There is a phrase ‘people buy from people’ and one of the building blocks of a good relationship with customers is the ability to listen and understand.
Ensuring that you don’t forget important details and, because you have written down key points, you can summarise and check your understanding. This is professional and it reassures the customer because it shows that you are less likely to make mistakes with their precious money if they use you.
You are irritating
What does your voice sound like and what is your body language saying? Do you repeat things, tell boring anecdotes, take ages to get to the point, or make negative comments about other people? Now of course, we all think we are wonderfully interesting, but what if (shock horror) we are not as engaging as we think we are? Look out for signs that you are boring or irritating your customers. Yawning, loss of attention, or early conclusions to meetings are tell-tale signs that you are being less than captivating. Consider taking someone you trust out with you on a sales call to give you some constructive feedback and help you improve.
So with any luck you are not a desperate, unprofessional, “say yes to anything”, irritating salesperson with no notebook. However, if you are, perhaps you have a few things to work on!
Why am I more important than I was a month ago? Because clearly I am! And, before you start to mutter under your breath about me having over-inflated ideas of my own value, a lot of it is to do with perception.
OK, so let’s have a look at this curious statement; in many ways, I am no different from the Janet who existed one month ago. Of course I have roughly a month’s more life experience (I’m a month older though, so maybe that’s not so good). I have achieved some good things in the last 4 weeks and I hope I’ve spread a little happiness among my friends and some prosperity among my clients, but so far, so normal. Read More
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