4 Key Rules to Make Sales Calls More Effective

Hi folks!

Been traveling again and hence the delay in this post.

This one came about after I worked with my sales team stationed at Delhi…these awesome girls are doing a commendable job with our wedding services platform http://www.ourvivaha.com

I noted that there were a few fundamental mistakes that they were all committing during their sales calls; mistakes that were completely avoidable and if left unattended would hamper a perfectly good opportunity.

So i decided to write this simple -to-follow guideline for them and for everyone else who would care to analyze and then amend their process and improve the ROI on sales.

So here goes…

  • Rule #1. Pace the conversation so that the customer is never overwhelmed. The average customer can listen to only three sentences before becoming overloaded. If you become an information fire hose, the customer will simply shut down and say “I’ll think it over” at the end of the presentation. (And then you’ll call back three days later and the customer won’t even remember your name.) Instead, use questioning and requests for feedback to pace the conversation. I am tempted to name my wonderful sales intern who has everything going for her…she is very pretty, good with numbers, analytic…BUT very aggressive when talking to her clients or prospects…and when I noticed that, I sat down with her, counseled her…she mellowed down, the the results are spectacular!!
  • Rule #2. Listen intently to build trust and rapport. When the customer talks, listen. Really listen, don’t just sit there thinking about what you’re going to say next. The golden rule of selling is to sell to your customers the way you’d like to be sold to yourself. Listening carefully also allows you to better sense the customer’s true attitude and mood. Connecting with the customer in this fundamental way is the key element of turning a sales presentation into a sale. Here again without naming my sales star…young kids, eager to get cracking on the targets, just forget to LISTEN….and again counselling really helps…and once that is done ( enforced if need be ) , the results are delivered automatically !!Try it …it really works …
  • Rule #3. Discover if the buying decision will be made soon. One of the biggest mistake that salespeople make is focusing on customers who aren’t really going to buy. The best way to get this information is to ask a question like: “if I show you exactly what you’re looking for at a reasonable price, what kind of time frame will it be for you to make a decision?” NOW …this one comes only after a long list of “trials and errors”…the trick is to shorten the learning process and to inculcate a certain judgment maturity in the process…
  • Rule #4. Push inevitable objections off the table. If you’re reasonably certain that a particular objection is likely to surface, preempt it by admitting it before the customer surfaces it. Example: “Some people say that our product costs a little too much, but…” Admitting the “cons” to your offering as well as the “pros” also enhances your credibility and positions you in the role of an advisor rather than a salesperson. THIS one is often the most difficult to get done, because we as people are programmed to never admit that we were wrong….it takes serious courage of conviction and maturity to do this and once you have mastered it, I guarantee you that it really works and earns the long term respect of your clients who will value you for your brutal honesty even at the expense of losing that all important sale !!

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How To Cope with Sales Rejection

Hi guys,

I have been wanting to take on the subject of rejection in selling professions for quite some time , BUT its not a very easy topic to write about.

I think homo sapiens are not attuned to accept rejection easily and therefore this becomes a very prickly issue in our lives.

BUT its an issues that needs attention especially for those of us in Sales who are front ending our corporate brands and bringing in the moolah.

I think that in order to be successful at sales, you need to be able to cope with rejection — an even to turn it into a goad that creates more success.

Once you understand this, rejection loses is power over you, and your ability to sell.

Your experience of rejection depends entirely upon three qualitative, subjective measurements:

  1. Frequency. Everyone can deal with some rejection, but how much rejection can you experience before you start taking the negative feedback to heart?  How many times can you contact a qualified prospect and get a negative response before you begin to take it personally?  Increase your tolerance, and rejection loses its hold over your future performance.
  2. Emotional Involvement. How emotionally involved can you become with somebody before you feel that the other person might know you so well that criticism hurts?  For example, you might be reluctant to close because you’re afraid that your customer might feel “buyer’s remorse” and stop liking you — a form of rejection.
  3. Perceived Importance.  As a sales rep, you’re likely to feel most comfortable contacting people who are of a similar (or lower) social class or educational background.  However, you might find yourself avoiding people whom you feel are more important than yourself, because their rejection of you might seem to carry more weight or authority.

Each elements is easily changed, fortunately.  Here’s how:

  1. Frequency. To make yourself less vulnerable in this area, you must differentiate between valid and invalid rejection. If the rejection is based upon something valid (like your basic approach), then you blame your approach and then change it.  If the rejection is invalid — as when a prospect “dumps” frustration — it has nothing to do with you, so you can easily ignore it.
  2. Emotional involvement. The cure for this subjective ailment is to believe in yourself and in your product.  If you truly believe in both, then there is absolutely NO reason why you shouldn’t want your true friends to be your customers.  If it turns out that your friend doesn’t want or need your offering, it’s not a rejection of you, but of the product and firm.  So it should have no power over you.
  3. Perceived importance. My mother always recommended imagining that you’re talking to the bigwig while he’s sitting on the toilet.  That doesn’t really help me, but I know what she’s talking about.  Look: most bigwigs are exceedingly average people who’ve stumbled into their success.  Their opinion means nothing in the long run, so don’t let it have any power over you.

I think the key skills that a mature sales professional needs to imbibe in himself/herself, is that of EQ (Emotional quotient)….a strong EQ will best equip you with the balance and poise to manage rejection when you go out there to get your business!!

I have extensively covered numerous aspects of selling skills and sales management in my blogs on wordpress….https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

Please check out my blogs and feel free to ideate and provide me with your insights and suggestions…happy to learn from my peers and thought leaders.

Do connect with me on my professional FB page http://www.facebook.com/the.ashishtandon

You could also connect with me on LinkedIn http://in.linkedin.com/pub/ashish-tandon/4/427/188/

How to Conquer Fear of Cold Calling

Hi readers,

Apologies for the sabbatical. Been travelling all over the place to deliver to folks who have retained my services as a consultant.

Well…. recently traveled to a client in Mumbai and he asked me to do a workshop for him for his sales team. As is my practice, I began with personal interviews with the sales team members and realized by the end of the day that the highest common factor ( remember our 2nd grade math!) that impedes their performance was FEAR OF COLD CALLING!

That set me thinking and I began to analyze first the reasons for this underlying fear…and my assessment revealed the following

  • Fear #1: Fear of Sounding Stupid. You’re afraid that once you have a target in your sights , and you are able to muster enough courage to just walk up to his door without an appointment,you will stumble and be turned away from his door by his secretary.  This is not a fear of “rejection”; this fear comes from not having mastered the skill of converting a conversation into an appointment over a telephone call.
  • Fear #2: Fear of Wasted Effort. You’re afraid that you’re not “working” the target correctly; that you are in a random pursuit.  A call here, a call there; leave this voicemail; craft an email, etc., etc. . You’re flailing and you fear your results will correspondingly flail and your efforts will be ineffective.
  • Fear #3: Fear of Lousy Process. You have the same hesitation and take the same deep breath you would take before starting to put clothes on the drying line in fierce a wind storm. Experience says that, even if you’re successful in getting the appointment, there is no efficient way to develop and close the deal.

Post this assessment, my question was- now we know the fears, so now what?

So I came up with a simple 3 point program to help address the fears mentioned and identified above – and these tips are

  • Step #1: Develop Your Skills. Either through available training or available written material work to improve the ability to control the flow of the conversation, to handle pushback’s and to secure an agreement to meet.  You must learn how to deftly and professionally handle the predictable negative responses to a request for an appointment and still secure an appointment.  As a result, you’ll feel the confidence that comes from being able to control the conversation.

Step #2: Adopt a Sales Methodology. Find (or create) a written methodology that sets in place the specific pursuit of any group of suspects, including how many times to call, the frequency of those calls and the messaging used in voicemails, emails, and/or videos. Developing the “Best Practice” model will eliminate the feeling of flailing or being caught up in a random pursuit going nowhere

Step #3: Measure and Adapt. Either manually or with available technology develop a way to execute your best practice and training in a way that enables you to track the pursuit of targets very precisely and in the most efficient way. By tracking activity you will gain control and give purpose to your telephone activity. You can begin to determine how many initial appointments you need to make quota, how many conversations you need to get those appointments, how many calls you need to make that conversation goal.

P.S- Marketing has a crucial role to play in ensuring their sales team members are empowered through various devices ( training, sales playbooks, technology, tools etc) and have the confidence to go out there and get their business and makes their quotas!!

Hope this helps my brothers in the sales teams across the world!!

Hi readers,

When I started my career in 1992, I was introduced to the power of the sales pitch by my mentors who came from the old school. At that time, the sales pitch was king.

The sales pitch had to be perfected to a point that you knew that pitch by heart, and that was THE critical element of hooking the client.

Well, circa 2012, and Solutions marketing is fast gaining over traditional marketing and with that , sales strategy is evolving.

Today, successful sales reps know that, far from being a “sales pitch,” every customer meeting is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to engage with the customer with a long term perspective.

there are 3 simple rules that the sales rep of today can follow in order to evolve from a slick , fast talking, fast thinking sales pro, to a more strategic thinking, solutions oriented, business partner to his customer.

  • RULE #1: Always seek the truth.  You want to find out if you really have something that can help the customer.  To do this, the meeting must be a quest to discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Quick tip: your customer knows that you’re telling the truth when you’re not afraid to say something negative (but true) about your product or company.
  • RULE #2: Always keep an open mind. When you walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your product or service, the customer will sense you’re close-minded and become close-minded in return.  If, by contrast, you’re open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere, the customer will sense that you’ve got his or her best interests at heart and will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
  • RULE #3: Always have a real dialog. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a mere sales call.  This means that you should be listening to the customer at least half of the time that’s spent at the meeting.  Furthermore, the dialog should be substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or chit-chat about sports.

The 7 Myths of Selling to Smaller Firms

Hi readers,

Forget G-15, Forget OECD countries, Forget the mature, developed economies of the Western Hemisphere, the future belongs to the newbie emerging economies.

The BRICS and MINT are the way to go!!

BRICS- Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa/ MINT- Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey

Do you know what is largely driving these economies even in these trying times?

An entrepreneurial spirited, and driven, SMB segment! Yes, these economies are largely fueled by small and medium firms that are driven by first generation entrepreneurs,  often betting their own financial resources to chase their dreams…

The SMB segment is fast emerging as a focus for major B2B focused businesses across the globe.

B2B businesses who wish to successfully convert SMB clients often find it challenging to generate traction and business in this fast growing segment and for lack of a comprehensive understanding of this segment, and its long term business implication in their business eco-systems and respective economies, they often lose out.

Sales reps who have had qualified successes while working with larger firms , often use myths to justify their lack of success in the SMB segment and thats where they need to revisit their sales process when working with SMB clients..

Selling for an SMB can be challenging, especially if you’re used to working for a larger firm.  There’s usually not much in the way of sales support, and people often end up doing multiple jobs. All of that is manageable, however, providing you have the right attitude about your job.  This RIGHT ATTITUDE is best explained by mentioning the 7 myths that hinder your sale to the SMB client, and what you need to do to redress this and succeed!!

  • Myth #1: Prospects won’t buy from us because they’ve never heard of us.
  • Truth #1: It’s an advantage when prospects lack negative preconceptions.

 

  • Myth #2: Prospects won’t buy because we’re new in the business.
  • Truth #2: Prospects are always interested in something new and different.

 

  • Myth #3: We can’t compete because we’re only a tiny handful of people.
  • Truth #3: It’s an advantage not to have a bureaucracy to weigh us down.

 

  • Myth #4: Customers won’t buy because our product is new in the market.
  • Truth #4: In today’s world, true innovation is (almost literally) priceless.

 

  • Myth #5: An enterprise CEO can’t possibly be interested in speaking with us.
  • Truth #5: It’s in a CEO’s best interest to learn what we’ve got to offer.

 

  • Myth #6: Prospects are asking us to do a lot of work to get their business.
  • Truth #6: We have the right to ask for major concessions in return.

 

  • Myth #7: Big companies have more resources, so they’re likely to win.
  • Truth #7: Big companies frequently bite off way more than they can chew.

Lets get us some SMB business now!!

The Essential Sales Proposal Checklist- key to sales super stardom!

Hi readers,

I did not mention this key, actually critical ingredient which should be in the armory of every sales rep who aspires for sales super stardom!

I have been writing proposals for the last 18 years; proposals to my CEO, to my boss, to the investors, to my clients when I worked in B2B assignments.

Apart from developing the essential skills to help you CLOSE your sale, you need to possess above average proposal writing skills that hook your customer and get you to the final deal!

From my experience the following check list always works, till it became assimilated within me and I did not have to refer to it to send across proposals…but it takes effort and lots of focus to get this right , so please do not take short cuts. Believe me when I say this- that will be a short cut to a serious berating from your boss or worse!!

First things first- 

Examine the current draft of your sales proposal carefully. Then answer the following questions as honestly as you can:

  • Does the customer know who we are? ( Brief about the company, short, to the point always works)
  • Is the customer expecting us to bid on this? (Dont use the proposal as a shot in the dark, you must have generated traction to be able to send a proposal!!)
  • Does the executive summary address customer needs? ( Analyse customer’s need and then write the executive summary , customized to THAT SPECIFIC NEED…be strategic in your thinking big guy!!)
  • Is the executive summary one page or less? (It better be targeted at 1 page pal)
  • Have we replaced all the jargon that’s meaningful only to us? (Please dont assume that the client speaks your jargon and lingo!! assumption is professional sales hara kiri!!)
  • Are we sure that another vendor doesn’t have the inside track? ( Get inside the grapevine to get a hook around this one)
  • Does the proposal follow the customer’s specified format and outline? (Ask the client his preferred format- it not only gets you an opportunity to engage with the client, and develop a working relationship with him, but also puts you in a favorable light with your client, who will probably have higher regard for your professionalism than you competitor!! strategic eh…)
  • Have we removed all the meaningless marketing fluff (e.g. “state-of-the-art”)? (Again…please NO JARGON)
  • Has someone edited out other customer names from boilerplate material? ( There is no tearing hurry folks…dont assume and do a poor cut and paste job….it will be the end of you)
  • Is the writing clear and forceful rather than flat and technical? (Dispense with the tech jargon, and use lucid, clear prose and descriptions..always works)
  • Has the proposal been edited so that it contains no glaring grammatical errors? (Brush up your Grammar guys!!)
    Can the proposal convince the customer that we can actually deliver? (Use factual information, discussion points already mentioned in minuted of meeting and simple to understand graphs and charts…always works !!)
  • Does the proposal define how we’ll measure customer satisfaction? (Sales metrics, sales analytics, tools and dashboards HAVE to be a part of ANY proposal !! thats the real winner )
  • Is the proposal being submitted on time and to the right people? (Keep to the deadlines!!)

If the answer to ANY of these question is “NO” then you’ll lose the sale. It’s as simple as that.

The Six Rules of Selling for Start-ups

Hi readers,

This blog is a result of my current professional engagements with 2 great start-ups, that I believe will disrupt our markets in India and empower the key stakeholders in their respective eco-systems, like never before.

THATs why I am with them!!

START-UP number 1 – Confidential / Secret/- Disruptive tech based and enabled platform for the $ 5 billion marriage services market.

START-UP number 2- http://www.fleximoms.in/ – Disrupting the flexible work niche in the labor market in Indian AND empowering women (yaay!!) at the same time!! (Double yaay!!)

These 2 great start-ups define awesomeness! and as I would say in Boston, …they are WICKED cool !!

So , the question is you have a tech enabled platform, ready to rumble and roll, NOW WHAT?

Well…revenues silly!

Who gets the revenues? The sales team of course?

And how do they do it in a start up? thats the million dollar question I wanna answer in this blog- hope you like it…

Selling for a startup presents unique challenges even for highly experienced sales professionals. Because your company is new, your potential customers don’t know anything about it and, sad to say, in business unfamiliarity breeds contempt. Not to worry, though. Here are the six rules of selling for startups:

  1. You are an entrepreneur. You aren’t in a big company, so ultimately the only person you can really count on to get things done is yourself. Don’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to move the sale forward, even if it means giving up your weekends.
  2. Don’t be afraid to bail. If a deal doesn’t make sense for your company, it’s not worth pursuing. Don’t let wishful thinking propel you into wasted effort. For example, if you can’t meet with the real decision-maker, you aren’t going to get the business. Period. Move on, without regrets.
  3. Don’t be taken advantage of. Insist that every customer relationship is a relationship between equals. Adopt a policy of “Quid Pro Quo” – that anything the customer or prospect asks you to do give you the right to ask them to do something comparable in return.
  4. Believe in your greatest strength. What startups offer customers is unique, and that’s good news, because top executives don’t have the time to sit with down with cookie-cutter sales reps, but always have time for somebody who can redefine problems and devise solutions.
  5. Don’t scuttle your credibility. Never take on an apologetic air, try to explain away the inexperience of your firm, or (ugh!) beg for the business. Savvy customers can smell fear and will ask for steep discounts or even amuse themselves by making you jump through meaningless hoops.
  6. Dare to be honest. Share your feelings with the prospect to move the sale forward. If you believe that the customer is treating you unfairly or asking too much, respectfully point out why you see the situation that way and then ask for reasonable concessions.

Effective Sales Questions that get results!

Hi readers,

This blog follows the other topics on which I have written about in the past weeks.

During the training programs that I attended and conducted over the last 18 years, I was often asked, and I myself asked of my trainers- which are the best questions to ask your clients/customers, so that the response meets your key objectives in the sales process?

By compiling elements that I learnt through class room training, numerous Rank Xerox PPS (Professional Selling Skills) programs and field sales experience I have come up with the following questions that I believe are effective , cutting across domains and verticals.

While these questions are primarily derived from my experience with B2B clients, I suspect that they will prove to be just as effective in the B2G  ( Business to Government) business eco-systems. ( Let me have your views as I have no understanding of this space)

Here are the fourteen absolutely indispensable questions ( power tools)  that should be in every sales rep’s bag of tricks:

  1. What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
  2. What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
  3. What don’t you like about your current situation?
  4. What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
  5. What can you tell me about your priorities?
  6. What prompted you to start this project now?
  7. What can you tell me about your decision-making process?
  8. How do you handle budget considerations?
  9. What other options are you looking at?
  10. What can you tell me about the people involved in the process?
  11. What obstacles are in the way of moving this forward?
  12. How will you be evaluating different options?
  13. How will the funding for the project be justified?
  14. How much support does this have at the executive level?

According to me –

Get the answers to these questions, and take action based on those answers, and you’ll get the sale. It’s that simple.

This is based on the KISS principle- Keep it simple and sweet!

The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling

Hi readers,

I have been blogging at length about sales management, selling skills, personal attributes of great sales stars, selling acumen and so on.

I also wrote about the tricks that our customers play on us and watching to see if we would blink, and then take advantage of our intrinsic weakness to “close the sale” and achieve our quota targets….

I have been meaning to speak of 7 major points that for me are the proverbial “deadly sins” that often impede our performance as sales professionals.

These are the Seven Deadly Sins of Selling.

  1. SIN #1: Not being personally accountable. Don’t pass the buck somebody else in your firm; your customers want your personal skin in the game.
  2. SIN #2: Failing to understand the customer’s business. Don’t expect customers to answer dozens of questions just because you didn’t do your research.
  3. SIN #3: Being an adversary, not an ally. Since customers are risking their career doing business with you, they expect you to represent their best interests.
  4. SIN #4: Selling products not solutions. Don’t burden customers with features and functions; tell them how your solution will help their business.
  5. SIN #5: Being inaccessible when needed. If customers are important to you, you’ll answer their email or voice mail within minutes, not hours.
  6. SIN #6: Selling rather than helping. Customers want you to be thinking about how to help their firm, not how to sell your products.
  7. SIN #7: Wasting the customer’s time. If your solution isn’t the right choice for the customer, say so.  Don’t waste their time pitching something they don’t need.

The True Meaning of B2B Sales in the Solutions Marketing context

Hi readers,

My understanding of Solutions Sales in a B2B business has been enhanced considerably after my MBA program where I had taken Solutions Marketing as one of my key electives.

Based on my experience in B2B solution sales of 18 years and contemporary coursework in Solutions Marketing taught by Prof. Stephen Hurley, I am sharing what I believe is the essence of B2B sales in a Solutions marketing context.

B2B sales, as I was taught, and which I have practiced  is heavily dependent on an ROI analysis. The numbers used in the ROI analysis are the customer’s numbers, gathered through effective questioning.

(NOTE-2 key skills MUST HAVEs for a successful solutions sales professional- Financial analysis capability AND Interviewing /researching skills)
I taught my B2B sales people to look for ways of contributing to the prosperity of their customers’ business in five key areas: (1) sales, (2) employee or process productivity, (3) profits, (4) competitive advantage, and (5) cost control…If a B2B salesperson is talking about anything other than those five issues they are probably wasting their time and their customer’s time.

(NOTE- Keeping a focus on issues that are top priority for your client is key to success, otherwise there is the real danger to scatter your thoughts and energy all over the place and end up delivering nothing to your client, and certainly losing your incentives!!)

The five elements, mentioned above are interesting because they’re a map of what most companies think are important — and therefore provide hooks for B2B selling. 

I claim that there are only important two (2) goals inside every company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.  

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the five elements mentioned earlier

  1. Sales.  Nobody wants to decrease their sales, so this element is simply a restatement of the goal to increase sales revenue.
  2. Employee/Process Productivity.   Increased productivity decreases the cost of doing business, thereby decreasing the cost of sales.  If you increase productivity somewhere in a company in such a way that it increases the cost of sales, you’re decreasing profitability, which is stupid.
  3. Profits.  Increased revenue and decreased profitability means more profit, by definition.
  4. Competitive Advantage.  Any one can beat a competitor by giving away more value for less money; the trick is to grow at the competitor’s expense and still remain profitable.  Therefore, competitive advantage consists entirely of increasing revenues while either decreasing the cost of sales or keeping them stable.  Even product development (like building a better mousetrap) is actually just a way to increase revenues by making more sales.
  5. Cost Control.  You’d have to be an imbecile to control costs in one part of company in a way that ends up increasing the cost of sales and/or decreasing revenue.  Therefore, the only meaningful cost control consists of decreasing the cost of sales.

To repeat, there are only two (2) things important in a company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.

Therefore, if your B2B offering, through a solutions sales proposal,  focuses on helping your customer do either of those two things, you’ve got something that’s worth buying.

And if your product does both of those things, you’ve got a real winner.

So, in order to help you succeed in your product driven solutions sales efforts, you need to brush up your solutions marketing skills!!