Seriously – is selling a topic that you actively study, reading new material all the time, and learning, learning, learning?
Or do you avoid selling? Or rely on the same old selling skills you’ve been using for years?
That’s OK… IF those older approaches are still producing the results you want.
So ask yourself – “Am I satisfied with my sales results?” And if you’re not, start acting now to update your knowledge.
An estimated 20 million people work as salespersons in the United States, many more around the world. Sales force costs average about 10% of sales revenues, and as much as 40% of sales revenues in some industries.
In the aggregate, U.S. firms spent over $800 billion on sales forces in 2006 (the most recent year for which I’ve seen data) -- 3 times what was spent on advertising.
So how you and your team approach selling is worthy of your attention! And when you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that several things have changed:
1. There is much more focus, now, on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in selling. Not just what was sold, but lots of other aspects of the selling process that are leading indicators of future sales success. Do you have a list of KPIs for your selling effort, and do you monitor the KPI data?
2. There is much less focus, now, on selling “tricks” or “techniques”, because we know people HATE being tricked and resent feeling manipulated. Hint: if you or your salespeople regard selling as “convincing” or “making an argument for our product,” you’re in trouble.
3. There is much more distrust of salespeople than ever in history – so what we do as sellers has to take that skepticism into account. We need to be guided by something other than “I’ve got to close this guy!” The problem is, you need something to replace your old approach to selling. If you’re not telling yourself “I’ve got to close this”, what ARE you telling yourself?
Try this: “I’d like to see this guy get what he wants – whether or not he gets it from me. So I’m going to try to understand what he’s doing now, and what he wants.” The catch: you have to be curious about this stuff, not assuming you already know the answers!
4. There is much less loyalty now. The customer you consider to be loyal to you is already being approached by your competitor – or your customer is doing the approaching, looking for a better deal! They don’t feel compelled to come back to you. Work harder on your outreach; rely less on your “old reliable customers”. There are none.
I am often asked for my best sales advice. Here it is, in a nutshell:
• When you’re selling, inquire (or talk) about your buyer, don’t talk about yourself or what you have to sell. Think about what hurts your prospect – the pain that’s driving them to consider spending some money! Sometimes they have a real problem; other times they just want something they don’t have (and wanting what one doesn’t have IS pain, too). Once you understand their pain, show them how what you have to offer will lessen or remove that specific pain they’re feeling!
• Spend enough time selling. Get clear on what percentage of your working hours you should be spending face-to-face or phone-to-phone with your prospects, and then multiply that percentage times 2,400. The result is the number of minutes you need to spend selling every week to meet your target. Then start measuring your ACTUAL F2F and P2P time. Be prepared for a shock! (The good news: success in selling is strongly correlated with F2F and P2P time, so, wherever you are now, you’ll improve your sales results if you drive F2F and P2P!)
• Understand that, if you’re communicating by email or leaving voicemails, your prospect reads or listens to your communication with her finger on the “Delete” button. Are you talking about yourself, or about your product? Unclear about what you’re asking for? Delete, delete, delete! (From the work of Jill Konrath)
• Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. So someone didn’t buy. So what? It wasn’t the right thing, for them, at this exact moment in time. Move on! Your job is to find the people for whom your service or product is a great fit, and help them to see that, so they can move forward. Oh, and keep in touch with people. Systematic and methodical follow-up at optimal intervals is a BIG key to selling success – “no” really means “no today” for many people.