3 Tweaks to Your Sales Approach Are Steps Toward Sales Greatness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 @ 06:03 AM

traffic-circle.jpg

Consider how frustrating it is to approach a traffic circle, or as we call them in Massachusetts, a rotary, during rush hour.  You very slowly make your way towards the circle in a long line of traffic, attempt to merge into a congested circle, travel around to the other side of the circle, and finally exit the other end.  Being a bit impatient, I'm usually screaming to myself, "Come on - don't stop! - let's get moving - let's go!"

Hold that thought.

I believe that role-playing is the single most important thing I can do with salespeople to help them to become great.  There are three kinds of role-plays:

  1. I play the salesperson's part and the salesperson plays the prospect. This is my preferred method as it demonstrates exactly what the conversation should sound like.
  2. I play the prospect and the salesperson plays the salesperson.  This approach works best when conducting pre-call strategy and usually serves to show me how ill-equipped the salesperson is to have the desired conversation.
  3. The salesperson plays the salesperson and another salesperson plays the prospect.  This type of role-play occurs later in training when the salesperson has the foundational skills to execute the sales process correctly and to play the sales part with some confidence.

When I finally reach scenario 3 with salespeople playing their own part, it seems a lot like approaching the traffic circle. Let me explain.

When there is a question they need to ask or they need to summarize what they heard, the traffic circle scenario comes to life.  They slowly approach the circle, and when they finally reach the circle, travel around it a couple of times before exiting and finishing their comments.  In other words, they talk in circles, confusing, distracting and boring their prospect.  Take a step toward greatness: Be direct and concise because less is more memorable and powerful while being less confusing and boring.

Consider how a professional baseball or golf coach may break down swing.  Take a practice swing or two, get in your stance, use the proper grip, bend at the knees, open some at the waste and shoulders, eye on the ball, smooth, extend, hold your follow through, etc.  If you want to hit the ball solidly you must do those things in that order, but you can't be saying those things to yourself as you get ready to swing or bad things will surely happen.

Hold that thought.

You may have several talking points.  You may have rehearsed or even memorized those points; what you want to say about them and the order in which you want to say them.  But if you use your talking points and sequence, your prospect will be totally bored by the logic and mind-numbing time it takes for you to go through them.  A step toward greatness: Abandon the formality and sequence and simply have a conversation.  If there is a question or comment that makes it appropriate to introduce one of those talking points, then fine, but keep it conversational and do not become presentational.

Don't you hate it when a good prospect derails your momentum by asking for references?  This is truly a combustion point in selling.  (There is a great Disney book on combustion points called Be our Guest) You don't know if the prospects really want to talk with people or are using the reference requests to get rid of you.  You don't know whether to provide references, which ones to provide, whether they'll follow up with a call, or what your customers will say to them.

Hold that thought.

Today, it's helpful to have video on your smart phone, of several happy customers that can speak to any concerns your prospects might have.  No delays.  No wondering.  On demand references and testimonials.  Take a step toward greatness:  Everyone on the sales team must record a couple of great 1-minute videos from their best and happiest customers. The videos can be shared across the sales team so that everyone has a robust library of customers who can do the selling for you.  Third-party testimonials are much more powerful than the promises of a salesperson any day of the week. 

Speaking of testimonials, many of you have read my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Since writing that book, I have written, shared (complimentary) and given you the opportunity to read more than 1,700 articles on sales and sales leadership right here on my Blog.  I would be most grateful if you would return the favor by writing a review of my book at Amazon.com.  

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales conversation, sales presentation, listening skills, talking points

What the Blizzard of 2015 Can Teach Us About Sales Presentations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 @ 11:01 AM

blizzard

As most of you know, we were absolutely clobbered by yesterday's Blizzard of 2015 which gifted us with 34 inches of snow and even higher drifts.  Wishing to be prepared, I went to Staples the day before the storm and purchased every last one of the small devices that recharge phones and tablets.  That evening, I made sure that each was fully charged so that if we lost power, three of us could recharge our 7 combined devices and remain connected and productive.  As unlikely as it seemed at the onset of the storm, we never lost power.  But we were prepared!

I noticed a similarity to all of the occasions when we have taken winter vacations in Florida and especially Orlando.  It never fails that when we go expecting warm weather, it becomes cold enough that we need to purchase sweat shirts.  Of course, whenever we prepare and bring the sweatshirts along, we never need them - ever - but at least we were prepared!

The concept of being prepared is very misunderstood in sales.  Here's why...

Most salespeople believe that being prepared means being prepared to handle objections and present.  Of course, one wouldn't handle an objection that wasn't presented, but most salespeople overprepare their presentations and rarely present the right stuff, the right way, at the right pace, to the right people, at the right time.  Unless you are conducting a webinar, there should be no such thing as a canned presentation, one that is appropriate for anyone and everyone.

Salespeople should be prepared to do take one or more of the following 10 steps relative to presenting:

  1. Not present at all when it isn't necessary
  2. Present only a subset of what you would normally present (right stuff)
  3. Present something completely different from what you would typically present (right stuff)
  4. Present in a different way than you would normally present (right way)
  5. Present only if the prospect(s) were completely qualified (right time)
  6. Present only if all necessary parties are present and accounted for (right people)
  7. Present not only your product/service or solution, but much more importantly, how you can uniquely help them address their most compelling reason to buy from you (right stuff)
  8. Ask questions as you go along (right pace)
  9. Change or abort your presentation in real time based on unexpected answers to your questions (right stuff)
  10. Explain how this impacts their business (right stuff)

It's also imperative that you not present until you have:

  • Uncovered their compelling reasons to buy from you
  • Differentiated yourself
  • Quantified the opportunity
  • Thoroughly qualified the opportunity

Preparation doesn't stop there.  You should also have done the following before presenting:

  • Role-played the anticipated call or meeting with a manager
  • Done enough research on the company so that you know what's going on
  • Know who you are competing against and how your prospect believes you compare
  • identified potential references if you need them (same size, same issues, same industry, same title, etc.)
  • Identified both a needs- and budget-appropriate solution

Preparation doesn't mean prepared to do a certain thing, a certain way at a certain time; it means prepared for anything and everything.  When you are completely prepared, you won't need to be, but if you aren't prepared, you'll pay for it.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales presentation, sales preparation

Why Prospects Don't Buy From You Today!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

world Series 2014

Did you watch any of the 2014 World Series?

I watched a few pitches of Game 6 and I'm a baseball guy!  Why so little?  I was watching Jake Peavy give it his all, trying to hold things together, and thought to myself, "Why am I watching this?  I don't care about either of these two teams.  I'm not engaged."  I'm guessing that if you're not a Giants or Royals fan, you may not have seen too much of this World Series either.  I do plan to watch Game 7 - as long as it keeps me engaged.

Engagement.  There is a huge connection between what I experienced with the World Series, and what prospects experience with salespeople.  If you can understand and apply this analogy it will make a huge difference in the quality of your calls and meetings.  Here are the four most important things for you to know.

Think back to the last time you were a prospect - for something - anything.  Other than a shiny new car or your next home, were you excited?  Really excited?  Were you anxious to talk with a salesperson about long distance or VoiP, insurance, payroll, shipping, a new machine, software, office furniture, computers, legal and accounting, landscaping, seal-coating your driveway, a fence, an industry-specific tool or device, anything?

No, of course not.

So, it stands to reason that your prospects aren't all that excited about meeting with you or your salespeople either.  That helps to explain all of the cancellations and postponements that so many salespeople experience!  The prospects will meet if they have to - if they need to - but not because they are simply interested.  Even that is interesting.  You know they need to meet, but they aren't admitting that.  So, you ask why they wanted to meet and they explain that they are "investigating other options, exploring what's available, or curious about your capabilities."  But, if you know that they are meeting with you because they need what you have, you can push back.  You can say, "Most people are too busy to meet with me unless there is something they were really hoping I could help with.  In your case, what would that be?"

Making this situation a bit more challenging is that salespeople get really excited about talking to, meeting with and presenting to their new prospects.  The reality is that there is a huge lack of alignment in the levels of excitement between salespeople and prospects.  So, how can you get them as excited as you are about discussing and showing them what you have?

It's not easy, but you can do this if you can help them solve a business problem.  At the same time, that's the exact mistake that so many salespeople are making.  They start by trying to demonstrate that they can solve a business problem.   I know.  I sound like I'm contradicting myself even though I'm not.  What I'm saying is, you can't demonstrate your ability to solve their business problem until they have admitted that they have a business problem!  This can't occur until after they have:

  • Told you about the issues that contribute to their business problem,
  • Told you about the business, personal, emotional and financial impact or consequences of their business problem,
  • Quantified the cost of this problem if it's left unresolved, and
  • Expressed their desire to accept your help.

You still need to qualify them.

My favorite Qualification Articles are: 

Top 5 Reasons Why Salespeople Don't Qualify Effectively

Top 10 Reasons Salespeople Struggle to Get Decisions

Top 10 Criteria for a Qualified Sales Presentation

Then, and only then, is it appropriate to demonstrate how you can solve their business problem.  Then, they will be as excited as you are.  Then, they will be ready to buy.  Then, they will take action.

How can you make the transition from demonstrating your product, to demonstrating your ability to solve a business problem, to doing that only after having learned about their desire to get your help?

I'll be honest with you.  It's not easy.  It involves learning to master the art of Consultative Selling, and specifically, how to listen and ask follow-up questions the right way.  For most salespeople, that takes 8 months of training from someone who actually knows what they're doing.  And not many sales trainers and coaches have the ability to teach this the right way.  It is a very elite group!

Prospects will get as excited as you when you learn how to get them excited - not by doing demos and presentations, but by asking enough good, tough, timely questions to learn about them and their business issues.  Then you'll know they are saying, "Wow, she really gets it.  I want to work with her!"

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, selling tips, Closing Sales, sales presentation, sales qualifying, Jake Peavy, 2014 World Series

To Salespeople, Demos and Presentations are Like Snack Food

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 @ 09:02 AM

bagel donutPrior to learning about healthy eating, I believed a bagel was a healthy alternative to a donut.  After I was shown that a carbohydrate converts to sugar in the blood and there wasn't much difference between bread, bagels or rolls; and donuts, cake or pie, I changed the way that I ate.

Most people have not seen the light, are not aware that sugar causes disease, believe that pasta, rice, grains and potato are healthy, and continue to gain weight.  Many eventually become sick. 

Enough of that!  Let's switch gears and discuss what you came here to read.

Most salespeople haven't seen the light either.  They aren't aware that continuing to present, demo, propose and quote are unhealthy approaches for the pipeline.  Demos and presentations are the sales equivalent of sugar (we like them and they make us feel good.)  Like snacks and comfort food, they cause our pipelines (insides) to become inflamed and our forecasts (blood work) to become unacceptable.  

Three years ago, when I committed to change the way in which I eat, I found that it was only difficult for 5 days.  5 days for the carb cravings to go away.  5 days before fruits and vegetables tasted delicious.  5 days until snack food lost its appeal.  5 days until I recognized how awful I felt after eating carbs which didn't come from fruit or vegetables.  5 days until I didn't have to rely on willpower, but instead, good old-fashioned discipline and goals did the trick.

Salespeople must go through a similar process.  For 5 days, they must resist the temptation to present unless they've reached the step in the sales process when presenting is okay.  Of course, postponing the presentation or demo until a later stage of the sales process is futile if there isn't a formal, structured, customized, optimized sales process in place.  Similarly, avoiding the wrong foods is futile until you know what the correct foods are and can make meals of them.

Sales has changed dramatically.  Prospects and customers are attempting to commoditize everything you sell.  You must be able to differentiate yourselves.  Presentations and demos may point to differences in your offerings, but the act of presenting and doing demos makes you appear very much the same as everyone else.  When everything looks the same, prospects focus on price.  Consultative selling, an extremely underdeveloped skill for most salespeople, is the approach which all salespeople must master in order to differentiate themselves effectively.  Unfortunately, Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 650,000 salespeople shows that they only possess, on average, 21% of the attributes of a consultative seller.

It's time to face the reality of 2013.  Your salespeople must embrace and master consultative selling.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales training, sales presentation, sales demo, commoditize, differentiate our company, sales assessments

How to Prevent Crashing and Burning in a Sales Presentation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 @ 14:07 PM

crash and burnEarlier this week I posted the Top 5 Sales Presentation Tips.   What if you followed the 5 tips but failed to follow the important warning in my conclusion?

What if you already scheduled a presentation but you should have scheduled a discussion?  

What if you planned to talk capabilities and unique value proposition but you should have planned to ask questions to uncover their issues, problems and challenges?

What if you planned to present your company story/history but you should have planned to uncover their compelling reasons to buy?  What if you simply screwed up the entire meeting agenda?

Bad strategy but no worries.

When you are ready to present, say, "I'm excited about presenting our capabilities and unique value proposition and I would like to make it as relevant as possible.  Is it OK if I just ask a couple of questions to help me put things in context?" 

When the prospects approve, ask, "Can you share what caused you to begin seriously looking at [what you sell]?"

Where you go from there depends on the development and capabilities of your listening and questioning skills, along with how well you can sense exactly what you need to hear.  Here is an example of some sample dialog on sales listening and questioning to uncover compelling reasons to buy.

Companies are currently buying in such a way that it has them inviting salespeople in to present at the end of their buying process.  Salespeople take that bait, present, propose, chase them for months, and wonder why it's so difficult to get the business closed.  After all, if salespeople show up at the end of the process, shouldn't the sales process move more quickly?

The short answer is "No."

To accelerate the sales process, salespeople must create urgency; and there isn't any urgency after they have presented and proposed.  Urgency is created only after uncovering the prospects' compelling reasons to buy.  THEN, the sales process will move along more quickly.

So the increasingly difficult challenge for salespeople, even if they recognize it (and most don't), is this: When they are invited in to present capabilities, they must compare it to driving into a dead-end alley.  They must shift gears into reverse because if they push forward they will crash, burn, blow-up and die.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Sales Coaching, sales presentation, sales capabilities

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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