Did You Know That The Beatles Taught us About Selling?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 26, 2019 @ 06:08 AM

beatles

While this should be a fun, end of summer article I'm guessing that you don't actually believe that the Beatles taught us about selling.

The Beatles recorded 18 songs where the lyrics talked about selling plus I included two bonus titles by other artists to bring the total to 20!

The Beatles. 

Can you name the song that went on and on about building relationships?  Of course you can.  It was:

I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND 

Can you name the song about prospects who refuse to schedule a first meeting or appointment with a salesperson?

YOU WON'T SEE ME (Time after time you refuse to even listen)

Are you getting the hang of it?  What must salespeople do to accelerate the sales process?  For this the Beatles recorded:

SLOW DOWN

The Beatles wrote a song about price objections too!

IT'S ALL TOO MUCH

They wrote a song describing the alarm that sales managers sound with their salespeople who have stale and/or stuck opportunities in their pipelines:

YOU'RE GONNA LOSE THAT GIRL

And they wrote one for the day after when salespeople learn that their sales managers were right about those opportunities:

YESTERDAY (all my troubles seemed so far away) 

The Beatles recorded a song by the same name as one of their movies about salespeople who, after the previous two days and titles, needed to rebuild their pipeline.  It was called:

HELP (I need somebody, help, not just anybody, h-e-l-p)

Sometimes selling is easy because there is low hanging fruit from renewal business and call-in business.  The song they recorded for that was:

COME AND GET IT

You might remember their legendary song about negotiating called:

WE CAN WORK IT OUT

They even recorded a song for long sales cycles where the decision makers change over time called:

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD (that leads to your door)

Some salespeople make the mistake of calling on prospects repeatedly over a span of years, despite the fact that the prospect has never, ever bought anything and never, ever will.  The Beatles recorded a song about that too, called:

YOU NEVER GIVE ME YOUR MONEY

I asked the salespeople that I coached to  develop wish lists, and then reach out to their network to learn if anyone knows an executive at one of the wish list companies.  The Beatles recorded it first but Earth, Wind and Fire had a bigger hit with this song: 

GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE

Too many salespeople feel like they've won when the only thing that happened was that they were considered for an opportunity, like when they receive an RFP or RFQ.  They actually thank their prospect for the opportunity to be considered!  In honor of that, the Beatles recorded:

I'M HAPPY JUST TO DANCE WITH YOU

Today, salespeople send out a lot of unanswered emails.  The Beatles anticipated this more than 50 years before it happened when they recorded:

NO REPLY

Salespeople are often guilty of developing Happy Ears where they hear what they want to hear, even if it isn't true or factual.  This often gives them a false sense of hope so for this problem, the Beatles recorded:

DON'T LET ME DOWN

One thing that hasn't changed in years of selling is prospects that make a decision to not make a decision, forcing ineffective salespeople into follow up mode.  The Beatles were thinking about that decades ago when they recorded:

I'LL BE BACK

One of the most important skills that salespeople must develop is the ability to listen and ask questions.  Not surprisingly, the Beatles recorded:

TELL ME WHY

Unfortunately, many salespeople don't ask those questions, won't push back, won't challenge a prospect's thinking because they are afraid the prospect won't like them anymore. As a result, they choose to ignore it and move on.  The Beatles covered that with:

LET IT BE

Now for the two bonus songs.  Can you name the song that makes it obvious that if you talk to the wrong person, you won't close the deal?  That song would have been:

SYVIA'S MOTHER by Dr. Hook where he wants to talk to Sylvia can't get through because her mother is playing gatekeeper.

Can you name the song about salespeople who try over and over to sell something that their prospect has no intention of buying because they don't have the problem that the salesperson's product solves?  That would be:

HONKEY CAT by Elton John where he talks about trying to find gold in a silver mine and like trying to find whiskey in a bottle of wine.

Your turn.  Can you name a song - by any artist - that describes selling?  Leave your comment in the LinkedIn thread.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, sales tips, the beatles

10 Reasons Why Salespeople Hallucinate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 15, 2019 @ 14:05 PM

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I was in the basement of our home looking for something when I saw it.  It moved left to right, low, between the stored Christmas trees.  I took another look and this time it moved right to left.  Each time I moved, it moved.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it wasn't a critter but a shadow that I was casting.

I saw something that simply wasn't there.  A figment of my imagination.  You could even call it a hallucination.

Salespeople frequently have hallucinations where they think there is something there, like a great opportunity, and in reality, there isn't anything there.  Not even close.  And then there are the salespeople who don't see an opportunity when there is actually a great one hiding in plain site.

Let's talk about the many reasons that these scenarios occur.

Let's start with my top 10 reasons why salespeople hallucinate an opportunity where there is none:

  1. The prospect seemed to like them and was open
  2. The salesperson did so much talking that they failed to identify whether or not there was a compelling reason to buy
  3. The prospect didn't voice an objection so the salesperson assumed that they were a go
  4. The salesperson failed to differentiate but assumed they were effective
  5. The salesperson failed to thoroughly qualify and assumed that it was all systems go
  6. The sales manager did not inspect the opportunity or coach to the opportunity after it was updated in CRM
  7. The prospect was not comfortable sharing and the salesperson was not comfortable challenging that
  8. The prospect asked for a quote or proposal and the salesperson took that as a buying signal and went into facilitation mode
  9. The salesperson began with a demo and the prospect, who was not the decision maker, thought it was nice to have but not a must have
  10. The salesperson assessed all of the competition, the size of the company, how hard it would be to get the business and decided for the customer that it wasn't worth pursuing.

 If you or your salespeople are guilty of one or more of these selling sins, it's time to take professional selling more seriously.  Salespeople are hired and well paid to have sometimes difficult discovery conversations with sometimes difficult prospects.  Those who retreat to the office to quote are behaving like minimum wage facilitators.  Facilitating is easy while selling is challenging so do your job, push through the uncomfortable stuff and differentiate!

Coach your salespeople through all 10 of these difficult selling scenarios by attending our one-of-a-kind, two-day, Sales Leadership Intensive on June 4-5.  Two days of great training and discussion all oriented towards making you a master of sales coaching.  Visit http://kurlanassociates.com/sales-leadership-event.  As of May 15, 2019, we have 8 seats remaining and they won't last long! 

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, sales effectivnes, dka

When Good Prospects Can be Worse Than Tough Prospects

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 @ 17:01 PM

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I was on the way to a meeting and the traffic was stop and go - not moving for a minute, then back up to 30 MPH, and then back to a dead stop.  I've been driving since 1972 and have driven in all kinds of conditions.  Pitch black on a moonless night on a narrow winding road with no street lights; on a 4-lane highway in white-out conditions where you can't see where the sides of the road are, down-hill on black ice with zero control of breaking and steering; snow-covered, two-lane road with cars stranded all over the place during the height of a blizzard, torrential rain when the roadways were flooded, heavy fog when you can't see the hood of your own car; and over a bridge in a tropical storm where the wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to keep the vehicle on the bridge.  I haven't driven off-road.  

Comparing the stop and go traffic to the other conditions I have driven in got me thinking about a sales analogy that you might find helpful.

As bad as those conditions may have been, they didn't surprise me, they didn't change, and other cars were not really factors in dealing with the conditions.  While it was challenging to drive in those conditions, I was prepared for those conditions.  The weather forecast called for those conditions. I knew about those conditions before I entered the vehicle.  It was as bad as I expected but not worse than I expected.

On the other hand, stop and go traffic, even on dry roads with sunlight, scares the crap out of me because I don't know what will happen next, when it will happen, or where it will happen.  As white as the knuckles get in the worst conditions, in stop and go traffic I can get lulled into complacency and then, BANG.  Someone slams on their brakes and it's time to brace for impact again.

Good salespeople can handle the toughest prospects because they are prepared for those prospects.  They know what they are walking into and those prospects are consistent.  They are as bad as expected but not worse than expected. 

On the other hand, stop and go prospects are extremely scary.  One minute everything is fine, they're a good prospect, and the next minute everything is wrong and they're a tough prospect.  You finally get them comfortable again, they're a good prospect again, and then BAM, they go off the rails again.  Their inconsistency can be unnerving and even the best salespeople get caught off guard, are truly surprised by the behavior and frankly, don't always know what to do.

So what should you do?

The same thing you should do in stop and go traffic.  Don't get lulled into complacency in the first place!  If the prospect goes off the rails, slow down, take a deep breath, ask them what just happened, back up and MAKE SURE THEY ARE COMPLETELY FINE BEFORE YOU SAY ANOTHER WORD.  Don't move forward if they aren't 100% OK because that's then they're most likely to go off the rails again.

Image copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, cold prospect

What You Should Know When Your Cold Prospect Suddenly Returns From the Dead

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 @ 06:01 AM

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Last week I wrote about the deep freeze, why prospects suddenly go cold, and how you can prevent that from happening. That article was instantly as popular as any I have ever written.  I also posted a 6-minute  cold-calling rant on LinkedIn that had more than five-thousand views after just a couple of days. The video, like the article, was about mindset, not scripting and tactics.  And last week I also posted an article about writing a good prospecting email.  It seems that there was a theme to the week and it resonated really well with the readers.

Let's build on that theme and discuss the same prospect that went cold two months ago, and now he calls or sends you an email. 

Hopefully, you had archived the opportunity rather than hoping and praying for its revival.  The biggest mistake that salespeople make at this point is they get excited.  I don't know about you but for me, when a supposedly good prospect goes cold and then returns two months later, it's more like the return of the flu.  This prospect caused you a lot of anxiety, embarrassment with your manager, and wasted time.  Who wants more of that?  I raise that issue because the chances of your prospect going cold again are greater than the likelihood of a sale.

For that reason, skepticism should be your number one strategy.

Why has your prospect returned and why now?  A number of things happened with your prospect since your last conversation and you need to hear their story.  What they share could be predictive of what will happen next and what you should do.  For example:

What They Might Say What That Could Mean What You Should Do
We have one more question They will go cold again as soon as you answer the question Ask them a question.  Why did they call you back?  Do not accept "because we had a another question for an answer.  Instead, mention that they didn't return calls and emails for two months so why now?
We would like a proposal They are moving forward but at what speed and with whom? Ask how many proposals they are requesting.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you? 
We want to meet A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome.
We want you to present They are moving forward but at a snail's pace.   Ask how many companies they invited to present.  Ask why they included you.  Don't accept out of respect for the time you already invested. Instead, suggest that it doesn't sound like you are their first choice so why are they including you?  
Our [top-ranking executive] wants to talk with you A good sign - they like you enough that it won't be a waste of time Schedule time to meet and ask what is on their agenda and their desired outcome of the meeting.  Then ask if you can share your agenda and outcome. 

The reality is that in most cases, prospects go cold when you weren't talking with the right person.  When they return from their self-imposed ice age they are still the wrong person so don't expect anything different to happen unless the top executive decision maker is fully engaged.

You could even experience these issues if you are talking with a weak decision maker who needs to build consensus.  Decision makers go cold too if they don't get the consensus they are looking for.

If you maintain a healthy level of skepticism, ask plenty of questions and keep your discussion conversational you will get a much better sense of where you really are and whether you will get the business.

Although the prospect has returned, the opportunity can be reactivated in CRM and the odds are no longer zero, don't become too optimistic.  Your odds of closing the business are no greater than 49%.

Image Copyright 2018 iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales pipeline, sales tips, dead prospect, cold prospect

3 Lessons that Apply to Every Sales Call No Matter What You Sell

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 @ 14:12 PM

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It's a family tradition that each December we attend the Boston Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker.  It's truly a magical show and even though the primary dancers change from year to year, the execution of the show's script and musical score is flawless.

Several years ago, during one of the performances, it dawned on me that the orchestra's role in the show correlated very nicely to an effective sales presentation.  There were 3 fantastic lessons that I presented then and as I have done each year since, will present again here.

If you attend a Nutcracker performance or simply listen to some of the orchestral suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but I'm sure if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll recognize the melody regardless of your religion or ethnicity.

Even though you've surely heard it before, can you identify the four primary musical instruments at the beginning of the selection?

In this version, you're hearing the glass harmonica, while most orchestral versions and performances feature the celesta, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Can you hear them?

Just as the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" sounds familiar to you, your salespeople find familiarity in the sounds, questions, comments and discussions on their sales calls.  As much as you may not be able to distinguish the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", your salespeople may not be able to differentiate the credible comments and questions from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose your salespeople hear one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And imagine another prospect at the same meeting says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And still a third might say, "In the meantime, please send us a proposal with references and timeline."

Lesson #1 (based on Objective Management Group's data) - Of every 100 salespeople:

  • 70 rush back to the office to begin work on the proposal and tell their bosses that their large opportunity is very promising because all 3 prospects in the meeting were very interested;
  • 19 leave the call and make 2 entries in their journals - "propose" and "follow-up" - and they'll do both eventually;
  • 11 are still at the meeting, asking more questions.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific role in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they're played at the wrong time, the entire selection is ruined.  Prospects' comments in the scenario above have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal", "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP of something - it has a far different meaning than if the comment were to come from a buyer in Procurement.
  • When any of those 3 comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an Executive, the comments may be far more genuine, but carry much less authority.

Lesson #3:

  • Sometimes it's more fun to listen to a song, symphony or simple melody and to figure out how and why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.
  • Your salespeople must apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  The prospect may be the composer (started the initiative), arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or musician (following directions of the conductor).  It's the salesperson's job to figure out who they're dealing with, what role they play, what influence they'll have and how to get the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy and your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Return to Lesson #1 and answer 2 questions:

  1. Which of the 3 sales outcomes do your salespeople typically find themselves doing?
  2. Which additional questions do those 11 salespeople stay to ask?

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, asking questions, sales tips, Nutcracker, listening skills, sales put-offs

30 Interesting Non-Selling Subjects to Make You Better at Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 05, 2017 @ 11:07 AM

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I was sitting next to a guy who knows that our son is one of the best ball players in his age group in New England.  He is from the former Soviet Union and when he told me that he tought his son to play catch I was confused.  I said, "You didn't play baseball growing up - how were you able to teach him?"  

He said, "When I was in school, we may not have played baseball, but we did have to practice throwing grenades and it's exactly the same motion!"

Who knew?

And he didn't know at the time that practicing grenades would prepare him for something completely different years later.

The same goes for sales.  There are so many subjects, all unrelated to selling, that can make salespeople more effective.

I've written about many of these subjects before.  Don't click on all of them though.  Find 3 that interest you and read only those.  Then leave a comment below on how that could help you.

Intentions and Affirmations

Driving

The Nutcracker

Baseball Practice

George Carlin

Faith

Shoes

Basketball Practice

Military General

Coyotes

Preppers

March Madness

School of Rock

Presidential Debate

The Martian

Jack Reacher

Whiplash

Chris Cagle 

Punishing Ballplayers 

Music

The Mac OS Beachball of Death

Bad Guys

Engelbert Humperdink

Superbowl 49

Blizzard of 2015

Earthquakes

Politics

Band of Brothers

Soup

Baseball

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, sales effectiveness

7 Powerful Exercises to Up Your Sales to the Next Level

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 08, 2017 @ 15:05 PM

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Image Copyright efks

Some things take a while to catch on.  In his book, Outliers, Malcom Gladwell wrote about the years of work and at minimum, 10,000 hours, required for some, like The Beatles, to become "overnight sensations."

Shortly after I published my best-selling book, Baseline Selling, in 2005, I also published the Baseline Selling Field Guide. The Field Guide had specific exercises to help salespeople apply the concepts in the book to their business.  While the book was an instant success, the Field Guide wasn't until the last couple of years when, for no apparent reason, people began buying it.

Today, I received yet another request asking if I would recommend how to use the exercises in the Baseline Field Guide with the book, Baseline Selling.  In an effort to help everyone, and not just those who choose to write me, my recommendations on some powerful ways to correlate the two appear below.

The first thing to work on is Positioning Statements.  Your positioning statement is the first thing you will share with a brand new prospect in your very first phone conversation.  It is essential that you create the perfect positioning statement that conveys what you do and who you do it for, but in a way that gets your prospect to say, "that's me."  The field guide will help you get those positioning statements right and you can even send your completed statements to me for verification that they are good.  Use Exercise 5 of the field guide along with the section on getting to 1st base in the book.

The next thing to work on is your Cycle Statements.  The cycle statements will get a lot of use with your prospects who say, "We're all set" or "We're not interested" or "We're happy."  These statements, when used correctly, gives you an opportunity to turn these prospects around and get them engaged. Use Exercise 19 in the field guide along with the section on getting to 1st base in the book.

Of all the possible weaknesses, your Self-Limiting Beliefs will cause more trouble for you than anything else.  Use Exercise 23 to reprogram your beliefs so that they begin to support, rather than sabotage your outcomes.

Once you're finally meeting or talking with new prospects, you'll want to make sure that you can Uncover their Compelling Reasons to Buy from you.  Use Exercise 4 along with the section on Getting to 2nd Base to help you improve in this crucial milestone of the sales process.

Exercise 15 will help salespeople become more Comfortable Talking About Money - a crucial milestone in the Qualifying the Opportunity.  Use this exercise along with the section on getting to 3rd base in the book.

I've been writing a lot about Scorecards in the past year, but the origins for Scorecards in the sales process go back to 2005, where Exercise 16 will help you develop an appropriate scorecard for your opportunities.

I've written more than 30 articles about Sales Process and Exercise 2 will help you get yours customized and optimized.  The most important part is the sequence so make sure it's perfect.

Use the remaining 17 exercises to work on the things that represent gaps for you. 

Good luck!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales tips

The Second Most Important Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Sep 08, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Earlier this week I posted an article that told the story of the biggest sales lesson of my life.  I received so many emails about that article because it seemed to really resonate with my readers.  Yet, as much as it resonated, there was one question that several of them asked in their emails.  They wanted to know why we were in that tenement building in the first place.  And the answer to that question leads me to the second most important sales lesson of my life.

The year was 1974 and as a very young salesperson I assumed that I should target families that were financially secure.  After all, that cutlery I was selling was very expensive and only the well-to-do could afford it.  We were taught to sell complete sets - $175 or so back in 1974, which equates to around $675 in 2016 dollars.  Pricey knives!  This is what happened.  I called on 100 couples of means - all known to me as family, friends, relatives or acquaintances.  They all purchased from me but not one of them bought the complete set.  Almost every one of them bought a single knife.  My average sale was around $15!  Now, I certainly understand had I not been known to them they might very well have purchased nothing from me, but felt obligated to buy something, and bought the least expensive thing they could.  It's also possible that they were all frugal, believing that a single knife could do the work of 10.  And it's also possible that my sales managers knew what they were talking about when they redirected me to young couples and teenage girls that didn't have any money.  

By that point I had run out of family acquaintances and as long as I had to begin knocking on the doors of strangers, why not broke strangers?

The other big lesson I learned was around judging.

I couldn't use where they lived, the size of their homes, the cars they drove, what they earned, or how they furnished their home as a predictor of what they could or would spend.  And $5 per week for the first nice thing a young person would ever own was much more appealing to someone who had limited income, than additional nice, but seemingly unnecessary thing to someone who had plenty of income.  Targeting is important but making assumptions about who you target will get you into trouble.

Those early lessons apply today, in B2B selling, just as much as in 1974 in B2C selling.  For example, a startup, operating out of a one-room office, may have more urgency to buy a product or service than a mid market company generating $150 million annually.  To the buyers of products and services, there are three categories:

  1. No Interest
  2. Nice to Have
  3. Must Have

When companies do demos to generate interest in their products, scenarios 1 and 2 will be the most common outcomes.  That's the primary reason why sales cycles are so long and win rates are so low.  However, when the same company uses a consultative approach, uncovers their prospect's compelling reason to buy and sells value, they will often create a scenario where their product becomes a must have.  Once your product or service moves into must have territory, your prospects will find the money.

Companies with cash often won't spend it on your products or services because if it fails to be viewed as a must have, they can easily put off the joy of something that is merely nice to have when the pain of installation, training, change, and push back make the purchase undesirable.

In order to cause your prospects to believe that they must have your product or service, you must take a consultative approach.  There is simply no other way to get there.  Most salespeople don't sell that way, relying on demos, product knowledge and price to get prospects to take action.

You can train the salespeople you have and it will take the better part of a year to get them there.  It's not the easiest way to sell.  Or, you can hire salespeople who already know how to sell that way.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales lessons, sales tips

Remembering The Most Powerful Sales Lesson of My Life

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 06, 2016 @ 15:09 PM

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Hold on for a moment and I'll share that lesson with you or, if you can't wait, scroll down to "How I Learned to (Really) Sell.  

If you had to choose a single idea, concept, tip, tactic, developing strength or strategy, which one do you think helps salespeople succeed more than anything else?

It is a difficult question to answer because while we have plenty of science to identify the biggest reasons why salespeople struggle and fail, simply fixing one of those isolated issues won't automatically translate to instant success.

For example, one salesperson might be failing because he needs so much to be liked.  But another salesperson, who doesn't have that issue, might be failing because he can't talk about money.  And yet another might be failing because his Sales DNA doesn't support hunting.  And a fourth might be failing because she lacks Commitment to sales success.  Those might be there single biggest weaknesses, but helping them to overcome their single biggest weaknesses without helping them with all of their other challenges won't lead to success.

So back to my original question, which one thing helps almost every salesperson succeed, even when they have other challenges?

Compared to what I usually write about, the science on this is a bit fuzzier but after more than 30 years of helping companies and their salespeople generate more revenue, I am certain that it all starts with sales process.  A staged, visual, milestone-centric process.  I've written a lot about sales process over the years and my most recent article, for Growth Institute, was one of the best.  

Sales process also causes one to ask, "Which sales process?"  This article answers that question but make sure you watch the video from that article - it brings the concept to life.

Regular readers should be familiar with my best-selling book, Baseline Selling.  Baseline Selling is both a sales process and methodology.  After 10 years, in response to all of the subscribers who have asked for an audio version of the book, the wait is over.  Michael Lenz did the narration and the audio book is now available.  You can order it here but if you are one of the first 5 readers to respond via email I will provide you with a promo code to receive a complimentary copy of the audio book! [Update - Congratulations to Jeff Woolf, Benjamin Barron, Brad Betson, Jeff Anderton and Scott McNeil - winners of the five promo codes.]

Let me share my favorite story from the book.

How I Learned to (Really) Sell

I learned to (really) sell from a career pots-and-pans salesman, Bob Jiguere, one of the top sellers at WearEver™ Aluminum from the 1940s through the 1960s. By the time he got to me in 1974, Bob was in his early sixties, and I had been with the company for just over a year, eleven months longer than most of us who began selling Cutco knives to people in their homes.

I will never forget the first call I went on with him, because it was so surprising in so many ways. First, the call was the complete opposite of the “features and benefits” selling that I had been taught to emphasize. Second…well, I should just tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions.

We walked up to the third floor of a six-unit apartment building in Lowell, Massachusetts. We were calling on an eighteen-year-old girl who lived in the four-room apartment with her mother. Girls typically bought kitchenware for their hope chests; their mothers usually had well-established kitchen accessories. As we entered the apartment, I noticed that Bob didn’t have his samples with him. But I figured he wouldn’t need them, because this girl could not possibly afford a $250 (1974 prices) set of knives—never mind cookware, flatware, or china. I was sure she and her mother were destitute.

We all sat down at the table, an old gray, plastic-topped table with metal legs. Although Bob did talk with the girl, he spent most of his time talking with her mother. He asked her to make coffee, then cookies, and then complimented her baking.

We had been in there for about 45 minutes, and if it were my sales call, I would have been finished by now. But Bob hadn’t even started! He finally got around to asking the girl some questions—but why in the world was he asking these questions? “Would you ever like to be married?” “Would you ever like to have a family?” “Will you want nice things?” “Have you started putting things away?” “Do you have a hope chest?” “What’s in there?” “Are you helping her, Mom?” “If you found something really special and you really wanted it, could you put aside $10 a month?” I had been taught to present and build value by asking if a prospect was impressed with what I was demonstrating.  I didn’t know where he was going with these questions.

Finally, he sent me to the car for the samples. He opened them but didn’t demonstrate anything, didn’t explain anything, didn’t “build value,” or tell any stories about the knives. He just opened the display and sat there looking at the knives as if they were gold bullion.

Just then there was a knock on the door. It was the girl’s boyfriend, coming over to visit. I figured he was fairly possessive and jealous, because his first question was, “Who are they and what are they doing here?”

Well, the girl very nicely replied that “these boys are showing me some nice knives for when we get married.”

“You don’t need that shit,” he said.

I knew where this call was going. We were about 10 seconds from being back in the car and going on our next call.

Bob turned to her mother and said, “These punks are all the same today. All they want to do is get in your daughter’s panties.”

I was going to die, right there and then. I didn’t think it could get any worse, when her mother said, “You’re right! I want you out of my house!”

The punk replied, “Baby, you gonna let her talk to me like that?”

The girl said, “She’s right. Get out!”

Up to this point, I had been 100 percent wrong about everything that had happened. But even as I began to sense that Bob actually knew what he was doing, I couldn’t have predicted what would happen next. Mom said, “I don’t know how much you sell those knives for, Bob, but I’d like to get a set for my daughter—and another set for me.”

Bob said, “Of course. You are one sharp cookie and a hell of a baker, too. The two sets come to just $500. Do you have that under the mattress?”

The mother said, “Oh, Bob. You know me like a book. Come on into my bedroom and I’ll show you where I keep the money.”

He followed; she lifted the mattress, took out a wad of cash, peeled off $500, pinched his cheek, thanked him for coming, made us finish the cookies, and wished us well.

A dozen or so qualifying questions, no presentation, and he sells two outrageously priced sets of knives to a mother and daughter with no creature comforts or possessions to their name. If you were on that call, would you have sat up and taken notice? I sure did. Selling would never be the same again!

While selling has changed dramatically since then, the lesson has not.  He was ahead of his time and while he would have much to learn about selling today, that approach, integrated into a modern sales process, would fit in very nicely, thank you.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling, sales process, sales methodology, sales tips, how to sell, sales lesson

School of Rock the Musical Demonstrates Selling to Existing Customers and Customer Service

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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This weekend we had seats to the new Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway show, School of Rock.  Our son has watched the original movie around a dozen times and didn't think there was the slightest possibility that the show would be as good as the movie.  Did the show meet expectations?  I'll share that in a moment, but first, let's discuss the dynamic of the show versus the movie and compare that to an ongoing sales challenge.  While salespeople have expectations for meeting outcomes and sales results, prospects have expectations too - for the meetings, salespeople, products, services, prices and terms that a company will provide at various times during your sales cycle.  In the case of movie versus show, there is a better analogy to strategic account management and even customer service.

With an existing customer, you represent the movie, School of Rock.  You are known, there is history, and the customer knows what to expect, both good and bad.

When you schedule a call or meeting to upgrade, upsell, or simply renew your contract, you represent the Broadway show, School of Rock.  Will you be the same or worse, will your prices go up and will your service go down?  It could be extremely difficult for you to improve upon the performance you already provided or impress them further.

On the other hand, your competition, finally getting their chance to compete for the business, comes in with guns blazing. They represent a different show altogether so your customer or client has more of an open mind, lower expectations and becomes easier to impress.

How did School of Rock, the Broadway show compare to the movie?  They rocked, of course.  They brought a raw energy to the stage that could never be achieved in the original movie.  It would be quite the accomplishment for the Broadway version to impress our nearly 14-year old son, but they pulled it off.  He even walked away with a School of Rock guitar pick, tossed into the audience by the Dewey Finn character.

How can you  exceed expectations with your existing customers?  Step it up, bring more energy, bring greater creativity, bring your best ideas, and commit to completely wowing your existing customer.  If you don't, your competition will!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, account management, major account sales, school of rock

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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, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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