Archive for the 'Sales - Sales Management' Category

Four things salespeople can learn from Sir Laurence Olivier

The great English actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, once admitted after a lifetime on stage and screen that he had always suffered from stage fright.

Think about that. One of the 20th century’s most revered actors, who appeared in over 120 stage roles, 60 movies, more than 15 television productions and countless performances, actually battled the fear of rejection and failure. But when you look at his numbers, it’s obvious that Sir Laurence’s “condition” didn’t cost him success.

So, what about you? What do your “numbers” look like? Your sales numbers, I mean.

Sadly, too often, well-trained and motivated people allow something to prevent them from achieving their numbers. That “something” is to the marketplace what stage fright is to acting: call reluctance, brought on by the fear of rejection and fear of failure.

The good news about call reluctance is that you can overcome it the way Sir Laurence overcame stage fright. Indeed, his success, and the fact that he was willing to talk about his condition, provides us with at least four clues about his professional courage and spirit.

1. He recognized a personal performance challenge.
2. He accepted it as something that must be dealt with.
3. He took steps to minimize negative effects.
4. He refused to let it get in the way of his goals and success.

How can you tell if you or someone in your organization has debilitating call reluctance? You’ll find it in the numbers: insufficient call reports; a missed selling step such as proposal delivery; a poor close ratio; and of course, failure to meet sales budgets.

Those afflicted with call reluctance will often:

  • Call on customers they like instead of new prospects.
  • Spend time on safe activities, like paperwork, instead of face-to-face prospecting.
  • Make excuses when asked about why they aren’t getting in front of customers.
  • If you aren’t making your sales numbers, the problem might be call reluctance. See if you recognize any of the behavior in the list above. If so, consider Sir Laurence’s list again. There’s a good chance that you’ll need help with the first point, recognition, because most of us aren’t good at seeing our own shortcomings. And the third one, taking steps to minimize the challenge, will likely require help from a professional trainer.

    But dealing with two and four, acceptance and refusing to give in, will require calling on inner strengths. You’ll have to ask yourself if you’re allowing fear to control and direct your life. Or are you more like Sir Laurence Olivier – prepared to recognize, deal with and minimize the effects of your challenges? And in the face of these challenges, can you draw on your spirit to accomplish your goals.

    Write this on a rock … Don’t let call reluctance prevent you from having the maximum opportunity to be successful.

    Blasingame’s Law of Sales Pipelines

    Here’s a sales maxim: Selling is a numbers game. Even though there are a thousand things that could prevent a sale from being completed, it’s still your job as a small business owner to close enough sales to keep your doors open. Enter Blasingame’s Law of Sales Pipelines.

    Click on image to watch with Flash. Don’t have Flash? Click here to watch.

    The oldest profession is not what you think

    Contrary to what you’ve heard, selling is the oldest profession in the world, because “In the beginning,” the serpent sold Eve the apple. You might say she bought wholesale and then sold the apple retail to Adam. And as we now know, that was one expensive transaction.

    One characteristic that clearly separates humans from the other animals identified in Genesis is ego. And while ego can be a beneficial motivator in selling professionally, in order to sell successfully, we must do something that’s in direct conflict with our ego — we have to let someone else talk.

    Imagine you’re on a sales call. What are you doing? Are you telling the prospect about your products, pricing, etc.? If that’s what comes to mind, your selling career could be doomed.

    Of course, it’s important to deliver your company’s message. But if you talk about your stuff before you know what the customer wants, you’ve put the cart dangerously before the horse.

    So, if the gold we seek is in the head of our prospect, why do so many salespeople spend so much time in front of so many prospects running their mouths? It’s that conflict thing again. Sadly, the mouth — not the ear — is the ego’s tool of choice.

    The Blasingame Mint has once again struck a new axiom and a handy acronym to go with it: Shut Up - Listen - Sell! SULS. Tattoo those four letters on the palm of your hand, because that’s your first job.

    Here are four important steps to remember when practicing SULS.

    1. Keep Them Talking.

    Even prospects who aren’t egomaniacs like to talk about themselves, their businesses and their pain. Remember, the gold you seek is in your prospect’s head. You need time to mine that gold, which can only happen when the prospect is talking – not when you’re talking.

    2. Maintain Eye Contact.

    The most valuable thing your prospect can do for you is talk about what’s on his mind. Nothing stops this flow of golden information quicker than when it appears you’re not listening. And here’s a gender tip: Women prospects have a keener inattention antenna than men.

    3. Concentrate.

    Concentrate on your prospect’s every word and expression. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. (The next tip will make this easier.).

    4. Wait Three Seconds.

    While the prospect is talking, train yourself to wait three seconds after you think the prospect is finished talking before you say anything. Waiting three seconds will help you concentrate on what is being said instead of what you’re going to say, you’ll still have time to think of your next question, and you’ll never commit one of the cardinal sins of selling: interrupting the prospect.

    Successful professional selling happens when the prospect does most of the talking.

    Write this on a rock … Selling is as simple as SULS.

    Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

    The gold mining tool of professional salespeople

    A few decades ago a 27-year-old, shiny, new Xerox sales representative was minted.

    Already a sales veteran, it wasn’t his first rodeo. Indeed, he worked his way through college selling on commission.

    Commissioned salespeople, like entrepreneurs, work the marketplace high wire. Observing this act, a salaried employee once remarked that commission selling was “living by your wits.” In the vernacular, business-to-business sales professionals know, “You eat what you kill.”

    Starting out this salesman received rubber-meets-the-road sales training from the small business owner who gave him his first commissioned sales job. Then there was a six-year stint with Sears, where he first received sophisticated sales training.

    But in those days, Xerox Professional Selling Skills was recognized globally across all industries as the sales training gold standard. Consequently, becoming a Xerox salesperson wasn’t easy and, once achieved, was a big deal at that career moment and an invaluable influence for the rest of your life.

    Not long out of the Xerox classroom, our young salesman called on the local installation of a national manufacturing firm. His head was packed with product, pricing and strategy. Plus, he was now a fully converted, Kool-Aid-drinking disciple of the world-class Xerox sales fundamentals. And so it was that on this particular day, sitting in the office of Mr. Keener, the plant accountant, any listening skills and probing techniques he had learned were no match for the cargo of content that was determined to be dumped right there on Mr. Keener’s desk.

    Mr. K was a tall, stern and stoic journeyman manager whose gray hair was not premature. He suffered no fools - gladly or otherwise - and took no prisoners. But for longer than most would have expected he allowed himself to be the victim of what was no less than a sales assault. Finally, he stood up and stretched his arm toward the Xeroid in front of him as a way to move the proceedings toward the door, whereupon he demonstrated his rapier wit with, “Well, Jim, you’ve certainly given me the business.”

    Now you know, I was that sales assaulter. And my memory includes standing outside Mr. Keener’s office with his words detonating in my brain. In a career-defining moment of self-analysis and clarity I turned and knocked on Mr. K’s door again. Assuming my most contrite and chastened countenance I said, “Mr. Keener, I’m sorry about what just happened. May I please start over?”

    To which he said, “Hello, Jim - come in and let’s talk about business.”

    Those two sentences - one to haul me up short and one to redeem me - are the ones I remember more often than thousands of selling interactions since. By the way, Mr. K and I did business for years afterwards.

    Write this on a rock … The gold mining power tool of successful professional salespeople is the ear, not the mouth.

    The irony of successful sales growth

    The following scenario plays out every day on Main Street:

    “My business is really growing these days,” a small business owner confides to his friend, “but we’re still experiencing too much negative cash.”

    And then, with that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, he completes his concern, “I thought by now, with sales and profits up, cash flow would be the least of my worries. I used to be afraid I couldn’t grow my business; now I’m worried that’ll collapse.”

    This entrepreneur’s lament is one of the great ironies of the marketplace; a small business in danger of failure as a result of extreme success.

    Beware Blasingame’s 2nd Law of Small Business: It’s redundant to say, “undercapitalized small business.” This maxim is especially true for growing small companies because sales volume growth depletes cash in two dramatic but predictable ways.

    1.  When the business is growing, organizational upgrades are to be expected in order to handle the new demands: new vehicles, staff, technology, etc. Of course, you must fund these things, often before the newfound success has made it to the bank.

    2.  Selling to customers on an open account—where payment for work or products is collected after delivery—is essentially making loans to customers. And while it’s true that vendors may let you do the same, typically they allow less time to pay than you allow your customers. The difference between when you pay and when you collect creates a negative cash condition.

    Here’s how to manage these challenges.

    1.  Growth plans must be compatible with the ability to fund that growth.

    Too often we think the big growth hurdle is getting customers to say yes. But the impact of sales growth on cash flow must consider before delivering a proposal. If you can’t fund the opportunity, you shouldn’t go after it.

    2.  Don’t use operating cash to fund acquisition of capital assets, like equipment, etc.

    Capital purchases should probably be funded by bank debt, and the interest is the cost of Blasingame’s 2nd Law. If you don’t like debt or paying interest, that should motivate you to leave profits in the business as retained earnings, which is the best way to overcome being undercapitalized.

    3.  Monitor the relationship between AR & AP.

    Understanding the relationship between Accounts Receivable Days and Accounts Payable Days is an “a-ha” moment for every business owner. This ratio must be monitored for sustainable growth.

    Write this on a rock … It is possible to succeed yourself out of business.

    Successful negotiators are patient — don’t fall in love

    Negotiating is a process of communication between two or more parties to reach an agreement on future behavior-like when you’re purchasing a small business, leasing an office, hiring an employee, selling a product, or trying to get a two-year-old to take one more bite of peas.

    Let’s look at the two key words in that definition: process and communication.

    Process : Conducting a negotiation is more like running a marathon than a sprint-it takes time and involves multiple steps. By accepting this reality you’ll set yourself up to be more patient and, therefore, more effective.

    Remember, your impatience with the process is the other party’s best leverage. Good negotiators practice patience.

    Communication: There are many ways to communicate in a negotiation besides speaking: Punctuality, appearance, organization, and attention to detail, for example, are all forms of communication.  You could even communicate in absentia with the quality of the documents you produce.

    Never underestimate the heightened awareness of every aspect of a negotiation.  The slightest nuance, gesture, or facial expression can mean something.

    Make sure all communications contribute to your negotiating objectives.

    There are three critical questions to ask yourself before any negotiation.

    1.  What do I want?
    Make sure you have this conversation with yourself. If you don’t know what you want, how will you know when to stand firm and when to give something away?

    And if the other party senses you’re not focused, they will either disengage or view you as weak prey and take advantage. Either way, you lose.

    2.  Why should the other party negotiate with me?
    If a genie grants you one wish prior to a negotiation, ask what motivates the other party.  Armed with that perspective you can get the other information you’ll need in due time.

    3.  What are my options?
    The best way to get what you want in any negotiation is if you don’t have to do the deal.  Having an alternative to what’s on the table strengthens your ability to walk away from a deal that isn’t moving in your favor.  It doesn’t have to be perfect-just an alternative. Sometime during the negotiation, your second choice might start looking pretty good.  And merely knowing you’re in a position to walk away will make you a better negotiator.

    Finally, whatever you do, don’t fall in love with any deal unless you want to make the other party’s day. Love is for lovers-this is business.

    Write this on a rock… Everything’s negotiable. Are you a capable negotiator?




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