STEERING THROUGH CHOPPY SEAS
- There are some people out there who just simply do not get what you are doing in business.
- There are those out there who will show interest in your products, services, and in you, but they will then drop from the radar and not respond to any of your approaches.
- There are those those who insist you drop the price or they will go elsewhere.
- There are those who use you to put pressure on their present supplier and, in reality, have no intention of buying from you.
“If you have been affected in any way by the content of the above four statements……”
Seriously, there are many reasons that people will NOT place business with you, all of which can be overcome with careful application of recognised skills and techniques.
HOWEVER, political developments have added another issue to this list. We are to leave the EU. What comes next? No-one really knows, and because no-one knows, many businesses will cut back on their spending, buying only the ‘necessities’. If you do not sell their ‘necessities’, you are less likely, even unlikely to sell to them.
PROSPECTING AND SECURING NEW OPPORTUNITIES ARE LIKELY TO BECOME MORE DIFFICULT during the coming months.
More difficult, but not impossible. Certainly, we will need to work smarter and have plans which are carefully constructed, timed and focused. We will need contingency plans now more than ever, as we plough on into the political unknown.
To make sales; to make MORE sales in a difficult market requires new strategies, extra skills and techniques, contingencies, but most of all, it needs careful planning.
I have planned for this! I have a coaching programme called ‘2020 Vision for Business’ (what else?!) In this, we will work on sales and marketing plans, strategies and contingencies, taking sales to the next level and ‘scaling-up’ your business; to be the best while others may flounder.
Whether or not you book on the programme, you will need plans and contingencies for growing your business next year. Don’t leave your success to chance.
Plan and prepare now, to grow your business, despite political and market forces.
Whether you like or loathe the man, and there seems to be little middle ground Boris has always had a very focussed approach to Brexit. He has a plan and a strategy, rightly or wrongly.
Comparing this withe Sales Process, and there are many prarallels, he is attempting to obtain the best deal for the UK from the EU.
In every sale, the backstop; the very last option has to be a no-deal. In other words, ‘I am prepared to walk away and neither of us benefits from this relationship’. But to make that a useful negotiating tool, it must be an option available to you. If you are not prepared to walk away, no matter how much you want the deal, then the opposition will use this to their great advantage and to your disadvantage.
If they know that you are not allowed the option to walk away, the ‘no-deal’, then they will find it much easier to impose their needs and wishes over yours. It gives you a weak position from which to negotiate because they know that in the end, you will have to accept a deal that favours their needs.
Unfortunately, parliament do not understand this, or, they feel that the risk of ending up with no deal is too great. So, Boris’s hands were tied.
This point is similar to that discussed in my blog of March 2019 where the delegate was not allowed to walk away without the order. Here as well, his negotiating power was weakened and the customer had, and played the advantage.
This is not an easy line to follow. It may result in bluff and counter-bluff and a cool head is needed. However, simply believing that you have the power to walk away from the deal (even if you have no real intention to do so) may be enough to help strengthen your position.
Make sure they believe you have the choice, and then secure a better deal.
Three essentials needed by those selling into technical markets:
1/ Technical knowledge
2/ Training/Coaching in Technical Sales
3/ Motivation & self-belief
Why is technical sales training and coaching so essential?
Managers will notice a lack of confidence in those new to technical sales, and sometimes even in those who have been selling in technical markets for some time.
Lack of confidence results in reduced motivation. Less motivated salespeople will under-perform. Under-performance limits success, reducing self-belief, and so confidence dips further. This results in reduced productivity and profitability.
Likewise, the converse is true. Help in the form of training and coaching in technical knowledge and selling skills for technical markets will boost confidence, motivate and ensure more and faster success.
I remember clearly the time when I was a new sales engineer. I knew that my technical knowledge was good, but not yet complete. My confidence in selling was very low, likewise my self-belief that I was any good at selling (although I never let on!). Clearly, my bosses had seen more in me than I had; they had more belief and confidence that I would be successful. If I had thought of this I may have grown more quickly in the job.
A little sales training was offered and taken, but this was very general and did not address the specific issues met when selling in technical markets. My technical knowledge was built on the job with frequent returns to the engineering lab for help and advice. Mostly, I learned on the job.
The perceived wisdom is that for any new salesperson it would take at least a year, possibly two to become cost effective and profitable.
What if you could reduce that ‘delayed profitability’ significantly? What if it took just a few months rather than a year or two? Wouldn’t that result in more profitable sales, and faster?
Reducing the delay by nine months to a year would make a substantial difference to the number and value of the sales achieved. What extra value would that be? An extra 20 or 30% of sales from that person? It could be more. Put a value on that percentage. Would it not make sense to invest a little now to reap faster and larger turnover?
They say that the average time that a good salesperson stays with one company is no more than 2-3 years. Without training or coaching, the time when experience starts to make them profitable can be 18 months to 2 years. They may just have become profitable to you when they decide to move on. With good, tailored training, you could extend that profitable time by up to a year. Now THAT IS worth the investment!
Motivation, self-belief and self-confidence come from experience and from support. Experience takes time, but support in the form of training and coaching makes a significant difference by shortening personal development and bringing forward success.
Training and coaching result in more knowledge, skills and confidence. And hence more sales.
It has to be said, I am sorry, but it does have to be said.
Brexit has made a difference and will make further differences to business.
Things are changing and there are more changes to come.
But, I am not one of the doom-mongers as I believe it offers us interesting and useful opportunities. I say ‘offers’ as it is up to us whether we take those opportunities or sit back and just hope.
Whatever happens there will be change, and we need to be prepared as best we can. But prepared for what? I believe there are four indisputable facts:
- Brexit will happen!
- Markets will change
- There will be greater focus on domestic markets
- We will find ourselves competing with more UK companies as larger providers seek to replace off-shore business.
This is what happened to Salient in the last 18 months:
- Five larger prospects, (£1M turnover+), were reasonably secure in my sales pipeline.
- As the Brexit vote loomed, happened, and shocked the markets, these five companies retreated, not wishing to ‘spend money when the market was so unpredictable.’
- My cash-flow forecast dropped considerably!
- I initiated my contingency, my Plan B, and targeted the smaller businesses that tend to ‘get on with it’ no matter what the market is doing.
- I had to replace one large opportunity with ten smaller ones.
- It was successful, and I have now progressed to Plan C where I develop the new smaller company market, while attracting new larger opportunities.
But what of the larger companies? What will they do in this Brexit uncertainty?
I believe they will do very much as I did and look to smaller domestic markets to fill the gap in their turnover.
In other words, those who rely on domestic markets for the majority of their turnover will start to find more competition from larger suppliers.
There is another side to this. Those seeking your products or services are less likely to look off-shore for suppliers as these are likely to become more costly. Therefore, they will actively seek domestic suppliers. It could be you, if you are ready! Another point is that if they previously sourced from larger companies, they are likely to spend more than your present customers.
To summarise, this could mean for your business:
- New domestic markets are likely to open up
- Competition will increase for home-grown opportunities.
- The new opportunities have different expectations and spending levels
Are you ready?
Is your sales team and/or your sales process the best it can be?
Your sales effort needs to be at its best; sharp; focussed; forward-thinking.
Don’t miss the boat.
If you fail to address this, others will get there first and will win the lion’s share of the new opportunities.
If you are successful in this, your business growth could be double what you would anticipate for 2018.
If you would like to discuss your experiences of this, please be in touch; call or email Andy
It could be YOU!
- They might not like the look of you!
- Perhaps your opening line closed the conversation
- Your enthusiasm has overwhelmed them
- Your lack of enthusiasm has disappointed them
- Your garlic/coffee/curry breath has caused their spectacles to melt!
All these factors can have a negative result when attempting to sell. Have you noticed a common theme? They have little or nothing to do with your product or your sales skills.
In fact, many business opportunities are lost even before any attempt has been made to sell. This is simply because the seller hasn’t considered their own personal presentation. Such issues can also play a part in business conducted over the telephone or over the internet. Here the issue is ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’. We all know this to be true, but how often do we stop to think how this can apply to us and our business approach? First impressions are more about how we look, how we act, what we say and what we do.
Emotion has a huge effect on how we regard the people we meet. The emotion generated can have a positive or negative effect on any business being sought. Before we have even opened our mouths, the new prospect can have made a subconscious decision not to do business with us! Are we guilty of self-sabotage without realising it?
It is true; we do business with people we like. Often, we decide whether we like them or not within just a few seconds of meeting them. Yes, first impressions are very important.
Next time you want to approach someone whom you think may be a prospective customer, take a moment to consider:
- Do I look the part?
- Would a mouth spray help?!
- Am I prepared to listen before I attempt to sell?
- Do I have an interesting opening line and elevator pitch?
- Will my enthusiasm for my business be seen as being keen or aggressive?
- How can I help them?
……and only then, how can they help me?
Give yourself a chance! Once these questions are answered positively, you stand a good chance of winning their hearts and their business.
To me there are three possible answers to this.
(The ‘not quite hilarious’ answer is number 3.)
At the end I will challenge you to find a fourth!
3 possible answers:
1/ When I was part of the ‘corporate world’; field-selling and directing sales for larger companies; the glib answer to this was ‘None’, that’s the Marketer’s job’. This old chestnut was coined by territorial salesmen who neither understood nor respected the valuable work done by the marketers (or ‘marketeers’ as some like to call themselves). The reply was at best, mildly amusing, but, to me, it simply emphasized the big divide between the sales and marketing departments.
For whatever size of business, sales and marketing need to work together. Good marketing raises your profile and attracts new customers but does not ‘win’ the business. Sales skills are needed when the new prospects contact your business. Good marketing can result in a much faster and easier sale as you avoid having to find and make contact with new prospects. But remember; the sale will not just happen; you will still need to pitch, negotiate and close, and then manage the new client.
2/ The real answer to ‘how many sales people…?’ If the marketing has been done effectively, then the customer will have realised;
- the value of a light bulb (it’s gone dark), thus identifying the need, and….
- a good idea of how the product (the light bulb) is applied (screwed-in).
A helpful sales person may then show the customer how to achieve more light by buying and inserting the new bulb, thus, fulfilling the need. However, at the end of the day, it is the customer’s responsibility to actually screw-in the bulb. So, again, the answer is ‘none’!
3/ The answer is 2; one holds the light bulb still, while the sales manager makes the world revolve around him (as he likes to think it does)….
HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: let me know your suggestions for answers to the question:
HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?!!
Answers may be humorous, ironic, or simply thought-provoking. The best entry will win a half-day of one-to-one sales & marketing coaching, aimed at lighting the way ahead for your business and helping you to grow your sales. (This can be in person at the Salient office in Royal Wootton Bassett, or by Skype and email.)
The winner will be decided on May 31st 2015.