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.
a good question…..
training a sales team from Samsung recently, I was asked a question which
prompted a lot of thought and soul searching.
I was able to answer it, but was the answer just too easy?
question? Where does an ethical sales
person ‘draw the line’?
answer is simple, and quite straight forward: ‘wherever your conscience lets
you draw the line’. This is obvious,
clear and fits all. However, is it a
example given by the team member was of a potential customer who used their own
‘pressure buying’ techniques that quickly strayed into bullying; the Genghis
Kahn school of negotiation. Apparently,
the buyer would throw his pen onto the table and demand loudly that they accept
his terms or get out. Other tactics of
similar aggressive and intimidating nature were used. Unfortunately, the team member, while an
experienced sales person, was not able to walk out on the negotiations as he
had been instructed to pursue the business and to win it. Would YOU sit there and take that abuse?
He had my sympathy. Most experienced sales people have had situations of similar severe discomfort. While the buyer rants, raves and threatens, you are sat there wrestling with your own conscience and professionalism. What are your options?
are many as every situation is different and requires some ‘thinking-on-your-feet’.
I describe the two extremes and an ideal.
1/ Fight back? This is the most satisfying. Potentially it can gain respect from the
buyer and a mutually beneficial solution could be possible. However, it is extremely risky, as it may escalate the emotions and temper to the
point where errors are made, opportunities are lost, and things are said that
should never be said by true professionals.
Are you reducing your own standards by lowering yourself to their
2/ ‘Take it on the chin’;
in other words, sit there and use silence or passive resistance as your main
tool of defense. This is a very
professional approach that will make the buyers behavior seem very childish and
clearly bullying in comparison. However,
there is also the risk that they will then take your reluctance to engage in a
fight as weakness and assume their argument has been won.
3/ A carefully judged balance between the two,
whereby you respond to aggressive posturing with a firm insistence and repeated
‘no’. Your volume would be higher than
usual but less than theirs; maintain eye-contact as much as possible; your
words would again be professional, but your manner should show you standing
firm but being fair. Consistency,
professionalism, repetition and firmness are needed, with a clear message that
you will not be intimidated.
salesman was strong and held his ground as best he could. Give-in to a bully and they will always bully
you. If you cannot work with them, and
you have the authority, you can walk away, but do not let them win.
it is up to you and your conscience. Sometimes it may be a balance between needs
and conscience. Apply your own positive,
firm approach but do your best not give in to intimidation. When you can,
retain the moral ‘high ground’ and give little away. No-one likes a bully, and it is a great shame
that some believe this is the way to behave in modern society. However, one cannot deny that they still
exist, and we must deal with them while achieving our objectives AND remaining
Sell more and get a growth spurt!
Turnover lower than you’d like? Plan for a growth spurt by selling more. How to sell more? For starters, try these five simple tips;
1/ Start with existing customers and see if they want more – apply the Pareto Principle: 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. Call the 20%!
2/ If they still like you, ask for referrals and testimonials! – personal recommendations give you more credibility and will attract more new business.
3/ Check that the market wants what you provide by asking a couple of key questions – use Survey-Monkey or similar. Responses may show you need to tweak, or even change your offer to make it more attractive.
4/ Check where you have sold successfully in the past, identify the common sector, product or need and target that with renewed enthusiasm. This may not be the top 20% (above) but it could be the easiest sector to target and win new business.
5/ Devise a product variation or amalgamation and make it a special offer of some sort to attract new interest. You could make it part of a short, or longer marketing campaign.
These are just a few of the many ideas and strategies that can be applied to your business that will make a positive difference to your sales figures.
If you want to increase your sales figures, come along to the Salient half-day Workshop or full-day Masterclass on 17th or 18th March 2016. Discover many more ways of selling more, and how to apply these and other practical and simple growth strategies to your business.
Come along to ‘HOW TO SELL MORE’. There will be more than 20 tips on how to sell more. Use just a few of these and your business will soon have a growth spurt! More details here.
Has anyone else noticed this? ‘Sales phobia.’
A contact of mine who runs a business that provides professional training to education, public sector and professional bodies, was telling me that his clients appear to have adopted sales-avoidance strategies. I suspected this was a wind-up until he told me that, for some, their new term for this was ‘Customer Engagement’. Others had replaced sales and selling with the catch-all of ‘Business Development’. I had previously heard of a consultant in the south of England effectively demoting sales by saying it was part of the discipline of ‘Business Strategies’.
Sadly, there may be a simple reason for this; bad experiences of being sold-to and more people are expecting to be given the ‘hard sell’ As a result they do not respect the sales process or people who sell.
Having spent 20 years in field sales and sales management, I have been very aware of the pressure that senior management put onto their sales teams. In the companies I worked for, it was always ‘do whatever it takes to win the business’. In the extreme, one MD said to a colleague of mine ‘if you don’t win the business, don’t bother coming back’! This culture fostered some terrible sales practices, all based on pressure, manipulation and worse.
At the same time, business-to-consumer sales was facing growing and tougher competition and so, instead of offering better service as an enticement to buy, they too adopted pressure selling techniques. We all remember the awful reputations gained by car and double glazing salesmen!
Unfortunately, I believe that, while some improvement has been made, pressure selling is still rife and the sales discipline as a whole has become tarnished by these unethical practices. The culture is also perpetuated by the likes of The Apprentice, and, occasionally, even Dragon’s Den., i.e., if you don’t do what is expected, if you don’t win, you are humiliated and you are out.
When selling, how far would YOU go to protect your income, your standard of living?
I suspect that this continuing culture has caused the name change. Perhaps our own professional bodies should take notice and make solid pronouncements against pressure selling techniques. Perhaps not enough has been done to ‘clean-up’ sales with clearly defined boundaries of what is ethical and what is at least ‘dodgy’. I feel passionately about ethical selling and have flown the flag for some years now, but I too come across very negative attitudes towards selling and sales people in general.
I aim to bring back enjoyment and satisfaction in selling by teaching a clear and clean sales process that is open and understood by all prospects.
In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson; “Everyone lives by selling something”. Often this is just selling ourselves; making a good impression; having a positive impact. If we cannot do this without being devious or manipulating our prospects, then clearly we cannot be trusted and perhaps we deserve the demotion to a sub-discipline.
In short, ethical selling must inherently be more successful, especially in the longer term.
- Pressure selling is less likely to result in repeat business or referrals.
- Building business relationships and selling ethically reduces the need to keep looking for new customers.
- Customers who don’t enjoy buying from you are less likely to come back for more.
- Keeping existing customers AND finding new ones will build a business far quicker than if you constantly have to look for new opportunities because former customers have voted with their feet.
If we don’t all start flying-the-flag for strong, ethical sales, then fewer people will respect it, expectations will remain negative, and we will all become ‘customer engagement’ experts!
Do you have a ‘Sales Phobia’?
Let me ask a different question:
Does the idea of selling cause you to palpate or procrastinate?
Do you fear a prospect rejection, or worry about making a fool of yourself when asking for the business?
If the answer is yes, you may have a sales phobia.
Unfortunately, I fear this is becoming more common. I am doing my best to change business culture to accept that sales can and should be ethical, simple, jargon-free and enjoyable! I achieve this in most cases. However, there is a risk that this phobia is becoming institutionalized. It should be a high profile and honourable profession. Don’t let the gainsayers try and tell you otherwise!
Selling can be even more fun than buying!
The most common issue found relating to sales growth:
Having presented many courses on various sales and business-related subjects in a variety of lengths, I have found a few issues that arise that prove common to all my clients. Perhaps the most important of these is the need for the sales individual or team to become proactive as opposed to reactive in their approach. In many cases, sales leads are obtained from responses to marketing effort or repeat business. This is excellent, as it means that the market has seen the value being offered and is keen to purchase. However, maybe due to new competition, or failing customers, this can result in reduced turnover. They have recognized that relying on existing clients or responses to marketing can become risky and unpredictable. Moving to a more proactive approach will help ensure all sales opportunities are found, targeted and won.
What do we mean by ‘proactive’? How can we be MORE proactive?
Identify two key aspects:
The markets you are serving already, and
The markets you would like to serve.
…or, put it another way….
Your existing or past customers, and
Simple strategy for being proactive in sales;
1/ Decide the best balance for you of existing customer and new customer business. You need both! One for ‘bread and butter’ income; to cover the ‘overheads’ and more, and the other for business growth and future strength.
2/ Revisit existing or previous customers on a regular basis. Calling is best; sending a newsletter is the minimum contact. Never miss an opportunity for repeat business or to cross and up-sell. Lack of such contact allows the competition to ‘move-in’.
3/ Choose your new markets and prospects carefully. Make sure they are likely to have the need, the money, and that they are likely to appreciate the value you offer.
4/ ‘Seed’ that market; make sure your business is known to them before you make contact, by;
- identifying likely decision makers and sending them publicity materials, or,
- using the internet, finding a mutual contact and asking for a referral, or
- invest in exposure in their trade press or institution website, or,
- any of the above and more…..
5/ Following number 4 above, any contacting now will be far less cold. If you have gained a referral, they will be happier to take the call. If you haven’t, you can at least refer to your article or letter in the publication or website related to their industry. It doesn’t have to be a ‘cold call’!
This is just one approach you can use to help you find new customers and win new sales.
Being proactive should also include actions to:
– plan where to target new prospects
– regularly monitor and review your carefully chosen KPIs to ensure positive progress and growth
– ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty
– prepare responses to possible criticism
– prepare contingency plans in case the unexpected prevents progress in your chosen direction
- There are many advantages to being more proactive, you have;
- Higher profile with existing customers and new prospects
- Warmer contacts!
- The chance to target and win far more business opportunities
- Greater credibility and respect in the industry or market
- More resilience against competition
- More market knowledge, particularly in future trends.
So, don’t wait for them to come to you. In market downturns, this can be fatal. Be proactive, ‘go-and-get-it’!
As my late Father used to tell me; “The door to success is labelled ‘PUSH’.”