Thursday, January 14, 2010

Coffee Shop Selling

Sometimes a change in setting is all you need to make people feel comfortable and ready to talk. Today sales trainer Tessa Stowe shares the power of the coffee shop meeting - and really, who doesn't want to get out of the office for a piece of coffee cake?

Just imagine that you have a senior position in a company with quite a few people reporting to you. From the moment you walk into the office, you automatically act and talk your role. You have lots of responsibilities and you take them seriously. When people meet you in the office, you play the role as that is what people expect of you. Your days are very full, rushing here and there.

Now suppose that in the middle of your hectic day, you are invited out for a coffee with a friend where you know you can relax for a moment and just be yourself. How good is that? How re-energizing is that in the middle of your busy day?

Years ago, I was selling a multi-million dollar billing system to a telecommunications company. I needed to meet with a lot of different people to put all the pieces of the sales "puzzle" together. Scheduling meetings was always difficult as they had very few meeting rooms.

So as a matter of necessity, I started inviting people out for a coffee meeting - with cake if they wanted it. As we stepped out of the office environment and into the coffee shop, a curious thing happened. More often than not, the person I was having coffee with left their role behind and I had coffee with just that "person."

We would spend the first few minutes just enjoying the shop environment and discussing what they were up to personally. As a result, they would begin to unwind, relax, and start to be themselves as opposed to their roles.

Then when we came to getting down to business, I'd be in a place of greatly appreciating their help and any insights or tips they could give me. It would be as if a flood gate had opened up, and the information and help would flow. They would be very open with me.

At the end, I was always thanked for the coffee and told how much they had enjoyed the conversation, and that we must do it again soon. They had valued the experience and getting out of the office. When I next rang them and said "Let's catch up over coffee", they would do their best to fit it in their schedule. They wanted to get out of the office and go for a coffee. My colleagues were constantly amazed at the ease with which I got meetings, and with just about anyone.

So what are the lessons that I learned from coffee shop selling?

1. If you meet people in their office, they will more than likely act the role they play in that environment. Take them out of that office and into a coffee shop type environment, and you will have a higher chance that they will relax and be more like themselves.
2. If people feel relaxed in your company, they will open up to you.
3. If you make it enjoyable to meet with you, people will meet with you.
4. If you show that you appreciate someone's help, they will help you.

So when you can - and I know it's not always possible - instead of having office meetings, invite your prospect out for a coffee and make it an enjoyable experience for both of you. Do this and you'll be amazed at how much your prospects will go out of their way to help you and to meet with you - for a coffee and chat.

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her FREE monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at www.salesconversation.com.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are You a Chameleon When Selling?

Sales trainer Tessa Stowe has years of experience in sales, and today she shares a story of a dinner went wrong. The sales lesson that follows shows the importance of being a chameleon and blending in to different situations. Read on to see what we mean!

Several years ago, my former boss Peter and I went to dinner with the Chairman of the company we worked for. On that occasion, the Chairman talked and talked all evening. After the Chairman had finally left, Peter turned around to me and said "Tessa, we could have been anyone this evening." We felt that the Chairman had just talked at us all night. He would have had exactly the same conversation whether Peter and I were there or not.

The Chairman was not at all interested in Peter or me. In fact, by the end of the evening he knew absolutely nothing about us. It had not been a two-way conversation with us, but instead a monologue directed at us. His words would have been exactly the same no matter who was sitting opposite him.

Without realizing it, you may be acting like the Chairman. If your prospect would start daydreaming while you are speaking, would there be any difference in your conversation? You don't need their input for the conversation if you say the same things no matter who you are talking to.

Think back to the last time you spoke to a prospect. Did your words specifically change for that person, or were they the exact same words you have with all your prospects? Would a neutral observer think your prospect or you were at center stage?

So, what is the cure? It is actually quite simple. Become a facilitator of the conversation by asking powerful questions and quickly blend into the background and the conversation. Become a chameleon in the conversation.

For you to become a chameleon, blending into the background and the conversation, your prospect must feel comfortable about being at center stage. Hence it is critical that you ask your prospect questions about things they care about and know about. If you don't, your prospect will not want to be at center stage.

For example, a CEO cares about increasing revenues and decreasing costs, so ask questions around them. A marketing manager cares about standing out from the competition, so ask questions around that. When you ask questions, use the prospect's language - not yours.

When you are selling, you need to be a master chameleon and adapt your questions and your language to the person you are talking to. You want to blend into the background and make them center stage.

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her FREE monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at www.salesconversation.com.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Five Strategies to Minimize Risk

With most people tightening their belts nowadays, it's essential that you minimize their perceived risk of purchasing from you. "Prospects want to know that you are capable of delivering the results they want and that you will actually deliver them. No matter how good your product is, if you are perceived as risky, your prospect will not buy from you," explains sales trainer Tessa Stowe. "Conversely, people will knowingly buy inferior products if they perceive the risk is less and that there is more of a guarantee they will get the outcome they are looking for."

Risk is a huge deciding factor, so how do you convey that you are the lowest-risk solution? Here are five ideas:

Brainstorm all the reasons why you are the lowest-risk solution for your prospect.

Why are your prospects assured of getting the outcomes they want from your solution? What support do you offer that ensures they will get that outcome? Why should they feel assured you will be around next year to support them? You must be crystal-clear in your own mind about why you are the lowest-risk solution before you can explain it to your prospect.

Brainstorm all the reasons why your prospects might perceive you as a risky solution.

Put yourself in their shoes. Be honest with yourself. If you were your competition, what would you say about the risk of your solution? Now reframe that risk so it is not a risk. Turn it completely around to something positive. De-risk the risk!

Here's an example. In 2002 I was selling a billing solution to a telecommunications company. We were perceived by the prospect as high-risk as we had no references and we were using new, very advanced, technology.

I reframed that risk and told my prospect that we were actually the lowest-risk solution because we had the advanced technology that no one else had implemented. I went on to explain that, because this new technology would help them get ahead of their competition, it represented the lowest risk because it minimized the risk of competition in the future. They saw my point, and this was a major reason for their decision to buy the solution. You must name the elephant in the room, so to speak. Turn the perceived risk around to your advantage.

Be prepared with customer testimonials and case studies that talk about specific results.

The more customer testimonials and case studies you have, the more comfortable your prospect will feel and the less risky you will be perceived. Even if you have only one or two, they can be powerful risk-minimizers.

Make sure your true intent is to help your prospects get what they want, not to sell them something.

Always - and I mean always - act in alignment with this intent. If you do, your prospects will trust you. When your prospects trust you, they will perceive you as less risky.

Have a very open conversation with your prospect and tell them why you are the lowest-risk solution.

Go into as much detail and depth on each point as you need to in order to make them feel comfortable. Ask them if they are confident in the reasons you have mentioned or if they still have questions. If you have built rapport and trust, they will tell you in what areas they still perceive you are risky. This conversation can be a very revealing - and rewarding - one.

Implement these five ideas and your prospects will see you as the lowest-risk solution - and maybe even the no-risk solution. More sales are sure to follow.

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her FREE monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at www.salesconversation.com.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Should I Buy From You?

Here's a challenge from sales and business coach Tessa Stowe: Tell me in 30 seconds why I should buy from you over your competition. Don't read any farther until you do this.

How did you do? Did you include any of the following in your response?

-We have been in business for x years.
-We have great support and care about our customers.
-Our products are proven, best of breed, flexible, etc.
-We are industry leaders.
-We have lots of clients.

Look back at what you said. Does your competition say any of these things as well? Be totally honest. Put a line through each item you listed that your competition would also say (whether it is true or not), because your prospect will ignore it when he or she compares you to your competition.

I'm not saying that having great support, experience, products, clients, and so on is not important and absolutely essential. I'm saying that, if your competition also says they have those things, your prospect will probably not take them into consideration when comparing you.

So, after putting a line through each "me too" item, what are you left with?
What you are left with is what your prospects will see as the differences between you and your competition.

Now ask yourself:

--Do your prospects care enough about these remaining differences to choose you over your competition?
--Do these remaining differences make you the obvious choice over your competition?
--Would you choose you over your competition if these were the only differences?
--Have you been conveying these differences in all your interactions with your prospects?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your prospects will have to struggle to work out why they should buy from you, and you will have to struggle to make sales.

To eliminate this struggle for both you and your prospect, work out a crystal-clear answer to the question, "Why should I buy from you?"

Then, when you have your crystal-clear answer, make sure you convey all or parts of it in every interaction with your prospects - in meetings, in demonstrations, in presentations, in marketing materials, in proposals...everywhere you come into contact with prospects. Your objective is that, when you win the sale and someone asks your prospects why they chose you, their answer will be identical to your crystal-clear answer!

When you have a crystal-clear answer as to why prospects should buy from you, your enthusiasm and confidence will soar. You will be enthusiastic about helping your prospects because you will be confident in why you are absolutely the best solution for them. Enthusiasm and confidence are contagious: Your prospects will pick them up, and they will become enthusiastic and confident about working with you and becoming your client.

To work out the answer, try brainstorming first. Then ask your current clients why they bought from you. Then brainstorm a bit more. If you want to try some "out of the box" thinking, take what you perceive as your biggest weakness and reframe it so it is your biggest strength in the eyes of your prospects. For example, if you are small, how could that be a strength?

Make it a top priority to work out the answer to "Why should I buy from you?" If you do, you will make more sales faster and at higher prices.

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her free monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at www.salesconversation.com.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

7 Reasons Why You Must Zealously Qualify Prospects

Limited hours in the day and an unstable economy make it imperative that you qualify your prospects ahead of time. Spending valuable time, money and resources on a deal that will never happen is a waste of your selling potential. Sales trainer Tessa Stowe has put together a list of seven reasons why you must dutifully qualify your prospects - your closing ratio will rise as a result!

Here are seven reasons why you must be zealous about putting your prospects through a qualification process before you sell to them:

Qualifying ensures that you only sell to people who are going to buy.
By qualifying you can determine if your prospect is going to buy and, more importantly, if they are going to buy now. By qualifying, you avoid wasting time, money and resources on selling to prospects who do nothing.

Qualifying tells you where to focus.
On which prospects do you spend your valuable time? Qualifying gives you that answer. By qualifying, you identify high probability opportunities and these are the ones you need to focus on.

Qualifying enables you to win more sales.
As a result of qualifying, you only sell to prospects who are going to buy and you only focus on high probability opportunities. Just by having this focus on high probability opportunities, you increase your probability of success, if that makes sense.

Qualifying speeds up your sales and results in a shorter sales cycle.
As a result of qualifying, you will find out the reason why your prospect should act now. You find out their 'compelling event.' When you find out your prospect's compelling event, they will be motivated to take action now. They will be motivated to buy your solution now rather than later and your sales cycle will be reduced as a consequence.

Qualifying reduces your wasted costs.
If you routinely sell to people who are not going to buy or have a low probability of buying from you, then you are wasting a lot of time money and resources. By qualifying, you stop these wasted costs.

Qualifying enables you to choose who you want to become your client.

Do you have a client that you wish was not your client? They require so much time and energy that they really are not worth having. Also more importantly they distract you from serving your ideal clients and from winning new business. With qualifying, you will identify these non-ideal clients straight way.

Qualifying attracts prospects.
If you share your qualification process with your prospects, they will see that you are a professional and selective about whom you have as your client. When you become selective about who you work with, people want to be 'selected.' It's human nature. Your prospects will be trying to sell you on why you should sell to them! Even if you both agree that you are not a good fit for them right now, this process will leave them feeling impressed by you and they'll probably refer others to you.

"Right now make it an unbreakable rule that you will zealously qualify prospects and you will only ever sell to qualified prospects who will be ideal customers," says Stowe. "So find, learn and implement a sales qualification process straight away and watch the impact on your sales results."

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her FREE monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at www.salesconversation.com.

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