Sales advice, recommendations and interesting, useful and fun news from the world of selling!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Are you falling for objections?
"Think of objections as simply requests for more information," advises sales trainer Dr. John Brennan. "In other words, when the customer objects, he or she is simply asking, 'How do I justify this money?' 'How is this better than your competitor's product?' 'How have your other customers dealt with their price concerns?' 'Why should I buy the product from you, and not from your competitor?'"
Lady SalesDog couldn't agree more since this is a key part of her buying process: asking the salesperson questions to gather the information to logically justify the purchase.
So, take a cue from Brennan the next time you hear an "objection." Remember, it's just your customer's way of getting more information to make a buying decision.
In a polite society, it's considered rude to talk about money. But, in sales, you need to discuss budgets, pricing, and fees to qualify prospects and make the sale. How do you get comfortable discussing these taboo topics? "When you clearly understand the value of your product and can communicate it with ease, the fear of presenting your fees disappears," says sales expert Rochelle Togo-Figa.
Here are some of Togo-Figa's tips to help you more easily discuss money with prospects.
Ask money qualifying questions before or early on in the meeting. Serious prospects don't mind hearing money questions. They expect to be asked these questions. Unqualified prospects run when they hear these questions because they're not serious about buying. Try saying, "So I know we're in the same ball park, approximately how much were you looking to spend?"
Make a list of the benefits. Create a list of all the ways the product will benefit the client AND a list of benefits your clients get from working with you. Here's an example: "All clients I work with receive personalized service from the start of the job, to the end of the job."
Share the results clients have received from working with you. Think in terms of measurable results clients have achieved. This will instill more confidence as you become clear on the value you bring to your clients. Here's an example: "My client had no idea where to start with decorating her home. After working with me, she selected a window treatment that suits her living style, and a fabric within her budget."
Create several pricing packages your clients can choose from. Start to think of different price ranges and programs you can offer. Creating different pricing options gives the prospect a choice and helps make the selection affordable. They're more apt to buy if you offer low, medium, and high-end products.
Give these tips a try and watch your fears abate and your sales rise!
Rochelle Togo-Figa, The Sales Breakthrough Expert, is the creator of the Sales Breakthrough System. Visit her website at www.SalesBreakthroughs.com.
This week we're talking about W. Edwards Deming's quote about profit in business coming from repeat customers. Today, we'll address how to get your customers to "bring their friends with them" through referrals.
Referral expert Paul McCord has some useful insights:
"Acquiring referrals from clients is not as simple as 'doing a good job' and then asking for referrals," says McCord. "Generating a large number of highly qualified referrals from a client is a process that starts from the moment the prospect is first met, not a one-time act after the sale has been completed. It requires an understanding of what a successful referral is based on, and how to exploit the referral to insure a successful contact with the referee."
Here are McCord's 4 Pillars of a Successful Referral:
Your Relationship with Your Client Your relationship with your client must be built on trust and respect. Most clients will not give referrals to people they trust and respect unless they trust and respect you.
Your Client's Purchasing Experience Clients assume that whomever they refer you to will be more critical and more demanding than they themselves have been. Consequently, you must provide the client the exact purchasing experience they want and demonstrate that you will not embarrass them in front of their friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances.
Your Client's Relationship with the Referred Prospect With a referral, you are trying to build a relationship with the referred prospect based on their relationship with your client. You must know the relationship between the two. If the prospect trusts and respects your client, you begin your relationship with that prospect with some of that trust and respect imbued to you. Likewise, if the prospect distrusts and disrespects your client, you begin the relationship with some of that distrust and disrespect imbued to you. You must know where you stand with the prospect before you contact them.
The Method Used to Contact the Referred Prospect Based on the client/prospect bond, you must determine how best to contact the prospect to produce the greatest opportunity to acquire a meeting. If the client/prospect relationship is extremely strong, virtually any contact method, including a phone call from the salesperson mentioning the client's name will suffice. But, for a weak relationship, the rep must strive to use the strongest contact method possible, such as, a client letter or phone call, or a lunch meeting between the client, prospect and rep.
Author of "Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals," Paul McCord is president of McCord & Associates, a sales training and management-consulting firm.
Today we're looking at the second element in W. Edwards Deming's formula for profit in business: getting your customers to boast about you.
Sales and marketing coach Dr. Rachna D. Jain has some tips for easily and effectively garnering testimonials:
Let your customers know right up front. Start every new customer relationship with a brief explanation of how you appreciate testimonials and how they help you serve your customers better. Ask all new customers/clients if they would be willing to provide you a testimonial if they are satisfied with your service.
Ask for them. Very often, sales reps will take step one, but never take step two. The client has agreed to provide a testimonial, but the business owner never follows up and asks for the testimonial. It's most effective to ask when your client or customer is especially pleased or satisfied with your service.
Make it easy. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to provide you with the testimonial. Consider having a pre-designed form, or a standard email. You may even want to ask certain questions to help shape the tone or format of what your client shares. For example, if you really want your clients to comment on your "outstanding customer service orientation," you might put a question or two in the form about this.
Write it yourself. Sometimes, clients will agree to provide a testimonial, but never actually do it. In these cases, it's perfectly acceptable to offer to write the testimonial yourself and have the client sign it. Ask the client if you might call him/her for 10-15 minutes for a brief interview about the high points of your business or service. Then write what you hear, and send it to the client for approval.
Get permission. It's very important to get your clients' permission to use their name, city/state, or website address in your own marketing. Most clients will understand that you are obtaining a testimonial for your marketing efforts. I have always found it wise to ask them to sign a brief statement which demonstrates that they have given permission for the information to be used.
Offer something in return. Most satisfied clients will give you a strong testimonial without expecting anything in return. For myself, I've found that offering a small "thank you" (a brief coaching session, a copy of one of my books, a discount on a class or training) goes a long way to helping clients feel valued and appreciated for their extra time and effort.
Dr. Rachna D. Jain is a sales and marketing coach. To learn more, contact Dr. Jain directly, or to sign up for her free newsletter, Sales and Marketing Secrets, please visit her website.
Yesterday, Dr. Tony Alessandra showed us how to use a periodic client review to gauge a client's level of satisfaction. Today, he shows you several ways to expand your business through your customers.
Referrals within their company. Whenever you talk to clients, keep one eye open for clues that indicate needs within their company, for example, a new office or branch that may need your product or service. Ask your customers for a referral, either verbally or in writing.
Sell more of the same. While servicing an account, suggest that they buy more if you see they have the capacity to use larger volumes of your product. Under no circumstances, though, should you try to sell them more if they do not need it.
Sell additional products or services. If you see a need, offer new products and services to your present customers. If they like your original product, they will listen to your ideas about expanding into other products.
Upgrade your clients. If a client uses a medium-priced product, you may be able to upgrade him to a higher-priced, higher-quality product, especially if his company is growing and its needs are changing. For example, a company using a copying machine may need one with more capabilities, such as photo-reduction and collating. If you are aware of their increased needs, suggest the upgrade - before your competitor does.
Exert the extra effort to keep your customers completely satisfied, and you will reap the rewards - with their repeat business and with their referrals.
Tony Alessandra is a contributor to Top Dog Sales Secrets. He has authored 17 books translated into 49 foreign language editions, recorded over 50 audio/video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.
We mentioned yesterday that this week is all about growing your sales through repeat business. Dr. Tony Alessandra shares his tips below to keep your customers satisfied and returning to you time and again.
"Annual or periodic client reviews provide a valuable tool for looking at the activities of an account, an industry in general, competitors, company strengths and weaknesses, and so on," says Alessandra.
"This special meeting will give you feedback about your customer's level of satisfaction, and provide an opportunity to introduce new products or services. It will also convey that you care, and strengthen the trust bond between you."
To set the stage for an effective meeting:
Arrange a breakfast or lunch meeting at your customer's convenience.
Select a place that is well-lit, and conducive to conversation.
Invite all the necessary participants on the account. If there are two buyers, invite them both.
Bring all records necessary to discuss the previous year's business.
Allow an adequate amount of time for the meeting.
Be prepared and organized. Know what you want to talk about, and proceed in a logical manner. Take notes if necessary, and send a typed copy to the participants within one week after the meeting.
Listen carefully for implied needs and concerns.
Reiterate your desire to be of service and to maintain an open, trusting relationship.
During your conversation, look for opportunities above and beyond the client's immediate horizon. Ask for referrals and letters of testimony if appropriate.
After the review, offer a new idea, service, product or special promotional offer. This is an excellent opportunity to spark interest in something new.
Follow Dr. Tony's tips and your clients will be impressed with your service - and reward you with repeat business.
Tony Alessandra is a contributor to Top Dog Sales Secrets. He has authored 17 books translated into 49 foreign language editions, recorded over 50 audio/video programs, and delivered over 2,000 keynote speeches since 1976.
You probably have an elevator speech, a short explanation of what you do that can be delivered in the time it takes an elevator to ride a few floors. Sales trainer Tim Connor has an intriguing variation - elevator questions. Here's how it works:
If you were told by a prospect that you had sixty seconds to sell them, what would you do? Would you condense your sales message into a one minute presentation or talk about your organization and its strengths and history? Would you ask a few thought provoking questions or just sit there dumbfounded wondering what to do or what to say next?
I recently met a prospect on a hotel elevator in Las Vegas. He looked like he was a business person, so I asked him, "What do you do for a living?" He responded, "I am in the insurance industry." My follow-up question was, "What do you do in the insurance business?" He said he was the president. (Keep in mind, I don't have a lot of time here, we are on a elevator.)
My follow-up question was, "Do you know what your lost sales are costing you every year?" (Elevator Question)
He paused and then replied, "I am not sure, what do you do for a living?"
I said, "I am in the business of helping organizations reduce their lost sales revenue." (Elevator Statement)
An elevator question is any question that cuts to the heart of your prospect's challenges, concerns or fears, and makes him think. It also implies that you or your organization may have a possible solution for his problems. Remember that elevator questions are not used only on elevators. They can be used at social settings, while selling on the telephone or anywhere during the sales process.
SalesDog's advice: Work on some elevator questions this weekend, and put them to use next week!
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A Magic Two-sentence Email that Gets Stalled Sales Back on Track
Here's an interesting tip from sales trainer Chris Lytle to help you get a stalled prospect back in sales motion:
When a customer didn't call me back, I sent this e-mail:
"Cliff, I still have you on my 'waiting for' list of people I'm expecting to hear from. Am I still on your radar? Chris"
"You are good. Let's talk this morning if you are available. I'm out of town but can be reached on my cell phone."
Result: Before I could call him, he called me from the road and we scheduled our next meeting. My two-sentence e-mail worked (I believe) because I really do have a "waiting for" list and keep track of people who owe me a call, an e-mail, or a contract - and because the "radar" question lets the customer opt in or out without pressure. Chris Lytle, CSP, time releases immediately applicable sales advice via the MAX-ATM Automatic Training Machine website. Check it out at www.max-atm.com.
We know you work hard. Here's a tip from sales performance expert Alan Rigg to help you work smart. Brace yourself - it involves getting prospects to tell you "no."
The first step in getting to "no" is explaining to your prospects right up front that "no" is a perfectly acceptable answer! The conversation you have with a prospect might sound something like this: "Bob, as we explore the possibility of working together, we may decide there isn't a fit between what your company needs and what I offer. If that happens, to avoid wasting each other's time, are you comfortable telling me 'no'?"
Once a prospect agrees that they are willing to tell you "no" you have a powerful weapon you can use to jump-start stalled opportunities and minimize wasted time. How does this weapon work? Well, if you ever feel an opportunity may be stalling, or if a prospect has not returned your calls or e-mails for a week or two, put your cards on the table by saying (or writing in an e-mail) something like this:
"Bob, the last time I heard from you was on (date). Is (product or service name) still on your radar screen? Remember, "No" is a perfectly acceptable answer! I don't want to waste your time or mine, and I don't want to be a pest. Please let me know whether I should continue calling you. Thank you!"
My experience has been that, if a prospect is serious about acquiring your product or service, they will ALWAYS respond to this kind of communication. If they don't respond, it is a strong indicator they are not serious. You have little to lose by scratching these non-responsive prospects off your call list and removing them from your sales opportunity pipeline.
Put Rigg's advice to work for you this week and you'll find yourself with more time to convert qualified prospects into sales.
Shipping sent the wrong product to your client - twice. A delivery arrived late, or you weren't able to come through with a promised upgrade. Sound familiar? Customer service foul-ups like these, and the Targetcustomer service nightmare we told you about yesterday, can create major headaches for your customers.
"As a sales professional, you are the face of your company," says SalesDog.com Managing Editor Tina LoSasso. "So you need to say you're sorry (regardless of whether it's your fault). When your company fouls up, a mere phone call or letter often is not enough to undo the damage. An appropriate gift will go a long way toward soothing ruffled feathers."
What should you send?
"Flowers always say it best," advises LoSasso. "For female customers, send a floral arrangement in a vase. Stay away from roses, no matter the color, as they spell romance in any language. Avoid lilies, because they are often used at funerals, and can have an overpowering fragrance. An elegant mixed flower arrangement can be pricey, so if funds are tight, opt for a tasteful bouquet of just one variety of flower for maximum impact. Irises, dendrobium orchids or gerbera daisies work well."
"For the men, send a healthy-looking potted plant, preferably not a blooming one. A bonsai plant, bamboo, or money tree will hit just the right masculine note, and look great on his desk."
When problems arise, do your best to fix them and make sure the customer knows you appreciate their business and will work hard to continue it. Follow up on your apology with a thoughtful gift and your customers will remember you when it's time to buy again.
A Texas woman bought an iPod from Target for her 14-year-old daughter's birthday. Upon opening the shrink-wrapped package, she discovered that the iPod had been replaced with rocks. Mother and daughter returned to the store to get what she paid for, but the item was out of stock.
The woman asked for a refund, but because she had paid using a new Target credit card to get a 10 percent discount, the store would only give her store credit. She drove to another Target store to buy another iPod, only to get another box of rocks. Again, she was told it wasn't store policy to give a refund. (You can read the entire customer service nightmare here.)
As outlandish as this story seems, "It's not our policy" is an all-too-common refrain in the business world.
"When the customer hears 'it's not our policy,' they immediately respond (usually silently) with, 'WHO CARES?''"says customer service expert Nancy Friedman. "What a business needs to understand is, no one but the management and staff cares about your policies. Do you really think the customer says to himself or herself as they enter or call your place of business, 'Gee, I wonder what their policy is on this issue?'"
"All this being said," continues Friedman, "there are companies who do have policies that make it more difficult to work with them than with others." Friedman's suggestion? "Decide on your policy, then work as a team with your staff to find a positive way to explain it to the customer. Otherwise, it'll be the customer's policy not to do business with you!"
As a salesperson, you are your customer's first call when things go wrong. What are you doing to explain unpopular company policy in a positive light? Do you take responsibility for the situation and do everything you can to rectify it?
It happened again today. I received a follow-up email from a vendor containing not one, but two, uses of the phrase "should you choose to go forward." Very nice, very polite, also potentially hazardous to this sale.
I already told the salesperson that we wanted to move forward and the email was supposed to tell me what we needed to do now. In effect, the salesperson was ignoring that decision and putting the deal up for grabs again.
Before you say,"Oh, I would never do that," realize I see this with alarming frequency, particularly from sellers of services. "Should you choose to go forward" is second cousin to, "If you decide to use our services." Both are equally effective at unraveling a sale when written to a customer who is already sold.
How can you safeguard your emails from this deal nullifier? Take a good, hard look at your standard emails. And, before you hit the send button on your next email, carefully read it over to see if every word applies to this particular prospect. If the prospect is already sold, you need to replace the "should you choose" and "if you decide." This buyer would not object to being told, "Let's get started. Just fill out the attached forms and I'll get you scheduled."
Last week we told you about the first of sales trainer Renee Walkup's three favorite sales words: "oh."
Here's the second word that Walkup says will help you make sales: "tell."
Here's how she suggests you use it in selling situations:
Let's say you need to find out about the decision-making process from your customer says Walkup. In the past, your qualifying may have sounded like this:
Who makes the decision?
When is the decision going to be made?
How much is your team planning on investing in this?
What usually occurs when you meet to discuss the purchase?
Why don't I show up here to make a more formal presentation when your group meets?
Now, replace these five questions with one excellent "tell" question:
Frank, tell me about the decision-making process.
Then be quiet. Frank is now going to have to tell you a story of how the process will take place, who is involved, when they'll meet and the rest. You get more value for your intelligent qualifying and in the meantime, your customer sees you as a bright, experienced, and confident sales professional he can trust.
"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." --Henry Ford
What are you doing now to get ready to succeed this week?
Are you researching your next prospect on the Internet? Are you practicing for tomorrow's sales presentation? Have you given careful consideration to the terms of your next negotiation? Have you prepared to close your next deal by role-playing with your manager or colleague?
Put the time in this week to do your homework, and reap the rewards.
"I've found that humor can be an effective tool for moving the sale along at almost every stage of the process," says sales speaker and BusinessWeek Online Columnist Michelle Nichols.
However, using humor doesn't mean going overboard and acting like a goofball warns Nichols. Adding appropriate levity to a situation can increase your likeableness, and help establish that critical connection with customers. As a result, customers will listen more closely, and if trouble erupts, they're more likely to cut you some slack.
Here's some of Nichols' advice for injecting some humor into your sales process:
Get personal. One of the most powerful sources of humor is stories from your own life. Personal stories are easier to remember, which makes it easier to tell them smoothly. A little self-deprecation never hurts. For example, if my prospects are parents, I might tell them about my daughter. When her junior high was having Career Day, I asked if she wanted me to speak, since not everyone's mom is a columnist and speaker. "Oh great, how exciting," she moaned. "Why can't you be a pharmacist, or something that doesn't sound so boring?"
Talk about price. I have an old Mr. Boffo cartoon subtitled "The further adventures of the Bargain Hunter," depicting a guy displaying "Ed's Tattoo Parlor" tattooed on his chest in giant letters, saying, "Guess who got a free tattoo?" My point is, what is the real value of "free?" When I quote prices, the biggest potential sticking point, I like to say, "Your total is a mere $43,837.46." That always gets a laugh, and helps prospects over the price shock - at least for a moment.
Finish strong. A la David Letterman, an original Top Ten list of funny reasons the customer should buy from you, or buy right now, is an unusual approach - and could seal a deal.
Humor will put your customers at ease and help make the sale. So have fun playing with Nichols' ideas.
A warning to the humor-challenged: these are just suggestions. If it doesn't feel right, hey - don't do it! Remember: with humor, a little goes a long way.
We recently learned about a special sales conference for women and thought you would want to know about it. One of our long-time contributors, Jill Konrath of Selling to Big Companies, has put it together. It's called the Sales Shebang. You can click here to learn more.
This is surely one of the most ineffective (translate: lame) openers you could use. But does that stop most salespeople? Unfortunately, no.
"If you're like most people, you've used this opener at some point in your sales career," says Colleen Francis of Engage Selling. "What you may not realize is that this little sentence can quickly reduce your credibility with your prospect. Are you really calling just to check in or check up? If so, either you've got a lot more time on your hands than I do, or else it's time to seriously consider a career change!"
Francis gives this advice for creating a more effective opening:
First, start by removing the word 'just' - it makes you sound unimportant, and your call seem like an afterthought.
Replace it with something like: "The last time we spoke, you ..." By taking the customer back to the last time you spoke, you remind them of your relationship, and prove that you are carrying through on what you were asked or promised to do.
Nothing builds rapport better than a promise kept. Rapport leads to trust, and trust leads to loyal customers.
Give this tip a try this week and see the impact on your calls.
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SalesDog.com, the internet's number one sales success destination for more than seven years, works with America's leading sales experts to bring practical selling tips and strategies to salespeople, sales managers, business owners and entrepreneurs. Over 30,000 sales professionals rely on its free weekly newsletter to keep them abreast of cutting-edge developments impacting their profession.