• Do your clients see your sales people as
 Trusted Advisors?

    trustWant to get you or your people more effective at selling?  Check how consistently you/they are following steps 1-3. Even small improvements in any of these can help establish you as Trusted Advisor early on in sales conversations

    1 Gather more information than you give

    Or listen more than you talk. Ideally your prospective client should be talking 70% of the time and you 30%. How can we do that?   By asking questions, really listening to the answers and probing the answers in more detail.

    I profile a lot of people who sell (sales people, business owners, professional services) and one of the behaviours I look at is how effective they are at listening. On a scale of 1-9 (1 being low, 9 being high) the vast majority of people score between 2-4.  Even if we think we are listening, are we really?  Or are we listening some of the time, sometimes getting distracted by our own thoughts and mentally preparing the things we want to say?

    There are a lot of very smart questions we could be asking, but often the simpler ones are just, if not more, effective.

    Can you be more specific?  Could you give me an example?  Which means…? And what impact does that have?

    The advantage of asking lots of questions, not talking much and listening well is that it stops us talking too much (too soon) about us, how wonderful we are and how we can solve their problem. Instead it means we can gather information on pains, their budget and decision-making process to work out how real an opportunity this is before talking about us.

    2 Be challenging

    This is not about being awkward, or challenging just for the sake of it. I see our role as a Trusted Advisor to get to the crux of the clients issues and sometimes we need to help our prospective clients work that out too, which ties back to tip 1.

    Trusted Advisors ask tough questions that make their prospects think differently about their situation.  Equally they are prepared to have tough conversations if necessary – if you don’t think what the prospective client is asking for is in their best interests I believe its better to tell them rather than avoiding it.

    3 Be prepared to say no

    Honesty and selling don’t often appear in the same sentence, but if we want to be seen as a Trusted Advisor then that means we have to give our prospective clients the truth, rather than what they want to hear.

    If you are not best placed to help them for whatever reason I think it’s far more powerful to say that and refer them to someone else if you can. In my experience they will really respect you for that and as a result are more likely to come back to you further down the line.

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • Networking – Passive or Active?

    A lot of people belong to a formal networking group – one that meets regularly, weekly or monthly, with the same attendees (plus guests) with one of its stated goals being sharing introductions and referrals.

    Networking is a prospecting activity.  At its heart, it is all about finding new clients, and growing our business.  Do not get me wrong, this does not meant that we should be pushy and salesy when we network.  Nor should be anticipate or behave as if we anticipate direct selling to the room.

    Let’s first define prospecting in the context of networking.  A prospect is a potential customer, client or purchaser or sales lead which has been qualified as fitting certain criteria.  Prospecting is therefore the search for and qualification of potential customers, clients and purchasers.  Prospecting is the act of finding prospects.

    We talk about cold, cool, warm and hot prospects.  At its simplest this defines both their degree of qualification and also the degree to which you have moved along the continuum from untrusted stranger to trusted adviser.

    The goal of networking is to increase our leads and convert them to prospects and ultimately to sales.  One of the reasons networking is such a preferred form of prospecting is that for the majority of participants it does not feel salesy.  It feels much ‘warmer’.  First we get to know people and build trust, then we share our contacts.  By definition, an introduction to a prospect via a networking contact has already begun the journey along the continuum of untrusted stranger to known and trusted adviser.

    The problem people have when using networking as a prospecting vehicle lies in its very attraction, namely that it can be a social activity and not a sales activity.  This can be for a number of reasons but they divide into conceptual and technical.  Technical is that people do not know how to effectively network; conceptual is that they are uncomfortable with selling so avoid it and over play the social side of networking.

    The result is that networking does not deliver the anticipated benefits.  Additionally people can have overly high expectations of results from networking, especially in terms of the timescales and when they do not appear they blame the network rather than look at how realistic the expectations were or what they could be doing to improve results. The challenge – and blessing – of networking is that it is the way we network that impacts on its effectiveness and this is pretty much within our control.

    At Sandler we use the idea of passive and active prospecting.  When applied to networking here are the results:

    Passive networking looks like this:

    • You attend most of the meetings but if something comes up you are not too worried
    • If you need a Sub you are happy (potentially even expect) someone to find them for you
    • You give your sub your “60 seconds pitch” but do not speak to them in advance
    • You are polite and if asked to do a to one to one you accept; you are not diligent in timekeeping so are sometimes a bit late for them
    • You do not actively follow up with people
    • If someone helps you, you thank them at the meeting but you do not spend time in advance of each meeting thinking about how you can help people

    Active networking looks something like:

    • Attending every meeting unless totally impossible
    • If you have to send a Sub, ensuring you find one yourself (perhaps using someone who has used your services or knows you well and can therefore combine your 60-seconds with a bit of a personal testimonial). Even putting together a short list (2-3) of contacts who you have talked to in advance who would be willing to Sub for you at short notice
    • Taking the time to talk to your Sub before and after the meeting
    • Preparing in advance of each meeting (your 60-seconds, your testimonials, your referrals)
    • Researching other attendees and working out things that you can say to each of them which will demonstrate your credibility and position you as someone worth knowing
    • Setting and following a schedule of one to ones (or group one to ones)
    • Working hard on making introductions and nurturing them through to business and tracking this
    • Bringing visitors and starting to get known for someone who is well connected
    • Tracking your time and results from your networking activities

    You cannot control whether or not someone needs your services or product but you can absolutely control whether or not you are someone that people want to do business with.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • Why are your prospects lying to your salespeople? And why is it your salespeople’s fault

    David Sandler, the founder of the Sandler Selling System wrote “All prospects lie – all the time” I love teaching this “rule” to my clients. The initial reaction is often one of resistance and sometimes open hostility. After all, we  all want to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind, and it’s a sin to lie, right?. Well, I believe that most people are ethical and wouldn’t dream of deliberately misleading anyone. BUT, when I ask those same people if they have ever lied to a salesperson when they have been in the buyer role behaviour in a buying situation soon becomes clear that misleading on purpose (i.e. lying) is an integral part of that process. Most of the people I speak with on this topic will admit to having been, at some point been less than 100% honest with a salesperson either at home or at work. Have you ever said “I’m just looking” when in reality you went to the store with every intention of making a purchase. Have you ever told a salesperson “My budget is £20,000 when you had £30,00 to spend? It’s as if there’s a loophole in our value systems. Lying is Bad. (Except to salespeople).

    I love watching my clients have a “light bulb moment” when they realise that just maybe, their prospects are behaving the same way as
    they do.

    In a blog post on Sales Machine, Geoffrey James lists the 10 most common lies customers tell as follows:

    1. “We can’t afford it”
    2. “ I’m not in the office.”
    3. “Our bidding process is fair.”
    4. “Your competition is cheaper.”
    5. “ I’m sorry I missed our meeting.”
    6. “I am the decision-maker.”
    7. “We always get a discount.”
    8. “Send me a brochure I will read it.”
    9. “I am away from my desk now.”
    10. “The check is in the mail.”

    Here’s my personal Top 5

    1. “We’re happy with our current supplier”
    2. “We’re not interested”
    3. “We’re really interested” (usually followed by a request for a
    demo, proposal, price list, specs etc)
    4. “There’s no budget for …”
    5. “We should be going ahead with you, we just need to run the
    proposal past …..”

    Perhaps you can relate to these, or even add a few of your own. So why
    do we lie to salespeople?

    On his blog, Seth Godin wrote:

    “People lie to salespeople all the time. We do do it because salespeople have trained us to. And we’re afraid.”

    I don’t like being sold to. I don’t think anyone does. We vigorously resist being persuaded. We don’t enjoy having our decision to say no questioned by the seller as they go into objection handling mode. We don’t like being pestered for decisions. All these things make us uncomfortable.

    But we train our sales people how to present highly persuasive pitches, we school them in how to overcome objections and to “go for the close”. Aggressiveness (often hidden under the euphemism of “dynamism”) and persistence are key qualities we recruit for in our sales teams. (It was not that long ago the term was sales force!)

    We have all had to learn a system to escape from the discomfort of traditional sales approaches. So instead of saying “ I’m sorry we don’t need this” we say. “We might look at this in the summer – call me then” Instead of saying “ I’m really not interested “We say “send me over some information – I’ll look it over”

    The social contract is broken on both sides, but it’s the salesperson who must take responsibility for causing it and therefore for fixing it. Following a system that restores the balance of respect and dignity between salesperson and prospect ultimately leads to mutually satisfying buying decisions. Are you feeling beaten up by clients who use the typical misleads on you? Do you have a case of the “hopa-hopa’s” waiting for clients and prospects to return calls and make decisions that they’ve promised, but haven’t delivered on?

    Are you willing to look at what you can do to change the interpersonal dynamics in your sales process, rather than accepting worn-out traditional approaches and the problem behaviours that go along with them? What can you do differently today to break the cycle of lies and mistrust?

    Steve Myers

    Steve Myers

    Steve heads up Sandler’s Manchester office. He is multi award winning coach, facilitator and mentor, currently working with owners and senior leaders of established and emerging companies in the manufacturing, technology and professional services sectors throughout the North West. A typical client will engage Steve because they face unresolved challenges in consistently and predictably matching their sales revenues to their growth expectations and because of Sander’s unmatched track record of success in implementing and permanently embedding transformative sales structures, processes and skill sets. Prior to Sandler, Steve enjoyed 25 years of successful sales and sales management on the international state. His experience spans small and medium sized enterprises as well as global corporate organisations. Steve is long standing member of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management as was elected a Companion of the Institute in 2007 having been appointed a Fellow in 1997. Tel: 0161 656 5779

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