Ted Tate

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Bargain hunter

Salespeople often buy into prospects’ complaints that the “price is too high.”

But the old rule of selling says, “When the price is too high, the interest is too low.” It means you haven’t done a good sales presentation (if any) to convince the prospect that what you sell is worth the investment.

Cutting price, however, isn’t the answer. In many cases, an unspoken or hidden objection prevents the prospect from buying, and if you don’t find it, you’ll never make the sale. When you cut price as a sales closing tool without trying anything else, it’s the mark of an untrained salesperson.

Here are some proven strategies to help you close at full price.

Ask questions

Good selling requires you to ask serious questions, such as, “What problem(s) are you try to solve?” “What have you looked at so far?” “When do you see yourself making a final decision?” “Who, besides yourself, is required to make a final decision?”

The answers will help you determine just how serious the prospect is about buying, and whether he or she is the right person to talk to about the sale.

Give a sales presentation

A planned presentation is simply an orderly way to explain your product or service point by point. Salespeople often assume prospects know the benefits, but even those who do rarely fully understand how they can take advantage of them.

Show testimonials

Every salesperson who closes sales should go back to their satisfied users and request a letter saying what they think of the product or service. I can’t overemphasize their value. Written testimony from a customer helps prove your point about the solutions that you can provide.

Ask for the order

You need not offer any price incentive to ask people to buy. Go for the sale at regular price. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

There are also several taboos in sales. Here are a few don’ts:

Don’t be quick to discount

You will shoot yourself in the foot if you start out a sales call with something like, “Our price is only $1,000, but I can knock off $200.” Always offer your regular price.

Many prospects are not as focused on price as you may be, and issues such as quality, guarantees, warranties and service should be stressed. More important, quote the regular price first. If someone wants lower prices, first counteroffer something such as free delivery, extended warranty or additional product or service instead.

If prospects feel it’s easy to get a discount, they may assume they can do better elsewhere, or, by beating up a little on the salesperson, get an even lower price. If you make it a little difficult to get a reduced price, then you can make the prospect feel they got a good deal.

Don’t cut price without using it as a sales close

Qualify prospects as serious. Ask them, “If I quote a lower price, are you ready to buy now?” If the answer is no, tell them your company won’t let you cut deals unless someone is ready to buy, and how soon do they see that happening?

The bottom line is that you should never cut any price without a buying condition. Get the prospect to buy now, within 24 hours, or by next week. Any price cut you extend must expire.

Never leave it open forever. Otherwise, it gives the impression you are overpriced to start with. Ted Tate is president and CEO of Tate & Associates. He presents in-house sales training programs. He is also the author of “Just Sell It,” John Wiley Publishing, NY, (800) CALL-WILEY. Tate can be reached at (440) 257-7520.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:52

Heat stroke

My first job as a sales manager was with an in-home sales firm. It was summer, and my boss wanted me to find out why the five-person sales staff consistently produced poor results from June to September. So, I bluntly put it to my sales reps and awaited their responses.

“You can’t find people, they are always out and about,” one explained.

Another shrugged and said, “People are not interested, they are too busy planning vacations.”

A third chalked it up to the weather: “It’s too hot.”

Being young and inexperienced, I accepted the answers as reasonable and figured things would turn around once the weather cooled down and the decision-makers returned to their offices. But a strange thing happened a few days later.

Part of my duties included making personal sales calls, and after a few weeks, I noticed my personal sales weren’t as bad as everyone else’s. In fact, they were a little above average. And, while I found that some people were a little more difficult to reach in warm weather, I discovered that if I increased my prospecting efforts a bit, I had plenty of leads.

Suddenly, I started to realize that the excuses the sales people were handing out were just that — excuses for doing a poor prospecting job. Worse, the sales people had been telling themselves this negative stuff for so long that they actually believed it.

To prove my theory, I started monitoring their selling efforts. Within a few weeks, it was obvious that they had fallen into poor prospecting habits. I confronted my staff and challenged them to focus on practicing good prospecting and qualifying techniques. The results were exactly as I thought; sales took a big leap.

That experience left me believing the old sales manager’s axiom: “It’s not what you expect from people, it’s what you inspect.” I’ve been following it since.

Over the years, I’ve heard all kinds of creative reasons from sales people for weak performances. It’s left me wondering why people blame outside sources for their inability to sell. My only conclusion is that it’s a lot easier to blame summertime, poor economic conditions, the job market, or the man at the car wash for shoddy results than it is to accept responsibility for not being effective.

Who really wants to tell their sales manager that sales are down because they take two hours for lunch, then quit the day at four o’clock instead of five to get a jump on traffic? Who would admit they spent the morning driving the spouse around on shopping errands? That they spent hours involved in useless conversations with customers who purchase very little instead of prospecting for bigger accounts?

The problem with excuses is that it doesn’t take long to believe them. And once you do, it’s hard to get out of your slump.

But once you recognize the problem, you can solve this so-called excuse affliction by going back to the basics of sales. When you’re in a sales slump, it’s a good idea to start your road to recovery by retraining yourself. Go over your sales manuals and review what a new sales person would be taught about getting business.

Ask yourself if you are really doing these activities now, or if you have slowly slipped into negative selling habits. Review your time management skills. Do you make the best use of your hours or are you winging it day after day?

Finally, count the number of new people you speak with when you’re out prospecting. Do you talk with enough people to deserve new business, or do you just speak with a few, then become discouraged and give up? Depending upon what you sell, it’s not uncommon to speak with 30, 40, or even 50 people before you locate one or two good new prospects.

The bottom line to poor sales is that it’s often not based on the reasons you think. Usually, the answer is as close as the nearest mirror.

Ted Tate, a sales training and marketing consultant based in Mentor, is author of “Just Sell It.” Reach him at www.trainingexpert.com

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Resolutions

1. Do the right thing. While some may believe slogans such as “Winning is everything,” I don’t. Business relationships need to be nurtured.

When questionable situations arise, winning at the cost of your customer losing isn’t worth it. Instead, develop long-term “win-win” solutions to business problems.

2. See the long view, not just an immediate sale. Business is not simply exchanging a service or commodity for money. Businesses that prosper are about listening, meeting customer needs and developing long term, successful relationships with clients.

3. Give customers a little more than they bargained for. It’s easy to make promises to close a deal. The problem comes when we overpromise on things we really can’t deliver.

Some sales people will make vague and intentionally misleading statements to close a deal. When customers realize what happened and get upset, they defend themselves and tell the customer he or she must have misunderstood. Some people call these little white lies, or to sound even better, sales puffing or exaggerating, as if this is innocent behavior, but it isn’t.

If sales people have to lie in any way to make sales, they either need to take sales training classes or find another job selling something they need not lie about.

The one thing that is critical in business is creditability, that you are a man or woman of your word. You can quickly build that creditability by always making sure your customers get everything you promised and maybe a little more.

Taking care of customers after the sale is the mark of a super businessperson, the ones who earn the big bucks and drive the big cars.

4. Spend time with successful people. Time can be cruel; ask anyone over the age of 50. We stay so busy in our business and personal lives we fail find time for personal growth, and thus our success becomes limited.

Avoid negative people whenever possible. Make time to join organizations where successful people are, where people value creativity and innovation, where new ideas are appreciated and you can grow.

5. Reach out to those who are not successful. At the same time, reach out to the less fortunate, beyond throwing a few dollars in the Christmas Salvation Army kettle.

I’m speaking of finding a meaningful way on a consistent basis to not just give money, but a part of yourself. Just a few hours a week can make a huge difference to someone. Volunteer every week as a Big Brother or Big Sister; read to the ill who can no longer read; mentor someone coming up the ladder as you once did. In some way, give something of yourself on a regular basis with no repayment, no reward and don’t tell anyone other than close family members.

I know successful people who do just that. Many say, as they reflect back on their lives, that some of their greatest joys were not making money, but rather knowing they made a positive difference in someone’s life.

It’s a wonderful secret that can keep your heart warm on the coldest winter night.

Ted Tate is author of “Just Sell It,” John Wiley Publishing, New York (1-800-CALL-WILEY). He presents in-house sales training programs for companies and can be reached at Tate & Associates, (440) 257-7520.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:41

Stumbling blocks

No matter how good the members of your sales team are, they’re still prone to mistakes. That goes for new hires as well as seasoned pros.

Here are five common errors that can harm your company’s ability to sell products and services, and ways to avoid them.

Being unprepared

How many salespeople have a written outline of what they expect to achieve on a sales call? Many simply walk in a prospect’s office, plop into a comfortable chair and ask, “What is it you need today?”

If the prospect knew the answer, he or she could simply grab the Yellow Pages, make a call and fill the void.

Salespeople must know how to apply their knowledge of what they sell to the benefit of the prospect. They should spend time understanding the real needs and wants of prospects before they blindly call. To mine that information, they should try:

  • The Internet

  • Prospect’s annual reports

  • Prospect’s industry trade journals and buyers guides

  • Noncompeting salespeople who sell the prospect now

  • Any records within your company pertaining to the prospect

  • The library

  • Prospect’s competitors

  • Business publications, such as SBN.

Using a generic (or no) presentation

This is a direct result of problem No. 1. Presentations can be dynamite selling tools if they address issues near and dear to the prospect. If the salespeople know little or nothing about a prospect’s needs, then they can’t give a dynamite presentation.

Reading too many “Relationship Selling” books

Building positive relationships with customers is a good thing. However, people don’t become lifelong pals after one or two sales calls. Pushing the issue too quickly to “buddy up” may cause some to back off instead. In some firms, there are strict rules against accepting even a lunch from vendors.

Good business relationships develop slowly and are based upon mutual respect. Keep initial sales calls cordial but professional. Develop a good relationship by giving your customers the very best service possible. Being attentive to customer’s needs so they see you as a dependable problem solver is one of the best ways to develop a long-term business relationship.

Not listening

A major weakness for many salespeople is that they simply talk too much. When you talk, you are not listening and learning about your prospect’s wants and needs. Good salespeople should talk no more that 30 percent of the time.

They also should learn the art of asking open-ended questions to keep the information flowing.

Failing to take care of established customers

The best resource for new business is a referral from a satisfied customer. Some salespeople enjoy the chase of obtaining new accounts so much they tend to ignore their established business.

One of the most powerful marketing tools today is good customer service. Customers with problems will tend to call their salesperson when things go wrong. That’s often the person they feel most connected with.

Never allow customers to be treated as poor relatives looking for a handout. They are your company’s most valuable assets.

And remember, your best customers are your competitor’s best prospects.

Ted Tate (expert@stratos.net) is a Mentor-based sales trainer and president of Tate & Associates. He works with business owners to help improve sales results. Tate is the author of “Just Sell It,” and can be reached at (440) 257-7520.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:40

Building bonds

Relationship selling means developing a business friendship with your customers. The purpose is to build a bond between you and your prospects so they are comfortable doing business with you.

When the relationship is strong, the prospect wants to do business with you rather than has to do business with you. And the person who wants to do business with you can justify just about anything.

1. Learn and use the strategy of win-win. As a salesperson, it’s OK for you to win; just make sure your customer is also a winner. Building trust means never taking unfair advantage of a customer.

2. Mirror your behavior. Using body language is one of the easiest and most effective methods of gaining and maintaining rapport. When you mirror someone, you are reflecting his or her posture, positioning your body in a way that is similar to that of your prospect. While you are not striving for an exact mirror image, an observer would notice similarities.

3. Pace yourself to fit the customer. Speak at the same pace as the other person. Usually people who naturally speak quickly have little problem slowing down. Sometimes people who are naturally slow-paced may find it a challenge to comfortably speed up their pace, particularly for prolonged periods of time.

4. Find the common ground. Seek ways to establish common areas of interest and build rapport with the prospect. Look for signs of hobbies or interests. Take note of pictures, trophies, awards, educational background, etc. Mention people you know in common.

Everybody talks about the weather, their kids or sports, and that’s the problem. It’s trite and does nothing to establish rapport. Try to be a bit more creative.

5. What you don’t talk about, ever. Avoid controversial topics such as politics, sex, racial matters, ethnic jokes, dirty jokes and anything else than can inflame. You never know which side the prospect is rooting for, and truthfully, it’s no one’s business.

6. Handle problems quickly. If a problem arises, deal with it in promptly. The longer something is wrong, the more the customer thinks about it. If the customer is in the wrong and your company did nothing wrong, handle the matter in a face-saving way for the customer. Making demeaning remarks about the customer or an employee can destroy in seconds a relationship that may have taken weeks or months to build. Good diplomacy always pays off.

7. Use industry slang only if you’re sure. If you sell to a particular field, make sure you learn and speak the language. However, be cautious when using industry or business slang with prospects who are unfamiliar with the terms. They may take offense if they feel you are talking over their heads or trying to dazzle them with jargon.

If you embarrass them because they don’t understand what you are talking about, you won’t be building rapport, you’ll be alienating them. If they’re busy trying to figure out what a term means, they could miss important parts of your presentation. And what if you use terms incorrectly? You look like a show-off and a fool and can forget about building credibility.

8. Don’t waste people’s time. Some salespeople, the ones who hate to prospect, will visit customers without good reason, just to “build the relationship.”

Big mistake.

Your customers have a business to run, and while some may not say it, they will resent you dropping in just to kill time or for things that could be handled with a phone call or e-mail. Even worse is when a salesperson is told that the boss is busy, so he or she starts to “see how things are going” with the employees, which slows them down in doing their jobs.

Ted Tate is author of “Just Sell It,” Wiley Publishing, NY, and makes in-house sales and business training presentations to companies. He can be reached at (440) 257-7520.