I know for a fact that a company I have been calling on has a problem I can help with, yet its principals wont admit its a problem. How do I get my prospects to admit this problem without telling them they have the problem, which might offend them?
The No. 1 reason people buy things is to solve a problem that is either real or perceived. Yet few people want to admit they have a problem, especially to a stranger.
Its like when you see a business colleague, and he asks you, How you are doing? Your life may be a complete wreck, but you dont tell him that. Instead, you say its good. Its called denial.
The key to selling is to get prospects to admit they have a problem. To do this, you have to make it OK for them to have the problem. Few people want to admit they have a problem unless you can show them that (1) this kind of problem is common and happens to the best of them, or (2) it wasnt their fault.
Thats why a change in management presents such a great selling opportunity. New management can blame the problems to which they are seeking solutions on the prior management.
The first scenario is a little more difficult. Ideally, we all would like to simply ask prospects if they have one of a laundry list of the types of problems we can help with and have them check off the ones that apply. However, this type of question often will prompt prospects to respond with the I dont have any problems routine.
Consider prefacing your question with a statement such as, Typically when I talk to companies similar to yours, most of them tell me that, although business is good, they are still concerned or frustrated by (insert the problem of your choice). I dont suppose you have those same concerns?
By stating it this way, you are making it safe for prospects to admit they have the problem, because all of their peers have it as well even those who are very successful.
Any time prospects acknowledge they have a problem, you must keep them from feeling uncomfortable about having it. When your prospects feel OK, they will open up to you. Your mindset needs to be the same as a nurturing parent when talking to a prospect.
This doesnt mean you should minimize the problem. You want your prospects to experience the pain that comes from having this problem. They wont take the necessary steps to eliminate the problem unless they perceive it to be compelling.
Rather, you want to minimize the fact that they acquired the problem in the first place.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send him your comments and questions via fax at (724) 933-9224 or e-mail him at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.
Computer technology is revolutionizing workplace communications. Employees can access data or images and quickly transmit information using e-mail, the Internet and voice mail.
The same technology also permits employers to easily monitor communications. Monitoring may protect trade secrets, ensure quality control, promote productivity or reduce exposure to others for employee misconduct.
Business owners must ensure that electronic communications are used for business purposes and not as time consuming, addictive diversions or as a means to transmit sexist, racist or other discriminatory information or images.
Companies may be held responsible in court for harassing or discriminatory electronic communications sent by their managers and employees. These communications are often colloquial, poorly structured and written without forethought. Employees view them as a medium for quick messages that are easily deleted. In fact, due to back-up systems and wide dissemination, this is not true.
A recent American Management Association study revealed that 74 percent of employers monitor their employees' electronic communications and 54 percent monitor employees' Internet connections. The larger the enterprise, the more likely it is to monitor its employees. Companies in the financial and insurance industries have the highest levels of surveillance.
Discipline for misuse of electronic communications is increasing. Xerox Corp. discharged 40 employees for misusing company Internet resources when they spent "the majority of their days" visiting nonwork-related or sexually-oriented sites. In July, Dow Chemical Co. discharged 50 workers and suspended 200 for sending and storing pornographic or violent e-mails.
But monitoring is not always easy. Clumsy or improper monitoring can have dire consequences --loss of employee morale, union organizing and even administrative complaints and lawsuits against the company.
Employees have a variety of legal avenues to challenge improper monitoring, including invasion of privacy, libel and slander, wrongful discharge claims and unfair labor practice charges before the National Labor Relations Board.
Employees' e-mail messages can be a form of group activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act. In a case involving a Cleveland company, Time Keeping Systems Inc., an employee was discharged after he sent an e-mail critical of changes in the vacation policy to the company's chief operational officer and all other employees.
The National Labor Relations Board found that the discharge violated the Labor Act. Employees cannot, however, use electronic communications to disrupt a company's businesses and still be protected by labor law. Employees who disrupted companies' computers and faxes were found not to have engaged in protected activity.
Business owners must develop electronic communications policies to regulate employees' use of communication devices and protect themselves from expensive and disruptive litigation. They should consider the following suggestions:
- Distribute written policies telling employees that they have no legitimate expectation of privacy in e-mail and other electronic communications.
- Give notice to all employees that electronic communications, such as e-mail or voice mail, are the property of the company and should be used for business purposes only.
- Notify employees that by using the company's equipment, they are consenting to have such use monitored by authorized personnel at the company's discretion.
- Advise employees that any misuse of the company's confidential information or trade secrets will lead to discipline and possible criminal prosecution.
- Forbid the use of unprofessional, threatening, harassing or discriminatory language or images in electronic communications.
- Inform employees that all computer pass codes must be provided to their supervisors, and that no pass code may be used that is not provided to the company.
- Limit the use of the Internet for personal reasons or to access unprofessional, racist or sexually explicit materials.
- Establish a policy for periodic deletion of e-mails and back-up data to avoid clogging the computer system with useless, dated information.
- Refrain from disciplining employees whose electronic communications may be viewed as "concerted" or group activity involving terms or conditions of employment.
- Inform employees and managers that truly confidential communications, such as those on human resources issues or employment-related legal claims, should be sent by nonelectronic means. This will keep these individuals from sending poorly written e-mails on important topics.
Without a proper deletion program, such communications might exist in the company's systems for years, where they may be used against the company in litigation or administrative proceedings. John Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a partner in the Cleveland office of Arter & Hadden LLP and is the chair of its Labor and Employment Law Practice Group.
Q. As we approach the start of the new year, I am working with my sales representatives to help them set some personal goals and develop a plan for attaining them. However, I get the impression that several of my reps dont really believe that they can accomplish these goals. What can I do about it?
A. If your sales reps dont believe they can actually do something, I can guarantee they wont do it. Its like Henry Ford once said: One person believes they can, while the other believes that they cant and they are both right. Those who dont believe wont do it. Their attitudes and beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Our beliefs form the foundation for everything we accomplish. These beliefs cause us to make certain judgments. These judgments, in turn, compel us to act in a certain way. And our actions, based on these judgments, generally deliver results that simply reinforce our original beliefs. I call these beliefs your record collection.
For instance, I once worked with a firm that sells a commodity product to the steel industry. We all know what has happened to the steel industry in this area over the last 15 years. The four salespeople working at the time I began to work with them had all been with the company for a long time, and had witnessed the decline in the steel industry firsthand. As a result, they had come to believe that there wasnt a lot of new business left for their company within the steel industry.
Their results reflected this. For the previous five years, the cumulative sales of these four reps were stagnant.
Soon after I came along, the company hired a young sales rep who was new to the area as well as to the industry. Her managers instructed her to focus her efforts on the steel industry because they believed there was a lot of untapped potential in this market. The company also had her work out of her home so that she would have as little contact as possible with the other four sales reps. They isolated her from the others, of course, so that she wouldnt be poisoned by the negative, nonsupportive beliefs of the four old-timers.
The results were astounding. In her first nine months on the job, she sold 60 percent more new business to the steel industry than the other four sales reps combined. She just didnt know there wasnt a lot of new business left in the steel industry.
If you are looking for different results, you must first change the nonsupportive, self-limiting beliefs that undermine your staffs ability to achieve results. Heres how you do it:
- Analyze their record collections to determine how and to what degree a particular belief is nonsupportive.
- Rewrite their records in a positive way so that, if practiced, you will get the desired outcome.
- Define the behavior that would be practiced by someone with the appropriate supportive belief.
- Have your reps adopt the new behavior regardless of how you feel about it or what you actually believe. Make what they believe a function of how they act, instead of the other way around. In other words, Fake it till you make it.
- Measure their results and track them on a daily basis. This helps your reps see it so that they will believe it.
- Have the reps reinforce the new behaviors and attitudes that support them daily in a journal.
Remember: Make sure your reps maintain that behavior regardless of how uncomfortable they may feel in the beginning. Positive affirmations alone will not be enough to change their beliefs. Dont let the way they feel determine the way they act. Let the way they act determine the way they feel. Youll be astounded by the results.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send your comments and questions to him via fax at (724) 933-9112 or e-mail at email@example.com. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.
With the multitude of telemarketers out there, it seems like cold-calling is no longer a viable way to prospect. What advice could you give me to cold-call more effectively?
First of all, cold-calling still works. Working referrals is more effective than cold-calling, but if you are starting a new business, developing a new territory or starting a new position, you will have to make cold-calls.
Still, the last thing in the world you want to sound like is one of the telemarketers who call at dinnertime. They dont send these telemarketers to sales training; they send them to breathing control school, where they teach them to talk longer than anybody I know without taking a breath.
Here are my rules for making cold-calls:
- Dont sound like a salesperson make sure your tonality sounds like that of an old friend or, better yet, an ordinary human being who is uncomfortable making a sales call. A little self-deprecating humor goes a long way.
- Be honest and forthright let them know up front why you are calling.
- Be respectful of the fact that you have interrupted them and ask for their permission to take up a short period of time.
- Describe what you do in the form of two to three problems and frustrations you can help them solve.
- Ask if they have any of these frustrations and let them talk.
- Dont try to fix these problems on the phone. Avoid anything that looks at all like a sales pitch.
- Suggest they invite you in to discuss these frustrations in greater detail to see if you can help.
- Set the appointment and confirm it by giving them the opportunity to back out before you hang up.
Suppose I am selling cellular phone service. Here is what my cold-call would sound like.
Hello, Bill? This is Larry Lewis calling? Does my name sound familiar? I wasnt sure that it would. Well, let me tell you why Im calling. I work for _______ and Id imagine that the last thing you want to do today is talk to another salesperson. However, if you will give me 30 seconds, I can tell you why I am calling and then you can decide if it makes sense to continue this conversation. Will you give me 30 seconds if I stick to that time frame? Thank you.
I typically work with individuals who are basically satisfied with their cellular phone service, except that they are frustrated by the fact that they cant always get a signal throughout the Western Pennsylvania calling area or they sometimes lose their connection in the middle of their conversation, defeating their purpose for having a mobile phone in the first place. Or they have been surprised at the size of their phone bills and expected that their calling plan would be more inclusive. I dont suppose you have any of these concerns?
If you dont get a nibble, move on. If you do, ask them if they would be willing to spend a minute to talk about it. When it sounds like theyre frustrated enough to be willing to give up 30-60 minutes of their time, suggest they invite you over for a sales interview. If they agree it makes sense, tell them to get out their calendar. Find a mutually convenient time. Before you hang up, ask if they are sure they want to meet to talk about it.
Before you pick up the phone to make your first call, stand up, put a smile on your face and think about how you felt the last time you called your best friend with a joke. Think of the person on the other end as that person, someone who really wants to hear from you.
Now repeat after me: Some will, Some wont, So what, Next! Lighten up. Remember, the prospect is not your mother. The worst thing that can happen on a cold-call is the prospect hangs up on you. Big deal.
When it comes to cold-calls, you dont have to like them, you just have to make them.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send him your comments and questions via fax at (724) 933-9224. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.
Ive told my sales rep that she talks too much on sales calls. But she responds with: How will our prospects know what we can do for them if I dont tell them? Am I right or wrong?
You are right. A prospect who is listening isnt a prospect. Most sales reps talk far too much on a sales call. My rule of thumb is that the prospect should be talking 70 percent of the time, and the sales rep should be talking 30 percent of the time.
Most of his or her talking should be in the form of questions. The biggest compliment your rep can pay to prospects is to really listen to what they have to say. Moreover, it helps the rep to understand true buying motives and shape the product or service to meet the prospects needs.
Your sales reps worth is determined by the information they uncover in a sales call, not the information they give. Their credibility is determined more by the questions they ask than by their answers. You cant tell prospects anything without getting them defensive.
The sales reps job is to ask questions that will help prospects discover for themselves why they need what your company has to offer. I have trained hundreds of sales people over the years and, without a doubt, the number one thing most sales people can do to improve is to talk less and listen more.
As a new sales manager, what should I be doing when I go on joint sales calls with my reps?
The mistake most sales managers make when they accompany their sales reps is they take over the call. Too often, they rationalize this by telling themselves that the sales rep will learn from watching them handle the call. In reality, sales reps dont usually learn this way.
I liken it to driving someplace youve never been before. The only person who remembers how to get there next time is the person who was driving. The person in the passenger seat simply goes to sleep.
When it comes to sales calls, the rep needs to be the driver; the manager should simply be an observant partner. The learning takes place in the pre-call and post-call meetings.
When it comes to making joint sales calls, the amount of time spent planning them is directly proportionate to their successful outcome. The pre-call meeting should be held in a coffee shop (not in the car and certainly not in the elevator on the way to the call) at least an hour before the call. At this meeting, you should review the following items:
History up until now;
Personal information that has been uncovered about the prospect;
The elements of what the prospect has agreed to do at this meeting;
The pain and pain indicators uncovered thus far;
What information is missing;
What needs to be accomplished at this meeting.
The manager and rep must define their roles. You must determine who will ask what questions or what each person will do on the call. In particular, choose who will be the team captain or quarterback. Here are the basic rules:
The team captain calls all the plays.
Only one person can speak at a time.
No rescuing. Both parties must keep their egos in check and resist the temptation to jump in when the other party is struggling.
Agree on how you will pass the ball your silent communication strategy.
The next step is to rehearse. The team captain should rehearse the introduction, and the partner should rehearse the first three questions he or she will be asking the prospect.
Next in the learning process is the post-call debriefing. Do it immediately after the call. We typically tend to forget about 50 percent of what is said within 48 hours. Review your notes and look for holes. Determine your next step and identify who is responsible for whatever follow-up is necessary.
Be willing to let the sales rep fail. Sales people learn more from failure than they do from their successes. If you always rescue them, you will prolong the learning curve.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send comments and questions via fax at (724) 933-9224 or e-mail him at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.
What is the secret to giving an effective presentation? My presentation skills are unmatched, but I have colleagues who close more business than I do. I dont understand it.
Most people are very comfortable talking about their products and services because that is what they know the most about and because of childhood conditioning.
As a result, most salespeople are anxious to do demonstrations or give proposals. Its the adult version of show and tell.
As children, we were always rewarded for making a good presentation, whether it was to our teachers or our parents. It makes us feel good to do a presentation that is well received, and in this way, we get our emotional needs met.
However, selling is not about making presentations or getting our emotional needs met. Selling is about gaining commitments and winning business. Too often, we walk away from a presentation with nothing more than applause.
Business is not won or lost at the presentation. It is won or lost based on how well you have diagnosed the prospects needs and problems and how you set up the presentation.
Before you submit proposals, always gain the prospects commitment to make a decision at the time you conduct your presentations or review your proposals with them. Done right, the proposal itself should be nothing more than the fulfillment of what has already been agreed to.
If you arent able to obtain this commitment from a prospect in advance of the proposal, consider it a red flag the prospect is either looking for a free education or simply looking to validate a decision that has already been made in your competitions favor. Another red flag is a prospect who wont let you present your proposal in person.
Unless you are in construction, you should never submit a proposal in any fashion other than face to face. Sending a proposal via fax or mail is usually a waste of time.
Dont rush into a proposal. Spend the bulk of your time uncovering the essential needs and concerns of your prospects and discussing the investments that they will have to make and the obstacles they will have to overcome before you do a demonstration or proposal.
The sale is usually won or lost in the diagnosis, not in the presentation.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or e-mail at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.
I went to see Boiler Room and was troubled by comments from my colleagues about salespeople after the movie. One woman said she would discourage her kids from pursuing a career in sales. As a salesperson, I was hoping you might have some ammunition that I could use to defend our trade.
There is no more important role in the business world today than that of salespeople. Salespeople are more important than doctors, scientists, engineers, CEOs and lawyers. A scientist or a doctor may discover the cure for cancer, but nobody is saved until the cure is sold to the patients who need it and the physicians who treat them.
Personal computers have revolutionized the way we do business, but they sat in a research center until Steve Jobs and his contemporaries took the technology developed by engineers at Xerox and sold it to the American public. While Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers crafted our nations Constitution, the real work was done by Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton and others who sold it to the colonies and obtained their ratification.
Unfortunately, sales often is a dirty word in our culture that conjures up images of con artists in plaid jackets. Although nothing could be further from the truth, this is how we are portrayed in movies, plays and songs. This winter, while fighting the flu, I went to the video store to load up on videos. I chose movies about salespeople: Death of a Salesman; Glengarry, Glen Ross; Tin Men; and Cadillac Man. After Glengarry, Glen Ross, I had to turn off the VCR. No wonder people think of salespeople the way they do.
Sure, there have been and will continue to be a few bad apples that stain the image of the professional salesperson, but name a profession that doesnt have its share of miscreants.
To set the record straight and to support the countless salespeople who daily help turn the wheels of commerce, I am setting forth the Salespersons Bill of Rights. You have the right:
1. to your dreams, desires and expectations;
2. to like yourself as you are;
3. to change that which you dont like;
4. to fail;
5. to decide how you use your time and energy;
6. to ask questions;
7. to disqualify prospects before they disqualify you;
8. to ask for a decision;
9. to get a decision, as long as one option is no;
10. to be successful once you have paid the price.
Along with these rights come responsibilities. It is your responsibility to our profession to hold yourself to the highest standards. I measure this by whether the salesperson who follows you had an easier time with the prospect because of you. Here are your responsibilities to your brethren in sales. You are responsible for:
1. avoiding excuses;
2. not wasting a prospects time;
3. being polite;
4. how prospects feel when they are around you;
5. telling prospects what to expect from you;
6. making your questions meaningful;
7. helping prospects discover for themselves how you can help them without beating them up with features and benefits;
8. guiding the prospect to make a decision;
9. accepting no from a prospect;
10. keeping your mindset and skills at the highest level possible through a commitment to ongoing learning and training.
I hope that, armed with these rights and responsibilities, we can overcome the negative stereotypes and elevate the concept of being a salesperson to the level that an entrepreneur holds in todays public eye. After all, isnt that what an entrepreneur really is?
Find me an entrepreneur who isnt a salesperson and I will show you a business owner who failed.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Reach him at (724) 933-9110 or by e-mail at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com.
Last of a two-part series I am frequently asked by clients to spell out the questions they should be comfortable asking on a sales call. This is a dangerous task because it presupposes that every prospect is the same and every sales call is going to go perfectly.
Nonetheless, here are the final 20 fundamental questions which you need to be comfortable asking during the early stages of the sales process, if you want to master the art of selling. They're part of what I call "Lewis' Essential 44" -- or 44 questions you should consider asking during a sales call.
Responding to questions and objections
25. I'm glad you brought that up, but why is it important to you?
26. Good question. You must be asking that for a reason?
27. Suppose I said (blank), what would you say?
28. I'm not sure I fully understand; could you help me?
Uncovering a prospect's budget
29. Do you have a budget for this?
30. Would you mind sharing it with me in round numbers?
31. Now that you know how much it is going to cost you in terms of time and money, are you still committed to moving forward?
Uncovering the decision process
32. What is the process you go through when making these kinds of decisions?
33. Who, in addition to yourself, is involved in making the decision to buy?
34. You mean you don't get any help, from a president or a committee?
35. When do you see yourselves making this decision?
36. Why is that date important?
37. If I were to present a solution to the problems we've discussed in a manner that is consistent with how you make decisions, at an investment that is consistent with your budget, is there any reason why you couldn't tell me yes or no when I make my presentation?
38. On a scale from one to 10, with 10 indicating that you are ready to buy and one indicating that you have no interest in our help, where do you stand?
39. What do you need to see or hear to get to 10?
40. What would you like me to do now?
Confirming the sale
41. What is the one thing that could kill this deal?
42. When the competition finds out that you have given us your business, what do you think it's going to do? How are you going to handle this?
43. How often should we meet to discuss our business relationship so that I can ensure that we are meeting your expectations?
When the day comes where we have met or exceeded your expectations, I would like to be able to ask you for your help in meeting other people like yourself who might also benefit from our services. Would you be comfortable with this? Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send him your comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or visit his Web site at totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.
In a recent column, I noticed you frequently ask questions in a negative manner. Is this intentional? This seems to fly in the face of what I learned from Dale Carnegie and other sales training.
Yes, it is definitely intentional. Although salespeople should spend most of their time asking open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no) to gain a better understanding of their prospects, sometimes it's necessary to ask a yes or no question to redirect the conversation.
Trial lawyers are taught that, in court, they should never ask a question unless they know the answer. This helps them avoid being surprised in a way that could ruin their cases.
Salespeople don't have this luxury. However, to protect themselves and stay on track, they should abide by this rule: When it's necessary to ask a yes or no question that you don't know the answer to, ask it in a negative way.
For example, I help companies that are frustrated by a couple of common scenarios. Some spend a lot of time educating prospects about their products and services without getting their business in return, and others frequently have their proposals shopped to their competitors, forcing them to compete on the basis of price.
Although these problems are very common, if I were to directly ask prospects if they have these problems, they are very likely to mislead me and tell me no.
Asking the question in the affirmative makes it difficult for me to recover. Instead, I can cover myself by asking in a negative way, such as, "You probably don't have any of these problems, do you?" If the prospects say, "No, I don't," then I am covered.
I can follow up with a statement like, "I didn't think so," and move on to other frustrations they may have. If the answer is, "Yes, I do," I can stop and explore the issue with open-ended questions. Either way, I win.
From a psychological standpoint, people are more likely to answer truthfully when given a question that assumes the opposite of what is true. Nobody likes to be told what to do or what to think. An affirmative question from a salesperson often comes across as a suggestion or an assumption.
When people assume they know what we need or suggest what is best for us, we rebel. We deny it even when it's true. We feel like the child being told by his parents to do something that he would rather not do.
The yes or no question phrased in an affirmative way is perceived to be presumptuous, especially when coming from a salesperson. When a salesperson suggests that you may have a problem, you likely will hate to admit it, even when you know you have the problem.
But if he or she does the opposite and denies you have a problem, you likely will acknowledge that you do, in fact, have that concern.
Mothers learn this technique when their children are young. A mother who is having a difficult time getting her 5-year-old to eat learns that the odds of getting her child to eat are increased by saying, "You probably don't want any dessert, do you?"
This works better than asking a neutral question, such as, "Do you want any dessert?" or asking it in the affirmative of "I am sure you want dessert, don't you?"
Try it the next time you're seeking agreement from someone. Instead of asking in the affirmative if he or she agrees with a specific point, try stating it in the negative, such as, "You don't agree with this, do you?" You'll be surprised at the response.
Yet, even if that person doesn't agree, you're not in trouble, because you can simply follow up with "I didn't think so" before moving on to the next point.
When talking with a prospect, any time you have to ask a question that you don't already have the answer to, ask it in the negative. Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a resource for companies that want to increase sales at higher margins. Send your comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or visit www.totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (877) 933-9110.
The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the continuing episodes of terrorist-driven germ warfare have had an impact on us all.
They have caused many salespeople to reflect on and question their career choices. I've heard salespeople say things like, "What's the point of trying to make a lot of money when we could be dead tomorrow?" or "I am not going to make the sacrifices I used to make for my career. I want to enjoy life more."
Frankly, I think this reflection is one of the true blessings to come out of this horrific tragedy. I also think that if the only value derived from what you sell is your paycheck, it's time to find another career or another product to sell.
The fact is that nothing has really changed as a result of the terrorist attacks on America other than our perceptions. In reality, we have never been secure.
In America, many deny that bad things could ever befall us. But terrible things happen to people all the time. We have always been at risk -- we risk being in a terrible accident, developing a life-threatening illness or losing a loved one.
Our lives can be radically changed or ended in a heartbeat.
So what does this have to do with selling? A lot. Our beliefs and attitudes have a huge impact on our ability to sell. To be good, you have to believe in three things: yourself, the company you work for and its products and services, and the marketplace you sell into.
If you don't feel good about yourself, you can't handle the rejection or take the risks that you must to be effective. If you don't feel good about yourself, you will never put yourself in a position where you could lose, and therefore, you will not have the chance to win as often.
If you don't believe in the company you represent or the products and services you sell, you can't sell them without feeling like a fraud. And if you truly believe that people are not very interested in buying your products and services given the current state of the economy or the war on terrorism, you will not make the effort necessary to bring in new business. Why waste your time?
While it shouldn't take a tragedy for us as salespeople to reflect on these things, now is as good a time as any to reassess what we do for a living. The fact is that money is not the most important thing in the world; relationships are. This was true before, and it is still true today. Achieving worldly success is a hollow victory if we haven't enjoyed ourselves and enriched the lives of others along the way.
If your life isn't in balance because you are chasing career success and higher earnings, it's time to change the way you do things. Your goals should be more than purely financial. You need to set family goals, spiritual goals, educational goals, professional goals, social goals and health goals as well. These bring a richness to life that money alone can't.
We need to periodically assess what we sell to ensure it serves a purpose and enriches the lives of the people we sell to. This doesn't mean we should all become pharmaceutical salespeople selling antibiotics that will cure anthrax, but it is important that we think about what we sell to make sure it fulfills a purpose we feel good about.
Even though most of us don't sell the cure for cancer, we do help cure a variety of problems that plague the people we sell to.
Step back and look at what you sell from a broader perspective. For instance, while selling advertising may seem unimportant to some, the salesperson isn't just selling space in a magazine or time on the radio. He or she is helping a small business grow and prosper, and that small business is responsible for the livelihood of those who work there.
The salesperson who sells water treatment chemicals to industry doesn't just sell chemicals. He or she helps to ensure our environment is not harmed by the byproducts of the things that bring pleasure to our lives.
Think about what you sell, and if you don't feel good about it, get out of the business or get a job selling something else. Only con artists can sell something they don't believe in.
But before you abandon your company or the products and services you sell, call some of your good customers and ask whether the products or services you have lost faith in still matter to them. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Don't give up. Take the time to get your life in balance and think about whether what you do enriches the lives of others. Once you have those issues resolved, recommit yourself to being the best salesperson in the area you serve.
Salespeople are the gasoline that fuels our economy and our way of life. Without us, the American engine will not run. Do your part.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send comments and questions to him via fax at (724) 933-9224 or visit www.totaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (877) 933-9110.