But the old rule of selling says, When the price is too high, the interest is too low. It means you havent done a good sales presentation (if any) to convince the prospect that what you sell is worth the investment.
Cutting price, however, isnt the answer. In many cases, an unspoken or hidden objection prevents the prospect from buying, and if you dont find it, youll never make the sale. When you cut price as a sales closing tool without trying anything else, its the mark of an untrained salesperson.
Here are some proven strategies to help you close at full price.
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.
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 cant 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 dont ask, youll never know.
There are also several taboos in sales. Here are a few donts:
Dont 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 its 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.
Dont 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 wont 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.
I sell a product to industrial accounts which they must use. But many of them already purchase it from somebody else, which means I have to steal them away from my competition to get the business. However, when I call prospects and ask if they are having problems with their current supplier, they always tell me no. How can I get in to see these people?
If you were to ask 20 prospects whether they have any problems in the area in which you can help, 19 will tell you no. They do have problems, they just wont admit it to you.
At the very least, they cant articulate these problems in a meaningful way without your help. You need to develop a set of hot buttons to start a conversation.
Hot buttons are the needs and concerns of the people you call on that will get a conversation started. Your goal: to find your prospects pain. Hot buttons arent always easy to identify, but they are critical. Youll use them when making cold calls, working tradeshows, describing yourself in a networking setting and in the initial stages of a face-to-face sales meeting.
In essence, they are the problems and frustrations you solve for your clients. From a different angle, they are the potential gains you can help them realize.
The purpose is to jog your prospects memories and get them talking so that you can ascertain whether you can help them. Do they have a problem you can fix or do they even qualify as prospects? Without these hot buttons, you cant start the pain-gathering process that will lead prospects to buy, except in those rare circumstances in which they come to you. Therefore, this is where you need to start.
Imagine your best customer before he met you. Its the end of the day, and he is having a cup of coffee or a beer with his best friend who does the same thing he does in another part of the company. They are discussing the challenges and frustrations they face in relation to the products and services you sell. One says to the other, I wish I could find a way to solve (list the problem here). How are you handling it? Or, Im frustrated by (list problem here). Have you ever looked at this before?
What are they saying within the blank? If you cant answer, ask your existing customers why they were receptive to talking with you about your products or services in the first place. What was the catalyst that caused them to look for the solution you provided? The answers are your hot buttons.
When you call next time, instead of asking prospects if they have any problems, incorporate your hot buttons into a statement such as: Mr. Prospect, I dont know if you share any of these concerns, but typically when I talk with company presidents like yourself in successful companies like yours, they tell me that, despite their success, they are frustrated or concerned about: hot button No. 1, hot button No. 2 or hot button No. 3. I dont suppose you share any of those concerns?
If youve done your research, the prospects will say they do.
Now you can simply sit back and ask them to talk about these issues to the point where you can ask this question: The things you are telling me are issues we deal with all the time. Would it make sense for you to invite me in to talk about it in further detail?
Now when you show up, you can arrive with the confidence of knowing that you were actually invited in with a pre-established agenda.
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. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.
What is the best way to handle a prospect's objections?
Traditionally, salespeople have been taught that objections are good and that they often represent a buying signal or mean that a prospect is interested. Questions are often buying signals, but objections certainly are not.
Objections represent obstacles that the prospect must overcome before a sale can be made. Prospects must overcome their own objections. You can only facilitate in this process. You cannot do it for them.
Too often, I see sales reps counter an objection with an argument that makes a great deal of sense to the rep. However, prospects are often unmoved by the salesperson's explanation. In fact, the salesperson's counterargument often makes them that much more emphatic in their support of the objection, which is clearly the opposite of what the salesperson wants.
The better tactic is to first nurture prospects and validate their feelings and concerns without necessarily admitting the truth of the objections. The next step is to reverse -- ask a question in response to the prospects' objection to get them to come up with a solution they feel comfortable with.
Once I had a prospect who was dismayed by the fact that my consulting fees were twice as much as those of a competitor. When confronted by this objection, I was tempted to overcome it by explaining how my consulting and the training that came with it were superior. However, had I done this, I would have elicited a debate that would have been difficult to win.
Instead, I acknowledged his concern and showed empathy. I then asked him why he thought my training was more expensive, and he suggested that my training program and the methodology I used were superior. I politely agreed.
Then he suggested it was possible that my competitor was less experienced. I told him that he might be right. He also suggested that this guy needed the business more than I did and was willing to negotiate. Every time he came up with an explanation that made sense, I reinforced it.
I could have given him the same explanation, but he would have been far less likely to agree. Because he came up with answers to his own objections, he was far more comfortable with the conclusion.
Whose ideas do we tend to like more? Someone else's or our own? We always like our own ideas better. The salesperson is responsible for helping prospects come up with their own reasons for doing what we want them to do without putting words in their mouth. It takes skill and patience, but the results are always better this way.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a resource for companies that want to increase sales at higher margins. Send comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or check out his Web site at www.totaldevelopment.com. Lewis can be reached by phone at (877) 933-9110.
With more than 1.2 million people, Allegheny County doesn't really qualify as small in the statistical sense, but this is a tight-knit community.
I've owned and operated a profitable business here for 17 years, and one of the most valuable lessons I've learned is that almost everyone knows everyone else in their industry, in their immediate neighborhood, and so on. When you do something worthwhile, word gets around. And when you do something nasty, word gets around faster. It's hard to stay in business in Pittsburgh if you don't adhere to moral and ethical codes.
Nowhere does this hold truer than in marketing. No snake oil ad from yesteryear would ever be believed in 2002. Audiences today are cynical and slow to trust. And building trust, not sales, is the ultimate goal of marketing.
Trust is the currency of a brand, no matter what business you're in. Your marketing promises that the expectation you raise in buyers will be fulfilled when they make the purchase. You ask your customer to trust you.
Take consumer products: When you buy a certain bathroom tissue, you "trust" that it will be soft. Why? Because the brand marketing told you so.
It wouldn't take too many purchases of scratchy toilet paper for you to distrust the brand and not purchase it again. And you'd probably tell other people to distrust the brand, too.
What's the lesson for consumer brands? Quality control. Consumer brand manufacturers have to make sure their product is always up to standard.
And what about those cases where the brand stands for people, as in service businesses? People make mistakes, so sometimes expectations aren't met right away.
In all relationships, including business ones, taking responsibility and correcting mistakes stands in for promises kept. Clients will forgive you if you're forthright and usually reliable.
Consistently break your promises, though, and you won't stay in business long. Not in this town, anyway.
Andrea Fitting is CEO of Fitting Group, a Pittsburgh-based agency that specializes in helping companies transition to deregulated markets.
Not all marketing is about acquiring new customers. Marketing efforts and resources should be divided among recruiting new customers, integrating new customers into a positive relationship with the company and retaining existing customers.
Unfortunately, customer retention often gets short shrift in marketing budgets.
A new client told us the company was losing customers faster than it could replace them, and they didn't know why. They told us their products and services got a high satisfaction rating, their customer service people were polite, responsive and friendly, and their pricing was in line with the market.
However, we discovered its billing system was rigid and not at all customer friendly. Invoices were difficult to understand and contained unnecessary and confusing information. After the sale, the monthly invoice was the primary, and in many cases the only, contact between the customer and the company.
Accounts receivable people were not in regular contact with the customer service reps. When customers called with a question about their bill, they were transferred to their salesperson. Salespeople were unable to answer many of the questions and had to check with the billing administrators for answers.
Complaints lodged with a salesperson didn't get through to the billing administrators. The same mistake appeared month after month on the invoice, with past due messages getting progressively more strident. In extreme cases, accounts were being turned over to collection agencies.
We suggested our client review the billing system to make statements easier to understand, train billing administrators in customer service and require them to answer questions without referring customers to their salesperson. The system for recording complaints needed to be interactive, so that any customer service representative or billing administrator could see all comments on a customer's file.
Finally, the company needed to rebuild customers' confidence and change perceptions about the billing experience. We suggested a sweepstakes, announced on the billing envelope, giving away products and services each month, to increase attention to the bills and inserts.
We also suggested they step up the marketing of products and services with inserts and begin a customer referral program on invoices, giving customers credit for new customers successfully referred.
Andrea Fitting is CEO of Fitting Group, a Pittsburgh-based agency that specializes in helping companies transition to deregulated markets.
Consultants are becoming a fact of life. Companies often retain the services of a consultant to help them put together a project and buy at the best prices.
Some companies I work with deal with consultants who seek to acquire their consultative expertise for free, then put the project out for bid. Therein lies the rub. It's virtually impossible for a company to provide valuable expertise and still offer the lowest price. So the company that gives a consultant free help often finds itself losing business to the low bidder.
The answer is not to avoid working with consultants altogether, but to treat them as another sales channel. Focus on selling consultants in advance of the project they're working on. This means selling them the same way you'd sell to a distributor or dealer of your products and services.
Consultants have different needs and concerns than end users, including being able to provide a good product that will satisfy their customer needs with the fewest number of complaints. They need to know the companies they recommend are reliable and live up to their promises.
A consultant who wants your technical help but won't give you a commitment in exchange is looking for a free ride. Of course, we never want to ask a consultant to compromise integrity in recommending you. The real issue is to determine from consultants what they need to see or hear from you to feel comfortable that your company is best suited for the job before you provide the help they are seeking.
Consultants who believe you are the best choice are not compromising their integrity by recommending you. Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Reach via fax at (724) 933-9224, at www.totaldevelopment.com or by phone at (877) 933-9110.
It was an announcement that the Pentagon is casting a wide net for bright ideas on thwarting terrorism, seeking to pick the brains of everyone from tinkerers in their garages to big corporations worldwide. The goal is to find concepts that could be developed and fielded in 12 to 18 months, much faster than normal Pentagon purchasing and deployment timetables.
What's more, the Defense Department is turning its normal methods inside out by not dictating parameters in excruciating detail, but rather, letting the ideas flow as the basis for creative solutions to old problems.
This is how America got to be the great country it is. And it is how businesses get to be great. Leadership allows ideas to percolate up and down, backward and forward, upside down and right-side up. No idea is squelched. No one is made to feel unnecessary or inadequate, from the CEO to the mailroom clerk.
Everyone is invited to brainstorm and make a contribution. The most promising ideas rise to the top and problems get solved.
This is when marketing is at its best, too. Agencies, design firms and marketers are not the only ones with creativity. What the best of us usually do have, though, is a process that allows and encourages our people to view themselves as problem-solvers and to approach problems in innovative ways.
We encourage play, exploration, curiosity and risk-taking. We subscribe to the notion that good ideas can come from anywhere, so we look everywhere. Teamwork and collaboration are nurtured and often result in better, stronger ideas.
I believe this kind of thinking is in our national "genes." The fabric of our country is woven with entrepreneurism, creativity and daring. And it is manifested in no better way than in our marketplace.
If you need evidence, look at what's happened with the Internet over the past five years. There are a lot of people thinking outside the box, as marketers like to say. Now, the U.S. government is thinking outside the box by asking us, in turn, to do the same.
It's gratifying to see the government taking a cue from its best and brightest in the business world, who know a successful company is only as good as its people. A successful nation is only as good as its citizens.
If you've got a great idea for the Pentagon on how to defeat difficult targets, conduct protracted operations in remote areas or develop countermeasures to weapons of mass destruction, visit www.bids.tswg.gov.
Andrea Fitting is CEO of Fitting Creative, a Pittsburgh-based agency specializing in strategic marketing and breakthrough creative. Reach her at (412) 434-6934.
You've always been great at sales. Then one day you became the manager or the owner -- and that's when the nightmare began.
That was when you discovered the manager's reality: The sales manager's position is one of the most difficult in the company to fill as you're caught between playing nursemaid to your people and bringing in the numbers.
Here are some of the problems managers and owners face every day as they try to improve their businesses.
1. Don't blue-sky the job. For years, you've boasted about your company to countless job-seekers, hoping to attract the best. You want the best, but when do you find out if you're going to get the best?
During the interview would be nice; however, most owners and managers usually spend more time trying to convince the applicant to work for them than really finding out if that person can sell. Here's management advice that flies in the face of traditional sales hiring: Not only should you not blue-sky the job, you should run a negative interview.
Let applicants know how tough it's going to be. Ask how they plan to start working the territory, because only those who talk about making cold calls will actually make them. Ask three more tough questions after every answer.
By putting the pressure on sales candidates in the interview process, you can determine if they roll over or if they assert themselves. Based on what you see and hear, ask yourself, "Is this the person I want in front of my prospects and customers?"
2. Only decision-makers can get other people to make decisions. While you'll continue to make hires from your gut, there are some things you can do to increase your odds of making a successful hire. Open your interview with, "At the end of the interview, if I were to offer you this position -- and I'm not saying I am, but if I were -- I'm going to ask you to tell me yes or no. So be sure to get all your questions answered."
Any applicant who won't give you a decision isn't worth hiring. After all, isn't that what you want your salespeople to do -- get customers to make decisions? If sales applicants can't make decisions under fire, how are they going to get a customer to make a decision?
3. Unlearn your present interviewing system. Throw away the hiring profile assessment you are using and find one that measures sales skills, adversity, toughness, and, most important, whether the applicant will sell for you, in your industry.
Second, remember this applicant was someone else's salesperson. Salespeople who "turn over" get good at giving answers you like to hear. It takes three or more questions to learn the truth.
You want stronger salespeople? Become a stronger interviewer and unlearn what you did yesterday.
4. Manage "at-leasters" out of the business. Existing salespeople are your biggest challenge. Change the sales culture that you put in place -- people who don't produce at the least acceptable level must be fired -- and remember, the degree of difficulty in firing salespeople increases geometrically the longer they work for you. Jeff Ruby is president of The Ruby Group, a licensee of Sandler Sales Institute. He can be reached at (330) 929-9449
Trade shows are to salespeople what Christmas is to retailers. They offer a brief period when you have the potential to really overfill your leads pipeline.
To make the most out of a trade show, follow these 10 steps.
1. Obtain a list of attendees at least two weeks before the show. Plan to meet with targeted prospects at the booth, in your hospitality suite or over breakfast or dinner. Confirm meetings beforehand.
2. Use a team approach. Take advantage of your peers -- meet often to debrief prospects, strategies and new ways to attract people into your booth.
3. Arrive a day early and stay a day (or two or three) later. Arriving early assures you are rested and organized on the first day of the show. Staying later gives you a chance to see hot prospects who might otherwise deteriorate and suffer the dreaded disease "show fever," an affliction that affects trade show attendees approximately 12 to 48 hours after the show ends.
4. Consider conducting a group meeting for prospects who show interest at your booth. Invite them to see you in your hospitality suite either that evening or the next for a formal discussion/presentation of your service.
5. Draw people into the booth. An eye-catching display, self-scoring tests, a seven- to 10-minute closed curtain presentation and drawings and contests are all ways to attract people. However, people do business with people, which means you need to retune your bonding skills for these brief encounters. Are you chasing people away by lingering in front of the booth, like a vulture awaiting its prey?
6. Sift the prospects from the suspects. You don't have to tell your story to everyone ... and it's OK to ask questions to determine who is qualified to hear your story.
7. Don't serve as an educator to everyone. Ask questions to determine who gets your time and energy. At the same time, look for a decision, even if it's a no, from the prospects you talk to at the booth. Sometimes it's worse to have too many leads after a show than too few.
8. Know that the pace of trade show selling is more accelerated than the standard sales call. While you are selling one prospect, 10 more could pass you by. Get the proper training to juggle prospects simultaneously. Learn how to get prospects to tell you what they want in a hurry.
9. You must want to work a show, not view it as a duty you've been called on to perform. Without the right internal motivation, no one could possibly endure the grueling pace a busy trade show demands. Assign it to someone else if you aren't up to the task.
10. Know ahead of time what your plan is for post-show behavior. How will you combat show fever? Jeff Ruby is president of The Ruby Group Inc., an authorized licensee for Sandler Sales Institute. He can be reached at (330) 929-9449.
“I’m a big believer in scrutinizing what you’re spending,” says Laura Sheridan, founder and president of Viva La Brand LLC. “If you’re not either getting great results or learning from it, it shouldn’t be part of your marketing program.”
But you need to think before you cut. If you don’t, you may find that you killed a great opportunity to generate more revenue.
Sheridan has worked with successful businesses across the region, including Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., Pierre’s Ice Cream Co. and LogicJunction, to help develop effective brand strategies that get results.
“If you have the wrong message, you’re not going to reach anyone because your target audience won’t think you’re talking to them,” Sheridan says. “You have to talk to your customer.”
Sheridan suggests finding a third-party brand strategist who can come up with a better way to connect with what your customers are looking for.
“You really need a professional who has done this so they can structure the questions in a way that the answers are things that the leader can really use to forward his or her business,” Sheridan says.
You need someone who is objective and isn’t biased toward your products and services through past experience and past discussions.
“They can say, ‘Look, I’m not an expert in this business,’” Sheridan says. “My job is to communicate information and to help this company that hired me improve their products and services. You’re a very important customer to them and they want to make sure they are meeting your needs and anticipating your needs.’”
When you start looking for someone to fill this strategist role, be sure to present a clear problem and keep any solutions you might have in mind to yourself.
“Don’t say, ‘Here’s the research I want to do,’” Sheridan says. “I would suggest the CEO say, ‘Here’s my business problem. How do you suggest we resolve it?’ Then see what the person’s solution is. You’ll be able to assess whether you think it’s a strong approach or not.”
Get this potential strategist to take you through a case study of how he or she handled a problem similar to what you’re experiencing with another business.
“I’d say, ‘OK, give me some examples of where you did that,’” Sheridan says. “I’d want the person to describe, ‘Here are three clients that we did that project with. Let me tell you what we did. Let me tell you the outcome and let me tell you the results and how it has positively impacted the company.’”
As you’re listening to the explanation, pay close attention to body language and how this person handles a conversation.
“Is this person a really good listener?” Sheridan says. “A researcher has to be just an amazing listener, very articulate, very clear and very succinct. Those basic qualities, I would be really attuned to making sure they are very strong in those areas.”
You’re also looking for a level of organization to ensure that you’ll get a full report from the strategist’s interview with your customer.
“This should be turn-key for the CEO,” Sheridan says. “As the researcher, my job is I do all of the interviews. I either tape them or I take incredible notes and I write up very detailed interview notes. But then as part of my whole brand strategy, I do an analysis to find themes and then I share with my client all the notes.
“Then I do a presentation with the client to share all the learning. ‘Here are my recommendations based on everything I heard to take your business to the next level.’”Be prepared
So what if you don’t want a brand strategist talking to your customers? What if you want to do it yourself?
Laura Sheridan says make sure you’re asking questions that will lead to actionable answers.
“I see often where somebody will say, ‘Well, why don’t we ask this question?’ because they are curious,” says Sheridan, founder and president of Viva La Brand LLC. “But a good researcher will say, ‘OK, let’s say we ask this question. What are the two most obvious or likely answers? What are we going to do with that information?’
“If you just get a bunch of information that you can’t act upon, it’s worthless.”
Start with very general, open-ended questions.
“I like to start these dialogues with questions like, ‘When I say X, the brand name of the company name or the product, what comes to mind?’ Then I’m a big believer in letting the customer or prospect talk. Don’t do a follow-up question when there is just one second of silence. People like to fill silence. It’s amazing how when you let them talk, how much more valuable information you can get.”
However you proceed with your conversation, one of the keys is to be respectful of your customers’ time.
“Communicate to the customers that you really want to improve and offer better products and service and that the customer will really benefit if they are upfront and share,” Sheridan says.
How to reach: Viva La Brand LLC, (216) 548-6780 or www.vivalabrand.com