Twelve Places to Keep Business Cards

September 29th, 2009

places to keep business cardsOne of the biggest (and most common) sales sins is not having a business card when you need it. Whether you’re at a networking event or you just happen to meet a potential prospect while standing in line, not having a business card with you smacks of unpreparedness and amateurism.

Don’t be caught without a business card! At a party, in an airport or on the slopes, you should always have cards with you. (They’re not doing you any good sitting in that desk drawer.) Here are an even dozen places to keep your cards so they’re always within reach:

1. Pocket
2. Purse
3. Briefcase
4. Gym bag
5. Diaper bag
6. Glove compartment
7. Bicycle saddle bag
8. Wallet
9. PDA case
10. Pad holder/padfolio
11. Backpack
12. Carry-on bag

Right now, while you’re thinking about it, go put some business cards in each of the above items you have. Then, when you need them, they’ll be right there waiting for you.

Bundle Up to Boost Your Sales

September 24th, 2009

Bundle Up for More SalesWhile grocery shopping yesterday, I saw a great sales tactic. The supermarket chain had assembled several different products into a “Flu Preparedness Kit.” The kit contained a disinfectant spray, disinfectant wipes, anti-bacterial soap and a box of tissues. Everything you need to combat the flu in one convenient package.

Bundling products or services together is a powerful sales tactic for several reasons:

1. It takes the thought out of the buying process, so it’s easier for the prospect to make up their mind. They only have to make one decision, rather than four or five. (Or twelve.)

2. Buyers perceive higher value, because they’re getting so much.

3. You can move slow-moving merchandise by hooking it to fast-moving merchandise.

4. You can sell more expensive, high-profit products or services faster by bundling them with cheaper, low-profit ones.

5. You can offer a discount, while still keeping your overall margin up, since the total size of the purchase is bigger than it would otherwise be.

So the question is, what can you bundle together? How can you create a package out of your offerings that provides increased value to your buyer while helping you achieve your sales goals?

Ten More Mistakes Salespeople Make

September 22nd, 2009

More mistakes salespeople make A while back I listed the Top Ten Mistakes Salespeople Make. Of course, those blunders aren’t the only ones salespeople commonly make. Here are ten more. How many of these mistakes have you committed lately?

1. Not greeting prospects properly
Too many salespeople still greet prospects by asking some variation of “Can I help you?” Of course, the answer is almost always “No.” (Although that’s not as bad as the salesperson I encountered once while mystery shopping who walked right past me and, without breaking stride, said, “You didn’t need any help, did you?”)

2. Pre-judging prospects
Just because a person is wearing ratty jeans and an old T-shirt doesn’t mean they can’t afford what you’re selling. Just because a person looks young doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing. And just because a person doesn’t have a fancy title doesn’t mean they don’t have buying authority.

3. Not knowing their product/service
The prospect is counting on you to be an expert. An uninformed salesperson does not inspire confidence.

4. Ignoring women
This is one of the biggest complaints of female buyers. Ironically enough, even female salespeople frequently commit this mistake.

5. Not asking enough questions
Whenever a salesperson pushes a product or service that isn’t a good fit, prospects get annoyed, because their time is being wasted. Prospects would much rather you spend a few extra minutes asking about their wants and needs, so you spend less time pitching the wrong solutions.

6. Talking down to the prospect
A triumph of ego over good sense. Prospects don’t like salespeople who seem arrogant, haughty or supercilious. Prospects also don’t like to feel stupid and will avoid buying from salespeople who make them feel that way.

7. Trying to close too soon
Many salespeople are taught to “Always Be Closing.” But trying to close before the prospect is ready to buy leads to rejection. And once they’ve rejected you, you may not get another chance to close.

8. Fumbling objections
Often, when salespeople encounter an objection, they freak out, believing they’ve just lost the sale. In their panic, they fail to address the objection effectively. Ironically, that often leads to losing the sale.

9. Using clichés
Because everybody uses them so often, words like “quality,” “performance,” and “service” no longer have meaning by themselves. Ditto for phrases like “customer satisfaction” and “best value for the money.” If all you’re doing is speaking in clichés, you’re going to lose out to someone who knows how to actually communicate the value and benefits of their offering.

10. Pressuring the prospect
Nobody likes being pressured, but too many salespeople do it anyway. The fear of losing the sale is so great, they feel compelled to apply pressure to their prospects so they won’t “get away.”

If you’re guilty of making one or more of these mistakes regularly (or irregularly), don’t beat yourself up too much. After all, they’re extremely common, so you have lots of company. But do work to overcome them, because they’re getting in the way of your sales success. Read a book, go to a training seminar or get some individual coaching.

If you’re a sales manager or VP and you’re concerned your people are making these mistakes (or the previous ten), invest in some modern, practical sales training for them. (Preferably training that’s customized to your organization.)

Because not training yourself and your team is one more mistake you don’t want to make.

Yoda on Sales Training

September 18th, 2009

While Jedi Master Yoda of the Star Wars movie franchise was not a sales trainer per se, he was definitely a teacher. And one instruction he gives Luke Skywalker is particularly powerful.

The lesson occurs in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, during the same scene I discussed in my previous two posts. Yoda attempts to persuade a skeptical Luke that he can use The Force to lift his spaceship out of the swamp just as he’d been using it to lift stones and other small objects. Luke argues, “Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different!” To which Yoda replies, “No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.”

This is a concept I have encountered in my aikido classes, in sales, and in my work as a professional speaker and trainer. Many of the beliefs and habits we acquire from our parents, our schooling, our friends and other sources are actually counterproductive to our success. Achieving our goals often means unlearning those things that are holding us back.

That’s why it’s essential to always be reading books and magazines, getting coaching, and attending training seminars. Different perspectives give us different insights and ideas. We must always be open to new and better ways of doing things. Otherwise we stagnate and fall behind.

So here’s an important question: In order for you to increase your sales, what do you need to unlearn?

Yoda’s Sales Advice

September 16th, 2009

Just because I disagreed with Star Wars’ Jedi Master Yoda in my last post, doesn’t mean I discount everything the character said. On the contrary, one of Yoda’s most insightful comments occurs just after the exchange I described in my previous post.

After Luke attempts and fails to lift his fighter out of the swamp, claiming it’s impossible, he collapses to the ground in frustration. Yoda closes his eyes, lifts his arm and—concentrating with all his might—causes the ship to rise out of the water, float a few hundred feet and come to rest gently on dry land. Luke walks around the ship, awestruck, then says to Yoda, “I don’t believe it.” The Jedi Master replies, “That is why you fail.”

Scientists studying the human brain have confirmed what many motivational speakers have long preached: our beliefs and expectations affect our outcomes. While the actual neurological and psychological processes involved are not yet understood, researchers have proven that our subconscious minds will actively work to create the outcomes we expect to see.

Which means if you believe your price is too high, it will be. If you expect your buyer to say no, that’s what they’ll say. If you believe your prospecting calls are a waste of time, they’ll be just that. Not because we’re doing anything consciously to sabotage ourselves, but because our subconscious is causing us to talk and act in ways that are consistent with our expectations.

To be a more effective salesperson, you need to truly believe in yourself, your product, your company and the value you bring to customers. And you need to be absolutely honest with yourself about your beliefs and expectations. Any doubts you’re harboring will manifest themselves in lost sales.

So if it seems like your sales are stuck in a swamp, the first step in pulling them out is believing you can.

Yoda was Wrong

September 14th, 2009

One of the most frequently quoted movie lines in business circles comes from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Jedi Master Yoda instructs Luke Skywalker to use The Force to raise his spaceship out of the swamp. Luke sighs and says, “I’ll give it a try.” Yoda responds, “No! Try not! Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

With all due respect to George Lucas, Yoda was wrong. There is a try. And it’s vital to your sales success.

“Doing” implies completing, accomplishing, succeeding. But succeeding at anything, especially sales, typically requires many attempts. Many failed attempts. Accomplishment results from study, practice and yes, failure. In other words, you can try without doing, but you can’t do without trying.

Why is this distinction important?

Because we can’t control outcomes. We can only control our own efforts. This is not to say you shouldn’t exercise every effort to create the outcomes you desire. But if you judge yourself solely on your results, you’re going to be awfully frustrated and you’ll quit long before you should.

Give yourself credit for your efforts, even if they don’t result in successes. (And if you’re a sales manager, VP or CEO, give your salespeople credit.) Failure is part of the process no matter who you are. Every great quarterback has thrown a lot of interceptions. Every great actor has appeared in at least one turkey. And every great salesperson has blown their share of deals. The important thing is to learn from the experience and move on.

Or as Yoda might put it: “Try you must. Fail you will. So try again you must.”

Point the Way to Higher Sales

September 10th, 2009

Recently, another speaker and I were driving from a hotel to a nearby conference center. Although the directions we had received were murky, we could see the conference center from the hotel, so we figured it couldn’t be too hard to get there.

We figured wrong.

Every road leading away from the hotel went in the opposite direction of the conference center. Eventually, we ended up on a frontage road that got us near it, but left us at a dead end.

(Side note: On the frontage road, we drove past a work crew with two men holding “slow/stop” signs. After we turned around, we wondered if it really would have been too much trouble for either of them to warn us that the road ended just a few hundred feet ahead. Then we wondered why a five-person work crew was repairing a stretch of road that literally went nowhere.)

After driving around for half an hour, we finally found a sign that pointed us toward the conference center. It was the only one in the area. And it couldn’t be seen from where we had originally started.

It got me thinking about the importance of providing good directions to those who would like to do business with us. Do we give our prospects clear instructions that make buying from us easy, or do we leave them in limbo, assuming they’ll “figure it out?” If it’s the latter, odds are you’re losing sales.

Modern buyers won’t stand for complicated or time-consuming buying processes. With more competition today than ever before, they don’t have to. If your system is too abstruse, it’s easier for a prospect to go somewhere else than figure out your process.

Keep in mind that your systems and processes make sense to you because you deal with them every day. Your prospects don’t. Look at your buying process from your customer’s point of view (or hire a mystery shopping company to do it for you) to determine how you might make it more buyer-friendly.

Whether it’s your store, your web site, your proposal or any other interface between you and your prospects, make the directions clear, simple and easy-to-follow. You don’t want them getting lost on their way to giving you money.

Liar, Liar, Selling Car Tires

September 8th, 2009

I was just reading the latest column by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of the Car Talk radio show. There was a letter from a man who brought his BMW to his dealer because one of his (fairly new) tires blew out through the sidewall. The person at the dealership told him: (1) All of his tires need to be replaced ASAP, because the same thing probably will happen to them soon; (2) he shouldn’t have Goodyear tires of any kind because they’re no good for this particular car; and (3) the only tires he ever should put on it are the model and brand they have at the dealership, which cost about $160 each, plus installation.

Tom and Ray debunked the dealer’s claims and concluded that he was trying to dupe the customer into buying the most expensive tires the dealership carried.

I’m not easily offended, but every time a slimeball like this tries to rip off a customer, it hurts the reputation of the auto industry, salespeople as a group and business in general. And for what? Nothing! Hell, he lost the sale! That customer is going somewhere else to buy his replacement tire and you can bet that not only is he never going back to that dealership, he’s going to tell everyone he knows to stay away.

If that salesperson (and it doesn’t matter if the guy worked in the service department, he’s still a salesperson) had been honest instead, he could have sold the customer a new tire on the spot. Sure, it would have been a small sale, but by being honest he could have secured a customer for life.

Lying is never an effective sales strategy. (And beware any training seminar that waffles on this point or tries to rationalize lying because prospects sometimes do it to us.) No matter how desperate you get, no matter how much pressure you feel from your boss to make a sale, no matter how much extra commission you think you could make, never lie to a prospect.

You want to be proud of yourself and the way you do business. You don’t want to end up in a newspaper column as a bad example.