Open Your Mind to Close More Sales

April 25th, 2017

Open Your Mind to Close More SalesThe single biggest obstacle to closing the sale isn’t your price, your competition or your prospect.

It’s you.

Specifically, it’s your subconscious beliefs and fears about closing. Most salespeople are hindered by negative thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, but because they’re subconscious, we’re not even aware of them.

Negative beliefs about sales in general, and closing in particular, are programmed into us on a daily basis, from the time we’re children. This unfortunate programming comes both from the media and from real life.

Popular culture—movies, TV, books, plays, even comic strips—nearly always portrays salespeople as greedy, selfish, pushy, sleazy, underhanded, manipulative, lying, cheating, obnoxious slimeballs. Just think:

• Glengarry Glen Ross
• Boiler Room
• Death of a Salesman
• The Simpsons
• Cadillac Man
• Dilbert
• The Music Man
• Gone Fishin’
• The Outlaw Josey Wales
• Married… with Children
• Fargo
• The Wolf of Wall Street
• Suckers
• True Lies
• WKRP in Cincinnati
• Tin Men
• The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
• Used Cars
• Tommy Boy

Unfortunately, the stereotype portrayed in various media all too often stems from the real world. Anyone who has ever shopped for a major purchase—furniture, appliances, a car, a time-share property—can tell you a horror story about the salesperson from hell. It’s no surprise that salespeople are often referred to as “sharks,” “vultures” and “wolves.” It’s also no surprise that, as a group, “Salespeople” typically ranks near the bottom in surveys of who people trust. (Usually right near politicians.)

Most salespeople, however, don’t fit this stereotype. The vast majority of salespeople sell with honesty and integrity. They’re good people who look out for the best interests of the customer. They’re people like you.

The problem for good salespeople is that we’ve been infected by these negative images of what a salesperson is and it creates a conflict within ourselves. We believe—on a subconscious level—that “salespeople” are greedy, selfish, pushy, underhanded, obnoxious liars. But we don’t want to be perceived as such. So we avoid doing anything we think might possibly be interpreted that way.

And that’s what hamstrings us. Because we fear being perceived as the stereotype, we don’t do a lot of things that are necessary to make the sale. Where this problem looms largest is closing.

We’re afraid (again, subconsciously) that if we try to close the sale, we’re being pushy, rude, arrogant, obnoxious. So all too often we don’t really try. But closing is a critical part of our jobs, arguable the most critical part. You can do everything else right—prospecting, needs analysis, presentation, overcoming objections—but if you don’t close, there’s no sale.

Here’s the secret to closing the sale effectively: understand that prospects need you close them. The prospect is sitting there (or possible standing there) in a state of inertia. Remember the Law of Inertia? “A body at rest tends to stay at rest.” Which means the prospect’s natural inclination is to do nothing, even though they need and/or want whatever it is you’re selling. So it’s up to you to nudge them out of their inertia and into action. That’s all that closing is.

Assuming this purchase really is in the best interest of the prospect, closing is not pushy, rude, arrogant or obnoxious. In fact, not closing is a disservice to the prospect, because it’s preventing them from enjoying the benefits of your product or service.

It’s not the prospect’s job to ask us to sell them our stuff. (Left to their own devices, they rarely will, due to that pesky inertia.) Instead, it’s our job to ask them to buy it. And they need us to do it. When you consider the relationship in this way, it completely changes how you think of the process. And when you’re able to change the way you think—both consciously and subconsciously—closing the sale becomes easier than you ever imagined.

13 Characteristics of Top Salespeople

April 18th, 2017

13 Characteristics of Top SalespeopleThere are average salespeople, and then there are extraordinary salespeople. What’s the difference between the two?

I’ve had the privilege of speaking to, coaching, and training tens of thousands of salespeople over the years. Here are the characteristics that I’ve learned distinguish the exceptional salespeople from everyone else.

1. Proactive
Great salespeople don’t wait for opportunities, they create them. They initiate. They set their own goals and they proactively do what it takes to achieve them.

2. Competitive
The best salespeople are the best because they have to be—they’re highly competitive. And not only with their competitors, but with themselves. They’re always trying to beat their previous records and top their previous successes.

3. Service-oriented
Amazing salespeople don’t try to win at their customer’s expense though. They understand that they only win if their buyer wins as well. Their empathy and their focus on service lead them to be consultants and advocates for their clients.

4. Organized
An efficient salesperson is an effective salesperson. The most effective employ both tools and systems to stay organized so they can make the most of their precious time.

5. Positive
Extraordinary salespeople think positively. They expect success. They see the bright side and can perceive opportunities where others can’t. They’re optimistic about the future and believe that things will work out.

6. Resilient
Things don’t always work out though. And when they don’t, great salespeople press on nonetheless. When they fail, they pick themselves up, learn from their failure, and try again.

7. Personable
Exceptional salespeople know how to make friends and build relationships. They tend to genuinely like people. They are good listeners and are able to read people and adapt their behavior. Plus their positive attitudes are attractive to prospects and customers alike.

8. Assertive
This doesn’t mean that they will “go along to get along” or allow themselves to be pushed around, however. Top salespeople are not shy about making recommendations or asking for commitments. That’s not to say they’re pushy—there’s a big difference between assertive and aggressive, and great salespeople understand the difference.

9. Conscientious
Outstanding salespeople care. About big things and little things. About themselves and others. They are honest and ethical, taking pride in their words and actions. They ensure that things get done and that they’re done right.

10. Disciplined
You can’t do everything, and superlative salespeople accept this. They excel at prioritizing their to-do lists. They’re fanatical about managing their time and focusing on what’s most important.

11. Tenacious
Too many salespeople give up too easily. Top performers know that sales can often take a long time. So they follow up relentlessly. They evince a similar commitment when facing challenges: they stick with the problem until they solve it.

12. Confident
Exceptional salespeople are supremely confident. And not just in themselves. They’re also confident in their product, service, company, and team members. And because confidence is contagious, their prospects become confident as well.

13. Inquisitive
There’s always more to learn, and the best salespeople never assume they know it all. On the contrary, they have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge which leads them to become life-long learners. They read books, magazines, and blogs; they listen to CDs and podcasts; they attend conferences, seminars, and workshops. They are always learning, so they are always getting better.

If this list doesn’t describe you perfectly, don’t despair. Think of it as a roadmap to greatness. You can improve in any or all of these areas. Just pick a few, make a plan, and execute it.

Strengthen your skills in these thirteen areas and you too can be one of the best.

Perception Is All That Matters for Your Sales

April 11th, 2017

Perception Is All That Matters for Your SalesEvery business speaker, blogger, podcaster, columnist, and comedian owes a huge debt of gratitude to United Airlines. In forcibly dragging a paying customer off an overbooked plane at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, United has given us all great content to use on stage, in print, and online.

And they’ve given us an incredible amount of content as well, because United did pretty much everything wrong in this situation, from their policies which led to the incident, to CEO Oscar Munoz’s horrible half-hearted apology.

Now, there are some mitigating factors here.

1. Airlines are legally allowed to bump passengers from flights when they are overbooked, or when they need to transport crew, as was the case here. This is specified in the “Contract of Carriage” of every airline.

2. Because purchasing a ticket enters you into a legally binding contract, passengers are legally required to leave a plane if they are bumped.

3. United has a lower rate of bumping passengers than many other domestic airlines, including Southwest, JetBlue, American, and Frontier.

4. The people who forcibly removed the passenger were not United employees, but rather, Chicago Department of Aviation security officers.

5. United did not do anything that violated the law or company policy. “We followed the right procedures,” United spokesman Charlie Hobart stated.

Here’s the thing, though:

None of that matters.

All that matters is the video of a paying customer being dragged down the aisle, shrieking in terror. Tens—if not hundreds—of millions of people have seen that video and come to the conclusion that United Airlines is a heartless company staffed by jack-booted thugs who just might forcibly eject them from their next flight.

It doesn’t matter if that belief is right or wrong. Perception is reality. Perception is all that matters. And once that perception is created, it’s extremely hard to change.

What does this mean for your business? And what can you learn from United’s extraordinary blunder?

1. Policies are less important than people.
I’ve written about this before. If your policies create problems for your customers, then your policies need to be revised. Or scrapped completely. Policies should enable great customer service, not undermine it.

2. Someone is always watching.
There are more video cameras today than ever before. Everybody with a cell phone has one. Always assume everything you—and your people—do is being recorded and act accordingly.

3. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the right if others think you’re wrong.
People judge you by what they see without knowing the backstory. And they don’t care about the backstory. Because they put themselves in the position of your customer, not you. Customers care about themselves, which is why you need to care about them too. Show sensitivity to them. Make exceptions for them. Solve problems for them rather than creating more.

4. Have a crisis communication plan in place.
Don’t hope a crisis never happens—plan for it to happen. With the ubiquity of social media, having a plan in place is more vital than ever before. As crisis communications expert Gerard Braud advises, “A crisis communication plan has to be built for speed—the speed of Twitter. If you wait hours to respond, and Twitter is responding in seconds, you’re already too late. You absolutely must have an extensive library of prewritten news releases that can be edited and used in a matter of minutes.”

5. Every person in your company impacts sales.
From the CEO to the janitor, everybody in your organization affects sales either positively or negatively. And every single thing they do has the potential to help or hurt your sales.

6. Train your people.
For that reason, you should be training your people continually. All your people. On a wide range of skills, including sales, communication, leadership, negotiating, customer service, teamwork, problem-solving, conflict-resolution, personal development, and more. Effective training not only prevents problems from occurring, but enables your people to improve results in all areas of your business.

The way people perceive your company determines how successful your company is. Keep that in mind as you formulate—and reformulate—your policies, communicate with your team, create your plans, train your people, and make decisions. What narrative do you want the public to see and hear? You are constantly being judged. Give people reasons to judge you positively.

26 Ways to Boost Your Customer Loyalty

April 4th, 2017

26 Ways to Boost Your Customer LoyaltyEvery business wants more customer loyalty. Loyal customers are the easiest and fastest to sell to. They buy more often. They don’t beat you up on price. They forgive you when you make a mistake or encounter a problem. They tell other people about you. Loyal customers are pure sales gold.

But loyalty is a two-way street. You have to earn loyalty. And you earn it by exhibiting it.

Are you being loyal to your clients? Are you taking great care of them consistently? Are you demonstrating—rather than merely stating—your appreciation?

Here are 26 ways you can exhibit loyalty to your customers:

1. Greet them by name
2. Remember their preferences
3. Reduce their waiting time
4. Give them your best pricing
5. Upgrade them
6. Give them a bonus
7. Waive a late fee or finance charge
8. Invite them to events
9. Customize your product or service for them
10. Resolve their problems quickly
11. Give them gifts
12. Feed them
13. Stay in regular communication with them
14. Don’t give new clients better deals than you give existing ones
15. Ask for their input on new offerings
16. Provide them with information to enhance their life or business
17. Make their buying process faster and easier
18. Offer them exclusive deals and sales
19. Give them a dedicated phone number, web site, or contact person
20. Let them be the first to try new products and services
21. Keep them updated when problems or opportunities arise
22. Buy from them
23. Refer business to them
24. Publicize them
25. Donate to their favorite charities
26. Ask them how you can improve

How many of these actions are you taking on a regular basis? The more you do, the stronger your customers’ loyalty will be.

Customers become loyal to a company when the business makes them feel appreciated, important, and cared for. When you are devoted to your customers, they’ll be devoted to you.