The Wrong Time to Ask for Referrals

September 26th, 2017

the-wrong-time-to-ask-for-referralsIn many aspects of sales, timing is key. Knowing the right time to take the right action can mean the difference between success and failure. And in no element of selling is this more true than in the process of getting referrals.

Which is why it’s so surprising that so many salespeople ask for referrals at the wrong time. Because asking at the wrong time erodes trust and reduces the odds of receiving a referral to around zero.

When exactly is the wrong time to ask for referrals?

Before the sale is made.

It happens all the time. A salesperson sits down with a new prospect, they have a good conversation, and just before they wrap up the meeting, the salesperson asks the prospect for three or four other people they can talk to.

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

I don’t know you or trust you (or your company) enough yet to refer you to people. You wouldn’t recommend your friends go to a movie you haven’t seen or a restaurant you haven’t eaten at. So why would someone refer a salesperson or a company they haven’t actually done business with yet?

Worse, when you ask for referrals at this stage of the sales process, it reeks of desperation. Which causes prospects to trust you less, jeopardizing the sale you haven’t even closed yet.

When is the right time to ask for referrals? After the sale is made.

And not even immediately after. No, after that. After the customer has had the chance to experience the quality of your product or service. After they’ve seen that you follow through on your promises. After they’re sure they haven’t made a buying mistake.

Once your customer has experienced the value you provide, their trust level is at its highest. That’s when they’re comfortable connecting you with their friends, family, and colleagues. At that point, they want to give you referrals, because they want the people they know and care about to get the best possible products and service.

So don’t ask for referrals before you close the sale. Not only will you not get them, but you’ll endanger the sale you’re working on. Instead, wait until your prospect becomes a happy customer. That’s when your referral requests will be most welcome and most fruitful.

39 Things to Let Go of to Boost Your Sales

September 19th, 2017

39-things-to-let-go-of-to-boost-your-salesPlanes, trains, and automobiles—and boats too, now that I think about it—all have something in common: The more stuff they’re loaded down with, the harder it is for them to get going, the slower they move, and the shorter the distance they can go.

You are exactly the same. The more stuff you’re loaded down with, the harder it is for you to make progress as well.

The reality is, we’re all carrying at least some baggage—physical and psychological, as well as emotional. But the more you can unload that baggage, the more you can free yourself of its burden, enabling you to go farther and faster. Which means more sales in less time.

What kinds of things are potentially holding you back from achieving the success you want and deserve? Here are 39 things to let go of:

1. Your ego
2. The need to be right
3. What worked in the past
4. Fear of rejection
5. Any and all limiting beliefs
6. Over-promising to prospects and customers
7. Anger
8. Sense of entitlement
9. Preconceived notions and assumptions
10. Negative self-talk
11. Procrastination
12. The belief that you know everything
13. Technophobia
14. People who drain your time and energy without giving anything back
15. Guilt
16. Over-committing yourself
17. The need to be liked
18. Comparing yourself to others
19. Fear of failure
20. Blame shifting
21. Worry
22. Taking your customers for granted
23. Being judgmental
24. Self-sabotaging behaviors
25. Bitterness
26. Fear of asking for help
27. Passive aggressiveness
28. Unwillingness to change
29. Conflict avoidance
30. Jealousy
31. Pushing yourself too hard
32. Fear of public speaking
33. The need to control everything
34. Resentment
35. Activities that aren’t producing results
36. Insecurity
37. Negative influences
38. Smoking
39. The willingness to settle for mediocrity

To be fair, divesting yourself of many of these items is difficult. Which is why it can be very helpful to work with a mentor, a coach, and/or a therapist. But make no mistake, the more of these things you can free yourself from, the better your sales will be, and the happier and more successful you will be.

When “Sorry” Isn’t Good Enough

September 12th, 2017

when-sorry-isnt-good-enoughThis is a tale of two customer service failures. And the world of difference in the way they were handled.

The first occurred at a fast-casual restaurant. I won’t reveal the name—I’ll just note that it’s a place you can STOP to get WINGS. I placed my order and waited. Because their food is cooked to order, there’s always a wait, typically about ten minutes or so. I’m cool with that. Good food is worth waiting for.

The problem was, the wait went on and on. And on. My stomach was growling and a migraine was beginning to build in my head. After nearly half an hour, my food was finally ready.

Remember what I said a moment ago about good food being worth waiting for? Well, this food wasn’t good. The chicken was dry and the fries were undercooked. I was disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed.

I went to the counter and asked to see the manager. When she appeared, I recounted all the problems I had just experienced. Her response? “I’m so sorry.”

And nothing else.

I even pressed her: “Is that it?”

She said, “We’ll work to make sure that doesn’t happen next time.”

I told her that based on that experience, I didn’t think there was going to be a next time. And I’m pretty sure there won’t be. Not with all the competitors in that space.

The second story occurred at a supermarket. Again, I won’t name the establishment—I’ll merely mention that the FOODS they sell tend to be WHOLE.

I had placed a special order with the seafood department for a party I was attending. I arrived on the appointed day and went to the seafood counter to pick up my order. But when the man returned from the back, he had bad news for me: they had apparently been unable to get the product in. When I asked why someone from the department hadn’t called me—as they promised me they would if they couldn’t get it—he had no idea.

In a state of anger and shock, I went to the customer service desk and asked for the store manager. When she arrived, I explained what had happened, why that particular order was so important, and how significant my problem was.

Like the restaurant manager only days before, she also said, “I’m so sorry.”

Unlike the restaurant manager, however, she went further. She began looking for ways to make things right and rebuild my confidence in the store. She offered me anything in the seafood case free of charge. And before we finished our interaction, she gave me a gift card to use later. Even though I had experienced a problem with the store, she wanted me to leave on a positive note. And because of her actions, I will remain a customer of theirs.

Mistakes happen all the time. What matters is how they’re handled. For minor issues, a simple apology is often sufficient. But when a mistake ruins the customer experience, an apology just isn’t good enough. Action needs to be taken. Because that action can mean the difference between losing a customer forever and keeping them forever.

Any given customer can mean hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars in sales for you over their lifetime. (Especially when you include all the people they influence.) What’s it worth to keep those customers?

12 Keys To Being a Better Communicator

September 6th, 2017

12-keys-to-being-a-better-communicatorThe top salespeople—and top executives—in every field are amazing communicators. They have a gift for getting their ideas across and persuading others.

Except that it’s not a gift. It’s a set of learned skills that anyone can master. Here are the twelve things great communicators do that you can do as well.

1. Ask questions
Asking questions is essential to good communication. whether you’re just getting to know someone or trying to make a sale, questions are the most important tool in your toolbox. Most salespeople—heck, most people in general—don’t ask anywhere near enough questions, typically being in too much of a rush to get their own points across. Questions, though, enable you to forge connections and gather information, both of which facilitate more effective communication.

2. Listen attentively
People become much more open and receptive to your thoughts and ideas after they’ve had a chance to express their own. So listen. And listen well. When someone is talking with you, give them your full attention. Maintain eye contact with them throughout. Don’t look at your phone or around the room.

3. Keep an open mind
Whenever we listen to another person, we do so with a variety of filters, biases, and assumptions. All of which can prevent us from truly hearing, understanding, and appreciating what the other person is trying to say. Work on keeping your mind open and unbiased. (Click here for a free resource.)

4. Respect others’ viewpoints
It’s easy to dismiss other people’s viewpoints as wrong or stupid when they don’t agree with our own viewpoints. But that’s a huge mistake. Everyone’s beliefs, thoughts, values, priorities, desires and fears stem from their experiences, which are always different from ours. And each of those items is as valid for them as ours are for us. Don’t judge or dismiss. Seek to understand and learn. You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion or idea to respect it.

5. Look for subtext
When people talk, there are two things they are trying to communicate: facts and emotions. Facts are typically conveyed directly via their words. Emotions, however, typically aren’t. And emotions are every bit as important to understand as facts! Which means you need to pay attention to the feelings behind the words, as well as the tone the person is using. (Note: The idea that words only account for 7% of communication, while tone contributes 38% and body language makes up 55% is a complete myth.)

6. Acknowledge and validate what others say
People need to know they’re being heard. As they talk, give them feedback, both visual (smiling, nodding, frowning, grimmacing) and verbal (“Right.” “Gotcha.” “Definitely.” “Sure.”) Go even further and validate their thoughts and emotions (“I understand.” “Point taken.” “I don’t blame you.”)

7. Ask for clarification
If you don’t understand what the other person has said, communication hasn’t actually taken place. Anytime you’re not sure about something, ask for clarification or for more details. Instead of making you look stupid, it makes you look curious and caring.

8. Don’t interrupt
Nobody likes being interrupted. It’s rude and annoying. It communicates to the speaker that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. Shut up and let them talk.

9. Paraphrase
Summarize back to the other person what you believe they said. It helps make sure that you did in fact understand what they were trying to get across, and it helps them feel heard and understood.

10. Be positive
Nobody likes a whiner. If you’re always complaining, people will tune you out. Approach every conversation positively. Even if you’re bringing up a problem, frame it positively by tying it to the larger goals of the person or organization.

11. Aim to connect, not impress
Too many salespeople and executives try too hard to impress the people they talk to. They use big words, industry jargon, and acronyms. They brag about themselves and always have to “one-up” the other person—i.e. their story has to be more impressive than the other person’s story. But you know what people are really impressed by? Authenticity. Caring. Attentiveness. Empathy. Passion. Strive to be relatable and understandable, not impressive

12. Speak to both logic and emotion
As much as we like to think otherwise, we make decisions emotionally. We use facts and logic to justify our decisions, but we always make them based on emotions. So be sure to always address not only the facts of an issue, but the emotions surrounding it. Build your arguments logically, but include the emotional elements as well.

Whether you want more sales, or you want better results from the people you lead, work on these twelve skills. Read books, attend training seminars, get individual coaching, and consciously practice them every day with prospects, co-workers, family, and friends.

Great communicators are not born, they’re made. And you can be one.