A husband was just entering the shower as his wife was getting out. Unexpectedly, the front doorbell rings. So, the wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and goes to the door. Bob, their next-door neighbor is innocently standing there.
When he sees that she is wearing only a towel, Bob says, “I will give you $800 right now to drop that towel.” She thinks for a moment and realizes that $800 is a lot of money. Sure enough, she drops the towel and presents herself to him. “Nice,” he says and then hands her the $800 he had promised.
Back in the bathroom, hubby gets out of the shower and inquires, “Who was at the door?” “Bob, from next door,” she replies. “Great!” he says. “Did he bring over the $800 he owes me?”
The moral to this metaphor: Know the whole story before you act on partial information.
Why is it that deals forecasted with a 50% probability of closing rarely happen before the end of the month, while deals that are forecasted with a 90% probability, only close 50% of the time?
A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand new Jeep Cherokee appeared out of a dust cloud heading toward him. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and a YSL tie leaned out of the window and asked our shepherd: "If I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?" The shepherd looks at the yuppie, then at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, "Sure!" The yuppie parks the car, whips out his cell phone, surfs to a NASA page on the Internet where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system, scans the area, opens up a database along with some 60 Excel spreadsheets with complex formulas.
Finally, he prints out a 15 page report on his hi-tech miniaturized printer, turns around to the shepherd and says: "You have here exactly 1,586 sheep!" "That is correct. You may take one of the sheep" says the shepherd. He watches the young man select an animal and bundle it in his Cherokee.
Then the shepherd says: "If I can tell you exactly what business you are in will you give me my sheep back?" "Okay, why not!" answers the young man. "You are a consultant," says the shepherd.
"That is correct" says the yuppie. "How did you guess that?" "Easy," answers the shepherd. "You turn up here unannounced, you wanted to be paid for the answer a question I already knew the answer to, and you don’t know anything about my business…because you took my dog."
Selling continues to be the least taught profession in the world! Does anyone think that’s strange? Sales drives every company, yet most of the top business schools in the world don’t offer a sales curriculum. Somehow we rely on the thought that salespeople inherently already know “how” to sell. Maybe it’s supposed to be in our DNA?
Consider the amount of training necessary to become an architect, attorney, doctor, engineer, teacher, nurse, pharmacist or city planner. There is a minimum scholastic requirement followed by rigorous testing and continuing education. Whew! To say that you are a sales professional only requires that you print business cards.
Case in point: In the state of Georgia (my home state), you have to have a license to catch a fish, or own a dog, but you can sell many things including sophisticated products and services without any required training whatsoever. Note that I am NOT speaking out for more legislation. Just wanted to point out the parallel between skills development and your probability of success in sales.
Let me guess, the company you represent is the leading provider of blah, blah, blah, with a long-standing track record and a commitment to excellence that is second to none. If so, join the club, as competitors have been trying to out-describe each other for years.
Everyone claims to have the best products, REALLY. In fact, our offerings are not only BETTER than the competion, we TRULY are the leader in the industry. Especially if you like adjectives, these three (Really, Truly, & Better) have become staples of corporate mediocrity, to the point where these words are generally discounted by potential customers as hype and fluff.
ABC Company Press Release: Our products and services are truly the world’s best. In fact, our new launch offers better features and experts say they will really change the way customers do business.
…a few days later…
XYZ Company Press Release: Truly, we can now say that our products and services are the world’s finest. Our product offerings are better and they really will change the way customers do business.
Other words and phrases that should be stricken from the sales vernacular include paradigm-shift, industry-leading, cutting-edge, groundbreaking, touching-base, game-changer, and “coffee is for closers.”
“Selling Yourself in Today’s Competitive Marketplace.”
Everything seems eerily different now, as we slowly come to grips with the reality that the field on which we work and play has changed dramatically. Even those of us who were minding our own business when the downturn began breathed a collective gasp as the era of unabated prosperity that our economy has enjoyed for the last thirty years seemed to collapse overnight.
Not since the nineteen thirties have we experienced a scenario that could so widely impact the financial, political, and social fabric of our country, where the changing economic landscape will inevitably impact everyone at some point, if it hasn’t affected you already.
We have essentially been ‘snow-globed;’ turned upside down and shaken to the point where the tranquil scenes of our daily existence have been shrouded by a flurry of uncertainty that has suddenly clouded our view, and little pieces of reality now seem to be raining down in all directions.
This increased pressure in the marketplace comes with an ironic upside, however, one that has sparked a renewed sense of desire within companies, and, I dare say, throughout the entire sales profession. It turns out that the same people who are hungry for business are also eager for a new perspective and creative ideas about what they can and should do differently.
Never before have sellers been so willing to put their egos aside and adjust their approach to make themselves invaluable to their customers, colleagues, partners and company. I remember a time not so long ago when salespeople would come to my class without a pencil, fold their arms, and hope the clock would soon roll ahead to the end of day so they could head to the gym. Things are different now, as most people realize that some adjustments are in order with regard to how we deal with clients, as it appears that our best opportunity to emerge from the current predicament is going to be to sell our way out.
Life is funny. Last Saturday night, I went to a comedy club here in Atlanta and literally laughed until I cried. Then, on Sunday, when I finally sat down at my desk to catch up from the week, I opened my 401K statement…and I cried until I laughed.
Anybody else singing the 401K blues? If so, this is a good time to start selling more!
I now know why the car companies are not doing well. A few months ago, I went car shopping because my teenage daughter suddenly has ‘nomadic aspirations’ having reached the magical age where she can now drive. Mind you, she’s a good kid, but I’m not one of those parents who subscribes to the notion that sixteen year-olds deserve a car just because they come of age, so my intention was to buy a car that Sarah would have moderate use of as long as her ‘train stays on the tracks’ relative to schoolwork and other responsibilities.
My first stop was Dyer & Dyer Volvo in North Atlanta. On the internet, I spotted a used Saturn SUV that would have been perfect, so immediately called the dealership on Friday afternoon and got connected with a salesperson named Sid, who was pleasant and helpful. Sid encouraged me to hurry over to the dealership before the car got sold. Since I had a conflict Friday evening, I made an appointment with Sid first thing Saturday morning at 9am sharp.
I rolled into the dealership about three minutes after 9am, with a cashier’s check in my pocket and ready to buy. Strangely, no one came out to greet me, which was okay. I didn’t need to be hounded. Three other couples were milling around the showroom, but strangely, I didn’t notice any salespeople. So, I walked up to the counter and told the nice looking receptionist that I had an appointment with Sid.
“Everyone is in the regular Saturday morning sales meeting,” she said. I asked her how long this meeting would last. “It usually starts at 8:30am and probably will last another 30 minutes,” she responded. I explained to her that I had a 9am appointment with Sid. “Yes, we know, you are on the VIP board,” she said, pointing to a prominent whiteboard in the showroom that listed client appointments, and my name was tops on the list with a 9am appointment. I said, “Can you slip a note under the door and tell him I’m here?” She did and came back saying he couldn’t come out. With that, me and my cashier’s check left the building.
Wait, it gets better.
Since the Saturn SUV had caught my interest, I drove to the nearby Saturn dealership, figuring that they would probably have some pre-owned vehicles on the lot. This time, six Saturn salespeople wearing the company uniform (red shirt and khaki pants) were standing around and one eagerly stepped forward to greet me. “I’m Steve,” he said. “How can I help you?” I explained that I wanted to buy a safe but inexpensive vehicle for my daughter to use. We walked around the lot to survey the various options, and I actually stuck my head in a couple of them. We even took a quick test drive around the block.
After I had been there approximately twenty minutes, the sales manager came over—a tall former football player with his gray hair dyed blonde. “Sir, are you planning to buy one of these cars?” he asked abruptly. I hedged, giving him a definite ‘maybe’ type of response. “Well, Saturday is our busiest day, so if you’re going to buy a car, we’re happy to help. But, we don’t want to wear Steve out because he has to work tonight until 7pm,” he said. You just can’t make this stuff up. I glanced back into the showroom, and at 10:15am in the morning, there was only one other customer in the showroom along with a bunch of salesmen standing around with their hands in their pockets.
I politely excused myself, saying, “I’ll come back when you’re not so busy.” My cashiers check and I were on the move once again.
Perhaps for spite, I whipped into the Kia dealership directly across the street from the Saturn reception desk. The folks at Kia couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive. I test drove a couple options, went back and forth a reasonable number of times, and with 90 minutes, we had a deal. The salesperson passed me off to the in-house finance minister who painlessly facilitated the legal mumbo-jumbo. After signing my life away, we shook hands and I turned to leave in my new Kia. “You’ll be getting your tickets in about three weeks,” the finance guy said.
“What tickets?” I asked. He told me, “You get two season tickets to all the Falcon’s 2008 home games when you buy a Kia.” “Why are you giving away free tickets?” I asked. He explained, “It’s a promotion to sell more cars.”
I have never been in the car business, but it seems to me that if you are going to offer a promotion to sell more cars, it might be smart to use the special offer as carrot or incentive to close deals, as opposed to mentioning it after the paperwork has all been signed and the customer is literally walking out the door.
No wonder the car business is in trouble…
You don’t need to be defensive on price—we already made this point. Very few people buy the product or service that has the absolute lowest price. What they buy is value, seeking the biggest bang for their buck. This includes evaluating their solution alternatives and making the best decision.
The challenge for salespeople is getting prospects to compare products in an equitable way. Selling professional services is a good example. Why would anyone want to pay in excess of a hundred dollars per hour for a good accountant, when they could have their taxes done at the local H&R Block office for $69.95? Likewise, why would it make sense to pay two or three times as much for an experienced software analyst when you can hire a bench technician from a local computer outlet for cheap?
It’s especially difficult to quantify benefits with intangibles. From the prospect’s point of view, is it better to pay less money for a less valuable resource, or to pay more for the appropriate level of expertise? Since customers cannot actually see the intangible (in this case, a service) before it’s delivered, they often struggle with making the best decision. That’s why, when my QBS clients ask me to help their salespeople justify the premiums they charge for a higher level of expertise, I suggest they should negotiate like a dentist. Here’s a cute little parable that illustrates my point.
One day, a dentist is examining a new patient in the chair.
“Hmmm,” the dentist says after reviewing the x-rays.
“What’s wrong?” asks the patient, sensing the dentist’s concern.
“It looks like we need to pull a bum tooth,” the dentist answers.
“Oh no!” the patient grimaces. “How much will that cost?”
“About a hundred dollars,” the dentist responds.
“How bad will it hurt?” the patient moaned.
“Not bad. It only takes a minute,” the dentist replies.
“Wait a second. You’re going to charge me a hundred bucks for something that only takes a minute?” the patient challenges.
“Well…how long would you like it to take?” asks the dentist.
To justify the value of your product or service, sometimes it’s necessary to change the prospect’s perspective. Would you rather pay a little more to have a tooth pulled quickly and painlessly, or some other alternative that is less expensive, but comes with a much higher personal cost?
(Taken from Chapter 20: It Only Takes 1% to Have a Competitive Edge in Sales)
Shortly after I formed QBS Research, Inc., I started receiving tons of sales calls. Registering my company must have triggered something that put my name and contact information on every salesperson’s mailing list. As you might imagine, it didn’t take long before I got sick of being on the receiving end of so many cold calls. You know, the calls that interrupt an important thought, meeting, or project, where the salesperson is working just as hard to stay on the phone as you are to get them off. Trust me, I can get rid of a pesky salesperson with the best of them, but at some point, I would rather just not be bothered.
Since sales training is my chosen profession, it may seem a bit odd that I wouldn’t like cold calls, but I don’t want to have my time wasted any more than you. This all changed for me, however, on May 7, 1999. That’s the day the first shipment of my book, Secrets of Question Based Selling, arrived. Suddenly, we had a warehouse filled with books, and thousands of people out in the business world who had never heard of the Question Based Selling Methodology. Marketing the book was an integral part of my business plan, and it was definitely time to pull out all the stops.
Later that night, I received a cold call at my house from a fellow named Frank Myers, who represented a mortgage company. My first inclination was to get off the phone as quickly as possible. For some reason, I didn’t. Instead, I listened for a few moments and waited for an opening. After Frank’s opening blurb, a pregnant pause ensued, so I jumped into the conversation and my selling instincts took over. Here’s what happened:
TF: “Frank, can I ask you a question?”
Frank: “Sure, Mr. Freese.”
TF: “Since you are in sales, is it safe to assume that you will make a bonus or commission if I buy something?”
Frank: “Yes, we are measured against certain sales goals.”
TF: “In that case, do you have access to the Internet?”
TF: “Do you have a pencil handy?”
Frank: “Yes, sir.”
TF: “Good, then write down this website address.”
I explained to Frank that going immediately to this website address and buying the book, Secrets of Question Based Selling, “will do a lot more to increase your income than staying on the telephone with me.”
“Thanks for the tip, Mr. Freese.” Frank said in an enthusiastic tone, and we politely hung up. Frank felt great because I was cordial and gave him some valuable advice. I felt great because it was suddenly comfortable and easy to get off the phone.
Later that evening, I checked our website and sure enough, Frank had ordered not just one book, but six—for himself and others on his team. I used the same approach with the next salesperson that called, and they bought books too! Of course, not everyone who called purchase books, but it worked often enough that I had uncovered a trend. Cold-callers had suddenly become a very lucrative market for QBS book sales. Not surprisingly, receiving cold calls became much less annoying, now that we were generating revenue each time we picked up the phone. You might even call it reverse telemarketing.
I realize that this strategy of reverse telemarketing may not apply to everyone’s business, but at the very least, if you ever get tired of receiving cold calls from salespeople, do me a favor. Have them call me.