Monthly Archives: November 2015
In my previous post, Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional, I discussed several different selling styles — charismatic, technical, aggressor, and consultative — which may be known by a variety of names.
Many sales professionals find themselves stuck in a particular style of selling. I was one more at home with a charismatic approach and, sometimes, a technical approach. I had my share of successes, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just when I thought they should be closing. I began to see the limitations of my narrow go-to selling styles, and I wondered how much more growth I could experience by expanding the tools to my skills toolkit. Moving beyond my comfort zone took some doing, so I thought I would share some tips in this post.
The first step to shift your selling style is awareness. You need to become clear on where you tend to live in terms of approach by identifying your default style. Do you focus more on relationships? On technical knowledge? On pushing clients to consider new ideas? Assess where you are and how well your current approach works for you. Think about your successes, and why they have worked. Remember the deals that you couldn’t close, and be honest about the reasons of why they slipped away.
Then, do a gap analysis. What might you have done differently that could have changed the outcome of that opportunity? What different skills » Continue Reading.
Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional
When I look back over my sales career, I realize that I mainly operated as a relationship-based seller. I had my share of successes with this approach, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just as they should be closing.
In one particular instance, I invested 18 months in building a great relationship with a client. At the eleventh hour, as the deal was set to close, it was pulled out from under me. Why? My main contact wasn’t the one who made the buying decision; it was her boss. I had been so embedded in my relationship that I developed a blind spot about considering other people who might ultimately be the decision-makers.
My biggest mistake was believing in old-school sales training, which taught the value of creating a connection with people, because, “if they like you, they will buy from you.” Today, with the knowledge of hindsight, I offer this addendum: It’s not enough to rely on just your interpersonal skills, staying in the opening phase of the sales process, when establishing relationships are key. Too many things can happen to derail the sale, so don’t put all your eggs in the one basket of relationships.
There are several other baskets of sales approaches and, as I’ve come to learn, those that are too narrowly focused can create undue risk of lost sales.
Charismatic: This is the relationship approach. » Continue Reading.
What Sinatra Teaches Us about Consultative Selling
It’s been 100 years since Frank Sinatra was born, on December 12, 2015. Even though he’s been gone since 1998, he remains an icon, with a growing following. His classic sound and signature style have earned such accolades as “a voice for all generations” with “unmatched showmanship and artistry.”
Why is Frank Sinatra relevant in a blog post about consultative selling? Because he stands the test of time, as does the consultative selling framework for structuring sales calls and client meetings. In today’s socially networked world, where trending topics tend to capture the most attention, Sinatra’s legacy refutes the idea that the latest, shiniest tools are always better than the tried and true.
When it comes to successful selling over the long term, we can all take a few lessons from Sinatra:
Ol’ Blue Eyes
Sinatra had a vision for what worked with an audience. He connected with people. He used all of the skills at his disposal: poise, style, phrasing, and tempo. He “killed” in concert, causing women to swoon and scream. Such engagement wasn’t by accident but, it was by drawing on his strengths and matching them to audience needs and desires.
Consultative selling also focuses on engaging the audience, in this case, prospects and clients. But, it’s more than relationship building. A true consultative approach makes the transition from product-based selling to needs-based. A consultative sales professional » Continue Reading.
I have worked with Richardson for more than a decade. I was first based in Brussels, working across multiple industries and cultures in Europe. Now, I’m in Australia, working with a broad range of clients across the Asia-Pacific region.
As a facilitator, I take a high-energy approach in the classroom, encouraging debate, discussion, and a sharing of experience that is respectful of different cultural perspectives.
Questioning skills take on another layer of complexity in Asia because you need to ask fairly direct questions but in a gentler, less aggressive manner than is typical in the US or European markets.
In Asia, you might have to ask the same questions several times, in different ways, to get the response that you need. Sometimes, it takes circling back to a particular question later in the meeting or in a future meeting after the client has become a little more comfortable with you.
During first meetings, I find clients in Asia to be more conservative initially. That’s when questioning skills in prefacing, trading, and pacing become really important (see Part II: ).
With pacing, for example, clients need time to think through and consider their response to questions. So, maybe you ask a question, then sip your water or coffee to provide a pause, and then let them know that you’re expecting a response, in a respectful manner. It’s also important to respect the fact that, if you’re conducting business » Continue Reading.
In Part I of this series, I focused on the strategy of questioning skills — the “what” to ask. In Part II, we’ll move on to the best way of asking sales questions — the “how.” The elements involve proper empathy, pacing, and back-and-forth dialogue.
The objective is to have a two-way dialogue with the client so that the meeting doesn’t feel like an interrogation. The skills for achieving this include acknowledging, little nods, and paraphrasing back — “If I hear right, Mr. Client, what you’re saying is …” You become an active listener, being there in the moment instead of thinking about your next question or your next meeting. You demonstrate empathy.
I’ll share a true example of how not to do it. This comes from the time of the global financial crisis when a salesperson meeting with a client began the conversation by asking, “How’s business?” He said it more as a throwaway ice breaker as he was getting himself settled. The client was an entrepreneur who had grown the business to several hundred employees, including family members. The client responded, “To be honest, this has been the toughest of my 20-plus years in business. I nearly lost everything. I couldn’t even sleep at night, thinking about the impact losing the business would have on my family and employees.”
How did the salesperson respond? He said, “Oh OK, so what I wanted to talk to you about today » Continue Reading.
Great Questioning Skills Have Two Components: Part I – The Strategy
There are two essential components to questioning skills in a sales environment. The first involves strategy — the “what” to ask. The second is about the “how” of asking questions. The art of getting better at both begins with preparation.
This post will focus on the strategy of questioning skills. Part II will cover the skills involved in how to ask questions with proper empathy, pacing, and back-and-forth dialogue.
The first element in establishing an effective questioning strategy is to identify what you want to learn from the client. This means establishing clear objectives but not just those related to what you want to get out of the meeting. Think about what it is that you want to leave behind. This doesn’t mean a brochure or other information but, more importantly, what is the perception that you want to leave behind.
As for type of questions, at Richardson we often refer to the concept of a questioning funnel. At the top are big, overarching questions — such as the client’s goals and objectives — moving down to more granular questions about implementation and decision criteria.
Often, salespeople find it hard to start with big questions. They think too broad: “Tell me about the business and what you want to achieve.” If they have an existing relationship with the client, they usually start with what’s currently going on » Continue Reading.
Five Quick Sales Tips to Sell More Effectively
In Part I of this series, I talked about the changing sales environment and how more buyers are buying than being sold. In Part II , my focus turned to the need for salespeople to dig deep into buying motives to establish credibility and provide new ideas and insights to buyers. Now, it’s time to turn to some sales tips and techniques for selling in today’s environment.
I don’t want to say that cold calling is dead, but it certainly has changed dramatically. Salespeople used to be able to call a prospect who had never before expressed an interest and get a few minutes of their time. Sometimes, they could just show up at their office and gain entrance. That rarely happens today.
Since the advent of Caller ID, it’s never been easier to ignore incoming phone calls. Salespeople are then left with the question: Do I leave a message or just hang up? Even leaving a voice mail is little guarantee of a call back, so many don’t even bother. I used to get 50 voice mails a day; now I don’t even get 50 a month.
The secret to getting in the door is to find a hook that resonates with the prospect. Here are some more sales tips and techniques that may help.
Cultivate your network. Salespeople need to have an ecosystem in place to build and leverage » Continue Reading.