Common Sense Selling: Tell the Truth

On a 4-legged sales call last week, I witnessed a seller tell a blatant lie to a buyer. The buyer knew the seller was lying, and the buyer shut down immediately after the lie was told.

While debriefing the call with the seller, I asked about her rationale for saying what she did. Her response was one I’d heard before. She said “buyers lie to sellers so what do they expect in return?” She also said that, for her, making the sale was more important than telling the truth.

So, of course, I had to ask her: “how did that work out for you?” Eventually, she acknowledged that the lie prevented the sale and makes it impossible for her to get back in front of the buyer in the future. With a little more coaxing, she also realized how this affects her company’s image and job satisfaction. Several days later, she also volunteered that lying to customers makes her feel bad about herself, too.

Lying to make a sale is not necessary. It should never happen. It’s not worth it. And it doesn’t even work, at least not in the long term once the lie is exposed.

As a seller, nothing is more important than your integrity. Protect it even to the point of choosing integrity over making a quick and dirty sale.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales resources and tools. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog.  

Common Sense Selling: Every Interaction Counts

It may be obvious, but it’s often forgotten.

Every interaction with a customer counts. There is no free pass for a lapse in judgment. You won’t get a mulligan because you were in a bad mood. There are no second chances to preserve the image you initially constructed and conveyed. A single misstep can be costly.

They understand this concept at my dentist’s office. Claudia, the receptionist, is friendly and personable. Her reminder calls are personalized and her greeting when I walk into the office is always exuberant. She asks about the family and about business. Her questions are genuine and specific, different for each person who walks through that door. But Claudia isn’t the only one there who understands the important of every interaction. The hygienists and dentists all smile warmly and create a welcoming atmosphere.

Years ago, as a new patient, I made a small request of the dentist I was seeing that day. I figured that I’d need to repeat this request every time I sat in one of their chairs because my request was a bit unusual and requires an adaptation to the way dental hygienists routinely do their work. I’ve seen three dentists and at least four hygienists in that office at least a dozen times since then. And I’ve never once repeated my request. But they’ve never once forgotten to honor my request.

If a dental office staff can personalize every interaction at this level, I think sellers can do the same. It makes a big difference, a positive difference, when you:

  • Use the name of people you’ve met. Remember it and use it every time you meet.
  • Take note of personal preferences and honor them.
  • Anticipate others’ needs and proactively address them.
  • Set aside your own mood, refuse to be distracted and focus on the person you’re interacting with in that moment.
  • Treat others with dignity and respect.

Every interaction counts. Don’t miss the opportunities to turn a first impression into a lasting impression by consistently putting your best foot forward in customer meetings.

A word of caution. Strong connections and relationships are the starting point, the price of admission. You need to bring more than your charm to engage buyers and retain customers. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and remembering that every interaction counts will give you a very strong start.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales resources and tools. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog.  

Common Sense Selling: Don’t Ignore the Customer

Some things are so obvious that they shouldn’t ever have to be said, let alone repeated.

Then again, some things are so important that they can’t be ignored.

This is one of those things. I’m repeating it because I encountered three consecutive sellers who just didn’t seem to know this very basic rule of selling. I hit my tolerance limit in a crowded shopping mall during a Boxing Day Blow-Out.

As I walked into the store, I knew I was on borrowed time. I had about five minutes, max, to make my purchase. The menfolk of the family refused to enter the store for two reasons — first, they know that this tacit approval would prolong their shopping agony and, second, they  both experience instant and profound headaches when entering this particular store (a bad reaction to the smells).

Maybe you’ve shopped there. Lush carries all sorts of fun indulgences for pampering yourself, and all their products are handmade and never animal-tested. I generally enjoy shopping here and recommend you give them a try. On this occasion, however, given that I was in such a hurry, I just wanted to replenish my supply of lip scrub and get on my way.

I couldn’t find the product, so I asked a sales clerk to point me in the right direction. Instead, she escorted me on a full tour of the store and explained nearly every product along the way. We made a full circle right back to where we started before she pointed out the two remaining flavors (bubble gum and popcorn) and apologized for not having the one I’d asked for.

I kid you not. A full circle. She effusively described the bath bombs. She pointed out the cleansers and described how the ocean salt variety was the best for brightening a complexion. She oohed and ahhed about the hair care products. Then she touted the deod0rents and made a big to-do about the moisturizers.

I’m pretty expressive myself, so my facial expression and exaggerated look at my watch should have reined in her expansive descriptions. Instead, the more impatience I signaled, the louder and faster she talked.

We moved on to the “wonderful gifts!” and “stock up now!” ideas for face masks and shaving creams and lip balms (there are lots more varieties of these than there are lip scrubs… and I got to hear about every single one of them).

Finally. Finally! She showed me the product I’d come in for and, as if I’d never heard about it, she went on and on and on and on about the miraculous benefits and popularity and use of these $10 products. Only then did she reveal that my preferred variety was sold out.

I left. Normally, as a sales trainer, I feel obligated to offer a word of advice. But it just felt hopeless in this case. And I was in a hurry.

Here’s what I probably should have said in the interest of sparing the next customer. No one wants an unsolicited and rabid download of everything there is to know about every product in the store. Ever.

Listening to your customer and responding to their stated needs is always a better choice than ignoring the questions they ask, the cues they give and the desires they express. If you have something more to say, you will earn the right to say it by first providing what the customer asked for in a respectful manner.

Common sense. After all, this is true in just about any conversation or relationship. Why would we forget this fundamental truth when selling?

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales resources and tools. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog.  

Are You Selling Like It’s New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day?

New Year’s Eve: a time of revelry, of saying goodbye to the old and ushering in the new. It’s a nostalgic look back at what has been and a festive anticipation of what will be.

New Year’s Day: a quieter time, one for reflection and resolutions, the bookend to a season of holidays and merriment. The last day before it’s back to the grindstone and reality sets in.

If you are selling like it’s New Year’s Day, you are setting goals and focusing forward on how you can succeed for the future. You’re serious minded and determined to make things happen. You’ve made a commitment to yourself to do things differently, to continually strive for improvement.

If you are selling like it’s New Year’s Eve, you are hopeful and enjoying the feeling of anticipation. You’re focusing less on the plans and more on the celebration of new starts. You’re lighthearted and hopeful that something new is just around the corner.

I know plenty of sellers in both camps. The best sellers, though, are those who enjoy New Year’s Eve and can also embrace the spirit of New Year’s Day.

If you’re not enjoying both occasions as a seller, push yourself. You might find that the balance makes for a good start and a good end to your year.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a seller, giving and sharing with your buyers creates strong connections that lead to improved sales productivity. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

The Joy of Giving Applies to Selling, Too

For me, the joy of Christmas is all in the giving. Sure, it’s nice to receive gifts. But the bursting-from-inside feeling, for me, is tied to the anticipation of others opening the gifts I’ve selected for them.

Occasionally, in field coaching, I see this same sense of anticipation in a seller. They’ve prepared something for a buyer that is exactly right. They’ve worked hard to make it the perfect solution, and they know the buyer will love it.

The seller’s confidence and enthusiasm in these cases is always contagious. Buyers respond, and it’s not just because they love the gift. They sense that the seller has put a part of himself or herself into the giving.

By contrast, when sellers deliver generic proposals, it’s the equivalent of giving a fruitcake or some other impersonal gift. Buyers sense it, and it’s easier for them to say “no” to something that the seller has no enthusiasm or personal investment in.

It’s almost as if sellers forget that what they have to offer is a gift, something to be treasured. Many sellers lose sight of the joy of giving and focus only on receiving. It shows to a buyer.

The next time you deliver a solution to a buyer, carry your holiday spirit with you. Make your proposal a gift that you know your buyer will be delighted to receive.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a seller, giving and sharing with your buyers creates strong connections that lead to improved sales productivity. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

Five Misunderstandings about Serving vs. Selling

In many companies, belt tightening in recent years has resulted in fewer service specialists to assist customers after a sale has been made.

Similarly, many companies have opted to reduce the number of customer service representatives they make available to answer questions for customers. Automated systems, outsourced call centers and long wait times have become the new norm.

What this means for sellers is that the burden of service often falls on their shoulders. Some sellers resent this. Some refuse to follow through on orders, focusing exclusively on making a sale rather than following it through all the way to customer satisfaction. Other sellers overcompensate and find themselves doing all sorts of administrative tasks and service-oriented activities, barely leaving enough time to sell.

The most successful sellers over the long term are those who understand the crossover between serving and selling. They do not get caught up in these five misunderstandings that trip others up.

  1. You really can’t draw a line between service and sales. The lines blur, and every relevant and meaningful service activity increases the likelihood of continued sales. If you don’t serve customers, you won’t retain them.
  2. Service has reasonable limits. You can set boundaries by explaining to your customers what you can and what you cannot do. When you set reasonable expectations on the front end, they won’t be disappointed. And you won’t be swamped by all sorts of time-consuming extras.
  3. Buyers are empowered. What this means is that if you don’t provide a reasonable and clear level of service, your buyers will find someone who does. Make the service you provide a positive point of differentiation, but keep it all in balance.
  4. Meaningful service doesn’t usually require all that much effort or time. If you provide just one action of service, and it is highly relevant and important to your buyer, it will carry you a long way.
  5. If you find that you prefer doing the work related to order fulfillment, troubleshooting, production and other post-sale activities, consider that you may not be well suited to a sales position. That’s okay. Just don’t continue trying to do both jobs, because you won’t be satisfied or successful as you dilute your impact in both.

If you’re not sure what it takes to serve and satisfy your customers, why not ask them? Performing an occasional service check is a best practice. Simply say something like this “now that we’ve been working together for a while, I’d like to get your feedback on what I could be doing differently.” Accept the feedback graciously, take note of what you can change and change it. If your buyer asks you to do more than you are capable of doing, explain that. This way there will be an understanding rather than an unmet expectation that becomes a disappointment.

In essence, good selling is serving. Strike that balance, and your job will become much easier.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a seller, giving and sharing with your buyers creates strong connections that lead to improved sales productivity. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

Five Misunderstandings about Teaching as a Part of Selling

With the heightened awareness of and interest in insight selling, it has become popular for sellers to think of themselves as teachers. This is a positive step in the right direction toward genuinely helping buyers and creating value. However, there are some misunderstandings about how and what to teach that can backfire and leave sellers wondering “what went wrong?”

Here are the five biggest misunderstandings I’ve observed when it comes to sellers teaching their buyers something new:

You don’t need to have all the answers. Oftentimes, sellers shy away from teaching because they feel limited by their own range of knowledge. They fear that the buyer may ask a question that stumps them. Or they are concerned about getting in too deep and being exposed for what they don’t know. One of the very best teaching techniques is asking questions and bringing others’ knowledge and gaps in knowledge to the surface. Doing so makes you an indispensable resource to your buyers.

Buyers appreciate sellers who are knowledgeable… But product knowledge alone isn’t sufficient. Sellers most often feel comfortable and confident as subject matter experts in their own products. While it’s true that you should, indeed, know everything possible about the products you sell, don’t stop there. Your buyers expect you to also know about their industry and challenges. They want you to know enough about business and the work they do to offer credible solutions. With that additional knowledge (and some good questions – see #1), you will be able to explain and teach contextually. You won’t be spouting product knowledge in a vacuum. Instead, your teaching will be highly relevant.

You won’t offend someone if you offer to share new information. To the contrary, you will offend buyers if you make assumptions about what they do or do not know already. You’ll alienate buyers if you talk beyond their level of understanding. What’s basic to you (as the subject matter expert about the products you sell) may be mysterious and difficult to understand for your buyers.

You’ll need to customize every lesson. Every individual buyer is different. Each one brings different experiences, comparisons, questions and biases. When you teach your buyers, be sure to tune in to their responses and subtle reactions. Ask questions to probe for understanding and to surface any misunderstandings (which will later lead to objections). Don’t do canned lessons because they are no more effective than canned sales pitches.

Adults learn best when the teaching is interactive. Don’t lecture. Discuss. Ask questions to engage your buyer as a full participant in the instructional conversation. Talk about his or her specific situation and needs so what you are teaching is practical knowledge that can be used immediately (with the purchase of your product, of course). Along the way, let your buyers teach you some things, too, about their businesses and industries. Every single thing you learn is something you can use to teach some other buyer or, at least, to craft great questions for interactive and shared learning.

Aim to be the “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage” when you are teaching something new to your buyers. This approach will build connections and facilitate mutual sharing. It will also help you to advance more sales more quickly.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a seller, giving and sharing with your buyers creates strong connections that lead to improved sales productivity. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

Five Misunderstandings about Storytelling for Selling

You’ve heard, by now, the importance of telling stories to persuade buyers and from quick connections with them. Unfortunately, many sellers have missed out on reaping the benefits of storytelling by misunderstanding what the stories they tell should be about and/or how to tell an effective story.

Here are the five biggest misunderstandings I’ve observed when it comes to selling with storytelling.

  1.  It isn’t your story that needs to be told. Think of yourself as the hero, not as the main character. The main character is either the buyer you are talking to or one that is so similar that the buyer can readily identify with him or her. As the hero, you will enter into the story only briefly as the conduit for change. Think of all those childhood stories you read – the hero doesn’t really save the princess so much as he coaxes out her full potential. That’s your role in the story.
  2. Stories start with Once Upon a Time and end with Happily Ever After. You can’t tell an incomplete story and expect your buyers to fill in the blanks. Be careful not to start in the middle and not to end there either. Sales stories need to include the background information about the main character and the problem he or she is experiencing. The story needs to include a before-and-after narrative with clear transitions and a positive change. Then, building up to the close, the story should paint that picture of a happy ending.
  3. To captivate others, your storytelling needs to be descriptive. Not flowery, but authentic and vivid so it brings to life the change you are prescribing. Don’t really on adjectives so much as action verbs so what you are describing are actions that the main character, your buyer, will take in order to reach that state of Happily Ever After.
  4. The measure of a good story isn’t its length. In fact, more people will readily listen to a short story than to a novel. Padding your story with extraneous details and verbose descriptions isn’t necessary. Just stick to the most compelling aspects and include enough of them to tell the whole story.
  5. You can’t tell the same story over and over again without losing oomph. Your stories should be fresh and relevant every time. Canned stories bore people and make you seem unoriginal. You may have a general framework for a story you retell, but don’t over-script it and take all the spontaneity and personalization out of it. By making the story unique to every buyer, the story will become a glue that connects you to this buyer. Good stories are like shared experiences.

Review the stories you’ve been telling. Strip out as much as possible that starts with “I” and “My” or any other self-focused emphasis. Weave yourself into the buyer’s story instead of trying to make the buyer an add-on to your story. At the same time, be sure you are sharing enough of yourself to illustrate that you will be an integral part of living Happily Ever After.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a seller, giving and sharing with your buyers creates strong connections that lead to improved sales productivity. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

Five Ways Asking Questions Leads to Connections

Because we customize all our People First Productivity Solutions sales training workshops, we routinely survey participants prior to training. This gives participants a voice in shaping the focus and content of their training.

By asking a series of questions, we learn a great deal about the sales culture, practices and strengths of a team. We also learn about gaps and perceived limitations for each seller. This is all intentional, and the surveys are written to mine for this kind of information.

Surprisingly, there’s something more that comes from every survey we do. We didn’t set out to make this happen. It just did. People responded warmly, openly and with gratitude. Our training engagement levels, feedback scores, rate of skills application and number of social media followers all began to skyrocket. Training participants connected with us.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, asking questions also yields these same benefits. It just hadn’t dawned on us that survey questions would have the same impact.

Quality questions always foster connections for these five reasons:

Quality questions demonstrate an interest in the person you are talking with. Sellers who talk about their own products and services inadvertently demonstrate that their only interest in the other person is whether or not they will buy. Sellers who talk about generic value or assumed benefits demonstrate that their interest is merely casual, perhaps even lazy. Real, genuine interest prompts us to explore what the other person is thinking and what matters most to them.

Quality questions build trust. We trust people who ask us questions and openly accept our opinions and input. We remain skeptical about those who proceed without checking in with us or checking on their own assumptions. Questions build trust by building mutual understanding.

Quality questions give you common ground and a foundation for a relationship. Only the shallowest of connections are facilitated by our online research about the buyers we call on. While you might be able to open a conversation on a common interest, cause or affiliation, you can’t construct a strong foundation on that common ground without questions. Questions personalize the connection and reveal deeper and more meaningful links.

Quality questions invite sharing and an open exchange. Questions promote sharing. Your questions signal your genuine interest and give permission for others to share. When they’ve shared with you, they’ll be more open and ready to what you have to share. Questions get the party started.

Quality questions stimulate thought and insights. As a seller, you don’t need to know all the answers. Insight selling doesn’t mean that all the insights are your own. Instead, you discover and co-create new insights in a rich dialogue with your buyer. When you ask thought-provoking questions, you bring information to the surface. That’s what leads to new insights and ideas.

All five of these connections come from asking QUALITY questions. So what’s a quality question? It’s one that comes from genuine interest in the other party and yields rich information in return. You can read more about our research on questions and how they help build buyer/seller connections in our bestselling book DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on connecting with others. As a seller, continual focus on strengthening connections with buyers and others is an essential ingredient of success. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.   

In Sales, Don’t Fake It ‘Til You Make It

The notion that you should “fake it ‘til you make it” will damage your credibility with buyers.

Buyers know when you’re faking it, and they don’t give you bonus points for trying. Instead, because there is already a trust gap between sellers and buyers, they shut down if they sense you are inauthentic, uninformed, or poorly prepared.

You won’t fool them by faking it. Nor will you feel good about the work that you are doing. The worst stereotypes about sellers come from this notion that we should fake it ‘til we make it, and it’s time to put a stop to that ineffective practice.

 

Although some sellers try to “fake it ‘til they make it” in all parts of the sales cycle, I’ve recently been observing this in two distinct areas – cold calling and pitching.

Here are three ways sellers derail their own prospecting efforts by attempting to fake their way into a meeting:

-          They grasp at straws to find even the slightest hint of a connection, often using a tool like LinkedIn to latch onto something – anything – that provides common ground. True story: one seller recently opened a phone call with me by saying “You’re on the radio, right? Well, I’ve listened to radio programs before. So I thought we ought to talk about the office automation tool that is rated #1 by…”
-          They claim they’ve been referred by someone. Name dropping is only useful when there is an actual referral involved. It’s also a risky business. One seller recently name dropped about a business owner’s former partner, only to get an earful about the ugly lawsuit about the dissolution of the partnership.

 

-          They pretend they returning a phone call or following up when, in fact, this is the very first contact made. I had a chance to toy with a seller who tried this last month, putting him on the spot to tell me who he spoke to here, when and about what. His hemming and hawing was a credibility-killer.
The “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy also fails when it comes to providing value. Many sellers offer a pretense of value rather than providing actual value that is meaningful to the buyer. Here are some signs that you might inadvertently be doing this:

  • The value proposition you use is generic, and you use it over and over again.
  • You refer to “value” because you think it’s a buzzword that will help you make the sale. Your intent is all about making the sale, and it is not about finding, creating or delivering value to your prospect.
  • You are confusing price with value. You discount prices and call that value.
  • You don’t know much about the people you’re calling on, their needs or their current priorities. You may even think that taking time to learn about individuals will be a nuisance for you.
  •   You rely on your products and your company to provide value and added value. You leave it up to marketing to build value into your sales pitch.

If you fake it ‘til you make it, you’re not going to make it.

Instead, work to be authentic. Start by developing a mindset that is founded in an intent to truly create value for each and every individual buyer. Doing this will make more difference in your selling effectiveness then any artificial or trumped up approach you can take. Don’t be lazy, don’t fake it, and don’t ignore the impact of being a seller who truly focuses on the customer.

When you bring value, you will make sales. But you can never do that until you stop faking it.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on connecting with others. As a seller, continual focus on strengthening connections with buyers and others is an essential ingredient of success. For our regular features on connecting with buyers, check out CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.