Sales Tools for the Aspirational Business
Nothing happens in business until somebody sells something.
But that is not how most companies work. Most companies have an inward view with a ‘build it and they will come’ sales philosophy.
Selling is often an afterthought and business often lack the sales tools they need.
Every business needs to create sales success and I would like to share a simple, effective 7 step sales process. A way of ensuring that new business comes in the door today and into the future.
Lots companies do great work but fail. They have the product but lack a process to find and keep customers.
Do the companies with the best product get the business? Sometimes but business usually goes the company with the better sales process.
My goal here is to share my experience and ideas about the sales side of your business. Nobody studies sales at school because nobody ever thinks they are going to be in sales. I certainly did not. But the fact is, we are all in sales because without selling there is no business.
I studied Economics and English in University. When I left school I landed a job in sales. I didn’t plan that to happen but it turned out that selling was something that I could do. I was lucky to have some very good managers that taught me the basic skills of selling. The sales tools that make a difference.
I certainly was not a ‘natural born salesperson’. In fact, I am naturally more of an introvert than an extrovert. As a young child I was painfully shy but I learned that being an extrovert is a skill you can actually learn. Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ skilfully presented the idea that we are all capable of learning almost any skill. If we put in the time – ten thousand hours according to Gladwell – we can excel at almost anything.
First, if you want more sales you need to make a decision to make that happen.
The key to making a change is to make a decision. A decision to be different. I know from my own experience that I can struggle with a challenge for years ‘wanting’ something but when I make a ‘deep’ decision to be different that change can happen very fast – sometimes instantly. You can double your business, lose unwanted weight, run a marathon – anything, once you make a decision to do so.
Changing our life is really about changing our perspective.
People who have more are not better they simply see the world differently. All of us have a world view – our belief about how the world works.
First, we look inside ourselves and decide what kind of world we live in and then we project those believes and create the world we expect.
Expect to see something different for your business and you will create something different.
When I started in sales I worked for the Canadian division of a large American company. My sales territory covered a third of Canada and I travelled 43 weeks a year. Almost every week I left Vancouver on a Sunday night and returned Friday afternoon. I didn’t eat at home for five years. My apartment looked like a hotel room. My schedule was prescribed by my manager who defined the sales presentations. Every customer, large and small, received the same presentation. I did what my boss had done before me and the entire industry operated the same. The result was I earned about the same as every other salesperson in my industry. My company was the market leader so I did marginally better.
After about five years working with this company they were bought and I was given a chance to work with the new business. I knew the new company well and didn’t want to work for them so, at the age of 28 decided to start my own business as an independent manufacturer’s representative. Essentially a freelance salesperson.
I gathered a few brands to represent and continued to work in the same way. I had always worked from a home office and that didn’t change. I kept the same travel schedule. Called on the same accounts. And luckily was earning just a bit better money.
It looked good but after a few months I realised that I didn’t have to do what everyone else did. I started spending more time with the larger companies. They had more interesting problems. I got to know them better. I learned their business intimately and found opportunities to make a difference. The result was the larger companies bought more – a lot more – because they could.
My earnings went from $40,000 to $200,000 in the first year and by year four I was earning $400,000. And that was 25 years ago!
I was selling more by selling less – fewer sales calls, bigger clients, more money. Better sales tools, better results!
A small adjustment in my approach created massive results.
Doing what everyone else does is a good place to start but if you want different you must be different and act differently. Don’t follow what the 99% is doing. Identify and follow the 1% that are succeed beyond the average.
The very top salespeople in every industry earn 10 times or more than the average – selling the same products to the same customers.
Find a better a way! Be the needle not the haystack!
Selling is not magic, it is a just another skill. A set of disciplines that when practiced regularly will take your business from okay to wow! And, most importantly, selling is a skill everyone can learn.
You are already experts at your work – you don’t need to become an expert in sales.
There is a short cut to developing better sales tools?
When I was about 40 I took up running. I joined a running group, ran a couple of marathons but was frustrated with my speed. I just wasn’t getting faster. Then I talked one of the very fast runners in my group and asked him what made a difference. He asked me how many times a week I ran. I told him usually twice. He said if I wanted to run faster I needed to run at least three times a week. Even if the third run was short. I followed his advice and improved quickly.
Most activities require 6 or 7 key skills that make a real impact. Focus on getting those key activities right and you will reap the majority of the results.
Those 6 or 7 things will be our focus here. It is not difficult.
The only thing that will get in your way is yourself! Make a decision to be different. Uncomfortable about selling? Fears about picking up the phone or pitching to prospect? Change your mind. Fear is belief, it is not actually a real thing. Fear exists in our lives because we choose it to be – choose different!
The 7 Steps of A Successful Sales Process
The Sales Process has seven basic steps. Depending on your company it may be more involved but there are always about seven key steps. Follow these and you will get business
- Define your offer
- Know your prospect
- Create Engagement and trust
- Pitch your offer
- Deal with the Objections
- Close the business
- Repeat and scale the process
Let’s drill deeper!
- Define your offer
As experts on, for example, market research what are you really selling?
Market research? No! You are actually selling what market research gives your client.
You are selling success.
You are selling the opportunity for your clients to learn more about their market then they ever thought possible. You are providing insights that will help them advertise more effectively, design better products, build better plans, find better customers and keep those customers longer.
If you decide to sell a product you will instantly commoditise yourself, which is the fastest way to the bottom. Start with your market position.
Your positioning becomes your position. Position yourself differently.
I have a client in the lifestyle management business. They do all the things that busy people don’t have time to do. The owner approached me after a presentation like this one. She had been in business for 8 years and was really struggling. A single mother she was really worrying about providing for her family. After 8 years her business was just getting smaller and less profitable. She was chasing the same market that everyone else was chasing and all she could do was to cut price.
We repositioned her business. We rebranded. We focused on the wealthiest people in London. We raised prices – a lot. A new website positioned her as an exclusive provider. A new sales process helped her connect with a new audience. Within months her business turned around.
In the last 3 ½ years revenue has increased 10 times. A 1000 percent increase.
This change can happen for any business. The first step is to position yourself for success. People will see you as you see yourself.
Decide who you want to sell to and what your audience is looking for and then become that!
Ask yourself? Are you trying to sell what everyone else is selling?
You could just be a market researcher or you could be ‘Automotive market research expert’ or the ‘guru of consumer products market research.’ Pick the right position and your business is secure!
- Know your Prospect
Qualify, qualify, qualify!
A qualified prospect is actually qualified to buy. They are a fit. They have the means to buy. Too many salespeople will waste time chasing everybody and anybody – focus! To quote Don Draper from Mad Men, ‘Don’t chase a girl that doesn’t want to get caught!’
I would like to share a story.
There were two young men in university. They were both living in the dormitory and had been assigned as roommates. They were two very different young men. One was studying to be an engineer. He was organised disciplined and had a plan for everything. His bed was always made – military style – he always had his head in a book.
The other was the completely the opposite.
He studied, or didn’t study, business. His side of the room was a complete mess. In fact, the first year he never unpacked his suitcase.
The messy guy was very social always going to parties, he was fun and always laughing, He had a million friends and was chasing every girl on campus. He would beg his roommate to tag along but he never did. He just wanted to study.
One day he asked his roommate, ‘hey, why don’t you want to meet some girls – don’t you like girls?’
His friend answered seriously. ‘I don want to. I already know who I am going to marry.
His friend was shocked! ‘You know who you are going to marry? Why haven’t I seen her. I haven’t even heard you speak to a girl – who is she?’
The serious roommate responded. ‘Yes, I know what she looks like, I know what her family is like, I know how she dresses. I know where she goes to school, I know everything about her!’.
‘What’s her name?’ asked the roommate.
‘Well, I haven’t actually met her yet. But I know all about her. I know the girl I want to marry. Look! I have a spread sheet. The perfect woman!’
His friend howled with laugher! ‘Oh, I see! You’re crazy! That girl doesn’t exist. If you want her, you will have to build her!’
So, the next three years went on that way. The rambunctious business student always trying to drag his roommate out for some fun – never with any success.
Years later they run into each other on the street. They are the same two men. The one very serious and the other full of laughter and energy. They chat for a few minutes catching up on careers and then the fun guy asked the other! ‘Hey, did you ever meet the perfect woman?’
His friend answered seriously, ‘Actually, I did.’
The friend was shocked. ‘That amazing! That woman exists? So, what happened? Are you married? Tell me!’
Then his friend got very serious. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘I did meet the perfect woman but unfortunately she was looking for the perfect man.’
You can’t just plan for success you need to meet it with preparation!
Know what your prospects wants!
It is not difficult. People tell us who they are and what they want – but we ignore it because we want them to fit our plans!
Finding quality, qualified, aligned prospects is essential.
Prospects are easy to find. Fish swim together! Join an industry association! Use LinkedIn. Once you get clear on who you want to do business with and who want you – business quickly gets easier. When you sell and resell to the same type of buyer you quickly get better.
Start with a premium account on LinkedIn. I would recommend recruiter lite. This will give you more and better ways to filter a search. Build a database of qualified prospects and then begin the process to build engagement. Everyone you need for your business is on Linkedin.
Your prospects are there!
Networking is popular but it is a very passive activity. You need to make direct connections to really grow your business.
Prospecting is an essential part of the sales process and the more qualified prospects that we are in regular contact with the bigger of of pool of potential customers. This is our sales pipeline and it must always be full!
The popular term is pipeline but I prefer to think fish farm. A pond full of fish the we feed and nurture so that we always have food to eat!
- Create Engagement and trust
Trust is everything in selling. Nobody will buy anything from someone they don’t trust. It doesn’t matter if it is a Market Research or a can of Coca-Cola. Trust and engagement are an essential part of the selling process. Establishing trust can take a fraction of a second or months of relationship building. The approach depends mostly on your personal style and the prospect’s buying cycle.
Trust is established in lots of different way: branding, positioning, networking and personal engagement. No trust, no business.
This is really where the ‘soft side’ of selling comes into play. Trust can be established because you went the the same school, you play a great game of golf, or you’ve got the banter! If you are an introvert trust can be established through the quality and diligence of your work. Consistently delivering on promises builds credibility and credibility build trust.
The fastest way to build trust is to make a deep human connection. We can use our eyes, body language and words to quickly establish trust. It can be done over the telephone in seconds. If you are present, in the moment, focused on the other person and truly authentic people will quickly trust you.
It is essential to remember that in building trust everything matters. A well crafted LinkedIn profile can establish trust even before the first meeting. A good website can achieve the same result.
Ask yourself? Do I know who my ideal prospect is? You need to know this!
- Pitch Your Offer
The pitch is where the rubber hits the road! Once you have established trust then it is time to present your offer. This process can be very different depending on the needs and the style of the client.
It is essential is to remember that the client is on their own journey. The customer journey is based on the customer’s needs and the customer’s buying process. Figure out how your prospect likes to buy – you can ask them!
Nobody wants to be sold but everybody wants to buy.
Sell the prospect the way they want to be sold. Like every relationship sales requires that you pay attention to the needs of the client.
You need to be sensitive to the prospect’s journey but you must also remain in control of the client conversation. If you lose control you will lose the sale.
Being in control doesn’t mean being pushy or aggressive. Think of when someone is a guest at your house. You are the host. You are in charge. You decide when dinner starts, where people will sit and when drinks will be served but you are never pushy – you lead!
Being in control of the customer conversation means gently leading the process – never pushing.
Let the prospect sell themselves.
Let the customer write the pitch by listening to their needs. Listen far more more than you talk – that is very hard for most people but if you let people talk and pay attention to the non-verbal cues they will tell you everything you want to know – and more
Pay deep attention!
People cannot actually keep secrets. As humans, we leak emotions and the better your listening skills, the more attention you give to them the better you will understand what it takes to get the business.
A pitch might be formal or it might be just a few words but, ideally, the pitch should resolve all concerns and compel the customer to buy. Pitch more frequently – this will give you the tools to refine your approach. After every pitch you should give deep thought to what worked and what didn’t. Your prospects can teach you how pitch better and over time your success rate will improve.
Make it all about them!
Let me tell you a story.
There was an old couple that had been married for 55 years. For 50 of those years they had a ritual. Every evening before bed they would sit together and have toast and tea. They would talk about their day. They did this everyday for 50 years. In the summer they sat on the porch and in the winter they sat next to the fire. The husband would always prepare the tea and toast. Loose tea in a teapot, warmed tea mugs, he would take one slice of toast from the middle and other from the end – the heal – he would toast them perfectly then butter and spread honey. He always gave the heal to his wife.
Then one-day something happened.
As he gave the toast to his wife she exploded in a rage. Now, she had never raised her voice in 55 years of marriage but she shouted with anger.
‘Why, why, why do you hate me? Why do you despise me? Why do you think so little of me?’
The husband was shocked and didn’t understand and he just stood there with his mouth open.
She continued, ‘Why do you always give me the end of the loaf? Do you think so little as to give me what most people throw away?’ He stood in silence and she demanded, ‘Why?’
Meekly he answered, ‘Because it is my favourite part.’
Most of us spend 99% of the time thinking about ourselves and what we want. Even when trying to help others we give them what we would like to receive instead of what they really want.
Selling is no different. We look at our product or service and see the value that we see and pitch that to our prospects. Nobody cares what we want. People care about what they want – speak to that!
Sell to the customer from their perspective – not yours!
Ask yourself, do you market and sell from your prospect’s perspective or yours?
Most of the time prospects will have concerns that we have not considered and this need to be addressed.
I have found that the two best ways to deal with objections are:
- Know your business better than anyone – knowledge is a powerful tool
- Three words ‘Feel, Felt, Found!’
‘I understand how you feel, in fact, most of our best customers felt the same way when we first spoke to them but they have found that the benefits delivered far outweigh any initial concerns.’
Feel, felt, found solves three problems:
- It acknowledges the issue – validation
- It acknowledges that they are not alone – more validation
- It provides social proof to resolve the objection – security
The most common objection is on price but it is rarely a real objection.
People rarely buy the lowest price option – they just don’t. We all buy brands. However, if you have not established the value in your brand then they will question price. Think of a price objection as one of three things.
- You have not qualified your prospect and money is a real issue
- You don’t know your own market and your pricing is wrong
- You have not established the value in the eyes of the prospect
Remember. The customer writes the pitch! Let your prospects teach you how to sell to them. Be thoughtful about this and learn from your experiences. Get better.
- Close the business
Once you have pitched and dealt with any objections then is time to close. No matter what the situation at a certain point you must ask for the business.
To avoid being pushy it is good to use a soft close. The classic is, ‘Would you like that in Red or Blue?’ or perhaps, ‘Shall we begin next Monday?
My favourite is, ‘Are you ready to move forward with this?’ This approach leaves room to go back to objections should any come up!
At the end of the day you must ask for the business. Too many salespeople never ask and they never get. I have been in situations where I thought I would never get the business but asked for the order and the buyer said yes!
Always ask for the business!
Repeat and scale
Getting a new customer is great but this process must never end. If a business is to survive and thrive it must manage existing customers and keep them happy and continually be looking for new customers. Many businesses spend years on a roller coaster ride of business and starvation because once they find a customer or two they stop selling.
- Does my positioning help or hurt?
- Do I know who I want to sell to?
- Do I create engagement and trust?
- Do I pitch from the prospect’s perspective?
- Do I skilfully deal with all objections?
- Do I ask for the business?
- Do I have a sales system that works and is scalable?
How to make this happen through action!
The best method to develop a sales process is to have your prospects teach you!
Start with a simple sales process for your business and then make a plan to meet with 100 prospects as quickly as possible. Don’t worry too much about selling them but pay attention, keep notes, review and revise your process. Let your prospects teach you how to sell to them.
Success is simple, define your offer, be different, inspire your prospects, add value at every client touch-point and sell with all the passion and enthusiasm you can find!