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Marcus Cauchi
Marcus Cauchi: be respected, not liked.

Touching your toes to please your prospect doesn’t make them respect you any more than it makes them like you, warns .

Discounting frenzies, beauty parades and ‘quoting and hoping’ is killing businesses. CEOs (chief executive officers) and business owners who are encouraging these self-sabotaging behaviours are the victims of their own bad habits and beliefs.

They fail shareholders, staff and customers because a non-profitable business is no business at all. Shareholders, owners and investors who allow senior managers to let these behaviours continue only have themselves to blame when they lose their shirt.

Real salespeople

Selling successfully into the post-recession marketplace requires real salespeople not order-takers. Order-takers are manipulated by savvy buyers. Manipulating them is easy because they don’t understand that they have rights. They probably believe it’s about the money and discounting helps win the business.

They may even believe that a well-educated prospect quickly becomes a buyer. Did you realise that answering the buyer’s questions on their terms is sales suicide? You end up chasing dud leads and enduring slow, costly and indeterminate sales cycles.

Businesses operating in the new economy need qualifiers and closers not educators. Post-recession, profit and premium pricing are paramount. Organisations that attract and grow disciplined sellers who consistently apply great selling habits are already going to the bank.

Being liked

If you are more concerned about being liked than being profitable you will have skinny kids. Tough salespeople know that being popular is less important than being respected. Weak salespeople want to be liked more than they want to go to the bank and try and make friends with customers before they have been paid.

In my experience, the problem many salespeople have is the misguided belief that their past behaviour is what made them successful. Much like a political party that rides the crest of an economic upturn and claims responsibility for its success, it probably has more to do with the market itself than any skill the salesperson has shown.

To be successful in today’s market requires a new set of tools and the will to use them.

The reality-checker

First take a cold hard look at how you sell. Answer the questions below. If you don’t like the outcome, it might be time to try something different:

  • how long are your sales cycles?
  • how many people are involved in each sale?
  • if you add up the number of hours you spend on each sale and multiply it by the cost of the people involved, does the revenue generated by the sale justify the cost of winning it?
  • are you committing your valuable resources to long drawn out sales cycles that deliver little to no clients?
  • do your sales activities bring in revenue to meet targets or profit that delivers divvies, bonuses and share value? and
  • when you run your numbers against the number of sales cycles you start, the number that you pursue and your costs against what your average sale is yielding, do you make nearly as much profit as you thought?

The living, working plan

What do your salespeople’s plans look like? Is it something they write that then gathers dust in their boot only seeing the light of day when their manager is visiting? Do they update it with four different coloured pens so it looks like they have been following for months? In my experience many salespeople’s plans consist of a target number and them saying that they will do all they can to get there. That’s not a plan, it’s a prayer! Failure to plan properly is planning to fail.

A real plan is a living document that drives effective, productive sales behaviour. Decide what you want to happen by the end of the next 12 months. Then work backwards to today. Develop a behaviour-based plan, execute it, monitor results, refine the plan and stay focused. How many dials, how many ‘effectives’, how many first and second meetings? Who has to do what to whom, how often and by when? Execute the plan in 90-day chunks. Appraise progress towards specific objectives every quarter.

The behaviour-cruncher

Why should the plan be driven by behaviour and not numbers? You can only manage what you can see and control. You can’t control the revenue number but you can control the behaviour of your salespeople.

Planning without accountability is pointless and having policies you don’t enforce is impotence. Ensure they do the planned behaviour well, consistently over time and the numbers look after themselves. Compensate and hold your salespeople accountable to drive consistent, productive and effective behaviour.

Salespeople are creatures of their compensation scheme. Are you telling them to do one thing and then compensating them to do something else? We were always told to go out and find new business but were paid the same for milking existing accounts. So we carried on selling to our mates. When the crunch came we had all our eggs in the same basket which meant that when those eggs broke there was nothing to feed us with.

The lie-detector

All prospects lie all the time. Most buyers don’t lie because they are bad; they lie because they fear being sold to; they fear making a mistake and being ridiculed and they fear making the wrong decision. We have educated them to lie to us, by selling and running and not fulfilling the promise. By not standing firm on our price and terms, we have allowed ourselves to be played off against our competition.

Salespeople do the open, present, close, which has taught the prospect that they can get a load of information out of us for free. They lie to salespeople by telling them that they have a need, the money to pay us and the authority to spend it. Salespeople are trained to look for the money, authority and need (MAN) and when they think they have found it, they spill their guts.

The reason why this is a problem is because when they think they have found the MAN they go into presentation mode (‘show up and throw up’). Product knowledge used early in the sale is lethal and salespeople give away their product knowledge wrongly believing they are building credibility and demonstrating competence.

The moment they start to give information and answering questions, they become part of the prospects system and have handed over their power. Do your salespeople open, present and close or do they close, qualify and present?

Talented salespeople seek and find the truth even if it makes them unpopular. They’re ruthless in disqualifying timewasters, free-consulting fisherman and ‘tender jockeys’. They know that genuine prospects have a problem you can fix, are in your target market and are willing and able to spend the money with you now to make the problem go away. They drive the prospect towards a defined timetable by when the prospect commits to making the decision to buy.

Unless these criteria are met, they do not qualify to go into your forecast. Go into your forecast and apply these rules and work out how much real business you have.

The pain-detector

About three-quarters of buying decisions are made away from pain. If you present before helping the prospect to discover why they need your help you are guilty of selling malpractice, because you are trying to prescribe before you have diagnosed.

Great salespeople help buyers realise the cause of their problems and why they need your help. Amateur salespeople hear a problem, pounce on it and present. If you can find the prospect’s pain unlocking their budget will be a breeze. Become a pain detector.

Ask good questions that identify their reason for doing business with you now. Find their pains and you find your budget. Uncover a big enough ‘why’ and they’ll pay you whatever you ask. Do you know why it is in their best interest to work with you in the long-term? Be strategic. Sell pain-relief; don’t peddle product (or services).

The self-analyser

Do you do the same thing time and again, hoping for a different result? If you answer ‘yes’ to this question you are screwed. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try and try again. That is moronic. Instead, learn from your failures.

The top 2% of salespeople typically track the following; what works, what doesn’t work and the lessons learned. Then they apply those lessons.

You can only fail at prospecting if you fail to prospect. What you don’t do today will certainly hurt you later. Using the new tools may prove uncomfortable at first. Don’t try and do too much, too quickly. Prospect consistently. Do a little and often. Test, experiment and track what’s working and what’s not.

Record patterns, develop awareness of earlier traps repeating themselves and prepare alternative responses for use in future. Document and share lessons learned. Predictable results will follow.

Or you can stay stuck

Ignore the advice above as being too hard-core and you probably have chosen to stay stuck. Know this. When you hear the words ‘no one is buying’, they are buying... they’re just not buying from you!

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