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Archive for the ‘Sales Training’ Category

Differentiate Your Small Business from Competitors by Making Yourself the Go-To Authority in Your Field

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

Differentiate Your Small Business from Competitors by Making Yourself the Go-To Authority in Your Field

A question I am often asked by entrepreneurs starting a new business operation is, “How do I stand out from my competition”. There are a number of options that can be
chosen to accomplish this goal. Resources and actual experience go far in determining which route to take.

If financial resources are not an issue, and it almost universally is, smothering your target market with advertising is the most commonly chosen method to make you and your enterprise stand out from the pack. But there are better paths for those working with minimal assets. Here are a few to consider.

Write a Blog

Let’s assume that you are an insurance agency owner. I live in a very tiny community and even here we have at least six insurance agents in the county. Insurance agents are ubiquitous. By writing a Blog, and constantly updating the content, an agent can become identified as a purveyor of tips and information that makes the purchase of insurance less painful. Whatever the field of endeavor try to impart knowledge that is of value to consumers. Do not overtly attempt to sell a product or service.

Perfect the Advertorial

An Advertorial is an advertisement that looks and reads like an editorial. A question is posed that pertains to your particular business entity. You answer the question with clarity and an air of studied knowledge. This subtly reinforces your bona fides as an expert in your field.

We have used Advertorials successfully for years to build our clients reputations as experts. People love to receive information and tips. They do not like to be sold. The Advertorial, if properly written and executed, will not only build a professional reputation they will be a driver of sales and traffic to your business.

We have used the Advertorial strategy to promote Wellness and Weight Loss Clinic owners, Beauty Salon and Day Spa businesses, Gourmet Food and Beverage marketers, Cosmetic, Skin Care, Fashion, Perfumers, Pet Products, Hunting and Fishing, Sporting Goods, DIY, and Jewelry start-ups, local merchants and service providers. This technique can be made to work to fit almost any Sales Promotion budget.

Public Relations

If you hire a new employee announce the appointment in a Publicity Release. If you launch a new product, open a branch office, add an account, attend a Trade Show, take a continuing education course, or experience any positive activity relating to your business write and circulate a Publicity Release.

The local media in your trading area loves these types of notices and publication is FREE! There are numerous FREE on-line services which publish PR Releases. Trade journals are awash in industry specific announcements that are generated by PR Releases and are published for FREE! Build a data base of clients, past customers and send them PR Releases announcing positive news. Visit my web-site www.DuquesaMarketing.com and click on the Public Relations tab. The format we utilize for the Releases that you can view is the standard PR industry template which you should use for your PR’s.

Public Speaking

Offer to speak to local service clubs such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Lions, Forrester’s, etc. The announcement that you will be speaking on a topic that is in your professional wheelhouse reinforces that you are the “pro from Dover” in this space. Church, civic and philanthropic groups are always seeking knowledgeable speakers to enrich their meetings.

Network

In order to speak to groups as described above, join them. The best advertisement and strategy to make you and your business known is to participate in local and industry specific groups and boards.

Have a Fresh Web-site

I am a believer that way too many people have web-sites. If content is not exciting a site can actually signify that your business is poorly run. People with new business concepts, but no ability to conduct commerce, put up sites that only serve to tip off competitors about their intentions before they are market ready.

A bright, contemporary, well managed web-site does not have to cost a fortune or be cumbersome for even the smallest Micro-Business to handle. There are numerous service firms that can build sites inexpensively and will constantly add blog and PR updates. Search engines will crawl web-site pages every few weeks and if a site is key search term enriched it will move higher in page rankings.

Write Articles

Let’s assume you operate a Prototype Design facility. There is a good bit of mystery to creating working, production quality Prototypes. These units are essential in  discovering manufacturing logistics, engineering quirks, cost of goods, and much more. If an Industrial or Design Engineer wishes to distinguish themselves there is no better way than to regularly publish 400 or more word articles on topics germane to modeling Prototypes.

Article Submission firms abound on the web-site. Many publish for FREE. Some charge a small publishing fee. A few can be utilized for targeting specific demographic groups or industries. When you publish an article you will be perceived as a person with a level of expertise in your field of work.

These are only a few of the many strategies that can be employed to separate you and your business from a swarm of competitors. As you execute these types of self-promotional elements you will discover that they become easier as you perfect your skill sets. There is an old adage among writers: “Writers write”. There is a similar maxim for entrepreneurs: “Successful businesses self-promote”.

Selling Is the Most Important Job For All Entrepreneurs

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Let’s consider the example of an entrepreneurial inventor attempting to market his newest creation: a portable hydrostatic body fat test appliance. Design is complete, testing is finished and results exceeded initial assumptions, several working prototypes have been built, UL Approval is in hand, patents filed and a business plan has been customized. The wellness aspects of the unit make it timely and potentially very lucrative if handled properly.

Most entrepreneurs would consider the status of the above-described project to be advanced and well positioned. Only one problem, a very big problem: the inventor is a brilliant engineer and conceptualist, but is phobic about standing up and presenting himself, his product and his profit opportunity. As a result, he will struggle to find investment capital, a license deal or a strategic alliance. To successfully commercialize this new wellness appliance, and any other new product opportunity, the inventor must be able to sell all aspects of the features, benefits and income generation to be derived from the novel device.

The example cited here is true. It is one of the saddest spectacles we see in the consulting world when poor basic sales skills stand between a great opportunity and success. The creator has identified a need. He has addressed the need. In the run up to presenting the product he has taken every correct step in the development process. Now, finally at the cusp of success, the inability to sell the idea is a major roadblock.

This is silly. The most important task confronting any new business or product opportunity is the ability to sell the project. The only affirmation to a products value occurs when the item is sold, and for how much. The inability to sell confirms in the eyes of buyers and investors that there is a lack of need, commitment, confidence, and passion for the product.

Selling is simply asking a person for a preferred outcome and obtaining their agreement to buy. The seller conveys a product (or service, technology, patent, trade secret, etc.) and receives consideration (money, goods, property, etc.) from the buyer. Each side in a sales transaction should receive a fair perceived value.

For many people the fear of finding themselves in a sales presentation or meeting format is truly enervating. They love their project and know it cold. However, they cannot overcome a dread of failure, rejection. They take failure personally. I have seen capable people break out in sweat, nervousness, become confused and flighty before a sales presentation that could dramatically change and improve their life. This real effect of the dread of selling themselves, and their opportunity, can be overcome and must be if entrepreneurial success is to be achieved.

Short the option of hiring professional sales talent, or sales consultants, an entrepreneur will always need to be the sales face of his product and business. He has so much to gain and so little to lose. Gaining a customer from a confident, successful sales presentation is crucial to a new enterprise. Losing a sale because of a stumbling performance can be crushing (and a lost sale is gone for good).

Here are a few points that an inexperienced entrepreneur, with limited sales skills can utilize to improve in this essential area.

Prepare, Prepare, Then Prepare Some More!

Before any sales presentation you must do everything possible to learn about the prospect, their industry, needs, competition, current pricing models, promotions and industry trends. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you will be that you have answers for probable questions and objections. This preparation can go a long way to assuaging fear of the selling process. Confidence results in a conveyance of strength, and strength is always admirable in selling.

Seek Out a Mentor!

Somewhere in your life’s experience, you have made contact with a person with experience in business at some level. Family, friend, a neighbor, a cousins brother-in-law, they are out there and closer than you think. Ask for help. I mentor at a university and consider it one of the most fulfilling parts of my busy schedule. I get back a lot more than I give, and I give a lot. Mentoring is rewarding. Contact small business incubators, SCORE and local university business schools for information on available mentor programs.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Have you ever played a sport? The first time you swing at a golf ball I will bet that you did not hit a 300-yard linear rocket. You practiced. The more you practice the better you become at hitting a golf ball. Don’t read theoretical books on developing the golf swing, or watch training tapes. You learn, really learn, by doing something repetitively and critiquing performance results.

It is no different in achieving sales success. The more you put yourself and your product in the sales arena the more comfortable you will become. With comfort, comes confidence. Confidence is contagious and with more faith in your abilities sales will begin to happen and then cascade.

Give Value First-and Then Close!

Actually asking for the purchase-order, or an investment (the closing), is the greatest persistent hurdle many struggling sales people can not overcome. They either can’t ask for a preferred, needed outcome, or cannot properly time the attempt. Timing in sales is crucial. The buyer has many options for consideration. Why is your offering of better value, performance, durability and novelty? Confirming the value of your product for the buyer is the foundation of the sale.

Too many sales people attempt to close too quickly because they mistakenly believe that they have fully detailed the benefits of their product. Only the buyer can confirm that the product benefits have been fully explained. The best way to confirm that no stone has been left unturned is to ask questions, and then listen carefully to the answers.

With the value proposition of the product on offer fully described, and an understanding of how the item will be of value to the buyer, you are now in position to ask closing questions.

Learn to Use Assumptive Closing Questions and Statements!

Never ask a question you do not know the answer too! There should be only one answer, not open to variables. For instance, never ask a decision-maker (you are selling a weight loss product), “Why should any kid be fat today”? What is wrong here? Possibly the buyer has an overweight child. Possibly the child has a medical condition. You do not know with absolute certainty that you have not touched a raw nerve. Theoretically kids probably should not be fat but they are, and for many reasons.

Instead, ask assumptive closing questions sprinkled throughout the meeting.
“You can certainly recognize the labor saving feature we have engineered into in the new Type 54 Platform Loader, can’t you Tom”?

“You can see that the option to utilize the multi-purpose blending/grinder blade on the new rotor is a real labor saver and advance on the old Expedient model”.

“The new unit will save 4.2% in energy and maintenance expense over our past models, and anything else currently on the market. Won’t that look nice on your departments bottom line”?

You want to plant seeds that the choice has already been made based on the value proposition you have detailed for the decider. If you receive doubts, objections or negative comments, you have not constructed the value confirmation properly.

Tell to Sell!

For many inexperienced sales people, the following will be difficult, but it is the best sales training point I ever received: “people do not like to make decisions, so you make decisions for them”. Telling is selling, while asking is buying. The opportunity to control the presentation, ask qualifying questions, set up a successful close and then receive the positive commitment you seek (and need, and deserve) is greatly enhanced if you can subtly direct the buyer to sign the order. “Mike, we need to get this contract done today, so we can have inventory in time for the catalog mailing”!

Limit Risk for the Buyer!

Buying requires action. Let’s face it, it is far easier to be inactive, stick with what you have and know, than to bring in a new product. The new item requires a lot of logistic work: creating a new vendor file, issuing a new purchase order, assigning a new warehouse area, a new in-store shelf alignment, discontinuing the product you will replace, etc. In addition, there is a history with the old item, and there is no certainty your new product will perform better, or even as well. This represents risk.

It is crucial that you leave the prospective buyer feeling that there is minimal risk involved in purchasing from you, and there is a significant potential upside. Your features, benefits and novel improvements need to be detailed in an open, transparent and comprehensive presentation that leaves no doubt that you offer a real advance over competition. No flim-flam, just the facts ma’am.

Friendship Makes Sales!

When I make a cold call I have two goals: make a friend, and make a sale. We all have experienced meeting a stranger in a social situation, bumping into them later, chatting and commencing the process of building a relationship that results in creating a friend. When you make a call, whether the first or tenth meeting, your goal should be a sincere offer of yourself as a friend to the buyer. A buyer, as a friend that evolves from a commercial stranger, knowing that you are playing in a local tennis tournament next weekend, is always more likely to purchase from you than if they know nothing about you other than what they see in a meeting. Friends ask questions that reflect their real interest in another’s needs, desires and motivations. Friends are good listeners. Make each contact an opportunity to prove that you are interested in the buyer’s wellbeing, as well as their business.

Testimonials Are the Most Important Tool for New Entrepreneurs!

A testimonial is a quote for attribution that supports the feature and benefit claims related to a business or product. The acquisition of a file of testimonials is invaluable in cementing that current users of a product are strong voices for the utility of the item. I never take a prototype or product to a presentation until I have a handful of quotes from focus groups, customers that have seen the product demonstrated or product buyers. This is more valuable than any advertising.

I have every buyer physically touch and handle the testimonial file and encourage them to contact the people that have offered the positive comments. In 35 years of selling, I have only had one buyer actually reach out and make the contact (the call resulted in a glowing review). The mere fact that they have in their hands an inventory of happy product users is a powerful closing tool.

My Price is Fair and Firm!

Price is the Achilles Heel for 95% of all sales people, and 100% of the unsuccessful sales people. Do not sell price. Somebody will always sell cheaper.

20 years ago the Japanese were the low cost producers of our imports. The Korean’s then replaced the Japanese as the low cost producer in the Orient. Today the Malaysians, Indonesians and Central America all provide lower prices than Korea. The next wave of nano-priced labor will be from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Somebody will always be ready, willing and able to produce for less.

Sell the quality and benefits of your product. “My price is firm and fair, this product lasts twice as long as my competitors, and this makes the price differential negligible”. Be proud to detail the reasons your product is priced as it is.

Negative Selling is Not Negative!

Every product has a negative in one area or another. These negatives are the sales points that competitors hang their hat on when seeking advantage. Negative selling is not an attack on the competition. Negative selling is when you are up-front about a perceived deficiency in your product and turn that feature into a positive.

Mercedes Benz automobiles are expensive (relative to Lexus, a direct competitor), costly to maintain, and fuel. Mercedes knows this. They have perfected a negative selling technique to turn these perceived flaws into strengths. Mercedes position is that safety and superior performance requires advanced engineering, strength in materials and thus, added weight (resulting in heavy fuel consumption) but this is overcome by a real safety advantage. “Would you want to put your family at risk in anything less than the best engineered car on the road”?

In one of my early ventures I had a direct competitor. His product was 100% natural. My product was synthetic. There is a real belief in many people that natural is always better. It is not. There are reasons that we live longer, better, healthier, more active lives than prior generations and yet consume copious amounts of products artificially enhanced with chemicals, preservatives and supplements. Nevertheless, his tout that his all-natural product was superior to mine had resonance with retailers and consumers.

Here is how I developed a negative sales strategy to overcome the synthetic vs. all-natural argument. “ Brand X is an excellent product. It is 100% natural. I looked at making a totally natural product for my Company. I decided, after a great deal of research and clinical testing, to make my product using a blend of herbs, vitamins and preservatives. The preservatives are absolutely essential in stabilizing the product, extending the shelf life of the product and safe usage by your customers. I would never compromise safety in order to obtain an edge.”

In this case, the negative selling proposition that I proposed also had the wonderful advantage of being true. My competitor was eventually withdrawn from the market because consumers experienced bacterial infection around the eyes. The FDA ordered the product removal. The preservatives I used (thus making my product synthetic) protected against microorganisms that caused infections.

I love to sell. All successful entrepreneurs either are, or must become, strong advocates for their opportunity. This advocacy is most fully confirmed by sales success. Nothing happens in any enterprise until somebody sells something. Every other facet of business depends on the crucial trigger mechanism of a buyer deciding to purchase a good or service from a seller.

Selling is fundamental to all commercial life. It is an elemental form of competition. The drive to try, to achieve, to overcome odds is inherent in all entrepreneurs. Sales success is the utmost confirmation of this desire to test oneself in the marketplace.

The Sales Theory of Relativity: ABC = Always Be Closing

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

by: Geoff Ficke

Albert Einstein’s famous “Theory of Relativity” (e = mc2) is as familiar to many millions of people as a popular modern commercial limerick for a soft drink or a jingle for a candy bar. Even though very few amongst these millions actually understand the scientific premise of the “Theory of Relativity”: people innately understand its import and relate it to its brilliant creator, the wild haired genius Albert Einstein. The famous equation is to energy, as H2O is to water. It has been seared into the collective mind of contemporary culture in even the most the most scientifically challenged people.

There is a similar equation that is as relevant, contemporary and important as it relates to the fading art and skill of selling: “ABC = Always Be Closing”! The age of instant communication, computers, teleconferencing and electronic product submissions has caused the most important business skill ever employed to generate commerce to erode in spectacular fashion. The art of selling is dying. The ability to find, cultivate, qualify and close a sales transaction is being sacrificed on the altar of impersonal contact and fill-in-the-blank approaches.

Modernists might argue, “so what if sales is a dying art, look at the consistent growth of the economy, new companies, outsourcing and emerging markets. Modern technology has facilitated this growth in a spectacular fashion”. I agree. Technology is wonderful. The ability to call anywhere in the world on a cell phone, receive e-mails 24 hours per day and FedEx documents overnight is a huge advance in efficiency and productivity.

However, if sales skills, particular the art of closing the sale, were being honed, polished and continually perfected in every organization, no matter the size, how much more commerce would be generated? The aged axiom, “nothing happens in any business until someone sells something” is as true today as it has ever been. The mating of modern technology with the application of the time-tested art of closing sales is a prescription for even more amazing economic growth and enrichment for every area of our society.

There are many excellent, successful, very rich automobile and real estate sales people. However, a visit to most auto dealers, or a house tour with the median real estate agent is all too often an exercise in frustration and an amazing window into the current poor state of the art of sales. The ability to ask questions, listen to answers, identify customer needs and supply answers to their needs is rarely exhibited. Sales people want to teach and tell before learning what the customer wants to be taught and told.

Sales people are not alone in needing to perfect selling skills. No matter what direction your career path takes you will be selling. The design engineer at an automobile company is selling his creative vision, designs and art to his supervisors and the managers that will decide whether his art makes it to showroom floors as auto product. He is competing for a finite amount of production capacity, marketing and funding money with other designers. Lee Iacocca, Harley Earl, John deLorean and Henry Ford were not just “car guys”: they were Salesmen!

Steve Jobs has launched Apple Computer twice. Once as a startup company, and in a phenomenal second act, he has resurrected the company he founded after it was left for dead a decade ago. How has he done it? Excellent product? Sure. Flair? Absolutely. But most importantly, as the face of Apple, he is always selling his brand.

In every local media market in the United States there is a businessman who becomes the face of their company, product or brand and is bombarding the public with sales messages. Often these businesses become regional and occasionally national in scope. The important point to remember is that they all started small and local. The owner, founder, or spokesperson has been able to cut through market clutter and succeed because he could identify customer needs, address those needs and sell the consumer that his product had unique benefits for them. Frank Perdue, the “King of Chicken” started locally and became the face of his nationally successful company. Californians will remember the clever auto dealer Cal Worthington. Mr. Worthington parlayed his animal-centric commercials, using dogs, lions and elephants into storied guest spots on the Tonight Show.

“Always Be Closing” is a mantra worn with pride by every successful business and sales person I have every known. From the initial contact with even the most disinterested possible client, to the actual closing of the sale, successful people are looking for ways to help fill an identified need. This is not about a hard sell. It is about providing a real benefit that the customer realizes will offer excellent value for money.

It feels great to close a sale. It is especially rewarding when you have provided a good or a service that is needed, valued and appreciated. People do not like to be sold. They like to purchase when they see how a product will benefit them. ABC is crucial in learning the REAL, not perceived or stated, needs of the client. Every question asked, every answer listened to, qualifying question offered and detail provided about a product or service is key to laying the groundwork for a successful transaction.

A key part of any application of ABC is the “discovery”. The “discovery” is so elemental, so crucial to fulfilling customer needs that any lack of attention to the discovery process is almost always the reason for failure. “Discovery” must be practiced, it is not easily taught, and certainly not taught in a formulaic process. Establishing rapport, conversational, relaxed, learning about the prospect is the door that must be entered before ever discussing the product on offer. Listening during a good “discovery” will provide endless morsels of information that can be utilized to provide the correct product to fit client needs.

Whether selling insurance, automobiles or cosmetics, working as a clerk in a bank, a waiter in a restaurant, a travel agent or a park attendant, there are constant opportunities to enhance your career by practicing ABC. The practitioner of this sales commandment will succeed. The practitioner of ABC will also discover that when it is time for the final close, the answer is so obvious to the client, that there is not much deciding required.

Whether we are citing Occam’s Razor, Moore’s Law, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Lords Commandments, ABC = “Always Be Closing” or any time honored bromide, it is wise to note the simplicity of the interred logic. Adherence to intent of these words is invaluable in enhancing performance whether in science, business, sales or life. ABC will be used daily by most people; it is only a shame that more people do not recognize that fact and strive to perfect its application.

Hit the Prospects’ Hot Buttons to Close More Sales

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

by: Geoff Ficke:

At the conclusion of every sales presentation the salesman will have achieved one of three results: a sale is made, a sale is lost or valuable information is gleaned that can result in building a relationship. The third result can be called identifying the “hot button”. Obviously, the purpose of every sales presentation is to close the sale, and this is the only acceptable outcome any good salesman expects. However, identifying the hot button that will motivate a prospect to purchase can lead to a successful closing in a subsequent meeting.

The great salesman identifies the customer’s hot button by asking questions, listening closely to the answers and ferreting out the prospects true objections, pain, or fear about dealing with your company or your product. This is accomplished during the first meeting. Sales people never want to risk having to wait for a follow-up meeting to secure a positive result. Too many things can happen between the initial and second presentation, all bad.

However, realistically not every salesman is great, and the opportunity to re-tool a presentation based on data learned at the initial meeting can enable ordinary sales people to successfully close. Learning the customers hot button issue allows a sales man to craft a presentation that specifically addresses these open points. Not identifying and keying in on the hot button issues that are so important to buyers is the equivalent of commercial self- immolation.

Entrepreneurs must be able to sell. Golf, tennis, the trombone, driving, sailing, carpentry, indeed every activity is honed by practice. The same is true of developing crucial sales skills. You must practice, learn from mistakes, practice more and perfect a set of selling skills.

When sales people call on me I am always keen to hear the presentation and grade the effort. To say that there is a dearth of sales skills today is an understatement. When I experience a weak presentation I will cut off the presenter and tell them why they have lost the opportunity to have my business. If I am sitting through a weak presentation, but the sales person is obviously trying, I will stop them and give them pointers as to areas they might improve upon.

Invariably, not seeking, or discovering my hot button is usually the deal killer. I want to know how a product will satisfy a need I wish to address. What does it do for me? What does the product do that my current widget does not do? Is there a saving for me of labor, energy or maintenance? Does the item feature a storage, portability or multi-use advantage? There are many more features that might be relevant to my making a decision. It is the sales person’s responsibility to discover my hot button need and directly overcome my hesitance with a soundly presented response to each objection.

Notice I did not include cost in my list of hot buttons issues. Price is never, repeat never, an acceptable reason to lose a sale. Raw materials of like quality are price sensitive. However, a commercial product, technology or service should never be sold on price alone. The seller who touts a cheaper price alone as a reason to buy will not last long. There is always someone willing or able to sell more cheaply.

There is one exception I allow to my mantra to close every sale on the first presentation. I call this the “Naked Salesman”. In specific situations, usually when I need more background on the prospect than I can find in the marketplace (and this happens rarely), I go to the meeting as the Naked Salesman.

The Naked Salesman goes into the meeting with no briefcase, no bag, no folio and no sales collateral. This tends to disarm the customer. Sales people always appear as if they are ready to negotiate the terms and conditions for building the pyramids. The buyer always expects to be sold something they do not want and tends to build a barrier that the sales person must overcome.

Here is how the Naked Salesman might handle the meeting. Consider the following talking points:

  • I am not here to sell you a thing.
  • I simply want to learn more about your firm, your needs and how I can customize a program that increases your profits.
  • My product (service, technology, invention, etc.) is too important to both of our companies for me to present without more knowledge of your application requirements.
  • Can I borrow a pen and pad to make some notes as we talk?

Why does this approach succeed? Simply because the Naked Salesman has expressed more interest in the clients needs than the client expects. This is called relationship selling. The Naked Salesman wishes to customize a program that enables the client to enjoy features and benefits their product will provide. The classic armor that sales people utilize (brief case, Mont Blanc fountain pen, power point presentation, etc.) is replaced by a conversation. And this conversation is solely about what you can do to address the customers needs, wants and problems.

The Naked Salesman will return (with a briefcase, folio, sales collateral, no longer the Naked Salesman) enjoying a different relationship with the client. The return meeting promises the deliverance of a plan to address the stated hot button issues learned by the Naked Salesman. The psychological barrier so often placed between seller and buyer is greatly minimized or eliminated. In my experience the receipt of the details contained in the customized presentation is appreciated and anticipated by the buyer. The close should be completed after the presentation is completely reviewed, all aspects discussed and each issue of concern at the initial meeting fully answered.

Do not let analysis paralysis ever become a part of your, or the customers, decision making process. The sales person has a product. The customer has a need that must be discovered and addressed. The sale should then be closed as soon as possible. All parties should leave feeling that they received a fair deal. Over analyzing the market, current business conditions, industry trends, or hundreds of other paralyzing excuses are not countenanced.

I often ask the following question of a difficult customer: “If I could give you my product for free, would accept a unit”? The answer is almost always, “yes, of course”. My next question, “How would you use my product”? The answer almost always leads to the REAL hot button you could not pull from the prospect during the meat of your presentation. Listen to the response, adjust the close to address the answers you are hearing and then reopen your effort to close the sale.

Ability to close sales is equivalent to the performance of a MRI for your business. Selling is job number one. Answering objections and differentiating between real and phony objections is crucial to sales success.

The hot button issue is the key to concluding a successful sales presentation. Find the real hot button, answer it directly and watch your business expand exponentially as selling becomes easier and even fun.

When Selling Do Not Confuse Objections and Conditions

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

by: Geoff Ficke

My first sales manager, a grizzled old veteran with a no excuses allowed attitude used to tell me, “there are no lousy products, just lousy salesmen”.

As a rookie salesman I thought the comment surely a strange one. Of course, there are bad products I thought. I know a bad product when I see one.

I was wrong. The point is I can see bad products because someone is selling them. They are on the market. It takes a real salesman to sell an obviously deficient product. I have sold luxury goods, services, foodstuffs, mass-market lines, and internationally. Each category requires an adjustment based on the customer, their needs and the benefits the product can offer.

The biggest reason for wildly varying sales performance is the inability of salespeople to recognize and handle objections. Most under-performing sales people do not understand the difference between objections and conditions. An objection is a stated negative to a part, or all of the proposed benefits of a product. Objections can, and must be overcome. A condition is a hard barrier. Imminent death, bankruptcy, possibly a looming divorce, are a few, and there are very few, conditions that would probably stop any attempt at closing a sale.

A condition is a fact that is so overwhelming that it makes no sense to pursue a sales opportunity. Trying to sell a Rolex watch, or life insurance, to a late stage cancer patient is probably not going to produce a mutually beneficial outcome for either party. A bankrupt is not a great candidate for a $25,000 kitchen remodel. Nevertheless, there are very few absolute conditions that sales people will ever run into. They too often want to position objections as conditions, an excuse mechanism.

Not so with objections! Objections come at sales people endlessly and they really are little more than phony excuses that can, and must, be overcome. Price, style, size, portability, too many features, too few features, the purported list of reasons a buyer might offer as a reason not to buy is endless. The prepared, knowledgeable and confident sales person will have an answer for each objection and be able to re-direct the presentation back toward a successful closing.

Buyers make decisions to buy or not buy based on a variety of emotions, motivations and needs. Very often the stated objection to making a purchase, is 180 degrees opposite of the potential purchasers real situation. I have had buyer’s claim that their budget was exhausted for that particular quarter. No new purchase orders could be written by order of the boss.

A bit of probing usually reveals the real reason for the objection, often a competitor is overstocked with a slow turning inventory. This is easily handled, “Mike, my merchandise is turning nicely, you just do not carry enough inventory. Don’t penalize, my company, your customers and your company’s bottom line by penalizing all of us because Brand X is overstocked.”

Objections are often proposed as a testing mechanism. The test is for you, the sales person, to be able to handle the objection and prove the validity of the opportunity you are presenting. If you cannot, many experienced buyers will walk away from the product simply based on the perceived reality that you do not have the features and benefits that will compel them to change vendors.

Never assume that an objection is anything more than a speed bump to be handled with care and diligence, but not a threat to derail a confident, knowledgeable sales person from achieving their ultimate goal, the sale. If you believe, and have passion, that your product, service or opportunity needs and deserves to be available to the widest possible audience then you will succeed at overcoming objections.

An objection is simply an opportunity for you to prove the utility and importance of your product. Successful sales people welcome objections. They recognize handling objections as confirmation of their mastery of the product. The competent buyer will, likewise, treat the sales person’s ability to tackle the minefield of objections as proof that this opportunity must be seriously considered for purchase.

Conditions are rare and insurmountable. Objections are frequent and used by weak sales persons and buyers to justify not taking action. There is no excuse for any sales person to not handle every objection proffered. It is commercial suicide to lack the competence to turn every objection into a closing opportunity. 

The 10 Commandments of Selling

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

by: Geoff Ficke

Every successful entrepreneur must achieve a level of sales competence. Short of spending valuable capital on hiring sales professionals, there is no alternative. Selling is to business as fertilizer is to agriculture.

Nothing happens in a company until somebody sells something. There are natural born salesmen. However, with application, practice and determination, anyone can hone selling skills and develop a style compatible with their personality.

As an old sales manager, I have had the opportunity to work with every level of sales talent. A few were great: many were average, some were poor. The following is a list of the qualities and traits I have observed in every excellent sales person I have come in contact with:

  1. Successful Sales People Have Passion for Selling and Their Product!

    Passion can not be faked. It is not possible to be a success in sales without conviction that the product being sold is beneficial, important.

  2. The Word “No” Really Just Means “Not Yet”!

    The word “No” is an absolute that no successful sales person accepts as anything but a temporary hurdle to be overcome.

  3. Prospect, Prospect, Prospect!

    Generating qualified leads is the lifeblood of any great sales person. Digging, research and networking produce entree to new clients.

  4. Practice, Practice, Practice the Presentation!

    Using customers, a friend, video or a mirror practice the presentation of a product until it is hard wired to your being.

  5. Preparation Before the Meeting Leads to More, and Larger Sales!

    Know everything possible about the customer, the industry, trends, competition, newest technology and pricing before the sales meeting.

  6. Hard Work makes for Sales Luck!

    You might not be smarter than the competition, but you can outwork and out hustle them. Harder working sales persons are often lucky, as well.

  7. Never Ask a Question You Do Not Know the Answer Too!

    The quickest road to selling failure is to ask a question with open-ended answers that are potentially harmful to your product position.

  8. Ask Plenty of Questions and Listen to the Answers!

    Asking questions will educate you as to customer needs and show your concern for their needs. Listening is the great educator.

  9. Do Not Sell Low Price, Never Offer a Price Cut Unless No other Choice!

    Selling price is usually not selling, but buying business. Great salesmen know the competition and tout their products superior benefits.

  10. Start Closing Immediately!

Selling is like a kabuki dance: there is a rhythm to any presentation. The right time to close the sale is the earliest moment possible, then shut up.

 

Sales Talent is Available and Affordable

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Fear of Selling Should Not Impede

Entrepreneurs and Inventors

by: Geoff Ficke

Ponder the daily aspects of life virtually all of us experience. We seek out, and interview, for jobs. We seek out, then court, and marry our mate. We compete in sports, lobby for promotions, seek support for church and charities, and support causes. Each of these, and so many other activities, require us to utilize some portion of a sales experience.

In reality, sales are nothing more than asking for a preferred result. The seller wants to receive consideration in return for placement, or acceptance of their product or service. A selling situation almost always requires an equal transfer of benefits. A simple example is selling a car. If book value of a car is $5000, and the seller asks $7500, the sale will almost never happen unless a witless soul arrives and can be hustled.

Nevertheless, many people get the sweats, can’t sleep, or hyperventilate at the mere thought of an imminent sales presentation. No matter how confident they may be in all other situations, standing, presenting, selling their opportunity before a stranger is a chilling experience. There are affordable alternative options available to avoid this difficult hurdle for many entrepreneurs.

  • Utilize the inter-net. There are many web-sites specializing in specific areas of sales: technology, consumer products, hard-goods, giftware, etc. SalesGenie.com is one, but a thorough search will turn up many more. These e-commerce sites specialize in matching sales agents with appropriate products.
  • Research trade organizations specializing in your product category. One example, if you develop a new hair care device, research the Barber, Beauty, Salon Institute (BBSI). This is an industry specific trade group that organizes expositions, lobbies, provides research and acts as a central clearing-house for the salon market. Sales agents are members and are always seeking out new products to represent, and they work on commission. From hardware to auto parts there are similar trade associations seeking the next hot new product.
  • Hire a consultant. There are many consultants specializing in sales and marketing within specific industry categories. The advantage of a sales consultant is that they will work more closely with a seller to customize the approach, strategy, the offers and promotions. This will result in a stronger opportunity to close a deal, and that is always goal number one. Search the inter-net using keywords such as sales consultant, sales engineer, sales strategy, marketing consultant, and hundreds of other search-word combinations. Remember to always get and check references.
  • Visit and utilize gift mart showrooms. There are huge permanent Gift Marts in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Los Angeles. Millions of square feet are devoted to presenting a bewildering array of products in licensed showrooms. Each showroom also has a field sales force covering specific states. These territories are assigned by vendors (sellers) and are commission based. Again, most of these thousands of showrooms specialize in a product or category. From Christmas, to lighting, to tabletop, to clocks, and thousands of other product categories, you may discover a sales group potentially ready to handle your line of product.
  • Seek out expositions, fairs and trade shows specific to your commercial opportunity. I typically walk trade shows to network for clients. This is invaluable. Each category of product has an inside baseball aspect. Trade terminology, unique trade terms, assigned coverage territories, trend cycles vary greatly by industry. You need to learn what is going within your area of interest and there is no better place than shows to study, research and meet potential sales partners.

These are only a few ideas offering alternatives to fear of selling. There are far too many opportunities that never get off the ground simply because the creator believes, “I am not a salesman”. You do not have to be. There is a sea of experienced sales talent ready and able to sell their expertise.

During my many years of reviewing and analyzing inventions, new products and service offerings I have been amazed by the innate fear of selling expressed by so many otherwise capable entrepreneurs. There exists a palpable fear of selling that mimics vertigo, arachnophobia or a fear of snakes. This fear should never stop a project from successfully entering the marketplace.