Are You Helping Your Customers?

I have long believed…and taught, that the best way to succeed in sales is by helping your customers achieve their goals and objectives. My mind is pretty well made up on this point and I can’t imagine what anyone could say to change it.

But many have tried. Some of those who have tried tell me that sales is about separating a prospect from their money as quickly and efficiently as possible. That is most definitely NOT what professional selling is about.

Others have told me that sales is about making a lot of money. That is not true either even though making a lot of money is one of the two primary reasons many people go into sales. The fact is, making a lot of money is what happens when you help a lot of people achieve their goals and objectives.

Sales is ALL about helping customers. I suppose I should add a qualifier to that…PROFESSIONAL SALES is all about helping customers. Product peddlers pride themselves on being able to “unload” any product on anyone and they will use any trick to do it. They will do most anything for a buck. They give professional salespeople a bad name.

Professional salespeople have only one trick up their sleeve and it’s really no trick at all. It’s called asking effective questions. So effective that sometimes it helps a customer understand that there is a solution to a problem that they didn’t know existed.

If those professional salespeople discover that their product or service does not help a prospect they won’t attempt to turn that prospect into a customer by selling them something they won’t benefit from.

If you’re wondering how close you are to helping your customers ask yourself a question first. That question is this: what are the goals and objectives of my top ten prospects or current customers?

I start with the top ten because if you don’t know those then it’s most unlikely you will know others.

If you can’t answer that question it’s likely because you’ve never directly asked your prospects what their goals and objectives are. If that’s the case you have the ability to correct that situation immediately…just ask.

Your prospects and customers may not have an immediate answer for you. It’s a question that may catch them off guard. That’s because so few salespeople straight up ask. You can actually change the perception of a prospect by asking, and that change will most definitely be in the right direction.

So, are you helping your customers? You’ll find it very difficult to help anyone achieve their goals if you don’t even know what they are. So find out. Just ask, it’s the only trick you’ll ever need.

The Newest Competitor for Sales

A tough new competitor has just re-entered the sales game. This competitor has invaded almost every industry. Whatever you’re selling this competitor is lurking under the surface of every sales opportunity. Sometimes they are not even under the surface, they are sitting boldly on top of YOUR sales opportunity.

This competitor is particularly nasty too. They aren’t even interested in stealing business for themselves. The only thing they want to do is wreck the deal for everyone. They want the salesperson to go away empty handed. Worse, they want to leave the customer empty handed and with no help too.

The name of this competitor is NO! No has a twin sister who has entered the fray as well. Her name is Not Now. If you’re newer to sales you may not be familiar with these formidable competitors. But if you’re not careful they can be much tougher than the competitors you normally face.

The competitor named No and his sister Not Yet are always around but they thrive in uncertain times. They last entered the profession of selling in 2008 and 2009. They were pervasive enough to end the sales careers of many unprepared and unprofessional salespeople. The bad news is that many sales are being lost to No and Not Yet in the current business environment. The good news is that a great many of those lost sales are not truly lost, they are merely delayed.

It is vital that sales professionals understand that while No and Not Yet can slow a sale down they can’t stop it completely.

As effective as No and Not Yet can seem they are readily defeated by replacing the unknowns of today with the information that customers will need tomorrow.

The best salespeople seldom lose a deal to No in uncertain times and they never lose a sale to Not Yet. Product peddlers float to the sidelines when No and Not Yet enter the game. Professional Salespeople hold their ground and expose No and Not Yet as imposters who only want the worst for customers.

Information erases the unknown. If No and Not Yet try to get between you and the customers you’re trying to help STAY IN THE GAME. Provide your customers with the best information you can. Industry information, product information, problem-solving information and whatever advice you can offer based on your own expertise.

Don’t float away from your customers and leave them alone in the vastness of the current unknowns. They may not remember exactly what you’ve done for them in the presence of No and Not Yet but they will certainly remember how you made them feel.

Make them feel like more than a customer. Make them feel as if they matter as a person because in fact they do. Sales right now is far more about helping people than it is about closing a deal. That’s actually always true but it is vital right now.

It’s likely you’re not spending as freely as you were a month ago. Neither are your customers. But one day your own unknowns will be gone and you’ll feel safer spending again. That too will be the same for your customers.

If you can stay with your customers in the presence of No and Not Yet today then your customers will be there for you tomorrow when No and Not Yet have faded away until the next time of uncertainty.

Today’s Effort Determines Tomorrow’s Success

Many times towards the end of a year salespeople sort of “coast” their way towards the New Year.

In times of uncertainty many salespeople do the same thing, they take their foot off the gas and stop selling. It’s a mistake at the end of a year and it’s a mistake in these times of uncertainty.

“Sales” are different right now than they are in more normal times. But different does not mean impossible. “Sales” in their current state might also not mean making a sale. It may be, and likely is, more about being available to your customers. It most definitely is about staying in touch and keeping your lines of communication open.

Whatever secondary methods of communication you used to communicate with your customers prior to our current situation are now most likely your primary methods. By secondary I mean texts, email and phone calls. Your primary method was face-to-face and in most cases that’s not possible at the moment.

If you somehow can make face-to-face calls and both you and your customer are comfortable with it then I guess that’s fine….so long as it is SAFE FOR OTHERS AND IN NO VIOLATION OF CURRENT LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL GUIDELINES.

How ever you do it, you must stay visible to your customers. You must remain a resource to whatever extent you can. You must remain willing to help. In fact, I’d recommend each communication include that very question; “How can I help?” Or “What can I do for you right now?”

Beyond some sort of personal contact with your customer there are many other sales activities you can undertake. Many many salespeople had things, productive things, that they were going to do “someday.” We’ll guess what, someday has arrived!

You know the stuff you were going to do “someday” but never had the time to do. Things likes reviewing notes from accounts that haven’t purchased from you in a long time, or maybe ever. While “someday” is still going on review those notes to determine what you will do differently to earn that customer’s business when personal selling becomes possible again.

Now is also a great time to prepare and practice responses to your most common objections. And by the way, the most professional and prosperous salespeople practice those responses out loud.

We should talk a bit about prospecting. I am not an expert like Mark Hunter @thesaleshunter is. But I’m thinking if you’re going to attempt to prospect right now you must tread very lightly. It just seems almost inappropriate to me. But like I said, others know far more about this topic in times like these than I do so I could of course be wrong…but I don’t think so.

That doesn’t mean however that you can’t prepare new prospecting materials. Prospecting emails, letters, leave behind materials and phone scripts. You can even practice your phone presentation so it doesn’t sound scripted. Just so you know, if you ever call me and it sounds like you’re reading a script, I will never buy from you. Most people are like me, they won’t either.

I have been in and around sales a very long time. I don’t believe we have ever experienced anything like this. With other major disruptions we have faced we could see or at least predict what the end might look like. Not so much this time.

Many things are unlikely to go back to exactly the way they were but it’s my guess that sooner rather than later sales will return to pretty much normal. What you do in these abnormal times will determine your level of success and how fast you’re personally back to normal when the “ab” in abnormal is gone.

Stay in the game and keep selling. Take the long view and realize your activities today will shape the curve of your personal comeback later. That is most certainly not the curve you want to flatten!

Making a Living

Are you a person who makes their living selling or are you a professional salesperson? They are not the same thing, they are not even close.

People who make a living by selling try to make the best of whatever selling circumstances they find themselves in. When business is slow or the market is soft they tend to slow down as well. They accept their fate.

Professional salespeople create their circumstances. When business is slow or the market is soft they work harder to produce excellent results. They do not accept their fate, they create it.

Many people in sales who read this will say it’s BS because many people in sales may make their living at it but they are far from professional. I remember a conversation with a salesperson several years ago where he was lamenting how slow business was. He told me that he could sit on his boat all day and the phone would barely ring. He said all he could do was hope for a turnaround.

He made his living selling, a pretty good living at that, but he was not a professional salesperson.

If he was a professional salesperson his boat would have been docked until HE turned his business around. He would have been making calls, not waiting for calls. He would have been creating opportunities for his customers to buy. He would have been taking advantage of all the salespeople who make their living selling. He woukd have proactively been calling on their customers while they were waiting for their customers to call.

I very recently heard with my own ears a sales manager and the sales manager’s boss tell their sales team “not to worry about the numbers.” They said “if the market isn’t there it isn’t there” and “no one will hold that against you.”

I’m sure they didn’t realize it but what they were telling their sales team was to be unprofessional. They were giving them an out and I’m sad to say that when you give someone who merely makes their living selling an out, they will take it.

The sales team resigned themselves to a bad year and they are now collectively waiting for the business to return.

Salespeople who wait never win. Period.

If you’re a sales leader then you need to find the balance between supporting your people and keeping enough accountability in place to help them be professional about their efforts. Salespeople who are held accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed. We know that’s true because people who are accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed and the last time I checked salespeople are people.

 

Whether or not you’re truly a professional or just making a living at what you do is a good question to ask yourself from time to time regardless of your field of work. Do you want to be okay at what you do or do you want to be recognized as one of the best. The choice as always is up to you.

Are You a Mad Salesperson?

I like competitive salespeople. I want them to be upset when they lose a sale. I’m perfectly okay it they are a little angry about it. In fact, I’m fine if they are just plain mad. 

 

So long as they are mad at themselves and NOT their customer.

 

Professional salespeople know that when a sale is lost it is never the customer’s fault. The customer has zero responsibility to buy from a salesperson. No matter how much time and energy that salesperson might have invested in earning the sale. 

 

It is not the customer’s fault that the salesperson failed to influence them to the degree that they would feel comfortable making a purchase from the salesperson. 

 

It is NEVER the customer’s fault. Never!

 

Thinking that it is simply provides cover for unprepared, unprofessional, and undeserving salespeople. 

 

Even if something happened that is completely out of the salesperson’s control professional salespeople accept responsibility. 

 

Professional salespeople have chosen to accept the challenges of selling and EVERYTHING that comes with it. There may be some responsibility to spread around for a lost sale but that responsibility must never extend to the customer. 

 

There is no doubt that some customers are more challenging than others. Some customers are misinformed and some might have unreasonable expectations. But real selling is about overcoming those challenges and helping a customer to see how your product or service will help them achieve their goals. 

 

So, are you a mad salesperson? I hope so. I also hope the person you’re mad at is the one who stares back at you from the mirror every morning. If that is who you’re mad at then there is a chance that you know your success is up to you. It’s a sign you know that to have better results you’ll have to be better yourself. You’ll have to work harder. You’ll have to earn your success. 

 

If you’re mad at anyone else then your success will surely be limited. Do not limit your success by blaming anything on anyone else. 


Now, go earn your success!

Manipulative Selling

There are quite a few definitions of manipulation. The one that closely fits some, likely too many, selling situations is: to change by artful or unfair means for one’s own benefit or purpose.

    

In research conducted a number of years ago, 312 of the top one percent of salespeople were studied to determine how the most highly successful sales professionals sell. Of that group, 263(84%) used little or no manipulation and 49(16%) were highly manipulative. None in the top one percent group fit into an in-between “somewhat manipulative” category.

     

The salespeople were also rated on their inclination to tell the entire truth. The non-manipulators almost always tell their prospects the whole truth about the negatives and the positives of their products. The manipulators usually tell only the positives, and often embellish those truths. Yet, both groups appear to be equally successful, at least when measured only by the number of sales earned. 

     

The main difference between the two groups is emotional. Most of the non-manipulators work considerably less than their manipulative counterparts. They’re much happier in their work and seem to be mostly free of stress. Customers seem to treat the non-manipulators with a higher level of trust and respect. Non-manipulators are also seldom if ever lied to by a prospect or customer.

     

Also studied were a group of 400 of the remaining 99 percent of all salespeople, the “average” salespeople. Using the same criteria, about 72% were classified as very manipulative, 19% as somewhat manipulative and about 9% as non-manipulative.

     

It seems clear that the only way to earn more money selling and enjoy doing it is through open, honest business relationships with customers. People unfortunately can and do make a living selling dishonestly but it wears on them over time. 

 

I hope it comes as no surprise that honesty pays. It pays both financially and emotionally.  It pays off both short term and long. Manipulative selling may help a few salespeople make some cash but it does not help them make a life. 

 

So which would you prefer? A good income and less than desirable life or a good income and a enjoyable life to spend it on?


The choice, as always, is yours to make.

Obsolete Salespeople

I heard a speaker several years ago say that in the not too distant future the sales profession wouldn’t exist. He said that everything, absolutely everything would be purchased online with no human interaction.

 

I thought that was one of those attention grabbing throw-away lines that speakers sometimes use to get the attention of their audience. (Not that I would ever do that) But he was serious, he really believed what he was saying. 

 

At the time I was certain he was wrong, in fact I thought it was a downright stupid thing to say. I’m not so sure anymore. Research shows that the Centennial Generation (that’s the generation just entering the workforce) would prefer as little contact with a person as possible when buying something.

 

Have you seen those commercials where you buy the car online and then go pick it up at a car vending machine? (I don’t know what else you would call it) That company was built for the Centennial Generation. 

 

There was a time when I couldn’t have imagined anyone buying a car without seeing and test driving it. Now I can easily imagine car dealers only existing to repair cars bought somewhere else. 

 

I still can’t believe that the sales profession will ever completely go away. But I can certainly foresee the day when there are far fewer people selling than there are today. That day is likely less than 10 years away and if you still want to be selling in 10 years then you had best start making some changes right now.

 

There are lots of very lazy salespeople around today. They are basically order takers who are unprepared, unaware of their customer’s needs, and unlikely to ever overcome an objection by proving the value of what they are selling. 

 

The good news is that they will be the first salespeople to leave the field of selling. The ones who remain will need to be professionals of the highest caliber. They personally will need to provide value to customers. They will be highly paid and much sought after professionals.

 

Think about this, if you can get everything you need, pricing information, product knowledge and customer support online then why would you need a salesperson mucking up the transaction? 

 

If you’re going to be in sales 10 years (or less) in the future you MUST add tangible benefits that a customer or prospect can’t get any other way. 

 

The question to ask yourself today is “what do I bring to the table?” 

 

Can you, with a high level of specificity state why someone should buy a particular product or service from you? I’m not asking why they should buy it from the company you work for, I’m asking why buy it from YOU as opposed to some other salesperson. 


This may sound harsh but if you can’t answer that question then you should plan on a career other than sales in the near future. Alexa, Siri or some other form of Artificial Intelligence will have taken your place.