If You Want it Then Ask

My mom was as special a person as you could ever meet. She was an amazingly compassionate woman who would go way out of her way to help just about anyone. Whatever caring nature I have surely came from her.

What my mom wouldn’t do was ask….for anything. She would however hint. She was world class at hinting about what she wanted. Throughout her life she never had a drivers license. If she needed, or wanted to go somewhere she would never ask…but she would drop some rather straightforward hints.

When I received my license I became an instant target of her hints. She would say “it sure would be nice if someone would drive me to the mall.” Of course at first I would jump at the chance but after a while I must admit it got kinda old. 

I asked her on more than one occasion why she just didn’t ask for a ride and she would always answer that she didn’t want to be a bother. (It would have been impossible for her to be a bother but I guess she didn’t get that)

Later in life I learned there were a lot of people like my mom in that regard, they don’t want to be a bother either and they also think “asking” is a bother. Most unfortunately some of these people are salespeople. 

Imagine a salesperson thinking it’s a bother to ask a prospect for the order. Those salespeople are greatly limiting their success. 

Here is a simply sales fact: salespeople who have earned the right to ask for the order tend to get what they ask for. Even if they have earned the right to ask for the order if they don’t ask they most often don’t get the order either.

If you’re the type of salesperson who just asks for the order without earning the right to do so then I’d agree, you are a bother to your prospects. But if you’ve done your homework by asking the right questions to determine whether your product or service benefits the customer, and you’ve determined that it does, then by all means ASK. Ask because you have earned the right and asking for the order is the logical conclusion to a professional sales presentation. 

Your prospects almost certainly expect you to ask. In fact the research shows many of them are just waiting for you to ask so they can say yes. All you need to do to get that yes is ask but if you don’t ask then the yes often never comes. 

I don’t know why prospects behave that way but I know I too behave that way when I’m the prospect. All I would need to say yes is the simple nudge of an order asking question. Without the question my hesitation remains.

One final point, when asking for an order don’t beat around the bush. “What do you think” is not an order asking question and neither is “well let me know what you decide.” 

If you’ve earned the right to ask for the order and you’re certain that your product or service will solve a prospect’s problem or provide a benefit they are looking for then ask. Ask by saying something like “may I have your order” or “may I have your business.” Just like that, straight out!

It is the way true sales professionals do it.

The People Business

I was very fortunate years ago to have a mentor who was also a great salesperson. Whenever someone asked him what business he was in he would answer “the people business.” 

My mentor’s name was Jack and for 40 years he owned a commercial heating and air conditioning company. When asked how he got “people business” out of heating and air conditioning he replied, “simple, my business is about helping other businesses and organizations provide a comfortable and productive working environment for their people.” 

Jack believed that every business and every product was in some way about helping people. He often said that if your product or service didn’t in some way benefit people then you wouldn’t be in business for very long. He taught me to never sell my product, he taught me to sell what it could do for the people who might buy it. 

The moment a business or it’s leadership lose sight of the fact that, regardless of what they sell, they are in the people business their potential for long-term success begins to decline.

If you’re in business, any business, then you are in the people business.

There should never be a policy, process, or procedure that is more important than people. Your people are your business, both the people who work for your business and the people who are served by your business.

Years ago the pilots of the now merged Northwest Airlines went on strike. It was very contentious and both sides, the airlines and the pilots union, starting running ads on local radio to “get their side of the story out.” Basically each side said the other were complete idiots. 

I wasn’t too sure about flying on an airline run by idiots but I was certain I didn’t what to fly on a plane piloted by someone considered to be an idiot by the very airline that hired them. I don’t really know much about the airline business but I do know some stuff about the people business. Something one of the striking pilots said during a radio interview has stuck with me to this day.

The pilot said the airlines whole problem was that they were trying to make customers happy while doing nothing to make their own people happy. He said he believed it impossible to have happy customers if the people tasked with making them happy were unhappy.

I doubt whether that was the airlines “whole problem” but it was absolutely one of the biggest. Northwest Airlines forgot that they were in the people business and they also forgot that their employees were people too.

I believe in measuring pretty much everything a business does, you need a yardstick to see progress and determine opportunities for improvement. However, when your metrics become more important than your customer…or your own people, then you have a problem. Metrics are a guide to success, they are not a bible for success. 

When people are involved in your business you will sometimes need to throw the numbers out to do the right thing and remember, people are always involved in your business.

Put people first and your business will last!

The Gift of Listen

As far back as I can remember there has been a saying that good salespeople have the gift of gab. 

For the last 30 years or so I’ve known that saying to be utterly false. Good salespeople, actually great salespeople, truly professional salespeople, don’t have the gift of gab, they have the gift of listen. 

You’ll never hear a truly professional salesperson say that they “talked” anyone into doing anything. The best salespeople actually listen far more than they talk. They  don’t want to sell people stuff that they don’t need. They want to help them buy products and services that help their customer receive a real benefit in return. 

Great salespeople ask great questions of their customers knowing full well that if they ask the right questions what follows are honest answers that will help them help their customer.

Once they ask great questions then they listen and they don’t just listen to respond, they listen to understand. They linger on the words of their customer until they fully understand the needs and wants of their customer. If for any reason they don’t fully understand they will ask more questions until they do. What they never do is guess. They don’t guess at what their customer might need or what they might want, they ask great questions and then they listen until they understand.

They listen as if that particular customer is the only customer in the world because they know that, in that moment, they are in fact the only customer that matters. 

If you want to know how you measure up to the best sales professionals in the world consider this: the best sales professionals listen more than twice as much as they talk. 70% of their interactions with a customer are invested in listening and only 30% are spent talking. For average salespeople those percentages are just about reversed. 

You will never learn how to help your customer by talking to them, talking just starts the communications process. Listening to your customer helps you learn how to help them, listening completes the communications process.

So… are you listening yet?

 

Don’t Close That Sale!

Salespeople need to sell, that much is certain. In business nothing much happens until somebody sells something. That’s one reason I have so much respect for professional salespeople, they are the engine that drives much of a company’s success.

Please note that I said I have much respect for PROFESSIONAL salespeople. The hacks out there who will do anything to separate a prospect from their money… not so much. 

If you’ve been is sales for any length of time you’ve likely heard the old axiom known as ABC or  “Always be closing.” That little sentiment has ruined many sales careers. I have a better one, it not only lengthens sales careers it tends to make them highly profitable as well. 

Here’s mine: NBC or NEVER be closing. That’s right, NEVER! In case you’re confused let me repeat that in a more succinct way… NEVER close a sale, never, never, never!

Salespeople who live with a goal of closing a sale, or closing business or closing a deal are looking at the sales process exactly the opposite of how their prospect looks at the buying process. 

Limited salespeople believe that when the prospect says yes the deal is done. The prospect believes that when they say yes the deal, and the relationship, is just beginning. 

The term “closing” is one of the most negative and limiting words in sales. It says something is over, done with, and it’s time to move on. If you’re purely a transactional salespeople who will never need or want a repeat customer then go ahead and close. 

If you’re a sales professional who wants a long-term career in sales, with lots of returning customers and golden referrals then don’t think of “closing” the sale. Think instead of “earning” the customer’s business and opening a new, mutually beneficial relationship. I absolutely want you to ask for the order but only after you’ve earned the right. You earn the right to ask for the order by determining how your product or service can help your prospect and then presenting a solution that makes sense to them.

That change in mindset will change the way you sell. It will change the way your prospect looks at you. It will change your outlook on what you do for a living. You’ll no longer have a sales “job” you’ll have a career in sales. 

You’ll no longer simply be chasing the deal, you’ll be searching for solutions that will help your prospects and customers reach their goals. You’ll enjoy what you do for a living far more than your “closing” colleagues.

Oh and one more thing… you’ll sell more and if you’re compensated on your results you’ll earn more money too!

 

Did You Ask?

Salespeople get what they ask for! If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that I would probably be writing this from a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. That salespeople get what they ask for isn’t always true but it’s true far more often than it is not. 

Salespeople who consistently ask for the order will nearly double or even triple their closing percentages. Just by asking for the order!

Early in my sales career I discovered that an incredibly high percentage of sales calls ended without the sales person ever really asking for the  order. One day upon returning to the office from a sales call my sales manager asked me “if I asked?” I answered “did I ask what?” He said, “did you ask for the order?” 

My answer was of course I did, I always did. So he asks me how I asked, what words did I actually use to ask for the order. When I hesitated a bit he knew he had me. When I said I asked the customer “what do you think?” he just smiled and said that next time I should really ask. 

I learned through the years that questions like “what do you think” and “how does it sound” are not order asking questions. They are flimsy substitutes that salespeople use when they don’t have the confidence required to ask a real order asking question. 

A real order asking question is one that requires a yes or no answer. They are closed-ended questions that leave no doubt as to the intentions of the prospect, they will either be doing business with you or not. 

Good salespeople always ask for the order. Great salespeople know when to ask. 

Great salespeople earn the right to ask for the order by working with their prospect to determine how and IF their product or service will actually help the customer. They ask a ton of focused questions that help their prospect see the fit between the product and their situation. 

When the salesperson has helped the customer see the benefits of their product and how it will help them, then they have earned the right to ask for the order and ask is what they do. 

They ask by saying something like “may I have your business?” They ask directly. They wait for a yes or no before they say anything else. They get the order.

Even if you’re only a good salesperson and aren’t sure what questions to ask, even if you’re not 100% knowledgeable about your product or service, always asking for the order will increase your sales. 

If you don’t believe me then prove me wrong by asking, it’s the only way you’ll ever know for sure. 

How the Best Salespeople Sell – Part Two

It has long been said that the best salespeople have the gift of gab. It has also long been dead wrong. The best salespeople in fact have the gift of listening. They listen well, very well.

The best salespeople, and the best communicators in general, listen to understand rather than just listening to respond. They listen with all their senses and they listen with their heart. They use their empathy skills to focus not only on what was said but what was actually meant. 

The best salespeople do not “filter” what was said through their own biases or life lens. They accept what was said and don’t simply dismiss the things they don’t want to hear. When speaking with anyone they give that person one of the greatest signs of respect that a person can offer, their full attention. 

The best salespeople ask the best questions and that is not a coincidence. They know what they don’t know and they know that lack of information is a real challenge for a professional salesperson. They also know that challenge is small when compared with what they do know that isn’t so…. misinformation or just plain wrong information, when accepted as fact, will kill salesperson’s chance to really help a prospect and earn their business.

The best salespeople ask lots of questions, particularly open ended questions and they allow the prospect time to think about an answer. They are not afraid of a little silence as the customer searches for an answer. They know that if a prospect or customer can instantly answer every question then they probably aren’t asking meaningful enough questions to uncover real wants and needs. Without understanding those wants and needs a professional salesperson knows their odds of earning a customer’s business go way way down.

The best salespeople seldom discuss price without also discussing value. They believe in the value their product or service provides to the customer. They are skilled at using the information the customer provided when answering questions to help the customer understand and see the value too. When having the price/value discussion the best salespeople do not overstate, exaggerate or lie. EVER!

The best salespeople accept personal responsibility for a lost sale. They work to discover their weakness or the weakness of their offering and then they work to improve it. They work; the best salespeople simply put more effort into getting the results that they want. They know that sales is either the lowest paying easy job they will ever have or the most challenging highest paying job they could ever want. They know that everyday both options are a choice and they choose the challenge and accept the high compensation that comes with it.

They best salespeople hate to lose and they are excellent at hiding that fact. They don’t blame the prospect for their decision to go elsewhere and they don’t rip on the competition. They don’t stop calling on “lost” accounts, instead redoubling their efforts to earn the business back. 

Low performing salespeople will never admit to being outsold but the best salespeople know they can be outsold by other “best” salespeople at any time. They relish that competition and use it to strengthen their resolve and push themselves to constantly improve their product knowledge and skills. 

The best salespeople love the profession of selling and respect it with integrity and high ethical standards. Their goal is not so much to sell as it is to help their customer buy. They know that by doing the right things right the outcome will more times then not be right as well. 

The best salespeople do the right things right. How many of these things do you do right each day? If you were on trial, charged with being a “best” salesperson, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If not then start building your case today. You can become a best salesperson any time you wish…. Simply do the right things right.

How the Best Salespeople Sell – Part One

I almost never go more than a few days without receiving a tweet or message asking for tips on starting out in sales. It’s an easy question to answer.

It’s easy because unlike so many areas of life, sales, or more accurately, professional selling, has clearly defined right and wrong ways of going about it. If you go about it the right way, you succeed. If you go about it the wrong way, you don’t. Period!

Before I begin I should remind you of my definition of success. You can appear to succeed by lying and cheating but real success must be earned honestly. If you cheated and lied your way to the top then you might be wealthy but you’re not a success. You’re most certainly not a professional salesperson.

Okay, here’s how the best salespeople sell…

They have a defined, repeatable selling process. They always know where in the process they are and what is required to move to the next step of the process. I prefer a sales process that is designed to mirror the emotional buying process that humans go through. Dale Carnegie’s sales process is designed to do just that. I teach a proprietary sales process that is built on many of the same principles. 

I tell salespeople all the time that there are two ways to sell, by process or by accident. If you’re not using a process then how will you know what “worked” and what didn’t? How will you determine if you’re making progress with the customer? How will you know why they purchased from you and why they didn’t? 

If you can’t state, with great specificity, why you lost the last five prospects who didn’t buy from you then you’re likely not using a process. If you can’t state, with even greater specificity, why you’re last five customers purchased from you then you’re likely selling by accident.

You’re odds of long-term sales success go way, way up if you use a well defined sales process. 

Despite what you may have heard, the best salespeople do not always ask for the order. They only ask for the order after they have earned the right to do so. They earn that right by determining if and how their product or service will help their prospect achieve their desired goals and objectives. Once they have earned the right then they indeed always ask for the order. 

Keep in mind that we are talking about professional salespeople so even when they haven’t earned the right to ask for the order they still ask for something. They ask for something that will move the sales process forward; maybe it’s a product demonstration, perhaps an introduction to someone else within the account, maybe it’s a referral. But it is always something. 

If you’re wasting your time and your customer’s time by not moving the sales process forward then you’re likely just a professional visitor, not a professional salesperson. Professional salespeople use their time exceedingly well and are always respectful of the time their customers invest with them.

In Part Two later this week we’ll look at some of the specific skills that the best salespeople are always working on to improve.