Make up Your Mind and Improve Your Sales Techniques, Part 4

The third piece in this five-part series zeroed in on the importance of honesty with our customers and channeling our efforts intelligently to obtain maximum results. I also pointed out some ideas on how to create win-win encounters with customers. These encounters lead to successful business results for the customer and for you.

Sales techniques and policiesHere, in part four, I will cover why simple, straightforward presentations and proposals help you win more business. I’ll also discuss why helping and guiding your customers in an organized way will lead to solid customer relationships and higher levels of customer satisfaction. These are points 7 and 8 from the Make Up Your Mind Essay…

7. That the power of your sales presentation will always lie in its simplicity.

All business segments have their unique “speak.” People who might be listening to a conversation between two individuals in the digital printing industry may think they are speaking in code. To them, the conversation might as well be in another language, and in many ways it is. Production folks may use terms like color correction, ink adhesion and laminate tunneling. Those of us on the inside get it, but others don’t. It’s cool. It makes us a part of the collective. It shows that we know what’s what in our profession. However, using industry slang can be a deadly trap for sales professionals. How so?

  • It doesn’t separate us from our competition
  • It works great in production, but terribly in the business office
  • It causes us to assume that the person we’re talking to understands what we’re talking about
  • We want to show our customers what we know instead of focusing on what they need
  • Our priority becomes features and functions, not benefits

You get the picture. We fall into the trap of telling customers what they should buy, instead of why it’s better to buy from us. Lexjet co-founder Art Lambert uses a phrase I like a lot when it comes to working with people who want to sell to him. He says, “Get to the verb.”

This simply means that if you want him to do/buy something, ask him what you want to do right up front. Follow that request with a solid set of reasons why doing what you ask will benefit him and his business. Here’s an example:

Request: “Art, I’m here today to ask you to move LexJet’s banking business to First Federal.”

Benefit: “First Federal will create a local LexJet-Only team focused exclusively on your financial requirements. That team will learn about the LexJet’s unique money management processes and then develop custom tailored programs to improve your financial efficiency. This will help LexJet achieve improved financial flexibility and provide for future investment and profitable growth. We have this program in place with twenty major customers now and their financial growth and efficiency has improved 18% in only two years. At LexJet’s current sales volume, our program would deliver an additional $500,000 to your annual bottom line.”

Response: “That sounds pretty good. I’d be interested in learning more about that program.”

The approach is simple, but effective. What do you want, why should I do it and why should I do it with you?

As salespeople, it’s important for us to tailor how we communicate to who we’re talking to and in what department. However, the simple approach above will most likely always move the conversation forward.

8. That the purchase must be “helped along” and is more often made because you guide the prospect’s behavior in an effective, organized manner.

There is an old sales cliché I like a lot. It says, “Stop selling, start helping.” A companion phrase that goes along with that one is, “If you’re not helping, you’re hurting.” I like these because they help me to stay focused on what matters to my customers and not what on matters to me in the salesperson/customer relationship.

Okay, so you have a solution you know will really help your customers’ business and will help them help their customers. Great! How do you help your customer integrate your solution into their current business environment? You need to have a plan. In this case you will need a new solution adoption plan.

A new solution adoption plan doesn’t tell your customer what they should do with your new solution; it answers the standard journalist questions of:

Who? Who makes it happen?

What? What detailed steps need to be taken to make it happen?

Where? Which area of the business will be positively affected?

When? What are the specific milestones and project deadline?

Why? These are the great results you will realize from doing this.

How? Your plan.

How Much? What revenue increases or cost savings will the customer receive?

The key here is to do the work for them. Make it easy for them to say yes to your solution. Guide them. Lead them. Always be the most important part of the solution. Why? When the need help, they’ll come to you. When they encounter a  problem, they come to you to solve it. When they want positive results, they come to you first.

In the final installment of this series, we’ll discuss why knowing you customer is more important that knowing your product. We’ll then close by telling you why the topics covered in this series are critical to your ongoing growth and professional development.

And, for Part 1 of this series, click here; for Part 2 click here; and for Part 3, click here.

Until next time…

The Art of the Serendipity Sales Pitch

Serendipity is defined as good fortune, luck, or an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. I prefer the Serendipity Pitch over the traditional Elevator Pitch.

If you’re in sales, you know the drill. A hard to reach customer just happens to get on an elevator with you. You both get on at the bottom floor and are headed to the top. It will give you a precious minute of uninterrupted one-on-one time with this impossible to reach customer. The clock’s ticking. What do you say that gets you the appointment, or better yet, a sale right on the spot?

In many ways, I’m old school when it comes to what you need in your sales tool box. Skills like active listening, strong questioning techniques and efficient time management are timeless. Perhaps the most important of these fundamental skills is preparation. Being prepared frees up the mind. It allows us to process information we are getting from a customer, without having to think about facts we should already know.

You’d think these key skills would be a must for today’s sales pros. Think again. In today’s selling environment, technology is making many salespeople lazy. Email and texts have served to erode the quality of writing skills. Smart phones and tablets flood us with data, but do very little to convert that information into knowledge. Attention to detail and well-honed skills are a mark of the 20 percent of salespeople who are doing 80 percent of the business.

Point of View
When creating your Serendipity Pitch, it’s very important to think like the other person in the conversation. While the traditional version of this scenario focuses on you speaking with a hard to reach customer, what if the person receiving the information isn’t a customer?

Imagine you’re attending a dinner party and one of the folks at the party (a lawyer) asks you, “So what do you do?” Obviously, the information you provide to the lawyer will be different than the information you deliver to the potential customer. Both are important. While the lawyer may not be a potential customer – though you never know; he may need courtroom graphics at some point – ultimately, he may know someone who would benefit from your product or service.

A well crafted Serendipity Pitch provides the lawyer all the information they may need to positively present you to their friend. It’s because of this fact that I always create two versions of my pitch. I create one for someone who fundamentaly understands the products I offer, and one for someone who doesn’t.

Get to the Verb
I love this phrase! This one comes from LexJet’s founder, Art Lambert, who’s a very successful sales executive and entreprenuer. I believe his phrase sums up the mind of the customer perfectly. Customers are busy, so get to the point.

What does he mean by the verb? It means you need to give the customer a reason to listen to you… now. Who are you? What do you want from me? Why should I invest my time listening to you? How does what you propose/offer benefit my business? How much will I save with your solution? When may I expect these savings to my bottom line? When speaking to our proverbial lawyer you want to convert his casual and polite inquiry into genuine interest.

Ditch the Pitch
When making their pitch, most people rattle off a list of their responsibilities or the products and services their company provides, kind of like Bubba Blue in Forrest Gump: “There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pinapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That… That’s about it.”

Like Bubba, our tendency is to say everything we do because we do so much. There’s certainly value in everything you do, but here’s what happens… The more information you provide, the less memorable you become, unless you’re Bubba Blue.

So, the perfect pitch is not a pitch at all; it’s really conversational messaging. It’s relaxed, fairly informal and, most importantly, it boils everything you do down to its essense. Moreover, it communicates the value of what you do in practical terms to the person with whom you’re speaking.

Ask for the Order
Don’t waste your minute with meaningless chatter. Get to the point, be confident and be direct about what you want. It communicates to the customer you value his time, you know your stuff and Key sales pitch bullet pointsyou believe in what you’re selling. Regarding the lawyer, ask if he knows of anyone who might benefit from your solution.

I’ve included a graphic in this post that helps us focus on the key elements of our pitch. It’s called the Relationship Revolver and it includes the six “bullets” we want to communicate during our conversation.

Briefly, these are the descriptions of the bullet points:

  • We sell products
  • We help customers
  • We build relationships
  • We create value
  • We share knowledge
  • We invest to continuously expand our capability to serve you

I started this post with the defintion of serendipity and that I prefer it over the term elevator. Now I’ll tell you why… Invest time learning about your customer. Be well prepared. Be confident. Practice until it feels natural. When you’ve done these things, the customer lucky enough to have stepped onto that elevator will be the one experiencing serendipity.

Have fun, make money…