Sales and Sales Management Blog

July 25, 2007

Would You Like to Know What Your Prospect Is Thinking? You Can.

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 8:57 am

Understanding when your customer isn’t being forthright, understanding the decision making process, and knowing when your really connecting with a prospect is of vital importance in selling.

Unfortunately, for many of us, these are not easy things to pickup.  We’ve been told about body language, we’ve been told about buying signals, and we’ve been told about assuming the close.  However, to date, there hasn’t been a clear process for recognizing what our prospects are really thinking.

Dr. David J. Lieberman in his recently released book, You Can Read Anyone (Viter, 2007), finally gives a practical, straightforward process for understanding how decisions are made and how to know when you’re being lied to and when your prospect is truly in agreement with what you’ve presented.

Although I usually don’t spend a great deal of time recommending sales books simply because many other people do and I see no reason to duplicate, this is a book that few salespeople and managers will find because it isn’t anywhere near the sales aisle. 

Lieberman, a psychologist, has written several books on interpersonal relationships and his techniques for understanding human behavior are used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. 

If you want to learn how to figure out what your prospects are thinking, read You Can Read Anyone.  Well worth having in your personal library.  It just might help with your poker game also.

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July 16, 2007

Meeting Client Expectations

Filed under: Client Relationships — Paul McCord @ 1:02 pm

One of the current buzz phrases in sales and marketing is “exceeding the client’s expectations.”  This is a laudable goal, but one that is seldom met.  And then to top it off, it isn’t enough.  If you manage to exceed your client’s expectations, you still have only succeeded in meeting half of your obligation to the client.

     Clients have more than simply the expectations during the sale, they also have product or service priorities.  In order to have consummated a quality sale, you must have met both the client’s expectations of the sale and their product or service priorities.  Many salespeople and sales managers think these are one and the same.  They are not.

     Let’s break these down into two distinct concepts.

Expectations:  Every client has certain expectations about the sale.  A client may expect a number of things to happen during the course of the sale:  they may expect to be kept fully informed; they may expect any problems or issues during the course of the sale to be eliminated quickly; they may expect certain things to happen at certain times, such as delivery or billing; they may expect certain members of their team to consulted about aspects of the sale or installation; they may expect notification and coordination prior to delivery; or any number of other expectations.  All of these expectations are related to the sales process.  Different customers will have different expectations during the sale.  For example, one customer may expect to be kept fully informed of any issues during the process, but other than that doesn’t want to be bothered with updates.  On the other hand, another customer may expect to be updated on a regular basis, and a third customer may want what you consider to be overkill and want to be kept informed almost daily.  Three different customers–three different expectations.

Moreover, of course, each customer will probably have several expectations, not just one.

Product or Service Priorities:  In addition to their sale expectations, clients also have product or service priorities—those things they fully expect your product or service to deliver.  As with expectations during the sale, each customer will have his or her own product and service priorities.  An example would be a client purchasing new delivery vehicles.  One client’s top priority may be fuel efficiency; another may be visual impression (image), while a third may be loading capacity.  Depending upon the product or service, the customer may have only a few or many priorities.

     Any sale that does not meet both the client’s expectations during the sale and their product/service priorities is a less than successful sale.  Moreover, the most immediate recipient of the client’s displeasure and the one who pays proportionately the biggest cost is the salesperson and his or her reputation.

     In order to be able to expect referrals, develop a reputation of excellence, and too be viewed by customers and clients as an expert source, you must make it your top priority to meet, and hopefully exceed, both your client’s expectations and priorities.  Part of a referral-based business model is the agreement with the client that if you meet certain goals, you will get referrals.  This is an agreed upon commitment between you and your client.  If you perform, you get the referrals you’ve worked for.  Fail and you haven’t earned them.

     How, then, can you make sure that you are fully aware of the client’s expectations and priorities?  You must sit down with each and every client and discuss in detail exactly what his or her expectations during the sale are and exactly what their product/service priorities are.  There isn’t any other way of making sure that you are both on the same page. 

     Unfortunately, most salespeople and their companies assume they know what the client’s expectations are.  Ask most salespeople what their client’s expect and they’ll quickly rattle off a list:  friendly service, no problems during the sale, on-time delivery, no add-on charges, and the like.  This list, however, is nothing more than what they believe should be the expectations of there clients.  Furthermore, nothing has been said about the product/service priorities of the client.

     Salespeople and their companies tend to view the sale as two separate and distinct transactions—the product and/or service the customer has purchased or contracted for and the sales event itself.  In reality, in the client’s mind, these are one and the same.  If either the sale, which is the actual process of selling and delivering the product or service, or the product/service does not measure up to the client’s wants, needs and expectations, the salesperson and their company have failed.

      Salespeople must redefine their sale to include both aspects of the client’s purchase.  Although in many cases the salesperson has little or no control over how the product or service performs, the customer, based on the product/service performance, will judge the salesperson just as much as they will judge the company.  In addition, the customer will also judge them based on how well or poorly the sales process goes.  In other words, your client will hold you responsible for your performance, your company’s performance, and the product/service performance.  Consequently, you must know exactly what your client expects during the sales process and what his or her priorities are of the product or service you sell.  You must then make sure that you meet both their expectations of the sale and that the product or service you have sold them meets their particular priorities.

     A surprisingly large number of salespeople rush through the presentation and “sale” of the product or service without gaining a complete understanding of exactly what the customer’s needs and desires for the product or service are.  They focus so strongly on the sale, they fail to analyze the product or service in terms of the client’s priorities.  Most often, they fail to fully discover what their client’s priorities are, or, more often, they believe “close” is close enough.

     Recognizing the importance of meeting both the client’s sales expectations and their product/service priorities puts a huge burden on the salesperson, though not a burden that was not already present.  Most of us operate blissfully unaware that we are being judged based on both how we perform and how our product or service performs.  We tend to think of ourselves as being responsible for how we deal with the client—this is, that we keep the promises we personally make to the client, not that we are personally responsible for how well or poorly our product or service meets the client’s needs.  We tend to think of the product or service as something that is separate from ourselves and is between the customer and our company.

     In order to be able to know exactly what your client’s expectations are during the sale and their priorities for the product or service, you must have a frank and open discussion with the client.  This discussion is not one to be rushed through.  The client needs to know that this is the defining discussion of the whole sales process.  You must ask in no-uncertain terms exactly what their expectations of the sale are and exactly what their priorities for the product or service are.  By all means take notes and then, after the client has had the opportunity to define for you their expectations and priorities, repeat them to your client in exactly the way you understand them.  If, for instance, your client states that the delivery date is most important during the sale, with an expectation to be kept fully informed and that he be notified of any issues that arise immediately, and that his primary priority for the product is that the vehicles be capable of carrying X load, at X fuel economy, and at X price, you need to recite to him that your understanding is that his primary expectation is that the vehicles must be delivered on or before the agreed upon date, that you communicate with him either by phone or e-mail at least weekly, and that if any issues arise with the purchase you will communicate those to him with X number of hours after you discover the issue; furthermore, you understand that the vehicles upon delivery must be capable of hauling X, that they must get X miles per gallon, and that the agreed upon price should not change in any manner.  If you know you cannot meet these sales expectations or that your product cannot meet the stated priorities, you must find a solution at this point or you will end the sale with a less than satisfied customer.

     Once you understand and agree to the client’s expectations and priorities, get his verbal agreement to your understanding of each and very statement.  If you have misinterpreted anything or if the client rearranges his expectations or priorities, go over them again.  Once you have his full agreement on each expectation and priority, ask again for his commitment to provide quality referrals upon completion of the sale.  A simple statement such as, “(client’s name), we’re in agreement that if I meet these three sales expectations and the product/service meets your priorities, you will provide me with 5 quality referrals as we had defined them previously, correct?”

     Even though at this point you have discussed with your client their expectations and priorities, and have a verbal agreement as to what they are and that you will have earned the referrals if you meet them, don’t stop there.  Take one final step and once back at your office, send the client a brief e-mail listing his sales expectations and his product/service priorities.  Do not put them in a format that appears to be documentation.  Simply send an email that reads something like  “Don, thank you taking the time to go over your expectations and priorities with me this afternoon.  Since every client is different and each has different wants and needs, it really helps me meet your wants and needs if I know exactly what your expectations and priorities are.  My understanding is that you (then list his sales expectations and then his product/service priorities again, just as you did when you were with him).  If, upon further reflection, these aren’t quite right, please let me know.”

     Once you have clearly defined what your client expects and what his priorities are, you can take dead aim at meeting his wants and needs precisely, without any doubt as to which activities and issues you must pay particular attention to in order to have fully met, and hopefully, “exceeded your client’s expectations.”

July 10, 2007

E-mail and prospecting

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 6:00 pm

Just how absurd will e-mail get?  I’m getting very close to subscribing to one of the spam prevention companies—you know the type of company where you have to answer an email from the company and fill in a verification form before your email will be delivered.  I swore I’d never make it difficult for people to get to me and, therefore, would never subscribe to such a service.

But e-mail is getting totally out of hand.

I had my assistant count ‘em up from all three of my email accounts.  I’ve won over 160 lotteries since last Thursday alone!  I’ve won almost 80 expensive products during the past week—for doing absolutely nothing but having an email account!  I’ve had over 300 incredible offers to buy Viagra and other drugs this week alone.  I’ve had over 50 lonely ladies want to send me pictures of them just this week.  I’ve had the opportunity to purchase various software programs at tremendously low prices over 400 times this week.  And then a whole mess of other miscellaneous deals.  In total, I’ve had over 1,500 spam emails in a week.  That’s 300 a day.  And, of course, you can’t send an email back asking to be taken off the list because the email addresses don’t go anywhere.  All that happens are you get 1,500 Demon Mailer notices in return.

What does this have to do with prospecting?  Everything if you’re trying to prospect by email.  Just how far do you think your unsolicited email is going to get?

SPAM is killing email just as surely as too many and too many unethical telemarketers is killing cold calling. 

If you’re still using email or if you’re just beginning to use email as a marketing tool, I encourage you to rethink your efforts.  Unless the person recognizes your name, you’re on the losing side of the computer.

You might want to think about investing in one of those email verification companies—I’m giving it serious thought.

July 7, 2007

And You Wonder Why Salespeople Have a Bad Reputation?

Filed under: Personal Marketing,trust — Paul McCord @ 10:43 am

Today is simply a day to vent.

Daniel from British Columbia sent an email a few days ago that I’ve been fuming over since I received it: 

“Mr. McCord, I’ve only been in sales for a few months but I’m quite confused at this point.  I’ve read your book, a book by Tom Hopkins and a book by Anthony Perinello.  All three of you make sales sound like something hard to do.  Like something that you have to learn.  But my sales manager says to ignore all that stuff and just do what the company tells me to do and that selling their way is easy.  The company I work for sets our appointments and when we get in front of the prospect we have a flip chart and a presentation that we’ve memorized that we go through.  If the client doesn’t buy, we call our manager and he tries to sell them.  What’s the deal?  I seem to be doing alright and we don’t use any of the stuff you guys talk about.” 

Daniel is unfortunately under the impression that he is selling when in fact he either simply taking the order after his canned presentation or is, more accurately, the set up man for the manager to come in with high pressure tactics to browbeat the prospect. 

Many believe this old style of high-pressure sales has gone the way of the dinosaur.  I wish.  This format, or a variation of it, is still common in many industries.  Daniel happens to be selling insurance, but it happens in auto sales, mortgages, healthcare related items and services, and many others.  Not all use the format Daniel described; there are many variations on the high-pressure sales method. 

Some delight in their methods.  For instance, one local used car dealership that has a reputation for their high-pressure sales tactics has a picture of each of their salespeople in their ads with the salesperson’s name.  What would you expect from a car lot whose salespeople are named Slick, Dogg, Bling Man and Moneymaker?  These are, of course, their nicknames.  But would you expect anything less than high-pressure from these guys? 

Several mortgage companies in the US target military vets to refinance their homes.  They use the same formula as Daniel’s company. 

The sad part about Daniel’s letter is that he doesn’t even recognize a difference between legitimate sales and what the company he works is doing.  To him, he is selling.  In addition, unfortunately, many prospects have the same view of our profession as he does. 

These companies will always be around to prey on the poorer and weaker members of our society.  Some, like the vet oriented mortgage companies rely on people being too lazy to seek out a more honest solution.   

I realize that as long a human nature is the way it is, these companies will exist and some will thrive.  There will always be those looking for the easy, quick way to make a buck and the buyer be damned.  Nevertheless, it also makes you wonder how much of this exists hidden in the reputable companies?  More, if afraid, than we’d like to admit.

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