My answer was selling.
So I hit the road and quickly found a job at Optus. That quickly lead to managing a retail Optus World franchise and at one stage being ranked the number one salesperson in Optus across Australia.
Then I got pretty full of myself and joined a company selling business to business. I went from the psychology of retail (where customers come to you) to having to create it all from scratch in B2B.
I’d like to tell you the magic continued as I soared to the top again, but I bombed.
About a year later, I quit without much success. I’m sure I tried to blame the product, the company, but the fact was: my skills – and more importantly my mindset – weren’t up to the task.
That lead me on a path of studying everything I could get my hands on to learn how to sell in any situation.
Bit by bit, I improved, until one day it just clicked. And selling business to business (or in any medium) became a fun, very successful ride rather then a painful, soul destroying struggle.
The ins and outs of my journey are for another time. The point is, I’ve studied pretty much every sales method, sales trainer and sales tactic you can think of. And I’m here to tell you that most of it is seriously flawed in a couple of major ways.
For starters, most of it is based on „old school‟ techniques. This was pioneered by a few key gurus who came to own the sales training space.
Even if you haven’t had any training, the chances are extremely high your actions or methods have been influenced by these old school tactics. This “sales stuff” is everywhere for us to see.
It‟s in the car salesman you visited the last time you bought a car.
It‟s in the real estate agent the last time you bought or sold (or even rented) a house.
It‟s in the annoying phone calls you get at home right before you start dinner.
Right there I’ve covered three major clichés of sales. Generally, these salespeople are good people trying to make a living. But their method is one of volume. It‟s based on the probability that if you ask enough people then someone, somewhere will eventually say yes.
There is one big problem with all of this. Every time there is a survey of, “Who do you trust?” salespeople always, always, always rank at the bottom.
What does that tell you?
Anything with a whiff of “salesperson” engenders suspicion and mistrust. Does that sound like an easy situation to work in?
Now you might be thinking that your situation is different. You don’t sell that way. You’re not a pushy person who manipulates people. Well, that’s great. But you’re missing the point. These sales clichés have created an awareness and barrier within people (most likely including you when you’re a customer) that is very hard to penetrate. And very sensitive.
That means your intentions can mean very little, because as soon as you activate the “I’m trying to sell to you” buttons in the customer’s mind then the barriers shoot up and you find yourself in no man’s land.
No man’s land is the place where you keep ringing the “hot prospect” only to find they never answer your calls. They don’t reply to your emails. They seemed so interested and now they’ve gone cold.
Sorry, they were just trying to be nice to you. Most people aren’t rude. They don’t want to say to your face that they don’t trust a single word that comes out of your mouth. They just smile politely and wait for you to leave. They just didn’t feel comfortable…and there’s certainly no loyalty.
It‟s entirely acceptable to lie to salespeople because the respect factor just isn’t there.
Another challenge is the way we communicate is changing rapidly.
There’s another problem – it’s called connectivity. The internet, the smart phone.
As a society we are so connected now. As part of the information age, customers are getting
more and more educated. They can hop onto the internet and get enough information to become a “self-appointed expert”.
They can also very quickly get the low down on different suppliers. Who is reasonable, who is reputable, who looks after their customers and who doesn’t. It‟s very hard to hide the truth on the internet.
Just ask the actor Alec Baldwin. In a fit of rage amidst a custody battle (and anyone who has been through that will attest to how stressful it is), he leaves an angry voicemail message on his daughter’s phone.
With the flick of a button, the whole world now knows about that. You can hear the message on You Tube.
It‟s just as easy to buy something on eBay as it is to go to the shops. A prospective client can hop on the internet and become a self appointed expert before they even speak to you.
Do you think this connectivity isn’t going to affect the way we sell?
You bet it is. As we move forward, it will be expected of sales people to add more value, to bring more benefit to the lives of their clients. Just “peddling product” won’t cut it.
You’re going to have to be more innovative in the way you prospect, sell, deliver, up sell, cross sell, promote – the whole gamut.
The number one way to begin improving your skills on your journey of selling is…stop trying to be a salesperson.
Let’s take the flip side of my “Trust” example before. Who do you think rated highest on the trust surveys?
That’s right. Doctors, teachers – people who are supposedly experts in their field.
Does that give you a clue?
Stop trying to be a sales person and start trying to be an expert in your industry. Salespeople always get beaten down on price. Experts don’t get questioned on their high fees.
But if I left you there, I would have given you a small piece of the puzzle and on its own that’s a little dangerous.
How a dole bludger became a millionaire.
Let me tell you a brief, powerful story of one of my mentors – we’ll call him Paul (sorry, but he probably doesn’t want me giving out his real name). Paul was a long time friend of mine and at one stage he’d was the top insurance salesperson in Australia.
He then moved on to other various business ventures, and everything he tried seemed to have the midas touch.
But in the beginning it wasn’t like that. In the beginning he was broke and receiving unemployment benefits. One day he went to a job interview next door to his house just to qualify for his welfare payments. The job was for a salesperson at a used car yard. The recruiter took one look at him and said,” You don’t want this job, do you.”
Paul replied, “Nope.”
The recruiter smiled, “Right – you’re hired.”
Well, Paul couldn’t believe it. His income was going from $80 a week to $400 a week. That was a pretty good increase for him at the time. He was to report the next day for the start of two weeks sales training.
Now, this is the strange part. The recruiter must have had a good eye for talent. But his training method was certainly unorthodox. Paul, along with one other new recruit, was to spend his two weeks of training doing one thing and one thing only: read a book.
After reading this book for two weeks, Paul and the other recruit began their sales job. Within a very short space of time, they both became top salesmen in the company.
When I first heard that story, you can probably guess my first question – what book did they read??
The book was “The Laws of Success” by Napoleon Hill.
It‟s a two-volume book that talks about the right traits, characteristics and attitude you need to
succeed. Simply by studying this book, Paul shot to the top in his company.
But there was one lesson above all the others that stood out to Paul and gave him the edge in sales that he was looking for.
It‟s the principle of giving.
Stop trying to focus on selling your product, and start to trying to add value to your clients’ lives. Think of all the ways – paid and unpaid – you can add value to them and give them what they want.
Your clients want to feel like they’re just a commodity, or a sales target. They want to feel valued. Important. Appreciated.
I recently heard a certain marketing guru talk about how he used the law of giving to manipulate his clients into feeling guilty enough to give something back (i.e. their cash for his product).
To me, this is missing the point. And if that’s your approach you will be very quickly detected and ejected by your clients. Have you noticed how clients are getting smarter and more educated?
They’re not dummies.
You have to sincerely try to add value to their lives with what you do.
You could say it’s the principle of generosity.
If you properly understand and apply just this one principle, your sales will sky rocket. But don’t do what most people do. Read something for the first time, reflect on it for five seconds then fool yourself into thinking you understand it.
There’s a big difference between intellectually understanding something and actually internalizing a principle that you can apply in your day to day life.
Now from that perspective, have a think about what most of the “sales talk” sounds like. All the sales influencing strategies are based around navigating your way through the distrust to make the sale. Instead, build the trust and the relationship, and the sales cannot help but flow.
And you can do that strategically through the art of giving. Not to manipulate them into reciprocity. But to build loyalty and trust.
It‟s not about having a tactic. It‟s not “always be closing”. It‟s the art of human relationships.
Being a leader in the art of people. That gets lost in the hunt for sales. It becomes all about seeing the prospect as a dollar figure. I can assure you, while you’re doing that – you’re missing out on sales.
It still amazes me how many sales people focus on “getting new clients”. A few years ago, I was asked to give a talk to a sales team on how they could get in the door with some difficult to reach prospects.
Elliot Hayes About Time Management Solutions www.findtime.com.au
I had this whole session prepared, and then it hit me. I walked in and said, “Listen, you want to
know how to get to more prospects. But while you’re looking for new prospects, your competition are figuring out how to steal your existing clients. What about them? Are you maximizing them?
Are you doing everything you can for them?”
You see, the real asset – the only asset – is the people who are willing to buy from you.
They’re the ones who sign the cheques. And if you don’t look after them, they’ll leave. More to the point, there is likely an untold amount of sales potential you’re leaving on the table with your existing clients.
But the focus is so often, “I want to get new clients”. If you don’t value and maximize the ones you’ve got, why should you get any more? It‟s a waste of time.
Which leads me to another key reason most people have got it wrong with their sales approach:
A salesperson needs to think more like a businessperson then just a “seller”.
So often, clients come to me and ask, “How could I get through the gate keeper (aka personal assistant) of this big prospect and convince the CEO to meet with me?”
If you’re in sales, you’ve probably had a similar question. You might have tried to find the answer in one of the scores of books and programs devoted to how you can telemarket your way to success by getting through the “gatekeepers”.
Or you might be like most people and just give up in fear of the telephone, because it takes a large amount of courage and desire to do any kind of cold calling.
The question, “How do I convince the decision maker to meet with me?” is almost as common as the question salespeople ask themselves, “Am I up to doing this? Am I good enough to make it?”
The only problem is, it’s the wrong question.
There is no strategic thinking in that question. It has the odds stacked against you, and makes selling hard instead of easy. It reminds me of one of the first sales meetings I had where I was trying to sell a product. I met with this woman and – with a smug smirk on her face – she said to me, “Okay, Elliot. Do your pitch.” The silly thing was… I did. I should have stopped right there.
Why? Because the odds were against me (not surprisingly, she didn’t buy). The dynamic was all wrong. There was no respect for me, no qualifying her as the right buyer, no bond, no relationship. The power was all with her.
Imagine you do get past the gatekeeper and get your five minutes with the boss. Do you think they will have a huge respect for you? Do you think they’ll be ready and eager to buy once you’ve stopped talking? More to the point, do you think they’ll accept your price unconditionally, without haggling? Again, the power is all with them.
Standard sales training says that one in five appointments will win the sale (this is your average closing ratio). And you should be excited when you have someone reject you because that means there are only three more rejections before you get another sale.
Well, I would suggest you should be annoyed that you met with them in the first place.
If you’re getting one sale from every five meetings (a ratio I haven’t had in a
long time, once I figured this out) you’re not qualifying them properly in the first place.
The real secret is you haven’t positioned yourself properly.
You might have heard the saying in real estate, “Position, Position, Position”. Well, in sales it’s
“Positioning, Positioning, Positioning.”
Are you the doctor? The expert? The guru/master? Or are you the salesperson?
Which one finds it easier to make sales?
Let’s take our prospecting scenario again. What could be a better way to look at this challenge of getting a meeting with the decision maker?
How about the question, “How could I position myself as the number one solution to their problem so that I have the decision maker calling my P.A. begging to get a meeting with me?
(and paying a registration fee to go on the waiting list to meet with you in the process).”
A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment with my dentist. Dentists have a unique method of selling. They tell you need it and you do buy it. You rarely ask the price, and you certainly never haggle for a discount.
At the end of the treatment, I was informed that I needed to have another appointment to have a filling done before it became troublesome. When I went to the receptionist to book, I was told I would have to book three months in advance as they were so busy.
Imagine you had that problem. Imagine you were viewed as so unique, so crucial and so expert that people were literally waiting in line to meet with and discuss how you could help them.
That may seem like a pipe dream, but imagine you achieve just ten percent of that. What if decision makers call you because they’ve qualified themselves as right for your product or service? What would the difference be psychologically, with them calling you instead of the other way around?
What would it take to achieve that?
If you’re like most sales people, you don’t have an answer because you haven’t spent any time on the question. This is what I mean when I say that salespeople need to think more like business people.
An average sales person focuses on making sales. A business person or entrepreneur focuses on how sales are made. Do you see the difference? One is transactional, tactical and – in my opinion – hard. The other is strategic, long term and progressively easier as time goes by, provided you’ve set it up right.
By the way, I must warn you not to be like most sales people and rely totally on your employer to do all the marketing. Never put your fate in the hands of others.
The whole point of sales is to have skills that put your income potential and achievement in your hands. You have the power. You have the opportunity.
And you have the responsibility to make it happen.
So with that said, let me outline for you my ten day challenge.
Having trained thousands people over the last five years in various programs, one thing has become very clear to me. Unless you break it down to very simple steps, people just do not apply what you teach them.
They have every intention, every noble aim you can think of… and finally every excuse you can imagine for not having taken any action. It‟s human nature that we tend to be much more
interested in “seeking cures for a problem” rather than proactively seeking solutions for our top priorities (which sometimes are not so urgent).
But it was a client from my coaching program who finally said to me, “Elliot, this is great. But it’s too much to work on all at once!”
Point taken. So here it is.
I’m going to outline one simple step you can take each day for the next ten days.
Each step will take no more than twenty minutes (at the maximum).
Each step will be practical and (by itself) not too confronting.
But – and here’s the kicker – each step combined over a ten day period will have a cumulative effect on your overall sales results. Maybe not straight away within the first ten-day stint.
If you follow my strong encouragement to continue developing these skills (and repeat the ten day challenge again and again) you cannot help but improve.
It‟s a mechanical certainty. The only complication will be you and your “stuff” as a human being.
For this next ten days together, try and leave your “stuff” at home. Sales is simple – we’re the ones who make it difficult.
The Ten Day Challenge