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Has Selling REALLY Changed?

October 22nd, 2018

People often ask me if selling has changed.

 

The answer is YES and NO.  

In order to sell effectively, it is vital to understand both halves of this equation.  

 

Effectiveness begins with an understanding of the selling landscape.   You wouldn’t attempt to cross an ocean on a bicycle, and wouldn’t choose a boat to traverse a mountain.  In other words, it is important to understand what you are selling INTO, before selecting tools and processes to get the job done.

 

Here are just a few things that have changed (dramatically) about the landscape over the last ten years…:

 

·      Buyers have much greater access to information.  Consequently, there is a good chance that they know quite a bit about your company and your product or service (as well as those of your competitors) before they speak with you.

 

·      Your competition also has greater access to information.  So they know more about you, too.

 

·      Unprecedented access to quick information has made it MUCH more difficult for any company to differentiate themselves from their competitors.   Differentiation is especially difficult for a smaller private company that doesn’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget.

 

·      Buyers have much shorter attention spans.  They are short and getting shorter.   Studies show that the average person can only pay attention for 8 seconds.   Goldfish beat humans with an average span of 9 seconds.

 

·      The combination of information access and shrinking attention spans means transactional selling is finished.   Most other antiquated approaches like feature-benefit, AIDA, presenting & proposing, solution selling, needs-based selling, strategic selling, and relationship selling are all on life-support or dying a quick death.

 

Here are few things about selling that have NOT changed…:

 

·      As a group, buyers do not trust salespeople.  Never did, never will.

 

·      The fundamental psychology of buyers remains unchanged.

 

·      So do the principles of effective communication.

 

·      Despite tremendous access to information, most buyers will not make a purchase of any type of semi-sophisticated product or service without first speaking with a sales representative.

 

·      Research still shows that a buyer’s interaction with the sales representative is the #1 factor in determining which company they buy from.   This human interaction has a greater effect on a prospect’s purchase decision than their perception of quality, reputation, service, and price combined!

 

·      The vast majority of salespeople are totally ineffective.  

Most salespeople have not changed with the changing landscape.

 

The good news is that addressing today’s evolved selling landscape does not require more work or harder work.  It simply requires a different approach and primarily lies in the development of one skill.

 

The single factor that addresses the changing landscape, differentiates a salesperson, and contributes to effectiveness is the ability to sell consultatively.   You’ve probably heard this term tossed around, but most people who use it don’t really know what it means.   In fact, most salespeople that have told me they are consultative sellers do NOT sell consultatively.  Not even close…

 

Consultative sellers…:

 

Develop trust by slowing down the sales process and asking dozens of high-value, attention-keeping, tough, assertive questions.

 

Abandon Convinc-aholic preferences.

 

Facilitate discovery to help prospects create a totally new buying vision.

 

Never waste time (the buyer’s or their own)

 

Continuously explore the “Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” domain.

 

Differentiate themselves via a unique mindset, belief system, & conversation.

 

Deeply explore the decision maker’s TRUE reasons and motives for…:

 

§  Solving a problem

§  Capturing an opportunity

§  Saving money

§  Changing the status quo

§  Switching suppliers or partners

§  Initiating a new project or process

§  Selecting one vendor over another.

§  And much more…

 

Directly and honestly address the potential consequences of change.

 

            Discuss who might be affected by change, and how.

 

            Develop relationships based on caring, sharing, mutual discovery, and trust.

 

 

Less than 15% of sales professionals even attempt to approach selling consultatively.   If your salespeople haven’t changed with the times, they are only generating a tiny percentage of the available potential business, sacrificing an enormous volume of profit.                   

           

 

Learning a consultative process, then developing and mastering the skill to execute it, will drive sales far beyond expectations.

 

Joe

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

           

How to Become a Five Percenter

September 24th, 2018

People often ask me “Are there a set of critical factors that distinguish the Top Performers from those that just can’t seem to get there?”

 

Over the past several decades, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with many thousands of entrepreneurs and salespeople.   The performance of these individuals can be separated into three primary groups.   A very small percentage consistently over-achieve.   Let’s call them The Masters or Five Percenters.   Opposite The Masters are a fairly large percentage (over 50%) of business owners and salespeople that consistently fail.   Unfortunate, but true.   Most entrepreneurs struggle for survival or fail.   Most salespeople rarely make quota.   Yikes.   They simply do not get it.

 

Most of the remaining owners and salespeople try continually to break out of the pack.  Few succeed.  Many of these execs work extremely hard.  A significant percentage of them believe themselves to always be “really busy”.  Unfortunately, their busy-ness never seems to produce the results they seek.  If they could only find “more time”, they feel like they could right the ship, but they somehow never get around to effectively prioritizing their time.

 

Many well-intentioned execs struggle to break through.  They try many different approaches, reacting to urgency after urgency and often looking for a quick fix, magic pill, or silver bullet.  Quite a few of them of them are prone to chasing shiny objects, the next big thing that will propel them out of mediocrity and transform their performance.   As society continues to move in the direction of rapid-response and instant gratification, I’ve noticed this group has been growing.

 

If you happen to be a CEO, owner, or executive seeking superior performance, I have bad news and good news.  The bad news is that there are NO quick fixes.  The good news is that ANYONE can achieve mastery and become a Five Percenter.

 

Master business performers possess a very distinct, limited (and amazingly simple) set of attributes that separate them from the masses, independent of whether their goal is to become an elite salesperson or an elite CEO.    Although Masters come in all shapes and sizes, they all possess the following common attributes..:

 

1.    They are UnConditionally Committed to Personal Development.  They never rest on their laurels and always strive to be the best person possible.  They are committed to mastery.  No matter how “busy” they might feel, they ALWAYS allocate time and energy to improving their skills, knowledge, and ability to become a better person and leader.

 

2.    They constantly Seek to Learn.  5 Percenters possess the humility to understand that there is always much more that they do not know than that they do know.  Masters understand that they often don’t have the best answer, and very often don’t even have the right question.

 

3.    They take advantage of Universal Truths.   I’m often amazed at how many executives struggle because that they choose to ignore many universal truths and laws.   What goes up, must come down.  Gravity exists.  So do Key Human Attributes and Key Relationship Attributes.   These are Universal.  We all have only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.  Even the most disruptive, innovative companies in the world succeed by virtue of exploiting Universal Truths.  Ignore these truths at your peril.

 

4.    They insist upon giving more than they gain.   Masters clearly understand the Law of Reciprocity and the fact that they will never get there alone.  Masters are both Generous and Grateful.

 

5.    They understand the Path to Mastery.   Whether you wish to improve your performance as a CEO, salesperson, athlete, musician, or parent, the Path to Mastery will always include these three basic components:

 

a.     Skills Development:  To learn HOW to become a top performer in the pursuit of your choice.

 

b.     Peer Learning:   To develop new insights & possibilities, to recognize personal and organizational blindspots, to avoid potential risks and potholes, to help you develop the right questions, to keep you motivated, to help you effectively prioritize, to help you know what you don’t know, to learn to use your time wisely, to make better decisions, and much more…

 

c.     Coaching:   To help keep you on track in making skillful choices (e.g.:  how to invest your time wisely) and taking skillful actions in accordance with your vision and intentions.

 

Attempting to achieve peak performance without taking advantage of all three legs of the Path is like running a marathon in wet sand.  You might get there (one day), but it will take much longer, you’ll have to work much harder, and your journey is going to hurt a lot more than necessary.

 

It is rare for any performer to fail because of the hard stuff.   They sometimes fail because they do not choose to do the right stuff, but they mostly fail simply due to a lack of Discipline.

 

While the attributes above are important, one will never achieve Mastery in the absence of Self-Discipline (aka:  doing the EASY things on a consistent basis).   A good coach can help enormously here.  

 

If you’d like to share other Critical Attributes of Mastery, or would like to discuss any I’ve listed here, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Enjoy the Journey!

 

Joe

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

The Profit-Burning Dirty Dozen, Volume One: RFPs

May 16th, 2018

How often do you typically reply to Requests for Proposals?

How much does it cost you to create, package and create one of these proposals?

What percentage of RFP responses do you typically win?

Most companies feel compelled to obediently reply when they receive a proposal request.   When they respond, they often do so VERY prematurely.   They substitute promptness and volume for efficiency and effectiveness, losing sight of the correct goal of maximizing growth in revenues and profit.   Here are just a few of the costly beliefs that lead to this counter-productive behavior…:

·       “We really want the business!”

·       “All of our competitors will respond!”

·       “We need the business!”

·       “If we don’t respond, we might lose credibility.”

·       “We won’t get future requests and opportunities if we don’t respond.”

·       “We’ll never get this business if we don’t submit a proposal.”

·       “This is a good opportunity to WOW them with our incredible capabilities!!!”

·       “This might be a way to get our foot in the door.”

·       “We historically win 15% of bids. Since we don’t know which 15%, we better reply to every one.”

·       “We may not be their preferred vendor, but would like to be a backup option”

The majority of companies that receive RFPs do respond to them, quickly.  For many responders, the expense of preparing a proposal can be substantial (including time for design, engineering, estimating, opportunity costs, and more).  All of these costs cut dramatically into margins and the bottom line.

The majority of companies win only a very small percentage of the bids they submit.  So the cost of creating proposals for the few sales that are won must be distributed across the many submissions of those that are lost.

Many companies never give a second thought to replying to RFPs.  They behave reactively, versus proactively.   “Of course we need to be responsive, it’s the way we’ve always done it!”

I’m not suggesting here that you should ignore RFPs.   The question is not if you should respond, but HOW and WHEN.

Most salespeople (and the companies that employ them) have lost millions of dollars of revenue (and profit) because of a destructive behavior disorder known as Premature Satisfaction™.   Replying to a blind RPF is a glaring and extreme example of this disorder.

Premature Satisfaction™, and the resulting volume of lost profit it creates can be reduced and subsequently eliminated by implementing an effective sales process.   UnCommon Sense Buyer Facilitation© is one example of such a process.   If sending a proposal is a critical (or mandated) part of your buyer’s purchase protocol, the submission of the proposal should be one of the final steps in your process.

Premature Satisfaction™carries a consequence in 100% of cases.   In the BEST case, it will cost you time, expense, and profit.   In the worst case, it can destroy trust, lose business you should easily be winning, and remove your company from future consideration as a potential product or solution provider.

 

There are five (and only five) reasons that you will ever receive a Request for Proposal:

  1. The prospect wants to drive prices down by creating a bidding war.
  2. Their internal policy mandates a certain number of bidders, and you are a convenient filler.
  3. They want to buy from your competitor but don’t want to be taken to the cleaners on price.
  4. They want to buy from your competitor and need a high bid or two to justify their decision.
  5. They would prefer to do business with you but need you to submit via their formal process.

No other reasons exist.  If you aren’t in category #5, you should not be proposing.

Contrary to some conventional thinking, a proposal is not a selling or closing tool.    Companies will not buy from you because of your beautiful proposals, and proposals don’t differentiate you from your competition.  Your MVP Quality - specifically your trustworthiness, ability to connect, questioning, listening, discovery skills, and sales process are the things that will set you apart from your competitors.   Tons of research and buyer polls support these facts.

So next time someone requests a proposal from you, do NOT get busy creating and firing one off.   Instead, learn why they sent it to you, why they want you to propose on this particular solution or configuration, and why they are asking you to solve their problem in the specific way they have outlined.    If necessary, get the specs of the RFP changed before proposing.

The process I’m describing here applies whether you are addressing a highly formalized, bureaucratic, or institutionalized proposal request, or simply a “Hey, can you send me a quote?”   Remember, satisfying prematurely always carries a negative consequence.

So before investing your valuable time, money, and energy putting together a World Class Proposal, make sure that you know they want to buy from you and that the business belongs to you if you want it.   If there is any question at all or if you are not sure, you are simply not ready to propose.    End of story.

If you are sure, you can then put your proposal in any font, color, and package that excites you.  In other words, the buyer has effectively written the proposal for you.   You have simply documented it…

I know this all may be a tough pill to swallow if you work in a company that has developed a habit of rapid-response proposal generation.   Like all habits, this one might take a little time to break.  I can promise the reward will be well worth it.

To Your Freedom…

Joe

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

Change Your Mindset to Eliminate Buyer Objections (Forever)

February 28th, 2018

Salespeople who try to overcome objections always shoot themselves in the foot. 

 

They are actually adding insane, unnecessary complexity to an otherwise simple conversation, wasting tons of time, likely destroying trust, and moving further away from a successful transaction.

 

In fact, there is no such thing as an objection.  Like so many problems that detract from effectiveness in sales conversations, the “objection problem” lies squarely between the ears of the salesperson.   Sales effectiveness begins with a correct mindset and an understanding of buyer psychology (AND seller psychology).   Your personal sales success emerges primarily from the conversation you have with yourself.

 

Before getting too deeply into your head, let me share a few things you should know about objections…:

 

            Overcoming an objection will increase a buyer’s resistance.

 

Objections tend to increase as a salesperson gets closer to the end of a sale.

 

The objection is rarely the real problem.

 

If there are two people in the room, only one of them can be the expert.

 

Buyers want to be the expert.

 

You’ll never score points by correcting a buyer (aka:  overcoming their objections).

 

If you handle one objection, you’ll almost always get another.

 

A buyer can only object if you give them something they can object to.

 

If you believe my assertions, you may be wondering…  “So what the heck am I supposed to do now?”

 

First things first: If you never get an objection, you don’t need to worry about how to handle them.   

 

From a tactical standpoint, buyers will not object to your questions, curiosities, sincere interest, empathy, or understanding.    They only object to statements, presentations, proposals, pitches, closing techniques, manipulations, and other forms of Premature Satisfaction.   They object to being sold.  So if you’ll stop throwing up all over them and exercise just a bit of patience, you will quickly see buyer objections evaporate. 

 

There are many other ways to create an objection-free zone, but the best place to start is with your self-conversation.   When most salespeople “hear” an objection, common sense makes them hear “bad news”.  As their emotions and blood pressure begin to race, they typically try to overcome the objection so they can begin breathing again.   Conversely, superior UnCommon Sense salespeople never hear good news or bad news.  Great salespeople never hear objections.  They only hear information and opinions.   Consequently, they do not become emotionally involved or lose control.  They remain 100% present in the conversation and are viewed by buyers as differentiated value-adders instead of sales reps.

 

Rather than overcoming an “objection”, an effective salesperson will simply learn more about the buyer’s “opinion”.   In response to a buyer’s opinion, they can choose to listen, learn and create a new opportunity instead of a talking, telling, dancing and handling a problem.  They might learn things like…:

 

            Why does the buyer feel that way?

 

            What do they think should happen to resolve it?

 

            When did these feelings start?

 

            What have they tried so far?

 

            And much, much more.

 

By simply changing their self-talk to eliminate objections, an effective salesperson can help a qualified buyer transform their opinions into a new, better future and buying vision.

 

If you decide to try these simple solutions, I’d love to hear from you about your results…

 

Continued Success,

 

Joe

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

Ask a Better Question

November 17th, 2017

 

 

All business owners would like their salespeople to close more sales, consistently blow away quota, and create more predictable, profitable growth.  Most would also like to interject scale into their business.

 

Every week business owners and sales leaders ask me questions like “can you train our salespeople to sell more?” and “how can we find sales candidates that can actually sell?”

 

While we are always more than happy to provide the training and coaching required to address these questions in order to improve selling and sales recruiting effectiveness, there are at least 2 questions that could likely unleash an even better return and value.

 

Before I share these golden questions, let me share some facts…

 

1.     Sales training IS important and you certainly cannot win a race with a team slow horses, so choose wisely.  

 

2.     Study after study reveals that approximately 75% of all salespeople fail consistently.  I’ve written extensively on the reasons and solutions to these problems, so won’t go into them here.

 

3.     The vast majority of salespeople have never had an ounce of effective, formal sales training.   Pilots, accountants, engineers, cops, and fireman all train.  Most salespeople just wing it… 

 

4.      Most sales managers are former salespeople.

 

5.     Most sales managers don’t have a clue about what effective sales management entails.

 

6.     Effective sales management and leadership is a major force multiplier.

 

7.     Although most organizations invest little in sales training, sales management training is the area that is addressed with the least frequency. 

 

 

In light of these facts, you may have already concluded that Sales Management and Leadership lie at the core of building a consistent, predictable, scalable sales effort.

In the absence of competent sales management, your strategy is simply one of hope.

 

Your best salespeople require effective management and coaching in order to optimize results and ensure growth.   Weaker salespeople are guaranteed to fail without it.

 

A proficient sales manager will coach, hold salespeople accountable, reinforce training, and improve the results of all your salespeople.  They will swiftly release non-performers and will motivate and develop your A-players, creating a dramatic improvement in your company’s revenue, profit performance, and scalability, leading to a much stronger company.

 

An effective sales manager will also direct a productive sales-recruiting process and continuous improvement of the team.

 

Effective sales management changes everything.

 

Sales training is an essential part of any sales improvement initiative, but you will likely find the investment in developing sales managers to carry a much greater ROI.

 

So the next time you look to upgrade your sales organization, you might start by asking…:

 

“How can we develop our sales management and leadership?”

 

or

 

“What steps can we take to build a world-class sales organization?”

 

 

 

Continued Success!!!

Joe

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

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