Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Selling is Teaching and Never Forget That

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Think about what you liked about your favorite teacher from grade school, high school or college.  I can pretty well guess what you liked:  The good teacher cares and shows that fact by connecting with you--especially with the eyes.  I went to a doctor recently and noted that, during the time he was with me, he only looked at me three times.  The rest of the time his eyes were locked onto his computer screen.  A good teacher connects with the students with eye contact.  A good salesman does the same.
Another thing that identifies a good teacher is knowledge of the subject.  A student can tell immediately whether a teacher knows what he's talking about.  Product knowledge is critical to good sales.
Good teachers ask questions to make sure the students understand what they're taught.  A couple of thousand years ago, a Greek philosopher name Socrates, developed a method of teaching we now call the Socratic method.  It involves using questions and answers to arrive at an understanding.  Good teachers use this method to help students understand a subject.  Good salespeople should use the same approach.  Don't come into the sales situation with an answer--come in with questions and let the customer arrive at the solution.
Remember how, as you were growing up, you said to yourself that when you're a parent, you won't do this or that that your parents did and you didn't like.  
Think that way as a salesperson.  What do you like about that car salesperson you deal with; what don't you like.  Learn from watching and observing.  
Stop being a salesperson, and become a good teacher; stop selling and start observing; stop talking and listen.



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

BURIED!!! Using To Do Lists to manage tasks

Image result for "bURIED" cartoon imageIt seems absolutely impossible to keep up with it all.  Family demands, company demands, customer demands--how to keep it all under control is a huge issue today.  And, despite having dozens of things to remember, if you forget ONE thing, that's what everyone gets mad at you for.  But there's no excuse for forgetting anything these days.
So I'm going to tell you what I do.  First thing is that I always have a notebook.  And all my notebooks have integrated pen loops with pens inserted.  (Notebooks aren't much good without a pen.) 
I also have a Samsung Note 8 cell phone which allows me to make quick notes when I don't have my notebook.   Siri and Google Assistant are also very good at setting reminders if you're traveling or driving.  (You have to get over being self conscious talking to your phone.)
But notes and reminders aren't much good if you don't use them. 
There are excellent ToDo apps for cell phones and tablets.  My favorites are "ToDoIst" (todoist.com) and "Wunderlist" (wunderlist.com). 
The problem is that you may have a todo list, but it's not constantly visible. ("Oh, Ed, I'm sorry, I forgot--it's on my todo list, but I didn't look at it today.")  I've solved this problem by setting up my cell phone todo app as a "Widget".  Setting up your todo list as a widget on your cell phone home screen means that when you unlock your phone, your todo list is the first thing you see.  Android phones and iPhones have different ways to set up a widget.  So you need to Google "how to set up a widget on an _____ phone" and follow the instructions.  (A "widget" is a little piece of software code on your phone that allows the phone to display an app on your home screen.  The display can be made to take up your whole screen or a part of it.  My todo list takes up my whole home screen.)
I can't tell you how many times I have heard--"sorry, I forgot".  There's no excuse for forgetting in this age of memory apps.  I hate it when I'm the one who has to remind the supplier--"hey, where's my quote".  There's no excuse. 
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Write it down on paper; ask Siri or Google Assistant to remind you; type it into Todoist, or Wunderlist, make your todo list a widget on your phone.
And stop making excuses--darn it.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

So What Does All This Digital Stuff Mean to Me--a Salesperson?

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First and foremost, we all have to understand that digitization is not something that we can fight.  We are all buying "smart" TVs--and smart TVs are as connected to the internet as are our smartphones.  Smart TVs are digitizing our habits--what we watch, when we watch it, in what room we are sitting when we watch--everything!  New cars are already "smart" and some new cars have cameras that tell you when you stray from the lane.  Digitization is here.  Embrace it.  Don't fight it.
Second, and just as important, customer relations management (CRM) software is critical to successful management of your future in sales.  If you have good, detailed information in your CRM program (we use Sage ACT! in our company), you can send targeted newsletters to your customers or make targeted mailings.  There are excellent online newsletter software offerings out there like MailChimp and Constant Contact.  Using these packages, you can create a newsletter and email it through their software, as long as you have good email addresses--which, of course, you have because you keep your CRM software up to date.
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And last, but not least, understand that the products that you may be currently selling may be talking to each other or may be capable of talking to each other.  Use these facts to sell the product.  Machine to machine communication is taking place now; machine to human communication is taking place now.  There's nothing that any of us are going to do to stop it.

Get on Board--Enjoy the ride!  Let me know what you think.  Make a comment; send an email.


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Monday, March 12, 2018

Don't Be a Luddite! Get On Board--Oh, What's a Luddite, Ed??

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According to Wikipedia, "The Luddites were a group of English textile workers and weavers in the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting the use of machinery in a 'fraudulent and deceitful manner' to get around standard labor practices."  

Fast forward to 2018

     Today's Luddites are fighting everything that dominates the business landscape: social media, the internet of things, machine to machine communication, YouTube (more on this in future posts), and other technologically based innovations.  I was at a sales conference recently and many of those in the group that I was in were denying that neither they nor their customers are "into" social media. (In order to completely avoid social media, one would have to hide in the woods of Vermont.)  These same folks were selling a preeminent internet of things products and were therefore deep into technology without even knowing it.  We sales people need to get on board with IoT, with social media, with LinkeIn.  Those who don't will be left behind.
     It's everywhere.  There's no avoiding it.
     I was on LinkedIn recently and saw a posting from one of my connections that led me right to a potential customer, right in my back yard.
     We need social media to make connections; we need to understand how the internet of things is going to be (is) part of our lives now and in the future. Embrace it, understand it.
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Knowledge is Power: The Internet of Things

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The world is about to change--whether it's for the better for for the worse remains to be seen.  But we'd better be ready for it.  Let's look at an example of what this is all about.
My sales company represents a manufacturer of a product that measures liquid levels in above ground petroleum storage tanks.  Each of these product monitors contains a cellular "SIM" card and is, in essence, a cell phone, with a motherboard, antenna--just like the scale in the cartoon above (except that the scale has a speaker).  The monitor reads the level in the tank and sends the information via the cell system to a data center.  The software in the data center interprets the data and sends email or text alerts as needed to the company dispatchers.  If you buy into the whole system, the dispatcher's job can also be "robotized" and everything from reading the tank level to dispatching the tank truck could be handled in the software.  This is the "internet of things"; this is the future.  And business owners who adopt products like this one are adding tremendous efficiencies and dollars of profit.  But there's one thing that bots lack:

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Billionaire, Paul Allen, of Microsoft fame, has just put up $125M to see if there is some way to inject common sense into these bots.  Researchers have spent decades trying to figure out how to program common sense into robots--unsuccessfully.
So, what do we bring to the sales process--or rather, what SHOULD we bring to the sales process that will keep us from being replaced by bots: common sense, of course, and deep product knowledge.
What exactly does it mean to have common sense?  Common sense means having wisdom, insight and awareness.  These are not teachable attributes.  If you're passionate about what you sell and you believe in what you sell, and you care about your customer and how your product provides a solution, then common sense is embedded into your brain. Common sense comes from experience, knowledge and observation.  These are the attributes that a good salesperson must have to be successful: common sense and deep product knowledge.  Everyone has met sales folks who could be replaced by a bot--someone with superficial product knowledge and no common sense.  Make sure you're not one of those.

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Many things are going to be sold by bots--assisted by chatbots.  They make businesses operate more efficiently and productively.  As salespeople, we have to recognize the future and make sure we understand how it will impact us.  That being said, there are thousands of products that will be sold that involve an intricate knowledge of the product and the subtleties of application--that require common sense.  Chatbots will help us locate potential customers and perhaps even narrow down the most likely candidates for our product.  And bots will be part of the products that we sell in the future.  But bots will not replace a good salesperson--a person with deep product knowledge and the common sense to apply that knowledge.
Another final example of how the internet of things will be part of everything we sell and we need to understand how to use it.  Industrial air compressors used in manufacturing now ship with data gathering modules that send information via cell towers to service houses so that they can spot problems before they occur or schedule maintenance based on hours of usage.  Compressor manufacturers that don't build units with these modules will lose out on sales because customers want to make sure that these key components of manufacturing don't break down and IoT (the internet of things) helps to resolve these issues.
Internet of Things: Digitize or Die: Transform your organization. Embrace the digital evolution. Rise above the competition. by [Windpassinger, Nicolas]I highly recommend "Digitize or Die" by Nicolas Windpassinger, with an introduction by Jean-Pascal Tricoire, president of Schneider Electric.
The internet of things will revolutionize our lives in much the same way that the telephone, television, airplane and computer did. 

Don't fight it.  Understand it.

Please feel free to comment or make suggestions for future posts.  



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

For Bots Sake--What the Heck are "Bots"????

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"Bot" is short for "robot" and refers to automated software that resides in almost everything we buy and use these days, from cars to phones to refrigerators and stoves.  Bots can be good bots or bad bots depending on who designs them.  (If you haven't watched the 1968 movie "2001, A Space Odyssey" recently, you should.  Hal is a bot who started good and turned bad.)  Bots are really lines of computer code that reside in the software programs and devices that we use every day.  If you order a Lyft or Uber car, there's a bot residing on your cell phone showing you exactly where the car is and when it will arrive. Bots are the result of programmers trying to make computers intelligent.Some bots reside within apps, but slowly and surely, bots are replacing apps.What does all this mean for us sales folks and business owners?Well, Chatbots are the wave of the future and we need to know about them.  Siri, Google Home and Alexa are chatbots.  We ask questions, they listen and “understand” and respond.Facebook Messenger will be incorporating a chatbot into their system.  The future is coming fast.  This is the Internet of Things (IofT).  This is the digitization of everything. What to do?  What to do?The first thing is to be aware of what's going on.  The second thing is to know that there are bad bots that can do bad things, like infiltrate your computers or spread lies about your company.But good bots (“Chatbots”)  are coming closer and closer to simulating human intelligence.  Chatbots have already begun taking over customer service jobs, scheduling service and maintenance, scheduling orders and calling customers to tell them their order status.  To quote Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame: “I don’t know anyone who likes calling a business. And no one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service that they interact with. We think you should be able to message a business, in the same way, you would message a friend.”  
Should we worry?
Interactive chatbots will be programmed to ask questions when a customer calls.  For example, if there is a chatbot programmed for an air compressor sales operation, the chatbot would be programmed to ask a caller questions like:  "What size is your current compressor?  Do you think you need more air?  What voltage do you have at your location?" ...and so on and so forth, until the chatbot is ready to quote, place the order and continue following the order to shipment.  
Over and over again, I have preached product knowledge and persistence as the keys to success in sales.  It's going to become more and more critical that we sales folks, and anyone interacting with customers, have to be smarter than the bots.  Our product knowledge cannot be superficial and artificial.
BE SMARTER THAN A BOT!More about the Internet of Things in my Friday post.
Please feel free to make comments or suggestions. 


Monday, March 5, 2018

LinkedIn: Back from the Dead

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Phoenix, rising from the dead
Last week I attended a two day sales conference and came away with a lot of ideas which I will be sharing with my subscribers and readers over the next week or two.
One of the huge things that I came home with was a new appreciation of LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has always been a place where everyone goes and writes their profiles and then never goes back.  I have a friend who died five years ago but his profile is still alive and well and causes me sadness whenever I log on.  LinkedIn has been a place of neglect.

MICROSOFT BOUGHT LINKEDIN FOR 26 BILLION DOLLARS IN 2016

In 2016, Microsoft bought LinkedIn and over the past two years has made it look very much like Facebook.  What does this mean for us sales folks? 
1.  It means that you better get back on and update your profile, fast, 'cause people are looking.
2.  It means that you need a business presence on LinkedIn.  You can now easily create a Company Page right from your profile page.  Just click on "Work" on the top right of the page and a new window will open.  Scroll to the bottom and you will see "Create a Company Page  +"--and LinkedIn will lead you to the next steps.
3.  Get involved.  All of your colleagues probably have profiles (they're not updating).  Link to them and they'll get the message.
4.  Comment, post and make more industry friends.  You'll be familiar with the format since it's a lot like Facebook.
5.  LinkedIn is Facebook for business.  You can find out who's doing what; who moved from one job to another; what's going on in your market place.
6.  Finally, you can join groups that specialize in what your focus is. Again, you click on the "Work" tab on the upper right of the page and then click on "Groups" to find a list of groups that fits your profile.  ("Bots" are amazing and the subject of my next post.)
7.  At this level, everything is free.  But I know sales managers who use LinkedIn premium which costs almost $800 a year.  I will discuss Premium in one of my future posts.

LINK IN to LINKEDIN


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Saban Makes Decision and the Tide "Rolls"

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Alabama Miracle Worker: Tua Tagovailoa
Sometimes we have to make decisions on the spot to save the situation.  The University of Alabama was in such a spot in the 2018 college football playoffs. The running game wasn't working and the only option for Saban was to play a freshman who was an untried passing phenomenon.  In this post, I'm not looking at the performance of the freshman quarterback, I'm looking at the decision making of the coach, Nick Saban.
There comes a time in the sales process when you may realize that you're going in the wrong direction--that you may lose the order if you don't change something.  And that change may involve changing your program completely.  In the case of Alabama, it meant changing from a running game to a passing game; it meant taking out a quarterback (Jalen Hurt) who brought the team to the finals with a 25-2 record, with a freshman (Tua Tagovailoa).
So, here's the situation: you're really close to getting the order, but you know in your gut that something's going wrong and that if you don't change something you may lose it.  The customer may be saying that you have the order and everything may point to your getting the order, but you know something is wrong.  Or you may be in a situation where you definitely see that the situation is not good.
When that happens, it's time to change the quarterback--it's time to change from a running game to a passing game.  It's time to re-think the whole game plan.  
I tell everyone I work with: "if you see something, say something".  You never know where the insight is going to come from and everyone needs to be empowered to speak up. 
I've been in situations where I knew that I rubbed the customer wrong and I needed to back out of the sales situation and let someone else be the lead.  Winning the game--getting the order--has to be the driving force, not your ego.  
If you think you may lose the order, don't be afraid to change the game plan or even change the quarterback.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Everyday Lessons from Belichick Leadership Rules

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New England Patriots' Coach Bill Belichick
Lesson 1:  There is no detail that is too small to pay attention to.  
Belichick's coaches analyze every movement of every player of their next opponent.  You often hear him, after a game, when the press wants to question him about the game, saying "I'm only interested in next week.  This week is over."  His only concern is how to beat the next team he plays.  And to that end, he has his coaches looking at the opponent's tapes and noting every detail of the opponent's play design.  His coaches look at everything--even watching how the opposing quarterback moves his hands or his head prior to a play or how the left guard pulls on a pass play, or how the free safety moves on an end run.  In our lives, we tend to ignore the little things.  In Belichick's world, it's all about the little things.
Lesson 2:  A "mediocre" player is a poorly coached player.
Belichick puts the blame for mediocrity right where it belongs: poor coaching.  He is often quoted as saying: "Give me someone who wants to work hard, and I'll turn him into a superior player."   We often tend to take the easy way and blame the student or the employee for failure, when the blame has to be put where it belongs--on poor leadership, bad coaching, unclear direction.  Belichick's lesson for us is "don't blame the player for a bad performance, blame the coach".
Lesson 3: Take responsibility for bad outcomes.
After a game that's been lost, or poorly played, Belichick never blames the players.  He blames himself for not preparing the players properly or for not giving proper instruction to the coaches.  It's very easy to blame everyone but yourself for a failure.  Failure on the bottom starts with poor leadership at the top.  When you fail, figure out what you did wrong and fix it.
Lesson 4: Never give up--never.
Belichick says this over and over again in interviews: never give up.  Winston Churchill was the originator of this phrase: "It's never over till it's over.  Never give up, never." In the 2017 Superbowl, the Falcons were winning 28 to 9 going into the 4th quarter.  The Patriots scored 19 unanswered points in 4th quarter to tie the game and cause the first overtime in Superbowl history.  
The Apollo 13 crew mission motto was "Failure is not an option". 
We can all take a lesson from this.  Hard work and commitment are the keys to winning in the long run.  And losses are only short term setbacks.





Friday, December 29, 2017

Interview with Bill Belichick

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In my last post, I mentioned an interview that Suzy Welch of CNBC conducted with Bill Belichick.  Whether you love or hate Bill and the Patriots, you have to watch this interview.  It speaks to all of us as salespeople and sales managers.  A good listen for the end of the year.
Click here to watch the interview

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Leadership Rules from Bill Belichick

This post is taken from Suzy Welch's Exclusive CNBC interview in April 2017.

"Ask Bill Belichick if he's one of the winningest coaches in NFL history because he's a football genius, and he makes a face that's familiar to anyone who has ever seen him annoyed. Which is, basically, everyone.
Roughly translated, the face says, "You're killing me here."
But then, after a sigh, because, after all, he's agreed to talk about his life and career in a wide-ranging interview with CNBC, Belichick offers: "I think I know a little about coaching. I think I know a little about leadership.
"You think?
"Love the Patriots or hate them, Belichick's 209-78 record for New England says it all. Football teams do not lead themselves, and they certainly do not lead themselves to five Super Bowl victories.
So, according to Belichick, what exactly is the "little" he knows about leadership? His answer, it turns out, could fill a book, but here are the top five principles that emerged over nearly two hours of conversation.
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Maddie Meyer | Getty Images
1. Leadership means building a team that's exhaustively prepared, but able to adjust in an instant
"The only sign we have in the locker room is from 'The Art of War.' 'Every battle is won before it is fought,'" says Belichick, who started breaking down films of opposing teams when he was 7 years old and hanging out with his dad, Steve, an assistant coach at Annapolis.
"You [have to] know what the opponents can do, what their strengths and weaknesses are ... [and] what to do in every situation," he says.
That ability — to adapt on a dime — is why Belichick says he spends so much time building teamwork, from having the team train with Navy SEALs, to organizing trivia nights, where, incidentally, all social media is banned.
Watch the full interview: Bill Belichick on leadership, winning, and Tom Brady not being a 'great natural athlete'
"Nobody is against [social media] more than I am. I can't stand it," Belichick says. "I think it's important for us, as a team, to know each other. Know our teammates and our coaches. To interact with them is more important than to be 'liked' by whoever on Chatrun." (In the same conversation, he also derided "InstaFace" in all seriousness.)
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Jim Rogash | Getty Images
2. Leadership means having the discipline to deploy your "dependables"
You know your star performers? The ones who can dazzle and amaze, except when they don't? They're definitely appealing, Belichick admits.
But over the years, he's learned they're not his type. He'd rather stick with his tried-and-true people — call them his "dependables."
"There have been times when I've put too much responsibility on people. ... They might have been the most talented, or the people you hoped would do the right or best thing, and they didn't come through," Belichick says.
Big mistake.
When it comes to getting things done, especially critical things, forget the high flyers: "You have to go with the person who you have the most confidence in, the most consistent," Belichick says. "And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but I'm going down with that person."
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Jim Rogash | Getty Images
3. Leadership means being the boss
Belichick says this principle first came to him when he was just 23, addressing the Colts as a special teams coach. Two players, one of them a talented starter, spent the beginning of the meeting giggling and chatting. Inside, Belichick recalls, he was seething: "I'm not afraid of these guys. It's either [them] or me. We can't run a team like this."
Finally, he let loose. "Look, either you shut up or you get out of here. That's it."
It worked.
And it was an aha moment that has guided him since. "I don't care if they're a star player," he says. "I don't care who they are. You have to set the tone."
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Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images
4. Leadership means caring about everything going on in the lives of your people
Maybe the previous rule would make you think otherwise, but Belichick strongly believes you must see your team not just as players, per se, but as people who have full, three-dimensional, and often messy lives.
"There are a lot of things that affect what happens on the field that occur off the field," he says. Players "have wives and girlfriends. And they have babies. And they have personal situations. They have parents that are sick. All of it runs in together."
See also: 4 career lessons Bill Belichick wants millennials to know (including his own kids)
Work and life, in other words, are inseparable, and it's incumbent on leaders to help their people sort through it. "The more you and the organization can help take care of personal situations," he says, "the smoother the ship runs on the football end."
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Boston Globe | Getty Images
5. Leadership means never resting on your laurels
Ask Belichick if he's still celebrating the stunning come-from-behind Super Bowl victory in February and you get another "You're killing me here" look.
"We're onto 2017. No one cares about 2016 anymore," he says. "You can't look back. We don't talk about last year. We don't talk about next week. We talk about today, and we talk about the next game. That's all we can really control."
See also: Bill Belichick plays word-association game with 'Deflategate,' 'Aaron Hernandez' and 'the media'
In other words, it's OK to celebrate a big win — but get it over with fast.
Oh, come on, not even a little parading the championship rings around the house? Belichick pauses — and smiles. (Yes, he smiles.)
"I'm not a jewelry guy," he says.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Rejected! Continued

Frederick the Great of Prussia (Germany) mid 1700s
Frederick the Great was the legendary King of Prussia (Germany) in the mid and late 1700's.  He famously declared: "It's not a disgrace to be defeated. It's a disgrace to be surprised."
You have lost an order and you're now analyzing why it was lost. There is absolutely no reason to be dishonest with yourself.  Were your sales calls well made, well prepared, and well argued?  Honestly?  So here are some facts:
According to Steve W. Martin in a recent survey of 230 buyers

1. Buyers rate two-thirds of business to business salespeople as being average or poor
2. Just 18% of salespeople are classified by buyers as trusted advisors whom they respect
3. Only 31% of salespeople can talk effectively with senior executives
4. 54% of salespeople clearly explain how their solution positively impacts a customer’s business

So what's the problem?  According to Martin:

5. Buyers sense the salesperson’s agenda to make the sale and can feel pressured ["Transaction Man will do anything for the order"]
6. Salespeople give a canned pitch and don’t listen to buyer requirements
7. Differences in communication style and personality can alienate buyers
8. Salespeople don’t adapt their approach to differing gender perspectives
9. Salespeople want to develop relationships but buyers are too busy

A poorly prepared sales call in which the salesperson can't answer the customer's questions, can't respond the competitive issues, and doesn't know how their product applies to the customer's needs leads to certain defeat.  The salesperson has been surprised by poor preparation, has not prepared himself for the battle. This can be prevented three ways: preparation, preparation, and preparation.  Know your product, know your competitors' products and know your customer.
We will be going into great depth on this subject in future posts.  There is a lot to be gained from analyzing the lost sale.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rejected!

Every salesperson faces rejection, sometimes many times a day or week depending on what type of product you’re selling.  I remember to this day, forty years later, losing a bid on a major project.  This was a project that was going to earn me the respect of my boss and my peers.  This project was a game changer and would put me over the top on my quota.  Back in those days, if you had to call someone, you did it from your car window over a pay phone.  I called the customer and asked who had won the bid and found out it was not me.  I was shocked.  I had done everything right.  I had a product that was unique and solved the customer’s problem.  I lost to a competitor who could not touch the quality of my product.  I sat in my car for an hour, unable to adjust to this loss—to my loss.  It was a huge project and everyone was looking at it and waiting for me to get the order.  Now I had to tell everyone that I didn’t get it.
Rejection is such a personal thing for a salesperson.  It’s never the product that’s rejected.  It’s us.  The customer didn’t like ME.  I did something wrong.  What makes a salesperson great is their personal involvement in the sale.  What makes a salesperson successful is their personal involvement in the sale. But once the decision is made, once you’ve done everything possible, everything within your power, and you lose the sale, it has to stop being personal.  It now must become analytical.
I have written in prior posts about the “Debrief” process.  Sit down with someone you respect and go over the process and try to figure out what you did that you could have done better.
I have a firm belief that the salesperson who has the relationship with the buyer wins the order.  The issue is what exactly the relationship is.  The most difficult situation is when the seller (not you)  and the buyer are personal friends.  That’s a hard relationship to overcome.  Superior quality and lower price may help, but often the buyer just tells his friend your deal and if the other seller can meet your deal, you lose.  More and more, personal relationships do not trump a better product at a better price, but there are situations when it does and be prepared for rejection.  The opposite of that situation is, of course, when you have the personal relationship with the buyer.  The real danger here is taking that relationship for granted. FIRST COMMANDMENT OF SALES: NEVER ASSUME YOU HAVE THE ORDER, NO MATTER HOW CLOSE YOU ARE TO THE BUYER. The second most difficult situation is when the buyer has already bought your competitor’s products but has no personal relationship with the other salesperson.  We will discuss this in the next post.