Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Value Proposition: the centerpiece of a sales presentation

I recently gave a networking workshop.  My focus was the "elevator speech"--the speech that you give when someone asks you what you do for a living; the speech that the listener gives you thirty seconds to deliver and rolls their eyes when you never get to the point.  The centerpiece of the elevator speech is the Value Proposition.
Wikipedia defines a value proposition as "a promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged.  It is also a belief from the customer about how value will be delivered, experienced and acquired.  A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customers accounts, or products or services."
The value proposition of the products or service that you sell are the things that distinguish them and separate them from the competition--what is often called the features and benefits.  The value proposition can also be the benefits that you bring to the sales process or the organization that you represent.  The value proposition is a statement summarizing why someone should use your product or service over anyone else's.  It is absolutely essential that you think about this and internalize it and practice it and use it every chance you get.  It doesn't need to be long--in fact it should be short and to the point and represent the soul of who you are and what you're selling.  Some examples:
Uber, the car service:  1. Pickup in less than 5 minutes; 2. Lower prices than a taxi; 3. An app to track your car's approach; 4. Cashless transaction; 5. A rating system that guarantees security.  "Tap the app, get a ride."
Slack, the messaging service: "A Messaging App for Teams who put robots on Mars." And "All your tools in one place."
Evernote, an online note storing app: "Remember everything."  "Provides the ability to organize all your notes in one place so you never forget a great idea."

What is the essence or the soul of your business or service?  Once you have determined that, put it into as few words as possible and internalize it and use it until it becomes a part of you.
Every business should have a value and every employee should understand and buy into that value; every person should have a value and should be able to vocalize that value and believe in that value.
This idea is worth thinking about--long and hard.  What is your value?  What is your company's value? What is their product's value? 
People tend to believe in a person or product that has value.  People tend to buy a product or service from a person who believes deeply in what they're selling and can express that value briefly and confidently and from the heart.



Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Customer Centered Selling: Four Important Steps

Customers must be at the heart of any sales process.  I have discussed in previous blogs about relational selling versus transactional selling.  Transactional selling is not customer centered, by definition.  For a transactional salesperson getting the order is more important than doing right for the customer; meeting sales goals supersedes making the customer happy.  Relational selling is customer centered. Relational salespeople know that they will live with the results of the sale and therefore they make sure the customer is well-served.
Everything these days is becoming "customer centered".  Netflix "learns" what you like to watch and features the programs similar to ones that you have watched in the past.  Amazon "learns" your buying history and "suggests" things that you might like.  The future of selling is knowing your customer better than your competition does and being able to use that knowledge to service them better, to make sure your customer gets the solution that is best for their needs.
Four things to do before making your first sales call on a new customer or even your second and third call on an old customer:
1.  Look up the company on Manta (www.manta.com).  This will give you an overview of the company's ownership and number of employees.
2.  Go to the company's website.  If there's an "About" tab, click on it.  Learn everything you can about the company--websites are great sources of insight into the company's culture, no matter how large or small the organization.
3.  Go to LinkedIn and look up the company's president and any of the people that you're meeting with.  LinkedIn gives tremendous insight into a person's interest, if they are keeping up their profiles.
4.  Check other social media outlets to get even more insight.  Does the company have a Twitter feed? A Facebook page? 
Putting yourself into a selling situation without knowing everything you can about the customer you're trying to sell is like coming up to bat with a broomstick.  You may hit the ball, but you've reduced your odds by a whole lot.
Do your homework.  Get to know your customer before making your pitch and tailor the pitch to his needs.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

No More Excuses: Write it Down!!! Keep a Bullet Journal

In my 44 years in sales, I can't tell you how many times I've asked someone if they did something and the response was: "I forgot".  The simplest way to solve this problem of forgetting seems to be the one that people resist like the plague:  keep a list; write it down; look at the list every day.
There is a movement becoming hugely successful in the U.S. almost overnight, called "Bullet Journals".   "Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future" is their value proposition.  Ryder Carroll is the inventor of this enormously popular organization scheme.  While the concept is simple (using pen and notebook), the critical component of this idea is that you have to spend time reflecting on the journal--what are your current tasks; where are you headed.  Writing things down is not the end point; reflection on what you wrote is the end point.  Hundreds of thousands of people are using Carroll's method.  Check it out:  www.bulletjournal.com.
I use a system called Evernote (www.evernote.com)
I can forward emails right to Evernote that I need to see later, put reminders on these emails or notes; create notes and reminders and take notes, typed and handwritten, right onto the app.  I have been using Evernote as my "bullet journal" for years.  But putting something somewhere is meaningless if you don't spend time reflecting on your notes: what got done (delete it)? what got delayed (change the reminder to a new date)?  what needs to be done by someone else (forward it)?  
Don't try to test your memory.  Write things down; make lists; keep a bullet journal--and then go back over it every day and cross off what you did and move what you didn't do to the next day.
Write it down; and look at the list every day and stop using the excuse "I forgot".  
And for each item in the journal, ask yourself: "what is the next step; where do I go from here with this task or project?"

Monday, January 7, 2019

Eleven Extra Steps: Lessons from Louis Rudd

Louis Rudd on his journey across the Antarctic
Battling wind gusts up to 60 mph, dragging a sled weighing hundreds of pounds, Louis Rudd and Colin O'Brady, separately and alone, with no outside help, crossed the Antarctic recently.  O'Brady won the "race", completing the journey in 54 days; 56 days for Rudd. The trip was 925 miles covering approximately 16 miles a day.  Some days they couldn't see their hands in front of their faces.  The amazing thing is that they are the only two to survive this journey and they did it at the same time.  But that is not the lesson here.
For a lot of us, every day seems like a journey across the Antarctic--pulling 400 pound sleds and battling 60 mph winds.  Walking 15 miles a day means pushing forward one step at a time, 30 steps a minute, counting every step, struggling for every step.  And when Rudd was exhausted for the day, when he couldn't take another step, he took eleven more steps.
Why eleven?  It was once calculated, Rudd explained, that if the famous English explorer, Robert Falcon Scott and his team, had taken 11 more steps each day of their expedition in the early 1900's, they would have survived.
When you're tired, and you need to get one more quote done, make one more sales call, answer one more customer service question, satisfy one more customer's urgent request--remember:  Eleven More Steps.  Success demands Eleven More Steps.  There is no easy way.  Hook up your 400 pound sled and drag it Eleven More Steps.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Unforced Errors, Part I

Many golf and tennis sports announcers refer to what they call “unforced errors”.  Unforced errors are errors that are made by tennis players or golfers that should not be made under normal circumstances. In tennis, if your opponent hits a nice shot to your forehand and you bang it into the net, that’s an unforced error. You should have made the shot. In golf, if you hit a tee shot into the middle of the fairway, 100 yards from the green, and you slice it into the woods, that’s an unforced error.
A recent article I read by golf pro, Tom Patri, discusses how to eliminate five “unforced errors” in golf.  Eliminating unforced errors applies to the sales profession as well.  As Patri says “Through the years, I've watched a number of shots carelessly thrown away—not due to a player’s skill level—but due to one’s inability to either manage their emotions, the course, or both.”
Over the years, I have seen this very thing in our sales profession.  Unforced errors result in lost sales and these lost sales may happen, not because of a salesperson’s skill level, but because of one’s inability to manage the course (product knowledge), one’s emotions, and the sales process.
The first example in Patri’s article is the golfer who hits a poor shot and makes an unforced error by trying to hit a great shot to recover from the bad one. As Patri says, "You didn't get in this position because you were in control of your ball. What makes you think you can thread the needle in your recovery shot? Play back to safety."  We, as salespeople, need to understand ourselves and our motivations and always play within ourselves. 
You've just left a sales call and you realize that you started off totally wrongly.  Maybe you made assumptions about the customer’s likes and dislikes, or needs, or issues. Don't try to correct the situation by putting yourself in a worse position.  Play back to safety.  Make a new appointment.  Start over.  Admit your error and get back into play. 
I once played in a music group when the lead singer and guitarist started the set by playing all the wrong chords and then blamed it on the fact that it was a new guitar and he wasn't used to it.  We were all embarrassed by his unforced error and the fact that he didn't just apologize and start over.
I have stated in several previous blog posts: when your gut tells you that things aren’t going right, believe your gut.  And then fix it.  Get back into play.  Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope it all works out.  Admit your error, fix the issue and get the sale.
In Part II, we'll talk about how emotions can cause unforced errors.

Monday, December 3, 2018

No one is bigger than the team!

Belichick and Brady in discussion

According to reporting by ESPN, Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady got into a little back and forth argument.  Belichick was complaining, according to the report, about Brady’s sloppiness in a recent game—poor completion record, a couple of interceptions, etc.  And of course, Brady is a superstar with five SuperBowl rings and wasn’t having any of it.  Belichick is reported to have told Brady “No one is bigger than the team”.
What a lesson for all of us: no one is bigger than the team.  No matter what team we’re on—a sports team, a business team, a sales team, an educational team—we’re all on a team of some sort.  In fact,  we may be on several teams.
It’s very easy, especially when we’re successful, to think that it’s all about us—I did that, I accomplished that, it’s all about me.  But it never is.  A lot of people help all of us get where we are.  A lot of people sacrifice many things to allow us to succeed: our spouses, our parents, our children, our bosses, our employees, the folks sitting behind the desk making our lives a little easier.
It’s time to start each day by telling ourselves “I am not bigger than the team”.  And it’s time to start thanking the team for what they do to help us achieve our goals.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Johnny Hustle

Manny Machado--not Johnny Hustle

"I'm not the type of player who's going to be 'Johnny Hustle'.  So said Manny Machado after showing a total lack of hustle during the MLB playoffs.  The original hustling baseball player was Pete Rose, nicknamed "Charlie Hustle".  So, what is this hustle all about?
The Urban Dictionary defines "hustle" this way: To have the courage, confidence, self belief, and self determination to go out there and work it out until you find the opportunities you want in life. 
Hustle is the heart of sales. A good salesperson never dogs it, never stops selling--is always hustling.  If you're not hustling, you not selling.  If you're not hustling, you're never going to the top.
If you're not hustling every single day, finding new customers, learning more about your product, servicing your existing customers--if you're not doing this every single working day, then you're not hustling.  Plan your work and work your plan--at full speed, every single day.
If you believe in what you're doing, hustle comes naturally.  Be proud of your profession; be good at what you do, and never stop hustling.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

A-B-C = Always Be Closing

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Alec Baldwin, in the 1992 movie, "Glengarry Glen Ross", made the line "Always Be Closing" famous. The classic formula for sales people has always been--make your presentation, then ask for the order.  I have a business associate friend who I nicknamed "The Closer" because he's always closing, no matter what's being discussed.  By the time "The Closer" is done selling, the customer is wondering why he even considered anyone else or any other product.
When you ask a real estate agent what the most important thing to consider when buying a property, the answer is always LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  And when you ask a true salesperson what they most important quality of a top performer is SELL, SELL, SELL.
There is no top performer of any sport or profession who is not always on, always thinking about how to perform better, how to achieve absolute perfection.
Selling is a profession as honorable as any and no one engaged in this profession should ever sell themselves short.  As an honorable profession, those who are salespeople should do everything possible to perform at the top of their capabilities.
Stand tall as a salesperson; be proud of your profession; never apologize--but ALWAYS BE CLOSING.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Selling is Teaching and Never Forget That

Image result for cartoon image teacher
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. 
Image result for "sorry i forgot"
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.
Image result for no more excuses

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.
 Image result for the more you know
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.


Image result for "get on board" cartoon image -Trump





Monday, March 12, 2018

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

Image result for luddite
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.
 Image result for embrace technology image


Friday, March 9, 2018

Knowledge is Power: The Internet of Things

Image result for internet of things cartoon image

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:

Image result for image "common sense"

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.

Image result for image "the bottom line"

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.