Learning to Sell in a Down Economy
Five tips to help you succeed from the new authoritative source in sales training
Everyone is selling something, but in today's difficult economic climate, not everyone is buying. The ultimate challenge for today's salespeople is finding a way to get their piece (or pieces!) of the pie when companies have cut sales training and education budgets to the bone, and there is more competition than ever. Authors Eric Taylor and David Riklan say not to worry. Despite today's unique challenges, it is still possible to master the world selling.
"Every day every self-respecting salesperson is in the trenches, fighting for market share and trying to keep his existing client base," says Eric Taylor, coauthor along with David Riklan of Mastering the World of Selling: The Ultimate Training Resource from the Biggest Names in Sales (Wiley, 2010, www.masteringtheworld.com). "Often, all it takes is one good idea to give you a competitive advantage and repay your investment many times over."
Mastering the World of Selling presents hundreds of great ideas from the best people and organizations in the business—including Jeffrey Gitomer, Dale Carnegie Training, Zig Ziglar, the Napoleon Hill Foundation, and many, many more. The book helps companies and entrepreneurs overcome today's major obstacles with candid advice and winning strategies from the leading sales trainers and training companies in the world.
"To become a master salesperson, you must know the value of self-improvement and the importance of constantly building on your sales skills," says Riklan. "Whether you are just starting your sales career today or have been closing complex sales transactions for decades, there is always room for improvement."
With Mastering the World of Selling, Taylor and Riklan offer the ultimate compilation of sales advice from the best in the business. Read on for excerpts of advice from a sampling of the sales greats featured in the book:
The Master: Dale Carnegie Training
Master of Selling Tip No. 1: Dig for sales opportunities. In today's business environment, it is critical that sales professionals uncover sales opportunities rather than wait for leads or for customers to come to them. The best performers recognize that even if there is a lot currently in their sales pipeline, a regular percentage of their time must be focused on uncovering new sales opportunities. Here are four ways the sales masters at Dale Carnegie Training suggest for finding new opportunities:
- Create an opportunity chart. Many average salespeople assume their existing customers already know about everything they have to offer them. This belief is nonsense and actually opens them up to having their competitors walk into their accounts and service their clients' additional needs. To address this issue, create a spreadsheet that has a list of your full range of products and services in the left column. On the top row list your existing accounts. Then simply fill in which products and services each client is using with an "A." Place a "B" in empty boxes that represent good selling opportunities for clients. Then call your clients to discuss with them how you can help fill these need areas.
- Ask for referrals. Think of your buyers as partners who can refer you to a steady stream of new business. Salespeople quickly discover that using the name of someone the prospect knows, admires, or respects opens doors. Make it a habit at the conclusion of every sale to ask for a referral.
- Look for champions. Look within your existing accounts for individuals who have benefited from your products or services in the past. Your champion should clearly understand what makes your products or services effective. He should be someone in an existing account, who is well respected within your company and is able to communicate to other people well.
- Effectively network. Become involved in organizations that would include your typical prospects. Be sure to follow through on all of the commitments that you make so that you will build credibility that will transfer into your sales efforts. To be successful in sales, it's not really who you know—it's who wants to know you.
The Master: Jeffrey Gitomer
Master of Selling Tip No. 2: Know what it means to be a sales rock star. When you hear a boss talk about her best salesperson, she often refers to her as a "rock star." It's the highest praise a boss can give. Every salesperson aspires to be referred to in that manner, but very few make the grade. If you're a rock star, it means (among other things):
- You have superior talent—you can play and sing.
- Your fans don't just like you—they love you!
- You are respected by your peers.
- You have proven yourself over time with consistent quality.
- You know the business of rock and roll.
Most salespeople would like to think of themselves as sales rock stars, but they don't display the talent to match the definition. Think about the best rock stars: Elvis, the Beatles, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen. These people (and lots more like them) achieved their status by putting in years of hard work. All of them love what they do. They wouldn't trade their positions or situations for anything in the world. They rose from humble beginnings to stardom by taking advantage of their talent.
Remember, the love of what you do, combined with your belief in what you do, will not determine your success. It will determine how hard you will work and how dedicated you will be to achieve it. Success just shows up from there. If you want to become a sales rock star, that's great. If you want others to refer to you as a rock star, that's greater.
The Masters: Zig Ziglar and Tom Ziglar
Master of Selling Tip No. 3: Sell with integrity. The number-one tool in your sales arsenal is integrity. Belief in your products or services is essential but not enough unless you build this belief on the foundation of integrity. No matter how much a prospect believes that you believe in your product, he will not do business with you if he does not trust you, and trust begins with integrity.
It works like this: Values determine behavior. Behavior determines reputation. Reputation determines advantages. In today's sales world, you need every advantage you can get. Long-term sales success is absolutely dependent on your integrity. With integrity you do the right thing. Since you do the right thing, there is no guilt involved. With integrity you have nothing to fear because you have nothing to hide. You can talk to customers whom you sold to yesterday—you can talk to them tomorrow, next week, next year—because you know in your heart that they made the best deal, and that's where the integrity comes in.
The Master: Sharon Drew Morgen
Master of Selling Tip No. 4: Become a decision facilitator. Often we're stuck with the perfect solution, waiting for a buying decision that has nothing to do with us. Indeed, the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. We must add another skill set and outcome to our jobs: By becoming decision facilitators, we can use our knowledge of our fields to be virtual GPS systems for the decision makers, guiding them along without bias to their ultimate destination. Will we end up placing a solution? That depends on how well the buyer's system can manage change. But we will:
- Know on the first call if it's a viable prospect.
- Shorten the sales cycle dramatically.
- Save the buyer's time and our time.
- Greatly enhance the number of buyers who can buy.
Is it sales? No. But since the buyer must do this anyway, and we sit and wait for them to do it, we might as well add a decision facilitation skill set. We will then be true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, guiding them through their systemic, offline buying decision issues.
The Masters: Eric Taylor and David Riklan
Master of Selling Tip No. 5: Evaluate how you communicate. Unless you're a hermit, living in a cave or under a rock, you're communicating virtually every waking hour of every day. In sales, or in any activity, the level of your communication will often equate to the level of your success. It's critical to assess the clarity, likeability, and effectiveness of your messages.
Consider all of the mediums your communication is now exposed to. You are speaking to prospects, clients, service providers, internal customers, tech support, and administrative assistants all day, every day. You are communicating face-to-face, over the phone, by e-mail, text messaging, and fax. Hopefully, you are using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. And remember, it's not just words. A look or a gesture "communicates" volumes.
It's endless. And your ability to communicate effectively, with confidence, cuts both ways. The great challenge, and the tremendous opportunity, is that you express your personal brand to others 24/7/365. So how successfully do you communicate throughout every day? To help you evaluate, ask the people who are closest to you to appraise the effectiveness of your communication. Accept the feedback and evaluate what you are willing to change without compromising your self-beliefs.
"Mastering the world of selling doesn't happen in a day," says Taylor. "It happens day by day. For you to have your best sales year ever, you have to put together 365 days of focus, self-discipline, and commitment, and strive to give your personal best to everything you do."
"Remember, it's unlikely that sales skills alone will raise you to, and keep you continually at, the top of your game," adds Riklan. "Beyond mastering the craft of selling, you must embrace the continuing process of all-around self-improvement. You must continue to strive to reach championship levels of mastery of the fundamentals of life. All of the sophisticated and even simple sales tools at your disposal won't work if you don't commit to becoming a better you and having your own personal best year ever, as well as your best sales year ever!"
About the Authors:
Eric Taylor is the president and chief collaboration officer of Empowerment Group International. Eric speaks, trains, and coaches at some of America's most respected companies on the topics of sales, leadership, employee motivation, and personal development.
David Riklan is the founder of SelfGrowth.com, the #1-ranked self-improvement Web site on the Internet, and president of Self Improvement Online, Inc., a company that specializes in publishing information on self-improvement, business, and natural health on the Internet.
About the Book:
Mastering the World of Selling: The Ultimate Training Resource from the Biggest Names in Sales is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797.