Prepare for meaningful sales presentations
(. . . and happy endings)
by Bill Blades
They always say homework is for kids who want to get ahead in life. But the same practice holds true for life-long learners, especially those who desire to move forward with their career. Imagine if you went to spring training and couldn't hit a curveball. Fastballs were no problem; in fact, you often hit the hardest fastball over the fence with little or no effort. Since the curveball always made a shmuck out of you, how long would you stick around before you were sent back to the minor leagues to figure it out? Not long!
So let me start you out with a few questions, and if you get it right, you get to stick around for additional homework. Do you agree that most salespeople are boring? Most business telephone calls are boring? Most business letters are boring?
The only time boring is a good thing is in the mining and oil drilling business. So, let me share a few tidbits so upcoming visits with clients and co-workers add a sheen to their day . . . and promising results to your future. If you pay attention and apply but one or two of these action items to your daily routine, you'll find yourself as a welcome face in the big leagues with fresh ideas. It's your willingness to adjust your swing in sales that will ultimately reward your actions.
1) The 5 Ps represent Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Instead of just showing up, prepare a plan that leads to a happy ending. It's like preparing a movie, but you run it backwards with the ending being "How do I want this movie to end?" Your movie includes an outline of things you want to learn, and assures success for you and your client.
2) Remember that real selling is NOT telling. It's 90% asking the right questions while taking great notes and only 10% talking. Brevity at its best.
Why? Asking important questions sets you apart from the pack who just drones on and on. It's this simple! Would you want a surgeon operating on your brain that didn't ask questions and obtain requested brain scans?
3) Determine the client's personality style. Is she a Driver/Dominant-type person? If so, be quick and effective. Don't ask idiotic questions such as "Oh, you like golf?" after seeing a dozen of her framed, golfing photos. Stick to the agenda of what you laid out ahead of time.
If she's a Steady/Compliant person, she will want details so utilize literature and data more than your vocal cords. Providing written data will enhance her trust in you and lower her resistance to a scary change.
If she is a High-I or Influencer, she'll love to talk, which is terrific because you won't have to. Just listen, and ask questions about what you heard and take notes. If you are a High-I, be careful, as two High-I's in the same room can sound like a National Speakers Association Convention, a couple thousand people talking and no one really listening. The convention sounds like a 747 going down the runway. Doing your homework will make a difference!
4) Anyone can handle big, routine tasks, but smart people pay attention to every tiny detail. Most people have a short attention span – for most males, it's only about three sentences. That's why droning on and on is a waste for both of you. I'd trade one of my TV remote controls any day for one that could change salespeople until I found one I liked. The rare pro.
Little details include using your car mirror or a restroom to ensure your appearance is perfect. A loose tie is as big a killer as a booger in your nose. Yes, I've seen that more than once.
Remember, their first impression of you is made before the first word is ever spoken. Be the person who is both respected and admired, the versatile hitter who can hit any pitch to any part of the park at any time.
5) What is your greeting going to be? If it's pretty much the same for everyone, you'll be off-target and boring. Your first question is going to speak volumes about your personality, and I'm sharing this for your personal benefit. If your first question is the same one you used yesterday, you're not thinking and planning. We all know that light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright – until they speak.
I was field training a "salesperson" and Russia had just invaded Georgia. The "salesperson" thought the client and I were talking about the state of Georgia and he asked "Why Georgia and not Florida?" I don't make these things up.
6) So, how can you set up a great first-time visit? When the client advises you, via telephone or e-mail, to pick "Anytime between 9:00 and 12 Noon," ask for 9:46 a.m. Then send a written confirmation like this.
Dear Mr. Jones,
To confirm our meeting, I will be at your office:
Thursday, October 23
at 9:39 for our 9:46
Some of you are thinking "that's too cutesy for me." If so, please check your attitude and unwillingness to try new things at the door. Better yet, pack your bags and head back to the minor leagues. Even small innovation creates big differences. You're in the people business, so set the tone that you are a different breed. The last paragraph in your confirming note might read:
And to confirm, I'm not bringing any samples or literature. I asked for just 11 minutes to learn. You'll like my different approach, and I'm excited about meeting you!
And a hand-written postcard beats an e-mail almost every time.
7) See how the above point sets the client's mindset into the assumption mode of "I think I'm really going to like this guy." I coached a salesperson through the process for our initial visit with a Fortune 500 client in Atlanta. The coaching also included the salesperson not scheduling any other client visits before this important appointment. Rather, I told him to get his car washed just before the visit. He did such, but there were several pieces of white lint on the front seats. I helped him remove them and a smear on the passenger side window.
When we arrived, the client was in the lobby. Q: What was he holding? A: Our postcard. Q: Why was he in the lobby with the postcard? A: To see if we were on time, of course, but he was also looking forward to meeting us.
We departed the lobby for the car and the client got in and looked around the spotless vehicle. He didn't close the car door or put his seat belt on. He then looked at the wash cloth I had the salesperson put under his accelerator and said "You're right, you guys are different."
If you're thinking I went to the extreme with the wash cloth idea, you're correct. But the last thing a client sees upon your departure is the back of your jacket – and to the back of your shoes. The smallest detail can help (or hurt). All too often the client is thinking, "Is this the person I really want to hitch my wagon to?"
8) Whether meeting with clients or co-worker, remember that many people are under some form of stress, get bored with mundane meetings, or have many things on their mind. I co-authored a book with Bruce Jenner, the former Olympian. The publisher asked him "How do you and your friend Billy Blades overcome Attention Deficit Disorder?" It's a simple formula. Major time on major things – minor times on minor things – and clients are not minor things.
As I stated above, I ask important questions so that I get important information. If the client or co-worker starts meandering off course, I'll ask a question such as "Miss Jones, you mentioned a minute ago that you ____________. Can you tell me more about that?"
Be the orchestra conductor who controls the flow of information. Allowing them to chit-chat will trap you into a mediocre meeting and an outcome of undesired results.
9) Remember to limit your talking . . . the plague that's rampant among the sales profession. These non-stop talkers are 98-99% of the sales profession and they give the rest of us a bad name. When field training, I witness it in abundance.
- Salespeople (and managers) interrupting. It's not only rude, but you're sending a message that what you have to say is more important than what they are sharing.
- Salespeople will open their mouths repeatedly while the client is speaking. It's a clear sign of not listening (and learning), and it alerts both the client and me that the salesperson is not listening. Incredibly, I usually make more notes than the salesperson – and the client sees and appreciates it, often with a wink or nod.
When we leave, I often ask the salesperson "What did he mean when he said '____________?'" More often than not, the reply is "I didn't hear that." If the salesperson doesn't interrupt or continuously open her mouth, she "steps" on the last word out of the client's mouth. No pause or follow-up question. Just immediate talking.
10) Be worldly. Read everything worthwhile so that you are constantly learning. If you can share insight on almost any topic, you're a serious student. And if you study clients like a book, you'll be able to clip and mail articles to a client who is keen on the subject matter. I like USA Today because the client usually reads their local newspaper. The big challenge here? Most salespeople don't read newspapers or professional books.
Support bacteria. They're the only culture most people have.
11) Your departure must be as cheerful and business-like as your arrival. I read in Spirit that "optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%." I believe the percentage is much higher than that, but it is proof that half of the people you meet are below average.
Tal Ben-Shaher, author of Being Happy: You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Lead A Richer-Life, wrote "There are two kinds of people who don't experience painful emotions such as disappointment or anger or envy or sadness or anxiety: psychopaths and the dead. However, to feel happy, we need more than that. We need what we're experiencing to be meaningful."
If you follow my suggestions, you'll be looked to as a true provider of value at every client and co-worker meeting. Remember there also are unique opportunities to mail articles and other things to bring joy and value to others. It's a method to grow your market: being a better businessperson and spreading joy and value because serious students get serious results. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
And 12) For worthy clients, follow up in writing to state what both you and the client agreed to do; including the identified due date for the next step(s). If you don't do this, you're missing a crucial step in being a consummate professional, and you're just hoping the client will remember everything both of you agreed to do. Accountability reigns supreme, so never look at the follow-up card or letter as just another client visit. Make them your best efforts so far, and great results will come your way. E-mail if you wish, but icing on the cake is to also mail a handwritten note.
If someone tells you "life is too short to do all of these things," I suggest you tell them "If you're not willing to try, I'm afraid life for you will be too long." You never want to argue with an idiot. He'll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. And besides, the idiot went down to the minors and you nailed your spot in the big leagues!