I received great reader feedback from both customers and salespeople for last week’s blog post. In fact, many customer friends emailed me other tips that salespeople should, and shouldn’t, do in order to make a sale. There are countless opportunities for improving your sales techniques and success with your customers telling you what, and what not, to do. We all need to listen, learn, and apply their feedback. This week, we’ll categorize these five tips into: Tips for More Effective Presentations and Tips for Building Stronger Customer Relationships.
Tips for More Effective Presentations
Time Management in Presentations – Your customers are very busy…not only do they have meetings with you and other sellers, but they also have internal meetings and their own work to get done. When you have secured a meeting, it is your responsibility to be early to that meeting (I recommend at least 15 minutes) and have all of your technology set up and tested prior to the customers arriving in the room.
Before starting the presentation, make sure and confirm the length of the meeting and find out if there is any flexibility on the end time. If you have a hard stop, you need to pace yourself during the presentation and be checking the time during the meeting. You want to make sure and allow for questions and be prepared to cut material if you’re running late. The last thing you want to sound like is an announcer reading the legal fine print on a radio spot and racing through your slides.
Don’t use an ‘Off the Shelf’ deck – This comment came from multiple customers and I find it hard to believe that this still happens. Many salespeople get pre-packaged sales decks from their internal marketing departments. These can be basic templates or decks that have been used with other clients. Customers tell me that they are shocked by the number of times they see other customer’s brands or names included in their salesperson’s presentation. Think about if you were Toyota Motor Sales and you were watching a presentation and you saw corporate logos for General Motors in slides supposedly designed to help solve a challenge for Toyota. How would you judge the credibility of anything else from that salesperson? This is just sloppiness on the part of the salesperson and is inexcusable.
Make sure to read EVERY slide from EVERY presentation you have before presenting it to customers. It doesn’t take long to do this and it will give you more confidence when delivering the presentation.
Tips for Building Stronger Customer Relationships
Be Quick to Respond to Customer Requests – I believe this should apply to all business requests but particularly requests from customers. If the request doesn’t include a specific response time, then you are good to respond within 24 hours. Sometimes the request comes after the close of business day in the Eastern Time zone and, if you’re on the West Coast, you’ll sometimes need the full day to respond. If the customer request DOES include a deadline or specific time, I would get back immediately and acknowledge that I’ve received the request. If I can’t complete the request at that time, I would manage customer expectations by giving them an estimate as to when I will be able to complete the request. Your customers want to do business with people that are focused on outstanding customer service…if, as a salesperson, you and your company have a reputation of not responding quickly, your customers will spend money with those salespeople that DO get back to them quickly.
Don’t ‘Go Around’ your Day-to-Day Contacts – This comment came from multiple customers and here’s what it means: If for whatever reason your day-to-day customer contacts DON’T buy a particular product that you’re selling, nothing can hurt your relationship more than going around their backs to their supervisors or another senior decision maker. You are basically questioning the competence of your customers when you do this. You are also making them look very bad in front of their bosses, too. Sometimes, I’ve been frustrated or disappointed in not making a sale but those few times early in my career when I went over someone’s head, it truly poisoned the relationship. You may feel that you are justified in going over someone’s head but understand you will have a very difficult time with that customer going forward.
No Whining or Complaining – I was surprised to hear this from a few customers because I assume that most salespeople would be smart enough not to do this in front of their customers. I was wrong…I heard stories about salespeople complaining to customers that by not buying a particular product, they are hurting that salesperson’s commission, their standing with their boss, or other types of whining. Really?
I try and avoid people who are whiners and complainers yet there are always going to be those types in any sales organization. But doing it in front of their customers? Remember, your reputation is very important: it takes years to build and minutes to tear it down.
These tips from customers are a great help in becoming better salespeople and will help you to be more successful in your sales career.