“OK, Tim, what does this headline mean?”
I was watching a documentary about one of my favorite authors, David McCullough, where he talked about writing. He said that the only way one could improve as a writer was to write. You can’t read a book to learn how to write, you have to sit down, take the time, and do the work yourself. I actually borrowed my headline from a quote from Allan Lokos, “So what is a good meditator? The one who meditates.”
Sales is very much like writing and meditating…or learning to play music, for that matter. There are countless books about sales and, while many can be very illuminating and helpful, they can’t take the place of being in front of a customer and actually selling. For you, as a salesperson, to grow, improve, and be a great salesperson, you need be on sales calls.
Objections are Your Friend
Many new salespeople are afraid of hearing objections. They shouldn’t be afraid of objections but should welcome, end even solicit, objections. Customer objections are like GPS trackers helping you to arrive at your destination of making the sale. Each objection more fully exposes what you, as the salesperson, need to address with your customer. Objections actually make your job easier because as you answer each objection to your customer’s satisfaction, you’re advancing down the path of closing the deal. I can tell when we aren’t connecting with the customer in a meeting if we’re not hearing any questions or objections. If you’re giving a presentation, and you’re facing ‘stony stares’, you might want to throw out a comment that is somewhat controversial or irreverent to just shake things up and solicit comments.
The only way you are going to learn how to better handle objections is to be in customer meetings and address their objections.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing selling is a natural by-product of being in meetings with your customers. Basically, you’ve created a presentation for your meeting and are looking forward to presenting it. Some salespeople like to practice giving the presentation to their manager, or to another salesperson in their office. I think that is great to do but sometimes you don’t have the opportunity to do that, so in some cases you’re actually presenting the deck for the first time in front of your customer. I believe that is OK as long as you are knowledgeable about the products you’re presenting. It’s tough giving a presentation for the first time, though, if you aren’t buttoned up on the topic. You should be very fluent in discussing your company’s ‘elevator pitch.’ This only means that when someone asks you, in business or personal, about what your company does, you should be abler to flawlessly answer the question in 30 seconds or so. This is definitely something that you SHOULD practice and be able to intelligently talk about with people.
Listening, Not Talking
Listening to your customer is critical…you need to fully understand your customer’s needs and goals before you are able to suggest solutions. How would you like to visit your doctor and, before you’ve said why you’re there, the doctor writes you a prescription? I’d be ready to walk out the door and find another doctor!
It’s the same with sales…you have to understand the problem before you can suggest a solution. Asking questions is the best way to do this. I’d ask as many questions about your customers’ business needs as they would be willing to answer. Every bit of information you receive will enable you to put together a better sales proposal with solutions. You customer will also respect you for doing your due diligence and not just trying to “sell” them something but to help them solve their problems. It’s easy to practice your listening skills as you have opportunities to do so every day whether at work or with friends. Focus on listening carefully to what the other person is saying and resist the temptation to already begin to form your next statement. I try (not always successfully) to take a breath before responding in a conversation. It’s important to remember that you’re in a conversation and you can learn a lot about the other person just by practicing ‘active listening.’
Sales is not a passive activity. In some respects, it’s like golf, surfing, or any other activity. There are books about golf, surfing, and sales…but you can’t learn any of these skills by just reading about them. You have to be actively involved and DOING to be proficient in these types of activities. To be better in sales, you need to SELL.