As we wrap up our company’s annual national business meeting after a busy (but very successful) 2019, I reflect back at the year as a whole.
I also take in all the moments I have with the sales team members at the event, talking about specific successes or challenges they are going through in the specific markets.
When some of the team members ask for feedback on a challenge with a prospect they are having and I hear them explain the situation, I start to try to connect the dots in my head on the scenario they describe.
What I often find is one or two critical pieces of information that they are lacking from their perspective customer that is preventing the sales process from moving forward. What stands out to me the most is that often they are already through the presentation phase/process!
This is a huge red flag, how (or really WHY) have you moved the customer this far down the sales process and NOT have ALL the critical details needed to maximize the value for the customer and maximize the chances that you earn the business.
Just because you’ve secured a presentation meeting doesn’t mean the two-way exchange of information stops. For me, it’s actually the opposite.
View your presentation as a conversation.
First off, there’s not many people out there that actually want to be presented to in a small 1on1 or similar format. Death by PowerPoint is a real thing! To add to that, the presentation is an opportunity to go deep on specific challenges they are facing vs. going wide on how we can solve all of their problems. We all like to think we can solve for everything, simply put, we can’t.
Often where we fall short is on the information we lack on one specific critical problem the customer has because we are trying to close the deal on a basic understanding of an array of low priority problems the prospective customer has.
If you catch yourself in the moment, pause your presentation and ignite the conversation. If you feel like you’re talking too much during the presentation, you probably are.
Many of us do a lot of presentation meetings, the repetitiveness and sheer volume of this process can form bad habits, one being a decrease in your listening skills. Be self-aware enough to recognize this.
One strategy to deploy during moments like these is using one of my favorite questions to ask a prospective customer during a presentation: “What about this is most important to you?”
After their response, “WHY is that most important to you?”
This is where the gold lies. Their specific problem and where you can solve it.
It sounds simple, but think to yourself, do you really know that, or are you thinking from your own perspective first, “shot gunning” your value props hoping to get to it.
Often a simple open-ended question like this will lead to having a deep conversation around the one primary problem a prospective customer is trying to overcome. More importantly, this gets to the emotion of the business issue at hand.
The presentation then pivots from a one-way transfer of information, to a deep two-way exchange of information.
Use your presentation as a reference to your conversation and focus on the specific critical issue at hand, the rest of your value props become “icing on the cake” to the one critical issue you solve for them.
How transparent are you really with you prospects during the sales process? What’s holding you back from being more transparent? How transparent is too transparent?
All great questions, ones I get asked often when I work with new sales reps. But let’s reverse this on yourself, when you buy something or commit to something, don’t you feel like you fully understand how both parties win & benefit? How you get the benefit of the new product or service and exactly how the person or company wins that you made that buy from. There’s a real comfort level in this. Simon Sinek has a great TED talk on “start with why.” If you haven’t watched this I highly recommend it. Once you understand the why, it makes the decision process much easier.
Back to transparency:
The more you can share with your prospect about your process the quicker you can speed up the mutual trust. Share how your company works, how you go to market, why you’re even talking to them, what’s important to your company, what your company goals are. These type of comments may sound like you’re talking about “me, me, me” and not being empathetic to the prospect, however when you go beyond your service/product and discuss the “HOW behind your company” and not the “WHY buy the product/service” the deeper the trust will get. The more you share with your prospect, the more your prospect will be willing to share with you, thus the more common ground you can find and build from. You’ll be surprised how much alignment you’ll find between your goals and your prospects goals.
Of course you need to discuss your product/service. I’m not saying divert completely away from this, I’m suggesting weaving in your “why” at every opportunity you can.
The big point I want I make here is stop asking so many one way questions during a research meeting or sales call, be more forthcoming while you ask questions. The sales process is a sharing one (ask and then share). We’ve all taken a call from a pesky telemarketer and all they start doing is asking you questions and you’re mental response is “why is this person even talking to me?” And then you hang up….
To reiterate: Ask, then share, a successful sales process is always a sharing one.
The further you get into the sales process the more transparent you need to become.
Every step should feel and be mutually beneficial for both parties.
Confidence, One of Your Strongest Assets in Sales and Business.
Confidence — it can be the biggest separator between you and the next. It makes or breaks potentials deals, it is always felt by your audience, and it can be your worst enemy or best friend in business & sales.
From my seat you can break this down into two aspects, your own self-confidence, and the confidence you have in the product/service you represent.
As explained by our friends at google:
I’ve been very blessed that throughout my career the confidence I have in myself has never wavered. Somewhere along the path it became hardwired for me. When it comes to this topic I feel it’s very black and white — not much in the middle, when you boil it down — you either have it or you don’t. I feel this way because I’ve seen sales people crumble when just a shred of doubt hits their mindset, it acts as an anchor, and drags them down in the wrong direction. It can potentially keep you in a negative place until your mindset (or how you view yourself and capabilities) changes.
Connection to sales….
When it comes to your communication in sales and business, your self-confidence will always shine through to your audience. Good or bad, it’s heard, seen, and most importantly, felt by all.
I feel strongly that the mind and body are seamlessly connected. When self-confidence is strong, your body language, vocal tonality, sharpness, and overall message fires on all cylinders. Your posture naturally changes, and you feel as if you’re in total control. It’s an incredibly powerful place to be, especially in sales. If you’ve been there before, you know exactly what I am talking about. The hardest part for some reps is once you reach that mental peak, you have to find a way to stay there — make it a constant, “hardwire” it. You can’t let a few setbacks alter you.
Now here’s the downside, unfortunately, the exact opposite is true as well — when your self-confidence is lacking, this too portrays through naturally to your audience, affecting your overall message, and ultimately your results.
Uncapping your potential….
What I have found along the journey is that it takes confidence in BOTH yourself and your product to really excel to an elite performer level. I’ve worked in many industries — Real Estate, Technology, Media/Advertising, and cars (yep, I once had a summer internship while in college and they threw me on the sales floor). I can say without a doubt that I’ve definitely been in a position before where I have found myself lacking confidence in the product/service I was representing. It’s a very tough position to find yourself in.
Build confidence by finding what you’re naturally good at….
My very first job was when I was just 15 years old, I sold games to guests at a theme park for minimum wage. I stood there on a microphone in front of guests, trying to convince them to take their shot at a game to win a prize. I learned SO much from that very first job I had. I learned how to confidently start a conversation with strangers, every day, one after another. I also learned how to build rapport and trust quickly, and leverage positivity. Little did I know that job would lay the foundation for my communication skills and confidence that I use everyday today.
Since I’ve represented so many products and services I can say the following with complete confidence……
Don’t waste precious career time representing a service/product that you’re not 100% behind. My brutally honest opinion on it is you shouldn’t walk out your front door in the morning if you have as little as a shred of doubt in yourself and/or your product/service, because it will show through, and your results will mirror it! It’s purely a step in the wrong direction, and because time is the most valuable asset we all have — don’t waste it!
If you find yourself in this position, my advice is twofold — First, if you’re lacking confidence in yourself, you must find the root cause of this issue immediately, and squash it. Not only will this affect your work, but chances are it’s potentially affecting other major aspects of your life as well. This post could go multiple directions if I dig too deep into this issue, however as a blanket statement — leverage your internal assets to get to the root cause. Those assets can be multiple people — from a family member, a mentor (highly recommend having one), a doctor, to even your sales manager. A good sales manager can spot this and help you pivot as well. Even something as basic as having a coach or mentor shadow you during your day could expose a root cause. That being said, I believe you do have to know yourself, as well as your strengths, and leverage those. Sales isn’t for everyone, self-reflect and truly identify where you strengths can best be leveraged for success, and act on it.
Secondly, if you’re bullet proof in yourself (which I hope you are), but you cannot place the same level of confidence in the product/service your representing, move on to a new product/service immediately! We only get so many years in our careers, don’t let this drag down your performance, bank account, and happiness. Don’t be afraid to take your talents to other industries. I’ve been in many different industries and I feel top sales people are among the smartest in their respected companies, you can pivot and learn a new industry to have greater success. If this is the case for you — do your due diligence in other industries (medical, industrial, chemical, technology, wherever!) and find the fit. For example, use linkedin, find current reps in new industries you’re interest in and reach out to them — sometimes it is that easy. You’ll be surprised what you may find through your basic networking 101 tactics.
Once you marry your bullet proof self-confidence with the same level of confidence you have in the product/service you represent, you potential will be uncapped. You will know that you’re in 100% control over your own success, all you have to do is go out and execute on it.
I’ve been there, on both sides’ — bad and good, and I’ll take the later. If you’re in lacking one way or another (or even both), first recognize this, and adjust NOW — your company, your wallet, and most importantly — your happiness, will thank you for it.