A Sales Strategy That Works!


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A Sales Strategy that worksTrying to get fish into the boat before catching them sounds crazy; it wouldn’t make sense to experienced fishermen. Even so, it’s the most common error that salespeople make and accounts, more than anything else, for lost orders and prospects who never become customers. That’s what happens when you try to get the order before you have a customer.

What salespeople are doing makes perfect sense to them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t compute so well with their prospects and customers. Salespeople focus so intently on making the sale that they don’t think about what’s going on in the customer’s head and what are they often say tells the story. They like to brag about “wrestling the big one,” even though “the big one” often gets away.
Here’s the point: Getting the fish in the boat is the wrong analogy to use in sales, even though it sounds macho and even a bit romantic.
The sales task is totally different. The job is to create an environment so that customers decide to do business with you. This means that pushing for a meeting, getting a proposal out the door, or anything else that attempts to cut short the process more often than not ends in disaster a lost sale.
For selling to work well today, the prospect must first say, “This is the person and company I want to do business with.” Making sure this occurs is the salesperson’s primary task. This is the difference between the traditional salesperson and one who understands today’s selling environment.
Here are a few thoughts on how to improve your selling record by being a magnet for prospects and customers:
1. The wrong talk can spring a trap. Incredible as it might seem, salespeople fall in the trap of talking about what they think is important and that’s fatal. Here’s an example. A media rep called and said, “I think our station is a really good fit for your client. Perhaps we could get together and talk about it.” I responded by suggesting that before we do that, it would be helpful if she would e-mail her analysis of why she thought her station was “a good fit.”
Shortly, an e-mail with her answer arrived which, even though she didn’t realize it, triggered the trap. She was so intent on getting the sale that she failed to ask about our client’s target customer. None of her comments was even remotely a close fit. When I pointed this out, she replied, “I still think it’s a good fit.” The sale was dead on arrival.
2. “Let’s be sure we get our name out there.” This might have been all it took some years ago, but not today, whether it’s an individual, a product, or a company. If just getting your name out there could do the job, then Toyota would be selling more vehicles than ever and Tiger Woods would be the world’s most prominent celebrity.
Being known isn’t what’s important. What adds to your panache and builds credibility is what you want to be known for. What’s important isn’t the Nordstrom’s name; it’s the link to extraordinary customer service that makes this company unique.
In a radio ad, a financial advisor says that a highly regarded financial magazine named him “the number one advisor in the country”. That phrase is a differentiator that separates him from the pack.
What you want the customer to think about when they see your name is the critical question.
3. Subterfuges make customers angry. Some marketers might think it’s “cool” to trick people it isn’t. For example, when some companies offer a “free white paper,” they mean it. Once you call or “click here,” it comes your way and that’s it. You received what was promised. However, this isn’t always the case.
You might request an article or a report, but before the article arrives, and certainly before you have a chance to read it, you find yourself sliding down a sales track at full speed. Such tricks only serve one purpose: to undermine the credibility and integrity of the company making the offer. Yes, the tactic might help grab a few sales, but it will alienate far more prospects.
4. Watch out for the early adopters. It has become conventional wisdom that getting early adopters on board has enormous value and leads to success. Whether you’re opening a restaurant, launching a product, or initiating a service, the earlier people adapt it, the better. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Jumping on this bandwagon, it might be a good idea to consider another view. Researchers Jonah Berger of The Wharton School and Ga Le Mens of Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeau Fabra have shown that the “velocity of the adoption might affect the abandonment.” In other words, being early can result in an item becoming a “flash in the pan,” which can depress the interest of others and help the item die out faster.
The early adopter concept has interesting implications for prospecting. Trying to move the process along too quickly might undermine your chances of getting an order or keeping one. Pushing too fast or too hard might damage relationships, while calculated or sustained persistence might produce more solid long-term results.
5. Don’t let a lack of vision kill your business. What we don’t know can blindside us easily. Before Apple launched the iPod a decade ago, there were dire predictions of its failure because no one would actually buy songs. It was the same story before the iPhone arrived; specifically; that it would be barred from the Enterprise. It was until employees revolted and demanded that it be made available to them.
We heard it all again with the launch of Apple’s iPad. Plenty of people predicted that it would fail. As one owner of a small company selling management software systems said, “Even if there were no other issue with it, the most important reason I can’t justify it for my employees, or my clients’ employees, is that there’s no ROI.” This was written eight weeks before the iPad arrived in the stores! Again, history repeated itself.
Apple hits the target better than any other company because it has immersed itself in helping people do more of what they want with their lives. This offers a great lesson for anyone in marketing or sales: It isn’t the gadget that’s important it’s what it allows people to do that creates satisfaction and passion.
6. If you want the sale, lay the groundwork. Leadership in sales isn’t a matter of push; it’s a process of pulling the prospect in closer and closer. Even though selling is clearly a strategic activity, most salespeople seem to treat it as opportunistic. In other words, they fail to lay the groundwork that increases the probability of getting the order.
Whether it’s B2C or B2B, the “gotta have it” mentality is gone. No one wants to be taken for a sucker. No one wants to make a mistake. Even so, salespeople want to clear the way to get the order now.
A marketing executive contacted the regional rep of a well-known national direct mail company regarding a campaign for a client and provided the requested initial information. A couple of days later, back came a proposal, much to the executive’s surprise. It was like going from zero to 60 mph in three seconds. Then after a week or so of silence, the prospect e-mailed the rep, “We’ll take a pass.” The sales rep lacked a plan to turn the lead into a sale, as well as enthusiasm to do so. There was no effort to engage the prospect. The rep lost what could have become a significant order for the rep.

The point is that getting the fish in the boat is the easy part. Creating actual customers who want to do business with you takes far more insight and skill.

John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm. He writes for a variety of business publications and speaks on business, marketing and sales issues. Contact: 40 Oval Road, Quincy, MA 02170; (617) 328-0069; e-mail: jgraham@grahamcomm.com; Blog: grahamcomm.com/wordpress; Web site: www.grahamcomm.com.
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