Dan Seidman, CEO of Got Influence? in Barrington, Illinois, USA, won the Gold Stevie® Award for Sales Training or Education Leader of the Year in sales awards categories of the 2013 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service, the world's top business awards for contact center, customer service, business development, and sales professionals. Here Dan discuses sales excellence.
This is a test, not a quiz. Quizzes are easy.
This is a test that will give you a true measure of your understanding about sales skills.
This is a test. The right answers will improve your performance throughout the rest of your selling career.
Ready? Answer the following three questions (and don’t cheat—write down the first answer that hits you):
- Who are you REALLY competing with?
- What is the #1 PROBLEM encountered by anyone who sells anything?
- What is your RESPONSIBILITY on a sales call?
Now that you’ve written your answers, let’s work our way through each of these questions.
1. Who are you REALLY competing with?
No, it’s not you—though that might be the second smartest answer. In training sessions I’ve had salespeople tell me: It’s the cheapest competitor; the rep with the best rapport; the most persistent rep; or even the rep who offers the best bribe.
(And by the way, you do compete with yourself, in the sense that you can improve. By not improving, you are simply getting in your own way.)
Here’s the answer: You REALLY compete with the best sales professional that your buyer has ever encountered.
Think about that. Someone before you set a standard by which you and all others are measured. This might include how professionally you dress; your skill with words; your ability to sell without pressuring; your ability to ask the right questions; or your skill at reframing the issues. Or it might reflect on your ability to quantify whether an investment in your solution will provide a worthy return on that purchase. Pack these together and you get the Best of the Best. That’s the framework for the buyer.
This buyer is probably not consciously comparing you against such elevated standards, but he or she somehow just remembers the experience of sitting down with that true selling pro. So you’d better not be using old sales tactics that everyone’s heard a hundred times. You’d better truly distinguish yourself from other reps in order to gain a commitment from the buyer.
What do I like best about this answer? Outstanding selling pros will think: “Hey! I can be the one who sets the standard for all those other miserable reps out there. I can be the best.” And it gives them the incentive to work hard to outperform everyone they’re competing with.
How well do you want to attain selling immortality? You’ll need great training, or at least to adopt new strategies. Try reading about, listening to, and viewing the latest sales techniques, and hang out with the best sales pros you can find.
2. What is the #1 PROBLEM encountered by anyone who sells anything?
The most popular response to this question? No money.
(I debunk this quickly in training by sharing a 12-page, single-spaced document of responses to the price objection. I have even compressed this masterful montage of objections and responses into one page—in a very tiny font!—so that reps can carry it around with them as a reminder that they have the flexibility to deal with any resistance related to money.)
Others respond that the #1 problem is no training, bad prospects, or the inability to reach the real decision-maker.
The real answer: The #1 PROBLEM you encounter is that you are chasing poor prospects.
Mention this to a room full of sales managers and their heads start nodding vigorously, like a freeway full of cars with bobble-head dolls during an L.A. earthquake.
We all do this: We look at the size of the sale or the prestige of the prospect or that smiling buyer and think: “YES! It’s a YES! They’re buying!”
Wrong. People really do hate to hurt your feelings, even if you’re a total stranger who has wrangled an appointment out of them. A prospect who acts nice, then tells you that they’ll get back to you, is not a good thing. It’s a disaster. So if someone says: “I’ll think about it and let you know,” you know. Chasing poor prospects is the biggest time-waster in the sales world.
This problem can be eliminated: Simply identify your perfect prospect and only court a prospect who fits that profile.
Who is your perfect prospect? Just look back at some of your best existing clients. Identify how you sold to them; what their needs were; how long it took to get to the real decision-maker; how quickly they made a decision. If you and your team can clearly identify a perfect prospect, you’ll stop chasing the poor ones.
3. What is your RESPONSIBILITY on a sales call?
(Hint: The answer has to be correct 100% of the time, whether you are talking about face-to-face meetings or phone calls.)
Here are some answers that are correct, but NOT 100% of the time: selling the buyer; educating the buyer; discovering the buyer’s needs; handling objections; finding the decision-maker; identifying the time frame for a decision; gaining an idea of the available budget; and so on.
The answer that is true 100% of the time? Your RESPONSIBILITY on a sales call is to GET A DECISION.
If getting a decision is your key focus, it drives all your activity and language choices.
Here’s the how and why of decisions: You get a YES, that’s good—you sold them. You get a NO, that’s good—move on. You get a next step, that’s good—set the appointment for that next step. You get an “I’ll think it over,” that’s BAD, that’s not a decision. So preempt that problem by asking your buyer to commit to a yes, no, or the next step.
This is the single most important concept any sales pro can learn and put into play.
The key to pulling this off is to draft a script that covers your rules of engagement. (You can use the script on the phone, but for face-to-face you’ll need to memorize it—while sounding spontaneous, of course.) The script might start: “Mr./Ms. Prospect, our conversation today is to determine whether we can work together. So at the end of our time, let’s figure out if it’s yes or no, or whether we need to set a next step …”
That’s just a snapshot of how this would work—and work it does, rather well, in fact.
How Did You Do?
You’ve finished the test and you have your three answers. How did you do? Did the responses here create a bit of an AHA! moment or two or three? Perhaps they made you say: “Ouch, I need a little work here.”
Think about how well your organization’s sales training measures up to these standards. You can produce smarter sales pros by teaching them concepts that mediocre reps won’t know.
Remember, to improve performance you must change behavior, and each of the three best responses requires a behavior change to put them into action.
Have some thoughts on these ideas? Please share them with me.
About Dan Seidman:
Dan Seidman is CEO of Got Influence? and one of the top sales coaches in the United States. He is the author of the 600-page Ultimate Guide to Sales Training, (Pfeiffer, 2012), and six other books, including The Secret Language of Influence and Sales Autopsy! Dan is also a consultant to the world’s leading training organization, ASTD (74,000 members), where he is helping to design a global sales-training program.
Dan is a former athlete with three Olympic gold medals for playing on the U.S. basketball team. He is married and lives in Barrington, Illinois.