Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seeing as well as Hearing the Customer

As all of us in the sales profession know selling is a communication skill. Communicating is not an easy process even in the most trusting of settings much less the precarious setting of a sales presentation. Often we think of communicating as the sounds that are being sent back and forth between people. However, communication scientists tell us that in speaking to one another, we actually communicate more non-verbally than we do with the words we say.

When we are making a sales presentation we should be aware of what our body is saying while we are speaking and listening. Just as importantly, we should try to be aware of what our prospect’s body is saying to us while they are speaking and listening. Following are some very well documented body language signals and their apparent meanings. These are easy to learn as presented in the book entitled “Body Language” by Dr. Joseph Braysich. There are many more signs in Dr. Braysich’ book than we can present in this brief article, but this will give us a start.

When we use body language as a means to detect what another is thinking or feeling, we should remember that any one or two body language signs may not mean anything at all. They may simply be a mannerism of a person. However, when we see body language signs in “bunches,” we should give strong consideration to their meaning.

Following are some signs to watch for in our prospect as we are making our sales presentation. Some of these may be familiar, so this will act as a reminder. Some of these body language signs may be new to some of us. I am going to list these signs in two lists. First will be ten signs that would usually be considered as showing positive interest. Second will be ten signs that would usually be considered as showing negative reception.

Positive Signs:

Leaning toward us: coming “into our space” is an act of trusting us
Head tilted slightly to the side: this is positive contemplation
Putting hand to face with one finger on cheek pointing up and another finger running under bottom lip on chin: serious positive concentration
Smiling: is always a good sign
Rubbing palms of hands together: is saying “I am ready, let’s do this.”
A “men only” sign of rubbing hands on top of thighs: same as rubbing palms together
Having feet flat on the floor with legs bent at 90 degrees: comfortable receptivity
Facing us directly when standing and talking: is accepting of ideas
Raising of eyebrows: is receiving an idea positively
Dilating of pupils of eyes (black part gets bigger): is a strong buy in

Negative Signs:

Crossing arms across chest: in men this is very often a strong negative sign … in women it could be a negative sign or it may occur out of either self consciousness or need of warmth
Crossing of ankles: not in tune with our ideas
Legs stretched out: not in tune with our ideas
Head slightly bowed down: negatively critical of our idea
Brow furrowed: negatively critical of our idea
Standing sideways when listening: is not accepting of our thinking
Polishing lens of glasses: means “I need to till you how I see it.”
Rubbing at eye: means “I do not see it your way.”
Steepling fingers (making a tent with two hands): negative contemplation
Rubbing back of neck: means your idea is giving me a pain in the neck
We need to remember to watch for these and other signs “in bunches” to give us a clue as to the thinking and feelings of our prospects. However, we should also practice using these body language signs as we are speaking and listening so we can better communicate our thinking and feeling to our prospects. Do you see what I mean?

Elevator Speech to Create a Reach

No..not that one which you thought Martin Luther King delivered saying "I have a Dream" or the one JFK so eloquently spoke to rally his country men with " "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"..

Here it goes.

Do you have an “Elevator Speech?” If you do not, it may be that you are not familiar with the idea and you may not know the value. Following is the explanation of why this particular memorized presentation is called an “Elevator Speech,” and how I used it and taught it for many years.

Why is it called an “Elevator Speech?” Imagine you get into an elevator and push the button to go up to the 10th floor. The elevator stops on the 2nd floor and a businessperson that you have been wanting to get an appointment with steps into the elevator. He pushes the 9th floor button. You now have the time it takes to travel 7 floors to say something that will grab this person’s attention in such a way that they will ask you to contact them. The speech must be 60 seconds or less. The speech must say what you do, how it solves problems and what benefit it is to the prospect. If you do not have a memorized “Elevator Speech,” you may not be able to successfully take advantage of this opportunity.

How have I used this idea and taught it over the years? During the last two decades of my career I called on and taught others to call on business leaders. Occasionally I would find myself in a gathering of business leaders. For example, I may have been attending an informal NASSCOM Networking Event. Without exception someone would walk up to me and ask, “What do you do?” Now they really did not care or want to know what I did. What they really wanted was to find out if I was someone important that they should know … or … they wanted me to tell of my position so they could then tell me how important they really are. They were never ready for what they were about to hear … my “Elevator Speech.” It would go as follows:

Prospect: “What do you do?”

Me: “Mr.Murthy, we solve the problems that keep senior executives like you awake at night.”

Prospect: “How do you do that?”

Me: “Mr.Murthy, we bring executives together on a regular basis to share ideas on how to increase productivity and profitability. Would you like to know more about those meetings?”

Prospect: “Yes I would.”

Me: “I will call you this afternoon to make an appointment.” - ( Now do the meaningful exchange - that of Business Cards & Follow through )

In my “Elevator Speech” I positioned the Benefit first (you will get more sleep). I would do that so they would need to ask me how we accomplished that. Then the rest of my speech would be the Feature (bringing folks together) and the Advantage (sharing ideas to increase profits). My son’s “Elevator Speech” was for a group and he could not try to prompt a question. So his speech took on a more typical design by telling what he does (Feature) followed by what problems he solves (Advantage) and then concluding with how that helps his prospects gain or avoid (Benefit). Write your own “Elevator Speech.” You will have fun and you will be prepared for the next opportunity.

SuperStar Wordsmith is more likely to be a SuperSales Man too !

Communicating with one another is an interesting process. We use words to help each other understand what we want each other to know. However, when we say a word, the other person does not really envision the word we have said. For example, when we say the word “dog,” the person does not see in their mind the three letters “d o g.” The person will see in their mind an image of a dog. So what actually happens when communicating is that we paint “word pictures” in the mind of the person to whom we are speaking.

As we all know in our wonderful profession of selling we need to be exceptional communicators. That would mean that to excel in our profession we need to be Master Artists in painting “word pictures.” Like any painting our “word pictures” are to stimulate an emotional reaction. That fits the selling profession perfectly since we know that all buying decisions are made emotionally and justified logically.

In our sales presentations, the three “word pictures” that we need to paint for our prospect are “the features,” “the advantages” and “the benefits” of our product. For the purpose of this article, a reminder may be in order. A “feature” describes something about the product and what it does. An “advantage” describes how a “feature” solves a problem. A “benefit” describes how an “advantage” helps the prospect gain something they want (money) or avoid something they do not want (pain). So how do we paint “word pictures” that help us sell better? Following are examples of two ways to word a presentation. One example will be “word pictures” that could be compared to “stick drawings” in black and white using a pencil. The other example could be compared to a “canvas painting” in vivid colors using oils.

Pencil drawing:

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, this is the hybrid engine that performs more efficiently (feature). That means that you burn less fuel (advantage). The result would be that you will save money (benefit).”

Oil painting:

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, this is your automobile’s environmentally friendly power plant. You will spend a lot less time in service stations pumping gasoline. I am certain you will find some way to enjoy the money you will save over the years.”

Notice the more “picturesque words”: “friendly power plant” versus “hybrid engine”, “less time pumping gas” versus “burn less fuel”, and “enjoy the money” versus “save money.” Another example follows.

Pencil drawing:

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, this carpet has fiber whose color will not fade. That means you can clean the carpet as often as necessary. The result would be that the carpet always looks new.”

Oil painting:

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, your carpet is made of a fiber that will always present the beautiful colors that you see right now. So cleaning your carpet will never be a threat to the attractiveness of your living room. You will always have the peace of mind that you will never be embarrassed when you have guests in your home.”

These examples should give you some idea of what is meant by painting “word pictures” when you are selling. Take a few minutes and review the words that you use to sell. Do your words have the potential to create the level of emotional response that would improve your chances of making a sale? We hope you have gotten some real value from our painting lesson.

Coming of Age of the SalesProfessional in India

Rocket Singh the salesman was an impressive celluloid effort by one of Indias largest production house with one of India's most promising actors at lead and a sensible director at the helm of the mega phone. Now this is not a blog about Bollywood, but a movie with sales as a subject in the backdrop on the second fastest growing economy in the world and you can begin to assume the importance of the Sales Profession.

In India during the 80's and thru the 1990's the only respectable professional status that an average middle class family wished upon their children was a PERMANENT Government desk job. ( Clerk ) , a doctor,engineer. These three options made the prospects of grooms positioned as most eligible bachelors and bridegrooms father certain of a stable life for their daughters.

If the above wasnt to be then there were secondary professions like a practicing advocate, teaching, journalism or any other itsy bitsy professional.

But Sales and the role of a salesman was viewed as a a condemned professional status of an unfit graduate ( unfit for the above list of professions by the then society ).

But then in India things started to change.

The 80s saw the emergence of the never say die persuasive "Eureka Forbes" sales man armed with a demo unit and loads of confidence hit the road with a vengeance.

During the late 80's the nattily dressed , white shirt , dark trousers and a tie symbolized the coming of age of a salesman. A leather bag and 5 appointments with the doctor the "Medical Representative" soon became the symbol of salesman.

The early 90's saw a new breed of companies building their companies thru a quintessential sales culture. A breeding ground for the culture which became iconic with superlatives like "Hire a Xerox professional- They understand sales process like no other " or "HCL guys win a sales campaign at any cost " ( Mostly pass on the price advantage when all tactics fail"

The rise of the indomitable HCL Sales Professional was truly remarkable in the corporate echelons.HCL-HP during the early 1990 was the bluest of the bluechips trading on the bourses. HCL alongside its compatriots Wipro Infotech started the practice of inducing cream of talents for their topmost job- An entry to scale the sales management ladder..

This prompted a lot of FMCG, Office Automation and consumer focused companies began hiring sales professional prospects from prestigious B Schools and Tech Varsities.

Today India is though not in the same league of USA in terms of being a uber capitalistic market for Sales Czars to create and rule their clientele fiefdoms , India sure is the backoffice base for most technology and marketing companies to run their global sales operations from.

A few of our undergraduates among our children are christening their sales abilities by being baptized by fire to manage sales cycle 1,2,3,4,5 online and pass the baton to their US field reps to close sophisticated IT Solutions for firms such as IBM,DEL,HP, Oracle & SAP.

At the field the top B school grads are electing sales careers & calling on CXX folks with telling impact. In the growing emergence of India as an economic super power the once pesky sales professional is coming of age .

The advent of social networks and smart data analytics is paving way for the math number crunching graduate to apply himself contextually to sales scenarios and deliver incisive impact. Business are benefiting thus by blooding young talents and even paying them a premium.

But then , Sales Profession is still to shake of the image of the Tamil Brahmin families hell bent on having their children soar in intellectually stimulating careers such as Healthcare , SW Engineering and academics . I believe that in times to come , in a world increasingly wired by social networks the most sociable sales professional is best equipped to leverage the prowess she|he has at wielding social intelligence beyond brainy intellectual quotient. Its an age when the duo of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence combine to create markets and serve them handsomely with the products that our already rich Intellectual Quotient High folks build.

More needs to happen beyond a liberal fathers encouragement supportive and in some cases egging his daughter to a high quality sales jobs at midnight.

Its also time to pay the high quality work put in by high quality sales leaders with higher economic incentive as well as higher societal recognition - After all , arent they going to play a huge role at being architects of India's rise as a Global Economic Superpower ?

For that to happen in certain ways there need be strong foundations nurturing sales leadership as a part of main university curriculum and sales centers of excellence where sales process excellence is innovated in tune with market demands. More specifically a ethical way of selling business values based on the firm foundations of ethics and principles.

Prospecting & Getting Referred - The Sale after the Sale

The Sale After the Sale … Getting Referrals.

Referrals have always been the single most valuable commodity a salesperson can acquire. The more referrals a salesperson is able to collect, the more income he is going to make. After we have created a new client, it is time to start selling again. We must sell the new client on giving us some referrals.

In my 20-plus years of selling and coaching salespersons, I have noticed that most salespersons are very poor at getting referrals. There may be a number of reasons. If a salesperson is having a “run of success,” he may be meeting all of his goals and therefore he does not “feel the need” to ask for referrals. If the opposite is true and the salesperson is doing poorly in sales, he may have a sever lack of confidence and therefore he feels uneasy about asking for referrals. In both of these examples the salesperson is really hurting himself. In the case of the salesperson who is doing well, he will never be in a better position to ask for referrals. His recent successes should give BOTH him and the prospect a justified sense of confidence that this product/service should be shared with others. In the case of the salesperson who is doing poorly, he should realize that the easiest sale to make is to a referral. So he should be asking for referrals ALL the time to help him get out of his slump.

I must make a confession at this time. It took me many more years to understand why salespersons have a problem with this process than any of the other sales processes. The solution occurred to me one day when I was asking myself, “Why don’t my salespersons ask for referrals?” At last an answer surfaced that I had never considered before. The reason why salespersons are reluctant to ask for referrals is because they perceive this act as “asking for a favor.” If the salesperson is speaking with a person who is a prospect for his product/service but has not yet become a client, the salesperson feels uneasy about “asking for a favor” prior to making the sale. If the salesperson is speaking with a person who has just become a client, the salesperson feels uneasy about “asking for a favor” after having just created the relationship. If the salesperson is speaking with a person who has rejected his product/service, the salesperson does not believe that the prospect “will do him a favor” by recommending them to another.

Many salespersons told me they believed my premise that they felt they were “asking for a favor” was accurate. So I asked myself the next question, “How can a salesperson feel differently about asking for referrals?” The answer was to find a way to turn asking for referrals into an act that was of “significant value to the person being asked.” How can giving a referral to a salesperson be of value to the prospect, “missed prospect” or client? The answer to this question and the technique that was created to address this issue will make us a lot of money.

We need to think carefully through this process. Are we selling a product/service that is of real value to our client? If our answer to this question is “No,” we need to get out of that business and find something else to sell. If our answer is “Yes,” than answer this question. If our product/service is of real value to our client, isn’t it possible that our product/service could be of real value to other persons our client may know? There are some salespersons who are selling such a specifically applicable product/service that it may not be so easy to identify other potential users. Therefore, if our product/service is specific in its application, a user would be likely to know others with the same need. For example a person who needs very wide shoes is more likely to know of others with the same need than a person with a typical shoe width. So we need to ask our best source! We need to ask our client.

If we are like most and sell a product/service that has application to a broad base of prospects our challenge is different … and absolutely doable! Follow this example for a moment. A salesperson is selling a “business to business” product/service. This salesperson calls on business owners or perhaps buyers for a business. Let’s assume that the product/service that this salesperson is selling provides either a way to “reduce costs” … OR … a way to “increase profits.” What products/services can we think of that could do such a thing? What about: photocopiers that save on printing costs, advertising that increases sales, safety equipment that reduces injury costs, delivery systems that improve customer service, accounting software that saves money on tax preparation, computers that increase production throughput, or perhaps insurance that reduces costs due to misfortunes.

If a salesperson is selling such a product/service, doesn’t it make sense that his client knows of others who could use the very same benefits? Of course, but why would he be willing to give us the names of others? He will give us others to call upon when we “sell him” on why it is his best interest to do so! How can we communicate that our product/service will benefit our client when it is purchased by another company? We need to ask ourselves this question, “If my client’s suppliers were using my product/service would it help them?” We answer ourselves, “Of course!” If my product/service helps my client’s suppliers, how does that help my client? The answer is not so obvious, huh? Well, it really is. Try this answer, “If my product/service saves money for the supplier to my client, wouldn’t that allow my client’s supplier to sell for less … therefore, saving my client money? If my product/service increases the profits of my client’s supplier, couldn’t that allow my client’s supplier to produce even better products/services for my client … therefore, giving my client better quality supplies?”

Doesn’t it make sense that, IF our product/service either “saves money” or “increases profits,” this benefit could eventually positively impact the clients of our client? Of course it could! So why not tell our client that as we ask for referrals. We should try the following “word track.”

Salesperson: “Mr. Client, once again thank you for your business. May I ask you just a few additional questions?”

Client: “Of course.”

Salesperson: “The word ‘Partner’ is often used by my other clients in describing how they see the role of their suppliers. Would you agree that organizations like mine and the other organizations that serve you with products,solutions or services should consider ourselves as being in partnership with you in helping you deliver your best possible product/services?”

Client: “Yes, we do see our vendors as our partners and they should be committed to help us to the best of their ability.”

Salesperson: “Well, if your vendors are your ‘Partners,’ isn’t it a good idea that they run their organizations as effectively as possible so they can give you ‘their very best?’”

Client: “Well, we certainly hope they do.”

Salesperson: “The reason I ask is because you have seen that our product/service is going to give you some very valuable benefits that will help you run your organization more profitably, so doesn’t it make sense that it would help your vendors do the same?”

Client: “Yes, I believe you probably could help them.”

Salesperson: “Let’s assume for a moment that we are able to help your vendors run their organizations more profitably. Would they then be in a better position to provide their clients, which would include you, with better products/services?”

Client: “Yes, I think you are right about that.”

Salesperson: “Which of your partners would you like for me to call on first?”

Will they always give us the names of their vendor partners? Of course not! I do not know of anything that works every time. However, we have just executed a highly professional and logical technique that will greatly increase the chances of us getting referrals. After getting the names, we need to get the addresses and phone numbers. Once we have gotten this list of referrals we can, once again, multiply our chances of succeeding dramatically with the following dialogue:

Salesperson: “Thank you Mr. Prospect, I promise I will approach them as honestly and professionally as I have you. Let me ask you another question. Which of these suppliers do you think could use my products/services the most?”

Client: “Well, I think Gautam Kumar Roy at GVK Bio could use your product/services the most.”

Salesperson: “You must have a good reason for saying that, do you mind if I ask what it is?”

Client: “No, I do not mind telling you. Goutam recently mentioned to me that he was having a challenge in the area of identifying a capable service provider.”

Salesperson: “Mr. Client, at this time in my life I would not suggest that I would be able to do a very good job of selling your products/services were you to ask me to do so. And, I do not expect that you could do a very good job of selling mine. But I do believe you could do a great job of simply introducing me to Goutam Kumar Roy. Would you mind calling him now and simply telling him I am in your office and hand me the phone?”

Client: “That is not a problem. I will call him now.”

Will he always make the phone call for us? Of course not. However, if he makes the call to the supplier he feels is in greatest need of our products/services, there is a very good chance our client will call the others as well. If he does not, we still have a wonderful list of referrals.

A less impactful but very professional alternative to asking the referral-giver to make a phone call for you would be to ask for a written introduction. We have had tremendous success over the years with getting into see decision makers that are hard to see by using this method. You need a small pad of yellow Post Its. Use the questions above to establish that he will give you some referrals, but rather than asking for him to phone you ask the following:

Salesperson: “Mr. Client, I am going to send a letter of introduction of myself and our product/service to each of the persons you have recommended that I contact. I would like them to hear from you as well. Would you please take my pen (hand it to him now) and this pad of Post Its (hand it to him now) and write each of them a one or two sentence introduction. Simply put the person’s first name in the upper left hand corner and your name in the bottom right hand corner. Between your two names just suggest to your friend that he would benefit by giving me an appointment. I will place your Post It intro on the letter I mail to each individual. I appreciate it. Thank you.”

Client: “Of course.”

Are our client’s vendors our only source of good referrals? Of course not! We should consider turning our attention 180 degrees in the other direction. What about the possibility of being able to sell our client’s clients? Once again the premise is the same. If we can help our client to “decrease costs” or “increase profits,” couldn’t we do that for our client’s clients? If we could do that, how would that help our client? We should ask ourselves this question, “If my client’s client is running his business more profitably does that increase or decrease my client’s chances of continuing to sell him his products?” It increases his business opportunity. So, after we have asked for referrals from his vendor list, we should ask for referrals from his list of clients. It does not matter whether he has given us any of his vendor to call upon or not, we should still ask for referrals from his client list. The book that outsells them all says, “We have not because we ask not.” The dialogue could sound something like this:

Salesperson: “Mr. Prospect, now that you and I agree that we can help your organization by helping your vendors, is there any reason to believe we could not do that with your clients as well. Here is what I mean. Would you agree with me that, if your clients were able to improve how they run their organizations by using my product/service, they would have more money in their organization?”

Client: “Well, yes I imagine they would.”

Salesperson: “Would you agree with me that if your clients had more money that they might be able to grow their business in size?”

Client: “Well, that certainly is possible.”

Salesperson: “If you clients became more profitable and bigger, would they need MORE or less of your products/services?”

Client: “Well, if they became bigger, they would need more of my products/services.”

Salesperson: “Well, which of your clients would you like for me to help to grow first?”

Now we follow the same process and dialogue that we use when we get vendor referrals. If the preceding example and dialogue do not closely match our relationship with our clients, we may still be able to use the concept to identify how to approach our clients for referrals. If we practice this concept, memorize these dialogues and execute our request for referrals with positive anticipation, we will greatly increase our referral base. Guess what happens when we have increased our referral base? Correct, we have just made making money as a salesperson more profitable and a lot more fun.