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The Power of Positive Selling
30 Surefire Techniques to Win New Clients, Boost Your Commission, and Build the Mindset for Success
By Stephan Schiffman
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Stephan Schiffman
All rights reserved.
Excerpt<h2>CHAPTER 1</h2> <p><b>THE REALITY OF SELLING</p> <br> <p>It's the most basic</b> thing trainers tell their pupils: Sales is a numbers game.</p> <p>Well, maybe. But I don't think it's a matter of reducing it to that. Many people do, though. They have very specific metrics by which they're going to measure your performance.</p> <p>What these trainers are trying to do is quantify what you do every day:</p> <p>• What's your call-to-prospect ratio?</p> <p>• How many of your prospects are you converting to leads?</p> <p>• What proportion of your sales pitches are you closing?</p> <p>• How's that affecting the size of your commission?</p> <p>• What dollar figures are you bringing into your company?</p> <br> <p>If these numbers are generally going up, trainers assume you must be doing something right.</p> <p>I don't want to entirely discount the conventional wisdom. After all, good numbers in all the above categories are a good indication that you must be doing something right. They're part of the measure of a successful, positive salesperson.</p> <p>Above all, I want this book to approach the question of your attitude, which is a more abstract, complex issue.</p> <p>Before we start on that, though, we've got to get some things out of the way. These have to do with the reality of selling.</p> <p>In fact, there are only five things you can do to increase your income from sales:</p> <p><b>1. You can increase the number of dials you make.</b> That is to say, you can increase the number of calls, which will, in turn, proportionally increase the number of people you reach and thus improve your chances of creating a lead and closing a sale.</p> <p><b>2. You can improve your ratio of calls made to calls completed.</b> This may rest on your ability to leave compelling voice messages. It also may be contingent on your ability to bypass gatekeepers.</p> <p><b>3. You can schedule more appointments.</b> Again, this involves knowing how to deal with gatekeepers, but it also means finding ways to keep the attention of prospects and get them talking to you.</p> <p><b>4. You can close more sales.</b> This is a big one. It requires that you have a compelling story to tell your clients and for you to know what they need and how you can help them solve their problems.</p> <p><b>5. You can get more money per sale.</b> Obviously this is a broad intention with everything you do, but here there is a very concrete set of steps you'll have to take if you're going to make each sale more profitable to your company. You need to know how to motivate and close price increases and per-unit savings.</p> <br> <p>These five things are the only way you're going to improve your commission. And notice that three of the five have to do with improving your ratios. In point of fact, your ratios are one of the most important things you must keep track of during the sales cycle:</p> <p>• How many calls are you making to obtain each prospect?</p> <p>• How many prospects are you converting into leads?</p> <p>• How many leads are offering appointments?</p> <p>• How many of these appointments are ending in closed sales?</p> <br> <p>The more you track these numbers, the more aware of them you'll become and, consequently, the better you'll be at meeting your expectations.</p> <p>The more in control you are of your ratios, the more you control the results. If you know that to get five prospects you need to make twenty-five sales cold calls, that gives you a clear idea of how many calls you'll have to make in order to get twenty prospects. If you're converting ten of those prospects into leads/clients, then you know what to expect in terms of how many calls you'll need to make to generate twenty clients. And if you can close with five of these clients, you've created a metric of how many calls = prospects = leads = sales.</p> <p>The results may, it's true, be discouraging, but it's always better to work from specific numbers than hopeful guesses.</p> <p>The formula I recommend is <b>A > P > s</b></p> <p>"A" stands for appointments; "P" stands for prospects; "S" stands for sales. Notice that the numbers (and the size of the letters) get smaller the further we go in the sequence. You'll have to make more appointments to get fewer prospects and fewer prospects to get fewer sales. But at least with some numbers you know where you are.</p> <p>We might put another symbol in front of the <b>A: CC</b> to stand for cold calling. I'm going tto tell you a secret about cold calling: I don't like to do it. In point of fact, almost no one in Sales does. But the best salespeople have worked out an understanding of where cold calling fits into the process of creating closed sales, and for thaat reason they've learned to do it—and do it well.</p> <p>What it comes down to is this: To do cold calling, you need to pick up the phone and dial a number. A given number of cold calls will create a series of appointments (calls-to-appoooointments is another ratio you must keep careful track of). The appointments mean the possibility of prospects, which, in turn, gives you the opportunity to close sales.</p> <p>The biggest mistake that salespeople make is to stop in this sequence somewhere short of the final step. They say, "Well, Steve, the most important thing our sales force does is to generate appointments."</p> <p>My reply is always, "Appointments are good. You can't get anywhere without talking to the client in person. But how many of those appointments end in actual closed sales." At which point the conversation gets very quiet.</p> <p>The point is <i>not</i> to stop during the sequence. That's a recipe for disaster, because the whole point of sales is to keep the conversation with the client moving forward. If you say to yourself, "Well, I've established rapport with the client" or "At least he and I can talk now," you're giving up too early. Chances are that your conversation is never going to go much beyond the preliminaries.</p> <p>Instead, keep your eyes on the prize: that magic moment when you say to the client, "Well, I think we've got a deal." If you're not getting to that point, you're not really selling. You're just doing all the steps up to the moment when a sale becomes final. Let's go back and examine those five steps we can take to improve our sales numbers.</p> <p><b>1. Increase the number of calls.</b> This doesn't sound too hard. If you're making twenty-five calls a day, why not make thirty? Heck, why not make thirty- five. But here's where positive selling comes in: If the only reason you're making these calls is to somehow improve your numbers in this ratio, you're missing the point. You want to increase the number of calls you make because you genuinely believe that you can find more prospects among them. If you make these calls with a strong, positive attitude, you'll find that your rewards will be all out of proportion to the increased number of calls you make.</p> <p><b>2. Get through to more people.</b> The biggest obstacle these days to this objective is the presence of gatekeepers: all those whose job it is to prevent you from talking to their boss. Any salesperson recognizes this: The administrative assistants, senior aides, and senior secretaries can be problematic. Again, a positive approach is one of your biggest assets here. Too many salespeople are defeated early on because they don't want to take the time and trouble to woo or circumnavigate gatekeepers. Salespeople also need to learn the art of leaving compelling messages on voicemail. Most voicemails aren't returned. But you need to make sure yours are.</p> <p><b>3. Schedule more appointments.</b> A commandment of the positive salesperson is this: Be specific. You won't get anywhere in sales if you don't learn to nail things down. The more precise you are about what you want and when and how you want it, the more people will respond with specific commitments. So when you talk to a prospect, always get an agreement to talk again at a particular time and place: "Mr. X, I think we've had a very good discussion today and I'd like to continue it. What do you say we meet next Tuesday at 3 PM. I'll speak to your admin on the way out and set it up." Here you've taken the initiative to propose something and to make sure it's on Mr. X's calendar.</p> <p><b>4. Close sales.</b> Closing sales is an art. I've even devoted several books to it. It's not something that you can learn lightly. But like anything else in sales, closing is in part a matter of attitude as well as technique. The trick to closing is to present the client with the necessity of committing. It's not enough for him to think abstractly that he should buy what you're selling. He needs to make a firm commitment to your proposal of a solution to his problem. If he can't do that, then you've not made a strong enough case to him—and you need to go back and do it.</p> <br> <p>Selling, as I've said to salespeople for years, is not a matter of learning a special technique or a particular set of responses to challenges. It's a philosophy. An attitude. It's a belief that what you're offering the client is important.</p> <p>If you start from the point of view that the client's interests and yours coincide, you can find a way to make a win-win situation for both of you. This is the Holy Grail of sales; it's what you strive for. And you'll find, as I'll remind you all the way throughout this book, that the key is your attitude: the importance of positive selling.</p> <h2>CHAPTER 2</h2> <p><b>WHO BUYS AND WHO DOESN'T</p> <p>True story.</b></p> <p>A couple of years ago I pitched my sales development program to a new company. I wasn't too sure about what reception I'd get—the company was one I'd never dealt with before, and I didn't know too much about it except that it seemed to be an up-and-comer in its chosen field of commerce. I knew, from long experience, that new companies often have a sense of arrogance about their operations, a conviction that the old guys (like me) have done it wrong for a lot of years and it's their job to set us old geezers right. Because of my sense of this attitude, I didn't want to start things off on the wrong foot.</p> <p>I began my presentation, therefore, in a way I usually don't. I set down my notes, turned off the PowerPoint presentation, and said, "All right. Why don't you guys tell me how to sell?"</p> <p>There was a moment of completely blank silence. You'd think I'd asked them to solve Fermat's Theorem. I could see the confused stares between the executives who'd invited me in, and I could almost hear the comments:</p> <p>"We invited this guy? And now he's asking us to teach him?"</p> <p>There was a method in my madness, though. I knew that if I simply laid out my commandments of selling, the result of decades in the business, the reaction would be one of disdain.</p> <p>After all, it was a brave new world out there. What could I possibly know about a world dominated by social media, Twitter, and an ever-changing technical landscape? But if I made it clear that I was willing to learn, that I wanted them to teach me, I stood a much better chance of being taken seriously.</p> <p>Sure enough, after a moment the comments began to flow:</p> <p>• Stay in touch with the customer.</p> <p>• Listen to what the customer wants.</p> <p>• Start a Facebook page.</p> <p>• Create a company blog.</p> <p>• Groupsource your customer service.</p> <br> <p>I listened, taking extensive notes, for about ten minutes. Then I raised my hand for quiet.</p> <p>"How many of you," I asked, "realize that as far as I'm concerned, you're my customers?" There was another long silence. I watched them as the idea sank in.</p> <p>"I'm selling salesperson training," I told them. "That's what I've been doing for a lot of years. And you guys are my customers. I need to convince you that what I'm selling is worth it. So how can I possibly do that if I don't know what you think are the most important aspects of selling?"</p> <p>I could see heads nodding as this sank in. Then I followed it up.</p> <p>"Selling," I said, "is about solving someone's problem. Sometimes the person you're selling to doesn't know he's got a problem, and sometimes the problem's so big that he doesn't think there's a solution. So the first thing you've got to do is <i>identify the problem</i>. Then you've got to show him what you can do about it, and finally, you've got to convince him that solving the problem is worth the price you're asking."</p> <p>These comments redirected the discussion. A few minutes later, rather than coming up with a laundry list of things sales people should do or pay attention to, the group was involved in a deep argument about the basics of selling. Above all, they were grappling with two related issues:</p> <p>• Why do people buy?</p> <p>• Who buys and who doesn't?</p> <br> <p>I think that these questions are at the heart of the sales process, and if you can't answer them, you need to sit down and think—and, I might add, read the rest of this book—until you can.</p> <br> <p><b>THE REASONS FOR BUYING</b></p> <p>In the previous chapter, I addressed the issue of why people buy. Now we need to look at the problem of determining who buys. To some extent, the answer depends on the kind of organization you're selling to. But there's also a matter of psychology involved.</p> <p>A friend of mine told me about an experience she had selling to an executive of a large company. The conversation, she says, went something like this:</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> I think you can see from what I've outlined that my service will address the problems you've been having with your servers. From what you've said, the key issue for you is efficiency and speed in your processes, is that right?</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> Yes. We can't afford the kind of slowness we've been experiencing.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> Absolutely. I understand. As I've indicated, our system can guarantee an increase in speed of up to 20 percent—and it's possible that it could go higher, depending on the demands you place on the system.</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> That's very impressive, if you can back it up.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> We can certainly do that. So let's talk about a timeline for installation.</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> Wait a minute. Before we go any further, this is going to have to be approved by the board.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> But aren't you empowered to make those decisions? I don't want to lose any time on this, and I'm sure you don't either.</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> With an expenditure of this magnitude, the board has to be consulted. Also, I need to look at the disruptions to our service while the new system is being installed.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> It seems to me that you could give me a turnaround answer in just a day or two, especially since your current system is really costing you money.</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> I'm sorry. I can't confirm this purchase right now. You're going to have to be patient.</p> <br> <p>Clearly, the executive saw the benefits of what my friend was selling. The problem was, he wasn't the one who was buying—it was, effectively, the board. You might say, as my friend did, that such a system is inefficient and will make it impossible for the company to make good, timely decisions. That doesn't matter. The executive wasn't going to put his job at risk to violate company procedures. My friend should have recognized this immediately and worked to establish a timeline for the sale based on the time needed to consult the board and obtain its agreement. She should have readjusted to the fact that although she was presenting to the executive, effectively her customer was the board. By pushing the executive, she raised his hackles and imperiled the sale. (Although, just to finish out the story, the sale did go through a couple of weeks later.)</p> <br> <p><b>IDENTIFYING THE BUYER</b></p> <p>One of the first things any salesperson needs to do is establish this: Is the person you're talking to someone who has the authority to make the purchase? Most of the time, if you've done your homework properly, the answer will be yes. That's because by the time you're on the sales call, especially if it's one to a company you've not dealt with before, you should have a very clear picture of how the company is organized, who's who in the hierarchy, and whom you should be talking to. That avoids wasting everyone's time and makes for the most efficient call.</p> <p>Sometimes, though, that's not possible. The company's organization chart may be opaque to the point where it's impossible to understand who has authority to do what. Most of the time, when this is the case, you're looking at a company in which decision making has been concentrated at the top of the pyramid. In these circumstances, when the executive you speak with says, "I have to talk to someone else to get this authorized," I counsel patience. You can get angry, of course, but it won't make a difference in the speed of the decision, and it may blow the sale.</p> <p>Sometimes, it's possible to find a way around this. Imagine, for instance, the following exchange:</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> I think we've discussed the ways in which our company's widget can help your production problems and provide benefits to your company. What size order do you feel you'll need?</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> Just a minute. Before we say anything about the size of the order, I'm going to have to check with my boss about whether she's okay with this.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> So your boss has the authority to okay this purchase?</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> Yes. It'll have to get her approval.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> I completely understand. That's not a problem. But I wonder if it would be helpful if I were to speak to her, so I can answer any questions she may have about the widget and the benefits it provides. Could we set up a meeting next Tuesday with the three of us to discuss this?</p> <p><i>Executive:</i> That's possible, I guess. I'll check and see if her schedule's open and get back to you tomorrow.</p> <p><i>Salesperson:</i> I appreciate it. I'll give you a call tomorrow just to check where we stand. How's ten o'clock work for you?</p> <p><i></i>
Excerpted from The Power of Positive Selling by Stephan Schiffman. Copyright © 2012 by Stephan Schiffman. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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