Selling Wisdom From Maine- Two Bits Of Advice You Need

There’s an old Maine story that goes like this….

A city dweller pulls up to a rural Maine country store in his fancy sports car. He sees an old fella sitting in a rocker on the stoop of the store, whittling wood, rocking back and forth, and smoking a pipe. At his feet was a big brown dog. City dweller puts down his window and yells out…”hey there, your dog bite?” The old guy replies “nope”. So, city dweller confidently opens the door and heads to the store. He no sooner takes one step up onto the stoop when the big brown dog lunges forward and bites his leg, shredding his pants. Panicked and bloodied he rushes back to the car, slamming the door. Angrily he rolls down the window and shouts “Hey man, what the heck? I thought you said your dog don’t bite.” Old man replies “Whelp, mine don’t…, but that one does.”

Two lessons I will always remember from this story. I have applied both to my sales career and they have both served me well. I will now give them to you. First, make no assumptions. Second, ask the question you really want the answer to.

Make no assumptions: People make assumptions because they create a story in their head of the situation and they apply their own bias or frame of reference to the current situation. This is a rookie mistake and it can bite you later (sorry, I had to). It doesn’t matter what you thought, what you would have done, or what you have seen in your career. It’s about your prospect or customer. It’s about what they are experiencing, it’s their frame of reference, their situation. It is your job as a salesperson to get them to say it and tell you about it. If you try to propose a solution without knowing your customers reality, you run huge risk. Assume nothing. Validate assumptions. In fact, this is one of the best ways to prepare for an appointment. Write down a list of things you think you know and then use the list to generate a conversation with your prospect or customer.

Ask the questions you really want the answer to:  Salespeople sometimes waste a tremendous amount of time (and prospect patience) by asking time wasting questions that will have zero relevance to the actual outcome or solution. Particularly, questions around the competition come to mind. I have heard many salespeople ask “Tell me a little about what your current provider does well” or “If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the product/service you’re getting now?” Completely unproductive! These questions only help you position yourself against a competitor, they will not help you get a deal. Knowing what your competition provides and knowing what they charge is only relevant if you are selling a commodity or aspire to be the low price provider. Asking stuff like this can actually bring your margins down because once the client figures out you think you’re competing, they will try to differentiate by price. What you really want to know is ‘how to help your client’, isn’t it? Then ask questions that get to that. ‘Tell me about your current process.” “Does it work the way you want?” “How would you change it?” “What happens when it works well or when it doesn’t?” “What is the impact to your business?” “What is the impact to you and your team?” Questions like these will help you uncover real business issues and will help you identify a solution that will actually help your client.

Being able to do thorough discovery with a client is a gift. It is time that should not be wasted. It is not your story to tell. It is an opportunity for your customer/prospect to tell their story to someone that can help solve real business issues.

Be that person.

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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!

Clear or cloudy will make or break your year

I was driving through Buffalo, NY and I was approaching an area where there was some construction going on (shocking, right?). From a distance it looked like they were de-icing something. Whatever they were doing caused an incredible amount of steam and the steam cloud spread across the street.  I was three car lengths back and I heard the screech of breaks and the crash. The guy in the truck hit the breaks and came to a complete stop in the middle of the cloud and minivan in front of me plowed into him. Fortunately, I was able to stop in time. I didn’t even spill a drop of my ice coffee. 

[bctt tweet="When the path is cloudy we instinctively hit the breaks."]

When the path is cloudy we instinctively hit the breaks. 

The same exact thing happens in business. When your team approaches something cloudy or unclear, they hit the breaks. 

Lack of role clarity, mis-alignment, unclear objectives, not having ideal customer targets, not understanding the comp plan or the way to win are all things that will cause your sales leaders and sales team to ‘hit the breaks’. 

Those breaking moments are lost revenue, lost productivity, and lost efficiency. You can not afford them. 

Here’s how to prevent it: 

  1. Have a plan. 
  2. Make sure your plan outlines your objectives. (Big rocks) 
  3. Include how you will hit those big rocks. 
  4. Add specific action items. 
  5. Ensure your people know where they fit and what is expected. 
  6. Break the objectives into small, digestible bites. 
  7. Get your leaders on board. 
  8. Communicate the plan. 
  9. Do it again. 
  10. Measure progress. 

It sounds so simple, but it is often missed. Believe me, I’ve seen the break lights. 

Good luck. Let me know if I can help you plan for a productive 2019. 

If you’d like to read more blog posts from The Win Source, you can find them here.

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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!

Here Is The Sales Leader’s Most Important Question…

“What can we close today?”

Sure, ask how their weekend was. Of course, find out about the spouse and kids…make some small talk. It is important to connect with your team and find out what drives them.

Inevitably, you’ll spend time reviewing their recent deals. I bet you’ll analyze their sales funnel to death. You will most certainly get chance to offer some good coaching.

However, the most important question a sales leader asks is “What can we close today?” It should be one of the first things you ask as you get down to business. A salesperson’s primary function is to close deals and a sales leader’s primary role is to help them realize revenue effectively and efficiently. There is nothing more important for either of you than pushing deals across the finish line.

[bctt tweet="The most important question a sales leader can ask is: What can we close today?"]

Over the next few weeks ask this question to every single salesperson you engage with. Ask it at the start of the conversation. Ask it every time you talk to them. When you do, something wonderful will happen: they will start asking themselves that question when you’re not around; they will start anticipate you asking and will have some answers ready next time you show up;  they will feel supported knowing you are there to help them close if they need it; and they may actually close some stuff today.

Wouldn’t that be nice?!

Feel free to reach out and let me know how this works.

If you’d like to read more blog posts from The Win Source, you can find them here.

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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!