Category: Sales 101

Your One Thing & Other Productivity Hacks

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How to Steps for Building Strong Business Relationships

Creating relationships is a vital part of business, and something that has allowed me to excel in all of the positions I have held. It’s good that I have this skill set as I was hit in the head many times in my 11 years playing football so don’t have too much else to offer (kidding of course)! I’m a big believer in creating what I call “trusted business advisor” relationships. There are many ways to do this but they all involve genuine care and sensitivity to others. This is typically more challenging for men than women as women tend to be more sensitized to other’s feelings and men sometimes have to go out of their comfort zones to accomplish.

Below are some of the specific activities I have employed (or have been employed for me) to help create these types of enhanced relationships:

  • Put my sales process through the prism of “what are the true challenges this customer is facing in their business and how can I help?” as opposed to “how to I gain the information I need in order to complete my proposal template, get it delivered to the customer and make a sale?”
  • Listening closely to my clients about their personal lives and their passions (sort of like how I try to do for my wife around Christmas time to be able to buy thoughtful gifts). For instance, one of my customers was talking about wanting to take his son’s skeet shooting. So, for his birthday, I got him a gift certificate for a local skeet shooting “ranch” that he could enjoy with his boys. As you can imagine, this was GREATLY appreciated.
  • After I had a very successful quarter, out of the blue, I received a box of Omaha steaks from my boss. He didn’t tell me in advance he was going to do that but I knew he was thinking about me and he made an accurate assessment that the big man enjoys grilling out some red meat!
  • I have found Linked In to be an invaluable tool for maintaining relationships with people you rarely get a chance to see in person through messaging (as well as texting). It is always a great practice to record birthdays and reach out to someone on that date or during holidays. This way, if you have a need for something, you don’t seem like you are just using them when you reach out for help (a sure fire way to negatively impact relationships).
  • If you say to someone something like “oh, you would love that book; I’ll let you borrow my copy” or “I have a great recipe for that and I will provide for you”, make sure you fulfill those commitments. I hear those types of things offered all the time but rarely see follow up. I like to send myself an e-mail to remind me (I do this for a lot of things to remember because, as my wife likes to tell me I have the memory of a “dead elephant”- get it? Because a live elephant never forgets!). You will definitely stand out if you do this because 90% of the time those offerings not fulfilled.
  • Make a commitment to call your closer relationships at least every couple months if you have only been texting, e-mailing, or social media’ing (not a word I know) one another. We get so caught up in communicating through these electronic mediums that it can become very impersonal at times. Some people I know will even send a handwritten letter (yes they still exist) to stand out from the herd. I will often call friends and tell them “I was just thinking about you” or “you’ve been in that new job for a couple months and just wanted to see how it was going”. To me, that’s like putting deposit’s in their “emotional bank account” so if you ever need a favor, you have enough credit to make a withdrawal.

These type of relationships have evolved into some very interesting things like job offers, use of vacation cabins for free and invites to significant sporting events. One of my customers taught at a local college and had me come in and teach a couple sessions for him each school quarter. When I was managing channel partners, I was asked several times to help put structure, on an “at risk” employee and determine if they were worth salvaging or not. I would walk into their businesses and new employees just assumed I worked there because of the open access and relationships I had within the company. Imagine how much easier this makes it when your competitor walks in the door or when it comes time to conduct some negotiations? I can tell you from experience that becoming a trusted business advisor can help “grease the skids” and make everything you are trying to accomplish much easier.
So, I would encourage you to be cognizant of these types of approaches during interactions going forward. When you boil it all down, it comes down to the golden rule and what activities could someone employ to make a significant impact for you? It involves actively looking for ways to pleasantly surprise others and fulfilling any commitments that are made. Do what you say and say what you’ll do is always a good mantra to live by. If a big oaf like myself can be successful utilizing these principles, I guarantee anyone can!

 

 

Your Client Objects Now What? Chin Up You Got This!

You Got This!

I feel like people have given the word “objection” a bad rap. You see it so much on the legal shows on TV when they object to what’s being said or when people talk about sales. I’ve always looked at objections positively; to me, it means that the other party is “playing ball”. When I was a younger man, and a woman might object to the way I look, I would think to myself “OK. Is that all I have to deal with? Maybe if I’m funny, I can overcome my objectionable looks!”. Also as a younger man, when I was in sales, I would relish getting objections from a customer as I knew the best way to counteract those objections. I had a Rolodex of responses that I would immediately deploy with fervor. “Oh, you don’t like the pricing? Compared to what? We are different than that competitor because….”.

Then I read a book that completely changed my view on objections. The book is called “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” By Frank Bettger. It was published in 1949 and the first thing I noticed was that most of the concepts discussed were the exact same concepts taught in Sales Training today. There are no “new” concepts in sales, they are just marketed differently (what a rip!). The second thing I noticed was how he talked about objections. (It would be really cool if I could actually find my copy of this book as I have purchased it 10 separate times; it’s probably in my house somewhere buried under pounds of animal fur but I digress…). Frank was an insurance salesman who would track all of his customer interactions. Out of 1000 customer “interviews”, 60% of the time the objections he received WERE NOT THE REAL OBJECTIONS!!! They were a ruse! There are two types of objections; the real one and the one that sounds good. So, when you hit on that girl at the bar and she turns you down by saying that she has a boyfriend, what she really means is that you smell or you have a large piece of cabbage in your teeth or you are highly overweight and horizontal stripes are not flattering, etc… Imagine how that concept changes the life of a sales person. If you roll out “pre-canned” responses, you have a higher chance than not of wasting your breath because you are addressing a false objection!

So the question becomes, how do we address this issue in life or in business?

Mr. Bettger’s went to a seminar held by Dale Carnegie and got the answer. He tells the story of a large client that was assigned to him but no longer purchased anything from his company. He would let Frank come and deliver his pitch but always declined to do business with him by saying they were OK for now or purchased services from someone else. After hearing Mr. Carnegie’s message, he asked for another meeting with this dormant client and was provided with the typical excuses. Then, he very simply asked (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Sir, is there anything else that might be causing you not to do business with us? If there is and I can address it, perhaps we might be able to work together again. If there is something else and I cannot address it, then I’ll feel better to have at least gotten the opportunity and can stop hassling you.” The client looked at him in silence for a very long time. Then he said “your company used to provide me with a discount and then, for no reason, ceased to credit my account without any notice. Once that occurred, I vowed never to utilize your organization again.” Frank checked on this issue, found out there was a mistake made, credited the customer’s account retroactively and earned back the business.

You can ask the question that way or even just ask another probing question but I guess the main point is that you should assume that the initial objection may be a ruse. Too many times we get caught up in just responding instead of genuinely trying to understand someone. Steven Covey says that 90% of the time people disagree it’s not because they truly disagree but one or the other side doesn’t fully understand the other’s position. 90%!!! Try to be aware of this and just have a genuine conversation as it flows naturally instead of trying to exhibit staunch control.

Try this technique in your personal and business life and see if it doesn’t bear fruit (or higher pick-up ratio) for you!

Key Negotiating Skills to Use in Today’s Environment

Good negotiating skills are key to have in today’s environment. Whether we are negotiating with our kids, our bosses or customers, continuing to hone your negotiating tactics are an important endeavor. Many times, negotiating turns into a game of compromise where the outcome is so diluted that no one is satisfied. That is an unskilled negotiation. Not to get political here but Obamacare seems to be a prime example of this. To get the initiative pushed through, a ton of “pork” had to be included and too many compromises caused many unintended results and the thrust of the initiative to be ineffectual.

There is also what’s called a “win-win” negotiation. But many times that evolves into I win and you think you win but only realize later that you actually lost. I believe many go into negotiations with this strategy to try and “game” the negotiation and use tricks to mask the initial agreement as one that is positive for the other party. What happens when that other party realizes they have been bamboozled (rarely get to break out that .25 cent word outside of deploying my impression of Stephen A. Smith)? It causes hurt feelings, is a detriment to long-term relationships and may cause them to want to retaliate down the road.
When I negotiate, I like to think about long term results and how both sides can truly achieve what they want. This process will take longer but will result in both sides skipping away from the negotiating table (figuratively of course; seeing a 300-pound man skipping somewhere can be scary and the authorities might be called) and create a healthy long term relationship. To accomplish this, before I go into a negotiation what I do is break out a flip chart and draw three columns; the first it titled with my name, the second is the customer’s name and the third is titled “Options”. In the first column, I list what I want to achieve as a result of the negotiation and in the second, what I suspect the customer might want to achieve as a result.

Below Is An Example Of This Process:

Me:

I want to realize my margin

Customer:

Wants boss to be happy with the deal I made.

Me:

I want referrals from this customer.

Customer:

Wants good value from purchase.

Me:

I want my customer to be happy long term.

Customer:

Solution to address business challenges.

Me:

The solution should be appropriate, long term.

Customer:

Wants to pay under budget.

Me:

I want 30-day payment terms.

Customer:

Want implemented in short timeline.

Me:

I want the deal to close today.

Customer:

Ability to back out if not working.

Now, what we need to determine is, how can each side get EVERYTHING they have on the list? Not 50% of each item, not half of my items and half of theirs but each of us get a check mark next to every item listed. This is obviously easier said than done and that’s why it’s good to work on it ahead of time so you can come to the table with some good ideas. Now, here are some options to address both party’s needs:

Options:

  • I want referrals but not just referrals; referrals that turn into business. What if I implement a rebate that takes effect after six months that will allow the customer to pay under budget if they provide enough       customer referrals that can translate into X amount of revenue? Or, what if they allow me to take up to three prospective customers into their location to see how effectively my solution is working for them?
  • Normally, my company would provide a 15-day money back guarantee if the customer was not satisfied. What if I extend that to 30 days if the customer is willing to close today?
  • The customer would normally pay with 60-day terms but what if I could escalate the install or implementation in an extremely short timeline with minimal operational disruption if I could get them to pay            within 30 days?
  • What if we did a lease with a bank to pay the cost of the solution? This would allow me to realize my margin and provide them with more flexible payment terms.

These are just some examples of some shared options we could deploy that would allow both sides to get everything they wanted as a result of the negotiation. Now, what would happen if I did this on a flip chart in concert with the customer? We did it collaboratively with the customer listing some “out of the box” ways to allow them to look good to their organization (and hopefully strengthen their job security which is becoming more vital in today’s world). Even better, what if I put myself out there and listed everything I wanted first to be completely transparent about my wants and desires? Do you think the customer would appreciate this type of candor? Jack Welch said that candor is a greatly undervalued asset in our society and I believe a customer would find it very refreshing.
Now, would this work with every type of customer? Obviously not (I have a difficult time trying this with my kids as my son seems to be destined for a career as a lawyer and my daughter has me wrapped around her little finger) but I tend to believe that most customers are reasonable people and this exercise would allow you to be better off financially, as a result, create better relationships and help differentiate yourself from your competitors. What else could you ask for? So try out a version of this technique during your next negotiation and would love to hear some stories about how they turned out!