Tag Archives: consultative sales

Would You Buy from You?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

Having been involved in sales and sales training for the last 30 years, I have seen some major changes in both buyer habits and sales skills usage. The economy, the type of product or service you are selling, the demographic you are selling too and the cost of the product are among the many factors that affect the type of sales interaction that should take place. Sales training continually ranks very low on the list of business expenditures, however it is probably the most important factor in the success of your business, and one of the most tracked and analyzed areas of measurable data a company has.

I have put together a list of the 5 most common mistakes a salesperson will make and how to avoid them in future interactions. They are certainly not a replacement for continual and effective sales training, however they might resonate with you on a recent lost sale.

1. Calling on the wrong person is something we have all done, and it results in a waste of time and effort on your part. I used to call on whoever I could reach at the company, or the person I met at the networking event, and found that it was very counterproductive. Sure, we can consider those people “influencers” however simply asking the question, “are you the decision maker?” or “will you be the person signing off on this?” will get you further.

2. Relying too much on the web and social media to sell for you is a trap that a great number of companies are still trying to get out of. All we hear about today is how we need to be online. Online is no substitute for your direct selling skills. Online tools are an important part of your marketing mix designed to create awareness and help the potential client move towards contacting you.

iStock_000016561283Small3. Dropping your price to meet the customer’s expectation of value is a killer. By dropping your price, you have simply created a new selling point for future negotiations. Hold your price; increase the perceived value by adding something additional on, an extra month of coverage, free delivery, 30 days additional warranty, some small inexpensive accessory.

4. Selling an “opportunity” is far different from selling to a “need” and will usually result in rejection. Don’t assume that because you have uncovered an opportunity for a sale that the client has a definitive need at this point in time and has to purchase from you. For every solid sale potential there are thousands of tire kickers.

5. Overselling or continuing the sales pitch just because you are uncomfortable with the pregnant pause to allow a prospect to consider the options and come to a decision, could end the interaction prematurely. Uncover the need, assist the prospect by suggesting a product, describe the features it has that satisfy the need as well as identify the benefits to them. STOP. Let them consider it and watch for a buying signal!

All of these mistakes are preventable, sales training to continually upgrade skills and competency levels are an investment every business needs to consider. These skills are tools of the trade. Are your skills up to par, and more importantly, would you buy from you?

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Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Sales, Training and Development, Uncategorized

Trade Show No Shows

By Jeff Bowman

I had the pleasure of attending a trade show for the promotional products market last week. First off, I have to tell you that I love going to trade shows and exhibitions especially for new products.  It comes from my days as a youngster attending TV and appliance trade shows with my dad. It was a world of wonder to a 12-year-old seeing the glitz and the hype and the barkers, not to mention leaving with a bag load of freebie stuff. I recognized that networking (chatting up the people in the booth) resulted in building relationships, and I would often see the same people for several years in a row. “Hey you’ve grown” was a phrase I heard a lot.

Last week, I was a little disappointed, not with the show, it was very well laid out and promoted, but with the sales skills of some of the representatives manning the booths. I should also mention the total lack of people at some of the display booths. How can you justify the expense of participating in a show if you have no live point of contact? Enough about the no-shows the majority of business owners are far too smart to let that happen.

As I moved down the aisles I was tempted by an array of colours, freebies, contests and noise. The noise  is like music to my ears as a sales trainer.  The sound of the booth hosts inviting you in, recognizing the company name, offering up a handshake, asking the right questions.  Questions like “do you use promotional incentives”, “have you seen the latest”.  I was most impressed by a guy who read the name of my supplier on my badge and said “Oh you use Richard”, I said “do you know him?” and he replied “no, but I need to meet him if he deals with you”.  Corny, maybe.  A little hokey, yes. A sound foundation for relationship selling? Definitely!

The booths that I walked past, and I do mean literally walked past, contained no enticement, maybe a small dish of hard candies on a barren table with a stack of business cards.  There was no noise, no chatter.  Often the two booth hosts were too engaged in their own conversation to notice my interest or total lack thereof. One guy was on a cell phone with his back to the guests, another lady was adjusting her make-up, and yet another man was eating in the booth, and leaving crumbs on the nice clean carpet. I have been to enough shows in my life to make the split-second decision, if I don’t see or hear anything that catches my interest or at least one of my senses, I walk on by.

Time, effort, cost vs result measurements will tell you if the trade show was a success.  You can blame poor results on a great number of things, but your company’s lack of effort in sales lead generation should never be one of them!

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Managing, Sales, Training and Development

Spirit of Entrepreneurship Alive and Picking

By Jeff Bowman

I’ve always lamented the fact that times have changed and due to circumstances both real and imagined, kids today are not introduced or encouraged to earn a buck the good old-fashioned way, working.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I was initiated into the world of professional sales at a very young age.  My father was a member of a community organization called Civitan, and at Christmas time I was sent out down the street to take orders for delectable chunks of fruitcake, which I would subsequently deliver a couple of weeks later.

My brother played rep hockey, so there was always the fundraisers, chocolate bar sales etc, which I would again hit the good neighbors up for. Most of these activities took place during my formative years before I ventured out on my own and got a paper route when I was about 9 years old. I delivered a route that went a fair distance from my home, riding my mustang bike with the banana seat and the high back bars with my paper bag balanced precariously on my monkey bar handle bars.  There was little worry that I would not return home safe at night, and on collection night going from door to door until dark collecting the weekly $.50 stipend I never encountered any problems. Over the course of 2 years I got to know my clients well, developed a rapport with a great many, opened many new clients and often received treats, a bite to eat or a drink of pop.  This familiarity soon grew to other paying jobs like painting a fence, cleaning eaves troughs and even picking up mail for clients while they were on vacation. I seemingly always had, and still do have an entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s not often that I see a lemonade stand, collections by kids for a charity or even newspaper carriers anymore. (excellent video calling Paperboys in the 50’s “The Biggest Little Businessmen of our time”) As I said times have changed. On Saturday night a couple of 10-year=old boys approached me while I was planting flowers. Bold as can be, one asked if he could assist me by removing the weeds on my lawn.  For only a toonie he would save me the aggravation. I grinned from ear to ear. Entrepreneurs! I agreed, and the boys went about their business with a long-handled weeder.  I offered a brown bag, but the one boy said, that he puts them in a backpack he was carrying, and disposes of them at home. I couldn’t believe it!

After about 15 minutes they approached and asked me to have a look at the lawn. I smiled and causally threw a few glances around. I told them I was impressed, and asked my wife to pay them (yes I did). We gave them $2.00 for the job and an extra $.50 for disposal. It must have been their first tip, because they were quite thankful.  Now they will understand how good customer service relates to money! We watched as they walked to the houses along the street, no one else seeming to offer them work.  I thought to myself, that it was a damn shame no one was willing to let these kids work.

Like I said, times have changed, but I’m glad that there are still some kids out there who are willing to ask for work and do a good job. I would have given these two a couple of bucks even if I didn’t have weeds, just for having that entrepreneurial spirit!

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We can train to sell, but why can’t we sell you to train!

By Jeff Bowman

When working with organizations built on sales and marketing, I hear the same thing over and over.

“The sales guys have to go out and sell this”.

Combine this with the reluctance of companies to properly train and mentor their salespeople and you have a recipe for disaster.

Consultative sales is about filling a need that the customer has with a product or service that your company offers, can create or is willing to find for the client.  The salesperson is the front-line relationship builder with the client base.  If there is a problem with the product, the sales person often knows first.  Delivery problems, the salesperson’s cell phone rings.

The salesperson’s job is to  discover needs and opportunities, and in doing so, what features and benefits a customer really requires.

I once worked with an organization that introduced a new case that had an easy-open clasp.  It wasn’t even a product feature, it was the case that held the product.  Marketing took it upon themselves to make this the focal point of new brochures and ads.  Not only that, the price was increased by a couple of percentage points because the ease of use would save time and effort.  And all this was completed without input from the salespeople. Of course when it was launched, it was a dismal failure.

Clients laughed at the salespeople for even considering that this would have an impact on their buying decision, and eventually the discount salespeople offered brought the cost back down to previous levels.

Sales tools need to be designed by and for the salespeople.  I don’t argue that product specs etc. are technical and need to be front and centre in product literature or sell sheets, however the impact, the value add, the benefit to the client needs to come directly from those who know the client best.

Once a salesperson’s  input is considered, the sales cycle will work so much easier, that is if the salespeople know what the sales cycle is.

Sales training is  infrequent by many organizations because they don’t understand its value, they don’t have a proper method of reinforcement or they simply don’t have a manager that can effectively manage a sales person or team.  Often the salesperson is left to fend for themselves. The fact is that everyone in the organization who interacts with a client is a salesperson, and they should have even basic sales training programs every year.

How many sales opportunities are missed in your company because the client dealt with someone other than the “salesperson”? Don’t neglect the revenue generators!

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Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Sales

Santa Claus, the Consultative Salesman

Reprinted from the Marketing PAD newsletter

By Jeff Bowman

Santa Claus. I know him, I’ve met him, I went to his training school and I impersonated him on many memorable occasions. I know for a fact that he is the king of consultative sales. “What do you want for Christmas little boy/girl?”, “Have you been good this year?” His interest in what others want and need is unsurpassed in the world of childhood icons. The tooth fairy brings money whether you want it or not. The Easter Bunny leaves chocolate eggs, even if you wanted some other type of gift. And the Sandman, well he just puts stuff in your eyes every night.

Father Christmas, like all good sales people, asks and listens. He then decides upon the best solution and agrees, making each and every child part of the process.

I had occasion to meet Mr. Claus when I was quite young, in fact I met him several different times and I have the pictures to prove it. He would ask me what I wanted for Christmas, and I always had a ready answer. Things I actually needed, like Rock-em Sock-em Robots, boxing gloves, a microscope, a hockey net. There are  times that I guess Santa actually consults with parents because I never did ask for socks, gotchies, shirts etc., but I often received them. And as I look back on it now, I figure nobody really wanted to see me out boxing in the nude (and probably still don’t) or going to school in ripped hand- me-down clothes.

I decided in my later years that I had taken advantage of a great relationship that Santa and I had, so I thought like in all good business relationships (and it was a good relationship, he gave me what I wanted in return for being nice, cleaning the house, not fighting with my brothers and sister etc) it was time for me to give a little back.

I attended the Santa Training School and learned a series of valuable and difficult lessons – the ins and outs of being one of the Jolly Old Fellows assistants, (I prefer this to the more common denotation of Elf in training) who takes his place at public appearances such as Breakfast with Santa, photo opportunities and of course the ever popular office Christmas Party.

Many a time I sat upon my Red Velvet throne with children of all ages and nationalities sitting on my lap, discussing the important aspects of the holiday season. Unfortunately, STS (Santa Training School) doesn’t prepare you for some of the questions you are asked by the super intelligent children of today.

Even the best consultative sales approach leaves little room for suppressing the odd laugh or following up a great open-ended question with a closed ended question to narrow down the options. “Where do you go to the bathroom Santa?”, “If my house doesn’t have a chimney do you break a window to get in?” “How many glasses of milk does it take to make you sick?” And if the questions don’t get you, the statements of fact will. “You smell old” (page 13, lesson 2 “Santa stays cool under pressure.” Yeah sure, see what you smell like after 3 hours, 100 kids on your lap and polyester suit that makes you perspire) , “What did that last kid ask for, cause he’s my brother and he is bad”, “Do you have kids?”

My Santa experiences took quite a different turn when adults got involved at parties. Building solid, mutually beneficial relationships took on a whole new meaning. The lap visitations seemed more prolonged, a few extra pictures were taken and the wants, needs and desires were often expressed with more clarity than you might imagine. I called it liquid bravery. It wasn’t just visions of sugar plums dancing in the heads of many a fine adult who graced my throne. One never really thinks of Santa blushing, but I tell you it was a good thing I had that beard.

As a public domain figure, you can’t escape seeing Santa around this time of year on every package, in every ad, flyer and newspaper. He has his own department at the Post Office, his own television shows with huge royalties that allow him to build more toys every year for the increasing population, and he symbolically represents huge corporations like Coke every Christmas. He gives his stamp of approval to many new Seasonal Songs every year, and even goes as far as having his likeness on a PEZ dispenser.

Now I am at an age where it appears my debt has been paid off to Santa, younger plumper individuals are taking my place. The consultative sales go on. The job of Santa selling never seems to be complete, as we now see him in tropical vacation commercials; he is urging us to go green with real trees this year and to use bags instead of shiny wrapping paper for gifts.

Santa continually grows and changes with the times, but his consultative sales approach remains the same – probe, listen, offer solutions and develop relationships. I’ll always remember the lessons I learned at STS, the great times I had as an assistant Santa, my personal encounters with him, and like always, I will listen for the NORAD reports on Unidentified Reindeer-propelled vehicles being spotted over Northern Canada on Christmas Eve. (now available at the Official NORAD Tracking Site for all you parents)

See you soon Santa!

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