We’ve all seen how salespeople are portrayed in the movies. It’s usually unfavorably. Think Glengarry Glen Ross, Wolf of Wall Street, or even Boiler Room. Although these are plays on extreme personalities and extreme situations there is a lot of truth to it. Fortunately, if we as salespeople, follow a few simple lessons we don’t have to fall into that characterization profile. We can change the perception.
Our first basic lesson in sales is, “Always be closing!” or “Coffee’s for closers!” Just kidding! This is no longer the case. The real first lesson in sales is this, “nobody cares about your product.”
I can hear you, “Well that’s probably true for unknown brands. But my company is an Inc. 5000 brand and people care about our product!”
Wrong. There is a level of honestly we must have with ourselves here. There really aren’t many products or services out there that no one else offers. Truth is your product or service is offered by numerous other brands. So again people don’t care about your product! But if that’s true what do they care about?
People care about themselves and their own problems. They don’t want you to waste their valuable time talking about features, add-ons, and functionality. They don’t really care about how many awards your product has won (aka your company bought). What they want is for you to solve one or more of their many problems. So solve a freaking problem or go the hell away.
Let me drive this home a little further with an example. If a Rolex watch doesn’t tell time any better than a Disney watch, why is there a luxury watch market? The Disney watch solves the problem of needing to know what time it is. AN Apple watch solves the problem of needing to look stylish. A Rolex watch solves the problem of needing to establish dominance in a business meeting.
Each watch solves a specific problem, even though they all tell time. In the end, our only job is to identify, engage, and close sales with buyers who are experiencing a problem our product will solve.
TIP: Build a FAQ type list of the problems that your product solves. Then you can use this list to qualify your prospects as early in the cycle. This saves you a ton of time and frustration. If you’re new to the product or if the product is new, do some market research first. If the product has been in play you can call a few of your company’s best customers and ask what problem your product solved for them.
Sales lesson #2! If you want to be successful, start by helping others succeed.
One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes is “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Because of the internet and everyone’s easy access to information, today’s buyers have more information than ever before and rarely need a seller to guide them through the darkness. Plus, as I mentioned early, any real advantage you have with your product will be copied or improved upon in a matter of months by your competition.
I hear you again! “So you’re saying I’ll be out of a job soon? I thought this article was about showing me how to be successful in sales?”
It really depends on your definition of success. If you define success as staying in the middle of the pack and only contributing enough to stay employed, I would recommend reevaluating if sales is for you. Furthermore, the truth is technology will soon replace you, so you don’t have time to waste. Just keeping it real.
But if you define success as leading the pack, being on the leading edge of possibility, and growing your career exponentially in the coming years, then you’re tracking with me here.
The future for every great sales or business development person is about how many people you can help, not worrying about what’s in it for you now. It’s the shift from WIIFM (what’s in it for me) to WIIFT (what’s in it for them)
It’s time to build a solid reputation of being “that got to person”! The person people count on and utilize as a trusted resource. The subject and solution expert! It’s this reputation that can never be taken away from you and will serve as a successful career platform.
Sales lesson #3! Stay in YOUR freaking lane!
Many of you have heard of the Pareto principle. This principle states that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input. This means a majority of the sales you close will come from very few of the organizations you engage with. The goal here is to help you identify the characteristics of optimal companies to target so you don’t waste time chasing deals that won’t close.
It’s all about staying in your lane of traffic:
• Traffic Lane 1: Prospects who are too small
• Traffic Lane 2: Prospects who are too big
• Traffic Lane 3: Your Lane
• Traffic Lane 4: Prospects who are in the wrong vertical
What’s your lane? It’s determined by a set of criteria you can use to know whether or not a company is an ideal target to focus on. Don’t stress we have some tips here too.
One thing to be aware of is that most people think too broadly when it comes to this. They want to include everyone who might benefit from their product. It’s easy to do because if you’re like me your product can be used by almost anyone. This is a bad approach though and will lead to a lot of wasted effort and time. Companies outside of your ideal lane will still take a meeting, watch a sales preso, and even enter negotiations, but they will ultimately close at a far lower rate than your target buyers, which results in a ton of wasted effort.
For example, targeting a company with at least $20MM in annual revenue is probably not a very accurate description of your target market. Your product probably doesn’t provide the same degree of benefit to a $20MM coal mining operation as it does to a $20MM hospitality network.
Remember, on average only 20% of your sales effort is going to create 80% of your sales output! Don’t try to be all things to all companies. You can’t be everything to everyone. It waters you down!
Here’s a simple list of characteristics to help define your lane:
Size: this could include locations, employees, and/or revenue.
Geography: This is important if you’re on a team that divides territories or if your product is only sold in one region.
Budget: Includes budget or current dollars being spent.
News: This includes any changes or events that indicate a mandate or ability to purchase.
Industry: Be as specific as is reasonable (Wireless Communications vs Communications Equipment).
Related Technologies: Either technical requirement or buying signal.
If you don’t know all of the answers to these characteristics, that’s okay. Look at your current customers and find qualities that the best accounts share, then use those as your guideline. If you don’t have customers yet, make an educated guess regarding who you want. Just be prepared to adjust as you learn.
One mistake to avoid is a negative aspect of desperation. The more desperate you are to hit your quota, the more likely you are to target the wrong prospects. In fact, you shouldn’t even call them prospects. They’re more like victims. But this effort is ultimately wasted (remember the Pareto principle?). If you stay in your lane, the results will come.
Sales is a science! It takes years of study and practice to be great. For many companies it’s too painful and lengthy of a process to take on. If that’s the case doesn’t forget to make the smartest business decision available and outsource your vital sales functions to experts. The time saved and ROI could make all the difference in your world.