Entries from July 2008 ↓

Sales leads – Attend industry conferences

Trade showsAttending industry conferences and trade shows is a fantastic way for us engineers to uncover untapped sales leads, following in the vein of our “Where do sales leads come from?” post.

Attending these conferences has three benefits. First, you can catch talks and keep up with the state of the art technology for your industry. You can also check out talks by your competition or cruise by their booths and see their new offerings. Finally, you can catch up with old friends and make new contacts.

Go to talks dealing with your field and talk to the authors after they present. Take a lot of coffee breaks and introduce yourself to someone that is standing alone – they’ll be happy to have someone to talk to. I also like to get a registration list before going to the show and try to set up a few lunch and dinner dates. Be sure to leave at least one dinner free in case you meet the dream client at the show and want to wow him with a nice meal. If you’re eating alone in your room, you’re wasting your time. If you do have a meal with nothing planned, eat at the hotel restaurant at the bar, no doubt someone will sit near you that you can strike up a conversation with.

Never close again

Always be closingWe all know the ABC’s of sales right (Always Be Closing)? I think that sales philosophy is BS (Bull $#!%). A car dealer closes a sale when you take a car off his lot – a professional salesperson simply lets their sales cycle lead to a natural end, whether it’s a sale or not. I’m very passionate about this subject.

As we’ve talked before, your prospects should be well aware of the sales process steps that you’re going to walk them through right from the onset of the courtship. So if you reach the end of these steps, an order will be the natural outcome, you don’t have to pressure them into “What will it take for me to get you in this car today?”

Before you say anything, of course I realize that this is an oversimplification and you often have to nudge clients into moving, but the theory is sound.

Another thing I hate about ABC is the word close itself. When you get your order, it should be an opening to more business with them, not a closing of some type.

A key to treating customers in this manner is that your sales funnel is full enough so that you’re not panicking at the end of your quarter and instinctively try to push your prospect faster than you should.

So do yourself a favor and take the notion of closing out of your mind. Walk your clients through your sales process and show them all the points along the path where they have an opportunity to detour. If they are still on the ride at the end, an order follows and you start the dance all over again.

The Secret is out

Dare I say that I’ve received some hate mail over my review of the Rhonda Byrne and her book The Secret? I won’t be pressing any charges, but I certainly had some eye popping reading. And honestly, thanks for the feedback.

I want to talk a little bit here about how to best take the message from The Secret and apply it to your sales repertoire. I’m going to try to make some straightforward comparisons for us to argue, err I mean discuss.

So here are the four main messages from The Secret and how to apply them to your sales funnel success.

The Secret Message #1

Think of the income that you want to make in the next year, don’t worry about how you’ll make it.

Applied to the real sales world

I don’t have a problem with imaging your revenue number for next year and even printing it out and pasting it to your refrigerator as a friendly reminder – what I do have a problem with is not worrying about how you are going to get that number.

You need to talk to your current customers and prospect for new ones in order to increase your odds of hitting that number. I’m afraid that sitting by the fax and knowing that an order will come rolling in will leave you out on the street with a cup in your hand.

The Secret Message #2

Start acting and spending like you are already making that level of income that you wish to make.

Applied to the real sales world

Put your life on a year delay in your spending habits. In other words, spend like you still had last year’s salary not this year’s and certainly not what you ‘know’ you’ll make next year.

If your spending out paces your earnings, you can become desperate and go after sales you have no business going after and possibly lose sight that you need to have your customer’s best interest at heart at all times. This is hard to do when you can’t pay this month’s mortgage because you bought more house than you can afford based on an income level you are imagining.

The Secret Message #3

“Fall in love with money”

Applied to the real sales world

“Fall in love with having discovery discussions with your customers to see if your capabilities can make their lives better.”

When you are only after money, it will show and although you might be able to swindle your way in for an initial sale, you won’t be welcomed back.

The Secret Message #4

Repeat over and over every day “I am a money magnet and money comes to me effortlessly and easily.”

Applied to the real sales world

I’m sorry to state that great sales numbers don’t come without work. While I don’t subscribe to the mantra that he who puts in the most hours wins, you certainly have to put concentrated effort into attaining your sales goals.

I better stop here. I really do appreciate all your comments and emails about this subject. Just the fact that it has people talking about ways to improve their sales game is a major benefit.

Dealing with purchasing agents

Here’s the scenario – I’m dealing with a major company selling a certain widget to them. This widget is quite difficult to make and we went through a six-month prototype/approval sales process with them. We agreed on pricing and delivery and got the order, along with their terms and conditions – therein lies the problem.

These T&C’s were so onerous that I couldn’t even pass them up the line for review. There were clauses in there that stated that they own any IP used on the project (even if you invented it 5-years ago), production couldn’t stop for price adjustments even though they had the right to refuse shipment at any time for any reason, and the list goes on and on.

I was on the line with the purchasing agent and she finally gets disgusted with me and blurts out that they already let a purchase order out to a competing firm. Now, I’m pretty good at doing my sales homework, so I know that the engineers haven’t talked to anyone else for at least five-months. I hide that knowledge and graciously accept her statement and tell her that I hope we can work together in the future.

I hang up the phone and immediately send an email to my three main engineering contacts wishing them luck with their new supplier and I wish them luck bringing their ambitious schedule in on time. This is no exaggeration – by the end of the day, there were over a dozen emails sent to me and the buyer asking how this was possible and saying that I’m the only supplier and finding another one will take several months and ruin their program, and on and on.

The buyer called me the next day and said that she misunderstood what was going on and she is now willing to work with me on the T&C’s. I of course was a gentleman and thanked her for her consideration and we’re now moving forward.

Bottom Line: Make sure that you are detached enough from your deals so that you can play the ‘walk away’ card when you think it’s appropriate. If this was the only deal in my pipeline, I probably wouldn’t have been as brave (stupid?) and might have caved in on some of the key terms of the deal.

The Secret – Book Review

The SecretWell, this one is sure to result in a few emails flying my way. Let me start off by saying that I realize that this book was an extremely successful endeavor for Ms. Rhonda Byrne and a lot of people literally swear and live by it. My review here is based on it’s application to us salespeople and that’s all the farther I’ll go with it.

I’ve read reviews and blogs and listened to Podcasts heralding The Secret as the best book for a salesperson to read. Just read and believe and the sales will come marching in. I resisted reading it, but finally caved in to see what all the fuss was about.

I’m here to say that The Secret is a dangerous book for salespeople to believe in. Hold on; let me explain. The central core message of the book is that you posses seismic magnetism that has the ability to attract anything that you desire to you (The Law of Attraction). All you have to do is focus on what you want and you’ll get it. No need to even consider how you’ll get there – concentrate on the what not the how.

So as salespeople, we are to believe for example “this year I’ll earn $1,000,000” and poof it will happen. You are instructed not to even think about how you’ll get to that $1M, just simply believe that you’ll get it and you will. You can even download a blank check from her Website to fill in for yourself.

What??? If any of my guys ever came to me with that plan, they’d be out on their ears. I can just imaging this conversation:

“So, Sam what are your sales revenue goals for next year?”
“Well boss, I’m going to make a cool $2.5M.”
“That’s very aggressive, what is your plan?”

“Oh, I don’t need a plan. I just really believe that I’ll hit that number.”

Yeah, right.

Now, I’m all for visualizing a successful sales call before you make it. I’ve read, and frankly believe, the studies where Olympic archers practice without a bow and arrow to help them visualize success – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there shooting for real ten hours a day too.

So my bottom message is that it’s ok and healthy to visualize having successful calls, but please don’t rely on that visualization to make up for product and customer knowledge. In the real world, you need a plan and you need to practice.

Oh, and I’m happy to accept your comments and emails saying that I’m crazy – that’s what makes this country so great!