Entries from February 2009 ↓

Bad sales mistakes

Don\'t be a sloppy salesmanOK, this is the first venting post of this blog’s history – but it’s very appropriate to our sales discussions so here goes…

We were in the market for a new bedroom suit for my little boy who is moving out of his crib.  My wife found what she wanted at Value City Furniture.  Unfortunately they have no options to do anything over the Web (sales mistake number one), so she had to call to place the order for a bed, mattress set, end table and dresser – I’ll explain later why she can’t get to the actual store.

They told her that they aren’t allowed to take orders over the phone because of credit card issues.  What???  I can pay for a bloody pizza over the phone! (sales mistake number two)

So now I have to run to this store with my 2-year old to order the bedroom set.  I tell the salesperson, Bruce, that this was very inconvenient for me and asked him to explain why we couldn’t order over the Net or at least the phone.  His response was that the “Privacy Act” prohibited them from taking confidential information over the phone.  He stated it as such a fact that the President himself must have signed this Act into law.  What???

He then made his major mistake and said that it isn’t a big deal to come to the store and it isn’t really inconveniencing me much.  Now, what Bruce didn’t know was that my wife had been in the hospital for several weeks due to pregnancy complications and I was running ragged back and forth with work, daycare, and daily trips to the hospital with no family around to help – so this was a major, major inconvenience for me. (sales mistake number three)

He finally goes to ring me up and proceeds to tell me that his computer will only let him enter single unit sales and since I was buying a set, I had to go through the customer service department.  What??? (sales mistake number four)

Since I’m extremely short on time at this point in my life, my only punishment was to not order the mattress set off of them.  If I had more time, I would have blown out of that store completely.

So what can we learn from Bruce?  Plenty.

  1. Make it easy for your customers to order your goods through a variety of outlets.
  2. Make sure your offerings are at least as easy to order as your competitors are.
  3. Don’t make a mistake and assume anything about your customer because here is where you can mess with their deep emotions and really screw up a sale.  So stay away from politics, religion and things like that.
  4. Never tell a customer that you can’t take their order right now.  If all else fails, write it down and enter it in the system later, but don’t pawn them off onto someone else to deal with.

Maybe we can start a list of our readers vents and put them together to deliver to sloppy salespeople that give us all bad names.

Getting to true sales emotions

Sales emotions

I was trying to convey the idea of knowing when you are really at the true pain or sales emotion of a prospect.  I used the following example which seemed to really hit home.

Imagine this same question with only a single word changed – and how that single word changes your answer over a rainbow of possibilities.

Question: Would you die for your X?

  1. Pet?  No way, I love my beagle, but a dog is a dog when my life is on the line.
  2. Friend?  Nope, sorry Bro.
  3. Siblings?  Hate to say it but probably not, I have a family of my own to worry about and can’t leave them high and dry with no support.
  4. Parents?  Call me ungrateful, but most likely see #3.
  5. Spouse? Yup.
  6. Children?  No question, bring it on.

Do you see how we went through a sequence until we reached a point of no return – ok, so now you need to craft your pitch around my little buddies and my darling wife.  That is where my deep passion lies.  Anything else you’re wasting your time.

Our job as salespeople, is to ask the right sales questions in the initial sales call so that you know where my needs and pains really are.  My needs may be broad based (say life insurance), but my pain is centered around my wife and children.

Bottom line: I don’t care what you’re selling, the person sitting across the sale’s table from you has a few key pains that you need to uncover.  Ever run across a buyer that needs to close a deal by the end of the quarter or they lose their job?  Dig, dig, dig.

Superb customer service leads to sales

Dremel ToolWhile on a recent outing to Home Depot, I happened across the line of Dremel products and a big sign caught my eye.  It was a 1-800 customer service number that you could call right there in the store!

So if you were looking and had any questions at all, you just dial them up and they advise you on what Dremel accessories you might need.

Now I don’t have to tell you what that would mean to the salesperson going to pitch larger shelf space for Dremel’s products.  A typical question that purchasing agents at big box retailers ask is “How will you support our sales efforts” (they are looking for what type of marketing you’re willing to do and then make you pitch in to pay for their ads – but that’s a different subject).  How awesome would it be to answer, “How about if we give your customers live 24/7 access to our customer service department so that all their questions are answered right here in your store?”

Most of us are not fortunate enough to have such a customer service department as this, but what can you do to get closer to this goal?  Well, I suggest talking to your customer service department if you have one and relate this story.  Tell them that you realize they are stretched so very thin already, but this display was so motivating that you were hoping to work with them to install some systems that might get you closer to this.

If going up and asking these questions makes you uncomfortable, you must not have followed our previous recommendations to integrate with the CS department – so start now.

I pinged Dremel’s customer service department for a quote on their basic customer service philosphy several months ago and never got a reply, puts a bit of a stain on my theory of their busines model.

Two easy ways to improve your sales skills


sales-managementWe’ve all been through them; the company sponsored training programs designed to improve our sales effectiveness. But have you ever stopped to see if they’ve really helped you?

One effective way to do this is using your performance management process.

Most training programs focus on trying to improve a few particular competencies or skills. To track your progress in honing those skills, check the performance ratings you’ve been given over the past few years. Have your ratings improved both overall and on targeted competencies? Review your progress year-over-year. If your ratings aren’t improving, you need more development.

Another way to check and see if your selling skills are at their peak is to solicit feedback from others. Multi-rater or 360 degree feedback processes are an excellent way to get feedback on your performance from other people. Even if it isn’t a formal part of your performance appraisal process, you should seek out feedback from others. In certain circumstances, I’d even recommend getting feedback from your customers, although you really need to be careful here. The point is, you can always learn from someone else’s perspective. If they have a safe way to deliver the feedback anonymously to your boss or some other third party, getting feedback from peers, co-workers, and other folks who work with you on a sale can really help you get a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses so you know what to work on to improve.

Automated Performance Management Tools Can Help

As engineers, we love tools! We love anything that saves us time and improves our quality and efficiency. OK and there’s the “sexiness” factor too. Let’s face is, technology is fun! There are some really great automated performance management tools out there that can make it easier for you to get the feedback you need and monitor your performance improvements. Your performance appraisal should be one of your key tools for getting feedback and monitoring ongoing improvements in your performance. If your company doesn’t have an automated system in place yet, maybe you could develop your sales skills by selling the need for one to your HR group!