Entries from March 2009 ↓

Difference between good and great salesmen

Broken sales promiseI was having a discussion with a young engineer last week trying to advise her in her career path.  She has a lot of drive and ambition, but is young (i.e. inexperienced) so she doesn’t have some of the wisdom that comes with graying hair.

I told her that the difference between an engineer and a good engineer is that the good engineer knows that they don’t know everything and isn’t afraid to ask for help.

I went onto explain that the difference between a good engineer and a great engineer is that the great engineer knows that he doesn’t have to know everything.

The same holds true for good and great salespeople.  Don’t go into a call acting like you know everything, because you don’t.  I’ve never lost a sale by saying “I’d prefer to conference with my technical team before I answer that if you don’t mind.”  Go on to explain that you don’t want to answer incorrectly.

What you’ve proven is that you can be trusted, and whenever you say something as a fact, it should be taken as a fact.  If you just spew out “Oh yeah, we can do that” and then you can’t – that breech of trust is next to impossible to gain back.  And trust is what we’re all selling afterall.

Sales Strategy, Part III

sales-moneyOK, this is the last post in this little series.  So far we talked about saving your customers life cycle money and making your prospects money and both seemed like weak positions in the current economy.  So what’s left?

Save your customers money today.

Companies are looking at their costs on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis right now and juggling receivables, payables and cash like never before.  Layoffs and destroyed retirement accounts are on everyone’s mind.

What your customers need is a way to spend a little cash today that results in direct savings next week.  That is how they can save jobs and maybe even their company.

So your sales challenge is to package and market your product/service in such a way that your prospect (1) can afford it, and (2) can use it to immediately save cash.  (for reference, more sales for them does not equate to money savings – remember that).

This is a key idea and a key post for you to re-read so that you are not emptying out your sales funnel by using the wrong sales strategy.

Imagine you sell tooling to a tier one automotive supplier.  Wow, you might as well give up, ‘eh?  Well, what if you could propose them a new material that lasts twice as long as what they currently use and they only need to pay for your direct costs up front, so their cash outlay is actually less than the cheaper material and they have less change-over costs because your material lasts longer.

You cover your direct costs, so you’re keeping people working, and you can work out when and how you get the rest of your premium price.

This is no where near my favorite selling strategy, but I’m seeing it work time and time again for my clients in this crazy market, so give it a try and let us know how you make out.

Sales Strategy, Part II

sales-strategy-make-moneyIn our previous sales strategy post we talked about the difficult sales approach of saving your prospects money in the future if they only spend more money now.

But what about instead of saving them money, you sold a solution that made them more money.  That’s a sure bet right?

Well, it depends.

You need to remember that cash is extremely tight right now and even if you can make your prospect $1,000,000 in October if they just spend $50,000 in March; it is still likely that you will lose that sale.  Your prospect probably doesn’t have the $50k to spend right now.

An example here may be if you sold a software package guaranteeing more and better visitors to a Website, thus generating exponentially more sales – but the development and installation will take several months to complete.

So now I’ve gone through two faulty sales strategies and there is only one left – save your prospects money right now, see the next post.

Basic selling strategy, Part I

heavy-airplaneWhen you try to sell a prospect on something you are typically following one of two sales strategies:

  • You’re trying to save them money, or
  • You’re trying to make them more money.

An example of the first instance is a new lightweight material for the aerospace market.  Everyone knows that saving a pound of weight equals some magic dollar value in life cycle costs for the aircraft.  If your prospect would spend $x today, you’ll save them $3x over the 15 year life of their aircraft.  Sounds great right?

The problem with that approach in today’s economy is the initial $x cost you are proposing is no doubt more than what they are currently paying.  And at this point in time cash is king, queen and jester.

My point is that the sales strategy of trying to get someone to pay more for something right now in order to save them money in the future is a fool’s game when cash is tight, as it is for most companies right now.

That leaves two sales strategies in your sales tool box to keep your sales funnel full – (1) save them money instantly, or (2) make them more money right now – more on these to follow.

When should you network?

sales-networkingDue to the rather weak economy, many of my contacts are in-between jobs, or at least nervous enough to be looking into other career possibilities – some as sales engineers, others in hard-core engineering or business management.

I’ve treated three people to lunch in the past month that are on the hunt for a new position. While I’m happy to do this and to help them out, the only time I hear from them is when they need help of some sort.

As I listened to what the perfect job for them would be, I proceeded to ask what they were doing to find it – all three said ‘networking’. While that’s great, if you only network when you need it, you’re doing yourself and your contacts a great disservice.

Listen, I’m an engineer as backward and uncomfortable as anyone meeting and greeting new people, but I do a little bit each week so that I’m never in a jam when I need it.  95% of my networking is unselfishly helping others – that is the secret of networking, there you have it.

So when I DO need something, I have no problem asking for help.  I don’t mean to imply that I keep score and know who ‘owes me’, that couldn’t be further from the truth – I simply give unselfishly and get that back in return.

So get out there and reconnect with old friends and meet new acquaintances and start your networking with trying to figure out how you can help them – this is the best way to keep you sales funnel overflowing.

If you want to do something today, cruise over to LinkedIn and invite me to your network and I’d be happy to hook you up with anyone I can.

If you’re curious about my three lunch dates, I hooked one up as a managment consultant and the other two are still on the prowl.  Maybe I should start a small job board on here?!