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My thoughts on selling

The next time a prospect asks about your product or service, don’t respond with a link to your calendar informing them it’s up to date, and to feel free to schedule some time with you. Prospects don’t enjoy looking at their own calendars, let alone yours. 


Few professions are as tough as sales. If you lose the deal you lose the deal. Even an Olympic athlete, who doesn’t win the gold medal has a second or third chance at a silver or bronze. The professional seller plays high stakes poker. There is no consolation prize. That’s why a positive attitude is everything.


Raise your hand if you think you’re a solutions sales rep. Sorry to burst your bubble but you’re NOT. Whatever software you’re selling, ERP, HCM, CRM, CMS, etc… they’re ALL commodities. Sell the big business idea before you say a single word about commodities like your me-too product, generic job title, or the 150 combined years your sales team has been in business.


When was the last time you were thinking, “I wonder when my #1 top performing sales person will leave us for a competitor?” Probably never… until they do.


It doesn’t matter if you have zero selling experience or 20 years of it. The point is either you’re stoic or you’re not…. regardless of your education, regardless of your employer, and regardless of your experience.


Great sales reps are what employers kill for to fill their jobs. But those jobs never get filled by great sales people emailing in resumes. Ever.


Robert Collier, one of the greatest sales copywriters of the early 1900s, once said, “Enter the conversation already going on in your prospects mind.”  I say, “because when you do… you’ll come across as relevant, helpful, and build instant rapport. Instead of being the unwanted guest knocking at the door during dinner.”

The ‘inner game’ of selling

If you’ve ever played golf you’ll notice that your focus is seldom on beating the other players.

In fact…

I’ll bet you pay very little attention to anyone’s score but your own.

This is because the goal of golf is to increase your ability and lower your handicap, NOT beat your buddies.

Case in point:

Tiger Woods recently won his first golf title. In 5 years!

Why did it take him so long?

Three words – lower back injury.

You see…

Tiger doesn’t think much about his competition.

He once said:

“I can’t control you. The only thing I can control is me,”

So, instead he focuses on his ‘inner game’ both physically and mentally.

Selling is no different.

In sales we tend to hear things like…

Know your product, study the competition, or the latest advice – disrupt your prospect’s status quo.

But, these efforts are all externally focused and akin to taking your eye off the ball in golf.

And you know what happens when you do that?

Slice, hook, sand trap, water.

Here’s what I mean…

When your selling efforts are externally focused you’ll be busily engaged in low value sales activities like….

Sending off competitive analyses to prospects (showing how your company’s features and benefits are the superior choice)

Or…

Sharing white papers intended to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) and/or fear of missing out (FOMO).

Or…

Shamelessly promoting your company, on social media.

But when you’re playing the ‘inner game’ (like Tiger does), your selling efforts are internally focused.

You’re more concerned about…

The first impressions you’re making with prospects.

The choice of words you’re using.

The message you’re conveying.

And the quality (not the quantity) of conversations you’re having with them.

Sound better?

When you start playing the ‘inner game’ of selling you’ll transform yourself from flogger of information (external focus) to purveyor of wisdom (internal focus).

Want to hit your number this year?

Then tee up your ‘inner selling’ game.

How using damaging admissions will double your sales

Remember that movie “A Few Good Men” starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson?

It came out in 1992. If you were born in that year, you’d be 26 now.

There’s one great scene in the film where the commander, played by Jack Nicholson reveals a ‘damaging admission’ that shocks the jury and the audience.

On a surface level a damaging admission can reveal guilt, error, or in the commander’s case, ego.

But, not always…

When a celebrity writes their biography, they’ll often reveal one or two damaging admissions prior to their book launch just to sell more copies.

So, depending on your motives… and who’s paying attention, damaging admissions can be good or bad for you.

As a salesperson, the last thing you’d want to do is to reveal damaging admissions about your company or product to a prospect, right?

Maybe you should…

Because no matter how good you think your product is…

And no matter how much you talk up the fantastic features and benefits with your prospect…

At some point in your presentation your prospect will raise objections.

Things like:

You’re price is too high.

We’re happy with our current vendor.

We don’t have budget right now.

I know what you’re thinking…

You’ve heard all 40 possible sales objections and have convincing responses for them.

Good for you!

But, the problem with objection handling is that the moment your customer voices one and you respond, you’re arguing with them at a subconscious level.

Here’s what I mean:

They say one thing, you say the opposite, you prove them wrong, and deep down they feel defeated. Then you wonder why they don’t return your calls.

Don’t get me wrong, objection handling is a critical skill in selling. But wouldn’t it be better to avoid the OBJECTIONFEST and instead drop strategically placed damaging admissions?

I’ll bet you already know the 3 most common objections that you can bake into your presentation as damaging admissions.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that you incriminate yourself, your product, or your company, but you have to reveal at least a few imperfections. And when you do, you can of course put a healthy and positive spin on them.

Here’s the thing:

People know, like and trust other people who open up about themselves and reveal their vulnerabilities. We’re not particularly fond of people who don’t open up, or worse yet, brag about themselves.

So, the next time you’re presenting to a prospect, drop in the fact that you aren’t the cheapest and here’s why.

Mention that most happy clients didn’t have the budget for your product at first, but here’s how we helped them justify the ROI.

Tell them that most companies you presented to were happy with their current vendor but soon after switched to us even though you were new to the market.

By revealing a few damaging admissions early and often during your presentation you’l be more likeable, credible, and you’ll get the sale.

Sound like a stretch?

Tiny little invites

When was the last time you were invited somewhere?

I’m talking a wedding, a birthday, a barbecue… perhaps to church?

Did you attend or decline?

And the person who invited you… did they follow up incessantly every week until you reluctantly agreed to go?

Not likely.

Here’s the thing…

An invitation is an offering of goodwill. There should be no pressure to attend, no bait and switch, and no obligation to buy.

As salespeople how often we actually make invitations to prospects or customers?

No, I’m not talking about sending an email to a prospect with a pitch that includes a link for them to schedule time with you in their calendar. That’s a little audacious isn’t it? Although, I’ve seen this assumptive approach a lot lately.

I’m talking about an invitation to share an idea you have that might help their business. Nothing more, nothing less.

Obvious?

You’d think so…

The challenge with B2B selling is this:

Everyone is trying to yell louder and more often than the next guy… just to get a prospect’s attention.

You need to stop yelling, or begging, or pitching … and start inviting.

There’s a difference between pitching and inviting. And knowing this distinction can make a huge difference in your business development success.

Here’s why:

When you start inviting prospects to spend 5 minutes on a call with you (not 30) to share one idea to improve their business…

When you start inviting prospects to a webinar that will give them some actionable tips to grow their business…

When you start inviting prospects to a new technology demo which will show them how to save time and money in their business…

You eliminate the sales friction.

Why?

Because you’re simply extending an invitation which they can either accept or decline and you’re not being pitchy.

You’re seen as someone who isn’t desperate, but has commercial insight to share, not just another aggressive salesperson.

When you start extending tiny little invites to prospects instead of making big pitches or worse yet, attempting to convince them to accept, you’ll feel good about picking up the phone again and you’ll double or triple your long term sales effectiveness.

So, the next time you’re about to pick up the phone, leave a voicemail, or send an email to a prospect, imagine you’re just extending an invitation to a close friend.

Would you say to your friend?

“Hey David, my amazing son is having his 12th birthday party next Saturday. He’s the smartest kid in school! He’s got dozens of friends. You have to come! We barbecue the best burgers on the block. If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow, I’ll follow up with you on Wednesday, October 4th. By the way, don’t forget to invite your wife because I know she makes the gift buying decisions.”

Hardly….

Tiny little invites, no pitches.

(selling comes later)

Stop Making Sales Calls

Let me ask you something?

Do you ever feel an idle curiosity about dentists or carpet cleaners or plumbers then google them and settle down for an afternoon of leisurely reading?

I bet not. I bet the only time you looked up “plumber” is when you turned on the shower in the morning and discovered there was no hot water.

Your prospects are no different. They only come to you (or your competitor) when they’ve got an itch to scratch.

In B2B selling the caveman approach to finding more prospects who’ve got an itch to scratch is to double your output.

Make more calls, send more emails, create more connections…. Get the word out!

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

While pressing speed dial, sending off boilerplate emails, and clicking a ‘connect with me’ button all day long are all efficient, they are not effective.

What’s the difference?

Efficient = growing your sales incrementally

Effective = growing your sales geometrically

When you start thinking about the ways you can grow your sales geometrically versus incrementally, you excite investors, crush sales targets, and stay in business.

So, how do you grow sales geometrically?

The first step is to examine all of your sales efforts and take the opposite approach.

Say what?

It sounds counterintuitive but see what happens.

For instance:

Make fewer calls.

Now iterate….

Make fewer calls to unqualified prospects.  

Make fewer calls to unqualified prospects, but make more calls to bonafide buyers.  

Make fewer calls to unqualified prospects, but make more calls to bonafide buyers, who’ve bought from you or your competitor in the past 12 months.  

Make fewer calls to unqualified prospects, but make more calls to bonafide buyers, who’ve bought from you or your competitor in the past 12 months, and are hiring like crazy.  

Make fewer calls to unqualified prospects, but make more calls to bonafide buyers, who’ve bought from you or your competitor in the past 12 months, are hiring like crazy, and have just hired a new CEO.  

More effective, no?

Comments:

Great stuff. Totally agree. No one wants to be sold something without context. The companies that win are the ones who master their relationship with qualified buyers – and don’t waste time pursuing unqualified opportunities. There are only so many hours in the day. Let’s spend them on the highest value prospects and stop spraying and praying.

Benjamin West
Account Executive

Great salespeople don’t send resumes

Everyone’s got at least one friend or family member who likes to say “I don’t have a resume and I’ve never needed one.”

Maybe they started their own business, got hired by a relative, or ‘enlisted’ when they were 18.

For the rest of us, it’s pretty hard to get promoted or switch jobs without one.

But, here’s the problem with resumes…

As soon as you submit one, statistically your chances of even getting an interview drop to 2%.

A great salesperson already knows their ‘resume odds.’

That’s why they rarely apply for a job without an introduction from a trusted connection.

That’s why they seldom respond when a stranger asks them to send their resume.

And that’s why they’re nowhere to be found in your company’s ATS …

Great salespeople focus on performance NOT pro-forma pieces of paper.

Here are the kinds of things that great sales people do have:

Three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people you know and respect.

A ‘before and after’ story of  one or more large deals they closed that you can hear and see.

A stoic reputation among their managers, peers, and customers.

A personal or professional blog that is so compelling and insightful that you just have to follow it.

Great sales people, are what employers kill for to fill their jobs.

But those jobs never get filled by great sales people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Time to think outside the recruiting box.

Are you hiring or scouting salespeople?

If you follow professional sports like NFL football you may have watched DRAFT day.

Prior to draft day talent scouts measure how well players perform during a super test called the NFL Scouting Combine. The Combine is a series of physical as well as psychological tests to see which players meet league standards.

Scouting players is a very scientific and artful process in the NFL. They don’t just hire players, they scout them.

So, what does the NFL Combine have to do with your sales hiring strategy?

Let me ask you something….

Scroll through your inbox and find the last resume that was sent to you for your most recent sales vacancy.

Where did it come from? HR, an employee referral, a job ad? Or, did you scout that person all by yourself?

If you’re like most sales hiring managers you’re probably hiring NOT scouting.

Hiring is fast and transactional. If you’re hiring, you’re getting resumes from applicants in response to a job ad. Hiring, compared to scouting often leads to lower quality employees.

When you’re just hiring you get more refunds. Refunds because hires won’t meet your expectations. And when they leave (for whatever reason) they’ll cost your company plenty.

Just imagine if NFL teams focused on hiring players instead of scouting them? What would that look like? Would you still pay as much to go watch a game? Probably not. This is because neither fans nor teams can stomach mediocrity.

In business, scouting is the art and science of finding and assessing the very best person for the job and making a job offer so compelling they’ll want to leave their current company and come work with you.

Here’s another reason to ‘always be scouting’ …

Scouting raises the bar for your current salespeople to rise to their highest levels.

Question for you:

Is your job offer so good that you could scout stoic sales people with it? If not, then fix it!  Otherwise you’re setting your business up for mediocrity.

And who wants that?

Why you need a salespeople pipeline

In most companies the default method for recruiting people is through emergencies.

Someone quits, a sales territory is left unfilled, clients are neglected.

This is because of how we’re wired. Nobody’s really looking to be proactive with hiring (or firing) unless there’s a compelling reason for it.

For example …

When was the last time you were thinking, “I wonder when my #1 top performing sales person will leave us for a competitor?”

Probably never… until they do.

What about your B players? Let me guess, since most are hitting quota and making money, they have no reason to walk, right?

Or, how about your C players? These folks will never leave, although some definitely should!

But you’re just not sure who’s worth saving…

Do they need training, or is it their attitude?

So, you pontificate and procrastinate about letting them go. Meantime, they stunt your business’s growth.

Sales leaders are for the most part, the same. We’re not thinking about taking preemptive action to prevent our A and B players from getting bored and leaving us, or by just ‘eating that frog’ and removing C players now.

I’m willing to bet the only time most sales VPs even interview a sales rep is when they’ve got a req to be filled. Even knowing full well that several of their reps will be moving to ‘greener pastures’ in 12 months or less.

But the ironic thing is, when you compare recruiting to business development…

Every sales leader is preaching to their sales reps to build ‘pipeline.’

But here’s the thing…

As a sales leader knowing that 20% of your time should be spent scouting your next sales exec, shouldn’t you be building a ‘salespeople pipe’ instead of waiting for an emergency?

When you shift your mindset from being an emergency service and having to rely on outsiders to help you hire the best people….

When you start ‘people prepping’ before you need them so you can find the right sales folks long before you need one…

Then, picking people isn’t like dropping your hiring budget into slot machine any more.

Because then it doesn’t really matter if you have a well known employer brand, because you’re recruiting way upstream from the big boys.

Because you’re the one the stoic sales people already know, like and trust.

What should I look for when interviewing a sales account executive?

When interviewing sales candidates often it’s smarter to get them to show you their results than to let them convince you why they should be hired.

Here’s what I mean…

When you have their resume in front of you, you have their story. It includes what they’ve studied, where they’ve worked, and hopefully a few breadcrumbs highlighting what they’ve accomplished along the way.

Since you’ve likely paid someone a fee in exchange for their resume, why not use their written testimony and your precious time to have a heart to heart conversation instead of a chit chat.

In other words, ask them questions like …

What have they had to sweat to get?

What have they spent weeks, months, or even years to master?

What have they spilled blood for to achieve in life?

Then use their responses to probe deeper into to what drove them NOT to give up when things got really tough.

Go back 5, 10, or 15 years if you have to. And go deep until you get their real responses, not scripted ones.

Because here’s the thing….

80% of selling success is mindset and 20% skills.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re interviewing someone with zero sales experience or 20 years of it, the point is either a sales candidate is stoic or they aren’t…. regardless of their education, regardless of their employer, and regardless of their experience.

I promise you, amazing things will happen for your business when you apply laser focus to hiring candidates who can truly show results before you hire them. You’ll also avoid the dabblers, the unrealistic optimists, and the empty suits.

Here’s the real ROI …

The stoics you do hire are going to introduce you and your company to more people just like them, who are absolutely driven to succeed.

Are You Making The Wrong Sales Hires?

You know how frustrating it is when you realize you’ve made the wrong sales hire?

Well…

New research from Silicon Valley shows that 50% of new hires fail.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

Did you know the most effective way to hire account executives who are driven to succeed is by attracting candidates with a Stoic mindset?

Yes, Stoicism.

Ancient philosopher’s teachings of self-discipline and resilience transformed ordinary citizens into elite Warriors and Olympians.

Today Stoicism is the mindset of successful CEOs, Navy Seals, athletes, coaches, authors, entrepreneurs, and sales executives.

Check out Jeff Bezos’ stoic transformation…

Stoic Sales Minds pinpoints resourceful, relentless, and resilient account executives for startups so they start growing again.

If you’d like to receive three free profiles of Stoic sales executives interested in your company, then subscribe to learn more at StoicSalesMinds.com.

There’s no fee unless you hire one.

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