Chris Dawson – Director 6th Door Ltd
Through all my years in sales, all my ups and downs, after every bad meeting (and every good one) I have prayed, begged, hunted and researched for an elusive magic wand that grants ‘the secret’ to being a top seller. A simple formula that makes everyone buy from you. Many courses, books, seminars, videos, speakers and articles claim to have the latest sure fire method that will deliver you endless sales with minimum effort.
The hard truth is (and there are many hard truths in sales) that in the words of the great Zig Ziglar “there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs, one step at a time”. But as another great sales person ‘Richard Branson’ often comments, being truly successful is easier as a team effort than flying solo.
In his autobiography it has been noted that in the first two pages he uses the word I once and the word we 32 times. Therefore incredible sales results are more easily achieved as a collaborative effort involving everyone in your organisation from the ground up, not just a team of sales people or in the case of smaller businesses the owner or director by themselves.
Everyone in your company is in sales
Everyone who works at your business is in sales. How the receptionist answers the phone and greets people at your door makes an impression that influences people’s likelihood to buy from you. How your delivery driver acts when they arrive at a customer’s premises and talk to their staff will leave a lasting impression of your company’s image and values. When new clients arrive at your offices how clean and well-kept are they? The cleaners are in charge of that all-important first impression. Your entire team is involved in the customer’s perception and lasting opinion of your brand, your goods and services as well as your reputation.
I recently purchased a small quantity of quality binders from a new supplier to present training notes to a new client. I was looking for great quality, style and ease of use in order for my products to also show value and worth. I ordered a small quantity to start with and they were delivered, ahead of time, to my door by a very smart delivery person. Polite, friendly, smiling and full of energy, he greeted me with a great handshake, took my signature and informed me that if there was anything else I needed not to hesitate in contacting them. The next time I needed stationary they were the first people who came to mind and for all positive reasons. They now supply me with all my stationary requirements.
Involve everyone in the sales process, making every member of your organisation aware of just how important they are, what message about the company they need to convey and support them in developing themselves within their role.
Feedback is key
I recently did analyses for a company on their customer care team. The team of eleven people were responsible for taking inbound orders over the phone and dealing with customer queries. The directors of the business wanted the team to increase the amount of cross and up-sales it created along with developing the experience customer’s received from the team. A few members of the team had worked at the business for over 15 years, in the same role, generating the same results and knew the business better than some of the directors who had been there for a shorter time.
There were obvious areas for development with communication skills, their approach to customers and their productivity but these skill gaps were easily trainable .What our analyses highlighted more than anything else was how seldom the staff had received feedback. One lady had worked at the business in the same role for over ten years and in all that time had never had any training or received a single piece of feedback. She didn’t know how she was perceived by the business, how she was doing in her role or how she could improve. If this lady had started dealing with customers wrongly ten years ago and had never been spoken to or shown how to change, how was she meant to alter a behaviour that had ingrained itself over a decade?
All members of a business need feedback to grow and develop in their role and they need it regularly. In most organisations I work with feedback is delivered to all staff on a weekly basis. If everyone is to help with increasing sales for the company then they need to be clear on the goals and desires of the business and kept informed of how they are performing, how they could do better and very importantly what they are doing well. Feedback doesn’t have to be delivered formally in a planned meeting (this can become stressful and time consuming) but the power a five minute shoulder chat can have over someone’s results is immense.
Deliver quality feedback
- Prepare – Make note of the objectives/actions/behaviours for which you will be providing feedback. This can help you get the conversation back on track should the topic swerve off course.
- Accentuate the positive – Begin and end the session on positive statements. Remember, genuine positives and compliments are food for self-esteem. Flattery and insincere statements are damaging, patronising and of no use. Have a genuine interest in your team.
- Be timely – Give feedback early and often, wishing a Merry Christmas in March is of little effect.
- Be descriptive – “I observed X, Y and Z”. Don’t interpret actions i.e. “You’re messy, uncooperative and irresponsible”.
- Be specific – Focus on specific actions/behaviours (both good and bad). Describe the observations you and others have made
- Keep it simple – Don’t clutter up your feedback with waffle. Be bold, say what you want to say.
- Focus on consequences – Describe the impact of behaviours, both good and bad. What impact may they have on others, the business and the customer?
- Achieve clarity – Ask the recipient if feedback has been clearly understood.
- Be realistic – Don’t provide too many development areas (3 maximum).
- Listen actively and empathetically – Engage in discussion, ask for feedback, ask great questions, don’t paraphrase what you hear.
- Follow up – Gain agreement on actions/plans and make a joint commitment to check on progress. Keep your commitment, diarise, outlook. Be reliable.
- Always leave on a high – People remember the most about the first and last things said in a conversation. This is why comedians will end their act with “you’ve been a great audience (compliment) I’ve been (insert name) good night”. You will remember their name, their act and openly promote them to people you speak to. If any appraisal, coaching session or short encounter is left on a low, this will form the lasting impression of your encounters and how you make them feel.
Be a sales geek!
Often when speaking with sales people or helping individuals with their sales skills I am greeted with a less than welcoming tone. I am old that there is nothing that I could tell them about how to sell more successfully, that they have done it all, know it all and they are the best that they can be. Certainly confidence in your sales ability is important but so too is humbleness and a never decreasing desire to learn more every day.
Think of anyone who has been at the top of their profession – Jamie Oliver the famous chef and champion of quality school dinners, David Beckham, arguably Britain’s most famous and highest achieving professional footballer. Brian Cox, award winning Physicist and TV personality. All stand out in their field, not because they reached a certain point in their career and thought that they knew everything but because they continued to strive and learn every day. Jamie Oliver doesn’t finish work in a commercial kitchen, go home and watch TV all night. He continues to research, experiment, read and learn all about his skill. David Beckham was renowned for staying later than anyone else after practise sessions with Manchester United, relentlessly practising spot kicks and mastering his sport.
By the very nature of his field, physicist Brian Cox is continually researching, reading and looking for new knowledge within his industry. To be a top seller you have to adopt the same principal and continuously learn as much as possible about your art. There are 1000s of books on every area of selling, YouTube hosts new videos every day on sales skills and seminars and training course are available nationwide. Share everything you learn with everyone you can, especially your colleagues and work friends.
Create a library of books and information in your workplace and encourage everyone to learn one new thing every day. You never know what new technique, sentence or single idea could bring in the client you’ve always dreamed of! A true expert never stops learning and never believes that they know it all.
Small changes make a big difference
I read an article in a health magazine about how making tiny changes to your diet can make a huge difference to your health over a period of time. This specific article claimed that if you on average drink five cups of tea a day and stopped having one teaspoon of sugar in your tea (a small change) over the period of one year you would lose over a stone in weight! Although the stress some people feel from a role in professional selling may help with weight loss (not a recommended or healthy diet plan) the mantra of ‘small change, big difference’ is definitely relevant.
If you made ten extra cold calls a week it would have little impact on your business over 14 days. However, after a year that would be 520 new conversations and possibilities which could make a huge difference to your sales results. The same can be said for shortening your sales cycle, asking for the business one more time than usual or asking for that one extra referral.
To create amazing results you don’t have to make sweeping changes to what you do. Just like giving up smoking, one small change today can make an enormous impact over a period of time and it’s never too late to start (or stop). Encourage your team to try new things and push themselves that little bit further. What result could ten people, making a small change over 12 months deliver to your business?
All that happens if you wait is you get older
The best time to start making a change to how you approach selling and the active promotion of your goods and services is always now! While you are asleep you have a competitor somewhere that is awake and chasing your business. While you put off making a cold call there is another company about to pick up the phone and call your customers and future potential customers. Until someone sells something – nothing happens.
Make pro-active selling time an integral part of your week. Make your entire team aware of exactly how they can directly and indirectly help increase the client base, the order sizes and the referrals your business receives. Everyone is responsible for sales through their everyday actions, how they communicate with every person that deals with your business and how they represent the business when out and about.
There is a sea of business available for those who seek it out – Individually we are one drop but together we are an ocean.