Don’t Take Rejection Personally But Don’t Stop Feeling It, Either.

It has often been said in order for a salesperson to be successful he or she must develop a thick skin.  Rejection is a daily occurrence in sales and it can’t be taken personally.  It is very easy to be bogged down by the sense of rejection and fall into a funk and despair that you will ever break free from it.  Even your best customers will occasionally turn to another vendor from time to time and you have to let it go.  You need to know why it happened, of course, but you need to let it go.  There is, however, an even more damaging and dangerous development…growing immune to the rejection.

I have seen salespeople become so good at brushing off the rejection and disappointment that they no longer feel it…unfortunately, they also stop learning at that very moment.

It is crucial to always understand why the deal was lost.  It is the only way to prevent it from happening again.  At the very least, examining how a different vendor was chosen will help you set a plan to minimize the possibility repeating your mistakes.

When a sales rep takes a lost deal too personally and doesn’t learn to how handle the emotion, it is up to the manager to help the rep develop a new approach.  There is still a sense of accountability and responsibility that can be tapped into to work on the issue.  Together, it will either be rectified or the sales numbers will diminish enough that the rep will either be fired or quit.

When a rep no longer feels the loss of a deal it creates a dangerous environment in the workplace.  A laissez a faire attitude is soon to develop and that will permeate throughout the sales team.  Others will feel it and in short order some may adopt the same approach.  Waiting for the sales numbers to drop enough to justify letting the employee go may take months and that is much too long to let a potential issue fester in the workplace.

Does it seem extreme?  I wish it were but I have seen it multiple times working for multiple companies.  A healthy sales environment has to be carefully nurtured and monitored but it is easily set back by just one bad rep…or the lack of management to deal with a potentially bad rep.  The message being sent is “if the bosses don’t care why should we?”.

When you see an employee becoming desensitized, address it immediately.  Usually, it is a rep that cared too much and hasn’t been taught how to balance the emotional aspect of sales.  With proper management, both the emotionally-heavy and the numb employee types can be avoided.


Lynyrd Skynyrd Can Help Close The Deal

This past Memorial Day, in between beers and hot dogs and making sure I knew where my kid generally was, I had a chance to speak with a software salesman, (brother-in-law to the host), and we got to talking about shop for a while.  I always love it when I find another example of sales principles that apply regardless of the product or service being sold.

He began to tell me about a recent trip he took to Mississippi for business.  He sells fire fighting training programs to municipalities and had a few appointments scheduled.  He landed at Jackson-Evers International and spent the next two days entertaining, being entertained and mostly getting used to the heat.  Finally the day came for his presentation and he got down to it.

Although he had originally proposed to have three different presentations for the three different towns, he ultimately decided it would be good to bring them all together and give his pitch to one big group.  This is always a risky choice as many sales require a more intimate approach.  If one person were to voice displeasure with his software he ran the risk of losing the entire group.  However, they all seem to have known each other and were all aware he was coming down to speak with them.

He started his talk.  It was a typical conference room crowd.  Some listened.  Some were speaking among themselves and others were on their phones.  He became a bit more aggressive in his engagement techniques but no one was biting.  After an hour, he gave the group a 15 minute break and he stepped outside for a cigarette to gather his thoughts and see how he could turn the crowd around.

Outside, there were a few others from the group also smoking and they casually asked him about life in the northeast.  Somehow the conversation turned to music and, as they began to walk back inside for the second half, one of them casually chuckled and said, “Too bad that program of yours doesn’t play Lynyrd Skynyrd!”.

He stared at their backs for a second as the were walking and then ran to his car to get his mp3 player.  The program he was selling wasn’t built to play music but it did have a mp3 capability used for augmenting the learning experience.  There wasn’t any reason why it couldn’t play music in the background.  He returned to the podium and plugged it in.

Suddenly, no one was checking phones or talking to their neighbor…there were smiles as the beginnings bars to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ came on and, as a group, all cried, “Turn it up!” at the appropriate time.  There was lots of laughter at that but the sales pitch continued; albeit now with everyone’s attention as country rock played in the background.

Soon after he returned to the office, he was notified that $550k worth of software had been purchased by two of the three attending parties.  All he had done was listen to the group and, more importantly, was willing to make a change to his sales pitch midstream.

The lesson here is that your delivery should be a template and not set in stone.  Be prepared to adjust it as you see fit, whether before or during the presentation.  Your clients will usually give you hints if you are on the right track or not and you need to always be looking for them.  Ultimately, every delivery is a unique as your clients are themselves.

Will Your Business Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

 Will I survive the zombie apocalypse?  I like to think I have a chance.  I have basic skill sets for living in the woods.  I can trap small animals.  As did everyone else in the 80’s,  I watched MacGyver and imagined myself coming to the rescue of a beautiful girl with nothing more than duct tape, chewing gum and dental floss.  I like to think I’m tougher than I truly am.  Even with that, though, I still think I have a chance.

I believe in the Peter Lynch  “local knowledge” investment school of thought when it comes to thinking of your future.  If you use it then invest in it.  I like that.  It makes sense.  It’s not complicated and seems very rational.  Survival, in any case, is always about common sense, assertiveness and minimizing the weakest link.

That got me thinking.  What is the weakest link in my chain to ward off zombies?  What do I use a lot that I need to be concerned about?  The average person has enough food at home for 3-5 days.  My wife is italian so that means we have enough food for 2-3 weeks if we ration it.  We have enough cars in the driveway that if there were ever an emergency, I could siphon out the gas and fill up one car with extra gas on the side.  I can go 500 miles.

No.  The weak link in my life, (don’t laugh), is my contacts lenses and solutions.  I have very poor vision and glasses no longer work for me.  My survival, when the undead begin to run amok, will be based upon how long I can keep my contacts healthy and lubricated.  Once the contacts are no longer viable, the only way I’ll know if I am in trouble is when I suffer the death-hickey.

You may be laughing at that but everyone with contact lenses I have mentioned this to has had a pretty somber look upon their faces.   They get it.  They understand the weak link the their chain of survivability.  My lenses are good for 6 months and I have 2 sets at all times plus all the fluids I need to maintain them.  Assuming I can find food, shelter, safety and warmth, I will live for at least 12 months.  I addressed my weakest point and made my situation less tenuous.

Think of your business and decide what the weakest link is.  Is it distribution? Is it marketing?  Are you too top-heavy?  Are your sales teams not where you need them to be?  Confront your situation and strengthen the least productive team.  This will have positive effects on every other department as those that were good now will seem great.

Remember, change, even when it is for the best, is a slow process.  Forcing a new process onto any team, to be adopted instantly, will lead to certain failure.  Change takes time.  Allow for the change to be incorporated and explain the change clearly so there aren’t any misunderstandings.  Finally, have a “Kick-Off” meeting with the other departments to ensure the lines of communication are understood and the new roles are clearly defined.  I know a company that does it by simply having an in-house pizza lunch.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate for it to be effective.

There will always be a weak link.  Attack the weak link with determination and logic.  Don’t issue change for the sake of having change.  Once you are done and the department is to your satisfaction, find the next weak link and start over.  Me?  I’m starting to work on my cardio.

When Shouldn’t You Prospect?









How My Daughter Marketed Herself And Landed A Job With A Wedding Planner

Part of being in a sales cycle with your prospects and clients is the need to keep them aware of your presence.  It is a crucial and required element but one most people and firms get wrong.  Either the campaign tilts over to annoying or it is non-existent and not worth the effort.  Keeping yourself front and center requires persistence and consistency but it should never be over or underwhelming.

My daughter, Jess, is a junior in college and, like most sophomores, she didn’t have a clue last year what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Wandering aimlessly and simply going through the motions, she decided to help out one of the clubs with an upcoming event.  Well, the light bulb went off bright enough for me to see it 800 miles away and in an instant she decided she wanted to be an event planner specializing in weddings.

I suggested she contact the best wedding planner in her area and just let them know she was available for any upcoming celebration in the event the planner found herself short-handed.  So every Tuesday, she left a simple message saying just that.  She did it for a month.  Then the month turned into two months.  Two months became half a year and we talked about it 4th of July weekend when she was home.

She told me she was considering not leaving any more messages because they obviously didn’t need her.  I listened to her and understood the negative feeling she had developed.  Sales is a tough place and you have to grow a thick skin and not take anything personally.  She hadn’t gotten to that point yet so I offered her some advice.

“First of all,” I said, “you have invested quite a bit of emotion into this but it has actually only cost you 10 seconds a week to leave a message.”  That made her stop and think.  I could see her eyes going distant for a second.  “Secondly, and most importantly, no one has told you to stop calling.  I think you should keep going until something changes.”  So she renewed her efforts.  Every Tuesday.

She returned to school in September and suddenly her phone rang on a Friday night.

“Hello?” she said.

“I hear you’ve been trying to reach me.” a voice replied.  My daughter had the number in her phone so she was fully aware of where the call was coming from.

“YES!  I’ve been leaving messages for you every week!”  Jess hurriedly answered.

“I’ve heard them all.  You want a shot?  I’ll give you a shot.  Be at this address tomorrow at 8am.  Black sneakers.  Black pants.  Black shirt.  Don’t be late.  You’ll be working all day.  Let’s see what you’ve got.”

She immediately told her mom and me and the first thing we told her to do was to go and buy the black clothes she didn’t have.  I told her to relax because this is the best kind of interview.  She wasn’t going to risk flubbing a ridiculous question across a desk in a 10-minute interview.  She was actually being given the chance to prove whether or not she could do the job.  This is the type of opportunity everyone deserves but few truly get.

Jess learned a fantastic lesson in perseverance and determination because not only did she get the job but she is now doing high level work for the company.  She did it by staying on the radar and not going over the top with it.  She kept it short and sweet.

You, as the salesperson, have to determine what is annoying and what would be deemed acceptable by your client.  It is different for everyone and every industry.  A client may not be happy with a caterer asking for business on a weekly basis but an electronics aficionado may be perfectly okay with daily updates of the latest available hardware and software on the market.

However, that same caterer may be better served by simply proving a bit of food education to the customers.  In this manner, there isn’t a sales pitch but the business stays in the forefront of the client should the need for a caterer ever arise.

Remember, don’t give up, don’t be too heavy and be consistent in your delivery.

You Lost Another Deal? Learn From It.

Okay, so you lost another deal.  So what?  It happens.  There’s not a salesperson in the world that hasn’t lost a deal and, if you stay in sales, I guarantee you will lose another eventually.  It’s part of being in sales so, while you may never get used to it, you should at least expect it.  However, you can minimize the possibility of losing a sale again by performing post-opportunity analysis.

Not unlike a football game where the quarterback takes the fall for the entire team, the salesperson is also on the front line of blame in the event the deal was not made.  However, a sale doesn’t stand alone on the shoulders of the salesperson.  The entire company is involved; from upper management to sales and marketing to distribution.  The final step in the sales process should always be a wrap-up meeting with the department heads and everyone within the departments that had a major role in the development of the refused offer.

This meeting will provide a level of accountability that highlights which step went wrong.  If it was the fault of the salesperson for not having vetted the opportunity correctly, so be it.  Perhaps upper management did not provide the required support to win.  Was distribution at fault for not having had the merchandise available in time?

This is not meant to be another version of the Blame Game.  Regardless of the reason why the deal was not won, this is a fantastic opportunity to shed light on the issue that made the prospect hesitate to do business with your firm.  You now have a chance to address the problem, fix it and keep it from happening again.  Sometimes, though, you’ll find no one did anything wrong and every department worked to the best of their abilities.  In these instances you can only shrug and move on.

Here’s another point I have always been an advocate of.  Never do anything as a manager that will later be seen as a negative reinforcement by your team.  For instance, if you hold post-op assessments then make sure you gather your team for wins as well as for losses.  It is as vital for your staff to know what they did right as well as it is for them to know what needs to be improved upon.  If they don’t see the big picture and know what was correctly done, then there is a strong possibility it won’t be repeated for future deals.

Another reason why I advocate post-op analysis is it will give you a good indication of which employees work well together and which ones don’t.  The workplace is a very fluid environment and you should also be alert to ever-changing relationships that will add to or detract from the company’s culture.  Stay on top of it.

Look, I understand when you lose a deal the last thing you want to do is to discuss it.  I’ve been there and I just wanted to get out of the office and not talk to anyone.  It’s painful and it’s easier to file it away and forget about it.  It’s the pain, though, that should be your motivation to have a post-opportunity analysis.  You should want to do everything you can to minimize your losses in the future.

Don’t Offer One-Price-Fits-All

April 25, 2012 2 comments

Your clients want to feel as if you are treating them according to what their needs are.  There is a level of personalization required for your clients to feel comfortable enough to purchase a product or service from you.  It’s as simple as that.  You shop for clothes at a store and walk out with a product only after you know it is a style you will wear and a size that actually fits you.  You would never purchase for yourself a shirt you considered to be ugly and ill-fitting.  So why would you expect your clients to do so?  The solution is not to offer a one-size-fits-all pricing but rather a matrix that allows the client to feel comfortable with the decision to buy.

The logical point to start at is to provide at least three different options to choose from.  This will create the widest net for you to find new clients.

Offer an entry-level package…call it whatever you like.  Basic.  Silver.  1st Tier.  It doesn’t matter as long as you remain consistent with your naming scheme.  At this level, you should offer enough to provide a value for your clients but also tempt them enough to come back at a later date and buy a more comprehensive package.  The customer is still paying you and that requires a level of trust not easily developed.  Don’t misplace that trust with a shabby product simply because it is the least expensive you offer.

At the next level package, again, call it anything…Intermediate.  Gold.  2nd Tier.  You should be focusing more of your marketing on this level that on the previous one.  You have to offer a full package here.  Supplement your first level with an added service and also some additional access.  This is where you make your money.  This is the level that will keep you afloat and make your business thrive.  This is the level that keeps the lights on in your office.

The tertiary level.  Advanced.  Platinum.  3rd Tier.  Will you have a lot of sales at this price range?  No.  However, the sales you do make are the sales you will feel the most satisfaction with because they will represent clients that trust you implicitly and want access to every possible service you can provide.  These are the clients that can call into a dedicated customer service representative.  This is where you would add 24/7 365 service if it’s applicable.  These are the clients that will call you on vacation if you allow for it.  Whatever it is you offer them for the highest level should include a level of customization that makes them feel they are the only clients you have.  These clients are known as whales.  You can’t depend on them but you can appreciate them when they buy.

A word of advice on letting clients jump from one level to another.  If the jump takes place while the process is active, then just charge the balance and move the client up.  If the jump up happens AFTER the completion of the contract them it is perfectly acceptable to add an additional fee.  If too much time has elapsed since the completion of the cycle then make them buy it from scratch.  You have a business to run and maintain and it should always be a leading element that guides everything you do with your pricing.

There are multiple ways to price what you offer but it is important to remember that your clients are all different and many express different needs.  Don’t sell your clients bells and whistles they don’t need.  It may look good on the sales sheet for the month but you have guaranteed the customer will not return for more.  I’m sure your business doesn’t have money to waste so don’t assume your clients do.