Wednesday, September 18, 2013
It is said that everything you could want to know is somewhere on the internet, and quite possibly it is, but that doesn’t mean you can find it.
A friend of mine came to me today asking about a product that my company sells. He wanted to know things like how to use it, where and when to use it, and how my product compared to other products similar to it that are on the market.
Now this may sound like he is asking normal questions that any customer would ask, and in fact he was. The one thing that you don’t know about him is he is an internet junkie. I have never seen him buy anything without first looking it up on the internet and researching it beyond what any sane person would call absurd.
To give you an idea of how he looks things up, he spent hours looking up the best brand of gas to put in his lawn mower. True story, and to make it even better he found the best gas was a brand that isn’t even sold in Georgia. Enough said?
Anyway, for him to ask me about my products was a little out of character so I decided to go on the offence and find out what was going on. He started out by telling me about the research he did, and gave me a quick overview of what he found out. He then pulled out his folder and showed me what he had printed off about the products and what he thought was important.
To be honest, it was an impressive amount of information that he had gathered.
I asked him why then did he need more information from me if he already had all of this information. This is where the conversation got very interesting. He told me that he could find all sorts of information about each product, but what he couldn’t find anywhere was the differences between the products. He wanted to know why he should buy one over the other.
This made me think, how many of our customers run into the same problem? How many of your customers get tons of facts about products but have no idea of which product to buy based on the information they just looked up?
I started thinking about my customers and how many times one of them told me they looked my product up online or in my catalog. I thought about how many sales I lost because a customer looked up my product and someone else’s and the other product looked better on paper.
I told my friend about the two products he was considering and why one was better for him than the other. I explained that both products are excellent but my product was much better suited for what he intended to use it for.
What I am saying is I did what a sales rep is supposed to do, I didn’t just give my friend a bunch of features and benefits about the products and leave it up to him to make up his mind. I helped him to understand what the features and benefits meant to him and which ones were important to him based on his needs.
I thought to myself how easy buying would be if every product had a review of how it worked in every possible situation and a comparison chart to illustrate the pros and cons. That is when the concept of “everything is on the internet” became a little fuzzy to me.
The internet is here to stay. It is today, and always will be from now on, a major source of information for buyers. But I can say with complete confidence, THE INTERNET WILL NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF A SALEMAN when comparing products for specific applications.
So the next time a customer says they looked up your product on the internet don’t assume they know how the product will work, they may only know what a marketing person decided was important about the product.
Monday, September 2, 2013
Today I did something that I absolutely hate doing, I went with my daughter to buy a car! If I go to buy a car for myself, it isn’t the most pleasurable experiences, but doing it for someone else (even my daughter who I love dearly) makes it one of the most unpleasant things in the world. Couple that with needing to deal with awful sales people and you have found my hell!
We drove to our first dealer and parked. An extremely friendly gentleman came right over to meet us almost before we had gotten out of the car. He had a great smile and a good solid hand shake. I introduced myself, my wife and daughter and told him upfront that my daughter was his customer and I was just there for support. The salesman did exactly want he should have done and focused on my daughter and made her feel like a queen. He asked her about herself and what she was looking for. He probed for answers to questions like what model are you looking for and what options she wanted, what color she wanted, what were her driving habits and a list of questions that helped him guide her to a vehicle.
He did a great demo (a test drive) and let my daughter take the car over a variety of different roads to see how the car handled. He went over the options (features) and what each did (benefits) and explained how each one worked.
I was sure he was about to make a sale when he looked at my daughter and said so how long until you are ready to buy? I was in shock, he was about to let us walk out of the dealership without the car and without a sale.
My daughter looked at me and asked me what I wanted to do. OK, I need to be honest, I could have said I wanted her to buy the car and that would have been the end, my torcher would have been over. But being the good dad I am (and a sales trainer) I said well lets go think about it over lunch and we will let him know. And away we went to the next dealership.
We drove about 15 miles to the closest dealer that sold the same car and here is where I almost lost it. Because we knew what model and options she wanted from the last stop it was easy to pick a car on the lot. This salesman was smart enough to close my daughter on buying the car right then and there. I said lets go talk price.
We went through the normal routine of filling out some forms and off the salesman ran to get his “BEST” price. 5…10…15 minutes passed and no sign of our salesman. Finally he came in all excited and exclaimed how happy he was with the “DEAL” he just got for us.
He pulled out a piece of paper (not one of the forms my daughter filled out) and there were a few figures scribbled on it. He looked my daughter in the eye and said just sign here and I will get the car ready. My beautiful daughter looked and me and I just smiled and made a counter offer and sent him on his way back to his sale manager to go to work for us.
This time it only took about 5 minutes and he came back not quite as enthused as the first time. He said his manager was set on the price he gave us and wouldn’t do anything more. My daughter once again looked at me and I stood up and put out my hand and thanked him and said goodbye. He asked where I was going. I simply said to another dealer that wanted my daughters business. He asked for one more chance and I smiled and told him one more and it can only take 2 minutes.
He didn’t need both minutes I gave him, within 30 seconds he came back with his manager in tow. His manager looked at the paper as if he hadn’t seen it before (I thought he was the one who gave us the price, oh well) and he said, Mr. Greenstein to which I said, don’t talk to me, she (pointing to my daughter) is your customer. He looked at my daughter and said, do you realize that at this price I am losing $400.00?
At that, I stood up again and stepped in front of my daughter and said, “Baby, I don’t want you to be the person who makes this dealer go out of business, I can’t allow you to buy this car and have them loose money.”
With my speech over both my wife and daughter burst into insane laughter as we walked out the door.
Well we still needed a car for my daughter so back to the first dealer we went, this time I asked for the salesman we talked to AND his manager.
I am so glad I came back. The manager was an excellent salesman and for the first time I was feeling that my daughter was in good hands. He went back over the car with her and talked about the price. He explained how the pricing worked and why the car was priced as it was. He was never shy about asking his price, but built value around the price.
Then he said the magic words that pushed me over the top to where I told my daughter to buy, he said to my daughter, “ERIN, ANYONE CAN SELL YOU A CAR. IT IS THE SERVICE AFTER THE SALE THAT SEPARATES ME FROM THE REST.” He then told her all the little extras that he and the dealership provide.
He then did what his salesman forgot to do the first time we were there, he asked for the sale. This time my daughter didn’t need to look at me for an answer, she has been around me long enough and knew a good sales presentation when she heard one. She looked at him, put out her hand and said yes sir, let’s write this up.
The sales manager took care of all the paperwork went into the finance office with her and then did the best delivery of a car I have ever seen, taking time to show my daughter ever feature and how it worked on her new Honda Civic.
Today I have seen some good, bad and definitely ugly sales skills. I also saw a true professional that was not only good but PROUD of how good he was. Thank you Rick Johnson of Curry Honda in Chamblee GA for being the pro you are. My faith in car salesmen is restored.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
A GREAT SAYING
I found this saying on Facebook and it immediately hit me as one of the best sayings I have ever seen.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
TO LIVE BY CHOICE, NOT BY CHANCE;
TO MAKE CHANGES, NOT EXCUESE;
TO BE MOTIVATED, NOT MANIPULATED;
TO BE USEFUL, NOT USED;
TO EXCEL, NOT COMPETE.
I CHOOSE SELF-ESTEEM, NOT SELF PITY.
I CHOOSE TO LISTEN TO MY INNER VOICE,
NOT THE RANDOM OPINIONS OF OTHERS.
Read this once, read it again, and then THINK about each line and how much better off we would all be if everyone acted on it.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
I have always been amazed at what I hear come out of a reps mouth when they are having a challenging day. Today I received a call from a rep to tell me they wanted to go home to gather their thoughts.
Now I am not someone who gets shocked very often. I have been in sales and sales training long enough that very few things I see or hear anymore shock me, THIS SHOCKED ME.
I sat at my desk with the phone in my hand just staring at top of my desk, I was speechless for a moment. Finally I asked the rep what thoughts she was going to gather at home that she couldn’t gather just by pulling over in her car and grabbing something to drink for a short time.
I could just imagine her on the other end of the phone thinking about what to say next, and then it struck me. She was already home, this was a call to cover her rear end.
Not wanting to simply call her a liar, I asked her where she was that moment and offered to meet her and ride with her the rest of the day. She started to stutter a little and then said she didn’t want company she just wanted to be alone. I offered to buy her lunch so we could talk for an hour or so, once again she opted for being alone.
It wasn’t until I asked her if she wanted to quit that I got the truth. I was right, she told me that she had given up by 9:30AM. She had stopped by a customer that told her he would definitely buy the next time she stopped in. She stopped in and he didn’t buy. She said she made 2 more stops and both told her no. (Can you imagine 3 stops and 3 no’s… what is the world coming to) She said by then it was 9:30, she knew her husband was out of the house at work and she just gave up and went home.
I wanted to know why she called me. What was she trying to accomplish by calling me? So I asked her directly what she wanted me to do. We both stayed silent for at least 20 seconds and she said, “I want you to help me make sales”.
This cracked me up, I blurted out, “FROM YOUR HOUSE?” Once again 20 seconds or more of silence. Then she told me I was right and she was just being stupid.
I looked at the clock and it was getting to be noon, so I told her to come meet me at the office and we would see what we could do about helping her. She showed up about 45 minutes later and I could see she had been crying.
I asked what she was crying about, quitting or quitting on herself. She shot daggers at me with her eyes and said she had NOT quit on herself. She told me she could do it.
She started to get up and walk out of my office and I asked her where she was going, she said to work. Why? I asked. She said to prove to me she could do it. I told her that she was going to fail.
Talk about a shocked look, she looked like I had just punched her in the stomach. She said how could I say that, I answered, she didn’t need to prove anything to me. I told her I believed in her a lot more than she believed in herself right now. I said to succeed she needed to go and do it for her. She needed to prove to herself that she was as good as I thought she was.
It doesn’t matter how long a rep has been selling, how successful they are, or how confident they seem to be. Every rep at some point gets an acute case of SELF DOUBT. There is only one cure, WINNING! It may be making a sale or getting an appointment with a buyer that you have not been able to get to before. It might be winning a contract or making a hire. It might just be opening the car door and getting out in a place that has intimidated you for days, months or years.
A win is a win is a win. We all need wins.
It is now 9:30 PM and I just got off the phone with the rep. She told me that her day got better, but not by much. She did make a few small sales but nothing to be excited about.
I told her that she needed to be excited about the entire day. I told her that she pushed herself to do things she really didn’t want to do and that the day might not have been an award winning day, it was still better than it would have been had she stayed home.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Customers come in all sizes and shapes. They come in all levels of intelligence. They come in all socio-economic groups. But the most important group they all come in are the talkers and the silent ones.
I was out in the field with a rep last week and we made a call on business that he told me he has been wanting to call on for a year. I said let’s go.
When we walked in there were a few guys standing around a workbench looking at a motor and talking about what was wrong with it. We asked who was the boss and were told to go to an office in the back of the shop. Before we walked away we watched the guys and listened to what they were saying. The rep and I looked at each other because we knew we had several items with us that these guys could have used. We decided to go see the boss and tell him.
We walked to the back of the shop and met the boss. He was a man of few words, VERY FEW. The rep introduced us and started to tell the boss about whom we were and what it was we were there for. The boss didn’t say a word. The rep told him about our company, the boss didn’t say a word. The rep told him about what we had, the boss didn’t say a word. The rep pulled out one of our most popular products and did a great demo for the boss, he still didn’t say a word, he just looked at us.
The rep tried a few things to engage the boss but the boss just kept looking without saying a word.
The rep finally said that he would be back in 2 weeks and we left.
When we got into the car the rep asked me what else he could have done, I told him nothing. I explained that there is no harder customer to sell than the one who tells you nothing. I said to the rep that he would appreciate objections from now on.
I told him that an objection is the second best thing a customer can give you. A sale is the best, but an objection gives you something to work with. It doesn’t matter what the objection is, any objection gives you information. Silence gives you NOTHING!
Over the years I have found one thing that a rep can do when they are with a silent customer. ASSUME THE SALE! When I am doing demos and trying to close I simply assume the customer wants what I have. I say, “I’ll go ahead and send in xxxx”, it doesn’t matter how silent the customer is, if they don’t want it they will talk! Drastic situations call for drastic measures.
Just because the customer is silent doesn’t mean you need to be.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
The great Yogi Berra once said, “I never said most of the things I said”. At least I think that is what Yogi once said, but maybe he never said it…
Anyway, have you ever noticed how some customers always think you said stuff you never said?
I don’t leave samples behind, I do demo’s. Over my years of sales I have found that leaving a sample doesn’t pay off. You can’t control how the customer uses the sample, if in fact they use it at all. If the customer does use the sample, and happens to use it wrong, my products from then on are never as good in the customer’s eyes. Also, in most cases, the person I am talking to is not the person who actually uses the product. So I hope the person who actually uses my sample will report back to the person I left the sample with how it worked.
All in all, there are way too many chances for things to go wrong. That is why I do demo’s. I can control the demo and point out all the features and benefits to the buyer so he or she can really see the value in owning my product.
This is why I was so shocked today when a customer told me I had promised to bring them a sample of one of my products.
The customer said that he was expecting me 2 weeks ago with the sample so he could try it out on one of the jobs he was working on. I asked him if he may have me mistaken with another good looking sales rep that calls on him and he said no he was sure it was me.
We talked some more and I asked him if over the last 20+ years I have been selling him at any of the companies I have been selling for if I have ever left him a sample of anything before? He thought for a minute and said he didn’t think so. I asked him how many demo’s he thought I had done for him and his employees over the past 20+ years and he laughed and said a million. (Actually it was more like a million and a half, but I never argue with a customer) Finally I asked him if he really thought I was the one who promised him a sample. It didn’t take him long to agree that it probably wasn’t me.
I could have handled this in several different ways. I could have told the customer I was sorry and tell him I forgot the sample. I could have went out to my car and gotten my sample and given it to him. I could have made up a story about the warehouse not getting the sample to me or being out of stock of the product. But I always try to be honest as I can be with a customer. I know what I say and I usually say what I say!
After talking with the customer I did go to my car and get my sample of the product he wanted and did a great demo for him. I showed him how my product did what he needed better than he expected and that I could deliver my product at a price which was a better value than anyone else he has asked. After I was done I asked for the sale. My customer could have told me that he wanted to wait to see who he had asked for the sample and see how their product worked. He could have said no or not yet or one of a thousand things. He didn’t, he said yes.
I believe that not leaving him a sample and doing a demo which I controlled made the difference. My demo made the difference between put off and a sale.
I understand that it goes against most of our sales rep instincts to say “NO” to a customer. But if you know what you say, and say it ALL the time, no customer can ever trip you up.
Yogi also said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” You are right Yogi, it can be better!
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I am trilingual; I speak fluent English, SOUTHERN and sales.
I’m sure that it won’t shock any of you to learn that over all my years in business I have always found a way to communicate with a customer using one of my languages. That is until a few weeks ago!
I was in the field working with a rep and we stopped to make a cold call at a business that he had targeted as a prospect. The call started like most with the rep doing some basic introductions and probing. He then did a great job telling the customer about what we do and how we do it.
As the rep and customer started to chat about how we could help the customer, the rep asked me if I wouldn’t mind telling the customer about one of our products.
I opened our demo case and got out a sample of the product and started to set up the demo when the customer got a very funny look on his face. I asked if something was wrong and he just looked at me as if he were lost. I apologized for talking too fast and asked where it was that I lost him. (I couldn’t imagine where it happened since I was just starting and hadn’t even gotten into to demo yet)
The customer said that he didn’t understand why we were there. With that I went back to the introduction the rep had just finished and tried to help the customer understand what we were there for. When I got back to the same spot, about to start the demo, the customer put the same look back on his face.
Now I was starting to think the customer was just messing with me. I laughed and said very funny trying to make him admit he was just playing around. But as I watched his face I could plainly see he was not joking.
I tried a third time to explain what we do and as I was talking I could tell the customer just didn’t understand what we were all about.
Not wanting to show my amazement or frustration, I decided to just continue on with the demo and see if he caught on at some point.
The demo was almost over when the lights came on in the customers mind. He got a big smile on his face and said (actually almost yelled) “Are you selling this?”
While the three of us stood there looking at each other we all started laughing. The customer told us he thought we were the guys that were coming to work on his front end loader and really thought we were kidding when we started talking about selling things.
Going back over the first few minutes of the call I have been trying to pinpoint where the miscommunications broke down. Then it hit me, it didn’t break down, it was never started. Right from the start the customer was looking for one thing and we were looking for something else. Because we were both looking for something that wasn’t there, we were not communicating.
I could have spoken 100 languages and the customer could have spoken all 100 of them, we still would not have been communicating.
When you are making a sales call, and you start the sales process, always make sure that the prospect knows who you are and why your there. NEVER assume that your words alone will tell your story.