(Interview with Succeed Magazine)
Succeed Magazine – www.succeed.co.za – March/April 2005
So, you are a salesperson. You have been told you have the gift of the gab, can sell snow to an Eskimo and no-name brand clothing to Paris Hilton. Yet, your bank account reflects a different story altogether. You talk, you present, you represent and criss-cross the country, huffing and puffing from one rejection to the next. You are the proverbial pork-chop at a bar mitzvah – rejected, dejected, wanted by no-one but the scruffy dog in the corner. Not all is lost though, you can make the transition from meagre pork-chop to a magnifique offering of the finest cuisine – Master Chef Bill Gibson shows the way.
“Successful selling is all about focus,” says Gibson. “Without focus you are left bouncing off the walls, from one client to the next with no clear strategy which will lead to mediocre sales results.” There are six main areas of focus every company and every sales person should incorporate in their modus operandi. Focus on the right clients and prospects, with the right frequency, working from the right database, using the right data base selling tools, offering the right solutions, at the right time and making the right presentations. Sounds simple enough, but then there are still some people who believe the world is flat – a simple concept does not necessarily mean that people understand its fundamentals or how to execute its intended actions properly.
Focussing on the right clients also involves speaking to the right people when dealing with a company. “Make sure that you talk to the decision maker as quickly as possible, you do not want a situation where, after months of dealing with middle management, your proposal is eventually rejected by the powers that be. Long-sell need not be a feature of your work.” Criteria to classify existing and prospective clients need to be developed and are two tiered, namely for selling to individuals and selling to businesses. Individual criteria involve aspects such as age groups, hobbies, household income, disposable income, purchasing habits and whether or not the person is a natural fit. Natural fit basically means that the selling and buying entities have much in common, like race, religion or some other common influence.
“The 12% of sales people who carry on communicating, regardless of how many times they are shown the door, are responsible for 80% of total sales”– Bill Gibson
Business criteria concerns matters such as monthly or annual turnover, by industry, number of employees, nature or type of business, number of outlets, roll-out possibilities to other businesses, procurement procedures and political influence such as Black Economic Empowerment policies. “The criteria is then used to classify clients in AAA, AA, A, B and C categories,” says Gibson. “This does not mean that you give type-C clients bad service when it is necessary, it merely means that you focus your pro-active time, energy and resources on the A and B categories where possible. Focus on those clients that you want to retain, develop, regain and gain – all top performers make use of this process.”
Focussing with the right frequency is about repeating your contact with a client without stepping on their toes. The National Dry Goods Association of America conducted research on the effects of frequency and made the following startling discovery – 45% of all sales people stop contact after the first negative response, 25% stop after the second solid, No, 15% call it a day after the third denial and 12% carry on communicating regardless of how many times they are shown the door. The interesting revelation of this study, is that the 12% who hang in there are responsible for 80% of the total sales achieved, a rather revealing statistic, isn’t it? “Contact can be maintained through any number of ways, some more personal than others,” says Gibson. “The key is building a relationship and being unique in the way you do it. Never follow a routine your contact person has seen or heard a million times before, aim to be different – it shows an innovative nature and sparks interest from the client.” Working off the right database ties in with focussing on the right people as it is of no use contacting a list of clients who have no need for your product or service. Make sure that the information you are working from is correct, up to date and relevant to your business. Using the right data base selling tools are about making and maintaining contact through various methods. Primary tools are more personal contact methods such as visits to the client, inviting the client to functions and events, personal lunches and social meetings and, of course, telephone calls between you and the prospect. Secondary tools involve things like contact by your P.A., third-party deliveries of corporate gifts or information, and things like specific personal promises sent by e-mail or faxes. Other data-base selling tools are things like greeting cards, press-releases and other forms of less personal contact. “All three types of data base selling tools must be combined in building a business relationship, know the client, what he or she likes or dislikes and then work according to a strategy that allows you frequent contact, without coming across as overbearing.”
There is, of course, no point in maintaining excellent customer relations and identifying the right customers, but being unable to offer the product or solution the client needs. Know your products, what you can offer and know what questions to ask. A successful sales philosophy is solutions based. “In bigger, long-term deals and major negotiations you must remember that it is not about selling, or buying – but buying into the solution(s) you are, and can offer the client,” says Gibson. “Do a need analysis based on the company’s unique requirements and then offer the solution.”
Approaching clients at the right time goes a very long way on the road to making a sale. If you offer a consulting service on increasing sales and market share, it is obviously in your interest to approach a role player in a market when it is faced with a new competitor. “Work the situation and the circumstance,” says Gibson. “Knowing that a hot spell is predicted for a month or two will help an air-conditioning sales person for example – knowledge is power, know the situation that surrounds prospective clients.” Do the right presentations when you get the opportunity. There is no point in presenting CEOs and others in top management with just a colourful story about you and your company. They want to know what you can do for them. What do you offer? “Get to the bottom line as quickly as possible,” says Gibson. “Thereafter you can elaborate on the history of your company and such if asked to do so.”
Follow these steps and you may succeed where others have failed, prosper where so many have slipped and be labelled the bar mitzvah pork chop never more. Decline – and all will not be lost, after all, there is always that scruffy dog in the corner to keep you company.
“Always talk to the decision maker as quickly as possible”