Sales Empathy

To truly understand a prospects pain at a deep level you must have sales empathy. One way to obtain it is to have actually held the position of the person you are calling on and dealt with the issues they are dealing with. Not every salesperson has that opportunity. However all good salespeople have the ability to “share” or “experience” the prospects real issues even if they have not held the position. They acquire this empathy by asking questions, focusing on the prospect and getting to deeper levels of pain over and over again. If you focus on your company and your presentation you will forever be constrained to operating with superficial information about what the prospect needs but be excluded from really understanding whether there is a compelling reason to buy or not. Sales empathy will also lead to more bonding, deeper relationships and higher closing rates.

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How to Eliminate Excuses

When you fail to do something I am sure that you have a really good reason … or do you? Next time you excuse yourself (note that word!) from an activity ask yourself if you would let a person who worked for you off the hook that easily. Ask if you would take that “reason” from your 7 year old. Ask what would you do if you couldn’t use that “reason” for an excuse. Then do that! This is a great way to break through barriers and end procrastination.

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Ask one you’ve never asked before

You ask the same questions … you get the same answers …and then wonder why you don’t seem to grow as a salesperson fast enough. Sounds like a variation on the definition of insanity. However, if you ask a question you never asked before, you will get to a place you have never been before. You will open up new avenues of discussion. You may disrupt the thinking of the prospect. You will be out of your comfort zone. You will get information you have never gotten before. You will get new insights. You will learn new things about the business you are in. You will have to think on your feet. And you will most likely differentiate yourself and your product or service from the competition. So go ahead, ask that question you have been afraid to ask in the past.

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Don’t get excited

If you do the discovery phase of the sales call properly, the prospect will be opening up and divulging his or her personal problems with the business issue under discussion. If you get excited at this stage of the process, you will turn off your prospect. It will raise doubts about your motivation, possibly expose your self-interest, and believe your claim to just be there to help them. You should adopt the demeanor of a doctor in the diagnosis phase of a health checkup. You would be disconcerted, to say the least, if the doctor excitedly announced that you had a rare disease and she was thrilled to have the chance to work on you since it was very lucrative for her and very interesting and she might even get a research paper out of it. Have your excitement for after you leave the prospects’s office.

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Are you just Daydreaming?

A sales goal without a sales activity plan does not have much chance of being accomplished. In any other field a goal without a plan would be ludicrous. Would you have a goal to build a building without a couple of hundred drawings and a construction schedule? Would you plan a concert without a play list? Would you just start writing source code because you had a goal to develop a new app without a flow chart? OF COURSE NOT … unless you have money to burn and time to waste. So why do 98% of sales people set sales goals without planning out how many sales calls they need to make weekly to accomplish that goal? So I encourage you to stop reading this and estimate how many calls you need to make weekly to hit your sales goals … then keep track weekly. If your estimates are correct and you do the work, you will hit the sales goal.

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You can’t focus on 7 things

To focus means to narrow your scope of attention. “Focusing on 7 things” is impossible under that definition. Spreading your attention between 7 things or even as many as 3 things will cause you to be ineffective and waste a lot of time. It is far more effective to focus on one item, get it done or moved along to the next step then “focus” on the next item on the list. The reason it is more effective to concentrate is that switching back and forth causes you to have to re-start or re-center your thinking every time your focus is moved from one task to the next. In sales trying to make a cold call here and another one there will waste many minutes and hours in your week as you have to gear yourself up each time to make the call. The solution is to dedicate significant blocks of time where you can focus on one task and move it along to a logical stopping point or to a point that something real and lasting is accomplished before you let yourself be distracted by another task.

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You Can’t Create Value

Value is in the eye of the prospect. Value propositions are typically written from the perspective of the seller.  At best a well thought out and written value proposition is a list of possible values to the prospect. It is up to the salesperson to uncover from the prospect what would be of value to her or him. If you lead with the company generated value proposition, you run the risk of being easily paired and put on the defensive by a simple statement from the prospect like “we really don’t have an issue with that” or “I am not that interested in having one of those”.  So use the value proposition to prepare for a sales call but don’t bring it up on the sales call directly. Rather, use it as a basis to ask whether or not the prospect has the problem that underlies the value proposition.

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Don’t Assume, Ask

One of the biggest obstacles to uncovering the prospect’s compelling reason to buy is that the salesperson does not ask enough follow-up questions. They hear the prospect explain the problem in summary form, then quickly move to solving it or expounding on their capabilities to solve it based on their own vast experience with similar problems. The problem is that when you do that, you are implicitly assuming that you know what is behind the problem, what caused it, the downstream effects of the problem, the consequences of the problem to the prospect and other stake holders, the context the problem exists within which may affect the solution to the problem or at least how the prospect feels about the situation he or she is operating within. I could go on but you get the point. the interesting thing is that a rookie is less likely to make that mistake because he does not have the experience to “know” the situation. He hasn’t seen it 25 times in the past so he has to ask the questions. So today’s tip is don’t assume … ask … you may be surprised at the answer.

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Speak their Language

Speak in the prospect’s language. No … I don’t mean Spanish or Swahili. I mean use words they understand and examples that make sense to them. It is fatal to talk down to prospects or to talk in a condescending manner. But it is equally ineffective to speak over their heads trying to make what you are saying sound more important. If you take either of these approaches you will find your meetings cut short as the prospect will feel uncomfortable … and they may not even know why they feel that way.
The best approach is to speak at the level of language the prospect uses. This level might be different in the corporate board room than it is on a construction job site. For example, a car enthusiast might understand the phrase “take the software for a test drive” to describe a demo better than he might understand “experiencing the software’s intuitive menu format in a structured test environment”. That would be especially true if the prospect was not a person with an IT background or had no experience in purchasing complex software products.

Don’t Ask Stupid Questions on A Cold Call

Asking questions is good. Asking stupid questions can kill a sales call. So what questions qualify as stupid? In today’s world with easy access to the internet and everyone having an online presence, you can get basic information about a prospect with 2 minutes of research. Prospects expect you to do at least that much so you don’t have to waste a lot of precious time on a sales call getting the basics. Your conversation (even the initial one) should demonstrate that you thought enough of the person to spend a few minutes to do basic research. I know it is conventional wisdom that “there is no such thing as a stupid question”. However, even intelligent questions asked at the wrong time and with the wrong tonality will appear to be aggressive to the prospect and that is not a good approach. Be respectful of the prospect by doing basic research (but not too much), don’t be arrogant, and converse either the prospect and you will not be perceived as asking stupid questions.