How sales pros distance themselves from their competition
Poor salespeople are on the defensive today. They are reducing prices, giving away extras, allowing prospects to erode margins, and generally losing control of the sales process.
On the other hand professional salespeople are on the offensive. They are selling value not price, customer benefits not product features and they are creating positive long term relationships by honouring their commitments, providing incredible service and helping their customers reduce their costs while not sacrificing value.
In general these salespeople are putting more distance between themselves and their poorly trained, unmotivated and short-term thinking counterparts.
Surveys of thousands of salespeople have yielded interesting perspectives. It’s been found that there are at least twenty-four ways in which these pros are taking quantum leaps ahead of their competition. Here’s a summary of the twenty-four. (They’re in no particular order of importance.)
1.They have passion. They are more passionate about their opportunity to be of service, to learn, to improve their status and lifestyle. They are more passionate about their organisation’s products and services. They are passionate about developing their sales and human relationship skills. They are more passionate about life. They see life as an adventure not: same stuff, different day. They are passionate about solving their client’s problems. And they are passionate about learning everything they can about their customer’s business. They live with passion as an inside-out philosophy, not an outside-in process. There is a fire inside them, and you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice.
2. They go the extra mile. In an age where organisations are putting a great deal on salespeople’s plates to do: sell, market, service, administer, promote, solve problems and so on, it is no wonder that poor salespeople have less time to sell and learn. Successful salespeople promise a lot and deliver more. But, in order to accomplish this they, must manage their time, activities and resources with precision. Going the extra mile, means doing more for a customer than they expect, demand or pay for. It is doing all the little extras that communicate they care and that their clients business is important to them. This philosophy helps them build solid relationships that are not impervious to competition but are certainly resistant to the constant onslaught of poor salespeople selling lower price and making lots of empty promises.
3. They are a resource. Poor salespeople sell products, services, features, benefits, what’s available, the solutions to problems, price and any number of other specific or general commodities. The pros who put distance between themselves and their nearest competitors, sell themselves as a resource for their clients. Being a resource, they’re asked for their advice, counsel, and opinions on any number of related or unrelated issues. They bring creative ideas and information to their customers with regularity. Their clients look forward to their visits and telephone calls because they know they will bring value to them and not just the desire to sell another service or new product.
4. They are creative. It’s said by thousands of people every day, “there isn’t anything new.” These people are living either in fantasyland or on some isolated island, far from civilisation. Everyday there are thousands of new inventions, new technology, new approaches etc. etc. etc. Those salespeople who keep the business once they get it, know that they must maintain the vigil for new, creative, ideas, solutions, or information that can help their customers be more competitive and successful. In order to keep up with the tremendous flow of new ideas, they constantly seek out information and publications that keep them abreast of changes that might impact their clients or future clients.
5. They invest in themselves. The key to success in the coming years is personal growth. The pros that are out-distancing their nearest competitors, are doing it with improved skills, greater understanding, increased awareness and the integration of this information into their daily selling activity. Personal growth means many different things to different people. What we’re referring to here is the consistent pursuit of knowledge and wisdom (the use of knowledge) that will allow them to continue to compete and win in the marketplace of tomorrow. To devote yourself to a consistent path of self-improvement will take time, money, and commitment. But pros know that the payoff will far exceed the cost.
6. They are authentic and real. Vulnerability and humility are valuable traits. People who act their way through life must give constant energy to carrying out the facade of appearance. People who are real, focus on being. The pro is consistent in his/her behaviour, because it comes from a constant set of core values, beliefs and attitudes. They are comfortable with who they are, and are not looking for approval, acceptance or validation. In the truest sense, they are real. When you meet them you can see this in their actions and decisions. They live with an inner integrity. They are not trying to be anything or anyone else and they are inner, not outer directed.
7. They love what they are doing. People who live with inner acceptance, peace and harmony live life spontaneously. They spend their time in the now moments of their life. With this philosophy, they enjoy and live life to the fullest. In other words, they have fun. They are fun to be with. They don’t take life or themselves too seriously. They know that business is only a game. They win some and lose some, but in the losing there is growth and in the winning there is new opportunity. Their definition of winning is beating their own personal best, not beating other people.
8. They focus on service. Poor salespeople focus on what they get, pro’s focus on what the customer gets. Their sole purpose is to serve. And they know that in this service, they build a reputation and lifestyle that is a testimony to this philosophy. They believe that if the client ever loses or perceives that they have lost, they lose as well. Service to these salespeople is the foundation behind everything they do. Their financial success rests on being there first, being there last and being there when they are needed.
9. They cultivate support. Successful salespeople know that they can’t always get the answers their customers need, or solve their client’s problems without the support of other people, both inside and outside their organisation. They are the customer’s ambassadors inside their organisations. They build bridges of support with customer service reps, executives and anyone needed to help serve their customer in a satisfactory way. They are firm and unyielding, yet friendly and compassionate when dealing with other people. They build bridges of understanding and willingness.
10. They go to bed late and get up early. They work hard. They know that their customer’s needs, desires and problems are the centre of their reason for being in that relationship. They have heard about working smart, but they know it is not a substitute for effort. They don’t even consider what they do as work. They don’t follow the clock or the calendar. T hey love the holidays, all 365 of them. They love it all, even the parts they don’t really like. They have learned to love to do the things they don’t like to do.
11. They believe. They believe in themselves, their mission, their organisation, their products and services, their management and the free marketplace that permits them to help others while they help themselves. Their self-belief is a fibre that is woven into everything they do. They have high expectations of themselves, their organisation’s ability to perform and their clients willingness to give them business. They build strong relationships that, even though they may be tested from time to time, can withstand the miscommunications and errors that will inevitably be made.
12. They are focused. They know that it is critical to maintain focus. Every day, every activity, every sales call and every working moment they are aiming at a specific target. They believe that in order to be effective they must do one thing at a time. They will have multiple projects going on simultaneously, but they are only working on one moment by moment. They know the tremendous power of singleness of purpose.
13. They break the rules. Effective salespeople don’t follow conventional wisdom. They have learned that conventional wisdom is more often wrong than right. They push the edges in all areas of their life. They are never satisfied with the status quo. Their motto is, it can be better. I can be better. I can do it better.
14. They are everywhere. Exposure in today’s world is critical for success. These salespeople know that their customers are their competitor’s best prospects. They network, they collect business cards, and they attend meetings and seminars looking for new contacts that will contribute to their career. They appear to be everywhere. They don’t waste their time in useless ways but they target their exposure. They insure that each exposure keeps them on the right track. They are not looking to just add names to their database but to collect relationships that can aid their career.
15. They are Macro thinkers. They see the big picture. They know the details must be handled but their creative thought patterns focus on the macro issues. They don’t get bogged down in small petty, negative or small thinking. They pay attention to the terrain in front of them while at the same time seeing the mountain on the horizon. They are big dreamers. They know that they won’t always reach their goals on schedule but they always shoot further and higher than they or even the world thinks is possible. Their attitude is, why not. What have I got to lose? They focus on the ends not the means.
16. They study their clients business. They are walking encyclopaedias of information about their customers. They know their objectives, histories, goals, problems, frustrations, expectations, style of doing business, needs, dreams and their people. They are perceived by their customer’s employees, not as an adversary, but as one of them. They are on the lookout for methods, tools, ideas and information that they can bring to their clients to help them improve performance, success, income, market penetration, positive growth and longevity.
17. They study their competitors. They are not surprised when they don’t get business. They know the weaknesses as well as the strengths of their competition. They know their competitor’s philosophy, people, attitudes and vulnerabilities. They freely recommend another firm, if they believe it is in the best long-term interests of their prospect to do business with them. They know that when the prospect does business with a competitor they have recommended, they may have lost a sale, but they have not lost a potential client. And they understand the difference. They are playing the long game.
18. They keep in touch. Out of sight, out of mind. Successful salespeople, who put distance between themselves and their less successful counterparts, know the value of staying in touch with their clients. They do this in a variety of ways. By informing them regularly about new organisational policies or procedures, new products or services, success stories, market conditions in other industries that might impact on their customers and any number of bits of information that is of potential value to them. They do this with newsletters, faxes, letters, telephone calls, meetings and special forums. They do not waste their client’s time with useless approaches like; “I was in the area so I thought I would drop by”.
19. They are detectives. The pros spend the bulk of their time getting, not giving information. They know that client, competitor, and market information is power. They may not have an immediate use or need for all the information they get from these sources, but they know that some day, in some way the information they get will have value. They devour newsletters, trade periodicals, audio tapes, literature and generally anything they can get their hands on that gives them information that will have potential value.
20. They cultivate references. People like to buy from people they trust. It is impossible to know everyone that can have a positive influence on the outcome of a buying decision. Pros know that they need a stable full of satisfied clients or resources that will gladly provide positive references. They cultivate these sources. They know that even though they may not be able to get more business from them, that a positive endorsement, can be worth its weight in gold.
21. They ask for, and get referrals. The best source of new business is from present clients. When we say present, we mean anyone you’ve ever done business with. They may not be an active client, because at the present, time you may not be getting any business from them, but they are always present clients. It costs more energy, time, money, resources, stress and effort to get a new client, than it does to keep one. Pro’s work as hard to keep the business as they did to get it. Once they have a client they keep the relationship alive and positive, through service, attention and interest. They might not get more business from these clients, but they know that a qualified, referred new prospect from an active or previous client, is well worth the time and energy required to keep the client: aware of their business, interested in helping them and willing to give them names and help them qualify them.
22. They use a customer profile. It is impossible to see every possible prospect. Poor salespeople have the philosophy, “if they will see me, I will see them”. Pros know that some prospects are better prospects than others. They also know that every customer is also a prospect. The customer profile is a template. It is a system they use to determine who is the best-qualified prospect they can see now. Poor salespeople try to turn poor prospects into customers. The pros don’t have time for this kind of activity. They want to spend their limited selling time with only well qualified prospects.
23. They believe in win/win negotiation. In order for everyone to feel like they have won something in a negotiation, it is vital that the salesperson understand this critical concept in negotiation. Negotiation is never a substitute for effective selling. And it will never make up for poor selling skills. In win/win negotiation, everybody gets something they want or need. Poor salespeople sell or negotiate on price alone. The pros winning in the marketplace know that, although price is a concern to today’s buyer, it is not, in the long term, the most important issue. Poor salespeople are always on the defensive. Reducing price, giving away more than is necessary. Pros know that when you win with a dime, you will lose by a dime.
24. They keep accurate records. In order to chart a more effective course for the future, you need to know where you have been. You need to know precisely where you need to modify behaviour, improve skills or change approaches. Pros ask themselves regularly, “what is working, what isn’t working, and what did I used to do, that used to work that I have stopped doing?” They keep immaculate records on activity, results, errors, mistakes, successes and anything else they need to improve. Whether they use a journal, a spreadsheet or some type of call report, doesn’t matter. What matters is that they can bring their personal history into their present, therefore changing their future.
They “get it.” ‘Nuff said
There are many others, but I believe these are the core issues. The twenty-four concepts that are used by professional salespeople who are each day putting more and more distance between them and their closest rivals. How are you doing? Which areas need some attention, if you are to continue to compete successfully in the marketplace of tomorrow?
Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.
-John F. Kennedy
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