Who has time to build business relationships today?

[tweetmeme only_single=false] Companies today are  pressuring sales people to get the business NOW.  With this economy, who can blame them?  Having the time to build trust and relationships is key for solid business to happen and repeat business to be generated.  I became a fan of relationship selling a long time ago and it never failed me.  Even in hard times.  The trick is to have a balance;  hustle all day and save time to build relationships with these key customers that will pay in the long run.

A telling moment for me was when I was selling to a school board in the province of Quebec.  The account had not upgraded in 10 years and albeit a nice gentleman, the person that was recommending was very uptight everytime we sat down in his office.  I made him a promise on the 3rd visit.  I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me.  I would stop by every 2 weeks, for an hour, without a briefcase, only so that we would get to know each other.  I vowed on not trying to sell anything for one year.  He agreed.  Then, he opened the left bottom drawer and pulled of a Xerox Sales Training binder.  He said to me – “You are trained to sell  – I am not trained to buy from you”.  There we had it, he recognized that I was armed better than he was.  I stood up to my word.  A year later, we renewed the whole fleet that hadn’t moved in 10 years and as he was signing the paperwork, it was a Friday afternoon,  he opened the same drawer, gave me the training manual to take away, and while in the same drawer, pulled out a bottle and 2 glasses.  We took a shot together.

To date, this remains one of my best sale from a win win perspective.  Claude felt great, I felt great and the transaction was built on trust because the organization gave me the time to execute, the training to execute and the lattitude to drive the account on my own.  These are all things that are difficult to find in today’s sales management approach.

I am not saying that I am the best salesman there is.  I might think it, but I am not saying it.  I am saying however, that all along the career of a sales person, there needs to be a set of checks and balances that would make clients feel more comfortable with whom they’re dealing with.  A good dose of patience will go a long way in sales management.  Identify your stars, show them how to get revenue quickly and coach them on building long lasting relationships.  There is no shortcuts – relationship building takes time!

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Words that don’t sell…

Forget the buzz words, the slick over-used terminology.  Sometimes, past the cool acronyms, salespeople with good[tweetmeme only_single=false] intentions will say things, yet the customer will hear very differently.  Over the last 22 years, I have been on thousands of sales calls.  At all levels.  What I always found fascinating was the language that some of my reps would be using in describing the service or product we were selling.  When you hire experienced sales people that have been trained by other organizations, you don’t get to actually mould their skills to the “nth” level.  You buy a package, and in that package, there are pieces that might be – say – more annoying than others.  Words used in a sales call or demonstration were always among other things, one of my focus.

The best examples are found with online demonstrations with recorded audio.  There is a pletoria of words that have no value to the clients, words that I made sure were eradicated from presentations with my sales team.  Here are a few examples:

“This is a NICE feature” –     Nice means unnecessary, and as a client, I don’t want to pay for it.  Tell me it is key and why.

“This is why I like it” – Hmm..no offense, tell me why YOUR CLIENTS like it….tell me a story of how it is being used by other clients.

“I am happy that it happens actually”…When talking about a product malfunction during a demo…this is the sleaziest signal….of course you’re not happy, but you are telling your client that you will lie in order to get a deal.  Great way to start a business relationship.

“This is actually our last one” ….Really?  Am I that lucky to buy the last one or is this an old product?

“Trust me on this“…..  Why do you have to say it?  Should I have any doubts?

There are so many examples of what not to say to your clients.  You can get the same message across, you can create urgency, just think as a client before you speak.  What matters to you – the sales person – might not matter so much to your audience.

Is it Quarter End Yet?

I remember one day, leaving the office to grab a quick bite and with tension present in my face, a software developer that was walking out with me asked “why the rush”?  “Oh, nothing, quarter end, that’s all…..”.  He looked at me and said – “Quarter end?  What’s that?”.   While that statement highlighteded a lack in communication across functions in our small organization of 200, it did force me to pause.  [tweetmeme only_single=false]

What is so magic about quarter end?   Why can we to some extent, condition our clients to make a decision by a timeline that we define?  Forget the discounts that will happen, the frustration on some clients that were never ready to close and should have not been pushed to begin with.  What is it that make it so special that it can motivate an entire sales team with a timeline to produce.  Can’t it be Quarter End Every Day?

You can always use the Dilbert Closing Statement at Quarter End

Motivating Sales People Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

Sales people, for the most part, are competitive by nature.  Organizing a contest for a specific purpose, doesn’t always have to include a trip to Belize or a new BMW.  If there is one thing to be won, whatever that is, sometimes, with the right team at the right time, that is enough.[tweetmeme only_single=false]

Make it special.  Make it unique.  Make a big fuss about it.  Reps will get fired up and want to be the one to win the prize.  I used to say that if there is only one blue pen in the office, run a contest with sales.  They will all fight for the blue pen because it is the only one.  Pride still exists in the sales community.  Dollars motivate in a different manner,  but along the way, during the year, a short term contest with a unique prize will provide the spark needed to close a month.

To make my point, a long long time ago(say 1991), the company I worked for ran a contest where the first 10 reps in the district to replace a competitive product will win a prize.  There were 108 reps in the district.  I wanted the blue pencil – I have always been one of those.  The prize, to replace a competitive colour copier, was a piece of “history”.  Inside a glass case was a piece of a motherboard from the first competitive unit we had knocked out as a company.  I remembered that because I found it on my 4 year old daughter’s shelf.  She thought it was “nice looking”.  Now, sales managers, find the blue pencil, run that contest and let your team’s competitive side emerge!

Glass Case Containing the Motherboard of a Competitve Replacement

Glass Case Containing the Motherboard of a Competitive Replacement - The blue pencil of the story

What your sales closing technique says about you….

Are you one that needs to put the client in a vice at quarter end?

I have probably tried all the techniques.  When I was  evaluating sales talent at the Xerox Document University,[tweetmeme only_single=false]we taught all those techniques.  The Ben Franklin close, the Assumptive close, the Conditional Close, the Puppy Dog and others – we were training our sales reps on how to get over the last hurdle and get the deal done.  And if you couldn’t close during your 3 weeks of University training that were preceeded for most by 12 weeks of in-district training – you’d be leaving with a grade of “not territory ready”.

Forget that you would be the best at discovering needs that the clients were unaware of,  or that you’d be the best at presenting the alternatives to the painful painful situation that these clients were in – if you couldn’t close, you couldn’t be ready for a territory.

20 years later, many 1000’s calls later and million dollars of order, one thing is still true.  Your closing technique will tell a lot about who you are.  Actually, today, if you still use a closing technique, whichever it is, tells even more than your style itself.

Over time, obviously, the client has evolved, become more educated and is more aware of the dynamics in thesales process.  While the sellingorganization is trying to aim everything to line up with their timeline, their quarter end, the client has a buying process that is quite sophisticated.  They have their own check boxes.  They have their own people that they will inject in the process.  And they have their timelines.  If you want to move those timelines, it will cost you- greatly.

Front loading the sales process is paramount in today’s world.  You need to understand what problems you are solving.  You need to understand who will benefit from your solution and how will those benefits translate for the organization and its key players.  You need to understand where the money is and how and when those funds will be allocated.  Most of all, you need to build relationships and mature those relationships as the sales process evolves.

If you have a solid business case all along, if you have real business relationships with people making the decision, if you are solving a problem that they want to solve, here is the real truth behind closing techniques.  YOU WON’T NEED ANY!!!

Closing techniques are sales tactics that are there to push the client to forgive or forget, a shortcoming in the sales process.  Period.  Otherwise, the client will tell you that they are ready to buy.

Golf Tees, Dog clipper and Armor All

I am always impressed and – let’s be honest – very happy when I need to visit Canadian Tire.  In one visit the other day, I went in, spent 15 minutes, grabbed three items that were most unrelated, and left.  If this was a start up business, it would fail or be expected to fail right away.  This is not what one can consider….focused.  Now let’s be honest, from their corporate website but also from the name, it is easy to know that when it all started, Canadian Tire was selling – well – tires!

Imagine that…one of the most diversified stores in the country, was extremely focused when it started.   The diversification happens when you are successfull at doing what you do best.  You don’t start with “being everything to everybody”….the same goes with any companies.

It is a good lesson for entrepreneurs as well.   People in the biz call this “trying to boil the ocean”.  Be focused.  Take something you are good at, develop it and work hard at it.

This is what we are trying to do as well.  More to follow on that story….but now that the dog looks good and my wheels are shiny, time to head to the golf course!

Local wine blogger finalist for

Local wine blogger finalist for ‘A Really Goode Job’ (and some serious $$$)

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