Category Archives: Best and Worst Sales Calls

Highlights of some of my most notable sales calls.

How to Keep Your Cool During a Heated Sales Call

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Just because someone is having a bad day, it doesn’t give them the right to take it out on you!

When you walk in to meet with a client, you have absolutely no idea what kind of day they may be having.  Heck, you might be having a terrible day yourself.  Regardless, sometimes sales calls can get quite heated and escalate to the point where you could lose the business if you don’t handle yourself properly.

If you have been in sales for any length of time, you most certainly have encountered a client who is rude, belittling and/or who outright criticizes your company, product/service or even you personally.  There are a multitude of reasons why a client may act this way and it could range from anything such as problems at home, difficulties with other employees, issues with a supplier, legal troubles or they just saw your primary competitor in the hours or days prior who planted seeds of doubt in their mind.  The fact of the matter is, you won’t really know unless they feel comfortable enough sharing this with you. If they don’t, don’t ask.  If you don’t have a very well established rapport, don’t meddle in their business.  Do what you came to do, sell your product or service.

So what happens when your client gets out of hand and says or does something unacceptable?

In order to make sure you keep your cool and maintain professionalism, do the following:

1. Know Your Product/Service Inside Out

knowledgableThis should go without saying but before you go into any sales call, be sure you are an expert on whatever it is you are selling. If you can’t remember everything, be sure to contain supporting data or documentation in your detail binder and have it ready for demonstration.  Be sure to know exactly where each article is located in your binder in order to avoid fumbling around, wasting unnecessary time and looking like an unprepared fool.  Being prepared will enable you to keep calm and address your clients’ comments and concerns directly and precisely.  If they catch you off guard and say or ask you something that you don’t know how to reply to or don’t know the answer to, simply acknowledge that you don’t know and will have to get back to them.  If they get more irate by that answer, then reschedule the follow-up meeting immediately in order to diffuse the situation.

2. Do NOT React.

woman-covering-mouthThink, THEN React. It’s only human nature to snap back and lash out at someone who acts out at us in a negative way but you must control this urge.  It will get you nowhere besides kicked out the door and never welcomed back.  Think about what it is exactly that your client said that you found offensive or untrue and ask them why they said what they did.  Are they misinformed? Remembering details incorrectly? If they don’t provide you with a straight up answer, do not react or engage further. You can try to joke with them but I urge extreme caution in doing so, especially if you don’t have a well-established relationship with that particular client because you have no idea how they will react. If you are unsure, opt to redirect the conversation back to what you are selling.

3. Keep Focused on Your Product/Service

business chartAlthough it might be difficult, try to keep focused on what you are selling.  This will reduce the likelihood of any further provocation or outbursts from your client.  It also removes any emotional stimuli from the interaction.

4. Find a Reason to Follow-up (Take a Break and Reschedule)

Reschedule Word Circled Day Date Calendar Delay Cancel AppointmeIn the event that you are unable to keep the meeting focused on your product or service, you should end the meeting and reschedule for a later date.  You can directly inform your client that based on how they are acting or feeling, that perhaps it would be best if you met another day the following week to discuss.  An indirect approach would be to inform you client that you will be able to bring something of greater value to the next meeting (create an excuse to have a follow-up meeting) and would like to make arrangements to do so.

5. Smile and Try to Make a Joke

woman telling a jokeIf you do this right off the get-go, it can go 1 of 2 ways: Either it will totally piss off your client or it will make them laugh and relieve their tension.  Regardless, it’s a gamble.  If you’ve already ended the meeting and rescheduled, that would probably be the safest time to make a joke but again, only do so if you are pretty darn sure how your client will react.

Whether you are in sales or any customer service type of role, it is only inevitable that you will encounter difficult customers and how you react (or don’t react) will determine whether or not you will keep those customers.

Growing up, I worked for my father who owned his own business. He had always told me , “The customer is always right.”.

When I was 16 working as a receptionist at an animal hospital, the head receptionist told me “Just because someone is having a bad day, don’t EVER let them take it out on you! There is no excuse.  If someone is rude to you, you have my permission to kick them out. No questions asked.”

I never forgot that advice.  It was empowering to be able to stand up for myself and not have to be treated like a doormat.  Nobody should be treated that way.

That being said, you can use all of the tips in this article to try and diffuse a situation with a difficult client but that isn’t possible all of the time.  In a previous post, I discussed “When to Fire a Client”.

So, happy sales my friends and just remember, you don’t ever need to take abuse from anyone.

Cheers,

TSW

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When Your Product Demo Goes Horribly Wrong:

Epic-Fail-newspaper-stack

My Epic Failures Selling Capital Equipment

Back in the day, I used to sell medical devices and I have to admit that I hated it.   The only thing I liked about it was the hefty commission but even that was just a one time deal.

For those of you who have ever sold capital equipment, you know how exciting it is to finally get the opportunity to do a product demonstration because if your demonstration is a success, it is highly likely you will be able to close on the spot.

If you’re like me and slightly neurotic (ok maybe highly neurotic), the night before you spend countless time testing the heck out of your equipment to make sure it is working properly so that your demonstration goes smoothly the following day.  But even if you do that, there is always a chance that something can go wrong and not only ruin your potential to make that sale, but possibly to even be welcomed back down the road.

Product demonstration day is a make it or break it day.

When I was selling blood analyzers, I had to look professional and carry the following into a clinic in a single trip:

  • Analyzer #1 (50lbs) which was on wheels and 2ftx2ftx2ft in dimension. I secretly referred to this as “The Big Prick” although I never shared that with anyone of course
  • Analyzer #2 and #3 (35lbs in total) in a bag that went over my shoulder
  • A detail binder

Most of the time, nobody helped me with the door either. I tell you, it surely wasn’t easy to get all of that in the door on your own and try not to break a sweat or the equipment (if it gets jammed in the door as you enter)!.

I always envied the pharmaceutical reps who sat in the clinic waiting room beside me who held a simple piece of paper or detail binder alone.  Lucky bastards, I thought.  This was a huge reason I decided to go into pharmaceutical sales! Then at least I could go back to wearing heels. You just can’t wear high heels when you’re carrying that much gear. I digress.

After sitting in the waiting room comes the second most nerve wracking part, setting up the equipmentYou have to do it fast to make sure it doesn’t look to complicated and correctly on the first go.  This may take a lot of practice.

Then comes the most nerve wracking part, the actual demonstration!

My Epic Failures in Product Demonstration:

Epic Fail #1:

cbc analyzerOne time I had set up all 3 pieces of equipment and “The Big Prick” decided to leak all over the place!!! (Pun not intended but realized post-script) And I’m not talking about a small drip, the fluids (reagent solution) were just flowing out of the bottom of the machine as soon as I turned it on to prime it Of course this was the precise moment when my client and all of her staff walked into the room and saw everything!  I tried to explain that a small tube must have gotten loose during transport, so I opened the machine up to try and identify the location of the leak and well, my client saw how many tiny little tubes were inside this device and decided that it was all too easy for something to go wrong and regardless of what I said, they were no longer interested.  I packed up and left. Next!

Epic Fail #2

BLOOD WORK RESULTSOn another occasion where I had set up the equipment correctly, the client wanted to run some test samples on the device.  Although it was calibrated beforehand, for some reason the results on my machine were all completely out of range.  They even ran the same sample using two other testing methods (outside lab and their existing equipment) and those matched. But unfortunately, my equipment was off.  Way off. Since our main selling feature was the accuracy of the machine, I lost that sale and was not welcomed back.

 

 

Epic Fail #3

dental sprayI also used to sell dental equipment, which included electrical scalers and compression-powered polishers. At a dental seminar we were sponsoring, another rep and I set up all of the devices on a side table and while the speaker was presenting, one of the machines suddenly would not stop spraying water out of the tip!  We tried to maintain our cool (mostly trying not to burst into laughter!) and avoid attracting any attention so we had to take turns holding this leaking piece behind our backs during the presentation and during breaks when the attendees were visiting our station to view our equipment.  Fortunately nobody noticed!  Sweat, sweat, sweat!

Those are just a few examples but these types of things happened on a regular basis. Although I must say that in defense of the equipment, I’m sure I wasn’t always handling it in the most delicate manner at all times which didn’t help *ahem* *ahem* but what rep does???

I struggled with the fact that even though I may have been a good salesperson, if the equipment you are selling doesn’t do what it is supposed to and align with your sales presentation then the odds of you making the sale are slim to nil. I’m sure there is room to be creative and try to win the buyer back but if I test drove a new car that was malfunctioning, I most certainly wouldn’t buy it.

In the end, I decided that capital equipment sales were not for me, but it sure was a learning experience!

If you have sold capital equipment, I would love to hear your product demonstration failure stories and what you did to overcome it.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

 

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When To Fire A Client

Whether you’re in sales or own your own business, making the decision to fire a client may be one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make in your career.  After all, you’ve worked so hard to get the business, so why throw it away?

Well, in some cases, you may actually be losing revenue by continuing to service certain clients.  Whether it is the actual time or the energy that you invest into an account, it all adds up.  Your time and effort are worth money. If you find yourself calculating how much time you’ve invested in an account and don’t see a proportional financial return on your investment in that client, it may time to cut them loose!

The best clients are those who bring in the most revenue with minimal effort and not vice versa.  Sure there are always circumstances where you initially have to invest a lot of time and effort to get a client on board , however you have to make the call as to whether or not it is worthwhile for you to continuing to focus on that client or move on to a potentially more lucrative opportunity.

So how do you decide when to put your foot down and decide when enough is enough?

You may opt to fire your client if they:

  1. Don’t Pay their Bills

Ever heard the notorious “The cheque is in the mail”? It’s almost laughable.  Once a client’s account gets seriously behind, you have to cut them off. If they really need your product or service, they will come up with the money.

Solution: The best thing to do in this scenario is to put their account on hold and try to arrange a payment schedule. If you have to call on them in person to collect, do it.   When their account is paid in full, begin to service them again but require that pay upfront or at the time of their order. In very rare circumstances, clients may completely avoid you and in that case you have no choice but to send them to collections.

  1. Ask or Expect You to Cross any Professional or Ethical Boundaries

This could take on a variety of shapes and forms. For example, any client who asks you to do something illegal, break your company policy, lie, cheat, steal, provide sexual favours or anything else unethical in exchange for a sale.

Solution: DON’T DO IT! WALK AWAY IMMEDIATELY! Then report their behavior to your direct supervisor and explain why you will no longer have anything to do with that account. If you are a business owner, simply inform them that you do not conduct business in that manner and they will have to do business elsewhere.  If you give into these requests it may seriously harm your business, your reputation and your company’s reputation.

  1. Complain Incessantly

Every one of you reading this has encountered this sort. No matter how perfect your product or service is, they will find something wrong with it and repeatedly so.  Sure everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but when there are no mistakes made and clients routinely fuss about every little thing time and time again, it may just not be worth the aggravation in dealing with these people.  They will never be happy.

Solution: If you’re totally fed up with them, you can try referring them to your competition however in my experience that doesn’t usually work.  In spite of how apparently disappointed they are with your product or service, they’d prefer to stick around and annoy you.  If that’s the case, just ignore their fussing. Don’t feed the monster.

  1. Use You

These type of clients will drain you of all of your knowledge and resources and push you to your limit because they know you want to make the sale.  It is difficult to identify these types of clients in the early stages because quite often a client will “test you” before they decide to do business with you.  This is perfectly normal and acceptable.  If someone is serious about engaging in a long term business relationship with you and your company, they should do their due diligence and see what you and your company are all about and what kind of service you can provide.  What is not acceptable is if this “testing” behavior persists over many sales calls and they don’t give you the business.

Solution: I call them on it and say outright “Every time I see you, I provide you with a wealth of product and industry knowledge but I know you still buy mostly from my competitor.”. They usually agree and then wonder why they do so. At that point I give them an ultimatum, “If you want the knowledge and you want me to keep coming back, you have to give me the business.  Otherwise, I’m never calling on you again because I will be focusing on other clients who will actually do business with me (who happen to be your competitors). Going forward you can ask my competitor to help you with your questions.” That usually solidifies the business 99% of the time. If it doesn’t, walk away.

  1. Take Advantage of Loopholes and Con You

Ever had a client buy a promo only to return part of it so that they can get a lower volume of product at the promo price and your company didn’t figure out how to deal with that loophole?  Or buy enough product to get free shipping only to return what they didn’t actually need but rather tacked on to their order so they don’t pay freight? Or try to get credit for the same item repeatedly? There are a million examples!

Solution: Since these types usually think they are quite clever, you have to call them on it and not allow them to get away with it again.  You’ll typically be greeted with a smirk and an “I’m better than you“ attitude.  Whatever it is they conned you out of, make sure you find a way to put it on their next invoice.  If they refuse to pay, refuse to offer them product or service. Some people you just have to play hardball with.

  1. Are in Bed With the Competition

Unbeknownst to you, you may end up meeting with a client who has very close ties with your competition.  By close ties I mean a business associate, investor, family member or perhaps someone who literally does share a bed with them, not simply someone who is loyal to a company.

Solution: Once you discover this STAY AWAY!  They will funnel all of your information directly to your competitor and give them an edge on you.  They won’t buy from you and if they do, it’s only to give your product to the competition.

  1. Waste Your Time

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between someone who has a very extensive decision making process  and who is legitimately interested in purchasing compared to someone who has nothing better to do and just wants to play games with you. Some people will even fake a deadline for when they have to purchase when they don’t have any intention of purchasing period.

Solution: Give them a deadline to purchase.  Let them know that after that date, you will be moving on and changing your focus to another product, service or clientele.  This will usually force the client to be upfront about their true intentions.

  1. Disrespect You

You may encounter a client who never listens to you because they know better. They may think they are superior to you in every way and do not respect you or your time.  These types of clients are likely to be a no-show for your meetings, repeatedly.

Solution: If this type of client behaves this way consistently and does not give you any business, move on.  I usually give it 5 attempts then move on to other prospects.  Why so many? You have to give people the benefit of the doubt.  They may be legitimately busy or preoccupied and you might not be calling on them at the best of times.  I will usually try again after 1 year. Sometimes if you wait a while and call on a business at a later time, you might get lucky and they have a new decision maker who might be easier to work with or they may have had a bad experience with your competitor and are more open to change.

I am fortunate that in my business, 99.9% of my customers are awesome to deal with!  I sincerely hope that you don’t face any of these scenarios in your professional career but if you do, make sure to stand your ground because, the customer is NOT always right.

Happy sales my friends and don’t ever do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.

Cheers,

TSW

 

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My Most Awkward and Embarrassing Sales Calls

Have you ever been on a sales call and thought to yourself, “Wow! That was awkward!”? Or “Seriously, did that just happen?!?” and wondered how you were going to redeem your professionalism?

Certainly we have all been there.  Every day on the road is a new day full of surprises: Some good, some bad and some that are just plain awkward. After all, we are all human and well, $%!# happens! These are some of my most awkward and embarrassing moments on the road.

  1. Intruder! Intruder! I’m Calling the Police!

bank robberSince I call on mobile doctors, almost half of my sales calls take place at their home office which is usually in a rural area.  One time, I had arrived at this doctors’ house before he arrived. I knocked on the door and there was no answer.  So went back into my car and proceeded to call him on his cell to see if he was going arrive soon but he did not answer.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, his wife was in the house and was in a complete panic.  She did not know I was coming and instead thought that I was some intruder who had been harassing her over the phone for the past few days.  She couldn’t see me in my car because I have tinted windows, so she assumed it was this “bad man”.  She frantically called her husband to say that she was calling the police because that “bad man” was at the house. Fortunately, she got ahold of him before she called the police and he told her that it was just little old me, the Travelling  Saleswoman who he was supposed to be meeting at the house.  He arrived shortly thereafter and informed me as to what was going on.  I met with him and his wife while she calmed down.  That sure made it hard to switch gears and focus on “selling”!

  1. Mixed Signals: The Handshake or The Kiss?

woman-rejecting-man-online-datingI had just finished a meeting with a client at a restaurant.  We walked outside into the parking lot and just as we were going to part our ways, I put my hand out for a handshake.  He went in for the handshake AND in for a face-plant of a kiss! Yikes!  I withdrew my head back so far that I lost my balance and because I was wearing heels on the icy pavement, I slipped backwards and fell flat on my ass.  I quickly got up and said goodbye and he scurried back to his vehicle.  How embarrassing! Needless to say, I never met with him again.  In my meetings that followed, I was asked about how I got my beautiful wool coat covered in salt and slush. I said I just slipped on the ice going back to my car. It wasn’t a total lie.

  1. Can You Drive Me To The Optometrist?

woman itchy eyesIt was a 3 hour drive to my first appointment of the day.  I was wearing contact lenses and my eyes were starting to feel very dry.  I had 5 minutes to spare so I stopped by a pharmacy and picked up some Visine (for red eyes), put the drops in and promptly hit the road again.  As I was driving, I noticed that my vision was slowly deteriorating.  Everything was getting really, really blurry.  I was getting quite worried but I knew that I was really close to the clinic so I continued on.  When I arrived at the clinic and met with my client, I could barely see.  I explained my situation to him and he told me (as if it was common knowledge) that Visine for red eyes is contraindicated with contact lenses because it can cause the lenses to melt on the cornea! I felt so embarrassed for not knowing that, especially because I have a background in pharmacology.  DUH!!! So I sucked up my pride and asked if someone could give me a ride to the nearest optometrist and fortunately he did.  Needless to say I didn’t do any “selling” on that call!

  1. The Jockey Swarm

horse jockeys

It was my first meeting with a veterinarian at a racetrack where I hadn’t been before.  I didn’t know exactly where the office was located in the backstretch, so I made sure to show up 10 minutes early.  In the backstretch, there must have been at least 50 jockeys.  I was immediately approached by several of them offering to help me find my way.  They led me all over the place saying things like “Oh, I think it’s right around the corner..”  and “I think he’s over here”.  They trotted me around like I was a horse getting ready to hit the track and we were going in circles.  I clearly stuck out like a sore thumb and felt as though I was walking through a boy’s locker room. Several of them came up to me asking “Are you the drug rep? Do you have samples???” to which I quickly replied, “No, I’m here to see the vet.  Where is the vets office?”.  After almost 15 minutes, one jockey FINALLY led me to the office which was literally steps away from where I had entered the main building.  DUH for me not noticing that!!!  At this point I was late for my meeting and had to explain that all of these jockeys led me astray.  I was a tad flustered by the time we actually sat down to do business!

  1. The Leg Wrestling Match Challenge

women_legwrestlingI was sitting in the waiting room of a clinic for an appointment with my client. The waiting room was quite busy and one of the doctor’s clients approached me and asked me who I was there to see.  I told her I had an appointment with Dr. D at 4pm. She threw her hands up into the air and said “Well, that’s too bad for you! I’ve been here all day and I am supposed to see Dr. D at 4pm!”, to which I replied, “This is Dr. D’s clinic, so she gets to decide who she sees first.”.  The lady didn’t like this answer so she says to me. “Screw that! How about we have a leg wrestling match and the winner gets to see her first?”.  I didn’t want to say anything too inappropriate. After all, I am a professional saleswoman right? But I couldn’t resist saying, “I’ve never had a leg wrestling match before, but lady, I’ve got really long legs so get prepared to lose!”.  At that point the doctor came out into the waiting room and said she would like to meet with me first.  I sure dodged that bullet! There definitely is a first time for everything!

  1. Countdown to Vomit Valley

HourglassAt a restaurant in YYC, I caught the Norwalk Virus.  By the time I arrived in Vancouver, I was getting quite ill. Fortunately the worst of it happened over the weekend so I didn’t have to cancel any of my appointments due to illness.  However when Monday came around I was still able to function in 1 hour bouts. It was like clockwork- precisely every hour almost on the dot, I would get sick. So I sucked it up and made it to all of my sales calls but forewarned my clients with, “Hi, I have the Norwalk virus so I won’t shake your hand.  I also only have exactly 30 minutes for our meeting because I will fall ill again and need to use the facilities in precisely 1 hour, so let’s get down to business!”  Such a lovely intro I know.  But I figured, I’d rather be honest and still be able to do my job.  My clients understood and it didn’t impact my business at all.  It just felt awkward to have to introduce myself along with the status of my gastrointestinal tract. Classy!

  1. The Match.com Déjà Vu

awkward faceAt one point I was regularly surfing Match.com.  For any of you who have ever used dating sites, you probably know that after a while you see the same faces over and over again.  So one day, I walk into a clinic where I had a meeting and I see a guy there who I’d seen several times on Match.com but who I never messaged. He had obviously recognized me as well since we both looked at each other and went “gulp”, as in “Oh God, please don’t say you saw me on Match.com!”. The doctor I was meeting with saw us exchange this awkward look in silence and asked bluntly, “Do you guys know each other?” to which we both quickly replied, “No, no”. At least my meeting wasn’t with him and he wasn’t a decision maker.  That would have been even more awkward!

  1. You’re Not My Rep, You’re the Service Tech

pink tool kitI had sold this clinic a piece of medical equipment.  Unfortunately, this device had so many problems and my company was unable to offer them a loaner or a repair service so I had no choice but to try and troubleshoot and fix it myself! As I mentioned previously, I have a pharmacology background, not one in engineering! However, using a little common sense, my little pink purse which held my tools and a voltmeter, I was able to fix it. I have to admit I was sweating profusely the entire time hoping I wasn’t going to break it!  But I didn’t.  I was quite proud of myself. The only lousy thing about it was whenever I had scheduled a sales call with the doctor, all of the staff just assumed I was the technical service rep and they took me away from the doctor to ask for help with the device! I tried time and time again to explain that I was actually the sales rep but all of that was to no avail.  I mean I always wore a suit- What tech service person shows up in a suit???? But to them, I was always, the service tech.*sigh*

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about my most awkward sales calls.  Fortunately I only have 8 in my 10 years on the road.  That’s not too shabby in my books.

I would love to hear from other sales reps about your awkward and embarrassing experiences on the road.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends and try to keep your cool, whatever happens.

 

TSW

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The Rumor Mill: How to Grind it to a Halt Before it Hurts Your Business

broken windmillWhether you are self-employed, in upper management or on the road as a sales rep, the last thing you probably want to hear is a rumor about your business, especially one that has the potential to negatively affect you and your company.

Most of the time, my clients will come to me directly when they first hear a rumor, be it good or bad.  Other times when for instance, I am on a sales call, if seemingly out of nowhere, my client starts to bombard me with questions about our industry and my company’s integrity, I know something serious may be going on.  If I have travelled from clinic to clinic to face the exact same questions over and over again, then I know for certain that I must investigate the matter further.  This typically happens when I’m trailing the route of a competing sales representative and for the most part, that is part of normal healthy competition.   However, sometimes that is not the case at all. It may very well be the beginning of a PR nightmare.

Rumors are a dime a dozen in my industry and I often feel that in any aspect in life, the more successful you are, the more prone you are to attack.

As some of you may be aware, I work for a small business. Although the bulk of my job is in a sales capacity, I am also responsible for all of the marketing, business development and public relations management for the company. This means that as soon as I catch wind of a potentially negative rumor that could affect my company and ultimately my sales, that I need to take that saleswoman hat off, and put my PR hat on.  I have to get down to the nitty gritty of it all and devise a plan to sort out all of the facts and relay the correct information to my clients ASAP before the rumor mill gets out of control.

I have to admit that public relations and “damage control” is the most challenging part of my job.  The reason being is that I take a lot of pride in my work and the company that I work for and I just can’t stand false accusations, especially when I have to take time away from selling to deal with them. I’ve been with my current employer for so long because of the ethical and upstanding way that the company does business and that is a huge reason for the company’s success.  Since its fruition, I have spent several years building and nurturing the business, so when false and threatening rumors start to mill about, I feel like I want to lash out like a Momma bear protecting her cub from a pack of wolves.

Angry-Bear-Grizzly

…But that wouldn’t be professional, so I digress.

In this article, I will discuss the different types of rumors, why they start and how to stop them from getting out of control and hurting your business.

Note: If you are a sales representative for a corporation and do not have decision making authority, I strongly recommend that you do NOT take matters into your own hands, but rather gather all of the facts you can and immediately report them to your sales manager. Only act under direction of your supervisor otherwise it may cost you your job.

INDIRECT RUMORS:

extraextraphoto

These rumors although not directly related your company, may have trickle-down effects that can affect your business. I have broken them down into two categories: Industry Related and Mistaken Identity

 

 

Industry Related

These rumors come about when a leading company within a specific industry has acted in a manner which has subsequently caused them or a particular product to receive negative publicity.  If such acts have caught the attention of national or even international media, this may instill fear in the consumer who does not use the company in question but does conduct business in the same industry. 

For example, several years ago one scientific study published results which claimed that people who supplemented with Vitamin E had higher mortality rates than those who did not.  Even though this study was very poorly done and was not conclusive, the media blew it out of proportion and broadcasted that “Vitamin E Kills”.  My father, who owns a nutrition store, saw a huge decrease in his Vitamin E sales as a result even though it had nothing to do with his business or a certain brand of product that he sold.

Unfortunately, in these cases the business owner or sales rep ends up on the defense, having to defend the legitimacy of the product or service they are selling.  In business, the best practice to overcome these random and potentially harmful rumors is to be proactive. Ensure that you are routinely keeping up with current events in your industry and regularly educating your clients so that they will trust and value your opinion rather than succumb to the latest gossip.

Mistaken Identity

These rumors most often involve a direct competitor and can be quite a nightmare to straighten out.  For instance, let’s say in a niche industry where you may have two main competitors who may even have very similar company names (i.e. ABC Corporation and ACME Corporation), if one of those companies were to be exposed for having done something illegal or unethical, the other companies may be “guilty by association”.  In these cases, clients may easily confuse which company is “the bad guy” sort-to-speak or just be reluctant to use any of those companies out of fear that they may all be conducting business in the same manner.

If this happens to your business, the best thing to do is to get in front of your customers either face-to-face or by means of intense advertising to remind them of your business and what sets you apart from your competition. Remind them of your excellent quality, service or whatever it may be. Keep your head up, keep it positive and act like you are unaffected.  Playing your cards right in this situation may end up increasing your sales, especially if you can take some of that business from your competition.

 

2. DIRECT RUMORS (Targeted)

Target

This is an unethical, malicious attack conducted by an individual or an organization intended to harm a business.  It is also illegal and violates many codes of professional practice.  Although these types of rumors are rare, they do happen. I have seen this behavior in sales representatives, business professionals, and even some companies who do this in a desperate attempt to “win” back their market share.  If you have ever considered doing this, don’t! The egg will wind up on your face.

I hate dealing with these cases because it is such an absolute waste of everybody’s time. If you fall victim to this childish behavior, just laugh it off and clarify the facts.  If you have a solid relationship with your clients, they will believe you.  If the accusation is a serious potential threat to your business, then you will need to devise a solid PR strategy and may need to obtain legal advice.

If you are faced with any of these types of rumors or perhaps one I haven’t mentioned, follow these general steps to stop the rumor mill before it gets out of control:

  1. Qualify the Rumor: Is it a legitimate threat to your business? If not, just laugh it off. If it could be, proceed to step 2
  2. Find The Facts: In speaking with the person who brought the rumor to your attention (and no one else), ask the 5W’S: WHO,WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. Document everything in detail. Do NOT provide your opinion or commentary prematurely as that could further harm your business.

Some examples of questions to ask could be:

WHO did they hear it from? Was it first hand? Or second hand? Make note of any names in case someone may be guilty of slander. Knowing how far off from the source your client heard the rumor could give you valuable insight into how far it has already spread and how much damage could have potentially been done.

WHAT exactly did they hear? Be as specific as possible. Was it something that was covered in the media recently? Was someone in particular saying bad things about you or your company?  Or is your client just worried about something in general?

WHERE did they hear this? Were they amongst other clients of yours?

WHEN did they hear it? If it was a long, long time ago, it likely isn’t relevant anymore. If it was recently, how recently? Rumors spread very quickly, so if you are the first person they talked to about it, you have a good chance at grinding that rumor mill to a halt before it gets going.

WHY did someone say the things they did? Did the person sharing these rumors with your client share them out of concern or ill intent?

  1. Decide on the Most Appropriate Medium(s) to Present the Facts:  This will depend on your specific type of business.  Will you create a press release? Or target specific clients? Will you discuss it face-to-face? Or simply via a letter or email?
  1. Bombard Your Clients with The Facts: You can use one type of media or several. Regardless, make sure that your clients are crystal clear about the situation at hand.
  1. Consult a Lawyer if Necessary. If you are dealing with an individual or corporation who may be slandering you or your company, you should obtain legal advice.

I hope that none of you have to deal with these types of scenarios in business, but if you do, I hope you keep this article as a handy reference and find these tips helpful in grinding that rumor mill to a halt!

Happy sales my friends and remember to keep your head up and be professional!

Cheers,

 

TSW

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How to Qualify Leads and Not Get Led Astray

Qualifying leads is probably the most difficult skill a salesperson must learn in their career.   It is particularly difficult to do if you are new in sales or new in your industry.  In order to properly qualify your leads, you must:

  1. ASK the right questions
  2. LISTEN to your customer
  3. BE CREATIVEwinternowhere

When I first started in sales, I made the mistake of blindly trusting anyone who suggested a lead to me.  I can’t fault myself for my naivety.  I mean, I was just an eager brand new sales rep.  So whether I got a lead from upper management or by word of mouth through a referral, I quickly learned that you just never really know until you ask your potential customer some crucial questions and qualify them yourself.

I will share with you an example of a time when I failed to do so, and ended up in a less than ideal situation.  My very first week on the road as a sales rep, I got led astray big time both literally and figuratively all because I didn’t know how to properly qualify my lead.

I was having a good meeting with a customer and she asked me “Are you planning on seeing Dr. X?”.

The name wasn’t familiar to me, so I thought that I must have missed that doctor in my database.  I replied, “No, is Dr. X in this city? I don’t recall seeing their name in my database.”

She informed me that “Oh, you must stop by and see Dr. X.  She would use all of the products you are selling and she is only a 10 minute drive away.”

To me that sounded like a win-win.  I had some time to kill before I had to go to the airport, so why not try and get some new business and get working on that hot lead?  After all, it was only 10 minutes away and it was a referral.

She proceeded to give me explicit directions and I was on my way.  I must note that these directions were to drive along this highway for 20Km, make a right at a landmark and the clinic was just around the corner.

As I was driving on this prairie highway in the dead of winter, I was watching the odometer and 20km came and went.  On this particular stretch of highway, there were no businesses, no side roads and certainly no exits.  On top of that, the driving conditions quickly deteriorated into a complete whiteout.  I was driving a sedan with no snow tires.  Rental cars never have snow tires.  The landmark that I was looking out for was a white horse.  Try finding that on a flat prairie highway in the middle of a whiteout!  I was starting to panic, especially since I had a flight to catch later that afternoon.  My panic worsened when I saw a sign for the next town: It was over 300km away! “How on earth do I turn around and get out of here?!?” .

Finally after driving almost 60km and almost having a full blown panic attack, I finally saw the white horse landmark she mentioned.  I was going to give her the benefit of the doubt thinking that  she accidentally told me the distance in miles instead of kilometers (1 mile = 2.2km) but I don’t think the average person could drive 20 miles in less than 10 minutes! .  So that was lie #1.  When I saw this landmark, I was most relieved to finally see a road that I could take to TURN AROUND and go back.  But instead of turning around, I figured that I had already gone this far and I’ve already passed the point of no return, so I drove on in pursuit of this “lead”.

After I make the turn, it’s another 5 minute drive until I find this clinic. Certainly not just around the corner! Lie #2.

Upon my arrival at the clinic, I greet the staff and get in to see the doctor. Lucky for a cold call! I mention Dr. Y recommended that I see her because she thought that she could use my products.

Well as it turned out, this doctor didn’t use any similar products and in discussing her practice in greater depth, I realized that there wasn’t even potential for her to use my products. Lie #3.

I was furious! Dr. Y. sent me all that way in a blizzard on a route that was 3x longer than what she told me and this doctor she referred me to didn’t even use anything remotely close to what I was selling.  She totally sent me on a wild goose chase.  I’m sure she was very amused.  I was so angry that if I didn’t have to make that flight, I would have gone back to her clinic to blow a gasket on her. Not very professional I know, but I got quite scared on that drive and I just couldn’t believe that a professional would lead me astray like that just for fun.    People lie to sales reps for a multitude of reasons but as you may have guessed, this particular individual just happened to be a tad more “off kilter” than the average person.

I later found out from other representatives who had called on this doctor, that she had been known to deliberately go out of her way to get reps into trouble.  For instance, a few reps who used to call on her informed me that she would actually lock the door in front of them when they showed up for an appointment and then she would call their sales manager and tell them that they never showed for the appointment.

Although this lady was an exceptionally bad seed and it is extremely rare that professionals would act in this type of manner, this story is a great example of why you should not just blindly accept and follow any lead you receive without properly qualifying it first.

What did I do wrong?

You guessed it, I didn’t qualify this lead.

What should I have done?

A simple phone call to the clinic in advance would have saved me a lot of time and grief.  Calling in advance of dropping in is not only a sign of respect for your potential future customer but also a great opportunity to qualify them as a potential buyer and decide if they are worthy of your time.

Some questions to help qualify your lead may be:

I hear your business does “X”, can you tell me a bit more about your business so I can see if there is a potential fit between what your company does and what our company has to offer?

Does your business currently use Product or Service X (a product or service that is similar to what you are selling)?

How often do you buy/use said product/service?

Who is normally involved in making the decisions to purchase this product/service?

When do you intend to purchase? It is essential to find out where they are in the buying process and is it a wish, a want or a need? This is very important.

If they don’t currently use a product or service similar to what you are selling, make sure to ask them more questions about the nature of their business to see if there is some way that they could find your product or service useful.   Be creative! Think outside of the box.  But sometimes, just like in my example, there may just not be a fit.

If you can manage to ask a few of these questions in an introductory phone call in order to ascertain if the lead is worthwhile pursuing, it will definitely pay off.  If they are worthwhile pursuing, great, go for it! If not, you just saved a lot of time and effort which you could otherwise be spending focusing on clients who will actually buy from you.

In summary, qualifying isn’t easy.  Sure you can learn some good probing questions in your sales/product training but until you really have a solid grasp of your industry, it isn’t always so intuitive.

Practice makes perfect and the more questions you ask, the more you learn.   

Happy Sales!

 

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The Travelling Saleswoman on SalesBabble.com

Travel and Sales Advice from the Travelling Saleswoman      (a SalesBabble.com Podcast)

h - Jaclyn Goldman-0021

Yours truly, The Travelling Saleswoman is honoured to have been a guest on SalesBabble.com, hosted by Patrick Helmers. In this interview I give travel and sales advice from a savvy travelling saleswoman’s perspective.  This website is an excellent resource for anyone starting out in sales or who is a small business owner.  I would highly recommend you take a moment to check it out.

In this interview, I offer tips on:

  • Selecting the best transportation to and from the airport
  • Getting the best value from your travel rewards program
  • Sales scenarios-What to do and what not to do
  • Challenges on the road and how to overcome them

To listen to the full interview and to learn how you can win an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Guest Pass, listen here or go to SalesBabble.com/46

 

 A Podcast by:

If you have any questions, comments or would like personalized advice, please either leave your comments below or email me directly at thetravellingsaleswoman@gmail.com

Happy sales and safe travels my friends!

Yours Truly,

TSW

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