Category Archives: Sales Tips

Various tips to help you become the most effective salesperson you can be.

Cold Calling in a Foreign Language

language barrier

You Think Cold Calling is Tough? Try Doing it in a Foreign Language!

When I first stared at this job and began to grow the business across Canada, there was a huge gaping hole in my territory.  That gaping hole was the French-only speaking province of Quebec.  Two years into my position I came to the point where I couldn’t avoid it any longer.  I wanted to continue to grow my sales and I knew that market was untapped and full of opportunity.

Why did I avoid it for so long?

Because I don’t speak French! I had only ever taken basic French up until Grade 12 so I knew some of the basics but far from what I needed to know to try and conduct business.  The French knowledge that I did learn in school was pretty much useless because for some reason here in Canada, they teach you Parisian French but in Quebec they speak Quebecois French which is essentially another language.  I have met people who have moved to Quebec from France and they have told me that it took them almost 2 years to pick up the dialect.

NoIdeaWhatYoureTalkingAbout

So I did what I normally do when confronted with something I don’t like to do, tell myself, “Suck it up Princess!” and just do it!

So I came up with a plan:

1. Translate all Literature into French. I opted to do this as a sign of respect for their language and I’m glad I did because I later learned that in Quebec the government has a “Language Police” division that will fine companies who correspond with Quebec companies in English before French.

2. Write a Cold Calling Script Using Google Translate. The script I created was a general introduction which included:

  • My name, company name and my role (single sentence)
  • What my company does (single sentence)
  • Ask if I could send them information and for them to provide their contact details

3. Cold Call Using My Script in French and hope and pray that I could understand the contact details they gave me!!! If they said anything else, I was totally lost and couldn’t understand!

4. Mail or Email Literature. This was the easy part!

5. Follow-up Call – SKIPPEDYes I skipped the follow-up call because even if I could figure out how to ask the right questions, there was no way I could understand what they would say to me in response!

6. Schedule a Face-to-Face Meeting using a New Script In this script which I once again wrote with the assistance of my new best friend Google Translate, in which I:

  • Asked if they received the information I sent them. I could understand oui (yes) or non (no)- Yay me!
  • Mentioned that I will be meeting with other practitioners in their area on DAY X or DAY Y and if they would have time to meet with me. I wrote out all of the days of the week in English and French so I could have a quick reference at my side. I did happen to know my numbers in French so that helped with setting appointment times.
  • Confirmed the date and time of the meeting, hung up the phone and hoped for the best!

7. Show up for the Meeting and hope to God that I Understood Correctly!  Was I at the right place at the right time? Did I get a meeting with the decision maker? Hoping that the receptionists (who only spoke French) didn’t ask me any questions or try to initiate a conversation. Sweat, sweat, sweat!!! I tell you, a business card can go a long way when you can’t express yourself properly.  When the front desk staff would try to engage with me, all I could do was smile and say, “Parlez-vous Anglais?”. Usually that just ended with a “non” and we sat there awkwardly as I tried to keep my palms planted firm on my legs as to make sure my hands weren’t too sweaty when I went in for that handshake with my new potential client.

8. In the Meeting Hope that the Client Speaks Some English. Most of my clients in Quebec are also trained in English so as long as you put some effort in to speak French then politely ask to converse in English, they will be more than willing to try.  A lot of these conversations involved us sitting together using the Google Translate app on our cell phones in order to properly communicate! In some cases we would find one of their staff members who had an excellent command of both languages who would act as our translator.

What was The Biggest Obstacle I  had to Overcome? Pricing Objections!

For those of you who read my recent article “The Pricing Objection: What it Really Means and How to Overcome it” you will know that I always try to focus on creating value rather than focusing on price.  In this scenario, the language I would normally use to convey value was too complicated to be “dumbed down” sort to speak into basic English. So where did that leave me? Struggling with pricing objections.  All they wanted was price and when they saw that my prices were higher, we suddenly had nothing else to discuss, or rather could not carry on a conversation about anything else because of the language barrier.  Can you say awkward? 

At this point, I’d lost on price and was unable to convey value as I had always done, focusing on product quality and service.  So now what?

This is when it pays off to listen to your clients, even if you can’t fully understand them because as it turned out, there was something I could do to create value for them.

They were all asking me if we had anyone at the office who spoke French.  At the time, my company didn’t have anyone who spoke French but neither did my competitors.  So I made a call to my boss and asked him if he would be willing to hire someone who is bilingual if I get some business and he agreed.

9. Make a Deal- “If you give me 50% of your business, my company will bring on a French-speaking customer service representative.” And that did the trick. It got me into the province and from there I was able to come back and grow it into a very lucrative territory, with the help of our new bilingual customer service rep of course.

So I am sure most of you are thinking, “I will never be in this situation so it doesn’t apply to me.”, and sure you are right to some extent, however the take home message I have for all of you sales people out there is that if you want to succeed in sales:

  • Grow some balls, “Suck it up Princess” and get out there no matter how intimidated you are.
  • Always listen to your clients (even if you can’t really understand them!).
  • Be creative and think outside of the box, always striving to find solutions to your clients’ needs.

Happy sales my friends…and don’t be shy!

Cheers,

TSW

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The Price Objection: What it Really Means and How to Overcome it

Your price is too high!

In my 10 years’ experience as a B2B sales professional, I can say with confidence that any client who initially objects to your price and uses that as an excuse not to purchase your product or service simply brushing you off.

After all, saying “Your product is too expensive” is much more polite than saying “I don’t want to buy your product. Get out of my office!”

So what do you do?

For starters, do NOT be sucker and immediately drop your price.

suckers

If you simply sell based on price alone, you are an order taker. Sorry to break it to you but there is no ‘salesmanship” in giving your best price and taking an order. Any customer service agent on minimum wage answering a phone can do just that!

The most important “sales training” I have ever had is working for a company selling higher priced products at a non-negotiable price point.  Rather than focusing on price, I’m forced to focus on the quality and service that my company can deliver.  To properly relay that information and translate that into a sale, requires work and that my friends, is salesmanship.

Clients have to realize that they can’t have everything and by everything I mean the best product at the best price that is delivered with the best service.  At best, most companies can offer 2 out of the 3.

projectTriangle

 

Let’s walk through the process through a general scenario.

EXAMPLE SCENARIO:

 You’re in front of a client for the first time, introducing your company and product portfolio. You’ve established what products your client uses from your competitor and you proceed to inform them that you offer the same or a similar product/service.  Prematurely, your client interrupts you and asks you your price.  When you give them your price, they tell you what you already know, “You’re price is too high.”

There it is.  You could interpret this in one of two ways:

  1. They are right. I’m not getting this sale.  I can’t beat the price, so I better move on. 

OR

2.   Game on! Now the real selling begins!

I hope none of you sided with option 1.  If you did, you either need more training or should consider changing careers.

So, game on!

Here is What You Should Do to Overcome the Price Objection:

1. Be Firm: Don’t negotiate your price. Others pay full price, so why should this client be an exception? If you have other clients in the area that this client would happen to be competing with who happen to be using your product of focus, make that known. If those direct competitors of your client aren’t using your product yet, make it known that you will be calling on them afterwards,  All the more reason that “you” don’t really need the business as much as they think you do and therefore have no need to budge on price.  Reverse psychology can go a long way.

2. Elaborate: Focus on other features and benefits that your company can provide (i.e. better service, higher quality).

3. Be Creative. If you are in your clients’ environment, look around for clues that might give them reasons to use a product from your portfolio that they may never thought of using before. Sometimes I’ve been in a clinic and see a list of things they are looking for. Simply pointing that out and mentioning that I can offer one of those items has gotten me the sale many times.  On the other hand, if you are meeting outside of their working environment be sure to ask them more questions about their business while in the back of your mind searching for products or services you can offer them.  Once this dialogue is open, you’d be surprised at how open most people are.

4. Ask For the Sale: As you scan through all of the potential products your client could purchase and they demonstrate interest, be sure to ask for the sale.

5. Be Persistent: This is where I have the most fun. Once you’ve gotten them to order one product, why not ask for more? Laugh and have fun with it.  Your client knows that you are there to sell them something so they expect it. If they haven’t ordered anything yet, keep asking! I have no shame in asking for the sale multiple times in a single call. I think my record was asking for a sale 10 times in one call.  After striking out 9 times, when I asked the 10th time, I finally got the “Ok, you got the sale!”.  I realize full well that he may have done that to get me out of his office (another brush off, yes I know!), but regardless I did get the sale, was welcomed back and continue to get more business.

Always keep in mind that if you can get at least one of your products or services in the door, that leaves that door open for you to come back and acquire more business, so don’t give up at the slightest objection.

Experiment: If you are used to selling on price alone, for one day or one week conduct all of your sales calls as if you are not allowed to budge on price.  I would love to hear your results!

Happy sales my friends!

Cheers,

TSW

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Vacation? How to Really Unplug From Work and Check Into Vacation Mode

phone-in-sand

In theory this sounds easy to do, but if you’re in sales or own your own business it can be almost impossible.  If you’re like me, you worry that if you check-out from work that nobody else in your company will be able to handle your clients with the same quality of care that you do.

This is especially so because I’m guilty of checking my work emails and messages from the moment I wake up at 5:30am until just before I go to sleep at 10pm. Whether it’s the evening, the weekend or I’m off stick, I can’t help but attend to all my work-related calls, emails and text messages.  By doing this, my clients have an expectation that I am available at all times.

The primary reason I opted to make myself so available is because I manage clients across Canada.  I am based out of the east coast and almost half of my clients are on the west coast.  This means that when my head office is closed at 4pm, it is still 1pm, the middle of the work day, for a substantial portion of my clients.  Needless to say, I made myself available to them to secure the business and it was an excellent move.

This is all great until I need to take a break and go on vacation.  How does one take time off when work is constantly beckoning you at your side?

Similar to the electronic devices we use on a daily basis, we too need to rest and recharge. It is essential to our mental and physical health.  Taking a well-deserved break will enable you to come back to work refreshed and better able to tackle all of the challenges in front of you.

How can you “separate” yourself from work and not feel guilty? 

Keep in mind that everyone (your clients included) can understand the need to take a break. As long as you can get away without  their service being completely interrupted in your absence, go for it!  We are all deserve some sort of vacation, so don’t cheat yourself of that.

Follow the following steps:

  1. Make a Contact List for Your Clients to Contact in Your Absence

Compile a list of the basic elements of your job and assign a person in your company to handle those tasks in your absence.  Make sure to get their permission and your supervisor’s permission to delegate your tasks before you leave, otherwise you might land in some hot water with your co-workers.

  1. Set an Out-of-Office Email Reply

This is quite standard practice.  Be sure to include the exact dates that you will be unavailable and all of the contact information of your colleagues who will be able to assist your customers in your absence.  Upon my return to the office, I will send an email to all of my clients who emailed me while I was away in order to assure that their inquiries were taken care of.  This is important because I have noticed that almost 50% of my clients will wait for me to come back because they prefer to deal with me directly.

  1. Change Your Voicemail

Compile a temporary voicemail message which will relay the same details as your out-of-office reply.

  1. Give Your Clients a Head’s Up

Email: This is very important if you have clients that have grown accustomed to emailing you and assuming you have everything taken care of and don’t check their inbox for a reply.  If a client places an order in the morning and doesn’t see your out-of-office reply until later that day or the next day, their order may be substantially delayed and they will not likely be very happy.  Send them a quick email before you leave stating exactly when and how long you will be away and who they are to contact in your absence. Your clients will really appreciate this.

Text: Since there is no automatic out-of-office text message reply, be sure to text your clients who regularly text you before you leave to let them know you will not be receiving your messages.  I have no idea why there isn’t an app for this in this day in age. Whoever invents this will be a millionaire!

  1. Turn Off Your Phone and Get Off the Internet!

Yes, that’s right! Disconnect!

  1. Enjoy Your Vacation!

Today I’m heading off on vacation for one week. I’ve finished scrambling to get everything done before I leave, which often is more stressful than the average work week and I’ve completed all of the steps above and plan to enjoy my time off guilt-free.  I hope you do the same.

Safe travels my friends and don’t forget to charge your batteries every once in a while too.

 

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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Why B2B Sales is Really B2B2C: A Two Phase Sales Process

“Sell a man a product, and you’ve made a sale.  Teach a man how to sell your product to his customer and you have a business partner.”-TSW 

Man Holding Childs Hand

In my industry, which is the medical field, I often come across clients who have purchased products that they simply do not use (not mine of course!).  When I ask them about it, I get responses ranging from “Oh, I forgot about that!” to “Yeah, that machine cost me $100,000 and I can’t figure out how to use it.”

What a terrible position to be in!

So, how did they get there?

Surely, they must have thought that those products were wonderful at the time of purchase so what happened afterwards?

The problem is that all too often in Business to Business (B2B) sales, a representative sells a product or service to a business and then they move on to the next customer.  Sure, the representative has done his or her job of completing the B2B transaction, but just that alone.  When the rep stops here, they have ended the sales process prematurely.   You might argue, “But they made the sale?” And yes, you are correct, but only that.

By leaving the business to fend for themselves to figure out how to complete the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) sale and if that business does not have the knowledge and tools they require to sell that product to the consumer, the representative has failed.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well that’s not my problem! I have a quota to make and I don’t get paid to be a hand holder”.  Well actually you do, or rather you should. At absolute minimum, offer your assistance post-sale, otherwise you might as well be selling snake oil.

If you want continued business and a good reputation, you’d better be sure that your client is capable of relaying the features and benefits of your product or service to their customer.  Otherwise, that fancy piece of equipment or innovative new product will simply just sit on their shelf collecting dust and one day you’ll receive a phone call from them inquiring about your return policy.

Of course, not all clients are created equal and certainly not all of them require hand holding.  However, when you are making the sale, keep in mind that after the sale you should always do some sort of follow up, the degree of which will vary depending on your client.  For this reason, I believe that making a business to business sale, is a two phase process as follows:

Phase 1: B2B Sale

“Sell a Man a Product and You Have a Sale.”

This is the traditional sales process as everyone knows it.  Prospect, qualify, ask for the order and close the deal.  I will not elaborate on this phase in this article.

Phase 2: Imparting the Knowledge for the B2C Sale

“Teach a Man How to Sell Your Product to His Customer and You Have a Business Partner.”

After you make the sale, both you and your client are excited; You about making the sale and your client about receiving that fabulous new product.

You, the sales rep mistakenly assumes that your client remembers your entire sales pitch and is just as eager and capable as you to impart this knowledge onto their customer.

Before you get too carried away with excitement, consider the following:

  • Your client is a business owner or decision maker, not a sales representative
  • Time may elapse between when the sale is made and when the customer receives their product. It’s only human nature to forget. After all, we aren’t all information sponges!
  • The reasons WHY your client bought the product- Did they have an existing need or did you create a need for them? Will that “need” dissipate after you walk out the door?

What should you do to avoid buyer’s remorse?

Two words: FOLLOW UP!

  1. At the Time of the Sale: Even though you should know the answer, ASK your client how they plan on selling your product to their customer or rather how they will incorporate your product into their business model. This will give you an opportunity to listen to their version of your sales pitch.  What did they pick up on? What was most important to them? What did they forget?  Make sure to fill in all the gaps before you walk out that door and ensure that they know how to get in touch with you or your company’s customer service department should they require further assistance.
  1. When the Order is Received: Whether you personally deliver the product or if it was delivered by a courier, touch base with your client to ensure that the product was received in proper condition and ask them if they have any questions. If the product is complicated, they and their staff may require training not only on the use of the product itself, but also what they should say to their customer when recommending the product.
  1. Two to Four Weeks Post Delivery: Touch base with your client. I would recommend a follow up visit to make sure that your client has all of the information and tools they require. Some team members may need additional assistance or training. Or perhaps they may have lost or gained a key staff member who requires training.  Your client may  also have many additional questions about the product as they use it or simply need a refresher.  If all is going well, they might even be in a position to reorder or want to discuss what other products you might happen to have in your portfolio which is all the more reason for you to be there.
  1. Regular Visit: Back to the Sales Cycle: If you customer was pleased with their buying process, they will want to see you again and continue to do business with you.  They may even want to act as a referral!

If you want to maintain a successful career in sales, you never want to make your customer feel sold and abandoned.  It is your job as a sales rep not only to sell your product but to work with your customer in a mutually beneficial working relationship where both of you grow your business together.

Never forget to follow up!

Happy Sales!

TSW

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Do Men Make Better Sales Representatives?

 

Let’s face it ladies, how often do we say “No” to men on a daily, weekly or yearly basis? Regardless of the context, women are more often in the position to say “No” to men and to have that answer accepted without incident.

The reality is, we still live in a society where gender roles play a huge part in our day to day lives and whether we like to accept it or not, mmalevsfemaleen and women are not equal.  Men are much more likely to be the aggressor, the alpha, the initiator, the one to ask directly for what they want and not be afraid of hearing “No” as a response.  That being said, the more men ask, the more often they hear “No” and “Yes”.  If men were put off by every “No” that they heard, they certainly wouldn’t keep asking.  Basic psychology suggests that if there is a chance at even obtaining the slightest reward, one shall seek it repeatedly without extinction.

Women on the other hand, are used to being pursued by men.  Most women, and I am speaking generally here, are more frequently pursued by men than they do actively pursue men and thus are more often in a position to decline the advance than to face rejection themselves.

So how does this translate to sales?

Bottom line is, men are simply much more used to rejection because they face it more often than women do.

Men are used to asking and hearing “No”.

Women are used to being asked and saying “No”.

I’m sure some of you alpha female sales and business women like myself are reading this and thinking, “What are you talking about? If I want something, I go out and get it!”. Yes, that is what I do and yes, there are many women like myself out there who go out, get what they want and don’t fear rejection. After all, the only way to be successful in life is to take risks and do whatever it takes to get what you want and that always involves some sort of rejection or disappointment of some sort. Nothing in life is easy. You have to fight for everything. However, the majority of women are not alpha females, which is a relatively new concept in itself.

In sales, the primary reason that sales representatives are afraid to ask for the sale, is a simple fear of rejection

So, my question to you fellow sales and business professionals:  If men are so much more accustomed to rejection than women, does that qualify them as better sales reps than women?

Generally speaking, women are sensitive and emotional beings, much more so than their male counterparts.  If a woman asks for a sale, and is declined, is she that much more easily discouraged than a man?  And thus, less likely to ask for future sales in fear of facing that same rejection?

Furthermore, do women find it more difficult to live a life on the road than men? How many female truck drivers do you see on the road? How many business women do you see in the airport? Certainly less than men.

I remember I was once told by one of my male superiors that “You women need more time to relax and regroup than a man.” when I was asking for a day off after a long business trip.

When I heard that comment, I didn’t know how to take it.  On the one hand, I was slightly offended. Did he think I was some sort of princess because I wanted a day to relax after a long trip and get my home back in order?  But that got me thinking: “Would a man need that day off as well? Or would a man just jump right back into the office? If a man would just go right back to work with no time off, does that make a man a better road warrior than me? 

After seriously doubting myself, I came to the conclusion that “Thank goodness I’m not a man because otherwise, I probably  wouldn’t have gotten that day off!”. I believe that anyone who works hard enough needs a rest at some point, otherwise you simply burn out.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in a sexist society full of gender stereotypes.  In my opinion and theoretically speaking of course, men should be better at “asking for the sale” than women simply because they have more experience doing this starting at a very young age!

When it comes down to getting the sale, I believe it is all about your individual personality and the degree of persistence and ambition that you have as a sales rep. However your ability to accept rejection is something you must get a solid grasp on in order to be successful in sales.   Although men may have a head start in that regard, over time if you’re in sales long enough, regardless of your gender, you grow tough skin and learn to take rejection quite well.

And for life on the road, I think more men typically make this a career because even though they may have families, more often than not it is the woman who will stay home with the children.

For those of you reading this, I would love to hear your views on whether one gender or neither has an advantage over the other and to hear any stories you may have had encountering sexism or stereotypes in your career.

I look forward to hearing your feedback and discussing this with you all!

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 Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling

dos-and-dontsWhether you are just starting out in sales or you are a seasoned sales representative in your field, if you want to increase your customer base and your sales, cold calling is an absolute necessity.  Cold calling is an art which must be mastered in order for you to be successful in sales.

Most sales people dread the thought of cold calling.  I however am elated at the opportunity.  Why wouldn’t I be? It’s an opportunity to take on the challenge of gaining a new account, getting new sales, establishing more relationships and making more revenue! If you’re in sales and you don’t love getting a sale, you’re probably in the wrong field of work. 

Some “experts” say that “cold calling is dead” because we can all connect through social media first before proceeding to make a “warm call”.  Sure, in some cases this is true.  However if you discover a new potential customer who’s ad you saw online or who’s business you drove by and noticed for the first time, are you really going to go home and stalk them on the internet and waste an hour or more of your time Googling their company, looking them up on LinkedIn and seeing if you have any common connections before you send them an email? And what do you do if you don’t have any common connections?

In my opinion, I think that anyone who preaches and practices this is simply  just too chicken &*%$ to pick up the phone and actually do a cold call.  

In Canada, it is also illegal to email any business or individual without their explicit consent.  Our anti-spam legislation here is so strict that if let’s say you look up a potential customer’s email address on their website, send them an introductory email about you and your company, you could personally face a fine of $1 Million and your company could face a fine of up to $10 Million.

So what should you do? That’s right, pick up the phone and make that cold call!  I know you hate to, but when I first started out in sales and was dreading it, I always told myself “Suck it Up Princess!” and that seemed to do the trick.  After all, you have nothing to lose.

If you make the call, you might get a sale (and possibly repeat sales).

If you don’t make the call, you certainly won’t get the sale.

Okay, so you’re ready to make that cold call. Now what do you say?  This is what you should and should not do on a cold call:

DO:

  • Warmly introduce yourself and the company you are calling from
  • Ask the person answering the phone nicely how they are doing and make note of their name.  Keep record of their name.  They may be a decision maker or you can reference their name later when you make that follow-up call or visit.
  • Tell them very briefly (single sentence ) what your company does and how you found about them
  • Ask them if they are currently using any similar product/services your company provides.  At this point, if the person answering the phone is capable of answering your questions regardless of the answer, ask to make an appointment with them AND /or the other person in charge of making decisions in this area.  If they do not know, THEN ask who might be the person in charge of making decisions and if you can speak with them.  If you offer to include the person to whom you have made your initial contact in your meeting request, it is a sign of respect and even if they are not involved in the decision making process, they will more than likely gladly point you in the right direction.
  • Be nice to everyone.  You are not familiar with the company hierarchy and if you want to get to the decision maker and want to establish a long working relationship with a new potential customer, you should be kind and thoughtful to everyone you interact with.

DON’TS

NEVER, I repeat NEVER just call and immediately ask to speak to the “Manager” or “Person in Charge”!!  I cannot emphasize this enough.  You NEVER know who is answering the phone.  The person answering the phone may be the owner of the company, it may be their spouse or their star employee. If you assume the person answering the phone is just a means-to-and-end-answering-service, they will very likely HANG UP ON YOU and deservedly so. That kind of attitude immediately spells to the person answering the phone that they are inadequate and not worth your time. So why should they help you? That’s right, they shouldn’t.  I certainly wouldn’t.

So the next time you’re tempted to run and hide behind your computer screen instead of making that dreaded cold call, suck it up Princess, pick up that phone and be your lovely self.  The sales will come.

Happy Sales!

TSW

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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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The Early Bird Gets the Sale

 

Are you in sales and experiencing difficulty pinning a client down for a meeting?  Or have you arranged a meeting with a client only for them to cancel on you last minute?

sunrise_road

Having been in sales for 10 years now, I have heard it all.  Sure sometimes your client may legitimately be too busy or have had some sort of emergency arise and they are unable to meet with you, but what do you do when you feel like your client is constantly dodging you?

Do you keep trying to get that 10am appointment only to show up and have them cancel on you last minute and waste your valuable time?

Do you ask them out to lunch and risk that their day gets too busy and they can’t escape the office? Or even worse, they invite their entire staff along and are too busy socializing amongst themselves to gain any value from your meeting!

Remember, your time is valuable too! You are in sales and time is money.  Don’t waste time scheduling appointments that are inevitably going to fall though.  Presumably you are selling a product or service that can be of value to your client.  You just need that perfect time to sit down with your client and have a mutually beneficial meeting.

How do you find that perfect time for a meeting?

Arrange a Breakfast Meeting

This is the perfect solution to dealing with a dodgy client.  Breakfast meetings are ideal for a number of reasons:

  1. No excuses! Everybody has to eat and what better way to start the day than with a great breakfast? The best part is, it won’t infringe on their busy schedule.
  2. Mutual Respect: Most people eat breakfast before going to work, so if you arrange a breakfast meeting before their regular work day you are also showing them that you value and respect their busy schedule and they will respect you in return.
  3. No distractions: It’s first thing in the morning and the day has just begun. Your client likely hasn’t gone to their office yet and thus, hasn’t had the opportunity to get distracted before your meeting.  You will likely have their undivided attention.
  4. Cereal Position Effect: Ok it’s actually called SERIAL position effect, but since I am on the topic of breakfast I thought that pun was appropriate. The serial position effect is a psychological term used to describe a human tendency to best recall the first and last items on a list.  If you apply this principle to the meetings you schedule throughout the day, you and your client will likely recall more from your meeting if you are the first or last meeting of the day.  Breakfast meetings have an advantage over dinner meetings because both of you are awake and ready to tackle the day.  Dinner meetings on the other hand, may be less productive as you may both be tired and distracted after a long day’s work.  Furthermore if alcohol is consumed during that meeting, your client will likely retain less information.
  5. Breakfast is cheap, short and sweet! At most restaurants breakfast will cost less than $10 per person, take less than an hour and provide the fuel you need to have a fabulous day! This should give you plenty of valuable face-to-face time with your client.  Just don’t forget to ask for the sale when you pick up that tab!

I’m sure most of you are thinking, “Ugh, that would mean I have to get up so much earlier!”.

Yes, yes it does my friends.  But I assure you, it will be worth it.  If it seems too tough to get up that early, then finish your meetings earlier.  For instance if you have a 7am breakfast meeting and your last appointment of the day is at 2 or 3pm, you’ve put in a full day.

My territory is so large that often when I have a breakfast meeting at 7am, that meeting may be a 2.5 hour drive from home or my hotel base.  I tell, you that is an early start!

When you are on the road that early, there are well, let’s say , many ‘oddballs’ out there.  That being said, stay tuned for Part 2 of this article: The Early Bird Meets the Boogeyman.

That’s right, I said the boogeyman.

Safe Travels my friends!

The Travelling Saleswoman

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