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KnightEnder
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Ornery U: Sales Strategy (Solution Selling. Based on the IBM Sales Model. Soft Sell)

The Key to Solution Selling is Asking Questions.

Find out what is important to the customer. (A Purchasing Agents main concern will probably be price. An operators will probably be quality and ease of maintenance, etc.
Once you've answered all their questions and shown them how you and your product can solve their problems they practically have to buy. And don't forget to mention that if they buy in bulk or agree to guarantee to buy so many 'widgets' over a certain amount of time you can give them a substantial discount. And never lie (I know you wouldn't. But don't even fib.) If you don't know the answer to a question say: "I don't know the answer to that right now, but I promise you I'll find out and get back to you." And get back to them no matter what.

A) Know your product.

B) Know your competition.

C) Know your customer. (As well as possible. If you can find any problems he's having with the product he's using now you have a big advantage.)

D) Know your selling points: Quality, price, performance, doing business with you, delivery time.

E) Be Confident. Dress Sharp. Look the customer in the eye. Sound confident. Use their name. Not pushy but confident. (Don't worry this will come with time. And the customer is used to dealing with salesmen. Most of the time that is his/her job.)

F) Know 'who' in the company you should be talking to. Purchasing agent, President, VP, field hand, whoever. This is where a lot of phone work comes in handy.

G) Don't contradict the customer. You are never going to know his business better than he does, and if you do you're just going to upset him.

H) If you run into a customer that just won't budge, don't try to go through him, go around him.

I) Keep detailed records so you know who you talked to and what was said. (It gets confusing after a hundred calls or so. Keep records of their families. What their kids do. Do they fish, hunt, golf, etc. (You can usually learn a lot by the pictures and memorabilia on the walls) The chit chat is important but keep it to five minutes or so. You don't want to take up too much of their time. Their time is valuable, and so is yours.

J) Take notes while you are talking to the customer so you don't forget anything and so he thinks you value his every word.

K) Ask the customer for help. People love to help. Play the "I'm new card." (I've been doing this twenty years and I still do this.) "Listen, I'm really new to this product line and any advice you could give me on who I should talk to and what will be important to them would really help me out." People are a lot nicer than you'd expect. When I first started I kept waiting for someone to throw me out of their office or be mean to me, and in all the time I've been selling it's never happened.

L) I also like to use the "Assumed Sale". After you've answered all their questions say: "So, how many 'widgets' should I put you down for?" If they say "Whoa", then you need to go back to asking questions: "I'm sorry. Was there something I left out or didn't explain to your satisfaction?" (Of course using your own speaking style. Don't sound like a robot. Be friendly.)

M) Another vitally important tip is ABC: Always Be Closing. If at anytime you feel the customer is ready to buy immediately ask for the sale.

N) A classic blunder many salesmen make is they 'buy back their product'. If the customer is ready to purchase; Ask for the sale and SHUT UP. Don't keep selling once you've got the sell. You'd be surprised how often this happens. They just can't help themselves from showing how smart they are. And then they mention something that nixes the sale. Don't do that. If he gives you a buying signal; "So, how much and when can I get it?" Shut up and go into Closing mode.

As I said the number 1 thing to remember in Solution Selling is to 'ask questions' and 'listen' to the answer. (The listening is the hardest part for me. I tend to want to talk. [Smile] )

Example: "Mr. X when you are considering purchasing a 'widget' what is the most important thing you look for?"

He might answer: Quality. Delivery time. Service. Price. Performance. And no matter what he answers you need to be ready to explain to him how you or your product meets that need.

"I'm glad you brought that up. Our widget can save you money and out perform any other widget on the market today."

Lots of times you are selling yourself. (The advantage of doing business with someone that cares about his account and will always be there for him. Returning calls when you say you will etc.) And it is always good to send a thank you note or email; thanking him for taking the time to see you and expressing that you look forward to meeting with him again, or if you got the sale, that you look forward to doing business with him.

It's ten times easier to "keep" business than it is to "get" business. So, once you get it you have to work extra hard to keep it. That means if you are going to be behind on a delivery; call the customer and explain why. Customers are understanding, most of the time, if you communicate with them. Integrity is everything.

And once you've asked the question and he's answered it you tell him how you and your product can fulfill that need ask him for the sale. If he says no or he's not sure. THEN you ask "Is there anything else you look for?" And repeat the process. Once you've asked all the questions and given him all the reasons that he should by from you he really doesn't have much choice but to give you a chance. It's best to get a contract, but if he is reticent then just get him to give you a try on a temporary basis. And then bust your butt to show him what a great job you will do for him.

And ALWAYS at the end of every call ask "Is there anyone else that you think would benefit from my product." It is invaluable to be able to walk into a potential customers office and say "Joe Smith said I should come by and see you. He thinks we can help each other out."

I can't stress it enough. Remember before you leave ask: "Do you know anyone else I should talk to about this product? I'd really appreciate it. Is it alright that I tell him you sent me?" Do that and you've got a brand new lead and potential customer. Plus, it makes you and the customer you just called on a team. You get him invested in your success.

Leave him with: "I'll let you know how WE DO with Joe Smith." And then call him and let him know how it went. If not so good, maybe he can make a call and help. If it went well then he shares in the victory and pride and you've got a partner on the inside.

Even if you don't get the sale, don't forget the "Thank You" note. Lots of sales don't close until the third or fourth call, so it's important to make a good first impression. (Showing up early (15 minutes), dressed sharp, with all your samples, catalogs, pens and notebook goes without saying.)


I just jotted this down off the top of my head and I'll probably add to it later. It would be nice if the 15 minute rule was off for this part of the forum. And if any of you feel comfortable telling me what you will be selling I will be happy to tailor a sales strategy specifically for you and your product. But, people buy from people, and you are good people, so I don't think you'll have much trouble no matter what you are selling.

Hope that helps (and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask),

KE

[ April 30, 2008, 11:08 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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OceanRunner
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quote:
Know 'who' in the company you should be talking to. Purchasing agent, President, VP, field hand, whoever. This is where a lot of phone work comes in handy.
Hmm, how do you get to the 'who'? Do you call your best-guess and ask if they can help you or if there's someone else who can, or do you try and call a secretary or something first to find out who makes the decisions?

And thanks, KE. I might not be selling anything at the moment, but, well... everyone is selling something. [Smile]

How do you recommend improving sales skills? Are there books you'd suggest reading, and do you think it would be valuable to try and take a sales job, not to be my real job, but to gain experience in salesmanship?

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OceanRunner
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Oh - to explain my interest. I'm working on a few things in terms of starting my own business up when I get home. This is what I'm interested in doing:
-Freelance Copywriting (primarily outsourced from large companies, ideally)
-Property management (I want to own my own apartment building(s))

Both will require selling skills, I think.

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scifibum
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One of the things that makes me sure I wouldn't enjoy sales is that I think it would be really hard for me to honestly claim that my product was the "best" option. How do you handle this? Do you choose to work for the company that has the best product, or do you kind of talk yourself into believing it's the best? Or are you able to find customers for which the product really is the best option, even if it's not the best for every customer?

Related question: How much of the value of your product exists in your relationship with the customer?

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kenmeer livermaile
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I've done just a fraction of the sales work, KE has, and almost all of that was over the phone. But I can certainly echo and reinforce some of his main themes:

Say little but ask lots.

Don't show your hand by saying 'and that's why you should/this/et cetera'. Instead, explain why, objectively. Let the prospect do the thinking; you connect the dots.

In 'selling yourself', you are mostly selling unobtrusiveness, not your magnificent personality. You are only the messenger, not the message. Once you get your ego out of the way, and replace it with simple *purpose*, you're halfway there.
(This rather addresses scifibum's question about selling the 'best'. Rarely is anything the 'best'. When it IS the best, one of the hardest things to do is to convey that believably on the face of it. What most buyers want is someone credible presenting a reasonable offering at a reasonable price with minimal hoops to jump through, 'hoops' meaning in most cases what we call service. Buyer wants to know his decision is not a catastrophe and that he purchased something a little better than average overall: he wants to score at least a C-plus without the effort and risk of reaching for A+. Buyer usually wouldn't know what the 'best' is anymore than you the salesman. By the time you the salesman does, you can go work for that best if you've proven adept at successfully selling average-plus.)

"Related question: How much of the value of your product exists in your relationship with the customer?"

Certainly this is not a constant, but I would venture it's an average 50%-plus. If it's too high a %, you're an awesome PR person selling crap. If it's too low, you'd better be selling the best.

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KnightEnder
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OR,

You start anywhere. Call their public relations department. Sometimes I call somebody I know can't help me act like I got the wrong person and ask them who I should be talking to. People want to help. Or yes, call the secretary and ask who he/she thinks you should talk to. Many times this is the hardest part of the job, but once you get started you'll get the hang of it. Just be persistent. ("The Greatest Salesman in the World" is pretty much the Bible of sales. And Zig Ziegler has some great books. Also, my first sales employer made us all buy with our own money "How to Dress for Success". That's how important that is.)

Scifi,

Play on your products strength. If it isn't the 'best', emphasize price, or the benefit of doing business with you. A person that will bend over backwards to ensure the customer is happy. Now, if your product is a piece of **** you just have to find another product to sell.

And you are right; customer relation is very very important. There is a saying in sales; "People buy products from people." Don't lie to them, but let them know that if they do business with you, they can count on you every step of the way. I've actually quit jobs when I realized the product was crap. You can sell a guy crap once on personality, but if you want a repeat customer the product better do what you say it does.


KE

[ April 30, 2008, 07:02 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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KnightEnder
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Thanks Paladine. Besides ball and fighting I really didn't think I had much to offer. I'm really glad you came up with this idea. It makes me feel good, and I love helping members of our little family.

KE

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KnightEnder
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Another thing: Try to schedule your calls in the same vicinity. Like I said; your time is valuable and you don't want to be driving all over town if you can avoid it. This is where the phone and the computer come in.

And when setting an appointment over the phone be sure to assure the customer that you won't take up much of his time and that you have something that will really be a benefit to him/her. You'd be surprised how many salesmen are afraid to make that phone call. But it has to be done. And be persistent. Leaving a catalog of brochure is always good too, and definitely a card. (But don't just wallpaper the city with catalogs. Those things are expensive so save them for customers you think represent a legitimate sale possibility. But leave a card. And get his card too if at all possible.

KE

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kenmeer livermaile
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Fave fighting tips for $50, KE. We men folks loves to talk about fighting, yes?
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KnightEnder
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Yeah, I don't think we've evolved as much as we'd like to think. My fave is the choke hold. No matter how big a guy is if you cut off his oxygen he'll go out like a light. I usually save that for when I think I'm in trouble. [Smile]

Disclaimer: Let him go once he's out or you could kill him.

KE

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Paladine
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KE

Glad I came up with the idea, and thanks for implementing it. [Smile] Good thread so far; I'll be back with questions shortly.

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Paladine
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How do you find that sales applies to other things in life (beyond the extremely obvious)? I wrote a paper in college for a developmental psychology course comparing stages of cognitive development with the development of poker and chess skills. The similarities in how people come to understand complex systems bounded by rules led me to conclude that expertise in virtually any field will help one to better understand other aspects of life.

A lot of the benefits behind becoming a better salesman are intuitively obvious: the ability to communicate with people and influence their opinions is a vital component of many personal, professional, and social interactions. Is there anything you can think of that isn't so obvious?

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canadian
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Cold Calling.

I should probably pm you with more details but the gist is this:

I have a product I want to sell to retailers. To make any serious bones with it, I'll need to contact anywhere from 250 to 500 retailers who will order on average about $100 to $200 per quarter. For those who don't want to do the math, that works out to $25,000 to $100,000 per quarter in sales. As a sideline, that would be nice.

In college, I did door to door sales, but my averages were a sad 1 out of 25.

I'll be setting up a site for the product, and beyond being a nice gift, it will also be collectible with new items coming out every season. I'll also have very nice point of sale display "racks" that will sit easily on the front counter of the retail store to stand out from the other similar products.

So, the planning has gone well, we've done consumer and market research to nail down and refine the product but the big stumbling block is how to increase the odds of getting a yes from each cold call to retailers?

I'll be making the fewest calls while my lovely lady does the brunt of it since she has the more winning personality (I know, I know, hard to imagine).

O sales gurus, grant me profits.

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kenmeer livermaile
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Cold calling:

brief, purposeful

message condensed into a 3-4 point statement explaining why meeting w/you is important/potentially rewarding enough to require meeting w/you in the first place rather than 'gimme what you got' over the phone (unless the offering is a kind where contracts are typically set up over the phone)

+++

the underlying psychology/dragonbelly fuel:

there is no substitute for courage of conviction; if you focus every day on why this offering is a serious contender for producing beneficial sales for your prospects, and couple this with why making $25-100K per quarter is good for you, and practice projecting this through your voice and verbal thinking (Obama's oratory and manner of presentation is a classic example), you will find yourself getting on the phone and setting appointments/negotiating contracts as a matter of natural consequence

do not focus on 'winning personality'. it's great that your girlfriend has one, for a naturally winning personality is a plus, but to focus on betting your personal best foot forward makes the call about you, and who gives a **** about you? [Wink]

focus on what the call means: money for your prospect and for you

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kenmeer livermaile
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When I mentioned Obama, I didn't mean emulate his superficialities, of course. I meant that what you see is, I confidently believe, the sound and content of a human being who is constantly thinking about what is important to him and his prospects and projecting that.

Whereas with Hillary, you see someone projecting what she wants and what she thinks her prospects want to hear.

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canadian
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Ah, all good advice. Thank you.

(scribbles in notebook)

As an aside, it's one of those effortless winning personalities sweetened with a near complete naivety of her charms. Well, I'm sold, anyway.

[Smile]

Edited to add:

But your point is well taken. Message, not messenger.

[ May 05, 2008, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: canadian ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Message, not messenger."

Bingo, o summari.

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canadian
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summari.

That's funny.

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kenmeer livermaile
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Funny is good.
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KnightEnder
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Pal,

I think you have hit on it. I think it helps you read people. Like you've said you see patterns of behavior. Little things like knowing when you've sold the guy as much as you can and he's ready to get to whatever else he has to do. And things like that translates into things like knowing whether a guy that is on a short stack is going to play tight or push it all in on the first half-way decent hand he sees. Plus, it trains you to maintain eye contact and study peoples faces to see what aspects of your pitch interests them and what doesn't, so you are better able to do that. It's surprising the number of people that are uncomfortable maintaining simple eye contact. Of course in a sales call you don't wan to stare a hole through the guy. It's a balancing act between looking him in the eye and making him comfortable, knowing how far you can go before he loses interest or gets hooked. Knowing when to "close" and having the courage to do it.

I believe all of that and the things you mentioned are why I'm so much better at Live poker than I am Online.

And I agree that playing chess has helped me in poker and in life. You need to be looking four or five moves ahead in poker, or life, just like you do in chess. And the more moves ahead you can look the better you are likely to do in both. Of course poker (and life) both still have their share of variance. [Frown]

But, I shouldn't frown at that. At least in poker, that's what keeps the fish coming back. Anybody might beat Daniel on any given day. Not so Bobby Fischer. Though I think being dead has probably hurt his game. [Smile]

KE

[ April 09, 2009, 05:12 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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