Consultant and executive coach Dave Stein shows how to master the art of selling in a book that is enjoyable to read and filled with practical advice.
Selling no longer means what it once did. Quick communication and instant access to information-i.e., the Internet-have created a brave new world for sales professionals. This "infoglut" means they must take on the job of sorting, interpreting, and winnowing the facts and presenting what's relevant to a client's bottom line.
And there have been other big changes in the world of selling. Competition is fierce. Hype is rampant. And then there is the economy. As budgets have tightened and resources grown scarce, companies are seeing the need to make every employee a salesperson. Selling is a job that must be done 24 hours, seven days a week. It's an intimidating prospect, indeed . . . but there's also some good news.
The tips below will provide some basics for this new way of selling. The book, of course, includes many more such tips.
- Make a business-oriented portal your home page. Set aside twenty minutes each morning to scan the news about your top three customers, clients, or prospects and their top three customers, suppliers and competitors, including current stock quotes and financial information.
- Read the 10-Qs and 10-Ks of your most important customers and their most troublesome competitors. Focus on financial measurements and business strategy, then base your discussions with executives and senior managers on these.
- Over a two-month period, ask several trusted friends, partners, colleagues, or mentors to give you their objective and candid observations on your behaviors and other professional issues. You have to be willing to hear the truth and to make necessary adjustments in the way you see things.
- For professional growth, escape your "comfort zone." Try the following:
- Deliver a speech at an industry or association meeting.
- Call a stock analyst who follows your customer's industry and offer him insights into that industry.
- Cold-call twenty-five CEOs.
- Walk away from a sales "opportunity" that's not likely to turn into business.
- Learn about your prospect's three top products, as well as those of their three key competitors, then talk about what you learned on your next sales call.
- Refuse to answer an RFP until you meet with the CFO of that company.
- Invite your company's CEO to breakfast and pitch to him a logical, well-researched strategy to achieve a corporate goal.
- Make self-education a habit. Regularly read the following:
- "Business savvy" publications like the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes and Business Week. All of these magazines have web sites.
- Technology-oriented business magazines and web sites, which will give you insights into leveraging information and technology for sales advantage. Examples are Business 2.0 and Red Herring.
- Industry trade publications, magazines published specifically for people working in (and selling to) these industries.
- Magazines and related Web sites targeting sales professionals and their management. Examples: Selling Power, Sales and Marketing Management.
- If you're approaching a new prospect but have not been referred by someone the decision maker trusts, you'll have to earn mind-share with that executive. Make yourself the indispensable broker of information, insight, and expert resources-beyond what the executive can get online, beyond what his company can provide, beyond what your competitor can deliver.
- If you're preparing to call on an executive, have enough information, insight, and opinion to be able to talk about her world for fifteen minutes longer than the time scheduled for the meeting. If you do this, you will never fear running out of something valuable to say.
- Realize that e-mail and voice mail are not direct communication. They're more like slipping a note under someone's door. Such one-way communications will keep you from developing the person-to-person relationships you need to be a sales winner. Push out of your comfort zone; strive for person-to-person communication whenever possible.
- To improve your oral communication skills, join Toastmasters International. Even professional speakers routinely praise that organization and the improvement its members enjoy.
- Take the perspective of a businessperson. Ask yourself one question: "If I were an executive in my prospect's company-responsible for large sums of money and hundreds or thousands of jobs and careers, knowing what I know about that business and that industry and the competition-would I be persuaded by someone like me?"
- Consider joining the Strategic Account Management Association, whose conferences, journals and studies provide information and insight on trends, issues and best practices in strategic and global account management.
- Find someone who exhibits the behavior you want to emulate. If it's someone who's approachable and available to you, consider asking him or her to mentor you through personal or professional changes in that area.
- Make sure you understand how financial statements represent a company's financial position and how that company compares with others in its market. If you can't read and interpret an income statement, cash flow statement, or balance sheet, learn to do so right away. There are no shortcuts.
- Sell in the Well. There are four basic approaches to becoming knowledgeable about prospective buyers. "Puddle" sellers know very little about very few industries. "Bayou" sellers know a little bit about a lot of industries. "Ocean sellers" are generalists, believing that they can sell to everyone. You should concentrate your attentions on the "well," where your selling effort, like your knowledge, is deep, narrow, focused and bubbling with certainty.
- Become an expert in your industry. Immerse yourself. Read all you can. Join the associations and become an active, contributing member. Regularly check Web sites that specialize in providing information by industry. Visit www.HowWinnersSell.com. Talk to all your clients and customers about their current and future challenges and opportunities. Read industry analysts' reports. Compare and contrast the main competitors in that industry. Gather enough information to make a prediction (perhaps you should keep the first one to yourself.) Watch the stock prices. Read press releases of the key players. See where they are going and how they intend to get there. Understand what issues they're addressing. Live in that world.
- Get into a competitive state of mind. Since you have competed and will again compete against sales reps with different ethics, decide in advance what you will and will not do. This frees you to be creative, to focus on winning-and to fight fairly but hard.
- Go outside your areas of familiarity and observe how people, countries, companies and teams compete. If you watch football, flip to a Sunday morning talk show and see how liberals and conservatives square off against each other. If you're a student of domestic politics, try following the news about a dispute between two nations. This will help you gain a broader insight into the nature of competition.
There's a new book on the market that will help companies make every employee a powerful sales force of one. Purchase it today!
Before he founded his consultancy, The Stein Advantage, Inc., in 1997, Dave Stein was employed by several leading-edge high-tech companies in a diversity of roles: programmer, systems engineer, sales representative, sales manager, director of worldwide sales development, VP of sales, VP of marketing, VP of international operations, VP of client services, and VP of strategic alliances.
During the early 1990s, Dave lived and sold in Europe, commencing international operations for the technology company he helped to build, Datalogix International (which was later acquired by Oracle). In the decade since, Dave has focused on coaching experienced sales teams in 48 states and 20 countries. His unique skills in competitive sales strategies and political positioning have helped thousands of sales professionals win hundreds of millions of dollars of business against insurmountable odds. Specializing in large, complex opportunities, Dave is much in demand as a speaker, consultant, coach, and trainer. He has worked with companies small and large, from $5 million in sales to the Fortune 100, including IBM, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Invensys plc, NEC, ALLTEL, Pitney Bowes, Bayer and Siemens.