The power of sales
To say selling is my forte would be a lie! It’s my passion, obsession and true love in life! I have been selling and making money since the age of 6 when I started trading in Erasers on the school playgrounds. Out of all the elements in business, sales is the most feared as although many people claim they are champions at it not many people can consistently sell. In my experience normally the people who think they can sell cant and the people who think they offer good customer service are the sales people. I spend my whole life talking to “sales” people about the difference in selling to order taking. In this blog I will share my personal sales traits and thoughts on why I love and excel at selling and how this can help you in your business.
My Two Golden Sales Rules
I have two golden rules when it comes to selling:
- Under promise and over deliver
- People buy people
The above sayings may be cheesy but they underpin my business ethos and rule my sales ethos. My rules maybe very simple but in the real world of business they are the two that are broken more frequently! How many times have you called a business and been promised a call back that never came. How often have you been in a retail store or restaurant and the staff have been huddled in a group and not acknowledged you! I believe that people, their attitude and personality have the ultimate influence over a customer buying. Manners, a positive and pro active outlook leads to sales.
High, sustainable levels of sales are built on good relationships, regular communication and expectations being met. Remember the next time you have a new client, the way you speak to them and gel can influence the outcome of the deal!
Targets lead to Success
One of the key factors to my personal sales success is always working to targets and it changed my career. Many people remember the Car Task from my series of The Apprentice and comment on my ability in it. What they don’t know is what made me stand out from the rest of the group was I set myself a target and they didn’t! I set my target based on what the sales people in the garage did on a Saturday and didn’t stop until I exceeded it. This led to me selling 6 cars in one day and them selling 2. Sales Targets are benchmarks and ensure that sales staff understand what needs to be delivered. Having commercial targets which are well communicated lead to growth within a business. Having targets is a must for staff motivation as good sales people will up their performance just to be on top of a sales leader board!
The closer we are to our businesses the less effective we are at communicating about them! The importance of good questions and effective simple answers is massive and if done correctly increases sales conversions. I find it baffling that some business owners can’t communicate in a clear understandable way what they do. I had a client who provided strategic solutions to its industry and when I asked him what that meant in plain English he struggled to tell me! The business actually provided till systems that paid for itself within a year in the savings it made the business! I recommend that you take a look at your website, sales literature and verbal communication and check that you are communicating in effective terms what you offer. A simple exercise I do in every business is to ask:
Who is the business? – I am looking to establish what experience the business and owners have and where is the passion and history from.
What do they provide? – I am looking for a simple list of what the business does and cost if applicable.
What makes them different? – Why should a customer use you? Is it quality, service or cost.
I provide all of the above information to all of my sales staff and use it as a grid for my marketing communication. Match simple communication about your business with a good fact find establishing that your client needs and this will give you sales success.
Don’t be a Peacock and if you have them get rid!
I have met many sales experts, gurus and plonkers in my life and all of them are Peacocks. A peacock is a beautiful creature that puts all of its feathers on show and then when no one is around it puts them in and looks like a Turkey! Sales people who talk and talk about themselves are over bearing will never thrive. I don’t believe in sales experts or gurus and I have never claimed to be one! My main sales ability comes from the fact that I listen more than I talk, not because I am polite but because if you don’t have a requirement for what I am selling I move on and waste no time!
The Order Taker vs. The Sales Person
I had an interesting conversation last week with a sales person who said they had no sales leads, what they actually meant was they didn’t have customers knocking on their door placing an order! The difference between a sales person and an order taker is that a sales person gets off their backside and hunts for business and is open minded to where they get their business from where as an order taker waits for the marketing team to hand deliver the customer to them exactly what they have asked for. Order Takers are not sales people and are bad for businesses. In order to sell you have to be pro active, use your brain to identify your target audience and identify how to communicate with them and generate business. To ensure I address order takers I pay two levels of commission on sales within my business. If my business has generated the lead they get a lower level of commission, if they have cultivated a new business lead or account managed a client into re ordering they get paid a higher level of commission.
Reward sales not orders!
My biggest bug bare is sales staff talking about a good lead when they have not established the budget. In my office we have a sign on the wall which says “No Wonga, No Badger!” and all of my staff know not to pass a lead through to me unless they have sanity checked if the client has affordability. I can fill a year with non paying customers as I’m sure many businesses could!
Why sales people find it so hard to discuss money is beyond me as leaving it until the closing stages will result in a lower conversion and a good deal of wasted time! I have a simple but effective question that I use to establish budget and identify what is important for the client:
“What are the 3 most important elements to this deal”
Most common answers are:
- You can deliver what I need when I need it
- You provide the quality I need
- The deal is affordable
At this point the customer has raised money so I will go straight in with the “What’s your budget?” question. If they don’t list money in the 3 elements I use this as an in to say “I can deliver all of your requirements but as you didn’t mention money I need to establish what you are looking to spend?”
Either way a customer never gets into my sales pipeline without a clear expectation on budget being discussed!
Conversion is the key to sustainable growth
Anyone who says they have 100% conversion is a fool or a liar! Lead to Order conversions vary from business to business but it is crucial that each business understands what their conversion is!
From 2002 – 2005 I managed to increase the Turnover of a business by £10m by focusing on lead generating and conversions. The success came from me tracking completed leads, their marketing source and improving the sales process but also identifying why leads didn’t complete and working on these areas. A high volume of leads in business go cold because of lack of contact. Improve your conversions by managing your sales staff’s activity closer and this will have an impact directly on your bottom line!
The difference between a successful business and an underperforming business is all in their sales staff and how proactive they are. I am not known for my mild manner when dealing with sales people and I have been seen to hit a sales person on the head with their phone when they have complained that it’s not ringing! Take a fresh approach with your sales people and do the same as they will soon get the message!
Outbound calling is a crucial part of a sales job and should be compulsory on chasing clients post meeting, calling clients who haven’t ordered for 6 weeks to account manage and always to follow up on Eshot or other appropriate email campaigns.
Being proactive is a general principle I like to apply to my business across the board. If you’ve missed my previous blog posts, you can read more about being proactive on my previous posts.
Know your numbers
I left school failing my maths exam but that has never held me back from selling. One of the most painful experiences of my life at the moment is watching The Apprentice candidates talk about money when selling as they clearly can’t add up! Not only do they look stupid but uneducated. It is crucial that all sales people not only know their product but their prices, discounts and margins. Selling is not about volume in Turnover, it’s about profit! I always ensure myself and my team understand the finances prior to talking to any customer.
A knowledge of your business figures is another gem of advice I will give to any business. If you’re not sure which numbers to look at, read my previous blog post on knowing your figures.