Unfortunately, I think this entry will make some of you stop reading. Over the weekend, I was thinking about what motivates people to do what they do. Specifically, I was thinking about why some business owners seek to develop long term sales skills and some don’t and I realized that some of them aren’t thinking long term. Let me explain.
My father was a carpenter. Yes, he wanted to make money, but mostly he wanted to build stuff (small remodels to houses and commercial buildings). You tell him what you wanted, he’d visulaize it and build it. He believed in the product or service that he was providing and enjoyed making people happy by providing it. Made a decent living for his wife and four children. It was his way to change the world.
As you may know, I’ve been a debt collector www.burkinshawlaw.com for a long time. I believe that people (and companies) should pay their debts. I’ve had some of my clients since the beginning. I am absolutely committed to service my clients and intend to keep them forever. Along the way, I realized that a company’s ability to sell clean was directly proportional to it’s ability to serve the long term needs of it’s customers and inversely proportional to it’s ability to get paid by it’s customers. In other words, if you don’t sell clean, you probably won’t get paid. So, I established my alliance with Dave Kurlan at www.salesdevelopmentspecialists.com. It’s my way to change the world.
I know a guy, Paul, who is an IT guru www.laflammeconsulting.com. He’s very good at what he does, has several clients, a couple of employees and intends to keep his clients and employees forever, but expects to attract, obtain and retain many more clients and hire and develop many more employees in the years to come. It’s his way to change the world. Consequently, he keeps himself at the leading edge of his technology. More important to my point, he has committed to develop his sales skills to make sure that he’s never misunderstood. He’s in it for the long haul.
I know several business owners who are building their business to sell it. I don’t mean that derogatorily. They may be doing what they love. They love to have the idea. Do the development. Bring it to market. Sell the business for a guzillion dollars and look around for their next project. The reason to be in business is to come up with a “marketable idea”, accumulate an attractive customer base, and cash out. They are not emotionally involved or committed, long term. Fortunately, many of those who make it, will be very philanthropic. But, is it really the same American Dream that Rockefeller, Disney, Iacocca, or Gates were chasing?
If you think this post was a waste of time, I apologize. If I hurt your feelings, I apologize. It wasn’t my intent, everyone serves a purpose that makes their mark on the world. But, if this helped you realize that you are in a long term chase of the American Dream, and your prospects, customers and/or employees don’t realize it, send me an email. We should talk.
I went to Mexico for a vacation on 3/25. On the 24th, I told a used car salesman that it was time for me to by a car. (Names are gonna be mentioned for clarity, not as plugs.) I told him that I was driving Lincoln Continental and that I’d buy another one except they don’t make them any more. So, I was thinking Cadillac, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Chrysler 300, Buick Lucerne. I also told him that people had suggested the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon, but I thought that would be a tough sell for him. The salesman said enjoy my vacation and he’d see me when I got back.
I returned and sent him this email on Sunday night. “think back ….. and remember what’s wrong that I want to make right. Then call me Monday morning at (508) ______, ask me a few questions to make sure that nothing’s changed and schedule a time for me to come to your lot and buy a car or not buy a car early Monday afternoon.”
He did call me and we met at his lot on Monday afternoon. He walked me around his lot. Showed me a Chrysler 300 that was $15,000 over the budget that he’d gotten from me. He had a Maxima that was at the top end of my budget and he had about thirty cars that I couldn’t fit into. He had a Volvo at another lot an hour away. (Why wasn’t it here?) I left unhappy.
Fast forward a week. A friend of mine referred me to Randy Tucker at Baker Cadillac in Leominster. I called and told him my story. We scheduled an appointment for 2pm on April 10th. He showed me two dozen cars that were in budget, over budget, but they all fit me. At 5:57 I left with my Cadillac Deville. Very happy. My wife is happy.
End of story, not really. Wednesday morning, I’m at an 8 o’clock meeting and you know the topic. Dave asked if I thought he could get a Chrysler 300 for $18,000. I gave Dave Randy’s card and I immediately drove to Leominster to get my sticker. I gave Dave’s card to Randy and told him that he was thinking Chrysler 300 and $18,000. Randy wrote everything down on the back of Dave’s card. I’m sure by now they’ve spoken.
Buyers don’t want sales tricks. They want somebody to fix there problems. When a salesperson (especially a service provider like us) gets a referral, we are obliged to fix the person’s problem. Our mutual friend trusts us to fix the problem. If we can’t, we’re not supposed to waste the “prospect’s ” time. We’re not supposed to try to trick them into buying the wrong thing. Raping a referral is a good way to stop getting referrals.
OK! Enough about real life. Let’s pretend!
Let’s pretend that you have two people that you like and respect. Let’s pretend one of them is a service provider and the other is a prospect. They agree to meet. They talk about whatever and it appears that they will do some business together. Then something happens and they don’t. Who is responsible? Prospect or service provider? Remember, you like and respect them both. The proverbial “rock and a hard place”.
OK, now pretend that you weren’t there so it’s all he said……she said.
Who is responsible?
Is a prospect supposed to dump their soul just because you ask, or should you learn how to get down to it?
If a prospect doesn’t tell the truth, is the prospect the only culprit or should you uncover the truth?
If an important piece of information is missed during discovery, who is responsible when the deal falls apart?
If prospect agrees to do business and service provider does anything to make prospect uncomfortable, does prospect have to continue?
I suggest that the service provider is 100% responsible for EVERYTHING 100% of the time. Period! They know the most about problems, solutions, competition, pricing, etc. etc. etc. They are responsible to ask ALL the right questions, uncover all the surprises, cover all possibilities.
Impossible? Maybe. But the alternative is not acceptable.
Are there any definite “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” when you’re in “steep growth” mode?
There are many cliches that our mothers taught us. Remember, “Don’t talk to strangers.” and “When I say, ‘No.’, I mean, ‘No.'”? Great advice for a salesperson, don’t you think?
But some of them are appropriate. How about, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” or “When you strike out, you just get up to bat again.”
Famous people give us advice, too! How about JFK? “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Noble? Yes! Applicable to business? Of course!
How about Yogi Berra? Some might fit, like: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” or “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
But, some just make you shake your head, like: “No one goes there anymore – it’s too crowded.” “It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.”
So, reply with a few of your favorite Do’s or Don’t’s that you think will help those of us who are trying to grow our practices. If you remember who said it, please give them credit. If not, just note that you don’t remember.
I’ll start. How about, “Prospecting is like shaving. If you don’t do it every day, next thing you know….you’re a bum!”?
Incidentally, if you know someone who can contribute, get them to read, subscribe, and comment at www.theRAINMAKERmaker.com.
Yesterday, a client told me that a big deal they were expecting fell through. This is one of those reasons that I’m so leary about chasing those big clients we wrote about earlier. You invest all kinds of time, get emotionally invested, start spending your profit, and they pull the rug out from under what you thought was a done deal. When you’re a sole practioner you’ve probably just lost a chunk of your life. You have two choices. Either accept the fact that it’s a fact of life that you can’t sell them all, or start a “What about” list. Once you’ve got a complete “What about” list and you use it effectively every time you meet with a prospect, you will never miss again! EVER!
Now that I have your attention, I’ll tell you the problem. Your “What about” list will never be complete. However, I started my list 20 years ago and although it’s probably not complete, yet, it’s pretty extensive and consequently, pretty effective. What is it and how to you create and use it? Let’s do it with examples.
You pitch a client. They smile. Have fun. Appear to be ready. You close. They say, “I need to talk to my (wife, partner, boss, lawyer, accountant, etc.)” and you see your deal go out the window because you didn’t even know that there was a (wife, partner, boss, lawyer, accountant, etc.). “What about #1” = “What about advice when you talk to people like me about stuff like mine? Who do you typically bounce ideas off of?” and ask this what about on every single sales call for the rest of your life.
You pitch a client. They smile. Have fun. Appear to be ready. You close. They say, “Thanks for showing me your stuff. Now I’ve just got to find two other vendors who do what you do so I can get competitive bids.” and you see your deal go out the window because you didn’t even know that there was a bid process. “What about #2” = “What about your internal process? What other solutions are you looking at and who else do you have to look at before you do anything?” and ask this what about on every single sales call for the rest of your life.
You pitch a client. They smile. Have fun. Appear to be ready. You close. They say, “We really didn’t know what to expect money-wise. Now that you’ve told us, we can go to the CFO and tell him what we need.” and you see your deal go out the window because you thought all companies this size had enough money in the bank or a credit line. “What about #3” = “What about money? Have you established a budget? arranged financing? have the cash in the bank? etc. etc. etc. everything about money” and ask this what about on every single sales call for the rest of your life.
There are 1000’s of stalls, lies and objections that a prospect can throw at you when you try to close so there are 1000’s of “What abouts” that you’re gonna need to incorporate in your pitch prior to the close so that when you do close, the prospect has nothing left that you haven’t handled.
Incidentally, if you’re a reader and you haven’t already, check out Dave Kurlan’s newest book Baseline Selling at http://www.baselineselling.com. If you already have a “What about” list, but haven’t been able to use it effectively or if you’re having a problem creating your list, send me an email and I’ll introduce you to the right person at http://www.salesdevelopmentspecialists.com.
Praying for rain in your back yard,
I was talking with a client today and we were talking about the relationship between big clients, important clients and controlling clients. Let’s look at two examples. In the first case, you’ve got 5 clients and you’re billing $2,000/week in total. Let’s also say that you’ve got one client that you consistently bill $1,200/week. In the second case, you’ve got 5 clients and you’re billing $2,000/week in total, but in this case, each client pays you $400/week. I’m keeping the numbers small because it’s much better to learn our lessons when the risk is small than when it’s life threatening. So, page two. Your biggest client goes away. (Files bankruptcy, changes vendors, whatever….doesn’t matter. You’re out!) In the first case you just lost 60% of your business. You have an emergency. You might be out of business. In the second case, you lose 20% of your business. You’ll need to replace it. You might have to tighten your belt. It won’t be fun, but you’ll probably be able to stay in business. In the first case, your big client is very important to you. He’s keeping you in business. As he goes, so goes your business. He’s absolutely in control. In the first case, if your biggest client says that they need you to cut your pricing by 20%, you can refuse and potentially lose 60% of your business, or you can agree and lose 12%. In the second case you could refuse and potentially lose 20% or agree and lose 4%. I hate doing the numbers, but it’s pretty easy to see that although average clients might play games, you’ll have more control than when the giant throws their weight around.
I’ve heard it suggested that no one client should represent more than 20% of your business. I’ve also heard the more conservative recommendation that no client should be more than 5% of your total business. Whichever figure you believe, the result is the same. You’ll be more secure and in control than if you have a giant client.
So, what do you do when you have the opportunity to work with a giant? Refuse? Take a chance? Post your comments and I’ll give my suggestion later.