Often, salespeople are looked at very negatively, and in many cases it’s for good reason. Many salespeople fail to truly understand what selling is all about and therefore put buyers in uncomfortable buying situations. These typically result in sales falling through, or even worse, sales that occur to buyers left feeling bad about their purchase and experience. Here are 5 myths about selling that can help lead to a better understanding of the skill, and how to close deals that leave the buyer feeling good.
Myth #1 – When Selling It’s Important to Thoroughly Explain All Features of a Product
You’ve probably heard the saying selling is telling. You may have even experienced it. You go into a store, you’re looking at a product, and the salesperson starts ‘feature dumping’: telling you everything good they know about the product. While they’re doing this, you’re thinking, “I don’t really care, I just want to know…”, and you end up walking away having not bought the item and feeling like your time has been wasted. Selling is definitely not telling. Selling is about listening to the buyer and helping them get what they need. A good salesperson should ask their buyer enough questions to fully understand exactly what the person is looking for, and why it’s important to them. This step in selling is called a ‘Needs Analysis’. By knowing what matters to the customer, you can focus only on that, and ensure you’re selling them the right product that will truly help them. So before you start telling a buyer a bunch of random features about a product, ensure you know what matters to them and why.
Myth #2 – Price is Often the Biggest Factor in Buying Decisions
This myth is one of the most costly. First, a salesperson that believes price was the biggest reason someone didn’t buy results in lost sales for the wrong reason. Second, salespeople that believe this myth often offer unnecessary discounts in order to get a sale. Both cost the business money. Although price can be a factor, it’s rarely the biggest factor in a buying decision. Let’s look at an example: ‘Product A’ costs $20 and is exactly what you are looking for. ‘Product B’ costs $15 and is mostly what you’re looking for. Which do you buy? Does the fact that ‘Product A’ costs $5 more matter? The answer is probably, “It depends.” Usually it depends on what you’re giving up for the savings of $5. If what you’re giving up doesn’t really matter to you, then you might go with the cheaper product. But, if the features missing in ‘Product B’ are ones that are really important to you, you’re likely going to spend the extra money with little thought. That is unless you can only afford the $15. This example shows that price is only an objection when it’s out of the range of what they buyer can afford. If they can afford the price, it is more about the value and how it meshes with what they need. So, when a customer says that the price is too high, what they are really saying is that they don’t see the value. So, rather than offering a lower price, or walking away thinking there’s nothing you could do, instead show them the value and how it aligns with what they need.
Myth #3 – When a Customer Says No the Sale is Dead
Many salespeople dread the “no”. Many more move on as quickly as possible when they get a one. Although it’s not the ideal response you want from a buyer, getting a “no” doesn’t mean that the deal is dead. Those that think a “no” is the end are leaving sales on the table. Instead, take “no” as “not now”. They’re not going to buy at this moment, but they may in the future. Shifting your thinking call allow you to shift your focus with the buyer. Rather than focusing your energy on trying to close the deal, instead focus on trying to understand why they’re not buying. Ask them questions to figure out what’s holding them back. This can be very challenging to do without coming off as pushy and someone just trying to close the sale. Here are a couple of ways you can avoid this:
Myth #4 – The Goal of a Salesperson is to Make the Sale No Matter What it Takes
There are many salespeople that believe the goal is to get the sale no matter what. This is a big reason that sales is often looked at negatively. Part of the issue is that for many sales positions compensation is directly tied to sales results and most sales positions are evaluated and rewarded on sales numbers. This is why many salespeople do whatever it takes, and numerous sales trainings teach high pressur and aggressive sales tactics. Although these tactics can work, the best salespeople understand that longer term success in sales comes from creating loyal buyers that keep coming back. You only do this by making the right sales to the right people, not by selling something to someone that they don’t really need or that doesn’t solve a problem for them; this only typically leaves the buyer with buyer’s remorse. And although they may not return the item, if they’re even able to, they’re unlikely to return. In sales, it’s important to think beyond the quick sale and instead try to really understand what will help your buyer. If you do this, you may make fewer sales immediately in that moment, but you will make many more sales over the longer term.
Myth #5 – People Buy Based on the Product Not the Salesperson
Although the product obviously impacts sales, many sales are made, or not made because of the salesperson. Most people have experienced this with either a good or bad salesperson. You go to a store with the intention of only looking around, but end up speaking to a salesperson and ultimately end up buying something. Or maybe you’ve experienced the opposite; you went to a store with a clear intention of buying something, but after speaking with a salesperson ended up not buying it. Although we may not have made the connection at the time, the salesperson played a significant role in our decision to buy or not buy. Think about salespeople you’ve experienced, good and bad; you probably bought from those that were ‘good’ and didn’t from those that were ‘bad’. So what makes a salesperson ‘good’ or ‘bad’? It all comes down to like and trust. People buy from people they like and people they trust. If they like you and trust you, they’ll probably buy; if they don’t like you or don’t trust you, they probably won’t. More times than not, it’s not the product that led to the sale or non-sale, it’s the buyer’s like and trust of you. So, if you want to make more sales, it’s important to know how to get a buyer to like and trust you.
Building Like & Trust
If you want people to buy from you, the most important skill to learn is how to get people to like you and trust you. So how do you build like and trust when you have very limited time to do so in a selling situation?
How to Build Like
Like is a gut feeling that typically comes from a first impression. Most people make a
judgement about someone else within the first few seconds of meeting them. So
everything that impacts their first perceptions of you affects their like. Here are some
keys to giving off a positive first impression and building like:
Be Friendly – when you first meet someone smile, shake their hand, and ask them how
they are doing.
Be Polite – display manners and use appropriate language.
Dress Appropriately – dress well for the situation. Your attire will impact their
perception before you even have a chance to speak to them.
Carry Yourself Well – stand up straight, speak clearly, and look people in the eyes when
you speak to them.
Show Interest in Them – ask them questions to build rapport. People like talking about
themselves and what’s going on in their world. People feel good when others show
interest in them.
Be Genuine – it’s important to be yourself. If you try to fake some of these things at
some point it will come across as fake.
How to Build Trust
Trust comes down to 3 things: character, competence, and common sense of purpose.
Displaying these 3 elements to a buyer will build trust with them.
Character – refers to what they think of you as a person. Many of the elements above in
‘building like’ will impact what someone thinks of your character.
Competence – refers to whether or not they feel you are skilled and knowledgeable.
You can display competence by being able to answer questions effectively and by
showing knowledge of the product. You can also increase your competence by sharing
your background and experience in the field with someone.
Common Sense of Purpose – refers to the fact that you both have the same goals in
mind. The buyer believes you want to help them find what they are looking for and
not sell them something they don’t need. You can show you have common sense of
purpose with a buyer by asking questions to understand what is important to them
and help guide them towards products that fit their needs and away from products
that don’t fit their needs.
The biggest challenge to building like and trust is that you have very limited time to do it. It’s definitely a skill that takes practice. It’s important that as you work on your ability to build like and trust that you self-evaluate each interaction with a buyer. Did they buy from you? Do you think they liked you? Why or why not? Do you think they trusted you? Why or why not? If not, was it an issue with your character, your competence, or your common sense of purpose? Evaluating in this way can help you become an expert in building like and trust quickly.
Selling is one of the most challenging skills, but one of the most important in business. It’s a skill that is used in many areas of a business, not just marketing and sales, but also in hiring and recruiting, and even the leading of the business. The above 5 myths should show that selling is not about completing transactions, but rather about helping others find what they need. It’s about helping people find things that solve problems for them. It should also show that the salesperson has a big impact on whether or not a sale occurs. Even, when the product is right, it’s often the salesperson that will ultimately determine whether or not the buyer ends up with the product they need. Does the buyer like you? Does the buyer trust you? If you work on developing your skill in building like and trust, and go out there and help people solve their problems, you will sell more than you ever have before!
Launch365 specializes in training, coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs through business startup and on core business skills. We provide training and coaching on selling, including building like and trust with people. If you would like to discuss how we could help you with your business or on these skills, contact us at: www.launch365.ca/contact-us. To download our guide to starting a business successfully “Startup Success Blueprint” for free go to: www.launch365.ca/startup-success.
Do you find completing reference checks a waste of time? Do most of the references you call provide glowing reviews and add very little additional substance to what you already know? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re not alone; many people find completing reference checks a formality in the hiring process that has little impact on hiring decisions. But, when a failed hire can be so costly to an organization (sometimes 3 to 4 times as costly as hiring them), it’s critical to be able to maximize the value of all resources available to you in making the best possible people decisions. If conducted effectively, reference checks are one of the most valuable resources available to you in selecting the right people for your organization. They allow you to validate everything that you’ve learned about a candidate from someone that has seen it and experienced it directly. So, here are some ways to ensure your reference checks are valuable and lead you to good hiring decisions.
Let Them Choose and Find Out Why
Allow your candidate to choose which references they give you. Letting them generate their own list can give you further insight into the candidate and their past. Look at who they chose as references. Ask them how they came to choosing the references they did. Is there anyone they left off, that you feel should be on there, such as a recent supervisor? If so, ask them why they left this person off the list. Discussing how they came to their list, can provide further insight into the candidate, and at times be very telling.
Add the References You Want
Once you’ve received your candidate’s list of chosen references, don’t be afraid to ask for additional references that you feel may be valuable. In most cases, the interviewee will give you a list of references that they know will speak highly of them, which makes sense, but it’s your job to get the full picture of the candidate. Look for references that may provide different or alternate viewpoints, such as supervisors they left off, direct reports they’ve had, colleagues they’ve worked closely with, and any others that will allow you to get a fuller picture. Simply say to the candidate, “We’d like to speak to a few other references as well, is it possible to speak to….?”
Conduct Multiple Calls
If you have your interviewee submit references, it’s important that you take the time to call them. Not calling is disrespectful to the candidate as they’ve probably spent some time getting permission from references and putting together their list. Although it’s not necessary to call all references, you should call at least a few to give you enough info to get a full sense of the person. Ensure all reference checks are done verbally, as email reference checks typically illicit general statements and add little value. The more references you speak with, the more confident you can be that you have a real and full understanding of the person.
Plan Your Questions in Advance
Before making your reference calls, plan out the questions you want to ask each reference. Ask questions that:
*Validate past details such as relationship with the candidate, job title, timelines,
*Allow the reference to give you insight into their experience, good and bad, with
*Give you good and bad examples of the competencies needed for the job they’re
Questions should be specific to the person you’re speaking to, and they should illicit specific examples rather than generic responses.
Ensure It Is a Good Time for Them
When conducting your reference calls, ensure that you’ve reached the reference at a time when they’re able to speak; if not reschedule at their convenience. It’s important that they have time and you have their undivided attention or you’re likely to get quick answers that may not be all that valuable. A good reference check should be about 15 minutes.
Put Them in Your Shoes
During your introduction let them know who you are, why you’re calling, and the position that the person is applying for. Once you’ve asked them your list of questions, ask them if they’d hire the candidate for the role, if they were in your shoes. It may be valuable to share some of the responsibilities they’d have in the role. Listen carefully as to how they respond. A long pause before answering compared to quick response can be very telling. Follow up by asking why, as well as what they think they’d do well in the role, and where they feel they’d be challenged in the role. Their responses will give you valuable information to compare to thoughts pre-reference check.
Listen and Take Detailed Notes
It’s important to keep your own biases out of the call. Refrain from putting words in their mouth or trying to interpret what they are saying. If you’re unclear, ask a follow up question, listen and take notes. The more you remain neutral and listen to what they tell you, the more valuable and unbiased the information will be. At the end of the call, review your notes and summarize your key learning from the call. Keep your notes and summary, as you never know when you may want to come back to them.
Thank Them and Get Their Email
Close the call, by thanking them and asking if you’d be able to email them should you have any quick follow up questions. This can validate that you are speaking to the right person. You’d be surprised how many candidates use others to fake a reference. By asking them for their email at the end you figure this out as fakes will likely be caught off guard not knowing the proper email. To further validate, look up the person online (on a platform such as LinkedIn), and send a quick follow up thanking them for the reference and their time. First, it’s a nice thing to do; and second, it will further ensure you spoke to the right person.
Reference checks will not give you the full picture alone and are just another resource to help you make the right decisions in conjunction with good interviewing. That being said, if done effectively, reference checks can validate what you’ve learned through your interviews, as well as give you new information good and bad from someone that has had direct experience with the person. They are a critical tool in building the fullest picture of a candidate and in helping ensure you’re bringing the right people onto your team.
Launch365 specializes in training, coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs through business startup and on core business skills. We provide training and coaching on all aspects of the hiring process including how to complete effective reference checks. If you would like to discuss how we could help you with your business or on these skills, contact us at: www.launch365.ca/contact-us. To download our guide to starting a business “Startup Success Blueprint” for free go to: www.launch365.ca/startup-success.
Although I’d always been entrepreneurial growing up, I wouldn’t call any of my small ventures a business. The first real business I started was when I was 19. It was a small home services business in my hometown. Although it was nothing really special, I ran the business for four years profitably, servicing over 2000 customers. Not bad for someone that had never run a business before, didn’t know how to run a business, and had never even taken a single business class. So, how was I able to do it successfully at 19? Here are the top 10 reasons:
1) I Got a Business Coach/Mentor
By far, this was the most critical reason for my success. I had the drive and desire to run a business, but had no experience or know-how to do it. Looking back, it was the smartest decision I could have made. Even to this day, I continue to work with a business coach, despite having started 4 different businesses successfully, and having coached 100’s of entrepreneurs to success. A business coach/mentor can provide valuable experience, different perspective and help you with your own blind spots. They can hold you accountable as needed, and ensure you make it through challenges successfully. A business coach can add a tonne of value and save you an immense amount of time. It was especially critical in my first business when I had very little experience. I had the willingness and the drive, my coach made sure they were pointed on the right things.
2) I Listened to Other Entrepreneurs
I actively sought input from other entrepreneurs, most of which were in the same or similar type business; though I was always happy to listen to any entrepreneur willing to share experience. You’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs are willing to help you, even competitors. By hearing others' lessons and experience, I learned many things to do, and many things not to do. I remember one business owner telling me, “The best entrepreneurs are thieves – they steal others' experience to help them achieve even faster and greater success.” It was as simple as asking. The worst thing that happened is I got a no, but if you don’t ask, you'll never know.
3) I Built a Detailed and Solid Plan
This was very important to my success and one of the areas my business coach really helped me. I started with my end goals and worked backwards laying out the road map to get there. There were a few things that were key to my plan: smart numbers, backup, and details.
Smart Numbers – All numbers used in the plan were smart. For example, I
planned to land 50% of customer pitches versus planning to land 90%,
which could be possible, but not realistic. It was important my plan was
Backup – I ensured there was a lot of backup time and space built into the
plan to ensure I could stay on track. This allowed me to stay on track,
even when things went wrong, which they did a number of times.
Details – Most importantly my plan was detailed. I included everything
I felt was important and built it as if I was handing it off to someone else.
I wanted to be detailed enough that someone else could read it, understand
it, and follow it to success. I included plans for marketing, sales, financial,
operations, hiring, my own development and learning. Having this much
detail in the plan made it much easier to focus on the execution of the
business, and made it much easier to adjust when needed.
In my experience, getting the plan right is more than half the battle.
4) I Got Ahead and Consistently Overshot My Plan
I quickly learned that things don’t always go as planned, and even when they do, there’s probably a challenge coming right around the corner. A key for me was getting ahead of my plan. Going into a week, I typically tried to achieve 20-25% more than what my plan called for. If things went well, it was a great week, but when things didn’t go well I often found myself still achieving the original goal. On the few occasions that I came up short, I only missed my goals by a very little margin, which had little effect because I had beaten many other times. Hitting and beating goals not only feels amazing, but also put me in a position to not have to worry about every little thing that went wrong. It saved lots of stress and tension that many entrepreneurs go through when just getting by. I definitely had to dig in to beat my goals, as my goals weren’t easy, but digging in was well worth it.
5) I Worked Hard on Skill Development
One of the many things my business coach taught me was that having a good fundamental skill base would lead to much more consistent and longer term success. When I was 19, I had very little skill in most areas needed to run my business, so I studied hard. I made a list of the skills I felt I needed to be successful, and I worked to start getting better in each of them. I read books, read articles, took some online courses, attended conferences, talked to others that had the skill, and got direct feedback and coaching from my business coach. This was critical to my success. There were a number of skills I struggled in at first, but the more I worked at them, the better the results became. I remember only closing one deal on the first 15 or 20 proposals. I worked on the skill, had my coach come out to observe me and give me feedback, and by the end of the year my close rate was about 60%.
6) I Worked My Butt Off
Most entrepreneurs will tell you running a business is not easy, and very few entrepreneurs get lucky and achieve easy success. I’ve always felt that hard work is pre-requisite to success. This was especially true for me when I lacked the skill and experience. I was able to make up a lot of my gap just by working hard. There were times that things took me twice as long as it would an experienced person, but regardless of how long it was going to take, if it was important I was getting it done. At the beginning I was working 80-90 hours per week consistently. Working that hard played a big part in my success that first year, but also the rest of my life. When you experience working that hard, the work ethic carries forward in future things you do. Also, they say that it takes about 1000 hours to be an expert at something; you get there a lot quicker when putting in 80-90 hours per week!
7) I Pushed Through Challenges Rather Than Giving Up
Although I had a great plan, there were definitely a number of unplanned challenges that came my way. There were a number of times that I could have given up on my goals, or given up entirely. Instead, I took each challenge as an opportunity to learn and gain experience. Every problem can be solved; some are just more complex than others or take more time to solve. But, by sitting down and generating options, and getting input from my coach and from others, I was always able to make it through. These are often the times I feel that I learned and grew the most. The more challenges you face and overcome the more experience you gain and the more confidence you build. The key to getting through was to stick with it and not give up.
8) I Didn’t Accept “No” From Customers
Not accepting a “No” from a customer doesn’t mean that I was pushy or annoying in trying to make sales, nor does it mean I landed all sales. When I did get a “no”, I always looked at it as a “not now”. This pushed me to really listen to the customer to understand why they weren’t buying, and to figure out what they would say “yes” to. If I was able to deliver what they were looking for, I adjusted my offer to that. I didn’t lower price. I didn’t do services that weren’t in our model. I listened to the customer and did my best to give them what they wanted. This led to many happy customers that felt listened to, which led to more customers, and so on. It also didn’t hurt that I stood behind my work with a guarantee.
9) I Built a Great Team
My philosophy when hiring was to look at the person more than whether or not they could do the job they were applying for. I felt that if I got good people on the team, they could help us achieve our goals. More importantly, I looked for people that strived for more than the job they were applying for; people that wanted my job. This had a big impact on the success of my first business. I ended up with a number of great people that wanted to learn, wanted to move up, were willing to take on more, and that cared about the quality of work they were doing. This ultimately led to us overachieving on many goals and growing much faster than I ever could have planned for. It also forced me to have to change my role constantly to give them space to grow and take on more – which in turn helped everyone grow more.
10) I Had a Great Support Network
I was very lucky that I had friends and family that supported me in my entrepreneurial pursuit. Living with an entrepreneur is not easy, especially when they’re working 80-90 hours per week. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, as I was paying my own way through university, and am very grateful my parents helped me with a small loan to get me off the ground. They also provided both support and space as I needed it. My friends, the true friends, were there when I popped my head up, even though I disappeared at times for weeks (if not months) to work on the business. My coach helped guide me through the good and the bad, and was there every step of the way. It was such a blessing to have someone that had been there before, with me to help me move along my entrepreneurial journey. This support network helped me immensely through my first entrepreneurial experience.
Starting a business at any age is a great accomplishment, but doing it at such a young age with very little experience is something that I’ll always be proud of. The above top 10 reasons are the biggest reasons of many that I was successful. Work on your skills, learn from others, stay open, plan diligently, work hard, don’t give up, and surround yourself with the right people and you will be successful. It worked for me.
Launch365 specializes in training, coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs through business startup and on core business skills. We work with entrepreneurs of all levels to help them achieve their business goals and dreams. If you would like to discuss how we could help you, contact us at: www.launch365.ca/contact-us. Click below to join our growing list of entrepreneurs that receive our FREE startup resources: www.launch365.ca/startup-resources.