The other day I was speaking with a few dealers and salespeople about the current state of sales and selling. We talked about regional differences, slow change and what it takes to be successful today in copier sales.
It was déjà vu all over again.
I’ve been preaching about change for over a decade, telling dealers and OEMs alike how the future is not about marks on a page, or even software. The future of selling is in the statements of the past:
“I want to be your trusted advisor.”
“We must sell solutions.”
“We need to listen to the prospect.”
We’ve all been here. As soon as we walk through the prospect’s door, our training kicks in:
- Be friendly
- Work the gatekeeper
- Ask open-ended questions
- Build bond and rapport
- Determine the decision makers
- Uncover the prospect’s process
- Find the pain
- Twist the pain
- Create urgency
- Ask for the business
- Handle objections
From IBM to Sandler, the basic process remains the same. We use tactics and techniques. We “kill it and grill it,” we “take down” big deals. The folks we pretend to establish long term partnerships with are referred to as “target accounts” and they are “hunted.”
Are you picking up on a theme here?
There is nothing wrong with this – it is the way of things, it is status quo. Doctrine if not dogma. But it is our code of conduct, not the prospect’s. Put yourself in their shoes (empathy). How would you like to be a target or to be hunted?
I’ve consulted with companies on how to buy and implement managed print services, copiers and printers, document management solutions, managed services and asset management systems. When I say “consult,” I mean they paid me to help them generate a scope document, sift through vendor proposals, sit in sales meetings and solution demonstrations, give input on each candidate and manage the implementation of the chosen solution. I was that guy you didn’t want to see in the room during your presentation – I know all the techniques and I’m the one who told your prospect to wait until the last day of the month to give the green light.
Here are bona fide quotes I’ve heard from my clients:
- “I can’t believe we sat through a 15-slide company introduction. It could have been two slides.”
- “They didn’t listen.”
- “Salespeople. They talk too much. All he did was repeat my questions – and his answers.”
The bad news is, what you think is relevant in your approach is not. But because EVERYBODY in sales says the same things, the audience is accepting of this behavior.
I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again: what you think you are doing and what your prospects see you doing are diametrically opposed.
All is not lost. As things get back to normal and people are changing the way they do things, now is the perfect time to realign your self-improvement regime.
Here are three ideas:
- Get better outside the traditional sales training courses.
- Use the tools.
- Do it for yourself, not your employer.
Get better outside of the traditional sales training courses.
Buy books about general business. Go to YouTube, listen to podcasts and devour content on your time. No more “how to sell” books; go for the vintage works like “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance”, “Guerilla Marketing” and “Think and Grow Rich.” Business owners and C-levels read these, you should too.
Join discussion groups you usually wouldn’t. I know you know this — getting out of your comfort zone encourages growth. So do it.
For example, join a knitting group. You may ask how knowing the difference between a purl and knit stitch will help your sales? Simple. Honing your curiosity skills by learning something new contributes to your overall inquisitiveness and that is one of the elements the best salespeople possess.
Use the tools.
Again, let’s keep beating that dead horse. Get on LinkedIn and explore. Adhere to the polite rules of engagement – don’t hit a prospect up for a connection until after you’ve established some sort of online relationship. Comment on prospect’s posts, get into the same groups and contribute content for all members, not just your prospect.
Get a HubSpot account and enter prospects. HubSpot is a great source for additional information on accounts and prospects.
Set up Google alerts for your prospects, clients, industry issues, and technology concerns, and scan through them every morning.
There at least a hundred other online tools out there – pick a few, invest in your future and start using these tools. I am not recommending you start a blog, create thousands of words of content and become an industry expert. Consume more than you produce, for now. This is an internal journey — a self-renaissance. We have got to change our perspective from one of projection to one of reflection. Once we do this, opening up to honest and relevant prospect-centric challenges is second nature.
Do it for yourself, not your employer.
This is a big one. Not only do I hear displeasure around salespeople from clients, but recruiters are also expressing similar concerns. Employers are looking for well-rounded people with sales savvy, common sense and business acumen. This means any improvement in your ability to decern challenges, be present in your environment, and take positive action for your clients will place you far above most candidates.
Do this for you. Don’t worry, your current employer will be fine with it as your sales begin to increase. Your future sales manager will benefit even more.
I’ve written and spoken about this important topic for decades and at first it seemed ridiculous to bring up “business acumen” in the copier niche – we didn’t need acumen back when each employee was copying 9,000 images a month. The stage is different today. Showing a client how to push the right buttons and sign on the line which is dotted may be part of the show, but it certainly isn’t the major plotline.
Get better at being better and start doing what we said we would do, but never did.