I remember signing up for a seminar at USC taught by the incomparable Donald C. Bryant, a Professor Emeritus from the University of Iowa.
It was one of the smartest moves I ever made as a graduate student, because, arguably I did my best scholarly writing under his guidance.
More than simply edifying, this experience was nearly transcendental. There were only a handful of us in this doctoral seminar, and it was rare company, indeed.
In a telling comment, one of my peers looked at me as the first session was about to get underway, and he whispered with reverence: "This guy has forgotten more than most scholars will ever know!"
Of course, it was a compliment.
The best salespeople have also forgotten more than mere amateurs will ever know.
But even the best need to prepare their "lectures" or sales performances, too, and this means going over what has become hazy, or has been pushed out of our routines.
Here are five crucial things most salespeople have forgotten:
(1) With new clients, you always have to establish your credibility, right away.
Just this week, after having communicated by phone and email with a prospect, I sat down with her and her associates, and after making some small talk, she said: "So, Gary, why don't you tell us about your background in this field, and how long you've been doing it."
For just the slightest second, I thought, "Didn't you read the materials I sent you?"
She was doing me a favor, though. We all need to explain why and how we've earned the sales opportunity that is before us. What makes us uniquely qualified to win their business? Prospects want to know and need to know, and it's all too easy to assume our reputations precede us. If you're leaving a Credibility Step out of your selling, and many of the most experienced sellers do, then put it back in!
(2) When possible, listen more than you speak.
Ask questions, not only because you'll get prospects to disclose needs. Ask because you really don't know this person's specific situation. Minimally, new prospects don't think you know them, and they expect you to make an investment to get better acquainted. Also, by listening more, especially at the beginning of the encounter, you send a signal of respect that suggests that after the order is taken, you'll still be respectful when servicing the client. You may think you've heard it all, but you haven't. Even if you have, give yourself a chance to be surprised and to learn something new.
(3) Don't wing-it!
You must sound organized to come across as expert in your field. Allowing happenstance or the client to take complete control of the situation is foolish and it usually backfires. They can't sell what you're offering better than you can, and most prospects will not close themselves. If you have a basic presentation that you follow, stick to it as much as you can, while still providing enough give-and-take to LISTEN, as mentioned, above.
(4) Never get too chummy with the prospect.
Some prospects are more charming and disarming than we are! They can beguile you into disclosing your manufacturing costs, competitors' names, and miscellaneous weaknesses and disadvantages that you wouldn't bring up in a confessional. Recall that World War I poster that said: "Loose lips sink ships!"
Reveal enough to be personable, but take care of the business at hand, first and always.
(5) Remember the ABC's: Always Be CLOSING!
You can lead a client to water, and you CAN make him drink!
The way to do this is by closing, by asking for the sale in a stylized, effective way.
"I think we've covered everything, so let's get you started with this program and I know you'll be pleased, Okay?"
If you hear an objection after closing once, address it as well as you can, and then, CLOSE AGAIN!
Because you've been using closes for so long you might become unduly cynical about them, believing that clients will be aware of your techniques or resistant to them, or that they'll lose effectiveness over time.
In my hometown, they used to joke, "Vote early and vote often!"
In selling, close early and close often!
Refresh yourself on these five practices before each and every presentation, and you'll return to and stay at the top of your game.
Best-selling author of 12 books and more than 800 articles, Dr. Gary S. Goodman is considered a foremost expert in telephone effectiveness, customer service, and sales development. A top-rated speaker, seminar leader, and consultant, his clients extend across the organizational spectrum, from the Fortune 1000 to small businesses. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.