Throughout this series of articles on how you can be a top-ranked power seller in this new economy, I've concentrated on a range of activities that you can put into place right away to reach more customers and prospects and generate chart-topping sales. So far, I've talked a lot about the thing you need to do, but in this final piece in the series, let's talk about what you need to avoid doing, so that you can be successful at winning the hearts and the loyalty of your customers.
As I discuss in my new book, Honesty Sells, the healthy relationships you forge with all customers need to be based on open, honest communication. Achieving this requires that you commit to learning more effective way of doing business with people. Don't kid yourself: without this commitment, your efforts are going to fall short. You need to avoid the dangerous assumptions and lies that so many unsuspecting sales people tell to themselves, all the while thinking that they're doing themselves a favor…until it's too late.
The assumptions and lies I'm talking about here are the seven deadly sins against honesty in sales. Beware of each of these. Learn what you can do to avoid committing any of these sins…and how you can repent in a hurry.
Sin #1. Assuming that clients will think you're being honest with them.
Even if you have a mantle full of awards at home that say "The Most Honest Sales Person, Ever," you have to constantly prove your honesty and trustworthiness to people you meet. Sadly, it is a human characteristic that people tend to remember and talk more often about the negative experiences they've had than they do about the positive ones. Consider a bad experience you might have had in the past with a dishonest sales person. Maybe it was the last time you bought a new car, TV, or even a pair of shoes. That experience, if left unchecked, could shape your perception of everyone who sells cars, TVs or shoes—no matter how unfair that kind of judgment would be. As a sales professional, the onus is on you to demonstrate through words and actions that you're the real deal on honesty.
Sin #2. Treating prospecting as something you'll outgrow eventually.
After hitting your targets again and again, some find it tempting to start looking at prospecting as something they don't need to do anymore. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard a seasoned sales person say they're too experienced to prospect…or that cold calling is beneath them. That's crazy! Prospecting is the lifeblood of sales. Period. It's how you constantly generate new opportunities and grow your client base. Without having this as a fundamental component of your regular business habits, you could be putting your career at serious risk. Everyone needs to prospect…no matter how successful you are. To be effective at prospecting, you need to have more than a system for attracting qualified buyers. You also need a sales funnel that's three times larger than what you need in sales.
Sin #3. Thinking that a great product will sell itself or that the competition is non-existent.
One of the worst lies that sales people can tell themselves is this: "people need what I'm selling and they have to buy it from me." Truthfully, even if your product is something that people really need—for instance, cars, houses, clothing, insurance or oil—nobody really needs you. Prospects have been successful in the past without you and they will find someone else to do business with if you're gone. These days, money is tight in a lot of markets and companies are watching their budgets with extra care profits. In this environment, your competition can be anyone or anything that causes your buyer to be distracted. Here's how you can avoid this deadly sin. Offer your prospects and clients a great relationship—one that can help make it easier for them to do business. That's what will keep those clients coming back again and again.
Sin #4. Believing in the adage "nothing personal…it's just business."
Big mistake. Successful sales professionals will tell you that in business, everything is personal. People buy from people they like. It's true. In essence, when a client chooses one sales person over another, what they're really saying is that—other things being equal—they like one better than the other. Great sales records are built on likeability. Likeability is personal. Establishing and maintaining great personal rapport is how you build trust between yourself and your clients.
Sin #5. Relying on a "low-hanging fruit" strategy to hit your targets.
Beware this common trap that ensnares many sales people. Encouraged by successive quarters of chart-topping sales, it can be very tempting to hit the cruise-control button, sit back and rely on an existing client list to maintain sales. In fact, the most dangerous period a company faces is the one right after a record-breaking quarter. It's not enough to just keep picking the low-hanging fruit. As everyone has been reminded over the past year, markets go up and down. Therefore, you must keep your sales machinery in top working order at all times.
Sin #6. Treating any prospective sale as if it's a sure thing.
Remember Benjamin Franklin's sage advice—nothing is certain in this world other than death and taxes. In sales, no matter how great a particular prospect may look to you, things can change in a hurry. Even after a contract is signed, a sale can still fall through. I once saw over $60,000 vanish into thin air when a tornado destroyed the headquarters of my prospect…while the contact was still being finalized by the legal team. In sales, the most volatile time is between when your receive a verbal go-ahead from a prospect and when the contract is received. That's when anything can happen. So count your deals only as 100% in your pipeline once you have a signed contract and a purchase order is received.
Sin #7. Adopting an under-promise/over-deliver strategy.
I am not a big fan of the supposedly tried-and-true customer relations strategy of managing expectations and then delivering results that exceed those expectations. It simply sends the wrong message to clients. Think about it. If you make a habit of under-promising and over-delivering, then you have to do this every time you do business with a client. Eventually that person is going to expect it from you. If you are unable to exceed those expectations—even once— then your credibility can be damaged. When dealing with a client, it's better to be specific about what you're going to do and deliver on that promise. Remember that people buy from people they trust. Trust is built by demonstrating consistent behavior over a period of time, and it's that consistency that makes buyers believe in your honesty and integrity as a sales person.
This concludes our series on how to boost sales and thrive in the new economy. As I've emphasized throughout these articles, it's important that you embrace changing economic times as an opportunity to reexamine the way you work, how you communicate with people and identify where there is room for improvement.
- Focus on existing relationships
- Boost your risk-busting communications skills
- Obtain testimonials from customers
- Be shrewd and creative about who you target
- Get management out in the field
- Engage your offence
- Beware the seven deadly sins against honesty in sales
By implementing these field-tested business habits I have outlined, you will have the tools you need to make it to the top of your sales organization—no matter what kind of economy you're working in.
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Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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