10 Ways to Kill Killer Sales Assumptions
In his outstanding book, “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz advises the reader to make no assumptions. That is, never look at a situation and believe you are seeing it clearly because you think you have an idea as to what is going on. This is a good lesson for the print sales rep as well. We kill a lot of sales by talking ourselves out of taking action because of a faulty belief system. What’s needed is to see the situation for what it is, to challenge any and all assumptions, and to find a way to break through to the truth. There are probably dozens of sales assumptions that can be identified, analyzed and clarified, but damn it Jim, I’m a columnist, not a therapist. So here are 10:
- No one wants to hear from me on a Friday — Thought: “Friday is the worst sales day of the week. People are thinking about the weekend or have already left. The last thing they want is to take a call from a sales rep.” Fact: Managers and presidents tell me that Friday is their quietest phone day of the week. Best bet: Do what other people aren’t. Make calls on Fridays, especially in the afternoon. Perhaps the competition is making this same assumption!
- No one wants to hear from me on a Monday — Thought: “The second worst day of the week to make a call is Monday. People are just starting their week and the last thing they want is a phone call from a sales rep.” Fact: If you believe Nos. 1 and 2, you have blown 40% of the workweek. Your rule that calls on those two days are pointless is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Best bet: Get out of sales.
- I should avoid my boss when sales are down — Thought: “Managers measure success through numbers. If my sales volume is not there, I might get in trouble, so I will just keep my head down and stay out of the office.” Fact: True, managers manage success through numbers. But if the sales numbers aren’t there, other numbers exist that prove a rep is doing the job, such as estimates, number of appointments, quantity of phone calls made, etc. Best bet: Keep the boss informed by sending a weekly email providing details of all sales activities, anything that screams, “See? I’m doing my job!”
- Big companies want to buy from Big Printers — Thought: “It’s not worth trying to go after a Big Fish. They buy from RRD or Quad, or … ” Fact: Big companies also have minority-owned vendor quotas to fill. They also need the nimble or niche printer. Best bet: Sell a problem-solving idea. If it’s good enough, a company will find a way to buy from you.
- My customers know my product line — Thought: “I’ve told them a thousand times. They are well aware of what I sell and I am confident that, if a need came up, they’d have me in mind.” Fact: Does the phrase, “Really? I didn’t know you guys did that” ring a bell? Best bet: Make it a habit to inquire what else your contact buys and casually mention a few product lines each month to each customer you speak or meet with.
- Things always slow down in the summer — Thought: “The summer slowdown is practically an institution. It’s as reliable as the Cincinnati Bengals snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Fact: Slowdowns, be they summer or otherwise, are created. They come from a lack of activity three to six months earlier. Best bet: Maintain a minimum level of sales activity on a daily or weekly level. Even when you are busy, hit those goals.
- Voicemail is useless — Thought: “It’s no use leaving a voicemail message. They get habitually deleted and I end up wasting my time.” Fact: Voicemails are mini auditions. They give you the chance to demonstrate professionalism, diligence and differentiation. You get to say, “Here’s why you want to buy from me!” in words and attitude. Best bet: Be prepared to leave a powerful voicemail but don’t let your mind drift while the phone is ringing. If the client does pick up, you’ll want to be ready.
- Price is king—Thought: “Everything is price, price, price these days. I am constantly running up against buyers who only see the bottom line and not the value that I bring.” Fact: Selling print to print buyers will likely require the lowest price, yes, but if you don’t like what you are hearing, change what you are saying. That is, stop selling printing! What you are doing isn’t working, so quit doing it and try another approach. Best bet: Go find the originator or the document, learn how it is used, and come back with a better print solution. Solve the problem, earn the order.
- The incumbent vendor cannot be unseated — Thought: “I’ve tried and tried, but they love their printer. It is pointless to even try. Heck, I can’t even get them to welcome a quote from me.” Fact: The No. 1 reason why a client switches vendors of any kind is that they feel neglected. Chances are, it’s been quite some time since the competition brought in a new idea. More than likely, they are just reprinting yesterday’s solutions. Best bet: Learn the story behind the printed piece and bring in a new idea. Solve the problem, earn the order, remember?
- You, the incumbent vendor at some companies, are safe — Thought: “My clients love me!” Fact: Unless you are bringing in a steady flow of new ideas, you are vulnerable. Best bet: Assume that you are as good as the last job that you shipped in. Question all assumptions. Make sure that you are printing the best solution. Then, remind the client why they buy from you so that they really will love you!
The best way to avoid making these or any other kinds of assumptions is to be assertive. Assertive is one notch below aggressive, two shy of obnoxious and three south of “Yes, I’m a Boston sports fan. Why do you ask?” Make that Friday sales call. Keep the boss informed. Push your full line of products and services. Be consistent with your new business activities. Learn about the company’s business needs and come up with a solution that meets them. Challenge the assumptions you make about your existing accounts.
You want to make an assumption? Assume that your sales efforts are moving the needle, even if you can’t see any immediate result. Assume that the competition is asleep at the wheel, didn’t see this fine column and therefore is vulnerable in a number of ways. In general, assume that your assumptions are wrong.
The Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word. Take nothing personally. Always do your best. Make no assumptions. Don Miguel Ruiz would have made a great sales manager. PI