Lesser Known Sales Obstacles –Farquharson/Tedesco
Ask 100 salespeople, regardless of what they sell, "What is the hardest part about your job?" and you are likely to hear answers that won't surprise you: Beating voicemail, overcoming the price objection, and managing time. Consider them to be the Sales Triathlon. But there are some lesser-known sales obstacles that are no less difficult to conquer. They help to keep the job, um, interesting to say the least. This month, your faithful sales servants, Bill and TJ, share some thoughts on challenges that weren't exactly in the recruitment brochure:
Selling the customer on the idea that he/she is at fault—A customer calls with bad news: A critical job she just received was printed incorrectly. Naturally, she is furious and ping-pongs between demands and accusations. Resisting the urge to defend yourself, you promise to do a forensic study and find out what happened. Studying the situation, you quickly learn that the error was not on your shoulders.You printed to the exact specifications that the client signed off on. Now comes the hard part: Telling her that. Gulp.
Handling this challenge delicately is all about allowing the customer to save face. The desired outcome in any job-gone-bad situation is to come out of it better off than if the problem never happen in the first place. Careful thought should go into not just your response, but the handling of the real problem: The fact that the customer still needs the job and now has to pay for it again.
There is a time and a place for e-mail and the telephone. But, bad news is best delivered in person and with a wing man. Come up with options, put on your big boy/girl pants and go see the customer. Oh, and bring the proofs. Any concessions you choose to make on the reprint are up to you.
But remember: If you give something, you should try to get something in return. Ponder that last sentence before the meeting.
Selling when you don't need the business—One of the best motivators is fear. When a sales rep first starts out, he or she is driven by daily thoughts of failure. Oddly, that's not a bad thing. It's amazing how motivated you are just after the American Express bill arrives in the mail. You are a prospecting ninja, a machine and the picture of diligence.
But what about a few years down the road when sales are up and business is good? What's your motivator then? You might be reading now and thinking, "I'd love to have that problem!" But, be careful what you wish for. Imagine what it would be like if you lost your sales drive.
What if your mojo was a no go and your day consisted of monotony and playing iPhone monopoly? Anyone can find motivation in poverty, but not everyone has the self-discipline to maintain good prospecting habits when things are going well.
A common lie we tell ourselves is that we don't have time because we're too busy handling existing accounts, and that's important too, right? Yes, it is. For this reason, "selling when you don't need the business" is our number two lesser-known sales challenge.
Landing the Big Fish—There are two ways to grow your print sales. First, you can sell a lot of orders. Second, you can land the Big Fish. Those are the ones that place orders that equal 10 or 20 smaller ones. It doesn't take a pair of Printing Impressions columnists to tell you that. The challenge comes in reeling them in.
Do you remember being a rookie salesperson and watching the heavy hitters in the office? They swam in the deep end of the pool and did business with Fortune 500 companies. In your head, you imagined and envied the superior selling skills it took to not only land one of those accounts, but to simply get an appointment. Naturally, none of them openly share their "secret" and told you how they got the business in the first place. There's a good reason for that: it's not a secret and it likely didn't take superior selling skills.
At the risk of deflating their balloon and minimizing the high regard in which you hold them, landing the Big Fish has more to do with who you know and what you know. Stop leaving endless voice mail messages with print buyers at large companies and start making inquiries into your social network to find out where people work and who might have an in. Landing the Big Fish is still a daunting task, but getting in the right door doesn't have to be.
Rebuilding your business—Remember point number two? Failure to sell when you don't need the business very often leads to this fourth lesser-known sales challenge: Rebuilding your business. Lose your lust for your job and you will soon be relieved of those pesky customers that are making you so miserable. In a flash, fear returns, terror ensues and the mortgage bill shows up. And it's only Monday!
Hey, at least you'll get your motivation back. It's been a long-quoted fact that you will lose 10 to 15 percent of your business every year. It's not uncommon, however, to lose a large customer and have a gaping hole in sales and subsequent commissions. Filling that void is not easily accomplished. It can take months just to get an appointment, additional months to get a sniff at anything and even more months to recover the lost volume.
Once upon a time, customers were yours to lose. These days, you're as good as the last job you shipped in. If you knew that you were at risk of losing one or more of your existing customers, wouldn't you sell differently?
Well, Sparky, Bill and TJ are here to deliver the bad news: Rebuilding your business is a long and arduous process. While it is not 100 percent avoidable, you can limit your exposure by staying ahead of the customer, anticipating their needs and, most of all, never, ever take even a single order for granted.
Finding fresh prospects and hot markets—"If only I knew whom to call on, I could get in the door." In boom times, prospecting was easy: You reached across the desk and placed two fingers on the prospect's wrist. If you feel a lub-dub, they are a viable prospect. These are not boom times (you heard it here first). Now, finding the pearl in the oyster requires you to kiss a lot more frogs.
The new rules of prospecting are as difficult to comprehend as that last sentence. But, even in a down economy, there are industries and companies that are thriving. Finding them requires investigation and a keen eye. Perhaps the Wall Street Journal is profiling a successful company. Maybe Monster.com lists an inordinate number of job openings in a particular industry. The signs might not be as obvious, but they're there.
The hardest challenge in sales is always the one that you are currently facing. That might be voicemail or a long-term customer who suddenly insists on quoting everything. Sales is hard. But, as Tom Hanks said in the movie "A League of Their Own," "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." PI
—Bill Farquharson, T.J. Tedesco
About the Authors
T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a marketing and PR services company that has served graphic arts companies since 1996. He wrote "Direct Mail Pal 2012" and seven other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail email@example.com. Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For. Through his Sales Challenge and Tuesday eWorkshop training programs, Farquharson can help you drive your sales. Visit his Website at www.aspirefor.com or call him at (781) 934-7036.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.