'Shark Tank,' A Must-See Sales Television Show
It’s no wonder more and more people are “cutting the cord” and getting rid of cable. Aside from the expense and a typical customer service experience that makes a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles feel like a ride at Walt Disney World, there is really not a lot of valuable television to watch. Owning a DVR, a truly life-changing appliance, gives us all the chance to power watch and catch up on what little good stuff there is, such as “The Blacklist” and “Downton Abbey.”
But there is another show that qualifies as “stay-at-home TV.” It’s “Shark Tank,” that is, if you like must-see sales TV. The premise is this: Entrepreneurs seek investment from one or more multimillionaires in exchange for part ownership in the company. People stand before the panel, present their product or service, name their price, and then field questions and (hopefully) negotiate one or more offers from the Sharks.
A very small percentage of the participants are salespeople. This makes for an entertaining visit to the hot-seat, as well as fascinating banter as the panel members decide whether to risk their own money on not just the idea, but the person making the pitch.
Each 30-minute episode consists of three or four presentations. Assuming several breaks for commercials, the entire potentially life-changing event can take just five or six minutes. Talk about Short Attention Span Sales TV!
While this reality show is supposed to encapsulate the American Dream, give the little guy a chance and make money for Mark Burnett Productions, it is also a prime example of thinking-on-your-feet salesmanship—sometimes planned and thought out, other times accidental, but always necessary. In the end, some land a Shark while others become Shark bait and leave battered, beaten and bloody. The difference comes down to a few key points and they make for good examples for the print sales rep:
The Idea—Nothing widens the eyes of a potential customer like a winning product. Solve the problem, earn the order is a selling motto from long ago, but it still fits in 2015. Some participants improve on what is and others create a whole new category. Imagine yourself making a sales call to quote an existing job. Your chances of securing a PO come down to having the lowest price or coming up with a better idea.
Which do you think is a more likely path to success? This will require you to do more than just know the specs. You will need to know the story behind the job. That means asking quality, open-ended questions that get to the intended purpose. Through a process, you might come up with a better mouse trap.
The Pitch—Walking onto a TV studio set and facing five wealthy and savvy business people would bring anyone’s anti-perspirant to DefCon 5. The winners communicate with their entire bodies. Their eyes radiate confidence and they move with Fred Astaire-level grace, even if their knees are shaking. Participants are given a minute or two to deliver their message. Most recite a memorized pitch and then bring it in for a landing with a catchy action statement. One poor soul barely got into his presentation before going completely blank. Mercifully, the Sharks saved his bacon by asking him questions designed to get him back on track.
Sales appointments are precious commodities and great care must go into the pitch itself. Preparation is key. Reps need to research the industry, the company and the decision-makers in the meeting, as well as to carefully plan out the agenda and delivering a powerful message. Like the famous sales manager Eminem pointed out, you only get one shot.
The Pitch-er—Although the Sharks are far too seasoned to be swayed by their emotions and let their investment decisions be positively influenced by their impressions of the person presenting, they have absolutely no problem whatsoever rejecting someone they don’t care for. An almost certain, “I’m out!” will result from a Shark not feeling heard.
Woe to the entrepreneur who fails to listen. Savvy customers, too, take into consideration the seller making the presentation. Fair or not, the way you come across, how you are dressed, your demeanor and even your handshake matters. The messenger matters as much as the message.
Objection Handling—Sharks look for blood in the water. If things were going perfectly for these entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t be there. So, they poke holes in the pitch, ask probing questions, try to find a weakness and throw out an objection or two. This is not only a request for more information (the true definition of the word “objection”), but also to test the mettle of their potential partner.
Salespeople should never be shocked at hearing an objection. It’s like going to McDonalds: You know what’s on the menu, so you should be ready with a response.
The Close—A waiter who’d invented a better wine aerator got declined by all five Sharks and, instead of bowing out, went right back at them in an attempt to change their minds. While he was unsuccessful, he sincerely impressed the panel of investors.
The only way a rep is walking out of a presentation with an order is if he/she asks for it. This may or may not have been preceded by some negotiation. The art of thinking on your feet comes mostly from experience. Again, preparation can play a part here and roll-playing before the call can get you ready for the dance.
What’s required in order to “win” and walk away with a check and a new partner is more than just a great idea or product. You must know your audience, your differentiator, have a plan for growth, be able to overcome objections, have outstanding listening skills, a thick skin (Mr. Wonderful will test you every time), and understand the concept that you are every bit as important as the product you are presenting.
In the world of print, the best sales rep does not always win. A better solution can lose to a better price, for sure, but a lower price can lose to a better pitch, too.
A print sales rep is asked to quote a job. Specs are given and quantity pricing is requested. The overwhelming majority will blindly do exactly as they are asked to do: Estimate the job and provide a price—all the while feeling like they are powerless against the mighty buyer.
The salesperson with an entrepreneurial mind takes a different approach. She seeks to learn the story behind the printed piece in the hopes that a better idea or solution will emerge. She’s done her homework. She smiles as she talks, making eye contact and reading body language. Through a combination of offering a great solution and delivering a tight sales pitch, an order is awarded, relationships are built and the Sharks swim away to find new blood.
Fade to black. PI
About the Author
Bill Farquharson is vice president at Epicomm and a featured presenter on PI Xchange. His Sales Resources page contains archived tips and Short Attention Span Webinars and is found at sales.epicomm.org. Farquharson can be reached at (781) 934-7036 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org