Jonathan Farrington of Top Sales Experts .com recently invited me to join his network of 50 top sales speakers and authors from around the world. The site is a comprehensive directory of leading motivational and sales speakers that include Dr Tony Alessandra, Jill Konrath author of Selling to Big Companies, and Steve Kraner CEO of the Sandler Sales Institute.
I also just joined another fantastic community called SelfGrowth.com. It’s a massive global expert data base on everything from sales to yoga.
Here’s my new profiles:
F.E.A.R. as defined by many personal development gurus (the revered and even the self-proclaimed) is defined as False Evidence Appearing Real. To close big deals, and large clients, especially in turbulent or uncertain times is all about taking the F.E.A.R out of saying yes.
Often the prospect has a dozen good reasons why they should do business with you, they even admit it, but still no deal. There’s a hesitance, a pause, then more questions, a couple stalls and more meetings hesitations and stalls. What are they afraid of? Often it’s an undefined sense of uncertainty. It’s emotional intuitive issue, they don’t trust us, or they don’t trust a number of factors that influence their business that are related to the transaction.
“Sales is about creating an environment where an act of faith can take place.”
This act of faith us based upon trust and credibility. Trust is in my opinion the number one sales currency. Too many people think it’s a product, a pitch, a better deal, or a nice suit. These things are important, but all will fall short without trust.
Recently I surveyed a number of senior investment advisors with one of Canada’s largest brokerage firms and asked them a very straightforward and open-ended question; “What does is take to move a big client (along with their with money) from a competitor to your firm?”
Every single one of them, without exception, said “the relationship.” This relationship was built upon a series of trust building interactions, very few of which were related directly to immediate gains in stock picks or better brochures than the competitors. They described knowing the client personally through lunches, dinners, inviting them the VIP events and being very accessible and transparent in their dealings with them.
I asked “what about your great research, your name in the press, the brand, and of course your track record?” The response: “That will get them to open their account with you and allow you to send them the odd e-mail or prospectus.” To move a large lump sum of money for you to manage they told me “you need trust, a real relationship based upon it.”
I recently landed a fortune 50 client. I knew I was up against bigger competitors. After the RFP and final presentation was done I got the news. The deal was mine. When I asked the Senior VP of Sales for this company why I got the deal his answer was little surprising. He said “I don’t know, the other guys are well branded, they said the right things, but you just made us feel comfortable, you were open with us, I felt that our team would relate well to you.” Relate well? I thought. What about the results I’ve landed for other clients? Our great training modules? Our experience in their sector? Comfortable? They bought comfortable!? What kind if competitive advantage is that?!
What my broker clients and I experienced is the same thing.
Our value proposition, our branding, our stats and track record opened the door for us. To close the deal, and grow the client it was our ability to establish trust that was the deciding factor.
What is trust? Trust from a prospects perspective, is a sense of comfort, a belief that we’ll do what we say we’ll do regardless of a contract or what we’re obligated to do. Seems simple, but so many people today feign concern but don’t deliver. The truly empathetic sales person that is grounded and transparent has a huge advantage in the marketplace. Trustworthiness is a rare commodity, if we focus delivering it as out core value proposition we can lock clients in for a lifetime.
So how do we establish it? Here’s some quick concluding thoughts on the topic:
#1) Know your product and service capabilities, all of it’s applications and all of it’s limitations. Close deals that fit and be willing to walk away or refer them to someone else. Basically take on clients you know you can hit a home run with.
#2) Keep even the smallest commitment always, Even things like being on time are unspoken and implied commitments. If we can’t be trusted with minor details how can we be trusted with business critical issues?
#3) Never talk about other clients to prospects, unless you let them know that you have pre-approval. They’ll enjoy the story but then later wonder what you’ll say about them.
#5) Manage their expectations up front. Let them know what to expect, even in regards to product and service limitations. Our clients are grown-ups, they know there’s no perfect product or service and they’ll appreciate our candor.
#6) Have conversations that are broader and deeper than our competitors are capable of having. Do this by educating ourselves more, researching more, assuming nothing, and customizing every interaction with the client.
#7) This final point is by far the most critical. Be good at establishing genuine rapport. This happens by being totally aware, present and functional and having a highly developed capacity for listening and asking great questions. People will sense our level of empathy and sincerity more from the questions we ask then the stories that we tell.
Shane Gibson is President of Knowledge Brokers International and author of Closing Bigger the Field Guide to Closing Bigger Deals. With 14 years as a professional speaker Shane is in high demand as a conference speaker and a sales training and sales performance specialist. KBI’s clients include organizations such as BMW, Siemens, Ford, Vodacom, the Vancouver Board of Trade and dozens of professional associations and corporations in Canada, USA, South Africa, South America and the Middle East.
According to a North American study, here are some of the reasons given for not dealing with a salesperson:
• Not following the company’s buying process (26%)
• Not listening to customer’s needs (18%)
• Not following up (17%)
• Being pushy, aggressive or not respectful (12%)
• Not explaining the solution objectively (10%)
• Making exaggerated or inaccurate claims (6%)
• Not understanding the company’s market (4%)
• Being too familiar (3%)
• Not knowing or not respecting the competition (2%)
Harvard Business Review, July/August, 2006
This is an affirmation of some of my past podcasts and entries on the endless line-up of sales gurus claiming to have the ultimate sales process to sell you. The best process is the process the client uses to buy. This comes getting good at rapport, asking the right questions, an being mindful of the stage of relationship development we are in with the client.