I haven't "lost" a sale in twenty-five years, but there are sales, too many to count, that I haven't "found." Okay, semantics play a part in this, but attitude an even bigger part. Great sellers know that sales is not about winning and losing. It's about bringing abundant expertise, ingenuity, honesty, altruism and hard work to all the "across the desk partners" they can find.
I know that many executives responsible for the hiring of sales representatives have "competitiveness" up near the top of their check list of desirable, maybe necessary, attributes. That's because they believe that an intolerance for coming in second, or "losing," helps one be a "strong" salesman. "Competitive," "strong," "killer instincts," "winners" are all words and phrases that are commonly used by the average executive to admirably describe sellers. I suppose that's why women, not all that long ago, had a tough time breaking into the sales game (except of course, for telephone sales--back when it was thought that "sweet" personalities were the tickets to success over the wires). It's interesting that today, these same executives, if probed, will at some point express the value of the "nourishing" qualities of women in selling. To them, I think the perfect seller, expressed in animal world imagery, might be a breast feeding lioness shortly after a kill.
When I think about and metric closing ratios, I look for commonalities in the meetings that didn't result in new partnerships. What were we trying to get out of the meeting in the first place? What did we know about the customer's business and marketing landscape before we visited? What questions arose from this research? Did we spend our precious meeting time talking about our features and benefits or rather about what the customer knew, and more important, didn't know, about his problems and opportunities? Did we and the customer ultimately agree that whatever the future brought him, would depend in a material way upon doing some things differently than he is now. Remember, if he is maximizing his every opportunity now, and staying the course, for every minute he does so, 11,943 envious competitors are studying his playbook and devising plays to turn the game around.
In each "sale" that didn't happen, it isn't so much that something was lost. Rather one of two things kept one from being found. The first, and this is always the challenge, the seller never "found" the prospect and so never talked with him. Directories, phone books, newspapers, referrals, eyes and ears, etc. will all present more opportunities to find a sale that we can ever take advantage of. How we spend our time and energy locating these prospects will greatly determine how many we find, and therefore how many we help and how profound is our contribution to them, our companies and ourselves.
The second is, once the prospect was identified did we "find," through frank, provocative and honest hard work together, clues to sensible and actionable plans to grow his business? Not your business, his. The growth of your business is a by-product, not a goal of the newly "found" sale.
Great Selling, and a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Bob Sherman has 40 years experience managing relationships between media companies and advertisers in old and new media from radio, cable and TV to the Internet, and from sales executive to chief executive and from the biggest media corporations to his own entrepreneurial companies. He is currently in partnership with Pilot Group, LLC. Bob can be reached at email@example.com.
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