When you know you’ve lost the business, what do you usually do?
We have all been in that position. We thought we had something. The deal fell through. We know it’s over. The buyer made a decision. We have to say something. The question is, what? There should be a go-to move in this situation, something we do consistently, as part of a process. So: Does that go-to move exist?
The STORY: Jim was on a roll. In the past five months, he had come from the bottom of the sales chart to the top. Everyone at the office was impressed. He was determined to stay number one. With this in mind, he decided that every client was going to receive additional attention at no charge. Stop in and visit them, see what “no-charge” help was needed and provide it. Let his clients know that he was available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
The STORY: Mark had been making a decent living for ten years as a salesperson. Always in the middle of the sales charts, Mark was comfortable with his selling skills. At least he was until taking his most recent sales position three months before. In his new position, he was at the bottom of the sales chart.
George was excited about doing his first full-length sales presentation. Getting past the secretary, getting the first appointment and now going back to meet with the committee, this is what sales is all about, he thought. And to make sure that everything went well, Harold, his sales manager was going with him.
The STORY: Tim was getting more and more frustrated with cold calling. For the past three days, no matter what he did, the result was always the same — no one wanted to make an appointment. Thumbing through the index cards one more time, he realized he was on the last one.
The STORY: Almost every salesperson in the world has some method of keeping track of appointments; most often it’s a calendar of sorts. And, while it should come as no surprise, so do most people who make appointments with salespeople. Fortunately, Nick was reminded of this by his prospect.
The STORY: Whenever I think about my first days in sales, I always remember my second sales meeting. The meeting began with the usual pep talk by the management. If you have attended more than two sales meetings in your life, you know exactly what was said.
Mr. Ross, a local antique dealer, stopped by John’s car dealership to look at SUVs. John had a great looking, previously owned SUV with low mileage and many attractive features that appealed to Mr. Ross.
Jack, a new sales hire, was having lots of problems in initial meetings with his prospective buyers. Vera, his manager, sat in on a sales call with him to determine why Jack was closing so few of his prospects in what was supposed to be a one-call close, and why he was discounting so heavily whenever he did close a deal. The answer, she saw, lay in the way Jack conducted his sales interviews.
The STORY: One of the most interesting salespeople I ever saw in a selling situation was a new car saleswoman. In the small community where I lived at the time, the dealership in which she worked was very successful. As I later found out, she was responsible for most of the sales.
The STORY: Nick was cold calling trying to find someone, anyone, who would listen to him. Invariably he was screened out before he ever got the person he wanted. His calling script wasn’t working — he never got past the part where he explained why he was calling.
The STORY: Tim was driving back from another disappointing sales call when it hit him. Now he knew exactly what he had to do to get more appointments and close more sales. He needed to know everything possible about his company’s products and exactly how past customers had used the products. Tim had a plan. He was going to be prepared.
The STORY: Bob, a floor salesperson who really believes in pushing the sale along, had spent enough time to learn exactly how the prospect was going to use the product. But there was a problem: Bob was convinced that the prospect really didn’t see all the ways the product could be used, and this was the reason the four attempts at closing had not worked. There was only one solution. He decided to tell the prospect about all of them.
Vincent’s closing numbers were not what he had been hoping for. He asked his manager, Lynnette, what she thought the problem might be. After a little role-playing, Lynnette suggested that Vincent was spending too much time selling “from inside a box.”
Bob absolutely detests cold calling, and when he is in a sales slump, like he is this month, he’ll do just about anything to avoid the phone. The past customer files in his desk will suddenly all get new folders. He’ll update his contact database with all the new phone and email addresses that he can remember. Picking the lint off his suit becomes a serious endeavor.
Nick was having trouble trying to close the prospect. Still never having attended any company sales training courses, he hit upon a solution to the problem. One of the most experienced salespeople was in the back, and Nick decided to go and ask his advice.
The STORY: In the past three years, Bob has made top salesperson 10 times. He guards his customer list. New hires quickly learn which people not to approach. If calls come in from those people, well, they belong to Bob, since he already put in the work.
The STORY: It was now 4:30 on Friday afternoon, and it was the last day of the month. Tim had been trying to close the sale for the past two hours. If he closed, he’d not only meet his monthly quota, but earn a bonus. Tim was under a lot of pressure.
The STORY: The table in the conference room at the prospect’s office was the biggest one Tim had ever seen. A highly polished finish reflected even the muted lighting. Tim was prepared to present his solution to the ten people gathered there. Knowing it was going to be either his solution or the competitor’s, Tim had a presentation that would answer every last question. During the past week, Tim had done little else than prepare for this moment.
The STORY: Nick had just been hired and as yet, had not been sent out to the sales training seminars. If it were not for the fact that two of the salespeople called in sick, Nick would never have been on the floor. But there he was, with only the most basic information about the products he was supposed to sell.
The STORY: Tim arrived at the prospect’s office fifteen minutes before the appointment so that he could sit in the car and mentally review what he was going to say. Tim very carefully visualized each step of his presentation making sure that the benefits of buying from him and his companies were crystal clear.
The STORY: Tim could not believe his luck. While cold calling from the office, he lucked into a prospect that wanted to see him that afternoon. Tomorrow was too late - it had to be this afternoon, and if Tim had the right stuff, the order would be placed. And from the product description Tim gave, the prospect felt it was just what he had been looking for the past two months.
The STORY: Nick was climbing the wall because he could not figure out how to close the prospect. The prospect had spent the last hour with Nick and appeared to want to buy. But he didn’t know what to do. If only he could remember what the experienced salespeople had told him to do.
The STORY: After making the best possible presentation and after spending most of the night before preparing an extensive written proposal, Tim waited with bated breath for the prospect to say “yes.” The silence in the office was broken only by the prospect leafing through the written proposal. Tim was tied in knots.
The STORY: The appointment with the prospect that Tim spent two weeks getting was not going well. The prospect kept firing questions and Tim kept giving answers. The only problem was that Tim could not figure out if the answers were what the prospect wanted to hear.
The STORY: I think of my first sales training course. A week before the course was to begin, our instructor had sent us a book that listed the 100 most common objections and the best 100 ways to overcome them. Being used to educational seminars, I assumed we would talk about them. Have a conversation. Discussion groups. That sort of thing. Was I in for a surprise.
The STORY: “I really can’t say that what you’ve shown me, Bob, does anything for me,” stated the prospect. “In fact,” he went on, “your choice of colors is nowhere as extensive as your competitor’s, who was just in here this morning by the way.”
Tim was convinced that if only he could somehow get in front of more prospects, he’d do a lot better. But it was always tough to get anyone to agree to an appointment. He started collecting all the excuses.
Bob was preparing for his first appointment with Mr. Smerthing, senior partner of the law firm Smerthing, Pennyworth, Jones, Riccardo and Blarney, one of the biggest, oldest, and most prestigious firms in the state.