In this episode of Selling the Sandler Way, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler Training explores the top sales challenges and how to overcome them with Mike Ross, a Sandler Trainer.
David Mattson: Today we’re talking about the top challenges for salespeople. You know, sales is getting harder and harder. There isn’t a place that we travel to around the world where we don’t hear sales people say, “Man I’m working harder now than I have in years.” And that’s a good thing. I mean, of course, the half empty view of the world is, we’re working harder, less money. But that’s not true for all of us. But I also think that’s the reality of the world.
So, what can we learn from that? I think now production hides all sins, does it not? Where if we’re blowing and going and we’ve got prospects jumping in the boat, we tend to take shortcuts in the beginning and then, suddenly those shortcuts that happened once in a while become our new process, our new selling system. So, we may have gotten into some complacency issues, but in today’s world, what’s happened is it’s forced us to sharpen our skills and do all the things that made us successful earlier on.
So, we hear that as we travel around. When we do President’s Club Meetings in each of our trainers worldwide, and we have 250 training centers, and people come to our trainers, and they do what’s called President’s Club Meetings where they get to say, “Here’s the biggest issue that I’m facing. How do I solve it? What should I do?” And that’s really where the learning happens. You can sit through seminars, and you can read books. But when you’re in there, in the heat of the moment, and you say, “Well this is what happened, what should I do?” Or “I’m going on a call tomorrow, here’s the situation, how should I think about that?”
And you get to pre-brief your calls and debrief the calls that you went on, that’s when you go from knowing to owning the material. And that’s key because you don’t want to sit in front of a prospect thinking about what to say. You want to react and be that personality, that person that you truly are versus a script that you learned out of a book. So that’s one of the best things that happen at President’s Club Meetings.
You know, I think out there we talked about working hard. There’s a perfect storm that’s been going on which we can start to see the sunlight on the other side of the storm here. But there’s a lot of external things that are happening. The economy, which we all know, has made it difficult for us to, you know, do business. I mean certainly there’s been spending freezes going on. There are situations where all of a sudden, you’ve been the incumbent and loved for years and now they’re shopping you. There are a thousand things going on, due to the economy.
Also, there’s this strategy called Last Man Standing where maybe your competitors have lowered their price and their price and costs per unit, or profit per unit, is very low but they don’t care because they figure that they’re going to be the last one in the industry. They’re going to buy the market by lowering the prices to some insane level. Hopefully, you know, all the other people in the market will lower the prices as well and they can’t sustain it, and they tend to go out of the business. So, I call that the Last Man Standing Syndrome.
It never works. It never works, because it’s so hard to get your pricing back up to what it was before you destroyed your pricing model and there’s always a less expensive provider. It’s just the way it happens to be. So, the economy is part of this thing that’s going on. I also think that the internet has changed the world of sales in the last, certainly last five years, and it has been for quite some time but even more so now.
And it is done it in two different ways. One is that we are competing now on a much more global standpoint. Even when I was out selling computers, I would be competing against another organization within my state, maybe within my region, but now that you have the internet, and you can Google, and you can go online for computers. Man, you’ve got people that are producing, you know, and sending them directly, which we never had way back when. You have now situations where you’re competing against people outside of your country at a much different cost structure. So, they have an un-level playing field as far as employee costs and cost of products etcetera, etcetera.
So, the Internet has allowed the competition to come in from afar. Also, what it’s done is it levels out an un-level playing field. As an example, we provide ninety-two thousand hours of training every year. We have six hundred trainers in twenty-four countries. So, we can provide a worldwide, consistent delivery to any organization or individual who wants one.
Now on the Internet, we look the same, and that’s not being disrespectful to our website, but we look the same from one-person shop working out of the garage in the middle of nowhere. Right? But they’ve spent all their time developing a website because they have no clients and it looks like it’s a multi-billion-dollar training organization. So, you have the same problem. They’re out there when it makes it look like you’re competing with a company that truly isn’t even in the same league.
But the Internet did something else as well, and it’s allowed our customers, our prospects to become far more educated in what we do in our industry than they have ever been in the past. You know sometimes they know more about our products and services than we do as salespeople. You know that, and I know that. You’ve got somebody walking in with a big folder of information on the industry, on your competitors, on the pricing models, on your products, etcetera. Boy, there’s not too much that they don’t know and not that, that’s a bad thing, but it’s changed.
You know we used to say that only happen in the car industry where you can go online and shop for what the true cost of the car is. Well, I think that was a starting point. I think we’ve all bumped into that particular situation. So that’s out there as well.
So today we’re going to deal with some top challenges that pop up consistently in our Presidents Club around the world. To help us do that, we have a world class trainer Mike Ross to join us. Mike has been with our organization for a long time. He does tons of executive training. Lots of management training and, today’s focus, which is sales training, and he does a lot of it. So, we’re in for a person who lives and breathes this, every single day.
Now, as usual, you guys get to participate. You can e-mail me questions if you’d like. Say, “Hey, here’s my biggest challenge. What should I do?” and we read those at the break. Or you can hit star six if you’re in your car, which will un-mute you because right now you’re muted, and you can just jump in.
So, Mike welcome to the program.
Mike Ross: How are you, Dave?
David Mattson: Well my friend. Mike, today we’re doing challenges, and for you and all the Sandler trainers, this is what we do every single day in our training program. It’s unique for people who aren’t a part of our Presidents Club because you get to kind of banter the top challenges and then share best practices with them. But, you do this every day.
Mike Ross: Every day. We did it this morning.
David Mattson: Exactly. So, let me do this Mike. You know we’ve got tons of stuff to talk about and lots of different tactics and strategies. Let me throw to you from your perspective, what do you hear as some of the top challenges? Let’s deal with here’s the challenge and let’s talk about how would we suggest they fix that challenge. So, what’s an issue that you hear out there?
Mike Ross: I’m going to throw one at you that I heard last week from one of my clients. He said to me, “I lost my biggest client. Over a million dollars a year in sales. The client’s buyer changed. The new buyer came in, and although we tried to sell them, the buyer went with their old vendor that they were buying from at their old company.”
Not the first time I’ve heard that kind of a challenge and a million-dollar loss is a tremendous slug of business to replace.
David Mattson: So, I think everyone can put themselves into that position. You’ve been doing business with a company for an awfully long time. You had a good relationship in your mind. New buyer comes in, which by the way, Mike you know and I know, in today’s workforce with consolidation and buyouts and layoffs, that could happen to any of us, any day.
Mike Ross: The organization’s decision maker changed companies.
David Mattson: Yeah, that could happen.
Mike Ross: He lost the client because the buyer changed.
David Mattson: So, what do we do?
Mike Ross: It’s a tough position to be in, especially in this particular case. It was 25% of the man’s book of business. So, what I said to him is, “Look, we’ve got to build a relationship with somebody new.” it’s almost like starting all over again. We’ve got to get in to see the buyer face to face and then, take out your … Luckily, this particular guy is an experienced Presidents Club member who, as you said, got a little bit lazy because he hadn’t had to work very hard to develop the business over the last couple of years. It was servicing the business.
And I said to him, “You need to go back to this new person and say to him, “No one is perfect. If the vendor that you decided to stick with could do one thing better for you, what would that be? Listen and then deny it. Vehemently.”
David Mattson: They used the nobody’s perfect move.
Mike Ross: The nobody’s perfect routine.
David Mattson: All right so for the non-Presidents, because I know we’re up at a break here, so for the non-Presidents Club Members, here’s the deal. The nobody’s perfect. You don’t fight. You don’t say that was a bad decision. You just said, “Hey, if they could do one thing better, what would it be?”
Today we’re talking about top challenges that you have as a salesperson and, of course, there are hundreds of them that we face every single week. We know that. But what are some of the ones that come up time and time again in our Presidents Clubs around the world?
And today we’re joined by Mike Ross who heads up one of our training programs. He does a fantastic job for executives and salespeople. One of the first challenges that he throws throughout that he cares quite often is, I had a customer. My buyer changed. I was doing a lot of business with them, and the buyer came in and went with a past relationship that they had when they were with a different company. So, the new buyer came in, took their old relationship with them and bam you’re on the street. So, Mike suggested they use the nobody’s perfect technique.
Mike, that was a great one. Is there anything else that we could help that person start to get their head around for that challenge because that’ll hit you in the side of the head.
Mike Ross: It’ll hit you on the side of the head, but I think you have to have your eyes open. The buyer that you lost went someplace else or will wind up wanting his or her feet someplace else, and you want to make sure that they take you with them. So, you have held on to a personal relationship with that person.
David Mattson: You know, can I throw out a couple of things because some other things to think about under this particular challenge is that the general mindset is that your customer is somebody else’s prospects. We got to know that. We could rationalize it that we didn’t lose the customer. We just lost this particular person within the customer. But the fact of the matter is you did lose the customer.
So, I think that the first thing that you may want to consider group is to do two things. One, how do you stop what happened and the second thing is, how do you stop that from ever happening again? Stopping it from happening depending on the length of contract that you have, if it’s a one-year contract, well shame on you. You should have known that was coming up. But if it’s a transactional sale, then absolutely. You know my first suggestion is right on. You’ve got to make sure that you start that relationship and start it from a fresh perspective. Don’t feel that you’re entitled to the business because that will only cause animosity. You want to go in there as if it’s a new call.
The second thing that you want to do is get groundswell. You probably have a group of recommenders that don’t want to make a change because change is uncomfortable for many. Figure out what you can do to get them to help you create a groundswell and then let it be their idea to make the switch back. I think that you have to start navigating through the process, but I think the bigger issue is, how did this ever happen?
I went through Mike’s program a couple of years ago. He had a great one-liner, which I’ve always remembered, which is, “Hey, did that person have a relationship with that particular individual or with the company as a whole?” in this circumstance, maybe it was with the buyer itself but not with the company.
A very quick exercise for you to do as you sit around this weekend is to think about your top 15 or 20 customers. Draw a work chart. Circle the people that you have Class-A, gold relationships with. If there aren’t many on a particular work chart, get nervous because Mike’s challenge could happen to you. If you’ve only circled one person in a particular company or two people and one of them that you circled was the buyer and the other one with an influencer 37 layers down, what happens if, and there’s the question you have to ask yourself. What happens if that person left the company? Would my business suffer? In this circumstance Mike is talking about, it absolutely did suffer.
But you can stop it for yourself. Find out how to go deep and wide within all of your customers, so you have three, four, five gold relationships. Class A relationships. So, if any one individual leaves, it’s not going to hurt as much.
But there are a thousand things that you could do to help alleviate ever occurring as far as fuzzy files and relationships and client review meetings. There’s a ton of stuff that we could talk about.
Mike Ross: Yeah. Clearly, this guy depended upon one person, and that’s dangerous in today’s marketplace.
David Mattson: It is, and I think it was dangerous a long time ago we just didn’t notice it right?
Mike Ross: Well it was always easier three years ago to replace the business.
David Mattson: Right.
Mike Ross: Now, it’s a little bit more difficult.
David Mattson: So, is there anything else we can talk about on that challenge or would you want to move on to something else that you hear frequently?
Mike Ross: Let’s move on to one that came up today. The client says that one of my best accounts, after three years got put on credit hold by his employer. What does he do?
David Mattson: Okay. Well, I think we’ve all had one of those happen, right? Where we have a relationship, the economy obviously, people are looking at their accounts payable, and they’re not paying us this fast as they once did or they’ve missed the payment or two, but we feel in our heart of hearts, that they’re still going to be good clients. They may or may not be. Who knows but where are we? Where we our company has put them on hold so what do we do Mike?
Mike Ross: Well, my first suggestion was to go out and visit the client in question and talk to the new management guys to see if we could do something to get them off credit hold. Get some of the older invoices paid and then move the status to a credit card account so they could ship. Take them off credit hold because they put any new purchases on credit card.
David Mattson: That’s a good. Now then that gives the ability to the sales person to feel like they’re in control of some things as well, right?
Mike Ross: Yeah and gets the salesperson out of the, in this case, dealing with the account that was within driving distance exclusively over the phone. Spending some time with the new management team because, certainly, the client is still buying the product but from other vendors.
David Mattson: Right.
Mike Ross: To continuously keep them on, at this point, 30-day terms and he can’t offer 30-day terms anymore.
David Mattson: You know, I think our issue is that the 30-day terms if we can’t do it, that the bottom line is that somebody else is doing it. Right? We’re back to that last point.
Mike Ross: That’s right. In the marketplace, the client can find that the same merchandise that they need to buy from another vendor.
David Mattson: Let’s talk a bit about what else I could do. I’ve got a situation you know, you’re right. He’s buying it from somebody else. I think that hey, here’s what I do know. Most sales people feel the internal group are our sales inhibitors versus our sales enhancers. Right? Credit. I haven’t trained any bank or any financial services company where they say, “You know, the best person in my whole company is my underwriter.” I mean they think they close the deals.
Mike Ross: No, that’s the Business Prevention Department.
David Mattson: Exactly and now we’ve got a customer that used to be a commission structure who helps me in my quota and what do I’ve got? Now, I got a situation where they have made it even more difficult.
So, let’s figure this out. We have two internal customers. We do know what the policy is. There as a guideline, but we also know that there are customers out there probably that aren’t necessarily fitting into the nice model that corporates created. When I ran into that situation, you know, I’m going to bring my customer to meet my internal group to talk about what they can do collectively in a brainstorming session to make sure that we can keep working.
Now, if I’m one of 7,000 different options that they have, and it’s me or somebody else, and somebody else is going to give them 90 days, and I’m struggling at 30 days, I think you’ve got your work cut out for yourself. But remember that you can’t solve this sales group. Only your customer can solve this. Your job as a professional salesperson is to lay out the problem and say how do we fix this thing and throw out some suggestions along the way.
I would get your internal group, whether it’s underwriting, whether it’s the policy group whether it’s your manager, involved. Get them to be at the meeting because there’s emotional ownership that happens when you have those meetings. The customer’s giving. You’re giving; there’s a two-way dialogue. Everything’s there.
Mike Ross: Bringing the credit manager out to the prospect’s premises, which is not impossible in this scenario, would be a great way to do it.
David Mattson: Yeah, I just think it’s a winner, and they’ll come up with some options to do that. I think once there’s a face to a file; you’re a lot better off to get this thing done.
Mike Ross: Right. If it stays as a file or a phone call, probably won’t happen and they’ll lose the business.
David Mattson: You know Mike, we’re back to the other challenge that you had, which is you’ve lost the customer. I think that we can do a better job as professional salespeople to start to get nervous when our customers are 31 days, 32 days out. If you know you’ve got a policy, don’t play victim to your internal company. Be proactive and realize who’s falling right at the edge of being in that gray area. Therefore, you can go out and work with them and make them aware of it, so you don’t wake up getting a letter from internal that says, by the way, customer A.B.C., We’re no longer accepting 32-day payout or whatever the policy is. You don’t want to be surprised.
Mike Ross: As a salesperson, get in your car, drive out, go pick up a check and hand it to the credit person in your company where that’s possible to make the situation better.
David Mattson: You know I think that we’ve got to make sure that we always know. It’s not that we’re going to fix the policy, but certainly, we have two internal customers. I’ve always seen that it’s a us, the relationship and the fact of the matter are, it’s good business.
Most of the, and I’m going to use banks in a second, but it’s true with every company, most of the conservative banks are still in business. Most of the other banks that weren’t so conservative are out of business. So, we’ve just got to make sure that we spend the appropriate time getting to know the people that we work with. So, you’re just not throwing you know smoke over the fence, as they say, and you know that when you go out and work on a problem collectively, that it means something. So, I think you just got to keep your eye on the ball, per se.
You know but it’s funny, and we have two basic challenges as sales people if you think about it. There are only two things that we need to do, and the rest of it just muddies the water. We’ve got to go and protect our current customers. Grow our current customers. Right? Protect and grow.
The second thing that we have to do is plunder somebody else’s deal. In the first challenge where we had a customer, and a person was fired. The new buyer came in and took the old supplier with them. Well, guess what? We didn’t protect. We didn’t grow, and somebody else plundered. It kind of boils into two basic categories. It’s not that difficult.
Today we’re dealing with challenges that pop up in our Presidents Club week after week, day after day and to help us understand what those challenges are, but more importantly, how to overcome them is Mike Ross. And so, Mike spends a lot of time with salespeople both on tactics and the strategic viewpoints of what to do and step by step. Also, with the Executive Teams that manage that team as well.
Mike Ross: The next challenge is this time of year, the end of the year, the beginning of a new year. The client said to me, “Mike how do I sit down with my existing clients and talk about an annual buying plan for them for 2010, which is greater than the plan that they had for 2009. This is in a down industry.
David Mattson: I’ve got, I’m doing whatever it is X this year with the customer.
Mike Ross: Right, this year I’d like to do 120% of X, and I’m getting these excuses from my customer of why they can’t increase the plan. In fact, maybe they should cut it back because 2009 wasn’t that bad a year and they’re uncertain about 2010.
David Mattson: So, what do we do?
Mike Ross: This in another case I think of what I call tough conversations with your clients. Best accomplished in my opinion face to face. This is a great place where you’re listening skills are going to be tested. You really need to be a great active listener to pull this one off. When the prospects say, “You know I don’t think things are going to go as well next year.” You have to say something like, “I understand. You tell me why.” And then shut up and become the perfect active listener to playback what the prospects said to make the prospect see or hear or feel how ridiculous the feeble excuses he just gave you were.
David Mattson: And you just let him talk. Let him do it.
Mike Ross: Let him talk their way into buying. Recognizing that what they did in 2009 wasn’t enough and they needed to do more.
David Mattson: And so, we’re going to use some reversing and some not OK.
Mike Ross: Not okay and we’re going to find some more pain about the results from 2009. Then we’re going to have the prospect design the 2010 plan, which is 20% bigger, 30% bigger as opposed to the smaller plan that the prospect throws off the top of their head. This is naturally with a business that has continuing transactional sales, kind of like radio.
David Mattson: Yeah but that’s a tough industry, and then it got destroyed. But I think we all run into this issue where we want to grow, and we can either grow through new acquisition of customers, or we can grow our existing customer base. We’ve done tons of shows on how to do both of those, but we’re sitting in a situation where I’ve estimated, I’ve planned in my sales plan that you’re going to do X plus 20 and right now, you’re giving me the hemming and the hawing that you’re probably going to X minus 20 or X is going to be a struggle.
Mike Ross: Or even worse.
David Mattson: Yeah even worse.
Mike Ross: Worse than X minus 20. In the marketplace, to differentiate that client from their competitors, the additional marketing and promotion budget is a better prescription but the client themselves has to figure that out.
When they figure that out by doing some of the Sandler techniques like active listening, finding pain, finding the budget to expand the annual plan, that’s where it’s going to happen.
David Mattson: I think that as you listen to this stuff, I think the thing that pops into my mind and it is the mindset. That you really do want to make sure that you’re going into it with a clear head, and you truly are doing what you say, which is listening versus listening for an opportunity to jump in and justify the fact that they should give you more business because they’re going to have to self-discover the process. That is really what you’re saying Mike, versus you telling them they’ve got to do X plus 20. They should self-discover. It’s good business for them to do so and here’s why.
That’s so hard for people to do. You know you’ve got two ears and one mouth. Use them in the proportion that they were given to you, and it’s so hard for us to do that sometimes.
Mike Ross: The average American, if you tell him to turn left, they’ll want to turn right. If you bring in a plan and you tell him this is what you ought to do, it’s 120% of what we did last year; they’re going to say you’re wrong. I’m going to do 80% of what I did last year.
Let them discover that they didn’t do enough. When they discover that, then they’ll find the money.
David Mattson: Right. People never argue with their own data, do they? It’s they deny when they’re being told something but when they discover something, then it must be true. That’s been going on since day 1 of time.
Mike Ross: That’s right. When you discover something, you know that you’re right but when someone else tells you about i. Have you ever driven in a place like England or Australia, Dave?
David Mattson: I have.
Mike Ross: First time I did it in Australia, I almost got killed because I was looking for the stop sign subconsciously out of my right eye. In the right part of the intersection and I didn’t see any of them. The people in the car were screaming me, “You’re going to get us killed!” because all the stops signs are on the left. But I didn’t see them. They were there.
David Mattson: Well, we got blinders on. Lots of times we go through life that way. You know another thing that we could do in that situation is to a wallet sizing exercise. Whereas, if a customer truly is trying to figure out how to cut cost, and you happen to be the way that they think that they can cut cost by doing X minus 20 versus X plus 20, but one of the things is to figure out what the wallet share is or what they spend.
If they’re spending a million with you and five hundred thousand with somebody else and a million with somebody else because they wanted to dissipate risk and happened to have one supplier, you should go down and figure out what the total spend is. Then, try to get a percentage of somebody else to spend, because at the end of the day, to Mike’s point, if they self-discovered that managing five suppliers is far more time consuming and costly than managing three suppliers or two, then you would save them a ton of time and energy. They’re going to be able to participate in the economies of scale. Because if they’re doing more business with you at higher discounts or whatever the pricing model is, then it’s to their benefit in a lot of different ways. I think that’s some of the stuff that you have to do self-discovery. Find out where are you in the mix. Right?
Mike Ross: Actually, if you have a high-quality product or the highest quality product.
David Mattson: There you go.
Mike Ross: If the customer is exceptionally happy with your results versus Vendor B, and Vendor B had 1/3 of the total spend, maybe this is the year to recommend that you increase our share of the 90/10 instead of 60/40 or 70/30.
David Mattson: Right. If somebody’s going to take a hit, how about the other guy?
Mike Ross: They didn’t do it as well. They didn’t make the deliveries on time. They didn’t deliver the margins on their product. You got the margins. You got what you were looking for with ours. What makes more sense?
David Mattson: Well you know, I think throughout the time, again we’re back to doing a little bit each and every month with customers, so you don’t have to play catch up. One of the things that comes to mind is the customer satisfaction survey. Which is every time you’re with your customer, you set the baseline by asking, “Hey Mike, what are the top three things that are important to you for you to feel 100% about this relationship?” Whatever they are, which would be different for every person that you talk to which is OK, you want to make sure that you go above and beyond to meet those expectations. That’s step one.
Step two is every time I sit in front of my customer, I’ll say something like, “Hey Mike, remember these are the top three things that are important to you, where am I? Give me an A, B, and a C. How am I doing?” and if he keeps saying A, A, A, then you’ve got a good opportunity to leverage that.
If they say C, C, C and you’re failing, then it doesn’t much matter what the conversation is, we’re in trouble. So, at that point, you can leverage what Mike Ross is saying, by saying, “Hey, we’ve got a quality product. The other people are falling down.” and they would have said, “You know you’re right.” because they’ve had these conversations over the course of a year, which have said, “Yup. You did a great job. You’ve done a great job. You did a great job.” So, you may not even have this conversation with your buyer. The buyer may have it really without you mentally and cut down your competitor’s business. If you’ve done a good job to lay the foundation, we’re talking about sales challenges that we face every single day, and certainly, we all know there’s no shortage of sales challenges. Whether we cause them or whether, as we’ve said, the changing internal policies cause them in our second challenge or whether our competitors have an un-level playing field. It doesn’t much matter.
At the end of the day, sales is an easy concept. There’s a W and an L. Did you win or did you lose? There is no second place normally for sales unless they’re trying to pick three or four vendors at once and unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every day. It’s either true because you’ve exposed the pain or they’re uncomfortable with the current company, and you’ve done a fantastic job of understanding their issues and then doing the fulfillment steps that matches what they need within the decision process and their budget. It’s not that difficult.
So, Mike, we’ve got probably time her for another one. What’s something that pops up that you here?
Mike Ross: I’ll give you an easy one that popped up. “Call me after the first of the year.”
David Mattson: The problem is they start saying that in March.
Mike Ross: I used to like it when they said, “Call me after the holidays last month.” And then you can easily say, “Which holiday?”
David Mattson: Yeah right. Okay.
Mike Ross: Or, “Under whose calendar did you mean that?” After the first of the year, wow could be all the way through September.
David Mattson: Right. It is so true. It is so true. So, when you get the brush off, what do we do? If it is a brush off…
Mike Ross: Well that’s the first thing you want to figure out with a prospect. When most people tell me, “Call me after the year.” what they really mean is get lost. I don’t want to buy. I’ve got no interest in your product. That’s not what’s happening here. You’re just afraid to tell me no.
David Mattson: Often, we do a lot of mind reading. Do we not?
Mike Ross: Sure, and sometimes sales people buy the feeble excuses, like, “We’re busy now with the holidays. The Christmas rush.” Or, “Everyone’s on vacation. We’re not making any decisions.”
David Mattson: Mike, what’s the mindset of going for now, because isn’t that the case here? Hey some will, some won’t. Who cares? Move on.
Mike Ross: That’s right. Some will, some won’t. So, what next? When they tell you, “After the first of the first of the year.” a question, “What’s going to be different after the first of the year the?”
Take it to an example; I had a prospect that told me that, “I can’t buy until the beginning of the next … Our budget is ruined for the year. We don’t have any money for sales training.”
I sat back in my chair and said to him, “Dave, so when does your budget year begin?” He said, “July 1st.” And this is on May 20th. I said, “That’s easy. We’ll begin now, and you write a check, July 1st.” We started the project.
David Mattson: There you go. We would have jumped automatically to the assumption of that it’s an annual budget versus a calendar.
Mike Ross: It was a July 1st budget year.
David Mattson: Right.
Mike Ross: After the first of the year? Help me out. Tell me what that means.
David Mattson: Yeah, what’s going on?
Mike Ross: Look, you don’t need to fix the problem that we can fix, until after the first of the year. You’re not going to have losses for another three weeks.
Now the other response to it is, “I understand. Let’s figure out what the cost per week would be if we solve the problem or the return on investment for you. Let’s look at how many dollars are at stake. Every week you delay, you lose a thousand dollars. Every week you delay you lose five thousand dollars or a hundred thousand dollars.
David Mattson: I think with that we should do a good job in a pain step, so we know that number. Right? Because if they say, “Let’s wait.” But you know that the cost of pain is going to cost them $60,000 a month, and they want to wait five months. Well, you’re using their information in a future conversation, which is a lot easier than trying to dig down. Both work, but I absolutely agree if you can use their numbers to validate the fact because I don’t think most people understand Mike. There’s a cost of stalling, and that’s really what you’re bringing up.
Mike Ross: Sure, and if you’ve done your pain step right, and denied whatever they said, it’s costing them and made them valid and prove it to you, it’s locked in their brain. Their numbers are locked in their brain. They’re real. It’s not imaginary numbers that a sales person made up. It’s their numbers. They never argue with their own information.
David Mattson: That is so true. Now Mike-
Mike Ross: And they go back and say, “Well let’s see. It was $60,000 a month, and we have four weeks that you’re going to delay. So that’s about a month, $60,000.” It’s not important, over the $60,000 is purely illusionary, and then they start the fight with you. This is a place where you can pick a fight and hope that you lose because when you lose you win.
David Mattson: And they’re arguing with their own data, which is very typical to do as you’ve said.
You know Mike I’ve got four challenges here today. It’s got four home run discussions as far as what we can do to solve those and I think that we probably, if I think about sales people, we don’t have one of those. We’ve got a lot of things that you’ve brought up today.
I want to say thank you for joining us. You did a fantastic job. Lots of tactics and strategies that we share with the people and come back and join us again, would you?
Mike Ross: Will do Dave.
David Mattson: This guy is great at what he does, and so we’re all in for a treat today. I think some of the challenges that we’ve popped in; they fit everybody. Right? So here are some other challenges that you may have and I’m going to blow through them at light speed.
First, you don’t learn from your past successes or your past wins. The challenge that we have, we make a new day, every single day. Right? The sales mantra is, “Tomorrow’s a new day.” Well, that’s probably true but what you don’t want to do is not capitalize, not leverage on our learning and our failures. Learn from your successes and learn from your failures.
So, what does this mean? How do I boil this down? Create a playbook for yourself. Get a series of five by seven cards. Write down the top objections that you get from your prospects and your magical responses to them. Write down your top 20 sales questions that you do. Write down how you bracket for money, whatever seems to be working for you, whatever you seem to hear from somebody else. Jot it down. Capture a best practices book. We call it a playbook at Sandler but what it does, is it embeds this great stuff versus having a genius attack every single time you show up.
What you’re going to realize is that there are patterns and you’ll also start to journal, or write down, in your playbook the things that are popping up due to competition changes, due to the economy. Then you can strategize proactively how you’re going to handle those and ask for best practices internally.
But to capture that playbook is fantastic. We all have access to own at Sandler. If you want to create one on your own, spend a dollar. Buy a five by seven and start to figure out, what would I want to capture? Top questions. Top objections. Precaution planning strategy. Top six questions I should be able to answer after my first call. What are the five things I need before doing a presentation? These are the things that you want to start to capture.
Second thing, you know you want to make sure that you’re driving your customers to compelling events. So, what does that mean exactly? Well, you know we have a sales process. You have a sales process. But for the last 20 years, here’s what I’ve known and I shared it with David Sandler. He said, “There are certain things in your selling process, that if prospects do, your close rate increases. Identify what those are, not things that you do, not things that you show them, but things that they do because sales is participatory, right? Two ways. What are they?” And then, I sat back, and I’m going to use training because you’re all involved in Sandler in some way shape or fashion, so we can use that as our common denominator, and I realized that if somebody goes and watches us train, they sit in the back of the room. Whether it’s a Presidents Club or a corporate account, they experience it. That’s a compelling event. They are more apt to say Sandler’s a training company of choice.
So, they are aghast. If they come to the Home Office and design the two-day boot camp or the President’s Club, whatever it is, that’s a compelling event, and we have a series of compelling events.
What we’re doing is, we’re driving the customer through the sales process, yes, but this theory says, figure out what those flags are for your company. Where in the process or what in a process must my prospect do, that I can orchestrate, that would increase my close rate?
So, I know if they do two of the things, that my close rate increases by eighty percent. If they do all three, regardless of what they tell me, I know they’re going to be a customer because they wouldn’t have done a third, if they didn’t like the first two events that happened.
I don’t listen to what people say. I watch what they do, especially if that buyer or seller walls up for you when you’re selling, create these events, whatever they are for you. It could be talking to one of your customers. It could be any of those things but figure out what it is.
Here’s another challenge. We wake up every single day, and we realize we don’t feed the funnel. You’ve got to identify how many new conversations that you need every single month. Once you figure that out, which by the way, 95% of us that are listening don’t know that number. That doesn’t mean how many sales I need a year, that means how many first conversations must I need every single month to survive. Figure out what that magic number is and if the magic number is 20, then sit back and say, “Where am I with my 20 conversations come from? Are they going to come from referrals? Are they going to come from Cold Calling? Are they going to come from networking meeting? Are they going to come from existing customers?”
Figure out where they are and have a realistic mix. If you don’t know the number, then every single month you struggle with enough people in the funnel. The problem is that not enough people in the final, you don’t feel it until six to eight months down the road because it doesn’t happen instantaneously. So, if you do a little bit each and every day from a multiple of sources, then you’re not falling into the trap of you have to make 167 outbound calls a month to hit your numbers. You never want to do that. So, make sure you create the plan. Feed the funnel but, more importantly, know your numbers.
You’ve been reading the transcript of Selling the Sandler Way with Dave Mattson. Sandler Training is the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals to Fortune 500 companies, with over 250 locations.
Register online for the Sandler Summit