Money talks

Being an effective salesperson comes naturally to some people and the experts argue there are several key characteristics of the top sellers.

People in sales are a special breed. Lots of people can do a pitch, which mainly requires an ability to communicate. That’s the easy part. The tough part is closing the deal and getting the sale, and this takes a special personal trait. Some say it’s courage, others say it’s having a thick hide, while others even suggest it takes a ‘win at all costs’ attitude.

Undoubtedly, there’s a little bit of all of these characteristics in a good seller. Good sellers insist there is an exhilarating buzz from closing the sale. Some say it’s addictive.

What’s really interesting are the lessons from some of the internationally renowned sellers – Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins and Jay Abraham. All three do the same thing — they sell the secrets of doing business better.

The small business proprietor should be lining up to listen and learn from the top hands of selling. Ziglar is internationally renowned as a guru of sales. It seemed his ideas on selling were as unforgettable as his name, so when I was offered a chance to do a phone interview with Ziglar, I was in and dialling in a flash. Here’s what I learned.

If you’ve read my pieces before, you could have noticed I picked up a hefty serving of cynicism over the years, but Ziglar passed the Switzer ‘not another Yank expert’ test. This guy is worth listening to.

Book-wise, he has pumped out eight, but his most well-known is See You At The Top, which focused on personal growth and has had a print run of two million!

I asked Ziglar, ‘What advice would you give someone who reads your books, follows your advice but still winds up with poor progress?’

Like many top motivators, he reeled off one of the profound observations upon life which gives you something to carry along your own road. He pointed out that the psychiatrist, Alfred Adler, once defined the quality of hope as ‘the foundation quality of all change’.

The message is to keep your hopes up, never go negative, and keep working on your game.

My next question was one that has always bugged me: ‘Can everybody be taught to close a sale?’

Ziglar carefully insisted that everybody can substantially improve the closure strike rate by improving the closure procedure.
To sell well, he maintains, you have to do three things:
1. Have an intimate knowledge of your product or service.
2. Have an absolute conviction about the quality of what you’re selling.
3. Back it all up with hard work.

He says the three ‘Ps’ should not be forgotten. Do what you do professionally, politely and pleasantly, as selling is a transference of a feeling.

So is there a standard winning formula which will work for all sale situations? Ziglar thinks not. He believes you have to set your tone to suit your customer. If your customer is a trusting type, it’s easy. But if he or she is an individual who is a prosecuting attorney type, it is entirely different. A ‘solid Sam’ type usually wants minimal dialogue. An impetuous type will say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at a glance and the high percentage sales pro must learn to adapt.

Ziglar advises that if your customer is a fast talker, speed up, but if they are slow and deliberate, check your speed. This way you create the notion in the mind of the buyer that the salesperson is like themself.

Another guru
Tom Hopkins is often referred to by salespeople in the tones reserved for Don Bradman and Mark Spitz.

Apart from his endless record of speaking and educating across the world, what I like about Hopkins is the clarity with which he communicates his message.

He keeps it simple. He uses teaching tools like The 7 Fundamental Selling Techniques Of A Champion which instantly makes you want to know what they are. He is master of the better business tip and seems to have a bottomless bag where he stores them.

Try this one on for size: ‘Use your energies to out-work, out-think and out-service your competition. Follow up like never before. Write thank-you notes. Return phone calls. Show up on time.’

The key to winning in today’s fast-changing world is to become a reliable, dependable and steady partner to the customer. Hopkins knows small business and has devised the best game plans to help them win. He is a business thinker who is on everybody’s wavelength and does not deserve to be ignored.

On the home front
Closer to home, Jodie White has over 15 years experience in hospitality, retail and training, dealing with Asian clientele. She also spent several years in Japan working with Ricoh, Toshiba and Sanyo.

White says: ‘If you are in the business of selling and your customer base includes Asians, you need to understand their wants and expectations.
‘Clearly, language barriers exist, so if you’re in retail and have a customer base that is Japanese you MUST know that base. The Japanese are such sophisticated shoppers, as are the Chinese, but they are different. While the Chinese pursue discounts with ferocity, discounting too much may lead a Japanese customer to think the product or service is without value.’

The message is clear: to maximise sales, know your customer.
The expectation of service is a major difference between Australians and tourists that come here. ‘In Japan, the customer is a god,’ says White. ‘As soon as you walk into a department store everyone says, ‘Welcome’. White believes we must train and motivate people to sell, because when it comes to selling, ‘We are so lazy!’.

While Americans rate highly as the best sellers (tipping is a powerful motivation), the Japanese are up right up there. Australians can give first-class service, but our friendliness doesn’t make up for our inconsistency and laidback style, which can look unprofessional.

The 5 steps of selling
1. Seek out the ‘suspects’
These are the people who may need your product. You must get out and show it to them. If your product is good, your communications skills reasonable and the demand is there, then what are you waiting for?
2. Locate the prospect
Talk to the person who ultimately makes the decision – otherwise you’re wasting your time and everybody else’s.
3. Present the product or service
Know your product, warts and all.
4. Overcome any objections
Make sure you tell them how your product will suit them. Remember that you have to believe in your product first for others to be convinced.
5. Close the sale
You’ve done the hard work and now you need the signature on the bottom line. For many people this is really the hard part. Try asking for the order with a trial close at any time during the sales process. If you’re finding it difficult, remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Setting sales goals
o Set specific targets based on figures that are achievable. Don’t merely pluck a figure out of the air. Take into consideration what’s happening in the economy and other external factors that may affect your target
o Increase your sales budget each year based on what was achieved last year – and again what can be expected to happen in the economy
o Train your sales staff (even yourself) so they have a chance to achieve or even exceed these budgets. You must arm your salespeople with the knowledge and resources for them to succeed
o Keep in mind that selling is hard work and reward your sales team when they succeed.

*Sales tip *
Learn how to sell. Some sales people just have the knack, but for most people there are things to be learned about selling. These include:
o Develop a love for your work and pride in the product or service you are selling
o Believe in your product – you won’t be an effective salesperson if you don’t
o Be positive and create a positive attitude from the beginning
o Establish what the prospect really wants
o Always dress appropriately when dealing with prospects or clients
o Set aside time to meet to regularly meet with clients or prospects
o Prepare professional-looking proposals and presentations
o Test how committed a prospect is to your proposal
o Be confident and ask for the sale.

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Effective Communication

The legendary American screen actor Rod Steiger once said something to Paul Newman in the movie In The Heat of the Night that all business owners should remember if they want to build a great business brand. It was simple but it said it all: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Some men, you just can’t reach.”

The great business builders are champions at communicating and reaching their audience. And just about all of them used that Communications 101 technique of public relations to get the business noticed and growing.

My experience is that few businesses have made their mark through advertising first. If they did they would have had a brilliant product and a brilliant ad campaign.

About five years ago I interviewed arguably the world’s greatest self-generators of free publicity — Richard Branson. This guy is the master of public stunts to get noticed and he admits that in the early days his lack of money made it compulsory. However, he says as the brand grew, it had to be reinforced in the mind of the public by having an advertising spend.

History of the great business communicators says you have to have a strategy or a plan. You have to anticipate the needs of your market or potential customers and you then have a find a way to their eyes and ears.

Lateral thinking is at the core of finding a cheap way to get to your market.

Think outside the square
When John McGrath kicked off his real estate empire he used a PR person, who became a permanent fixture in his business, to get his story to the media. There were stories that helped journalists fill holes in their newspapers and their bellies at lunches with influential people.

Margaret Butler of homewares business Anasazi Trading cleverly linked up with celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her new kitchenware range. The very utterance of the name Nigella Lawson is bound to launch a thousand journo’s keyboards.

The use of the celebrity can be a way to generate promotion for your business but it can backfire. Sportsman with a penchant for racy women and mind-altering substances can be challenging when trying to build a brand.
Tim Pethick, when he kicked off Nudie would have a team turn up to events and give away free samples, which can be the best way of marketing a business. However, he also used a clever piece of communication.

In giving away the juice he also gave the samplers a flyer, which said something like: ‘If you like this juice, and you would like your local store to stock Nudie, then give them this flyer and we will see that it happens.’

The action made the customer an advocate for Nudie and it was a cheap way of getting word-of-mouth advertising, which is the best kind of promotion.

The lesson is lateral thinking is at the heart of smart
business communication but this does not come naturally to everybody. To some yes but others no and so a vital question is relevant.

To take some inspiration from Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character: ‘You’ve got to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky?’

You could be playing with your business’s future if you test your luck and draw on your own communications strategy, especially if you have no form on the board in this area.
Sure if you read examples of others who have got it right and copy them, you could come up trumps.

However, if you suspect that the communications business is not your long suit, it might be smarter to throw your hand in with a professional mob who could draw up a winning plan.

Remember, most small businesses don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. I hope I have effectively communicated my message.

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Networking nous

Let’s look at a common question many SMEs ask themselves: how much time, money and most importantly energy do I have to expand on networking to achieve rewards for my effort?

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