The purpose of this column is twofold: First, to give you a sampling of the questions salespeople ask — followed by the answers, so you, too, can succeed — and second, to assure you that you’re not alone in experiencing the weirdness that everyday selling seems to breed.
Yes, answers. Salespeople want answers. They ask. I answer. Perhaps you’ll find the answer to one of your questions below.
Am I being used?
Q: When a probable purchaser (like that?) has contacted my company for a proposal but has a longstanding relationship with our competitor, how can we ensure that we are not being used as leverage to beat down their existing supplier? We only have one main competitor, we provide an excellent service, and we are competitively priced.
A: In sales you can be certain of nothing. My recommendation? Do not send a proposal. Instead, take your numbers directly to your probable purchaser and discuss your advantages. Find out why they came to you and be certain that the meeting is with decision makers — not information gatherers. Overall, I have found that sales paranoia is largely unfounded. You have a sales opportunity. Take it and make it.
Should I keep writing?
Q: I noticed that you say writing was the fulcrum for your success. Would you go down a similar path if you were starting the business today, and if so, what would you do AFTER you’ve already appeared in the local paper a couple of times?
A: If I were you, I would continue to write and be published. “A couple of times” is nowhere near enough to gain momentum. The secret to writing is consistency. I consider weekly a minimum. The object is to keep your face in front of people who can say yes to you. If you can’t make the papers, e-mail your customers and your prospects your thoughts.
Why don’t customers like me?
Q: Why do customers feel that it’s “OK” to be rude to a vendor (namely ME)? Is it wrong to turn down revenue because you don’t want that customer to degrade your salespeople? I recently spoke to a customer who was the rudest person I have spoken to in six years in this industry. Even after “killing her with kindness,” she continued her tirade. I didn’t deserve to be treated this way and neither did my staff. Should I continue to service the account?
A: I fully understand your situation. I grew up in New Jersey and Philly and sold in New York City where rudeness is part of the culture, if not its own subculture. In my experience, I have found that people who are rude usually have other issues that cause the rudeness. Your job is to be as understanding as possible, and if in the end you can’t do business with them, find someone in your company who will. Having had the experience of being fired as a customer myself, in my opinion, there is no greater business error. First, you are throwing away money, and second, you never know who is part of their network. I was given a piece of advice a long time ago and I’ll pass it along to you: Do business with those who are willing to do business with you and love the rest.
Why won’t this guy call me back?
Q: If you call the CEO, and the CEO refers you to someone in a lesser position in the organization, and you call that person but never get a response, how do you tactfully go back to the CEO? Do you tell the CEO that you tried to contact that person but did not get a response, or do you just tell the CEO you were unsuccessful, without offering the real reason?
A: You didn’t get a call back because you did the “handoff” backward. If the CEO gives you a name and tries to push you off on someone else, get a meeting with the CEO first — for five minutes. Explain how your product affects his or her company’s profit and productivity — then ask the CEO to personally introduce you to “the person in a lesser position” so there is some continuity. When you call someone on the phone and say that you got his or her name from Daddy, you’re taking the easy way out. Big deal. That’s no incentive. There’s no power behind that. If you are going to do C-Level selling, understand the meaning of leverage and influence. At the moment you are using neither.
How do I become credible?
Q: What is the best way to make a prospect feel important, have trust in you, and see you as a credible person?
A: The easiest answer is also the hardest answer: Become known as a person who offers value BEFORE you make the sales presentation. By offering my readers valuable information and advice through my weekly sales column and my weekly e-zine, I’ve established credibility before I meet them. The philosophy is, give value first, and people will buy from you because they like you, believe you, have confidence in you, and trust you.
Was I born to sell?
Q: Is it possible that some people are cut out for a “certain type of selling?” In other words, they may be good selling their current service or product, but could be much more successful selling something else. And do you subscribe to the notion “If you can sell this, then you can sell anything”?
A: Sales is not something you are cut out for, although your personality and where you grew up can have an impact on how likely you are to be successful at it. The idea “if you can sell, for example, life insurance, that selling sporting goods will be easy” is silly. If you love one and you hate the other, you will succeed at one and be anywhere from mediocre to a failure at the other. So the short answer is your environment, your personality and your love of what you sell determines your success.
That’s all I have space for. But I know you — you want more.
Every week I answer a bunch of questions in my FREE weekly newsletter called Sales Caffeine. Is FREE a good enough price?
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Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts online training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.