You’re not selling. You’re applying for a job.

homeless

Not to sound superficial but I dig these transformation pictures.  It’s touching to see a person’s dignity restored after they’ve fallen on rough times.  Right or wrong we’re judged on our appearance: Is this person successful, happy, confident, competent, educated. Often times our own conduct changes accordingly.

I took a visual survey of my clients yesterday.  15 professional salesmen.  Lots of black shirts (when did black become the official color of the service industry?).  Tennis shoes.  Carhartts.  Jeans.  Polos.  A few hats.  A few goatees.  The uniform of the trades.

I asked the group: Would you wear these clothes to a job interview?  Someone said, “We’re not applying for a job.”  And then the point hit home.

When you’re in sales you’re always applying for a job.  

A sales appointment is an interview.  Customers are interviewing candidates–searching for the right fit, the person that will be the greatest asset, help them make the most progress, and is the most credible.  Salespeople should prepare for an appointment as if they’re preparing for a job interview:

Step up your appearance game.  People rationalize their way out of improving their appearance (“I have to get in an attic” or “Dressing like a service technician helps me build trust.”).  But when you apply for a job you design your appearance in order to make a positive and professional first impression.

Prepare for the interview.  Before an interview you research the company, double-check your facts, bring relevant materials, rehearse sample questions, get a good nights sleep, and show up early to the appointment.  If you want to be hired, because you want to be hired, you work hard to be better prepared and crisper than other candidates.

The WOW factor.  It’s important to share your uniqueness when interviewing.  You want the potential employer to know that you’re bringing skills and experience that are uncommon and valuable.  You demonstrate scarcity.

People hire Progress.  Employers hire candidates that help them progress, move forward, attain goals and objectives.  During an interview you’ll talk about your wins, share success stories, illustrate unique solutions.  You’ll work very hard to demonstrate your ability to help a company move forward.

Follow-through.  Smart candidates follow-through with open issues, thank you letters, and respectful phone calls.  They demonstrate care and that they’re motivated to earn the job.

There’s nothing genius about these recommendations.  They’re tried and true for anyone applying for a job.  Unfortunately salespeople in the service industry disregarded them every day.  We’ve become lackadaisical about our pre-call preparation, our professional appearance, our presentation skills, our follow-through.  We’ve forgotten that before you can sell anything the customer has to hire you.

A recommendation: Stop trying to sell and start applying for jobs.

 

Make the Invisible Visible: Battling Asymmetrical Information

dusted

Asymmetrical information between a seller and a buyer can either stall a sale or result in downward price pressure.  When a seller makes an value assertion that a buyer does not understand then the seller is asking the buyer to take a risk–a leap of faith–that the seller’s product, performance, and service claims are credible.  Call it Used Car Syndrome.  Too often this results in a “trust me” scenario.  Among skeptical buyer’s “trust me” may be translated to “buyer beware.”  Nobody wants to buy a lemon.

Air filtration is a perfect example of this asymmetry.  Modern air filters are amazing!  Great salespeople know that these products provide legitimate benefits.  But for the everyday consumer the idea of spending good money on a fancy (read: expensive) air filter may seem unnecessary because air quality is difficult to quantify or qualify.  Information asymmetry occurs and the consumer opts out of a product that can significantly improve her quality of life or decides she wants the product at a reduced price because of the possibility that the salesperson’s claims are overstated.

Over the weekend I was staring at the canister in our vacuum cleaner.  It was filled up with the stuff in the picture.  Dust, gunk, dog hair, weird little cracker bits.  The Missus keeps our house very clean, vacuums all the time, yet there’s this mess of stuff.  To me, the sheer sight and smell of the muck illustrated the importance of great filtration.  I bagged it up in a sandwich bag.  It made the invisible visible and helped bridge the gap between information asymmetry and real-world progress.

In order to bridge the gap between knowledge and understanding, asymmetry and balance, a salesperson needs to evaluate her value proposition:

  1.  What claims or assertions do I make regarding my product (durable, quiet, easy to use)?
  2. What claims or assertions do I make regarding user-gains that may be unfamiliar to a buyer (saves money, quiet, even temperatures)?
  3. What claims or assertions do I make regarding my company (trained staff, responsive service, first class trouble shooting, honest)?
  4. What claims or assertions do I make regarding my character (honest, integrity, great follow-up, easy to reach)?

Next, a salesperson should ask a simple question: “Am I able to credibly illustrate my claims?” or “What proof do I employ to substantiate my claims that are themselves trustworthy?”

It’s very likely that a salesperson quickly concludes that her product, performance, and service claims sound terrific.  It’s equally likely that they’re empty when tested and that asymmetry is interferring in additional sales.  Making the invisible visible will improve that situation.

Make the invisible visible.  Identify the areas in which one-sided claims are unsubstantiated.  Supplement these gaps in order to improve information sharing, transparency between seller and buyer, trust, and mutual appreciation of products and services.

“Sell me this pen.”

montblanc-leo-tolstoy-writers-edition-fountain-pen-penna-stilografica-limited-edition

This is a Montblanc Leo Tolstoy fountain pen.  It costs around $850.00.  I learned this a few nights ago in an airport.  I dangled in to the Montblanc store.  The young salesman put on a clinic in professional salesmanship.

  1. The sale starts at the front door.  Shortly after entering the store the young salesman greeting me courteously and professionally.  He was sharply dressed in a well-pressed suit, clean-shaven, grey knit tie.  He thanked me for visiting and shook my hand.  We introduced ourselves to each other.  “I’m Matt,” I said.  “Very nice to meet you sir.” He replied.  I remained “Sir” for the entire visit.  I was reminded as to the extent to which far too many salespeople have grown overly casual as well as the impact that professionalism has on a customer’s first impression.
  2. The presentation is part of the product.  My favorite pen is the Precise V7.  It costs a couple of bucks.  My second favorite pen is the Bic Round Stick Medium.  You buy them by the bag.  I asked the salesman to explain why someone would pay nearly nine hundred dollars for a pen he said, “Please let me show you.”  He pulled a pair of white cotton gloves from his jacket pocket and put them on.  He opened the case in which the pen lay.  As if holding an ancient artifact, a porcelain egg from a Russian monarch, he lifted the pen–almost cradled it–and softly set it on a blue velvet cloth.  Finally, he wiped the pen down and angled it “just so” within easy reach of my hand.  “See for yourself,” he followed.  How many times have I listened to salespeople introduce products in boring terms “We have lots of choices and here’s a brochure.” or “Here’s our lineup…”  A salesperson’s job in part is to make products come alive, to make them sing.  Bland presentations are antithetical to value building–especially for first-time buyers or skeptical customers.
  3. Benefits bring the product to life.  The salesman was absolutely impressive in his knowledge about the pen as well as his benefit statements.  “Leo Tolstoy was a passionate and devout man,” he began, “and was known for his unbelievable work ethic as a writer.”  He continued, “The silver barrel on this instrument (!) is hand hammered and symbolizes the skill and craftsmanship of a great writer (!!).  The blue marbling is actually lapis lazuli and was Tolstoy’s favorite stone (!!!).  The silver wrought band of intertwining cords symbolizes the author’s strength (keep going kid!).  The tip is hand machined and etched so that ink flows smoothly.  Finally, the tip of the cap includes the timeless six pointed emblem symbolizing the six mountains that surround the Montblanc factory.”  He must have practiced his pitch a hundred times.  All for a pen.  As a salesperson your words are your tools.  Used well, practiced and elegant, they transform the ordinary in to the extraordinary.  Poorly used and even the most beautiful item becomes clunky and unappealing.
  4. Be creative.  Much as I love to be sold I declined the pen.  The salesman was un-phased.  “Do you travel a lot?” he asked.  “Yes,” I answered.  He recommend a beautiful wallet and then explained that is was a security wallet that crooks are unable to scan.  He showed me very nice sunglasses.  He explained that Jonny Depp wears Montblanc sunglasses as does Jessica Chastain.  The salesman’s persistence was remarkable–more so in that he never became aggressive or desperate.  He was trying to move me to a yes.
  5. Keep a line in the water.  I did not buy anything.  At the end of our conversation we shook hands again.  He gave me his card and asked for mine.  He called me yesterday to inquire as to whether I was interested in the Leo Tolstoy pen or any other item that we had discussed.  He was polite and to-the-point.  Leads are like gold.  Managing them well builds a network and aides in closing sales.

Business owners often ask me: “How do I get leads?  How do I make the phone ring?”  There’s no silver bullet in any space.  But the surest way to convince people to talk about a business is to deliver a consistently exceptional sales presentation that is unforgettable.  Sales is a craft–there’s an art to it–and the young man selling $840.00 pens gets it.  A great salesperson is an alchemist.

“I dont’ have any competition.”

disney-competition

This afternoon someone in my seminar thumped his chest.  “I don’t have any competition,” he said.  He’s proud of his business and equally proud that he’s survived for many years.  Respectfully he’s wrong about the competition.  Every business has competition and that’s not a bad thing.

Instead of ignoring your competition I recommend contrasting your brand against the competition in a manner that specifically defines your company in terms of  contrast and advantage.  After all, if you’re perceived as a commodity you can only command a commodity price–and that’s no bueno.

Instead of dismissing your competition, ask the following questions:

  1.  What moves have your competitors made recently?
  2. From a customer’s perspective how might your competition be perceived as better than you?

Then craft your response by answering the following questions:

  1.  How will you treat your customers?
  2. Define your best customers and their commonalities–what do they have in common?
  3. What problems do they have in common?
  4. What are the reasons that they work with you other than price?

It’s ok to admit that your competition may be viable to some.  It’s doubly important that you supply a counter argument as to why your customer service model or your applicability/appeal to your best customers is magent.  Utilizing a set-up and delivery branding strategy creates contrast, scarcity, and positive leverage.

 

Two Knuckles

ballflight

“In the golf swing a tiny change can make a huge difference.” — Harvey Penick

I slice.  Badly sometimes.  Less lately (God willing).  But still, I slice.  Swing path, a stiff back, ball position, focus, not enough hip rotation, poor follow-through, chicken-winging, and an incorrect grip (I interlock, but Tiger interlocks so I can’t be too far off from a decent shot here and there.  I’ve tried the Vardon but it’s uncomfortable and my connection to the club feels unnatural and rigid).

“Roll your left hand over just a little bit, ” Dumbledore said.  I pay the The Wizard to turn my lead swing in to gold.  “You should see two knuckles on your left hand.”  I looked down at my left hand.  One knuckle.  Too prone to an open club face at impact.  My slice was happening before I even began my backswing.  In golf, in business, in life, most problems find a purchase well before they actually occur.

I’d be a lunatic to draw a poor and obvious comparison between golf and business.  Golf is far more difficult and instructive.  Like any worthwhile journey, however, the lesson is simple and the execution is very, very difficult: Treat the fundamentals of your craft with humility and dogged diligence.  Small improvements are transformative.  Small improvements result in more sustainable progress than all the “revolutionary” talking points out there right now (“10X your life little man!!”).  Fundamental progress is exponential.  So focus on your grip.  Be intentional and analytical.  Over-manage the details.  Save the goofy catch-phrases about success for your first hole-in-one.  By then you’ll have well earned it.

 

Sheeple Season in Sales

sheeple-sheeple

A late afternoon conference call with a normally stoked sales team.  Their mood was austere:  “Leads have slowed down.”  “Lead quality has been pretty crappy.”  “Nobody is making a decision.”  “People are shopping.”  “There’s no urgency.”  “Tire kickers.”  “I ran one call today.”

Two months ago this team was a brick of Black Cats with a lit fuse.  Suddenly they felt like a wet Huggy.

And then El Dorado.  The Sales Manager prognosticated: “The Almanac says it’s going to be cold this winter!” (whimpering “yeeeeeaaaah” follows)

Teams can lift each other or keel haul each other.  Shoulder seasons are the true test of a team’s mettle.  Giving a shoulder season a free pass to gack up the mojo only means that the team will live and die by the weather, lead volume, lead quality, and leech-like naysaying.

Sheeple Season is here–when sales teams fall prey to a vampiric group-fulfilling weakness that too often allows uncontrollable externals to determine their total enthusiasm.  Active succumbs to passive.  Blind follow blind.  Sheep follow sheep.

Now is the time to work a pipeline.  Now is a time to conservatively manage open leads.  Now is the time to go person-to-person with neighborhood marketing.  Now is the time to give extra thanks to a Service Technician who is turning over leads.  Now is the time to call clients who haven’t been appreciated.  Now is the time to join networking groups  Now is the time to build that referral program.  Now is the time to let people know that there are new and improved products and services.  Now is the time to let people know about promotions and incentives.  Now is the time to work harder to close at the kitchen table.  Now is the time to focus on sales methods.  Now is the time to read that book you’ve been meaning to read, to listen to that pod cast you’ve been meaning to listen to.  Now is the time to shrug off complacency, bitching, waiting, hoping, finger-pointing.  Now is the time to get proactive and work on your business as a business.  We’re in a race for relationships…that’s not a seasonal Siren.

Sheep will run toward and through a gate regardless as to whether or not there is a fence around them.  They’ll fence themselves in.  But at least they’re not alone.

 

“it’s the words that sing”

“So speak to influence. Don’t speak to call a flower yellow. Speak to breathe spirit into an idea, to be enthusiastic, to convey emotion, to influence. This is the only way to have impact with your unique creativity.”

Our words are our tools for expression and understanding.  Words create commonalities and transcendent appreciation.  Words turn strangers in to friends.

Salespeople (hell, anyone who cares about being understood) must appreciate that brilliantly selected words are persuasive and transformative.  The ordinary becomes the extraordinary.  The invisible becomes visible.  Words are deeds when well-selected.

Amazing words bring products to life.  They bring Life to life!

Choose your words carefully, edit them mercilessly, use as few of them as possible, but use the best.  Yessir.

 

The Amazon Event Horizon

o-amazon-everything-store-570

In 2013 I read an on-line review titled: “Who buys an AC from Amazon!? Me, that’s who.”  It was glowing–positively gushing, really.  The author touted the cost-effective and effortless experience.  Not a scratch of regret.  That’s when I began talking about the implications that direct-to-consumer sales were going to have on the service industry.

These effects: a high-level of brand trust, ease-of-use, competitive pricing, and speedy deliveries have only improved over the last three years.  So has the Amazon footprint.

Today, right now, Amazon has a warehouse within 20 miles of 44% of the US population.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Here’s the source:

http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-replace-trips-to-stores-2016-9

The event horizon may be here.  Amazon’s forray in to full-home services and product offerings is legitimate, local, and expanding.

How will your business out-Amazon Amazon?

 

 

Thanks for the great referral letter!

Anyone who teaches for a living confronts existential questions: Is anyone listening?  Is this making a difference?  So when someone takes the time to write a note or an email about their successes it’s affirming.  This email made my day:

“Matt,

I wanted to take a few minutes and give you some feedback on your course from my perspective. I, being new and coming in with no field experience was quite nervous. I had heard of all of the role playing that would be required and quite frankly being so new I was very apprehensive to say the least. I can only speak for my experience in your course but I can tell you this, I had been in training for several weeks and was having some difficulty navigating may way through this change in career path. Through your 3 day course nearly everything we discussed resonated with me. The role play was a valuable learning tool for me, I took it serious and really tried to employ the methodology you were preaching. Asking fantastic questions and gathering information to help formulate a custom experience for the client in order to properly guide them down the path of purchase quickly became the foundation on which I knew that I wanted build my book of business on. I watched guys who had been doing this for a long time learn new things and new guys like myself have lights go on. If I was given the opportunity to speak with company owners around the country I would say ths. Invest i your people, invest in their future. Matt’s course isn’t about rehashing old techniques with a new spin, it’s not a canned pitch to be expedited and mve on. The content and the way it is delivered is unlike any training I’ve ever been in and I have a great appreciation for the genuine interest he has for making people better for having been in his course. He takes pride in what he does. I left the course and my first week in the field had 6 calls, closed 3 of them and wrote $30,000.00 in work. Week one, no experience at all. I am truly thankful and grateful for the owner of my company understand the value of this course and being illing to pay for me to attend it. I’m confident he will never question that investment.

Sincerely

Chad Smuin”

Then this afternoon:

chad 2

To everyone who supports my work, thank you very much.  It’s a pleasure working with you!  Your friend, Matt