By Dean Lindsay, Sales Leadership Speaker and Author of THE PROGRESS CHALLENGE
The business of sales is the business of attraction. We are attracted to products, services, ideas, and people that we trust can help us progress. Everyone profits when sales professionals focus on being progress, and being progress turns sales professionals into Business Attraction Magnets.
The great Dottie Walters, one of the founders of the National Speakers Association, shared with me many years ago that the word sales comes from the Scandinavian root word meaning to serve. Soak that in…to serve.
If we just made that little shift in our own thinking about that word sales, think of how many more people we could serve with our products, services, ideas, and contacts. (Not to mention our smiles and solid listening skills.) To sell is to serve. To serve is to Be Progress.
The days of the “Surefire Closing Statement” and the “Glad-handing Slick Salesman” are long gone. Today it is imperative for Progress Agents to truly get to know their prospects and help prospects get to know them. Selling is therefore a state of mind more than a series of steps. It is a dance, a buzz, a willingness to be involved, to connect, to attract. Those of us who make our careers selling are, by and large, outgoing, caring, and driven. We want to help others progress. We believe we can make a difference, that we can help. Being progress puts wind in our sails and in our sales.
Becoming a Business Attraction Magnet is about trust. The customer has a need, or a step they desire to take. They must trust we can meet that need and help them take that step. Customers and prospects need to trust our belief in ourselves, in our companies, and in our products and services.
Seven Keys to Being a BAM
- Become Buzz-worthy.
Business Attraction Magnets provide so much value, so much heat, and so much enthusiasm that customers are inspired to talk about them. A BAM is worthy of attention, worthy of the spotlight, worthy of wattage, and worthy of referrals.
As Progress Agents, we must not only show enthusiasm for our work – we must HAVE enthusiasm for our work. If we want prospects to get excited about our products and services, we need to have that excitement first. Likewise, if we want others to believe in our products and services, we must believe in our products and services first.
To win the prize, we must be the prize. Enthusiasm shows in the way we hold ourselves and in the passion we have for our jobs and our lives. If we want loyal customers and referrals (and we do), then we need to feel worthy of loyal customers and referrals. I am sure you have sensed by now that, whenever possible, people do business with people they like. Passion for our lives and belief in our work make us attractive and likable. They draw people to us. In sales, we have got to be on. Have game. Bring heat. Same is true for customer-service professionals and those in leadership. Buzz. Buzz.
- Ask Progress-Based, Open-Ended Questions.
In the medical profession, it is known that prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. The same is true for Business Attraction Magnets. We must ask a variety of open-ended questions to diagnose the situation, so our recommendation (prescription) will meet the need.
“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” — Thomas Berger
There is a classic story, told in sales circles, of the inept salesman trying to explain to his boss why he closed only one sale per month. “You know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” the salesman says, shrugging his shoulders. “Make him drink?” the manager replies. “Your job is to make him thirsty.” That sounds good enough, but there’s a fundamental oversight here: Clients and prospects are already “thirsty.” They are thirsty for peace of mind, pleasure, profit, prestige, pain avoidance, and power. They are thirsty for progress. We must uncover others’ particular parameters for progress if we hope to make them thirsty for the progress we offer.
A BAM Dozen: 12 Solid Open-Ended Questions
Please find your own voice when asking these questions.
We must be truly interested in finding a way to help.
- How did you get interested in your line of work?
- If a journalist were to write about what’s been happening in your industry over the past six months, what might they write?
- I connect with new people all the time; how would I know if someone qualified as a solid contact for you?
- How would you define progress for you/your business?
- What major shifts do you foresee in your industry?
- Where do you see your greatest challenges?
- Why do these challenges persist?
- What difficulties will you face if you don’t meet these challenges?
- What actions are you taking to overcome these challenges?
- What results are you expecting?
- Who is involved in the decision-making process?
- If you could solve these challenges, what kind of progress would you make?
Would you tell me more about that?
Could you please elaborate?
Could you clarify…?
What did you mean when you said…?
Do not ask too many questions or ask them at a rocket-fire clip. People should not feel they are being interrogated. Being interrogated is neither attractive nor enjoyable.
- Listen as if your lifestyle depended on it… It Does!
Solid listening goes hand in hand with asking powerful questions. I don’t mean “listen” as in taking in sounds and passively processing them. As BAMs, we must LISTEN with all we’ve got. This is a basic but sometimes challenging principle to consistently put into practice. It means that, for the duration of our contact, we step outside of ourselves – our own needs, our every preconception – and attend entirely to someone else.
Everyone has a need to talk and be heard. Listening helps us treat others as if they were the most important people on the planet because – in their minds – they are. Many professionals forget to involve the prospect and drone on about how great their ideas or their company is, forgetting to ask probing questions and listening for ways to show how they can be progress for the other person.
Sometimes our motivation to actively listen is not all that high. We think we can get by without really focusing. This is a huge mistake. The ability to understand and value what others say is critical to being a BAM. So be determined to focus on and understand completely what others are trying to communicate. It is close to impossible to uncover someone’s parameters of progress when you’re preoccupied with previous conversations, unfinished tasks, or the impression you’re making. Good listeners absorb and reflect on what they hear. They are active in the listening process. This requires energy and motivation, because listening is more than just hearing. We must become active listeners rather than passive hearers.
Repeating back (as questions or tentative statements) what you think you’ve heard the other person say helps avoid mind-misreading errors. Good clarifying questions offer the person a chance to rephrase their thoughts and say precisely what they mean.
- Respect Time and Structure.
Structure is vital for becoming a Business Attraction Magnet. Solid self-management (formerly known as time management: Tips on p. 145) leads to higher productivity and reduced stress. Our desks need to be workstations, not storage space. We must be able to quickly locate important information. Being well organized shows a respect for time (ours and our customers’).
Looking sharp is also part of solid organization. If we can’t get ourselves together well enough to look presentable, how are we going to be able to help someone else see us as together enough to handle their challenges? Plus, how we present ourselves shouts volumes about how we feel about ourselves and our work. Becoming a Business Attraction Magnet takes preparation. Unfortunately, far too many of us invest more energy in planning our weekends, or even what we’ll have for dinner, than we do our opportunities to be progress for prospects and customers.
Don’t believe anyone who says sales is “just a numbers game.” Sales is a Progress-based Impressions Game – a Proof-of-Progress Game – The Ultimate Game of Trust.
Sure, the more contacts you make the better your odds – but you may also be blowing your chances for many potential relationships, not to mention time (yours and the prospect’s), by rushing through the process half-cocked with an indifferent attitude. The worst time to think of what you’re going to say is as it’s coming out of your mouth.
Ponder & Progress: Sales & Organization
Consider your three most recent sales presentations or sales phone calls:
- Did you check your attitude before making contact?
- Did you have a specific objective for the contact?
- Did you have some ideas to offer on how you could Be Progress?
- What was your plan?
- Did you know what you were going to say?
- Did you do enough research?
- Did you set an appointment?
- Were your materials in order?
- Were your questions relevant and helpful?
- Was the person inspired to positive action?
Did you make a sale or start a progress-based relationship?
Prepare, keep your enthusiasm, and be persistent. Eighty percent of new sales are made on the fifth contact, yet the majority of salespeople give up after the second contact. Give full attention to every relationship opportunity. Being well organized makes it easier to build trust and offer progress.
- Build Priceless Business Relationships
I wrote a whole book on building priceless business relationships so I’m not going to rewrite it here. But I will say this: Building priceless business relationships does NOT hinge on who we know, or even who knows us. The key to building priceless business relationships is to proactively use what we know about who we know so that we can position ourselves as progress in the minds of those we wish to build priceless business relationships with.
I know I rolled through that rather quickly and wordily. For more information on building priceless business relationships, I strongly encourage you to check out Cracking the Networking CODE: 4 Steps to Priceless Business Relationships by Dean Lindsay. I could not recommend this gentleman’s work more highly (and he is so humble). But I digress…
- Practice Empathy.
Empathy is knowing and feeling where the other person is coming from, walking a mile in their shoes, seeing things from their point of view. Empathy involves understanding that people make decisions for their own reasons, not ours. There are always reasons. Customers have reasons, prospects have reasons, employees have reasons, coworkers have reasons. They might not be our reasons.
To enhance our level of empathy, it is paramount to focus on understanding others’ parameters for progress. We may never fully uncover where another person’s motivation, their “motives for actions,” are coming from, but those motives, along with their parameters for progress, are uniquely theirs.
To be a Business Attraction Magnet, always think, and say: “What that means to you, Mrs./Mr. Prospect, is…” Commit to doing what is best for the customer, ever striving to help provide the right product or service to meet their needs. Sure, we want to profit, but the customer’s profit is key to ours. Practicing empathy includes understanding that customers do not want our products and services – they want what they think our products and services can do for them.
One of my client companies is among the largest trade show booth manufacturers in the USA. They design, build, and transport the huge trade show booths you see at the big conferences around the country and world. At the very beginning of a program I was conducting for their sales teams, I stated bluntly, “No one wants a trade booth.”
The room went silent. The reps looked at the Vice President of Sales and each other as if to say, “What?”
Finally, one of the sales managers in the back raised his hand and said, “No, Dean. They actually call us up and order trade show booths.”
I said, “You bet. They order trade show booths, but a trade show booth is not really what they want.”
Again more silence. Then the Vice President of Sales spoke. “You’re right, Dean. Our customers don’t want trade show booths – they want profit. We must be able to show them how investing in our trade show booths will help them to profit.”
Business Attraction Magnets know it is not the goal of having the product or service itself that creates the momentum. It is the perceived benefits (feelings realized) behind having or utilizing the product or service that creates the momentum.
- Focus on Value and Cost, Not Price.
Sure, it is easy for prospects, as well as sales professionals, to focus on price because it’s right there in black and white. And true, our products and services do come with a price. But the price of a product or service isn’t what the product or service actually costs. We must show that every penny of the price is necessary, because it offers the best value and avoids the cost of alternative purchases and situations. Cost and value are hard to nail down but are far more important figures to relate – because they include not only the price, but also the value-added service, technical support, our expertise, and all the other progress-based aspects that go along with a relationship with us and our company. There are often ramifications from purchasing-decisions that are eventually felt within other departments. True value shows itself over time. The challenge and responsibility of a sales professional is to relay the true costs of other choices upfront. Buyers must see that they profit by investing their time and money with us.
“Our prices are too high” is often the excuse heard from sales professionals as they explain their less-than-stellar sales performance. Sometimes it’s true. Most of the time, however, the issue is not our price; it’s articulating the true cost, and how working with us and agreeing to our price is the best value option and therefore means progress. If prospects have a strong enough why, they will figure out the how. If employees have a strong enough why, they too will figure out the how. When things get tough, reminding coworkers, employees, and ourselves of the progress behind the desired actions is paramount.
Become a Business Attraction Magnet.
Dean Lindsay can be reached at: Dean@DeanLindsay.com and 214-457-5656 and video clips of him in action are available at DeanLindsay.com and Linkedin.com/in/DeanLindsay