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What Makes a Great Salesperson?

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I recently received the following email from a listener and it does a better job than anything I’ve seen in pointing out the false perceptions people have regarding sales.

“I am an eye doctor in California and I must say the word "sales" has a negative connotation. If I were to be set up on a blind date (hate to use the word while at work) with a woman who is in sales too many negative traits would come to mind and I would have to refuse the date. I work in a LASIK clinic and recommend the terms “excite with education.” I tell them the features of our clinic and how the surgery will benefit them. I am 100% honest and up front with them about their questions. I find patients respond to this and appreciate not being SOLD the procedure, but being educated about it with no hidden agenda. From this moment forward can you use the term “Excitement Educators????

Your thoughts?”

Dr. J. Cavanaugh

I think the last thing I would ever do is use the term “Excitement Educators,” mainly because it doesn’t go far enough. Educating the customer is just one of the many things a great salesperson does.

Refusing to date someone just because she is a salesperson would be the same as not dating someone because she is a doctor or lawyer, unless you want to tell me there are no bad doctors or crooked lawyers out there.

I know plenty of people who trust salespeople far more than doctors or lawyers. Does that make them right? Not necessarily: but as in any profession there are great ones; good ones; mediocre ones; and those who should be kicked down the stairs and out the door.

One of the reasons the word “sales” has a negative connotation is that too many people have no idea what constitutes a great salesperson. Too often we get our perceptions of life from TV and the movies: two mediums whose first priority is entertainment and maximizing viewership, while their last priority, sadly, is the truth.

How does Hollywood portray the great salesperson? Usually as someone who can “talk you out of anything.” Now those of you who know anything about great salespeople know that salespeople who can “talk you out of anything,” can only do it once. This is not exactly the recipe for greatness, especially since successful salespeople make the bulk of their living off repeat business and referrals.

The other thing we’re always told is: never buy from commissioned salespeople. They’re only interested in commissions and not what is best for the client. But if a commissioned salesperson doesn’t do what is best for the client, there will be no repeat business, and therefore, no more commissions.

One shot deals are not a good way to be successful in sales. Any great salesperson will tell you the most important thing about the first sale is to make sure the customer benefits so well from it, that it leads to a second, third and fourth sale, along with a long term relationship. And it is no secret that the big money is earned from long-term relationships.

To me this gives the “salaried” salesperson less incentive to build long term relationships.

Dr. Cavanaugh, being honest and upfront with people is not limited to doctors. In fact, many people who have experienced unnecessary surgery will gladly attest to this.

Successful salespeople are honest, trustworthy and sell quality, service, convenience and value. They save their clients time and make their lives easier. They not only educate, but deliver knowledge and information to their clients.

Granted, the majority of salespeople don’t fall into this category, but I don’t think there’s a profession anywhere where the majority is great. But to paint everyone with a broad brush is not fair.

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Why Salespeople Become Obsolete

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Recently I had the most amazing phone conversation with a salesperson. Unfortunately, it was amazing more for its stupidity than anything else.

I received a call from an insurance agent (the company shall remain nameless to protect the incompetent). He was calling me regarding a product called "Long Term Care Insurance." He wanted to know if I had read the information he sent me (unsolicited, by the way). Not only hadn’t I read it, but I didn’t even remember getting it.

I told him I didn’t read the information and then said, "I already have Long Term Care Insurance for both my wife and myself." He asked what company I had bought it from and I told him Northwestern Mutual. He said, "That’s a good company, but are you aware that our prices are cheaper?" Not better, not more reliable, cheaper.

This agent doesn’t know me from a hole-in-the-wall and visa versa. He has no idea what I do, what my income is, how old I am (which helps determine premium prices), what my needs are or what level of coverage I have (which also determines price). Besides, anyone with half a brain knows that insurance rates change so fast that today’s low price company can easily be tomorrow’s high price company.

I told him, "I don’t really care about your prices. I buy from Northwestern Mutual because it is an excellent company and, most of all, because I have a terrific agent." What he didn’t know was that, unlike himself, my agent is more than someone who pushes policies. He’s an expert, advisor and resource. He’s more interested in making sure my needs are fulfilled than in commissions. He’s easily accessible, answers my questions quickly and knowledgeably, and, if he doesn’t know the answer, rest assured he knows someone who does. Best of all, he takes responsibility for any screw-ups (even those that are not his fault) and fixes them quickly and to my benefit. He makes my life easier. In other words, he is indispensable because he creates value.

Here is the astounding part: when I told this agent that "I have a terrific agent," his response was, "Oh he’s a friend of yours." Unbelievable; this guy is so bad at what he does, he couldn’t conceive of anyone buying because of the quality of the salesperson. The fact is, my agent is not a friend of mine. I like him, he’s a good guy and great at what he does. However, our relationship is strictly a business relationship. We never socialize.

Knowing I was speaking to a lost cause, and not wanting to waste anymore time, I just agreed with him and said, "Yes, he’s my friend," then I hung up.

Now you know why internet commerce is rising steadily year after year.

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Delivering Great Presentations

Over the years, two of the questions I get most often are: Can you give me any tips on public speaking? What are some of the things I can do to overcome my fear?

OK, you asked for it, you got it. Here are 4 tips to help you improve your public speaking and improve your courage in front of an audience, whether it is large or small.

1. Be yourself – Your style should reflect your personality and who you are. Do not try to be someone you’re not. Never look at someone else’s style and copy it. An audience can sniff out anyone who is not genuine. If you’re not a funny person, don’t make jokes. You don’t have to be funny to get your point across. Try to be the same person "on stage" as you are off it.

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Much like the three keys to buying real estate (location, location, location), preparation is probably the most important of these 4 tips. Knowing your talk inside and out is probably the best way to reduce nervousness. When you practice, practice into a recording device. Play it back, make your notes, then do it again. I recommend at least 3 recordings and playbacks.

Don’t wing it! So many people mistakenly believe that only if you wing it can you sound spontaneous. It’s only when we’re totally prepared that we don’t have to think about what we’re going to say next, leaving our minds free to ad-lib, while still being prepared enough to get back to where we were.

3. Speak on what you’re passionate about, not what’s popular. People might not hear every word you say, but they sure hear the way you say it. When you feel strongly about your topic, that comes through. To test the amount of passion you have for your message, rehearse in a room by yourself. If you can be as passionate and intense about your topic or message in an empty room as you are in front of an audience, you’ve passed the test.

Remember, if people really believe that you believe, they’ll be more likely to believe you.

4. Make it easy to implement. We live in a "short attention span, instant gratification world." If you give people ideas, solutions or techniques that are the least bit difficult to implement, they’ll do nothing. You’ll get the same result if you give them too much to think about. Your objective, in any presentation should be to give people one or two good ideas today, that they can implement tomorrow which will start working for them by the next day. Make it so easy for people to implement your ideas; they’ll have no excuse NOT to do it.

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Change: The Only Real Constant

I’ve gone through many major changes in my life: marriage; becoming a father (twice); quitting my job and changing careers three months after I got married; and, quitting my job again 2 ½ years later to start my own business. I’ve also experienced all the disruptions and road blocks involved in those kind of changes.

Through it all, one of the things I’ve noticed about change is; whether you like it or not; whether you embrace it or run from it; go with it, lead into it, or get dragged into it kicking and screaming, it’s going to happen anyhow, with you or without you. You see, what I’ve found out is: Change is the only constant. No matter how you react to it, and whether you like it or not, it doesn’t matter: it’s going to happen with you or without you.

However, I think where I learned the most about change and, more importantly how to succeed in a changing environment, is when my family and I packed ourselves up and moved from New York City (where we’d lived our entire lives) and relocated to Chapel Hill, NC in 1997.

The first lesson I learned about succeeding in a changing environment is: You not only have to plan for change, but also plan for what you want to get out of it.

We didn’t just throw a dart into a map and pick Chapel Hill. My wife and I formulated a criteria that described very clearly what we were looking in a place to live for our family. Once we knew what we were looking for, it was easier to find it. When we realized Chapel Hill fit the criteria, we researched the community. We made numerous visits; checked out neighborhoods, schools, banks, sports programs for the kids, traffic to and from the airport, etc.

The day we arrived it felt like we had lived there our whole lives; because we had created our environment, so how could it be bad.

Your company has a plan for any changing environment and they know what they want to get out of it. Do you have your personal plan for how you will succeed in your company’s changing environment and what you want to get out of it?

The other lesson I learned about change is: You have to lead through change. Don’t be afraid to be the first one through. When we moved, we moved to a place where we knew nobody. No friends, no family. But because of the research we did, we knew it would be the kind of place where our kids would have no trouble making friends.

Too many people are only too happy to let others take them through change, or life, for that matter. But when you give up control like that, it’s going to be hard to reap the benefits.

So plan for change with an eye towards what you want out of it and lead through change. Don’t be afraid to meet it head on. Because whether you like it or not; whether you embrace it or run from it; whether you lead into it, get pushed, pulled or dragged into it kicking and screaming, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to happen anyhow; with you or without you. Nothing stays the same, change is the only constant.

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A Written Goal Must Have Time Frames

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In the last two entries, I’ve discussed why you need goals and how important it is to be specific about those goals. Today, I’m going to show you why you need a solid time-frame in order to gauge your progress along the road of life.

It is nearly impossible to achieve a goal without a time frame or deadline. Time frames give you a frame of reference. They also allow you to know when you can stop? And, after all, if you don’t know when you can stop, what’s the motivation to start?

Having a time frame makes it easier to formulate a plan for achieving the goal. For example, if my goal is to lose 20 pounds in 10 months, I can draw up a plan that has me losing 2 pounds a month or one pound every 2 weeks. If I leave it open ended, how soon will I get frustrated with the lack of results, because I have no way of measuring them, and just give up?

Most people doom themselves to failure before they even start. They say things like, "Some day I’m going to quit this job and get a better one;" "I’m going to start my own business sometime in the next few years;" "Some day I’m going to lose this extra twenty pounds;" Whenever you hear somebody use one of the above phrases, rest assured none of those things will ever happen.

Let’s examine one of the vague words people use to help sabotage themselves: let’s look at the word "sometime."

Sometime is an interesting word because it could mean anytime, but the way we use it, it usually means never.

Have you ever asked one of your children to do something around the house and they reply, "Sure mom (dad), I’ll get around to it sometime." What does their reply tell you? That it’s probably never going to get done.

What if you called me on the phone to set up a sales appointment with me and said, "Warren can I come over and see you sometime?" And I said, "Sure," then hung up. When would you come by? I’d say you better come over right away, because other than right now you’ll never know when I’m going to be there.

Has this ever happened to you: you’re walking down the street and you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, and couldn’t care less if you ever saw him or her again. You find yourself saying, "Hey, haven’t seen you in ages. You look great! We should get together sometime. Give me a call sometime. Better yet, give me your number and I’ll call you sometime." Why do you say that? Because you don’t ever want to see that person again.

As you see, we use the word "sometime," when we don’t want to do something. So, what are we saying when we take the word "sometime" and tack it onto the end of our goals and plans? Unfortunately, we’re saying it’s never going to happen.

When you write down your goal, please remember to write down the year or date you intend to achieve it by, because a goal is a dream with a deadline.