Sales Q&A – How much time should you expect from a customer?

By Dave Kahle

Q. How much time should you expect from a customer for an appointment?

A. This is one of those many questions about sales issues for which the answer always begins with “It depends.” It depends, first of all, if this is a prospect (someone who has not purchased) or a regular customer (someone who buys regularly). Generally speaking, you can expect more time with a customer than with a prospect.

It depends, secondly, on the understanding your customer has about the purpose and agenda of the call. For example, if you asked for 60 minutes in order to detail your response to his request for a proposal or a piece of equipment, then you should expect 60 minutes. If you asked for a short period of time to introduce you and your company, then you are probably lucky to get 30 minutes.

It depends, next, on your personal reputation. If you are a seasoned rep who, over the years, has built a reputation that you won’t waste your customer’s time, and that you are always prepared to share something you think will be of value to the customer, then you should expect more time. If, however, you don’t have such a reputation with the customer, then you should expect less time.

It depends, finally, on your objective for the sales call. If you want to check up on the delivery of an order, for example, it probably shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes. If you want to get a tour of the facility and meet four of the key people, it could take a couple of hours.

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As an overall rule to guide you, the call shouldn’t take any longer than it needs to take.

In other words, have a purpose, have an agenda and move methodically and professionally through that agenda.

Remember, of equal importance to how much time you think the call should take is how much time the customer has to devote to it. As you know, time is the scarce commodity of our age, and your customer doesn’t have much of it. You need to respect your customer’s time constraints. If you expect an hour of your customer’s time, that’s 16 percent of his day. Are you that important? Will you bring him/her enough value to justify that? Never allow your preconceived notions to override your customer’s time constraints. To read more about this go to this section of my website and read my article, “S-2: Dealing with Your Customer’s Time Constraints.”

Q. If the time allowed for a sales call is too short, should you cancel or reschedule?

A. Good question. To put my answer in perspective, remember that I believe that time is the customer’s most scarce asset. They never have enough time. That’s why they use voice mail, gate keepers and set agendas – to help them get the most out of their days. It is so difficult to actually get face-to-face selling time, that any time you get should be respected. I’ve said all of that in order to say this: Take the appointment, even if you know you don’t have enough time to do what you want to do.

That gives you an opportunity to make a personal contact, and to learn a little bit about the customer. Do as much as you can during that first appointment, and, before you leave, make an appointment for the next visit to complete what you started.

Copyright MMXV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

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About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.

Image by Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Best Practice #23 – Makes persuasive presentations

A best practice for salespeople by Dave Kahle.
Best Practice #23: Routinely makes powerful persuasive presentations.

In my first professional sales position, I spent six full weeks in sales training before I was released to go out into my territory. That included memorizing two five-page, single-spaced sales presentations, presenting them to the sales training class, critiquing the video-taped playback of the presentation, and then doing it all again – for six weeks! At the end of those six weeks, every one of us could give those two presentations masterfully.

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While the use of prewritten, memorized sales presentations still continues today, it’s only rarely used in the business-to-business selling environment. It may be that today’s frantic pace of new product development makes the time it takes to memorize a sales presentation seem less valuable. I’d like to think it may be that today’s salesperson is more sophisticated and able to adjust the sales presentation to the needs of each individual customer.

While memorized presentations may be a vestige of years gone by, that in no way reduces the need to make a well designed, practiced sales presentation. The ability to routinely make powerful, persuasive sales presentations, regardless of the customer or product, is one of the practices of the best.

The world is full of salespeople who take a casual attitude toward a sales presentation. Some think that they know the product so well that their superior product knowledge will ooze out during the presentation, impressing the customer into buying. Others do not put in the necessary preparation and practice time, and, in an attempt to cover their lack of confidence, focus on those parts of the presentation with which they feel most comfortable. Still others feel that their ability to improvise will eventually lead them to a persuasive presentation.

The truth is that there is no shortcut to a persuasive presentation. It begins with studying the customer as well as the product or service. It takes preparation to decide which of the customer’s issues to address, and which specific features of your offer to emphasize. It takes time to organize the facts and features into a cohesive presentation. It takes time to build in interactive elements, and to gather the right samples and documents. And it takes time to practice (yes, practice) the presentation before you actually make it. A persuasive presentation begins with methodical preparation.

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Maybe that’s why so few salespeople give this aspect of their job the attention that it deserves. And maybe that’s why routinely making powerful and persuasive presentations is a practice of the very best.

To learn more about this practice, review these resources: The CD, How to Make Powerful and Persuasive Presentations, or the Video version: Persuasive Presentations, Part 1 & 2.

You may also want to review

* Chapter eight of How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
* Chapter twelve of Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch.

If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center®, consider The One Month ‘Persuasive Presentations’ Course, or The Six Month ‘Consultative Selling’ Course.

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About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His most recent book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been named one of the “five best business books,” by three international entities.

Copyright MMXV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image by stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Myths of B2B Sales #1 – Great Relationships

By Dave Kahle

The world is full of sales people who claim, quite proudly, to have great relationships with their customers. If that were true, it really would be great. But unfortunately, “great relationships” is too often a veil that sales people hide behind to keep from exposing the weakness in their sales skills.

Here’s how it works. An experienced sales person believes that he/she has developed great relationships with customers. Therefore, he spends his time visiting these great customers, and focusing on maintaining the relationship. He can’t really dig deeper into the motivations and needs of the customer because he’s never really had those conversations before, and to do so would interject a new and disparate element into the relationship. Better to not take the risk.

He doesn’t present the new product or service too strongly, because, after all, it might jeopardize the relationship. And besides, he knows this customer well enough to know that they would never be interested in this new product.

He never closes or asks for a resolution of an offer, because he doesn’t want to hear a rejection from that great relationship. Too risky. And he continues to invest selling time in this account, regardless of its potential, because to do any less would be to jeopardize the relationship.

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The relationship becomes the end, instead of a means to an end.

Paralyzed by the idea of “great relationships” the sales person forgoes the basics of consultative selling, and loses track of the essential function of sales and the heart of the sales person’s job – to bring revenue into the company. Striving for, and protecting “great relationships” becomes a deterrent to effective selling. It is, particularly among more experienced sales people, one of the biggest obstacles to sales productivity.

I’ve often thought that some marginally-performing sales people, aware of their lack of sales skills, intentionally hide behind the screen of “great relationships” to excuse their lack of results.

The cold hard truth in sales is this: In business, the relationship is a means to an end. Business in general, and sales specifically, is not the same as family, friends, or romance in that the relationship is not an end in itself. In sales, if the relationship doesn’t result in revenue coming into the business, then the relationship is not valuable.

The result is the reason for the relationship. The measurement of the depth and power of a business relationship is not how much you know about the customer, nor how well you get along. The measurement of a business relationship is the amount of dollars generated. If the relationship really is great, then the account would be buying everything from you.

What should sales managers do?

If you realize that I have put into words something that has lingered under the surface of your consciousness, something that you have suspected for quite a while but have never put into words, then there are implications for you.

First, assume that “great relationships” for all but your top performing sales people is probably a smoke screen, directing your attention away from the real issue – lack of confident and competent sales skills.

If the sales person is a consistently good performer, leave him or her alone. Their relationships are probably working for them.

Focus, instead on the marginal performers. When they claim to have great relationships ask this question; “If your relationships are so great, why aren’t they buying everything from you?” Begin to measure the quality of relationships by the cold hard reality of account penetration.

If the account is not growing disproportionately, then the relationship isn’t really an asset. Consider two actions:

1. Training the sales person in the principles and practices of consultative selling. It is the unfortunate truth that most business2business sales people have never been educated in the paradigms, principles, processes and practices of consultative selling. They often just don’t know how to do their job well. Before you can expect that of them, you must educate them.

2. Trading accounts among sales people. Take some of those “great relationship” accounts – particularly those that aren’t growing, away from the sales person and assign them to someone else. Often, a fresh sales person, unburdened by the baggage of the precedents and expectations of “great relationships” can often focus on sales issues and grow the business.

Emphasize in one-on-one conferences and in sales meetings, that the relationship is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The purpose of the sales person is to grow revenue. Improving the personal relationships is a helpful step to that end.

What should sales people do?

1. Analyze your accounts, not in terms of the relationship, but rather in terms of their potential for future sales. Adjust your time to invest more highly in the higher potential accounts, and less heavily in the lower potential accounts.

2. Strategically build relationships. Focus on building personal relationships with those key people in the higher potential accounts. The focus on the account comes first, the relationship follows – not the other way around.

3. Look objectively at where you are spending your time. If you are not gaining sufficient and growing revenue from your good accounts, make a strategic and cold-blooded business decision to demote them.

Successfully selling in the Information Age demands a professional and cold-blooded analysis of the strategic role of personal relationships. Remember, the result is the reason for the relationship.

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By the way, you’ll find this kind of insight into dozens of sales issues in our Sales Resource Center®. It houses 435 training programs to help every one live more successfully and sell better. All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

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About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”

Image by pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Q&A – Anything else?

By Dave Kahle

Q. In your seminar, you used the question “Anything else?” as one of your ‘really good sales questions’. I see it as a close-ended question. Is “What else can I do?” as effective, or more or less effective?

A. What a great question. Let me applaud you for thinking this deeply about the language in the questions that you use. This “thinking about it before you do it” is one of my key commandments for success in sales. And this kind of thoughtful discussion brings out the best in all of us.

I’m sticking with “Anything else?” as a “really good sales question.” Yes, it is a close-ended question, but that doesn’t make it bad. There is a time and place for close-ended questions. Remember, “Anything else?” is always used to follow up on some piece of information the customer has given you. Typically, it follows an open-ended question, as in, “Tell me what you look for in a vendor.”
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Here’s the scenario. You ask an open-ended question, like “Tell me what you look for in a vendor.”

The customer explains something like, “stable company, responsive customer service, market pricing…”

Your response? “OK. Anything else?”

At this point, you’ll generally receive one of two answers: Either some more explanation or information from the customer, or the answer, “no.” Either of those two answers is good. More explanation gives you more information, and that’s good. “No” tells you there is no more, that you have acquired all the pertinent information, and that’s good.

The real difference between “Anything else?” and “What else can I do?” is the purpose to the question. “Anything else?” solicits information, and can be used in a broader set of circumstances. See the example above. “What else can I do?” is a more specific question, probing deeper into a more narrow range of possibilities. For example, you couldn’t use “What else can I do?” to follow up on the “Tell me what you look for in a vendor” lead.

There is also an implied commitment to the “What else can I do?” question. The implication is that you will do what he/she asks you to do. Since you are asking, “What else can I do,” it implies that you are willing and able to do more. And that may not be the case. Asking this question may force you into the uncomfortable position of saying “No” to the customer. For example, suppose you say, “What else can I do?” and the customer says, “Drop your price by 10% and deliver twice a week.” You know you can’t do that, so you say, “I can’t do that,” thereby interjecting a negative into the conversation. You would have been better off not bringing it up.

Once again, thanks for bringing this up. This is the kind of dialogue about the specifics of our job that makes us all better.

By the way, you’ll find this kind of insight into dozens of sales issues in our Sales Resource Center. It houses 435 training programs to help everyone live more successfully and sell better. All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

And check out Question Your Way to Sales Success for the ultimate handbook for sales people on asking better sales questions.

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About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.

Image courtesy of bplanet/freedigitalphotos.net

Sales Best Practice #15 – Quantity of Presentations

A best practice for sales people from Dave Kahle

Best Practice #15: Regularly makes a sufficient quantity of presentations for the products, services and programs that we sell.

By Dave Kahle

“You’ve got to show it in order to sell it.”

That simple advice given to me decades ago by a wise sales manager seems so simple and common sense. Yet, we tend to become so involved in the ceaseless onslaught of tasks, emails, phone calls, etc. that we lose sight of some of the fundamental truths of what it takes to become an effective sales person. When it’s all said and done, if you haven’t presented your product or service a sufficient quantity of times, you are not going to be successful.

In the world of effective salesmanship, there is a necessary element that has to do with the quantity of your efforts. Here’s a phrase to think about: the quantity of sales presentations.

You make a sales presentation whenever you lay a piece of literature down in front of a customer and talk to him/her about it. You make a sales presentation whenever you present or demonstrate a product; when you deliver a proposal; or when you submit a bid.

In each of these, you are, in effect, saying to the customer: “Here’s this, how about buying it?”

Making a sufficient quantity of sales presentations is one of the best practices of the best sales people.

A few years ago, I was working with one of my clients on revising their sales compensation plan. One of the practices that they wanted to promote through compensation was the quantity of sales presentations. I asked them how many sales presentations they thought the average sales person was making per week. They replied that “week” was probably not the right measurement. I asked, “How many per month?”

Their answer? “We think we’d be lucky if they averaged one per month.”

I was astonished. If they are sales people and they aren’t making sales presentations, what are they doing? In this case, as in many others, they were filling their days with administrative busy work and routine purposeless sales calls. They are more like mobile customer service reps than sales people.

The best sales people make sure that they continually deliver a sufficient quantity of sales presentations.

Here’s a way for you to step up to this level. For the next month, keep track of the quantity of sales presentations you make. Create a spreadsheet for each day of the month, and simply create a hash mark under that date for every sales presentation you make.
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At the end of the month, count up the number of sales presentations you made. Now, give yourself this goal: Double the quantity of sales presentations you make in the next month. Once you have committed to that goal, ask yourself this question: “How can I double the number of sales presentations I make?”

You’ll come up with a plan. Then, test your plan by continuing to keep track of the quantity of sales presentations the same way you did the previous month.

As you begin to present more frequently, you’ll find yourself focusing on this fundamental and extremely important activity. You’ll generate more opportunities, and create more business. It is just that simple.

That’s why this is one of the best practices of the best sales people.

To learn more about this best practice:

* read chapter 19 of How to Excel at Distributor Sales.

* read chapter 8 of How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime

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About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His most recent book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been named one of the “five best business books,” by three international entities.

Copyright MMXV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net