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5 Little Tips to Perfecting Your Sales Approach

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The sales profession is one of the oldest and most prolific out there. Selling products can be fulfilling and enjoyable, but finding the right sales approach is often a challenge. The wrong sales approach can ruin negotiations and keep you from getting what you need from a deal. If you need to improve your sales approach, several easy, proven tips exist.

Determine Your Audience 

What do you do best? Who needs what you do or sell? How will they use it and benefit from it? Experts agree that asking questions like these can be extremely helpful even before you’ve found one client or customer. Perhaps you are a fiction writer but you don’t know who your audience is yet. Think about the genres you like best or the characters you most often create and the story arcs they experience. Then ask yourself who is likely to read that type of story. Who can relate to these characters and why? Are there books on the market similar to yours? Answering such questions will make it easier to sell your product and create a marketing vision when a publisher asks for one.

Set Measurable Goals 

Almost everyone knows about goal-setting, but most people don’t do it correctly. They set goals like “I’m going to sell more products this year” or “I’m going to increase my productivity by 10%.” These are good starting points but they aren’t real goals. Goals should be broken down into manageable steps. Instead of saying, “I will sell more products by March,” write down how much you want to sell per month. Outline the steps that will get you there, such as the ads you will write and the social media accounts you will use. Plan how you will obtain and use customer feedback.

Use Time Wisely 

Time management is a huge obstacle for many people in sales and negotiation. We often think we have more time than we do, so we procrastinate on important matters. Examine your activities each day. Which ones need to be done immediately? Which ones can wait and for how long? What tasks are easiest and most difficult? Break your activities down using a system that works for you, and stick to it.

Listen to Customers 

Even the best listeners need help maintaining their skills. Most of us get so excited about sales or negotiations that we don’t actively listen to customers’ reactions. Ask for feedback often and utilize it. Perhaps you own a sporting goods store, and your sales are down because customers find your merchandise boring or outdated. Then listen to what the customers tell you. You’ll often find they are looking for an experience alongside the product.

Learn Strengths and Weaknesses 

Every salesperson has a special set of strengths and weaknesses. These can come from his or her personality, past experiences, and many other factors. If you don’t know what yours are, you might be inadvertently turning customers off. You can learn your strengths and weaknesses, and how to capitalize on them, through corporate sales training, conferences, and other venues.

Ways to Measure Training Success

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Training your team to be the best they can be is neither cheap nor easy. However, the ROI of a successful training program makes it all worth it in the end. In fact, with the proper training methods and materials, your company’s employees can give your bottom line a tremendous boost.

But once the work of training is done, how can you measure its success? Business training pioneer Donald Kirkpatrick was famous for being one of the first people to critically evaluate the success of training programs.

Kirkpatrick developed a four-step model that everyone in the training industry knows. The basic Kirkpatrick evaluation method asks four things:

1. What was the participant’s reaction to the training?This is often judged on a scale of 1-10 by asking the participant about impressions and general feelings about the training program.

2. What did the participant learn? This can be measured through evaluation tests.

3. How did the participant transfer learning back to the workplace? This can be more difficult to determine, but is analyzed with further surveys and observation.

4. What overall results did the training have on the business? Again, measuring the direct ROI of the training in terms of sales, revenues, and customer satisfaction can be challenging. However, through formulas and analytical models, fairly accurate dollar amount values can be applied to individuals’ training experiences.

 

Measuring Your Company’s Training Success

You can measure the success of a training program within your company yourself or with the help of a professional training firm. Depending on the complexity of the training program and the scale on which it’s implemented, you might choose to do it yourself or hire an outside performance improvement firm.

Have more questions about how to evaluate training success in your company? Leave them in the comments section where we see them and respond.

The Health Benefits of Talking Less

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You know that feeling you get when you’re in a negotiation and you feel like you’re not being heard?  You talk and talk but no matter what you say you feel like the other side isn’t listening.  They may be feigning interest, but you know that they’re not really hearing what you’re saying. You become a little agitated and try even harder to get them to listen.  Eventually you feel like your heart is beating faster and your collar is getting tighter.  Is this all in your head?  No, it’s actually a proven effect.

The following is an excerpt from the book Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale.  It shows that changes in your emotions can change your physiology and vice versa.

Psychologist James J. Lynch, director of the life Care Health Center and former faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is one of the first researchers to use a technology that measures patients’ blood pressure, almost word by word, during conversation.  What he discovered is something we have long sensed, that speaking has an identifiable, measurable effect on our bodies, specifically on our cardiovascular systems.  Put simply, talking tends to cause blood pressure to rise and it continues to climb until the speaker senses that he or she has been heard or understood.  Sometimes, of course, that never occurs, leaving the speaking not only frustrated but with markedly increased blood pressure.

Lynch first observed this in crying babies.  Adults react just like crying babies except that we have learned to socialize without crying (most of the time).  As with babies, when adults are heard (or comforted), their blood pressure tends to decrease.  Lynch says, “The biggest misconception. . .is that talking is a mental process.  You. . .talk with every cell in your body.”

The bottom line is that while talking without feeling you are communicating or “getting through” can raise blood pressure (and possibly do physical harm), the converse is also true.  When the relationship between talker and audience or listener is positive, it can be healing.  Both parties communicate and derive a psychological as well as physical benefit.

 

Writing Their Press Release

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It can be challenging for most of us to come up with solutions that allow the other side to save face.  It’s not an easy task to step outside of ourselves and think like the other side.  (Hey, they are the other side after all.  How could they be right?)  One technique we have used to bridge the gap to the foreign territory is the exercise of “writing the other side’s press release.”  In other words, as you come up with options that they may find attractive, give yourself the hypothetical assignment of crafting a statement to the press that explains why the resolution is a “win” for the other person, as if you are the other person.  Forcing yourself to go through this exercise will ensure that you frame proposals or options from a point of view that demonstrates benefit to the other side.  It is rare that you will ever be in a situation in which you are writing a real (not just hypothetical) press release, but this practice can really make the difference when you are explaining how your proposal allows them to win as well.

That being said, there was one time Ron actually did write the press release to announce the other side’s “victory” (which, in reality, he had shaped and defined on behalf of his client).  Ron represented a well-known news anchor that happened to be the single most desired local anchor in the country at the time.  The news anchor was happy where he was and didn’t want to leave, but he wanted to be compensated accordingly.  He also didn’t want too much attention on the dollars involved in the contract.  The news station wanted to pay him, but they didn’t want the backlash of the largest contract of all time.  So what did Ron do?  He wrote a press release focusing on the length of the contract, which also happened to be the longest of all time.  This made the news station’s management look like they had won the deal, since they would be able to keep him basically for life.  Ron handed the press release to them, and they liked it so much that after a few tweaks they actually used it themselves.

Sometimes No Deal is the Best Deal

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Have you ever suffered from “negotiation fever”?  You probably have.  It’s where you get so caught up in the heat of making a deal that you lose sight of the quality of the deal.  As an outside observer you may know it’s a bad deal,but since your directly involved you forget about your objectives.

If you ever catch yourself in a deal where any of the following occur, a large red sign should appear.

  • When the other side forces you below your bottom line

If you’ve prepared before sitting down, you know your starting point for a deal and you know your ending point.  This is the point past which you not only don’t want to go, but literally can’t.  At this point, the deal no longer pays out, has a return, works, or makes sense for your side.

 

  • When you have better alternatives than the one proposed

Ask yourself if it’s a good deal by absolute standards or merely as good as it’s going to get with the other party.  If you know there’s another buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, supplier, shipper, or partner with whom you can make a better deal, don’t get drawn into a lesser deal just because it’s the one at hand.

 

  • When you’re confident the other side cannot abide by the terms of the deal

Don’t think you’re the only one who can get seduced into making a deal just because it’s the one on the table.  Make sure that at some point you take a step back and survey the situation.  Can the other side really do what they say?  Can they deliver?  Or will you spend as much time and effort enforcing the deal as you have making it?

 

  • When long-term problems can outweigh short-term gains

Have you ever eaten a fudge brownie sundae because it’s in front of you and then hate yourself in the morning when you get on the scale?  This is a similar situation.  If the terms of the contract are going to become a problem for you in the future, don’t sign the contract so you can get the instant gratification of finishing the deal.

 

 

Let The Other Side Go First

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One of the keys to successfully negotiating any deal is letting the other side go first. It gives you a parameter to work from and provides insight as to what the other side is thinking. Letting them go first gives you the upper hand so you can negotiate better. But how exactly do you get the other side to go first? You can’t just say, “Go first.  I said so.”There needs to be a strategy. Consider the following next time you are stuck in this situation.

  • Defer to the other side’s expertise: Say something like, “You’ve done more deals of this type than we have. What
    are going terms in similar deals? What’s fair?”
  • Turn discussions into offers: Once you start talking, the other side is likely to give enough information to suggest an offer even if they don’t make one formally. Probe their thoughts, fleshing out more and more details. Then paraphrase what they’ve said as an offer.
  • Force a counteroffer bid: If it appears there’s nowhere to go in the negotiations, ask the other side where they want to go. “You say the list price is too steep. What price could you afford?”
  • Make a tangential first offer: Offer something important the other side wants in exchange for something more important to you. “We know your company wants to ship fast while the produce is fresh. We can take delivery immediately, if the per pound is right.”
  • Set a range without making a first offer: Use exploratory conversation to learn what the other side expects. “Say, I’ve heard houses in this neighborhood sell for as little as $200,000.” There’s no risk. It’s just what you’ve “heard”. See what kind of response you get. It should give you a price range of their first offer.

Still don’t think it’s important to let the other side go first? Read this story told by Dean Jernigan, Chairman of Storage USA. It
is highlighted in the book “The Power of NICE” by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale.

A piece of property was for sale on the Mississippi River. Its original purchase price was $3 million. The property had sat, unused and undeveloped, for years. One day, a potential buyer from a Los Angeles entertainment company asked for a meeting.  The property owner’s lawyer was sent to negotiate the deal with explicit instructions. “Let them make the first offer but take nothing less than $4 million.” The prospective buyer started the meeting with a simple statement. “We are not going to negotiate. Our offer is $20 million and if you are not willing to accept it, we are prepared to walk.” It turned out, the entertainment company was betting on a future legalized gambling boom to increase land values and, therefore, thought $20
million was a “fair” price. Of course, so did the property owner’s lawyer who only had one regret. He hadn’t handled the case on a contingency basis.

Negotiating for a Used Car – Step 3: Propose

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The third and final step in our three part series on negotiating the purchase of a used car is to propose. After you have done your preparation by determining the “standard” price for the car you want to purchase, and after you have asked the questions listed in our previous post on probing, it is now time to enter the proposal phase.

You should point out to the dealer the areas where the car or the dealership is lacking and ask what price reduction the dealer is willing to provide. For instance, if the vehicle history report demonstrates frequent repairs, then what discount from the offered price (or the Kelly Blue Book price) is the dealer willing to give you? Likewise, if the dealer is not willing to provide you with information of services, how much of a reduction in price are they willing to offer? For instance, if the vehicle is not certified, or if the dealer does not provide services like Free Oil or Free Towing like other dealers, how much of a discount are they willing to offer you? As we teach in all negotiations, remember, let the other side make the first offer, do not accept their first offer too quickly, and when you are making an offer “aim high” (or in this instance, “aim low”).

As with any negotiation, the more alternatives that you have, the more effective you will be in the negotiation. If the used car you are looking to purchase is a one of a kind Jaguar and there are no other dealers that sell this type of vehicle, then you may not be in a good position to negotiate. But if you are looking for a BMW that is less than 5 years old and you are willing to choose from different colors and models, then you will be in a stronger negotiation position. Likewise, if you limit yourself to shopping at one dealer, you alternatives will be limited.

We suggest that you look both at Franchised Dealers who sell new and used cars, as well as Independent Dealers who sell used cars only. You will likely find cheaper prices at the Independent Dealers, but they will not provide you with the same amount of information prior to the sale or the service after the sale that a Franchised Dealership would. One tactic would be to play the Franchised Dealership off of the Independent Dealer, asking the Franchised Dealer to provide all the services at the same price as the Independent Dealer, or asking the Independent Dealer to lower their pricing even lower to make up for the lack of information about the car prior to the sale, or their lack of service after the sale.

Ultimately the decision will come down to whether you want the absolute lowest price with very little service from the Independent Dealer, or if you would be willing to pay a little more from a Franchised Dealer based on the fact that you have more knowledge and after the sale service. Either way, you can use the Three Ps and the tips in this article to negotiate your most effective deal when purchasing a used car

Trust By Verify with Jeff Cochran

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Trust by verify, it sounds good in theory, but how can it really be implemented? At SNI, we typically advise our clients not to make adjustments to their prices when a potential buyer claims that one of their competitors is cheaper until they see hard evidence.

I asked my colleague, Jeff Cochran, for his thoughts, and with a chuckle he said he could tell me a story about how he recently implemented it.

I had a project; I needed to get my driveway paved. Being a negotiator, I knew that I needed to do good preparation. The first step in preparing was to collect estimates so that I would have alternatives. Therefore, I contacted three contractors, provided them with the details of the project, and collected estimates. Of course, all three estimates were different. The most and least expensive estimates were significantly different. The first contractor I called was an acquaintance. He gave me an estimate of $8,500 to do the job. The second estimate came from a contractor who I found from an ad in my local paper. His estimate for the project was $7,500. Lastly, there was a sign on the driveway up the road. When I called the number on the sign to inquire about the cost of my project, I got an estimate of only $6,000.

Naturally, I was inclined to choose the least expensive contractor. However, his offer seemed too good to be true. I did some research, and sure enough, I found out that cheaper offers like the one I received for $6,000 raise a major concern that the contractor would skimp on materials. Not using the correct amount of asphalt on the driveway could lead to major problems.

I went back to all three contractors and asked for the specifications on the work they would be doing. All three indicated that they would use four and a half inches of blacktop. Since the first contractor at $8,500 was an acquaintance, I went to him to give him right of last refusal. I informed him that one of his competitors was willing to do the job for $6,000, $2,500 least than his estimate.  I was very surprised with his response because he told me that there was no way for him to drop his price without losing money on the job. In turn, I asked him how come his competitor could do the job for $6,000? His response was that the competitor would most likely skimp on materials and do a bad job.

It was the end of the summer and I wanted to get this project done while the weather was still nice. How could I choose the least expensive contractor but know for certain that he was going to do quality work? I had him put in writing a detailed description of the work he was going to be doing and the specs that needed to be met. I then confirmed with him that what he had written is what he planned to deliver. Still, I remained a bit skeptical. Just his word alone didn’t seem like enough. Thinking back on my negotiations skills, I thought trust but verify. I went back to the contractor who would have cost me $8,500 and asked him if for $200 he could have one of his guys supervise the work of the least expensive contractor, guaranteeing that he delivered what he said he was going to deliver.

It was a good thing I did! In the end, the contractor I opted to go with for $6,000 did not have enough asphalt to finish the job, so he suggested that he use three and a half inches of asphalt instead of the correct amount, four and a half inches, to save time and money. It was one of the hottest days of the summer. He told the inspector that he knew that they were both exhausted from a long day’s work and ready to go home. He even added that I probably would never notice the difference of an inch. He was right. How would I have ever found out until I started seeing cracks and needed to dish out an additional $2,000-3,000, if not more, to pay to repair his shortcomings?

Luckily, the inspector who I hired insisted that he do the job correctly, go back to the asphalt plant, and get another load. The $200 I paid for the inspector to be present was well worth it and it potentially saved me thousands. When I first thought about it, I wondered why he cared enough to prolong the project and make the least expensive contractor use the correct amount of asphalt. In the final analysis, it made perfect sense why the inspector would be adamant that the job gets done correctly. He was not going to let a competitor steal potential business by offering to do the “same job” for cheaper when in reality he was shorting clients.