In the first of our ongoing Sauga960 radio interview series, we examine how to establish a strong sales process from the get go!
Your Business, presented by David Wojcik, understands business. As the CEO/President of the Mississauga Board of Trade, he focuses on current commercial issues and how they affect entrepreneurs and key executives.
David Wojcik: I’m your host David Wojcik. Are you the sole sales person in your organization or do you have sales people working for you? We hear the same complaints. Too much competition, my territory’s terrible. I don’t get enough leads. While the truth is the problem may be you. Too many sales people have never had a single day of professional sales training, which is really interesting because of the lifeblood of a business is sales. I don’t think anyone would allow a person to perform open-heart surgery on them when the person performing the surgery had never had a single day of training on how to perform the operation.
David Wojcik: That’s where sales guru, Linda Kern, comes in. Linda is a sales growth expert and founded the Kern Group in 2004. She specializes in helping companies increase their sales by, first identifying the right activities to ensure growth, and then working with the sales professionals and their leaders to show them how to find and close new sources of revenue. And we welcome Linda from the northern part of Ontario where she’s vacationing and has very and kindly agreed to join us by phone. Welcome, Linda.
Linda Kern: Thank you David.
David Wojcik: Well, thanks for breaking into your vacation to be with us. We’re coming up to a September and for a lot of people, that’s the start of a new sales cycle. They’re coming back in off of vacations and summer. You and I have been in the sales game for a lot of years and some salespeople feel that summertime there’s nobody around to sell to, which we know is not true. But, but we know that we’re starting into a new sales cycle in September. So I’m glad you could join us and help us kickstart the September season, so that we can … and close out this year with some great sales and start next year with some good sales.
David Wojcik: First of all, Linda, I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you this question before, and I’ve had the debate about nature and nurture on a number of different fronts. You hear the saying, people will say, “Oh, you’re a natural-born salesperson. You got the gift of gab, you should go into sales”. What are your feelings? Do you believe that salespeople are born or made? Is it nature or nurture?
Linda Kern: Oh, what a great question. I love your questions always. I believe it’s a bit of both. The intrinsic characteristics that make a really good salesperson are drive, setting goals, wanting to achieve goals, wanting to succeed. Sales is a profession that requires a lot of internal motivation and a lot of self-starting ability. Because you’re on the road, you’re not sort of in an office with your manager hanging over you or in the next cubicle. You’re out and about doing your thing and meeting with potential clients. So there is an element of … I’ve seen the best sales people being very driven to succeed.
Linda Kern: The other aspect of it though is, there’s a lot to learn. So, the nurture part of it really comes into understanding the best way to get meetings. How do you get the attention of decision makers? How do you get meetings, how do you conduct those meetings? So there’s a lot to learn as well. I wouldn’t, like you say, want anyone to operate on me without them having that training. And because it is the lifeblood of your business, you really do need to invest in those people and show them a way that there really is skill to it as well.
David Wojcik: Now you and I have both been through sales training and now you deliver sales training who to organizations, and I’ve been a student of sales for 30 years. I started my sales training with London Life. It was the first professional sales training course that I went through. It was fantastic, it was on par with the great Xerox sales training course. And I had done sales prior to going through the sales training course, and just going through that sales training course was just so valuable for me to go through that.
David Wojcik: So let’s go back to sales one oh one, so it’s day one. I’ve just come on the job, and I’m going into my very first sales training course with sales guru, Linda Kern. What are some of the things that you’re going to take me through on the first few sessions?
Linda Kern: Yeah. So, it’s greatly impacted by the business that the person is in, or that the company is in. So for example, is there recurring revenue, like software sales has monthly recurring revenue. The printing industry has a recurring revenue component. Or is it that you’re selling something that’s a onetime sale, where every sale needs to be kind of a new sale? It might be you’re selling big systems, furnaces, air conditioners or computer systems. So it’s impacted by that.
Linda Kern: But there are some fundamentals around what you need to know to get started. And one of the first things that I think is really important for a salesperson is to think about who really represents my company’s ideal client. Who is that sweet spot client, that company, that we do our best work with? That’s a really good place to start, because if you’re given a territory, I mean, depending on the business you’re in, some companies can you call on … Like if I’m in printing or in selling computers or selling computer printers, I can sell to anybody. And so, but what you really want to be thinking about is who is that ideal client, where we do our best work, it’s profitable for us, they understand our value proposition. So that’s one of the starting points.
David Wojcik: And when it comes to once you establish that, so we’ll take a particular industry and we’ll talk about … Let’s say we’re going to talk about computer sales or computer software sales. And one of the basics is prospecting for clients. So once you’ve established, say, “Yeah, that’s a sweet spot, that’s the kind of client we’re looking for.” And we know the more focused you can get on your suspect, the better you are going to be at prospecting. So if you know where the company is located, so you’ve got a demographic picked out for them, where are they? What business are they in? What size of company are they? Are they in growth-mode? Are they in maintenance-mode? What kind of intel can you turn up on this company?
David Wojcik: There’s a lot of work that goes into prospecting, and it’s not just about throwing a dart at a board and saying, “Yeah, I’m going to open up the …” I’m going to date myself here. “I got to open up the phone book and start calling.” That’s not the ideal situation for prospecting, is it?
Linda Kern: No, not at all. I mean, once you’ve identified that that’s sort of what we call the ideal profile of a sweet spot client, then there’s multiple approaches for the prospect. And definitely, as you mentioned, do you want to research those companies. So the companies you’re targeting one-to-one, one at a time, you research those companies. And there’s lots of information available these days online, their website, anything that’s in the news on them. And then you really want to take a multi-pronged approach to reaching out to them.
Linda Kern: So I did some research this year where I was asking decision-makers, “What does it take for you to give a meeting to a salesperson?” And the things that they said to me were things along the lines of, this is … One thing that stood out for me, because they said it consistently and I’ve so far spoken to about 20 decision-makers, was that the salesperson is genuine and not pitchy or salesy. That they are professional, that they approach with sort of a helpful attitude. And they’ll take an email, they’ll respond to an email. But the number one way to get the attention of a decision-maker is through a referral. So that’s where LinkedIn comes in. Who knows somebody you want to target and ask that person that you might jointly be connected to for an introduction.
David Wojcik: And that’s an important part and it’s something that I hear from salespeople is, “I can’t get to the decision-maker. I don’t know how to get past the gatekeeper when I’m prospecting.” So you might need to try a few different ways to get that first meeting. I read in one of the many, many books that I have is that, prospecting is 80% perspiration and 20% inspiration. That there’s a lot of pre-work that needs to go into prospecting before you pick up that first call.
Linda Kern: Yeah, indeed. And they’re looking for you to know something about their business. Something that the decision-maker or the company itself is grappling with, some kind of … And you can get some of that information by reading news, news reports or press releases. Or, you’re looking for, has the company acquired another business recently? Have they downsized? I mean, what is happening in that industry but also that business that you know, with your product or service, you can help them with.
Linda Kern: And then if you hit that hot button, and that is something that in fact that that CEO or vice president or even director-level person is working on, then they will have you come in. But even beyond that, if there is a referral, some kind of introduction, that is key. Because every one of them said to me across the board, “If you come in through a referral, I will give you that meeting because of the respect I have for our mutual connections.”
David Wojcik: And I have heard statistics that say that when a referral is made, you’re almost 80% of the way to your sale anyways, when it comes to knowing, so let’s talk about a referral. And when it comes to knowing exactly what the pain point might be, because your referral has told you and say, “Listen, call XYZ company, speak to Sally over there because I know that they’re having a problem with this. And your solution can solve that problem.”
David Wojcik: I’ve always been hesitant to go in on the first sales call and say, “Hey, I know what your problem is. It’s this.” I’d much rather get there by a series of questions and let the client lead me to the problem, because there may be other things that my referral didn’t know.
Linda Kern: Yeah, definitely, for sure. I’m not going in with, “I know what your problem is and here’s your solution to it.” It’s really about what’s commonly called a conducting a discovery call or an investigation or, there are different terms people use. And the concept is that you’re not going in asking how big the company is or how many employees, you can’t ask anything that for the most part you can find out on your own. You’re really going in there to have a more impactful business conversation about that company, and that issue that they’re grappling with. And so you might start with a question like, “So in my research, I was reading about this in your industry, or that in your company. Tell me a little bit about that? How is that impacting you?”
Linda Kern: And you get them talking about what they deal with almost on a daily basis, where are they are. I call it sort of like an impactful business conversation. We’re not talking about our own products or services at this moment, we’re talking about their company. And I’m an interested person who’s really engaging in asking them insightful questions so that we can have that back and forth discussion. And then the second part of that is really, I often say to salespeople, get curious. Let your curiosity drive you so they provide you with an answer and then you say, “That’s really interesting. Tell me more about that,” or, “Why do you think that happened?”
David Wojcik: And that’s why I believe that salespeople that have the gift of the gab, they may not really be the right people for sales because you really need to listen to your prospect. Not talk to them and tell them, as we say, telling aren’t selling. You need to really listen to them, ask them a lot of questions. Because we do know through psychologists that will tell us that people like people who listen to them. So if you can get your prospect talking and really listening, active listening, not just pretending you’re listening, then that’s a great spot to be in.
David Wojcik: Linda, we’ve got to run but I want to ask you and we’ve got so many other things to talk about with sales, and we haven’t even graduated at one oh one yet. And I know you want to get back out on the dock there for your vacation. The single biggest piece of advice for somebody going into September and wanting to close out the year with some great sales. What would you say?
Linda Kern: I would say take moments now. Take some time in the next couple of weeks to really think about what you want to do in September. Because September is a lot like the business New Year. So think about what you’ve done that’s worked, what you haven’t done that’s worked. Think about how you want to spend your time. So spend a good couple of hours reflecting, thinking, and planning. That’s my greatest advice. Don’t just get out there and do, actually reflect and plan.
David Wojcik: Thanks so much, Linda, for being with us.