If you’ve had young children, you’ll feel my lament over those awful cartoons with the characters and theme songs that take root in your adult head like uninvited weeds in your brain garden. From the mouse to the purple dinosaur to the little girl who yells everything and carries a backpack – there are dozens of children’s cartoons that contribute to the world’s adult beverage consumption.
Thankfully, my children have graduated from most of those cartoons. The occasional obnoxious Spongebob Squarepants and TMNT (that’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to you) still show up from time to time but for the most part, my Jr. Associates have fallen in love with cooking and baking competition shows. They love the idea of challenges and all the tricks and turns, sabotages, and the pressure cooker that all the contestants are in.
As we watched our favorites this weekend, I listened to my children talk about what they would do differently, other strategies they would take, or how they would explain their dishes another way. After the 3rd or 4th episode of Cutthroat Cupcake Chopped Academy (a mash up of all the shows), I started to think about the similarities of the pitfalls in cooking competitions to where we see mistakes in sales and selling. Strangely, though no surprise to those of you that know me, because I believe EVERYTHING is SELLING, I couldn’t help but build some sales coaching analogies from these entertaining battles.
Four Ways Sellers Can Sharpen Their Sales Skills –
Listen to what’s important. Many a sale and a challenge have been lost by not listening to what’s TRULY important to those making the decisions. When cooking contestants don’t build their strategy around satisfying the criteria they will be judged against, their success is compromised from the start. Going through the discovery process is critical with your customers to understand not only what they want, but how they will be making decisions, what their success metrics look like, and ultimately, how they want to go through the buying journey. Miss this key component and you could quickly be eliminated as a potential provider.
Don’t serve the status quo. Just as cooking shows challenge the skills and creativity of contestants, buyers want sellers that bring them different and creative solutions to their problems. Stand out from the competitors by highlighting what makes you different and focus not on your capabilities, but your competencies, and results that you’ve proven for similar clients. True contenders don’t show up with the easiest dish or the most common ideas. Challenge yourself to serve your clients something different.
Don’t die for your perfect plan. Sometimes, in cooking, as in selling, we’re thrown a curveball. A mystery ingredient in a baking challenge might be the equivalent to a potential customer asking you to work with a smaller budget or a shorter time frame. I’ve seen this blow a hole in many a sales pro’s “perfect plan” and they never quite recover because they’re not able to be flexible or go outside the box for resources or solutions. Listen to your customers, consult your team, play to your strengths, and adjust and adapt to the circumstances so you can meet your client’s needs. You may not be able to solve all their challenges on your own but you can track down other resources or collaborate with your customers to customize the opportunity just for them.
Don’t tank your presentation. Part of the pleasure of these pressure cooker contests is the moment of judgment for competitors where their efforts are weighed and measured against the expectations of the judges. We’re rooting for the contestants, for we know all they’ve been through and how they fought to get their final product ready for presentation. And this moment, many battles are won or lost by how the contender steps up and presents. Confidence or lack thereof is the first place to lose. Fear of rejection or fear of walking away empty handed can be off putting to customers. It detracts focus from discussion and emphasizes desperation. Some contestants lost the judges when they start inventing fancy names or try to distract from their presentation’s potential flaws. Buyers, just like judges, see straight through those tricks. Calling any dish “deconstructed” means you are missing ingredients or couldn’t pull it together in the end. Glossing over incompatibilities or dodging objections annoys customers and discredits your trust and credibility. Be transparent with your solutions and present your offers confidently.
Next time you’re up to bat with a prospective new client, think about the pressure cooker of one of these cooking or baking competitions. Keep your eye on the prize by truly listening to what problems your customers are asking you to solve and confidently adapt to their needs and delight them by serving them their own unique solution customized just to their tastes.
Until next time, stop hoping, start cooking SELLING!
PS – Jumping from the kitchen to the office – if you feel like you’re losing your battles at any one of these points, contact us. We can help you understand your customers, deeply differentiate your offers and profoundly connect with your audience to earn trust and sales quicker.