Several months back I was sitting in on a sales meeting with a new client, observing her sales team, what she asked of them and what they reported. When asked about the progress on meeting with a particular prospect, one sales rep admitted, with frustration,
“I don’t know what his problem is. I just haven’t been able to get him to keep an appointment. I’ve scheduled a nice lunch with him 6 times but he cancels every time.”
My mouth nearly fell open at this but I tried to remain neutral in my observation role. What struck me as obvious was not so obvious to the sales rep or anyone else at the table.
Your prospect can’t go to lunch. Your prospect doesn’t want to go to lunch. LUNCH is not how you are going to be able to sell to this prospect.
What I wanted to do at that moment was an exercise in your customer’s currency and context. If we could go back to that moment, I’d ask – WHERE does your prospect eat lunch?
There are dozens of reasons he could be canceling or maybe even avoiding lunch with this sales rep –
- Does he go home to feed his 5 cats for lunch?
- Maybe he reads to his blind grandmother every day at lunch.
- Could he have a restrictive diet that makes dining out difficult?
- Does he hit the gym every day and eat 5 hard boiled eggs on his way back to work?
- Perhaps he has great intentions but gets to work and his day implodes with angry customers, disappearing employees, or urgent projects to be handled ASAP.
- Maybe lunch every day is a Diet Coke and Cheetos with a Mylanta chaser and lunch with you is not really a priority.
Looking at any one of those possibilities, I would work with this sales rep to find another way to connect, communicate, and sell to this prospective customer. I would point out, “Having ‘A nice lunch’ is how YOU prefer to sell, not how the customer wants or is able to buy.”
There is a lot of conflicting sales advice about best practices right now – especially around prospecting and new business development.
“Cold calling is dead.”
“Social selling is best.”
“Sell to the C-Suite.”
“Inbound and Inside is most effective.”
What’s a seller to do? What’s your most effective way to fill your pipeline and move prospects to opportunities?
While there’s tremendous success and merit behind all those sales best practices, there is no one “right” method and most importantly, every buyer has their own ability and preference for how they prefer to buy.
Just like the marketing mix and the promotional mix, consider your own variables what works for you – build your own “Selling Mix” – the combination of strategy, actions, and activities combined to create your own success.
Your Selling Mix depends on 3 things:
You – The salesperson
Buyers – Meet buyers where they are.
From simple sales to complex sales, your buyers all have different ways they “receive” messages, communication, and information. To find the right mix of how you approach your buyers, take a look at the structure of their workday.
For example, if your target audience is selling to warehouse managers, what are the chances that they’re sitting at their desk all day waiting for your email? Take a look at LinkedIn or twitter and you’re probably not going to find them there hanging out on forums or looking for industry vendor references – so social selling or nurturing is tough. Even getting them on the phone might be difficult.
For a very physical, demanding, hands-on intensive role, your best sales approach could be “showing up” – being flexible, concise, and quickly demonstrating value. Repeatedly approaching them until you’re trusted with their time and value – sort of a “Squeaky Wheel” approach or the opposite of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Contrast that approach with trying to sell to an Executive or VP of a sizable division and “showing up” and trying to speak to them is considered to be in bad taste – appointments are key. Gaining access through referrals and introductions are incredibly effective with top level executives that control large budgets. Being in their circle of influence – active in online forums or discussions, trade shows, and conferences – helps bridge the gap of trust and credibility for time stressed executives. Cold emails and cold calls are not nearly effective here without any “context” of relevance from introductions or referrals.
Products – Know thy place in the food chain.
With varying degrees of enthusiasm, great sales people believe in their products. They believe in the value they offer and that they are a fantastic choice. Naturally. However, I’ve found in their zeal, many sales people have blinders about the priority or significance of their products in the overall business objectives of their customers.
Take, for example, business cards. If you’re a creative, innovative, and bespoke experiential branding firm, your business cards are a really big deal. Nailing first impressions and reinforcing all their own brand visuals are of critical importance and the principal or president of the firm might be very hand on in this decision. Selling business cards to this firm is an in person, in depth discussion to understand your printing capabilities, paper stocks, and die cutting precision.
On the other hand, take the same end product – business cards – and sell them to a large regional banking system, and they want an inexpensive, consistent product, with an easy online ordering system that has a proven track record and doesn’t have to be managed. You’re not selling to the CEO or Executive suite here. Most likely, you need to sell to a mid-level purchasing manager, possibly an HR director.
You’re actually selling two different things – example one, image; example two, a process. How they BUY is different as well: the branding firm wants unique, imaginative capabilities; the banking system – low price and self-maintained.
Understand the importance and context of value of your product or service:
Are you key to long-term growth, pivotal to competitive advantages? Is your product a major capital investment? If so, selling to CEO’s and executives are key to moving the needle on choosing you. If you’re selling what you believe to be a critical or major purchase for one customer might be a peripheral spend category for another. Know where your product ranks in the food chain of EACH of your target prospects to understand how and who to sell to.
The Sales Person – Know where you shine.
Last of the three points to consider in your selling mix is you, the sales person. Some people are more naturally gifted in writing their thoughts – creating killer emails, while others very easily create profound personal connections over the phone or face to face.
Assessing your best, most compelling, personal communication styles is a part of achieving your own optimum selling mix. Don’t read this to say you get a free pass on doing the things you’re not the best at. Do MOST of the things you’re best at and keep practicing the things you need work on.
- If you’re fantastic at making small talk, look for more opportunities to be in proximity to your buyers.
- If you are a creative and clever writer, produce a weekly email to your prospects that delivers value and insights with your own twist.
- If you’re addicted to social media, create filters, notifications, or use your CRM to help you more effectively communicate with your prospects.
But keep doing the hard stuff too. You’ll get better at those methods when you supplement your core skill strengths.
Email, phone, referrals, social media, cold calls . . . no ONE thing is the best thing for your buyer, your products, or your own personal skill set.
To build your own “Selling Mix” – plug your variables into these three categories and compare and contrast the methods you have been using to how and to whom you SHOULD be selling.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!
PS – If you’d like us to share our template for the Selling Mix Matrix, contact us and we’ll customize it for you. We can also work with the entire sales team to assess the effectiveness of existing sales channels and create their powerful individual Selling Mix to increase revenue speed and sales success.
Don’t keep banging your head against the wall guessing what methods might be best. Learn, know, and grow!