Don’t forget your sales manners

Don’t forget your sales manners

Taking a nice long break from work (including lots of driving time through Nebraska) gave me a fresh perspective and I realized I needed to spend some time talking about sales. Marketing and PR often look down their noses at this “redheaded stepchild” in the promotion family but face it – if you can’t close a deal all the beautiful collateral and wonderful media plugs in the world aren’t going to help you. Even if your product is consumer-based, you still have to be able to sell – whether it’s getting the next book advance, attracting valuable new partners or even selling your company! I carried a bag for years and it’s given me a set of skills that have been invaluable in every job I’ve ever done, from the boardroom to the green room.

A tough economy means you better be a good salesperson or you’re screwed.  In spite of new media good sales manners haven’t changed. I got a book in the mail recently, Making it Happen in Sales by Henry Thomas.  After getting past the mundane title I found some great basic stuff that everyone should remember anytime they’re dealing with clients. I reviewed this list before  my next three meetings with potential clients  and closed every deal. Sales may not be the most glamorous task but it’s the one that gets the job done – so listen up people!

  • Listen to your client  75% of the time AT LEAST. In  Making it Happen in Sales Henry says “Based on my years of selling, I believe their (his prospects) silent voices sound something like this ‘Don’t try to sell me. Listen to me, value me, understand me, and let me know that you want to help me.'” Ask a lot of questions, listen to your client and understand their sense of urgency. BE QUIET when they respond.
  • Observe their body language. Literally mirror what they’re doing. If they cross their legs, cross yours. Lean in and see if they lean in. The more “in sync” you are physically the more they are relating to your message. It’s not a trick, it’s a way to gauge if your client is really interested. (And believe me, too many people are so involved with what they have to offer  they miss this completely)
  • FOCUS. Don’t you dare look at your phone if it buzzes. That tells the client “hey there might be something more important than you out there”. Stay in the moment and turn off all the gadgets. Sometimes I’m waiting for a reporter to call about a story and it might be urgent…if that’s the case I let my client know before we start.
  • Don’t judge – it’s too easy to criticize a client’s website or marketing campaign in order to show them all the holes you can fill. It’s also too easy to tell the client all the things they need help with (hear that life coaches???) so that you can show how valuable you can be. It’s so disheartening to have someone do that…instead compliment them on all the things they’ve done well and wait until the END to present what you can do on top of that!
  • THEN communicate. Mr. Thomas and I agree that only once you understand the situation should you start to sell. Make notes as you go and tailor your short pitch exactly to their situation.

Of course, I lose deals sometimes when clients expect me to come in with all the razzle dazzle marketing hoo ha. But then I get the call three months later when the hoo ha has revealed itself as boo ya and my competition has exhibited they have NOTHING of substance to offer. Once again I meet with the client, I listen, I tell them what I can do and I get the gig long term. Happens to me constantly.

For an excellent primer/reminder on sales, order Henry’s book – it’s a quick read and will give you some great pointers.  I’m going to continue to blog about sales for a while now. I’m on the hunt for good sales blogs and sites so if you know of any shoot me a comment and I’ll include in the next post. For a list of books about sales here’s a link to Amazon’s recommendations