Sales meetings are an absolute dream when everything’s going well.
But if you’ve ever managed a team who started to fall behind on their promises or began to miss targets – you’ll recognise the smoke screen of well worn (and often recurring) excuses in a desperate effort to cover up their lack of imagination and activity.
And – as a manager – that’s when sales meetings start to feel like the kind of charity fundraiser, where the guests drink all the booze and eat all the food – while telling you that they’d “love to contribute to the cause – but….well you know…..just not right now.”
So – here are six excuses that sales managers hear all the time from underperforming individuals – and why the people who use them, need to have a good hard think about what’s really going on.
1. The Company Website Isn’t Good Enough
For most of the businesses who hire a sales team their website is;
- A discoverable proof statement
- A first point of contact for those searching the internet if their SEO team are worth their salt
- An easily found source of information and contact details for people who already know you
Just to clarify – this might be a reasonable excuse if you sell things via an online platform (like eBay or Amazon) or if your business model is based solely on the internet (like selling inexpensive imported stock or personalised birthday cards) – but with examples of that nature, there is rarely a salesperson employed or required – and you’re lucky if there’s even a telephone number to speak with a human directly.
And if the website was the only marketing tool required to sell your product or services, then your company wouldn’t need a sales team – in fact, that kind of website would be many thousands of dollars cheaper than sending humans out in cars to find people who might want to buy something.
You know, before the internet was invented it may surprise some of you to discover that stuff still got sold – before 1991, we weren’t all just wondering aimlessly from client to client desperate for some (as yet un-thought of) sales aid that would make people want to talk to us.
So, take some comfort in the fact that – if you are employed in a sales team – it probably means that salespeople are a necessity to get the results your company is looking to achieve.
Sure, great websites are nice to have – but for most businesses they’re just part of the marketing tool box – and if you’re really embarrassed about yours, get creative and find some other way to share information or testimonials.
Question: At the job interview, did you say “I’ll take the job and the money – but just so you know – I’ve checked out your website and if you don’t change it, I don’t think I’ll be selling much.” ?
2. The Prospect List is Out of Date
I’ve got news for you – every prospect list is out of date.
If you’ve got a list of 1,000 names, there’s a good chance that at least 0.1% will change jobs, retire or get sacked on a fairly regular basis.
So – take responsibility, build your own, continuously update the one you’ve already got and think of ways of discovering uncharted landscapes where the inhabitants haven’t yet been put on anyone else’s list – yes they exist and it is possible – you’ve just got to stop fooling yourself and believing that every contact available must be on the list someone sold you (if you bought a list of restaurants in New York yesterday, couldn’t a new one have opened today?) .
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a great tool – but so is the basic LinkedIn search facility. Work out what the trigger events are in your prospects lives that suddenly make them look for someone just like you to solve their problem – and then work out the best way to find those people at that point in time.
Question: Might there be 30 minutes today when you could spend your time finding (and calling) fresh prospects rather than wasting your time trying to get in touch with the same old prospects who always say no?
3. We’re Not the Category Leader & 4. We’re Too Expensive
And was that fact a surprise to you before or after you joined the company?
During my career I’ve sold Primary, brand leading products; Secondary brands that the industry benefited from; and Tertiary, value and own label products that customers had a need for or requested.
But the best example I have of both these excuses involves two teams I work with from companies who are number one and number two in their market place – and share a whopping 70%+ of that market.
Number 1 is not only the market leader, they are also recognised as a biggie on the world stage – and swing round an annual marketing budget larger than some companies turnover in a year.
Number 2 is substantially less expensive – but only has 25% of the market – however most customers also believe it to be the only viable alternative to Number 1.
And during sales training – the team from Number 1 complain that they can’t compete on price with their nearest competitors – and the team from Number 2 complain that they can’t compete with the consumer perception generated by the uber-brand that is Number 1.
They can’t both be right and still be in business. But that’s the mind-set they walk into negotiations with.
Question: Does your company currently have more than one trading customer? If they do;
- Where do your current portfolio of customers find value in your product or service?
- Why is it that they choose you instead of the competition?
It’s never just about price – there’s always a deeper reason (and cheaper alternative) – and it’s up to you to work out what that deeper reason is, or better yet – just ask your existing customers what it is they like so much about your product or service.
Understand who buys your product or service and why – and then find more people like that and help them see what they’re missing out on.
Anyone who doesn’t want what you’ve got, for the price you’re charging either;
- Doesn’t really understand how you can help or
- Is actually somebody else’s customer
One of those is your responsibility – and one is completely out of your hands – can you guess which is which?
5. Everyone is on Holiday
No they’re not – you’re just not calling the ones who are at work.
If there really are two weeks when your entire industry are sitting on a beach – then why are you still working? You clearly should be booking your holiday during that fortnight as well.
Everybody knows that during summer, the two weeks before Christmas, the first week of the new year and Easter that a large percentage of people will choose to take their annual break – this isn’t a surprise – so build up a pipeline that anticipates and defends you from it.
Jim Rohn’s Ant Philosophy tells us that ants think winter all through the summer – and they think summer all through the winter.
Ants spend all summer preparing for winter because they know its coming – it always does – so they get busy in summer and gather. And when winter hits, that’s when they get themselves ready and rested because summer is just around the corner.
When the sun shines farmers let their animals graze and make hay – when the winter comes they bring the livestock indoors and use the hay.
Question: If you’re working your way through existing leads on your CRM – why did you agree that the holiday season would be a good time to give those prospects their next call?
6. I Can’t Get Past the Gatekeepers
I’ll tell you one thing – once you get clients with tough gatekeepers you get to keep them for a very long time – because those same gatekeepers that stopped you – are going to be just as vigilant at guarding against your competitors ever getting through.
Your job as a salesperson is not just to get through to the buyer – it’s to get the buyer to buy. So let’s generate some interest.
The marketing director at Mercedes Benz once stated that if the first time you see a Mercedes advert is precisely when you’re looking to buy your next car, then they’ve probably failed. Equally, if the first time a prospect hears your name is when you’re asking to be put through, then there’s a fair chance you’ll be told they’re busy.
Take a look at this list – and have a think which one you could use to get your message through (with an appreciative nod to marketing guru Perry Marshall);
- Invite them to join your LinkedIn Network
- Create a LinkedIn Group and invite them to join
- Introductory letter
- Twitter (when you follow their account your avatar and summary is emailed to them – which only works if it’s professional enough)
- FEDEX envelopes to highly-targeted prospects
- Trade Shows ( Invite them to meet you at the show)
- Promotional Flyers
- Do a custom webinar or teleseminar
- Invite them to hear you speak at a seminar
- Send a link to your magazine articles and e-zine articles
- “Lumpy Mail” – sending people interesting objects, like one guy who mailed out a six foot canoe paddle
Question: What medium can you use to gain enough interest to ensure that they take your call next time round?
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