Time to crank up sales. Thankfully, the economy is starting to heat up, and as such, it may be an ideal time to learn how to crank up your sales.
For a little guidance, I give you 10 lessons from John Whitehead, the fabulously successful former chairman of Goldman Sachs. Besides climbing to the top of the corporate ladder and making billons for his firm, Whitehead stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day. We should memorize his pearls of wisdom:
1. Don't waste your time going after business you don't really want.
We hired a mechanical engineer from West Point this month to help us grow sales. His focus is to help manufacturing engineers in industrial S&P 500 companies understand why Marlin Steel, my company, is better than our competitors. Why? Our clients are not marketing companies, nor are they point of purchase display companies. These folks don't appreciate quality and engineering. Instead, they are looking for the lowest price. Make sure you point your sales and marketing team in the right direction for profitable business.
2. The boss usually decides--not the assistant treasurer (or the intern).
Selling to the right person, the decision maker, is critical. Many times engineering interns will reach out to Marlin Steel for a quote. This is a colossal waste of time for our team, who can see this as a sign of interest and a potential sale. The last thing you want to do is devote sales resources to uninterested buyers. It is imperative, early in the sales cycle, that you discover who calls the shots and don't waste your time with those who aren't likely to buy your products.
3. It's just as easy to get a first-rate piece of business as a second-rate one. (So focus your resources.)
When we do our quarterly analysis of our best clients, we consistently get results that stress how important our white-glove clients are. Our top 80 percent of sales are generated from less than 20 percent of our clients. We have anointed these clients our white-glove clients because they deserve the finest treatment. The bottom 80 percent of our clients generate a paltry mid-teens share of our revenue and even less of our profit. The tiny client aggravation spent to close and nurture these sales is time spent away from your best prospects and most of your profit. Focus on the clients that really matter--the ones that can make your year and stop spinning your wheels with the little guys.
4. You never learn anything when you're talking.
Ask questions of your clients. Listen carefully. If you are talking more than 50 percent of the time, you are talking 10 times too much. Your job is to probe and understand what the prospect's problems are so you can save the day. You will be the preferred vendor in a competitive economy if you are a good listener.
5. The client's objective is more important than yours.
Don't sell what you offer. Sell what the clients needs. By listening carefully to their requirements, you will refine your pitch and your product offering to make sure you are addressing their needs. One of our former salesmen would push stock material handling baskets because it was easy. No creativity needed. He did not make it. Our best salespeople engage the client and understand their challenges and provide solutions that are tailored to each one's requirements.
6. The respect of one person is worth more than an acquaintance with 100 people.
Some salespeople know many people superficially. Their back-slapping antics might make them the life of the party but do they really understand that particular key client? The key client could be a life-changing client. Go the extra mile with your white-glove clients and they will embrace you and shower you with opportunities. You can only have respect if you know them and their business model deeply.
7. When there's business to be found, go out and get it!
The economy is picking up. Your competition is still hunkered down from the recession. Engage now while your rivals are dozing. Proactively meet prospects early in the economic boom that is charging our way.
8. Important people like to deal with other important people. Are you one?
Get active in your business community. Do not be a wallflower. Join associations that dovetail with your best prospects' interests. Volunteer for industry committees and network with this select group of high-value targets. Rise to the top of these organizations to generate deserved prestige in your industry. The orders are bound to flow. People like to buy from winners.
9. There's nothing worse than an unhappy client.
First things first--alleviate the client's pain. Drop everything and fix problems. When a problem happens at Marlin Steel (we are human), the quality error is fixed first before any other standard production. Our clients will not be thrilled with us but they will remember we transparently communicated with them and we resolved the problem quickly.
10. If you get the business, it's up to you to see that it's well-handled.
Once you nail the big clients, give them amazing service. Meet your deadlines. Usher them through the process so they are enchanted with your performance and they will send you repeat business and new opportunities.
What fast growth sales techniques did John Whitehead miss? Share them with me and I will list the best new ideas in my column later this month.