Are sales an artistic or scientific profession?
Guest Contributor: David Colomb
David's Posts - David's Blog
Today I was at a sales meeting and I listened to a number of people discuss sales approaches and the mechanics of a sale. As I listened, I thought back to my former life and tried to decide was I working in a field that was an art or a science?
Are sales an artistic or scientific profession? About 15 years ago I took a sabbatical from sales and became the chef/owner of a restaurant, and in so doing, I learned that cooking was an art, while baking was a science. In cooking you can change the ratios of any item, you can replace one item with another, and you can change the cooking time or method, and you still come out with an edible product. Sometimes better than planned, other times, not so good. Baking is all about chemical reactions and ratios ; change a ratio or change an ingredient, and you wind up with an inedible mess.
People stood in front of our group and discussed their approach to sales, and it comes down to discussing physics, action and reaction, when you do this, it will cause the customer to react in this way. A number of teachers have distilled the interactions of customers and sales people down to a decision tree, you remember those, if this then that, or this? It is inevitable, no question and no doubt. Just follow the yellow brick road to Oz.
I really believe that it is much more of an art form, yes, all of the science can help you to get through a sales process, but to be truly successful, you have to go well beyond the science. If our customers had read all of the materials and knew the rules as to how they should react, then we would be successful every time, but regrettably the process doesn't always flow. There are way too many variables in the process for it to follow a scientific formula. As salespeople we need to have a sales plan, but we need to be able to read when the wheels start to come off, and we need to dip in to our tool box and pull out another tool.
I cruise the message boards of a number of sales sites and salespeople are always looking for absolute answers, cold call or not, dress for success, or not etc. again I feel that there are way too many variables to be able to make those kind of pronouncements. I really believe that our experience in the field every day builds a file of action and reaction events that we can fall back on, and that will allow us to be successful. I used to say that things I did were done by the use of common sense, one of my people told me it was only common sense because I had done it and realized what worked. I guess that's correct. Read those boards and see how many different and unique points of view that are put forward when a simple question is asked. Scientific theory doesnâ€™t allow for multiple choice answers. I realized that in College, and that is why I changed from Engineering to Business Administration. In the Business courses, a reasoned argument could make anything seem correct.
I guess my point is that while study and scientific reasoning have a place in sales, don't let science become your God, keep your instincts and a sense of humor, you'll be happier and more successful.
Labels: David Colomb
How to get a small business owner to trust you
Guest Contributor: Albert Luk
Albert's Posts - Albert's SiteEven though we don't think of them as such, doctors are small business owners too. They have offices. They have staff. They share the same problems most small business owners' have- and maybe even more in our litigious society.
Doctors are also difficult clients to obtain. They typically make, or are perceived to make, a healthy income and their practices have a lower probability of business failure than other businesses. As a result, they are pitched to. A lot. My own doctor is sold to so often that he takes pictures of all his pharma reps since he can't keep track of all of them.
As a result, they are a cynical lot when it comes to salespeople. Give me your pitch, Leave your business card. I'll call you when I am interested. Next. What makes it harder is that Doctors are so specialized in their knowledge that they have little time to learn the difference between your client management system or your competitors or the difference between this insurance product or that one.
Thus, one of the shrewdest sales strategies I ever experienced was an insurance agent who simply acknowledged that Doctors are a difficult sale and found a way around this obstacle. Quite simply, he encouraged all doctors to attend an insurance seminar with their accountants.
This strategy was successful for several reasons:
1. He understood that in a complicated field like insurance, the Doctor was going to refer to her accountant anyway so why prolong the sales cycle when you can invite the accountant as well?
2. Accountants are often the gate-keepers for Doctors so show you have nothing to hide by inviting the gate-keeper.
3. Earn the trust of trusted advisors of your prospects and you will have an ally on your side.
To put this in another context, remember your dating days? If you really wanted to impress that girl you liked, you would be nice to her friend right? They would put in a good word for you. Even though she may not trust you, she trusts her friend and her friend's judgment.
Labels: Albert Luk
You better keep score...
Guest Contributor: Shannon McCaffery
Shannon's Posts - Shannon's Site
Do you keep track of your numbers, you know the amount of money that you spend on producing products, advertising, shipping and handling? This is huge in the Information Marketing business- "Know Your Numbers!"
You need to keep really good track of all these numbers:
1) Product Cost- Do you know how much your products are services cost? Are you making money or losing money? You better know your margins well. It might be time to reassess your prices and do an increase. Yes, you can increase your prices in a recession, don't listen to Wal-Mart or Kmart. The money is not in discounting your prices.
2) Advertising Cost- This is really key- you need to keep track of ALL your advertising, especially if you're doing multi-step direct mail campaigns, or postcard series, email newsletters, etc. There has to be a system that you put in place to know WHERE your prospects are coming from and how much it costs to acquire a new prospect. This way you will know how affective your advertising and marketing really is out there versus how much it costs.
3) Shipping and Handling (S&H) Costs- Lots of different studies have been done on how much to charge for shipping and handling. What's interesting here is people who've not charged for shipping and handling have gotten basically the same conversion rate as people who do charge for shipping and handling. Moral of the story is definitely charge for S&H. Things to think about- if you give them a refund, you might consider subtracting the S&H.
4) Refund Percentage- If you have a great product or service, this ought to be pretty small, like 10% or less. In this crazy economy it might be a little higher. The important thing here is to know what the number is and keep track of it to ensure it stays in the low figures.
5) Profit & Loss- This needs no explanation or you wouldn't be in business.
6) Other numbers you really need to get a handle on are- Your cost per sale, your total number of sales, and your conversation rate for your advertising and marketing pieces.
There's much more to this number thing and keeping track and score of them all. You just really need to get a good handle on these in order creating an even more successful business. So watch your numbers, or higher an expert to help you with them. Keep track of them and make important business decisions based on your all of these numbers.
Labels: Shannon McCaffery