It’s the new year. A time when everyone makes resolutions to lose weight, save money, be a better spouse, or run a marathon. In business, it’s when we set new goals for the coming year. We’re going to open a new market, double our sales calls, hire a new admin, and document our procedures. And let’s aim for the sky when we set goals. After all, if you aim super high and fall short, it’s still a big success. Right? Well, sort of. If aiming high means setting individual goals that are very ambitious, then there is truth to the concept. Setting a big goal helps you to think above and beyond your current reality and think about what could be. If aiming high means setting a whole lot of different goals for the year, however, I’m not so sure.
Juggling in Business
In my college years, I took up juggling. It wasn’t exactly the “chick magnet” I expected it to be, but it was fun. Here’s what I learned. Juggling 3 balls or pins was easy. I got pretty good at doing all kinds of fancy moves, and could pass pins with another juggler quite proficiently. Juggling 4 balls was harder but pretty attainable with just a little practice. Juggling 5 balls, however, was a whole different thing. It’s just really hard to shift your focus so quickly from one ball to the next. As a result, they all came tumbling down around me and my progress as a juggler stopped. And my dreams of running off to join the circus died, too.
I think that this concept applies perfectly when setting goals. If you set too many, you’re likely to accomplish very little. If you set just a couple really big ones, however, you can make a lot of progress (learn to juggle them really well) on them and have a big impact on your business.
Git ‘Er Done!
Setting a few big goals is great. But execution is king. Without an execution plan, goals are only dreams. Break those goals into tiny, bite-sized tasks, set deadlines for each one, and set time blocks on your calendar to execute on them. Use that task list as a driver of your focus every time you have a spare half hour during the day. Only then are you showing how serious you are about your goals.
Focus on the Few
If you set 10 big goals for 2017, you’re almost a dead lock to become overwhelmed. Don’t be overwhelmed. Be “whelmed” instead. Set 2 or 3 Goals for the entire year. We can juggle those, give them appropriate focus, and move our businesses forward.
Have a great 2017!
One of the biggest issues I see in selling is that many conversations with prospects go nowhere. The initial conversation seems to go well. But that second conversation becomes a real challenge to set up. And if it ever happens, it doesn’t appear that the sales process advances.
What’s going wrong? It could be a number of things, but we’re going to focus on one biggie right here: many of the conversations are not with well qualified prospects. If we haven’t narrowed the focus of how and where we get our message out, we end up with many “prospects” that we simply shouldn’t be talking too. Either they don’t have the pain point that we can solve, or they haven’t got the pocketbook to afford our solution.
So how can we solve this? One of the easiest ways is to get to know our best clients better. Ask them a lot of questions. If they are consumers, what are their interests? How old are they? Are they married? Where do they shop? What do they do for entertainment? If they are businesses, what are their challenges? Why do they buy our product or services (what problem do we solve)? How do they make decisions? What is their industry segment? How large are they? Ask, Ask, Ask.
What are we going to do with this information? We’ve got to figure out where we can get in front of more of them: consumers or businesses with the same profile as our best clients. By narrowing our marketing focus to hit more of the right prospects more often, our selling conversations will more often be with prospects we can truly help, and with whom our marketing message will resonate.
This simple approach doesn’t require an increase in marketing spending. It does require an increase in critical thinking!
Does this scenario sound familiar? You are deep into a selling conversation and decide to attempt a “trail close” or other closing technique you have been taught. Suddenly, the prospect unloads a whole series of objections. Her body language changes, too. She sits back in her chair and crosses her arms. The room becomes more tense as you try to “right the ship.”
What you perceive as objections could be serious roadblocks. Or they could actually be buying signals: an indication that she is trying to clarify how your product will solve her needs before making a purchasing decision. In the scenario above, her body language makes it clear that her objections are serious roadblocks.
So what happened? I believe that the culprit here is almost always a lack of trust. For any sale of anything to occur, a threshold of trust must be achieved. The trust bar is pretty low to buy a pack of gum, but you must trust the brand. The bar is much higher to hire a financial advisor.
How do you establish trust? First, I suggest you search for common bonds. Pretty basic stuff. Do you both root for the same team? Enjoy fishing? Attend the same church? Have kids of similar ages? The list is endless. Human beings are psychologically tribal. By identifying a few common bonds, you are discovering that you belong to some of the same tribes.
Is this first step a form of manipulation? I do not believe so. It’s how people get to know each other and decide to like and trust each other.
Next, Ask, Ask, Ask. Get to know the prospect, and let her get to know you. Learn about her pain points, her personal and professional goals, her passions in life, etc. Also share a bit about yourself, by the way; this shouldn’t be a one-way interrogation!
I suggest that you develop a formal library of profiling questions. I have a two page library, laminated, that I carry with me most of the time.
How important is this Trust stuff? I would argue it is the single-most critical step in selling. The better you get at building trust, the less you’ll have to know about “closing” because the prospect will trust that your recommendation is in her best interest.
“Wait a minute!” you may be thinking. “This isn’t true for transactional sales. If I’m selling shoes I don’t need to do this.” Wrong. Often, a level of trust has been established because the buyer knows and trusts the shoe brand. Great! But you will always be a better shoe salesperson if you ask a few quick questions. “How will you be using these shoes? In what part of your foot do shoes start to hurt late in the day? What kinds of outfits will you be wearing these shoes with?” By doing this the buyer will understand that you are trying to customize your shoe recommendations to her specific needs. And her trust in you will increase. You’ll sell more shoes.
Go sell some shoes!