By Keith Rosen, MCC
The Executive Sales Coach™
Miki was a seasoned executive recruiter with whom I worked about a year ago. She initially hired me because her sales were down and thought a coach might be able to give her the extra guidance and motivation she needed to get out of her slump. She was right. After three months of coaching, Miki was ahead again, as the fifth recruiter out of over 200.
She recently e-mailed me, requesting some time to talk. When we got on the phone, it was apparent why.
Recently, Miki’s numbers were sliding again. However, this time, instead of waiting, she immediately reached out for help.
“Keith, I don’t know what’s going on. I mean, I know we haven’t worked together in about a year, but for a while I was doing great! Now for some reason, I’m feeling stuck again.”
“I’m glad you reached out to me as soon as you noticed that something was off. Let’s do a quick diagnostic to see how things are running.”
“If you were standing on a 100-foot balcony looking down onto your entire sales process, where do you feel that the breakdown is occurring? When attempting to get the appointment, when presenting, closing, or following up?”
“Well, I’m using your template for cold calling, and that continually works very well, so the leads are pretty consistent. And the presentation seems to go just fine. So, I guess closing the sale is where I’m stumbling. If I were to look at what’s taking up my time now, I have a handful of proposals waiting to be closed. The prospects I’m meeting with are just not closing, for whatever reason or excuse they give me. The proposal stage and their decision-making process seem to drag on indefinitely.”
“So, you’re getting in front of the right people, you feel that your presentation flows well, and that you are doing a good job establishing a rapport and relationship with your prospects. However, you feel that these prospects should be able to make their decision faster as it relates to buying from you or not, is that what I’m hearing?”
“Yes, Keith, that’s right.”
“Miki, in the spirit of exploring every possibility, are you still using the sales process that we put together?”
“Oh yes, of course!”
“Good. Then let’s take a quick look at a few things you’re currently doing. Miki, do you remember when we developed your pre-closing and reconfirmation approach to include at the end of your presentation?”
“Are you still asking those five pre-qualifying questions before you discuss your pricing? I’m speaking of those questions which ensure that you’ve addressed each of the prospects’ concerns and which confirm that your service is something beneficial to them.
Silence. Then Miki responded quietly with, “Hmm. No, I forgot about those.”
“Well, that’s good news! At least we’ve uncovered one critical and effective step in your process that you’re not currently doing. Once you start asking these questions again, you will notice a big difference in your performance. In addition, you won’t be wasting your time drafting proposals and following up with unqualified prospects whom you shouldn’t be following up with in the first place.
“And what about the questions that we developed in order to defuse the objections you hear? I know that you were running into the ‘send me a proposal’ and the ‘I have to talk this over with my board’ and the infamous ‘that’s a lot of money’ objections. The rebuttals we developed were squashing and preventing these objections consistently, remember?”
“Yes, I most certainly do remember, Keith. I especially remember that when I used them, these objections weren’t getting in my way! The problem is I totally forget about those rebuttals as well! How weird is that?”
We ended our call a few minutes later, after I coached Miki and she reconnected with forgotten but necessary selling tools. Not surprisingly, she e-mailed me a week later about the sales that she was able to close as a result of doing again what she needed to do — the basics. Miki got back to the basics of what made her successful.
Interestingly, while I identified certain things that Miki clearly needed to change for the better, it was nothing that she hadn’t tried, created, or done successfully before. Her real enemies were success, complacency, and time.
Whether we’re in a slump or selling like a pro, when something becomes consistent, we become blind to it. This includes complacency or blindness to the good things in our life, as well as the bad. Of course, this does not exclude our productive behaviors and actions, or the unproductive ones. We sometimes forget what has worked for us, what has specifically contributed to our success: the things that have become habitual. And when something becomes a habit, it now works in the background of our lives and is done without conscious attention. We no longer have to think about doing these tasks. Therein lies the danger.
Tip from the Executive Sales Coach:
Here’s an elusive diversionary tactic to target: If you continually forget everything that you’ve learned, then you can always claim that you have adopted and utilized what you’ve learned. And if you continually feel that you’re using everything you’ve read, heard, or seen, and nothing is working, you are free to blame your poor performance on everything except you. In your mind, you have tried and done everything, right? You have the validation to support such a claim, but this claim is really an excuse in disguise. So, to forget what you have learned means that you are always right and never accountable.
When coaching someone out of a slump who has all of the right components to succeed, most of the time it’s because that person has forgotten or ignored the basics: the central questions we ask, the presentation we deliver, the processes we’ve developed that successfully work time and time again. Some how, some way, we get sidetracked, distracted, or seduced by something we perceive to be better (like a new selling strategy or approach), by the status quo, even by our own attitudes. Consequently, we mistakenly change what was clearly identified as an approach or mindset that worked well.
The next time you experience a selling slump or you feel that sales aren’t coming to you as easily as they once did, go back to the basics. Instead of doubting yourself and your abilities, remind yourself of what is consistently needed in your selling approach. Look at the engine that drives your sales. You may notice that all your pitch needs is a quick tune-up to enhance your performance. It’s all in your control.
About Keith Rosen, MCC — The Executive Sales Coach