I had the pleasure of sitting down with bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, Andrew Davis. Davis founded Monumental Shift, the world’s first talent agency for marketing thought leaders. We discussed how to build business relationships- everything from researching prospects, negotiations, and closing the deal.
DR: Let’s dig right in. I think a good place to start with sales and negotiations is prepping for new prospect meetings. What are some actions sales reps should take to generate questions?
AD: Number one, you really have to do your homework these days. In the old days, I think we looked at the prospecting meeting as a real opportunity to really get to know the people we were sitting across from. Fifteen years ago, when we didn’t have LinkedIn, and not everyone was blogging, and no one had a YouTube channel; prospect meetings were the first steps to a great relationship. Today, you really have to do your homework. You have to spend the time to understand what questions they’ve already answered publicly. I think you should spend half an hour, at a minimum, before you go to a meeting, really diving deep into the initial questions you already have in your mind. You don’t have to ask where they live or how their kids are- all of that information is actually available.
I think the other thing is the shorter your meeting, the less homework you have to do. Think of your meeting as a twenty-minute meeting instead of an hour one. That way, you can really hone in on the questions you’re going to ask when you get in front of this person or get them on the phone.
3 Types of Research Before Making a Sale
DR: You don’t have to be connected to check someone out. And I know this is a hard question, but what kind of information is pertinent? I know if you’re going for a huge sale, you’ll want to dig deeper than you would, for say a $300 local magazine ad. How deep does someone need to go in prep?
AD: You really want to do three types of research:
- Personal research. Who is this person? Where do they come from? What’s their perspective? LinkedIn can give you this information, Facebook, and even Google can give you a lot of information.
- Research the company. How deep are you diving into what the company is already doing in the digital world so that you don’t have to ask dumb questions? You should already know if they’re doing videos, or if they are advertising in print. You should already know those things because they’ve told you or you’ve seen it in the online world. Asking those questions makes it look as if you haven’t done your homework on the company.
- Research the prospect’s competitors. Who are their top three competitors and what kind of information can I gather about them.
Even if you’re selling a $300 ad in a local magazine, that can be a $1000 commitment in a longer campaign- if you understand more about the business. Stop thinking of it as a $300 sale, and start thinking of it as a $15,000 relationship with a brand you’ve never met before.
DR: To follow up on that, personal research- that’s pretty easy to do. About the company research, would you follow their feeds?
AD: You should at least look at their homepage. If they sell a widget, it will be one their home page. If they sell a service, it will be on the home page. If it’s a public company, you have to read their annual report. You can skip a lot of it, but read the letter from the CEO, and marketing line items. You can learn what kind of a budget they have to work with, and you’ll know what the CEO wants the company to be known for. You can learn a ton from the annual report. This is kind of a hidden gem!
If they don’t have an annual report, you can still find interviews with CEOS, blogs, tweets, even YouTube videos of speeches or panels that the CEO has been on. Those things are invaluable. You need to spend time on the social channels where they are spending time. There is also another hidden gem called SPYFU, it’s a great tool to search for any brand, and to see what that brand is spending on search, what search terms they’re buying. You can begin to make a lot of assumptions about a brand given what you learn from these platforms.
The last one I’ll give you is Google Trends. It’s a great way to see the most movement or momentum for a brand or a category, even by region. It looks at search share over time, and the more you use it, the more you’ll understand it. You can see if it’s a new company, who is struggling to gain awareness, or say a company that’s been around for 15 years. You can see who is gaining shares, losing shares, and it’s a great way to form some opinions and questions that are really intelligent.
DR: What if a sales rep is feeling like he’s spending so much time on research that he’s not spending enough time making calls? How can someone allocate his or her time to be the most effective?
AD: My perspective has always been quality over quantity. I would rather make half the calls and close all of them. It also depends on where you are in the cycle. You want to spend a proportionate amount of time researching to the size of the sale. You don’t want to spend half an hour digging deep into research for a two-minute call. But, you want to spend enough time to be prepared if they do want to talk.
A lot of what we focus on in sales training is what to do when we hear “no” and we spend a lot of time talking about overcoming objections. As a sales person, amazing things happen when we instead focus on “yes”. Assume that every call you make will lead to the next step and the one after that. When you prepare for that, you will lead towards it, and you’ll have a much higher success rate.
DR: So, now that we’ve done our hardcore research, or rather our appropriate amount of research, what are some good examples of questions you can ask to get into the flow, once you’re in the meeting or on the call?
AD: My rule is dive deep and get there fast. I like to create insightful questions and leverage the research I’ve done. Let’s stick with the $300 ad as an example again. Say that I’m trying to sell that ad to a wedding photographer, and I look on the photographer’s homepage to see that they have a June, July, August package they are promoting. The first thing I’ll ask is how it’s going with the special. This sets me apart from other salespeople who may open with something like “Tell me about the wedding photography business.”
The photographer may tell me that it’s not going well, he was expecting a better response. Then, I can suggest that maybe it’s because his site isn’t getting enough traffic, and this $300 ad can drive people to his website.
"My rule is dive deep and get there fast."
DR: How do we answer questions from prospects?
AD: If a prospect is asking questions, it’s because they are interested. My rule is to be direct and deliberate. Immediately answer a question. If it’s a yes or no question, answer with a yes or no. Stick with making one point- you don’t have to explain away, maybe just one piece if supporting information.
DR: Right, from the salesperson’s side of the phone, they really think they are being heard. And, you’re probably making the buyer happy, too.
AD: One of the things we’re really nervous about is dropping the price, and then letting it hang. One thing to really work on is to just answer the question, give the price, and be quiet!
Give Them the Price
DR: Can I assume that the underlying result of acting that way, is that you deserve to be paid, and you have confidence in your product, and you’re not diminishing the product of service?
AD: Yes, a lot of salespeople immediately begin to justify the price, or give you an opportunity to get a discount. So, in the ad example, you might immediately say, “Don’t forget that includes X,Y & Z.” That just clouds the value that you’ve already explained on the call and lets them sit and analyze for themselves where the value is. You’re telling them where they see the value, instead of letting them decide where they see the value. That means, that when they ask, “Does that include the email?” they are really excited about the email. You can either say, “Yes!” or explain that the email is an additional $75.
Also, if we assume that the person on the other end of the phone can’t afford what we’re selling, we often present them with a discount. While in fact, we often misinterpret reactions. Don’t assume you know what the buyer’s budget is. Give them the price and let it hang, even though it’s uncomfortable.
DR: Let’s say we’re trying to sell a package for $2,500, and the prospect tells us that they only have a $1,000 budget. Do we offer to go back to the drawing board and get back to them? What do we do?
AD: I would try to answer immediately, being direct and deliberate. Let’s assume first that I don’t have anything to offer for $1,000. I tell them that I couldn’t do it, BUT here are three or four magazines that can hit their price point. My goal is to always be the solution provider, so that when that person does have $2,500, they call me. If I can negotiate down to a $1,000 package I, again, will answer directly and deliberately, telling them what will be removed from the $2,500 option. I want to make sure they understand the very specific values of the things I’m cutting.
DR: Now we’re through all of the questions, and we’re at the sales presentation. What pointers do you have for the presentation?
AD: The first thing you should do is to go through your deck and cut 70% of it. Focus first on getting rid of all the stuff about your company- they don’t care and you don’t need it in the presentation. If you don’t know that information, you shouldn’t be selling for that brand. No one cares who you are until they know what you can do for them. You want them to ask who you are after your pitch- that gives you an opportunity to explain who you are.
- Focus on one yes at a time.
- Set shorter meetings. You want to leave that client wanting more.
- Instead of hour-long meetings or calls, schedule one 30 minutes, and only take up 20 minutes.
Not only will the prospect be grateful, but you’ll be leaving them at the height of enthusiasm. People love to both get time back in their calendar and to feel like they are moving aggressively toward what you’re selling. Even if the “yes” is “I want to learn more,” or “I want to bring in my marketing director,” it’s a “yes.”
There is a good lesson about pitching up vs. pitching down. Pitching up is when you’re talking to someone in a C-level position, pitching down is when you’re talking to an audience who has to pitch what you’re selling again- up the food chain. Those are two very different presentations. If you’re pitching up, start with what tomorrow looks like when we’re working together, then go to today, what the company is doing now. Work in that pattern throughout the presentation. So, for example, tomorrow, working together, we are going to generate 100 new leads for your brand new widget by hosting webinars. Today, you are already doing a great job of raising awareness for your widget. If you’re pitching down, you want to do the opposite. You don’t want that audience to think that what they are already doing hasn’t been effective. So you would say something like “You’ve already done an amazing job of raising awareness about your new widget, I see it everywhere.” “Once we’re working together, we can generate leads from all that awareness.”
DR: What about follow up? How often? What if prospects aren’t getting back to you? How can you avoid the brush-off? What advice can you give?
AD: Instead of getting into specifics, when you leave that office or hang up from a phone call, your goal is that the person you’ve just pitched to has never been more excited about working with you than they are right now. Their enthusiasm should be at 100%, but what happens is that when they get back to the office, they’ve got emails to catch up on, something breaks in the warehouse, and their enthusiasm wanes. What you have to do is do something different than all the other people who are following up. What do most people do? Send an email, make a phone call, etc. Challenge yourself to do something else. Instead of making a phone call, send a hand-written note. Instead of an email, record a short voice memo on your phone. Those things re-inspire the prospect. You have to show them you are different, and not just tell them you are different.
DR: I just want to add that that hand-written letters and notes are kind of a forgotten art. I think that people our age (40s) have an advantage because we lived the old school and the new school. I’m big on these things, and they work.
ABOUT ANDREW DAVIS
Andrew Davis is a bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker. Before co-founding, building and selling a thriving digital marketing agency, Andrew Davis created programming for local television, produced for NBC’s Today Show, worked for The Muppets in New York and wrote for Charles Kuralt. He has marketed for tiny start-ups and Fortune 500 brands. In 2016, Davis founded Monumental Shift, the world’s first talent agency for marketing thought leaders.
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