What Salespeople can learn from Local Political Candidates

campaign signs at polling areaFor many jurisdictions, it’s primary season. If you’re like me, you have been getting your daily dose of recorded phone calls from local candidates. Your mailbox is probably stuffed with campaign literature. And if you’re like me, you just recently voted early and dealt with a gauntlet of campaign workers or even candidates asking for your vote or trying to hand you campaign literature right before entering your polling area. And if you can’t find your local polling area, don’t worry. There is probably a sea of campaign signs blocks away from the polling area that will lead you to where you need to vote.

What can salespeople learn from local political candidates?

1). Most people have already decided on who to vote for by the time they enter a polling area –

If you are a candidate or campaign worker trying to persuade a voter as he’s walking to the polling area, you’re too late. I would argue that most people, especially those who vote early, have already done their homework and know who they are going to vote for before arriving at a polling place.

That’s the same for most customers. If someone is calling you about your product or service, chances are, they have already done their homework and are already leaning towards making a purchasing decision. Sure, they may be contacting your competitors, or just shopping around, but in most cases, they are ready to buy. The only question for you is – will they buy from you or someone else? That’s when you need to ask open-ended questions and qualify prospects to ensure they are going to be a good fit for your product and service.

2). Campaign literature doesn’t work unless you are unique –

Almost all the campaign literature I received offer the same promises from candidates. Examples include improving schools and reducing crime. All noble goals. But are any of the candidates offering anything unique? Are they distinguishing themselves from the rest of the crowd?

The answer – NO.

And that’s the problem that many salespeople face. The “we can do the same thing or better than our competitors” mantra isn’t going to cut it anymore. In an age where we are inundated with social media, advertisements, commercials and other distractions, you must grab prospects by the collar and clearly and distinctly show them how you are different from the rest of your competitors.

What are you offering of value that will persuade a prospect to become your customer?

Is it lower pricing?

Is it a better product or service?

Is it more reliable shipping?

Is it better customer service?

woman voting3). Developing a strong base of supporters helps before Election Day –

As a political candidate, you must lay the groundwork early long before Election Day. That means you need to be a community activist. Examples include attending PTA meetings or joining groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. You could also join a local citizens committee sponsored by your city and becoming a regular attendee at local council meetings. Being a chief advocate for an issue like better walkways for pedestrians in busy traffic areas, or higher pay for teachers helps too.

The same is true for salespeople. You need to incorporate yourself in the industry you are serving. It’s not enough to sell products and services to vendors in an industry. You need to network, i.e., join LinkedIn groups, attend conferences and trade shows, and be active on social media. In short, you must give a damn about your customers so they, in turn, will support you with their orders and referrals.

It’s tough being a political candidate, especially during the primaries when most people don’t vote. Since most primaries are held in the late Spring or early Summer, people are too busy celebrating graduations, preparing for summer vacations and doing yard work to follow politics closely. So, it takes a lot of work and commitment to encourage people not only to go to the polls but to vote for you.

As salespeople, we face similar challenges. Our prospects are busy with work and personal commitments. Their attention spans are getting shorter. It’s not enough to bombard prospects with emails, direct marketing, and advertisements. You need to draw a clear distinction between yourself and your competitors. You need to offer real value. You need to embrace the industry you are serving.

In summary, you need to be shrewder than most local political candidates who think that recorded phone messages, “me to” campaign literature, and last-minute pitches at the polls are going to get them votes.

Work hard, yes. But also work smarter than local politicians if you want to get ahead.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

 

How to Prevent Losing a Large Customer

Sad when losing a large customerSmall customers come and go. But when you lose a large customer, it can be both a financial and psychological toll for you and your entire sales team.

After the finger-pointing and blame games die down, everyone needs to take a step back, take a deep breath and evaluate what happened and how to prevent future losses.

Here is what you need to consider

1). Why did you lose the customer?

How do you find out? Ask. Sure, sometimes customers will be evasive and give you wishy-washy answers, e.g., the budget or a change in upper management. Sometimes those answers are correct. But if you to feel that’s not the case, you need to dig deeper. There are several reasons why customers will leave you. Examples range from a competitor offered a better deal, to your customer felt your pricing increases were getting out of control.

2). Did you see the signs?

Be honest with yourself. Were their signs there and you simply missed them? Examples include your key contacts not returning your phone calls or emails. Or, there was a sudden change in management. Or, maybe some of your key contacts got laid off, were fired, or quit.  Did the financial outlook look bleak for your customer? Was there a merger or acquisition?

3). Did you stay in touch enough?

While you don’t want to be a pest, you should stay in touch with a large customer at least once a month. I don’t mean sending the usual “just checking in” email. I mean sharing important information that your customer might be interested in using for his business.  Or making sure they know about the new features or benefits that were added to your product or service recently. Or, asking if others at your customer’s company would like to see a tailored made demo or online tour on how to better use your services better. Every time you contact a large customer, you must always add value. The “just checking in” email or phone call isn’t going to cut it because everyone is busy these days. We all want to feel special. Large customers are no exception.

Are you using your time wisely4). Are you using your time wisely?

Of course, you should always provide excellent service to all of your customers, regardless of their size and revenue. But let’s the real here – everyone in sales is stretched thin these days. Like it or not, you must set priorities. A small customer who is only generating $500.00 a year in sales isn’t going to be as important as one who is giving you $50,000 in sales. Sure, you hope that the small customer will grow with you over time. But in sales, money talks and everything else walks. You must follow the money.

That’s why if you have a large enough sales team, you need to divide up the sales process so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Examples include

One group that handles research for new prospects. This means using lead generation tools, Google, and other sources to find companies to contact.

One group that manages existing accounts. (And I would go further and divide up the tasks between small, mid-size and large customers). This means holding customer’s hands to ensure you are taking care of their needs and concerns. Examples include being a troubleshooter for billing or shipping problems, seeking upgrading or cross-selling opportunities, and being a watchdog to prevent your competitors from stealing your business.

One group that prospects and schedules sales appointments.

One group that conducts presentations (in-person or online). This group would probably be your closers. They are the ones to make the sales pitch, handle objections, answer questions, and hopefully will see the buying signals to move forward with the sale.

And depending on the size of your company, one group that devotes most of their time on the road attending trade shows and conferences. These are your road warriors. If your company has a large enough budget, these folks could be traveling for weeks, uncovering good leads at events and handing them off to the sales team.

By dividing up the sales process, you make certain that you prevent losing more large customers down the road.

So, you lost a large customer. It happens. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Stop blaming others. Get off your ass and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Note: If you like my post, please read my book –  Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.