What do most people do when they hear the word salesman? Run is probably the initial jerk reaction and that's probably followed with hide. The word "salesman" has earned the ill-fated reputation of being someone who can't, or shouldn't, be trusted. Never trust the fast-talking salesman. He'll pull the wool over your eyes. He'll sell you something you don't even need. Unfortunately, when it comes to the term salespeople, trust and honesty go right out the window and here lies the conundrum because all business transactions are based on sales and employing people to close them and without trust, honesty and integrity, sales cannot be closed.
So, what's a business owner to do? My advice is stop calling them salespeople. I visit shops all over the country and I can't tell you how many times I've overheard CSRs tell customers they'll send a salesperson right over. These poor guys are disadvantaged right from the start because their customers will do what everyone does when they hear the word salesperson. Three-foot-thick, steel reinforced walls will drop down from the ceiling to barricade the windows and doors and armed guards will parachute in because nobody wants to be taken advantage of. Imagine trying to sell in this kind of environment. Many salespeople believe customers are apprehensive from the start, but in most cases, we create those feelings of discontent; all they wanted was their issues fixed, but now they've got their guard up.
The title "expert advisor" or "expert specialist" is a much better choice when it comes to labeling our employees. Even though employees should consider themselves as consultants, I wouldn't use the word consultant because most people know that consultants are expensive, therefore, security would be heightened to DEFCON 2. By calling employees experts, advisors or specialists, it helps to build a preconceived level of experience. This also begins to build trust with customers because their issues will be handled by a qualified and knowledgeable individual. Realize that in this industry, many consumers have received less than desirable service or shoddy work from other companies and they've become gun shy, therefore, we must do everything we possibly can to create a superior quality image and build trust right from the start.
We know what to call our employees, so, what's the next step? The next step is to stop making them be salespeople. Since we know the negative connotations associated with the word salesperson, why are we trying to make our employees be salespeople? It's safe to say that most people selling today, whether they're technicians or salespeople, are not seasoned. I find that when it comes time to close the sale, many put on their "selling hats" and their attitudes change. They start acting like salespeople. They talk faster or become pushy and confrontational. Likewise, customers' attitudes change — they no longer trust them and sales are lost.
Keep in mind that we build trust and confidence with our customers by acting and communicating in a certain way and when that pattern changes, everything changes. For example, when it's time for a technician to ask for the sale and he speeds up and talks faster, he will appear nervous or unsure of himself or even crafty. Realize that consumers are more educated than ever before and they can spot a shady deal a mile away and if anything rubs them wrong, no matter how slight, they'll walk. Be a storyteller
The highest-producing, highest-earning salespeople all agree, in order to be the best, you have to be a great storyteller, not a salesperson. Think about it, sales are based on emotional decisions and the most effective method of stirring our prospects' emotions is through storytelling. That's because storytelling creates mental imagery.
You may be thinking, what kinds of stories would my salespeople or technicians be telling? They should tell stories about how their customers' issues are going to be a thing of the past; the different options to best fit their customers' needs; how they helped other customers and how they solved their situations; the new products and services your company offers; how impressive the company's guarantees and value-packed service agreements are; and most importantly, they'll tell stories about how happy your customers will be once they own your company's product and services and how they'll be enjoying all of the great benefits.
Capture the details
Even after all of these years, most of us can recite a fairly accurate rendition of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." We know this because we've committed it to memory. That's the empowering benefit of storytelling — it creates the mental imagery that's necessary to burn it into our minds. What does this mean to the technician or salesperson? Your employees will remember the important details, that is, the powerful value-building details about your products and services that will inspire your customers to buy.
Another powerful benefit of storytelling is when it comes to bids, your competitors won't have a chance against you. That's because they don't know how to tell stories and when prospects sift through all the bids, they'll only see numbers, that is, until they reach your bid. They'll be swimming in the value bucket you built for them and their emotions will be stirred. Realize that submitting bids is nothing more than entering a lottery: you're leaving your success to chance. I have clients calling me to let me know about bids they won that were two to three times higher than their competitors. Create mental imagery with your prospects and they'll never forget it.
For a business owner, inconsistent sales can be extremely frustrating. It's difficult to plan for growth when constantly facing the rollercoaster feast or famine situation. This is another reason why storytelling is crucial because it promotes consistency. When we tell stories, we know the story line and the events in that story and if one important detail is missed, a story or sales presentation can lose something vital. This is why it's important to share quality stories that promote sales with all of your employees. This way, they'll all be on the same page and telling the same stories. To consistently make sales is a very easy task, simply repeat what works over and over again.
So, there are five powerful secrets behind the art of storytelling. Storytelling is a fantastic strategy that inspires even the most inexperience salespeople to start producing high numbers. In sales, there are two kinds of people: those who make sales, and those who make excuses. Get your people selling though storytelling, otherwise, they'll be telling you stories about the ones that got away.
Randall Murphy is the CEO and founder of Apex Training, www.apextraining.org. Visit the Web site to find an affordable, state-of-the-art interactive video training system that teaches technicians how to double and triple invoice averages.