So You’re Serious About Selling?

Aug 27, 2007

Much has been written on how to be a more effective seller— lots aimed at design professionals and much more written for other industries/professions. The problem with most of this stuff is the credibility of the authors. Are they, themselves, good at doing what they are trying to teach others how to do? There’s much I don’t know. But I DO KNOW how to sell! If you are serious about wanting to become an effective seller, you’ll follow my advice: Believe it is possible to be far more successful at selling than you already have been. Stop telling yourself how great you are because you can sell a couple million dollars of work each year. There are people who sell tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars of work. THEY know how to sell. But they are probably no smarter than you are. They know that selling, first and foremost, takes belief in yourself. No one else will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. You must believe it is possible to be far more successful selling than you already are. Stop associating with losers who have negative, defeatist attitudes. You know who these people are. They make excuses for their failure continuously. IF you are going to be successful, you must hang out with other successful people. These people know how to sell. They can help teach you. They can help you see that it’s possible to sell far more than most other people realize. Look your best. Stand tall, have a firm handshake, wear high-quality clothing, and even better shoes. Keep your vehicle clean. Don’t run out of business cards. Take care of your dental problems. Get a good haircut. I kid you not— all of this stuff matters to SOME people. What if a person you are trying to sell your firm’s services to is one of those people? Why take any chances. Learn how to be comfortable interacting with people. This is much easier said than done. But practice makes perfect. Be a joiner. Be an active participant. See what happens the next time you go into a room at a meeting or party and immediately introduce yourself to everyone there. Then do that again. You will make new connections and you will get better interacting over time. Make yourself available to sell. That means you must carry (and answer!) your cell phone at all times. You must be responsive to every e-mail, even if it cuts into personal time. You must also give yourself time to sell— that means that you have not overcommitted in other areas of responsibility. And one more thing I must say. The best sellers are still doing billable project work. That’s HOW they get a lot of their selling opportunities— by working with clients on jobs and seeing their real needs first-hand. Protect every personal relationship with a potential buyer or influencer of the buying decision. These are valuable. The people you know and who like you in client organizations are like gold. They need to be treasured. Don’t just call them when you need a job. Make friends with these people that transcend your working relationship. That takes a lot of time and effort, but you will be rewarded with meaningful personal (and business) relationships that can last a lifetime. Aim to enter any organization you are trying to sell services to at the highest level you can. Look, argue with me all you want, but if the chairman or CEO of a private-sector organization or the absolute head of a public-sector organization likes you, he or she can influence the folks further down the organizational hierarchy to use your services. They won’t all do this— and you have to be sure to take care of those staff members who are being told whom to work with (you) so they don’t undermine your relationship with the higher-up. Follow-up, follow-up, and follow-up! That means after you meet someone or learn about a new opportunity, you need to send notes, send e-mails, make additional calls, provide more ideas, and stay with it ‘til you emerge victorious. Don’t stop following up until a sale is made. It may take years but the best sellers know that and keep following up. Use the pull-away. A friend of mine told me a story just today about how his company sold a huge job with a six-figure retainer. My friend went to the first meeting with his client to show some concepts and one member of his client’s team immediately got negative about my friend’s firm’s work. My friend feigned being offended and said it sounded like things weren’t going to work out and his client hadn’t signed a contract yet so perhaps they should just leave. My friend then ended the meeting, knowing he still had the next morning to close the deal. He knew his client was already behind schedule and would have a very hard time switching firms now. By the next morning, his client had an immediate attitude shift. The critic was silenced and the critic’s boss saw to it that the contract was signed and a huge retainer check received the next day! That is what those of us who sell call “a pull-away!” Remember that the recipe to successful selling is one-half attitude and one-half disciplined activities that must ALWAYS be performed. You can’t be successful over the long haul without doing both. I’ve talked a lot about the attitude— the discipline part is all about making enough calls, documenting everything, and following up as you must to be successful in closing. Many of those who sell A/E/P and environmental services lack the discipline it takes to sell. Find out how other sales professionals outside of our industry do it. You will see what I am talking about. Follow my advice. I know you can be more successful as a seller! Originally published 8/27/2007

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