Earning the Right – Fact or Fiction
By: Travis E. Blythe
Sales is a magical profession to be in. You can either be really successful or you hate it. If you are on the hating end of things then it is definitely time for you to pursue other career opportunities. In order to be successful, you have to have patience, be able to handle over 75% rejection in the beginning and you have to be able to successfully speak to your clients in a manner which will lead you to a successful outcome. This can be known as “Earning the Right”. Which is basically the way you creatively use your talents to get in front of the client in order to “pitch” your wares so to speak. I believe that you must ETR in order to be successful, so ETR is a fact.
Throughout my career as a sales professional, “Earning the Right” has been camouflaged and worded different in every industry. All phases are of the process are used in many different manners, but regardless of how you use the process; I have found that most of all, this is common sense. I have had the opportunity to recruit, train and develop sales forces in which I stressed this principle and if followed correctly, you can be successful at your craft.
Before I dive into the process, let me pose a series of questions that you maybe having right now. You maybe a Sales Manager, Director of Sales, VP of Sales or even a Sales Representative yourself. You are asking yourself what do I have to do to ensure that my team or that I am successful at growing my business. I am not making my quotas, I keep missing that elusive bonus, or I just can’t get anyone to see me. If this is the case, then maybe your approach to how you are selling is what needs a fine tuning.
Most people believe the sales industry is very easy and lucrative and anyone even a trained monkey can do it. Well, you are wrong; I would bet that outside of a strong work ethic and organization, you have to have personality and a “gift of gab” so to speak. Before you can ever sell your product or service, you must sell yourself. If you lack that confidence to sell yourself, then of course you will not be successful. I was once told that I could sell a plate full of ketchup covered French Fries to a lady wearing white gloves. Although that is a great compliment, I think that my confidence in myself first and foremost is what makes me successful. My clients tend to buy from me and not necessarily from what company I work for. Once I have established the rapport needed, then I start “pushing my wares” and building that successful business relationship.
So now that you have read almost a page, you are asking yourself “ok what is Earning the Right anyway?” So, we have established that you need to sell yourself; you need to have your clients trust you, and have their best interest in mind and you are not just selling them something and walking away. That is what is going to separate you from your competitors. This is where many sales people fail; I have a totally separate article on Customer Service, so let’s get back to the case in point. Outside of failing to take care of your clients, the initial failure stems from not even getting a foot in the door. How does this happen? How can so many sales people fail in the beginning? I think most of it has to do with proper training of your staff. Most companies will train you upon hire, take the first few weeks and try to pile on everything about the company, everything about the product/service and hope you get it. Another approach is to give you no training until two months into your job and nit pick at your lack of results. On the job training as they call it, the “sink or swim” mentality. I prefer the first approach myself. While it can be a bit overwhelming, at least you are providing the tools to be successful.
So why are all of these people failing at getting going? Why can they not get in the door? They leave voicemail after voicemail, and in today’s world, I have found that the phone call is becoming obsolete because it is so much easier to send an email. Not only do sales people prefer emails now-a-days, but most of prefer to receive them verses a phone call. You can selectively return an email and not have to speak to someone and “hurt their feelings”. But rejection is part of the game remember? So here is the meat and potatoes of this article, I have taken you down this road and you are probably ready to log off, but wait…I do have a point!
Earning the Right, this is making your call or email so full of purpose that the person just has to see you, kind of like cooking and they smell the food, so let’s give it to them. So most reasons we have a failure in the sales process is at the first step. Many sales people believe that they can just pick up the phone and “BAM!” you magically get the appointment. If you are industry specific this may work, but most of the time you have to earn the right to get that appointment.
There could be an argument that the actual ETR is when you get in front of your client for your presentation. While this is true, I believe, that, that version of ETR is a more in-depth and thought out process, which I cover in another article.
Earning the Right (ETR) is actually a four step process, here are the steps:
- Creditability to company
- Creditability to Self
- Commitment to time and Process
So you have your list of prospective clients, and you are ready to attack. But why should they take your call? If they do, what are you going to say within the first 15-20 seconds that is going to get you an appointment? Utilize this process to its full potential and I can guarantee you will be successful.
So first off you finally got someone to answer the phone or they actually called you back. What you do now is critical for you success. You have to tell that person why your company is better than all of the other companies who sell the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you have 3 competitors or 100. So in this step, this where you brag about how great your company is. This is really easy when you believe in your company, your product or service and have passion. I always sold like I was the owner of the place I was working at and that every sell depended on the lifeline of the company. There are a couple of ways to give you company creditability, a referral from another office within that clients organization, maybe a business associate, and of course industry wide acclaim. The latter being something that your company has accomplished within its prospective industry. It is good to be able to give facts, numbers, anything that will spark an interest and make them want to see you. Kind of like the “WOW” factor. I had a tag line on my emails – “Quality service deserves and Expert!” ok I didn’t use the word service, but for this case and point, you get my drift. I was an expert in my field and I told my clients that I was. I know what I am doing, my company believes in me and we are the one you need to trust.
Which leads us to the second point, giving Creditability to yourself. What exactly gives you creditability? Your knowledge of the industry, your credentials, and why you are head and shoulders above anyone else that is selling to the same person. You can also expand on your creditability by telling them who you have worked with in the past and how you have helped them. An example: I know your company X is in the Y industry; I recently helped company Z, who is also in that industry. So I know exactly what your needs are…and so on. This step is similar to the fist point; although this credit is going to you personally and not who the company has worked with. In other words, personal references here go a long way.
The third point is to have commitment to time and process. Although we would all love to be able to come in and provide an hour long presentation to the whole C-level staff, we need to take this one step at a time. You goal is to be respectful that they are just as busy as you and you are not going to tie them up for hours. A good rule of thumb is to ask for about 20-30 minutes top meet with them to further explain your services or product. This guarantees you will get at least that amount of time. If they can only spare half of that amount of time, that is fine also. If you are a good sales person, you can successfully turn your 15-30 minutes into more time.
The last step is the close. You should usually always be closing; however, you also need to be aware of how the call is going. I call this my Red-Yellow-Green light approach (again another article!). Usually on telephone calls unless they can give you an order right then over the phone, save the long winded close for when you are in front of them. In some industries you can one call close, while in others, you need to meet first and also may require you submit an RFP or you may need to fill out vendor paperwork. I will cover more on this step in part of my article on ETR in person.
Now you know the steps of ETR, but before you pick up at hat phone and start dialing away, take your time and write out key bullet points on what you want to cover in the call. The worst thing to happen when you finally get someone to talk to is to have your mind go blank. Another good rule of thumb is to learn as much about your prospective client as possible. A little research goes a long way when you want to sell yourself as an expert. There are numerous websites out there to gain important knowledge about who you are trying to speak with. Also, do not forget about listening to quarterly calls (usually posted on a company website if they are public) this will help you understand where they are coming from and you may see that they spoke directly about your industry. Good information will tell you if they even have the ability to spend money or if you are spinning your wheels.
Remember that you always want to sell yourself first, and then your company and they will buy from you. I truly believe that you also need to change your frame of mind from considering yourself as a vendor, to that of a partner. You are out there creating partnerships, which will hopefully last a long time.
Hopefully you gained some knowledge from this and it helps you become more of a successful sales person.