Back to Basics
When was the last time you were asked to prepare an East-West Seafood Bisque with Gosling’s Aioli & Shrimp-Garlic Chive Dumpling* ? I don’t think I ever have been. But if I were to be asked to, I’d invest the time necessary – but no more – to figure out how to do it, so I could do it right. Why “no more?” Because it’s unlikely that I’d ever be asked to prepare that dish again. On the other hand, I am a master of the burger, the hot dog, the chicken, the tuna fish sandwich, and the turkey on rye. Why? Because they comprise the basic staples of my diet. I make them all the time. I could make them with my eyes closed. I could make them in my sleep (neither of which I will ever try, mind you). I make them so often that doing so has become second nature. I don’t even have to think to do it – I just do it.
In sales – or any profession, for that matter – we can perform a lot better, and be more successful, if we just learn to master – and consistently do – the basics. The things we do – or should be doing – every single time we’re involved with a prospect. Asking questions instead of pitching solutions. Soliciting feedback from prospects. Listening twice as much as we speak. Asking for the order when the moment presents itself. With all the blogging, podcasting, seminars, webinars, and newsletters bombarding us with offers such as “6 New Ways to Grow your Sales”, and “Discover Five Keys to Sales Success”, it’s easy to lose focus, and stop implementing the basics. Don’t let yourself get caught in that trap.
Now, lest I be labeled a hypocrite (after all, not all of these newsletters focus on the basics, and I myself conduct webinars), I am by no means suggesting not to seek to continuously improve yourself by learning new things; on the contrary, such learning is the only way to grow. Just don’t sacrifice mastering the basics at the expense of learning new material. The best sales people are those who’ve mastered and use the basics, and continue to develop new skills. In fact, just today – as I was writing this article – I got a call from a prospective new client who’s been in sales all of his career. His reason for calling? He wants to “improve himself,” to work on some “weaknesses” he perceives he has, to become “more focused.” To get “back to basics.”
When a prospect tells me, “I don’t need sales training. I’ve been in sales for 20 years”, I ask him to tell me why he thinks professional baseball players – some of whom have been playing for 30 years – are required to report to spring training every year. The prospect usually has no answer, quickly realizes where I’m going with my question, and is more often than not then receptive to having a discussion, now that he’s seen my point.
Consider the following questions:
- Is asking why a prospect who says he needs your product or service second nature to you?
- Is painting mental pictures of a prospect’s using and benefiting from your product or service second nature to you?
- Is asking the money questions (is there a budget set aside for this, what price range are you expecting, how will you justify this investment to your boss, etc.) second nature to you?
If so, then you’ve likely done an excellent job at mastering the basics and are enjoying great success at your job. If these – and other questions like them – are not part of your normal repertoire, you might want to consider adding them. The more you “just do it”, the more second nature these steps will be for you, and the more success you’ll see in driving deals to closure.