The Role of Email in Your Sales Cycle

 

OK, let’s start with this truth – there is no avoiding email.  In our electronic age, email is as real as gravity and despite the impact of text mail and instant messaging, in the sales cycle, email is still king.

There are about 124 billion emails sent each day and an executive can expect to get 150 – 250 every single day.  So, if you love email as part of your sales process, you might want to re-think about its overall impact. It’s just part of the communication map and it’s up to you where to place it in the journey of your sales activity.

 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Emails

 

When we started talking about communications and building relationships with million dollar sales professionals we heard about how they think about every form of communication they use, including email.  Their answers, behaviors, and perspectives about communicating formed Secret # 9 – SELL SMART. Here are some things that could help you, a link to a podcast we did on the subject, and some helpful statistics for you to take a peek at. 

 

 

AT THE BEGINNING 

Pinnacle sales performers know the value of the “beginning” of building a relationship.  They set the table when the sales process/relationship building starts. The key question is; tell me how you like to communicate? Let the client open the door for your sales communication strategy.  If the answer is email, a million dollar producer might ask; you must receive hundreds of emails a day, is there anything I can do to gain your attention?  Can I add something to the subject line?  Let the client help design the communication approach.

 

KNOW THE GOAL

In a well-laid plan, every piece has its place. Email fits that description. Email has its place. Think like a million dollar seller; what is the goal of this communication? What is the desired outcome?  Is it a “please do this” or an “ask” for something communique? Think of it as strong and weak actions.  Strong actions probably are best served in person or on the phone, but a weak push, like sending support material can be best served by an email.  Sales professionals THINK, they PLAN and choose the right communication tool to serve the object of the interaction.

 

THE ENERGY OF THE PLACE

A good sales process is about energy and momentum.  Each part of a sale process generates a form of force.  Force can change momentum. It can affect the magnitude and direction of the action.   Email can play a key role in the level of energy you find the relationship developing. Email is a great tool for touching base, checking on an action item or just following up during the sales cycle.  It’s low on the energy scale and can, at times, carry momentum, but it’s really hard for an email to generate momentum. So place your use of email in-line with the momentum of the sale’s progression. Here is a simple rule –  three unanswered emails, pick up the phone or get in the car.


 

The key is not to allow yourself to simply default to an email and consider it a full next step in procuring a sale. An email is simply a communication tool. Million dollar producers have a lot of tools in their toolbox and you won’t find them looking for the easy way through a sale!

Dealing with Objections and the Parade of “No’s”

 

Every great sales person knows this – there is space between cause and effect, between the starting of a sale and the closing of a sale. In essence, this is why it’s called a “sales process.” This is about getting to YES and that space between cause and effect is often separated by a parade of NO’S.

The idea of facing buyer objections is as integrated into any sale and is as common to the profession as the morning coffee. Great producers are all over the idea of NO.

 

Secret #14: Embrace the Dark Side

 

EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE is all about the attitude and behaviors surrounding this core aspect of the sales profession – objections and how top professionals embrace it.

Here is the interesting part, sales people know the types of objections they will face are well ahead of trying to make the sale. Most receive specific training around them.  It’s not a secret or some type of unexpected detour designed to throw you off your game. These are known elements in the sales process and great sales people focus on known elements.

 

The Big 3

 

  • Price: Every pro is ready for this. It’s the start of the classic haggle process. Great sales pros don’t fight their battles here. It’s a losing game. They shift the conversation to defining the objection around value. Here is what makes them million dollar producers; they are subtle about this shift. They LISTEN, before they move the conversation to value. When positioned with the right knowledge, value will win over price. 
  • Complacency:  This is the shoulder shrug. Great producers in the book could see this coming from a mile away. The potential buyer likes the way things are. This is about their current reality. Million dollar producers love using a buyers’ current reality. It allows them to paint a picture of a different future, a future where their product or service will create an impact. Establishing a current reality provides a shared starting point between buyer and seller. It is an opportunity to tell stories of other successes and gives them something REAL to build a sales story around.
  • Fear of Change:  This is a tightly held rope often connected to complacency. It is what the buyer’s shoulders have to bear, accountability for the purchase. It’s the responsibility for rocking the boat and the potential for blame. It’s fear of making the wrong choice. A pinnacle sales performer loves the fear of change. The buyer thinks of themselves as all alone, as an island of possible fault. A million dollar seller immediately creates the shared burden of the deal. Many sales people in the study called this their – “we are in this together” moment. This shared moment forms the foundation of what will become a relationship. The sales person becomes a partner!

 

 


 

If NO is the worst thing you can hear and it stops you in your sales tracks, remember that NO creates strategies for a million dollar sellers. It’s not a stop sign but an opportunity to prove their worth, create a relationship, and gather critical data that can be applied to future objections.

Secret # 14, EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE, is about the power that million dollar sellers have discovered in the leverage of NO.

 

Become a Master of Your Day

Most people begin their day without so much as a simple plan.  They end their days without an afterthought to what happened or a thought as to what to do the next day.  Days begin and days end.  They are victims of their day.  Master sales professionals are anything but victims.  They instead plan, execute, review and think about how they spend their time.  It’s a critical measure of their success.  Without a plan, there is the potential of wasted time and wasted time is the enemy of a sales superstar.  Great sales people are MASTERS of their day.

 

Trudy and Percy are what I call, Sprint Workers and highly successful real estate professionals that share a small but thriving practice in Northern California.  They work in hard 90-minute time blocks which form their “Ultradian Rhythms”, their particular type of energy pattern.  Ultradian Rhythms are activity – rest cycles favored by the brain to generate high levels of productivity.  Early in their careers, they both began to understand their particular patterns of productivity and soon learned they had a lot of what they called “nothing time”, basically just sitting around or doing “nothing stuff”.  It might look like they were being productive, but they sure weren’t generating sales!

It took a little experimentation, but after a while, they learned to “hit it hard and then take a break.”  This became their 90-minute patterns.  Go hard for 90 minutes and then take 10 to 20 minutes off.  They leveraged their biological pattern and matched it to high levels of productivity.  In the world of high-end real estate sales no one cares about your time in the office, all they care about is how many homes did you close.

In an average sales day, Trudy will have 4 to 5 high output periods and an equal number of down time segments.  During the down time, she might take a short walk or enjoy a snack.  Percy has a guitar in his office and will practice and play during some of his down cycles.  Percy tells me the key is to NEVER miss a down cycle.

Superstar sales people get the most out of their days.  They have a laser like focus on productivity and with intent, design their days around their energy.

For more examples of how the big time sales professionals are masters of their days, check out SECRET # 16 in our new book.

 

The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Problem with “How”!

 

I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to discover what patterns were followed by great sales professionals.  I had an inkling they were doing a lot of the same things no matter what they were selling.  But, I struggled with the how, how would my curiosity lead me to results?

There have been countless surveys and models based on sales.  In fact, I had been part of many teams for many companies looking at their sales processes with the goal of making them better.  I had seen numeric surveys galore that simply took the scales of 1-10, accumulated the answers, divided by the participants to tell you some number is significant because it appeared in the data.  I was not interested in that.

I wanted to talk to successful sales people.  I wanted them to tell me what is important and I wanted them to use a 40,000-year-old tool, the story.  I wanted their stories.  I wanted their emotional context.  I believed that in the tales they would tell, there would be truly significant patterns of behavior.

As a scientist by education, I always fall back to a simple problem-solving tool, the scientific method (with a few Creative Ventures adjustments).

  • Observe: I had worked on sales projects for Fortune 500 companies for 30 years.  I had a boat load of observing under my belt.
  • Question: I wanted their stories, but I needed a framework for their narratives to follow or you would get an endless rambling of stuff.  Sales people love to talk.
  • Hypothesis: I believed that all successful sales people did many of the same things.  I believed that their successful behaviors crossed products, markets, and businesses.
  • Gather Data: I was willing to take a long time to find the information and a long time it would be.
  • Test: I had the opportunity to see it in action.

So armed with that, I created my HOW framework.

Normally this process comes up with a very OBJECTIVE methodology.  I was not interested in that.  I came up with an insanely subjective approach; ask them questions and let them tell me stories about that subject.  In these stories would be the real ways they FEEL, they THINK and they BEHAVE.  I don’t believe you can find that in any scaled answer.  Not very scientific.

I spent a long time storyboarding the questions that would serve as the foundation for the project (all of which are in the book).  I used my knowledge of story as a strategy to create a framework.

  • Each question would create a sort of subplot to the overall information I was looking for.
  • Each question would create independent stories.
  • In their response would be everything I need to find a pattern.

This brings me to the key to this type of creative procedure:  CONTROLLED STORYTELLING.  This simple sketch below, which drew hundreds of times for the sales people I interviewed, showed the idea.  You can tell me as many stories as you want.  You can pontificate and explore within your response, you simply CAN NOT GO OUTSIDE THE PARAMETERS OF THE QUESTION.  This is controlled storytelling and we became experts at it.

 

 

We used this same systemic approach to the application of story patterns for all of our clients that want an internal version of The 21 Secrets.

I agree, not the most scientific approach.  In fact, I recognize that the results and the interpretation of such a bulk of personal data filled with idiosyncrasies and probably biased stories might not fit with any statistician’s view of “real “results.  But, it yielded me and my Creative Ventures team the most significant strategy in the 31 years of our practice.

My HOW has become a foundational aspect of our consulting services.

Funny how curiosity and discovery can yield something of such great significance!

 

For more about our methods and results, check out our book.

The Series: 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

The Power of Intuitive Thinking

The ability to think differently is a trademark of most success stories.  Sales, science, leadership are all impacted by the ability of people to push their thinking in slightly different directions.

In 1847 Ignaz Semmelweis was a doctor who specialized in delivering babies in Austria.  The mortality level was staggeringly high and his simple thought that if you wash your hands before treating or examining an expectant mother the chance of a good delivery and the survival of both mom and baby jumped astronomically.  He wasn’t sure why (it wasn’t until 1860 that Louis Pasteur made the connection between germs and illness), but he saw the impact.  Despite his record keeping, the majority of the medical community thought he was crazy.  Who has time to wash your hands?

In 1997 Steve Jobs made it back to Apple.  In one of his internal meetings, he told everyone that they needed to get back to basics. That Apple had drifted away from doing their core business well and they were doing way too many things, making way too many things, thus making too many mistakes.  His thinking reduced the Apple product line by 70%!  What, be more successful not by growing but by shrinking?

Wait a minute, wash your hands and expected mothers and their babies don’t die.  Get small to be successful.  These two ideas share a counterintuitive way of thinking, a way of thinking that permeates successful sales professionals.

During World War II, two very secret operations were set up and driven by a type of counterintuitive thinking; one everyone should be familiar with, The Manhattan Project, where the best physicists, chemists, and engineers were working feverously on creating the atomic bomb. The combined effort of thousands of people had to learn to think about the bonds of energy differently.   The other is less known and it was called, The Applied Math Panel with a very unusual division; The Statistical Research Group and it was here that Abraham Wald practiced his craft.

Wald was an Austrian-born statistician who had barely escaped the rush of Nazi Germany.

Wald was tasked with helping figure out how to protect our military aircraft from being blown to bits in the skies over Europe.  The challenge was intense as he viewed photos of planes that had barely made it back to their air bases.  He looked at patterns of impact and came up with a very different solution to the problem than the military had already started on.  His counterintuitive way of thinking is credited with saving thousands of airmen’s lives.  His story is told in Chapter 4 of our book.

In fact, counterintuitive thinking is a pervasive skill set in sales.  Great sales performers have to think differently about relationships, failure and time.

Six chapters of the book deal with how thinking, not outside the legendary box but instead DIFFERENT thinking, right within your sales model, can make a massive difference in the success of your sales strategy.