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How to Increase Sales Even in Tough Times!

Connie Podesta 12-17

How to Increase Sales Even in Tough Times!Is your sales team crying the “tough times” blues? “I can’t sell in this economy.” “The buyers have all dried up.” “Our market is different.” Maybe it’s time for a reality check and a solid dose of perspective. There’s no arguing that times have been turbulent for many industries – but like any market, there will always be those companies and sales professionals that seek out the opportunities and thrive, and those who take the “I’m just waiting for things to get better” attitude.

Which direction do you choose for yourself, your organization and your sales team? I asked top-rated sales speaker Connie Podesta for her take on the times, selling in any economy and why savvy companies are still reaching out and bringing in key sales professionals to help motivate their teams, deliver real-world strategies and create a sales force whose synergy can’t be beat.

Julie: Connie, you are known for saying that salespeople must “blow the roof off sales done the old way” if they have any shot of being successful in today’s marketplace. I’ll bite. What’s “different” about sales today than just a few years ago?

Connie: Bottom line? “Selling as usual” simply won’t cut it anymore. The old tried and true techniques such as “needs assessment” and “overcoming objectives” are out-dated, even annoying. “SELLING YOURSELF” has become more important than price, brand, product, or territory. Market and money is not as important as your customer’s desire to do business with YOU. The fact is people will drive farther, pay more and stay a customer longer if they like you, trust you, believe in you and see you as a resource they can count on. Each salesperson today must have a certain “something” that makes them STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD and be recognized as someone others would CHOOSE to do business with. They have to be able to let go of things simply because they worked in the past and be willing to embrace new ideas, new ways of thinking, new technology, and a new brand of customer.

Julie: Great perspective. I heard one of your seminars to a sales audience where you talked about “Empowerment without excuses.” Can you tell us a little more about that?

Connie: My research shows that that organizations want and need their sales teams to “own” their job, accept more responsibility for their results, and initiate, rather than wait, for new ideas. They want them to feel more empowered to approach new customers, re-think old ways of selling, learn to be more “consultant” than “salesperson,” and focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t do. However, in the wake of a few rocky years – it is tempting for salespeople to use turbulent times as an excuse, rather than a challenge to re-invent and transform themselves. But the truth is, complaining about the economy, territory, prices, competition, etc. will do absolutely NOTHING to increase sales, recruit more customers, and get the referrals needed to stay in business and make more money. In fact, making excuses can literally cause the brain to divert all of its attention to the emotions that surround the excuse-maker such as: anger, resentment, worry, woe-is-me. When the brain is busy taking care of all of those “needy” emotions it doesn’t have time to come up with innovative ideas, fresh strategies, powerful marketing tools, or advanced uses of technology and social media to attract and retain CUSTOMERS. Those are killer emotions, attitudes and thoughts to have as a salesperson in today’s fast-changing environment.

Julie: Good stuff. So what can sales pros do now to start flipping the switches in their mindsets so they can get beyond that “doom and gloom” and find the solutions that work for them?

Connie: One, they’ve got to realize that there’s simply no room for mediocrity in sales today. A tough economy requires tough salespeople—who are will and able to ADAPT quickly to a world that changes at the click of a mouse. If you are a salesperson who is waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel – I have one thing to say to you: WE ARE OUT OF THE TUNNEL! It may not be as bright a light as you were hoping for – but it is what it is. Right here. Right now. And the reality is it could stay this way quite a while. So…what should salespeople do? Get on with the reality of selling. And stop wasting emotions (and time) worrying about the past. That’s what the best salespeople are doing—moving on and doing it FAST! They are wasting no time getting on with the job at hand—SELLING! The cool part: the most experienced, successful salespeople will tell you that tough times are their BEST times! Why? Because everyone else either bailed out or have become paralyzed waiting for things to change. Great salespeople aren’t waiting for things to change—they are meeting change head on and making CHANGE happen for themselves and their customers.

Julie: I agree with you there – some of the best salespeople I know are making this a banner year – because they’re not buying into the “I can’t” mentality and instead are looking for how they can leverage change. I love your new sales tagline -- “Close the Gap.” What does that mean and why is it important in the sales industry?

Connie: The number one key to increasing sales today is the ability to “close the gap” between where your customer is NOW and where they need to be so they will: 1. View you as the person they like, respect, and want to do business with and… 2. Trust that your product or service is exactly what they need to “close the gap” in their own business so they can experience increased profits, success and results. Closing those “gaps” is what will “close the deal.” The sales industry has changed and consumers have changed. Now customers expect us to be their consultant, resource guide, trainer, motivator, and visionary. We have to be willing to go way beyond just selling the product or service. We have to be someone they can count on as a long-term resource and the person they can count on to have their best long-term interests at heart.

Julie: I guess the same is true for you in the speaking industry isn’t it? I’m sure in challenging times, many organizations question why they should bring a sales speaker into their company or events. What’s your experience been in recent years?

Connie: Oh, definitely. Just as salespeople have had to adapt and learn to meet change head on – so do sales speakers. Organizations today expect more than just a presentation. They want immediate answers – of the real world variety. They want innovation, eye-opening research, experience and credentials brought to the table. And they don’t want the speaker’s message to end when they leave the stage. More than ever they need resources their audience can rely on long-term, take-aways they can implement immediately and strategies for their sales leadership teams to help keep the momentum going within their own teams. Organizations are looking for more long-term value—ideas and strategies that have staying power and can have a dramatic, positive affect on their profitability and results.

Julie: You wrote "What Psychology Can Teach You that Sales Training Can't" Obviously you believe that psychology plays a tremendous part in understanding both today’s marketplace and customer over the long haul?

Connie: Yes. Without a doubt. I believe sales and psychology go hand-in-hand. Sales is about relationships and psychology is, of course, about understanding people’s thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and motivation. What makes people do what they do, say what they say and think what they think? More importantly, for salespeople, is the question-- what makes people buy what they buy? Understanding the psychology of human interaction is a huge factor in closing the deal and increasing customer base. As a sales speaker, helping my audiences understand the inner workings of the selling and buying process is a huge part of each of my sales presentations. For some in my audience, it’s a tremendous eye opener and very exciting moment when they first begin to see inside the mind of the buyer. Once an audience starts to understand some of the “inside secrets” to various buying personalities, they start having those “ah-ha” moments where they better understand why their customer acts or reacts the way they do. It is at that point they can begin to reassess their selling style and learn to communicate and “sell” more effectively. The salesperson begins to immediately picture times when they did not close the deal and for the very first time-- they understand why! And that is the absolute “sales sweet spot!” When they get that – they have the ticket to increased sales, higher productivity and better long-term customer relationships!

Julie: I know you always talk about social media with all your audiences, but especially your sales groups. Can you share a little more about that?

Connie: Social media has had a definite impact upon word-of-mouth marketing—which is the absolute best form of marketing for a salesperson. It is such an extraordinary way to reach out and keep relationships alive and thriving long after the deal has been closed. I find it amazing how many salespeople still don’t “get it” when it comes to social media. First, any communication tool that would help us get closer to a customer and stay in touch should be at the top of anyone’s top “to do” list for increasing sales. Second, our customers are getting younger and younger. It is up to us to learn how to communicate THEIR way—not force them to continue to communicate OUR way. Through social media, I can keep my customer base in an on-going discussion and consistently share ideas and insights with them. They, in turn, can share what they’re doing differently, how they’re meeting the market head on, how they’ve grown or even how they’re helping inspire others to do great things. Third, social media is a great way to do your market research and find out what your industry customers really want and need to be successful. That way, you can adjust and adapt to meet those needs—before your competitor does. Understanding social media should be a pre-requisite for any salesperson looking to stay competitive, successful and profitable in the years (even months) ahead.

Julie: I love that! So, what exactly do you think organizations need to look for when it comes to hiring the right sales speaker for their team?

Connie: My research shows that audiences need and want three things from a speaker:

1. A powerful message with long-term take-away strategies that can change the way they think, lead, sell, produce, and develop a stronger customer base.

2. Motivation so they can get the “lift” they need to help them build momentum, start shifting mindsets and transform themselves into quick thinkers and movers who can ADAPT and THRIVE in today’s world.

3. Entertainment. The more serious the times, the more people need to rediscover their sense of humor. The truth is: when people laugh they LEARN more, REMEMBER more, COMMIT to more and are more WILLING to tackle the tougher issues that may be standing in their way of achieving the success and results they want and deserve. Hire a speaker that can deliver those three things and you are definitely on your way to changing your sales team from one that is simply “doing what they have always done” to “blowing the roof off sales done the old way” and becoming a force to be reckoned with in a competitive, fast-paced world. And that is PRICELESS!


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