Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 9 - It's Not Who You Know, It's Who Knows You

Wednesday January 12, 2010

Everybody who writes sales books talks about the importance of networking. This is one of my big goals from 2010 and one of the most daunting. When I was in college, I was an amazing "networker." I'd go to leadership conferences and introduce myself to all 500 attenders before the weekend was out.

I think the real world knocked some wind out of my sales though, and I don't seem to have the same gumption that I used to, or maybe I don't see what the point is anymore. I was at a forum today from small businesses in Oregon and Washington and it was hyped as a great networking event. I'm not sure what a great networking event looks like, but I know this wasn't it! We were in rows of chairs looking at the backs of most of the panel. The panel discussed ways to secure government contracts through various bid and non-bid processes.

Now that I've typed that though - I realized I really didn't take enough initiative to actually get some networking done. I guess anything can be a good networking event if you bring enough business cards. Next time, I'm showing up early and shaking hands with everyone who comes in the door!

Day 8 - Thinking (about sales and business)

Monday January 11th, 2010

The weekend provides an opportunity to escape from your work and focus on your home(work). One of the things I've noticed about myself though is that if I spend some time on the weekend thinking or reading about sales, I'm much more prepared on Monday morning. I didn't do that this weekend, so Monday was a little more scattered than I would have liked.

Another thing I'm going to do with this "year of sales" is go through at least one sales book per month and see if I can glean anything out of them (I'll put the Clif Notes version on the blog). I've read through a few, and I can honestly say I'm not a huge fan of sales books. They seem to be focused primarily on attitude and not a lot of substance or evidence about what works and what doesn't. I'm a big fan of proof of whatever it is you're trying to teach me, so just your story of how you made a bazillion dollars usually isn't enough to convince me.

That being said, even if the book is terrible, if it keeps me thinking about sales and gets me ready for the next morning, it's probably worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 5 - Distractions!!!

Friday, January 8th, 2010

There are so many distractions to selling in today's work environment. Some of them are nearly impossible to avoid - like actual operations work. My company is pretty small - there are 15 full time employees total and a bunch of independent contractors that do or don't work for us on any given day. Our lean, mean, transportation machine makes it so many of us need to double dip on our responsibilities.

We recently had to lay off our inventory control specialist since that portion of the business has been in such steep decline. Since I'm the guy who developed the inventory control software, those responsibilities naturally fall into my lap. I'll be training someone from the dispatch department next week, but in the meantime, I'm the sales department and the inventory control department! No big deal, but I really do my best work when I can stay focused on one thing at a time.

I think we give ourselves a lot of excuses to not stay focused on one thing, and really what we're doing is giving ourselves excuses to not be good sales people. I'm coming in early during this double-duty period to try to get all the operations stuff done before 9am so I can dedicate the majority of my work day to actual sales work.

Day 4 - The Easy Meeting

Thursday January 7th, 2010

After my big victory yesterday getting a meeting I've been working on FOREVER, I scheduled a one cold call meeting today. It really throws me off guard when I get someone that's so receptive. It seems all of the strategies I've devised are for getting a meeting after I've spoken with someone on the phone, sent an email with some marketing material and then followed up with the meeting request.

On this call with, let's call him Steve (since that's his name, it's not really a stretch), I gave him the shpeel about what we do and what areas we serve. Steve said, that's great I'd love to hear more about it. What? You'd love to hear more about it? Nobody ever wants to hear more about it, even if they really need it and I know they're purchasing the trucking and warehousing services I'm offering on a regular basis. Usually I get, "Why don't you shoot over your contact info and if something comes up I can give you a call." What they're trying to say to me is, "I'm far too busy to deal with this right now." Even though they don't know it, what they're really saying to me is, "You're going to have to call back multiple times before I realize you're serious about wanting to sell me transportation services."

No games with Steve though. He's a freight forwarder who hires out trucking services and I'm a trucking company that provides them. Steve's my new best friend and he doesn't even know it!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 3 - 7 Months in the Making

I had one of my favorite type of sales calls today! I've got a guy I've been trying to get a meeting with for 7 months. He's always been extremely cordial to me, making me feel like I wasn't being too annoying (one of my greatest fears), but just always told me he didn't have the time.

This highlights a big question I have about sales in general - what's the difference between persistence and pestering? There's a delicate balance between a convincing salesman and an annoying jackass (Aristotle said the key to happiness was balance and moderation, I never knew that would apply to salesmanship). Every person you call has a different threshold for salesman too, so you can't really have one set plan for everybody.

Next Wednesday's the big day. Now I just have to figure out what to say so it doesn't take another 7 months before I get the actual sale!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Why would we want to do that?"

Yesterday I had a great question from a potential customer. I stumbled a little bit in my head, but I think everything that came out of my mouth made sense...I hope!

I got someone on the phone and told her I was interested in being added to her carrier list. She replied, "Why would we want to do that?"

That's a great question. I've thought about that myself before, but I've never had anybody ask me. In this case I thought what she was asking was why would she go through the bother of adding a new vendor when she already has five possibilities on her current carrier list. I told her about all of the heavy haul work that we're capable of doing since we have specialized "multi-axle" equipment. That did the trick to get me to the next phase where she told me about not being able to take too many vendors, but that I could at least send over our rates and she'd see if there was any reason to change to us.

I really like this kind of honesty during sales calls. I want to know where I stand with them. If they've been using the same trucking company for 30 years and they've never made a mistake - I want to know that. I'll still try to at least give them my contact information in case that fateful day comes when the first mistake is made, but I know that they aren't just going to up and switch to my company tomorrow (and most likely not next week).

I think there's too many games in the sales world. Wouldn't it be nice if we all could just agree to be honest and if you're product or service is better than the other guys, you could get the business? That would be great for us, since our service IS better than the other guys - probably not so good for a lot of the other transportation companies in Portland though - I guess that why the games exist.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day One of a Year of Sales

2009 was an interesting year for me as a small business owner and salesman. It was my first year of sales ever after spending the rest of my 7 years since college as an operations guy in three different fields.

There's a huge difference between the mindset of an operations guy and a sales guy. When I was an operations guy, I was 100% task oriented (sometimes to the dismay of my staff!) and results were judged by how much stuff you got done. As a sales guy, I have to be much more relational and friendly. Results are based on how much revenue you're bringing in to the company. A lot of the factors that determine whether or not you will get a new customer to bring in revenue are outside of your control though. Are they happy with their current vendor? Can you do the business for a better rate? Is your competitor the vice presidents brother in law? The one thing you can control is how often you put yourself in front of the customer so maybe if one of those uncontrollable factors changes, you're the person they think of first.

That's what this year is about for me. I'm going to put myself in front of and on the phone with as many people as possible and see what the difference is between 2010 and 2009, where I was still half-way sales and half-way operations.

This could be really awesome - or could really suck!