As I write this, I’ve just returned from a trip in Spain that was one of the greatest of my life – professionally and otherwise. For those who don’t know, I was engaged to do sales training at DocuWorld Europe, a program put on by DocuWare, a document management software provider. I did the English speaking sales training portion.
In my room, I had about 40 people representing 15 different countries. For most of these people, English was a second (or third) language, which presented some unique aspects – I won’t even call them “challenges.” To make a long story short, the training was a fantastic experience for all of us. This was an all-day program, which allowed for more of a “shared experience” environment than a strict seminar environment. And as part of the program, these wonderful Europeans (and one American) reminded me of something that I learned last year.
Sales is a universal language.
By that, what I mean is that we tend to think of business having great differences between cultures. After this program, in which I had people from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the United States represented, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the art and science itself of selling is probably about 95% universal worldwide – and the 5% difference is just in the details.
In fact, some of the really gratifying moments in the program were moments when I’d describe a technique (usually when answering a question), and one of the repeat attendees said, “You taught us that last year, and I tried it, and it really works!”
With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the challenges that are being faced worldwide by salespeople right now. We’ll talk more about how to overcome those in coming weeks.
The effects of the Internet: This, I think, is the primary challenge being faced by salespeople worldwide. The Internet is the ultimate double-edged sword for salespeople. Never before has something that is such a useful tool also been such a direct competitor. The Internet is unquestionably useful for expanding our networks, prospecting in new and different ways, and in general disseminating our message. It’s also a huge challenge because it allows customers to come to the table with far more knowledge than in the past. It’s just that sometimes, that “knowledge” is really misinformation. How can we as salespeople maximize the positives of the Net without falling victim to the problems? This is something we’ll explore for much of the year.
The need to find the right prospects: The most common question on both sides of the Atlantic is, “How can I reach the decision maker?” There are several answers to this question. First, you have to know who the decision maker is. Many salespeople start out by selling to the wrong person, thinking that they’re selling to the right person. Second, once you have the right person, you have to approach them with the right words. Third, once you get their attention, you have to craft a sales call that will make the most of that person’s time. None of this is easy, but all of it is worthwhile.
Building buyer urgency: “How can we get our customers to pay attention to our proposals, and to put urgency behind them?” That’s a huge question worldwide. The truth is that we cannot “inject” urgency, no matter what a snake-oil trainer tells you. We can, however, find genuine causes for urgency, and bring those causes to bear in our presentations and proposals. Using GENUINE reasons for urgency will get you farther than all the phony-baloney techniques in the world. And yes, I have a methodology for that, and we’ll talk about that later this year.
Fear of change: I’m not talking about the customer’s fear of change here (although this, too, is a topic we’ll spend time on). I’m talking about the fear that salespeople have of trying something new and different. It’s amazing, really; even when the current techniques aren’t working anymore, salespeople will automatically respond, “I don’t think that (the new technique) will work for me.” The truth is that no new technique will work – until and unless you try it. And on this note, I should point out that one big difference between European salespeople and American salespeople is that – in my very small sample size – European salespeople are more likely to try to put something new to work as quickly as possible. Don’t let fear of the new hold you back.
There are other points, and we’ll talk about them all this year. For now, though, I’d just like to close this column with a sincere “thank you.” Thank you to DocuWare for bringing me back to Europe for the second year in a row, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you to my European friends old and new who have welcomed me into their careers.
I am hoping to cross paths with as many of you, wherever you are in the world, this year. This is already one of the most exciting years of my career, and it’s only going to get better from here.