By Deena Waisberg
Rory Lesperance knows selling isn’t always easy.
The current vice president and general manager of Ontario Fresh Bakery, Canada Bread Company
Ltd. recalls sitting in the office of the then president of Knob Hill Farms a number of
years ago, trying to sell a display idea to him. The president believed he had originated
the idea and became angry at Lesperance. "Before long he was up out of his chair,
stomping around the office, tearing a strip off of me."
That would throw off many salespeople, but Lesperance
remained calm because he had encountered other hot-headed prospects before, and knew that
if he got defensive or angry he would only make the situation worse. He let the president
vent and quietly took notes. Later, Lesperance followed up in a phone conversation and
the two ended up working together.
Though most of Lesperance’s sales visits are nowhere
near as dramatic, there are many situations that can strike fear into a salesperson. What’s
important is figuring out the cause of the fear and how to deal with it, so it doesn’t
jeopardize a sale. Here’s advice from sales pros on how to overcome four common fears.
of Not Being Liked
Everyone wants to be liked; it’s human nature. The problem is prospects often
believe the stereotype of pushy salespeople who try to foist useless products on them. Don’t
let the negative opinions of others affect the way you view yourself. See yourself as a consultant
and adopt a consultative approach of helping the buyer find an appropriate solution rather
than just trying to make a sale at any cost.
Using confident tones will boost your
self confidence, help you overcome call reluctance and increase the likelihood of a positive
outcome. Bonnie Gross, president of SpeechScience, a Toronto-based company that specializes
in communication, offers tips to help you sound your best:
a conversational tone You’ll seem natural. If you sound like you’re
reading a script, you’ll come across as insincere.
for low tones A low resonating tone is comforting, while a high-pitched nasal
voice sounds shrill and unsettling.
clearly If prospects have to strain to hear you because you’re mumbling,
they will tune out.
your time It’s better to pause instead of stumbling along or peppering
conversation with "ums," which sound tentative.
Don Surath, author of Conquering
Cold Calling Fear, Before and After the Sale, starts a conversation with
prospects by asking questions to see if they really are a match with his product.
When he was selling commercials for a post-football show
on CBS, he contacted an automotive business that had a commercial running on a local cable
channel. During the conversation, he discovered the business consisted of one store. "He
didn’t need a commercial on CBS because someone 100 miles away wouldn’t use
the store. So I didn’t pursue the sale."
But if the prospect is a match and you pursue the sale,
at some point you’ve got to ask for the order. However, according to research by
Teneo, a company that helps businesses integrate their sales and marketing functions, 70
per cent of salespeople don’t request the order due to a fear of not being liked.
If you have done the proper job of probing and finding appropriate solutions for the customer,
closing shouldn’t be stressful. Also, you don’t have to be aggressive when
asking for the sale. Lisa Leitch, president of Teneo, suggests saying, "Where do
we go from here?"
Sales is a numbers game. You’re not going to hit a home run every time you
step up to the plate. However, when you’ve had a run of rejection, it’s easy
to start feeling like you’ll automatically strike out.
To prevent a negative attitude from taking hold, keep
your successes top of mind. "Have the name of your best customer over the phone," suggests
sales trainer Colleen Francis, president of Ottawa-based Engage Selling Solutions. Keep
your prospect funnel full. And if you are striking out, describe your calls to a respected
colleague and ask for help in pinpointing your mistake. Then avoid repeating the error,
recommends Iain Walker, national sales manager at Precidio, a company that designs and
manufactures promotional products.
But most importantly, keep calling. Janelle Van Halst
once had two clients call her to cancel training sessions on the same day. Though neither
reason had anything to do with the president of One Particular Harbor – one client
had his budget cut and the other had a change in senior management – she felt defeated
and retreated to watch TV for four hours that day. "I realized that was not a good
reaction. I let the situation throw me off," she says.
of Not Knowing How to Sell
organizations should have an established selling process, some don’t. Without a process,
you’ll be flying by the seat of your pants. You can acquire a methodology in a number
of ways: read a book on the subject, invest in sales training, or shadow a more experienced
salesperson in your organization.
Craig Lindsay, president of Pacesetter Sales & Associates
Ltd., often accompanies new salespeople on sales calls for the first few visits so they
can learn how to properly demonstrate industrial safety equipment to clients. "If
you don’t show customers how to use the equipment properly and they fall, they could
die," Lindsay explains. For the first two visits, Lindsay will do the demo and the
new hire will simply watch and assist. Then, the new hire gradually takes on the presentation.
By the sixth call, the rookie is doing the whole presentation and Lindsay is simply providing
Having a methodology is especially important in difficult
situations. For example, when Canada Bread’s Lesperance was a sales manager for Coca-Cola,
he was handed a tough client who owned four McDonald’s restaurants. He knew he had
to make a connection before the client would listen to him.
So he did a little research, discovered the client loved
pistols and proceeded to take shooting lessons at a local range. When he went on his first
sales call, the client was initially irritable. That is until Lesperance asked him if the
pistol on his desk was a Luger. Intrigued, the client asked if Lesperance did any shooting
and a connection was made. "He came around and I was able to address all his service
Even when you are well versed in the sales process, sometimes change can create
anxiety. Maybe you’re selling a new product or a product that is new to you, or you’ve
moved into a new industry or territory.
When Lesperance moved to his current position, he wasn’t
selling a new product, but a product that was new to him. "I had to learn how bread
was made and the supply chain process. "With a product that is new to you, invest
time to increase your product knowledge: read the sales literature and ask your customers
how the product is saving them money or making them money, suggests Francis.
If you’re entering a new industry, read industry
journals and contact people who know the industry and can tell you about trends and issues.
Van Halst even suggests shadowing a client for a day to better understand industry challenges.
With a new territory, start as warm as you can. Approach
customers who have bought from you in the past, who may also be in your new territory,
suggests Francis. Get referrals or try selling to the same types of businesses.