Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How Not to Be a Bad Salesperson (maybe I'm a critical suspect?)

My husband and I want to retire in North Carolina and while we are still a few decades away from retirement (OK, at least 20 years-because we're not too old yet and because we will have to work until we die...) a few opportunities recently made us consider making the move sooner rather than later. Since I'm a do-er instead of a think-er I decided to make a few calls to get an idea of what the market is like in the 4 years since I sold my house there and moved, and to get some information on time-lines etc. I was unprepared for the responses or lack thereof that I received.

I first called and/or emailed a few folks with listings I found on generic rental sites at the end of last week. Today is Wednesday and less than half of them have bothered to email or call me at all. A few that emailed sent only the most basic of information and told me to email them back when I was ready to move and they'd answer my other questions then. One called to tell me that I was a fool to consider renting when interest rates were so low. Two agents that I contacted with homes for sale had their assistants email me, sending a link to the listing page (info I had obviously already seen online prompting me to ask for additional information in the first place)  and letting me know that when I had a letter and had been pre-qualified they'd be happy to talk again.  Wow...just wow.

I don't rent or sell homes and I have friends that do and I know they're awesome. The realtor that I used to buy and sell my last house was a great guy. This experience made me really think about sales and myself as a salesperson. There are huge variances in sales approaches and philosophies, especially those with a longer sales cycle and a highly competitive marketplace, but I personally think some things are true in any sales process and in any business:

1-The length of time it takes to return a suspect/prospect phone call or email is in proportion to the amount of interest they will believe that you have in being of service to them,

2-Giving information and establishing yourself as an expert goes A LONG way in converting a suspect into a prospect. Likewise, being too focused on only those you feel are 'hot' prospects today doesn't do a darn thing in keeping the funnel consistently filled, building referrals, or establishing apostles,

3-While I totally understand that one has to spend the majority of  prospecting time on those with the suspected money and timeline for the product, sometimes developing a relationship in the suspect stage makes you a sure thing when they meet the money/time sweet spot for a sale,

4-Using scare tactics or attempting to make a potential prospect feel uninformed or just plain stupid if they don't listen to you is foolish, shows insecurity, and oh yeah, tends to turn people off!

5-Remember that what is just another sales transaction or sales inquiry to you may be the single most important thing going on in your suspect/prospect's mind at the moment. That small coaching/consulting session that is just another two hours to you may be the one thing someone is hanging onto to save their small business.The planner looking to place just a few rooms with you may be the single largest event her particularly organization has all year.

I want to think that I always remember these things but this was a good strong reminder to me. If you're in the sales profession...and we're all either buying or selling aren't we?...keep these in mind. And please share any of your others!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don't go out in the monkey pants!

This may seem like a ridiculous title but I am quite certain that many of you working from home understand it. And many of you who may view the telework life as a glamorous one need to understand it. It is both the blessing and the curse of those of us with offices in our homes.

Early in my telework days, just after we had started our business, I would take my children to school and/or pick them up in the afternoon. Anytime my youngest son would slide into his seat in the carpool line, look up and say 'Oh,you had an appointment today?' meant I was wearing make up and my hair wasn't in a ponytail.
I started working early in the morning, sometimes stopped for lunch, and worked until I had to leave to pick up a kid or refill the refrigerator. I hadn't remarried yet and I just didn't see the point in taking a shower every morning, fully dressing and wasting make-up and contacts on the cat.

There are several sales books I've read that insist on dressing in business attire including the heels just to make business calls from home. The thinking behind them being if you are in business clothing you will feel more professional and therefore sound more professional. I think that is pure bull.

I've launched events, courted Washington Post reporters, sold sponsorships to large companies and helped clients with new business strategy all while wearing my favorite monkey PJs. I was no less 'professional' in my information or approach than I would have been wearing uncomfortable clothes that had to be dry cleaned after a day in the office with my cat. And my product or consulting was no less valuable and produced the same incredible results.

What I did find was this; I am a person of extremes. I don't just drink a can of Cheerwine if I have a 12 pack, I drink it all in a day.For those of you unfortunate enough to have been born outside of North Carolina, Cheerwine is soda (pop?) similar to Cherry Coke. So I was extreme in my eschewing of the 'dress like the office' mindset and that was wrong.

I wasn't less professional, less productive or less effective by not wearing pantyhose every day. But I was less balanced and less comfortable outside of my house as a businessperson. If I spoke to a client who mentioned a chance to chat in an hour at a coffee shop, I was just out of luck. If I ran out to Food Lion to grab cat food during the lunch break and happened to overhear someone mention their struggles with their business, I couldn't strike up a conversation about what I did dressed in my crazy monkey pants. While it didn't effect my business ability within the confines of my home office, it made me less willing and able to feel 'businessy' outside of it. And that was important to me.

It can also make the times it is necessary to don the full DC business outfit seem far more annoying than they really are. While every home worker should have a plan to get out of their office and network for business AND human interaction on a regular basis, not being in the habit of dressing every day as a routine makes you less willing to want to get ready to go out. Getting ready to be social becomes a chore, something that you have to plan for within the day and you are so less likely to do it.

It is important to have a business network to interact with monthly if not weekly IN PERSON when you work from home. Not a personal network mind you...not just dinner or drinks or coffee with friends, but lunch, drinks or coffee with other professionals. And for that you need something other than the most comfortable pink fuzzy socks EVER...I'm just sayin.

So do I get up every morning and put on a DC worthy suit?  Heck no. But I do have my own getting ready routine each morning. As soon as my husband, who does have a commute, leaves for his hour and 20 minute 12 mile drive into our nation's capital, I jump in the shower and dress in clothes that I haven't slept in. They aren't client meeting clothes, but they are clothes that shouldn't embarrass my family in public and clothes that make me feel professional enough to strike up a conversation in Staples
...and that's important. And if  a client calls and wants to meet on the fly, I can be ready super quick because everything but the dressing is done.

If this isn't your struggle or you haven't fallen into the rut of dressing for your cat then I applaud you. Most teleworkers have to go through a spell to find their comfort zone. I encourage you to develop a routine of 'getting ready' every day. The lady at the Food Lion will appreciate it.