If you have never heard of Henry Rowan before, don’t worry most of us haven’t. I hadn’t until I listened to an old podcast from the great author Malcolm Gladwell, on his podcast titled “Revisionist History” from July 2016. Gladwell’s podcast is one of my favorites to listen to.
The episode titled “My Little Hundred Million”, was the third episode, in a three-part series Gladwell did around education, and primarily the irony in education and how access to it is still very limited for some of the poorest children of America.
Mr. Rowan, who was a the founder and president of Inductotherm Industries. Was an engineer by trade. He was an inventor who created the metal-melting furnace. His company opened its doors in 1953. Mr. Rowan was a graduate of MIT with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, he was also a veteran of the Air Force.
In 1992, Mr. Rowan and his wife, gifted 100 million dollars to Glassboro State College in New Jersey. At that time it was the largest one time cash gift ever given to a public college or university.
How did the Rowan family decide to give that amount to the college. Was it because the school needed it? Was it because they decided they wanted to? Or was it because some great fundraiser asked him for it?
It would be a combination of all of the above. But here are the lessons we can learn as sales people.
The Rowans’ gift to Glassboro began with a fund-raising request by the college in 1990: $1,500 for two tickets to the Autumn Nocturne gala. They bought them.
Later on Mr. Rowan was solicited for help to fund the gap of four million dollars for a library they were building at the college for seventeen million dollars.
Mr. Rowan told the solicitor from the college that he wasn’t interested in funding their library.
Here is the first lesson for all of us. Never try to sell something until you know exactly what it is your prospect is interested in buying.
Mr. Rowan suggested at that time that he would be willing to gift Twenty Million dollars for the business school.
As you can already tell Mr. Rowan was a guy that was interested in value. He was interested in making a difference. A little back story here.
That is why Gladwell did this story to begin with. Mr. Rowan, at the time he was being asked to contribute to Glassboro State, he wasn’t also being solicited by his alma mater MIT for a donation as well. They were looking to fund a project of 850 million dollars.
Gladwell, in an interview with Mr. Rowan asked why he chose to give his money to Glassboro instead of his alma mater MIT. Mr. Rowan said “My little 100 Million wouldn’t have made a difference in the 850 million they were trying to raise.” But 100 million at Glassboro State College would make a huge difference.
So often sales people never spend enough time trying to learn what it is the buyer wants to do. If you understand what it is the buyer wants, you will always find a way to earn their business if you have what they need.
The second lesson you can learn here is “It is never the Cost of something, it is the value”.
I can’t find the specifics, but I assume the fundraiser was attempting to get Mr. Rowan to donate some part of the four million dollar gap for the library. Most sales people would have walked away from this situation after being told no and said that the buyer (Mr. Rowan in this case), didn’t have the money or didn’t want to spend the money.
Which is not true. He was willing to spend the money, he suggested twenty million, and then ultimately donated 100 million. It had nothing to do with the amount. It had everything to do with the value he saw in the money he was donating.
Again, Mr. Rowan wanted to make a difference, and in his mind covering the gap of the library or donating twenty million to a business school wouldn’t have made a big enough difference in his mind to bring the value he wanted to bring.
By donating 100 million dollars Mr. Rowan learned that he would impact the school forever. They could build an engineering school that would teach engineering to bright young kids that couldn’t get into the elite schools such as MIT or Harvard to name a few.
Glassboro State College was ultimately named Rowan University named after Henry Rowan.
If you are in sales remember these two lessons. Always get to know and learn what it is your prospect wants. Not what you want to sell or what you think they want.
And secondly, it is never the amount of money. It is the value that they are getting for the money.
Most often, it is not less money, it is more money. If you provide more in services and in products, and charge for them accordingly the prospect will be willing to pay more, because they can see how the services will solve their problems. Dont provide less, provide more, and charge more. More often than not, when we don’t think a solution will solve our problems, it isn’t the amount of money, it is the details of the solution. The better the solution, the more we are willing to pay for it if we think it will solve our problems.
To your success and your future.
Most people read the headline of this article and think they are going to get what you would typically see in an article titled “energize your sales now”. Things such as do more SEO, marketing, or run a promotion or discount, or…you name it. Nope ! We prefer to take a more systematic and methodical approach to driving sales.
1. Go to your last five customers who purchased from you and sit down with them and ask them “why” they chose to do business with you. My advice is to take them to lunch and tell them that you are not looking to sell anything else to them, (at least not right now), but you would just like to ask them some questions about the process of buying from you. Yes. Do this in person if you can. When you are knee to knee with someone your genuineness will come across that you really want to know the answers to your questions so you can serve others and add value to others the way you added value to them. When you ask your customers these questions, they will give you great insight that you can use to go and find other customers. The problems you solved from them will be communicated to you in their language and you can use that information to sell more effectively to your future customers. This exercise also re-energizes you about your product and the problems you can solve for your customers.
2. Who are your customers that were buying from you and are most likely still using products similar to the ones you offer, but for some reason are no longer doing business with you? Ask them for a meeting and see if you can buy them lunch and do the same thing I suggested for you to do in action step one above, except ask a different set of questions. Obviously, the question would be something like this: “I am trying to learn more about our customers and former customers and how I can better serve them.” “I was just curious if there was something I could have done to better serve you?” Please make sure you state that you are not looking to sell to them, but you are looking to learn from them. I know the skeptics out there are saying this wont work. If you show genuineness and sincerity to want to serve them (buy them lunch with no agenda, but to learn) you will be surprised. We as humans want to help others, and former customers are more likely to want to help you when you take the serving approach.
Now that you have some fresh information. You are more confident in your solution that you provide to your customers. Which means you are now re-energized and want to reach out to some prospects and let them know how you can solve their problems. Before you do that! Lets take a systematic approach to this before just running out and puking on the next prospect.
3. Go to your Rolodex, your LinkedIn account, your CRM, or whatever you use to manage your leads. Pick out your top five leads that for some reason you just haven’t converted into a sale. Maybe you met with them and maybe even sent a proposal or contract, but it hasn’t made its way back to you. Do you have that five? With the new information you have on how you solve your customers problems. If you look at these 5 non-moving sales leads. Be objective and ask yourself if you were effective in showing them how you can solve their specific problems? If the answer is Yes. I was effective! Then you have to ask yourself why did the deal stop? If the answer is NO! I wasn’t effective in showing the customer how we can solve their problems. Then before reaching back out to them you need to figure out what solution you are going to propose.
A lot of times we as sales people think that we need more leads, or we need more marketing and promotion to help us drive more sales. Its just not always true. Sometimes we have the best leads in front of us and we just have to approach them in a different way. To re-energize your sales sometimes we are the ones who need the re-energizing, and that inspiration comes from education. Hearing from your customers on how you solved their problems and hearing from former customers where you fell short lets you know where your competitive advantage is and you can then take that information, learn from it, and use it to sell more successfully.
When you are energized your sales will be energized.
As always we look forward to hearing from you.
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Most sales people don’t realize what mistakes they are making because they never take the time to study the art of sales. By gaining more knowledge in the art of selling, you become more aware of possible mistakes that could be holding you back from making more sales. Are you making the seven mistakes below?
And how are you different: Are you able to articulate in a quick succinct way what makes your product better than your competition? If the answer is no. Why not? Can you tell your prospects how you and your product can solve their problems in a sentence or two? If you can’t say it clearly and quickly, then your potential customers don’t know how you are different. If you haven’t taken the time to determine what makes your product different than your competitor’s product, then I encourage you to do it now.
BLAH. BLAH BLAH. “We have been in business for over 30 years”, “Our staff consists of 100 + years of experience in our industry. “ Sound familiar? Your customers don’t really care about you or your business that much. Sure they want to work with a credible company, but they will find that out later. In your initial meeting or over the phone, they want to know if you know what their problems are, and then secondly, do you have a possible solution to solve their problems. Get to these two answers quickly and the rest of the sale will be easier.
Attitude: Have you ever heard the saying that “attitude is everything?” “Attitude is contagious?” Well, what if these sayings are true? And I can say without a doubt they are. What kind of attitude are you displaying? Are you excited? Are you passionate about your product? Do you feel so passionate and trust that your products are the best that exist in the market? If you don’t feel that way, then you cant get your customers to feel that way either. Check your attitude.
Where are we? If you make a sale and you don’t know how you did it. Or you don’t make a sale and you don’t know why you didn’t. Then you aren’t following a plan. Professional sales people know where and why a sale is executed or why it isn’t. How you do it may vary from time to time. But not what you do. This is the difference between professional selling and wing-it selling. Professional sales people have a plan and follow it.
What do I need to do? (next steps not defined) “Great.” “Glad we had a chance to meet.” And you walk out the door. Sound familiar? Most sales are lost over the phone or in person due to the sales person not defining what the next steps are. Be the assertive person and tell them this what we are doing next and I will follow up with you on this. Whatever it is, be the one that knows where and what is being done next, your customers need the clarity.
Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth: (listening) Yep. This is what your customers are saying to you. They are talking, but your aren’t listening. You are too busy selling the blue one, because you didn’t hear that they like the red one. I challenge you with this. The next time you are meeting with a prospect. Try to not say anything about your product for fifteen minutes. Don’t even mention it. Just set there and get to know the person you are talking with and their business before you mention your products and its features.
What are you doing? What is the most precious commodity that we all possess? Answer: It is our time. What you are doing with your time can kill your chance for success in sales. There are certain things that you must do to execute a sales transaction. However, the most important thing for you to do as a salesperson is to sell more of whatever it is you are selling. You must make time to find, develop, and cultivate new sales.
If you are doing any of the above the chances are you have lost some sales. But the good thing is, you are now equipped with some new knowledge to change it.
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To your success and your future.
Sales Trainer and Performance Consultant
Many individuals are of the opinion that dealing with rejection is part and parcel of the sales game. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be that way for you. As a struggling coach, I had to deal with rejection in sales at least 5 to 10 times more than I celebrated a victory and one day I just got fed up of being rejected when making sales and decided that something had to change. Immediately I found that, that ‘something’ was the way I looked at the sale. Through hundreds of mistakes, I finally found a ‘rejection free’ technique to sell in three simple steps.
1st Step to Avoid Having to Deal with Rejection
Before you start the sales conversation always gauge the commitment level of the client. If the prospect is just looking for information, you have to understand at that moment that a sale may not be possible and hence accept the fact that this an exercise in building your sales funnel for the future (which is as important as making a sale today). Therefore, begin the process by requiring the customer to rate their level of commitment to find a solution for their issue today, on a scale of one to ten (one being no commitment and 10 being committed), if the customer is at a 9 or a ten, there is a definite possibility of making a sale, as long as the following two steps are completed.
2nd Step to Avoid Having to Deal with Rejection
The #1 reason you are often rejected in sales is that they try to ‘tell’ prospects what they must do to find a solution to their challenge. This is the ‘old fashion’ method of doing things. The ‘new school’ method is to request them to tell you what they think they must do to get the results that they want, or avoid the pain that they are experiencing. Customers always know what they should do to get the results – and it’s better when they tell what they think the solution should be, rather than you telling them. 99% of the time, the answer they propose will match your solution to a great extent, so all you have to do is, commend them for identifying the solution and agree with them wholeheartedly (when you introduce your solution later on – they will not be able to say NO to it, because they suggested it themselves).
3rd Step to Avoid Having to Deal with Rejection
Now that they have told you what they believe is the right solution, it is your turn to move on to the next question, and that is to ask them – what it would mean to them to have such a solution? How much income will such a solution bring to them over the next six to twelve months? How much resource, cost and time savings will they be able to gain with such a solution? Now that they have put a monetary value to it ask them what they are losing by not having such a solution right now (this will help increase their awareness of the loss to them if they don’t take immediate action).
Now that the prospect described the solution and the cost of not having it right now, you tell him that you can provide him the exact solution that he described (cover all the main points he covered, when he described his ideal solution to you), Next tell him the results he can expect in terms of revenue, cost savings, etc. If you carried out the above steps appropriately – I can assure you that by the time you get to this point, the customers will be ready to snatch your offer right off of your hands.
Implement the three steps introduced above in your sales presentation, immediately and avoid having to deal with rejection in sales ever again.
To your success and your future.