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Three New Tricks to Boost Sales Performance – From an Old Sales Trainer’s Casebook
A few years ago in Australia I worked as a consulting trainer for a great troubleshooting tool to solve the bad Australian end of a large consumer electronics marketing operation. I worked with them for three years, twice a year, traveling the country, 4 states, doing their sales training.
The first trip was easy, basic techniques are still being taught today. What should I do the second, third and fourth time? The things I discovered will probably work for you today.
Trick 1: Get the customer to tell you what they want from you.
I decided to ask the customer. I called the best consumer goods retailer in Australia; this guy is a living legend.
“How many sales representatives deal with you professionally?”
“None! I’ve never met him.” was the open answer.
“Would you spend an hour telling a group of sales reps how they should do business with you?”
“Yes.” was his immediate response and I visited him to set it up.
In due time he arrived and was ushered into my training room. The attendees were impressed and a little horrified that they had to meet and listen to the great man.
He spent an hour berating them for all the mistakes the sales reps made and I’m sure the list didn’t change. A small sample:
- Treating him as a consumer.
- Full focus on product features – we have xi ay and az and that’s great.
- Misunderstanding the most basic question; “How does this guy make money selling my product?”
- I have no interest in my job.
- I have no idea how I set up the product range and its brand position in my retail strategy.
He spent the second hour telling them how to sell to him. It was the easiest sales training I’ve ever “run”.
They were a sorry, shabby, miserable lot when he was done, so he gave them a consolation prize in the form of the largest single order the office had ever received. Beer that afternoon? You bet.
The strategy was still working two years later. So if you sell to retailers, give it a try. It’s free, and customers can’t resist the opportunity to tell sales reps what they’re doing wrong.
You can do it yourself, and I suggest you should. It’s a great way to build relationships with customers. I bet you will get an increase in sales. You may need to adjust your approach to your business.
If you are a retailer, why not get an unhappy customer to come and tell your people what went wrong and what the customer really wanted. You may have to give them a gift, but when you consider the extra sales you’ll make, it’s a cheap training.
In the hospitality business, you can win over customers by giving them the opportunity to explain to your staff how they feel when faced with a can’t-do-it system or attitude.
Trick 2: A day in the field is worth three at the table.
An easy way to find out what your salespeople really need to learn is to spend a day in the field with them.
If I did, I’d make sure I was presented as the new guy, new to the business and just learning my way around. I would say very little, just hello and goodbye. I would listen and watch and make my own mental notes.
The hardest part was resisting taking over and selling it myself.
When we went on the next call, I would ask the salesperson “why” questions.
- When she said that, what was she really looking for? What did you say? Why? What happened next?
- Why did he say no?
- This curbside conference worked best when I brought up things that could have been done differently or better.
The day in the field gave me a renewed insight into salespeople’s behavior, their doubts, fears and blindness to opportunities and buyers’ buying signals. I had enough material to work with for two or three days of real training. And my credibility grew because it was all real, their world, and I could do it, not just teach it.
The bonus was that the discipline of listening showed me what customers really wanted.
Trick 3: Self-image counts
If you work with a sales team for a long period of time, you will see that the salesperson’s self-image is reflected in their personal presentation. As their personal presentation improves, so will their results.
I mentored a talented salesperson for a period of two years. In the beginning it was a really rough diamond in the rough. A bit shabby, shoes not polished, jacket and trousers, tie not well tied and a bit outdated. His speech was sloppy, with excessive use of jargon and poor questioning skills. He was too friendly with some customers, and with others he felt bad. He looked as unprofessional as he acted. But he could sell.
Gradually I saw his appearance change. He invested in a good suit with ties and shoes to match. He had regular haircuts. He changed his speech by dropping slang words. As his self-image improved, his clients treated him with more respect. They sought his opinion and responded to his suggestions. Its sales have improved. He worked hard to understand their business and make suggestions on how they could offer his product to make more profit.
Last time I saw him he looked good, sounded great and was moving up the sales management ladder very quickly. It wasn’t about sales skills; he had them. It was all about self-image and confidence.
The moral of the story is that anything you can do to build a person’s confidence will pay off in sales.
We hope you find these ideas useful and that you can find a way to put them into practice.
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