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Chamber Executive Article Archive

All-Star Sales Advice

By Several Authors

Fall 2014

Five top membership sales professionals share insights and strategies they use to
consistently perform at the top of their game.

What’s the best sales advice you ever heard?

Pruente: LOSE THE FOLDER. My father-in-law is a small business owner, like many of our members, and when he saw my sales material he said, “If I saw you come into my shop dressed like that with your sales folder in your hand, I’d hide in the back and tell my staff to tell you I wasn’t here. You may be selling the best product ever, but I’m too busy to talk with sales people and I immediately turn them away.”

You should go in with nothing but a business card, and they’ll treat you like a customer. If you travel light and lose the folder, you’ll set yourself up for a better reception and a higher likelihood of talking with the owner.

Also, dress the part. My first chamber president encouraged me to dress professionally, but try and match my appearance to those I would be meeting that day. If you’re meeting with a mechanic and wearing a suit, you’re sending a message that he might not fit your organization. It’s the same with homebased businesses or young tech companies. If you show up in a suit, they might assume your organization is too formal for them.

Turley: DON’T SELL. Instead, solve problems for your customers and good things will come.

Clark: CONTACT THREE NEW SALES LEADS every day for 21 days and it will become a habit.

Fanelli: IT’S GREAT IF A PROSPECT SAYS “yes.” “No” is OK, but “maybe” is quicksand. As sales people, our job is to get the sale. Sometimes we want to avoid a “no” at all costs, but that can be dangerous. It’s OK for them to say no. Then you can move on and not waste time (wasted time = quicksand).

If my prospect is stalling after I’ve guided him correctly through my entire sales process, I say this: “It seems like maybe the timing is just not right for you to join the chamber now. I’m going to close your file and you can get in touch with me when the timing is better.” One of two things will happen. They’ll say “No, don’t close my file! I want to join!” Or, “The timing really isn’t right. Go ahead and close my file and I’ll be in touch.” Now you know and you can move on and not waste any more time.

Keibler: ALWAYS DO BETTER THAN LAST MONTH. That is my motto since my second day of work. When I started this job they told me to go out that day and not return until I had two memberships, so I did. I worked for four years before they told me that they were kidding! They didn’t think I would be able to do it! For the first eight years I sold at least two every day. I didn’t know any better.

What’s the best sales advice you ever heard?

Pruente: ADMIT YOU’RE IN SALES. Many of us got into this profession but didn’t want to be in sales. We all hope to position our chamber as a resource, and educate businesses about our programs and services, but that is sales! Once you admit that you’ll open yourself up to training and development tailored specifically for sales, and you’ll learn techniques that work for other sales professionals. In the end the chamber name/brand will get you the meeting, but sales training will help you close the sale quicker and more often. It took me 3-4 years to come to grips with the fact that I was a “salesman” but once I did, I benefited greatly. And let’s be honest: the chamber is an easy sale!

Turley: FOLLOW THE FUNDAMENTALS. Selling is a matter of repetition. You should have a system in place that allows you to replicate steps each week which keeps your meeting list full and your closing opportunities great. The litmus test for a great salesperson is staying with your plan when times are tough. Too many salespeople throw in the towel when times get tough. By practicing the fundamentals of sales and tailoring those steps to your personality, you can ensure a level of consistency throughout your sales career.

Clark: DON’T TAKE “NO” PERSONALLY. It might mean “not now but maybe later.” Always follow up in a timely manner. Three basic components to any sales job: Prospect, Follow Up, Close the Sale.

Fanelli: DON’T KNOCK YOUR COMPETITION. In some industries, you need to point out your competition’s weaknesses to highlight your strengths, but I don’t recommend that in the chamber world. I always tell my prospects that it’s not that one chamber is better than the other. Chambers are all alike in some ways and different in others. A chamber membership is a marketing tool. I describe to them how our chamber will help find new clients. Focus on your strengths, not other chambers’ weaknesses. Take the high road.

Keibler: LOVE YOUR JOB. Always find a way to connect to the business you are trying to sign up. Talk to your board, friends, family. Someone is likely to know the person at the business you want to sign up.

What advice would you give to a veteran sales rep in a slump?

Pruente: DON’T TRY SO HARD. I was recently in the worst slump of my career. I was calling prospect after prospect and none of them would join. The more I called, the more my results were the same: no sales. I was smothering my prospects and they could feel it. You never want your prospects to feel that you need the sale. So I took a step back and didn’t make any calls for two days (which was very hard to do). Instead I went out and called on existing members that I knew would be good for a few new referrals. Sure enough my meetings generated new leads. I focused on and researched them instead of harassing my old tired leads. In the end some of my old/tired prospects came in, but getting out of the office and talking to existing members gave me new leads to focus on and cleared my head.

Turley: DON’T OVER-ANALYZE. It can do more harm than good in a slump. Step back and analyze your daily activities and which ones actually contribute to sales. Are you taking care of non-sales tasks before the day begins so you can focus on meetings, follow-up and closings? Or are you letting unproductive activities take you away from your central focus. We all get too comfortable from time-to-time, especially veterans who have a long track record of success. I would also recommend staying up on current sales practices through books, seminars, etc.

Clark: GO BACK TO THE BASICS. A well maintained prospecting list (from years back) and a cancelled member list becomes a great new prospecting list. Hit the street and start prospecting again. Watch ads in magazines and newspapers for non-members. Cold Call.

Fanelli: PROSPECT, FOLLOW UP AND CLOSE. If you’ve been in sales for a while, chances are you’ve had referrals coming your way and you may have become a bit complacent. You’re starting from scratch now. Jump in like you did on your first day.

Keibler: NEVER GIVE UP.

What’s the most important habit/trait for a successful membership sales person?

Pruente: SCHEDULE TIME FOR YOUR CALLS. A sales consultant suggested two prime selling times on three days of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. These are the best times to catch prospects on the phone or in person if you stop by. The concept sounds easy, but doing it takes a commitment. I often close my office door during these hours and appear anti-social to my co-workers, but those are the best times to connect with prospects. Organize/research/plan your day from 7-9 a.m., make actual sales calls during the 9-11 a.m. window, send follow up e-mails over lunch, and then make calls again from 2-4 p.m., concluding your day delivering all of the follow-up that you promised during your calls. This is much harder than you think, but if you work towards this goal you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.

Turley: WORK ETHIC! You have to have a strong work ethic to keep working at sales when others would quit. Some of the most successful salespeople succeed not because they are smarter, but because they out-work everyone else.

Clark: BE A SELF-STARTER, self-motivated, confident, and believe in what you’re selling.

Fanelli: DON’T OVER-SELL. When you’re describing how the chamber is going to work for them and they say, “That sounds great!” ask for the check! Don’t start in on other wonderful things about your chamber. Ask for the check! We have a tendency to get very excited about our chamber, which is great, but when you’ve hit on the perfect element for your prospect, you’re done.

Keibler: BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU’RE DOING, keep learning and listening for new fresh ideas. Remember, you are not selling a tangible product that they can hold in their hands. More than likely you will be the one they rely on.

What’s the best way to interest a prospect in joining the chamber? Is there a best way to close the sale?

Turley: ASK QUESTIONS. I’ve studied books on closing and presentations, and establishing a relationship should be foremost when meeting with a prospect. I don’t agree with some of the closing tactics presented in books. I always have a list of questions to ask business leaders so I can better understand their needs. From there, I can better represent what my organization can do to help solve their problems. And, you have to ask for their business. Too many sales people do not ask, “Will you join?” I’ve had businesses say they enrolled because I asked when others would not.

Clark: LISTEN TO THE PROSPECT’S NEEDS. Match the benefit of joining the chamber with their needs. A business owner doesn’t always want to know every little piece of information. Be able to read your prospect. Sometimes we over-sell or talk too much. The best way to close is to ASK: “Will you be paying with check or credit card today?”

Fanelli: DON’T LAUNCH INTO A DISSERTATION ON THE VIRTUES OF MEMBERSHIP. Ask questions to determine which elements of your programming will work best for this particular business. Don’t wade through the entire information packet. Start with a blank pad of paper. Ask questions, jot down the answers. Match your response to their communications style. If their questions indicate a “right-brained” person, paint a picture of how your chamber will help them or tell how a similar member has been successful there. If they’re asking for numbers and statistics, it’s a left-brained person and your answers should make them see themselves being successful in your chamber. Pull out parts of the packet that pertain to them and their business and you’ll be customizing a presentation that will interest them.

Keibler: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I check out all companies online, find out who knows them and use that person to help me. I always end with “if you’ll just take a minute to fill out this membership application your benefits will start right away.” Do not ask “are you ready?”

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