Selling how you always have? Fuggetaboutit!

Paul Nolan

Jeffrey Gitomer wants every sales professional to spend three months selling in New York City and tell him how that works out for you.

SMM: Your latest book, “Sales Manifesto,” is all about the drastic changes to the sales process and how to adapt. Is this a direct result of technology?

Gitomer: I think it’s more information related. Technology has a lot to do with it, but it also has to do with the fact that the customer is much smarter. A car purchase is the best example because it’s a $20,000 to $100,000 purchase and the car salesperson has not changed in 100 years. He’s still smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee. He walks up to the customer and asks, “Are you looking to lease or buy today? Do you have a trade-in today? Do you have a budget today?” If it wasn’t for the word “today,” the guy couldn’t talk. Meanwhile, the customer pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and says, “I’ve gone online and done all the research I need. This is exactly the car I want. This is exactly how much I’m willing to pay for it. Please take this paper to your daddy and get it approved.” That’s how sales has changed. The customer is smarter than the salesperson.

SMM: Has that completely changed the role of the salesperson?

Gitomer: Well, there is one other element. As you’re walking into the customer’s place of business to give your sales pitch, the customer is Googling you. Not your company, not your product… you. And then he’s going to look you up on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Instagram to see how relevant you are. If you’re not relevant, you’re out.

SMM: But aren’t salespeople still relying on the reputation of their company and the products or service they provide?

Gitomer: Customers are looking to see if the salesperson has the intelligence and authority to give a truthful presentation. The third element is, “No matter what you tell me, I’m going to look for proof.” If you go to a restaurant, you’re Yelping it. If you take a two-week vacation to a hotel in Key West, you’re going to Trip Advisor it. If you go to Amazon to buy anything, you’re going to look at the rating. If it’s a two-star, you ain’t buying it. If it’s a five-star, you will hit the “Buy Now” button and two days later, it will be at your door at no extra charge. If that’s not a big enough change in the world, I don’t know what is. The world is changing, you have to have a reputation, and where’s your [expletive] proof? It blows me away how many salespeople think they live in a vacuum, and they can do research on the customer, but somehow the customer can’t do research on them.

SMM: How can a salesperson improve the results of an individual Google search on them?

Gitomer: You spend your last hour of the day, instead of watching TV and drinking a beer, improving your social platform and making certain that you’re gaining reputation. When you do a great job, you ask the customer for their testimony. If you don’t have that, what the hell do you have?

SMM: You prefer video testimonials, but even good salespeople find it challenging to collect testimonials.

Gitomer: They’re reluctant to ask because the depth of their relationship is lacking. The only reason a customer would not give you a testimonial is because you haven’t earned it. The challenge for any salesperson is how to deepen that relationship to the point where it’s worth it. If you have not performed in a way that is not superior, you’re not going to ask for a testimonial. Testimonials are earned.

SMM: If someone builds a library of strong video testimonials captured from a smartphone, how do they use it?

Gitomer: There are a lot of companies that have policies and procedures, and you have to get permission. The smaller the company, the easier it is to get permission. It’s more powerful to put them on Instagram and make it part of your story. It’s more powerful to put them on YouTube and give yourself a YouTube channel. And then, when you go to another new customer, send an email saying, “Before I get there, would you mind clicking on this link to see what other people think of doing business with me?”

SMM: I’m assuming you speak to a cross-section of generations. Do you have any thoughts on the younger salespeople entering the profession?

Gitomer: I want to write a book for millennials called, “Pick Up the [expletive] Phone.” For the most part, it’s a matter of discipline, and most salespeople don’t have great discipline. They feel like they can go in, give a slideshow presentation, and make a sale three out of 10 times. It’s not going to happen like that anymore. I tell salespeople to email their slides to the customer a day before they get there and say, “This is the boring part of my presentation. I’m coming over to meet with you tomorrow for an hour, and I’m going to bring ideas that you can turn into profit.” You know what you get? “Oh, OK. Well shit, come over!” Otherwise, it’s, “Let me come over and show you my slides and bore the shit out of you.” Salespeople are not going to like my talk because it involves work and it involves changing their structure of how they perceive sales was five years ago. You could almost get away with it five years ago.

SMM: Is there an overreliance on impersonal communication?

Gitomer: The new salesperson lacks one physical attribute – they lack sales balls. They don’t look forward to that face-to-face or phone-to-phone contact. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s possible to do Zoom, it’s better to do Zoom. Send you customer a $10 Starbucks card, set up a Zoom meeting and have a cup of coffee with them. You get to see the person, you get to feel the person, you get to laugh with the person, you get to see what their environment is like.

SMM: You mention in the book that you prefer the phrase “complete an agreement” over “close a sale.” What’s your thinking on that?

Gitomer: I would rather a salesperson earn a sale than close a sale. If I try to close a sale, the customer is going to feel pressure and I have to manipulate my way to a close, and then something happens that is called buyer’s remorse as opposed to buyer’s excitement.

SMM: You also say customer satisfaction is worthless; customer loyalty is priceless. Explain what you mean.

Gitomer: Millions of customers are never satisfied, but they remain loyal. The term “customer satisfaction” is arguably the most bogus term in customer relationships. Salespeople don’t understand the value of customer relationships. Companies perform customer satisfaction surveys because they want a pat on the head. The only measurements that matter are, “Will you do business with me again? Will you refer me?” All other measurements are bogus

SMM: Isn’t there an argument to be made for customer satisfaction surveys so you don’t have the problem of quiet customers suddenly disappearing?

Gitomer: The reason they disappear is because you’ve failed to communicate with them on a regular basis. You only communicate with them when they need something or when you want to make another sale. If you take the time to send a weekly message of value to your customers, you’ll win because you’re going to stay top-of-mind. For example, if you sell to a manufacturer, their factory relies on safety as their core principle. Why aren’t you sending a safety message to them every week? The answer is because you’re busy making cold calls like an idiot. Ninety-eight out of 100 are rejections.

SMM: You say too many salespeople neglect to ask for the sale. What’s behind that?

Gitomer: The salesperson doesn’t want to be rejected. They don’t understand when to ask for the sale and they don’t understand how to ask for the sale. The object of making a presentation is to provide some information and figure out where that information fits into their need or their motives to buy. If you find that out, then all you need to do near the end of your presentation is ask a simple question: “Is this fair enough?”

SMM: You’re in your 70s and still talking about drive and making the most of every minute. What do you think about the concept of work/life balance? It’s popular these days.

Gitomer: If you’re not working out of balance, then your checkbook will be. I don’t have a time to work and a time to stop. I work when it’s time to work and I stop when it’s time to stop. I have four daughters, one of whom is only 9 years old. I have four granddaughters, and we have family time all the time. You have to be present in sales and in life. If Thomas Edison had work/life balance, we wouldn’t have the lightbulb.

SMM: Have you always been a hard-charger?

Gitomer: I grew up selling in New York City. If you don’t charge in New York City, you don’t eat. I manufactured leisure furniture and then I manufactured imprinted sportswear, and I sold those into Fortune 500 companies. Anybody who doesn’t sell in New York City has no [expletive] idea what a sale is. None! If you live in Kansas City or Cleveland or Dallas, people are willing to talk to you. If you live in New York City, you’ve got nine seconds, maybe 10… maybe. I recommend that everybody go to New York, get an Airbnb for three months, and go make cold calls. Tell me how it’s working out.

SMM: What are your thoughts on sales management – what are managers doing well and not doing well?

Gitomer: I prefer to use the term “sales leader.” I don’t think people want to be managed, but they certainly would like to be led. If you look at great world managers, there are probably none. But if you look at great world leaders, there are a ton of them. If the sales leader is not one notch better than every single one of the salespeople, he or she will fail. A sales leader has to be able to go in front of the salesperson and make a sale that the salesperson is not capable of making. If they do that, the whole team will flock to them.

SMM: You mention in your book that you’re a proponent of bringing a sales manager with you on sales calls.

Gitomer: Every time. Bring your CEO with you. Bring your sales leader with you. Bring anybody you can from leadership into a sales call. It shows that you value the customer. But salespeople think of it as a sign of weakness. They’re idiots.

SMM: Any other thoughts?

Gitomer: There’s one thing that we haven’t talked about, and this is as important as any single thing: Some people take a job because they think there is money there. Dude, if you don’t love what you do, quit tomorrow and find something that you love to do. You’ll be happier, you’ll eventually make more money, and you’ll have a life, instead of hating your job, hating your boss, hating your customers, hating your coworkers, and then coming home to complain and have a drink.

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