Lisa Peskin, MBA ’86, never thought she’d work in sales.
“I had the same negative connotations most people do of the pushy, obnoxious car salesman,” says Peskin, whose focus in the Fox School of Business MBA program was marketing. “But my opinion of sales certainly changed; now I’ve been doing it for 31 years.”
Peskin started her own sales training and management company in 2003. In 2010, it evolved into Business Development University.
“BDU works with salespeople, and if they’re underperforming, we help them get their numbers,” explains Peskin. “If they’re average, we figure out how to get them good. If they’re good, we get them great. And if they’re great, we figure out how to turn them into superstars. We maximize the performance potential of the people we work with; we help each person and each team drive the numbers.”
Peskin, in addition to being the CEO of BDU, is presently writing a book. The topic? Sales!
“The focus of the book,” she says, “is what I wish people told me back in 1986 when I started in sales. I had to make so many mistakes, and I wish someone had taught me the fundamentals so I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.”
With her upcoming book in mind, we asked Peskin, who in the past has worked with Temple University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute to create workshops for students on similar topics, to share some of her sales secrets.
1. Have a well-defined game plan
“Most salespeople wing it every day; there’s no rhyme or reason to what they’re doing. How many coaches come into a game without a game plan? Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ coach, clearly had a well-defined game plan in their game against the Vikings. Salespeople need that, too. They need activity goals and result goals.”
2. Build strong networks
“In 1986, when I started in sales, it was dialing for dollars. There was no such thing as the Internet, or email, and it was all about knocking on doors and picking up the phone. The best way to fill your pipeline with good prospects is building a strong network of centers of influence who will be able to refer business on a consistent basis. The close ratios will be much higher if they come through networking.”
3. Leverage your existing customer base
“I have a concept called ‘squeeze the lemon.’ It’s not making lemonade out of lemons, it’s making the most out of every opportunity, every meeting, every day. Everything we do should be purposeful. A lot of times salespeople aren’t purposeful when it comes to their existing client base. The best way to get referrals is from happy customers.”
4. Uncover key information
“You must uncover the prospects needs and what they need to know. They need to know qualifying information, decision-making process and criteria, timelines, budget, and so on. Most salespeople are good at uncovering what the prospect needs, but not what they need to know to make the sale. They need to take a consultative approach.”
5. Prepare a customized presentation
“Most salespeople do what I call ‘showing up and throwing up.’ They go into presentation mode before they find out what the prospect cares about. When you walk into a physician’s office, they hand you a clipboard. Then you go into another office and they ask you the same questions and they take your vitals. Then the doctor does a full examination and they send you to get more tests and then they offer a diagnosis. Salespeople need to act more like doctors and not offer a diagnosis before they’ve done proper discovery.”
6. Handle objections effectively
“Most salespeople don’t try to handle objections, and the ability to properly and effectively handle them at the beginning and end of the sales process is critical. Objections aren’t a bad thing; salespeople have to stop thinking about it like that. Instead, they need to examine specifically why the prospect is objecting. There are six different objection handling techniques that we use to train people.”
7. Formulate a solid closing strategy
“Closing begins at the very beginning of the sales process. If you don’t set it up properly, you’re going to sound like a pushy, obnoxious car salesman trying to close at the end. There are about nine closing techniques. My favorite is the assumptive close, where if you’ve done everything right, you should be able to assume the sale.”
8. Maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated
“This is the most important thing. Are you willing to do what it takes to be successful and are you committed to it? The fact is you’re going to get way more ‘Nos’ than ‘Yesses,’ so you need a strong attitude, work ethic, and to stay motivated. In sales, you never get to take a breather because you’re only as good as your last month, last week, and last quarter. Attitude and motivation trump everything.”