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Michael : Rory, firstly Id like to really thank you for taking part in this podcast. To kick off could you please introduce yourself and give us a rough idea of some of your sales experience.
Rory : Certainly yes. I’m Rory Woolridge. I live in Chelntham. And the sales experience really started at about the age of Eleven. I particularly remember an episode of borrowing some plums from a field, and then selling them some hundred yards away from a fruit and veg guy, just under their prices. So that was good fun.
So I guess I’ve been selling for a long time. I’m Fifty Three at the moment. My current joy is to deal with accountants and that’s with insurance from tax investigations. So that’s a very exciting subject! – but there is a need there and I help people fulfil that need.
Michael : Looking at the selling process – if you had to break it down into a number of steps, what would be your view of some of the key steps, and what are so important about them?
Rory : Well I think really the key steps, and the first thing of all, I’m sure people have heard of “the blink of an eye” approach, where people will make an assumption about what is in front of them or who is in front of them – so I tend to make sure that in the first instance that I’m fully prepared – I know before I meet my prospect that I understand who they are, where they are – understand a little bit about the company – so that I can be positive from the moment that I walk in through the door.
So really I think that the first step start prior to my meeting of meeting the prospect, and making sure – dressed appropriately – why I say that is because at one stage I did appliance leasing. Now, had I got on to the farm in a suit, I probably would have been shot, because they probably thought that I had come from the inland revenue. I had to buy some tweed jackets and all that kind of stuff so that I fitted in to the environment that I was actually working in.
So my first step was I said “We’ll start with myself and how I’m presenting myself and also the knowledge I have about the company, and probably of the individual.”
Michael : So that’s the first step, what comes next?
Rory : I think what then comes next – you have to assume that the deal comes to me – so they feel that they have a need for the product that we are providing in the marketplace. It may be that they have an existing product and they’re looking at maybe moving away from that supplier. It may be that they have not had this product before even though it’s been available for twenty-two years and perhaps they have some questions or some reservations about the product.
So the next step really is going to be qualification. What is it that they’re actually looking for, or what is it that they have at the moment? What is it that they have? What is it that they think is good about what they have? And what are they not so pleased about?
Then maybe I can look at my approach from that point.
Michael : So what specifically do you do to get answers to those questions?
Rory : It depends on the meeting. Obviously everybody’s different, they all need a different approach. The main thing really is information that you can gather – and quite often sales people will forget that they only have one mouth, but they do have two ears – and most sales people will go in on their own agenda to sell what they think is right before actually listening to the prospect and what it is that they actually need.
Michael : Ok. So you do the prior stuff which is making sure that you’re presented correctly. You then do some qualification and questioning – what comes next?
Rory : I think you then have to agree on the process, you have to agree what the client actually needs – once you’ve established that and I tend to write things down because I think it tend to make things more powerful – especially for the person opposite you – if you write something down, they will watch you write that – that then becomes important.
So if there is a specific need I think “Oh good, we can make a good start with that,” because that’s something that they could really need – and its something that you could then go to later to reinforce, why they should buy.
So I think really the next thing is getting a full agreement on what it is that they require.
Michael : And this is maybe an obvious question, but I’m still going to ask it – how do you know that you have their full agreement?
Rory : I tend to do a toolbox and then go back. So where you’ll have some salespeople who will talk about bridges – crossing one bridge and closing the gate – and then opening a gate walking over the bridge – and OK, we’ve done that, so we can close that gate – So I think it is a process of asking the right questions so you can get hopefully a knowledge of the prospect, and you can then be making your notes
It might well be your experience in dealing with other – in my case accountants – I might have some prominent question that they might want to have thought about. And this getting on for me towards larger practice, and that needs a planned agenda.
Michael : OK then, so you’re dressed correctly – you’ve found out their needs, you’ve agreed on specifically what they want, and got their agreements from it – whats next?
Rory : I think first of all you sum up – and ask them “Am I correct in thinking that everything that we’ve spoken about here – you see from making a list – Are we happy that those are all of your current needs?” – So first of all you qualifying the prospect there.
So the first thing that you have to do is sell yourself, sell your business, your company in regards to the track record that you have -I myself have been in this industry for Eighteen years, and you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of practices, good and bad. That gives myself credibility in the clients eyes
The next step is to sell yourself and to demonstrate in the clients eyes, the product that you have has been tried and tested in the marketplace, so they can be confident about buying it.
Michael : So how do you get over that its been tried and tested?
Rory : Well, the products been in the marketplace for Twenty-Three years, and we have some two thousand existing clients – So it kind of shows you if we have two-thousand professional practices, than we must be doing something right – and more often than not because it’s a small niche market that I’m in that I appreciate the business that all the boys and girls that are listening to this might be a much larger market – we are a niche market. So people might have heard of us, even if they haven’t heard of us.
Michael : OK, so what comes next – you’ve demonstrated capability.
Rory : We’ve demonstrated capability – and then what we have to do is because we have various services within the product that we sell, or in other words, there are various services in the products that we sell due to practice an otherwise.
We’re not just selling “an egg” – we might be selling an omelet, we might be selling scrambled eggs, we might be selling a poached egg – but in a sense, its still an egg. So what we have to do then is fill the need so what I’m looking to do then is to look at the requirements of the client and see if I can match one of our products to his or her needs.
So I guess the title there would be “to fill the need.”
Michael : So once you’ve done that, presumably you demonstrate back that solution or product.
Rory : Yes, I will present that solution and product – exactly how it works, how it works for other companies, what other companies have thought, and how successful it has been – areas of concern even so that if there are negative points, we actually talk about them – I don’t want them to be negative in the clients mind, I want them to be a positive thing for both of us.
So what I then need to do, is once Ive demonstrated “Why I think this product is best for you” What I then need to do is ask for commitment from the client “How do you feel about this product that Ive presented to you? What do we have before we go on any further?”
So I’m qualifying as we’re going down – and once we noting it down “Yep, we’ve qualified these” And I’ll use a tick because we’ve done that, the client is watching you do that, and they’re also concurring because they’re also doing it in their own mind as well.
Michael : OK, so what happens then?
Rory : Once you’ve got the commitment – Ive already got, at the beginning of the conversation, if there is another client for instance, a competitor – although I don’t like the word competitor, they re just other friends in the market place that do something similar- I will already know that their renewal date for their insurance will probably be in three months time.
So I know that we then have a time frame – what we then have to do is to cement the sale. We have to make sure – Do we have an agreement? And most people will buy emotionally, because most people always buy people.
But with accountants – they will buy logically. So what they want to do is make sure the spreadsheet is full, they’ve ticked all the boxes, and yeah, we’ve got agreement and the price is correct, and we know that we need to do something within the next six weeks to make sure that we can get all of our letters out to the clients, and that we can make the decision on a logical basis.
Michael : And then how would you leave the client at the end? The last bit?
Rory : The last bit in general circumstances, it would be a little bit different than when you’re working with a partnership, and maybe I’m in the boardroom and I’ll have seven, ten, thirty partners around me and that brings me back to the planned agenda, which we’ll talk about shortly.
But I think I tend to do a complete sum-up on a new sheet of paper just to make sure that Ive ticked all the boxes for the client – so the client can see what we’ve done, and effectively going back to the statement of cementing the sale – just reinforcing what we’ve talked with him verbally, watching the eyes and face, to make sure both of us are in a win-win situation.
Michael : And then anything else before you leave?
Rory : No, generally its a handshake with accountants, they’re busy people I don’t take up there time. Ive seen other people on two or three occasions that are on two or three hundred pounds an hour, and I’m conscious of that – so where as I don’t want to rush them, i have to be professional, and make sure I do my job to the best of my ability so we both get what we need from that meeting.
Leaving, really is just a question of “whats going to happen?” or what the process will be – “I’m going to write to you, tell you the costs, confirm policy conditions, we will then send letters, blah blah blah blah…. …so that you’re able to do your marketing to your clients, to sell you the product.”
Michael : So that’s the end of the meeting – very quickly, what is the follow up process?
Rory : I tend to phone about four days later having already written to the client to confirm details of the meeting, thanking them of course. Quite often I will make another appointment prior to launch either on the telephone or going to see them personally. Quite often its on the telephone, because again they’re quite busy people.
They just want confirmation that you’re working for them, you’re working with them and you’re starting to start a business relationship that we can both enjoy.
Michael : OK, now you’ve mentioned your planned agenda a number of times. Take me through that.
Rory : Yeah, I think that’s very, very powerful if its used in the right way. And I’ll try and do this, if you like, online or on the paper next to me, so I will use that and it will probably help me talk you through it.
What a planned agenda does, in effect, is get the brain into gear. Let me give you a situation – I’m in a boardroom, I have seven partners around me. In general terms Ive been dealing with one partner, where we’ve had one or two meetings and I’m there with the rest of the partnership.
And what I want to do is make sure that they’re all switched on. I want to make sure that they’re with me, that they’re with my thought – so what I do is I write out a planned agenda. The planned agenda starts out with who I’m meeting. where I’m meeting, what time I’m meeting.
And on the left-hand side of the planed agenda will be bullet points or questions that I will be asking during the meeting. And what I will do is I will have all of these agendas in front of me, and depending on the size of the table, I will push forward an agenda to match each person and put it in front of them – and ask them if they will pick it up, have a look at it, and see if there’s anything that they would like to add.
And what Ive done there is Ive opened their minds – and you’ll understand this being an NLP practitioner – Ive opened their minds to the questions that they want to ask, and they’re already answering them while they’re reading.
So its great. It means its a much shorter meeting. But Ive got their agreement. If they say to me “No, that seems to cover everything that we mean to talk about” I know already that they don’t have any other objections before we start.
If they pick up the piece of paper, they own that piece of paper. They’ve got it, its there’s. So I will then go through each item on the agenda – one of which is the buying process. “When would you like to start it?” Is another question.
So these are questions that they are having in their minds before we have the meeting. And it is very, very powerful. And we just tick off as we go. It makes it very exciting actually, very comfortable. They still feel like they’re in control, even though, I’m probably in control, in the best way.
Michael : Looking back on the sales process and using your agenda, -what do you think are the key skills that enable you to do it?
Rory : Confidence would be one. Confidence in your own ability, without being arrogant or cocky. Also confidence in your product or your service, and the back-up that you know the guys in the office that do all the work. I will say as a salesman that Ive spent two hours, three hours, maybe four hours negotiating this, and it all goes back to the office and if the boys at the office mess it up – then that kind of blows the whole thing.
So I have to be confident about myself, about the product, how I dress, how I speak, how I make contact, how I listen – but I also have to have complete faith in the back-up system back at the ranch.
Michael : That actually leads quite nicely onto the next question that I have- what do you believe about yourself in a selling position, and what do you believe about the customers?
Rory : Firstly – and when you answer questions about yourself its always a difficult to try and be modest, but I do have a belief first of all in my own personal integrity. I am confident in a sales situation – and I’m confident because I have confidence in both my product and the staff back at the ranch that I know will do a good job to reinforce what Ive done in the field.
In regard to the clients, I have to belief – and I don’t necessarily believe that the client is always right, I challenge that occasionally, because maybe their beliefs aren’t in the right place – but overall the people that I’m dealing with are professional people, and therefore everything that they say to me I have respect for, and I listen to, and I always try to believe that we are on a level footing.
In other words, I believe that I am certainly no better than they are, and we are talking together on a level platform.
Michael : And do you have a mission when you sell?
Rory : No, because I have no idea of the outcome – personally – I cant speak for over sales people, because some sales people will go along with their own agenda, under pressure. I’m under no pressure at all. I’m not targeted, and that means that I do all the business. But in other situations I understand that sales people need to have targets and goals to enable them to have the discipline to go out and do the things that they need to do.
Michael : Does that mean then that you’re quite open during these meetings?
Rory : I’m very open. I’m open as a person. And wear my heart on my sleeve and I will stay focused and professional, and make sure that when I’m in a meeting, I’m not going there necessarily because I’m thinking “Oh yeah, I’m going to get a deal today”, and that may well be the outcome, but I have no idea.
So I don’t go in with any preconceived ideas – and I do think a lot of salespeople do have preconceived ideas and that can actually be quite dangerous, because quite often that means that the client ends up with the wrong solution.
Michael : If you had to recruit somebody that you thought would be a really great sales person, what are some of the things that you would look for?
Rory : That’s really difficult, because its not something that Ive had to do. although I did recruit a colleague who’s now been with the company for ten years and has been very successful. And I think that they have to have a confidence and integrity and they have to have high moral standards.
I think they have to look the part in how they present themselves. in terms of their dress. I think overall, you have a feeling of people when you meet them. “I actually quite like this guy, I like the way he presents himself – hes confident, great on contact, I know that hes been successful through his career and conversations we’ve had.”
We’re all different, but I guess it comes back down to the blink of an eye.
Michael : One question that I didn’t ask Rory, that I’m really interested in – if you had to describe the sales relationship as a metaphor, or story, with cartoon characters. animals or mythological creatures, how would you describe it?
Rory : That’s a great question. And off the cuff I think that’s very difficult.
OK, what I think, for me, is perhaps a football match. Where you have two sides looking to play their best, to give their best – and lets have a look at the result at the end. At half time they’ve done lots of probing, lots of tackles, a few shots and lots of saves – so there’s a lot of information going.
At half time its nil-nil. And within the last five minutes of the match, each side scores, and it actually ends up a draw. So nobody lost, but everybody won.
That I guess would be my story.
Michael : Alright, absolutely superb. Just to summarize the bit on selling, is there anything that you’d like to emphasise about the selling process or something that you just think is top-level, the most important thing?
Rory : I think the most important thing about selling is listening. I think far too many people use their mouth more than they use their two ears And I think that if you listen to what your costumer is telling you and not telling you, you can fulfil their need and give them confidence in you to make them have a business relationship where it’s win-win.
Michael : OK Rory, thank you very much for spending the time sharing your experience. Is there anything that you re doing that you’d like to plug so our audience can find out what you re about?
Rory : As we’ve been talking its been interesting, because obviously Ive been listening to your questions and it reminded me of a sales situation that I had – do you mind if I?
Michael :Please do.
Rory : It was a large firm of accountants in Chester. Now I always remember this because the guy is known as Michael Jackson, so I cant really forget that – but it wasn’t the real Michael Jackson, unfortunately.
I’d have four meeting with these guys, a thirteen partner practice – I was then invited to a partners meeting – So I was sitting at the head of the table, I had thirteen people sitting around me. I’d had four open and honest discussions with Mr Jackson, and I know that he has prepared the meeting before I had got there.
In other words, they know why I’m there. Now I’d never had the courage to do this before, and I’ve only done it once since, because it is courage – I sat at the head of the table, I had a slight pause, which is something I don’t think sales people do enough in my opinion.
I paused… I looked each partner in the eye (that was the pause by the way.) and then I said:
“Gentlemen. Is there any reason that we cant sign this agreement now?”
And then I just shut up. Because in the situation the first person to speak loses. And I waited. And what happened was interesting, because they all looked at each other because they didn’t know how to react.
Its a very simple and basic question “Can we do this right now, I don’t see a reason why we cant?” Because what I’m doing then is objection handling, getting all the objections out of the way so I can handle them.
No objections came because they couldn’t handle it. They said “No, we have no reason why we cant”
And that was the largest sale that the company had done, and this was fourteen years ago. It was for something like Forty thousand pounds, premium. And I was in that room for just over four minutes.
So I just wanted to relate that, its quite interesting – its about courage.
Michael : I like that – but you still have an opportunity to plug anything that you want to.
Rory : Well, you know, I don’t think I need to, and I appreciate the opportunity, but what I’m selling, and what I’m dealing with is accountancy right now. And I have other stuff that I’m doing, but I have no need to plug anything, that’s not why I’m doing this.
Michael : In that case, can I really thank you for your time.
Rory : Its been a pleasure.
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