American former professional boxer. Widely considered one of the greatest heavyweights in the history of sport. One of the most recognized sportsmen of all time. Recently he passed away, but left great learnings and approach that should be a motivation for all of us. This is a post inspired by and dedicated to one of the greatest people of all time. Today, Muhammad Ali will teach you, sales folks, how to be successful in your own sales ring!
This is a guest post by Emilia Mosiewicz – Sales Director at LiveChat.
1) Think different
Muhammad is known for his great boxing, sense of humour, honesty, and … a delightful wiggle dance in the ring. He was constantly moving, jumping, and circling opponents, holding his hands low and lashing out with a quick left punch that he threw from unpredictable angles. He created his own unique style that helped him win 56 of 61 fights.
When it comes to sales, there is no opponent and fight, but there is a challenge. If you want to win repeatably – you have to create your own exceptional style. You can do it by providing better sales experience than your customers are used to, or by creating a unique way of presenting them your service. Think differently, beat others’ performance to the punch – that way you’ll always be two steps ahead of your competition.
2) Have confidence
Muhammad faced many talented opponents in his career. In every interview after a successful fight, he never admitted to feeling any fear – quite the opposite – he loved to recount what had been happening inside his head during the fight, and how strong he had felt. He used to speak about himself in superlatives and then add “It’s not bragging if you can back it up”.
In sales, just like in the ring, confidence is a must. Your customers won’t put trust in you and your product if you don’t feel confident enough while presenting it. You can develop your confidence by becoming a product expert (learning everything about it), having a 10-minute meditation session before a meeting (ex. using Headspace app), or simply working on a slightly slower pitch.
Whenever we are nervous, we tend to speak faster. To avoid getting lost in it, imagine that your client is a young student and you are a teacher. Speak clearly and encourage your prospect to ask questions.
3) Have a bigger vision
One of the most famous Muhammad’s quotes is: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
If you limit yourself with the assumptions that your product can’t be sold at a higher price, or you can’t close more than X clients per month, or this type of a client would never buy your product – stop doing that. Whatever you put your mind into – you can succeed. If a certain approach doesn’t work – pivot, change the approach.
The difference between people that achieve the impossible and the ones that don’t, is that the latter keep repeating the same vision. Change your vision, look into your sales approach from many different angles in order to find a perfect attitude, and achieve what others perceive as unreachable.
4) Be prepared to roll with the punches
Ali once said: ”You can’t plan a fight. You just have to get your tools ready. Like an astronaut before going into space, who pretends that something happened to the ship, so when it does – he is prepared for anything.”
I always suggest my sales reps to prepare an FAQ document every time before they start a meeting with a certain client. FAQ, ’Frequently Ask Questions’, is a document that contains all possible questions that may appear on the meeting from the customer’s side, and contains answers to all of them.
If your product or service helps many industries or different types of clients, you should have an FAQ doc ready for each of them and keep developing it when any new questions (that you weren’t prepared for) appear. This way you will get ready to handle anything and help a newbie sales rep in his own ring.
5) Show good sportsmanship
“Many fights are really savage. The nose is bleeding, the eye is cut, the teeth is out, and the brain may have a concussion, just to please you human beings. I’m not gonna be that guy. I’m gonna dance and be pretty. And if I hurt a man, I back off. I’m not gonna kill him just because someone is watching. They may have a family, children. I can’t see myself putting a man on the ropes and keep hitting, just to prove myself how bad I am. I’m not doing it”.
Being a successful sales representative is not measured only by the number of closed deals but also by your honesty, professionalism, and fair play within your sales team.
I’ve seen reps stealing deals from each other, avoiding to help newbies, being dishonest with the client and the team. Don’t be savage like a regular boxer, because sooner or later the punch will hit you back. Be like Ali, play fair, and you’ll stay in the ring for a long time.
6) Be determined
A real champion is able to throw ‘a last-minute kick’. Having mental capacity to push himself forward and come out in the last minute, closing the show, even if the result is even and uncertain. Muhammad was one of them. He was persistent, he never gave up. He once said: “I hate every minute of training, but I said: ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”.
I bet you have some clients that you would love having in your portfolio. I call them “Big Players” and I’m never scared to reach out to them. The process of getting a decision maker on a meeting may take longer (sometimes even months), but it isn’t impossible. For cases like these you have to keep trying. Each time I’m able to get a “Big Player” on a call, I ask him: “What made you finally respond to my e-mail?”, they always say: “Your persistence. I like it.”
But one meeting is not enough. Now, there is a process of making a final decision. After a call with a client, keep being persistent. If you truly believe that your product can help them, keep following up. If possible, let them test it. Ask for feedback, find out what keeps them from buying it. Be determined and that ‘last-minute kick’ will get you what you have been fighting for.
7) Outsmart your opponent
Ali had been starting his 1st rounds very focused, carefully looking into the technique of his opponent, so he knew which tactics to use later. Thanks to his great observation skills, he was able to develop the greatest skill-set ever displayed in the ring. The legend bounced, jumped, slid, pivoted, cut, and ran with his graceful footwork. No one could move as effortlessly and poetically as he did.
When having a meeting or a call with a client, be observant. Ask questions to find out as much as possible. For that you can use BANT and GPCT framework – it will perfectly qualify your prospect. Make sure that you listen carefully and let the prospect finish their thoughts. Later, use gathered information to react on them.
For example, if a client mentioned having x,y,z problems in their business, show them solutions to these exact problems. Give them what they consider important. Your great listening skills will be your own footwork on the way to success.
8) Be charismatic
Muhammad was bright and charismatic. He was a great storyteller and his sense of humour was his second known trademark. “I saw Sonny Liston a few days ago…,” goes the interviewer. “Ain’t he ugly?” asked Ali. “He’s too ugly to be the world’s champ, the world’s champ should be pretty like me.”
It is not easy to be both funny and professional in sales, and I don’t ask you to pretend being someone you’re not. Quite the opposite, if you try to be cocky like Ali, you might become annoying. I encourage you to be relaxed, positive, and have some sense of humor. Why?
Because during your product or service presentation, if you are not charismatic and excited, your client won’t be as well. If you radiate good energy, you’ll pass your passion on them and influence them positively. This is what it’s all about! But remember: remain yourself – the key of being fun is to also be authentic.