Sales and Sales Management Blog

April 29, 2007

Are You a Believer?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 8:05 am

Communication is, of course, key to selling.  Being able to communicate with a prospect and move them from prospect to client is one of our three primary activities as salespeople. 

What is communication?  What all does it entail?  Words, of course.  Putting together a string of words to form thoughts—hopefully logical thoughts. 

But where do your thoughts come from?  Do they simply come from memory—a canned presentation that you’ve memorized and repeat like Polly the Parrot?  Those, of course, aren’t thoughts.  Once memorized and canned they are no longer thoughts, but are a pre-packaged set of words.  Moreover, it is very difficult for most of us to present a canned presentation with spur of the moment conviction.

In selling, we must connect with our prospect.  There are more to our communication than simply the words we speak.  We must empathize with the prospect—we must connect on a human level, not just an intellectual level.  Our thoughts must come not just, from what we know, but they must also come from what we hear from our prospect.  Selling is listening more than speaking.  We must hear and address the prospect’s thoughts and emotions.

However, our thoughts must also come from our soul.  We must believe what we are saying in order to be effective in moving prospects to clients.  Prospects see and hear more than just our words.  They see our body language, they see our expressions, and they hear the inflection in our voices.  They understand our communications to be a package, taking into consideration the whole of us, not the just the words they hear.

If you believe what you say, that belief is transmitted not just to your brain and the words that come out of your mouth, but to the rest of your body as well.  Your conviction comes through in your voice, in your posture, in your facial expressions. 

If you believe, it is almost impossible to hide.  In addition, although there are some who can convincingly fake belief, for most of us, if we don’t believe, it is also almost impossible to hide.

Are you a believer?  Do you believe in yourself?  Your product or service?  Your company?  Your solutions to your prospect’s problems, issues, needs and wants?

If you’re not a believer, you must make changes.  You must develop belief through taking the steps necessary to become a believer.  That may entail working on you to gain the self-confidence necessary to believe in yourself.  It may mean finding products or services or a company you believe in.  It may mean becoming a better practitioner so you are more confident in the solutions you present.

But, if you don’t believe, why should your prospect?

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April 21, 2007

Is Asking for Referrals a Sign of Weakness?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 7:32 am

Everyone once in a while I’ll get this question which came up again this week in a corporate training session—usually from a fairly new salesperson, but on occasion from one who has spent quite a bit of time in the trenches:  “Doesn’t asking a client for referrals make me look desperate or like a failure since I’m having to rely on customers to find new clients?”

Asking for referrals for some salespeople and professionals seems to make them feel that they’re intruding on their client and making themselves vulnerable.  Moreover, if they haven’t performed the referral generation process correctly, they’re right. 

Traditional referral training—“do a good job and ask for referrals”—is an intrusion on the client.  Under the traditional method of asking for referrals, the client has had no forewarning or preparation for the request.  It comes out of the clear blue, usually as the salesperson is walking out the door.  For most customers and clients, this is an unwelcome and unexpected intrusion.  The salesperson has sprung a last second surprise on the client.  The client has had no time to get comfortable with the idea of giving referrals, has no reason to give referrals, really doesn’t know what the salesperson wants, and hasn’t had any time to think about whom to refer.  Is it any surprise the client feels they are being intruded upon?  In addition, the salesperson instinctively understands this intrusion because they know they would feel they were being intruded upon in the same situation.

And, of course, in this scenario, the salesperson has left themselves in a very vulnerable position.  By springing the last minute surprise, they have left themselves open to be told no, which they are on a regular basis.  A regular enough basis that many salespeople decide referrals aren’t what they’re cracked up to be and they just quit asking.

The traditional referral training that is taught by almost all trainers, coaches and managers has so many problems and deficiencies that it is barely better than just not asking.  So, why do they keep teaching something that is so fraught with problems and performs so poorly?  For the very same reason the salespeople they train use the old traditional system—that’s what they’ve been taught.

But if you use a true referral generation system that addresses and corrects the issues and problems associated with the traditional training and replaces those problems with effective solutions, you can generate a ton of high quality referrals—and eliminate those feelings of intrusion and vulnerability.

Frankly, if you want to be a top producer, you must include an effective referral generation program in your sales and marketing plan such as the PWWR Referral Generation System presented in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals or through one of my seminars such as the one upcoming on April 26 (register at).  Why?  Because clients know that the top producer (who are the people they want to work with because virtually all clients want to work with the best people in the field) aren’t out plastering the world with fliers, or cold calling, or buying leads from lead companies, or walking the neighborhood putting door hangers on doors, or most of the other common marketing methods salespeople use.  They know the top people have a steady stream of prospects coming to them from referrals and the reputation of the salesperson. 

There are professional marketing methods and there are the bottom dweller marketing methods.  Which you use indicates to a prospect where you are in the food chain of sales—and, ultimately, what your income is.  What are your marketing methods communicating to your prospects?  Isn’t about time you learned how to market like a professional and to change the image in your prospect’s mind?  Referrals—that is, true referral selling, not the old “do a good job and ask for referrals,” is one of those very few methods (and the most effective with the highest return on investment to boot).

April 19, 2007

Trust, Prospects and Communication

Filed under: Client Relationships,Communication,prospecting,trust — Paul McCord @ 4:18 pm

What are you doing with those prospects that are in your database that aren’t ready to purchase yet?  Are you in the process of establishing trust and good will—or are you demonstrating that you aren’t trustworthy or that you really don’t have anything of value to offer?  Whether you’ve considered it or not, everything you send to a prospect communicates
your value—or non-value, and your trustworthiness.  Everything you send.  No matter how small.

Most salespeople, professionals and companies will put their long-term prospects into a database and keep in touch with them on a semi-regular basis.  They’ll send a monthly or quarterly newsletter, a “how ya doin, ya ready to buy yet?” email or letter on occasion, and make a phone call once in a blue moon.  Some will inundate the prospect with so much junk mail and junk email that the prospect wonders how to get rid of them.

Either way, the prospect is learning about the salesperson or company.  The question is what are they learning? 

Let’s look at the three most common negative messages prospects get
from salesperson and company communications:
 

You Aren’t Reliable: 

Reliability is a major trust factor and what you send and when you send
materials to your prospects will communicate to some extent whether or
not you are reliable.  If you promise to send information, do you send exactly what you promised when you promised?  If not, why should a prospect trust you?
 

Do you send a monthly or quarterly newsletter?  Is it on time, every time?  If the date on your newsletter is May and it arrives in June because you were too busy to get it out, what message does that send?  Think people won’t notice?  I received the Jan/Feb newsletter from an interior decorator—last week (the week of April 1).  Is that how she handles all of her commitments? 

You Don’t Value My Time Are the items you send of real value to the prospect?  If it isn’t of value, why do you send it?What people will send is just amazing.  I get newsletters with recipes, gardening tips, and other information that might be appropriate for some salespeople, but not from the people who are sending it.  Recipes, gardening tips, household tips, etc. might be appropriate in a REALTOR’S newsletter, but not an accountant’s, or financial planners, or insurance agents, or auto repair shop.  If I get something from an accountant, I expect it to have some relevance to my financial needs.  If I get something from a auto repair shop, I expect it have something to do with automobiles.  I don’t expect an attorney to send me an article on how to give a massage (yep, got one). 

What can you send of value?  There is a ton of stuff.  Articles relating to the area you address; special offers; new services and/or products; major company news; and other pertinent information.  All of these items are likely to be of interest to a majority of your prospects. 

The key is to not waste your prospect’s time.  Of course, not everything you send is going to be of interest to every one of your prospects.  But if your information is good, all of your prospects will find value in your
communications—just not every prospect for every communication.  I get a number of emails after each newsletter.  Many praise a particular issue, others are indifferent.  But some of those who were indifferent to one issue may email me an issue or two later raving about the latest issue while the one who was enthused about the first issue emails me to let me know I missed the mark with them on the last issue.  I, like you, have to aim to bring lots of great material to the table, knowing that each reader is at a different place in their careers.  What appeals to one, may not appeal to another.  But if I bring enough diversity to the newsletter, I can hit everyone’s needs, just not in every issue.  You must aim for the same goal—bring substance to the table, and overtime, you’ll feed the lot.
 

But if you fail to bring substance, you’re prospect begins to feel that all
you’re really doing is wasting their time—that you don’t value their time.  Consequently, they don’t need you or have time for you.
 

You Don’t Know Your Business 

Sending out-dated or erroneous information also will be noticed by many prospects.  If you fail to review and carefully examine your information to make sure that it is up-to-date and accurate, you run a serious risk of convincing your prospect that you simply don’t know what you’re talking about. 

The articles you run, whether written by you or others, must contain current, accurate and trustworthy information.  Never assume that yours is the only information the prospect is receiving about your subject.  Your object is to inform, not confuse.  Your goal is to impress, not show your ignorance or laziness.  Errors are especially easy to miss when dealing with statistics and factual matters of record. 

This isn’t to say that you can’t send items that may challenge conventional wisdom.  You certainly can—and if you can back your information up, these may be your most potent communications.  For instance, I work obviously in the areas of sales and sales management.  Most salespeople and managers know there are a great variety of training methods and theories.  Controversy and going against
convention isn’t an issue in this industry.  As a matter of fact, many are well aware that many conventional ways of doing things simply don’t work that well.  Consequently, going against convention and finding better ways is welcomed. 
 

But in other industries, for example, many sectors of the financial services industry, bucking convention many not only raise many eyebrows, but your very competence may be questioned if your ideas are not well documented by independent sources.  Does this mean that you can’t present non-traditional ideas in these industries?  No.  It simply means that you must go out of your way to document their validity because you know upfront that you’re dealing with a subject where innovation is going to be questioned—not just by peers, but by many prospects also. 

In addition to sloppy work, overstatements and exaggerations are another red flag for prospects.  It is perfectly permissible to make strong statements about your products and services as long as you are not the author of those statements and you can identify for your prospects exactly who made the claims about your product or service.  Again, an example from my work.  I have no problems using quotes from others about my book.  Frank Rumbauskas, a world renowned sales trainer calls the book “hands down the best book on referrals there is.”  Stu Taylor, the award winning, nationally syndicated host of the Equity Strategies radio program says it is “a career changing book.”  David Straker of ChangingMinds says what “earns this book a rare five stars is the practical, thorough and innovative treatment of referrals that can have literally massive benefit to anyone, not just in sales.”  And Dave Lakhani says the book “lays out in systematic detail the most effective selling and referral system I’ve seen.  It doesn’t make getting referrals easy but it does make getting them predictable.”

I use the quotes throughout my marketing materials for the book and I
can get away with it because these are not my claims.  They are statements by others who are identified by name.  They can be verified.  I’m neither making the claims up nor am I attributing them to some unidentified person either by not giving a name or using the old “Joe B.” technique.  I’m putting full disclosure as to who made the statement.  I could have just as easily used quotes from SellingPower, CRM Magazine, Joe Vitale, Dave Anderson, Wendy Weiss and many others—and I do. 
 

If you use superlatives, they cannot be from you and you must fully
identify the person who made them—meaning they can be checked out. 
Even though all of the people and publications I cited above are well
know throughout the sales industry, the same goes for everyday
customers—you must give full disclosure to gain the credibility you are
seeking—or, if you don’t, you run a real risk of appearing to be just
giving hype.  If you make the superlative yourself, you lose credibility. 
If you attribute the superlative to someone who is not fully identified,
you lose credibility.  If you use an authority in the particular field and
give full identification, you gain credibility.  If you use an everyday
customer with full disclosure, you gain credibility.
 

Examine your prospect communications in light of these
three most common mistakes.  Don’t allow yourself to
lose credibility while trying to build credibility.  What you
send is just as important as what you say

April 15, 2007

Does Hiring a Coach Make Sense for You?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 9:59 am

I received a call this week from Doug Summers, an insurance agent and financial planner from New York, wanting to know if I thought he could benefit from hiring a coach and if so, whom should he hire.

Since I receive a number of questions about coaching, I thought I’d address the subject briefly here. 

First, coaching certainly isn’t for everyone.  Don’t hire a coach if you’re spending your rent money to pay the coach.  Second, don’t hire a coach if you aren’t serious about improving and expanding your business.  If you’re not going to invest the time and energy to implement what you learn and the advice and direction you receive, don’t waste your money.  Third, don’t hire a coach if all you’re looking for is a friend and someone to pat you on the back.  As the saying goes in Washington, “buy a dog.”

However, if you’re serious about your business and you can afford a coach, coaching can help you launch or change your career.  With the right coach for you, you receive highly targeted, highly personalized guidance, training, mentoring, motivation and direction.  A good coach can help you get organized and focus on those things that will change your career—both skills and attitudes.  A coach is your personal trainer.  He or she is there to help you analyze your current situation, develop a game plan to attack your weak areas and highlight your strengths, and work with you to follow-through on the implementation of the plan.

If you are seriously considering a coach, realize that the coaching field is filled with a number of very good coaches—and a large number of hucksters.  Winnowing the wheat from the chaff is sometimes difficult.  There are organizations that certify coaches.  Does a certification mean you’ve found a good coach?  No.  There are a large number of non-certified coaches.  Does that mean they aren’t good?  No. 

Cost is a major factor for most considering hiring a coach.  Coaching fees range from $300 a month to $1,000 a month and more.  Again, unfortunately, cost isn’t an indication of quality either.  There are great coaches in the $300 to $500 dollar per month range—and virtual thieves in the $750 plus area.  There are, of course, terrible coaches in the lower range and great coaches in the high fee range also. 

There are coaches that specialize in segments of the business field.  Some specialize in lead generation and personal marketing, business processes, sales techniques, client management, lifestyle and “attraction” coaching, and many other areas.  Then, there are some incredible people who claim to be experts in everything. 

So, how do you find a coach that is right for you?

1.  Well, your first step is to understand what a coach can and can’t do.

A coach cannot make you want to succeed.  A coach cannot make you do what you need to do to become successful.  A coach cannot force you to learn, to work, to hit the streets, to invest the time and energy, gain self-discipline, or to perfect and hone your skills.  A coach cannot give you a magic formula for success.  And, a coach cannot change you.  Only you can change yourself. 

A coach can give you individual, targeted training; a coach can give direction; a coach can help you get organized; a coach can help motivate; a coach can mentor; a coach can analyze without the haze of being too close to the situation; a coach can give encouragement and discipline; a coach can open new doors by giving new, fresh, innovative ideas; and a coach can give the personal attention that you simply cannot get from a sales manager or training department.  The right coach can change your career.

2.  Figure out what you need to concentrate on.

As mentioned above, coaches have different areas of focus (unless you’re dealing with one of those wonder coaches that is an expert in everything—just an aside—stay away from those guys—no one’s an expert at everything, despite what they claim).  Take serious inventory of your needs.  Do you need prospects and clients?  Is your primary concern getting a handle on the organization of your business?  Do you need to work on your management skills?  Are you most concerned about finding ways to breakaway from your business and get a life?

Your primary needs will determine which specialist you want to look for.  More than likely, most will be looking for lead generation and personal marketing help or learning to develop and manage the sales process, which is, pure sales skills.  Larger producers may be looking for process, management and organization coaching. 

3.  Narrow your prospective coaches down.

More than likely, you’ve researched via the internet and found a number of coaches.  On their website, you should be able to find a discussion of their coaching and business philosophy, a number of articles they’ve written, and, hopefully, an idea of their charges.

Read their website and their writings carefully.  Do you agree with their philosophy?  Do their writings make sense to you?  Do their areas of work match your needs? 

Look at their credentials.  Do they have credentials to back up their claims?  Coaching certification is fine, but many, especially authors with books published by major publishers such as, AMACOM, John Wiley and Sons, Kaplan, McGraw-Hill and other major publishers won’t have a coaching certification.  Certification is an indication but hardly decisive. 

If they have their fee schedule published, great.  You know their fees—but, again, that isn’t decisive.  Remember you’ll find some of the best coaches within the lower fee ranges and some of the biggest charlatans in the higher range.  Nevertheless, if you’re on a strict budget, at least you can concentrate your search with those who you know you can afford.

3.  Interview coaches.

Once you know the type of coach you’re looking for, interview some.  You want someone you can work with—someone you “click” with; someone that you agree with his or her coaching and business philosophy; and someone who you trust. 

Every coach should be willing to give you at least an hour of time for your interview.  If they aren’t willing to give time for you to get to know them and ask specific questions, more on to the next. 

Listen to their answers carefully.  Are their claims exaggerated?  Are their promises too good to be true?  If so, move on to the next.

Is this a person you can work with?  If you don’t feel this is someone you can work with for whatever reason, move on.

Who is going to be doing the coaching?  Some will not be doing the coaching themselves.  Some will bring you in based on their name recognition but won’t be the actual coach.  If this is the case, talk to the person who will be your coach—that’s the person you must analyze, not the name that brought you in.

How much time do you get?  Are the phone sessions weekly or bi-weekly?  Do you get to communicate via email at other times?  What about “emergencies”?  Coaching agreements can range all over the board—from weekly hour phone coaching with unlimited email correspondence in-between, to weekly half hour or 45-minute sessions with unlimited or limited email, to half hour, 45 minute or hour bi-weekly sessions and any number of other combinations.  Find out right up front what the schedule is.

How do they work?  Some coaches take a “feel good” approach.  They see their mission as helping you gain self-confidence and a positive self-image.  Others see their role as guidance and giving direction.  Others see their role as teachers, trainers and mentors.  Some are “progress” oriented, others results oriented.  Find out what their bottom-line is and if it matches yours.

Hiring a coach can be one of the best moves you make—or one of the worst.  The burden in on you to make sure you do your homework.

And, now, for the obligatory ad:  if you would like to find out about my coaching services, you can find my philosophy at http://www.powerreferralselling.com/html/coaching.html; you can find a number of my articles at http://www.powerreferralselling.com/html/articles.html; about my book at http://www.powerreferralselling.com; or contact me at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com.

April 9, 2007

Activity vs. Accomplishment

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 7:48 am

I received an interesting e-mail from Doris, a mortgage loan officer in New Mexico, who is facing a common problem: “Paul,  I work for a small mortgage company that doesn’t provide us with any marketing materials.  I spend a great deal of time creating stuff and end up not spending nearly as much time as I should actually be prospecting.  I believe the quality of the materials I use reflects on me and the quality of work I do, so, I want to make sure they are the best I can do. But this is very time consuming.  I know you used to be in the mortgage business, so I’m wondering if you know of any places on the internet where I can get flier and direct mail templates that will help me spend less time designing and more time prospecting?” 

Doris is by no means the only salesperson who believes they face this dilemma.  Many, many salespeople believe that they must have a ton of well-designed, high quality collateral material in order to successfully do their jobs.  Consequently, like Doris, they spend hours and hours designing leave behind and direct mail material to the determent of their prospecting activity.  Sooner or later–often sooner–they find that they are out of the business because they have no prospects. 

There are several ways to successfully handle this situation.  First and foremost, you must recognize that the activity of designing materials is nothing but an excuse to not prospect for many.  They use the activity of creating collateral materials as a substitute for the hard work of finding prospects.  It is mentally and emotionally easier to engage in the non-threatening activity of collateral material design than it is to face the very real prospect of rejection while prospecting.  

Activity replaces accomplishment.  If you’re busy, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re working hard.  The “getting ready” becomes the objective.  You go home “feeling” that you’ve put in a good day’s work.  Yet, you’ve accomplished nothing that will put sales in your pipeline. 

If you must make a decision between seeing people and creating leave behind material, the choice should be simple–see people.  Collateral material doesn’t sell.  You do.  Collateral material doesn’t identify prospects.  You do.  Collateral material doesn’t put sales in your pipeline.  You do.  Collateral material doesn’t generate your commission check.  You do.  And you do these things by identify and seeing prospects. 

This is not to say that good collateral materials shouldn’t exist or be used.  It is simply to say that if you truly face a choice, choose accomplishment over activity.  The activity being the busy work of creating leave behind material and the accomplishment being prospecting and putting real sales in your pipeline.  

But you can have both–high quality collateral material and a great deal of prospecting time.  Simply spend your prospecting hours prospecting and evenings and weekends when you aren’t prospecting creating the materials, you want.  For many, this is an impossible solution.  Not because they don’t have the time in the evening and on weekends, but because they will refuse to give up their “free time” to do these activities.  

Sales isn’t a 40 hour per week occupation.  To be a top producer, you’ve got to be willing to invest more time than just your typical 8-hour day.  You’ve got to push the non-income activities into non-income producing hours–and that means those hours when you can’t be engaged in prospecting or selling.  

You only have three activities that make you money–finding prospects (prospecting), turning prospects into clients (selling), meeting client needs (managing your client’s purchase).  Anything that doesn’t fall into one of those categories should be done outside your prospecting and selling hours.  

If you’re unwilling to spend the time outside of your selling hours, then your only real alternative is to hire a graphic designer.  The problem is that if you’re spending your time designing collateral materials, you probably can’t afford to pay a graphic designer, because you probably aren’t making a great deal of money.  Top producers don’t spend their time designing collateral material–they spend their time selling and managing their clients.  So, if you’re in Doris’ situation, you aren’t, almost by definition, a strong producer. 

Most leave behind material is really nothing but a crutch for the salesperson.  If you must have the materials, spend some evenings and weekends designing a couple of decent pieces and then get to work.  “Don’t,” as the great UCLA basketball Coach John Wooten used to say, “confuse activity with accomplishment.”  Activity can be measured in how quickly it takes you to fail in sales; accomplishment can be measured by your pipeline and paycheck. 

 

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