Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 29, 2008

Guest Article: “When Negotiations Stall, Position The Other Side for Easy Acceptance,” by Roger Dawson

Filed under: Negotiation,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 6:26 am
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When Negotiations Stall, Position The Other Side For Easy Acceptance     
by Roger Dawson    

When you’re negotiating with people who have studied negotiating, and are proud of their ability to negotiate, you can get ridiculously close to agreement, and the entire negotiation will still fall apart on you. When it does, it’s probably not the price or terms of the agreement that caused the problem, it’s the ego of the other person as a negotiator. When that happens, Power Negotiators use a simple technique that positions the other person for easy acceptance.

Let’s say that you market advertising specialties, such as rulers, with the company’s name on it-or custom printed baseball caps and T-shirts. You have made an appointment to meet with the manager at a local appliance store. What you may not realize is that just before you showed up in his office, the manager said to the owner of the store, “You just watch me negotiate with this advertising specialty representative. I know what I’m doing, and I’ll get us a good price.”

Now he’s not doing as well as he hoped in the negotiation and he may be reluctant to agree to your proposal because he doesn’t want to feel that he lost to you as a negotiator. That can happen, even when the other person knows that your proposal is fair and it satisfies his needs in every way.

So, when this happens you must find a way to make the other person feel good about giving in to you. You must Position for Easy Acceptance. Power Negotiators know that the best way to do this is to make a small concession just at the last moment. The size of the concession can be ridiculously small, and you can still make it work because it’s not the size of the concession that’s critical, but the timing.

So, you might say, “We just can’t budge another dime on the price, but I tell you what. If you’ll go along with the price, I’ll personally supervise the printing to be sure that it goes smoothly.”

Perhaps you were planning to do that anyway, but the point is that you’ve been courteous enough to position the other person so that he can respond, “Well all right, if you’ll do that for me, we’ll go along with the price.” Then he doesn’t feel that he lost to you in the negotiation. He felt that he traded off.

Positioning for Easy Acceptance is another reason why you should never go in with your best offer up front. If you have offered all of your concessions already, before you get to the end of the negotiation, you won’t have anything left with which to position the other side.

Here are some other small concessions that you can use to position:

1. You’re selling a boat, so you offer to take the buyers out and show them how to sail it.

2. If you sell office equipment, offer to inventory their supplies and set them up on an automatic reordering system.

3. You’re selling a car, so you offer to include the snow chains. Hold this price for 90 days in case they want to duplicate this order.

4. You’re hiring someone and can’t pay him or her what they asked, but you offer to review it after 90 days.

5. Offer forty-five day terms instead of 30 days.

6. Offer three years for the price of two on an extended service warranty.

Remember, it’s the timing of the concession that counts, not the size. The concession can be ridiculously small and still be effective. Using this Gambit, Power Negotiators can make the other person feel good about giving in to them.

Never, ever gloat. Never, when you get through negotiating, say to the other person, “Harry, you know, if you’d hung in there a little bit longer, I was prepared to do this and this and this for you.” Harry’s going to say unkind things about your mommy when you do that.

I realize that in the normal course of business you’d never be foolish enough to gloat over the other person because you felt you out-negotiated him. However, you get into trouble with this one when you’re negotiating with someone you know really well. Perhaps you’ve been playing golf with this person for years. Now you’re negotiating something. You both know you’re negotiating and you’re having fun playing the game. Finally, he says to you, “All right. We’re all agreed on this and we’re not going to back out, but just for my own satisfaction, what was your real bottom line there?” Of course you are tempted to brag a little, but don’t do it. He will remember that for the next 20 years.

Always when you’re through negotiating-congratulate. However poorly you think the other people may have done, congratulate them. Say, “Wow. Did you do a fantastic job negotiating with me. I realize that I didn’t get as good a deal as I could have done, but frankly, it was worth it because I learned so much about negotiating. You were brilliant.” You want the other person to feel that he or she won in the negotiations.

Have you ever watched attorneys in court? They’ll cut each other to ribbons inside the courtroom. However, outside you’ll see the district attorney go up to the defense attorney and say, “Wow, were you brilliant in there. You really were. True your guy got 30 years, but I don’t think anybody could have done a better job than you did.” The district attorney understands that he’ll be in another courtroom one day with that same defense attorney, and he doesn’t want the attorney feeling that this is a personal contest. Gloating over a victory will just make the attorney more determined than ever to win the rematch.

Similarly, you will be dealing with that other person again. You don’t want her remembering that she lost to you. It would make her only more determined to get the better of you in a rematch.

Key points to remember:

1. If the other person is proud of his ability to negotiate, his egotistical need to win may stop you from reaching agreement.

2. Position the other person to feel good about giving in to you with a small concession made just at the last moment.

3. Because timing is more important than the size of the concession, the concession can be ridiculously small and still be effective.

4. Always congratulate the other person when you get through negotiating, however poorly you think he or she did.

 Roger Dawson is a full time speaker and author who travels around the world giving seminars to corporations and associations. He was inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame in 1991.Roger Dawson, CSP, CPAE is one of North America’s top negotiating experts and a leading sales and management speaker. He is the author of “Secrets of Power Negotiating” which is one of the biggest selling audiocassette programs ever published. His second book “Secrets of Power Persuasion for Salespeople” is now in bookstores and a must read.  Learn more at his  website the Power Negotiating Institute

Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog may be reached at


February 28, 2008

Make Giving Quality Referrals Easy for Your Client

One of the critical parts of generating a large number of quality referrals, of course, is getting quality referrals as opposed to just getting names and phone numbers.  But at times, despite your efforts go get quality referrals from your client, they simply cannot or will not think of anyone to whom to refer you.

Nevertheless, you need not walk away without a number of quality referrals.   

In order make sure you get the referrals you want—and to increase the number of referrals the client gives you—you must do your own homework well before you meet your client to ask for referrals.  Homework simply consists of putting together a list of people you have good reason to believe your client knows and to whom you would like your client to refer you.

How do you create this list?  Knowing your client is the first step.  During the course of the sale you need to be aware of everything you discover about your client.  Does he or she have signs of membership in organizations in their office or home?  Are there bumper stickers on their car?  Photographs that might indicate involvement in organizations or clubs?  Has the client referred to a meeting or some other indicator of involvement?  Can you gather information about past employment, other vendors or customers?

All of the above are relatively easy ways you can investigate who you client might know.  Lets look in more detail at some of these possibilities:

Memberships:  If you meet your client in their office or home office, you will often have the opportunity to discover their memberships by simply looking around the room.  Do they have plaques from the Lions Club or Chamber of Commerce?  Membership directories from an industry association on their bookshelf?  Photos of them at an organization gathering?
Bumper stickers/Lapel pins:  Some people advertise their political or social associations on their car.  Though not a guarantee, if you notice a bumper sticker it is often a sign that they have a commitment to the organization or movement represented by the sticker.  Lapel pins from an organization or association almost guarantee involvement by your client.  Few wear the pins who are not active members.
Vendors/Customers:  Simply investigating whom the individual deals with can give you great insight into whom the client might be able to refer you to.  Does he or she or their company sell to or buy from someone you are interested in getting in front of?
Awards:  Are you aware of any awards your client has received from any group, association, client, or vendor?
Emails:  Some clients will put you on their social email list when they send copies of articles, jokes, etc. that they think are of interest.  Often these lists are sent to a large number of individuals and all of the recipients names are in your email header.  Most people will simply delete these emails without a thought.  Don’t!  Examine the names of the other people the email was sent to—sometimes you’ll find some amazing names.  I’ve received emails with the personal email address of nationally known sports, political, entertainment and business figures.  Most of the time I have no reason to ask to be referred to these people, but if I ever want to be referred them I know who to go to ask for the referral—and I already have their email address in my database.
Family:  Are there photos of their kids playing sports?  What school or team do they play for?  Has your client mentioned anything about their spouse having to do something with an organization or association?  Who does their spouse work for?
Past employers:  This can be a particularly lucrative area to investigate.  Most people have worked for several companies during their lifetime and often they will still have contacts at their past employers.  If your client has worked in a capacity where they had the contacts you want, take note.

If you take the time and effort to do a little investigation, you should have at least a few areas to investigate further.  Once you have your list of associations, vendors, past employers, etc., explore those organizations to determine whom within the organization you would like to be referred to by your client. 

If they are members of the chamber, make a list of several chamber members you know you want to meet.  If they are a member of an industry association, what other companies would you like to sell?  Who in that company do you need to be referred to in order to have the best shot at selling them?  Are any of your client’s past employers of interest?  How about your client’s spouse’s employer? 

You will need to investigate each of the organizations, companies, associations, etc. to discover whom you want to meet.  You’ll need to come to the referral meeting with a list of 15 to 25 names to insure that your client will know at least a few of the people and will be comfortable referring you to them. 

During the referral meeting, go over your client’s referrals first.  If, after your client has finished with his list, there are individuals on your list that your client has not mentioned, take a few minutes and ask your client about each person on your list. 

Of course, you want more referrals from your client in the future.  Start preparing for your future referrals during your client acquisition meeting.  Note during the meeting how your client reacts to each of the people you bring up on your list.  If, for example, you have three people each from three different organizations, but your client really doesn’t know or is not comfortable referring you to any of the people from two of the organizations but is willing to refer you to all three of the people from the third organization, make a note to approach you client about more individuals from the third organization at some point in the future.  Also, note where the referrals your client had prepared came from.  Were they all family and friends?  All business acquaintances your client only knows casually?  Are they all vendors?  All people within his company?  Who your client refers you to will give you a strong indication of both how well he trusts you and where you might be able to make future suggestions about people you would like to be referred to.

Do not contact any of the people on your list by using your client’s name without his or her explicit permission.  Trying to manufacture referrals is a surefire way to lose credibility with both your client and your prospect.  If you contact someone on your list your client has not referred you to, it is OK to mention you have done work for your client, but don’t imply the client referred you to the prospect.

You can easily double or triple the number of high quality referrals you receive through careful listening and observation.  Every client you have knows people and companies you would like to be referred to.  Unfortunately, clients often forget about those potential referrals.  Your job is to help your client make quality referrals—the easier you make it for your client to give you quality referrals, the more referrals you’ll receive.

Paul McCord of the Sales and Sales Management Blog may be reached at

February 27, 2008

Guest Article: “5 Keys to Hiring the Right Sales Manager,” by Lee Salz

5 Keys to Hiring the Right Sales Manager
by: Lee B. Salz

There are few decisions more critical for a company than the hiring of the leadership of their sales organization. Yet, few know how to do it well. Many err and “promote” their best seller to a sales management position. Why this is called a promotion is beyond me. The job of the sales manager is vastly different than that of a sales person, so why is this considered employment elevation? Often times, sales managers earn less than the top sales people. Promotion?

Some sales people make the transition successfully, but many struggle with the change. Sometimes, it is a mismatch of the person to the role. However, more frequently, the struggle is caused by the lack of recognition by the company that this is not a promotion, but rather a move into a completely new job. How do you handle an employee in a new job? You train, mentor, and monitor their performance! Look, most people don’t come out of the womb with the skills required to be an effective manager. Thus, it is a key responsibility of the company to recognize that when moving their top sales person into that role they need to own the development of that individual. A congratulatory handshake and smile just won’t get it done.

Many companies look for their sales management candidates from outside their organization. This approach also has its challenges. Whether you promote from within or hire from outside, consider these five points to make sure you find the right person for the role.

Selling versus Managing. If you consider the broad spectrum of responsibilities from selling business directly to managing a team, what percentage of the time do you expect this person to be focused on personal selling versus managing? As mentioned above, the skill set required for those two responsibilities is vastly different. It is also difficult to find professionals that have equal strength in both skill sets. Often times, there will be a trade-off. If there is a sacrifice to be made, it makes the best sense to select someone who has their primary strength in the more predominant part of the responsibility.

If the decision is made that the position has equal responsibility for selling and managing or the dominant responsibility is selling, it may make sense for an internal hire. This allows the company to develop a new manager. However, the plan falls down if the company is not committed to a development plan.
Creating versus Executing. Another consideration is what your expectations of the sales manager are relative to developing the company’s sales architecture® (the framework of the sales organization). In some companies, there is a plan already in place and the job of the sales manager is to ensure the plan is executed as written. In essence, the job is to motivate the troops and coach them to make sure revenue targets are achieved. This is usually the case for mid-level sales managers.

In other situations, the primary job is to establish the overall direction of the sales organization, formulate the compensation plan that supports that direction, and execute the plan. Needless to say, this is a very different profile than the sales manager described above.
Title versus Responsibility. Check any job board and you will find a plethora of titles referring to sales management. However, there is not a direct correlation between title and responsibilities. This can create a disconnect with the new manager and with clients if those two are not synchronized. If you are going to give someone the title of “Vice President,” there is an inherent expectation that this is a high-responsibility, high-authority position. When clients hear that title, they believe that this person is a senior-level person in the company and can make decisions. Thus, this can create client frustration if the responsibility and authority are not consistent with the title.

At the other end of the spectrum, calling this person a “sales manager” creates a more junior-level perception. There is nothing wrong with the term, but it is important that you recognize the created perception. Again, this can cause issues with both the person in the role and clients if the responsibilities don’t match the title. Some very good sales management candidates will elect not to apply to your company because they believe it is a junior-level role.
Interviewing. Probably the toughest role for which to interview is the sales manager. For one, they are experienced in interviewing. They know the desired answers. They know the sales lingo and buzz words. How do you get past the fluff and get your real answers? One way is to develop a list of benchmark questions that candidates are asked. This allows for comparison of answers among the candidate pool. (Send me an email and I will send you my favorite 20 questions.) It is important that the questions not follow a sequence so that the candidate cannot build off their prior answers. Be sure to document the responses to each so you can review them later. You will be amazed by what comes out of this step of the process.

Another important consideration when interviewing these candidates is with whom they will need to have a healthy business relationship to be successful in their role. For example, there is an inherent strife between sales and operations. However, the company will fail if the leaders of those two areas are not able to work together in a productive manner. Consider the various department leaders with whom this person will interact and engage them in the process. This also helps the new manager assimilate into the organization once they are onboard.
The Ultimate Screening Tool. The most effective tool that I have found in screening sales management candidates is the request for the submission of a written business plan. When the candidate has satisfactorily completed all of the other steps of the pre-offer process, the request is made for a one-page business plan that shows how they would approach the job. I mention the one-page scope three times in the conversation so my expectations are clear. The candidate is asked by when they can submit the document. It is important that the submission date be asked of the candidate, not the other way around as you will see in a moment.

The benefits of this step are numerous. For one, it shows if the candidate can communicate in written form. Writing is a lost art in business, but a critical one for someone in a leadership role.

Another benefit is that it shows if the candidate understands what the role entails. A number of hours have been spent with the candidate by this point. If they are near the finish line, they should have a clear vision of the expectations.

Another is to see if there is a synergy in the approach to the role. It is best to see before the marriage is performed if their approach is aligned with the leadership’s vision.

Still another is the ability to see if this person can meet a self-imposed deadline. I asked when he could have the plan to me. He provided me with a date and time. If it is late, the candidate is no longer considered for employment. End of story.

Finally, in this role, I am the client. I’ve asked for a one-page plan, not an epic. Do they follow directions? Or do they ignore what the client desires and do whatever they want. While I don’t eliminate candidates solely for this, I refer to this in a follow-up session with the candidate.

One final point that is critical when hiring is to background screen. Resume fraud is at an all-time high! Candidates lie about employment history, salary history, and their education experience, not to mention criminal history. Find a reputable firm to do this work for you.

Finding the right person for your sales management role is difficult. It is also expensive. These five keys will help mitigate the risk and create a happy, healthy sales marriage between you and your new employee.

Lee B. Salz is President of Sales Dodo, LLC and author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager.” He specializes in helping companies and their sales organizations adapt and thrive in the ever-changing world of business. Lee is available for keynote speaking, business consulting, and sales training. He can be reached via email at, his website at

Paul McCord of Sales and Sales Management Blog can be reached at

February 26, 2008

Book Review: “High Probability Selling,” by Jacques Werth and Nicholas E Ruben

Why in the world would I be reviewing a book that’s been on the market for more than 15 years?  Why not stick with far more recently published items? 

Legitimate questions.  Ones I asked myself when I began to think seriously about writing a review of the book.  I had read the book a number of years ago.  When I received a new copy of High Probability Selling (Abba Publishing, 2000) by Jacques Werth and Nicholas Ruben, I had no intention of writing a review—wanted to keep the reviews to more recently published stuff, after all the book has had a decade and a half to prove itself. 

Yet, when I began to skim the book, I was reminded of some of the influences it has had on my thinking over the years, so I decided to read it again in detail.  As I did, the idea of writing a current review became stronger and stronger until—well, here it is.

When I first picked this book up several years ago, I almost didn’t get past the first couple of pages.  It had, in my opinion, too many things going against it:  it was self-published (at a time when self-publishing was worse than not being published at all); the text was presented as a conversation between a salesperson just learning High Probability selling and others in his company (sorry, this format still drives me nuts); and the print was too large for a ‘serious’ book (not “See Jane Run’ big, but almost twice the size of a standard business book big). 

A trite basis to make a judgment on a book?  Of course.  But I was only judging whether or not to read it, not whether it was good or not.  Hay, I was young and foolish.  Now, I’m much older—and still foolish, but now I have the laugh and frown lines to indicate my foolishness has been well earned. 

Nevertheless, despite what I saw as the book’s immediate drawbacks, I read it.  And I’m certainly glad I did.

The basic thesis of High Probability Selling is—sell prospects who want to buy what you are selling and don’t bother with the others.  Earth shattering, right?  Hardly.  Yet, how many selling processes try to do just what High Probability Selling advocates against?  How many processes are geared toward trying to convince prospects that they really need or want what you’re selling, whether they really do or not?

As common sense as High Probability Selling is, it goes against the grain of so much that is commonly taught in sales.  There’s no overcoming objections, no closing, no wrestling an appointment out of a prospect, no pressure to buy, no confrontation, no rejection. 

So, what is there?  There’s a progression of process that is constantly examining the prospect to determine whether the chance of making a sale is high or low.  If the chances are low, the salesperson politely goes his or her own way, seeking a more high probability prospect. 

The basic idea is a good one, though probably not appropriate for all industries and situations.  High Probability Selling makes a few assumptions: 
•  There are so many prospects available who want to purchase your product or service now that you need not waste time with prospects who aren’t currently ready to buy
•  All prospects will qualify, more correctly disqualify, themselves quickly.  Those who don’t answer your questions appropriately are low probability prospects, so move on. 
•  Persuasion of any kind, in any situation is bad, bad, bad.  Worse than bad.  Hannible Lechner-evil bad.
•  Allowing the prospect to disqualify himself quickly is good for the prospect as it is for the salesperson.

Most everyone can think of situations where the above assumptions are wrong.  However, in most situations we salespeople find ourselves, they are quite reasonable.  The exceptions are rare and most are situation specific exceptions rather than industry specific—with the obvious exception of the first assumption where there are many industries with a very limited and often tightly knit group of prospects. 

The above attributes of High Probability Selling are not what I consider the books greatest contribution.  As I mentioned earlier, the book has had a good deal of influence on my thinking.  That influence comes from a concept the book describes as establishing a customer’s Conditions of Satisfaction. 

For the last decade or two, more and more companies and individual salespeople have been touting their ability to exceed their client’s expectations.  So many companies and salespeople spout the words that you’d think there couldn’t possibly be a dissatisfied customer in America.  Nevertheless, few if any of these companies and salespeople can possibly exceed their client’s expectations because they have no idea what the client expects.  Why?  They never ask.

No so with High Probability Selling.  More than anything else in the book, I appreciate Werth’s and Ruben’s emphasis on establishing in writing exactly what the customer wants and expects.  Exceeding a customer’s expectations?  Finally, yes you can.  You can if you implement the Conditions of Satisfaction section of the book because you will be one of the few salespeople or companies who really know what your customer expects.  You can because you know, where your competitors can claim but always fail because they have no earthly idea what an individual customer expects.

Not only does establishing the client’s Conditions of Satisfaction allow you to finally meet your client’s expectations, more importantly, it flushes out any unrealistic expectations.  No longer will you discover to your dismay in the middle of the process that your customer had expectations that you could not possibly meet.  Those days of sales falling apart or leaving a customer angry can be over.

Whether you fully adopt the process or not, few will be able to walk away from High Probability Selling without having to seriously consider their current sales process in light of what is presented. 

Older book?  Yes.  Still worth the time and effort?  Absolutely.

Paul McCord may be reached at

February 25, 2008

Don’t Allow ‘Busy Work’ to Interfer with Selling

Like many salespeople and small business owners, I find staying focused during prime selling hours to be difficult.  As a sales trainer, coach, and consultant, my days are filled with activities that try to pull me away from selling.  Yet, like every other company, selling is the life blood of my business—its what keeps the doors open and the company healthy and growing. 

 Interruptions, minor emergencies, emails, phone calls, and a myriad of other issues and concerns are constantly trying to draw my attention away from my primary business activity—selling.

Listen, I have only certain hours during the day that are my prime selling hours. If I lose those hours, I lose revenue; I lose precious time that no matter how hard I work, I can never regain. Consequently, it is important I keep my focus on true sales activities between 8am and 5pm.

Nevertheless, there are things that must be done and some of those things simply won’t wait until non-selling hours.

So what did I do?

My solution has been to set aside four ½-hour times during the day when I will address non-selling issues. Twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon I set aside my selling and marketing activities in order to return calls, handle ‘emergencies,’ and the other ‘busy’ work of my business.

Of course, if a real emergency arises, it takes precedence over all else. But real emergencies are rare.

This process has allowed me to concentrate on selling and prospecting without worrying that other aspects of my business will suffer. Anything that comes up will be addressed shortly—but without interrupting my selling time.

It takes discipline to get into the habit of leaving things lie for a little while. But those things that used to find ways to cut my selling time in half—or more–are now much controllable.

This post was originally posted on Sales Team Tools as my contribution to a series of tips on the best habits for sales professionals.

Paul McCord can be reached at

February 24, 2008

Guest Article: “Why Should I Talk to You?” by Keith Rosen

Why Should I Talk to You?
By Keith Rosen

Do you know exactly what to say to a prospect that captures their attention so succinctly and effectively that they are actually asking for more? If you are being honest with yourself, it is probably the same answer I hear from most people regardless of age, industry or experience and that is, “No.”

If that is the case, then how can you expect to uncover more prospects let alone convert these prospects into customers? How can you cold call or prospect effortlessly? How can you deliver a stimulating, thought provoking and valuable presentation?

If you are attempting to prospect without sharing the right reasons as to why a prospect needs to listen to you, then it’s no wonder why you are finding prospecting to be such a challenging and frustrating experience.

What are the “right reasons?” Probably the reasons that are several layers deeper than the reasons you are currently using. That’s what makes this process so challenging. Once salespeople feel they have a “good enough” reason, they stop. It’s like quitting the race 20 steps before the finish line. With today’s competitive climate, “good enough” is what will keep you one step behind or head to head with your competition, rather than using this as an opportunity to develop a clear competitive edge.

If you find that you are not even getting past the first 30 seconds of an initial prospecting conversation before the prospect cuts you off and says, “Not interested,” then it’s safe to say that the reasons you are currently using can withstand an upgrade. Use the following techniques outlined here to do so.

Develop the Hot Button That Stimulates Interest

One of the first questions you may ask before you embark on your cold calling initiative is, “How can I get a prospect interested enough to want to listen to me, let alone do business with me?”

The answer is simple; give them a compelling reason to listen to you. The word compelling is synonymous with “convincing, persuasive, undeniable, and gripping.” When cold calling or networking, are you providing your prospects with enough of a compelling reason during the first minute of your conversation to want to speak with you and learn more about your product or service?

The intention of a compelling reason is to stimulate interest and open up a conversation. Therefore, you certainly don’t want to sound like all the other salespeople who are calling on the same prospects and saying the exact same thing.

Compelling reasons are the secret ingredient that many salespeople know about but don’t take the time to refine and develop. If your reasons are not powerful enough to move someone from a state of inertia to interest or action, here’s your opportunity to give them an overhaul.

What Do You Think You’re Selling?

What is it that you are actually selling? Some professionals believe that their title alone conveys an accurate portrayal of the product or service they offer.

Other professionals feel that merely stating the type of product or service they provide is actually what they are selling. If you’re selling IT solutions, insurance, advertising, marketing services, financial or legal services, staffing, consumer goods (clothes, jewelry, make up, etc.), commercial real estate, or widgets, consider that your prospect isn’t interested in the actual product, but what it will ultimately do for them.

If you think that simply telling a prospect what it is you sell is enough to stimulate interest, think again. Your product or service isn’t what you are selling or what the prospect is buying. A prospect buys what your product or service will ultimately do for them.

Crafting Your Compelling Reasons

If you are trying to grab a prospect’s attention, your compelling reasons will not include:
1. Your product or service
2. Features of your product or service.
3. Strategies on how to achieve the desired end result. (The “how.”)
4. Unsubstantiated or lofty claims and guarantees.

You may be asking, “Keith, what does it include?”

Whether you’re looking to craft a laser introduction for a networking event, follow up call, voice mail, presentation or a cold calling approach when speaking to new prospects, here are some guidelines to follow as we discuss the anatomy of a compelling reason.

1. Include the End Result of the Benefit

Your compelling reasons should include the benefit of the benefit’s benefit.

Sound extreme, maybe even a bit silly? Lets check. You know you have a great compelling reason when you are able to break it down to its core or the specific result that the prospect will be able to take advantage of and most importantly, visualize and connect with.

Consider this statistic. Based on a sample group of clients that I have surveyed over the years, 14 percent of people made a purchasing decision based on prior knowledge and experience. And 86 percent of people made a purchasing decision based on a future expectation.

Imagine that your prospects secretly want you to be able to offer them something that will make them more successful while making their life easier. Since most people buy based on a future expectation, your prospects will be more inclined to listen to what you have to say if you have an end result they want.

When making an initial cold call, you have seconds to grab the attention of the person you are calling on. Therefore, you simply don’t have the time to explain how you are going to achieve the end result of the benefit, let alone the product or service that will enable you to do so. You’ll have the opportunity to discuss your product or the strategy to achieve the desired result later on in your sales process after you’ve set an appointment or confirmed interest.

2. Pass the “So What” Test

You know you have the end result of the benefit when the statement can pass the “so what?” test.

For example, Jill, a client of mine, sells insurance and financial services. When I asked her to list the benefits of her service she responded with the following statement. “We have an online reporting system that automates your administrative duties. My response, “So what?”

According to old school feature and benefit selling, this is a fit. After all, an online reporting system is a great feature that her clients would benefit from. However, in today’s economic climate it’s no longer enough to evoke interest, let alone action from a prospect. Since her statement did not pass the “so what” test we need to go a bit deeper.

The benefit Jill shared with me was, “Automates your administrative duties.” Well, we’re getting closer but this still doesn’t pass the “so what” test. Lets peel away a few more layers to uncover the end result of this benefit. While we’re doing so, notice the questions I ask Jill and the process she goes through to finally uncover a true compelling reason, since this is a process that you will have to walk yourself through as well.

I asked Jill to tell me what the advantage was to automating administrative duties. She told me that by doing so, her clients can streamline their operations. I challenged her again by asking her to share with me what the end result would be if her clients were able to streamline their operations and become efficient. “They would be able to save a tremendous amount of time,” she said.

Finally, here’s what Jill and I came up with. “We have a system that will eliminate three hours of your workload every day.” Now this passes the “so what” test, since it demonstrates the end result of the benefit that the prospect can realize and is compelling enough to grab their attention.

If we were to break down this example, this is what it would look like:

Feature: An Online Reporting System.
Benefit: Automates your administrative duties.

Jill’s Compelling Reason and the End Result Of The Benefit: Eliminate three hours of your workload every day.

Notice that Jill’s compelling reason, which is also the end result of the benefit didn’t talk about what she sells that would enable her prospects to achieve this end result. At this point, the prospect cares more about the end result than your product or how you are going to produce the end result.

You know you have come up with a great compelling reason when your prospects respond with a question that sounds like, “How are you going to do that?”

3. Speak to Their Ear (Make It Personal)

It’s one thing to tout the intoxicating benefits of your product that the company as a whole would want to realize. However, if you’re speaking to someone in HR, they may not do cartwheels when you tell them that your product or service will save the company money or increase company profitability. As important as this may be, it may be falling upon a deaf ear. Therefore, you want to have a buffet of benefits that you can use depending upon the scenario and the person you are talking with.

What does your product or service do for them, specifically? It’s one thing to share the benefits that the company may experience but what about the person you are speaking with face to face or who is on the other end of the phone? After all, it’s not the entire company and each individual within the company that you’re looking to get a response from. It’s the person who’s making the decision to explore your offering in more detail.

What would capture the ear of the person you are speaking with? How does your product benefit them? Speak to their unique and personal interests. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what their day is like, the responsibilities they have, and the problems or pressures they face.

Think back to the compelling reason that Jill created for her specific prospect. “We have a system that will eliminate three hours of your workload every day.”

Jill can then expand upon this compelling reason during the conversation with her prospect; an overwhelmed manager in HR who is in a situation where he is juggling a variety of tasks and responsibilities with few resources to get it all done. Here’s an example. “That’s 15 additional hours that you would have available each week. Mr. Prospect, what would you do with the additional 15 hours each week?”

Notice how this example speaks directly to that prospect’s specific role, responsibilities, current situation and desired outcome.

To help craft your compelling reasons as they relate to each prospect, research your audience. Speak with some of your past and current clients. Ask them questions to determine what captured their ear and caused them to do business with you in the first place.

To develop your compelling reasons that have the greatest impact, you are much better off asking your clients why they bought from you, rather than formulating your own conclusions. Remember, there’s a big difference between what your prospects think is important and what you think is important. After all, people buy based on their reasons, not yours.

4. Include Testimonials or Measurable Results

The more you can offer and demonstrate measurable results that other customers have realized, the more of an impact it will have. It adds to the clarity of the visual picture and experience that you are trying to paint regarding what they can expect from your service rather than the generally vague picture of “making them money or saving them money.”

So, quantify your results. Use statistics, percentages, numbers, or testimonials. If you can save a client money, how much might you be able to save them? When it comes to saving time, decreasing client attrition, increasing employee retention, experiencing greater levels of personal satisfaction, peace of mind, well being and happiness, or boosting sales, productivity, and efficiency, you will dramatically increase the impact of the statement by attaching a measurement to it.

If you don’t know exactly what you can do for the prospect until you learn more about their business, then use phrases such as, “Depending on your situation, we may be able to reduce your overhead by as much as 20 percent.” You can also weave in what have you done for other customers. Who else have you helped?

If you’ve done something great for a client and I’m sure you have a success story to share, now is not time to be humble. Here are some examples:

• Depending on what you are currently doing, we can show you how you can eliminate three hours of your workload every day.
• XYZ Company increased their sales 300 percent as a result of using our system.
• Depending on your situation, I can show you how to turn a one hour meeting with your clients into an additional $30,000 dollars in income for you.
• Jane Doe, a neighbor in your community lost 30 pounds in three weeks.

Be careful when using testimonials. Make sure you get permission from the client before using their name in your marketing and sales efforts. In addition, it’s important that you know the type of prospect you’re talking to when sharing a testimonial with them. Some prospects may feel it’s important to “keep up with the Jones’s” or know what their competition and the leaders in their industry are doing and may be motivated to buy based on that alone. However, for some prospects the opposite may be true. Instead, these prospects want to position themselves distinct from their competitors based on their size, reputation, product, or service. After all, not everyone wants to be a Microsoft.

5. Identify Their Greatest Pain

I know this may sound a bit harsh but the fact is, pain is often a greater motivator than pleasure. Many of us are driven to avoid potential consequences or eliminate problems rather than create or take advantage of a benefit. After all, aside from scheduling a complete physical, we typically don’t go to the doctor when we’re feeling healthy.

Think about the greatest pain, challenge, or headache that some of your clients have experienced as a result of using another vendor. What do they want to avoid most? What is the personal pain that you will solve if they utilize your product or service? What are their main problems, personal stresses, or triggers of anxiety that they experience in their job that you can eliminate?

If you can pinpoint and then articulate their greatest challenges or concerns during a conversation, it demonstrates your knowledge about their specific problems and that you really get what their situation looks like through their eyes. This will foster a deeper connection with each prospect you speak with.

Once you verbalize a prospect’s greatest pain or problem, they are more willing and ready to resolve it.

The Shotgun Approach

Now, some of my clients have asked, “Keith, why develop a minimum of five compelling reasons?” Well, think of it this way. If you are calling on someone for the first time, do you know exactly what this prospect’s hot button is or what will motivate the prospect to listen to you? Not exactly.

This way, you can tailor the compelling reasons you use around each prospect that you’re calling on based on their position and what you feel is most important to them.

If you’re using the same old benefit statement every time you cold call rather than several compelling reasons, there’s a chance that the benefit you are using may not be important to the prospect. If it’s not a benefit to the prospect, they won’t be interested in hearing about it. If this is the case, then you have succeeded in continually reinforcing the wrong message with every prospect you contact.

As we discussed, there’s a difference between what you think is important and what your prospect thinks is important. You just have to work on putting yourself in their position to uncover what they want and need to hear rather than either assuming what you think they need to hear or saying the same thing that every other salesperson is saying.

There are many benefits to crafting your compelling reasons. First, you are going to weave them into your prospecting template, cover letter, presentation, e-mails, networking strategy, elevator speech, follow up calls and voice mails.

Second, you will be using these compelling reasons during your pre call planning. Reviewing your compelling reasons before you begin to prospect will put you in the right mindset, refocus your efforts towards the value you can deliver, and remind you why your prospects need to speak with you!

If you find that you’re having difficulty creating your own compelling reasons, that’s perfectly normal. The fact is, this is a challenging exercise that requires some creative thinking and the ability to peel away at the traditional benefit statements in order to get to the core compelling reason. Enroll your boss or supervisor to assist you. Hire your own sales coach. If you are part of a sales force then make this a team effort. Having an entire sales team co-create these compelling reasons can be a great exercise for your next sales meeting.

WARNING: Perfection is paralysis. Do not attempt to make your compelling reasons “perfect” the first time around. Remember, they are not etched in stone. The more you use them the more they will evolve. You will always have the opportunity to refine them after you begin using them and have a chance to gauge their effectiveness as well as the reactions from your prospects and customers.

Take a Test Drive

At this point you may be thinking, “How will I know if my compelling reasons are, in fact, compelling enough?” Here are a few barometers you can use to gauge their effectiveness.

Share them with a co-worker, supervisor, or even one of your clients that you have a great relationship with and ask for their opinion. Most of all, try them out on you! After all, if these reasons motivate and excite you enough to want to share them with your prospects, then you are on the right path.

Finally, get out there and try them on some new prospects. Remember, the more you use them, the quicker they will evolve into something better. The point is, just get out there and start using them. You can always fine-tune them as you go.

Developing your top five compelling reasons why a prospect should speak with you provides a unique opportunity for you to reconnect with your product newly, to reinvent and reposition what it is you are selling and discover a greater value you can offer that your prospects can connect with on a deeper level.

Take your life and career to the next level.

Keith Rosen is president of Profit Builders, As a prominent, engaging speaker, Master Coach and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on assisting people in achieving positive, measurable change in their attitude, in their behavior and in their results. For his work as a pioneer in the coaching profession, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country. Visit his website at

February 23, 2008

New Website for New Book–A Request for Feedback

In conjunction with the release of my new book, SuperStar Selling: 12 Keys to Becoming a Sales SuperStar, at the end of the month, I’ve launched a new website at

The book is an in-depth, step-by-step guide to creating a personal sales and marketing plan that will take a salesperson, professional, or business owner from where they are to where they whatever level they want to go. 

Unlike other books that give the outline of how to create a business or marketing plan, SuperStar Selling doesn’t give nice neat outlines and charts.  It isn’t designed to help you put together a plan in one day.  It isn’t designed to help you skim through the process and feel good.


Rather, SuperStar Selling is intense.  It demands a great deal of thought, work, self analysis, and realistic planning—and even more realistic commitment to implementing your plan.  It demands a great deal from the reader—and gives back even more.  It is the most comprehensive self-planning book for individuals engaged in any type of sales on the market.  It deals with what Roger Staubach calls the “unspectacular preparation” that allows you to the “spectacular performance” on the field.

It will take the most dedicated and enthusiastic several weeks to work through all of the exercises and create their plan.  For others, the process will take months.  Not a book for the casual reader who wants a couple of tips on how to improve their sales,  it is geared to those, whether new to sales or old hands, who are committed to changing their careers.

However, once you have worked through the book, you’ll have a complete plan that has identified your most promising markets, the prospecting and marketing strategies and the sales process that will allow you to emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, that establishes an effective and comprehensive communication campaign to maintain contact with your prospects and clients, that identifies those areas where you need training and schedules the exact training you will get, from whom and when, helps you find your personal mentor or coach, and develop a top producer mindset. 

In other words, once you have completed the activities in the book, you’ll know exactly where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, what you must do to get there, and when you must do it.  You will have made realistic and attainable sales and income goals, including the exact activities you must do to reach those goals.  You will know exactly what you’re willing to commit to your career in terms to time, money and energy, and you’ll have scheduled that time and the required dollars for a complete year.

The companion website is a true companion site.  It gives additional support material and resources.  If offers additional resources and aid to help those who need more guidance and support than the book itself can give.  And it offers supplemental information to the book, for example a substantial list of books dealing with various aspects of selling.

The formal launch of the website is scheduled for March 11—in conjunction with the launch of the book itself.  Between now and March 11 a great deal of additional content will be added, but the site is up.  You might stop by and take a look around—and give me feedback and suggestions while it is still in the ‘construction’ phase.  In reality, it will probably always be in the construction phase, as material will be added on a regular basis.  But between now and March 11 the carpenters, plumbers and roofers will be all over the site, building away.  Now, before the book is really in circulation, is the perfect time to your feedback.

One new experiment I’m running with this site as opposed to my other sites, is entrance by registration only.  I’ve never used the strategy before and I’m not sure what to expect.  Once you get to, you’ll have to register with your name and email address to gain entrance.  Any thoughts—pro or con on this strategy are welcome also. 

 The book is currently available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Also, anyone who has read the book, I’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to stop by Amazon’s or Barnes and Noble’s site and post a review. 

Just send me an email at with “new site” in the subject line and let me know what your thoughts are.

February 22, 2008

Guest Article: “Death by PowerPoint,” by Anne Miller

Death by PowerPoint
by Anne Miller
Putting PowerPoint (or any of its presentation cousins) into the hands of some sales reps is like putting matches into the hands of some children. The results often lead to disaster.

As members of the Information Age, we may have come a long way in our presentation technology, but one could argue that some reps are no better at creating visual presentations than their ancestors who first carved visuals on cave walls 30,000 years ago. 

Electronic Excess

No matter how many flying bullets, builds, or fades you can produce with your computer, if buyers are confused or bored by what they are seeing, you will have struck a bad visual chord with them. Don’t go overboard with the technology. Keep it simple. You’re there to make a sale, not to win an Oscar for special effects.

Do you remember the term “visual aids” from school? The screens in your PowerPoint presentation are just that: “aids.” They are meant to clarify and communicate a message, not to muddy and overwhelm it.

The Killers

People make many mistakes with visuals. Below are three of the biggest ones that I see in my seminars. Compare these to the ones in your current presentations. Are they working for you as sales messengers or sales killers?

Killer No. 1: Drowning with words. “Hey, I know. I’ll include as many full sentences as I can to describe what my site/service does.” If you want to know how effective that is, may I suggest that you put a phone directory on the floor, turn to the page where you think your name is likely to appear, put the directory opened to that page on the floor, and try to find your name looking down at the page. Now you know what it feels like to an advertiser who is trying to make sense of what you are showing when you show all text pages.

Instead of using text-heavy visuals:

•  Use bullet points; have a maximum of five to six per page
•  Ruthlessly edit — a maximum of five to six words per line
•  Separate with white space

Compare the following:

Text-heavy visual:

•  We have 23 million unique users per month, which makes us No. 1 in our category.
•  Another advantage is that we offer an unduplicated audience for your advertising.

Non-text-heavy visual:

•  No. 1 — 23MM unique users per month
•  Unduplicated audience

When you present text-heavy pages, you tend to read them, which becomes remedial reading. So not only are you boring your advertisers, but you are insulting their intelligence as well. Moreover, since the human eye moves faster than the human mouth, your advertisers are reading point number four, while you are still presenting point number two, so they are not even listening to you. A disaster all around. Hit that space bar, and edit, edit, edit!

Killer No. 2: Smothering with visual sameness. Bullet-point visuals are best used for lists and summaries. Page after page of even good bullet-point pages becomes numbing to listeners. Graphs, charts, and pictures have much more impact.

Pick up a copy of your favorite business publication, whether it’s Business 2.0, Business Week, or The Wall Street Journal, and look at the business-to-business advertising. The overwhelming number of ads show a picture with the text because copywriters know what good presenters know: The eye picks up and remembers pictures far better than it does words. Look at any publication’s graph, chart, or table, and invariably there is a pictorial element to it, for example, oil wells used in an energy growth bar chart. (Some call that the USA Today effect.)

Use the guidelines below to liven up your message.
Explaining trends?                               Use line graphs
Describing a series of steps?                Use a diagram
Comparing capabilities?                       Use a table
Showing comparisons?                        Use a pie chart or bar graph
Explaining how your site works?           Show the site

In all of these, include color and, where possible, pictures. The bottom line is that by showing real visuals versus screen after screen of words, you will be helping your advertiser truly understand your message. Even Einstein preferred real visuals. He said, “If I can’t see it, I don’t understand.” If Einstein had problems with words-only information, think about the effect of your wordy visuals on just us regular folks.

Killer No. 3: Torturing advertisers with meaningless titles. The last thing in the world you want is your advertiser thinking “Why is this person showing this to me? Who cares about a headline that just describes what’s on the visual?”

Give meaning to the information you are presenting by replacing descriptive headlines with headlines that sell.

Headlines That Tell versus Headlines That Sell
Our Statistics versus Reach Your Best Customers
Advertisers versus Be With the Best
Reporting and Targeting versus Tailor to Your Needs

Since many of you leave hard copies of your presentation with advertisers to review, you want to be sure they get the selling story straight. The proper headlines will do that job for your information.

In summary, Peter Drucker quite rightly said that communication takes place in the mind of the listener, not the speaker. Look at the visuals in your presentations from an advertiser’s point of view. Are they sales killers, or are they as strong as they can be to help sell your story?

Internationally respected author, speaker and seminar leader, Anne Miller teaches sales people how to increase their business; coaches CEOs and senior management to communicate successfully to key constituencies; and enables technical people to transform complex information into simpler, meaningful messages.  Her website is

Paul McCord may be contacted at

February 21, 2008

Guest Article: “From Ethics to Integrity: How to Make Doing What’s Right a Way of Life,” by Randy Pennington

From Ethics To Integrity: How To Make Doing What’s Right A Way Of Life
by Randy G. Pennington

In the best of all worlds, ethical behavior would be the expected way of doing business. Employees at all levels would make decisions based on the personal commitment to honesty, integrity and fairness. They would carry out their duties, promote the organization’s ideals and maintain the trust of their customers, suppliers, co-workers and communities. In this perfect world, no one would succumb to temptation and the lure of expedience. Unfortunately, there is no perfect world.

We live in a world where trust has deteriorated into widespread cynicism. The increased demands of a highly competitive market have forced us to consider short cuts once dismissed as unthinkable. Scandals and improprieties (real or imagined) reinforce the belief that playing by the Golden Rule is now passé. Bed fellows abound at a time when true partnerships are needed to meet the challenges of building strong relationships.

Written Codes Are Not Enough
Written ethics codes and value statements are the traditional response to the challenge of unifying the organization’s beliefs and behavior. They are intended to provide direction and ensure consistency of expectation and performance. They have worked in many cases. In others, written ethics codes have been routinely ignored while behavior that is, at best, questionable becomes the order of the day. Written codes and value statements are necessary, but they do not ensure integrity in word and deed. They are merely the first step in a long and difficult process that moves the organization from ethics compliance toward a commitment to integrity in products, services and relationships. Only then will the inspiring values statements that hang on the wall be transformed into performance that promotes trust, mutual respect and commitment to doing what is right. Behavior that destroys organizational integrity is more likely to occur when these five factors have greater impact than written codes and value statements:

The culture makes it okay.
Adlai Stevenson said, “Laws are never as effective as habits.” Most people know, for example, that the law dictates the speed limit. Yet, many routinely exceed it based on habit. An organization’s culture is demonstrated by its habits. Overlooking or even rewarding questionable behavior sends the message that it is condoned or even encouraged. A study done by John Delaney and Donna Sockell at Columbia University reported that 40 percent of respondents who chose to act unethically were rewarded, either explicitly or implicitly. Determine the habits that send messages about the importance of rules and standards and you will discover the aspects of the organization’s culture that influence integrity.

Systems reinforce behavior.
Systems are the tools to promote efficiency and consistency. They are powerful vehicles for developing habits though repetitious performance. Effectively designed systems in areas such as compensation, performance management and purchasing are important components of an environment that has grown beyond compliance to ethics and embraced integrity as a way of life. Otherwise, systems can unconsciously promote behavior that contradicts the organization’s good intentions.

Pressure to achieve results with limited resources.
It is a challenge to maintain or increase productivity levels in times of decreasing resources. Leaders may be tempted to say “Get it done any way you can.” There is, however, an inherent danger in this message. Employees respond by cutting corners, and potentially open the door to actions that destroy trust and credibility. Directives must communicate the expectation of results and responsibility for how they are achieved.

People blindly follow the directions and example of others.
There are two situations where this could occur. The first is when an inspiring, charismatic leader persuades others to follow his/her direction regardless of the consequences. There are numerous examples of well meaning individuals whose judgment was clouded by the ability of a great motivator.

The second is when employees assume that the directives they receive from management should be followed without question. The assumption is that all decisions have been examined before they are implemented. The solution to blind compliance in both scenarios is educated employees that understand the organization’s mission and values, think for themselves and are willing to ask questions when they arise.

The lure of expedience.
Ben Franklin wrote that success is primarily a function of what you are and that one must master 13 internal principles to be achieve it. External trappings were the result rather than a primary indicator. That view has changed.

Our culture sends powerful messages that say success is based on what you have. The ends justify the means. The desire to have it all today can lead to short-term thinking, rationalizing actions and cutting corners.

Making the move from ethics to integrity.
Kathleen Purdy, writing in the June 1994 edition of “Ethical Management,” says, “What started out in many organizations as mere (ethics) compliance is now a very powerful process. One that weaves together many other programs aimed at change.” Leaders are discovering that successful products, services and relationships are all connected by a common thread — integrity. It goes beyond ethics, Total Quality Management, customer service and empowerment to build trust and commitment among customers, employees, suppliers and the community. The following ideas will help your organization make the transition:

Begin where your influence is highest.
Dr. Stanley Pearle, founder of Pearle Vision, is fond of saying, “The customer is smarter than you think. You must deliver what you promise. That is the only way to develop trust.” Lasting change is an inside out process. Individuals must change before organizations can change. A foundation of trust, mutual respect and commitment must exist internally with employees and suppliers before moving externally to customers and communities.

State expectations, but avoid a new “Integrity Program.”
The goal is to make integrity the guiding principle for products, services and relationships. New programs become the latest example of MBBS­p;Management By Best Seller. Instead state your expectations in an open, honest manner so that everyone understands their obligation to customers, suppliers, communities and each other. Explain that strategic initiatives such as TQM, empowerment, self-managed teams, new performance management practices and ethics codes are simply the tools to help the organization meet those obligations. Avoid any hype, admit you are constantly working to fine-tune your own performance and ask everyone to join you in the goal of making integrity the number one operating principle. Continuously remind everyone that the ultimate goal is on-going trust, loyalty and commitment of customers, employees, suppliers and communities in a way that insures everyone’s long-term viability and survival.

Design systems and structures that promote integrity, trust, mutual respect and commitment.
Systems and structures create habits in organizations. Each system should be judged by the following three criteria: Are we doing what we said we would do? Are we providing what we said we would provide? Does the system reinforce our commitment to integrity, trust, mutual respect and commitment? Organizational systems, both internal and external, send a message about our integrity that is more powerful than any ethics code or values statement.

Hold people accountable for achieving results in ways that promote integrity of products, services and relationships.
Leaders must reinforce that there is no “either/or” alternative. Results must be achieved through actions that demonstrate integrity in products, services and relationships. This message is sent through promotions, compensation, perks and the handling of performance that does not meet their expectations.

Educate to provide knowledge and skills then empower people to act.
The goal of ethics codes is often compliance with stated requirements. Focusing on integrity can empower every individual to recognize, confront and correct performance that diminishes trust in products, services and relationships. Individuals and teams should spend time discussing and understanding the impact of decisions and actions to acquire the knowledge to improve in the future. Skill building provides the tools that enable them to respond effectively when situations arise.

The number one characteristic people want from their leaders is integrity. We tend to trust leaders who walk their talk on a personal level. It is a crucial ingredient, but it is only the first step in a long process. Ultimately, leaders must become passionate in their zeal to move toward a better world that expects, encourages and promotes integrity in products, services and relationships.

Randy Pennington is a business performance veteran, author, and an expert in helping organizations build a culture focused on results.  Randy focuses on what works in your world – the real world – and he does it in a style that relates to people at every level of every organization.  Randy is the author of Results Rule: Build a Culture that Blows the Competition Away and On My Honor: Leading with Integrity in Changing Times.  Learn more about Randy at


On another note, I’d like to point out an interesting post this morning at Job Profiles listing the top 100 sources to find the best talent in numerous industries.  If you’re looking to hire top talent–or if you’re looking for a new opportunity, you’re likely to find some sites you’re not familiar with.

February 20, 2008

7 Ways to Immediately Increase Your Referrals from Clients

Every salesperson and business owner has heard that referrals are by far the best prospecting and marketing method in existence.  Yet, very few salespeople actually get very many high quality referrals. 

Some manage to get a name and phone number here and another there.  A few will manage to get several.  However, most of these “referrals” are worthless–just names and phone numbers of people or businesses that have no interest in or need for or can’t afford the salesperson’s product or service.

Nevertheless, there are a few salespeople and business owners who have found a way to not only generate more than just a few referrals, but somehow they manage to generate enough high quality referrals to run very successful sales practices almost exclusively from the referrals they receive from their clients. 

Do they have some great secret the rest of us don’t know?

Actually, in a sense, yes.  They’ve learned that what most of us are doing to get referrals doesn’t work.  Moreover, they have learned ways that do work. 

Let’s look at seven of the most basic things these mega-referral producers have learned:

1.  Ask for referrals:  Sounds stupid right?  If you don’t ask, how do you expect to get them?  Unfortunately, over 50% of salespeople simply never ask—and the majority who do ‘ask,’ really don’t ask for referrals.

2.  Ask more than once:  Statistics show that if you ask for referrals twice, you’ll get twice as many as if you only ask once.

3.  Really Ask:  Asking means a direct request for referrals.  Studies have also shown that the majority of salespeople and business owners who ask for referrals don’t really ask–they suggest.  They’ll say something like “Don, if you happen to run across someone who could use my service, would you give them one of my cards?” and then they hand the client a bunch of cards—that usually go straight into the trash.

4.  Let the client know who’s a good referral:  Very few salespeople ever define for the client who a good referral is.  They assume the client knows.  Bad assumption.  Clients aren’t in your business.  Why should they know?  You have to let them know exactly who you’re looking for.

5.  Help them:  Make some suggestions as to people whom they might know.  If you’re selling insurance and your client builds homes, whom do you think they might know?  Tons of contractors, realtors, vendors and suppliers, that’s who.  Suggest some of those folks you know you’d like to be referred to—they just might know them.

6.  Give them time to think:  Don’t ask for referrals and stand there waiting for an answer.  When you put your client on the spot like that, they aren’t going to come up with a ton of great referrals.  Ask and then let them know exactly when you’ll get back to them to get the referrals.  They need time to think and 10 or 15 seconds won’t cut it if you want quality referrals.

7.  Don’t get names and phone numbers, get introduced:  A name and phone number is just a name and phone number.  Get introduced to the prospect through an introduction letter or phone call from you client to the prospect, or lunch meeting with the three of you.

Mega-referral producers have a detailed process they use to generate a large number of high quality referrals from every one of their clients and even prospects.  They have developed a disciplined and effective procedure they use with each client that leads to a predictable end—receiving a large number of high quality referrals.

But even without learning the process they use, if you simply implement these 7 simple tips, you’ll increase both the number and quality of the referrals you receive from your clients immediately. 

Paul McCord can be reached at

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