Sales and Sales Management Blog

November 28, 2008

Should You Allow Your Sales Reps to do “Personal Branding”?

I’ve had several sales managers asking about what limitations they should put on their salespeople who are trying to do “personal branding.”

For many industries, personal branding isn’t new. For instance, for years this has been a common factor in the real estate industry. Realtors have always tried to brand themselves as much or more than the company they work for. Other industries have had something of a similar history, though maybe not to the extent as the real estate industry. Mortgage loan officers, bankers, insurance agents and financial services reps have always tried to establish a personal following. These personal followings would, the salesperson hoped, follow them as they moved from company to company

However, in the last few years this idea that the salesperson should be selling themselves and their identification first and the company secondarily (if at all) has begun to enter into a number of industries. Now companies from dozens of industries must make a decision as to just how far they go in allowing their salespeople to overshadow the company in name recognition.

There are three things a company must take into consideration when trying to determine how free a salesperson should be to feature themselves in marketing vs. the company:

Who’s paying? He who pays should determine who gets top billing. This is just common sense (with some limitations below). If I’m going to pay for the ad, the flier, the brochure, or whatever, I should certainly have the option of advancing my name recognition more than the company’s. I certainly must take into consideration my current name recognition vs. my company’s. If I’m a new salesperson with little name identity and I work for a major company whose name is a household name, I might want to feature my company’s name just as much as I do my own. But, at the same time, I ultimately want to spend my money advancing myself more than the company.

If the company is paying for the marketing, then the same logic applies. The company should be advancing their name over the salespersons. In both instances, both the company and the salesperson should have their identities displayed. The question isn’t which to display, but which is emphasized.

Is it legal? If there are regulatory reasons for limiting the “personal branding” then, of course, the question is moot, but the company certainly has no business asking the salesperson to pay for or participate in the cost of the marketing.

What is being sold? If the experience and qualifications of the salesperson are of primary significance in the sale of the product or service, it is to the company’s advantage that the salesperson focus on their name and their experience. Even if the company is a household name. Joining a household name with a salesperson with exceptional credentials will only enhance the company’s sales.

If the product or service is dominated not by the salesperson’s experience and skills, but by the product or service, then it is probably to the salesperson’s advantage for the company and the product to be the primary focus of the piece.

So, the brief answer: based on a combination of who’s paying for the marketing piece, the regulatory situation and whether the salesperson’s experience and skills are the primary sales issue should determine just how much freedom a salesperson should have in “personal branding.”

Companies cannot keep their salespeople from leaving. The fact is that those salespeople most likely to want to brand are those who will have the most direct influence on the quality of a customer’s experience. To a large extent, it is the quality of the Realtor, not their company, that has the most impact on a customer’s experience; it is the quality of the broker, not the company, that will have the most influence on a customer’s satisfaction; and it is the quality of the agent that will have the most influence on a client’s purchase, not the insurance company he works for.

Let your people personal brand all they want-then work to keep them happy and in place as their sales grown.

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November 27, 2008

In These Challenging Times, There’s a lot to be Thankful For

Filed under: attitude,business,Economy,motivation,sales,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 9:05 am
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As Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin.  My generation is entering what may be the second major cultural change era of our lifetime.  Much of the change that came out of the first era, the 60’s and early 70’s, didn’t turn out so well.

The first major era of change was brought about by my generation’s rebellion to the status quo.  This second era of change, if it happens, will not be brought about by President-elect Obama, but rather by the financial mess we’re facing.

No one knows what or to what extent this economic crisis will bring fundamental change to the US and the rest of the world.  Most of the predictions are dire, some catastrophic, and like most predictions, they will probably miss the mark by a wide margin.

Nevertheless, it looks like the table is set to see some very fundamental social and economic changes as we go forward.  Like all change, we’ll eventually find as we did in the 60’s and 70’s that some of the changes were good, some were terrible.

On this Thanksgiving, we face significant challenges.  Some have lost their jobs, many are wondering if they will lose them.  Home values are declining; the stock market fluctuates at a dizzying pace; everybody and their dog is lining up for a government handout.  Investment and retirement accounts have taken a tremendous hit.  Fear and indecision now rule in many homes and businesses.

For many of us in sales, the current selling environment seems hopeless.  We dread getting up in the morning.  We have to work harder to find prospects, work harder to earn their business, work harder to meet their demands.

It seems fruitless.  I know the difficulty each salesperson is facing.  I work primarily in the financial services industry.  Over the last months, I’ve seen over 60% of my major clients either go out of business, be absorbed by another company, or cancel contracts because they don’t have the funds for outside training.  Companies like Countrywide, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, UBS, and others are no longer in existence in their original form or are drastically cutting costs, including training.

Yet, we have much to be thankful for.

We in the US live in a country that despite the economic situation is still one of the strongest economies in the world, an economy that has weathered many other crises, from the Great Depression to the 18% interest rates and double digit inflation or the 70’s and early 80’s to the real estate/savings and loan debacle of the late 80’s, as well several small recessions.

Companies are still making purchases, signing contracts, doing business. No matter what we sell, there is still a tremendous amount of business out there-we just have to find it.

Much, if not most, of our competition is getting weaker. Our competitors are facing the same obstacles we face.  They have the same issues, the same depressing news, the same tendency toward hopelessness and lethargy, the same inclination to pull back on prospecting and marketing.  If we overcome the tendency to slow down and feel sorry for ourselves and instead pick up the pace and become more active, we have the playing field almost to ourselves.

We have the opportunity to build a strong sales business that will create a lifetime of superior income and security. For those of us that persevere, aggressively seek out business, and build strong relationships built on honesty and trust, these economic downturns are an ideal time to build our business.  We must stay focused.  Instead of pulling back, we must increase our prospecting and marketing, sharpen our selling skills, improve our customer service and account management skills.  We must cut out the fat while increasing our investment in business building areas.  While the competition is going into hibernation, we must strike out with a well thought-out, aggressive expansion plan.

Business is tough, no one will deny that.  But the business is still there and we have the opportunity to build our business while our competition sleeps-and we should be very thankful for that.

November 24, 2008

Does Rejection Rule Your Attitude? It Doesn’t Have To

Filed under: attitude,motivation,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 11:47 am
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The life of a salesperson is filled with rejection.  We typically hear far more “no’s” than we do “yes’s.”  Actually, we probably hear “no” every single day of our selling careers.  Moreover, unfortunately, it isn’t just from prospects we hear “no.”  We hear it from our companies, our suppliers, our sales manager, and almost everyone else we deal with.  Our life is filled with the word “no.”  Nevertheless, in order to get to our “yes’s,” we must hear the “no’s.”

How we handle the “no” is one of the keys to succeeding in sales.  It seems that there are some people who can just slough off “no’s” without a second thought.  But for most of us, a “no” is a personal rejection.

Depending on how you market, dealing with a “no” can be a direct, in-your-face rejection, or can be an anonymous trashing of our direct mail letter.  However, all of us must, at some point in the selling process, deal with face-to-face rejection.

If you cold call, your rejection is immediate-and if your cold calling is done on the phone, can appear to be very personal.  When you call a complete stranger and they hang up on you or rudely tell you to get lost, the tendency is to take that as personal rejection.  The salesperson that has sent out a thousand direct mail letters actually suffers the same rejection, but is protected by not knowing the recipient did not even look at it, but instead immediately threw it into the trash.  In actuality, the rejection is the same-the individual is rejecting your offer, not you.  But one salesperson must hear in a loud, clear click his rejection, while the other never hears the soft drop of the letter into the trash.

Worse, once you get the opportunity to get in front of a prospect, the “no’s” continue to come.  You make your presentation.  You get your no.  You answer the prospect’s objections-and you get your no.  You drive home your close-and you get your no.  Repeatedly, at times, it seems that no is the only word people know.

Then, finally, you get a qualified yes.  The prospect agrees to purchase if you can do a little something out of the ordinary.  YES!  Finally, someone who has his checkbook out and ready to go.  All you need is a little help from your sales manager.  And, then, it happens again.  NO.  Sometimes you feel that you not only have to fight prospects, but your sales manager also.

You managed to get your manager on board?  Great.  Now all you have to do is get the warehouse to agree to nudge a delivery in a little earlier than the calendar allows.  And, again, no.

Do the “no’s” ever stop?  No.

Of course, there are the yes’s-and that is what keeps us going.  Striving to get to the occasional yes.  However, all of those “no’s” can stop us dead in our tracks if we allow them.  How we handle the “no’s” is the key to how we get to the “yes’s.”

Attitude is one of the great limiters of salespeople.  People have a tendency to anticipate outcomes and many times that anticipation has an influence on the actual outcome.  If you approach a task with a defeatist attitude, there is a good chance that you will fail.  If you approach the same task with an attitude of success, there is a good chance you will succeed.  Why?  Several reasons, but two are of importance to our discussion.

First, if we assume we will fail, we will not give our best effort.  Why should we?  We already know the outcome before we even try to tackle the problem.  After all, we are just wasting our time.

Secondly, out prospect can read our defeatism in our voice and body language.  Moreover, if we do not believe in what we are saying, how in the world can we expect a prospect to believe it?

Consequently, in order to be successful, we must be able to take the rejection we experience and deal with it in a positive manner.  We have to find a way to eliminate the residual negative feelings we have from the rejection that seems to be all around us.

Advice for handling rejection has generally centered on either understanding that each “no” gets us closer to “yes,” or understanding that, since the prospect does not know us as an individual, the rejection cannot be personal, but is rather a rejection of the offer we made.

Both of these are true statements.  For many of us, neither gives us much relief.

So, if the traditional methods of dealing with rejection do not seem to work very well, what can we do to rearrange our attitudes?  It seems we need to find a format that will give us the opportunity to offset the rejection with success.  We need to institute a program that will allow our brains to regroup and experience the joy and positive reinforcement of getting the yes’s that offset the “no’s.”

How can we create a method to give our brains the positive yes’s it needs to readjust after receiving a chorus of no’s?

One method that has been very successfully used by a number of salespeople is to set aside tasks during the day where they know for certain they will be successful.  You have a contract to sign with a new client?  Try to schedule it later in the day, after you have done your cold calling tour of duty for the day.  End the day on the positive note of signing a contract.  Have a couple of very strong referrals to call?  Again, make the positive calls after you have made your cold calls.  Save the best for last.

Some salespeople have found that reversing this schedule leads to more productive cold calling time.  Having just come from signing a contract or having made two very successful calls to strong referrals gives them the positive mental attitude needed to sound strong and convincing on the phone when they make their cold calls.

Better yet, try to arrange your schedule where you have two or more positive tasks to perform each day and split them up so your brain is readjusted several times during the course of the day.  The more regularly you can feed your brain positive experiences, the easier it is to deal with rejection.  Rejection becomes the exception, rather than the norm.

Other salespeople use bribery to handle their rejection.  Bribery comes in all forms and fashions.  The salesperson will assign themselves a certain number of phone calls or presentations or other tasks that they must perform and then, as a reward, they allow themselves to do something they desire to do-work on their sales files, go to lunch, work on marketing materials, or some such.  Others reward themselves with new cloths or some other object.  Others will allow themselves to go home early or take a day off at some point in the future.

Other salespeople have found that detaching themselves from the rejection allows them to ignore their rejection.  These salespeople will use a number of impersonal prospecting methods, such as direct mail, email blasts, and advertising.  By not experiencing the rejection first-hand, they believe they can be more positive and successful when dealing directly with a prospect when making a full presentation.

My experience has been that methods two and three have serious drawbacks.  Let us take each in turn:

Bribing yourself can become expensive-both in terms of the rewards you give yourself, whether buying something for yourself or allowing yourself time off.  In addition, it really does not reprogram your brain.  All it really does is encourage you to get through the task as quickly as possible to get your reward.  If the reward discourages quality work during the task, it really is not a reward for doing the task, but is rather a reward for putting on the show of doing the task.

The third method-using an impersonal prospecting tool to replace direct prospect contact can also be dangerous.  There certainly is not anything intrinsically wrong with marketing via direct mail, advertising, emails, and such-as long as the object is not to avoid prospect contact.  Besides being relatively expensive, these methods of prospecting should be a supplement to your direct prospect contact, not a substitute.  Unfortunately, if your objective becomes avoiding prospect contact to insulate yourself from direct prospecting and rejection, the task of sending out direct mail pieces, sending emails, constructing ads, etc. become the goals in and of themselves.  They no longer become a format for increasing your potential pool of prospects, but rather they become the reason for your existence-you live to create the perfect direct mail piece that generates interest and sells your product or service without your involvement at all.

Arranging your schedule to allow daily activities that reinforce your positive selling activities, including prospecting tends to be the most successful way to deal with rejection.  Certainly, if you happen to be one of the lucky few who can simply ignore the rejection you receive, I envy you.  Nevertheless, for the vast majority of us in sales, we must find a format that allows us to reformat our brains after experiencing sustained rejection.  Allowing our brains to experience success on a regular basis, particularly after having experienced rejection, seems to be the attitude adjustment mechanism that works best for the majority of us.  Try arranging your schedule to purposely take advantage of the successes you know you will experience everyday.  Place them in your schedule when you know your attitude will need their positive influence and you will see a marked difference in the way you handle rejection.

November 22, 2008

The Four Pillars of a Successful Referral

At first glance, a referral is a pretty simple thing.  For most salespeople, managers, and trainers, a referral is just a name and phone number that a client has given the salesperson once the salesperson has completed the sale and has done a good job for the client.

Once a salesperson has received a referral, contacting the referred party is just as simple.  The salesperson either will call the referred party mentioning to him or her that the client, which they know, referred the salesperson to them, or will ask the client to write a referral letter to the prospect and then the salesperson will call the prospect after they have received the letter.  A very simple, straightforward process.

Unfortunately, this process is totally and completely wrong, and has been proven by millions of salespeople to not work worth a darn. Nevertheless, this is what is taught in almost every sales course in the world.  And not only is it a waste of time and effort, it deceives the salespeople who don’t succeed with it into believing that the fault lies with them, not with a “system” that doesn’t work.

Generating a large number of high quality referrals requires far more than “doing a good job and asking for referrals.”  It requires a systematic process of planting referral seeds, watering them at every chance, weeding out problems and issues, and then reaping the rewards.  That is what my PWWR (pronounced Power) Referral Generation System does.

If you want to generate a large number of high quality referrals from your clients, you must understand what a referral is based on.

A Referral is Based on a Foundation with Four Pillars-and you can control 3 of them:

The relationship between you and your client:  you can control this pillar of the foundation.  By instituting the full client relationship building process in detailed in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income: Sales Success through Client Referrals (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), you can create a strong relationship with your client built on mutual trust.  Clients don’t give referrals because they like you or even because you did a good job.  Clients hate to give referrals and unless they have a deep trust that you will not embarrass them and that you’ll deal honestly with the prospect they refer, they won’t be willing to give quality referrals.

Your client’s purchasing experience: you can control this pillar of the foundation.  You must discover exactly what your client’s expectations and priorities are, then meet-, and hopefully exceed them.  You cannot afford to guess or “think” you know what these are-you must know exactly and you can only do that by discussing them with your client and then making sure you meet them or exceed them-nothing less will do.

The relationship between your client and the prospect: you have no control over this pillar.  Clients will refer you to people they have very strong, positive relationships with and people they have very negative relationships with.  If the prospect trusts and respects our client, some that trust and respect will be automatically imbued to you.  On the other hand, if the prospect distrusts or doesn’t respect your client, some of that distrust or disrespect will also be imbued to you.  Your job is to find out exactly what the relationship between client and prospect is and then plan you approach accordingly.

Your initial contact with the prospect: you control this pillar also.  If you have built your relationship with the client properly, your client will be happy to contact the prospect in whatever method you desire.  As outlined in Creating a Million Dollar a Year Sales Income, there are a number of methods of contacting clients, each with their own pros and cons, depending on the strength or weakness of the client/prospect relationship.

As seen above, you have control of the majority of the pillars upon which a referral is based.  If any of the above is weak, your likelihood of generating quality referrals will decline and the weakness must be made up elsewhere.  In actuality, if one of the first two segments is weak, you will not be getting quality referrals-period.  However, you can mitigate the affects of the last two.

If the relationship between client and prospect is weak, use a stronger contact method.  Moreover, if the contact method is weak, convert the method into a stronger one.  For example, if your contact method is a phone call to a prospect who has a weak relationship with your client, try to bring in one or two other clients the prospect may know by reputation to build additional credibility.  Better yet, try to arrange a conference call between the prospect and your client.

Generating a large number of quality sales isn’t done by chance or luck, and neither is generating a large number of high quality referrals. Just as you need a well thought out process to consistently sell, you need a well thought out process to generate quality referrals.   You can significantly increase the volume and the success of your referrals if you understand the dynamics that generate quality referrals and then control those dynamics.

November 20, 2008

Guest Article: “My Client is a Jerk: Three Keys to Transforming Relationships Gone Wrong,” by Charles H. Green

Filed under: Client Relationships,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 6:21 am
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My Client Is a Jerk: Three Keys to Transforming Relationships Gone Wrong
By Charles H. Green

Have you ever had a difficult client? I don’t mean the client from hell, I just mean garden variety difficult. Difficult clients come in lots of different flavors.

• There’s the client who will not take the time up front to share critical information, explore ideas, or otherwise involve you in early stages;

• There’s the client who just cannot make a decision, regardless of how much data or analyses you provide at their request;

• There’s the client who is frozen by politics or fear or ignorance, who will not face facts about critical issues;

• Finally, there’s the client with personality issues, who argues, or rejects, or is otherwise disrespectful to you and your team, and who often shows favoritism to someone else rather than us.

Fortunately, there is a common thread to all these cases, which-if we understand it-can help us succeed.

The common thread has nothing to do with the clients. The common thread is us.

The Client Situation

First, let’s get some perspective-about our clients, and about ourselves.

We’ve all said, if only in our heads, “my client is a jerk.” But “my client is a jerk” is a terrible problem statement.

First, the client is unlikely to accept it as a problem statement, it’s highly subjective, and it’s quite unverifiable.

And frankly, people in a position to hire outside professionals typically have evidenced some degree of success in life. While it’s popular lately to describe the prevalence of “assholes” in business (see Bob Sutton’s excellent book), my guess is their frequency is overestimated. Most clients are intellectually and emotionally intelligent.

Most clients have spouses, or parents, or siblings, who seem to be quite capable of loving them. Most have a boss who has promoted them. It is wise to assume that, even if their behavior is bad, they have some ability to get by in life. True psychotics are pretty rare in business.

Furthermore, truly bad behavior more often than not comes from decent people who are stressed out. If someone is behaving badly, it’s a good bet that they are afraid-of losing something they have, or of not getting what they want.

If you can identify that fear, then you can replace demonization with a real problem statement-a far more productive approach. If, further, you can talk about that fear with your client, you will create a lasting bond that can serve you both well.

Our Own Situation

What’s true of clients is equally true for us. Particularly in selling, we are loaded with fears. We are afraid, first of all, of not getting the sale. And it goes deeper. We’re afraid of our boss, peers and loved ones knowing that we might not get the sale-afraid of their judgement. We’re afraid of the judging of the client, too-feeling that if we don’t get the sale, it means they think less of us.

But we ourselves carry the ultimate judges around in our own heads. We allow ourselves to be hijacked and held hostage by our own ideas of what constitutes success, or being “good enough,” or whatever value judgments we distill from our past, and apply to ourselves. There’s a thin line between having high standards and beating up on oneself.

If we allow ourselves to act from those fears, we are likely to run from judgment. One of the most emotionally attractive ways out of the tyranny of self-judgment is to blame others. It was not my fault, we want to say; the dog ate my homework. It was a bad hair day. Or-this sale was doomed because I got stuck with a difficult client. If you’d had my client, you couldn’t have done much either. It wasn’t my fault-it was the client.

But blame is more useless to us than our appendix. At least when an appendix gets inflamed, we recognize it and operate to remove it. When blame flares up, people at first commiserate with you, encouraging it. Then as it metastasizes into resentment, people begin to move away from you. Resentment, it is said, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Misery may love company, but company doesn’t return the favor.

Blaming a client never got you the sale, and it never will; but it may keep you from getting the next one. People don’t like blame-throwers. Clients especially don’t.

If there is such a thing as a truly “difficult” client, the only valid lesson to draw from the experience is to avoid similar clients in future. And that is a lesson best kept to yourself.

Self-Diagnosing

What’s true of clients is equally true for us. Particularly in selling, we are prone to fear, hence to blame. And that leads to nothing good.

The first thing to do is to notice our thoughts. Practice taking a “snapshot” of your thoughts when you are stressed.

Ask yourself, “what is the problem here?” If your mental snapshot answer starts with, “my client won’t…” or “my client doesn’t…” or “I can’t get my client to…” or “my client never…” then you need to step back and reframe your thinking. You are stuck in the blame game, spinning your wheels, and going nowhere.

You need a problem statement that has you in it, first of all. And almost always it should be a problem statement that is joint. If you and your client can’t even agree about why you’re not getting along, you’re certainly not going to make much progress on the substantive issues you want to work on.

Good problem statements are joint. Jointness is reflected in language, e.g.:

• Our problem is we have differing views about the priority of X and Y

• We seem to have a problem in communicating when it comes to Q and R

• It looks like we differ about the timeframe to be considered here.

If you have a “difficult” client, find a “we” statement you can each agree to that gets to the heart of the disagreement.

Fixes

Sometimes, all we need to do is jointly reframe an issue and, voila-our clients no longer seem so difficult.

It never hurts to go back to basics. One reason people act badly is that they have not had someone listen to them. Really listen. Deeply. Without reacting with suggestions or action steps. Just for the sake of understanding. “Just” understanding our clients often ends up being the catalyst that changes everything.

But sometimes, we need to do some advanced work on ourselves-in particular, to find out what we have become attached to that holds us hostage. Here are a few.

a. Don’t hold yourself hostage to the outcome. We should have points of view-that is part of what clients pay for. And we should argue clearly and forcefully for what we believe is right. But we are not responsible for our clients’ actions-only for informing their actions as best we can.

No one ultimately controls another human being without their consent-even at gunpoint. Holding ourselves accountable for changing others is a recipe for misery. Do the next right thing-then detach from the results. You don’t own the outcome.

b. Check your ego at the door. The best way to lose the sale is to try very hard to get the sale; the best way to lose the argument is to try very hard to win the argument. It is not about you. The only one who thinks it is about you is you. Focus on the client, not yourself.

c. Be curious. Is your client “difficult?” Be curious as to why. What is he afraid of? What is at stake for her? What is your role in the situation? What are you afraid of? On what basic issues do you see differently? What do you think the client sees as the problem statement? What problem are you both trying to solve?

There aren’t any difficult clients. Not really. There are only relationships that aren’t working well. And nearly all of those can be fixed. But it must start with us.

As Phil McGee says, “blame is captivity; responsibility is freedom.” To get free of “difficult clients,” take responsibility for fixing the relationships.

Charles H. Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates. The author of Trust-based Selling and co-author of The Trusted Advisor, he has spoken to, consulted for or done seminars about trusted relationships in business for a wide and global range of industries and functions. Centering on the theme of trust in business relationships, Charles works with complex organizations to improve trust in sales, internal trust between organizations, and trusted advisor relationships with external clients and customers.

November 18, 2008

Avoiding the Price Question Early in the Sale

The price of your goods and services is always a primary concern to your prospects. Whether you like it or not, price is top of mind with the majority, if not all, of your prospects; and you probably find the question of price comes up in your conversations with prospects long before you have had the opportunity to build value in your product and service.

The price question presents you with a serious dilemma-how do you honestly answer the question of price, yet at the same time save a detailed conversation about price until you have had the opportunity to build the value in your product and service that justifies its price?

The early introduction of the price question seems to put you in a position of having to choose between two rules of selling that appear to be antithetical to one another at this point-always answer your prospect’s questions honestly and directly, and never discuss price until you’ve built value in your product or service.

Fortunately, you can honor both rules.

The key to addressing the price question is understanding why the question is asked in the first place.  Many salespeople see the price question as an objection-it isn’t.  It’s an honest question by the prospect who is trying to determine their interest level in your product or service.  Just as you are trying to qualify your prospect, they’re trying to qualify your product or service, as well as qualifying you, and one of the major qualification questions they have is price.  They’re simply asking the question too early, before they have sufficient information to determine whether your product or service justifies the investment.

The easiest way to handle the question is to give the prospect a direct answer and then bridge back to your investigation of their wants and needs to build value.  Depending upon the product or service you’re selling, your answer to price may be specific-“This truck is twenty five six fifty four”-or general-“depending upon your specific needs we find when we do the needs analysis, the complete instillation of the software and training can range from a few thousand dollars on up.”

Your statement then needs to be immediately followed up with a question to bridge back to investigating their needs to help you build value.

In the truck example above you might then ask, “Will you be pulling a trailer often, or just on occasion?”  In this example your full statement would be, “This truck is twenty five six fifty four.  By the way, will you be pulling a trailer often or just on occasion?”  You’ve answered your prospect’s question, but you then lead them back into a discussion of their needs, which will help you determine what vehicle will best meet their needs, give you information to highlight the features of the truck that will meet those needs, and the benefits of those features that will give value to the price of the truck.

In the software example, the full statement might be something like:  “Well, Nancy, depending upon your specific needs we find when we do the needs analysis, the complete instillation and training of the software can be anywhere from a few thousand dollars on up; by the way, what other applications do you run that our software will have to be integrated with?”  Again, you’ve given an honest answer to the price question since at this point you don’t know what the package will cost.  Instead of trying to answer an impossible question, you’ve given the typical cost range and then followed with a question that will put the conversation back on track of investigating your prospect’s needs, allowing you to gather the information you need to build value in your product before you get into a serious price discussion.

Price questions need not create problems for you or for your prospect.  Price is a natural concern for the prospect, but knowing a price without understanding the real value of the product or service is meaningless.  Your job is to answer your prospect’s question and return the conversation to a point where you can build value for your prospect, so they can appreciate the price in context of value.

If you refuse to answer the price question you run the risk of insulting or angering your prospect-not to mention the damage you do to your credibility and trustworthiness.  But if you begin a serious discussion of price before you’ve had the opportunity to build value, you ask your prospect to make an investment without having a basis to determine whether the investment is justified.

By addressing your prospect’s question briefly but honestly, and then moving the conversation back to investigating your client’s needs and wants, you can successfully delay a detailed conversation about price until you’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate why your product or service justifies its price.

November 17, 2008

CanDoGo is Now a Free Site–Get Great Sales Tips from more than 60 of the Top Trainers in the World for Free

I have great news to share with you. I am one of the exclusive authors/speakers/trainers/coaches for a company called CanDoGo that delivers concise advice for sales, personal development, leadership and motivation over the Web. CanDoGo has just launched a brand-new site with thousands of free pieces of advice.

Now is a really important time to hone your skills and CanDoGo’s advice can help you adapt and succeed. I am proud to be part of CanDoGo’s world-renowned experts and I encourage you to check out CanDoGo or click on one of these three links that go directly to some of my sales tips on CanDoGo.

PWWR: Grow Your Own Referral Garden
What If They Don’t Purchase?
Why Clients Resist Giving Quality Referrals — Part 1 of 2: The Problems

Who are some of the other exclusive trainers on the site?  Tom Hopkins, Jim Cathcart, Jill Konrath, Jonathan Farrington, Zig Zigler, Denis Waitley, Tony Alessandra, Tony Parinello, Neil Rackham, and  dozens of others.

Go to CanDoGo now

November 14, 2008

Are You a Sales Professional or Semi-skilled Laborer?

We in sales work in what we like to claim is one of the highest paid professions, yet statistics indicate we are, in fact, employed in one of the lowest paying professions.  In fact, we are engaged in a business that is unevenly divided between a relatively small group of highly skilled professionals, earning some of the highest wages in the world, and a huge group of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, earning unskilled and semi-skilled wages.

One of the Lowest Paid Professions

Take a look at the following income statistics for some other professions (these are MEDIAN incomes from 2006*, meaning half those in the profession make less than the income listed, while the other half make more that the income listed):

Truck Driver:
Median income for those with less than 1-year experience:  $30,539
Median income for those with 10 years experience:              $48,654

Business Banker:
Less than one-year experience:   $42,000
10 years experience:                      82,539

Registered Nurse:
Less than one-year experience:    $44,969
10 years experience:                       58,988

Dentist:
Less than one-year experience:     $98,041
10 years experience:                      122,248

Family Physician:
Less than one-year experience    $101,423
10 years experience:                      130,593

CPA:
Less than one-year experience:    $47,218
10 years experience:                       68,968

Attorney:
Less than one-year experience:    $57,494
10 years experience:                     102,709

Engineer:
Less than one-year experience:    $55,011
10 years experience:                       81,221

Plumber:
Less than one-year experience:    $35,697
10 years experience:                       50,107

Carpenter:
Less than one-year experience:    $28,885
10 years experience:                       50,319

Now, here’s the median income for sales:
Less than one year’s experience:   $32,500
10 years experience:                       47,240

Notice something?  The only professions we start at a higher rate of pay are truck driver and carpenter-but by the 10th year we’re trailing them, as well as every other profession listed, in median income.

Can We Really Call This a Profession?

Why do so many of us make so little?  What do the other professions do that we don’t?

One glaring factor is education and training.  Seven of the ten non-sales professions above require a minimum of a college degree-along with additional specialized training.  Only two-banking and carpentry-don’t require a professional license of some sort (OK, some engineers don’t have to be licensed either, but a great many do). 

And sales?  With a few exceptions by product or company, no degree required.  Specialized training?  None required and little, if any, sales training provided by most companies.  Certainly, most companies provide product training; they want their salespeople to know the company’s products and services.  But most companies offer little sales training. 

Selling is one of the few professions where the ‘professional’ is often left to train him or herself because, after all, anyone can do it.  Give someone a phone and a list and they’re a salesperson, right?

Few professions or trades allow an untrained individual to “practice” their “craft,” because until trained, they don’t have a craft to practice.  That’s certainly not the way most companies and salespeople see selling.

No rational person would accept a doctor or lawyer who had not received extensive formal training in his or her profession and then proven a minimum level of competence by passing a professional licensing exam.  Likewise, we expect those engaged in skilled trades such as plumbing and truck driving to also have both formal training and certification in their profession.

The reward for their training?  For many, the rewards of their training are job satisfaction and enjoyment, but the primary reward is increased wages.  We naturally expect that the more time-and money–invested in one’s professional training, the larger the income reward. 

A doctor will invest 8 to 10 years beyond college in learning the basics of his or her craft and is rewarded with one of the top wages in the country.  An attorney will invest 3 or more years beyond college and is likewise rewarded with top wages.  Plumbers go through an apprenticeship and extensive testing to acquire their license and are rewarded with a top hourly wage, and those plumbers who continue their studies beyond the Journeyman stage and proceed on to become Master Plumbers are rewarded with even more income.

Yet few salespeople have undergone extensive and comprehensive sales training.   We, as a group, are woefully under trained, yet we expect to make professional wages. 

The typical company gives their sales team members less than 50 hours a year in formal training-and the majority of that training isn’t sales training but is rather product training.  Studies have discovered that the typical salesperson invests less than 30 hours a year-two hours a month–in study and training outside of what they receive from their company.

As a group, we are among the least prepared and skilled of any profession or trade.  Is it any wonder we are also one of the poorest paid?

The Professionals Among Us

Nevertheless, there are a great many highly skilled professionals in the sales industry, men and women who through hard work and substantial personal investment of their time and money have developed the knowledge and skills to reach the top of their profession. 

Although many average and less than average salespeople rationalize these top performer’s success as nothing but luck, having been given a book of business by a favorable manager, or as simply being a ‘natural,’ that is seldom the reality of their success. 

Top producers for the most part entered the sales profession in the same way as most salespeople-by accident, without knowing anything about selling, without the contacts and skills needed to succeed.  Most struggled for months or even years before they discovered the ‘secret’ to success. 

Virtually all of these top producers were given the standard advice to always be prospecting, ask for referrals, spend time in building rapport, find and solve the prospect’s needs, ask for the order.  Like most salespeople, they were told what they should do but were never taught how to do it. 

It wasn’t until they began to acquire training on their own through reading, listening to tapes and CDs, attending seminars and workshops, and diligently applying what they learned that they began to move from unskilled laborer to true sales professional.  Many, if not most, in this group invest anywhere from 200 to 300 hours per year or more in personal training and skill development-that’s 7 to 10 times the investment in training as the average salesperson.  Is it then any wonder they are not only better prepared to sell, but make 2, 5, 10, 20 or 30 times what the average salesperson makes?

Professional or Semi-skilled Laborer-It’s Your Choice

You don’t become a sales professional or stay an unskilled or semi-skilled laborer by accident.  You either do those things that will make you a highly paid professional, or you do those things that will keep you in the unskilled or semi-skilled labor category. 

You get to choose whether you want to become a professional and enjoy professional wages-or whether you’re happy being an unskilled laborer.  There are thousands of quality books, CDs, seminars, workshops and other training opportunities available.  You can pinpoint your specific needs and find a multitude of training resources to address them.  All you need do is commit yourself to getting and applying the needed training, and then do a simple Google search to find thousands of learning opportunities.

If you’re waiting for your company to train you, you stand an excellent chance of never growing beyond a semi-skilled wage.  You control your destiny.  Yes, it takes a commitment of time, energy and money-but rewards are not only a far more enjoyable and satisfying job, but also one that will provide you with the income you dreamed of when you entered sales.

* Salary information has been gathered from several sources such as salary.com and various industry sites.

November 13, 2008

Guest Article: “Use Psychology to Create Sales-Winning Relationships,” by Gregory Stebbins

Use Psychology to Create Sales-Winning Relationships
by Gregory Stebbins

A participant in one of my recent seminars asked me, “Can I rearrange my client’s office during a sales presentation?”

The sales person had gone to an initial meeting where the chairs in the office were about eight feet from the customer’s desk. He wanted to know if it was OK to just pick up one of the chairs and move it next to the desk and start his presentation.

How would you have answered this question? Believe it or not, your answer could have huge implications on this meeting’s success.

Everything in a customer’s office tells you a story about him or her-from the way the space is arranged to the items that have been collected and displayed.

Archeologists can dig up ancient cities and create a pretty accurate description of the inhabitants’ lifestyle just from the arrangement of the ruins and pottery fragments. As sales professionals we must do the same thing with the artifacts surrounding our customers, so we can communicate better and develop longer lasting relationships with them.

Here’s how you can promote a desirable impression and create sales-winning relationships by understanding space and the hidden message in things.

How to Promote a Desirable Impression By Understanding Space

In 1966, when anthropologist Edward T. Hall described set measurable distances between people as they interact he defined four distances:

  • Intimate distance – 6″ to 18″, for embracing, touching or whispering
  • Personal distance – 1.5 feet to 4 feet, for interactions among good friends
  • Social Distance – 5 feet to 12 feet, for interactions among acquaintances
  • Public Distance – more than 12 feet, for public speaking

How does this relate to your sales process?

Think about one of your customers. Divide her office into concentric circles, starting from where she sits. The distance between the circles is about the width of her desk. Anything close to the person-usually within arms reach-is the most important part of her office. This space generally contains her most precious, most valuable items. It is filled with clues that reveal to the trained sales professional a wealth of information about the customer and her needs and motivations.

As for the office the salesperson asked about rearranging, the chairs were set at the “social distance,” which the customer was communicating as appropriate for interactions among acquaintances (or in this case, sales people). For the sales person to pick up his chair and move into the next circle-personal distance-would have meant that he was declaring that the two of them were friends.

From the customer’s point of view this may or may not have been true. The customer could have reacted positively and allowed it. Or she could have reacted negatively and asked the sales person to leave. In any case, changing to another distance is likely to cause tension and would not promote a desirable impression.

A better strategy would be to ask permission to move the chair closer to the desk. Or, he could say that he had difficulty hearing the prospective customer clearly and then asked permission to move the chair.

How to Create Sales-Wining Relationships by Understanding the Hidden Message in “Things”

Analyzing your clients or prospects’ rooms will tell you their motivations and behavioral styles. By paying close attention and analyzing the hidden message in things, you will know how to best serve your customer.

If his desk is meticulous, it indicates a high degree of close tolerance, sometimes called analytical. Or his desk could be very messy indicating an engaging personal or social trait, sometimes called influencing. These are all clues to guide you in making a presentation that will have the greatest appeal and impact on your customer.

The books on the bookcase will tell you what is currently or has been important to him. Trophies, plaques and diplomas all tell you that he is motivated by recognition. While pictures of tropical isles indicate an idealistic approach to life and business. All of this information will guide you in presenting your case so the customer really “grasps” it.

Knowing how to analyze and use keys to the customer’s psyche is what separates the ordinary sales representatives from the sales professionals.

Here’s the point: By understanding sales psychology and enhancing your interpersonal skills you will make more sales. I guarantee it-and this is not just an idle claim. With more than 30 years of in-the-trenches sales experience and a Doctorate in Psychology, I’ve applied a wealth of knowledge, know how, and high impact techniques (like those described here) to help over 20,000 sales professionals improve their sales careers.

So, please take my advice. Take a moment to scope out your prospective customer’s office. It’s vital to developing longer lasting client relationships. The information about the person’s motivations and behavior is always available to you. Are you available to the information?

Sales Psychology Expert Gregory Stebbins has helped over 20,000 sales professionals become the point of differentiation while their competitors struggle with how to differentiate their product and service. In his book PeopleSavvy for Sales Professionals, he unveils for the first time his simple but groundbreaking plan to win your customers’ trust and business forever. Get your free sneak preview at http://www.peoplesavvy.com/book.htm

November 11, 2008

Guest Article: “Managers Continue to Teach Their People How to Avoid Full Accountability,” by Keith Rosen

Filed under: business,management,small business — Paul McCord @ 9:04 am
Tags: , ,

Managers Continue to Teach Their People How To Avoid Full Accountability
By Keith Rosen

“What is that guy doing now?” It was just an odd maneuver. Something out of the ordinary from what would have typically been an everyday experience at the drive through of a Burger King. (Hey, my kids love it and no, they don’t eat this ever day; just a treat!) I was on my way back home after spending the day with the family, unaware that within the next several minutes I’d be having a breakthrough which led to the development of many of the concepts and strategies you’re going to read about in my book, Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions.

I watched the customer in front of me drive from the first to the third window of the drive through which happened to have been closed. “What an odd maneuver,” I thought, as I noticed that the typical handoff through the drive through window was not in play. Instead, the cashier came outside, headset in tact and bags of food in hand, to deliver it directly to the window. The customer, happy to receive his order, drove off.

As I pulled up, I wondered if I too would suffer the same fate as the customer before me. Then it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a digital timer mounted above the cashier’s head near the window. At that moment, the manager at the drive in window waved me forward, without my food. “We will bring it out to you. Just pull up, please,” he requested.

The manager sent a young man out to my car and handed me my food. Wanting to understand this odd tactic, I couldn’t let it go. “I’m curious, why did we have to pull up, especially when there was no one behind me?”

“The timer,” he replied. “That’s how the manager is rated in performance. We’re supposed to serve each customer under a certain period of time.”

As a manager, is this truly a feat you’d want to be known for? This manager actually succeeded at beating the clock, yet at a greater expense and one that most managers are blind to. Then, with a puzzled look of disbelief, these managers are mystified when their staff doesn’t meet expectations of performance. This manager unknowingly or worse, consciously did his company, every customer, as well as every person on his team, a major disservice.

Is there really any wonder why there is such a shallow pool of real talent in the workforce? At some level, across every business unit, industry or profession, this is what our managers are teaching the workforce – how to skirt and dodge full accountability! And then they sit and wonder why they can’t attract better people into their organization who are fully accountable for their performance and success. Hmmmmmm.

Keith Rosen is the President of Profit Builders, LLC, (www.ProfitBuilders.com) a provider of leadership and sales coaching and corporate training. He is the author of Time Management for Sales Professionals. His last book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cold Calling has been featured in Inc. magazine and became a Best Seller on Amazon.com.

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