Sales and Sales Management Blog

September 29, 2009

Questions, Objections, or Dead Ends?

How do you handle cold calls when you get them at home or the office?  Although I haven’t bought anything from anyone who initiated their contact with me through a cold call in years and years, I accept almost every cold call that comes into my office.  No, I have no intention of purchasing whatever the product or service they are selling is, but I’m curious to find out how the seller on the phone is going to try to gain my attention and what they will do with it once they have it.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how many sellers seem to be unable to distinguish between a question, an objection, and a statement ending the conversation.

My observation from dealing with hundreds of sellers on the phone—and please don’t assume this is a cold caller issue alone as a great many sellers make these mistakes whether on the phone or in-person although they seem to be more prevalent in phone conversations—is they cannot distinguish between a straightforward question about their product or service, an objection to purchasing, and a direct statement ending the conversation.

This doesn’t mean that all sellers handle these situations in the same manner, but there does seem to be two primary schools of thought—two primary reactions—in how to deal with questions, objections, and conversation ending statements.

The “OK, I’m outta here” school:  The first method of handling these situations seems to be to simply fold up the selling tent and end the sales interview immediately upon getting what is perceived to be any resistance what-so-ever. 

Ask a couple of honest questions about the product or service and the seller seems to become discouraged and simply gives up.  State an objection to purchasing and they are ready to get off the phone.  Make a direct statement indicating you want to end the conversation and they can’t get off the phone fast enough.

They do not differentiate between probing questions to discover more information about their offering, an objection to making a purchase that could possibly be dealt with, and a desire to end the sales interview.  To them, they all indicate resistance and resistance means “no sale.”

The “I can’t hear you” school:  The opposite method of handling these situations is to also treat them all the same, but this time instead of rolling over and giving up, the seller presses on, ignoring the questions, ignoring the statements, forcing the prospect to either acquiesce to the sale or to finally hang up on the caller.

These are the sellers who have been trained that a ‘no’ never means no.  An objection is something to be ignored because it is nothing but a delaying tactic.  A statement seeking to end the conversation is nothing but an objection and objections are to be ignored because they are nothing but delaying tactics.  If you’re a really a good salesperson, you ‘lead’ the prospect to make the decision that is right for them, which is, of course, to make the purchase.

Why are these sellers so oblivious to the obvious differences between a question an objection and a desire to end the conversation?  Why do some see everything as resistance and others never see resistance?

Certainly, a great deal of this has to do with the sales training—or lack thereof—these sellers have received. 

Those who give up easily have probably had little or no sales training.  Product training, maybe; but I doubt they’ve had much training in how to sell.

Those who push forward no matter what have been trained very well—trained to ignore, to push, to bully, to demand until the prospect either buys or finds a way to end the conversation which probably means resorting to cussing out the seller or hanging up on them.  These sellers have been taught well in the sense that their trainers have instilled the desired behavior in them, but they certainly haven’t been taught to be professional sellers.

I think both of these groups of sellers suffer from more than just their training or lack thereof.  I think there are a number of sellers that suffer from a serious lack of communication skills.  They don’t listen.  They can’t assimilate what the prospect is communicating.  They really don’t know how to respond to what they perceive to be unwelcome or unexpected responses. Their focus is only on getting the sale which means for some what they say is the only thing of importance, what the prospect says is nothing but a distraction; while for others once they’ve made their case, they have nowhere else to go.

Communication has always been at the heart of selling and is becoming ever more critical as our prospects have more and more alternatives to acquire the information and guidance they need to analyze their problems and issues and to develop solutions to those problems and issues.  Our prospects now have as much information at their fingertips as we sellers can ever provide them.  An increasing number are deciding they don’t need a salesperson at all—ever.

If we sellers want to be relevant to prospects, we better learn the communication skills that have always been one of the hallmarks of the top sellers.


September 21, 2009

Guest Article: “Why Customer Service Destorys Salespeople,” by Mark Hunter

Why Customer Service Destroys Salespeople
by Mark Hunter

One position that has not been impacted by the economy is sales.  Ask any CEO and you will hear that one of their biggest issues is finding and retaining good salespeople. Something happened on the way to a sour economy: Too many companies learned the hard way that their salespeople didn’t know how to sell. Instead, their salespeople were good at taking orders and providing customer service.  There is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as the marketplace is always going to serve up new customers and keep current customers in business. Does that kind of marketplace always exist? Unfortunately, no.

As a sales consultant who works with a wide number of companies, I am not surprised with the current state of sales.  In the past 20 years, books and soothsayers have inundated us with advice saying that the best way to grow your company is through great customer service. (Think of companies like Disney, Marriott and Honda, just to name a few).  These are certainly great companies, and I’m personally an avid customer of each one.  However, if great customer service is all that is needed to win, then why is each of these companies struggling in today’s economy?

I don’t offer up this example to generate an in-depth discussion on economics and market share.  Rather, I put it out there to say that customer service alone is not going to help a company achieve its growth targets.  It is essential for salespeople to be focused on selling as their first priority and providing customer service as their second priority.

Selling is about digging in and working with customers to help them see needs they didn’t realize they had.  It’s about helping customers see how the solution for which they are looking can be found in what you are offering.  Selling is not about sitting back and taking orders based on what the customer wants.  If that’s selling, then there really is no need for a salesperson.  The entire process could be done on the internet or over the phone.  I know that observation just hit a sore spot to many of you reading this. Possibly, you’ve watched your industry be decimated by the power of the web. Nowadays, many customers can get what they want, when they want it and how they want it, all through their computer.

If your job was lost because of the internet, then let me share something that you may not like to hear, but is simply true: you weren’t selling; you were merely taking orders.  I am not putting myself on a pedestal, because one of my first sales jobs I thought I was a salesperson (at least, that’s what my business card said). In reality, I was doing nothing more than going around to grocery stores and taking orders from store managers.  I wasn’t selling. I was conveying information and providing customer service.

Today’s economy is crying out for salespeople. Are you someone who is willing to be assertive in making phone calls, meeting with customers, and spending time doing what I refer as the “deep-dive” with high-potential prospects to secure the really big business.  If a salesperson is not willing to go face-to -face with a customer, then they have absolutely no right to be in sales.  The only thing they are doing is hurting themselves and their employer.  The fastest test I know to measure a person’s aptitude towards selling is to ask them to explain in detail how they develop leads and handle cold calls.

When a company looks to outsource the lead generation process, or spend so heavily in advertising to try to create enough leads for everyone, then they are setting themselves up to fail.  Over time they will wind up with a sales team focused on capturing the easy sales. They do this by making everything a customer service moment.  This is akin to a pro-athlete thinking because they are a professional, they no longer need to stick to a physical workout program.   When a pro-athlete stops their conditioning program, they may not experience a falloff in performance immediately. Over time, however, the decline will be evident. The same is true for salespeople who are not routinely in the game of prospecting and developing new customers. They will lose their edge. The decline will be so slow that they won’t realize it is happening, let alone why it is happening.

Each client with whom I have the privilege to work hears this message:  The responsibility of finding and retaining new customers is the responsibility of every employee.  Salespeople by the very nature of their position must take the lead and be assigned weekly, monthly and quarterly goals of prospecting calls they must make.  Management owes them the tools that encompass an effective sales process. This process must include employees outside of sales whose primary responsibility it is to provide customer service. After all, salespeople should focus first on selling.  They need the time to achieve this realistic expectation.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit

September 11, 2009

Know a Top Salesperson? Show Them the Recognition They Deserve

Filed under: motivation — Paul McCord @ 7:31 am
Tags: ,

allbusiness sales allstarDo you know a true sales star? Who closes more deals and brings in business for your company or a company you know?

I’m pleased to help AllBusiness get the word out about the AllBusiness Sales Allstars.  AllBusiness will be honoring the top-performing salespeople working to excel in today’s tough marketplace. 

Each month the AllBusiness panel of sales experts will select one salesperson from among the nominees as that month’s Sales Allstar.  As one of the sales expert judges, I’m excited to see this great program launched and I’m really excited to learn about the top salespeople as their nominations come in.

Whether you’re a sales leader, a co-worker, friend, or acquaintance of a salesperson that deserves to be recognized as one of the top sales performers, nominate them and help us show them the recognition they really deserve.

Each month’s winner will be featured on AllBusiness and will be profiled in a feature article on both AllBusiness and Hoovers.  The annual winner will get a trip to San Francisco to create a series of videos showcasing their expertise and talent.

Yep, this is a big deal, so get on the ball and nominate a deserving salesperson–then keep an eye out for the first month’s winner.

September 10, 2009

There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel–But It Isn’t the Time to Celebrate

Filed under: attitude,Economy,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 9:49 am
Tags: , ,

Slowly we’re beginning to hear about an improved bit of economic news here, a better than expected economic thing there.  Some of the sellers and sales leaders I’m speaking to are asking about when I think the markets will really pick up and what are other clients saying about their sales and what they see on the horizon.  The feeling of deep gloom is beginning to get edged out by a feeling of at least a modicum of hope.

That slight feeling that the weight of the past year may be easing brings a bit of a sense of relief and in many cases a good deal of hope and joy. 

Don’t get carried away. 

No celebrations are in order. 

The fatted calf gets to live another day–or another week, month, or maybe even for another year before being slaughtered for the great celebration of the return of good economic times.

We sellers can’t allow ourselves to let up in the least.  As most of us know, contracts are still elusive and hard to nail down; competitors are still willing to cut profit margins to the bone; management is still fretting and in many cases micromanaging to their and our determent. 

Having had the advantage of living and selling through previous recessions, I’m well aware of false bottoms; of long, slow, hard recoveries; of the sometimes almost irresistible urge to take a breath, to come up for a bit of a break after an exhausting run. 

We see a bit of light.

The air begins to smell a little bit fresher.

The days begin to have the hint of spring after a long, hard winter.

A break seems to be not only in order, but very well deserved.

We relax.

We lose momentum, and once we’ve lost momentum, we may find it almost impossible to regain it.

We’ve all gone for a year, many of us for almost two years, fighting tooth and nail for even the smallest of sales. 

We want a break. 

We need a break. 

Our body and our mind are demanding a break.

Don’t buy into it.

Most of us won’t see an uptick in business for some time to come.  Others may already be seeing signs of increased business.  Either way, now is not the time to relax.

Those of us whose markets aren’t in the process of turning—that’s most of us—must continue to aggressively work to generate business.  Our survival depends on it.  We are still in survival mode.  If we let up, we risk more than just losing ground, we risk putting ourselves in a position where we cannot recover.

Those lucky few of us whose markets already appear to be in recovery cannot afford to relax either.  Now is the time to continue to push.  Your competitors are feeling the same urge to take a bit of a break after a hard run.  They also feel that they deserve—and need—some down time.  Let them have it while you aggressively go after the little bit of new business that is coming into your market.  Take this time to expand your sales business while your competitors are sitting back congratulating themselves for having survived.

Whether we’re still in the midst of  a bleak market but are beginning to feel a bit better based on some of the economic news we’re hearing or we are in a market where we actually see some relief from the past downturn, our focus must be on charging ahead. 

Yet, we can all take heart knowing this won’t last forever.  Those of us who lived through the terrible Ford/Carter years of the 70’s and the Savings and Loan debacle of the 80’s can attest that no matter how bleak things may appear—and, boy, 18% interest rates and seemingly every S&L executive in the country going to prison made things look awfully bleak–the light does eventually shine through. 

Don’t let your guard down but don’t despair either.  You can get through this.  The demands of slogging through this recession and then taking aggressive advantage of an improving market won’t last a lifetime (although it may seem that way now).  You’ve come a long way in the past year or so.  You’ve done what so many haven’t—survived a terrible recession. 

No, it isn’t over. 

No, you can’t let up.

But you’re winning the battle and when the economy does recover, you’ll be in a position to expand your sales business—and your income. 

Take five minutes to congratulate yourself for your endurance, your determination and commitment to succeed.

OK, now back to work.

September 8, 2009

Is Your Follow-up Communication Guilty of Prospecticide?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 8:34 am

Like Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote,” I run into cases of murder everywhere I go.  Unlike Lansbury who faced cunning villains who intentionally murdered, the cases I come across are unintentional, but with the same deadly results.  Lansbury’s villains used guns, knives, and other assorted weapons; the killers I come across use words.  She dealt with homicide; I deal with prospecticide, the killing of prospects.

Are you guilty?  Are you one of the millions of salespeople who have committed one of the worst of sales crimes?  Worse, are you a serial prospecticider? 

Most typically, prospecticide isn’t a one-time crime.  It becomes so ingrained in the perpetrator that they don’t even realize they are committing the crime.  And just as with Lansbury’s villains, the prospecticider faces stiff penalties in the form of lower income, more difficult sales, and, possibly even the sales equivalent of the death penalty–having to find another occupation.

How do you commit this heinous crime?  You commit prospecticide when you kill your prospects through communications with them that train them to avoid you because you’re focused on your needs not theirs.  Your phone calls, your e-mails, your voice mail messages, and other communications are designed to advance your cause, not theirs. 

Every communication you have with a prospect trains them either to pay attention to you because you bring value to them or to avoid you because all you do is waste their time.

Particularly in a long sales cycle, your communication with your prospect is crucial.  Each time you send something, call, or leave a voice message, you are telling your prospect what you think their time and attention is worth.  You’re telling them whether you’re concerned about them—or about yourself. 

In addition, you’re telling them a great deal about you and your business.  You’re telling them what your time is worth, what you think is important, and, most importantly, whether or not you have anything of value to say.  You’re telling your prospect how professional you are—or how shallow. 

Your communications, no matter what form they take, are you.  Your letter, your e-mail, your voice message, your thank you card are all you, just without you physically being in front of the prospect.  They are you and your business to the prospect.  The message they send is just as important as any message you would deliver in person.

Before sending anything, before picking up the phone, and before leaving the voice message, ask yourself a few questions: 
•  Would I want to hear from me?
•  Would I want to receive this? 
•  Does this represent me well?
•  Does this add value to our relationship?
•  Is this designed to benefit the prospect—or me?

If your answer doesn’t indicate that the communication is prospect centered and adds value for the prospect, why are you delivering it?

Most salespeople seldom think about the content of the communications they deliver to their prospects.  The object, they figure, is to keep their name in front of the prospect and to let the prospect know they are interested in acquiring the prospect’s business. 

The issue isn’t with the salesperson’s objective, but with the way they do it. 

Typical follow-up communications are
•  the “how ya doin’?” call
•  the “is there anything I can do for ya?” call
•  the “did ya get my package?” call
•  the “I couldn’t reach you, but I wanted to see if you need anything” e-mail
•  and the “here’s my information again just in case you misplaced it” package. 

As most often made, these communications are time wasters for the prospect.  If they had made a decision or if there were anything they needed, they would have called.  These communications teach the prospect to avoid the salesperson because they’ve learned the salesperson will do nothing but waste their time.  The next thing the salesperson knows, their calls are screened and their messages not returned.

Prospects don’t have their calls screened, ignore voice mail messages and e-mails, and throw written correspondence in the trash without reading it to be rude.  They do these things because they have been taught by salespeople that answering and returning calls and reading the material salespeople send have no value.  Salespeople have taught them to avoid salespeople at all costs.

Does that mean you can’t communicate with your prospects? 

Certainly, you can.  However, your first job is to teach your prospect that you, unlike other salespeople, value of their time; and that when you call, when you send an e-mail, when you request a return call, when you send a letter or package, it adds value for the prospect and that spending a few minutes speaking with you or reading your communications is worth the time spent. 

What can you communicate that will add value for your prospect?  There are a myriad of possibilities. 
•  Articles relating to aspects of the prospect’s company or industry that may impact the their business.  These articles must come from a source the prospect is not likely to have read.
•  Changes in your product or service that enhance your ability to meet your prospect’s needs
•  Articles or reports about micro or macro economic issues that may make it advantageous for the prospect to make a decision now instead of later.
•  Announcements of awards your company has won for its products or about new product enhancements or releases
•  Possibly the prospect or his/her company has recently received awards or press coverage or sponsored events you can congratulate them on
•  Articles relating to an interest outside of work you know the prospect has.  Again, these articles should come from sources the prospect isn’t likely to discover on their own.
•  Special discounts, upgrades, or arrangements you can offer the prospect that are outside your company’s normal procedures.

These are just a small sampling of the items that can add value for your prospect.  The more timely and pertinent the message, the more value it adds.  The more value you add, the more valuable you become.  The more valuable you become, the more you ease competition out of the way and the less price is an issue.

On the other hand, the less value you bring, the less valuable you are.  The less valuable you are, the more difficult it is to reach your prospect.  The more difficult to reach your prospect, the less likely a sale and the more likely you just committed prospecticide.

If you’re a serial prospecticider, there is hope.  You can be rehabilitated.  Yes, there is a chance for recidivism, but once you become aware that every communication you have with a prospect is just as important as your first, and once you see the payoff of becoming a respected and valued source of information, the less likely it is you’ll go back to your old murderous ways.

Do you want to be able to reach your prospect anytime you want?  Do you want your calls returned?  Do you want to move your competition out of the way?  Do you want to eliminate price as a primary issue?  Then stop teaching your prospects to ignore you and begin teaching them that you are the one salesperson they need.  If they determine they need you and that you add value to them and their business, you’ll have no difficulty in gaining their attention anytime you want it.

Today’s News:  There is still time to register for the Recession Buster Webinar and receive the early registration savings .  Four powerful and proven strategies to find and connect with high quality prospects and grow your business in today’s economy.  Learn more and register at


September 5, 2009

Guest Article: “Position Yourself as a Leader,” by Mark Hunter

Filed under: Leadership,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 11:13 am
Tags: , , ,

Position Yourself as a Leader
by Mark Hunter

It’s been said that to be a successful salesperson, not only do your listening skills have to be great, but your closing skills have to be even better.  However, I believe that while these skills are helpful, they are not essential.  In my opinion, to be a top-performing sales professional, you must be a great leader.   It is a fundamental character trait.  Although we have all known salespeople who have had stellar years based on the luck of a few great clients, those with sustained, long-term success always exhibit great leadership skills.

What is a leader?  Leaders are people who empower others to do seemingly impossible things, whether individually or as part of a group.  They help people see issues and opportunities they would not normally see themselves.  Most importantly, they instill a level of confidence in people that make them pro-active in dealing with situations they otherwise would be hesitant to handle. 

These leadership traits are essential for top-performing salespeople to exhibit on a daily basis.  By demonstrating these qualities to your prospects and clients, you are communicating your value to them.  They will see that you have their best interest in mind and are not out to just “make a sale.”  You will create the confidence they need to desire to do business with you.  Salespeople who see themselves as leaders are far more likely to provide the client with the services necessary to help them achieve their long-term goals.  For example, a salesperson who is a leader will wisely show a 25-year-old the significance of buying life insurance both as an investment tool and a “peace of mind” policy.

Top-performing salespeople understand how positioning themselves as leaders can further their success.  You will increase your profits by selling more to an existing customer, so it only makes sense to display leadership to them.  In addition, because the best new clients often come from referrals, your existing customers will be much more apt to confidently recommend you.  In my experience, I have observed that salespeople who behave as leaders are less likely to need multiple closing techniques to make a sale.  I firmly believe that the higher the degree of leadership in a sales professional, the less time spent on closing the deal.  Similarly, the opposite holds true, and the result is a loss of valuable time.

Over the years, I have come to believe that “sales is leadership and leadership is sales.”  The more salespeople with whom I work, the more I confirm the validity of this statement.  Although it’s important to work on both your ability to listen and your closing techniques, fostering your leadership skills is far more essential.  Begin today to set yourself apart from the competition by positioning yourself as a leader to your employees, your clients and your prospects.


Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit

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