Sales and Sales Management Blog

December 30, 2009

Guest Article: “The Truth About Frogs,” by Brian Tracy

As we enter a new year, I thought a reminder of Brian Tracy’s advice about eating a frog every morning would be most appropriate.

The Truth About Frogs
By Brian Tracy

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.

Conquer the Hardest Task First
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.

Don’t Procrastinate
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long. The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

Take Action Immediately
Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete. “Failure to execute” is one of the biggest problems in organizations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.

Develop a Positive Addiction
You can actually develop a “positive addiction” to endorphins and to the feeling of enhanced clarity, confidence, and competence that they trigger. When you develop this addiction, you will, at an unconscious level, begin to organize your life in such a way that you are continually starting and completing ever more important tasks and projects. You will actually become addicted, in a very positive sense, to success and contribution.

No Shortcuts
Practice is the key to mastering any skill. Fortunately, your mind is like a muscle. It grows stronger and more capable with use. With practice, you can learn any behavior or develop any habit that you consider either desirable or necessary.

Action Exercise
What is your “frog?” What is the one task that you despise doing each day? Once you have chosen your “frog,” make it a habit to wake up every morning and do that task first.

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations.  Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined.  Brian Tracy has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 4,000,000 people in 4,000 talks and seminars throughout the US, Canada and 40 other countries worldwide. As a Keynote speaker and seminar leader, he addresses more than 250,000 people each year.   Visit his website

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December 28, 2009

Free Webinar, Jan 21: 4 Quick Steps to Triple Your Client Referrals

Free Webinar: 4 Quick Steps to Triple Your Client Referrals

Thursday, January 21  2PM Central Daylight Time

LIMITED SEATING so register early

Few sellers generate enough high quality referrals to seriously impact their sales and income because few have been taught how to work with their clients to generate high quality referrals. 

Most sellers have been “taught” that all you need to do is ask a satisfied client for referrals and they’ll give them.  Most find that asking doesn’t work.  Sure, there are a few clients who willing give “referrals,” but most won’t.  And even the “referrals” most sellers do get are nothing more than worthless names and phone numbers of people who have no interest in or need for their product or service.

Asking for referrals won’t get you where you want to go.

You must learn to work with your client to generate introductions to prospects who want and/or need your products and services.

That takes far more than asking some silly question such as “Ms. Client, do you know of anyone else that might be able to use my products or services?”

On January 21 we’ll focus on 4 easy to implement actions that will dramatically increase the number and quality of referrals you receive from each of your clients.

During this Hour You’ll Learn:

  • Why asking for referrals is a total waste of time
  • How to make your client comfortable and confident in giving high quality referrals
  • How to get your client to willing agree to give you multiple high quality referrals
  • How to get 3, 4, or more high quality referrals from your client—even if they say they have none to give you
  • How to nail down appoints with your referred prospects

The mega-producers don’t ask for referrals–but most have built their business on referrals.  Learn why you need to forget everything you’ve been taught about referrals—and learn how to generate them the same way the mega-producers do.

Start 2010 off right by learning how to fill your pipeline with great prospects.

LIMITED SEATING

Register HERE

December 21, 2009

Guest Article: “The End of Sales Obesity,” by Daniel Waldschmidt

Filed under: sales,selling,success — Paul McCord @ 10:59 am
Tags: , , ,

The End of Sales Obesity (or 7 ways to tighten your selling abs)
by Daniel Waldschmidt

It’s that time of year.  You push back from the table with a awkward sense of “why did I gorge myself so much”.  Any movement out of your chair is slow and painful.  You just feel annoyed with yourself.  About the only word you can say is “ugggggh…..”

You didn’t even enjoy anything you were stuffing into your mouth.  It was in front of you along with the knife and shovel (a.k.a “spoon”) so you just kept pushing more down.  Plate after plate after plate….  (The toothpicks stacked up from the cheese cubes you ate could make  a little village.)

Sounds kind of like the holidays, right?

I was actually talking about how the typical sales dude spent 2009…. 

Stuffing down lead after lead.  Meeting after meeting.  Without taking the time to savor each opportunity.  Without a thought about what could be.  No need for practice or preparation — just choke it all down before the guy in the cubicle next to you can grab the lead.

It’s a classic case of sales obesity.

I got to thinking about it not too long ago.

Two weeks ago, the New England Journal of Medicine noted that about 34% of U.S. adults, or 72 million people, are obese.  That means that you weigh more than 30% more than doctors somewhere think you ought to weigh. 

I don’t really care too much about all these opinions.  Frankly, I’m not too fond of people telling me what to do in the first place.  What did catch me eye was a line almost at the end of the article. 

According the experts, you can add-up to four years to your life by slimming down.  Less pudding. More proteins….

Now that gets my attention.  Quality of life is important.  But so is quantity.  I may push the limits of all things “outrageous” and set the tone of living life extreme, but I still don’t plan on checking out any time soon.  (not if I can help it)

I feel the exact same way about closing big deals.  I don’t want to check out too soon.  And I certainly don’t want to get sloppy doing what I am doing.

And yet as I look back this year, I think I see some bad habits.

Frankly, I am upset about how sluggish I feel after plowing through a year of leads.  I don’t even remember most of their names or why they called me in the first place.  I speak and they come to to hear me, but I don’t get the opportunity to hear all their stories — to make a difference.  They called me for help, because they wanted to generate a lot more revenue, and I was too busy to really help them.  I need to do better in 2010. 

How about you?

Did you “qualify” your easy-money deals into your annual “102% of quota” report  without putting in the extra effort to land a few “super huge ones” that only require a little more discipline — a little more sales fitness?

Did you? 

Probably…  (and not because I love being the “Nagging Nelly” of sales writing)

That’s probably what happened BECAUSE that is what is easiest to happen.  Left alone, without a plan to stay in “selling shape”, we tend to just stuff ourselves with sales leads and hope that we close enough business to stay off of HR’s radar screen.

So what to do?

Here’s a few ideas for 2010:

  1. Create sales goals for yourself that are outrageous to your sales manager…
  2. Treat each lead with respect even you if you decide that you won’t sell to them…
  3. Manage your selling distractions proactively before they start effecting your performance…
  4. Say (and mean) “Thank you…” and “I’m sorry…” to stop negativity from controlling your attitude…
  5. Read and meditate on a wide range of books, blogs, magazines, and videos about your craft of selling…
  6. Keep trying even when it seems like what you trying to do is not working.
  7. Live without regrets — don’t contribute to future bad karma coming back to you.

If I can simply trade twinkies for four more years of my life, I would be crazy to ignore that opportunity.

And it’s the exact same for selling big deals.  Why would you want to stay sloppy and slow when you could be a rockstar?

So I am declaring the end of “sales obesity”.  Let’s get back in shape together…

What do you say?

Care to hit it out of the park with me in 2010?

Dan is the writer of THE DEW VIEW! blog, partner in private equity technology accelerator, former technology CEO, engagingly entertaining public speaker, father to (2) energetic boys, early-early-early adopter of amazingly new technology products, husband to a cute gal (named Sara), and overall ordinary dude with an outrageous vision…

Today’s News:
My friend and fellow Top Sales Expert, Nancy Nardin is offering 6 great Sales Stocking Stuffers over on her site.  Some are free, none cost more than @29.95 and all are designed to help you sell more.

Head over to Nancy’s and stuff your stocking and increase your sales

December 18, 2009

Blast Your Pipeline with Dozens of Quality Referrals in 30 Days

This is chapter three from my e-book: Recession Proof Your Pipeline: A Dozen Strategies to Fill Your Pipeline in 30 Days

Blast Your Pipeline with Dozens of Quality Referrals in 30 Days

Large numbers of high quality referrals are difficult for most salespeople to generate.  Certainly, many will manage to get a name and phone number here and there.  However, most of those names and phone numbers are little better than taking out the phonebook and pointing a finger at a name. 

It need not be that way.

By learning a disciplined, effective, proven process for generating a large number of high quality referrals from each of your clients and even your prospects, referral selling can become a reality.  It is for many of the top producers in every industry.

Yet of course, you can’t possibly learn and implement a systematic process of referral generation and expect to see significant results in only 30 days.

The good news, however, is that you can still generate a substantial flow of business in only 30 days if you learn to turbo charge your client’s ability to give you a large number of quality referrals in a very short period of time—virtually overnight.

Whom do You Want to Be Referred To?

If you expect to use referrals as an igniter of your pipeline in short order, you’ll have to do all of the work for your clients.  Asking your database of clients for referrals will generate referrals if done correctly.  However, the fruits of that request won’t be seen quickly.

You, of course, don’t have the luxury of waiting.  You need business NOW.

Therefore, you’re going to make giving referrals easy—for your client.

Sit down right now and draw up a list of 100 individuals or companies YOU KNOW you want to be referred to.  Be specific.  List the name, the phone number and the address of each individual or the name, phone number, address, and the specific person within the company for each company you wish to be referred into.

You may have to do some serious research.  Nevertheless, your list is the critical part of this strategy.

Don’t stop at 50, or 70, or 90.  List a minimum of 100 individuals or companies.  Remember, you’re going to make it easy for your client to refer you.  Someone must do the work—and that’s you.

When making your list, leave room on the right side of the sheet beside each name to put the name of the person who is going to refer you to that person or company.

Who Is Going To Refer You to Whom?

Great.  You know 100 individuals or companies you want to be referred to. 

So, how are you going to get referred to them?  By your clients, of course.

Now, take your database of clients and examine each one.  Which client do you have reason to believe can refer you to the first person on your list?  The second?  The third?

The more you know about each of your clients, the easier this part of the task will be.  Hopefully, you’ve come to know the majority of your clients well.

Beside each prospect, list the client–and their phone number–that you believe can refer you to that prospect.

If you have a list of 100 people or companies you know you want to be referred into, you’ll probably be able to identify 70 or so that you have reason to believe one of your clients may know and can refer you to.

If you have 70 prospects your clients may know, you’ll probably find they can actually refer you to about 47.

If you are referred to 47, you’ll probably set appoints with about 35

If you set appointments with 35, then multiply 35 by your average close ratio—that is what you can expect to close.  If your close ratio is 40%, you should have in your hand 14 short-term sales

Get the Referrals

Now the question is: how do you turn your list into referrals?

Naturally, you are going to go back to each of the clients that you have identified as a potential referrer to someone on your list.

Start with the clients you have the strongest relationship with first.  Better to get some positive reinforcement from your best relationship clients before you approach those you have a weaker relationship with.

However, before you approach anyone, you need to get comfortable with what you’re going to say.  You don’t want to stumble and stammer.  You want to come across to your client as comfortable, confident, and in control.

Referrals can be tricky.  They are hard to generate if your client doesn’t believe you expect them and that you have earned them.  If you doubt, that doubt will be picked up by your client, who will be less likely to agree to give them.  After all, if you don’t believe what you’re saying, why should your client?

Get your act together before you make your call to your first client.

Don’t ask for referrals via a letter or email.  You will be far more successful if you ask in person.  Short of that, you must make a personal phone call.  Generating referrals is a relationship action, not an impersonal request.  You must deal with your client on a one-on-one, personal level. 

When you call, before bringing up the referrals you seek, find out if your client has ANY needs, concerns, or requests regarding your product or service.  In other words, make sure you still have a happy and fully satisfied client.  If you don’t, you cannot expect referrals.  If the client is dissatisfied for any reason, instead of referrals to get, you have customer service work to perform.

Then, once you know your client is still ‘on the team,’ explain that you have a favor to ask.  You have two or three people you believe you can help but have not been successful in being able to meet through the normal course of business.  These are people that you thought for whatever reason the client might know and are hoping that if they do know them, that they would be comfortable referring you to these prospects. 

If you have done your research and matching of prospect to client well, your client will probably know one or two of the prospects you ask about. 

Once they acknowledge they know them, find out how well.  With a referral, you are hoping to build a relationship with the referred prospect based on their trust and respect for your client.  If the prospect trusts and respects your client, some of that trust and respect is imbued to you—so you start your relationship with the prospect from a positive position.

However, the person you’re asking about may not trust and respect your client.  If they are just casual acquaintances, their trust relationship is neutral, as will be your starting point.  In addition, if the prospect distrusts and disrespects your client, your starting point will be from a negative position because some of the distrust for your client will also be imbued to you.

It is important that you know where you start–the stronger the relationship between client and prospect, the better your chances of getting an appointment and a sale.

If you have done your job for the client well, they should have no problems referring you into the prospects they know.

Work your way through your list of 100 prospects.  You should have more than a month’s work ahead of you.  Again, you will probably have about 70 prospects to contact and set appointments with.

Don’t Just Get Referred, Get Introduced

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a referral is to simply get your client to agree to refer you.  That’s what the average salesperson does—and it doesn’t work well.

Instead of just getting a verbal referral, that is having your client say, “Sure, I’ll refer you to them,” get a direct introduction to the prospect.  Not only is a direct introduction more powerful than an agreement to use the client’s name, a direct introduction, if done correctly, almost guarantees a private meeting with the prospect.

Although there are a number of ways of getting a direct introduction, when under the time pressure of a 30-day explosion of production, you have 3 realistic options:

  1. A Letter from Your Client Written by You for Your Client’s Signature.  A letter of introduction will probably be your standard format for a direct introduction.  Don’t ask your client to write the letter because they will not have the sense of urgency you need, nor will they write the letter you want written.
            Instead, write the letter for your client, on your client’s stationary, in your client’s voice.  Use a standard format:  1st paragraph informs the prospect of what you did for the client; the 2nd gives the prospect an idea of what you might be able to do for the them; the 3rd states an exact day and time the client has asked you to call the prospect; and the 4th has your client asking the prospect to call the client after your meeting with the prospect so the client can get the prospect’s opinion of you and your company ( the reason the client requests this is because the client respects the prospect’s judgment).
           Have your client sign the letter and then mail it to the prospect.  A day or two after the letter should have arrived, call the prospect.  Assume the prospect has not read the letter.  When you reach the prospect, immediately refer to your client and the letter, not to yourself.  If you introduce yourself first, the prospect may determine you are nothing but another tele-marketer before you have the opportunity to mention your client’s name and they may mentally block you out.  Don’t give them the chance.  Gain their interest with your client’s name first.
             Some salespeople think they can get around the letter by simply acting as if a letter has been sent.  Bad move.  Some prospects, after getting off the phone will look for the letter.  If it isn’t there, only one of two things could have happened—the letter was lost in the mail or the salesperson lied.  Guess which one they’ll assume?
  2. A Phone Call to the Prospect From Your Client While You’re in the Client’s Office.  This is, of course, a more powerful introduction than a letter.  Don’t’ let your client call without you being present.  You want a direct introduction and you want to know everything that is said during the conversation. 
         Although powerful, this format has some drawbacks.  This method is powerful because it is unusual and because it allows the prospect to ask direct questions about you, your product and the client’s purchasing experience.  This format can backfire if there are questions you’d rather the prospect not ask.  If there are weak areas in your client’s purchase, this may not be your best choice.
    However, this format almost guarantees a meeting with the prospect since it is difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting request when the client is also on the line.
  3. A Lunch Meeting with Your Client, the Prospect and Yourself.  This is, by far, the most powerful introduction format you can use in this circumstance.  A lunch format allows you to get to know the prospect as a friend prior to getting to know them as a prospect or client.  In addition, in this format, your client acts as your salesperson during the lunch, you’re there as the consultant.  As with the phone call format, it is very difficult for the prospect to decline a meeting request in front of the client.  Furthermore, since the meeting format is informal, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the prospect and their business long before you begin discussing business.  If you pay attention, you should have a great deal of ammunition before the subject of business comes up.

Execution

Developing referrals from your clients can take some time.  You must develop your list of prospects you want to be referred to; you have to match those prospects to individual clients in your database; you must contact each individual client for the referrals; write the letters or arrange the calls or lunches; and then have the actual contact with the prospect.  All of this before you even have the individual meeting with the prospect. 

This method requires you to be disciplined, very well organized, and committed to working the process.  You must have a sense of urgency or time will slip away and you won’t meet your 30-day goal. 

Commit yourself to having your prospect list completed within 2 days.  Keep in mind, developing this list may take some serious research.  Then, once you have your prospect list, you should have matched prospects to clients by the end of day three.  By the end of the fourth day, you should have contacted and received referrals from several clients.

As soon as you have referrals, start the introduction process.  Don’t try to go through all 100 prospects prior to beginning getting introductions.  You’ll run out of time.  Again, this format calls for good organizational and coordination skills.  You’ll have to be gathering referrals while working referrals.

More than likely, you’ll find that you’ve filled your pipeline and still have more referrals to pursue.  Good job!  Not only will you have jumpstarted your sales again, you’ll carry that momentum into the coming months as well.

Want more strategies to help fill your pipeline quickly?  You’ll find 11 more strategies for using the phone, networking, creating marketing partnerships and more in Recession Proof Your Pipeline.  Order it here

December 17, 2009

Guest Article: “Can Your Business Survive a Drop in Google Ranking?” by Donald Farber

Filed under: business,lead generation,small business — Paul McCord @ 8:44 am
Tags: , , ,

Can your business survive a drop in Google ranking?
by Donald Farber

Have you heard the term Hilltop when someone is talking about Google? No, it’s not a big mountain of money that Google piles up at their corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California.

What about Google Caffeine? Maybe it’s what happens when you drink too much coffee and spend an afternoon querying random things.

Not the case either – Google Caffeine and Hilltop are what are known as algorithms, or search architecture updates, that are used by the search engine giant to determine relevancy when you look for something on the internet.

That’s fine but what do these algorithms mean to your small business?
Many small businesses live and die by their Google rankings and it’s factors like these algorithms that decide where you rank.

Some small online businesses generate almost all of their revenue from ranking for only one or two keywords in Google. So when someone searches for those terms, their website will come up near the top of the listings.

Having to rely on ranking well in Google for a few keywords is a risky way to run a business. What if your ranking dropped tomorrow and didn’t come back for another 6 months? Could your business survive?

Typically you have to do something against Google guidelines or the algorithm’s formulas to see this kind of drop in rankings but it’s probably not worth the risk. Many sites have been knocked into obscurity for various reasons.

How do you protect yourself?
I know a lot of you aren’t going to like to hear this but the best way to protect your online business is to spend the time (or money) to build a great website:

  • Make it a vast resource and continually add pages of content
  • Have content that interests and engages your visitors
  • Make the website easy to navigate
  • Get an excellent design that makes your site stand out from the competition

Unless you’re multitalented this isn’t going to come cheap but there is a lot of software out there that makes this easier for small businesses on a budget.

These factors will make people want to talk about your site and link to it, which will bring better rankings and more visitors. You still need to get the word out about your website but having a site that is linkable will make life much easier.

The other thing about building a great website is that people wont forget about you. They’ll bookmark your site, write it down, send it to friends by email, tag it, and remember it later. They’ll do this because you’ve built a great resource on the subject, product, or service that they’re interested in.                                                                                                       

Build a brand
When most people think of online auctions they think of eBay. If someone is on the Internet looking for the new Coldplay album there is good chance they might go straight to iTunes without looking anywhere else.

Some companies are known for selling shoes, pipes, cat toys, pencils, or ornamental grasses. If you are an ornamental grass connoisseur than you might immediately think of Grassgardens.co.uk when you’re looking for grass for your garden.

Being known as “the website that sells ornamental grass” might not be as lucrative as the “company that sells laptops” but the competition isn’t as strong so you can own that niche more easily. Owning a niche is not easy but it’s not impossible either, especially with the amount of lazy webmasters out there.

Brands don’t need to be big but they need to be well known within that group of consumer. If you’re a small businesses offering anything then you need to own that product or service to be the best online. It’s starts with a great website.

Content content content
Without content most websites wouldn’t get any traffic from search engines. The more pages of quality content you have, the greater chance that someone will find your site from Google searches.

Google estimates that 20-25% of all searches are new so by creating more pages of content, you will increase the chances that your website has what they are searching for regarding that topic.

Creating quality content is important because it gives someone a reason to link to you and it also gives the visitor a reason to trust you when they get to your site.

Interaction
The problem with advertising on social media sites like Facebook is that the user is not looking for a product or service. They are on the site to interact with their network of friends and family. But when someone searches “buy new Coldplay album,” chances are they are looking to purchase the new Coldplay album.

What Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, and other social platforms do is allow companies (and more specifically people at the companies) to interact with their customers directly. This allows the customer to build trust in your business and to show them that you see them as a real person rather than just money.

It doesn’t work for every online business but chances are, with a bit of ingenuity, almost every small business could find a way to interact successfully with their customer base in a way that your competition isn’t.

It’s no different than that local deli you keep going back to because a) they have good food and b) the couple that run the place are very friendly.

The competition on the internet is getting harder by the day and there is no easy answer for making money online. The key to getting on top and staying there is to build an outstanding site and then promote it.

Donald Farber is a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) specialist. He currently works with the web team at LifeCover.ca: a Canadian life insurance website.

December 15, 2009

7 Actions You Must Take to Control Your Sales Success in 2010

Have you planned how you’re going to make 2010 a great year?  If you haven’t, it isn’t too late—but you’re already behind the eight ball.  Here are 7 actions you must take and take now if you want to control of your own destiny:

1. Flush out all of the tail chasing “prospects” in your system.
We all have “prospects” in our pipeline that take up time and energy but that we know in our hearts will never buy. Get them out of your system now. Don’t spend any more of your precious time on them. Concentrate on real prospects not  the “hope someday.” Vow not to spend any more time chasing your tail.

2. Get organized.
Most of us spend as much or more time “organizing” each day as we do working. Take a day or two and get yourself organized and then 30 minutes each evening getting ready for the next day. Don’t waste half the year “getting ready” to sell.

3. Know who a real prospect is.
If you haven’t already defined your ideal prospect(s) in detail, do so now.  Many waste a great deal of time chasing unqualified prospects because they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves exactly who their real prospects are.

4. Focus only on real prospects.
Even many who have defined in-detail who their real prospects are find themselves chasing after those who don’t qualify.  Commit yourself to staying on track.  Defining your prospect doesn’t do any good if you allow yourself to wander.

5. Eliminate the success killing busy work.
If what you do isn’t directly involved with finding qualified prospects, making sales presentations and closing sales, or getting a sale completed its busy work.  Busy work may make you feel like you’re accomplishing something but it isn’t making you a dime. If it doesn’t make you money, don’t do it.

6. Learn to generate referrals.
Referrals are the best, most cost effective prospecting and marketing method there is. Nothing can beat referrals in terms of ROI, close ratio, and client loyalty.  Yet, few salespeople generate many quality referrals.  Less than 15% of all salespeople generate enough quality referrals to impact their business.  Learn the process that really generates a large number of high quality referrals and turn your clients into your marketing platform.

7. Create a consistent client communication campaign.
If you don’t already have a consistent communication campaign for your clients and prospects, create one now.  You should be touching each of your clients and long-term prospects 12 to 16 times a year.  Use a combination of media–calls, emails, newsletters, letters, postcards.  Make sure each of your communications brings value to your client.  The key question to ask yourself before making any contact is “does this benefit the client or only me?”  If it doesn’t benefit the client, don’t send it or don’t call. Never waste your client’s time.

Time is short.  But implementing these 7 “musts” will get your year on track to be one of the best you’ve ever had.

December 12, 2009

It’s Time to Vote for the Sales Article of the Year

It’s time for the Top 10 Sales Articles to get down to the nitty-gritty of deciding on The Sales Article of the Year.  Over the year, Top 10 Sales Articles has culled through the thousands of articles published during the course of the year.  Each month they have picked the best article published that month.  Now, it’s time to select the best of the best for 2009

Here’s how it works:  From now until December 21 you can vote for your favorite article.  Reader votes are worth half the total points, the other half will be awarded by the Top 10 Sales Articles panel of professional sales trainers.

There are 12 great articles to choose from:

January:    Why You Are Not Generating Leads, by Dr. Drew Stevens

February:  Just Follow Up, by Keith Rosen

March:  Lift vs. Drag—A Business Leader’s Perspective, by Waldo Waldman

April:  What Hollywood Taught Me—7 Ways to Become a Star, by Patricia Fripp

May:  The Sign of a True Sales Pro—Admitting We’re Never too Good for Coaching, by Nancy Bleeke

July:  Email is the New Phone, Kendra Lee

August:  5 Way’s to Gauge Your Sales Manager’s Coaching, by Steven Rosen

September:  How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle, by Tibor Shanto

October:  Gain Your Prospect’s Attention, by Wendy Weiss

November:  No, You Don’t Have to Cold Call—Ever, by ME

December:  Your New Referral Network: It’s Always about the People You Know, by Joanne Black

I hate these reader vote things because there is the possibility of instead of it being a vote for the best article it is simply a vote for a favorite author.  So, I’m not going to ask you to go and vote for me, but I do ask you go to Top 10 Sales Articles, read the articles and vote for the article you believe to be the best of the year (mine, of course).

December 11, 2009

Sales 2.0 or Traditional Prospecting? Why Choose?–Attend the Top Sales Experts Masterclass on Me

On Tuesday December 15th – 1:00 pm Eastern, Tibor Shanto is presenting another in the Top Sales Experts Masterclasses of 2009, and you can be there, with my compliments.

An Inconvenient Truce

It is time to move the discussion beyond the current limits of the discussion around effective prospecting.  The debate of Sales (Web) 2.0 vs. Traditional prospecting, while hip and convenient, is narrow and pointless and detracts from the real issue, how can one best utilize both for the purpose of finding and engaging with more prospects.

Each works great, but in different segments in different ways.  Rather than figuring out which works best for you, just accept that they both work, and spend time figuring out how to leverage the best of each.  We will look at how the two need to coexist and how to use that coexistence to accelerate and amplify success in finding more opportunities.

As part of the discussion we will set some basic foundations; look at the hand-offs between sales and marketing; and some practical applications of cold calling and the air cover social media provides. There’ll be definitions, opinions and confusion. Best of all it is all Free!

Fear not this is not a call just for geeks, social network elites or knuckle dragging cold callers.  It is for those that are more concerned with executing sales and delivering results on a consistent basis.

Tibor Shanto is Principal of Renbor Sales Solutions and publishes the Blog and Monthly editions of The Pipeline, and is a Director and contributor to The Sales Bloggers Union.  Based in Toronto, Tibor works with leading B2B sales organization to improve their new business acquisition activities and results through a process and focus on execution.

You can accept my invitation to claim your FREE place for this clash of sales cultures event and register here – http://bit.ly/8O5QTF

December 8, 2009

It’s Time to Leave Orwellian Selling Behind

What words do you use to describe yourself and your products and services?  Are there words you intentionally try to keep out the mind of your prospects or clients?  Do you use euphemisms instead of plain English when making a presentation in order to try to elicit a particular feeling or response from your prospect?

As salespeople, we’ve been taught to frame our conversations and presentations in ways that lead our prospects and clients to the conclusions and decisions we wish them to arrive at.  In order to do this, we are advised by some to refrain from using certain words that may evoke a negative reaction—or to use words that will evoke a negative reaction, depending on what we want our prospect to think or feel.

Much of this advice is based on the idea that if we control the conversation we control the prospect’s attitude, thinking, and ultimately, their decision making process.  In other words, by carefully controlling the words used in the conversation, we can control the prospect’s thought process. 

Some sales trainers even go so far as to recommend we not bring up potential negatives—don’t address a non-existent objection so as not to plant a potential objection in the prospect’s mind.  Or if an objection is raised, deflect it and return to the presentation or closing the sale.  Gloss over the objection and it will go away.    

It seems George Orwell has become the director of sales training.  Orwell’s Newspeak is now the new “sales speak.”  No longer is communicating with a prospect as a rational human sufficient; now we are exhorted to in essence treat them as nothing more than a computer, inputting only the data we want them to compute–as though if we don’t give them the words, they won’t be able to think the thoughts we don’t want them to think.

Orwell believed that words are the keys to thought.  If the words don’t exist to communicate a particular thought or concept, it isn’t possible to think the thought or concept.  Consequently, if you can control the words someone has available to them, you can control not only what they think, but eventually how they act.  Orwell later repudiated the concept.  Unfortunately, a version of this concept has become quite popular in some areas of sales training.

Like Orwell’s world of 1984, some view the world of sales as an arena where words are not simply powerful in influencing thought and behavior; they are the creators of thought and behavior.  If we don’t say it, the prospect will never think it.  If we can frame it using the words we want, the prospect will never think of their own words to describe it or question it.

Rather than trying to communicate, we are told by some that if we create the conversation we wish to have with the prospect, the prospect will unknowingly go along with us.  If only we learn the right words and phrases to use—and the words and phrases to avoid, we can direct the prospect to the ”proper” decision.  Selling in this view is simply an exercise in rhetoric.

So, we learn the right words and the right phrases; we engage the prospect by making sure we eliminate any words that might evoke thoughts, feeling, or concepts we don’t want them to have; and we ask for the order.  Instead of the automatic ‘yes’ we expected, we hear a resounding ‘no.’

What could possibly have gone wrong?  We did everything right.  We used the right words; we avoided the wrong ones.  We were careful to implant the ideas, concepts, and emotions we wanted the prospect to have.  We executed perfectly.  And they said no.  How could this possibly have happened?

Could it be that they did the unthinkable–they actually thought words and concepts that we worked diligently to keep out of their head?  Despite our best efforts to implant the right “data,”  when we pushed the “enter” button they exercised independent thought and rejected our attempt to manipulate their decision making process?

Is it possible the words we use aren’t as important as the communication and connection we make with the prospect?  Is it possible that our attempt to finesse the prospect by trying to direct their thinking through the careful manipulation of language isn’t as effective as we have been lead to believe?  Is it possible that less rhetoric and more communication would serve us better?  Could it be that more listening, more understanding, and more straight answers to prospect questions could prompt more trust in the prospect?

Maybe it is time to rethink the Newspeak of selling and learn instead to listen, to answer honestly and forthrightly, to drop the euphemisms and begin once again communicating with prospects and clients using plain English.  Maybe rather than the belief that the words we use will create the reality we want in the prospect, we should seek try to understand the prospect’s needs, wants, and issues and try to present our best solutions to those needs and wants as honestly and forthrightly as possible. 

The Orwellian experiment has been tried—and failed.  Orwell recognized the failure of the concept before he died.  Certainly, many trainers in the areas of communication and persuasion recognize the legitimate uses of rhetoric in the sales process.  Yet, there are still large numbers of trainers selling the Orwellian concept of easy sales through language manipulation and its false promise of controlling prospect thought and behavior.  There is a difference between the legitimate use of persuasive influence and the intent to deviously manipulation. 

We are selling to independent beings who exercise their capacity to think autonomously of our attempts to stage-manage their actions and decisions.  The sooner we recognize their independence, the sooner we can get back to creating relationships built on trust, not on linguistic manipulation.

December 7, 2009

Guest Article: “The Don Quixote Approach to Opportunity Assessement,” by Jonathan Farrington

The Don Quixote Approach To Opportunity Assessment
by Jonathan Farrington

Emerging salespeople typically believe that all business is good business and to an extent, I can understand this viewpoint. If you are trying to make a name for yourself, being put under pressure by your sales manager to get “runs on the board” and earn the respect of the more experienced and successful members of the team, it is difficult to walk away from any opportunity if you believe you have the remotest chance of winning it.

However, it is essential that more seasoned professionals fully understand both the value and importance of rigorous objective qualification, not just at the front end but right the way through the sales cycle. Qualification is a process not a single event and even internal and reactive salespeople should be fully skilled in asking a small number of basic questions regarding precise requirements, time scales, budget, competition etc before they are prepared to reveal their price and delivery.

As the value of the product, service or solution increases, the depth of the qualification should increase proportionally.

External salespeople have the opportunity to meet with prospective customers and it is far easier to extract information face to face than it is via the telephone, however, it is vital that some initial answers are elicited prior the that first exploratory meeting in order to ensure that the meeting will be worthwhile to both parties. With sales costs spiralling upwards and sales time becoming limited, considerable prudence is required on the part of the salesperson.

During that first meeting, a considerable amount of detail can and should be uncovered e.g. background and history of the company, the key individuals, the composition of the DMU (Decision Making Unit) if there is one, timescales, budget, competition, current suppliers, buying criteria etc. Only by rigorous questioning will the salesperson be able to answer the following questions when they get back to the office: Is there a requirement/need that my company can satisfy? Is it winnable? Do I want it?

The very best sales professionals will not pursue the opportunity, after proper objective analysis, if the answer to any of those questions is “No”. They will rather invest their precious selling time seeking out and closing opportunities that will provide a profitable return on that investment.

At the very highest selling levels i.e. strategic “big-ticket” selling and marketing, clearly the sales cycle is much more protracted, complex and typically moves through four stages i.e.

■Rigorous Opportunity Assessment
■Develop A Strategy
■Present The Solution and Re-Assess The Opportunity
■Gain Formal Commitment, Sign The Order and Develop

In Summary:
Having a tilt at every windmill that presents itself, is neither practical nor profitable. Qualification is a core competency that every professional salesperson should take on board as quickly as possible. Working to the maxim that “All business is good business” is unrealistic and totally erroneous. It takes just as long to work an unprofitable opportunity through the pipeline only to lose it at the death, as it does a profitable one – the ability to determine which is which, can have a huge impact on your ultimate success in a front-line sales role

Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author and sales strategist, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is Chairman of The Sales Corporation, CEO of Top Sales Associates and Senior Partner at The JF Consultancy based in London and Paris. Early in 2007, Jonathan formed Top Sales Associates (TSA) to promote the very best sales related solutions and products. TSA is now a subsidiary of The Sales Corporation, based in London and Paris.  Visit his website

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