Sales and Sales Management Blog

November 29, 2010

Guest Article: “Building Your Personal Philosophy for Success,” by Colleen Francis

Filed under: success — Paul McCord @ 4:31 pm
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Building Your Personal Philosophy for Success
By Colleen Francis

Throughout my career as a sales person and as a sales trainer, I’ve noticed that the top 10% of professionals in this field all share a passion for what they do. It’s not just that they have a knack for connecting with people and getting them to buy more goods or services more often. They also put a lot of thought into how they sell, how they work with people, and about why their personal approach works well for them. In essence, top performers have a personal philosophy for success—daily habits and disciplined beliefs that are at the root of how they do business with people on both a professional and personal level.

It’s especially important to take action on this in today’s economy, because frankly most of your less-successful competitors out there today are too busy repeating old mistakes, blaming the recession or even their customers (hard to believe, but true) for their disappointing sales results.

You know better than that, which is why you’re here with us at Engage Selling Solutions! The fact of the matter is that success—real lasting success—in sales in any industry hinges on how you look at your work and on the choices you make in getting things done.

Become what you think about yourself

“People tend to become what they think about themselves.” That’s a quote from pioneer psychologist William James; one that I’m particularly fond of, because it applies so well to the selling profession. It underlines just how important it is for each of us to take time and ask ourselves “what kind of a sales person do I want to be?”

By deciding for yourself that you want to become part of the top-10% of sales performers in your organization, you’re making a commitment to yourself to do more than just sell more in less time—you’re also adopting a mindset for success.

You’re shaped by who you associate with

Approaching sales from the right mindset also involves giving some thought to who you choose to surround yourself with. In my experience, I find that a lot of people are held back by the people they associate with. Tony Robbins said it most eloquently where he said your income is a direct reflection of the expectations of the five people who are closest to you.

In other words, it matters who you hang out with. It’s crucial that you find people in your life who want to see you succeed, and who want to come along for the ride with you. I have some very specific advice to share about how you can leverage your personal and professional networks to work for you in this regard, and I’ll be covering that in an upcoming article.

Equally important, open your mind to new ideas. Nurture your own personal success philosophy by making a habit of reviewing some of those great sales-related books that are out there, including those by Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale (just to name a few).

However, don’t just mine for sales ideas from within your own industry. There’s a lot of insight to be found in what’s going on outside of your market, and by being among the first to bring those good ideas into your business, you stand to capitalize. So be daring! Browse areas of the bookstore other than the business section. For instance, read up on the latest insight by urbanist Richard Florida about how our economy is influencing where people live and the choices they make (see “Who’s Your City?”). Or consider what essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb says in his best-selling book “The Black Swan” about the role that unexpected events can play in how we make decisions (and mistakes) in our daily lives. Good ideas have endless applications to how you work and how you think as a sales professional.

Unthink the box

In today’s new economy, no one can afford to keep adhering to that well-used euphemism of “thinking inside the box.” Instead we need to follow the advice of my good friend and motivational speaker, Nido Qubein: now is the time to “throw the box out the window!” Begin with a clear slate and challenge assumptions you might have been making about why customers buy from you—and just as importantly, why they might not be buying right now.

Don’t succumb to temptation of using tough economic times as a crutch. I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of talk from friends and colleagues: “my industry is suffering… my competition is going out of business… everyone is cutting back…” and so on. Each of these observations about the economy might be supported by facts, but complaining about them isn’t going to help you one bit to become a better sales person. At best, mulling about it will be dead weight that will hold you down.

The challenge, therefore, is to take these kinds of facts and then ask yourself “how can I capitalize on this to help me reach my personal goals and my sales goals?” Indeed there are many ways to answer the door when opportunity knocks (and I’ll be covering this topic in more detail in an upcoming article).

You are your own brand

The outcome of having a personal philosophy for success is that it helps others with whom your do business to form a positive opinion about you. In turn, this influences the kinds of decisions that your customers make every day. As Seth Godin wisely observed in a recent blog post: “Consumers don’t make choices as much as they react and respond to the inputs and assumptions they have about the marketplace, their life and your brand.”

Always remember: no matter what you are selling, you are your own brand. Your personal approach, your habits and the people you choose to surround yourself—all the elements that comprise your personal philosophy—are what can make you stand out in your work and be memorable among your customers. 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

Start improving your results today with Engage’s online Newsletter Sales Flash and a FREE 7 day intensive sales eCourse:


November 26, 2010

Won’t You Please, Please Help Me?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:55 am
Tags: , ,

OK, maybe you’re not old enough to remember the Beatles lyrics to “Help,” but just like the Beatles, I need your help.

The Annual Top Sales Awards winners will be announced on December 16.  Between now and then you can vote for your favorites in 10 categories:

Top Sales Personality—nominees are Gerhard Gschwandtner, Jill Konrath, and Jeffrey Gitomer

Top Sales Book—10 nominees including Konrath, Art Sobczak, Anne Miller, Jeb Blount, Michael Johnson, Brett Clay, Craig Ellias and Tibor Shanto, Joe Sweeney, Eric Taylor, and myself

Top Sales Article—12 nominees including Gil Cargill, Kelley Robertson, Dave Brock, Joanne Black, Diane Helbig, Dan Waldschmidt, myself and 5 others

Top Sales Star—6 top salespeople—you have to read their bios

Top Sales Blog—10 nominees including Charlie Green, Ian Brodie, Dave Brock, Jill Konrath, Wendy Weiss, myself and 4 others

Top Sales Resource—10 nominees including Sales HQ, CanDoGo, Changing Minds, Sales Gravy, and 5 others

Top Sales 2.0 Solution—10 nominees including iSell, Jigsaw, IntroMojo, InsideView, PeopleMaps, and 5 others

Top Sales Tool—10 nominees including Whiteboard Selling, TimeTrade, Echosign, SalesCallPlanner and 6 others

Top Social Media Site—10 nominees including Twitter, Facebook, Bizsugar, Focus, YouTube, and 5 others

Top CRM Solution—10 nominees including Landslide, SugarCRM, Salesforce, Salesbloom, and 6 others

10 categories—all needing you to give your opinion.  And you can vote here.

Now to the important stuff—I’m nominated in three categories:

Bust Your Slump is nominated in the category of Top Sales Book.

The Sales and Sales Management Blog is nominated in the category of Top Sales Blog

One of my articles, “Sales Call Reports—Are They Worth the Hassle?” is nominated in the category of Top Sales Article.

I need your votes.  Should I be nominated in all of these categories—or in any category for that matter?  Probably not.  In fact, considering there are so many great books, blogs, and articles from this year, an argument can be made that none of the nominees should have been nominated.

Having said that, I need your vote.  Better yet, vote for me if you think I’m one of the top in the category or vote for your favorite. 

I’d very much appreciate your vote; I want you to vote no matter who you vote for.

So, head over Top Sales Awards and spend a few minutes voting—and remember, you only need to remember one name when you’re there

November 24, 2010

Book Review: The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments

For the last several years I’ve argued, along with many others, that selling and marketing are changing rapidly because buyers are changing.  No longer is the salesperson needed to educate the prospect; marketing is having an increasingly difficult time breaking through the noise to capture the prospect’s attention.  With the immense amount of information every prospect has at their fingertips, many times the prospect knows far more about their issues and potential solutions than the salesperson they’re dealing with.

In this new marketplace the question becomes how do you gain the prospect’s attention and then put your product or service in first position.

Robert H. Bloom in The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments (Greenleaf Book Group Press: 2010) offers an answer to this problem.  Bloom is the retired US Chairman and CEO of Publicis Worldwide, a global marketing services company and advises companies on their business growth strategies.

Bloom argues that technology has empowered buyers and “ultimately {their} loyalty died” because of the immense number of choices they now have along with an enormous amount of detailed comparison information, along with the ability to purchase anytime, day or night, and from a growing number of vendors, all vying for their business. 

Consumer loyalty, according to Bloom, is a thing of the past.  In today’s marketplace companies can no longer count on loyalty from their customers, but they can still become the preferred product or service by creating Customer Preference.  Customer Preference does not guarantee a sale as there are other factors at work, but preference opens doors, allowing you to charge a bit higher price and still get the business, to not have the exact desired color and still get the sale, to not have the best product and still get the sale, and to not be the best known brand and still get the sale.

Creating Customer Preference involves giving the prospect a real or imagined benefit that is different from and more valuable to them than those given by your competitors.

Further, Bloom argues, there are 4 decisive moments when you can make your business 1st choice for the prospect:

The Now-or-Never Moment—the first brief contact with the prospect

The Make-or-Break Moment—during the transaction process

The Keep-or-Lose Moment—the period when the customer is using the product or service

The Multiplier Moment—the chance to convert a one-time user customer into a repeat customer and gain a customer advocate and referral

Becoming the preferred product or service need not be expensive and can be accomplished by any size company since consumers, both business and individual, no longer care about who they purchase from—big or small; local, national, or online; old-line established or new start-up—as long as they provide the sought after benefit.

The New Experts is a very interesting read and provides a thought provoking argument about not only how buyers are changing but how companies must respond to the change.  As Bloom states at the beginning of the book, the root for change is beginning to think like a customer, not a seller.  Once we begin to think like a customer we can begin to understand the change in the marketplace and how to deal with it—at each of the 4 decisive customer moments.

The New Experts is avaiable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and all fine booksellers.

November 22, 2010

The Bullshitization of Sales Coaching

Sales coaching is one of the key elements in turning knowing what to do into the actual behavior, the effective conversion of the knowledge into action.  The importance of sales coaching has come to the forefront in recent years thanks to a great extent to people such as my friend Keith Rosen.

Unfortunately, along with the rise of the recognition of the importance sales coaching and the accompanying increase in companies and individual sellers hiring professional coaches, comes the rise of those who want to make “easy” money off of those companies and sellers seeking coaching.  Today there are a growing number of “sales coaches” who have never been in sales or if they have, they have minimal experience.  There are also a number of websites offering “coaching” courses that claim that if you take their course, you too can enter the multi-billion dollar sales coaching industry and make a six figure income in just three to six months.

Selling is a complex activity.  To become a great salesperson means you have to acquire very specific skills; you have to develop a number of characteristics such as self-discipline, focus, curiosity, and a desire to solve problems; you have to have thick skin; you have to be able to overcome adversity.  Selling requires knowledge, skill, character, attitude, and action.  Becoming a top seller isn’t a journey of self-discovery; it is a journey of being taught, of being encouraged, of being corrected, of being pushed, pulled, prodded, and praised.

My friend Dave Brock is in the middle of publishing a great bog series on coaching.  I encourage you to start with his first post and read them all.  My intent here isn’t to duplicate Dave’s work.  Instead of talking in specifics about what sales coaching is and how to coach, I want to contrast what sales coaching in general is vs. what sales coaching isn’t, about the increasing numbers who are turning sales coaching into bullshit–the bullshitization of sales coaching.

I’ve been talking to Keith, Dave, and Jonathan Farrington a good deal recently about sales coaching and where it stands today.  And although we all have the same understanding and view of sales coaching, we each bring our own experiences to the table.  One common experience is noticing the explosion of unqualified “sales coaches” and the equally damaging coaching training courses that promise big money even for the most unqualified who complete their course.

I think Keith said it very well: “There’s the person who has been told and even trained by some of these coaching programs that, ‘You don’t need the answers or the experience to be a good coach.’ This is why you have a large population of unqualified people who think they can coach or simply change their title to ‘Coach.’ Conversely, there’s the coach who realizes you can’t take someone where you haven’t been before. This illustrates the importance of the coach to have not only the experience but is a walking and living model and example of what is possible for their clients to achieve.

Sales coaching is not a Zen self-discovery experience.  Many coaches have been taught, as Keith points out, that they don’t have to know, all they have to do is ask until the client discovers their own personal answer.  Ask the right questions and sooner or later the seller will discover their own unique answer. 

The model of sales coach as Zen Master simply doesn’t work.  Again, I’ll defer to Keith’s description:

“Unfortunately, due to the lack of experience and subject matter of many coaches, they can only speak to the self actualization type of questions and because they’ve never sold before, or managed a team before, or sold successfully or sold in that person’s similar type of selling environment, they don’t even know the right type of questions to even ask. This sometimes leads to ‘killing the client/person with coaching’ as in, continually asking questions until they arrive at the solution themselves. However, sometimes as the coach, you need to provide the answer. Then, it’s the coach’s job to uncover the gap to determine what the right solution is rather than continually asking more questions. For example, if you have a salesperson who never cold called before, coaching isn’t the initial approach. This person needs to be trained in the core competencies and best practices first, in order to develop a baseline before you can refine their performance through coaching.”

The model I think most appropriate for sales coaching comes from sports coaching.  Think Mike Ditka.  For those old enough to remember Ditka as a coach, he didn’t take any crap off anyone.  Yet he was admired and respected by his players.  And he was an extremely effective coach.  Why? 

First, he cared about his player’s success.  Coaching wasn’t a paycheck, it was a passion.  Ditka’s success was tied to his player’s success.  He wanted them to succeed as much as he wanted to succeed himself.  For him to be successful his players had to be successful.  He had skin in the game.

Second, he cared enough to help them become fully prepared to face and conquer the challenges they were to face.  Can you image Ditka standing on the practice field helping a linebacker work through the process of self-actualization to discover for himself the proper techniques to shuck a blocker?  Of course not.  He knew when to guide and when to teach; when to ask discovery questions and when to tell. 

Ditka wasn’t interested in self-discovery; he was interested in instilling in his players the proper attitude, skills, and knowledge that would allow them to reach their goals.  He understood that football isn’t about becoming; it’s about being—being the best you can be.  It is about having and using the skills that lead to great performance. He had a very specific purpose—help his players become the best football players they could be.  If in the meantime, they had an enlightening self discovery, all the better—but not necessary. 

Third, he demanded performance.  Frankly, Ditka didn’t care if the player learned anything new about himself or had a feel good discovery; he cared that the player performed–and whether we like it or not, that’s the exact same demand that is put on every salesperson.  Every one of us is judged on our performance, not whether we have warm/fuzzy feelings about our work or whether we discovered anything new about ourselves that day.

A sales coach, like Ditka, must hold their client accountable and must demand performance.  Warm fuzzies are all well and good but they are meaningless in the sales world.  That’s not to say that a sales coach doesn’t know when to guide through questions or when to give praise and even warm fuzzy feelings.  She does.  But for her, those are far from the only tools at her disposal.  In Dave’s words, “The coach should set high standards and expectations, teach, motivate, challenge, correct, praise, correct, discipline, chastise, ask, tell, coerce, cajole, shame, and sometimes beat the crap out of the person being coached.”  Sounds a lot like Mike Ditka.

Fourth, he had been where they wanted to go.  Ditka knew how to help his players get to the top because he had been there himself.  He knew what it took.  He had paid the price.  He had invested the time and effort and sacrifice to be successful.  He didn’t ask his players to do anything he hadn’t done himself.  He had the experience and credentials to demonstrate that he knew what he was talking about.  He knew the game not just because he had studied it or read about someone else’s experience and learned a bit of lingo, he knew the game because he had invested his life in it.  He lived it.  He had real street cred.

There’s a great deal of bullshit in the sales coaching market today.  Everybody thinks they can be a sales coach because after all, it’s easy, right?  Print up some business cards; learn a bit of sales related jargon–metrics, win/win, customer centric, value added, consultative selling, pipeline, and such; write out a few “discovery” questions you can ask clients; and you’re in business.

If you’re thinking about acquiring a sales coach for your team—or for yourself—take a close look at your options.  Be careful.  The more visibility sales coaching gets, the more bullshitization will take place.  Yes, that former telemarketer who has taken a coaching course and printed a business card may be a whole lot cheaper than that known sales expert, but what you save in a coaching fee now, you’ll have to spend later to get real coaching. 

You need a coach, not a warm, fuzzy experience that leads nowhere.  You need someone who can get you where you want to go, not someone who has read a book or two and learned how to ask a couple of “deep” questions.  You need a Mike Ditka, not the latest pseudo Zen Master.

November 19, 2010

Guest Article: “Giving Salespeople a Titanium Spine to Protect Margins and Grow Profits,” by Rafe VanDenBerg

Filed under: sales,Sales Management,selling,technology — Paul McCord @ 10:53 am
Tags: , , ,

Giving Salespeople a Titanium Spine to Protect Margins and Grow Profits
By Rafe VanDenBerg

Here’s a ‘fun’ after-lunch exercise: Grab your nearest salesperson and dissect them on the spot. What do you think you’ll find under that polished exterior? What lies beneath all that confidence, training, and customer knowledge?

Salespeople need to be able to close the deal by not giving up too much in price negotiations. During the economic downturn, heightened fears and concerns over losing the deal or alienating the customer dominated the pricing process.  When fear sneaks into a salesperson’s pricing decisions, the result is very predictable: Margin dollars are left on the table that simply can’t be afforded to slip away.

So how do B2B companies guard against these behaviors that can cause so much damage? How can salespeople ensure they are going far enough to win the business without causing unwarranted damage to the bottom-line?

The first step is to openly discuss the fear-factor. Pull sales teams together and discuss the reality of the situation. Role play and use real-world scenarios and company-specific examples to go beyond the conceptual so daily behaviors and actions are recognized.

The next step is to address the issues in a more consistent and scalable way through a systemic solution. Pricing data can separate the facts from the fears. And technology can certainly make that pricing data more accessible and actionable. However, not all uses of pricing data and technology in a B2B environment are created equal.

A common practice is having pricing analysts “slice-and-dice” pricing data to identify pricing problems. Unfortunately, most of the problems found are with deals that have already been negotiated. At this point, it is too late. Looking in the rearview mirror can only show margin dollars that have already passed by.

Other B2B companies will attempt to push pricing data out to the salespeople to conduct all the necessary “slicing-and-dicing” and “data-whipping” to arrive with a better pricing decision. All the while a nice theory, it is just not a very practical, or realistic. Salespeople need to be spending time selling, not dabbling at being a pricing analyst.

Other B2B companies will attempt to push pricing data out to the salespeople. Under this model, individual salespeople are expected to conduct all the necessary “slicing-and-dicing” and “data-whipping” to arrive at a better pricing decision. All the while a nice theory, it is just not very practical, nor realistic. Salespeople need to be spending time selling, not dabbling at being an amateur pricing analyst.

The reality is salespeople don’t need more data. They need answers – answers that will help win the business without giving up more margin dollars than necessary. Furthermore, salespeople need these answers when they are doing the deal, not after the fact.

Visionary B2B companies are embracing a technology called price optimization to maximize revenues, while protecting their margins. They are using this technology to automatically analyze every deal in real-time, pinpoint optimal price-points for every product on every order, and ultimately win the business without going any further than they have to. Simply put, price optimization analyzes and interprets all pricing data, and then feeds the resulting answers in real-time, as the deal is actually being negotiated. Companies leveraging this technology have been known to improve margin dollars 15 percent and more.

For example, one Fortune 500 industrial manufacturer has watched their operating margins grow by 12.8 percent in the past year. Another Global 1000 manufacturer produced gains that exceeded their initial expectations and goals by 400 percent – generating $40 million of incremental margin and being recognized as the company’s “most impactful growth initiative of the year.”

Recent reports by industry analysts are also now reinforcing the value of price optimization in tough economic conditions. AMR Research states that, “establishing fact-based pricing, improving margin realization, and rectifying unprofitable pricing practices can help companies continue to be profitable during a downturn.1

Gartner, Inc. notes price optimization as “having a more-direct impact on revenues or margins than any other CRM technology through 2010,2” and clarifies in another report why it is so compelling: “The price optimization and management market differs from most other applications because it offers strategic benefits (helping organizations grow revenue and margins) and operational efficiencies (helping companies save time and cut costs). 3

Price optimization technology gives salespeople a titanium spine in negotiations. For every quote they’re putting together or for every deal they’re negotiating, salespeople can finally know – with scientific precision – exactly how far is “far enough” in that specific situation. Price optimization may not make a B2B company recession-proof, but it certainly can be a very powerful tool for driving revenues without sacrificing vital margin dollars.

Rafe VanDenBerg is Vice President of Pricing Excellence and Strategic Marketing at Zilliant, Inc., the leading provider of price optimization software based in Austin, Texas.   

1 Pricing Optimization in a Down Economy: Mandate for Growth or Ill-Timed Choice, Noha Tohamy, April 2008

2 Gartner MarketScope for Price Optimization and Management Technology, 2008 Michael Dunne, March 2008

3Gartner, Hype Cycle for CRM Sales, 2008, Michael Dunne, June 2008

November 16, 2010

Do You Measure Up to a Dog?

Filed under: Client Relationships — Paul McCord @ 12:24 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve become a hater.

The other morning I told my wife that I hate her.

This new found hate came on quickly—literally overnight.

Last Thursday evening Debbie insisted I watch a movie with her.  “It’s supposed to be really, really good,” she said.  “It’s about a dog and his owner.”

I’ve really mellowed in my old age and have become quite sentimental, and since I love dogs, I figured a couple of warm and fuzzy hours would be time well spent.

It was horrible. 

I ended up not sleeping that night thinking about that dog, Hachi.  I’ve thought about him ever since.  Haunted by sadness and humbled by a depth of love, loyalty and commitment I honestly cannot image.

We in sales talk a lot about being loyal to our customers, about putting our customer first, about being committed to excellence, about sacrificing our wants and needs to our client’s.

The story of a dog demonstrates how little we really know about loyalty, commitment, and sacrifice.

Let me briefly relate the story (if you get a chance and don’t mind being overwhelmed with sadness, you can find the movie, Hachi, on the Hallmark channel.  I’m sure it will be on again sometime this month).

The producers have changed the location and time of the events although it is based on a true story.  The events actually took place in Japan in the 1920’s.  The move moves the location to the US and the timing to present day (I assume they felt it would sell better this way).

A college professor acquires the dog as a puppy and raises him.  They become extremely close.  The professor has to take a subway train to campus everyday and walks from his home to the train station.  The dog walks with him to the station and then returns home.  In the afternoon, the dog goes back to the station and sits on a concrete wall each afternoon waiting for his master to return.  They then walk home together.

This routine goes on for a few years until one day the dog’s master doesn’t return.  He never returns as he dies of a heart attack while at work.

That night the dog waits until long into the night for his master to return.  The next day Hachi returns and takes his usual place and waits.  He returns to his spot and waits from early morning until late at night every single day for over 10 years.  For over 3,650 days he never misses a single day.

Ever hopeful that today will be the day, he sits through scorching heat, freezing snow and sleet, drenching rain.  Nothing can keep him from being there when his master returns.  He knows his master would not abandon him.  He knows his master will return and he’ll be there, waiting faithfully when he disembarks the train.

Today there is a statue on the spot where he sat faithfully waiting for over 10 years, erected in his honor by the men and women who witnessed his incredible devotion and loyalty during his vigil (that statue was melted during World War II, but  a second statue was created after the war and is still standing today), and each year, to this day, a ceremony is performed at the location to honor the dog. 

Although both a terribly sad and inspiring story, ultimately the question is what can we learn from this magnificent dog?

Loyalty has a price.  We talk a lot about being loyal to our customers, to our company, to our profession; yet when things get a little dicey, when loyalty is no longer easy, we bail.  Our loyalty tends to be fair-weather.  We may be willing to sit through one snow storm; we might even be willing to go through a hot summer also, but 10 years of sweltering heat and bone chilling cold?  Nope, it costs too much.

There’s dignity in sacrifice.  Hachi earned the love and respect of those who knew him not because of his success, but because of his willingness to sacrifice for what he believed in.  He literally sacrificed his life to be faithful to his master.

Sometimes we win even when we lose.  Hachi’s hope was never fulfilled.  His tremendous loyalty and faith were never rewarded.  His master never came back.  Hachi died as he lived, faithfully waiting for his master’s return.    Even so he won the respect and honor of millions.  That, of course, was no consolation for him.  He never knew the impact he had on the humans around him.  He wouldn’t have cared anyway.  What was important to him was his commitment to his master.  He wasn’t seeking honors or rewards, just the love of his master.  Yet by putting his master first, he earned honors beyond what most of us will ever earn—there are

How do you measure up to a dog?  When you speak of being loyal, of being committed, to sacrificing for your client, are you really?

Maybe we don’t have to go to the lengths that Hachi did, but so often what we claim to be loyalty, commitment, and sacrifice are nothing more than words we use to sell our services and make us feel good. 

Yep, I told Debbie I hate her for making me watch a movie about a dog that makes it perfectly clear, I don’t measure up.

I think most of us have a lot to learn from a dog.

November 11, 2010

Thank You, Vets

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:10 pm

Saying thank you to our vets and active duty military is hardly enough. 

But since today is Veteran’s Day, I want to thank each of you who are currently serving or have served for your dedication and service.

To all who have served, from my brother, Robert Willard McCord Jr, who served during Vietnam and eventually retired from the Air Force, to every other man and woman who has served or is serving in the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, including active duty, reserves, and National Guard, thank you for keeping us free and giving us the opportunity to pursue our lives without fear.

Although we really only say it once a year, we do hold you in great honor 365 days a year.

Thank you and may God bless each of you.

November 10, 2010

Guest Article: “The Pain & Pleasure of Making Joint Calls,” by Brian Jeffrey

Filed under: Coaching,Sales Management,team development — Paul McCord @ 10:30 am
Tags: , ,

The Pain & Pleasure of Making Joint Calls
By Brian Jeffrey  

If you really want to help your salespeople develop their selling skills while at the same time really annoying them, make joint calls with them.

I’m not suggesting you make joint calls just to annoy your salespeople. What I’m saying is that you will annoy them by making joint calls. That’s because most salespeople think they don’t have anything to learn and that you’re just going along on the call to find fault with their normally flawless performance.

Flawless though they may be, I don’t believe there is a salesperson alive that couldn’t benefit from having someone passing on impartial, constructive criticisms on how they can become even more flawless.

What Annoys
There are two major causes of annoyances. The first is the sales manager’s ego and the second is the sales manager’s lack of people skills.

The ego problem usually stems from the fact that many sales managers got to that position because they were good salespeople, sometimes a star salesperson, and they don’t want anyone to forget it. By the way, just because someone was an excellent salesperson doesn’t necessarily mean they become an excellent sales manager. I’ve seen a number of situations where the company has promoted their best salesperson into sales management only to lose their best salesperson and get their worst sales manager! Sales management requires a different set of skills in addition to being able to sell.

An inappropriate ego will cause two problems:

1. Because the sales manager fancies himself as one of the world’s greatest salespeople, he feels that no one can sell as well as he does and therefore every comment that comes out of his mouth is a critical one.

2. The second ego-triggered problem is the tendency to show off. This manifests itself in the sales manager taking over the sale at the first sign that things aren’t going as well as he wants them to go. Smart salespeople catch on to this fact real fast and make sure that they say or do something early in the call that triggers off the sales manager’s desire to take over the call. Now the focus is off the salesperson and all he has to do is sit back, relax, and let the sales manager handle the rest of the call. There will be little or no criticisms during the post-call critique as the salesperson didn’t really do anything.

I’ve seen major disasters when both the sales manager and the salesperson allow their egos to take over control of their logic and the situation. It becomes a clash of the Titans. The prospect quickly begins to realize that something odd is going on here as the ego’s clash and the two people start contradicting each other or get into a outright argument. Talk about a sales call going bad. No sales call should ever require a referee!

No People Skills
Some sales managers excel at the management part of the job and are less able at the leadership part. In other words, they’re more managers than they are leaders. It’s always been my opinion that you manage processes but you lead people. You lead people by understanding them, where they’re coming from, where they want to go, and then use that information to affect, rather than force, change.

Telling someone that they really screwed up the last sales call hardly has the desired effect of creating positive change. It may, however, have the effect of causing the salesperson to change jobs to a more pleasant working environment.

A better approach would be to ask the salesperson for her impressions of the call and to use your questioning skills to draw out what went badly and what needs to be done to avoid it happening in the future. Trust me on this, but most good salespeople will be harder on themselves that you can ever be. Of course, if you’ve got a prima donna whose ego interferes with her internal eyesight, then you may have to verbally whack her on the side of the head to get her attention. Most salespeople know when a sales call didn’t go as well as it should and after their shields are down, they’ll discuss it rationally.

Avoiding Problems
By this time I’m sure you’ve probably figured what to do or, more importantly, what not to do to avoid most of these problems, but here’s a few more ideas.

Remember, it’s the salesperson’s call, not yours. If the call is going bad, let it go. Use the call as a learning experience. Mind you, if you find that you’re having a lot of learning experiences with a particular salesperson, maybe you have a slow learner who should be given another career opportunity.

Makes notes during the call. Use these notes in your post-call critique. Focus on any positive points before embarking on the downside of your critique. Ask the salesperson what she felt went well and then ask what she felt she could have done better. If she covers all the points you wanted covered from your list, terminate the critique and move along to the next call. Resist the tendency to flog a dead horse.

If a sales call goes particularly well, take the time to compliment the salesperson before moving on to the next call. An occasional pat on the back can have a lot more impact than a kick in the butt.

If you want even more ideas on handling joint calls, read my article on How to Curbside Coach.

How Often
One of the major differences between a manager’s job and a sales manager’s job is that the sales manager shouldn’t spend all his time behind a desk or in meetings. Sales managers have to get out and “press the flesh” as the saying goes. They have to get out with their people, and I don’t mean out to the local pub at the end of the day. I mean out with your salespeople in front of real prospects.

I recommend that you put aside a half day per quarter to make joint calls with each of your people. That’s frequent enough to stay on top of any potential problems and not too frequent to really annoy anyone.

The pleasure part of making joint calls comes from seeing your coaching pay off with increased confidence on the part of your salespeople and even more closed sales that impact your bottom line.

But remember, you can’t have the pleasure without suffering the pain. So, why not get out and hurt a bit today? It can pay big dividends.

Brian Jeffrey, CSP, is a Certified Sales Professional with over 40 years experience in sales, sales management, training, and business consulting. Formerly co-founder and president of SalesForce Training & Consulting Inc, Brian and his business partner have started a new company, Salesforce Assessments Ltd. This new company works with sales managers who want to make the right hiring decisions and build a strong team using an online assessment.

November 8, 2010

Book Review: The Laws of Charisma, by Kurt W Mortensen

Every once in a while I run across a book that I like and recommend, but isn’t complete, lacking some essential element.  One of those books is The Laws of Charisma: How to Captivate, Inspire, and Influence for Maximum Success by Kurt W. Mortensen (AMACOM: 2010).

The problem with The Laws of Charisma isn’t its thesis—that charisma is a combination of qualities that together, according to Mortensen’s definition, create “the ability to easily build rapport, effectively influence others to your way of thinking, inspire them to achieve more, and in the process make an ally for life.”

If we accept Mortensen’s definition of charisma, then the qualities that he lays out in the book make great sense as components of charisma, and further they are all qualities that can be learned to one extent or another.  Mortensen argues that by learning to effectively and genuinely use these qualities; even the least charismatic person can become charismatic to some extent. 

I don’t have a problem with his thesis although I believe that the true and very rare quality we usually call charisma is not a quality that can be learned or created.  Consequently, I’m not sure I’d define charisma as Mortensen has.  Nevertheless, I certainly believe that the qualities he discusses, if combined, will lead to a highly influential and commanding individual—just something short of those we think of as the truly charismatic such as JFK, Ronald Reagan, Caesar, Hitler (charisma can, of course, be used by the good and the evil).

Mortensen’s book delves into 34 qualities that he argues are necessary in combination to create what his version of charisma.  These qualities vary in complexity; a few are:

Passion:  The Transfer of Pure Energy
Humor and Happiness:  It Comes from Within
Self-discipline:  Willpower Equals Commitment
Focus:  Activity Does Not Equal Accomplishment
Rapport:  The Instant Connection
Motivation: Light Their Fire
Goodwill:  Charity and Compassion
Empathy:  Compassion Creates Friendship
Verbal Presentation:  It’s How You Say It
Nonverbal Communication: Gestures Trump Words

The issue I have with the book is that it lays out the 34 essential qualities in an equal number of short 4 to 6 page chapters. 

Each chapter deals with an essential quality using a set formula:

  • ·         The chapter briefly lays out Mortensen’s argument as to why that quality is important
  • ·         discusses in a paragraph or two why we often have a blind spot about our own lack of the quality
  • ·         a very short application section that is filled with three to five bullet points about how to apply the quality
  • ·         an example of some charismatic individual whose life demonstrates the quality
  • ·         a self-assessment section where one can rate oneself on the quality on a scale of 1 to 10

Although the chapters are brief and quick and easy to read, they really aren’t “how to” chapters.  Mortensen lays the groundwork to establish the need for the quality, but really doesn’t give the guidance on how to acquire and build the quality.  In essence, The Laws of Charisma is an excellent overall guide but needs to be supplemented with 34 other books that will give meat to the question of “how to.”

Certainly no one wouldl need to supplement with a book for each quality, but a great many of these qualities are complex in and of themselves.  Few who are lacking in any of these qualities will intuitively know how to acquire and institute them without outside help—and very often much more help than three or four bullet points can give.

That being said, The Laws of Charisma is well worth the money as a guide to assessing your own charisma or lack thereof, and then helping you figure out what’s missing.  From there, you’ll probably have to do some additional looking for resources, but at least you’ll know what you’re looking for and why.

November 6, 2010

How to Guarantee You Get Great Referrals

At first glance, a referral is a pretty simple thing.  For most sellers, managers, and trainers, a referral is just a name and phone number that a client has given once the seller has completed the sale, has done a good job for the client, and then asks a general question such as, “do you know of anyone else that I might be able to help?,” or, “do you know of anyone else that might benefit from my products and services?”.

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

Unfortunately, this “do a good job and ask for a referral” process is totally and completely wrong, and has been proven by millions of sellers to not work worth a darn. Nevertheless, this is what is taught in almost every sales course that mentions referrals.  And not only is it a waste of time and effort, it deceives the seller who don’t succeed when using it into believing that the fault lies with him or her, 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 a referral.” 

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

A high quality referral is built on a foundation that has four solid pillars—and as the seller; you have control over three of them:

  1. Your relationship with your client:  Most clients don’t give referrals because they like you or even because you did a good job.  Certainly there are a few clients that will give referrals at the drop of a hat, but most clients hate to give referrals and unless they have a deep trust that you will not embarrass them and that you’ll deal honestly and competently with the prospect they refer, they won’t be willing to give quality referrals. 

    Most clients believe that when they give a referral they’re not just suggesting that someone they know speak to the person they are referring, they believe that they are endorsing the seller, in essence telling the person they refer to the seller that they don’t need to do any research because the referrer has already done it and this person they’re referring is the best choice.  To get clients to take this step doesn’t come without having built a strong bond of trust.

  2. Your client’s purchasing experience:  Discover what your client’s purchasing expectations and priorities are, then meet and, hopefully, exceed them. 

    Few sellers ever exceed their client’s expectations because even though they think they know what the client’s expectations are, they never really try to find out, they never ask.  You cannot afford to guess or “think” you know what your client’s expectations are–you must know exactly, and you can only do that by discussing them with your client and then making sure you meet or exceed them–nothing less will do. 

    If you don’t specifically ask your client what their expectations are, the best you can do is meet or exceed what you think your client’s expectations should be.

    Clients assume that the purchasing experience anyone they refer you  to will have a similar or WORSE experience than they had.  The further away from their desired purchasing experience they have, the less likely they will be to give a quality referral.

  3. The relationship between your client and the prospect:  This is the one pillar you have no control over.  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 your client, some of that trust and respect will be automatically imbued to you and you start your relationship with them from a position of strength.  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 and you will start your relationship with them from a position of weakness.  Your job is to find out exactly what the relationship between client and prospect is and then plan you introduction approach to them accordingly.

  4. Your initial contact with the prospect:  To this point you’ve invested a great deal time and effort in establishing your relationship with your client, making sure they have exactly the purchasing experience they want, and finding out what the relationship is between your client and the prospect they are referring.  After investing so much time and attention to get this far, the last thing you want is just a name and phone number.

    Instead of getting a traditional “referral” consisting of the name and phone of the prospect and permission to use your client’s name, get a direct introduction from your client to the prospect. 

    There are three primary methods of getting a direct introduction:

    Letter of introduction from your client to the prospect:  Ask your client to write a letter introducing you to the prospect.  However, once you’ve asked your client to write the letter, let them know that you know how busy they are.  Offer to take the burden off of them by writing the letter for their signature.  If you allow them to write the letter it won’t communicate a reason for the prospect to meet with you and it will be written on their schedule—which could be never.

    The letter you write should give a brief overview of what you’ve done for your client and why the client believes it would be beneficial for the prospect to meet with you, as well as the time and date to expect a call from you.  Have your client sign it.  Phone the prospect at the exact time your client indicated you’d be calling.

    Introductory phone call from your client to the prospect:  An even stronger introduction is a phone call from your client to the prospect to introduce you.  This method puts additional pressure on the prospect to agree to set an appointment with you as it is difficult for the prospect to say “no” to your meeting request when they know that their friend, co-worker, or associate is standing next to you when you ask.

    The downside to a phone call is it gives the prospect the opportunity to ask questions of your client.  If there were aspects to the sale that didn’t go well there is a good chance they will surface during the phone call.

    Lunch meeting with your client, the prospect, and yourself:  A tremendously strong introduction method.  Have your client invite the prospect to lunch or coffee with the three of you.  Encourage your client to let the prospect know this is NOT a sales meeting, just an opportunity for the two of you to meet one another. 

    One of the strange things that often happens during the meeting is the client ends up being your salesperson and you are there simply as the consultant.  And, again, it is very difficult for the prospect to say “no” when you request a meeting.

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 third one by using a strong method of introduction.

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.

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