Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 30, 2011

Think You’re Meeting and Exceeding Your Client’s Expectations? You’re Fooling Yourself

Filed under: Client Relationships,sales,selling,small business — Paul McCord @ 1:53 pm
Tags: , ,

Everybody seems to love buzzwords and phrases.  Buzz phrases are everywhere—in our daily conversation, in advertising, and in our business communications.  Someone comes up with a pithy statement that sounds great and the next thing you know, that phrase is on everyone’s tongue.  Buzzwords and phrases take on a life of their own.  To be “in,” you have to adopt the phrase and act as if you own it. 

Nowhere are buzzwords and buzz phrases more prevalent than in the business world.  Businesspeople seem to have a natural affinity for picking up and using the latest buzz phrase.  When someone coins a fine sounding phrase, the next thing you know, you hear it everywhere.

Such is the case with “exceeding client’s expectations.”  That little three-word phrase is everywhere today.  You see it and hear in advertising.  It’s on the lips of almost every salesperson.  It’s parroted by executives from the smallest mom and pop shop to the largest of international corporations.  You hear it in the boardroom, in the sales office, in the customer service bullpen, and the halls of the HR department. 

No matter whom the “customer” is—an internal department, a purchasing prospect, a vendor, a supplier, a distributor, a job applicant, everyone in every department is out to exceed their customer’s expectations. 

A very noble and worthwhile goal, no doubt.

What Does “Exceeding the Client’s Expectations” Mean?
What do companies and businesspeople mean by the phrase?  Ask and you’ll get basically one response:  “giving the customer more than they expected.”

Great objective; but more of what exactly? 

If I give them more hassle than they expected, didn’t I exceed their expectations? 

If I give them a higher price than they expected, didn’t I also give them more than they expected? 

If I give them more red tape then they expected, again, didn’t I exceed their expectations?

The response to the above is “How stupid, McCord.  Exceeding a client’s expectations means giving them more benefit or more service than they expected.”

O.K.  So, how do you do that? 

The typical response is by giving the client a better product than they expected for the price or by giving them better customer service than they expected.  Or possibly its giving them more value than they expected.  Or it could be treating them better than they expected.

I’ll accept that but how do you know when you’ve exceeded their expectations?

Why Companies and Salespeople Cannot Exceed Their Client’s Expectations
Ask how one can know when one has exceeded the client’s expectations and the typical response is “We know what our customers expect.  They expect the product to do such and such.  They expect the product to last for X years.  They expect the product to be available in these colors, with these options.  They expect delivery within X number of days.  They expect to be able to reach customer service in a reasonable amount of time.  They expect . . . whatever.”

That, of course, raises the question:  “How do you know that’s what your customer expects?”

“Because we know our customers,” comes the response.  “We pay close attention to what our customers want and expect, and we aim to deliver more than that.”

I see.  But I must ask, do all of your customers expect or want exactly the same thing? 

“Of course, not,” I’m told.  “That’s the reason we have different models and options.”

That makes sense, as far as it goes.  But what about customer service?  What about the way customers are treated.  What about delivery and other aspects of the sale.  Do all of your customers want the same thing?

“More or less, yes.  As I said, we know our customers very well, so we’ve designed our service and sales process to meet, and to even exceed, those expectations.”

Now, we’re getting somewhere.  So I finally understand what that phrase means.  Exceeding a client’s expectations means you’ve developed a model of your “typical” client and seek to exceed what you BELIEVE to be your typical client’s expectations.  Right?

“Well, you could put it in those terms, but that isn’t the way we see it.”

I’ve got the picture now.  You are shooting to exceed what you believe your client’s expectations SHOULD be, not what they really are.  You don’t exceed your client’s expectations; you shoot to exceed your assumption about your client’s expectations.

Is it Possible to Exceed Your Client’s Expectations?
No.  It is impossible to exceed your client’s expectations the way the vast majority of salespeople and companies do business.  It is simply impossible to do if you are working from your assumptions about the client’s expectations, not what the client’s expectations are. 

Yes.  However, by just asking each and every prospect and client what their expectations are, exceeding the client’s expectations becomes a very real possibility.  Once you know what your client expects, your goal is to give them the exact purchasing experience they want, not the one you think they should have.

Every prospect and customer is different.  Each has their own set of wants, needs, goals, and service criteria.  You cannot know what those are without asking, and if you don’t know what they are, you cannot meet or exceed them, no matter how hard you try.

You Are the Only One Who Can Exceed the Client’s Expectations
Knowing your client’s expectations gives you a tremendous advantage over your competition.

Most salespeople will not ask, consequently, they cannot perform the way the client wants them to.  In addition, most will rely on their company to “exceed” the client’s expectations.  It is impossible for a company to exceed the client’s expectations because the company simply has too many clients with too many different expectations to individualize the sales process.

Consequently, you are the only one capable of doing it.  It is your job to turn the purchasing experience into the one your client wants, not your company’s.  You must become the client’s advocate in the process.

Knowledge really is power.  By taking the simple step to ask your client what their expectations are, you gain the power to give them the experience that will give you the basis for gaining referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.  In addition, if you discover your client has unrealistic expectations, you can deal with them at the beginning of the sales process rather than finding out later, after they have evolved into a real problem.

Do yourself a huge favor—ask.  Not only will it improve your relationship with your client, you’ll see the effort returned in the form of more sales.


January 28, 2011

Trust on Decline Unless You’re Recognized as an Expert Study Finds

Leanne Hoagland-Smith suggested I take a look at a very interesting post by Steve Rubel that draws attention to some recent research his company, Edelman, the largest PR firm in the world, has done in the area of trust.  His findings are most interesting for sellers and small business owners even though his real target is larger corporations engaged in constructing advertising and public relations campaigns.

One of the major findings is that there has been a decline in the number of people who trust in a person “just like myself.”  Rubel goes on to give his analysis: ”I believe the reason for this is that, as more of us join social networks, there’s been devaluation in the entire concept of ‘friendship.’”

Another finding was that trust of credentialed experts increased to 70%.  According to Rubel, “This is a trend that began last year. In addition, for the first time we looked at the credibility of technical specialists inside a company. Trust in this group is off the charts (64%). This hits home the need to identify those with expertise inside a company who can engage across different channels, many of which today are digital – or will be soon.”

Very important for us in sales, the study also found that in developed countries such as the US and the UK people need to hear a message as many as NINE times—and from multiple channels to effect behavior change.  Now this study was looking at media communication, but human nature doesn’t change—if it takes multiple hearings in multiple channels for marketers to change recipient behavior, it’s logical to assume the same is true when dealing directly with prospects and clients (one of the reasons historically we’ve had to we talk to them, give them collateral material, and make formal presentations to them—multiple hearings from multiple channels).  The key here is how many times the recipient had to hear the message before behavior changed.  Nine.  That’s a lot—and most of us probably give up on a prospect long before they’ve heard our message nine times.

You can get a mini-whitepaper of the study here.

January 25, 2011

Is It Really a 2.0 World for Sellers?

The hype is everywhere: if you’re a salesperson or company without a blog, you’re totally out of today’s marketplace and are losing position to the competition hourly because unlike them, you’re not establishing your image as an expert; if you’re not active on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and/or Youtube, you may as well concede that you won’t be in sales 6 months from now; if your focus is anywhere besides online, you completely misunderstand 21st century buyers.

The message from so many is simple: we live in a 2.0 (going on 3.0) world, and anyone who doesn’t recognize that and realign their business to focus on the enormous and exponentially growing online business opportunities is a dinosaur and cannot possibly be successful in the future—and the future is defined as tomorrow, the next day at the latest.

Certainly this is a message that many businesses and salespeople want to hear.  No more having to cold call.  No more having to figure out where to advertise—yellow pages? Magazines? Newspapers?  Nope.  No more having to network through physical groups and events.  Focus on social media and the virtual world and grow your business without having to invest a dime or spend hour after hour prospecting and hearing ‘no’ after ‘no.’  Finally, a free–and rejection free–way to sell and make more than you ever dreamed possible.

What a crock.

It’s also a message that a great many people have a very vested interest in spreading.  Take a look at the incredible number of social media, internet marketing, and online business “gurus” and “coaches” trying to connect with folks on Twitter.  It appears that everyone who’s ever signed up on Twitter and successfully created a tweet considers themselves to be social media experts, ready and willing to charge the next sucker a buck to teach them how to create a tweet also—and promise them instant millions without having to work. 

Then there are the “futurists,” predicting how technology is going to change the world of selling, virtually destroying the sales profession while creating untold opportunities for companies to increase sales and profits.  These are the same futurists who upon the invention of the telephone predicted that salespeople would never again meet face to face with prospects; and who upon the arrival of the fax machine predicted that mail was no longer necessary; who upon being introduced to email declared that surely this time business mail really was dead.  Now, with the gazillions of social media options, they’re proclaiming that this time technology really is going to completely revolutionize the world of selling.

And, of course, there are thousands and thousands of companies joining the chorus of social media and internet hype who must sell their products and services to the businesses and salespeople who want to be in the vanguard of the new sales world order. 

Before I go any further let me say that despite the above, this isn’t a polemic against the internet or social media.  My Sales and Sales Management blog is entering its fifth year of publication; I am active on Twitter and Facebook; I participate on LinkedIn and Focus and many other social media sites.  I believe there is much of value and much to be gained from these technologies and you should be involved with them just as I am—but I don’t believe that they’re decreasing the need for massive traditional offline marketing and sales activities.  If anything, the hype surrounding social media has lured many competitors away from traditional prospecting and marketing, giving those who recognize the current limitations of social media a distinct advantage over those who have bought into social media as the ANSWER.

I’m also not by any means trying to say that all trainers, coaches or advocates of social media are hyperbolic in their views of the role of social media.  There are many great trainers and coaches who understand social media’s place in the marketplace and do a superb job in guiding and directing sellers and business owners in how to use and gain value from them. 

The Reality of the Internet and Social Media

That being said, there’s still far too much unfounded, wishful thinking about the power of social media.  A recent post by Brian Carroll demonstrates the lack of business generated by social media—Brian was quoting Sergio Balegno, Director of Research for MECLABS, the parent company of InTouch of which Brian is President.

MECLABS surveyed 2,300 marketers and discovered that by the end of 2010 only 6% were generating enough business leads to track ROI.  Only 25% of marketers even have clear objectives and practices for engaging social media.

Those surveyed were marketers of good size companies, not small businesses and individual sellers.  Sergio’s conclusions are very different from mine.  His conclusion is that 6% of companies realizing enough sales to track ROI with such a new medium is impressive.  That conclusion is all well and good–for a company that can afford to assign someone to managing an aggressive social media campaign.

My conclusion is that only 6% of sizable companies producing measurable ROI with a marketing department behind their activities indicate that a small business or individual seller is so far behind the 8 ball with social media that investing significant amounts of time trying to create business through it is a monumental mistake.

Further, if only 25% of the marketing departments of companies using social media have developed clear objectives and practices of how to use it, how many small businesses and individual sellers who don’t have the time or research resources of a fully fledged marketing department have developed such?  How many can spend the time and effort needed to develop such a plan and still maintain their sales volume, much less increase it?

In addition, Dave Stein of ES Research Group, Inc, the only independent source of intelligence and advice on sales training approaches, programs and the companies that provide them, forwarded to me the following graph that indicates that there is still a huge segment of society that relies little or not at all on the internet for information and decision making help.


Although this chart tracks only three items; how many in each age group go online for any reason; how many in each age group access a government website; and how many in each group access financial information, it does give us some idea of how many use the internet for non-government oriented research and information.

According to the above study 79% of the population above 12 years of age goes online, yet only 38% of the population above 18 uses it for financial research and information, which is one of the top research topics on the internet.  This correlates well with a study by Ruder Finn Internet Index which found that 80% of all internet users go online to socialize but less than half that number uses the internet for shopping and/or research.

If we assume there are about 235 million Americans 18 or older and 79% go online but only 50% of them use the internet for shopping and research, there’s only 93 million adults online shopping and using it for research (39.5% of the total adult population).  That means there are still 142 million Americans (60% of the adult population) not buying online or using the internet for research, i.e., 142 million Americans that you won’t be reaching online no matter what you do.

The question is simple: do you want the opportunity to reach 40% of your market (online), 60% of your market (offline), or 100% of your market (both segments)?  If you concentrate on those who are online, you’ll be eliminating 60% of your potential market (these numbers do not include businesses which would add many more millions to each category).

Now, take 60% of your potential market away and then realize that only 6% of companies with a marketing department that has the resources to aggressively work social media have generated enough business from it to be able to track results.  What are the realistic chances that social media is going to become a significant income stream producer for you or your small business?

I know, I hear the answers now—“I’m not online to sell, I’m looking to develop relationships; sales are secondary and hopefully will come someday.”  Really?  You’re spending two, three, four, five hours a day online to develop relationships with people or companies not to sell–but to maybe sell someday?  What would a sales manager say if when she asked you how you spent your week you said something like, “Well, I spent about 10 hours this week on the phone calling and meeting with prospects and clients, and I spent 20 hours online trying to develop relationships.” 

“I see,” your manager says, “what are your sales projections from spending so much time online?” 

“Oh, you misunderstand,” you answer, “I’m really not trying to sell, I’m developing relationships with lots of folks that maybe in the future might someday be prospects.  See, social media isn’t for selling, it’s for relationship development and to do it right I’ve got to spend a good deal of time interacting with them.”

“I’m sorry,” your manger responds, “I was under the impression your job was to sell.  How did I get such a wrong impression?”

“I know,” you respond, “it’s hard for you to grasp the new sales paradigm.  Things have changed, we now sell by not selling, we engage with people who might want to buy at some point in the future.  With social media I can engage hundreds of these companies.  One day, if I continue to spend half my time engaging this way I’ll be a big producer, I’m sure.  You’ll see.”

“Uh, huh,” your manager stammers.  “How much business have you gotten so far?”

“None, but don’t worry, it’s the wave of the future, everybody says so.”

“So is unemployment,” your manager responds, “it’s the wave of today.”

Sounds silly?  Yes.  Real?  Yep, there are lots of sellers spending huge amounts of time engaging in social media when they should be selling.  But, hey, social media’s easier and safer—and everybody’s doing it.

The Real Role of the Internet and Social Media in Sales and Marketing

What does this mean for sellers and small business owners?  It doesn’t mean ignore social media.  Not by any means.  Social media can play a real role in your marketing—and it will become more important over time; just take a look at the percentage of each age group that is plugged into the internet.  As you would expect, it gets bigger and bigger as the ages get younger, and, of course, those youngsters will become oldsters one day.  Likewise look at their activities.  Those in the 18 to 34 age group aren’t that far behind the older age groups in using the internet for financial research.  As they age, more and more members of this age group will engage the internet for reasons other than socializing.  By the time they reach the 65-73 age group, their financial research numbers could well be almost twice what that current age group’s numbers are.

But that’s a good ways away.

Unless you sell only to internet users—say you’re selling SEO services, website design, and such—your market is more offline than online (even if you only sell to net users you still have to spend a good deal of time selling offline—EBay and Esurance are good examples).

For most of us the internet is a viable marketing tool if used correctly.  (For an interesting current discussion of using blogs to establish credibility and expert status, see Dave Brock’s post and the comments here.)  Unfortunately, it can also be the ruination of us if we allow it to eat up too much of our time hoping for easy, faceless, no rejection sales.  There’s really no magic bullet to get around the fact that selling success has, as Tibor Shanto of Renbor points out, “always come down to planning, discipline and execution.”  Tibor goes on: in B2B sales “most buyers are not plugged in to the [internet] echo chamber to the degree 2.0 gurus would lead you to believe.  Speak to most office supply sales people, speak to buyers in the transport trade, or a vast majority of buyer and sellers, and they are not in the 2.0 lane, some are not in any lane at all.  Even many of the buyers who are ‘tuned in’ find themselves with information overload and contradictory input, as a result studies show that they still turn to direct interaction with trusted sales professionals.”

I think that in today’s world investing a few minutes a day in social media makes perfect sense and is a commitment almost every seller should make; making social media a major time and effort commitment doesn’t. 

Where you invest your time—and how much you spend–is the real question.  Most salespeople need to engage social media as a prospecting and marketing tool. More than that, they need to engage social media as a tool to develop and strengthen relationships with their prospects and clients who are tuned into technology.  Linda Richardson of Richardson, one of the leading sales training companies, put it well:

“Selling is about relationships and competency.  Sales 2.0 does not take the place of relationships, but it does give salespeople and customers a new platform for building relationships and increasing competency.  Sales 2.0 is more than technology. The tools enable collaboration, better preparation, and create a more effective and efficient way to sell. 2.0 is about reaching and connecting with the right people, getting a lot smarter and engaging in more meaningful conversations.   Of course not every company or buyer is leveraging 2.0 but by waiting on the sidelines sales organizations and salespeople are placing themselves at a serious disadvantage and risk.  Sales 2.0 is transforming sales and opening up possibilities never before seen.    It is a fast moving 2.0 Sales World and with the ever increasing number of tools there is a real need to help salespeople learn how to use them to reach their buyers.”

Where are buyers today?  Certainly there’s a large contingent that engage the internet, yet most are there not to buy or to do research or inquire about products, services, needs, or wants, but to connect with their circle of friends—to socialize with their group.

That recognition means we have to consider just how much are we willing to invest in the 2.0 world when we are not going to be able to engage with the majority of our prospects.  Can we connect with prospects?  Can we even make an occasional sale?  Yes.  Is it going to produce the business that could be otherwise produced in strategic offline prospecting and engaging of prospects?  Testimony and research to date seems to indicate the answer is a resounding no, not now.  Are the hoped for relationships that will result in future sales worth spending large numbers of hours on social media sites?  Not if your paycheck relies on sales.  Unfortunately you can’t cash a relationship, no matter the future potential. 

The internet and social media will continue to grow in importance.  You need to have a presence and grow that as the influence of the technology grows.  But if you want to be in business long enough to see significant business come from it, you have to be fully engaged in the business of selling—offline.  That hasn’t changed and it won’t change for many, many years to come.

The Major Role of the internet and Social Media for Most Sellers Today

That doesn’t, however, finish the discussion of the role of the internet and social media for us sellers.  Although the chart Dave sent me points out the limitations of social media and the internet for marketing, Dave emphasized the very real benefit of them for virtually every salesperson to significantly change and improve their prospecting research, for learning and sharpening sales and product knowledge, and for the fast and inexpensive (often free) opportunities for great training and skill development through blogs, article sites, webinars, forums and groups, and the other platforms available on the net.

Webinars offer unbelievable training and learning opportunities and should be a core resource for every company and seller.  You can get guidance and training from some of the best trainers and thinkers in business and sales without having to leave your office; whereas in the past you couldn’t get their training unless you were lucky enough to have your company bring them in or you lived in or were willing to travel to a place where they were presenting a public seminar—if they gave public seminars.  The internet has opened those opportunities to every seller in the world that has a computer and internet connection–and often at no cost.  (Webinars are also one of the best resources for sales and customer service as the uses for selling, customer and internal training, and servicing customer needs is endless.)

LinkedIn groups and sites such as Focus offer sellers the opportunity to ask questions and get answers from some of the top sales minds in the world, as well as from other sellers.  These forums and groups make it possible to get world class answers to virtually any question a seller could possibly have—free of charge.

For most of us the internet has opened tremendous new doors for researching our markets, for identifying quality prospects, for doing competitor research, for obtaining training and developing new skills.  As Linda indicated above, it can help us create a more effective and better way to sell—both online and offline.

The 2.0 world does have a tremendous impact on how we sell.  Its influence will continue to grow.  Right now it can open doors to opportunities in training and research that can change the very basic nature of how we do things.  The only thing it can’t do is help us reach that more than 60% of our market that doesn’t use the internet or social media outside of socializing with their group.  For that—for the lion’s share of our market—we have to hit the street in the same manner we’ve always done.  And that means it really isn’t quite a 2.0 sales world–yet.

January 22, 2011

Guest Article: “Could You Be Selling More? You’ll Never Know If You Don’t Ask,” by Art Gould

Filed under: sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 11:31 am
Tags: , , , ,

Could You Be Selling More? You’ll Never Know If You Don’t Ask
by Art Gould

The slick, fast-talking salesman is a thing of the past. He has taken his place on the shelf right alongside the slide rule, the telegram, and the VHS movie tape. Customers are smarter, more sophisticated, and more worldly than they were in the 1930s; therefore the sales techniques that worked well back then no longer stand a chance in today’s world. The salesperson of the 21st century needs to adapt to today’s customer, who is a quite different animal altogether than his great-grandfather was.

As a division manager of a robust self-storage facility, I deal with customers on a daily basis. My ongoing challenge is to keep my current client base strong and secure, while at the same time continually seeking to establish new client relationships. Early on in my career I quickly learned to say good riddance to all of the old paradigms associated with the ubiquitous salesman stereotype that stuck in my mind; you know, the guy who tries to overwhelm his customer with a lot of talk about his product. Instead, what I found was a way to sell that involves a lot less talking and a lot more listening. And when I do talk, the words that come out of my mouth are mostly questions, not statements. Since implementing my new strategy, I have not only improved rapport with my present customers, but have located many new ones. My sales approach can be summarized in three phases:

  1. Participation: A salesperson in today’s world needs to come across as a counselor rather than a demagogue. The first step is to use a combination of listening and questioning to make the client feel like she is a full participant in the interview, not just a listener.
  2. Discovery: Next we need to find some clues about what motivates the client and what he might need. The most effective form of discovery is when the customer articulates his own desires by doing the talking and hears the words come out of his own mouth. Very often the client himself is at first fuzzy and vague about what he wants but learns it himself as he speaks. The right types of questions will get him to do this.
  3. Realization: This is when the customer realizes his obstacles and begins to understand what needs to happen in order to solve his problems. It is not until this phase that I become my client’s rescuer. My final series of questions will be designed to elicit a mental image in his mind of how much better his life will become once my product is part of it.

In order to gently navigate my client through these three phases, I use an approach consisting of an astute strategy of questioning (30 percent) mixed with a heavy dose of listening (70 percent). The types of questions I ask fall into three general categories:

  1. Unfolding questions: These are questions which invite the client to do a lot of the talking. As such, we want them to be open-ended and to call for an answer much more elaborate than a simple yes or no. This type of question is valuable throughout the interview. By doing most of the talking, the customer becomes a full participant in the discussion. In addition, he lets you know what motivates him and provides some good insight on how he sees his problem.
  2. Illumination questions: This type of question is designed to clarify what the customer said; for example “Did I understand you correctly that this is what you mean?” The value of this type of question is twofold: it insures that both of you are on the same page, and it demonstrates to the customer that you are not only listening to her, but are sincerely interested in understanding exactly what she is trying to say.
  3. Affinity questions: An outstanding questioning tactic is to ask a question which repeats (maybe in slightly different wording) something the customer herself just said. As a form of reinforcement, this type of questioning establishes a bond between salesman and customer and makes your customer feel like you see things the way she does and that you sympathize with her. By judicious use of affinity questions, I can usually guide my client past the discovery phase and all the way through to realization.

Of course, the most important thing to remember is to do a lot of listening and very little talking! Listening is the key. Remember that the longer the customer talks, the more he feels like a participant, the more he thinks you care about him and his problems. And thats when you will find the fit between your customer and your product.

Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a West Palm Beach self-storage locator. Though busy, Art enjoys meeting new people and clients when traveling to sites, like Lakewood or the Miami self storage center.

January 20, 2011

Guest Article: “Don’t Get Trapped In Too Small Commitments,” by S. Anthony Iannarino

Filed under: sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 10:42 am
Tags: , ,

Don’t Get Trapped In Too Small Commitments
by S. Anthony Iannarino

Getting in with your dream client can sometimes be the most difficult part of any deal. To get in, you may lower the commitment level so that you are asking for a commitment that is easier to obtain; you make it easier for your dream client to say “yes.”

The Big Value of Small Commitments

You want your dream client’s business. They know that you want their business. But if you were to say, “Hi, I’d like to spend time exploring the most challenging parts of your business with you, help you to create a vision as to how those things might be made better, then spend the next ninety days working with you and your team on a massive transformational change effort and become your trusted partner for life,” it might be a little more than your dream client can agree to, sight unseen.

So, you lower the commitment level. You say, “I’d like to spend 20 minutes with you to understand your business and to explore any future opportunity to help make some improvements.” Twenty minutes is something that is easier to commit to.

Lowering the commitment level is very useful when trust has not been established. It allows your dream client to agree to low level commitments that have little or no risk attached to them—other than you not making that time valuable for them.

Big Deals Require Big Commitments

Later, as the deal progresses, you need to ask for higher-level commitments. Lowering the commitments can and will unravel the deal you are putting together. If you are working in front of the deal, then you need access to the buying team members so that you can understand their needs and ensure that what you present reflects their needs and their vision of the right answer. You need access and information from all kinds of people in a complex sale, so that what you sell not only wins, but so that you can ensure that it succeeds for your client.

As the deal progresses, you have to ask for greater and greater commitments, never lowering the commitment level so low that you cannot obtain what you need to win and what you need to later succeed. The resistance isn’t usually a lack of trust; the resistance is usually the lack of time and resources. To obtain greater commitments, you are going to have a history of being a value-creator, and you are going to have to be able to explain the return you intend to generate on their investment of their time and effort.

You have to be prepared to say, “I know that other salespeople haven’t asked for this access to the members of the buying team in the past, but meeting with your buying team members allows us the opportunity to listen to them describe what they specifically need from any solution we propose, and we get a chance to talk through any issues that might prevent what we propose from succeeding. Ultimately, it allows us to work with your team to make sure what we do produces the outcome that you need, as fast as possible, with fewer missteps, and a lot less disruption. I promise I’ll make it worth their while.”

At the very end of our sales process, we have to ask for the big commitment: trusting us with their business. Along the way, you will have moved from commitment to commitment, increasing the level of commitment the whole way.


Not asking for the commitments that you need extends your sales cycle, decreases the likelihood of winning the business, decreases the likelihood of your solution matching their needs, and making obtaining the commitments you need for a real transformation later next to impossible.


It can be very useful to lower the commitment level early in the sales process, especially to get in. But you cannot get trapped in too small commitments later, when they will unravel your deal and cause you to fail for your dream client.

  1. What commitments do you ask for that you make easier to obtain by lowering the commitment level?
  2. At what stages of your sales process do you find it useful to lower the commitment level and make it easier for your client to agree?
  3. When do you need to ask for greater commitments in order to get what you need to win the deal and to succeed for your dream client should you win?
  4. What causes you to reduce the level of commitments that you are asking for as a deal progresses? What are willing to go without that, had you obtained the commitment you really needed, you would have better positioned to win and to succeed?
  5. How can you obtain the greater commitments that you need to win and to succeed? How can you make sure that your dream client knows how agreeing to those commitments benefits them in the long run? What language do you need to use to most effectively ask for and obtain the high level commitments that you need?

S Anthony Iannarino is the President and Chief Sales officer for SOLUTIONS Staffing, a best-in-class regional staffing service based in Columbus, Ohio. We provide light industrial, clerical, accounting, and scientific staffing solutions for our clients who need a higher-caliber employee, and the highest levels of service.  He is also the Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company where he works to help salespeople and sales organizations improve and reach their full potential.

January 14, 2011

Book Review: How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime

Selling in the real world is very different than the selling theory one often encounters in sales books.  A great many sales books—maybe the majority—are fluff filled wastes of time or pretentious tomes with little or no real world application.  Much of what is published in the sales category is either the pipe-dreams of an author looking for some new ‘hook’ to sell a book or a less effective rehash of what’s already been published dozens of times. 

Dave Kahle’s newest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime (Career Press:  2010) doesn’t’t claim to have found a newly discovered silver bullet to sales success.  Instead, Dave sets out in  a clear and concise presentation the steps necessary to be an effective and successful salesperson.   He takes time tested and proven strategies and puts them in an effective and workable process. 

Three things set Dave’s book apart from most of the other “how to’ sales books:

1)         Dave gives a very personal perspective—the book is filled with what Dave has personally learned over his career.  Dave talks from the trenches, not an ivory tower.  His wisdom comes from getting knocked around, not from a book shelf.  That real world experience leads to real world solutions.

2)         Dave lays out a very simple, workable, effective sales process.  Again, no theory, just a real world, workable process that takes you through the whole sale.  In brief, Dave’s process is 1) Engage with the right people; 2) find out what they want; 3) gain agreement on the next step; and 4) follow up.  Sound too easy?  It isn’t.  Simple does not mean easy.

3)         Dave doesn’t’t leave out the details.  So many sales books give big, broad directives but never fill in the real ‘how to’ detail.  Dave doesn’t’t leave the reader hanging.  There are three separate chapters dealing the finding the right people because he takes you through the process of not only finding them, but connecting with them.  In the same manner there are four chapters on finding what they want because Dave takes you through the process of finding out what they want–and then meeting those needs. 

If you are a seller—salesperson, business owner, or service professional—who either needs to learn a workable process to sell or you want to increase your sales effectiveness, I encourage you to pick up a copy of How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

You can get a bit more detail here

Or head over to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite bookseller and pick up a copy.

January 12, 2011

Guest Article: “40 Ways to Manage Your Time Tips,” by Josiane Feigon

Filed under: time management — Paul McCord @ 2:21 pm
Tags: ,

40 Ways to Manage Your Time Tips
by Josiane Feigon

1.    Turn off the email alert and instant message functions on your computer when you are making calls during peak hours.
2.    Don’t check your personal email during work hours.
3.    Refuse to do the unimportant.  Keep eliminating dead-end tasks.
4.    Learn to say “no” tactfully to requests that get you off-track.
5.    Don’t waste your valuable work time on social chat – stay focused on your work goals.
6.    Associate with time-conscious, organized and motivated sales people.  The feeling is contagious.  They will spur you on to make the most out of your time.
7.    Rearrange your work space. Use the “near-far” rule. 
8.    To discourage interruptions, set a non-negotiable calling time.
9.    Make your voice mail messages more specific, concise and action-oriented. Create urgency in your tone.
10.    Set deadlines for yourself and others, and keep them.
11.    Use your commute time efficiently.
12.    Reward yourself after, not before, completing work; stop procrastinating.
13.    Get organized, make a to-do list and use it.
14.    Always prioritize! Schedule more important work before less important work.
15.    Balance your plan…allow for the unexpected.
16.    Clean up your email inbox.
17.    Learn to qualify your prospects and don’t waste time pursuing bad leads.
18.    Update your contact management program and keep it current. 
19.    Ask for the first appointment of the day.  It’s the one most likely to start on time.
20.    Don’t offer to send literature, research, quotes without a commitment.
21.    Ditch low-potential prospects, or low-performing customers.  Cut your losses. 
22.    Don’t do what’s easy or trivial first – do what’s most important first! Learn to prioritize tasks.
23.    Don’t rush into things – assess their importance, prioritize, and plan.
24.    Read quickly…learn to skim and speed read, when appropriate.
25.    Batch tasks based on skill requirements; practice skill-shifting.
26.    Think positive and stop worrying about things you cannot control.
27.    Make a commitment to try something new every day to improve the use of your time.
28.    Set goals and create an action plan; this will increase your motivation.
29.    Use the 15-minute cycles as a period of time to start and finish activities.
30.    Don’t over-prepare for your calls, learn quick research techniques.
31.    Don’t limit yourself on the best time to prospect for new business.
32.    Improve your memory.
33.    Practice stronger rebound tactics after tough calls.
34.    Build lists, refine and refocus on quality only.
35.    Align your selling cycle with your customer’s buying cycle.
36.    Learn to sell faster.
37.    Sell at the highest level.
38.    Don’t get tangled in information overload.
39.    Create a success formula.
40.    Determine your qualification criteria- use it on all calls.

Josiane Feigon is a pioneer, maverick and visionary in the Sales 2.0 community. As President and Founder of TeleSmart, Josiane is a 20-year veteran and one of the world’s leading experts on developing sales teams and management talent. She provides consulting, coaching, and training solutions for hundreds of Fortune 500 companies whose global Sales organizations range from 20-800 salespeople. Visit her website at

January 10, 2011

Truth, Trust, and The Masks We Wear

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:43 am
Tags: , , , ,

“No, Paul, I didn’t spend any time prospecting yesterday.  I woke up and just didn’t feel enthused; didn’t want to be here.  Whenever I force myself to prospect when I feel that way, I always feel like I’m wearing a mask trying to be someone I’m not.  If I can’t be true to who I am, I’m not serving my clients, my company, or myself well.”

Dana (not her real name) is one of my newest coaching clients.  She is a strong producer selling relationship management software to small to mid-size companies in the northeast part of the country.  She finished the year well ahead of quota.  She isn’t the only salesperson I’ve spoken to who has an ethical issue with “being someone I’m not.”  In fact, she’s not the first seller who has referred to feeling like they’re being insincere, false, or lying when acting one way while thinking or feeling another way.

We may as well get the truth laid out on the table right now—we ALL wear masks.  We wear them a lot. 

Society demands we wear them. 

Professionalism demands we wear them. 

We want to wear them

While talking with Charlie Green of and Jeb Brooks of The Brooks Group about this article, both pointed out a book written in the 50’s by Erving Goffman titled The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life where Goffman contends that we are always, 100% of the time wearing some kind of a mask.

Although I’m not sure I buy the idea that our whole life is nothing but a continual, uninterrupted series of masks, I do believe that the concept that we all wear masks at times—especially in business–is pretty self-evident.

The question isn’t whether we wear masks, the question is: are the masks we wear ethical?  And if they’re ethical, do they inhibit trust?  At an even more basic level, are they designed to lie or to help us tell the truth?

Certainly we are all familiar with the mask so often associated with salespeople—that of the fake friend, our false ally who is going to help us get the best deal possible, fighting for us against his or her unreasonable manager, all the while lying and double-dealing without shame in order to maximize the sales price and, thus, their commission.

That mask of lies is what many salespeople associate with our profession and consequently they try to distance themselves from that image by inventing all kinds of titles (masks) for themselves that are designed to communicate they are NOT salespeople—they’re ‘advisors,’ ‘consultants,’ ‘customer advocates,’ ‘customer guides,’ ‘account managers,’ and dozens of other, mostly meaningless, titles.

Fortunately, although still used by hucksters and con artists, the mask above is slowing being forced out of the legitimate sales world as more prospects become educated about their potential purchases long before engaging a salesperson.  For most of us that clichéd mask isn’t in our hip pockets any longer. 

But many other masks are.   A few examples:

The, “Ms. Prospect, I’m really excited to speak with you this morning” mask when in actuality we feel crappy and would rather be doing anything other than speaking with her.  This is the one that Dana feels would be being dishonest with her prospects if she put it on when feeling like she’d rather be anyplace else than on the phone prospecting.

The, “yes, I understand how grievous a transgression it is being 5 minutes late to the meeting.  I’m sorry, it will never happen again” mask when in actuality we’re thinking “geeze, are you kidding?  The transgression is your pathetic excuse for a meeting that sucks the life out me and everyone else.”

The, “I know that your budget is tight and this is a tough decision, but my solution will increase your sales and put significant dollars on your bottom-line” mask when you’re actually thinking “OK, you have more money than you know what to do with, you cheapskate; knock it off with the games and let’s get down to business.”

Certainly salespeople aren’t the only ones who wear masks.  Sales managers wear their own masks, especially when dealing with their sales team and upper management.

Typical sales manager masks are:

The, “Bryan, man, just apply what we’ve been working on and you’re going to be just fine.  I know it’s been tough, but I have every confidence that you can be a great producer” mask while thinking “Man, what was I thinking when I hired this dimwit? What a goofball, it’ll take a miracle for him to last another month.”

And the “yes, sir, I talked to the team this morning and we’re on it.  You’ll see results by the end of the week” mask while thinking “Last week the crisis was to sell the XB2 systems and this week the future of the world depends on us forgetting about everything else and pushing the YS add-on.  You guys have no idea what you’re doing, do you?”

And, of course, there are a million other masks that we wear for our prospects, a different set for our clients, another set for our managers, and an even different set for our colleagues and co-workers.

Mask after mask is put on and taken off every day. 

Are we justified in wearing them?  What happens to trust if we’re caught wearing one by our prospect or client? 

These are really tough questions because, as Charlie pointed out in our discussion, a mask is by its very nature deceitful—at a minimum it’s hiding something we don’t want seen or is projecting something we don’t feel at the moment; and certainly most of us would consider being deceitful as bad.  Quite a dilemma—how can we be doing something that is considered bad and call it good?  Would Dana have been engaged in unethical activity if she had put on that “great to connect with you” mask when she didn’t feel like prospecting?

Tough questions.  My initial reaction to Dana was that the issue isn’t whether it is right or wrong to put on a mask because the mask itself is neutral—neither good nor bad.  The determining factor as to whether a particular mask is ethical or unethical is its intended purpose—why we put the mask on in the first place.

Was our intent to help build a relationship–or to manipulate someone into doing something they might not otherwise do? 

Were we trying to be sociable and considerate–or were we simply trying to catch someone off guard in order to slip something by them? 

Was it with the intent of being constructive–or with the intent of destroying?

As I thought about this issue over the next few days, I decided to ask a couple of friends what their thoughts were; thus my conversation with Charlie, Jeb, and Daniel Waldschmidt of

There seems to be two central points of agreement between the four of us:

  1. Masks are an absolute necessity.  As Charlie pointed out, without masks the very concepts of etiquette and manners cease to exist.  Or if we consider the deception of masks to be bad, then we would have to condemn the concepts of manners and etiquette since conforming to the rules by putting on the appropriate masks would be bad acts in and of themselves.  He sees that we put on masks for one of two reasons: either out of fear or out of respect, politeness and etiquette.

    I’ll add a third: to acquire something we want that we don’t believe we can get without being someone or something we aren’t. (To be fair, I suspect Charlie would file this as just another form of a fear based mask.) 

    Certainly no one would want to live in a world without rules governing how we act with one another.  In the 60’s, many of us of the Boomer generation decided that we needed to be “true to ourselves.”  We took that to mean that doing anything we didn’t feel like doing—or not doing that which we wanted to do—was a disingenuous act, conforming to the bourgeois norms of a crass and corrupt society.  We dispensed with much of society’s rules of behavior (and unwittingly adopted our own rules of behavior which we rationalized by “believing” the socially accepted acts we conformed to within our group were our own spontaneous actions that emanated from the real “me”).  It wasn’t pretty. 

    Most of us eventually grew out of it (a few, sadly, have been permanently lost in a stupor of blue smoke while clinging to their hookah) as we realized the masks of broader society were not only necessary unless we were willing to live in a minor subculture, they were more comfortable and in many ways more genuine than the masks we adopted when we were just ‘being true to ourselves.’ As Dan Waldschmidt put it, “Being sanctimonious about ‘not wanting to be who you’re not’ isn’t cool for pedophiles, rapists, or molesters. Why would sales execs claim any exception?”  (Or sanctimonious 60’s youth for that matter.) 

    So, no less in our professional life, as our social life, masks are mandatory.  Business etiquette demands we treat our prospects, clients, and business associates with respect—even if we don’t like or respect them.  Professional ethics demand that we perform at the highest level and with complete courtesy even with a prospect or client who is rude and hateful. 

    Business success demands that we interact and deal with our prospects, clients, and company associates with dignity and respect—and total professionalism even when we don’t feel like it.  Just try going a week being “true to who you are” and see how successful you are.

  2.  Most masks are ethically neutral—it’s your underlying reason for putting the mask on that determines whether the mask is ethical or not.

    Certainly some masks, such as the stereotypical seller mask introduced above, aren’t ethically neutral because they’re designed for one purpose—to defraud someone by making them think they are getting something they aren’t (usually a better or product than they’re really getting) or to coerce them into buying something they don’t want to buy.

    What about the other masks we identified above?

    But what about the mask Dana felt was trying to be someone she isn’t?  Is that mask bad or good?  Actually it could go either way.  In Dana’s case the intent isn’t to harm but rather to be able to efficiently utilize her time prospecting even when she doesn’t “feel” like prospecting.  Her intent is, as Jeb put it, to “increase the comfort level” of the people she’s speaking with.  She has a “genuine intent of getting the most out of an interaction.”

    If, on the other hand, Dana’s intent was to open a door by appearing to be something she isn’t with the intent to harm, whether through fraud, lying about the product or service to get a sale, or for any other illicit reason, wearing the mask would be unethical because it is being worn with bad intent.

    Let’s look at the mask warn by the sales manager who encouraged his salesperson to apply what they’ve been working on together and he’ll be just fine even though the sales manager doubts the salesperson will make it.  Again, this mask can go either way ethically.  If the manager’s intent was to try to encourage the salesperson with the hope, no matter how small, that the salesperson will get it in gear and turn things around, the mask is ethical as the intent is to produce a positive outcome.

    On the other hand, if the intent of the mask is simply to get the salesperson out of the sales manager’s hair until the manager can work out the details of firing the person, the mask is unethical as it’s only intent is to deceive the salesperson into believing he is working to save his job when in fact the decision to fire him has already been made.  Unfortunately, this unethical mask is worn by many, many sales managers every day.

    The next few masks are a bit more difficult to deal with.

    The, “yes, I understand how grievous a transgression it is being 5 minutes late to the meeting.  I’m sorry, it will never happen again” mask would certainly seem to be hiding not only the salesperson’s feelings about the value and content of the sales meetings they are required to attend, but possibly a general disrespect for his or her sales manager.  If it is simply a mask hiding their evaluation of the value of the sales meetings, I think the mask ethical in order to maintain civility and out of respect for their manager (although I would certainly think they should have a discussion with their manager about their perceived value of the meetings).  If, on the other hand, the mask is really one of many that are covering their attitude toward their manager, the mask is unethical because, to borrow a phrase from Charlie, “there’s too much of an honesty gap.”

    I believe the mask where the sales manager questions to himself whether or not senior management has a clue as to what they are doing is in and of itself unethical, again for the reason that there is simply too much disrespect being hidden. 

    In both of these instances the individual must take action to correct the honesty gap—either a discussion with the sales manager or senior management to clear the respect issues (uh, yeah, that probably won’t happen) or moving to an organization where they do respect their management.

    The salesperson who questions the lack of available dollars to purchase his or her product or service has, in my opinion, a far different issue—making the assumption that the prospect is lying.  This certainly isn’t an infrequent reaction—a great many of us instinctively make this assumption as soon as we hear monetary objections.  But are we justified in making the assumption?  In most cases, I doubt it.  Are we justified in masking our belief?  Yes, I think so.  If one of the valid reasons for adopting a mask is with, as Jeb said, the “genuine intent of getting the most out of an interaction,” then masking our suspicion is justified and ethical.  That doesn’t mean, however, that the suspicion itself might not be an indication that we need to take a close look at how we view our prospects and clients.  Although the mask itself may not be unethical, our view of our prospects and clients might.

OK, so we’ve narrowed it down to the idea that masks are necessary and for the most part whether or not a particular mask is ethical is dependent upon the reason the mask has been put on. 

What does that mean for us as sellers—if anything?

If we all are wearing masks, what’s to keep us from wearing the mask that will get us what we want, even if that mask is unethical?  What happens if we are caught by a prospect or client wearing a mask?

At its core, understanding that we are usually–if not always–wearing a mask gives us the ability to gain some control over the masks we wear.  It gives us the opportunity to make some ethical decisions we might not otherwise make and that we might wish not to make by forcing us to analyze the reasons we put on the masks we wear.  Are we putting a particular mask on in order to better serve a prospect–or to better serve our desire, no matter the ethical cost?

Charlie gives a great summary of the role masks play in our professional lives, so I’ll quote him at length:

Fear-based masks:

If I wear a mask in front of you out of fear, it is to protect myself from you.  Perhaps to project myself from your judgment, or to keep you from taking something I have, or to keep you from getting something I want.  Inherent in fear-based use of masks is a bad intent: to keep you from seeing some truth about something (usually some truth about me).  


“So fear-based masks are inherently oppositional–they are rooted in trying to keep one party from knowing what’s going on with another. 

“So–what does a fear-based mask do?  It triggers every fear both a buyer and seller feel.  What is he really saying?  Does he actually mean that?  What am I not hearing here?  What’s the real thought balloon?  How do I know he’s not saying something different to someone else? How do I know he’s not taking all my good stuff and spreading it around to my competitors? 

“The fear-based response triggered by a mask leads to suspicion, counter-lies, deceit, covering up, shading of meanings, white lies, and a host of other modes of deception that result in more of the same reciprocally in the other party.”


Respect-based mask:

“The other reason for masks is as a sign of respect, politeness, etiquette.  I rise as someone I respect enters the room; I smile at an elder (or a child); I nod my head in a sign of acknowledgement when I listen to a prospect describe his or her needs.  It may well be that I don’t feel like standing up, or smiling, or even that I disagree with someone–but politeness, respect, etiquette dictate a larger social reality–that we have evolved hundreds of little social rituals by which we acknowledge the legitimacy of the Other, the person in front of us, whether it is elderly Aunt Mildred, the head of sales at Xerox’s copier division, or a stranger on the street (in most towns, anyway).

“By contrast: respect-driven masks are an elaborate social ritual we go through to recognize our commonality, rather than our differentness.  They break down barriers, rather than erecting them.  They make it possible to live both as a corporate representative and as a human being, by emphasizing the things we have in common.    The ‘masks’ include our business card stock; the cut and fabric of our clothing; our choice of ties; and all this of course is before, ‘Oh, you grew up in the Ozarks too, eh?’ Or the East Coast, because the locale doesn’t matter.”

I’m in general agreement with Charlie—but with the recognition that there are those exceptional mask wearers who are so comfortable in their fear-based or illicit acquisition-based masks they don’t create the typical response in their victims– Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford quickly come to mind.

As sellers we must be ever mindful of why we put on the masks we do.  Are we sincerely trying to connect with our prospect or are we trying to manipulate them?  Are we acting out of respect and desire to communicate or are we acting out of a desire to create a particular beneficial outcome for ourselves no matter the cost to the prospect or client?

The masks we wear telegraph our intent and thus can either help establish and strengthen a bond of trust with the other person or they can create a feeling of unease, caution and suspicion. 

The question isn’t are you going to wear masks; the question is are you going to consciously put on ethical masks that build trust and communication or are you going to put on unethical masks designed to manipulate and control your prospect for your gain irrespective of the cost to the prospect?  It’s your choice.  Sooner or later you’ll reap the true value of the masks you wear—just ask Madoff and Stanford.

January 7, 2011

Guest Article: “The Five Steps To Successful Sales Communication,” by Nick Morgan

Filed under: Communication,Persuasion,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 11:21 am
Tags: , ,

The Five Steps To Successful Sales Communications
By Nick Morgan

The sales world has accumulated many myths about what makes for success, especially in the tricks and techniques for communicating during the sale — a huge part of any sales process. Following are some myth-busting insights from the latest communications research. Follow these five steps and see your close rate skyrocket!

1. It’s not about your product, it’s about listening to your customer’s need.

Most salespeople know that they should listen to the client, but too few of them do, and usually not soon enough. And they don’t listen in the right way. You should be listening for the underlying messages more than the superficial ones. What emotion is the (potential) customer putting forward? Excitement about a new purchase? Fear about a new technology? Resistance to change? Resentment at the old product?

What’s memorable — and important to people — in communication is emotion; that’s what you should be listening for and responding to, not just the expressed content. If you acknowledge a client’s emotions, and figure out an appropriate way to respond to them, you’ll be his favorite salesperson in no time.

Begin by reflecting back the basic messages. “So what I hear you saying is that you’re in the market for a new flibbertigibbet, is that right?” Once you get the basics settled, then move on to the emotions. Ask questions to elicit them, like, “Were you sorry to see the old one go, or was it good riddance to bad rubbish?”

Keep it light; this is a sale, not therapy. But don’t duck from stronger emotions if they come up. Put on your therapist hat and go to work. Your goal in all this is to be able to complete the following sentence: “Customer X is in the market for a Y, and she’s Z about it.” X is the customer, Y is the product, and Z is the customer’s attitude.

You’ll have time to sell your customer on products, features, and upgrades later. For now, focus on establishing a connection. We want to feel that connection is real and strong enough to last through the after-sale (or repeat-sale) care, so don’t rush it or fake it. Connections between people get established at the surface first, but if they’re to be durable, then they must have emotional glue to hold them together.

2. It’s not about eye contact; it’s about personal space.

Of course we all know that eye contact is important to communicating — and selling. But it’s not as important as most people seem to think. The exquisite dance of eye contact between two people who are talking to one another is largely regulated by our unconscious minds. The point is to signal — along with a symphony of other gestures — when one person is done or almost done and the other person should start talking. It’s only noticed when one person indulges in too much — or too little — eye contact. Then it interferes with the regulation of the conversation.

It’s like catching the eye of a waiter. A good waiter makes it effortless; the harried or incompetent make it difficult.

More important to communication and to sales is the amount of space between the two people. We all have incredibly sensitive monitoring capabilities keeping constant track of where we — and everyone else — is in space. It’s for obvious safety reasons, it’s mostly unconscious, and it works very well.

We monitor four zones of space. Twelve feet or more is public space — and our unconscious brains don’t pay much attention to that, because that means that people are far enough away that we have time to react.

Twelve feet to four feet is social space. That’s warmer, and our brains are now paying attention, but it’s still a cool relationship. Things heat up in personal space — four feet to a foot and a half. And things get really hot in intimate space — a foot and a half to zero.

Here’s what’s important: The only significant things that happen between people happen in personal and intimate space. As a sales person, you can’t go into intimate space, usually, so here’s the takeaway — to close a sale you must get into the personal space of the client/customer. It’s why car salespeople spend so much time shaking your hand — they want to build your trust by getting into your personal space repeatedly. Good tactic, just a bit overdone.

For the rest of us, a successful sale involves the delicate art of creating trust without pushing it. Use personal space subtly and tactfully and you’ll accomplish this with style. Let the eye contact take care of itself.

3. To close a sale, you need to first establish two things with your customer: credibility and trust.

To succeed with an audience, or a customer, you need to establish credibility first and trust second. Credibility comes first, because that’s what happens when you show that you understand the customer’s problem. Trust comes second, because that’s what you establish when you solve that problem.

Failing either one, your relationship with the client or customer won’t be durable. Without credibility, you’ll find that your customer will be likely to go elsewhere in search of expertise, even if they trust you as a human being. Do you really understand my paint color issues? Without trust, a client will be tempted to mine you for expertise, and then go make the ultimate purchase from someone else. Will you really follow through on the after-sale?

How do you establish these two key aspects of a relationship? Begin by listening to the customer’s problem. Show that you understand it as well or better than the client does, and you’ll create credibility. She gets that I loathe chartreuse! Finally, someone who knows something about paint!

Then, show how you can solve that problem. You’ll forge a strong bond of trust with that client when you take away the point of pain that sent them to the marketplace in the first place. That shade of lavender will be perfect for the room.

Credibility and trust. The two key ingredients for a strong, enduring relationship with a customer.

4. Closing a sale is all about understanding the customer’s decision-making process.

Where are your clients or customers when they get in touch with you?

Are they happy with the product they have, but want to be reassured that they made the right decision?

Or are they in the throes of the problem, uncertain of which way to go, looking for answers?

Or have they already decided on a course of action, and are basically looking for you to take the order?

Each of these states of mind requires very different handling; it’s axiomatic that you need to understand your customers’ state of mind clearly in order to be able to talk to them effectively.

Customers in the first stages of decision-making just need help with framing the problem. Less information is better. Just give them a statistic, or a very brief verbal portrait of what the future might look like. Do you realize that the 2011 version of the Fabulator uses half the energy of its predecessors?

Customers deep in the problem want information — comparisons, data, detail. This stage is where all that product or service knowledge you have is actually useful. Don’t go to the point of eyes glazing over, but do satisfy the urge for information. Both models will get the job done, but the Fabulator-B is smaller and quieter, not to mention faster operating.

And clients who have already made up their mind will appreciate some visualizing of the benefits, but very little else. They don’t want to be slowed down, so don’t make it hard for them to buy. You’ve made a great choice. The Fabulator Supreme will take care of all your issues and also make you a spectacular cup of morning coffee. Now let’s get that paperwork out of the way.

That’s why it’s so important to listen to your customers before you launch into any kind of explanation. If you don’t know where they are, you can’t point them to where they should be going.

5. Involve your customer with small steps to get them comfortable to take the bigger ones.

It’s imperative that you don’t do all the work in the sales process. If you keep your clients passive, don’t be surprised when it’s hard for them to suddenly get active and agree to close the sale. Too many salespeople think that it’s all up to them. But the real secret is to get the customer working on the deal too. Begin with little steps, steps that don’t involve big commitments, and then work up from there.

In the 1987 comedy Tin Men, 1960s-era aluminum siding salesman Richard Dreyfuss initiates a younger protégé into the magical world of sales. In one call on a housewife, Dreyfuss drops a dollar bill on the floor, and allows the housewife to pick it up for him. He explains to the initiate that he can tell whether or not he’s going to get a sale with this trick. If the housewife picks up the bill, she’s a nice person and can be talked into aluminum siding. If she doesn’t, she won’t be won over.

The psychology is right, but the execution is wrong. Dreyfuss should have been seeking to create a real relationship with his customers, rather than just exploiting them. And by getting them involved, not in sneaky tests of their malleability, but in genuine steps along the road to the sale, he would have increased the amount of aluminum siding gracing the houses of Baltimore.

Take your clients from passive to active. Involve them in the process. Don’t do all the work.

Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. In his blog he covers modern communications from a variety of angles, including the latest developments in communication research, the basic principles and rules of good communication, and the good and bad speakers of the day. His passion is to connect the latest brain research with timeless insights into persuasive speaking and writing in order to further our understanding of how people connect with one another.

January 6, 2011

Guest Article: “Brandwashing?,” by Roger Dooley

Filed under: branding,marketing — Paul McCord @ 10:41 am
Tags: , ,

by Roger Dooley

I’ve been hearing the invented word “brandwashing” for years now, but this combination of “branding” and “brainwashing” received new exposure when the New York Times suggested it as a synonym for neuromarketing.

But should we worry that a technique that probes subconscious brain patterns might be used to unduly influence consumers, turning them into shopping robots without their knowledge and consent? Indeed, neuromarketing is setting off alarm bells among some consumer advocates, who call it “brandwashing” — an amalgam of branding and brainwashing. [Emphasis added. From The New York Times – Making Ads That Whisper to the Brain by Natasha Singer.]

The article also quotes Penn prof Joseph Turow as saying, “There has always been a holy grail in advertising to try to reach people in a hypodermic way,” he says. The neuromarketing techniques described in the article are the use of EEG and biometrics to analyze consumer reactions to ads, as performed by firms like Neurofocus, Sands Research, and others.

Sadly, this juxtaposition of describing passive market research (like EEG ad studies) while talking about “hypodermic” persuasion and “brandwashing” provides fuel to crackpot conspiracy theorists.

EEG Studies Do Not Equal Brainwashing

Neuroalarmists generally are clueless about the details of neuromarketing as practiced today; they just know that it sounds scary. Seeing how people react to ads, brands, and packaging is something that marketers have been doing for decades, albeit with mixed results.

This does NOT mean that ads found to be more engaging will turn consumers into mindless drones. For many decades, marketers have been doing their best to develop powerful and effective ads. Sometimes, they succeeded in establishing awareness of a brand or product, or causing an uptick in sales. Never, though, have they taken over the brains of consumers in the way some people think neuromarketing can. NEWS FLASH: If there was a way to make ads effective enough to take over the brains of consumers, that would have happened long before EEG and fMRI arrived on the market research scene.

Why Wouldn’t We Want Better Ads and Products?

Most new products fail, and many ad campaigns have so little effect on sales that they are a total waste of money. Ultimately, consumers pay for these failed marketing efforts in the form of higher prices. In addition, we all have to put up with watching ineffective, boring ads because some firm’s marketing team launched the campaign without adequate testing. Personally, I like ads that engage me. While I fast forward past the endless stream of repetitive dreck that populates most commercial TV, I watch the Super Bowl more for the ads than for the game. Not all Super Bowl ads are winners, but their originality and creativity make them a lot more engaging than the usual fare.

If one takes the position that using neuromarketing studies are wrong, what one is really saying, “We want more boring ads, more new products that fail in the marketplace, and fewer products that people really like!”

The truth is that people are often incapable of articulating what they really like. EEG, fMRI, and biometrics may provide a somewhat more accurate way of measuring their preferences when compared to focus groups or surveys. These technologies do NOT inject brand preferences into consumer brains, so let’s lose the “brandwashing” idea before it gains more currency.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy.

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