Sales and Sales Management Blog

October 28, 2011

2011 Top Sales & Marketing Awards – It’s Time to Nominate!

Filed under: sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 4:57 pm
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This year’s online Top Sales & Marketing Awards ceremony takes place on December 15th, and this year there are three medals up for grabs in fourteen categories.

In addition, they will be inducting a further six “sales legends” into the “Hall of Fame” during the ceremony. So do please go across and nominate your favorites

How Will the Final Nominees Be Chosen?
With the exception of Top Sales & Marketing Article, the judges will select between six and twelve finalists (depending on the category) from all of the nominations made.

How Will Voting Take Place?
The public voting polls will be open at from 12:00 mid-day on November 18th until 12:00 mid-day on December 9th: Anyone is eligible to vote as many times as they like, and in as many categories as they wish, but there is a restriction of one vote per IP address per 24 hours.

Voters will be asked to register, but will only need to do this once.

How Will the Winners Be Chosen & Announced?
Public voting will only account for 50% of the total marks, and the other 50% will be down to the judging panel in each category. Each panel will consist of three industry experts.

Once each judging panel has made their decision, their marks will be passed to an independent adjudicator who will then verify the overall results in each category.

The names of the judging panel and the adjudicator will be announced before November 10th

The winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in each category will be announced during the live online ceremony on Tuesday December 13th, which begins at 12:00 mid-day Eastern (5:00pm GMT)

Places for the ceremony are free, and registration is open from November 10th on the home page at

They will also post the results on site from December 16th.

So, your first task is to pop over and nominate all of your favorites ……..


October 27, 2011

Book Review: The Key to the C-Suite

Filed under: Book Reviews — Paul McCord @ 10:10 am
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At what level in the company do you sell?  Most sellers don’t sell at the C-level, much less directly to the CEO.  Those who do sell at the C-level face a daunting task of not only gaining the attention of the executive they are trying to reach, but once connected to the executive they must sell in a way that drives the executive to make a positive decision. 

Learning how to engage the C-suite in a way that produces the conversation and the decision the seller wants is difficult and a skill that many sellers just never master.  Michael Nick’s new book, The Key to the C-Suite: What You Need to Know To Sell Successfully To Top Executives (AMACOM: 2011), guides the reader through understanding what is key to the C-level executive and how to address their concerns and needs.

Right out of the box in chapter 1 Nick zeros in on what he considers the key to selling to the C-level executive—metrics.  Nick features 10 key metrics such as earnings, return on equity, sales per employee and others that are of critical importance to top executives. These metrics are going to be the featured topics throughout the book as using these to find the prospect’s pain and then to create a solution that will address those pain points.

From Nick’s point of view selling at the C-level is in essence determining one’s value to the executive as defined by how you can impact those problem metrics and then how to construct a case that will demonstrate how your solution will move the metrics in the direction the executive wants to see them move.

In a very real sense this is a numbers book because Nick’s argument is that the C-level buys on numbers.  Nick focuses on the numbers, on making sure the analysis is objective, that the data presented is accurate, that printed material is checked carefully to make sure the math is correct and there are no spelling or grammar mistakes, that all of the potential concrete questions about the needs and the solution are addressed.

From the perspective of the objective sale—the concrete numbers and factual questions—The Key to the C-Suite is a top notch book.  I highly recommend it. 

However . . .

There’s more to selling to the C-suite than numbers and objective questions and answers.

Nick ignores the emotional side of the sales equation.  Yes, selling to top executives demands a great deal of specific knowledge about the prospect’s industry, company, and needs.  And it demands a real, workable solution that addresses real problems.  But sales, even at the C-level, are more than simple logical decisions.  They are also emotional decisions.  The decision maker has a number of emotional questions that must be dealt with such as what happens if the solution doesn’t work.  If it does work what does it mean personally for the decision maker?  Who should the decision make get buy-in from and if they can’t, what should they do? 

Certainly The Key to the C-Suite is well worth the investment and as said above, I encourage you get it and seriously consider implementing the process Nick lays out.  But also recognize that there is a whole side of selling to top executives that isn’t addressed in the book.  This is, however, an excellent presentation of one half of selling to the C-suite.

October 24, 2011

How to Make Word of Mouth Marketing Really Work

Last week while I was teaching a group of CPA’s in Newark how to work with their clients to generate a large number of direct introductions to high quality prospects, one participant mentioned that he would often hear from a client that they had given his name and number to another business owner but he would seldom hear from that prospect.  His question was how he could use the introduction generation process I was teaching to capture that word of mouth prospect.

Great question—and one that most sellers are faced with.

Everyone would love to have their clients out talking about them.  They encourage their clients to tell their friends and acquaintances about them; they hope and pray that people are talking about them; they try to use social media as a springboard to get even more word of mouth marketing.

Unfortunately, even though you want word of mouth marketing and do whatever you can to encourage it, it has one primary disadvantage that is hard to overcome—you have no control over whether the person your client spoke to will take the initiative to pick up the phone and give you a call.

How much business are you losing because you never hear from the people your clients mention you to?

Right, you don’t know because you have no idea how often your clients mention you.

That’s the intrinsic problem with a passive marketing method—no control means no accountability, no way of knowing how effective or ineffective it is.  If you get prospects calling because clients mentioned you, you think that word of mouth is working.  If you don’t get calls you think your clients aren’t talking about you.  The problem is that those calls you get might be just a fraction of the people who are hearing about you from your client, and those no calls might not be an indication that your clients aren’t talking about you but instead might be an indication that their message isn’t resonating with those they are speaking to.

So is there a way to turn word of mouth encouragements into real connections?

Although you’ll never be able to track and connect with every word of mouth mention your clients give you, you can significantly increase the number of connections you have with those your clients have mentioned you to by simply becoming more proactive in the way you work with your clients regarding their word of mouth mentions.

In the case of the CPA above, he mentioned that he often received emails or verbal statements from clients saying something to the effect, “Just wanted to let you know that I mentioned you to Joe Blow the other day.”  Sometimes the client will mention the name of the person they spoke to, other times they won’t.  In both cases, however, the CPA knows that a client has spoken to someone about him and recommended they give him a call.

Like most sellers in that position, the gentleman at the presentation simply hopes that he’ll get a call.  Way too often the call doesn’t come—just another wasted mention by a client.

Fortunately this CPA and everyone else who has a client or anyone else mention that they’ve spoken to someone about them can easily turn that weak word of mouth mention into a direct introduction by simply ASKING for the introduction.  It’s really as simple as asking:

Client: “Hey, Joe, just wanted to give you a head’s up that I recommended you to Nancy Drew and encouraged her to give you a call.  I hope you hear from her.”

Seller: “Bill, that’s great; I really appreciate it.  I haven’t heard from her yet but I’d love to.  Come to think of it, would you be comfortable introducing me to her?”

Couldn’t be simpler. 

What are the chances your client will introduce you to the prospect?  Very high indeed since they obviously like your work and think that you can help the prospect—and they obviously have some type of relationship with the prospect. 

Before asking for the introduction find out what the relationship is between your client and the prospect and why they suggested the prospect call you. 

All the pieces are in place for a direct introduction.  And what happens if your client says no?  You’ve lost—nothing.

But what about all those suggestions they make to prospects to give you a call that you never know about?  How can you learn of them in order to try to turn them into an introduction?

These are certainly more difficult—but not completely impossible.

First, once you let your client know that you would love for them to mention you to anyone who might be in need of your expertise and services, let them know that you’d appreciate it if they’d let you know through a call or email when they mention you to someone.  Once they do, thank them and then ask for the direct introduction.  Don’t expect everyone to let you know when they speak to someone about you—but many will and that will give you the opportunity to ask for the introduction.

Knowing that many won’t inform you when they mention you, you can also take the initiative and ask your clients if they have mentioned you to anyone.  When speaking with a client simply ask in passing if they’ve had an opportunity to mention to anyone lately.  Asking will let you uncover any unmentioned recommendations they’ve made to prospects to call you and will also remind them that you seek word of mouth recommendations.  Again, you won’t uncover a mountain of unknown mentions, but you’ll uncover some which will give you the opportunity to convert them into introductions and it will allow you to gently remind your client to mention you whenever they have a chance.

Word of Mouth Marketing is hardly a marketing format to hang your business on.  That being said, by all means encourage your clients to mention you to those they come into contact with that might be able to use your products or services.  But at the same time seek to move those word of mouth recommendations into something far more concrete—a direct introduction. 

Don’t settle for being passive.  You can turn word of mouth into far more effective introductions without being obnoxious or overly aggressive—all you have to do is ask your client for an introduction once you know they’ve recommended you.  The key is learning how to uncover the recommendation.

October 18, 2011

Why Should You Ask Yourself Why?

Filed under: business,sales,selling,small business — Paul McCord @ 9:24 am
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As I was preparing to post this article I discovered an article by my friend Anthony Iannarino that deals with similar issues from an organizational standpoint.  Sometimes serendipity kicks in and you discover you’re on the same wavelength as someone else.  I encourage you to read Anthony’s take on asking why.

Why did you lose that sale?

Why did that prospect insist on such a deep discount?

Why weren’t you prepared to answer that objection even though you’ve heard it before?

Why did your best client decide to “try” your competitor for his current order?

Why can’t you get to that great prospect even though you’ve tried for almost two months?

Why is one of the most important and powerful questions we can possibly ask ourselves.  It is also one that we so often seek to avoid because the answers can make us really, really uncomfortable.

No matter our experience or success level, we never reach perfection.  All of us make mistakes; we all fail in big and little ways; we all need to improve; we all have weaknesses that cost us business.

Overcoming these issues and weaknesses isn’t pleasant for any of us. 

It’s much easier to chalk up our losses to a bad day and move on.

Certainly it’s easier to simply move on, but that’s a sure way to fail again in the future.

The most powerful question you ask is why.  That simple question is more important than any sales training you can get.  It is more important than any sales “secret” you can learn.  It is more important than any sales tips anyone can give you.

If you consistently ask “why” and then diligently dig to discover the answer, your sales will dramatically improve.  This isn’t a quick fix, but it is the single most effective change strategy you can employ.

October 13, 2011

Finish 2011 Strong While Laying the Groundwork for a Great 2012

Filed under: business,sales,selling,small business,success — Paul McCord @ 10:22 am
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Although somewhat hard to believe, we’re now at the end of another year.  With only two and a half months to go, your year is virtually over.  That doesn’t mean your production has to be over, it means that more than any other time during the year, you must have a laser focus in order to finish the year strong and lay the foundation for 2012.

Unfortunately the last quarter and the first quarter of the year are the least productive for a great many sellers. 

A great many sellers slack off during the last quarter thinking that there really isn’t much business to be had since “everyone” is consumed with the holidays and spending little time attending to business—especially when it comes to making purchasing decisions.

Likewise, the first quarter is written off by many with the excuse that people really aren’t back to concentrating on work until the middle of February—and then they’re really just beginning to look at potential purchases, meaning that the actual production won’t close until the second quarter.

While the majority is assuring themselves that their low production isn’t their fault but is simply a reflection of the reality of the calendar, there is a much smaller group of sellers who are busting sales goals.

Are those sellers who are making record sales during the “dead” time of the year just lucky?  Maybe they sandbagged business to make their last quarter look great?  Possibly they are out giving radical discounts in order generate the business most other sellers can’t seem to come up with?

The fact of the matter is that none of the above reasons are accurate as they are nothing but the excuses the majority of sellers use to justify their low sales.

The last and first quarters don’t have to be the valley of death for sales.  With just a few simple activities you can bust your sales goal in both quarters.  What you do right now will determine what your end of year and beginning of year are like—and whether you enjoy great paychecks over the next few months or go on your annual starvation diet until next April.

Take control of your sales business and income by:

  1.  Clean out your dead prospecting wood.  Refuse to waste more time on dead end prospects.  Take a critical look at your pipeline and get rid of all the prospects who aren’t worthy of your time and effort.  Yes, seeing those names on your pipeline can be comforting because they pad the numbers, buy in your heart you know they’re nothing more than wishful thinking.  Get real, get rid of them and see where you’re really at.
  2. Double down on prospecting.  Shortly most sellers will begin slacking off on prospecting figuring that no one will take their call anyway.  Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap.  In fact, take advantage of your competition’s laziness and INCREASE your prospecting activity.  Not only will it pay off in the fourth quarter, you’ll have a breakout first quarter of 2012.
  3. Stay in touch.  Again, while your competition takes the next two to three months off, increase your activity.  Don’t allow your prospects and clients to forget you.  While your competition may send a Christmas card, you should be working.  Most of your prospects and clients will be working just as hard this quarter as they did last.  Most will still be making purchasing decisions.  While your competition writes off the quarter, you can write business. 
  4. Solve problems.  Your prospect’s problems don’t go away because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays roll around.  Business problems don’t take holidays or vacations.  Neither should you.  Concentrate on solving prospect problems and you’ll magically find that your production problems go away too.

Turning the fourth and first quarters into high production quarters doesn’t take luck or magic, it simply takes focusing on business.  Treat the end and beginning of the year like any other quarter and your production will be just as strong as the second and third quarters. 

The reality is that production declines in the fourth and first quarters because our activity declines, not because the business isn’t there

Make this year and next banner years by doing what your competition won’t—continuing to prospect and solve issues.  You’ll find your bank account will really appreciate your effort.

October 7, 2011

A Simple Way to Distance Yourself From Your Competition

Every seller, no matter the product or service they sell, is looking for ways to demonstrate how they differ from their competition.  Most of us will go to great lengths to try to make our prospects and clients recognize how unique we are and how fortunate they are to be working with us.

In order to create that sought after difference we’ll talk up how great our customer service is, some will give out cute or useful freebies, others will bring in other vendors to help create the perfect comprehensive solution to their prospect’s or client’s issues.

Certainly we should be giving exceptional customer service.  The problem is every one of our competitors is claiming to have the best customer service also.

And by all means we should be doing everything in our power—including partnering with other vendors if necessary—to give the best and most comprehensive solution possible.  The problem is most of the time our prospects and clients don’t really grasp the true extent of our solution until after the product or service is delivered and has been in place for awhile.

But there is a much simpler way to not only demonstrate a real difference between yourself and your competition, but to give your client a very different experience than what your competition would give.  Furthermore, this strategy is so seldom used that it really stands out to the client.

What, pray tell, is the fabulous strategy that is simple yet can make such an impact on your client?

It is simply giving the client the purchasing experience they want rather than the one you think they want.

So simple, yet so few sellers do it because frankly they have no idea what their clients want to happen during the purchase because they simply don’t ask.

Yep, that’s it; couldn’t be simpler.

Most sellers mistakenly think they know what their clients want to happen during the course of the sale.  Ask a seller what their client wants and they’ll rattle off a number of things such as on time delivery, prompt service, a quality product at a fair price, a seller they can trust, and a number of other “expectations.”

These are so general that they are almost useless in defining what a client’s purchasing expectations are. 

What does “on time delivery” really mean?  Does it mean the same thing to each and every customer?

What does prompt service mean?  To one customer it may mean that a phone call is returned within 24 hours, to another it may mean the call should be returned within an hour.  To another client a phone call might be totally out of the question as they prefer to communicate only through email.

The fact is that no two of our clients have the same expectations but we treat them all the same because we assume we know what they want.

We never ask the most basic and simple customer service question—“What can we do to make this the exact purchasing experience you want?”

That question is asked so infrequently (some customers have never been asked that question) that many customers won’t know how to respond; they really won’t understand the question.

In that case you’ll have to ask some follow-up questions such as: “How do you prefer to be contacted, phone or email?”  “If something comes up and I really need to speak with you, is there an emergency number that I can reach you at?”  “Do you want me to keep you posted daily or weekly, or would you rather I only contact you if there is an issue or question that needs to be dealt with?”

Obviously the number and type of purchasing experience questions you need to ask will depend on the particular product or service being purchased. 

And a great side benefit is you can find out upfront if your client has an unrealistic expectation, and if they do, you can deal with it before it becomes an issue later in the sale.

If you want to really make a quick impact on a client and put yourself in a different category from your competition, quit forcing them to live through the purchasing experience you want to give them and begin giving them the purchasing experience they want.

It’s simple—just ask them, they’ll tell you—and then all you have to do is give them the exact experience they wan—and  that no one else can give them.  You’ll be a hero—and all you had to do was ask a few questions that you should have been asking every client anyway.

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