Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 27, 2014

The Single Biggest Difference Between Highly Successful Sellers and Also Rans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:43 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As a seller, sales leader, business owner, and sales consultant I’ve seen and worked with thousands of sellers from dozens of industries and from all sales career stages.  I’ve seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst and all in-between.   I’ve seen sellers who failed miserably as well as those making well into the seven or even eight figures.

Consistently the single biggest difference I have seen between the successful sellers and the also rans is prospecting. 

What is so different about prospecting that one group makes a ton of sales and the rest fail or just make a living?

One group prospects, the other group simply thinks they prospect.

The successful group is getting in front of great prospects and making sales while the other group is baffled by their lack of sales success because they insist that they are ‘always prospecting.’

Almost all in the second group can produce lists of prospects , some of which they’ve called; they can show where they’ve sent out a ton of letters and emails; they can give receipts for advertising they’ve bought; they can produce filers that they’ve plastered all over town.

Most have been busy; there is little doubt about that.  The problem is that although they have been busy, they haven’t been prospecting.  Instead of prospecting, they’ve been doing ‘things’—creating filers, writing letters and emails, attending non-qualified networking events, constructing call lists–and on occasion actually making a few phone calls.  Like many salespeople, they’ve confused doing preparatory and busy work getting ready to prospect with the activity of prospecting.

Although they have spent a great deal of time doing busy work, they have spent very little time actually connecting with and getting in front of decision makers.  They think they are always prospecting, but in reality they find ways not to prospect.  They engage in a great deal of activity, but the activity engaged in isn’t the activity that would produce business; instead, it is the activity that made them feel good, that made them feel productive, allowed them to convince themselves that they were being extremely active.

We salespeople tend to focus on activity—after all, activity is what gets us in the door, gets us the business we must have in order to succeed.  But activity alone is fruitless.  Activity for activity’s sake is just as sure a way to failure as inactivity.

The salespeople in the second group above believed they were highly productive because they felt productive.

Prospecting isn’t preparing to prospect; it isn’t finding easy ways to feel like you’re getting your message out; and it isn’t doing busy work.  Nor is it easy but very low return lead generation such as plastering the Wal-Mart parking lot with fliers or sending out thousands of SPAM emails.  Those may be easy, non-threatening activities, but they are also career killers.

Prospecting is a very specific activity—connecting with a decision maker and that requires a physical connection.

If you cold call, that means being on the phone, not getting ready to get on the phone. 

If you network, it means actually being in front of and meeting prospects or garnering introductions to prospects from referral partners, not researching events or even spending time at non-qualified events where you’ll meet few, if any, prospects. 

It means connecting with quality prospects through highly targeted and personal letter and email communications, not sending out thousands of pieces of SPAM hoping that someone will read and respond. 

It means creating a highly targeted and well researched direct mail campaign, not just sending letters to a purchased list.

Yet even in the above prospecting activities, the prep and research time is NOT prospecting time and should be done only during nonproductive prospecting hours.

Investing time and energy in the wrong activities has killed as many sales careers as inactivity has.  As salespeople we have three very basic duties—finding and connecting with quality prospects, working with those prospects to help them satisfy needs or wants and to solve real issues, and insuring that they are taken care of during and after the sale.  Everything else is busy work and busy work doesn’t make a sale, doesn’t generate income, and doesn’t move us toward our sales or income goals.

Before you engage in any activity consider whether that activity is income producing or not.  If it isn’t directly producing income, does it really need to be done?  If not, move on to an activity that will directly lead to a sale


February 24, 2014

Looking to Grow Your Business? Learn How to Get Directly Introducted to Your Best Prospects

Whether you’re relatively new to sales or are a scarred, proven old pro, prospecting is a tough chore that we all must do otherwise we’ll quickly find ourselves out of business. 

And there are a great many ways to prospect, from cold calling to cold walking to networking to purchasing ads to social media to encouraging word of mouth referrals to the traditional asking for referrals from clients and friends.  Depending upon your industry and personality, some methods work better than others.

But in the end the object is to get in front of decision makers that are great prospects for you, that is, decision makers who need and can afford your product or service.

Like a great many sellers I was taught that after the sale I should ask my client for referrals to others they know that might be able to use my product or service.  And like a great many other sellers I discovered that asking for referrals in that manner simply didn’t produce much of value.  Sure, I’d get some names and phone numbers but most of the time they were either poor prospects or no prospects at all.

Over the years I’ve spoken to thousands of sellers who were taught the same referral generation process who have experienced the same disappointing results that I experienced.  Many continue to ask knowing that only a small portion of the names and phone numbers they get are of value, while many, many others have simply given up on referrals all together.

A few years ago I discovered a referral generation process that is far different than the traditional “do a good job and ask for referrals” process that most of us have been taught that produces so little return for so much time invested.  Rather than asking clients to do our prospecting for us, the process I discovered demands that we do the work for our client and instead of getting a name and phone number of someone who more than likely isn’t a real prospect for us, the process I use generates a direct introduction to my hand picked prospect. 

The process that I teach allows you to maintain complete control of the referral process, takes all the work off the client, doesn’t put the client in an awkward and uncomfortable position of feeling that they have to give a name and phone number, and gets you introduced directly to someone you know is a great prospect for you.

If you’d like to learn more about how to generate direct introductions to your hand picked prospects head over to LeadLifter as I just completed a 45 minute webinar for them that outlines the whole process.  You can listen to the webinar at your leisure and for free at the LeadLifter events page.

February 14, 2014

Guest Article: “If you ain’t buyin’ it, they aren’t either!” by The Irreverent Sales Girl

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:15 am
Tags: , , ,


If you ain’t buyin’ it, they aren’t either!
by Irreverent Sales Girl

Even the BEST salesperson in the world can’t sell just ANYTHING.

Take for example, my very good friend. He loves the product he sells and there are some add-ons that make sense for the right buyer.

But, there is one service his company offers that he thinks just ISN’T worth the price. Now, his fellow salespeople can sell this service with ease. AND the support team recommends it as a way to guarantee success.

He just can’t seem to spit the words out of his mouth. “This service is important AND it costs THIS much!”

So, guess what! He never sells that service. At a huge cost to his company, himself, and sometimes a dis-service to his client.

What did he do?

He started talking with people who USE this service and started to see the value for himself.

Now, he can sell that service to the right people with ease.

And the house, can I tell you about the house?

A wealthy friend of mine has an absolutely beautiful and unique property to sell. It is in the millions. It is spectacular.

it has been on the market for FOUR YEARS.

Turns out that the house just “isn’t his agent’s style”. She can’t sell it. Why? She doesn’t “buy” it.

The owners are re-listing with an agent who “gets it”, AND raising the price to match the special nature of this property.

Guess what!

I bet it gets snatched right up!

Moral of the story

If you can’t “see” it selling, you won’t be able to sell it.

Either stop pretending that you can or will OR get interested in WHY someone can or will.

Love it UP!

The Irreverent Sales Girl, Dianna Smith, is the champion of the salesperson who goes out everyday to make something happen for themselves, their families, and their clients.  You’ll find more of her wisdom at the Irreverent Sales Girl blog.

February 6, 2014

Guest Article: “9 Steps to Thinking Better on Your Feet,” by Jack Malcolm

9 Steps to Thinking Better on Your Feet
by Jack Malcolm

Follow these steps and you won’t have to dance

I’ve written a lot about planning and preparation, but there is also tremendous value in having the skill and poise to rise to the occasion when someone springs an unexpected question on you or asks you to say a few words on a particular topic. Having survived (so far) 21 years in front of trainees, I’ve developed a few habits that have served me well.

Plan for the unexpected. This sounds like an oxymoron; how can you prepare for an impromptu talk? If you’re going to a meeting, think about who will be there, and based on your knowledge of their history, their positions and their stake in the topic, what might they ask? To be really sure, don’t limit yourself to the scheduled topic. You might be there to discuss a particular project, but someone might have an interest in one of your other projects as well.

Practice situational awareness. Have you ever had the feeling of looking up and seeing all eyes turned on you? It’s easy to tune out or check your email momentarily when someone else is speaking on a topic that doesn’t immediately concern you—and that’s when Murphy’s Law guarantees that someone will direct a question to you. There’s nothing more credibility-crushing than having to ask someone to repeat the question.

Listen to the question. Make sure you answer the correct question: one problem with being too prepared is that when you hear the beginning of a question that sounds just like the one you prepared for, you begin formulating your response before the question is totally out of the questioner’s mouth. What if they swerve in a different direction while you’re formulating your answer? Second, your willingness to listen respectfully to the question is likely to be reciprocated when you are speaking to them.

Use the time when they are asking the question to concentrate fully on the words and on the questioner. Don’t begin formulating your answer until you’ve heard the entire question; you’ll have plenty of time between the end of their question and your response to think of your answer.

After you’ve listened, don’t be afraid to pause. A good friend of mine once told me, “Your perceived IQ goes up ten points if you pause before answering a question.” I’m not sure what the science is behind that assertion, but it generally works. (Unless the question is an easy one; then you just look slow or devious.) In her book, The Charisma Myth, Olivia Cabane tells us that a two-second pause will automatically boost your presence. You can also buy time by repeating the question or asking for clarification, but overuse of this technique gets old fast.

Answer the question. Politicians seem to get away with not answering the actual question that was asked, but you won’t get away with that for long in a business setting or sales call. You may have good reasons to go beyond the actual question that was asked, and that’s perfectly fine, as long as you earn the right to do that by answering the question first.

Or don’t. Sometimes you can’t or should not answer the question. In that case, don’t try to bluff or dance around it. If you don’t know, say, “I don’t know, but I can get those figures and call you back this afternoon.” Or, just leave out the first four words and say: “I can get those figures and call you this afternoon.” If you could answer the question but choose not to, be up front about it, but toss them a bone if possible.  “Unfortunately I can’t comment until we’ve spoken to all the parties involved. But what I can tell you is…”

Practice Need to Know. When you’re an expert, you know and care more about your topic than the questioner, so you tend to tell them more than they need. What does the questioner need to know to make sense of your answer? Give them the bare minimum, and add a signal that there is more if they want to follow up: “In general, that’s the approach I would recommend, although there are some risks.”

Answer the spirit and not the letter of the question. Need to know is a useful policy to keep from being overly long in your answers, but sometimes you can err on the side of being too short.  For one reason, people often ask a closed-ended question when they really want to know more. A silly example is when someone asks, “Do you know what time it is?” Only a real jerk would answer, “yes.” If it is a literal yes or no question, give them the yes or no, and then add the appropriate additional information that will satisfy what they need to know.

What about impromptu presentations? The preceding suggestions apply to answering questions, but sometimes you actually have to give some sort of “presentation” without having had time to prepare. Someone might ask for a status report on your department, for example, and expect a longer answer. For those who are familiar with Toastmasters International meetings, these situations are like Table Topics, in which you’re expected to speak for two minutes on a topic with zero preparation time. The best approach in this case is to pause long enough to take a stand or select one point, state it up front, and then develop it as necessary.

This is the opposite of the usual approach, which is to begin talking about a topic and then develop what you want to say about it and finally reach a conclusion. The problem with the usual approach is that it looks like half-baked thinking, as if you’re making it up as you go along. If you state your conclusion at the beginning, it came up in your mind for a reason, and the reasons will come.

In a way, all this advice can be summed up as, pay attention, know your audience, and keep it short. If you can stick to these three principles, you will never be at a loss for words.

Jack Malcolm is President of Falcon Performance Group, an organization dedicated to improving the professionalism, preparation, and productivity of sales professionals in the complex-sale environment through training and consulting in sales planning, financial and business literacy, and communication skills.  You’ll find Jack’s blog here.

February 5, 2014

Book Review: People Love You

ImageJeb Blount in People Love You: The Real Secret to Delivering Legendary Customer Experiences (Wiley & Sons: 2013) masterfully sets out the most important customer service issue facing sellers today: “There is no loyalty when everything looks the same.”

From the customer’s perspective, Blount argues, virtually all products and services are identical.  Further, if you do happen to have a truly unique product or service, it will only be a very short time before similar products and services begin to compete with you.

If customers believe your product or service is like every other, how can you create a customer experience that will retain them when a competitor offers them a cheaper price or another color or a prettier package or better service or more bells and whistles? 

People Love You offers a concrete answer to how to retain customers in an age where not only products and services are virtually interchangeable, but every company and every seller promises world class customer service and to exceed their expectations. 

The answer?


I know, at first glance it sounds silly.

But it isn’t.

People Love You isn’t a pie in the sky gooey piece of sugar floating above reality in an ivory tower.  Blount builds a solid basis on how to create a customer experience with your business clients that results in an unbreakable relationship built on trust, solving real customer problems, and creating positive emotional experiences.

Blount lays the foundation for the book on Seven Essential Principles of Customer Engagement:

  1. You need your customers more than they need you
  2. Customers are people
  3. You are always on stage
  4. Customers act on emotion and justify with logic
  5. Customers do things for their reasons—not yours
  6. Customers don’t do illogical things on purpose
  7. Always give more than is required

With the foundation laid, People Love You then dives into the real crux of the book, The Five Levers of Customer Experience:

  1. Put customers first
  2. Connect
  3. Solve problems
  4. Build trust
  5. Create positive emotional experiences

The majority of the book is dedicated to fleshing out the five levers of customer experience and this is where the book really gets down to the nitty gritty of building a customer experience that will differentiate you from your competitors.

Blount says his goal in People Love You is to “teach you techniques for interacting with customers in a way that creates deep, enduring relationships.”  To that end “you must learn how to step into your customer’s shoes and to feel and see things from their point of view.”

Blount has written the book to deal specifically with the customer experience in the business-to-business marketplace and he succeeds masterfully in doing that.  But don’t think the book isn’t just as applicable to the business-to-consumer seller, for it is.

Whether you agree with Blount or you vehemently object to his argument that your product or service from your customer’s point of view is no different than your competitors, you cannot afford not to pick up the book and implement the lessons you’ll learn.

February 4, 2014

Are Your Sales Meetings Destorying Your Sales Team and Undermining Your Authority?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

Are your weekly sales meetings building your team, your credibility, and your company’s sales or are they destroying morale, motivation, and undermining your authority?

Unfortunately most sales meeting do far more harm than good to the sales team, the sales leader, and the company.

They don’t have to.

In fact, regular (regular does not necessarily mean weekly) sales meetings can be the backbone of creating a thriving, high production sales team.

Most often, however, they are the ruination of the sales team.

Weekly sales meetings have killed more manager authority and respect than probably any other activity a manager engages in with the possible exception of the ride along.  They have also driven a great number of high performers to the competition, one of which may be my client Richard who is one of the top 5 sellers in his company’s 300 member sales force.

Sales people generally hate this weekly meandering through sales meeting hell and the accompanying glimpse into the hollow caverns of the sales management brain in stupefying inaction. 


I believe there are four primary reasons sales meetings are such a waste of time and effort:

1.   No purpose.  A great many sales meetings are held for no other reason other that it’s Monday (or Friday, or Thursday, or whatever day of the week they are normally held on).  Consequently, the meeting is destined to be a time waster.  One time wasting meeting is bad enough, but I know of some companies who have three or even five of these meetings every week (often these mulit meeting companies are seeking to keep control of their salespeople).

2.  No preparation.  Whomever is in charge of the meeting (generally the immediate manager of the assembled team) has invested not a single minute in preparing for the meeting.  As they’re sitting down for the meeting, they take out a pen and jot down two or three things to talk about.  Again, the perfect setting for a waste of time.

3.  Too many tangents.  Without having prepared for the meeting and knowing exactly what to deal with, it is easy for the manager to veer off onto tangents that ultimately have nothing to do with anything. Yet another factor that guarantees the meeting will be useless.

4.   A haven of negativity.  Especially during times like the present when business is tough, an unprepared manager tends to focus on trying to cajole numbers out of his or her team.  People are put up for ridicule in front of their peers because of poor numbers, they are forced to justify their performance, and the rest sit in silence, knowing their turn is next once the manager has finished “coaching” their current prey.   Now not only is the meeting a waste of time, it is a real morale killer too.

Great, so sales meetings suck.  Everyone already knows that.  What can managers do to make sales meetings valuable?

I’ve found four simple rules seem to work very, very well:

1.  No purpose, no meeting.  Only hold meetings when there is a REASON to hold a meeting.  That may be once a month, once every two weeks, once a week, or as needed.  The company no longer paying for coffee is not a reason for a meeting; that’s a memo.  Reviewing the pre-call planning steps is a reason for a meeting.

2.  No preparation, no meeting.  If for any reason the person managing the meeting has not had time to thoroughly prepare, the meeting is canceled.  There is no excuse for wasting the team member’s time because the manager didn’t get their job done.

3.   A sales meeting is not the place for individual coaching.  A sales meeting is a group activity.  Address the group’s needs and issues, not individual salespeople’s.  There is no excuse for denigrating anyone in front of the group or for wasting the group’s time for individual coaching.  Each team member should have coaching time scheduled outside the sales meeting.  The rule is, if a meeting degenerates into individual coaching, the team members are free to leave (note, however, that answering a specific issue a team member has with the subject matter being discussed is not individual coaching).

4.   Set a time limit, stick to it.  Salespeople need to be selling, not attending meetings.  Under normal circumstances, sales meetings should be kept to an hour or less.  Only under extraordinary circumstances should a meeting exceed an hour. 

Your sales meetings should concentrate on helping team members sell.  Reviewing market conditions; presenting new products or services; reviewing sales skills such as prospecting, making presentations, asking questions, pre-call planning, and the other aspects of selling and the sales process; role playing activities; and other core content should be the heart of the meeting. 

Seller recognition and reinforcement should also be an integral aspect of your meetings.  Leave the meeting on a high note, not a downer.

Housekeeping notes and announcements should be kept at a minimum—discarded completely and put into memos if at all possible.

Meetings are important, but too many meetings or too much wasted time turns what could be a valuable tool into a wrecking ball plowing through your team, leaving lifeless, dispirited bodies in its wake.  If your meetings are unorganized, are designed to do little more than keep control of your salespeople, or drag on incessantly, you’re killing your team, not building it.

Turn your sales meetings into real strengths, not team killers–both you and your team members will be glad you did—and within short order you’ll actually see some smiles and enthusiasm Monday morning instead of the deadwood that drags itself into the meeting room.

February 3, 2014

Breaking Through the Noise and Connecting with Prospects

On Saturday, February 1st I was interviewed by Deb Calvert on her Connect! Online Radio program about one of the most serious problems sellers have—breaking through all the noise that is bombarding prospects.  You can listen to a recording of the show here.

During the hour interview we discussed some of the most effective ways sellers have of breaking through and connecting with great prospects.

It isn’t an accident that it is getting harder and harder to connect with prospects.  They are finding more effective ways of keeping us at bay; from gatekeepers to email blockers to caller ID just to mention a few.  They are making it as clear as they possibly can that they’re not interested in hearing from sellers.

So how do we knock these barriers down and get through to them?

Listen as Deb and I discuss the issue at Connect! Online Radio.   

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: