Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 21, 2015

A Sermon on Selling: The Sin of Hearing Without Listening

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

We wicked sinners must beg forgiveness and change our sinful ways if we want to build sold relationships with our prospects and have them sign those sacred documents, our contracts.

A reading of much of the Old Testament sounds like a modern day sales meeting—a great deal of hearing, very little listening of what is being said.

When we read those passages where the Israelites hear the words being spoken but understand nothing because they don’t really listen, we self-righteously tend to think “oh, those evil Israelites, they deserve all the wrath that descends upon them.”   And in reality, they do.

But listen in on many of our sales calls and the only conclusion we can come to is “oh, that wicked salesperson, they deserve all the failure that descends upon them,” for we salespeople tend to be just as guilty of hearing without listening as the Israelites 2,500 years earlier.

Just as the wages of sin is death, the wages of not listening to our prospect is the equivalent of death in sales—no sale.

The problem is most of the time we aren’t even aware that we’re not listening because it is just plain human nature to hear what we want to hear and to be thinking about what we want to say instead of what our prospect is saying.

No, I don’t think listening is the natural human state.  Talking is.  Probably more correctly is talking without thinking is the natural human state.

In terms of hearing, what is natural is to be thinking of our rebuttal while the other is talking and to be listening for the words we want to hear and to skip over the ones we don’t.

Listening, really listening to what is being said rather than what we want to hear, is something we have to learn to do.

We have to force ourselves to concentrate on the words being said by our prospect, which means consciously NOT thinking about our next statement (more often, our rebuttal or possibly our excuse).

We have to force ourselves to listen to the meaning of our prospect instead of reading into their statement what we want to hear.

Let me give a couple of recent examples from a couple of my coaching clients:

“Paul, I’ve got a great referral coming from one of my new clients,” said Richard.  “He said he’d talk to his business partner and see if he could set up a lunch meeting with the three of us.”

A few days later I got this email reply when I asked if he had spoken with his new client about the referral lunch: “He said he hadn’t spoken to him yet and probably wouldn’t anytime soon since his partner is in the process of getting a divorce and is in a surly mood and pre-occupied most of the time.”

That’s not what I was expecting.  I asked Richard what led him to believe his client would be setting up a lunch meeting.  He said he had recorded his session with the client as he often does and would play the referral meeting request section for me if I wanted.

I wanted.

Here’s what his client actually said: “Well, I’ll see if I can set up a lunch with Don.  I’m not sure now is really the right time since he’s got some really serious personal issues he’s dealing with, but I’ll see if maybe there might be a good time to ask in the next few days.  If now isn’t good, can we wait until he has worked through the issues that are occupying him right now?”

My client heard “I can set up a lunch meeting with Don.”  The rest, to Richard, was just filler.  He heard the words he wanted to hear.

What I heard most loudly was “If now isn’t good, can we wait until he has worked through the issues that are occupying him right now?”  The client wanted to help Richard but was obviously uncomfortable asking Don for the meeting at this time and was asking permission from Richard to wait for a better time but Richard didn’t hear the request because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, consequently he was disappointed and a bit upset when the referral lunch didn’t happen.

Another example happened last week when I was doing a web meeting “ride along” while one of my clients was doing a web based presentation to a prospect.  I was a silent attendee of the presentation, in the background as an observer only.

My client, Henri, was sailing along with the presentation when the prospect said “I really like this.  I need to get you set up to do this for Grace Turner; she’s the one I’m using to compare the various systems and will make the final recommendation.”

Henri, in a stunned voice, said “I’m sorry, Bill, I understood you to say that you were the decision maker on this.”

“I am,” he replied, “but Grace is the primary evaluator of the systems.  She is the one who is comparing each of the systems, so will be the one making the final recommendation and I seriously doubt I’ll not take her recommendation.  I thought you understood that last week when we set up this meeting and I said I’d see if Grace could sit in on the presentation also.”

“I’m sorry, Bill, I guess I should have asked what role Grace would be playing in the process.”

Henri heard what she wanted to hear—Bill was the decision maker and therefore she ignored anything and everything else.  In her mind she had THE MAN.  And she did in terms of who would authorize the purchase.  But she failed to listen when he indicated there was someone else involved in the decision process, someone who was going to be the actual evaluator of the products.  Henri believed that since he was authorizing the purchase, he was the only person she needed to influence.

Ouch.  Both of these situations were easily avoided with just a bit of careful listening.

So if not listening is our natural state and we have to force ourselves to listen, how do we do that?

Concentrate on the Prospect:  Hard to do, at least at first, but the single most effective thing you can do is to consciously concentrate on each word your prospect says.

Focus on Context and Agreement:  While listening to your prospect, consciously focus on what your prospect is saying in the context of the overall discussion.  Are there hidden meanings?  Is the prospect giving a subtle message between the lines (i.e., “please give me permission to wait to ask Don for the lunch meeting”)?  Also, do the words your prospect is saying match their body language?  Concentrating on what they are saying in context and examining to make sure words and body language are in agreement force you to really concentrate on what is being said.

Pause Before Talking:  When we’re anxious to get our point across we tend to interrupt and break into our prospect’s discourse.  Not only is this rude, it is a solid indication we really aren’t listening.  Wait two seconds after your prospect finishes talking before putting your mouth in gear.  Not only will this keep you from stepping on your prospect’s tongue, that pause gives you a bit of time to think of your response and if you know you have time to construct your thoughts, you will feel less pressure to construct your rebuttal while not listening to your prospect.

Restate Your Prospects Statements:  Once your prospect has finished their statement, reword it back to your prospect to make sure you understand.  Say something like, “So, Ms. Prospect, I understand that your concern is . . .” or “I want to make sure I fully understand, you are suggesting that . . . . “

Although hardly natural for most of us, listening is a skill we can—and as sellers must—learn.

Now, go my children, listen well and sin no more—and if you catch me slipping up and interrupting you, obviously thinking about my next argument while you’re talking, or just plain ignoring what you’re saying, feel free to remind me that I deserve all of the sales failure I’ll experience.

Can I get an Amen?

September 7, 2014

The Dark Side of Sales–It Ain’t Going Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 3:45 pm
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My father passed away in 1979.  I went with my mother to the funeral home to help her make the arrangements for my father’s funeral.  It was one of the most obscene experiences of my life.

The salesperson used every trick he could think of to manipulate my mother’s grief and emotional distress to up-sell her at every turn.  I grew up in a working class family.  My father was a Battalion Chief for the City of Garland, Texas fire department.  He had some life insurance, but not much. Money was always tight and would continue to be tight for my mother—tighter than ever since my father’s income would cease.  She didn’t have the money to spend on more than necessary for a nice but modest funeral.

A nice but modest funeral wasn’t in the best interests of the salesperson at the funeral home.  He couldn’t sacrifice any commissions just because he had a working class widow in front of him.

When my mother picked a lower price casket he pointed out that since dad knew a great many folks and was well liked there would be a large crowd at the service and certainly he deserved a casket that would reflect well to that large group.  $$$$ out of her bank account.

When she chose to go with the least expense concrete burial vault the salesperson described in great detail what would happen to my father’s body if she didn’t buy the most expensive lined vault.  More $$$$ out of her account.
When she chose to have a simple large picture of dad in his formal department uniform the salesperson discussed how most people prefer to have a large mural of the deceased that reviewed their life and their relationships.  Of course, more $$$$ out of the account.

No matter how I tried to reason with mom about the dollars and the need for a more modest funeral, the damage had already been done by the seller’s manipulation of her grief.  Money became no object as she fought to make sure everyone knew that dad was loved and treasured.

Last Thursday my father-in-law passed away.  To my great disappointment, but not to my surprise, the exact same indecent and repugnant strategies are being used today by funeral homes to wring every penny out of grieving families whether they can afford it or not.  And, of course, the question of affordability shouldn’t even be an issue as indecent selling practices are indecent whether used with someone who can easily afford the product or service or someone who has to sacrifice to do so.

I would like to think that we are making great strides in moving the sales profession to higher ethical standards, and in many industries I think we are.

Yet there are still many, such as the funeral industry, the automobile industry, some areas of financial services, construction and remodeling, and others, where a good many sellers find it more profitable to manipulate, lie, and cheat than to sell ethically.

Many of us try to convince ourselves that things are changing and that the bad apples won’t be able to survive—but I’m far from sure that’s the case.

August 12, 2014

Your Client has a Vested Interest in that Referral They Just Gave You

I hope you are generating referrals from your clients.  If you’re not you should be as referrals are one of the most effective, if not the most effective, way of growing your business.  But know that once you have gotten the referral your job is hardly done.  No, I’m not talking about contacting and selling the referred prospect, I’m talking about keeping your client in the loop.

One of the primary reasons clients are hesitant to give referrals is that they are afraid of being embarrassed in front of a friend, relative, acquaintance or co-worker by you not performing as you should.  So, when they do give a referral, they have a vested interest in what’s going on between you and the person to whom they referred you.  Their interest isn’t in whether or not the prospect purchases but in how the prospect perceives you and the value being referred by the client.

When a client gives you a referral, you learn a number of things:

  1. The client will give referrals.  Obviously, you just received one or more.
  2. How well the client understands what you do.  The quality of the referral will let you know how well your client understands what you do and who is a good referral for you.  The better the referral, the more the client understands.  The poorer the referral, the more work you must do to educate them for future referrals (and future sales to them for that matter).
  3. How much they trust you.  Generally, the stronger the trust relationship between the client and the referred prospect, the more the client trusts you.
  4. They have more referrals to give.  Seldom will a client give you all of the referrals they can make at one time.  If a client gives referrals, you can almost bet they have more to give—if you keep earning them.

How do you get those additional referrals?  Additional referrals are earned, just as the original referrals were earned.  You earn those additional referrals by:

  1. Giving your client the assurance that you’re trustworthy with referrals.  You must show through your actions that their trust in giving you a referral was well placed by making sure that the referred prospect has an exceptional experience with you.
  2. By keeping your client fully informed of everything that is occurring with the referred prospect.
  3. By continuing to deliver superior service to your client.

Does the above mean that you must perform perfectly with the referred prospect?  What if there was an honest mistake or miscommunication?  What if something out of your control happened during the course of the sale?  Will these incidents destroy any possibility of acquiring additional referrals?

No, not at all.

The keys to gaining additional referrals from a client are to treat the referred prospect exactly in the same manner you treated the client and to keep your client informed of what is transpiring between yourself and the referred prospect.

Your client gave you referrals because they understood that giving referrals was in their own best interests and because you earned them through the service you gave them.  You must now demonstrate that same level of service for the referral they have given you.  They expect—actually demand—you perform at the same level—or higher—for those they refer to as you did for them.  That level of service you gave them was what demonstrated to them that they could trust with a referral.  Anything short of that and they will reevaluate whether you should be trusted with additional referrals.

That having been said, most clients understand that mistakes, miscommunications, and problems arise in business.  A single issue during the course of the sale to a referred prospect, even a major issue, will not sever your ability to gain additional referrals from you client if you address and resolve the issue in an exceptional manner.

Clients don’t expect perfection, they expect exceptional service—both for themselves and for those they refer you to.  How well or poorly you handle the issues will be a major factor in determining your future refer-ability.

Keeping your client informed of the progress of the sale with the referred prospect reassures them that you’re doing your job—and that all is well.  It is also your source of informing them if there have been problems and how they were resolved.

It is critical that you let your client know of issues involved with sales to prospects they have referred you to before the prospect has a chance to relate the incident.  You can relate the circumstances and the resolution in the most favorable light—the prospect may not.  This doesn’t mean that you can lie or gloss over it, just that you can give the background and the full resolution without the emotional involvement the prospect will have.  Of course, if you’ve done an exceptional job of resolving the issue, the tale told by the prospect should also be impressive.  However, you always want problems to be related to your client by you—you don’t want to get a phone call from the client asking what happened.

Keeping your client informed doesn’t mean bombarding them with emails, phone calls, and notes.  A simple “thank you for the referral” card immediately after receiving the referral and the occasional call or email will suffice.  The object is to keep them in the loop and to reassure them that their referral was well made for both you and the prospect.  Even better than the occasional call or email is to explicitly ask the client how and how often they would like to be informed of the progress.

Clients are interested in what’s going on with the referrals they make.  They want to know the prospect is being taken care of in the manner the client expected, and they enjoy knowing that they have provided you with a quality referral.  More importantly, they want to know that they haven’t embarrassed themselves in front of an acquaintance.

Simple actions will earn those additional referrals your clients have—you just have to earn them.

August 6, 2014

Guest Article: “The Strengths of Sales Introverts,” by Alen Mayer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:46 pm
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The Strengths of Sales Introverts
by Alen Mayer

So introverts have game, and quite a bit of it to be exact. The advantages and strengths of sales introverts are multiple, and those who know how to draw upon such strengths have excelled greatly in the sales field as a result, many times catching critics by surprise.

Calm in the Storm

The first major strength of introverts involves composure. Often mistaken for being too reserved or shy, many introverts instead sit back to give themselves a better vantage point. They are able to then avoid getting emotionally entangled in the discussion and see all the players engaged as well as their various interests and directions. The more knowledge a person has obviously, the more he can strategize and manage the sale at an advantage.

Composure also has other side effects that work to the benefit of the introvert salesperson. Being calm and collected has the general effect of putting clients at ease rather than being tense or defensive. Too often, aggressive salespeople are either not trusted or annoying. Potential clients clam up and walk away early when they feel they are being led down a path, often switching to another provider who comes across a bit more honest and less “salesy.” The introvert, however, gets around this problem.

There is no emotional push, no aggression, no hard sell. Instead, he comes in, provides the facts, identifies the problem the consumer or client has, and then offers a viable, practical solution. By getting the discussion away from questioning a salesperson’s honesty and back to focusing on the product or service, a sale and deal is far more likely. By allowing a sales meeting to be comfortable rather than an event of heavy pressure and hard-selling, the introvert is able to land sales where the traditional salesperson would find significant resistance and often fails.

Making the Connection

Introvert salespeople put a high priority on relationship building with customers and clients. They’re not into the deal for a single sale and then off to the next one. Instead, they are far more likely to build long-term streams of revenue by working with the same customers again and again.

Introvert salespeople understand and take advantage of the fact that it was 10 times easier to work with known customers than trying to develop a new relationship with unknown leads. Instead, they leverage known contacts and client interests to keep producing new sales again and again. This is done by focusing on win-win scenarios where both the introvert and the client both realize a significant gain in the deal negotiated.

Lending an Ear

Introverts have a keen, well-trained ability at listening to people. Often, customers want to tell people what they are dealing with, explain the issue, and discuss what really matters to them. Unfortunately, many sales people already have a script they feel they need to follow to make a sale. The two don’t mix. Instead, the customer ends up being turned off because the salesperson won’t do the most simply, easy thing in selling: listening.

Introverts, on the other hand, are quite adept at letting people talk around them. They take in all the details and statements, asking questions for more information, and getting the big picture that matters to the customer versus a script. In fact, many introverts will spend more than two-thirds of the sales meeting discussion asking the questions rather than wasting time on a pitch.

Listening provides access to key information, especially details that are valuable to allowing the introvert salesperson to connect with a client personally versus in generic terms.

In short, the strengths of sales introverts named above (composure, listening, and relationship-building) allow introverts to make in-roads where many of the best traditional salespeople can’t often break through. And they do it with far less effort, time, stress and cost.

————–

Alen Mayer, Chief Sales Introvert, helps sales people who identify themselves as introverts to be successful in sales by writing articles and conducting seminars on how to maximize introvert’s sales potential.  Find more of Alen

August 4, 2014

Are You Deserving of the Title “Sales Leader?”

Over my three plus decades in sales I’ve seen lots and lots of sales managers.  The vast majority fall into one of these four types:

The Hall Monitor

The Hall Monitor sees their job as one of chronicling activity, taking names, dispensing discipline, focusing on procedures, thinking those are the keys to generating results—or at least to keeping their job.

Hall monitors tend to be oriented to process, are organized, and have a strong sense of discipline.  All admirable characteristics—but they’re misguided.  The Hall Monitor makes a great bureaucrat, a lousy sales manager.  He’ll make sure everyone knows their place and that procedure is followed—at the cost of morale and sales.

Although the Hall Monitor is focused on enforcing procedure on subordinates, she feels justified in fudging (lying) to upper management when completing reports.  She has no intent of letting her subordinates hold her down or put her job in jeopardy.  If numbers aren’t met, margins aren’t being held, or sales calls aren’t being made, she is fully capable of showing management why it isn’t her fault.

The Visitor

The Visitor is going places—fast.  Their current assignment of managing the sales team is in their mind temporary—and the more temporary, the better.  Their key to moving is getting some numbers to catch the eye of management.

The Visitor cares about no one other than himself and that translates into demanding sales at all costs.  Price is never an obstacle—sell it no matter what.  His message to his team members is get out and get orders and don’t come back until you got ‘em.  His implied message to the sales team is “the quicker you get the numbers, the quicker you get rid of me.”

Need help?  Need advice?  Need coaching?  Don’t ask The Visitor because frankly, he doesn’t give a damn.  If it isn’t something that’s going to help him get the next promotion and get it NOW, forget it.

Have a suggestion or advice to give?  Don’t bother because The Visitor doesn’t care—doesn’t plan on being around long enough to implement it anyway.

The one thing you can count on from The Visitor is a sales goal he is sure he can easily obliterate.  Oh, yeah, management will see those numbers destroyed, guaranteed.

The Good Buddy

The Good Buddy is everyone’s friend.  Managing is a popularity contest that he intends to win.  He’ll be a great drinking buddy, a top notch shoulder to cry on, a guy you can trust to cover for you.  He’ll make sure the office atmosphere is loose, that everyone feels welcome, that the office is a fun place to be.

Discipline?  Well, that’s not something you’ll find in his office.  An insistence on hitting quota?  Something else that isn’t a priority.  Coaching?  Nope.  Lots of back slapping and high fiving, but no coaching.  Decisions?  Don’t expect The Good Buddy to make the hard decisions because he might hurt someone’s feelings.

The Good Buddy is weak and lets his team members run the office.  Ultimately, most everyone in his office ends up unhappy.

The Super Closer

We all know the Super Closer—the guy or gal who believes they can close anyone, anytime.  They generally have a massive ego, more than likely a strong sales history, an A type personality, and little respect for the others on their sales team.  The Super Closer sees their charges as grunts who know nothing about sales and whose only job is to go out, work through the chaff to find the prospect, then call in The Super Closer and watch the master work.

The Super Closer is concerned with one thing and one thing only—today.  Get today’s numbers, Numbers, numbers, numbers.  By gosh she’s never missed a quota and she’s not going to start now.  If you suckers can’t get the business—and God knows you can’t, she’ll close it for you.  Her sales team doesn’t have to worry about anything except getting her in front of a prospect.

Planning?  Who needs it?  Reports to management?  All they care about are quotas being met and exceeded, so she’ll tell them what they want to hear and then worry about making it true.

The managers above have developed their own definition of what a manager is because:

  • They misunderstand the nature of their position.  Most companies don’t train their new sales managers.  The assumption is that good salespeople will know what needs to be done.  Consequently, most companies simply instruct new salespeople to call their manager if they have questions, maybe give them a day or two introduction to the reports and paperwork they’ll need to complete.
  • They believe that today is more important than future days.  Get today’s numbers today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.  This often comes from a demand by management—stated or unstated—that numbers be met today.  Many senior managers mouth a long-term growth philosophy while demanding numbers be made today so they get their bonus–and to hell with tomorrow (Wall Street anyone?).
  • They aren’t manager material to begin with.  A great salesperson will not necessarily be a great manager.  Often great salespeople make terrible managers.  They know what they are good at and want to continue being the sales superstar but with a management title.  Converting to be a real manager is impossible for some of these sales stars.
  • They can’t make the adjustment from being one of the group to being the leader of the group.  They want the new position but they don’t want their relationships to change.

The Sales Leader

Fortunately, there is a fifth type of sales manager—the real deal.

Currently it is common for sales managers at all levels to be called ‘Sales Leaders.’  Nice title that really doesn’t fit most managers.  A true sales leader is very different from the more typical managers we saw above.

The true sales leader:

  • Isn’t focused on today but rather is looking into and planning for the future with the intent of molding the future instead of being molded by it.
  • Is looking to coach his or her team members to stardom, not to be The Star themselves.
  • Manages through demonstration and inspiration, not intimidation or fear.
  • Is a student, open to suggestion, criticism, advice, and continual education.
  • Leads by being trustworthy and demonstrating integrity and honesty.  His/her team members may not like The Sales Leader’s decisions, but know the decisions are honest and based on what the Sales Leader believes is best for the team.
  • Is a decision maker, not afraid to make the hard decisions and to live with the consequences.

The Making of a Sales Leader

A Sales Leader doesn’t just happen, they are created, they’re formed, they’re developed.

The development starts with the selection of the new manager.  Traditionally companies have selected top producers to become the new frontline sales manager.  Sales management is viewed more as a reward for production than as a critical job in its own right.

What makes a great manager isn’t what makes a great salesperson.  The activities are very different.  The relationship building needs are different, the communication, planning, and organizational needs are different.  Unless a company is seeking a Super Closer or a Visitor, promoting a top producer may not be a wise idea.

Although the management problems start with the selection of the new manager, more important is the “training” most new managers undergo—none.

One of the most common training formats companies have is upon promoting the new manager, the new manager is given a day or two training on hiring and firing procedures, how to handle sexual harassment issues, and how fill out payroll paperwork.   From there, the new manager is told to call his or her manager if they have questions or need guidance.  After the first few questions directed to their manager, they begin to notice their phone calls aren’t returned as promptly as before, their manager’s tone of voice is a little sharper, the answers and guidance more and more abrupt.

Soon they realize they’re on their own to sink or swim as they can.

No wonder they have no idea how to be a leader.

To create a Sales Leader companies must invest in their new manager.  They must either create a multi-disciplinary, in-house management program or hire an outside company.  In addition, each new manager needs a coach—either an in-house coach or an outside professional manager coach.

Each new manager must be schooled in the skills of management, but more importantly must be guided in the roll of and skills of leadership.  Filling out paperwork, creating a sales plan, assigning territories, and resolving issues with shipping are all important, no doubt.

But far more important to the success of the company and the sales team is getting the most out of team members, developing team members who have the desire to succeed, who are willing to invest the time and effort to be the best.  These aren’t instilled by a manager; they’re brought out by a leader.

The last thing your sales team needs is a manager.  You need Sales Leaders. 

If you want Sales Leaders, do the things necessary to develop them—investing in them is investing in your company’s future success.  Refusing to invest in them is an investment in your company’s failure.

 

July 30, 2014

Guest Article: “The Proven Best Way to Gain New Customers,” by Miles Austin

The Proven Best Way To Gain New Customers
by Miles Austin

Looking for the proven best way to gain new customers & grow your business?

Testimonials and recommendations are the answer. Testimonials and recommendations work. Many will argue that they are THE most successful way to attract new business. Entire business models like Yelp have emerged to leverage this truth.

It is a recognized fact that our customers are active in the selection process before sales ever gets involved.  There is disagreement about how far the customer typically has progressed down the buying path, but they have typically started the process before sales is engaged. Much of the time, this activity will take them directly to customer reviews or testimonials. Having them available at this stage can make a positive impact on their interest in you and your company. If they are absent or hard to find, you might not ever have the opportunity to compete.

Why are sales people not taking full advantage of this powerful sales influencer?

1. Don’t know how or are uncomfortable asking for them. 2. How to use them.

How to get references and testimonials.

If you are not asking for testimonials you are leaving money on the table. Getting past this hurdle can deliver a significant uptick in your revenue almost immediately.

It goes without saying that in order to get good testimonials you need to be delivering top-notch products and/or services. If you are new to sales, it can be effective to let some early customers know that you are at the beginning of your sales career and that providing a testimonial is one of the most important goals you have for the relationship.

The timing of asking for a recommendation can make all the difference. We have all probably received a LinkedIn request from someone we have never done business with but wanting you to give them a recommendation.  Need I tell you that this is a bad idea?  The best time to ask is right after they have told you that they have been able to accomplish their objective because of your effort.  They will never be more willing to provide the testimonial than at that time. This might be immediately after your work is completed or several months down the road. It is important to listen closely to what they are telling you and when the time is right – ask.

How you ask will affect your success as well. It is important that you keep the focus of the request on their situation and their results. A testimonial that says how awesome you are is nowhere near as powerful as when they tell everyone that they achieved their goal/objective because of selecting your product or service. Future customers will relate much better and be motivated to act because they can put themselves in the place of the recommending customer.

Make it easy for your customer to provide the recommendation by giving them some tips. Sharing other recommendations that deliver a compelling message has worked wonders for me. I get asked frequently if it is ok to write the testimonial for the customer. I personally struggle with that, but am happy to ask the customer to just jot down a few bullet points and then help them edit it to their satisfaction.

Make sure that you are able to use your customer’s full name at a minimum, but preferably their title and Company name as well. A photo is very compelling if they have one to offer. If not, ask if you can use their LinkedIn headshot. They work well for this purpose. Every company is different with how they handle this so maintain some flexibility with what you are asking for. I recommend that you not use the recommendation at all if all you are able to use only their initials vs. a full name. One of the powerful benefits of testimonials is the social proof that they can bring. Using only initials makes your testimonial useless for most purposes. It is also helpful for both you and your satisfied customer in many cases to include a live link to their website or profile.

How to use them

There are so many places to use testimonials today. Here are just a few:

  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Blog
  • Slide Presentations
  • Video’s
  • Collateral
  • Websites
  • Webinars
  • Tweets
  • Company or office lobby

Here are examples of some of my favorites:

  • In your slide presentations, include a slide or two with customer testimonials after key points. A testimonial with a photo that addresses how happy the customer was after using you for that exact point is a powerful influencer.
  • LinkedIn Profiles are a great place to highlight your testimonials. Once you get more than ten or more recommendations, I recommend you select only seven to ten, and hide the rest. Switch out and change which recommendations you show every two to three months to keep things fresh. Looking at a profile with 50 or more recommendations seems to be counter-productive in my opinion and experience.
  • Displaying testimonials on your blog/website will always yield positive results. I have actually had customers ask what it takes to have their testimonial highlighted online. That is a good indication you have this recommendation thing figured out.

Most importantly, after you receive a testimonial, say thank you. Let them know how much their efforts are appreciated and how it validates what you told them at the very beginning of the relationship.  “Their testimonial is one of the most important goals you have for the relationship.”

That is a great way to formalize what you have done for them now and positions you as their preferred source to provide similar products and/or services in the future

Miles Austin is recognized as one of the leading authorities on Web Tools for sales, leveraging deep experience in the selection, strategy and tactics necessary to maximize sales productivity.  Read more of Miles’ material at the Fill the Funnel blog.

July 28, 2014

Is Your Employer Knowingly Destroying Your Career?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:24 pm
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If you work as an outside, commissioned salesperson, think about what your employer does:

Your employer pays for:

  • virtually 100% of your training
  • virtually 100% of your marketing
  • your gas, your cell phone, your prospect and client lunches and coffee meetings

Your employer is investing hundreds of dollars per month in your career.  Yet they:

  • knowingly allow you to waste time
  • knowingly allow you to blow off work
  • knowingly allow you to go home early
  • knowingly allow you to come in late
  • knowingly allow you to stand around and complain and moan with the other salespeople in the office
  • knowingly allow you to pad your call reports
  • knowingly allowing you to perform at a level far below your potential

Why would any employer pay for all of your training and marketing and then allow you to waste that investment?  Do you really want to work for someone who cares so little about the money they are investing in you—and ultimately so little about your future?  Do you really want to work for someone who says they want you to succeed, but then knowingly allows you to do those things that lead to failure?

What kind of employer is that?

That, however, is the employer for which the majority of salespeople work.

And if you work for that employer you have no one to blame except yourself.  For despite what your W2 says, you are your employer.  As a commissioned salesperson, you don’t work for anyone other than yourself.  You are your own mini company with a single client company that you sell for today.  You are leasing yourself, your knowledge, and your skills to your client company.  And if you are establishing strong relationships with your prospects and clients, you’re also leasing them to your client.

When you revoke your lease to the company you currently sell for and take on a new client, you’ll take all of your training, all of your skills, all of your abilities with you.  They don’t stay with your current client.  And if you’ve done a good job of building relationships with your clients, you’ll take them with you also.

One hundred percent of the time, money and energy you invest in your sales business are invested in you for your benefit, not the company for which you are currently selling.  No matter your product or service–autos, real estate, financial services, consulting, telecommunications solutions, or anything else, you are your boss, your employer.  And as such, you must hold yourself accountable for your actions and the dollars you invest in you—your company.

As an employer, what kind of employer are you?  Do you demand the best from your employee?  Or, do you allow yourself to just slide through the motions of selling?  Are you seeking to get the most from the time and money you invest in your company or are you satisfied to just get by?

As an employee, are you happy with your employer?  Do think your employer demands enough from you?  Does your employer demand you work to your full potential?

Just because you receive a paycheck and a W2 doesn’t mean that you aren’t self-employed.  In reality, you sign your own paycheck.  The company you are leasing yourself to simply verifies your company’s earnings and then signs those earnings over to you.

Don’t be fooled into believing that you work for IBM, or UBS, or Century 21, or any other “employer” other than yourself.  You are your own CEO, and like any other CEO, you must demand the best from your employee.  And as an employee, if your company isn’t capable or willing to hold you accountable, maybe you need to fire your employer.

July 24, 2014

Guest Article: “No Problem, No Need,” by Jim Keenan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:55 am
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No Problem, No Need
By Jim Keenan

As sales people we are taught to find a need and sell to it. Needs based selling is what many of us have been taught from the early days. In almost every conversation I have with sales people on how to sell, the word “need” comes up. It’s without a doubt the most common term I hear sales people use when discussing how they sell and what sales is all about.

In almost all cases it’s explained as the “thing” a sale must be attached to. Need, is what sales people need to ferret out. Good sales people find need. The best sales people dig and search until they can find a need, then they sell to that need by telling the prospect how their product or service can fill their need. As good as it sounds, this approach is wrong and actually handicaps sales people.

Selling to a need assumes the customer has a need and more importantly, knows they have a need. The problem with this assumption is most sales opportunities are found because the prospect didn’t know they had a need.  They didn’t know they needed anything. They thought things were just fine.  Have you ever listened to someone sell to a need that didn’t exist?  It’s painful.  The customer says they don’t need the sales persons product, and the sales person flounders around looking for a need, while the customer says nope, I’m happy with my current product, yup, it does that, nope don’t need that feature, nope don’t need that, nope, don’t need that feature either. After about 5 min. if the sales person is lucky, the call is over, dejected and confused, they call the next poor soul, ready to find their need.

Here’s what’s wrong.

There is no need without a problem.   Trying to find a need without finding the problem is like trying to fish without a pond. NO pond, no fish. No problem no need.

A problem is when something can’t get done, a goal is being blocked, or when there is a hinderance to reaching an objective.   A problem is when something is preventing something from being achieved such as; information, knowledge, a tool, resources, insight, etc. Problems exist when things are missing.  The missing things is where the needs come in.

Rather than selling to need, find the problem. Don’t ask if the client needs something. Don’t look for need but rather for a problem.  Dig in to see how they are operating the business your product effects. Try to determine if they are happy with the results they’re getting. Ask if they are getting everything out of the current environment they want. Ask if they are on track to achieve their yearly goals. Ask if their competition can do things they can’t. Find out if they would like to get more out of the current environment. The key is to look for problems or even better show them they have a problem they didn’t know they had.

If you want to increase sales stop looking for a need.  Start by trying to identify a problem. Once you’ve found the problem, you then can start focusing on what they NEED to solve it.

All sales starts with a problem, everything else comes after. Find or uncover the customer(s) problem and everything else will take care of itself.

This is a great real life story on how focusing on need gets a “NO!” But, finding the problem gets a “YES!”:

What I Learned From a Franklin Covey Store Clerk

Be a problem finder.

Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Consulting has over 15 years’ experience building and leading successful sales teams. Jim is a trainer, coach, consultant and innovator, working with sales teams and sales leaders across the spectrum.  You can catch more of his wisdom a his A Sales Guy Consulting Blog.

July 22, 2014

Is There More to Social Selling than Just Hype?

Are you sick of the social selling hype yet?  Have you had your fill of the unrelenting BS that bombards you day in and day out about the miracle of social selling and how it makes selling so much easier, how it eliminates the horror of cold calling, the expense of advertising, the time consuming drudgery of attending networking events?

Or, have you bought into the hype and discovered that in reality it is nothing more than quicksand that will drag you down and destroy your business slowly?

The truth is there is a great deal of hype and BS going on about social selling.  There are promises of easy business, millions to be made quickly, and unlike prospecting and selling; it’s just all great fun.

But there is also a kernel of truth in all that hype.  Social selling does work—when recognized for what it really is and integrated into a comprehensive prospecting and selling process.

Despite what many preach, social selling isn’t meant to be a standalone business development strategy. 

It isn’t a panacea, freeing sellers from the day-to-day work of picking up the phone, of generating referrals, of attending networking events, and the other work of finding and connecting with quality prospects.

Social selling is an adjunct to traditional prospecting, not a replacement of it.  Adopting social selling as a part of your business plan doesn’t eliminate all of the traditional strategies you’ve used in the past, it simply makes those strategies a bit more effective while adding another way to find and connect with your prospects.

Finding and connecting with prospects is a complex problem for not all prospects are alike.  Your prospects will accept and respond to different means of approach—some will respond to cold calling, most won’t.  Some will respond to being approached through a referral—of course, that assumes you have a referral to them.  Some will respond to direct mail, others to being approached at a networking event, others through advertising, others through an email campaign.  And others will respond through social media connections.

It isn’t our prospect’s responsibility to respond to us in the way we want to connect with them; it is our responsibility to connect with our prospects in the way they will accept.  And that means we must employ a variety of strategies if we want to find and connect with a broad prospect base.

This is where social selling comes in, allowing us to find and connect with those prospects who prefer to connect via social media.

It also allows us to transfer or continue our relationship online with prospects and customers that are found through offline strategies.

Social selling can open many doors but it can’t replace our offline efforts to find and connect with prospects.  In fact, we should be spending only a small fraction of our time online—an hour or so daily.

Don’t buy the ridiculous hype being put forth by so many.

By all means embrace social selling, but don’t destroy your business by thinking that it will produce magical results and free you from the work of prospecting.

It won’t.

July 21, 2014

Guest Article: “Don’t Wait for a Bone,” by Tibor Shanto

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:42 pm
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Don’t Wait For A Bone
by Tibor Shanto

dog and boneNothing bothers me more than when a rep uses any expression relating to selling that includes a variation of “throw me a bone”. You hear this a lot especially in industries that are highly competitive, the buyers have viable options, and the risk of commoditization looms large.

Usually while discussing their prospecting efforts with an account currently serviced by a competitor, reps tells me how they follow up with and touch the client, in the hope that the buyer will “throw me a bone, and I can prove myself.”

You may say this is not prevalent, but it is much broader than most want to believe; especially when you look past the semantics, and focus on the underlying reality.  Many will phrase it differently, but the underlying attitude, is passive and lacks a cohesive action plan that permeates sales at all levels.

It certainly symptomatic of sellers who don’t understand the real value they can bring to a client, cannot articulate the value in a meaningful way, or both.  This in itself is not the worst thing sellers can face, as overcoming this is a question of will, learning and practice.  But the reps are not alone to blame in perpetuating this sheepish way of selling.  Many are left to themselves to figure things out, to define their value and how to communicate that to the various audiences involved in buying their offerings.  Many managers, who are really just old sellers with an “attaboy”, encourage their teams to do as they did, after all they must know what they are doing, they got the “attaboy”.

Some get no support from their marketing teams.  They produce lovely brochures, cool 3-D picture of the product, specs galore, not one line about business application, or how it may help the buyer beyond what the buyer already knows.  All culminating in the product comparing columns on the back page, with of course our product having the most check marks (even when no one cares about any of the features).

What angers me is the lack of willingness by many to do anything about the situation.  Not realizing that the effort to change it is not only less than the effort needed to continue to sell in this submissive and ineffective way.  Yes there is a learning curve that requires time and effort, and may at times cause bruising.  But once mastered, it require less ongoing effort to maintain, especially if you put processes in place.  Processes that include reviewing current engagements to understand, get a head of and respond to market trends and continue to be of value to the market and your buyers.

You may think this is only prevalent in simple, perhaps commoditized type of sales, not true.  I recently met with a counterpart who works with large ticket items, high six figures, what many may call a complex sale, and he sees the same issue, what he calls “bone catchers”.  Now I am all for relationships, but there has to be more to a relationship than a seller standing on his hind legs wagging his tail waiting for a buyer to flick a bone and some crumbs their way.

Tibor Shanto, Principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a 25-year veteran of B2B sales, Tibor has developed an insider’s hands on perspective of successful sales execution.  Get more of Tibor’s wisom at the Renbor blog, The Pipeline.

 

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