Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 5, 2015

Objection? Buying Signal? Maybe Neither–Maybe You’re Being Put Under the Microscope

A few years ago I wrote an article titled “How to Take the Sting Out of the Price Question Early in the Sale.”  In the course of the article I argued that it is natural for a prospect to ask about price–and often to do so too early in the sale, before the seller has had an opportunity to create real value for the prospect—because price is one of the factors prospects use as they seek to qualify the seller and the purchasing opportunity.

In response to that article I received numerous emails and comments from salespeople and sales leaders that they had never thought about the idea that the prospect is qualifying them and their offering at the same time they are trying to qualify the prospect.

Yet the prospect’s qualifying the seller and the seller’s value/solution is the crux of the whole sales process.

We are all familiar with the concepts of qualifying the prospect, investigating needs, developing a solution and creating real value for the prospect, overcoming objections, and the other aspects of making a sale.  All of these concepts are views of the sales process from the seller’s perspective.  These are the constructs that we as sellers tend to concentrate on.

We then view the prospect’s questions as either worrisome objections that are nothing but a smokescreen or are out-n-out buying signals.  For many of us, the questions and actions of the prospect are either those of an enemy or those of someone telling us they are ready to buy.

What if neither of those choices is true?

What if all of those questions and the statements by the prospect, instead of being obstacles to our sale or indications of their desire to consummate the purchase, are simply questions and statements to help them qualify us and our offering? 

What if they are doing the same to us as we are doing to them?

If that is the case, then that means we’re neither dealing with an enemy to be overcome nor are we dealing with someone asking us to close them.  Instead we’re dealing with a human being who wants to know whether or not we’re trustworthy, whether or not our offering is appropriate for them, whether or not we’re wasting their time.

In other words, they are in the process of qualifying us just as much as we’re qualifying them.  When we qualify a prospect we ask questions and probe to discover who we’re dealing with and what we might be able to do for them.  When we’re asking questions we’re not trying to play the ‘gotcha’ game.  Most of us aren’t trying to trap them into a sale.  We’re honestly seeking information that allows us to know whether or not we are in front of a real prospect with a real need that we can help solve in a way that produces real value for them.

The prospect is going through the same process with us.  Whether they are conscious of it or not, they’re trying to determine whether or not we are someone they want to do business with, and then, whether or not our product/service/company presents any real solid worthwhile value for them.

The traditional terms sellers think in—overcoming objections, closing the sale, etc.—tend to set up an adversarial relationship where we are on the lookout for the dreaded objection and the opportunity to pounce with the closing question.

However, if we recognize that the sales process involves both parties qualifying one another and that the qualifying process involves the investigation and questioning of each party, we can relax and begin to address the prospect’s questions for what they really are—a legitimate desire to find out who we are and whether or not we are someone they want to work with.

Go forth and qualify—and let yourself be qualified.  It’s a whole lot more fun to sell when you’re working with a prospect to mutually qualify one another than it is to try to out fox and overcome an adversary.



January 8, 2015

3 Steps to Getting High Quality Referrals From Your Clients

Are you one of the majority of sellers that isn’t converting the majority of the referrals you get because the “referral” is nothing more than the name and phone number of someone who isn’t a real prospect?  Are you one of the sellers who have simply given up even asking for referrals because they have proven to be more of a waste of time than anything else?   Chances are you said yes because that’s the experience of most sellers–weak or worthless “referrals” that cost more time and waste more energy than they’re worth.  Oh, sure, we all have some clients that will give us referrals all day long.  Just ask and they’ll give you name after name.  Other clients, the majority, aren’t nearly as generous with their referrals.

The biggest problem in both cases is so often the referral we get isn’t much better than pointing at a name in the phonebook at random.

How can you guarantee that you get great referrals?  Simple.  Make sure the client gives you a great referral by creating the referral for them to give you, rather than relying on them coming up with a quality referral to give.

The reality is that clients really don’t know who we’re looking for and most of them just don’t have a real incentive to invest the time and energy to come up with a great referral.

But we know who is a great referral for us.  And certainly we’re willing to invest the time and energy to find a great referral (if we’re not, we have some real serious issues to deal with).

Since we’re the one with the need; and we’re the one with the desire; and we’re the one who knows who makes a good referral for us, why would we rely on anyone else other than our self to come up with the referral?

So how can we create a great referral for our client to give us?

Here are three steps to guaranteeing you get great referrals from your clients:

  1. Get Your Client On-board to Give Referrals.  Most sellers wait until after the sale has been completed before they bring up the idea of referrals.  Bad idea.

    Most clients need time to get comfortable with the idea of giving referrals, so bring up referrals early in the relationship.  Don’t ask for referrals; just let your client know that your business is built on referrals and then drop referral seeds as the sale progresses.  Since your prospects and clients aren’t stupid, if they hear you mention referrals often in a casual manner, they’ll get the impression referrals are important to you and they will be expecting you to ask for them at some point.

  2. Find Out Who Your Client Knows.  We’ve already established that in order to get great referrals you have to do the work for your client, so do it by discovering during the course of the relationship who they know that you know you want to be referred to.How do you find out? Through small-talk (who do they mention in conversation they know); paying attention to what’s in their environment (pictures, association directories, membership plaques, and such); their background (where did they work previously); their work (what vendors and suppliers do they interact with).  Your job is to be a detective and to uncover the relationships they have with people or companies that you know you want to be referred to.  The more you uncover the more quality referrals you uncover.
  3. Don’t Ask for Referrals, Ask for THE Introduction.  Now when it comes time to ask for referrals, you’re not going to be like every other seller and ask a weak question such as, “Donna, do you happen to know anyone else (or another company) that might be able to use my products or services (or that I can help—or any other such weak question)?”

    Instead you’re going to ask for a direct introduction to someone you know is a great prospect for you and that you have reason to believe your client knows:  “Donna, I’ve been trying to connect with David Jones for some time without success.  You mentioned that you’ve worked with David for several years, would you be comfortable introducing me to him?”  You know she knows David.  You have reason to believe David is a good prospect for you.  Don’t waste Donna’s time with that weak general referral question; ask to get connected to a person you know she knows that you know you want to connect with.

Referrals can be the foundation of your sales business if you just develop the skills necessary to be a referral-based salesperson.  If Donna knows three people or companies you know you want to be referred to and you can get introductions to them from her, how much time and energy have you saved getting those three introductions through referrals instead of cold calling or sending out direct mail or hoping to bump into them at a networking event?

Forget what you’ve been taught about asking for referrals.  Referral generation is a PROACTIVE process where you do the work, not your client.  Your client doesn’t have the motivation, you do.  They don’t have the understanding of who makes a good referral like you do.  Your client doesn’t have the time to invest in figuring out a good referral like you do.  It’s your business, not theirs.

February 21, 2013

Building Your Business on Referrals Pt. 2: Asking for Referrals is Bad Practice

OK, I know, you’ve been told your entire life as a salesperson that you have to ask for referrals and that if you don’t you’ll fail.  But if you’re like most sellers you’ve asked and on occasion get a name and phone number of someone that turns into a new client, but most of the time the names and numbers you get are about as targeted as taking a dart and throwing blindly at the phone book.

The above situation is so common that a great many sellers simply stop asking, thinking that referrals are nothing more than sales mythology, while others, thinking they are the cause of the failure to generate significant numbers of quality referrals, continue to ask with little success and a growing sense of frustration and failure.

The reality isn’t that generating quality referrals are nothing more than a myth or that the seller himself is the root cause of referral generation failure.

Referral generation fails primarily because of the way most sellers have been taught to seek referrals.  The seller isn’t the problem; the strategy they’ve been taught is at fault.

How have most of us been taught to get referrals? 

For the most part out referral training consists of nothing more than “do a good job for your client and ask for referrals with a question such as, ‘Mr. Prospect, do you know anyone else who I might be able to help as I’ve helped you,’ or ‘Ms. Prospect, do you know of anyone who might benefit from my products or services?’

Certainly on occasion the training may be a bit more in-depth—one trainer might encourage sellers to ask the question early in the sale while another stresses the need to ask only after the sale has been completed, or one trainer might use slightly different phraseology or might encourage the seller to ask for a specific number of referrals, but the essence of the training is the same—do a good job and ask for referrals.

The problem is the process taught causes more problems than it solves.

First, the good news—the traditional referral training solves a major problem—it encourages the seller to seek referrals.  Although the success ratio is typically very low, it does produce the occasional prospect that turns into a client. 

Now the bad news—it fritters away one of the most valuable business generation resources a seller has—the potential quality referrals from a satisfied client.

Let’s take a look at the primary problems the traditional referral “method” creates:

  • The Referral Question Comes Out of the Blue:  Most clients are not comfortable when put on the spot to give referrals.  When we ask for a referral we may be thinking that we’re asking a small favor but most clients take the request far more seriously.  When a client gives a referral they believe they are putting their reputation on the line, something most don’t do lightly.  Clients need time to become comfortable with the idea of giving referrals.  If we really want quality referrals, we have to allow our client the time to become comfortable with the idea of giving us referrals before we ask.
  • We Don’t Give Our Client the Opportunity to Give Quality Referrals:  When we follow the traditional training of “do a good job and ask for referrals” we literally stand in front of our client (or are holding on the phone) expecting them to pop off the names of great prospects for us.  We are asking them to go through their mental file cabinet and come up with great referrals in the course of 10 or 15 seconds.  That is simply an unrealistic expectation on our part and we usually get what we deserve when we put a client in that position—little to nothing of value.
  • Our Client Doesn’t Know Who a Great Prospect for Us Is:  Not only do we expect our client to be able to give great referrals just off the top of their head, we expect them to know exactly who we can help when much of the time our client hasn’t had the opportunity to fully appreciate what we’ve done for them, much less know what all of our capabilities are and who is really a top prospect for us.  We’re asking our client to do the impossible—know our business as well as we know it.
  • It Ignores Human Nature:  The traditional referral request is one-sided and offers the client no reason to give referrals.  There are, obviously, clients who will give referrals even when there is nothing in it for them, but human nature being what it is, the referral request can be far more successful if it can be shown that it benefits the client as well as the seller.
  • It Makes the Client do the Work:  Rather than making it easy for our clients to give us great referrals, we make it as difficult as possible by asking them to do something they are ill prepared–and often not inclined–to do.  Giving high quality referrals should be so easy for our client that literally all they have to do is say “yes.”

Although referral generation as traditionally taught is laden with self-defeating issues, referral generation when practiced properly can be a highly successful business generation tool—one that can literally be the cornerstone of a successful business.

July 13, 2012

Guest Article: Reputation Recovery, by Charles H. Green

Reputation Recovery
by Charles H. Green

When you are more virtuous than your reputation would suggest, you have a communications problem.

When your reputation for virtue exceeds the facts on the ground, you have a ticking business problem.

When Image and Reality Part Ways

When you have a communications problem, the communications team should hire a PR firm. Most firms do this.

But in the second case – where the reputation is better than the truth – most firms do not do what they should. They don’t even thank their lucky stars for having a better reputation than they deserve.

Instead, they begin to believe the hype.

Then one day, It Happens. The subsidiary defaults. The pipeline springs a leak. Animal byproducts show up in the food. Someone comes forward to testify.

Let’s be clear. These things just kind of seem to happen more often to the non-virtuous than to the virtuous firm. If the event truly is an anomaly, it doesn’t last on the front page. Acts of god don’t make good news for long.

But what about the non-virtuous firm?

When Disclosures Accelerate

When it turns out the smoke really did indicate fire, the non-virtuous firm all too often behaves predictably. Having believed their undeserved hype about being virtuous, they then do what the virtuous firms did – they hire a PR firm.

Which is all too often the wrong thing to do – and hardly ever the main thing to do.

In an interesting display of PR sensitivity, BP chose to hire Dick Cheney’s former campaign press secretary as head of PR, and a Wall Street PR firm as outside advisors.

Of course, there is a role for communications experts even in a crisis. With multiple constitutencies and tons of experience at keeping things secret, perhaps it made sense for Penn State to hire two outside PR firms.

But most non-virtuous firms aren’t looking for technical expertise; they’re looking to follow the lead of Muammar Gadaffi in seeking spin.

PR: a Delicate Balance

It cannot be an easy thing to tell clients seeking spin that the solution is to become virtuous. Clients want virtue now, and backdated if possible, thank you very much.

In such a milieu, the temptation for ambulance chasing is high. How can you keep on teaching virtue when the clients are paying you to shut up and stop the pain?

Yet that is what must be done. Arthur Page, the poster child for “good” public relations, had it right. He had a list of seven principles, the first of which was “tell the truth.” What a concept.

He also said that public relations is 90% doing and 10% talking about it. In other words, if you are virtuous, you’re not going to have much of a problem explaining crises.

Recovering Virtue

The fallen firm wants to know what they can do now to recover. After all, they always sought fast fixes in the past, and they worked. But there simply is no fast route to virtue recovery if you’re coming from a history of un-virtuous behavior.

At a personal level, it’s conceivable that someone could have an instant conversion and become virtuous, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen it – most conversions I have seen have come through pain and hard work.

And at a corporate level? Fuggedabout it. The fastest route to serious change is to change all the top leadership, and even then you’ve got habits, policies and cultures to change. Minimum 6-12 months, and I can’t off-hand think of an example where change has happened that fast.

Non-virtuous leaders who’ve been caught with their pants down don’t want to hear it, but the best way to handle crises is to prevent them happening in the first place. The best way to be trusted is to be trustworthy.

Spin is not the solution; spin is the problem.

You may not be able to change by tomorrow, but you can always start the journey today.

Charles H. Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC; read more about Charlie at can follow him on twitter @CharlesHGreen

April 11, 2011

Results of the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey

It has taken a bit of time and a lot of effort, but we finally have the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey results.

Some will be surprised, some won’t like the findings, and others will find they confirm what they suspected.

Two things stick out for me:

1.  Both salespeople and companies, whether they currently use social media or not, are struggling to figure out how to use it effectively. In fact, few—even those with sophisticated marketing departments investing time and effort into the process—have any real social media strategy.  Undoubtedly, this will be true for quite some time to come–and, of course, that means there are and will be thousands out looking to take your money to help you learn the hows of making Social Media work.  The lesson here: be extremely careful as there are many who know little more than how to construct a tweet who are anxious to take your money.

2.  To date, social media has been pretty useless in generating actual sales.  By far the most use salespeople and companies are getting from social media is in the area of prospecting–finding new prospects to contact using traditional means, not in making sales.  Again, this will probably be the case for a long, long time–it may always be the case.  Except for web-based sellers, few are realizing any real sales volume from their social media activities.  The lesson?  If you’re thinking you’re going to make easy money by spending time on social media and not having to do the hard work of prospecting, well, good luck with that thought.  On the other hand, if you’re not using social media to help identify and research prospects, you’re probably wasting a heck of a lot of time elsewhere.

Find out what else we discovered–it’s all in the survey.

I’ve decided to divert from the typical approach of requiring you to register to receive a sales oriented White Paper or making you subscribe to our newsletter.  Instead, I’m offering the report as a simple PDF download with the download link below.  I would encourage you, though, to either subscribe to the SELLING POWER Newsletter by simply shooting me an email at with the subject line “subscribe,” or clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button at the top of the sidebar to the right and subscribe to receive notification of new blog posts.  Subscription appreciated, not required.

If you have questions or anything needs a little more light put upon it, by all means, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Download social media survey

January 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 27, 2010

Is Confusing Word of Mouth Marketing with Referral Marketing Costing You Business?

Log on to almost any site that has a large and varied library of sales articles or head over to Amazon and scan the books that come up from a keyword search of “referrals” and you’ll find one of the most common—and innocently destructive—confusions in the discussion of prospecting methodologies: discussing word of mouth marketing in the same context as referral marketing.

From sellers to business owners to sales leaders to some of the biggest names in sales training and coaching, word of mouth marketing and referral selling are discussed as though that are just two aspects of the same prospecting methodology.  They aren’t.  They are very, very different, and understanding the difference is important if you want to maximize your word of mouth and/or referral marketing effectiveness.

Word of Mouth Marketing is PASSIVE.  In word of mouth marketing the object is to have someone, usually a client, recommend people they know call you if they have a need for your product or service.  Your recommender may or may not give the person they speak to one of your cards or your phone number, but at a minimum they will tell the other person your name and give them a brief idea of why they should speak with you—usually an idea of what you accomplished for them, how great your service was, or how competitive your price.

Other than possibly encouraging them to pass along your information—and maybe giving them a few of your business cards—you have no control.  You are relying on other people to create business for you.  You have to rely on your client to mention you to those they speak to who might need your products or service.  You then have to hope that the person they spoke to about you picks up the phone and gives you a call or to walks into your office.  Seldom do you even know that your client spoke to someone about you.

Word of mouth marketing works.  It certainly isn’t the most effective prospecting strategy, but it has its place in the prospecting toolkit of many sellers.

Referral Marketing is PROACTIVE.  Referral marketing is the exact opposite of word of mouth marketing.  Instead of waiting for someone else to generate prospects for you, referral marketing demands that you take control of the process, including doing the referral work for your client.

Traditionally referral marketing has been taught as a semi-proactive process; one where you were taught to ask a weak referral question such as, “Ms. Client, do you know anyone else that I might help?”  Or, “Mr. Client, who do you know that might benefit from my products or services?”

When you ask a weak referral question such as one of these, you’re still relying on your client to do your prospecting for you.  Although more proactive than word of mouth marketing, you still have little control over the result—you may or may not get a positive response to your question, and even when you get a positive response, it may not be a referral to a quality prospect.

However, if you’ll do the work for your client by doing some detective work to figure out who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to, and then instead of asking a general referral question, asking for the specific introduction to the person you know you want to be referred to that you know your client knows, you’ve taken total control of the referral process.  You’re no longer relying on your client to come up with a quality referral for you, nor are you relying on them maybe mentioning you to someone who might need your products or services.  Instead, you’re asking for a direct introduction to someone you KNOW you want to be referred to.  You know you’re getting a high quality referral.

It isn’t a possible.  It isn’t a maybe.  It isn’t a might. 

It isn’t a maybe they’ll take my phone call.  It isn’t a maybe I’ll get to talk to them.

It is a direct introduction to someone you know you want to be referred to.  You know it is a good referral.  You know it is a quality prospect.  You know you’ll get to talk to them. 

You’ve taken all the maybe’s out of the equation and have taken total control of the process.

Referral marketing is not only far more effective than word of mouth marketing, it is also a far more predictable prospect generation strategy.

OK, so there’s a difference.  What’s the big deal?

It’s a big deal to understand the difference because it means you can substantially increase your business by thoroughly understanding how each strategy works and then employing both in your sales business.

I’ve had a great many sellers and sales leaders tell me that they either currently use referral marketing aggressively or they tried referral marketing and it was a total flop.  Yet when I question them about what they’re doing or what they did that didn’t work I discover that they were using word of mouth marketing, not referral marketing. 

Lumping word of mouth marketing in with referral marketing is an innocent mistake–but one that is costing sellers business.  And although they are very different strategies, by engaging your clients and others in both a proactive and a passive prospect generation strategy, you can quickly and substantially increase your pipeline.  It simply takes understanding the difference between the two strategies than then learning how to maximize their utilization.

July 29, 2010

Book Review: The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales

Seldom do I review a book that has been on the market for years, much less decades.  But I ran across my old beat up copy of  The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales
and decided since the book was in such poor condition I’d order the newest edition.  After reading it again, I thought I’d do my small part to encourage as many sellers and sales leaders as possible to pick up a copy and set aside some time for some serious—and potentially highly productive—reading.

Authors George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson are psychologists who have spent decades researching one of the key barriers to sales success—call reluctance.  The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales (Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc: 5th Edition 2007) is designed to help sellers and sales leaders recognize the issues that are keeping them from prospecting effectively and to overcome them. 

Dudley and Goodson argue that sales call reluctance isn’t as simple as the fear of rejection it is so often claimed to be, but instead can be any one or any combination of twelve different issues that prevent sellers from fully engaging in prospecting. 

After first dealing with the difference between true call reluctance and call reluctance impostors (things that may look like call reluctance but aren’t, such as low motivation or low goals), the authors get down to business by laying out in detail the twelve root causes of call reluctance. 

These prospecting killers are:

  1. Doomsayers those who over prepare for the worst case scenario
  2. Over-Preparer  spends time preparing to prospect, little time prospecting
  3. Hyper-Pro   in Texas we’d call them all hat, no cattle—spends all their time on the show of success, no time on becoming successful
  4. Stage Fright  avoid group presentations
  5. Role Rejection  buried guilt or shame about being a salesperson or self-promoter
  6. Yielder  hesitant to be seen as intrusive or forward
  7. Social Self-Consciousness  afraid to market to upscale prospects
  8. Separationist  resistant to selling and marketing to friends
  9. Emotionally Unemancipated  resistant to selling and marketing to family

10.  Referral Aversion  uncomfortable asking for referrals

11.  Telephobia fear of using the phone to connect with prospects

12.  Oppositional Reflex  a need for a great deal of approval but having very low self-esteem

Like a great many other sellers, I can spot myself in this list—my self-diagnosis is Over-Preparer and Role-Rejection (one of the role rejection issues the authors discuss is a seller’s discomfort with self-promotion as many sellers have been brought up to believe that self-promotion is unseemly and socially unacceptable).

Along with the description of the call reluctance issue, Dudley and Goodson include some self-diagnosis questions and typical work behaviors associated with the issue that will help you determine if you—or one of your sellers-is a victim of the particular prospecting killer.

The authors don’t leave you hanging.

Of course the book would be useless if it only diagnosed the illness without giving an appropriate and effective prescription to cure it. 

Dudley and Goodson lay out in detail six procedures (and a couple of minor ones) to counteract and correct the dozen call reluctance issues.   

Each discussion of a call reluctance issue is accompanied by a list of the countermeasures effective for treating it so you know what your illness is as well as the correct prescription to deal with it. 

A countermeasure is designed to change your thoughts, your feelings or your actions. Every call reluctance issue has multiple countermeasures–at least one countermeasure to deal with your thoughts and at least one to deal with your feelings, and almost all have a countermeasure to help change your actions.

Countermeasures are too complex to go into any detail here, but an idea of where the authors go with countermeasures can be gathered through some of the countermeasure’s names: Thought Realignment, Threat Desensitization, Thought Zapping, and Fear Inversion.

The Pros:

The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance:

  • Presents a research based assessment of the causes of sales call reluctance
  • Provides detailed tested and proven prescriptions for dealing with the identified call reluctance issues
  • Helps distinguish between true call reluctance and those actions that appear to be call reluctance but aren’t

Unlike most sales trainers and consultants who claim to know the cause of call reluctance, Dudley and Goodson have moved well beyond the “fear of rejection” assumption and have provided sellers with a well researched discussion of its causes and cures.  That alone is worth every penny of the book’s cost.

More importantly, the proposed cures really seem to work, which is far more than can be said for the old “just do it” formula so often prescribed by motivational speakers.  A real, workable, effective solution makes the book priceless.

The Cons:

Unfortunately there are cons—both in style and execution.

Let’s take the less important style cons first:

1) The authors skewer sales trainers, psychologists, and motivational speakers for claiming they have ‘the answer.”  Dudley and Goodson are just as guilty if not more so since they make such an issue of beating their straw man sales trainers, psychologists and motivation speakers about the head and shoulders unmercifully. 

2) The authors try too hard to turn a semi-academic work into something more akin to literature.  They get far too carried away trying to make their similes and metaphors cute and unique that they are almost laughable.  Yes, a minor point, but one that after awhile becomes weary. 

Now to the far more important execution issue: the diagnosis and prescriptions are going to be very difficult for a great many sellers to handle on their own (not to mention that an even greater number of sellers will never make it through the tedious detail of the book).  Many, if not most, sellers will have to have someone to both guide them through the book and to hold them accountable for executing the prescriptions.  I think far more sellers will be successful using Dudley and Goodson’s research if they work in conjunction with their manger, a coach, or mentor. 

If you’re a seller, I encourage you to get a copy of the book, work through it, and then find someone—a manager or coach probably—to work with you to diagnose your call reluctance issues (if you have any) and then work through the countermeasures.

If you’re a sales leader, even more this book should not only be on your bookshelf, but should be in your hands—you just might find it solves many a vexing problem your sellers have had.

The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales

February 1, 2010

Networking That Really Works: A FREE Prospecting Webinar on Feb 18

Are you spending time at the chamber networking event or the morning leads exchange group and finding you’re just wasting precious time and energy for no return at all?

Unless you’re an auto mechanic, a personal banker, sell cars, or are a dentist, the chamber event and the leads exchange group probably aren’t going to help you at all.  If you sell sophisticated products and services or high dollar items, more than likely you’re not going to be meeting great prospects or getting many quality leads at these venues.  The majority of people at the chamber event are other sellers looking for prospects and those at the networking breakfast typically can only refer to micro and small businesses or less than ideal consumer prospects.

So is networking out of the question?

Not at all.

You just have to network where you’re going to find a large number of quality prospects and create long-term relationships with them.

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November 16, 2009

The Last Thing Your Sales Team Needs is a Manager

Does your sales team need someone to:

  • Monitor every activity in the sales office?
  • Be every salesperson’s best friend?
  • Close the deal for every team member?
  • Set sales goals designed to make them and their team look good?

Over my three 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 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 are 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 swin 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.

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