How Do You Change the Behavior of an Experienced Salesperson?

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Every client I deal with, in one way or another, eventually asks that question. The words may be different, but the question is the same. In this economic environment, it’s a universal question. If you haven’t confronted the issue yet, it’s only a matter of time before you will.

Here’s the context in which this question surfaces. The company needs to make some change that impacts the sales force: A new compensation program, a new automation tool, a new sales process, a new way of working with inside salespeople — a new something. Most sales forces are made up of … Read the rest

Popcorn and Other Marketing Mistakes in a Changing Economy

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Ten years of competitive hell!

That was the title on the seminar brochure I received recently. As I survey some of the forces flowing through our economy and witness the way in which they affect my clients, I have to agree. “The Information Age” is certainly one of the most turbulent times business people have ever seen.

And the force causing the greatest turbulence is rapid, unrelenting change. Consider this: in 1900, the total amount of knowledge that mankind had was doubling about every 500 years. Today, it doubles about every two years. And the pace continues to increase. One … Read the rest

Can Salespeople Learn on Their Own?

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One of the most debilitating myths about the sales profession is this: Salespeople can learn on their own, on the job, and eventually become good at their jobs. They’ll eventually develop their own style, this myth implies, and that will bring them the maximum results.

That myth is true for about five percent of the salespeople in the world. For the other 95 percent, nothing could be further from the truth. The overwhelming majority of field salespeople perform at a fraction of their potential because they have never been systematically exposed to the best practices of their profession. Instead, they … Read the rest

Protecting Good Accounts From the Competition

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We all know the feeling. Your key contact in one of your good accounts sheepishly admits that they have moved some business to a competitor. No problem with your service, it was just a price issue.

Nothing is more discouraging. You’ve spent years developing this account, building relationships, working hard at meeting their needs, and then, in the blink of an eye, you lose the business to a price-cutter.

Is there anything you can do to prevent this? Of course. Here are four proven strategies that will help you prevent your hard-earned business from disappearing into the hands of price … Read the rest

The Biggest Mistakes in Sales Presentations

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The sales presentation is the ultimate purpose of every sales process, of every sales call, and of every sales system. The job of the salesperson revolves around the point in time when he offers the customer something to buy.

The sales presentation can take a variety of forms. If you demonstrate a product, for example, that is a sales presentation. If you use a hard-copy brochure or a presentation on your lap-top, that is a sales presentation. If you deliver and detail a sample, that is a sales presentation. If you respond to the customer’s request, and provide a price, … Read the rest

Thinking and Questioning Your Way to Sales Success

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Part Two

Last month I made the point that thinking better is the ultimate success skill for a salesperson, and that good thinking always came from asking yourself the right questions and writing down the answers. Sounds so simple. Yet, only a handful of true professionals adhere to that discipline.

Personal Improvement Questions

The personal effectiveness questions that we reviewed in part one are based on the premise that you can choose to do things that are more effective than others. You have a choice of how to invest your sales time, and you make those decisions about that investment … Read the rest

Thinking and Questioning Your Way to Sales Success

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For a sales professional, there are two basic sets of questions with which a dedicated salesperson should gain competence:

  • Questions to ask prospects and customers.
  • Questions to ask yourself.

Questions we ask ourselves are just as important, if not more so, than those we ask our prospects and customers. The reason goes back to the ultimate power of a question — it directs our thinking. Just as a good question directs the customer’s thinking, so, too, does a good question direct our own thinking. And thinking well is the ultimate success skill for a professional salesperson.

Some years ago I … Read the rest

Are You Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

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We’ve all heard the numbers: consumer confidence is down, retail sales are down. And for many of us, the markets we serve are down as well. There is an important relationship to note here. Confidence — an attitude — is down, so sales are down. When confidence is up, sales follow. The principle at work here is this: Our actions follow our attitudes. The relationship between actions and attitudes is so close that the two go hand-in-hand, and our actions can be seen as outward expressions of our attitudes.

Ok, so what does that have to do with you? Here’s … Read the rest

Creating Long-Term Goals

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One of the habits often practiced by highly successful people is the habit of regular goal setting. There is a reason for that. Long-term goals compel you to work with discipline and concentration rather than going about your job mindlessly and routinely. Goal-setting is a discipline that helps you focus.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t do your job without goals. You can, and many salespeople do. But the discipline of goal setting forces you to think about what you do. It moves you out of the realm of being reactive — doing what other people want you to do … Read the rest

It’s All About the Risk!

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Sometimes it is so frustrating. You know you have a better product than that which your prospect is currently using. Your price is attractive, your service is outstanding. If the prospect would switch to your solution, you know they’d be delighted. You’d save them money, smooth out their processes, reduce their inventory and generally make their life simpler.

So, why won’t they switch? Are people really that stupid? Or, is it you? Did you do something to put them off?

While there are some circumstances where the answers would be yes to the questions above, the most likely answer is … Read the rest

Leveraging Satisfaction

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So, you have created a customer, you’ve actually sold something, and you have some money in the bank. Feel free to celebrate and luxuriate in the good feelings that bubble out of you. That’s one of the fringe benefits to selling — it feels great when you succeed.

Before you become too enraptured with yourself, let me remind that you are not finished. There is a greater goal, and a larger and more encompassing strategy into which this transaction fits. If you focus all of your time and energy on creating sales, you will, unfortunately, miss the mark.

In a … Read the rest

Do You Have a Selling System?

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“I have my own style of selling.”

That is a remark I have heard a number of times, usually from relatively inexperienced salespeople.
What they usually mean is something like this: “I don’t have any real system to what I do, I don’t want any scrutiny, and I probably am not going to learn anything from you.”

How valid is this position? Does every salesperson have a unique style of selling? Are they just trying to hide from accountability under the cover of individual “style”? Or is there some other explanation?

More important, should your company allow every salesperson to … Read the rest

Developing Account Strategies

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Excerpted with permission of the publisher, from the First Steps to Success in Outside Sales.

Keep in mind that you are in it (this job) for the long-term. This is not a six-month job. You’re going to be doing this work, calling on these customers and developing this business for some time. Rarely will you make one sales call on someone and then never see them again. More likely, you will come to know these customers. You can’t expect to sell everything to everyone on the first call. That means you will see them again and again and again.

Read the rest

A Realistic Perspective on Closing the Sale

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There is not a salesperson in existence who hasn’t repeatedly heard of the need to “close the sale.” Every new sales manager must view the process of encouraging his or her sales force to “close the sale” as an initiation into the profession. If you’re going to be a sales manager, you, therefore, must improve everyone’s ability to “close.” Doesn’t it come with the job?

The sales training literature is awash with advice, some of it tedious and trivial: “If he says this, you say that.” Other advice is grandiose: “35 new sure-fire closing techniques.” Still other is harmful. “Overcome … Read the rest

Characteristics of a Professional

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Are you serious about your job?

“I wish my people were more professional,” executives and managers often commiserate to me. Even with those who don’t voice it, that unspoken yearning often hovers just under the surface of their conversation.

Ah, if only the people around us were more professional. Our lives would be easier, our businesses would grow more effortlessly, we’d find our jobs more fulfilling…. the list of dramatic benefits can go on and on. But what does it mean to be more professional? More important, what can we do to make sure that we, and our associates, are … Read the rest

The Secret Strategy of Meaningful Sales Meetings

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Oops! Got a sales meeting coming up in two weeks, better get ready for it. Let’s see, what should we do? I’ll go over last month’s numbers, that’ll take a half hour. Then…I know! The credit manager has been complaining about the state of receivables lately. I’ll have him come in and complain directly to the sales guys. That’ll take about an hour. Now what…?

Does that scenario sound familiar? All too often that’s how we plan our sales meetings. The focus is on how to fill the time, what information we want to transmit, and who we want to … Read the rest

Beliefs That Limit Salespeople

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The Problem With Passion

This is one of those pieces of conventional wisdom that no one seems to question: “It’s good to be passionate about your product.” Like so many of these conventional myths that ingrain themselves into our psyche, this one has the potential for frustrating countless thousands of salespeople, sales managers and chief sales officers.

Let me reassure you: It is not necessary to be passionate about your product or service in order to sell it effectively. In fact, your passion may be a detriment to an effective sales process.

Before you impale me on the skewers of … Read the rest

Multi Tasking, Focus and Other Stuff

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I just had a conversation with a sales manager at my last seminar. The gist of it is this: he has so many competing responsibilities; it is difficult to spend time with his sales team. Sound familiar? It should. I have heard that idea expressed countless times by executives, sales managers and salespeople. In one way or another, sales professionals find themselves increasingly occupied by trivial tasks at the expense of the important ones.

It is an epidemic that is raging unabated in our economy. It renders people unproductive, and organizations operating at a fraction of their potential. It often … Read the rest

Identifying New Suspects

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Every sales organization and every sales process begins with identifying a group of suspects. Suspects are people and organizations you suspect may one day conduct business with you. They aren’t yet prospects, because you don’t know if they have a legitimate need for what you sell, or if they can make the decision and buy your product or service. That determination comes later.

But in order to get a group of prospects, you must begin with a list of suspects. Here are eight ways to acquire such a list.

1. Buy a List

This is the information age, and lists … Read the rest

Selling Commodities

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“How do you create a perceived value to differentiate yourself from the competition when you are both selling a commodity?”

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That’s a question I’m often asked in my seminars. It uncovers a problem that is spreading to almost every industry. The rapid pace of technological development and our ultra-competitive global economy means that no one can keep a competitive edge in their product for very long. Develop a hot new product or service and before you can take your first check to the bank, a competitor has a hotter or cheaper version. As a result, customers are more and more … Read the rest

Think A Lot

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It’s a difficult year for a lot of salespeople. The world is changing rapidly, and every new headline contains information that seems to impact business in a significant way. The competition is more active, customers are more discriminating, and nobody has enough time.

There was a time, a few years ago, when it was easier. You could work hard for awhile, and then you could relax and enjoy the fruits of your labors. You would reach a point where life became easy, your customers were buying from you consistently, and you had your job figured out.

That’s no longer the … Read the rest

The Incredible Power of an Elevator Speech

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“Why should someone spend time with you?” That was the question I asked the six salespeople who were the subjects of an intense, week-long training session.

The response? Blank stares. Some uncomfortable fidgeting. Nothing anywhere close to a coherent, persuasive response.

That experience made me realize the need for what I call a “value-added proposition,” and what many people refer to as an “elevator speech.” It is a well-thought-out, meticulously prepared, and memorized set of ideas that ultimately answer the question above. It should exist in several different versions:

1. There should be a one-page (250 words or so) description … Read the rest

Questions & Answers About Sales: The Worst Advice

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Q.  What is the worst single piece of advice to a salesperson you have ever heard?

A.  Wow.  I love this question. I don’t think I have ever been asked it before.

I can’t identify one single piece of advice. I’ll have to opt for two. I’m going to identify them, and then explain why I think they are so damaging. Here they are:

  1. Be yourself.
  2. Learn on your own by trial and error.
  3. Be yourself.

I just read, on one of the LinkedIn groups of which I am a member, a newly self-appointed sales trainer advising salespeople to “just … Read the rest

What We Learn from the Best Salespeople

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Do great B2B salespeople, regardless of what they sell, have any practices in common? In other words, do the best salespeople all sell the same way?

A number of years ago, a professional association attempted to answer that question. They studied superstar salespeople from a wide variety of industries and concluded: Yes!

In fact, the best salespeople excel at the same things. Here are the top practices of the very best salespeople:

  • They see the situation from the customer’s point of view.
  • They ask better questions.
  • They listen more constructively.
  • They are obsessed with time management.
  • They conclude bigger deals.
  • Read the rest

A Creative Way To Make Prospecting Appointments

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Here’s a situation. You have created a list of 20 highly qualified prospects. You’ve researched them, and you know that these 20 people hold your prosperity in their hands. But they don’t know you, have never spoken to you, and aren’t inclined to drop everything and see you.

How do you get to see them?

You can do what everyone else does: send them an e-mail, maybe leave a voice mail message, then be really frustrated that no one calls back. Or, you can do something a bit different, and much more creative.

For those highly qualified prospects, think of

Read the rest

Are You Hindered By Formerly Effective Sales and Marketing Policies?

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I call it FIP. Fine in the Past. It refers to all the sales and marketing efforts, ideas, policies, principles, techniques and strategies that worked well in the past, but are no longer effective. The past is everything that’s pre‑2011.

 

I still recall a poignant moment with an attendee at one of my seminars. During the break he came up to me and said: “I’ve been in business for seventeen years. And we’ve done well. But now, it seems like everything is changing, and I don’t know what to do.”

He went on to explain that he had built … Read the rest

The Ultimate Survival Skill for the New Economy

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We’re living in incredibly turbulent times. In spite of newspaper headlines proclaiming growing employment and a slowly growing economy, many business people admit to a pervasive feeling of uncertainty and confusion about their businesses.

The well-spring of this uncertainty lies in one of the characteristics of the newly-arrived information age — business people are being buffeted by an increasingly rapid rate of change. Consider this. In 1900, the total amount of knowledge available to mankind was doubling about every 500 years. In 1990, it was doubling about every two years. Today, according to some, the rate of change is doubling … Read the rest

Selling Really is Simple!

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Now that I’ve punctured some of your misconceptions in previous articles about what sales is, and given you some ideas about what sales is not, it’s time to hone in on the good stuff. Here are a number of different definitions to help you come to grips with what selling really entails.

Selling is the Science of Helping People Get What They Want

If your prospective customer doesn’t want or need what you are offeringif it doesn’t fill some need in the customer — then you have no business engaging in the selling process with him. Now don’t … Read the rest

The Stealth Cause of Lackluster Sales

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Here’s an issue sales managers confront all too frequently. You just introduced a new product. At the sales meeting, the salespeople seemed excited. Yet, it is three months later, and nothing’s been sold. What’s up?

Or, you work with a salesperson in the field, and identify some skill that seems poorly developed, such as “asking better questions” for example. You point it out to the salesperson, provide some examples and ask him to work on it. The next time you work with him, there is no improvement. Why’s that?

Here’s one more example of this phenomenon: Your company has just … Read the rest

What’s A Professional Salesperson?

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I often hear my clients lament that they wish they had a more professional sales force. That idea of a “professional sales force” gets a lot of conversation in sales management and sales executive circles. But what exactly does it mean? And why is it a good thing?

Here’s one person’s opinion.

First, let’s eliminate those things that don’t matter. There are a number of misconceptions about the attributes of a professional salesperson that center around the externals of a salesperson’s situation. For example, being a professional salesperson has absolutely nothing to do with the product or service the salesperson … Read the rest