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

On Preparation and Presentations

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In my first professional, full-time sales position, the company brought all the new salespeople to a six-week training class in Mill Valley, California. There, we memorized three, four-page, single-spaced sales presentations. Most days consisted of practicing those presentations in role-playing scenarios, having them video recorded, playing them back, and then having the group critique them. We would do it again the next day, only better than the day before. Believe me, when we were finished, we knew how to present those products.

While that kind of meticulous preparation is overkill for many selling situations today, it was based upon a … Read the rest

Handling Objections

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Salespeople hear “no” all of the time, but the difference between failure and success is the salesperson’s ability to finesse the prospect closer to a “yes.”

Prospects don’t always say yes! That might be the very first thing you learn as a salesperson. As a matter of fact, “no,” in all of its various forms and expressions, may be the one word that salespeople hear most often. It’s amazing, then, that so few of us are equipped to effectively handle it.

I teach a two-step process: first you finesse the person, then you handle the idea expressed by that person. … Read the rest

Closing the Sale

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Whenever I ask salespeople to rate their competencies at all the different parts of the sales process, they invariably rate themselves low on closing the sale. Unfortunately, salespeople who don’t close consistently are not nearly as effective as they should be; they waste their customers’ time and their own.

Being adept at closing the sale, and every step in the process, is an important key to productivity. So, let’s examine the issue of closing, beginning with the first principle: closing is a process that always ends with your customer’s agreement to take action.

As you consider this principle, you’ll realize … Read the rest

Gathering Information About Your Competitors

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As salespeople, we love to complain about the competition. Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t do us any good. A better approach is to create a system to learn about them. Knowledge of the competition — not only their strengths and weaknesses, but also their patterns and tendencies — will provide you with a distinct advantage and prevent you from being seriously outmaneuvered.

This happened to me. To this day, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach as I remember the day when I lost my largest account to my arch competitor. It was an account that made up 20% of … Read the rest

The Role of Adversity in Shaping a Salesperson’s Character

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I still remember the worst sales call I ever made. More than just remember, I react to the memory with a queasy feeling in my stomach, every time I think about it. It wasn’t just a bad sales call; it was a humiliating, embarrassing event that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

There is something about adversity that has the power to linger forever in our memories, shaping our character and molding our behavior for the rest of our lives. Adversity can take countless forms. It can be a gut-wrenching incident, like my worst sales call, or more poignantly, something … Read the rest

The Secret Strategy for 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 present … Read the rest

Good Questions and the Basics of Selling

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Excerpted from Question Your Way to Sales Success by Dave Kahle.

Sales is, at its most basic level, a relatively simple process. I recall one of my clients showing me the flow-chart of his sales process. Twenty six steps. That level of detail may be appropriate for that specific situation, but it is an overkill when we are talking about the application for a typical professional salesperson.

The job of the salesperson is much like playing golf. In a four-hour round of golf, the club hitting the ball only takes about three minutes. Everything else is prelude or postlude. The … Read the rest

Tune in to Your Customers for Better Sales

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I just came across some research that confirmed what many of us in the profession of educating salespeople have known for years: Purchasers would be “much more likely” to buy from a salesperson if that salesperson would just “listen” to the customer. The survey found that some of the worst offenders were experienced salespeople.

Listening is one of the four fundamental competencies of a professional salesperson, and yet, the profession is, in general, so poor at it that most customers remark on our inability to do it well.

Gee, if there is anyone I wouldn’t want thinking I was a … Read the rest

Sales and the Absolute Power of Information

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Excerpted from the book Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch.

Most salespeople love to be active — out in our territories, seeing people, solving problems, putting deals together. This activity-orientation is one of the characteristics of a sales personality. A day sitting behind a desk is our idea of purgatory. Unfortunately, this activity orientation is both a strength and weakness. Much of our ability to produce results finds its genesis in our activity orientation. It provides some of the energy to move us to sales success.

But it can be a major obstacle. Far too often, we’re guilty … Read the rest

Failure Wins “Best Teacher” Award

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Remember John Delorean? He was the superstar General Motors executive who started the Delorean Motor Company. When the company began to falter, he was arrested and charged with complicity in a drug deal that some speculated was an attempt to raise money to prop up the company.

All of this was big news in Detroit, where I was living at the time. One particularly insightful article in the Detroit News theorized that he had been supremely successful his whole life, and thus never learned to deal with failure. His development was stunted by a lack of failure in his life. Read the rest

Overcoming Beliefs That Limit Your Sales Performance

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“I have great relationships with my customers.” That is one of the most debilitating myths around — one that cripples the performance of the average corporate salesperson. And yet it is endemic within the population of salespeople. I am not sure that there is a salesperson anywhere who doesn’t, to some extent, believe it.

For example, I have never yet had a salesperson come to me at the break of one of my seminars, and sheepishly confess that his customers really don’t like him. It’s never happened and probably never will.

I have, on the other hand, heard senior sales Read the rest