Get sales certified!

Readers who have been following my blogs know that I am very cautious when it comes to C-Level involvement and sales, but that only pertains to day-to-day operations and not the conceptual involvement. Your sales process, your sales training or any other sales related areas will not be successful if the CEO feels that it’s not in line with her/his philosophy or thinking.

The most successful sales training programs we have experienced are the ones where the CEO spear-headed, promoted or at the very least approved and supported the program. Sales and sales training cannot be successful if the CEO is not on board.

1) Socialize your CEO with sales

In my experience, most CEOs are strong leaders and are passionate about their company.  That’s also a good reason why they are in the position they are in. Being strong leaders and passionate about what their company can do, many also think they are as good at sales as at leading an organization.  Though they may be quite skilled at promoting their business to investors, understanding Sales as a discipline is a very different cup of tea. We’ve found that the best way to get buy-in on your sales process is to invite your CEO to a meeting where you present the philosophy (consultative selling, customer-centric selling, etc.) and why you have chosen that approach, along with goals and outlines to support company objectives and goals.

2) Be prepared to answer questions

Preparation is everything and you need to be in a position where you can support your strategy (if necessary) with case studies (from previous experiences) or data that you have collected. Just to say that you believe in a consultative approach to selling without knowing why will probably not leave the best impression.

3) Be specific, or not – depending on your CEO’s personality

Graduates of our Consultative Sales Certification Program possess the knowledge and skills to identify personality styles, understand how people digest information and most importantly, how to adjust to most effectively communicate. If your CEO is a strong “D” or Director type, someone very results-oriented, a quick decision-maker, you’ll want to provide top level information, cut to the chase and show how the bottom line will be affected.

If your CEO however is more of a “C” or Cautious and analytical, you need to go into more detail, using data to support your claim as to why you want to do things the way you present them.

4) Build trust

By providing information to your CEO, helping her/him understand the sales process you are a step ahead and more in control. If your CEO has doubts about your sales process, you can talk about it, make adjustments and so you get her/his buy-in. This will help you build trust and allocate budgets and you and your team will share responsibility with your CEO for the outcomes.

5) Be honest

If your sales cycle is lengthy, make sure your CEO fully understands why. Now is your time to be honest and straightforward. It helps you to build rapport, gain trust and to manage expectations. Don’t paint a rosy picture if there are serious obstacles you are facing. If you have built a collaborative environment and your CEO understands the obstacles and the sales process, you will be more successful working towards your goals together.

Oval Callout: I want it, and I want it now!

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Posted in: CEOs, CEOs and Sales, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification

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13 Mar

Do You Speak “Sales”?

by Monika

3 Reasons Why We Need a Common Sales Language

Most of our clients share a common corporate language. And that lingua franca has become “English”. Even if they are an international organization with offices all over the world, English is the way employees communicate with each other, at least officially. This only makes sense, because it streamlines communication and it is the best way to avoid misunderstandings that can happen during translation. But what about a shared “Sales” language? In a consultative sales environment the language we use is key to the success of an organization.

In our work with so many organizations we’ve observed that many companies don’t share a common language when it comes to sales as well as in operations. As you can imagine, this can lead to confusion and sometimes to mismanaged expectations. As a matter of fact, our most successful clients understand that Sales and Operations need a common, shared language. Our clients have successfully used our Consultative Sales Certification Program to work towards that goal.

Too many sales leaders use generic terminology when managing their people. They talk about opportunities, leads, closing rates, probabilities and prospecting but they don’t define those terms.

1) Define Your Terminology

When developing a consultative sales process, the terminology should be defined and agreed upon. What is an opportunity vs. a lead? Do you have clients or customers? What are objections and what are stalls? When we talk about decision makers, let’s be clear who the economic buyers are, who we define as influencers or coaches and what audiences we view as the end users. And do these roles change during the course of working for a client, and how can a sales professional effectively influence the decision-maker to mutual gain?

The list goes on and on, but the important point is that whenever your sales manager leads a sales meeting and makes reference, everybody in the room or on the phone should be clear on what she/he is referring to.

2) Use Parameters to Refine Your Terminology

The best way to manage expectations and develop a shared language is to use parameters to establish a term. Let’s talk about opportunity management. I remember times when I was still an outside sales person and our manager would go around the table, asking each sales person to gauge the probability of closing for each prospect in their pipeline. Personally, I am a very cautious, if not a conservative person (at least in sales) when it comes to predicting probability. I am even a bit superstitious and would never predict 100% unless I had a signature. Some colleagues of mine however were more courageous and daring when it came to their pipeline. For them an 80% closing probability was certain when they had a nice chat with a prospect.

These scenarios happen where there is no common, defined sales language established. For companies to have a firm handle on opportunity management, they need to have a structure in place that will help sales management and sales people to manage their pipeline. That means that you need to set parameters as to what each percentage means. For example, 80 % closing probability could mean that you need to have had all the decision makers involved, a verbal agreement and proposal that was discussed and agreed upon by all engaged parties. The remaining 20% that are still up in the air could be circumstances still unknown, such as Purchasing demanding different payment terms.

3) Be Creative, but Precise

One of my clients wanted to use a sports analogy to manage the pipeline. They referred to First Base, Second Base, etc. when it came to pipeline management. There is nothing wrong with being humorous and playful as long as everybody involved understands what those terms stand for. A North American sales manager working with sales professionals from countries where baseball is not a national sport will have people scratching their heads as to what she/he meant.

Every company has a different system set-up and the sales cycle in general will determine the details but what is crucially important is that everybody internally knows what 50% vs. 80% probability means. There shouldn’t be any confusion about that.

In closing a common, shared sales language is important to avoid miscommunication and confusion. One way to ensure that your language is streamlined is to reflect the parameters in your CRM system. Customize your database so it reflects your “Sales” language and your “Sales” parameters and make sure that only those terms are used during official meetings. You see, whenever terminology is not clearly defined there is room for faulty interpretation/translation. Have a look at the following!

Here are some examples of marketing language “lost in translation.”

  • KFC, for example, mis-translated “finger-lickin’ good” into Chinese that meant something more cannibalistic.
  • Or, the U.S. Original: “Got Milk” was definitely a wildly off translation in Mexico with: “Are You Lactating?”

 

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http://www.thewoodshop.20m.com/graphics/clockface2.jpgThe phrase “We don’t have time for …” is very often used to stall and/or avoid responsibility or just as an excuse to do nothing. There really is never a lack of time. Rather, it’s really a matter of setting priorities. If you feel that you don’t have time to do something important, I invite to re-consider.

Are you trying to avoid doing something, or do you feel that the task is not important enough to make it on top of your priority list? This is a really important exercise. In business and in life.

Everyone I know suffers from time deficiency. Our busy schedules, cluttered with appointments and obligations and getting inundated with information through voice mails, emails, social media alerts, Twitter feeds, Instagram, you name it – we’re in overload!

Today, for example I decided to clean out my Inbox and unsubscribe from many mailings. Not because the information was useless, but it wasn’t of value to me personally and professionally any longer. Freeing up my time and clearing my schedule gives me an opportunity to add things that matter to me personally or to my professional education.

But, let’s get back to the phrase of “We don’t have time for sales training” – this is something we occasionally hear from our prospects when we discuss our Strategic Consultative Sales Certification Training Program.

Business Development Is A Priority, Is It Not?

I am a deep believer that Business Development should be a top priority for every single organization. Without it, your company won’t grow. But even more importantly for me, is that it should be mindful business development – not just making numbers. Your company should have a growth plan and a goal to gain more profitable customers. I’ve experienced more companies than I’d like to just adding numbers to their revenue stream without looking hard at profitability.

No Sales Training = Status Quo, or does it?

Our clients are always amazed at how even their top producing business development people develop new and updated insights and get great value from our Training Programs. There is always room for improvement and if we don’t learn, we stagnate, or even worse we regress. Sales is process and it’s hard. We are in the trenches every single day trying to achieve our sales goals. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern without looking up and looking around for new techniques and refining one’s skills. Decidedly, an on-going sales training program gives you an opportunity to regroup, to challenge your thinking, adjust your behavior and develop new skills.

Why is it Always the Top Performing Companies Who Get It?

Interestingly enough, most of our clients are the ones who are already successful. They don’t really have a problem with business development, but they do want to do better. They continuously seek out solutions that can help them to be more strategic and to grow revenue in a more effective way. They also know that by helping their business development staff be more effective, it will lead to a win-win situation. Their people will earn more and it will lead to more revenue and higher profit margins.

Still No Time for Training? Think Again.

What people don’t realize is that not doing anything doesn’t necessarily mean that everything stays the same. It means that you are not progressing but your competition might very well be. While your sales people are doing things the way they were done 5, 10, sometimes 15 years ago, the competition is learning to plan strategically, to overcome objections with real value solutions and to close business with clients who fit in with their strategic objectives. Sales and business development has changed in many ways in the last 5 years due to all the social media channels. If your sales people are not kept fresh and up to speed, they will be left behind. Nobody would think that using fax machines to get new business is a State of the Art practice, would they?

What is Your Business Growth Worth to You?

My health and sanity is worth 6 hours a month to me. That’s the time that I take away from my busy schedule to practice Yoga. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me sane.

My business growth is worth 20 hours a week, that’s the amount of time I spend on prospecting, writing articles such as this one and learning about new best practices.

Our clients have their sales and account management people spend 4-5 hours a month on learning to become more strategic business development people embracing and utilizing a consultative approach. When they graduate from our program (which usually takes 6-8 months, remember – sales is a process and so is learning) they have grown their business by over 30% on average. A small time investment if you think about it in terms of ROI.

So, really, it’s all about priorities. Business Development needs to be a priority, whether it comes to cold calling (schedule time every day), or staying in touch with your customers (plan to do that on a regular schedule) or learning new practices.

Not having time means that growing your company is not a priority. And that’s surely not what you are aiming for, is it?

“Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.”
- Coleman Cox

As you know, we deeply believe that our Consultative Sales Certification Program provides so many benefits and value to a sales organization. Interestingly enough we share this conviction with a Sales Consultant whose blog you can read here.

Three Ways to Increase Sales Training Adoption: Tom Maloney

http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/bid/104882/Three-Ways-to-Increase-Sales-Training-Adoption

 

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Happy 2014! Let’s make it count. I hope that you had a relaxing holiday season and you’re off to a great start.

Last December we had a prospect meeting and the discussion was about shifting from a commodity sale to becoming more value oriented. It’s a really important shift in today’s business environment where the consumers/customers are more informed than ever and almost everything can be researched online.

Are you selling “Stuff” or Value?

How to Shift from Commodity Sales to Value Selling

Many of our clients face the challenge of being in a market where their product or service is considered a commodity. The challenge there is that it is usually a price driven discussion and sales people are trained to commoditize their sales approach rather than selling value.

Focus on Value Rather than Features

When a company offers a product that is viewed as a commodity, very often sales people feel they need to focus on the features of their service or product only to find out that their prices are undercut by the competition. Somebody, somewhere can always do something similar cheaper. But think about yourself:  Most people generally don’t buy features. They buy what they feel gives them the most value for a specific solution. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Is It the Way Coffee Tastes, or the Way You Feel When You Drink It?

I would consider coffee a commodity. And of course it is when you buy coffee bean futures, but I am talking about buying a cup of coffee and enjoying it. Starbucks, before they broke into the American market figured out that Europeans enjoy their coffee experience. It wasn’t only about the quality of the coffee (although also very important), but everything around it. The smell, when you walk into a Cafe, the way your waiter/barista remembers how you like it, the fact that you can sit and enjoy while you are sipping it.

All of a sudden, America went from percolators (so 1950’s!) to signature drinks where it sometimes takes as long to order a coffee (tall, skinny, dry Hazelnut Cappuccino?!) than a meal in a restaurant. What happened? Starbucks changed the way Americans look at drinking coffee. It’s no longer about a brown drink, it’s about relaxing, gathering, enjoying- the VALUE of the entire experience.

This approach can be used for every sales process, even when the process has traditionally been viewed as a commodity sale. And your customers will change the way they think about your product/service.

It’s Not About the Features of Your Product, but the Value

One of our clients sells very high-performance tooling equipment. Their products are more expensive than those offered by the competition but the quality of their tools is unmatched. We’re helping their sales people focus on the peace of mind they are selling, the long-term savings in labor and replacement costs, as well as higher production rather than the product features. Their sales people now focus on the value rather than the product features. Quality products don’t break as often, they are reliable and long lasting. When you buy and use them, you don’t have to think about getting a new one for a really long time, sometimes for a lifetime.

If your sales people focus on that peace of mind, on long-term savings, talk about the quality and the reliability, then discussions on price will become secondary. Once you lead with features, your prospects will start comparing and then price is the top of mind discussion.

Freight is Freight, or Is It?

One could argue that freight is freight and market research is market research. Yes, of course it is, but once you launch this tactical approach, talking about the speed of your freight delivery or the accuracy of your market research results, what do you think will happen? People will start comparing your offering with that of the competition and they will start price shopping.

If your sales people however focus on the fact that your freight will be in good hands, that once you hand off a project, you don’t have to think about it anymore and all the details will be taken care of, then you are selling peace of mind. The same holds true in the market research/agency world. People are not looking for numbers, as they assume that they are accurate. They are looking for ways to use those numbers to understand their customers better, or to grow their market share.

It’s About a Mindset Shift

I, for example don’t sell consultative sales training, I sell the way our participants feel about business development. Our graduates look at business development in a completely different way. They learn the skills and concepts to genuinely understand their customer’s needs, gaining more confidence which in turn results in more profitable accounts. We provide our clients with a training program that keeps their employees accountable. They no longer feel that they are sales people trying to get business, but they know that they are consultants who help their prospects be more successful. They add value and when adding value sales professionals are more comfortable asking for business.

Be Proud of Your Price Tag

There is nothing wrong with being more expensive, as long as you have sales people who understand the real value that their customers and prospects are looking for and can communicate it. Own your price tag. As a matter of fact, when I sold services that were more expensive than the competition, I would proudly say. “Yes, we are more expensive, and here is why”.

And once again, I wish everyone a great 2014 and GOOD SELLING!

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It’s the time of the year again. The holiday season is upon us and it seems that we are stressing out and just trying to get it over with? A good number of people I know don’t really enjoy preparing for the holidays as much as our TV commercials make us believe we do. All those happy ads with kids smiling, parents gladly shopping, and everybody being together and laughing. Not exactly the vibe I am getting when I am out shopping. People seem more stressed, or at least more impatient than the rest of the year. So, my question is – what are we chasing?

Happiness? Well, that’s probably not going to arrive in a box.

The same holds true for business success. We are always chasing the numbers, increased revenue and KPI’s. What if our measure would include human aspects. After all, every company is only as good as their customers and adding the human touch can only increase brand equity. We could go back to the basics of human interaction when doing business and maybe money will follow us. What if our KPI’s would include the following?

1) Gratitude

I deeply believe that being grateful is essential in my personal and my professional life. Without gratitude, it seems to me, some people feel they don’t have enough – keep looking for things rather than appreciating what we have. Ask yourself how many times you actually paid gratitude to your clients and employees. I am always grateful for my clients because they provide me with invigorating and challenging work and my financial health. Why not show our gratitude by sending a little something that is meaningful (and if we are following a consultative sales approach we know a little bit about our clients, right?). It’s the little acts of kindness that really go a long way.

Being a good human being IS good business! – Paul Hawken

2) Paying attention

I’ve observed of late that there is a tendency for people to easily become more superficial than we’d like to be. Perhaps it’s a side effect of technology overwhelm and fast moving times. We all have so much on our plates that we often feel that we are on a treadmill in our current world of instant gratification. How many times do actually listen to your clients by honestly paying attention? Try it, it’s magical. Instead of thinking of other things, start to listen more often and you will discover many areas of opportunities.

3) Authenticity

Focusing on what’s really important also means being authentic. Being authentic means that we have strong beliefs and whatever it is that we do or decide, whether it’s on a personal or professional level it will come from a place of truth. For example, one of my former clients refused to work with tobacco companies, regardless of the money they wanted to pay him. He was authentic in his business approach and while he missed out on all the tobacco related business, his other clients respected him for his strong beliefs. You can actually increase revenue while being authentic. Put your stake in the ground! Develop your own yardstick!

4) Respect

The less respectful we are, the higher the probability that we will lose clients. Being respectful is an essential KPI when it comes to doing business. And there are many ways to show it. How often have you not returned a phone call? How many times have you been ill prepared for a meeting? We have all done it, but by paying attention to our behavior and being aware of it, we can all increase our level of respect when we interact with people, whether it’s employees, clients, the receptionist or the janitor.

5) Humility

There is nothing wrong with being humble and acknowledging that we are human. Which is the most vulnerable trait of humans? We make mistakes. All of us – bar none. Admitting mistakes, being vulnerable and maybe even having a sense of humor about it makes us more attractive, not less. It’s a simple formula. Humility = Success

6) Reliability

Part of my success is in showing up and showing up on time. It sounds very simple and it really is when you are a professional. My motto is to under-promise and over-deliver. The more times we are on-time, prepared and deliver what we promise, the higher our chances of winning or keeping a client.

7) Honesty

Last, but not least, let’s talk about honesty. For some reason there are some sales practitioners (and their management) who feel that it is all right to be a bit dishonest in sales. It happens in other business areas, too but it’s more accepted in sales. There are companies that wholeheartedly encourage their sales people to tell some white lies in order to get business. I deeply feel that’s just plain wrong. Not only does it reflect badly on you as a person, it leaves a horrible impression of your company. I think you would agree that every successful relationship needs to be based on honesty and every single time we are being honest, we are doing the right thing. And, when we do the right thing we are better business people.

So, going forward, why not build the “7 Ways of Measuring your Success” into your KPIs and you will see that not only will business thrive but you and your clients will feel better and your company will be more highly respected.

Going back to the basics and measuring our success by how your clients and customers feel after interacting with your company could add new dimension to KPI’s. It’s worth a try!

Happy holidays and hopes for a 2014 in which we and our clients are happier than we were in 2013!

Happy Holidays, Happy Selling and Wishing You a Successful, Healthy 2014.

Warm wishes,

Monika

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During a prospecting call the other week we came across the question on HOW we help our clients shorten the sales cycle. It’s something that is an integral part of our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program – helping our clients to shorten the cycle by up to 25%. A valid question, right? So I decided I would share our response with the sales community.

Many sales people are under the impression that the surest ways to shorten the sales cycle is to either increase activity and/or to follow-up more aggressively.

Strategically shortening your sales cycle has nothing to do with making more phone calls but everything to do with understanding your audiences and their situation.

In a nutshell, here is the response that we offered our prospect:

Understand Your Audiences

First things first! You need to understand who your contacts are and their roles in the decision making process. There are the financial (=economic) buyers, users, technical influencers, coach influencers, etc. And you need to understand the logic they use in making decisions and the motivation of each.

For example, a CFO might look for cost savings and want the bottom-line improvements while a user of a service or a product will want to hear about what’s in it for them –  how your solution will help them in their daily job. Some influencers can act as your coach, helping you understand the structure of the organization and the buying process and the preferences of other buyers.  All of these people will have different roles and responsibilities and also different personalities. Understanding who you are dealing with and catering to those people’s needs is essential in shortening the sales cycle. Very often sales people focus only on a limited number of “influencers”, they move the sale along to only find out that there is no budget for what they are offering.

Gain Commitments Along The Way

Managing expectations and strategically gaining commitments at every step of the way is another essential factor in shortening the sales cycle. If you ask your prospects at every step of the process if what you are offering is in line with their expectations, you will stay on course and there will be no big surprises in the end. Too often sales people are looking for an easy “yes” rather than being honest with themselves and asking the tough questions. This can surely lead to frustration and confusion. Sometimes it’s best to realize that your offering might not be best suited for a particular prospect and that it’s time to move on. On the positive side this means that you then have more time to focus on the prospects that actually are a good fit. It also means that your clients will be more profitable and they will certainly be happier as well.

Speak Your Customer’s Language

Not everybody speaks the same language. Yes, in the business world we mostly speak English but that doesn’t mean that we process information the same way. Some people like to hear things while others want to read material. Some of us prefer in-person meetings, others would rather be on the phone, or prefer to mostly use email. Email is a good communications tool, for some the best, but not everybody is comfortable communicating that way. Understanding what communication style your prospect prefers and how they best digest information is essential when it comes to shortening your sales cycle.

Be of Value to Your Prospect/Customer

Remember, it’s not about you or your service/product – it’s all about them.  People respond to offerings that are relevant to them and can realistically help them move their business forward. If you don’t have something of value to say or offer, don’t even engage. That doesn’t mean that you should never call or reach out to your prospect or existing client, but it does mean that you should be prepared and have something of interest to say. Maybe you came across an industry article that you could share, or you have a special promotion. But don’t just engage for the sake of activity. It not only bogs you down, it is without value to your prospect or customer and it actually a waste of their time.

In closing, what is really important in shortening the sales cycle is moving from an activity driven model to a strategic approach where you plan and execute each step in your customer’s best interest.

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That’s my big Why? This revelation happened during a Deepak Chopra Meditation that I observed. Deepak’s question was “What is your vision?” and all of a sudden it occurred to me.

The reason I get up in the morning and excitedly do what I do is because I have this vision of Better Sales People, especially on a consultative sales environment. Everybody who has ever listened to TED speeches knows that everybody has a Why.  The Why is a reason why we do things and in my case it is elevating the reputation of sales and its practitioners and teaching sales people to be more effective. BUT, also to be more honest, to manage expectations and to understand that a “no” is not personal and sometimes it’s better to walk away.

But Why am I so passionate about this? I believe it is because I have been stuck in so many bad sales situations over the years. It’s a really tough place to be for both sides.

The sales person, desperately trying to sell something that the customer/client might not need. And for the person who is sold to it’s really uncomfortable and unpleasant at the same time. The only thought during this process is “how can I get out of this?”

And it really doesn’t have to be like that. Once a sales person understands that they don’t need to sell to everybody, as a matter of fact they really shouldn’t – it becomes really easy. In reality, they shouldn’t sell at all, but consult and guide.

Just let go of the pressure and help the client/customer make a decision. If it’s in their best interest to buy, then it’s a win-win situation. If not, move on to a better suited audience. It will save you time, it will help your reputation as a sales person and it will make your prospect comfortable.

When I started out in sales many, many years ago all I did was avoid the situations that left a bad taste in my mouth. It was really that simple. Well, that and then a lot of process, discipline and perseverance. But basically, it was remembering what I disliked about sales people and just not making the same mistakes.

Sometimes, the offering doesn’t really fit with your prospect’s needs. Other times, the timing is off or there are other internal circumstances that keep them from buying. It really doesn’t matter either way. If it’s not supposed to happen, it won’t. You can’t force a prospect to buy. All you can do is help them understand that your product/service will be of benefit and then it’s up to them to decide.

This stress-free and mature way of doing business will create an environment where sales people can be more honest, prospects will share authentic feedback and there will be no disappointment because honesty results in good relationships and good sales relationships result in good clients.

It’s really that easy.

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Everything in today’s business environment seems to be about technology, the latest developments, content marketing, microblogs, engagement, SEOs, etc.

Some companies have become over-systematized, as I call it. Everything and I mean everything is left to automation. Once the database is set-up and your name is entered you get emails on a regular basis whether they are relevant to your current need or not.

In a consultative sales environment technology should only be utilized to support the sales process, but never to replace it. People want to feel special and they don’t want to be viewed as a mass target.

Here are some examples of what technology lacks.

Common Sense

Common sense is the least common of the senses. I love that saying and it is so true. The more technology focused we become, the less we use our common sense. Why is that? Because we rely on it too often and feel that everything we need can be found on the internet. There are statistics that show that we are getting dumber and dumber. I would argue that we are also getting lazier. An argument over dinner that used to take hours to resolve (sometimes it wasn’t even resolved that night) can now usually be settled in a couple of minutes by somebody pulling out their smart-phone.

The Human Touch                                                                  

And by that I mean exactly that. The human touch. When you call on a prospect you can apply nuances to your voice, you can be compassionate and you can adjust your language.

Mass messages, even if they are targeted to specific audiences will always be static. Yes, you can add images and videos and animations, but the will never be personal. I get mass emails and messages all day and some of them are more relevant to my business than others, but they are never exactly what I am looking for, because I am one of many to receive them. There is also the trend to over-systematize and sales people rely on technology to help them make a sale rather than picking up the phone and talking to people.

Human Persuasion

In sales it is very important to overcome objections and to add value to your customer/client so they buy from you and choose your product or service. Content marketing is important for people to find out about your product/service and to make it easy for customers to find you. It is important to get your message out and to build brand awareness, but it cannot replace human interaction.

Most people today will research a product/service before they make a buying decision, but I would argue that people still like to buy from people and they will most likely buy from people they trust. Building trust takes time and it is a process that cannot be rushed or replaced by technology.

Quality Content

With all the hype about content marketing, we sometimes seem to forget that it’s actually content that drives content marketing. Guess who provides content? People! As I am sitting here writing this article I am wondering if there will ever be a technology that will produce quality content. I sure hope not. Not for self serving reasons but for the nuances which human beings can provide. I can’t help but think that computer or technology generated content would lack the subtlety of human writing. Who would be able to develop headlines that crown the New York Post (a newspaper that I hardly read beyond the headline) such as “Here We Ho Again” in response to Eliot Spitzer running for office again. Could a computer really come up with such a clever (although offensive) phrase? And what about sarcasm? I can tell you that I have yet to find a computer program that translates effectively, especially when it comes to humorous phrases or idioms.

Rationale

And by that I mean applying logic and knowledge. Let’s talk about database management, because to me it’s key to effectively engaging with prospects and customers. CRM systems are only as good as the data that is fed into them (which is the truth for all technology enabled solutions). GI-GO – Garbage in – garbage out, which brings me to over-systematizing without applying rational thinking and feedback. When managing a database you need to know who your target audience is, whether they are a client, a prospect  or a partner. If you don’t tag your contacts properly, your messaging will be off and it really doesn’t matter what technology you use.

Decision Making

Although, we all think that technology has made it so easy for us to do almost everything by itself, it’s really important to remember that making a decision is still something that humans need to do. While technology can help us build an opinion or stay informed, it’s still humans who make the decision to buy and people who are signing checks.

In closing, I want to add that I love technology. I really do. Like most of us, I would be lost without my computer, Smartphone and all the technology solutions that come with it. What we shouldn’t forget though is that technology doesn’t replace humans. Not yet, anyway and hopefully not any time soon.

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I sit in on many sales meetings with and for my clients and the focus is usually on numbers, prospects to pursue, accomplishments, etc. And while this is important, my belief is that it would be of additional help to management and sales teams if there were discussions about the “softer” areas of the sales process.

People buy from people and sometimes we don’t make numbers because there are deep underlying issues simmering. It’s hard to admit it, but we all have been afraid at times. Afraid to buy or afraid to sell. There is no shame in it. The sooner we understand the psychology of a process, the faster we will be able to face those feelings and to adjust our behavior. To borrow one of FDR’s most quoted statements that will forever hold true, ”There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

If you don’t overcome buyer fears, you won’t succeed.

We need to understand and acknowledge a buyer’s fears in order to help our clients and prospects overcome that feeling and move forward. The most common fears are:

Fear of Paying Too Much - It’s vital to understand how important a buyer’s perception is and how it can affect your success.  Clients and prospects alike want to know that they have been able to get close to your bottom line.

Fear of Change - The fear of change is a very real fear for many buyers.  When someone is comfortable with the product or service they have been using for years, making a change to a new product or service is threatening to most people.

Fear of What Others Will Say or Making a Mistake - I dare to say that almost all of us wish to avoid ridicule.  Most clients and prospects are going to make sure that if they move to a new product or service, there won’t be a negative focus on their decision by their peers or their boss.

What can you do to help your prospects and customers overcome Buyer Fears?

  • Fear of Paying Too Much
    • Obviously, no one wants to pay too much for a product or service. It’s vital to understand how important a buyer’s perception is and how it can affect your success. But what does it really mean to pay too much? Clients and prospects alike want to know that they have been able to get close to your bottom line.
    • So, how do you deal with this?  How you talk about price (or their overall investment) and how you negotiate is very important. When speaking about their investment, stress the overall value that they will receive instead of the benefits or features.
    • In negotiating, make sure that the buyer will give something in return for each concession that you make. You definitely want to maintain your price integrity. This also supports your goal of the buyer realizing you don’t have a lot of leeway to radically reduce pricing.
    • Learn with our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program how to truly stand out as a top negotiator with our e-Learning Module: Negotiating For Impact
  • Fear of Change
    • The fear of change is a very real fear for many buyers.  When someone is comfortable with the product or service they have been using for years, making a change to a new product or service is threatening to most people. Change is harder for some than others.
    • So, how would you be able to deal with this? Use persuasion strategies aimed at calming fears of change. Make use of strategies to gain commitments and close the sale that match your customer’s or prospect’s buying psychology.
    • Some buyers see value in retaining a major portion of what works well and only changing minor areas that call for improvement.
    • Others prefer to see major change and improvement but wish to keep some things that do work well
  • Fear of What Others Will Say or Making a Mistake
    • I dare to say that almost all of us wish to avoid ridicule.  Most clients and prospects are going to make sure that if they move to a new product or service, there won’t be a negative focus on their decision by their peers or their boss.
    • So, how can you deal with this? Stress how your product or service has helped other similar companies enhance and/or improve their products or services. Suggest a final meeting with your contact’s associates or supervisors to reassure that everyone is on board with the change.

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Effectiveness

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Social Media and available technology have changed our world and the way we do business and it has made us more impatient. Now, more than ever we are hoping for a Quick Fix and advertising campaigns feed into that trend. Whether it’s losing weight or finding a spouse, you will find offerings for a solution for pretty much anything your heart desires but the big question is – will it work?

From my point of view, wanting to lose weight quickly (while it sounds intriguing) is not a good idea, because often the pounds come right back if you don’t change your lifestyle and don’t even get me started on finding a spouse. In my book “Dating & Selling and why they are so Similar” I write about it in detail.

These days we expect things to change immediately

So, basically we are conditioned to expect things to change in a short period of time and that also shows in the way we do business. We start skipping steps, we think that content marketing and using Social Media can replace effective prospecting or client management, but the reality is that as humans we still want to be treated with respect and we want to feel special. Whether it’s in a dating situation or in the business world. I don’t think there is anybody out there who would want to feel like a mass target.

Sales is a Process

Recently, I have seen trends in the sales world where sales people are encouraged to use a mass outreach, playing the numbers game rather than doing account planning, researching their prospect base and picking up the phone.

It’s the opposite of customer centric or consultative selling. It’s a very tactical approach where the focus is on key words, marketing campaigns and social media channels and sales people forget to be strategic.

Consultative Selling is a process and like with every process it needs to be developed and followed. Once you start skipping steps, the results will not be what you expect. It’s very similar to dieting. When you follow your diet plan only every second day, the pounds will not drop.

Here are some areas that we teach in our Consultative Sales Program to help sales people stay on track.

Plan your accounts

As a sales person you need to know your top target accounts and how to develop business within these organizations. Who are the decision makers, who are the influencers, what are the challenges the industry experiences, and how does my product/service fit into their business model?

Research

Sales people need to research the industry, the target company and the people they prospect. Before a sales person picks up the phone or writes an email, they need to understand how their offering could be of benefit to the prospect. And here is also where Social Media comes effectively into play. Researching people on LinkedIn is something that every mindful sales people should do.

Speak your customer’s language

People digest information in different ways. Some prospects will prefer email, others will be more responsive to a phone call. Some people are visual, others digest information orally. In our program participants learn to understand how their prospects and clients best  respond and absorb information. This is crucially important once sales people get deeper into the sales process.

Listen, listen, listen

Consultative and Customer Centric Selling is all about listening and providing value to the client. It’s not about pushing a sale no matter what. It’s about listening to your prospect’s needs and finding a way to best serve them. This will not only help sales people sell more, it will result in more profitable accounts and additional revenue from existing clients who will have confidence in your company to be a trusted advisor.

Pick up the phone!

Finally, one of my favorite tips. Pick up the phone! Too many sales people rely on email and social media to connect with prospects and/or clients. When you prospect and you are mindful, people do appreciate a phone call as long as you have something of value to say and you are not pitching them. With existing clients, phone calls are necessary to stay in touch, to be connected and to understand how needs might have changed. This also presents enormous up-selling opportunities.

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Effectiveness

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