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Communicating Effectively

Posted on: January 27th, 2017 by Monika No Comments

When thinking about 2017, I try to reflect on 2016 to see where I might have missed a step and what areas are ripe for improvement.

Here’s one of my thoughts. It’s always a challenge to employ effective communications. Anyone who has taken an interest and listened in to this past year’s election cycle would probably agree that effective communication is the key to winning people over. I didn’t say great communication. I intentionally used the term effective, because in the end that’s all that matters.

How Are Your Messages Reaching Your Targeted Audiences?

When Americans feel angry, for whatever reason, a message that resonates and speaks to that anger will get more attention than political concepts. I am not trying to make a political point here, but what I learned last year watching, Brexit and the American election is that no matter how competent or incompetent you are and how reasonable or unreasonable your arguments might be, they will not resonate if you are out of touch with your audience.

And in this spirit, I wanted to pivot to the sales world, and, right, you guessed it, talk about truly understanding and adjusting to your prospects and their needs. I have experienced so many sales people not really listening to and understanding their audiences and not communicating effectively. And therefore, they are far too often ineffective in the way they communicate with their prospects. It’s not what we say, it’s whether we can gain a prospect’s attention and they hear us, that matters.

When it comes to sales, it’s of ultimate importance to fully understand our prospect, so we can effectively communicate with her/him. Not everybody communicates in the same way. While some people want to get to the point quickly, others will be solely price driven, other people will want to purchase a product or service which greatly improves what they now have or use and price will not be that much of an issue. And still others are driven by proven reliability and are cost conservative.

Understanding those differences is crucial to success in sales.

Step 1: Listen to Your Customers

One of the differentiators we need to be aware of is to understand why people make decisions the way they do. We know that human behavior revolves around the need to gain pleasure or avoid pain. Some people are oriented to one more than another. And, unlike other psychologies this will vary based on the decision that they are making.  We need to listen to what our customers tell us about past purchase decisions and what triggered their decision to go with one product or service over another.

So, What Motivates Your Prospects?

How often have you heard others say, “Oh, that buyer is super loyal to their vendor – they’ll never use anyone else”? Probably more often than what researchers have established. Only about 6% of all buyers are truly brand loyal and most likely won’t ever switch suppliers.

And then, there are those who are ALWAYS on the move, always the first adaptors. Another surprise, – only about 7% of the buying population fall into this category.

So, – What percentage of buyers are willing (to varying degrees) to make a change? About 86/87% – that’s a lot of buyers willing to listen IF (and that could be a very big IF) what you are saying is relevant and resonates with them.

Listen and ask questions to deep-dig about their needs, their challenges, how they envision improving their business. Some will say what they want in a forward-thinking manner. Others might share with you what they don’t want or what didn’t work in the past.

Don’t forget to listen to the questions they are asking, and how they are asking. Clues are everywhere to help you position your solutions to meet their needs and their way of thinking.

Why Do People Make Decisions the Way They Do?

A large group of buyers (about 42%) are comfortable with their current providers but are open to a possible change if it truly means efficiencies, or your product/service helps them save time or money, or provides peace of mind/security.

Then there is another large group (about 45%) who are very open to change and like to try out new services and product. Make note of their preference and be sure to present changes in your services or products to them first. You can avoid losing them to another provider.

So, How Do You Change Your Strategy?

Simply put, analyze their approach and then position your solution to match the strategy the customer uses (usually subconsciously) to make buying decisions. In sales, we should employ some psychology to be even more successful. For example, if a buyer tells you what they don’t want or what didn’t work, offer them a solution that removes that risk of failure. Stress reliability and offer examples or testimonials.

In our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC), we help sales and service professionals understand buyers’ behavior, their communication preferences and how to gain the commitments and buy-ins which will lead to success by understanding, among many other elements, the psychology behind purchasing decisions.

In essence, coming full circle – one message might be effective for one person and could totally miss the mark for another one.

Sales is a complex process because we humans are complex beings. And as I have shared with you many time, in the end, People buy from People!

 

Buyer & Seller Fears

Posted on: October 27th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

Happy reading and in light of Halloween coming up, Don’t De Scared!!

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Sales people often carry a conscious or sub-conscious fear of rejection. And on the other side, we often find buyers who are fearful of making a (possibly bad) decision. Ultimately, they would be held accountable if things don’t go well, right?

We have repeatedly observed that making buying recommendations or decisions on technology can be daunting for buyers. If they make the wrong decision, they will be held responsible. Not that many people are extremely tech savvy, so decision makers must rely on a sales person to guide them through the process. And it is here where we can shine and build trust.

Sales is a business practice that is very personal. There is no other business discipline where performance is a reflection of who you are, other than sales. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional, personal and involves product and technical knowledge. We sales professionals live by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, every call, every client interaction.

Where Does This Fear in Sales Originate?

It starts for most of us with the dread of cold calling/prospecting efforts that so many sales people dislike (or are even terrified of). It might be a mindset issue that is keeping us from breaking through to others. Although counter-intuitive, being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). In a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-Calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There are various ways to deal with the fear of Cold-Calling.

The process can be outsourced, because prospecting is a unique skill set, or you can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling by providing a framework, structure and training, where it’s easier for them to succeed. Structuring the prospecting process with the right kind of research and providing training are two of a number of ways to reduce the fear of cold-calling.

Sales is a process and it’s important to develop a structure within an organization where sales people can succeed.

Fear of Asking for the Sale?

Not everybody is inherently equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing!

Asking the Right Questions

Some questions are tough to ask. The fear of rejection can be a constant. But without asking those questions, we will dance around “commitment”, not understanding whether this prospect is truly interested and willing to commit or is just shopping around.

Keep in mind that when you operate in a business environment the expectations are that a transaction will take place at some point. Therefore, as a sales person we have every right to ask questions such as “If we can meet all your requirements, can I safely assume that you will approve our agreement and move forward?”

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. Just as we are not afraid of flying because we don’t like to be up in the air, we are afraid because the plane might crash and we have no “control”. Being aware that the fear is present and just doing what we need to do, is one way to overcome.

Personally, I was terrified of flying until I looked at the statistics that helped me understand that it’s still the safest choice. I opted to fly even if I could have driven, just to help me conquer the fear.

In sales, we should make as many calls as possible, asking the tough questions to help us getting used to potential rejection, but also realizing that most of the time the outcome will be positive.

 Help Can Be Right There in Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and trained rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities for growth) lie. That is essential when helping them.

 Identify What’s Working and What Can Be Improved

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are either producing or not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that effects real, lasting behavioral change! We invite to take a tour of our cutting-edge blended e-Learning & Live training program, Consultative Sales Certification Program.

And finally, just maybe, some sales people might have talents that are better suited for a different role in your organization other than sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking.

Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well. They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

Selling Technology

Posted on: July 19th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

 

Cradlepoint Router

Traditionally, sales people (especially when they are selling technology or technology enabled solutions) are trained and conditioned to lead with features and benefits rather than focusing on the Value of their service offering to their prospect’s business.

The issue with this approach is not only that every other sales person on the planet, especially competitors, will say the same thing, BUT the bigger issue, as we have so often witnessed, is that “People don’t know what they don’t know”.

What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I am not a very tech savvy person, but I am a consumer, a buyer, a business person, so I am looking at sales people to act as consultants and to guide me.

What Experiences Have You Had Buying A New Car?

Right now, I am in the process of buying a new car and I am really lost, because I don’t know what I don’t know and car sales people certainly aren’t trained to focus on understanding what is of Value to me. They lead with features of their vehicles all the time, and occasionally add a few of the benefits. They tell me the car has good traction (a feature), or a model has navigation (also a feature) connected hands-free to my smartphone so I can keep my eyes on the road (a benefit). But what they fail to mention is, what Value those features and benefits would bring to my life.

If they would ask me questions, such as “How important is safety to you?”, then they could mention all the features and benefits that their car showcases and wrap it into a safety message. Being able to navigate without having to use a phone would mean I can focus on driving a car rather than handling my phone (a benefit of the navigation system), wouldn’t it?  And that would mean driving safer (Value)!

This is the area where most sales people fail. They don’t understand that people don’t buy their products or services’ features, but people are looking at solutions that can improve their life or business.

What is a Failover? – And How Could I Possibly Need it?

One of our clients in the technology industry sells failover solutions. They are the leader in their industry and their solutions ensure that companies are connected to the internet at all times. BUT, what does that mean to the clients?

If a salesperson would call on me and ask “Are you interested in our failover solutions?” I wouldn’t even know what they are referring to. While I am one of those people who might ask what a failover solution actually is, (that is, if that call is not the tenth useless sales call I had received that day) there are many people out there who wouldn’t (perhaps they don’t want to admit that they don’t know something or simply have no clue) and just say “I’m not interested, thanks”.

And, here we go again. We don’t know what we don’t know!

The Alternative – Show Me The VALUE!!

If the salesperson however were to ask me if I ever experienced internet outages (who hasn’t?) and how that affected my business, that would certainly lead to a very interesting conversation. First of all, I would mention the many times when that has happened and how disruptive it has been to my business.

This would not only create awareness of an issue that I hadn’t entertained since the last time it happened, it would also shine light on the fact that I might have potentially lost money during those outages. In essence, I didn’t know that I needed a “failover” solution, because I don’t know what I don’t know.

Here is what’s important to understand when selling solutions. Features and benefits just support the Value that your solution brings to the market. Your sales people first need to learn to lead with Value and ask the right kind of pertinent questions in order to create the awareness in the mind of the buyer how a particular offering is relevant to and of VALUE to their business.

If you as a sales person fail to do that, you will not be able to sell as successfully as you potentially could. If companies don’t help their sales people embrace a Consultative approach to Sales, Business Development and Service, plus support them with training and insights of successful and experienced professionals, the competition will at some point have a leg up on them. Your product or service that “sells itself” will not be able to do that for all time. Eventually competitors will appear with something similar, perhaps less expensive and possibly offer about the same features. What differentiates yours from the competition, then?

That’s just the way it is. In the end, people don’t buy features and benefits but they do buy what your product or service means to their bottom line, their business effectiveness or their business’ reputation.

Better Sales Prospecting

Posted on: January 22nd, 2016 by Monika No Comments

Sales Prospecting – How to avoid 5 Common Pitfalls

January always means new (or renewed) intentions, goals and looking at the year ahead. In sales that means we need to bring in new business, prospect and nurture. For many of our clients, prospecting is a challenge, so I wanted to share some insights to help everybody get off to a good start.

As a brief introduction, we experienced a really nice surprise this past December when a prospect decided to work with us, after I had been engaging with them for almost two years. It just shows that perseverance and following a process always pays off one way or another. (It can also mean that it’s time to move on to the next prospect. You can read more about that in my post on LinkedIn using the link below.)

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-owe-you-business-monika-d-agostino?trk=mp-author-card

Many of my clients ask me for advice about successful prospecting, especially when it’s something that their sales people are struggling with. Developing new business, prospecting, cold calling can certainly be the most challenging part of the sales process. After all, you are interrupting somebody’s day. It’s almost like being on a first date, testing the waters, making sure that there is alignment.

But, that’s exactly what’s missing in many situations when sales people are calling on prospects. I.e.: making sure that there is a potential fit.

Try to put yourself into your prospect’s shoes. What would you want to hear when you pick up the phone where somebody is interrupting your day? Would you want to hear a sales pitch, or would you want to listen to somebody who is potentially adding value to your life?

In this blog, I’d like to shine a light on 5 common pitfalls you can avoid when prospecting.

Getting the Right Fit

Just as in trying on a new suit – if it’s not the right fit you wouldn’t buy it. Right? The same holds true in sales – If there is no fit, there is no motivating reason to have a sales conversation. But in order for you, the sales person, to determine if this prospect could be a client, you need to do your homework first. Most sales representatives who call me don’t know my business, have never visited my website or my LinkedIn profile. They are just rattling off a sales pitch, in the worst case scenario using a bad script and in some cases they even stutter around trying to get to a point (leaving me to wonder: why they are using a script in the first place?).

So, don’t look for a fit if there is none. No matter how much research you do and how well you prepare for a call, sometimes it’s better to move on. Don’t push it, there is no sense in trying to find alignment if there is none. Reasons can be plentiful.

For my own business, I have found that some companies don’t want to commit to a long-term sales process, which means that they are not really committed to a consultative sales approach. I could push them, but it wouldn’t lead to a successful client engagement. Sometimes, it’s best to leave a good impression and to move on.

So, the first common pitfall to avoid is: Calling a potential prospect NOT knowing anything about them, their potential needs or even their name and looking for a fit if there is NONE!

A Script is a Guideline

There is nothing wrong with using a script, as long as it is used a guideline. The script or guideline also needs to include potential answers to questions that the prospect could possibly ask. It’s almost like envisioning a scenario and preparing to respond. A script should also be a living document rather than a static instrument. It needs to be changed on a regular basis, whenever the environment shifts, which in this business environment happens quite frequently. Your competitors can change, so can regulation and mandates.

Second common pitfall: Rattling off a pitch using a script that might not be suited for the prospect’s current needs.

Be Brief, Distinct and add VALUE!

People will appreciate it when you get to the point fast. And by that I mean that you need to have a value statement. Let me give you an example. When I call on organizations with a national or global presence to present our sales training, I always focus on the fact that we help companies increase revenue and profitability by helping them establish a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a large sales organization. That is something of importance and value for organizations with sales people widely spread around the country, or the globe for that matter. But this value statement works most accurately for companies with a large sales force in multiple locations!

If you have been a reader of my newsletter, you’ll know how much we stress NOT to focus on features and benefits solely. Features and benefits can be used to support your value statement at a later point in the conversation.

For example, the fact that our training programs use a blended e-Learning/customized coaching approach is something that supports the fact that we help our clients increase revenue and profitability by establishing a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a diverse, decentralized organization. It’s not something that needs to be mentioned first, especially since there are many other providers who claim to have effective on-line training. It’s not a differentiator and e-Learning might not be something that is attractive to a company at first. How you get to the results that are of value for your client is not something that you necessarily want to lead with.

Third common pitfall: Focusing on features and benefits, rather than focusing on the value that your solution provides to your prospect.

Know Who You Are Talking To

When calling on people, try to understand their role within the organization and their responsibilities. When I call on a CEO (which is always my first outreach, as I have found it’s more effective to work your way down, rather than up the ladder), I always focus on the overall business goals. Top line value statements. Increased revenue and higher profitability are messages that resonate with CEOs.

Once I get to the sales or training manager, my message shifts. Then it’s more about the nitty-gritty, the details, ins and outs of the program. Of course, increased revenue and higher profitability are also important to the sales manager, but they also want to make sure that their people don’t spend too much time away from their desks, so I talk about the fact that their sales people never have to leave their desk and they will still become more successful.

Fourth common pitfall: Not knowing what the purchasing motivations of each individual decision maker are.

Be Personal

In closing – people buy from people. Be personal. Don’t try to “sell them”. We all know that the goal of a sales person is to sell, and that is perfectly acceptable – nothing wrong with that. And in contrast to being “sold”, I prefer to buy from people who genuinely understand my business and approach me with a value proposition that will help me make my company more successful.

But, first you need to connect with me, figure out how best to communicate with me. Then you need to know my business and understand my challenges. Once you have established rapport (and there’s a science to that, and as with any communication skill, it can be learned!), it’s much easier to have a conversation and to build trust.

Fifth common pitfall: Moving from one prospect to the next, without taking the time to really connect and listen.

And yes, you can learn how to be a SuperSeller TM and become a top prospector. We invite you to explore our Consultative Sales Certification Program at: http://www.getsalescertified.com/index

And I wish you much success in your prospecting efforts!

Holiday Cheer – Stay Clear of Fear

Posted on: December 16th, 2015 by Monika No Comments
Reflecting on 2015 I would like to share some best practices and observations we have been so fortunate to experience, hoping that we will continue our journey together into a successful 2016.

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Sales people are measured by numbers and if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us. Fear is not always an obstacle; it can also be a driver as long as we don’t become frantic in our attempts to make things happen. There is nothing more annoying or aggravating than an over-eager sales person. Once we become desperate, sound strategy usually goes out the window.

The best remedy is to develop a long-term and short term SMART objectives and to stick with them (and adjust to them if necessary). It will help with anxiety and it will also make for better business decisions.

Avoid Panic

While we are talking about fear, we should also talk about panic, which is usually a result of fear. Panic often sets in when sales don’t happen.  Then situations happen, for example when CEOs take over sales training, or attend sales calls and start micro-managing everything and anything that has to do with sales.

They fear for their company’s survival and that’s understandable. Fear is contagious and once the CEO panics, it often affects sales management and it can have a snowball effect on the sales team. Then sales people might fear that they could lose their job or that they won’t be making any money.

Then sales managers do both. They panic and fear, both for their team, for their compensation and for their reputation.

The best recipe is to stay calm and on-track. Again, if there is a plan in place, success will follow. Sometimes, it’s good to review the plan and maybe adjust it a bit, but to throw out the plan altogether once things don’t happen immediately is a poor choice and it can lead to disastrous results.  In a consultative sales environment, planning is an absolute essential.

Embrace Rejection

The best sales people are those who know that “no” is the second best answer. Rejection is part of our daily life and embracing it helps us understand our target audience better. In our many years of searching and observing sales professionals, we have seen far too many sales people chase good conversations rather than closing a sale.

We like to refer to those sales people as “professional visitors”, because they thrive on making connections and not on getting to the next step. The goal of every interaction in sales is to get one step closer to a sale, not to have better chats.

The best sales people are the ones who invite a “no thanks” to gauge a potential fit. There is no point in chasing after a prospect who is not a good fit. Finding out sooner rather than later that you can’t provide prospect real value gives you the freedom and time to move on to a better opportunity.

People Buy from People

That’s really the bottom line. More and more articles, posts and blogs are about the fact that it’s still people who are involved in the decision making process.

Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting. Make your messages stand out. Personalize your emails, don’t mass market. Do research on the people you target so you can have meaningful conversations with them. Remember, that everybody has a personal life and sometimes things can go wrong, so be mindful of others.

A Lesson from my Dog

My dog Rhondo (whom we rescued 6 years ago) teaches me lessons every day. While he is super focused on getting food and attention, he is also mindful, compassionate and very often more considerate than some sales people I encounter.

Rhondo_MD

Unlike many sales people who call on me, Rhondo hardly ever interrupts my work day because he intuitively feels when I have time to play or when I am focused on something else. It’s the way I move and the way I sound that provides hints to my dog. (Intuitive behavioral adjusting)

My dog is in my office with me every single day. He never barks, never even makes a sound. He lies on the office couch (yes, he is spoiled!) and it is not until I put my headphones back into the holder, making a gentle click, signaling to him that I might be ready for a break. That’s when he starts moving. But it’s not until I get up and tell him that we are leaving the office that he actually leaves the couch to follow me.

Following gentle hints from our prospects, understanding when to talk and when to listen, identifying behavioral and communication styles and just simply paying attention can be a good recipe to making your contacts feel comfortable and to building trust. And you we all know, trust is essential when it comes to building solid, long-standing business relationships.

In this spirit, let’s stick with our plan (and if you don’t have one, this is the best time to develop a strategy) and focus on the positive. There is always something to be grateful for.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday season and a Successful 2016!

 

Let me explain to you how our organization works…..

Posted on: July 28th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

….that is the line that was shared with me verbatim today by an account executive of the leading CRM organization, Salesforce.

Here is the situation. I love Salesforce – not only are they the market leader, it’s by far my favorite CRM and I not only use it for my own business, but also on behalf of all of my clients. I recommend it whenever clients are considering a change. If you aren’t using Salesforce these days, you’ll face additional challenges as so many of the apps are developed (and are being developed) for it.

Sales Training or Intriguing Entertainers?

Recently we were invited to their World Tour in New York. I happily attended the conference, not only to network, but also to find out what new developments might be a good addition for my business or for my clients. The sessions were good, so were the networking opportunities. During Happy Hour we were entertained by a scantily dressed female playing the violin (wonderfully), a great marketing accessory but, in my humble opinion, the money spent could have been allocated to sales training. In the end, every event is only as successful as revenues increase as a result.

Salesforce is undoubtedly a market leader – and herein lies a dangerous trap: To simply rely on your outstanding software/programming/product development/service/etc. alone and forget that you are actually selling to people.

So, getting back to the title, here is the essence of this blog (I’m sure you were wondering where this was heading).

Even Warm Leads Need Work

At the event we found out about a newly integrated Salesforce B2B marketing automation solution, Pardot, similar to our current solution. As I use Salesforce for my business, I thought I could consider their new software – integrating it with Salesforce would make more sense than two disjointed systems. We spoke to a specialist at the event who said she would have an “Expert” in our local area contact us.

After the event an Inside Sales person reached out and we had a 20 minute call. And we explained our situation, provided details on what we do (the sales person hadn’t looked at our websites – what else is new?) and what we were looking for. This person was NOT an expert. And, he hadn’t done any pre-call research, either.

The next step would be to speak to a “real” specialist – the Inside Sales person explained, referring to the internal workings of “their process”.

OK, we can do that. After all, we had been very specific about our situation and needs. We wanted to look into Salesforce Professional (an upgraded version), plus have a demo on their automated marketing software with a price quote. So, we scheduled a follow-up call for the next day with this “specialist”.

When Your Service is a CRM System, Use It! Right?

As we began our conference call the following day, it became clear that this so-called “specialist” had also NOT reviewed our website NOR did he check our status in their own CRM, didn’t read the other salesperson’s notes, and to top it off, was not aware that we are actually already an existing CUSTOMER!! Much to our astonishment and intense irritation.

Think about it – a company like Salesforce whose salespeople don’t use their own tools!

He began asking us the exact same questions as the Inside Sales Person. We tried to stop him politely, to no avail. And then to add insult to injury, he kept talking over us, seemingly trying to disguise the fact that he was unprepared.

Never, ever talk over people, especially not your prospects

When I very impatiently (patience is not always my forte!) said that we had already shared our needs the day before, the account executive said. Let me explain to you how our organization works“.

Oh boy! I didn’t reply in the way I was tempted to (“I don’t eff..ng care how your organization works”), but, as politely as I could, said that I have neither time or interest finding out about their inner workings, and would rather spend the time seeing a Demo of their professional upgrade and marketing software to find out what the investment would be. Though, I had to literally shout over his “waterfall of information” to be heard!

Honestly, it sounds even more ridiculous now putting this on paper, but that’s exactly what happened.

So, let’s look at the phrase: “Let me explain to you how our organization works”.

What’s More Effective? Good Sales Practices or Event Entertainment?

This is truly only and I mean ONLY, warranted when you sit on the other side of the table. When you’re the prospect – not the supplier. After all, as salespeople shouldn’t we be more interested in how our prospect’s organization works?

In closing, my recommendation to all salespeople, when developing new business is show interest in your prospect’s inner workings, do your research, be prepared for that call and PLEASE, under no circumstances, not even when you work for Salesforce, please don’t bore your prospects with details on why you are unprepared for a sales call.

So, I am asking you – Do you think a company like Salesforce, the market leader in their space, could use Consultative Sales training or should they keep hiring sexy entertainers at their event?

Sales Prospecting: How Many Times Is Too Many?

Posted on: June 18th, 2015 by Monika 1 Comment

Very often I get the question from clients and sales people as to how many times one should reach out to a prospect before being viewed as a nuisance. The answer often surprises them.

Until They Respond!

 In a consultative sales environment, a prospect is a prospect as long as they don’t tell you to never contact them again, which rarely happens when you adhere to certain rules.

I still do high level prospecting for a select group of clients and have been very successful engaging C-Level and mid management decision makers in meaningful conversations.

Add Value

The key to successful prospecting is to add value and not to sell. Nobody wants to be sold to and once people think that the purpose of an outreach is to get them to buy something, the conversation is already off to a bad start.

Prospects don’t get upset when you target them frequently. They get upset when you are irrelevant, when you don’t know their business and when you pitch them.

Research

Being a business owner I get sales calls all the time and 9 out of 10 are not up to snuff. You can tell when someone is dialing for dollars: e.g. the sales person didn’t look up my company, doesn’t know what I do, and then pitches a service that is not a good fit for my business. And in addition, sometimes they are rude or inconsiderate.

But once in a blue moon there is this sales person who actually took the time to identify what my needs might be. That in combination with courtesy leads to a good first conversation and even if I am not in a position to buy immediately, I don’t mind them staying in touch with me as long as they add value.

Be Relevant & Timely

Every sensible business person knows that they will be called on by other companies that provide services. Nobody in business will hold that against you. What they will hold against you is offering a service that doesn’t meet their needs and then trying to push a sale where there is no fit.

You’re busy, I’m busy – so, keep in mind that people are busy. Just because they don’t respond right away doesn’t mean that they are not interested. They might be traveling, they might have pressing issues to deal with that are more important than responding to your outreach.

My Motto: Don’t give up, be relevant and stay on message.

Persistence Pays Off

Many, many times I have gotten replies from prospects acknowledging and thanking me for my persistence. People generally appreciate a professional outreach and sales people who are determined. It is expected that a good sales person will stay on course and try to engage. What is NOT expected and dreaded are messages that are about your product or service, rather than the value it could bring to their business.

For example, if somebody calls me telling me that they can provide leads for my business (which happens almost on a daily basis) I will probably not respond because the message seems very broad. If they however look at my client list and tell me that they are experts in the logistics or technology field (an industry that I target), they might get my attention.

Let Your Prospects Opt Out

Include an “opt out” message in your voice or email. Tell your prospect that you understand if they don’t have time, or of there is no interest and that they should call you back if that’s the case. This way you give them a graceful way out and very often (you will be surprised), the prospect will get back to you, one way or another. Many times I get a response from a prospect, almost apologizing for the lack of response.

In closing, if you are professional and you do your research, your response rate will increase. As long as you stay on message and you are courteous, your outreach will be appreciated. I share this with you based on years of experience. In my world, the average sales cycle is at least 6 months up to a couple of years. If I were to give up easily, my business wouldn’t survive.

Part II: Failing Sales People & Fear – How to Overcome

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by Monika No Comments

In the first chapter of this topic I was talking about the reasons why some sales people fail. Very often it is fear.

The only way to overcome that is to identify when we are afraid and then to work toward a solution.

You cannot change what you don’t acknowledge

Very often I observe that women have a much easier way of understanding their strengths and (what we call) opportunities for growth. I am not a psychologist or an expert on gender studies, but I believe that it has to have something to do with the way we were socialized. However, during all my years of coaching I have seen as many guys struggling with fear as I have with women, just that it took longer for men to admit that the root cause of some of their sales traits was driven by the fear of failure. Sales is very personal, we need to understand that. We are only as good as our numbers and rejection can feel very personal.

Test your Sales IQ

There are many great tools out there to test your sales acumen. My company, the Consultative Sales Academy offers a Sales IQ. It is not a psychometric exam or aptitude test, but rather a quick and thorough method to measure your sales skills and knowledge. Once you know what your strengths are and where you need work, you can focus on those areas. In our case, we have corresponding learning modules that help you become stronger in the areas that need improvement. We encourage our participants to learn and apply. The only way to improve is to focus on one learning competency at a time and to repeat as often as possible, until it becomes routine. Feel free to check out our SalesIQ at www.getyoursalesiq.com

Repetition is Learning

I always compare, being comfortable and successful in a consultative sales environment to driving stick shift. As long as you are focusing on shifting gears, you will not be in command of your vehicle and you won’t be able to focus on traffic the way you should. You need to get to a point where shifting becomes second nature. The same holds true when prospecting, for example. You need to be comfortable when picking up the phone, easing into conversations, being prepared to ask the right questions when the opportunity arises, or ending the conversation should you feel the vibe that it’s not a good time. But feeling the vibe is only possible when you are content, not focusing on what to say or being frightened.

Practice makes perfect

It really does, in every area of our life. I, for example have no fear of cold calling whatsoever. Not sure why, but I almost get an adrenalin high when chasing C-Level prospects and breaking through to them. For some reason the universe has given me that unique gift and I embrace it and tapped into it to start a business.

Flying on the other hand was something that caused me sleepless nights, shaking, sweats and all the other unpleasant things that happen when you are afraid of something. Air travel, in spite of all the accidents, terrorist attacks, etc. is still safer than getting into a car, but I certainly don’t tremble when driving north on I-95, although I should looking at the statistics.

Once I recognized this fear as being a constant companion, I started to choose air travel over ground travel every single time I had a choice, just to make it more routine. Unless there is a deeper psychological issue simmering, the more often you do something, the easier it will be.

Still to this day I don’t like turbulences (neither do I like potholes on the highway), but these days I board an airplane with the same ease as getting into my car.

Research, Prepare, Do, Repeat

The better prepared you are and the more you prepare, the more comfortable you will be in any sales situation, it puts you in the driver’s seat. Write out the questions you want to ask and make sure you start with a Why, What, When or How so the answers will not be a simple yes or no. Pick up the phone, when you are afraid of cold calling, there is nothing like jumping into the pool and swimming. Take a deep breath after every prospect/client interaction, reflect and then do it again! That’s a big step in overcoming your fears.

Celebrate your success and reward yourself for ever No

Entrepreneurs and sales people don’t celebrate their successes enough. We are easy to point out bad experiences, but hardly every take the time to acknowledge what we have accomplished. It’s important. Take the time to reflect and celebrate AND also reward yourself for every No that you get. Whether your prospect will agree to a conversation or not, you have worked hard to get somebody on the phone and whether they are interested or not is not always something you can control. It’s common in sales to get rejected and the more often you experience it, the easier it will become. If you like chocolate, put Hershey kisses on your desk and grab one every single time your prospect says no thanks.

Maybe your Sales People are Afraid?

Posted on: April 13th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?

Well, here is the thing. In my experience, many sales people are actually afraid of rejection. Why?

Because there is no business practice where you have to bring yourself in as much as when selling. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional and personal. We professionals in sales live by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, every call, every client interaction. Though not as common in a traditional sales environment, fear can also be felt in a consultative sales environment.

So where does this fear originate?

It starts with the cold calling/prospecting efforts that most sales people are terrified of. Hint to CEOs and sales managers – sales people who don’t like cold calling will most likely try to avoid it at any cost.

It could be a mindset issue that is keeping you from breaking through to others. Although counter-intuitive, being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). In a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There is various ways to deal with the fear of cold-calling issue.

You can hire an inside sales person or a lead generation team to take the cold calling off your sales people.

You can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling. Structuring the prospecting process with the right kind of research and providing training are two of a number of ways to reduce the fear of cold-calling.

But the fear usually doesn’t stop after that. Sales people need to bring themselves in at every step of the sales process. Sales people are mostly measured by numbers. And if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us.

Not every sales person is good at everything

There is always the option to outsource the lead generation process, or to develop an inside sales team. Many companies who have taken that path have seen sales soar as a result. The “front-end” of the sales process (filling the pipeline) is the one area that can be outsourced successfully with great results. Developing qualified opportunities is the toughest part of the sales process (I know, because I do it for my clients on a daily basis) and it makes sense to hire specialists.

Afraid to Ask for a Sale?

Not everybody is equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing!

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. Just as we are not afraid of flying because we don’t like to be up in the air, we are afraid because we could die and we have no “control”. Doesn’t sound very rational when we put it in those terms, does it? Take the fear of public speaking – it is so intense that some people freeze up although there is no imminent danger lurking.

Help Can Be Right There In Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and trained rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities) lie. That is essential when helping them. If you have a strong cold caller on your team, tap into that talent (trust me, it’s rare) and share commission when revenue is closed.

When you have a strong “closer” on your team, bring him/her into final meetings to lend support. Very often we ask too much of sales people and the feeling over being overwhelmed results in panic, desperation and in the worst case scenario unprofessional behavior.

What Are We Best At?

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that actually effects real behavioral change! And finally, just maybe, some sales people might not really be equipped to be in sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking. You can also simply test their sales acumen. My company offers a Skills & Knowledge Assessment that is not an exam or test, but rather a quick and thorough method to measure sales skills and knowledge. It serves as a vehicle for manager’s to understand the performance gaps of their team members. This Sales IQ will help you gain insight on the strengths of your team members as compared to over 4,000 top sales performers, certified SuperSellersTM, from a cross-section of different industries.

Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well. They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

Sales for Twitter

Posted on: March 25th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

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Selling Twitter Advertising – Should traditional sales methods apply?

For sure!

Social media analysis or social media advertising is a service such like any other. These days, it’s probably more important to understand all the choices that we as sales people have in regard to social media, but when it comes to the sales process the same principles apply.

Your service might be “hip”, but are your audiences?

It really doesn’t matter what it is you are selling, there is still people on the other line (or across the table) who make the purchasing decision. Why is it that companies who offer what would be considered “hip” services train their sales people in a way that reflects their world rather than resonating with the buyer’s environment.

People who follow me probably know where this is going. I usually write about personal experiences and this article is not different. I had a sales experience with a Twitter ad sales person the other day………

A couple of weeks ago I got a coupon for $50 to spend on Twitter ads. So, I went on-line and created an ad that I hoped would get me some responses. It didn’t but that was probably due to my lack of expertise in that area.

So, a couple of days later I got an email from a Twitter sales representative who introduced himself as my personal guide in that area with the suggestion to schedule a call so we can optimize my Twitter advertising efforts. I gladly accepted because I always welcome best practices.

Automation is great, but only if it works

We scheduled the call. Then a couple of days later I got another email from the same person asking me to schedule an appointment. “I wanted to follow up with you to schedule some time for us to talk about optimizing your Twitter advertising”.

“We already scheduled time for tomorrow”, was my response. Obviously a glitch in their “lead generation” which doesn’t make you feel special as a person when you find out that the person you will be talking to doesn’t send their own emails it’s obviously generated by a system. Oh well, I thought. Welcome to our new world.

The appointment was scheduled for 4 pm to 4:25, which I thought was oddly specific, only to find out that my representative called 6 minutes after 4 pm. When I pointed it out (as I am a stickler for punctuality, honoring other people’s time) he casually said “Yes, I am late because I am running over from a previous call”. Doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

I don’t really understand the business value of Twitter, yet

We started the call and overall it was OK, nothing outstanding but a few nuggets of insight. I told the representative bluntly that while I was really knowledgeable on LinkedIn I was still struggling to fully understand the business value of Twitter. “That’s OK”, he replied without further going into it. Is it really, was my first reaction.

We finished the call 6 minutes early (maybe there is some method to this) and the sales person promised to follow up with an email recapping everything that we had discussed. This was a week ago and I am still waiting.

Maybe I should tweet him?