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I want to Change the Way We Sell. Period.

Posted on: December 3rd, 2013 by Monika 1 Comment

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.

6 Human Sales Traits that Technology cannot replace

Posted on: November 25th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

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.

In Sales: There’s Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself!

Posted on: October 31st, 2013 by Monika No Comments

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.

Even in Sales there are no Quick Fixes

Posted on: October 29th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

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.

Courage in a bottle – Are you brave?

Posted on: October 15th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Courage in a bottle?

Some words of wisdom from the Wizard of Oz. Since lions are supposed to be “The Kings of Beasts,” the Cowardly Lion believes that his fear makes him inadequate. He does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear, which he does frequently. Only during the aftereffects of the Wizard’s gift, when he is under the influence of an unknown liquid substance that the Wizard orders him to drink (perhaps gin) is he not filled with fear. He argues that the courage from the Wizard is only temporary, although he continues to do brave deeds while openly and embarrassedly fearful.

Recently, I had a delightful conversation with one of my female clients who is also one of the smart women I am privileged to have in my professional circle. We were talking about sales (what else?) and prospects being hesitant to buy when she pointed out that the lack of courage is often the reason why people don’t buy. She said that if she had a wish, she would send a bottle of courage along with her business proposals. We then  continued to chat about courage in general, The Wizard of Oz and my client then suggested that I write a blog about it, so here it is.

Let’s look at the Wikipedia definition of Courage

Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

Pretty straightforward and clear, but what lies underneath?

People who are not courageous are usually afraid. Afraid of the consequences of their actions (not understanding that not taking action also has consequences), afraid of trying something new, afraid of their own courage.

How much courage does it take to choose a new product/service?

My client who is the CMO of a newly established brand with a very compelling concept is trying to break into the marketplace and their offering is clearly new, innovative and of enormous value to consumer brands who in turn want to introduce their products. The approach is affordable, fun and with a clear benefit to CPG companies and the end consumer. So, why doesn’t the approach fly off the shelve? Because most people don’t have the courage to introduce a new concept and being a first adopter. It takes a lot of guts to take the first step. It’s a lot easier to follow but also more predictable and boring with few chances of standing out from the crowd and becoming a true leader.

There is a really good saying that I quote a lot and that is “Nobody ever gets fired for hiring IBM“. IBM is a well established company with huge brand recognition. Let’s just say (for the sake of the argument) that there are companies out there who offer the same solution as IBM but even better and cheaper, it would still be hard to sell. I know that, because some of my clients have tried.

Why is it easier to buy from a known brand?

There is no risk involved. Even if the solution turns out to have some areas of improvement, it’s still a safe bet and whoever made the decision to buy will hardly be questioned. But imagine, you are buying from a newly established company and there is problems. That choice might get a decision maker in trouble if things don’t turn out the way they were presented.

The Courage potion

On the other hand, choosing a new company not only helps diversity but also innovation. When my client said that she would like to bottle up a bit of courage in a bottle and send it to her prospects, just so they take the leap of faith and explore her new offering she really meant it. Sometimes it’s wise to stay with the “devil you know” but it’s also important to choose carefully and give new kids on the block a fair chance. If we live our life or do business, always trying to be on the safe side we will not be able to grow or innovate. The most courageous people are the ones who changed our thinking and the way we live. Nobody would have thought 30 years ago that a handheld device will help us to navigate through most situations, from getting driving directions to finding a good restaurant. I remember the times when people were afraid of computers and now grandmothers are on Facebook (for better or worse).   

Courage also helps sales people

In sales we often lack courage as well because of the fear of being rejected and not wanting to lose the sale. Many times sales people accommodate rather than push back. They oversell because they don’t want to lose the sale, forgetting that over-promising will have long-term effects.

Courage is essential when doing business in a successful way. Most successful people had to overcome ridicule and criticism and they had to muster up an enormous amount of courage to prevail. There is no success without failure and without courage we just stay mediocre.

How effective are voice mails?

Posted on: August 19th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Many sales people struggle with the decision as to whether they should leave a voice mail message or not. In a consultative sales environment, once you have identified your ideal client profile and you have developed the most effective messaging the question is not whether you should leave a voice mail or not. The challenge is to craft a message that is concise, short and relevant while still personal.

The main objective is to be heard. Whether somebody picks up the phone or your phone attempt goes into voice mail, there is only a couple of seconds you have to get your prospect’s attention. Your message should always be tailored to meet their needs, it is not an opportunity to pitch your service or product. Every phone interaction is an interruption of their day. Unless you have something to offer that will make their life easier, they will not pay attention. Remember, nobody wants to be sold to, so the more you talk about the challenges that your audiences might face, the higher the likelihood that they will listen.

Be courteous and respectful

Courtesy and professionalism go a long way. When leaving a voice mail message, try to focus on something that will set you apart from the crowd. Make mention of something that will help your prospect put your message into context. We all get inundated with e-mails, phone calls and voice mails so the more precise and personal you can be, the better the outcome.

Be relevant

Here is an example of a voice mail that will most likely not get any attention or be deleted:

Hi, I am calling you from XYZ company to see if you want to talk to us about our superior accounting system. Our clients love our solution and we pride ourselves in having the best customer service in the industry. Maybe we can set-up a time to talk so I can tell you more about our system. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

There is nothing unique or engaging about this message and it’s full references about the offering and nothing about the prospect’s needs.

Below is a message that is more personal and benefit driven.

Hi, my name is xxxx xxxx and I am calling from XYZ company. We work with companies in your industry to help them streamline their financial transactions to optimize resources and monitor cash flow. I also sent you an email, but will follow up with another message to determine if you are interested in a conversation. I will call you again If I don’t hear back before end of week.

This message includes a value proposition and a call to action. The prospect should know that you will call again which gives them the opportunity to say “no thanks” if there is no interest or to respond in a positive way. 

Be personal

If you have more information on that prospect you can also work it into the messaging, so it is more personal. For example, if you got an Out of Office reply to your e-mail the previous week you could make mention of it. “I saw that you were out of the office last week, so you probably didn’t have the time to review my e-mail”.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

The important thing to remember is that a voice mail message should sound personal and not scripted. While using a script can help, it needs to include language that you will be comfortable using, just like sitting next to that person. Should you flounder or stumble, no worries. Just make a joke about it. My favorite line is “Obviously I have not had enough coffee today” or “Wow, it’s obviously getting too late for me to sound eloquent“……. This is actually an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, to sound human and not salesy.

Practice

If you are not sure how your voice mail will sound , leave one for yourself or a friend and listen to it or have them critique it. It’s a powerful exercise. And remember, never say anything that you don’t mean or you are not comfortable with, it comes through in your voice. Authenticity goes a long way, especially in sales.

Our Latest Super-Seller Graduates!!

Posted on: February 14th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Today, on Valentine’s day we wanted to share a special present that we received from one of our participants. A wonderful testimonial from one of our recent CSC Graduates:

Tom, Monika, Marcia, … I want to thank you all for the great sales training program!! I learned so much about how to recognize the behavioral styles of my clients and prospects. This has helped me better adjust my approach throughout the sales process. During the course of our training program, I improved my sales and business development consistently. By the year’s end I was awarded “Most Improved Sales Performance” for 2012!

I want to thank Mach 1 Global for implementing the CSC program for sales and now our operations personnel to help them understand the process. And thank you CSC team for helping me improve and grow in sales! – Marianne W., VP Global Accounts,MACH 1 GLOBAL

So we thought that we give you a present today, sharing our success story that will provide insight on how one of our clients increased business revenues to pre-recession levels by implementing our CSC training program.

Cutting-edge Sales Training – A First Step to Top Performers

One of our clients decided to embark on a mission to provide a cutting-edge sales training program to a select group of their sales team who all work remotely from headquarters. This specialized logistics and transportation solutions provider wanted their sales and account management staff to become top performers, too.

Let’s face it, even successful sales and service professionals have some areas to improve. Yet top performers consistently outperform their average counterparts by large margins.

Know Your Clients and You’ll What They Need

In utilizing CSA’s Certified Training Program with a pilot group, our client quickly established that the training program was making a dynamic change in the way their business development professionals were planning and executing their business efforts. Revenues increased, for some in the pilot group by 40% and 50% within a few months. Additionally the members of the pilot group were motivated to go the extra mile for their clients as they acquired new, deeper skills and knowledge in understanding who their clients were, were able to more efficiently and more quickly to develop new business as well as expand business with existing clients. This mindset change began to spread to their operations management.

Everybody In – Let’s Congratulate the Graduates!

And today, seven months after the kick-off of their program, we can proudly congratulate the first group graduates from our Arizona client’s organization. The program is ongoing for three more groups, each with customized goals and training calendars. Their success of the pilot group is testament to their perseverance and hard work applying the core consultative sales and service concepts to their jobs on a daily basis. These seven certified top-performers can now proudly carry and use the nationally accredited and recognized CSC emblem as Consultative Sales Certified Professionals. And they have a few tips for you below their graduation photo!

 Stand up and take a bow!

 

Consultative Sales Certified Professionals – Accredited Super Sellers
These seven certified top-performers can now proudly carry and use the nationally accredited and recognized CSC emblem as Consultative Sales Certified Professionals.
From left to right: Tom D’Agostino, Chief Trainer at CSA, Kirk Stauff, Marianne Wilson – Most Improved Employee of 2012-, Yvette Cheesebrew, Ray Torres, Bob Heine, Vinnie Balsamo and Herb Reich.

A few things our Graduates would like to share with all our readers:

5 Tips from Our Super-Seller Grad

  • Know Your Market! Prioritize your sales efforts according to potential for sales, not based on current sales.
  • Know Your Customers! Adjust your approach to each of your contacts based on their behavioral styles and role.
  • Ask Questions that help you understand each contact’s vision and pain points.
  • Stress Value based on business impact and the personal win for each individual customer.
  • Position solutions that help the customer save time, make more money, operate more efficiently or give them peace of mind. Anything else doesn’t matter!

Here’s what the CEO is saying about our CSC Program

“Consultative Sales Academy’s Custom Training program has significantly helped our team improve their performance. We’re finally back to pre-recession sales results and momentum. Because of the success and positive feedback from both seasoned professionals as well as new sales team members, we are implementing this program company-wide for sales team members, sales managers and operational managers. Our team is geographically dispersed, which makes CSA’s blended approach of e-learning, web training and coaching very desirable. We especially appreciate the flexibility of the program and the personal attention that CSA’s coaches provide to each individual participant. This program is a long-term commitment that is definitely worth the time and investment if your goals are to truly impact sales performance and results. I highly recommend this program.” – Jamie Fletcher, CEO, MACH 1 GLOBAL

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

One of our clients decided to embark on a mission to provide a cutting-edge sales training program to a select group of their sales team who all work remotely from headquarters. This specialized logistics and transportation solutions provider wanted their sales and account management staff to become top performers, too.

 

Let’s face it, even successful sales and service professionals have some areas to improve. Yet top performers consistently outperform their average counterparts by large margins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know Your Clients and You’ll What They Need

 

 

 

 

In utilizing CSA’s Certified Training Program with a pilot group, our client quickly established that the training program was making a dynamic change in the way their business development professionals were planning and executing their business efforts. Revenues increased, for some in the pilot group by 40% and 50% within a few months. Additionally the members of the pilot group were motivated to go the extra mile for their clients as they acquired new, deeper skills and knowledge in understanding who their clients were, were able to more efficiently and more quickly to develop new business as well as expand business with existing clients. This mindset change began to spread to their operationsmanagement.

 

 

 

 

Everybody In – Let’s Congratulate the Graduates!

 

 

 

 

And today, seven months after the kick-off of their program, we can proudly congratulate the first group graduates from our Arizona client’s organization. The program is ongoing for three more groups, each with customized goals and training calendars. Their success of the pilot group is testament to their perseverance and hard work applying the core consultative sales and service concepts to their jobs on a daily basis. These seven certified top-performers can now proudly carry and use the nationally accredited and recognized CSC emblem as Consultative Sales Certified Professionals. And they have a few tips for you below their graduation photo!

 

Stand up and take a bow!

Consultative Sales Certified Professionals – Accredited Super Sellers
These seven certified top-performers can now proudly carry and use the nationally accredited and recognized CSC emblem as Consultative Sales Certified Professionals.
From left to right: Tom D’Agostino, Chief Trainer at CSA, Kirk Stauff, Marianne Wilson – Most Improved Employee of 2012-, Yvette Cheesebrew, Ray Torres, Bob Heine, Vinnie Balsamo and Herb Reich.
A few things our Graduates would like to share with all our readers:

5 Tips from Our Super-Seller Grad

  • Know Your Market! Prioritize your sales efforts according to potential for sales, not based on current sales.
  • Know Your Customers! Adjust your approach to each of your contacts based on their behavioral styles and role.
  • Ask Questions that help you understand each contact’s vision and pain points.
  • Stress Value based on business impact and the personal win for each individual customer.
  • Position solutions that help the customer save time, make more money, operate more efficiently or give them peace of mind. Anything else doesn’t matter!

Here’s what the CEO is saying about our CSC Program

 

 

“Consultative Sales Academy’s Custom Training program has significantly helped our team improve their performance. We’re finally back to pre-recession sales results and momentum. Because of the success and positive feedback from both seasoned professionals as well as new sales team members, we are implementing this program company-wide for sales team members, sales managers and operational managers. Our team is geographically dispersed, which makes CSA’s blended approach of e-learning, web training and coaching very desirable. We especially appreciate the flexibility of the program and the personal attention that CSA’s coaches provide to each individual participant. This program is a long-term commitment that is definitely worth the time and investment if your goals are to truly impact sales performance and results. I highly recommend this program.” – Jamie Fletcher, CEO, MACH 1 GLOBAL

Get Prepared Before You Pick Up The Phone

Posted on: November 15th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

Let me start with a question: Have you ever received a phone call from a sales person who stutters around, doesn’t really know who you are, what your company does and starts rambling about some product/service offering that is not at all relevant to your needs?

I’m sure you have, and that can certainly be annoying! That sales person didn’t do her/his “homework”!

In a consultative sales environment, doing your research and getting prepared for a call is as essential as actually picking up the phone and dialing. The first step in a consultative sales approach is the “Pre-Call”, in other words, doing your “homework”. Well planned and executed preparation will help you once the person you are calling on picks up the phone.

Being informed means adding value to a conversation. Whether it’s your first conversation with a prospect, or a follow-up call with a long-time client. It also puts you, the sales person, in a position where you don’t sound like you’re dialing for dollars.

Whether you’re calling on a new prospect or trying to expand your business with existing clients, research and preparation are key.

 Prospecting For New Business

At the core of successful consultative selling is developing a customer-centric sales process and being diligent. Not pushy, not aggressive, but consistent and strategic. You will need to identify exactly what you are selling and what value it brings to your prospects.

Successful consultative sales professionals take time to understand what truly differentiates their service from their competitors’ similar products or services. They do their research. They also make sure they know their own strengths and opportunities for improvement and growth.

Once you have established what you are selling, and how the features and benefits can be of value, then you can begin to do your research to find out who your “ideal prospects” are.

Don’t try to boil the ocean! Be targeted in your approach and choose your prospects accordingly!”

While it is important to own your story, to understand the product/service that you offer and being able to communicate the value, it is also just as important to make sure that your offering fits with your prospect’s objectives. And that you will need to find out. When it comes to prospecting, we usually have to come from a place of assumption because we normally don’t really know the inner workings of a prospect’s organization. In today’s business environment, it’s a lot easier to prepare than it used to be. In the past we had to rely on hearsay or recommendations. Today, we can research companies and people using all the tools available in the on-line world.

This makes it easier for us to prepare but we also want to be careful so as not to assume too much. What might appear to be true could turn out to have changed because on-line data is not always up to date. It still gives us a general reference and guidelines to work off, a starting point for conversation and exploration, and asking questions.

The more research we do before picking up the phone, or writing an e-mail, the easier it will be to start a dialogue. Why? Because people want to feel special, no matter what their title or position is.

In a consultative sales environment, we don’t need to reach out to every single company in the universe. Usually, our universe is a lot smaller than we think once we start researching our ideal prospects.

How can we identify whether a prospect is suitable or not?

Do Your Research, Research, Research, and Some More Research

  1. Make sure you know and fully understand what your offering entails, and in what ways it might be beneficial to your prospective clients.
  2. Identify why your service or product is unique, or superior.
  3. Research and locate companies that would potentially benefit from your offering and where you see a possible fit.

 

For example, if you own a small law firm in Pennsylvania specializing in contract and trademark law, and you are not licensed outside of the state, it will be easier to determine who your prospects could be.

If, however, you are a service provider and your offering could be sold without geographic limitations, you will need to find other qualifiers to sharpen your efforts. Here are some qualifiers that can be used:

  • Industry
  • Geography (you may not want your sales people flying all over the country)
  • Revenue/Size
  • # of employees
  • Public vs. Private sector
  • Website presence (websites are the store fronts of any organization and a lot can be learned from the way a company presents itself on-line)

 

One common mistake in sales is to play the numbers game. Many sales people think (encouraged by their leaders) that more sales calls equals more revenue. It really doesn’t. The more focused you are as a sales person, the more you will find out about your prospects and the higher the likelihood is that you will have meaningful conversations to get you closer to your goal. And your goal is always either closing a sale or, if it’s not a fit, leaving a good impression.

Get Ready to Pick Up the Phone

Once you identified 15-20 companies (as a starting point) that could be a good fit for your product/service offering based on your research, it’s time to prepare what you’re going to say and even more importantly, what questions you’re going to ask. What kind of questions do you ask? Use open-ended questions to give the person you are speaking with the opportunity to explain their situation, their potential needs in their own words. Practice what you could say, how your prospects might react. Prepare a “Prospect Analysis Form” or open a CRM file so you can enter all the information you will be receiving. Then it’s time to pick up the phone. Be personal and engaging in your conversations with the presumed decision makers and they will provide you with insights on whether your initial assumption was correct. As a result you could find out that the marketing team is not the department that will buy your service, but perhaps a newly developed consumer insights team. If you are knowledgeable, courteous and respectful, people will guide and help you to find the correct path. It will also help you collect valuable market research and sharpen your message going forward.

Get in Another Person’s Shoes

In the end, make sure you visualize that you have a person on the other end of the line. Someone possibly a lot like you. You’ll do yourself a great service and be able to offer something of value by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Get the Consultative Sales Model
Here’s where the Consultative Sales model begins: PRE-CALL, where you set your objectives, do your “intelligence” work, and develop your
repertoire of questions for your prospects..

… and do you think sales people should be pushy?

Posted on: October 4th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time, you’ve probably noticed that I often shine a critical light on sales professionals because I unfortunately receive a number of complaints from friends, colleagues and business partners about their encounters with salespersons. But why do I blog about that? Because I am on a mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners. Sales people are often the first introduction to a company and wise leaders choose them carefully. Smart companies also support their sales staff with training and guidance and they provide an environment where sales professionals feel comfortable with a consultative sales approach.

Spotlight
Spotlight on Doug Kushla
Well, today, I want to put somebody in the spotlight who left a positive impression on one of my business associates. A sales person who truly embraces solution-selling. His name is Doug Kushla and he is a Senior Sales Manager at Travelzoo.

According to their website Travelzoo (NASDAQ: TZOO) is, and I quote, “the most trusted publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals. Our team researches, evaluates and tests thousands of deals to find those with true value. We recommend only deals whose accuracy and availability we can confirm. With over 25 million subscribers, we are the largest publisher of deals on the Internet.”

Can They Walk the Walk?
Well, that’s quite a bold statement, but apparently they not only Walk the Walk, they also Talk the Talk as my friend Jane Coloccia experienced. Jane is the president of JC Communications LLC, (www.jccommunicationsllc.com) an award-winning marketing communications consultancy and is one of the people who shares sales stories with me. Many of them poor examples of sales people just trying to convince rather than listening to her needs. Jane is a very accomplished woman and is a type A personality with no tolerance for BS. She provides outstanding work and expects the same from people around her. Her tolerance for sales pitches is low. She just can’t understand why sales people think they need to be pushy. Neither can I, quite frankly.

 

Even Jane was pleasantly surprised

A couple of weeks ago, Jane sent me an e-mail with the following content:

Just had to tell you….you know how I “LOVE” salespeople, but I’ve had to talk to a bunch lately because I am putting together a marketing plan for a potential client that involves advertising, … I just got off the phone with a guy from Travelzoo who was truly amazing. I guess it is the consultative sales model — he asked about what I was trying to accomplish, I told him which of their products I was interested in, and he walked me through how it worked from start to finish…. When I asked him questions he gave me honest answers — even if it didn’t shed the most positive light on results, etc. Wow it was like a breath of fresh air in terms of dealing with a salesperson. He was charming, informative, funny, and incredibly helpful. And it’s sad that he really stood out from the crowd. Then again, it wasn’t a cold call — I called the company ….. But (it was) really a very positive educational experience. He never hard sold me — just left it for my decision…

Curious?

Well, I was intrigued. It’s so easy to be critical, but we should really take the time to acknowledge good service, whether it’s during the sales process or in customer service. So Jane’s e-mail triggered an idea to write a column in which I ask sales people and managers about “their world”. Hopefully, this will provide some fun and interesting insights, stories for us to learn from but also some food for thought.

So, let’s meet Doug Kushla
He’s been in sales since 2003. Here are some of the questions I asked and his responses.

Tell us a little bit about your sales world. What do you sell, who are your audiences?

“I work for Travelzoo and my vertical is the non hotel business. Travelzoo is a travel brand that speaks to travel audiences. I came from Budget Travel Magazine, so my background is in publishing. On a day to day basis, I talk to the “Janes” of the world. She was pitching a client for South American content. Travelzoo has a sales rep and a producer who talk to clients about their goals. This helps because we do the research first and it really works for the client. Really truly a solution sale. It’s a great way to vet our clients to we can determine if it really is a fit.”

What is your favorite thing about being in sales?

“It’s the fact that I can get out of the office and visit with clients. I just wouldn’t want to be at a desk all day.”

What do you dislike the most about sales?

(Laughing) “The quarterly crunch. The constant question whether I will make my commission.”

As you know, sales is very much about overcoming objections. Do you remember a time where you were successful in overcoming an obstacle?

“Yes. Our theme is to work with the client to determine their campaign’s objective before we sign the paperwork. Sometimes we can’t predict the future. Sometimes clients understand that, but sometimes they don’t. We had a client who didn’t perform that well. The client was disappointed in the campaign outcome that we designed. The client was complaining because there weren’t a lot of leads, and there were no sales. Here’s the thing. Our clients need to convert the leads into bookings, and that part is out of my control. This particular client claimed that they didn’t receive 200 leads, but only 20. A claim that I couldn’t disprove, but my attempt was to shift the conversation and to make the client think about conversion of leads, rather than number of leads. So I suggested that we work with the number 20, but let’s focus on the bookings. My question to the client was why they didn’t have any bookings. When we designed the campaign, the client had assured me that they usually convert 35% of the leads into bookings. So, I was trying to shift the spotlight so the client would understand that this is a partnership and while we can provide leads, we cannot guarantee bookings because we don’t have control over the conversion. My gentle suggestion was that maybe the problem might be lying somewhere else. That maybe, and just maybe there is an operational issue that causes no bookings in spite of leads. Here is the thing, all of our leads are price point driven. We qualify a consumer every step of the way. By the time the consumer gets to the client we have a very qualified lead on our hands. So we provide quality leads, but the conversion is up to them.”

 If you could share one sentence with your management, what would it be?  “Most critical one that I will write to my management about today is that we need to sell more products.”

Do you think that sales people should be pushy? If no, why not?

“Absolutely not. I started at Starcom Worldwide, an agency in Chicago, so I have a different perspective because I was on the other side of the spectrum. It’s the used car sales feeling, nobody wants to go through that experience. There needs to be a dialogue. I just feel that sales people being pushy happens when management pushes too much. While you want to be in control of a meeting or call, that doesn’t mean you should be pushy.”

Why do you think sales people have a bad reputation at times ?

“It really does boil down to sales people not knowing the other side of sales, people who have always been in sales and hardly were on the receiving end of sales probably don’t know what it feels like. So many sales reps are not reading their clients right, or are not understanding projections. So many sales people overpromise to management because they don’t know the sales cycle so they think the probability of closing is higher than it actually is. This then creates a skewed pipeline and the pressure is on.”
What is the one lesson you learned during your sales career?

“Manage your management, but also manage yourself well. Do I understand my own pipeline? Am I setting myself up for failure? Managing expectations is key to sales.

Consultative Selling in a Nutshell

In closing, I just want to say that Doug touched on all the areas that I usually address. He knows that he has to manage expectations. Not only with the prospect but also with his management.

He is personable, easy to talk to, he listens, asks question and he understands that not every promising prospect will turn into closed business. In the case of my friend, Jane, he won’t be able to close a sale as her client decided to choose a different route. But to Doug it doesn’t matter, because he understands that sometimes it’s just not a fit, just as he mentioned in the interview. Rather than trying to pursue, where there is nothing to purse he did what all good sales people should do. He left a good impression and helped elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners.

DISCLAIMER

Consultative Sales Academy, MD Business Solutions, LLC, & Monika D’Agostino are not affiliated with, nor endorse Travelzoo. The Travelzoo logo is property of Travelzoo, Inc, which holds all copyrights and trademark rights.

Are Sales People Afraid?

Posted on: September 20th, 2012 by Monika 1 Comment

I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?  In my experience, many sales people are afraid of rejection. Actually, most people are afraid of rejection just that in sales it’s a daily issue.

Why is fear so present in sales?

Because in my opinion there is no other business practice where you have to bring yourself in as much as in sales. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional and personal. We professionals in sales are measured by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, during every call and client interaction.

So where does this fear originate?

The fear stems from being afraid of rejection. Nobody wants to be rejected, but in sales it’s part of our daily reality. It starts with the cold calling/prospecting efforts that most sales people are terrified of. It could be a mindset issue that is keeping you from breaking through to others. Being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). But 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.

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

Or, you can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling by supporting the prospecting process with the right kind of research and/or providing meaningful training.

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

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! Overcoming objections and handling stalls is also an area that can be trained. Actually, objections and stalls very often present an opportunity when handled properly.

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

To the most part, no. Take the fear of public speaking – it is so intense that some people freeze up although there is no imminent danger lurking. In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While not always rational, fear can certainly keep us from being successful. especially in sales.

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 supported 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 to improve) lie. 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.

Identify your team’s strengths

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. 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!