Get sales certified!

Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

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.

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

twitter-1024x1024

 

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?

The DRESS Phenomenon & the Color of Sales Perception

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

Last month I attended a book presentation hosted by the University of Rochester New York Metro Women. A friend who is an Alumni invited me to this event and I was intrigued, because of the book’s title: “Conversational Intelligence“.

Tying in with Conversational Intelligence, today’s blog is a Guest Blog, by my trusted business partner, Marcia Gauger, founder & Chief Learning Officer of DVR Learning and co-creator of our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC).

I’m sure you have heard about THE DRESS discussion (I personally was on Team White/Gold), but for me, what was really important to understand, especially in a sales environment is that we all digest information in different ways. The recent discussion about THE DRESS that dominated social media for quite some time is a perfect example. Marcia talks about the consequences from a sales perspective. Happy Reading!

Truly Understand – Not Just Wait for Your Cue!

As a sales person, I am always interested to find ways to be more effective in my communication so I gladly commuted to New York on a snowy day to attend the book presentation of ”Conversational Intelligence“. The author Judith Glaser and I chatted before the official start of the program and I was immediately captivated by the way she views the world. It’s all about listening, really. Understanding what others are actually saying instead of just waiting for a cue to talk.

Trust Your Voice

The book is supported by research and it’s still a fascinating read. Judith’s writing added an additional dimension as to why we connect with people and why sometimes our defenses go up. Instead of hearing what a person has to say we listen to a movie narrative in our own head. We anticipate instead of really understanding. But the good news is that there are techniques that we can apply to make a change. I learned how you can move from Distrust to Trust, because when you lose Trust you lose your Voice.

For me as a sales person, but also a mother, wife and friend it was an eye opener. If you want to improve the way you interact with other people, if you want to be heard but also be a better listener (and shouldn’t we all, especially being in sales?), buy this book (available on Amazon).

Judith is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute, whose clients include American Airlines, American Express, Cisco, Coach, IBM, just to name a few. www.benchmarkcommunicationsinc.com

The Dress Phenomenon & the Color of Sales Perception

You’ve likely heard the recent story or have seen the pictures of the now infamous dress. One snapshot and the debate began, is it white and gold or blue and black? Science chimed in and explained that we potentially see things differently based on the way that our minds filter images and light.

But what does this have to do with sales and perception? Quite a bit, actually. The challenge for consultative sales professionals is two-fold. The first challenge is seeing the perceived situation through the customer’s lens. The second is framing a solution that is perceived to align with that individual’s picture of their present state of affairs versus desired state. The risk of misalignment is significant throughout the sales process, especially if the client themselves are looking through a distorted or cloudy lens which is often the case when clients don’t fully recognize the potential need.

Why is it that regarding their product knowledge, some of the brightest and most technically astute people cannot sell?

We know that if sales professionals concentrate strictly on product knowledge and the technical factors regarding their solutions, they risk missing the filters each client applies – or the “color” in which the customer perceives the solution. Just as individuals may see colors in that dress differently based on the way the mind filters light, individuals also use filters when making business decisions. If you ignore or fail to recognize these filters, your chance of connecting with the client plummets. Luckily, we can identify the most significant filters that clients use when making decisions, and, if applied correctly, the chances of “firing on all cylinders” with the client increases substantially.

So, What Are These Filters?

The filters presented in this example are absolutely key and foundational to implementing a consultative sales strategy and interaction that is impactful for each client and situation. There even more filters that you could consider, accelerating the risk of not connecting.

The most significant filters we apply in a consultative approach are: Behavioral Styles (based on DiSC), Communication Styles and Convincer Strategies (triggers or sorting patterns of influence)

To apply specific filters for your customer base, we could apply additional psychological factors to the mix such as behavioral economics, generational considerations, financial aspects and other key indicators that you would glean from accurate market research data regarding how your clients buy from you. This example also assumes that the salesperson knows their product information, industry knowledge and can navigate their internal customers, or you could also consider that another variable in the equation, again adding risk.

The Sales Equation

Consider this example, which displays some of the most common filters used in making sales and business decisions. In this example, if the salesperson relies solely on the “story”, which includes their product knowledge and expertise, they have a 1 in 64 chance of completely connecting with the customer. (4 behavioral styles x 4 communication styles x 4 convincer strategies). If they correctly identify and appeal to each filter, then they totally connect both in terms of understanding the customer’s picture and providing a solution that matches. If you miss just one filter, at best the message is mixed and at worst it is completely wrong.

 You Can’t Force Another Person to Filter Messages the Way that You Do!

This explains why salespeople lose opportunities even when the client situation and your solution looks identical to another that a different client may have fully embraced. To top it off, without the knowledge and experience to recognize these filters, salespeople default to their own filters when presenting their solutions to customers, which is taking a gamble that each customer will use the same filters as they do when making decisions.

In the example of the “dress”, you can’t control how your brain sees it and that is why some people cannot see the dress in blue/black and others cannot see the dress in white and gold. Hence the debate. If Joe sees it as “A” and Mary sees it as “B”, Joe and Mary may NEVER agree on the color of the dress because their perception is polar opposite.

The same is true with sales filters. You can’t force someone to see through your filters or the same set of filters that you are using. You can, however, recognize the filters and adjust your approach to the customer’s lens.

Marcia Gauger
Marcia is the CLO of DVR Learning, LLC and co-developer of our Consultative Sales Certification Program (CSC), a nationally accredited sales capability and development curriculum. Marcia has devoted over 25 years to working with sales professionals and managers to enhance sales performance. Marcia has published hundreds of articles on sales and service related issues.

5 Steps to overcome the fear of Cold Calling

Posted on: February 26th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

It’s real. Cold Calling is scary to most sales people. In a consultative sales environment phone conversations are still a very effective way to develop new business. But, it’s like the fear of flying. While we consciously know that flying is still the safest way to travel, there is always those planes that crash.

The fear of cold calling, or the reluctance to do it stems from the same fear. We are afraid of rejection, that somebody could hang up on us. We don’t want to be rejected. Actually, in my experience when you prepare properly before picking up the phone, the likelihood of somebody hanging up on you is really slim, but the fear is there.
So what is a sales person to do?

1)Research, research, research
The better you are prepared before picking up the phone, the higher your chances that your prospect will listen. As long as you are targeted in your approach and you know who your ideal prospects are there is really nothing to fear than fear itself.

2) Be personal and professional
There is this common expectation that sales people should be aggressive. In my experience, the more gentle, consultative and professional you are, the higher your success rate will be. Never treat anybody in any way other than the way you would like to be treated.

3) Listen, listen, listen
Don’t rattle off a pitch, but start with a casual introduction and then slowly shift into asking questions. The more information you can extract from your prospects (personal or professional), the better equipped you will be to follow up and build a relationship.

4) Be relevant and honest
It doesn’t make sense to talk prospects into a need. Your product or solution has to be a fit, otherwise you will waste your and your prospect’s time. If you find out that there is no current need, leave a good impression, try to be helpful if possible (by maybe providing an alternative solution) and get permission to stay in touch.

5) Pick up the phone!
Yes you heard me, just do it. There is just no way around it. Well scripted and written e-mails go a long way, but if you are selling in a consultative sales environment you won’t get around a phone call. Trust me, it will pay off!

And finally, get help! There is many coaches out there who are able to help. Prospecting, like all the other sales aspects can be learned. We work with sales professionals every day, helping them become more confident in what they do, even the ones who are very afraid. In our Consultative Sales Certification Program there is an entire module that is focused on prospecting new business.

http://www.getsalescertified.com/curriculum-expanding-your-business

Why should CEOs be involved in developing a sales culture?

Posted on: December 3rd, 2014 by Monika No Comments

Remember, the fish starts stinking at the top

That’s right, it always does. And when it comes to the sales process it’s not different. CEOs need to understand, embrace and support the sales process. If your CEO expects immediate results and you are stuck in a sales cycle that takes 3-6 months, guess what will happen? Your CEO will question you, your boss, your team and that’s usually where the panic starts.

Always get buy-in from your CEO

Why? So there is no surprises. While I preach that CEOs should not meddle with the sales process once it is established, I also feel that the process needs to be developed, agreed upon and fine tuned with the CEO in the room. It’s a cultural shift that will build a trusting environment where everybody involved in sales knows the parameters and the name of the game.

Everybody is in sales

Everybody within your organization should have a sales mindset. Why? Because you are constantly selling and building trust. Everybody who is client facing, and I mean everybody is responsible for the reputation of your company. It’s hard to sell when people don’t trust. If I visit a client and the receptionist is not friendly, that leaves a negative impression.

If I then talk to a customer representative and they are not knowledgeable. Guess how that will impact my decision to buy?

And if I then get referred to a sales person who pitches something that I don’t need, because they don’t listen, they just “sell” it will probably make me think about buying anything from that company. Right?

Your people are selling all the time, in a direct or indirect way. So, they need to understand that their livelihood is directly tied to their demeanor, mindset and behavior. Our training program helps companies to establish a common Sales & Service language. No matter who you encounter within the organization, they should all speak the “same” language.

Train your account people

When we think about the sales, we think about sales people, database management, phone calls, etc.

But, if your account people are charged with growing revenue within existing accounts and they are not trained to do that, they will most likely resist it.  Most opportunities are right under our noses. It’s the trusted clients we work with who are most receptive to our new service offerings. But if your account people feel that they are only responsible for account management and they are uncomfortable talking about new business, the up-selling will be difficult.

Help your CEO with driving directions

CEOs are visionaries, they know where they want to end up, but it is up to his people to provide the map. CEOs often don’t want to be bothered with details, but if they are presented with a concept that helps everybody within the organization to become more focused on new business development (which will result in additional revenue), they will open up their ears. Our most successful training programs are the ones where the CEO agrees with the philosophy and his/her leaders drive the direction.

5 Basics for Prospecting Fortune 1000 Companies

Posted on: November 21st, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In a consultative sales environment, companies that target Fortune 1000 prospects all struggle to stand out from the crowd. How will my sales people get the attention from these prospects? That’s really the big question that keeps all sales managers awake at night.

Some companies think that hiring as many sales people as possible, having them hit the phones and “dialing for dollars” will be the answer. At times they end up hiring “telemarketing” people or sales people who only work on a commission basis to play the numbers game.

But honestly, in today’s ever more competitive environment, do you want your sales efforts to be all about quantity? If you’re looking to stand out and embrace a consultative approach, you’ll agree with me that it’s really all about quality. Once you know who to target and what your unique positioning is, then you can ramp up the call/e-mail volume. But first you need to know how you can serve your prospects best and who your target is.

Be Consultative, Mindful and Relevant

A consultative sales approach starts with understanding what you want to say to your prospects.  Did you develop a message that will resonate with your audiences? Remember, in order for people to buy, your solution has to help them make money, save money or time, maximize their potential and achieve their goals or elevate their company’s or their own reputation.

Focus on Value, not Features and Benefits

Therefore a message focusing on the greatness of your product or service will most likely not be as effective. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and try to find out why you would buy your service. Your message needs to focus on the value to your decision maker. Most sales people lead with features or benefits and forget that their counterparts do the same. For example, good customer service is essential but hardly unique and certainly not a differentiator. Good customer service is also something that people take for granted. Every company with a service offering will claim to have good customer service, they certainly wouldn’t mention it if it sucked, would they?

A global presence on the other hand can be a differentiator, as long as it is important to your prospects.

In the End – People Buy from People

The next step is to develop a message or script that you as the sales person can own. If sales people don’t believe in the message they are communicating, they will come across as inauthentic. Prospects will feel that they being “sold to” rather than advised. As soon as a sales person sounds scripted, people will most likely lose interest. Even when you prospect Fortune 1000 companies you shouldn’t forget that it is people who are making decisions. People don’t like to be sold to, but they appreciate help. If you can offer something of value to them, it will help you build rapport and trust. Trust is essential in building relationships, on a personal and on a business level. Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting.

Who Are the Decision-Makers?

And then comes the really, really hard part. Who within the organization should you call on? In using a consultative sales approach, it is essential to be clear about and establish who the final decision-maker is or, more likely, who the decision-makers are.

In prospecting Fortune 1000 companies you will need to approach and build relationships with multiple decision-makers, or perhaps a committee making the decisions together. There will be different levels of decision-makers or buyer influencers. And if you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll work to understand what is of value and relevance to each of these different influencers. Will they actually be using your solution? Will they be passing on recommendations to use your solution? Or, will they be making the final decision? – In other words, can they say “no”, when all others say yes?

Do Your Research & Be Relevant

A CFO will most likely respond to a message that will help him save money. A COO will be interested in optimizing workflow and a CTO will want to hear about the latest and best technology solutions. A CMO on the other hand will want to hear about the benefits that a technology solution will bring to optimizing marketing efforts and not the benefits of the technology itself.

Knowing who your decision maker is will help you customize your message and it will enable you to speak directly to their needs and the industry challenges. That is why research is essential when it comes to good prospecting.

We have documented time and again when applying a consultative sales approach, how important it is to be relevant (mention industry challenges) mindful (remember, it’s people we are targeting) and to do your research so you come across as a knowledgeable and professional advisor – not as some unqualified sales person trying to sell something.

Don’t Sell me This Pen

Posted on: October 17th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

    Sell Me This Pen – Really?

On occasion I’ve come across the “Sell Me This Pen” concept. The first time I actually heard somebody use the phrase was in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and since then I pay attention when I hear it. Just recently I read a post on LinkedIn explaining that apparently this challenge is part of some sales interviews. The article also stated that this sales interview question (and other similar questions which seem easy enough to answer) has been around for quite some. So, what do you?

Don’t Sell the Pen, Build a Relationship

When companies hire sales people who can answer such a question easily pointing out how great the pen is, they shouldn’t be surprised if they get practitioners who focus on selling the features of their offering rather than adding value to their clients. In my years consulting with Fortune 1000 companies, and small businesses alike, their sales people who live in the B2B world have always performed better when identifying client needs rather than simply selling their product or solution on its features and benefits. When sales people are trained to sell the features of their service/product, rather than being a resource to their clients, they forget about the needs and the business goals of their prospects. This can also lead to talking themselves out of a sale.

There Will Always Be a Cheaper Pen, Won’t There?

Another challenge with the concept of selling on features is that it commoditizes your offering. If you focus on your product/service without regard of your prospect’s situation, the next question will be about price and then (in most cases) the price shopping starts. Selling only on the features of a product/service means you are disregarding your audience’s true needs. And you might be forcing what could turn out to not be a good fit. But let’s assume it is a good fit. Remember, there will always be somebody who will offer the same or similar product/service cheaper.

Help Your Prospect Grow Their Business

In a consultative sales environment you’ll want to move away from a tactical approach of “selling” something, and instead become a trusted advisor. There are no long term prospects for a tactical approach. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being “sold to”!

If you start building a relationship instead, uncovering your prospect’s needs beyond the obvious, and providing a solution that is relevant to their business goals, you will not be as easily replaced by someone who just sells stuff – cheaper!

Once you focus on your prospect’s business needs and how you can help them grow their business, you will not only get their attention, you will also develop longer lasting relationships. Your sales will be more profitable. And as a result, your business will grow, too!

Less Talking & Selling, More Listening

Sales people who are in “selling” mode, simply don’t ask enough questions. And the questions they do ask do not motivate their prospects/clients to speak openly and freely about their true needs. With this approach, sales people are far too focused on the features and benefits of their offering rather than uncovering the needs of their prospect/client. You want to truly be a resource to your prospects, don’t you?

Slow down, listen, ask open-ended questions, and invite your prospect to open up about their business challenges. Then, determine if your offering is a good fit.

If it is, move ahead, make your case and focus on how you can add value.

If it’s not a good fit, explain why, leave a good impression, and perhaps refer a resource and move on to the next prospect. At least you were able to build an honest relationship. If the prospect’s situation changes in the future, they will certainly think of you as a good advisor.

Hire the Right People-Ask the Right Questions

Maybe “Sell Me a Pen” is a funky or challenging way to interview, but it doesn’t reflect what constitutes best practice in a solution-oriented or consultative selling environment. Look instead, when hiring, for sales people who are capable of building long-term relationships and providing value in the eyes of your customers.

It might seem easier to train sales people on using a script and selling a “pen”. But when you consider the costs of on-boarding, training, etc., you don’t want to have them leave and end up at your competition. Especially in industries where sales people are almost a commodity, only management can change the conversation.

I deeply believe selling cannot be about convincing people to buy something that they don’t need, but rather, adding value to your client by providing solutions to help them be more successful. In my opinion, smart managers looking for valuable sales people will be asking different questions, like “How can you help your client grow their business?” What do you think?

Don’t Drive Your Customers Nuts! Always Touch Base with A Purpose!

Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by Monika 2 Comments

For convenience reasons I have my business account and my personal account with the same bank. And that’s not due to my deliberate choice. My previous bank was “swallowed up” by this much larger bank during the financial crisis a few years. Not a particularly good start to begin with, although it could have been a great opportunity for my bank on record to make a splash. Well, they didn’t (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog).

Are Sales and Customer Service the Same?
To me, customer service and sales are tightly interconnected. We teach that in our Consultative Sales Certification program. A good number of our clients offer solutions that are often viewed as commodities, such as logistics services, technology solutions, banking. The only differentiator is outstanding customer service, being in touch with your clients and truly understanding and fulfilling their needs. When you don’t serve your customers well, you probably won’t up-sell and in the worst case scenario, you might even lose them. That seems logical, doesn’t it?

The other day I got a call from the business specialist at my bank’s local branch. This is a person that I actually know because I approached him a couple of times with questions about on-line banking. Never, and I mean never has he asked me how happy I was with my experience at the bank or if he could help me with anything else other than tactical advice.

Do You Do Your Research Before You Pick up the Phone?
So, it was to my surprise when my business line rang the other day and that very person, “my” dedicated business advisor, called and wanted to know how I was doing. My first reaction was “That’s nice, they actually care”. That euphoric feeling only lasted a couple of seconds until I realized that he didn’t know who he was talking to. He didn’t connect the dots or didn’t have notes in his CRM system to realize that he had met me on numerous occasions. AND, he had also NOT done his research. A quick look at my LinkedIn page might have triggered his memory – my photo is there. People who have been following my blog know that I write about this all the time. Research, research, research. It’s one of the most important ingredients in successful selling. How are you supposed to add value if you don’t know who you are calling on?

Don’t Call Without a Purpose!
While a bit annoying, it wasn’t the reason why I am writing about this experience. After a very vague introduction to the effect of “Hi, I am your business advisor at your bank”, there was the general question of how my business was doing and whether he could do something for me. When I asked him what he had to offer, it turned out that he had nothing to offer. How could he? He knew NOTHING about my business!

There wasn’t a special promotion, or an offering that would fit my business needs. There was no purpose to the call. One could argue now that it was just a courtesy call, but the fact that he didn’t know who I was in combination with the fact that he knew nothing about my business just bothered me. Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice to check in with your existing customers and just say hello, but only if you actually know them!

Where Can You Find the Best Business Opportunities? … Your Existing Customers!
I am a customer for crying out loud. Look into your database, check my account history, then check my business and offer me something! If you don’t have anything to offer and you don’t know who I am, you are not only NOT adding value to my day, you are actually interrupting it.
Your existing customers are your best source for new business, but there is an art to it. Just calling and saying hello is certainly not the strategy for success.

Without a Purpose, it’s just a Missed Opportunity
We teach the participants in our training programs to prepare for calls, to do research and to have a plan of action. Even the most senior sales or customer service people shouldn’t wing it. It is so rare these days to get people on the phone, so if they actually do pick up – make it worth their time and make it worth your time otherwise it’s just a wasted business opportunity.

Courtesy in Sales Out the Window?!

Posted on: June 20th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In sales, should courtesy be tossed out the window?

Recently, I have been following a LinkedIn discussion where the following question was posed?

When calling, should you ask a prospect whether it’s a good time to speak?
Living in a consultative sales world, and teaching the principles of a consultative sales process, to me the answer was simple. Yes. Being mindful is one of the core principles of consultative selling and it should be the core principle when doing business. Where do you stand?

Courtesy Rules
In my opinion, courtesy should never be ignored just to get to results. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the results could be short lived if you just want to get your point across at all costs.
We live in a world where people are looking at different indicators and measures, not only monetary gain and that’s a good thing in my view. Companies are starting to embrace business practices that show that they care. And it has been proven to help the bottom line whether it’s genuine or not.

Is Sales the Exception?
So, why do some people think sales should be the exception? What is the basis of their assumption that in the sales world we can ignore practices that have been proven to work in other business disciplines?
Nobody Wants to be Interrupted (or do you?)

In my many years of calling on C-Level executives, I firmly believe that when you interrupt somebody’s work day, you should always be courteous and professional – first and foremost. Asking your prospect if it’s a good time to speak and giving the person an option will not only leave a good impression, it will lead to a good conversation. If sales people just start off with a generic pitch – and “fast-talking” – they most likely won’t get the attention of the person they are actually trying to connect with. I know for myself that when people call me and start reeling off their pitch, I’m mainly annoyed. For the most part I don’t even listen to what they are saying. My goal is to get them off the phone.

Teach Your People Well, But Not to be Rude
One of the LinkedIn discussion participants even said that he is teaching his people to never ask that question because they then can’t get their point across and it only invites a “No, I don’t have time”. Making that point just leads me to believe this person has no confidence in the people she/he hires to present themselves confidently on the phone.
Of course it depends on the situation and maybe your introduction could start with a simple way of saying, “Hi, I won’t take much of your time. Would you mind listening to my short business introduction if this is a good time for you?” Wording, timing and applying common sense is essential, in life as well as in business. Teaching your salespeople to basically be rude certainly wouldn’t attract me to work for or with a company embracing that sales approach.

Desperation is a Bad Motivator
Salespeople who start off with a pitch in the fear they won’t gain attention can come across as desperate. And that’s one of the reasons why salespeople often have a bad reputation. One person in the LinkedIn discussion said that people should screen their calls and use caller ID to decide if they’ll take the call. Well, many unsolicited calls come in as “Unknown” on my caller ID, so do some calls from Europe. So I am always tempted to answer the phone because I wouldn’t want to miss a call from family or friends in Vienna, Austria, for example. Does that mean I should be punished with rude sales behavior for picking up?

Do Your Research & People will Listen
If you do your research and you know something about the company and the person that you are calling on, you will always be in a better position to open a dialogue. Also, if you introduce yourself via email and then call to follow up, your “cold call” won’t come across as completely out of the blue.

In closing, there are many ways to prospect effectively. I prospect every day on behalf of my clients with huge success. But ignoring courtesy is definitely not part of my recipe.