Archive for June, 2009

Have you ever had a conversation with a person who peppers every sentence with filler words or phrases? I don’t know about you but I get a little impatient to the point that I find myself rushing the conversation.

A few filler word examples include “like”, “you know”, “uhm“?

Let me give you an example of a recently overheard conversation (slightly exaggerated but not by much).

Caller 1: Good afternoon, “uhm“, my name is ____, and I’m “uhm” with ________, would you “uhm” have a few minutes to visit?
Caller 2: Sure I have few short minutes
Caller 1: “O” great. Well “ugh” thank you for your time. “Uhm” My company specializes in providing mobile solutions to “you know” bridge the gap between the field user and “uhm” the back office. Our solutions are designed to “you know” eliminate data collection errors caused by “you know” data transcription errors, sloppy handwriting and “the like”. I’m sure you’ve experience similar problems right?
Caller 2: Yeah (said with hesitancy and with the tone of can you get to the point)
Caller 1: Well “uhm“…

Hopefully you get the point.

Everyone has filler words — mine are “so” and “basically”. “Basically”, the key is to recognize these words and eliminate them from your conversation. I’ve found that filler words are crutch words that sustain you when you are either ill prepared or nervous.

A few recommendations to help you overcome your reliance upon filler words.

  1. Record one of your conversations or have a mentor listen to one of your sales presentations. I think you’ll be surprised how many filler words you rely upon.
  2. Practice your presentation BEFORE you pick up the phone. Let me re-emphasize that PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Practice is the key to smooth presentations. Preparation diminishes and even eliminates nervousness.
  3. Print your “filler words” with a BIG RED X over them and hang then on your wall for a visual reminder of filler words to avoid.
  4. Make an effort to learn new vocabulary.
  5. Develop power phrases that concisely tell your customers about your product and/or services
  6. And let me reiterate — Practice your presentation. A polished presentation will come across professionally, instill confidence in you and ultimately instill confidence in your customer.

“So uhm” go sell and “uhm” happy hunting!

If you visit the local bookstore or browse the Internet you will find a myriad host of books geared towards sales strategies. (This makes me wonder why I’m blogging about sales but honestly it’s an excellent exercise for my brain.)

Anyway, lately I’ve pondered a few basics that both a sales newbie and seasoned professional would be wise to consider.

  1. Satisfied Customers equal more sales.
    Satisfied customers are
    pre-disposed to purchase from you again especially if you’ve given then an exceptional product and more importantly exceptional service. Reflect on your own buying habits, are you inclined to search for a new product source if the existing one is meeting your needs?  I never have. Remember it’s easier to motivate existing happy customers than earning a new customer.
  2. Manage your Accounts
    Post sales is everything if you want to build a pipeline that consistently delivers it is imperative that you manage your account. I recommend you make contact with your existing customers at least once every two weeks. If you are working on an existing project then I recommend once a week. Customer’s want, no expect, to be taken care of. If you can’t do that, even if you have a good product, they’ll look else where the first time there is a problem.
  3. Get to know your Customers
    Take note of birthdays, special events, child sporting events or other activities. You’ll be amazed how quickly bonds are created with customers when you send a birthday card, a note of congratulations, or simply asking how a customer’s child did at the school play. Taking note of such activities builds interesting relationships and makes business enjoyable. Invest time in building strong personal relationships with your customers. The natural consequence will be stronger business relationships.
  4. Existing customers open doors
    It’s been my experience that satisfied customers will voluntarily give you the names of associates, other divisions and even competitors who have a similar needs. If you’ve exceeded their expectations they’ll usually kick the doors wide open with a personal introduction. And trust me personal introductions have power – power to carry you into the next sale.

Take a moment today and reflect on who you consistently do business. Ask yourself what it is it about that individual or company that draws me back to them again and again. I guarantee you’ll identify a few characteristics you could implement in your own sales strategy.

Happy Hunting!

I’ve been working very closely with one of my Inside Sales guys, the past couple of weeks in pursuing an opportunity. He has done an exceptional job at making the initial contact, qualifying the prospect and creating a compelling presentation for our services.

Early in our discussions it became apparent that while the prospect was very interested in our product he didn’t have the decision making power to affect a bigger opportunity with the company as a whole. Naturally I started digging to identify who within the company would have the decision making power I was looking for.

A couple observations through the process:

  1. Earn the Customer’s Confidence
    Because my Inside Sales Guy had earned the customer’s confidence he was willing to not only tell us who the right contact person was, he was more importantly willing to make a personal introduction. You can’t get much better than a personal introduction and personal endorsement.
  2. Personal Introductions Open Doors
    Reflect on your own willingness to visit with a vendor, seller or other professional if a close associate has introduced them to you. Your willingness to open discussions is far greater. Since we were introduced personally to the C-Level individual we were given an inside track to an opportunity that otherwise was unknown to us.
  3. Be Considerate of both positions and maintain trust at all levels
    It became very apparent as we visited with the C-Level individual there were larger plans in the works for the company. While we could have made the “easy sell” with the initial contact we opted to pursue the larger opportunity by working with the C-Level professional to assist the company as a whole. This enabled us to serve as a bridge between relating initiatives with slightly different twist and create a business solution that left the initial contact with the feeling that we were watching out for his best interest while the C-Level individual recognized we were building a solution that addressed the companies overall strategy.

In the end because we built a solid relationship of trust with the initial contact we were confidently introduced to the higher level decision maker. We were then able to build solid relationships with both individuals and orchestrate a sale exponentially greater than initially projected.

Happy Selling!

The majority of new sales professionals make three key mistakes that cause them to either fail or stumble to earn sales and win customers. These include:

  1. Overselling
  2. Not listening
  3. Not asking questions — let’s rephrase that not asking the right questions

Over the past couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to watch and listen to variety of salespeople as they’ve come on board to our sales force. I’ve noticed a trend. The salesperson who hits the ground running and is successfully building his pipeline and even closing a few deals is the guy who spends more time listening than he does selling. For the sales novice this may seem counter intuitive but it is the key to your success.

In order to be truly succeed selling you have learn to shut the yapper and get the customer talking. The only way you can get a customer talking is to ask questions. And I don’t mean asking about the weather and the ball game. (more on this in the future). But asking him questions that help him identify the true source of his business pains. You will inevitably have the customer respond with “I need this to improve processes”. This is a hollow response but it doesn’t get to the meat of the pain. To uncover the real pain a customer is experiencing you have to ask questions like:

  1. What part of your business processes are causing the most pain?
  2. Or similarly phrased — If you could change anything about your current process what would that be? Why? And how does that impact you?
  3. How does that affect your competitivenes?
  4. How would a change to this particular area benefit the company?
  5. If we could resolve that issues how would it benefit your team?
  6. How would it benefit you?

Note that not one of this questions enable the customer to answer Yes or No.

The key is to ask questions that will enable your customer to IDENTIFY, EXPLAIN and ARTICULATE the true source of the problem. Or in your case, the sales opportunity.

Take note of each point articulated by the customer. In the customers explanation of the business problem he will inevitably divulge the key points enabling you to win the deal — the “sales keys’ if you will to unlocking the sale.

A skilled sales professional will revisit each one of these sales keys when he explains the the benefits of his product. Utilizing the customer’s own sales keys enables you to transition from a “sales pitch” to a “buying justification” because the customer has given you the ground rules for the sale.

The question is can you ask the right questions that unlock the keys to the sale? Do you have the discipline to listen to your customer’s response? If you can do both of these in combination you’ll be well on your way to winning that coveted sale.

Happy Hunting!

Sell For the Future

Posted: June 11, 2009 in Sales

This week I’ve spent some time doing presentations with potential customers. As part of these presentations I’ve invited a few individuals who have recently joined our sales team to listen in. One particular call has created an opportunity to discuss the principle of “Selling For the Future”.

Let me give you a little back ground. The sales call we made was to an individual who is just starting a services company for the automotive industry. With this knowledge I recognized the following:

  1. Small company MOST likely means small budget. This doesn’t mean I can’t do business with them it just means I need to be creative in how I present the immediate and long term cost rationalization to the customer. Remember small companies grow into big companies.
  2. Small company means lean on resources so they need optimal business processes to make them competitive
  3. Small company often indicates entrepreneurs with aggressive plans and strategies
  4. Small company can mean and will mean long term business if you help them succeed.

With this understanding I made the call.

The call went as expected — small company, no budget, limited staff but big dreams. But still I gave him an honest shake. After making the call one of the sales guys said “I’ve never heard anyone set up a future sell”. We then discussed my strategy with the prospect.

  1. Qualify the customer early in the conversation.
    When working with a perceived smaller company I try to assess their entrepreneurial mindset early. If they’re small and thinking big I want to do business with them. This can be done by asking strategic questions that will give you insight into their business strategy. My questions are tailored to identify the “today decision maker” or the “entrepreneurial visionary”. One of the qualifiers I look for is how the prospective clients respond to initial price discussions.Let’s say you have a product worth $20,000 the “today decision maker” will respond “what do you think I’ve won the lottery?” when discussing a larger investment.  On the other hand, the “entrepreneurial visionary” weighs the impact of investing $20,000. He obviously takes into consideration price, but more importantly he considers the impact of this investment on his long term goals. Needless to say I want to do business with the “entrepreneur visionary”.
  2. Every contact is worth at least $250,000.00.
    No matter the size of a company I treat every contact treat as if they are going to spend a quarter of a million dollars.  Let me give you a couple of examples.
    I have a customer that has been doing business with me for over two years. If at the point of initial discussions I quoted him $250,000 for our solutions he would have said “Jody you’re smoking crack, thanks for your time. I think I’ll explore other options”. But here’s the kicker from day one I bent over backwards, jumped through hoops to earn his business. I helped him see a phased plan to help him grow his business with our product.  The initial project was a mere fraction of $250,000 — $16,000 to start. But as I proved we were the right company, the right solution, offering exceptional service as he grew he has come back to me again and again. We have since become an integral part of his business.The other thing I keep in mind is that every potential customer has a circle of influence within his industry. While his influence may not be significant it can mean big dollars to me. Let’s say I spend a little extra time with a “small guy” who most likely will never do business with me. I guarantee he will inevitably run across an associate, customer or vendor seeking my product and guess who he’s going to recommend? Me!In the end he may not necessarily write the check but guess what? He does buy from me just via a referral. We all know referrals are much easier sales than cold calling. This is such a simple concept! But so many sales people can’t see beyond their own quota to see that a few seeds strategically planted today with every customer means BIG dividends reaped at the end of the road.

Now go out and honestly work for every customer! Work with them to not only make the sale today but also the sale tomorrow.

Happy Hunting!

I’ve been reflecting on some of the professionals I’ve hired over the years. About a year ago I hired a young man who I eventually dubbed the Inside Sales Gladiator, one because he was a cage fighter and secondly once I set him loose he was in the ring and ready to roll. When he came on board he had a PHENOMENAL attitude, he was HUNGRY and READY to get rolling. I was excited to have him on my team!

Like any new undertaking it takes a bit to come up to speed. I spent the first week or so teaching him about our product, services and how customers benefit from our offerings. The thing that impressed me about Mike was every day he would go home and practice his presentation to his wife, family, friends and even the new dog. Then at the start of the next day he’d ask me to hear the results of the previous day’s practice sessions. Each day he became more proficient and my optimism increased but he still maintained a tone of timidness and self doubt when he got on the phone with the customer. The challenge I contemplated was “how do I get him to break through this mental wall of timidness and help him ratched it presentation to the next level and really come across with power and confidence?”

Fortunately two things happened – First he made a presentation of our product to our CEO, Kevin Benedict. After the presentation Kevin counseled him to “never be apologetic when discussing your product. It’s crucial that you tell the customer what he needs. As you tell the customer what he needs he will naturally follow your lead if you do so in a confident and informative manner.” The second thing that happened is I discovered that my new sales guy used to compete as a Cage Fighter in the UFC Gladiator Challenge. He mentioned that he had a DVD copy of one of his fights so I convinced him to bring me the DVD to watch. Oh man, talk about a Gladiator! When Michael got in the ring it was all attitude, all confidence and I’m telling you the pain rained. It was incredible! He was shear dominance!

As I’m watching the fight I’m thinking to myself, “Man if I can get him to come out like this on the phone there will be no stopping him.” After watching the video we discussed my thoughts and I encouraged him to couple that same attitude in the ring and couple it with Kevin’s advice and get on the phone.

An amazing thing happened, with this mental image in his mind, he got on the phone and landed an appointment on the first call. And now I’m jacked because now my counterpart has busted through the wall of timidness and my vision of where I foresee the direction of our territory has gained new power and vision.

Lessons Learned

  1. Preparation creates a solid foundation. Learn your product so well that discussing the product is like discussing anything else of interest to you.
  2. Practise your presentation.
  3. Be passionate about what you are selling. Passion will drive you forward. Passion is contagious. Passion creates excitement. Passion creates interest.  Passion will ignite your customers.
  4. Preparation, Practise and Passion create confidence
  5. Your confidence breeds customer confidence in you and your product.

Get in the ring and release your Sales Gladiator! You’ll be amazed at who’s left standing at the end of the contest with arms raised in victory.

Happy Hunting!

Attitude is Everything!

Posted: June 9, 2009 in Sales

How do you honestly feel about yourself when you get up in the morning? Do you roll over and say “Oh no not another day”?

If this is you I have one note of advice — change your life! If you’re that miserable something has to change otherwise you will NEVER accomplish any of your so called dreams.

A change of life could be as simple as changing your attitude and changing the company you keep. One of the things I learned early in sales is there are alot of “nay sayers”. You will inevitably find them. They blame everything else for their lack of success. Everything that is except themselves.

Avoid nay sayers like the plague! You’ll hear them say things like:

  1. The quota is unrealistic
  2. Our product doesn’t have a key feature that the market needs
  3. Oh, they weren’t interested they were just trying to get me off the phone.
  4. I was late for my appointment because of traffic
  5. And a myriad of other lame excuses

I recognize that some times there is a minuscule amount of merit to some excuses but in the end their just excuses.

I remember receiving my first quota jump for the next year it was more than double. My first reaction was “you’ve got to be kidding”. I had already set a pretty challenging goal for myself, but the quota I was given surpassed my goal by 20%.

I naturally visited with my boss (somewhat complaining) about the seemingly unrealistic jump and he gave me his justifications for the major leap in quota. He then said something that made the difference, “If you believe in yourself and the product you’ll hit the number. It’s all about your attitude”.

I pondered on his statement about about half a day. I also just so happened to be reading “The Best Damn Sales Book Ever: 16 Rock-Solid Rules for Achieving Sales Success!” by Warren Greshes where in he shares the story of a young freshman sales guy that broke all the company sales records his first year in sales. When they asked the young man his secret to success he responded “my boss told me to make 20 calls a day and I did”.

I thought to myself if I can emulate that simple commitment of making 20 calls a day as outlined by the story in Warren Greshes book and couple that with my own belief in myself I had a viable shot at the quota. Guess what? I was naive or bold enough, depending on your perspective, to try it and busted the quota.

The other thing that helped me was a recommendation by another mentor, Kevin Benedict CEO of MobileDataforce. He counseled me “when ever you make a sale get on the phone right after you’ve won the deal and call prospective customers. Your confidence from winning the sale will come across to prospective customers. That confidence will draw them into listening more carefully to you.” I have since made it a rule of thumb to make at least 3 calls into new or edging prospects immediately after a sales win.

Attitude really is everything. A few recommendations.

  1. Believe in yourself.
    I can’t emphasize this enough. If you don’t believe in yourself you will never accomplish anything of significance because you will never boldly try to extend beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Believe anything is achievable.
    If you believe the quota is unrealisitic it is. Not because it’s not achievable but because you’ve convinced yourself it’s unrealistic and thus set yourself up for failure
  3. Believe in your product.
    Look no matter how good your product is some competitor is not going to have a different feature or different approach to market. It’s your job to figure out how to position your product heads above the competitors. That may come in the form of product set, services or even you as the differentiator. You’ll be amazed at how far that last one will take you if you just believe in yourself.
  4. Believe that your call is important.
    When making phone calls abolish the idea that you’re bothering the prospect. If you even think that a little you will come across as a nuisance. Call with confidence that you are “interrupting” their day to bring them a product or service that will truly make a difference in their business.
  5. Get to work early and get on the phone.
    Quit dragging out of bed and giving some lame excuse for being late. Make a commitment today to get up and get moving to success!
  6. Set a stretch goal.
    Take the quota set by your boss and make it 15% higher. Then when you achieve that goal reward yourself for busting the doors off the quota.

By the way the quota leap that I thought was unrealistic I busted by 22% Believe in yourself. Drive with positive attitude and anything is possible.

Happy Hunting!