Sales and Sales Management Blog

July 28, 2014

Is Your Employer Knowingly Destroying Your Career?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:24 pm
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If you work as an outside, commissioned salesperson, think about what your employer does:

Your employer pays for:

  • virtually 100% of your training
  • virtually 100% of your marketing
  • your gas, your cell phone, your prospect and client lunches and coffee meetings

Your employer is investing hundreds of dollars per month in your career.  Yet they:

  • knowingly allow you to waste time
  • knowingly allow you to blow off work
  • knowingly allow you to go home early
  • knowingly allow you to come in late
  • knowingly allow you to stand around and complain and moan with the other salespeople in the office
  • knowingly allow you to pad your call reports
  • knowingly allowing you to perform at a level far below your potential

Why would any employer pay for all of your training and marketing and then allow you to waste that investment?  Do you really want to work for someone who cares so little about the money they are investing in you—and ultimately so little about your future?  Do you really want to work for someone who says they want you to succeed, but then knowingly allows you to do those things that lead to failure?

What kind of employer is that?

That, however, is the employer for which the majority of salespeople work.

And if you work for that employer you have no one to blame except yourself.  For despite what your W2 says, you are your employer.  As a commissioned salesperson, you don’t work for anyone other than yourself.  You are your own mini company with a single client company that you sell for today.  You are leasing yourself, your knowledge, and your skills to your client company.  And if you are establishing strong relationships with your prospects and clients, you’re also leasing them to your client.

When you revoke your lease to the company you currently sell for and take on a new client, you’ll take all of your training, all of your skills, all of your abilities with you.  They don’t stay with your current client.  And if you’ve done a good job of building relationships with your clients, you’ll take them with you also.

One hundred percent of the time, money and energy you invest in your sales business are invested in you for your benefit, not the company for which you are currently selling.  No matter your product or service–autos, real estate, financial services, consulting, telecommunications solutions, or anything else, you are your boss, your employer.  And as such, you must hold yourself accountable for your actions and the dollars you invest in you—your company.

As an employer, what kind of employer are you?  Do you demand the best from your employee?  Or, do you allow yourself to just slide through the motions of selling?  Are you seeking to get the most from the time and money you invest in your company or are you satisfied to just get by?

As an employee, are you happy with your employer?  Do think your employer demands enough from you?  Does your employer demand you work to your full potential?

Just because you receive a paycheck and a W2 doesn’t mean that you aren’t self-employed.  In reality, you sign your own paycheck.  The company you are leasing yourself to simply verifies your company’s earnings and then signs those earnings over to you.

Don’t be fooled into believing that you work for IBM, or UBS, or Century 21, or any other “employer” other than yourself.  You are your own CEO, and like any other CEO, you must demand the best from your employee.  And as an employee, if your company isn’t capable or willing to hold you accountable, maybe you need to fire your employer.

July 24, 2014

Guest Article: “No Problem, No Need,” by Jim Keenan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:55 am
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No Problem, No Need
By Jim Keenan

As sales people we are taught to find a need and sell to it. Needs based selling is what many of us have been taught from the early days. In almost every conversation I have with sales people on how to sell, the word “need” comes up. It’s without a doubt the most common term I hear sales people use when discussing how they sell and what sales is all about.

In almost all cases it’s explained as the “thing” a sale must be attached to. Need, is what sales people need to ferret out. Good sales people find need. The best sales people dig and search until they can find a need, then they sell to that need by telling the prospect how their product or service can fill their need. As good as it sounds, this approach is wrong and actually handicaps sales people.

Selling to a need assumes the customer has a need and more importantly, knows they have a need. The problem with this assumption is most sales opportunities are found because the prospect didn’t know they had a need.  They didn’t know they needed anything. They thought things were just fine.  Have you ever listened to someone sell to a need that didn’t exist?  It’s painful.  The customer says they don’t need the sales persons product, and the sales person flounders around looking for a need, while the customer says nope, I’m happy with my current product, yup, it does that, nope don’t need that feature, nope don’t need that, nope, don’t need that feature either. After about 5 min. if the sales person is lucky, the call is over, dejected and confused, they call the next poor soul, ready to find their need.

Here’s what’s wrong.

There is no need without a problem.   Trying to find a need without finding the problem is like trying to fish without a pond. NO pond, no fish. No problem no need.

A problem is when something can’t get done, a goal is being blocked, or when there is a hinderance to reaching an objective.   A problem is when something is preventing something from being achieved such as; information, knowledge, a tool, resources, insight, etc. Problems exist when things are missing.  The missing things is where the needs come in.

Rather than selling to need, find the problem. Don’t ask if the client needs something. Don’t look for need but rather for a problem.  Dig in to see how they are operating the business your product effects. Try to determine if they are happy with the results they’re getting. Ask if they are getting everything out of the current environment they want. Ask if they are on track to achieve their yearly goals. Ask if their competition can do things they can’t. Find out if they would like to get more out of the current environment. The key is to look for problems or even better show them they have a problem they didn’t know they had.

If you want to increase sales stop looking for a need.  Start by trying to identify a problem. Once you’ve found the problem, you then can start focusing on what they NEED to solve it.

All sales starts with a problem, everything else comes after. Find or uncover the customer(s) problem and everything else will take care of itself.

This is a great real life story on how focusing on need gets a “NO!” But, finding the problem gets a “YES!”:

What I Learned From a Franklin Covey Store Clerk

Be a problem finder.

Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Consulting has over 15 years’ experience building and leading successful sales teams. Jim is a trainer, coach, consultant and innovator, working with sales teams and sales leaders across the spectrum.  You can catch more of his wisdom a his A Sales Guy Consulting Blog.

July 22, 2014

Is There More to Social Selling than Just Hype?

Are you sick of the social selling hype yet?  Have you had your fill of the unrelenting BS that bombards you day in and day out about the miracle of social selling and how it makes selling so much easier, how it eliminates the horror of cold calling, the expense of advertising, the time consuming drudgery of attending networking events?

Or, have you bought into the hype and discovered that in reality it is nothing more than quicksand that will drag you down and destroy your business slowly?

The truth is there is a great deal of hype and BS going on about social selling.  There are promises of easy business, millions to be made quickly, and unlike prospecting and selling; it’s just all great fun.

But there is also a kernel of truth in all that hype.  Social selling does work—when recognized for what it really is and integrated into a comprehensive prospecting and selling process.

Despite what many preach, social selling isn’t meant to be a standalone business development strategy. 

It isn’t a panacea, freeing sellers from the day-to-day work of picking up the phone, of generating referrals, of attending networking events, and the other work of finding and connecting with quality prospects.

Social selling is an adjunct to traditional prospecting, not a replacement of it.  Adopting social selling as a part of your business plan doesn’t eliminate all of the traditional strategies you’ve used in the past, it simply makes those strategies a bit more effective while adding another way to find and connect with your prospects.

Finding and connecting with prospects is a complex problem for not all prospects are alike.  Your prospects will accept and respond to different means of approach—some will respond to cold calling, most won’t.  Some will respond to being approached through a referral—of course, that assumes you have a referral to them.  Some will respond to direct mail, others to being approached at a networking event, others through advertising, others through an email campaign.  And others will respond through social media connections.

It isn’t our prospect’s responsibility to respond to us in the way we want to connect with them; it is our responsibility to connect with our prospects in the way they will accept.  And that means we must employ a variety of strategies if we want to find and connect with a broad prospect base.

This is where social selling comes in, allowing us to find and connect with those prospects who prefer to connect via social media.

It also allows us to transfer or continue our relationship online with prospects and customers that are found through offline strategies.

Social selling can open many doors but it can’t replace our offline efforts to find and connect with prospects.  In fact, we should be spending only a small fraction of our time online—an hour or so daily.

Don’t buy the ridiculous hype being put forth by so many.

By all means embrace social selling, but don’t destroy your business by thinking that it will produce magical results and free you from the work of prospecting.

It won’t.

July 21, 2014

Guest Article: “Don’t Wait for a Bone,” by Tibor Shanto

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:42 pm
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Don’t Wait For A Bone
by Tibor Shanto

dog and boneNothing bothers me more than when a rep uses any expression relating to selling that includes a variation of “throw me a bone”. You hear this a lot especially in industries that are highly competitive, the buyers have viable options, and the risk of commoditization looms large.

Usually while discussing their prospecting efforts with an account currently serviced by a competitor, reps tells me how they follow up with and touch the client, in the hope that the buyer will “throw me a bone, and I can prove myself.”

You may say this is not prevalent, but it is much broader than most want to believe; especially when you look past the semantics, and focus on the underlying reality.  Many will phrase it differently, but the underlying attitude, is passive and lacks a cohesive action plan that permeates sales at all levels.

It certainly symptomatic of sellers who don’t understand the real value they can bring to a client, cannot articulate the value in a meaningful way, or both.  This in itself is not the worst thing sellers can face, as overcoming this is a question of will, learning and practice.  But the reps are not alone to blame in perpetuating this sheepish way of selling.  Many are left to themselves to figure things out, to define their value and how to communicate that to the various audiences involved in buying their offerings.  Many managers, who are really just old sellers with an “attaboy”, encourage their teams to do as they did, after all they must know what they are doing, they got the “attaboy”.

Some get no support from their marketing teams.  They produce lovely brochures, cool 3-D picture of the product, specs galore, not one line about business application, or how it may help the buyer beyond what the buyer already knows.  All culminating in the product comparing columns on the back page, with of course our product having the most check marks (even when no one cares about any of the features).

What angers me is the lack of willingness by many to do anything about the situation.  Not realizing that the effort to change it is not only less than the effort needed to continue to sell in this submissive and ineffective way.  Yes there is a learning curve that requires time and effort, and may at times cause bruising.  But once mastered, it require less ongoing effort to maintain, especially if you put processes in place.  Processes that include reviewing current engagements to understand, get a head of and respond to market trends and continue to be of value to the market and your buyers.

You may think this is only prevalent in simple, perhaps commoditized type of sales, not true.  I recently met with a counterpart who works with large ticket items, high six figures, what many may call a complex sale, and he sees the same issue, what he calls “bone catchers”.  Now I am all for relationships, but there has to be more to a relationship than a seller standing on his hind legs wagging his tail waiting for a buyer to flick a bone and some crumbs their way.

Tibor Shanto, Principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a 25-year veteran of B2B sales, Tibor has developed an insider’s hands on perspective of successful sales execution.  Get more of Tibor’s wisom at the Renbor blog, The Pipeline.

 

July 17, 2014

Overcoming Rejection is a Key to Success in Selling

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:07 pm
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If you sell you have to learn to deal with rejection.  It makes no difference what you sell, who you sell to, how experienced or inexperienced a seller you are, or how successful you are, the fact remains that you will hear “no” far more often than you hear “yes.”

How we handle the “no” is one of the keys to succeeding in sales. 

Depending on how you market, dealing with a “no” can be a direct, in-your-face rejection, or can be an anonymous trashing of our direct mail letter.  However, all of us must, at some point in the selling process, deal with the reality of rejection.

If you cold call, your rejection is immediate-and if your cold calling is done on the phone, can appear to be very personal.  When you call a complete stranger and they hang up on you or rudely tell you to get lost, the tendency is to take that as personal rejection.  The salesperson that has sent out a thousand direct mail letters actually suffers the same rejection but is protected by not knowing the recipient did not even look at the mail piece that they worked so hard to perfect.  In actuality, the rejection is the same–the individual is rejecting your offer, not you.  But one salesperson must hear in a loud, clear click his rejection, while the other never hears the soft drop of the letter into the trash.

Worse, once you get the opportunity to get in front of a prospect, the “no’s” continue to come.  You make your presentation.  You get your no.  You answer the prospect’s objections–and you get your no.  You drive home your close–and you get your no.  Repeatedly, at times, it seems that no is the only word people know.

Then, finally, you get a qualified yes.  The prospect agrees to purchase IF you can do this or that, usually something out of the ordinary.  YES!  Finally, someone has his checkbook out and is ready to go, all you need is a little help from your sales manager.  And, then, it happens again.  Your sales manager says NO.  Sometimes you feel that you not only have to fight prospects, but your company also.

You managed to get your manager on board?  Great.  Now all you have to do is get the warehouse to agree to nudge a delivery in a little earlier than the calendar allows.  And, again, no.

Do the “no’s” ever stop?  No.

Of course, there are the yes’s–and that is what keeps us going, striving to get to that occasional yes.  However, all of those “no’s” can stop us dead in our tracks if we allow them.

How we handle the “no’s” is the key to how we get to the “yes’s.”

Attitude is one of the great limiters of salespeople.  People have a tendency to anticipate outcomes and many times that anticipation has an influence on the actual outcome.  If you approach a task with a defeatist attitude, there is a good chance that you will fail.  If you approach the same task with an attitude of success, there is a good chance you will succeed.  Why?  Several reasons, but two are of importance to our discussion.

First,if we assume we will fail, we will not give our best effort.  Why should we?  We already know the outcome before we even try to tackle the problem.  After all, we are just wasting our time.

Secondly,our prospect can read the defeatism in our voice and body language.  Moreover, if we do not believe in what we are saying, how in the world can we expect a prospect to believe it?

Consequently, in order to be successful, we must be able to take the rejection we experience and deal with it in a positive manner.  We have to find a way to eliminate the residual negative feelings we have from the rejection that seems to be all around us.

Advice for handling rejection has generally centered on either understanding that each “no” gets us closer to “yes” or understanding that, since the prospect does not know us as an individual, the rejection cannot be personal but is rather a rejection of the offer we made.

Both of these are true statements.  For many of us, neither gives us much relief.

So, if the traditional methods of dealing with rejection do not seem to work very well, what can we do to rearrange our attitudes?  It seems we need to find a format that will give us the opportunity to offset the rejection with success.  We need to institute a program that will allow our brains to regroup and experience the joy and positive reinforcement of getting the yes’s that offset the “no’s.”

How can we create a method to give our brains the positive yes’s it needs to readjust after receiving a chorus of no’s?

One method that has been very successfully used by a number of salespeople is to set aside tasks during the day where they know for certain they will be successful.  You have a contract to sign with a new client?  Try to schedule it later in the day, after you have done your cold calling tour of duty for the day.  End the day on the positive note of signing a contract.  Have a couple of very strong referrals to call?  Again, make the positive calls after you have made your cold calls.  Save the best for last.

Some salespeople have found that reversing this schedule leads to more productive cold calling time.  Having just come from signing a contract or having made two very successful calls to strong referrals gives them the positive mental attitude needed to sound strong and convincing on the phone when they make their cold calls.

Better yet, try to arrange your schedule where you have two or more positive tasks to perform each day and split them up so your brain is readjusted several times during the course of the day.  The more regularly you can feed your brain positive experiences, the easier it is to deal with rejection.  Rejection becomes the exception, rather than the norm.

Other salespeople use bribery to handle their rejection.  Bribery comes in all forms and fashions.  The salesperson will assign themselves a certain number of phone calls or presentations or other tasks that they must perform and then, as a reward, they allow themselves to do something they desire to do–work on their client files, go to lunch, work on marketing materials, or some such.  Others reward themselves with new cloths or some other object.  Others will allow themselves to go home early or take a day off at some point in the future.

Other salespeople have found that detaching themselves from the rejection allows them to ignore their rejection.  These salespeople will use a number of impersonal prospecting methods, such as direct mail, email blasts, and advertising.  By not experiencing the rejection first-hand, they believe they can be more positive and successful when dealing directly with a prospect when making a full presentation.

My experience has been that methods two and three have serious drawbacks.  Let us take each in turn:

Bribing yourself can become expensive-both in terms of the rewards you give yourself, whether buying something for yourself or allowing yourself time off.  In addition, it really does not reprogram your brain.  All it really does is encourage you to get through the task as quickly as possible to get your reward.  If the reward discourages quality work during the task, it really is not a reward for doing the task, but is rather a reward for putting on the show of doing the task.

The third method–using an impersonal prospecting tool to replace direct prospect contact can also be dangerous.  There certainly is not anything intrinsically wrong with marketing via direct mail, advertising, emails, and such-as long as the object is not to avoid prospect contact.  Besides being relatively expensive, these methods of prospecting should be a supplement to your direct prospect contact, not a substitute.  Unfortunately, if your objective becomes avoiding prospect contact to insulate yourself from direct prospecting and rejection, the task of sending out direct mail pieces, sending emails, constructing ads, etc. become the goals in and of themselves.  They no longer become a format for increasing your potential pool of prospects, but rather they become the reason for your existence–you live to create the perfect direct mail piece that generates interest and sells your product or service without your involvement at all.

Arranging your schedule to allow daily activities that reinforce your positive selling activities, including prospecting. tends to be the most successful way to deal with rejection.  Certainly, if you happen to be one of the lucky few who can simply ignore the rejection you receive, I envy you.  Nevertheless, for the vast majority of us in sales, we must find a process that allows us to reformat our brains after experiencing sustained rejection.  Allowing our brains to experience success on a regular basis, particularly after having experienced rejection, seems to be the attitude adjustment mechanism that works best for the majority of us.  Try arranging your schedule to purposely take advantage of the successes you know you will experience every day.  Place them in your schedule when you know your attitude will need their positive influence and you will see a marked difference in the way you handle rejection.

July 15, 2014

Book Review: Neuro-Sell:How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success

neuro-sell2How buyers buy and how sellers can use this information to sell to buyers in a manner that matches the way buyers buy has been the subject of much discussion over the past several years. A new contribution to this discussion is Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success (Kogan Page: 2013), by Simon Hazeldine.

Hazeldine sets out a process he calls Adaptive Selling, a process he developed that seeks to understand the purchasing personality of the prospect and then adapt the sales process to match the needs of the prospect’s purchasing style.

The first four chapters of Neuro-Sell are a discussion of neuroscience and how the brain works and how that influences the purchasing decision. Although the information is technical, the author reduces it to a level that lay people can understand, including how each part of the brain impacts the purchasing process.

In the fifth chapter we’re introduced to the Adaptive Selling model which requires sellers to “flex, alter and vary” their sales approach depending on a number of variable such as the product or service being sold, what stage of the buying process the prospect is in, the wants or needs of the prospect, and the personality and buying style of the prospect. Hazeldine says that

“the theory behind adaptive selling is the successful outcome of a selling situation is determined by both the customer’s deliberation of the benefits of the product or
service being offered and the customer’s experience during the sales interaction.   The salesperson’s ability to create the right chemistry, rapport and connection with
the customer will be as important as the ability to communicate the key benefits of the proposal to the customer.”

In order to create that right “chemistry, rapport and connection” the seller must understand how the buyer buys and adapt his/her process to the prospect’s buying style. That, obviously, requires the seller to recognize and understand the buyer’s buying personality.

The key to understanding the buyer’s personality and buying nature is PRISM Brain Mapping, an on-line neuroscience based behavior profiling instrument. Through the use of the PRISM instrument, Hazeldine has created four distinct categories of buyers and their personality and buying characteristics, each category corresponding to one of four quadrants of the brain that are associated with the specific behavioral preferences of the buyer.

Adaptive selling requires the seller to discover which of the four buying personalities he or she is dealing with and then adapt their process to that personality.
The Adaptive Selling process in its most basic format consists of:

  •  considering who the customer is by researching them and understanding their industry and business and by thoroughly understanding your products and services
  • maximizing the prospect’s comfort through connecting with them and the use of Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques
  • establishing context and catalyze, that is gaining a detailed understanding of the issues, needs, and goals of the prospect
  • the fourth stage of the process is to convince “the customer’s brain that the action you will be proposing is a positive one, and that it will move the customer away from the pain of the problem and towards the reward that your solution will provide”
  • the final stage is to close the deal.

Hazeldine encourages each reader of the book to go to his website and take a version of the PRISM Brain Mapping instrument that will give them a report on their own particular purchasing personality. Taking the instrument will allow you to get a more comprehensive view of how brain mapping works—and also gives you the opportunity to compare the findings to what you know about yourself and test its accuracy. Maybe you’ll learn some new things about how and why you act the way you do.

In the end Neuro-Sell is a combination of the old and the new as much of the findings discussed in the book simply confirm what has been around the selling arena for years, while bringing into play some new and interesting findings about how the brain works and why each of us has a unique way of looking at the world and making purchasing decisions—and how that information can be used to make sellers more effective.

Some will complain that the process seems too manipulative. I personally don’t think that to be valid as selling, as with a great deal of life, has to do with persuasion and by its very nature persuasion, too some extent deals, with manipulation. The question I don’t think is whether the process is manipulation but instead is to what purpose is the manipulation taking place? Consequently no discussion of the selling process or methodology can stand alone but must also be married to a discussion of ethics. But that’s for another discussion.

July 14, 2014

Guest Article: “The Dichotomy of Sales!,” by Lynn Hindy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:02 am
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The Dichotomy of Sales!
by Lynn Hidy

I was working with a relatively new inside salesperson recently and we uncovered he was facing the Dichotomy of Sales!

not sure what dichotomy is? Merriam Webster says “something with seemingly contradictory qualities”

On one side: it is all about making commission
On the other side: it is all about making sure the customer solves their problem

The reason I picked the definition I did was the word “seemingly” – actually, these two things are not contradictory.

Rather, when you go into every interaction with a prospect with the intention and belief – it is all about making sure the customer solves their problem – ultimately you will make more commission!

It is really all about: balance, technique, skill, and bravery.

* balance – to ensure that both of you get something out of the relationship. Their problems are solved AND you make commission.

* technique – asking the right questions to uncover real problems, listening to their answers, communication is your responsibility! Not just information – but also communicating your intention.

* skill – taking the time to actually practice the craft of sales, not to manipulate a prospect… rather to ensure you know you’re the best fit for the opportunity.

* bravery – to believe that making it all about THEM will get you what you want as well!

A little like skateboarding; without balance, you’ll fall flat on your face. If you haven’t learned the techniques to do that new trick, again falling is inevitable. Without taking the time to turn technique into true skill and mastery your performance will be inconsistent. Plus you have to bravely believe you CAN do it.

Lynn Hidy, founder of UpYourTeleSales.com, is the expert at creating profitable telesales salespeople and organizations. She knows you can make six figures over the phone – she does it!  Get more of Lynn at the Up Your TeleSales blog.

July 11, 2014

Never Again Struggle with Staying in Contact with Prospects

Do you have a proven process for insuring that your relationships with prospects are continually moving forward in a manner that is purposeful and leads to the natural culmination of the process? In other words, are you and your prospect always on the same page, consciously and constantly moving forward to a purchase decision? Or do you, as most sellers do, approach the sales relationship process haphazardly without knowing where the relationship is going—and often not knowing where it should go?

Rather than shooting from the hip, making follow-up calls to prospects without having an idea of how or why to make the call, you can turn the sales follow-up process into an organized and logical progression that makes the sales process comfortable and valuable for both your prospect and yourself.

Unless you are engaged in a one-time close sale, you know going into the initial meeting with a prospect that your sales cycle will require you to maintain contact with them over an extended period of time before the sale is consummated, whether that be a week, a month, or a year.  Since you know you will have to follow-up with additional information, more meetings, a proposal, a committee presentation, and/or a formal needs analysis, you should be fully prepared to carry the relationship forward, knowing exactly what your next move will be before you ever enter the initial meeting with the prospect.

After only a short exposure to meetings with prospects you have seen virtually all of the variances your meetings can take, from the prospect that shows a great deal of interest, to those who show no interest at all, and everything in-between.  Once exposed, you have no reason not to be fully prepared to take control of the situation when exposed to that type of prospect again.

Since you will see the same basic situations over and over again with your prospects, you should know exactly what the next step in your process will be before you wrap up the initial meeting with your prospect.  Instead of going back to your office and wondering what to do next, you should have already agreed with your prospect on the next step to take, whether that be another meeting, sending follow-up information, or simply putting the prospect on your long-term touch program—or removing the prospect altogether because they really are not a prospect.

Think of the sale as a staircase with a number of alternate stairways branching off of the main staircase.   If you are familiar with the drawings of E.M. Escher, think of his etchings of stairways where there are myriad branches but all stairways eventually lead to the same location.  That’s your sales stairway with all of the branches eventually leading to your central location-the sale.  Some stairways are short and direct, others take a very circuitous route.

Your job is to have planned each route and to know exactly what you must do to guide your prospect through the stairway he or she has chosen.  To do that you must have a well defined plan, knowing exactly what your moves will be well ahead of time.

The first step in your staircase is, of course, setting the initial appointment.  That step naturally leads to your second step-the appointment itself.  Unfortunately, that is where the staircase ends for many salespeople, not knowing what the next step for any particular prospect should be.  Don’t allow yourself to ever be put in that position.

Just as the first step-setting the appointment-lead naturally to the second, your second step should lead naturally to your third step, and so on throughout the sales process.  What your third step is will depend on what transpired during the initial appointment since your prospect may choose one of several staircases to climb.

For most of us, the initial appointment serves numerous purposes, one of which is qualifying the prospect.  In fact, for many, the appointment isn’t with a prospect at all, but is rather with a suspect–someone we think, or maybe just hope, might be a prospect.  During the initial meeting one of your primary jobs is to determine if the suspect is a prospect, and if they are, what type of prospect–short-term or longer-term.  Your staircase will branch off in different directions depending on whether you determine the suspect is not a prospect at all, is a short-term prospect, or a long-term prospect.

If you determine your suspect is not a prospect, your staircase ends with this meeting.  There is no need to pursue them further.

If you determine your prospect is a short-term prospect, your staircase will continue, but you’ll have to decide during the meeting which branch of the staircase to lead your prospect–are you going to set another meeting, present a proposal, send or deliver additional information, or is another move appropriate?

The key to building your staircase and your relationship is to have your prospect agree on the next move before the end of the meeting, and in order to do that you must know both what the logical next move for the particular prospect is and where that move is going to lead in the sales process.  Never leave a meeting without agreeing on what will happen next and when it will happen:

  • Are you going to research an issue for the prospect?  If so, when will you deliver the results of your research and how will you deliver them-in person, via an email, or will you send them via the mail?   Once delivered, what is the next logical step to have your prospect agree to?
  • Will there be a second meeting?  Set a date and time and a specific goal for the meeting before you leave the initial meeting.
  • Are you going to get the prospect additional information or data?  If so, agree with your prospect when and how the information will be delivered and the anticipated results of supplying the information, as well as what the next step after the information has been delivered should be.

The key to building your stairway and leading the prospect to the sale is to always have your next step built before you finish the step you are on.  If you are to deliver information, know exactly what information to deliver, how you will deliver it and agree on what will happen once the information is in your prospect’s hand.  If your are setting a meeting, agree on the time and date, the goals for the meeting and the next step to be taken after the meeting.

Don’t rely on chance, luck, or happenstance–plan your moves well in advance and gain your prospect’s agreement and commitment.

Planning your moves is not difficult.  If you are meeting with a short-term prospect you know what the likely next moves will be, in fact, there are probably only a handful of possible moves.  For some prospects the next move will be another meeting, for others additional information, for others possibly a demonstration or a proposal.  Since you know what to anticipate, have a clearly defined plan of action for each eventuality.

Build the third step in your staircase the same way.  During the second meeting you gain your prospect’s agreement on what should take place next and then set a specific time and date for that step along with specific goals for that step.  When delivering the agreed upon research, agree with your client on the next step and again set a specific time and date and goals for the next step in the process.

By continually gaining agreement from your prospect to the next step in the process, you keep your prospect engaged, you continually monitor the prospect’s level of interest, and you prevent yourself from falling into the awkward situation of wondering how to re-engage your prospect.  Never leave a meeting or finish a conversation with your prospect without knowing what will happen next, when it will happen, and what the anticipated results of the step will be.

If you find you are working with a long-term prospect, you build a staircase that, like an Escher staircase, takes a longer, less direct route to the sale, but just as with a short-term prospect, you guide the prospect along a stairway that you know leads to the purchase decision.  Your steps may have longer intervals and may entail less direct interaction, but they must still be agreed upon by your prospect.  These steps may include your monthly or quarterly newsletter, scheduled phone calls at a specific future date, or even calls based on specific future events such as the release of a new product or the passing of a specific threshold such as the beginning of a new quarter.

Prior to your next appointment with a prospect or suspect, create your staircase and map out a logical route to the sale for each scenario you are likely to encounter.  Although you’ll have stairways branching off from your main staircase, you’ll probably have no more than a handful of branches for short-term prospects and probably no more than two or three for your long-term prospects.

Lay out on paper each logical step for each branch and then plan how you will lead your prospect to agreeing to each step along the way.  Although many salespeople believe writing out scripts is fake and insincere, be aware that you will eventually create an effective-or ineffective–script that you’ll use over and over to introduce and seek agreement from your prospect to the next step to be taken.  You can either leave the creation of your script to the spur of the moment as you are standing in front of your client, or you can take the time and care to do it while you can carefully think through the best way to introduce the next step and gain your client’s agreement.  Either way, you’ll eventually end up with a script you’ll use over and over.

You don’t have to be like the majority of salespeople who struggle to keep in touch with their prospects and move them along the sales process.  Instead of worrying about what to say, when to contact a prospect, or how to get your prospect to move along the process, simply build the next step while you’re with your prospect.  Not only will it give you more confidence since you know you’re in control, you’ll close more sales and close them faster-and that’s a good move.

July 9, 2014

Book Review: The Innovative Sale: Unleash Your Creativity for Better Customer Solutions and Extraordinary Results

the innovative saleOne of the truisms of selling is that the goal of the seller should be to discover a customer’s problem and to present a real solution to that problem.  No longer are we to simply sell a product or service.  Instead we are to become consultants, understanding the real root issues our clients have and solve those issues in a manner that adds concrete value to the client.

The problem is that for most of us the solution we devise is the same solution that our competitors come up with—and much of the time our solution is really nothing more than a rationale for why our product or service is the one our customer should purchase.

For most of us there is little—maybe no—problem solving other than figuring a way to justify the purchase of our product or service.

Possibly the reason we so seldom create real solutions to client problems isn’t because we don’t want to but because we’ve never been taught how to think through a problem and create a solution.

Mark Donnolo, author of The Innovative Sale: Unleash Your Creativity for Better Customer Solutions and Extraordinary Results (AMACOM:  2014), offers a unique perspective on how to develop and implement creative solutions to customer problems.

Donnolo approaches the subject of creative problem solving from the perspective of an artist and seller, certainly a perspective much different than most of us sellers.  Donnolo graduated from The University of the Arts with a degree in Art and worked for a New York design firm, eventually working as a designer for one of the top branding agencies in the world.  In time he decided to enter the University of North Carolina and earned an MBA which eventually lead to his thinking through the dilemma sellers have when trying to solve client issues.

For the past 25 years Donnolo has been working with sales teams teaching them how to be creative problem solvers.  That work is the basis for The Innovative Sale.

The Innovative Sale isn’t a theory book but rather a practical guide to learning how to become a creative problem solver.

Creativity isn’t one dimensional, Donnolo says, but rather there is “artistic” creativity that we associate with artists and there is “functional” creativity which is the creativity we sellers need to develop.

Artistic creativity “leans heavily toward expression and the unconstrained innovation seen in” the arts, whereas functional creativity “is defined by its objective outcomes.  With functional creativity, there is a right answer.”

Within the arena of sales innovation Donnolo identifies three major dilemmas that must be dealt with:

The Dilemma of Perception: In sales innovation “you’re not prancing around with finger paints to find your inner Picasso.  You’re solving a sales challenge in a creative way that will differentiate you from competitors.”

The Dilemma of Constraints: As sellers we must work within many constraints and limitations—but. he argues. constraints enable creativity.

The Dilemma of Personality:  “Innovative ideas for sales organizations require the best of both brains: the left brain’s ability to work within the constraints of a process and sales context, and the right brain’s inclination to think freely.”

From his discussion of these three dilemmas, Donnolo moves to a discussion of the 6 principles of the innovative sale:

The Principle of Pattern: “our instinct to find related ideas in any given situation,” i.e., our tendency to look for solutions from past experience or instances we’ve heard about where a solution might lie.

The Principle of Variety:  Seeking a large number of potential solutions instead of sticking with only what we’ve used in the past.

The Principle of Unity: Refers to how all the pieces and individuals involved work together.

The Principle of Contrast: “In sales innovation, contrast invites the sales team to critically question and push back against established practices.”

The Principle of Movement:  The progression through the innovative process.  “Innovative ideas rarely occur in a flash.”  Creative innovation is a development process, not artistic inspiration.

The Principle of Harmony:  Making sure the solution developed can be implemented by the client.

Each of these principles is fleshed out with 18 imperatives.

The bulk of the book then proceeds to apply these principles and imperatives to developing creative solutions to sales challenges, as well as an excellent chapter on using the innovative sale approach to developing your Vale Proposition.

I’ll save you from all of the book review clichés since there are no books that are “must reads” or “indispensable” or “must be on every seller’s bookshelf.”  This is, however, an excellent book that presents a process that can help you or your sales team develop creative solutions to client issues that just might help set your apart from your competition.

 

July 7, 2014

Guest Article: “Beware of Who’s Preaching that Prospecting No Longer Works to Develop New Business,” by Mike Weinberg

Beware of Who’s Preaching that Prospecting No Longer Works to Develop New Business
by Mike Weinberg

There is a lot of noise and confusion about prospecting in the sales world.

It’s always been hard to get salespeople to prospect for new business — even when proactively pursuing strategic target accounts was widely accepted as a valid method for acquiring new customers.  Today, the false teachers, many from the Sales 2.0 movement, loudly proclaim that prospecting is dead and completely ineffective for developing new business.

Be on guard when you hear people preaching that prospecting no longer works.  Be careful because it is exactly what your itching ears want to hear.  No one really likes to do the grunt work involved to prospect successfully, especially if it involves cold calling. So it is natural for us to gravitate toward those who tell us what we want to believe.  It’s the same concept our parents taught us:  It matters who your friends are.  Much of our subjective truth is based on the beliefs of those we choose to listen to.

Here’s what I’ve noticed over the past couple of years as a coach and consultant to business to business sales teams:   Those with the loudest voices boldly proclaiming that prospecting is ineffective and that proactively pursuing target accounts who aren’t coming to you is a waste of time, are not only wrong, but they also have an agenda.

There are two distinct camps of loud voices preaching the deadly advice that many in sales are excited to hear.

The first camp is filled with  your under-performing colleagues in sales.  These are the folks who survived, or possibly thrived, when times were good and there was plenty inbound demand for what they sold.  For the most part, they never had to prospect for new business. It came looking for them.  Or they were so skilled at account and relationship management, they benefitted from an abundance of opportunity at existing accounts during good economic times. These people did well without ever having to go out, turn over new rocks, hunt for new relationships, etc.  So, now, in tougher times, not only do they not want to proactively prospect for new accounts, truthfully, they don’t know how.  And because of their own fears, struggles and current poor results, they don’t want you to prospect either. You get it? They are failing and the last thing they want to see is you succeeding picking up new business when they’re not.  They’re scared, lost and confused.  And they figure that the louder they yell that prospecting doesn’t work that a) you will listen and agree, and b) they may not be forced to do it themselves.

The second group motivated to turn you against prospecting are those in the Sales 2.0 camp peddling products, services and content for Inbound Marketing.  Don’t over-read into that statement.  There are some incredible sales minds and great people delivering huge value to the sales community from the 2.0 group. And I’m as big a fan as anyone of integrating new media and smart inbound marketing into our business development initiatives.  But there is also a contingent of false teachers vehemently declaring that prospecting is passé, worthless, dead . . .  that “old” methods don’t work anymore.  And it just so happens that many of these same folks stand ready to sell you their solution so you never have to cold call again. Not exactly unbiased advice, is it?

We can embrace the new without discarding the old.  Social media and inbound marketing are great supplements to, not replacements for, our personal prospecting efforts.  Pay attention to who is telling you not to prospect for new business.  I bet there’s a good chance they’re from one of the groups described above.

Mike Weinberg is the author of New Sales. Simplified: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development.  Find more of Mike’s wisdom at The New Sales Coach blog.

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