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Archive for July, 2010

There’s No Summer Slumber. People Will Still Spend Their Money.

July 29th, 2010

We are right in the middle of summer, and I love the summer. And in the midst of this nice warm weather, it may be strange to say that I also love the winter-but I do.

That’s when the business world almost uniformly decides to go into a slumber because they believe buying slows down. That’s called a self-limiting belief. That’s when I’m at my best because this is what I have found-people actually still have money and are willing to spend it if you’re good enough to find their pain.

You see, businesses today are not spending money on pleasure and fluff. They are, however, willing to spend money at any time of the year on things they need or that are going to save them money, avoid a cost or help them increase their revenue. You have to get really good, really fast at learning how to find pain, and you need to work on having patience so you do not pull the trigger too soon, but learn how to develop the pain and find the emotional connections that will make your prospects spend their money.

Owners, quit taking excuses that people don’t have money because they do for the things they want and the things they need to solve problems.

Good salespeople don’t even know there is a recession because they are good at finding the pain.

Illustration by Rob Green


Video: Sandler’s Point of Difference

July 27th, 2010

Sandler CEO Dave Mattson discusses why Sandler isn’t just your typical sales training seminar. Sandler is more than just a couple of sales tips; it’s a proven system based on continual reinforcement and incremental learning that results in a permanent behavior change. To see how there’s no “quick fix” to sales, leadership and management training, visit sandler.com.


Ouch! That Stings: How Salespeople Got a Bad Rep

July 26th, 2010

I’ve spent a lot of time considering why the occupation of selling has been given such a low approval rating over the past 40 years. It wasn’t always that way. Here’s a story that got me thinking about this again.

A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

Bud looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high resolution photo.The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Blackberry that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized LaserJet printer and turns to the cowboy and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your occupation is, will you give me back my calf?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a salesman”, says Bud.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required.” answered the cowboy. “You showed up here like you knew everything; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter you are than me; and you don’t know a thing about cows. This is a herd of sheep.”

“Now give me back my dog.”

It’s a funny story, but there is a stinging sense of truth about what Bud the cowboy is saying; this is the image of the modern day salesperson to many people, and it should not be the case. The title, “professional salesperson” should mean something. Selling is an honorable profession done by people who are very skilled and uniquely talented, and only the most focused, organized, driven, conscientious people achieve at the highest level in selling.

One of the mistakes made by many companies in hiring for their sales force is that generally they have low barriers to entry and low accountability for their sales teams. If you make it easy for people to get in and you don’t hold them accountable, you are destined to have a low performing sales organization. In any great organization-whether it’s a club, church, business or your family-the standards for membership must be high and the accountability must be rigid if you want results to be high.

Professional selling is not a game for cowards; it’s a tough business, it’s an honorable business, and if you’re good at it, you have one of the most secure jobs on the planet and probably rank in the top 5% of wage earners in the world. The word “professional” should be a noun, not an adjective. Think of what the word professional implies in every other context. A professional athlete, a business professional, a professional author, a professional painter, a professional photographer, or a professional plumber or electrician implies that they are the best, they are trained, they are skilled at their craft and art and usually they have chosen it because they have special talents or abilities which support their craft. Selling should be no less so.

If you’re a trained professional salesperson, you have a tremendous business advantage.

I get to meet a lot of salespeople. If you’re privileged to be one of the 18 million salespeople in the U.S., are you a professional?

Illustration by Rob Green


Ban Your Proposals and Close More of Your Sales

July 21st, 2010

I propose a ban on proposals! I find them to be an enormous waste of time as no one has ever in the history of sales purchased anything solely based on the proposal.

We unwittingly taught all prospects that they simply have to ask and we will provide them with all the information they need in order to deal with their problem.

Proposals are time consuming pages usually filled with features, benefits, rhetoric, justifications, marketing data and, oh yes, let’s not forget your lowest price. By the way, there is usually enough information in each document for the prospect to fix the problem without you. I call them “unpaid consulting” because you won’t be paid for these efforts.

In this economy, I receive no less than five requests per week for proposals that are nothing more than the opportunity to provide free consulting. I guess they’re counting on the “law of big numbers” for success. That is if enough requests are sent out surely someone will be desperate enough to supply the information that is required.

In most cases the perpetrators do not even want to meet with me nor do they have any intention of doing business with me. They just want my recommendation so they can compare it to their existing trainer or shop it around to the trainers they are really considering.

One was so bold as to say he just wanted me to fax him my best price to train his organization of ten salespeople. I sent him a piece of paper and the only thing on it was $10.2 million, certainly a lot more than I charge for training, but enough to make my point. He called and said he was extremely offended by my action. When I asked why, he said, “Your price is way out of line.” I explained my deed by saying that he probably would have said that to whatever number I gave him so I just saved myself a lot of wasted effort assembling the document.

He thought about it for a moment and asked if I could teach his people that “move,” as they spend their days and the company’s resources sending out proposals that go nowhere. He invited me in for a meeting during which he vented his frustration at the amount of time his estimators wasted sending out proposals that closed at an 18 percent rate.

It would be interesting to analyze, whether you are a salesperson or business owner, how much of your company’s resources are eaten up by proposals that won’t ever close. What would happen to a prospect, serious about doing business with you, if they couldn’t get a proposal? How would that change your sales call?

That said, if you choose to ignore my recommendation to ban all proposals, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from those who want to steal your information:

  1. Commit to building stronger relationships so there is less reliance on the proposal. Weak relationships usually mean that the only way to close the prospect is with a lowball price.
  2. Do not submit proposals if there are more than two other competitors who will also submit them. Your odds diminish as more proposals are reviewed. It used to be that the average was three proposals per project and now I find there are between five and 12 in the mix.
  3. Get a commitment for a decision-yes, no or “clear future”-before you submit the proposal. You have the most power before they review your information and there is nothing worse than getting a “think it over” at the end. “Think it over” is simply a veiled NO given by a prospect who didn’t have the guts to say it to you personally or who wishes to shop you around.
  4. Once a week, conduct a “close the sale or close the file” meeting with your proposals. In this meeting, determine what you should do to move this proposal forward to a sale or close it out as it is dead.
  5. Develop the mindset that “knowledge is power” and place a monetary value on your information. It has taken years to gain the knowledge and industry insights that lie within your brain. Make prospects earn it instead of giving it up because you are flattered that they want it.

Image by Rob Green


Low Self-Esteem: 100% Fatal for Salespeople

July 19th, 2010

Q: What’s the one thing a salesperson must avoid if they are to be successful?

A: I study salespeople for a living. The majority of them don’t lose because of product inferiority, pricing excesses or poor sales technique. They lose because of low self-esteem! We all start out with perfect self-esteem. Ever met any three-year-olds with self-esteem problems? Didn’t think so.

We do, however, meet a lot of salespeople with a crippling success disease caused by “low self-esteem.” This disease is 100% fatal in destroying a salesperson’s potential and performance.

Signs salespeople exhibit when they suffer from low self-esteem are:

  • Lots of excuses
  • Quick to become defensive
  • Enjoys seeing others struggle
  • Nervous and bails out quickly in tough negotiations
  • Call reluctance (phone handset weighs 60 pounds)
  • Avoids taking risks for fear of failure

Solutions for low self esteem:

  • Get them proper training
  • Give unconditional strokes
  • Eliminate critical coaching
  • Facilitate stretch goals
  • Don’t just manage results, manage behavior and technique
  • Spend 50% of the coaching on self-esteem, the other 50% on technique and product knowledge

When all else fails, avoid hiring these people. An organization whose salespeople have strong self-esteem consistently outperforms others by 40-50%.

Illustration by Rob Green


How Do You Respond to Your Client’s Budget Objections

July 15th, 2010

Many salespeople bail out long before they get thrown out. Do you ever wonder why so many salespeople leave a sales opportunity too early?

Salespeople often enter a sales discussion worried about the inevitable money step. What will I say? What will I do? What if they don’t like the price we are charging? What if they can’t afford it? All these questions linger in the mind of the salesperson not only before, but during the sales presentation. It can often be the result of the salesperson’s own mindset about money: “Is my product worth what I’m charging? Could I pay for it if I were in their shoes? Is this too expensive? Do my competitors offer something less expensive? Is my product any better?” These thoughts impact a salesperson in their work with a prospect. This doubt can often diminish the enthusiasm and excitement that a salesperson shows for their product or service. A good prospect can smell the fear and doubt in a salesperson’s mind about their very own self-confidence, or their product, or their price. The salesperson that shows the least amount of doubt will be the most powerful.

The mental part of the sales process is critical, but so is the salesperson’s selling technique – the ability for the salesperson to understand the true pain and problems of their prospect and their understanding of how to uniquely solve those challenges for the prospect. That technique doesn’t come automatically-it’s practice, practice, practice, studying and more studying. It’s understanding your product/service and its power, and also your own skill in managing a sales conversation. When we talk about technique, we are not talking about moves or tricky statements. Technique is the sense of putting the right things in the right place at the right time. Salespeople bail out because their mental focus is weak and their technique is poor.

A professional selling technique reveals that when you talk about money to your prospect before there is a real understanding of what the problems are, money will seem out of place. It will be an uncomfortable feeling; it will be a difficult conversation. It would be no different than sitting down for dinner and asking for the check before you’ve ordered. When things are put in place, when things are orderly, when the salesperson really and truly understands their role and guides the conversation (technique), many of the pricing questions and challenges that occur in a sales conversation are never seen, never experienced, and for the best salespeople in the world, it is truly an engaging and fulfilling opportunity.

Salespeople who understand the problems they solve and the real pain that they eliminate for their prospects move through the budget step in the easiest, most profitable manner.

Recognizing that the mental aspects of a sale and the technique used is critical, I have provided some typical technique responses for you to consider when faced with the five most hated words in sales:

“Your price is too high.”

These responses when used alone are not powerful. They are not tricks or moves. They are simple transition techniques, ways to go from where you are to where you need to be. They are not designed to shock or to challenge or to change the prospect’s mind; they are simple transitions to help you go back to pain if there is a budget challenge or to really, truly understand what the prospect is trying to communicate when they say certain things.

This is where your technique becomes critical. Watch, study, learn, practice, role play, read about your technique and particularly the technique of transitioning from pain to budget. Here are some examples to consider: (more…)


The Fourth Wall of Business

July 12th, 2010

In the theater, the “fourth wall” is the wall between the actors and the audience. Behind this wall, the world of the actors is exactly as the audience imagines it. The good guys and the bad guysall fit within the story being told. If the fourth wall is “broken” the audience is directly acknowledged-the spell is broken. Once broken, the fourth wall is hard to reconstruct and the audience may not be happy. Think of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables during first act, turning to the audience and speaking in a normal, loud Brooklyn accent, “Yo, couldja get off the cell phone? I’m tryin to work here!”

The Fourth Wall of Business is similar. As the owner of your business, your employees look up to you. As a leader, you are their “hero.” If you are a customer service pro, clients look to you as their rescuer. Doctors, Attorneys, Accountants, Architects are the professionals we place on a pedestal.The pressure is to maintain the “fourth wall.”

Owners and professionals break the fourth wall with actions that don’t fit with the story. When employees see the boss crying, drunk, acting out, cheating, lying, or acting out of character, then the spell is broken.Years ago, my father was loyal to his physician, until one day the doctor told my dad “your gall bladder needs to come out.” My father picked up his coat and left the office without a word. The doctor called him later that night and my father told him, “It’s in my record that I had my gall bladder out 10 years ago, goodbye.” This was an honest mistake, but for my dad the fourth wall was broken; the hero was an illusion.

All leaders must always be leaders-in and out of the office. People follow people who are like them, they like them and there is a mutual respect. Business relationships are frequently dissolved for “they just are not the same person anymore.” In my career, I have seen bosses cry, cheat, lie, cause others to lie—all outside the character I thought them to be. They lost my loyalty and my relationship changed to one of mutual distrust. Why? Because if they would do it to clients, they will do it to me. They broke the veil of the fourth wall. Yet prior to the break— I was blindly loyal.

Leadership is a Broadway play, performed by a psychiatrist!

Read your audience, know your lines, and be what the audience expects-every time.


Having a Poor Memory Is Essential to Sales Success

July 9th, 2010

How’s your memory? Do you fall into the category as described the old adage, “I’d forget my head if it wasn’t connected to my body”? Are you constantly setting traps for yourself to be on time for meetings or where your car keys are placed or what’s supposed to be happening on your schedule from hour to hour?

Based on the title of this article, you might think I would congratulate you and say there’s research or evidence that great salespeople fall into this category, but actually those issues are more about being forgetful, even in some cases being disrespectful. You need to fix that, and you need to be more organized, consistent and focused. There is no place in the upper echelon of sales professionals for being forgetful, being disrespectful, or being inconsiderate in your scheduling.

However — and this is a big however — there is a huge difference between being forgetful and something I find essential for salespeople: having a ‘poor sales memory’.

Sound contradictory? Let me explain.

Sales memory is about how well you recall recent and historical events in your work. Salespeople live in a world of rejection. They live in a world of constant pushback, accountability and public comparison, and while that doesn’t sound like a great advertisement for a career, I’ve never seen a top level salesperson who doesn’t have the ability to erase those memories-and I mean totally remove from their memory all events that could impact their desire, self-esteem or results.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Your past is not your past if it still affects your future!” Or maybe the one by Mark Twain that goes, “Your inability to forget is infinitely more destructive than your inability to remember.” As a sales professional, if you remember rejection and negative comparisons and comments from prospects, they will build a spider web in your mind that will absolutely paralyze your ability to function. Sales pros erase from their memory comments like:

  • “Your price is too high. That’s why we can’t do business.”
  • “Your product is just like everyone else’s.”
  • “We’ve got a great relationship with our current vendor. We don’t need you.”
  • “We’re not interested.”
  • “How did you get my name and why did you call me?”
  • “Oh, you’re a salesperson.”
  • “We’re going to need three bids for this product or service.”
  • “We are delaying the start of our project, therefore, we are going to need to delay the purchase of your product or service.”
  • “We like you, but we are going with another suppler.”
  • “Can you send us a proposal?”

How many of these comments stick in your memory? How many times when you hear these comments does your mind say to you, “Oh no, here we go again”? How many times do you enter a sales conversation with a good prospect when you have low emotional energy or believability in your offering because you are sapped by recent bad memories?

The mind is a powerful piece of equipment, and if it’s not kept clean and sharp, it will operate at much lower efficiencies, even to some point of being a total barrier to your success. Your ability to erase negative events from memory is the equivalent to a professional golfer erasing a bad round of golf and moving forward, or a quarterback throwing an interception at a critical part of the game and yet coming back on the next series of downs and throwing a touchdown pass. You will never be effective if you don’t learn to eliminate negative events from memory.

Good salespeople do mental exercises. They learn ways to maintain a positive psychology. Salespeople understandably work so much on technique and behavior to install systems and processes to ensure that they are prospecting effectively, but often when I ask a salesperson what are you doing to keep yourself mentally sharp and keep the spider webs out, I hear very little that’s meaningful.