Archive for September, 2010

Video: You Don’t Learn How to Win by Getting a “Yes,” You Learn How to Win by Getting a “No”

September 30th, 2010

What do you really learn by getting a “yes”?

Job well done. Keep doing what you’re doing. Get comfortable. Right?

That’s all fine, but realize that while your “yes” may make you happy, it doesn’t necessarily make you a better salesperson.

Many sales training programs would lead you to believe that you’ve failed when you get a “no.” This isn’t entirely true. Sure, you missed out on a sale, but you’ve actually been successful in getting a decision from the prospect and you’ve also grown your skill set through that bit of adversity. Every “no” will move you closer to an eventual “yes.”

While it may sound discouraging, you should still always be prepared to hear “no” a lot more than “yes.” When you’re ready for that “no,” you can tune into the prospect’s reasoning for turning you down, and you can ask the right questions to take away something valuable from the sales interaction-even if that something isn’t their signature. Once you realize that there is a significant amount of value in a “no” instead of dreading it and tuning out of the conversation once you hear that word, you’ll approach every sales interaction as a no-fail situation-and what salesperson would say “no” to that?

Video: Sandler Rule #36: Only Decision Makers Can Get Others to Make Decisions

September 27th, 2010

As a salesperson, your objective is to get your prospect to make a decision. Obviously, a “yes, I will work with you” is better than a “no, thanks.” But even getting to that decision can be a chore for some.

But in order to get to that final decision, the salesperson has to make some decisions of their own. As Ken Edmundson discusses in the video above, there is no shortage of choices that have to be made-some taking place before the sales process even gets started.

In controlling your sales process by avoiding hesitation and making clear go/no-go decisions, you are effectively moving the sales process forward with fewer delays and more conviction. While the prospect’s decision is your ultimate goal, you are actually the most important decision maker in the sales process.

Sales professionals have to deal with enough “think it over” responses from prospects. The faster you are in making your own decisions, the shorter the wait will be before the prospect makes theirs. Be decisive, or else your prospect won’t be.

Video: Sandler Rule #37: All Prospects Lie, All the Time

September 24th, 2010

After any amount of time in dealing with salespeople, you’re bound to come across some overzealous characters-those people who treat a prospect more like a rabid predator than a professional. Nobody wants to deal with a salesperson who is obviously waiting to pounce, so you do the only thing you can do to shake them off the scent of a sale-you lie.

Lying is the oldest defense mechanism in the book when it comes to sales. People lie to simply get out of a conversation, they lie because they don’t feel like even assessing their business and they lie to avoid salespeople altogether. All of the typical sales training and sales seminars in the world can’t change the fact that you have to work with what the prospect gives you. So how do you work with the potential situation where what they’ve told you is a lie?

With anything in sales, asking more questions is never a bad strategy. As Josh Seibert explains in the video above, you always have the opportunity to bring hidden issues to the foreground by putting them in the form of an honest, harmless question. Even if they give you a signal that you like with their answer to your question, try not to pounce on every positive response you get. Otherwise, you’re back at square one-a defensive prospect, an overzealous salesperson, and a possible lie.

Be wary of your prospect’s defenses, understand the motivation behind their possible lies and move forward in an unthreatening, inquisitive manner. The truth will come out sooner than you think.

Video: Sandler Rule #24: Product Knowledge Used at the Wrong Time Can Be Intimidating

September 22nd, 2010

Acronyms, industry buzz-words, technical jargon-we’ve all used them at one point or another in our jobs. But if you’ve been using them when you’re first getting to know your prospect, you may have made a big mistake.

As Sandler Training’s Jody Williamson explains in the video above, product knowledge used at the wrong time can be intimidating. Every decent sales professional should know their product and their industry top-to-bottom, inside and out. However, it is overwhelming for the prospect if you make it your objective to show off just how knowledgeable you are-especially if you do it when you are first becoming acquainted with the prospect and their business. Once the prospect becomes uncomfortable or feels like they’re simply a spectator to a lecture they don’t understand, you run the risk of forming an association of confusion and discomfort with you and your product/service.

It is up to you to pick up on cues from the prospect to see what level of detail is most comfortable for them, and a safe strategy is to move from general points to more specific details. If you simply try to “show off” your expertise, the prospect may “show off” the door to their office.

Video: Sandler Rule #39: When All Else Fails, Become a Consultant

September 20th, 2010


You heard it. The prospect said no. After all of your hard work, your probing questions, the fight to get the meeting in the first place, the prospect said no. That’s the end of the sales process, and you’ve somewhat succeeded in a sense that you at least got an answer. It’s not a “yes,” but your job is technically done now, right?

According to John Rosso in the video above, you should think again. The post-decision selling process is something that most sales training methodologies do not adequately address. When you hear “no,” that doesn’t mean the window is completely shut on your opportunity. Simply ask the prospect “Now that it’s over, is it okay if I ask you a few questions?” They view this as a non-threatening request, their guard is down, and you have another shot at describing everything they’ve told you and essentially playing the role of a consultant who was hired by them to find a problem. You’ve found the problem, and (hopefully) you have the solution. Spell it out for them, and it may be that your window is just opening-not closing.

Why Is Everyone Mad at Our Salespeople?

September 16th, 2010

The change in the economic climate in the last two years has affected everyone, and one of the more dramatic effects is the cultural impact it’s had on organizations. Employees no longer feel safe, and they don’t like it. They are feeling left out, they are angry to see their friends laid off and their pay cut, and all they hear as a reason is that sales have dropped 30, 40 or 50% – and they now demand to know more! They want to know why the results are so poor. They want to know what the leadership is doing to strengthen the company, and the unified voice of many of the employees in companies we work with sounds like this, “We’re working harder than ever and we’re picking up the slack for our fallen comrades, so what is the sales department doing to save us?!”

In years past, the sales department has been the secret domain for a select few in the executive suite, andfrequently the salespeople were considered the untouchables in an organization. I have said many times thatthe reason team members in administration, finance, production and customer service so often dislike the sales team is because sales teams are the only group in the organization who largely remain unaccountable for their actions and results. That’s changing now! The economy has forced far more accountability by the entire sales team as well as the sales manager and CEO.

I do a lot of teamwork with companies. I’ve written a book on teamwork. We do assessments on teamwork, and one of the most noticeable changes I’ve seen in teamwork recently has been the demand by production, finance and administration teams to hold the sales team more accountable for their work. Many times people feel they are losing their jobs because the sales team is not doing their job! They want to know that the sales team is doing everything they can to keep the company safe.

In working with small and middle market businesses, I talk with a lot of CEOs and sales managers about these issues, and I’ve found six barriers that create this emotional crisis between the sales department and everyone else in the company:

  • Experience – most organizations have never been through an economy like this, and it’s more problematic because often the CEOs have no background in sales, and they defer to a VP of Sales or Sales Manager to lead and direct the effort. I tell CEOs, “You are the chief sales director of your organization andmust own the results; and until you do, you are at risk. The CEO must take ownership of the sales results – stop blaming the sales team regardless of your experience.
  • Weak Hiring System – don’t let anyone into your sales team that is not going to improve the organization. If you don’t know how to do that, hire a consultant or someone who does.
  • Lack of Accountability – where did salespeople earn the right to be unaccountable? The rest of the organization is held to a high level of accountability, and they expect the sales team to be accountable as well. If your production team, your customer service team and your finance team were not held accountable to their processes and procedures, what kind of company would you be leading? Why should salespeople be any less so?
  • Ego – most sales managers and CEOs simply have a mindset that they should know how to do this without asking for help, relying on tools, or following a process they like and feel more comfortable with; after all, they think they have done it before (badly, if you measure it by the percentage of underachievers they hire – fewer than half of the last ten people hired are likely achieving at an acceptable level). If your sales manager is not asking for help, you need to find out why.
  • Money – every company pays their worst performer far more than it would cost to get the right process, tools and skills in place. Even though every hiring mistake costs as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, some companies simply don’t view those losses as line items. However, they do see the cost of assessments and consulting as line items, and mistakenly they can’t spend the money.
  • Fear – fear of the unknown, of being wrong, of change, of losing control, of being criticized, and of a learning curve.

In today’s environment, the sales team must be better than it was prior to 2008, and everyone in the company should focus on that success and be held accountable … including the sales team!

When Wall Street and Main Street Intersect at My Street

September 14th, 2010

The following summarizes what many salespeople have been saying as I’ve spoken with them this week, “Wow, it was hard to find buyers before all this financial mess and now it’s impossible … it’s killing me!” I get a sense that fear is strangling a major portion of the sales world.

If you are able to look past all of the market rhetoric and stay clear of the negative forces generated by greedy executives and politicians who have long since lost the definition of “Statesmen,” you might actually find encouragement to discover that the one person who has the greatest potential for solving this financial crisis is you. It’s in your control!

The problems on Wall Street really do have a direct impact on Main Street, but the good news is they now intersect directly onto My Street, and I’m in control on My Street. If you have fallen into a trap of feeling helpless or overwhelmed, then here is a word of caution: you are now one step away from becoming a blamer, victim thinker or procrastinator, and that’s the final step before your sales disappear. We’re living in a global-micro economy; that means all political and economic events have significance to your individual world — if that causes fear for you, then times ahead will likely be difficult. If you approach this new business era as an exciting time with waves of new opportunities and you plan to change to grow with it, then you’ll likely find the future even better than the past.

So, how do you find balance, energy and enthusiasm, and grow your sales in today’s market? Change how you think! The human mind always responds to the questions we ask ourselves; let me offer some thoughts to consider in the days and weeks ahead. Challenge any negative thoughts you have; stop several times a day and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What action can I take today that will positively impact my business and move me forward?
  • How can I find new ways today to be a leader and push against this enormous gravitational pull of negativity?
  • What’s really scaring me about my current situation? What is the probability that my worst fears will fully develop versus something positive occurring?
  • Since behavior always drives feelings, what five behaviors am I doing today to move myself forward?

Just this simple exercise will start you toward a more positive process.

In all markets, and especially in the unique one we face today, it’s not the products, the price, the process or the programs that will get you through; it’s your ability to think more effectively. I’m reminded of the quote by Marcus Aurelius that “Fear can be a debilitating force for most salespeople. If you’re fearful of anything external, the emotion is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it, and this you can revoke at any moment.” Determine if you have lost touch with your intuition, creativity and energy; if you haven’t had any new ideas lately or learned anything exciting, that’s a sure indication that fear has taken over as your guiding force.

Fear is defined as a psychological condition created as a result of a conversation you are having with yourself in the moment about something that has transpired in your past, either real or perceived, which you now believe will occur again in the future, but perhaps even worse. The result of fear is to prevent you from processing your most clear and accurate thoughts at anywhere near maximum efficiency; in short, fear simply shuts down your ability to think. Take control of your thoughts, and you will take control of your fear.

Behavior always overcomes a fearful attitude … doing the behavior that has gotten you results in the past and trying new things and staying consistent in your efforts will get rid of a lot of the negativity. Act as if the next call will change your life. Sell as though the next sale will be the biggest. Don’t stop the behavior that leads to positive results. Ask yourself better questions, and remember the three “M’s” of selling:

  • FOCUS ON YOUR MARKET – have an ultra clear and precise idea of where your best prospects are located and who are your best targets.
  • FOCUS ON YOUR MESSAGE – it must be quantifiable, objective and define your dominant competitive advantages.
  • FOCUS ON YOUR METHOD – if you’ve got the right market and the right message, make certain you have the best method to deliver your message. Know the five, six, seven, eight, nine ways that you get your message to your market and become an expert at managing those methods.

By the way, these three steps are what define “Marketing.”

There is an old saying in real estate that the three most important things which determine value are location, location, location. So what better place could we be if Wall Street and Main Street intersect at My Street? That’s valuable real estate and since I own it, I should control it.

Illustration by Rob Green

Get Over It: Stop Fearing Rejection, Stop Seeking Approval, Start Prospecting

September 10th, 2010

That’s a headline straight out of sales training boot camp, but it’s true.

There is a question most people want answered when they go to a sales training program or read one of the many sales how-to books; that question sounds like this, “Is there really one secret weapon or magic formula to make me better and increase my sales?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find one … so would winning the lottery, but not many do it.

Here’s a question for salespeople that I suggest is far more profitable for them to answer: “Am I doing everything necessary to ensure that my attitude, behavior and technique are sufficiently trained and adequately reinforced so I am able to identify a truly qualified prospect and close them in the most efficient and effective manner?” Yes, that’s quite a long question. But what you’ll realize is that it gets you to focus on what you, as the salesperson, can control. Yet there is still an issue: we’re all human, and as much preparation as you can go through, you’ll still have to battle your own emotions.

The biggest challenge I see with salespeople not giving themselves a real chance to be more successful lies in my comments below … and, yes, there is something that the top 25% of salespeople do that is not widely shared or discussed, but drastically affects their results!

Take a quick test; which of the following do you think is more challenging for a salesperson?

  1. Developing consistent work ethics.
  2. Personality skills that allow for building rapport with all types of prospects.
  3. Emotional strength to withstand rejection.
  4. Understanding how to qualify prospects and set effective meetings.
  5. Learning the real reason a prospect is buying from you.
  6. Dealing with the budget and money issues in a sale.
  7. Getting to decision makers and understanding the decision making process from the prospect’s point of view.

If you chose #3, you’re right. While all seven are critical skills and strengths to learn, #3 is overwhelmingly the single biggest challenge for salespeople if they are to be the best. Fear of rejection in a salesperson is caused by a “high need for approval,” and it keeps salespeople from meeting or exceeding their capability more often than anything else. It almost single handedly eliminates an important but risky move such as prospecting – a behavior critical to a salesperson’s success, not to mention all the other things a high need for approval will impact. When fixed, it will improve a salesperson’s effectiveness and consistency as much as 50%.

Here’s an example of how it affects salespeople. Research has shown it takes an average of 12 touches for a new prospect to become a client or customer. That is not 12 irritating voicemail messages; that is on average 12 strategic and tactical touches with the prospect. Sometimes it is less, sometimes it is more, but on average it is 12, and great salespeople have strategies and tactics to make each and every one of those 12 touches meaningful. A salesperson with high need for approval will rarely ever make it to five touches and never to 12 or more.

80% of salespeople bail out by the third or fourth call, yet research shows that 80% of all business is done with new clients by the salespeople who are able to effectively manage past that fourth, fifth or sixth call to a prospect. Why is it that salespeople cannot typically get past that third, four or fifth attempt?

Well, back to “need for approval”; it weakens a salesperson’s ego, pride and bravery and causes them to retreat from the very activities needed to be more effective. Need for approval is fed by a salesperson’s own belief system that sounds like this, “If I had not returned a salesperson’s phone call or made an effort to respond to someone after three or four attempts, it would be my signal that I am not interested and that’s the signal I am getting from my prospect so I’ll not call any more, and besides this is beginning to feel like rejection and I want more approval than I do a sale” … do you see this vicious cycle? A prospect’s failure to respond to your efforts just simply means that you have not run the necessary route yet, your strategy and tactics are not right, and you need to keep trying.

It is the secret of the best salespeople in the world when it comes to not allowing ego and pride to create a high need for approval: they treat every phone call, every single contact and every single touch, regardless of how many came before, as if it is the very first one.

If you listen to a top professional salesperson, they will never make a prospect feel they’ve been difficult to get a hold of or they have been in pursuit of them for a long time and are finally glad to have run them down. This type of comment immediately breaks rapport with a prospect when, after repeated attempts to reach them, you’re finally successful and the first thing you say to them is “Wow, you are hard to get a hold of!”

The mindset of the top professional salesperson is that every contact, every touch is treated emotionally the same as the first one. In their mind, there is never a call back or a repeat phone call or a second, third or fourth attempt; they make 12 or 14 first calls, and every attempt has the same enthusiasm, the same excitement, and the same motivation as the very first one.

If you want to improve your performance, begin treating every contact, even if it is the 12th or 14th, as your first one! Your need for approval will go down, and your results will go up.

Illustration by Rob Green