Friday, July 31, 2009

Writing a "Close Plan Letter"

You've just gotten a verbal agreement for the sale - congratulations! But as we all know, a lot can happen between the verbal agreement and the signing of the contract. That's why it's essential you take control and let your client know the schedule ahead of time. Sales trainer Dan Adams has a great example of a letter he sends at this time - adapt it to fit your own situation, and you'll be less likely to lose the sale after the verbal agreement.

"Let's say the customer gives you a verbal agreement to purchase your product," says Adams. "Even with that in place, events can easily occur that could jeopardize your sale. A close plan letter is an effective way to manage the unpredictability of this time. It outlines the steps necessary to take the customer from her verbal commitment to the issuing of a formal, contingent-free purchase order and down payment."

"The superstar uses the letter to micro-manage the steps to complete the process, limit any surprises, and hasten the sale," explains Adams. "The close plan letter's purpose is to prevent surprises in the run-up to the final purchase order."

Here is a suggestion for a basic close plan letter:

July 31, 200X

Mr. Mike Jackson
Senior VP of Administrative Services
ABC Healthcare Systems
Chicago, IL 60603

Dear Mike:

Thank you for meeting with me today to discuss the _________ Project.

This note serves as a summary of the action items and owners required to finalize the paperwork and approvals by ___ . This is the date which will allow us to keep on schedule for your _____ Department's _______ (Critical Event).

·Department Approval---Owned by Mike by July 29th
·Board Approval--Owned by John by Aug 12
·Legal Approval & Signatures--Owned by Mike by Aug 21
·Procurement Signatures--Owned by Mike by Aug 31st.

I will call Jill on Friday to set up a meeting for a review of our status.

Sincerely,

Dan

Daniel Adams, author of Building Trust, Growing Sales, and creator of Trust Triangle Selling helps corporations improve their profits by optimizing the performance of their sales teams. He is a frequent and popular speaker at national sales meetings, workshops and association events. Visit www.trusttriangleselling.com.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Sign of a True Sales Pro - Admitting We're Never Too Good for Coaching

Sales trainer Nancy Bleeke has gotten a lot of phone calls in her time - but someone calling her back after a sales call to ask advice on how to do better? Now that's a new one! Read on for her story, a great reminder that we all need a little help to keep improving our sales.

Ringggg. Ringggg. Not my favorite sound in the evening when I am in the midst of all kinds of fun mothering activities - homework, cleaning, and moderating disagreements between teenagers. And yet I picked up the phone...

"Hi Nancy, it's Virginia."


Oh, okay, I know who this is...and after some pleasantries...

"I'm calling to tell you about my work because you asked me about my new job the other night."

Hmmm. Okay.

She continued..."I'm so excited and want you to meet the guys I work with."

And so the discussion went. Me justifying I didn't need to meet these "guys" as I don't need their services and Virginia giving me more and more options on time and location because I should meet them. She was determined that I needed to do this because they are so great! And I was determined that I wasn't taking a half day of my life to meet with anyone that I didn't need to meet with.

I hung up feeling like I had dodged the bullet for now...and went on with my evening.

Forty-five minutes later ... Ringggg. Ringggg. Now who?

"Hi, it's Virginia again. I'm calling to get some advice. Do you have a few minutes?"

Of course...

"I don't think the conversation went the best before and I want your advice on what I can do to have different outcomes in making my calls."

What??? Calling a sales expert who trains people to be more successful in sales to ask for advice? Now THAT got me involved! We then had over an hour discussion on the objective of making calls, how to put the focus on the caller instead of our own excitement about what we do, asking good questions and being a great listener. Fortunately, all of these actions are critical skills she had already developed in her years in the medical profession! Now she needed to apply them to her new career in sales.

Virginia showed great professionalism. She did what so many sales professionals will not do. She:

•Evaluated her call objectively - putting aside her emotions and focusing on process and outcome
•Acknowledged that it could have gone much better - admitting that first to herself and then she
•Asked for coaching to do better next time - can you imagine how hard it was to pick up the phone and call me back?

She realized that these first calls in her new role - to the people she had existing relationships with - could make or break her future. She didn't get defensive. She listened to the advice, asked for clarification and drilled down to specific actions she could take. And finally Virginia then committed to those actions.

What a great demonstration of strong emotional intelligence!

Rookie or not, her willingness to call me back sets her apart from a lot of seasoned sales professionals. I think she has a great career ahead of her with that type of mindset.

What about you? What are you currently doing that isn't producing the results you want or need? Who can you call for advice or coaching so you can do better?

And the challenge...pick up the phone and call them...you'll be glad you did.

Sales expert Nancy Bleeke, The SalesProInsider, helps organizations set aggressive sales goals and achieve them while boosting profitability by hiring, training and retaining the best employees. She shares her expertise with the Timely Tips ezine and her blog. Learn more and download a free ebook at www.salesproinsider.com

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Aren't They Into You?

Yesterday Tom Stanfill of Aslan Training talked about those conversations with your prospects that seem to go great, but nothing ever happens. Does this sound familiar to you? "Why do we do this? Because we tend to focus on what we want to hear (this deal is huge, she loves us) vs. focusing on why it wouldn't work," says Stanfill.

"In sales, our only resource is time and where you choose to invest it will ultimately determine your success," explains Stanfill. "So wasting time chasing a deal is just not an option. Too many decision-makers are interested in what you have to say because they do have a desire for your solution (or the desire to know more), but they just don't have resources. I'm not saying to be negative, but just be strategic. Believe the best about people and the future, but be shrewd. Determining who can act now and who can't is paramount to surviving in sales."

So How Do You Know if They're Just Not That Into You?

Here are some simple signs to watch for:

--If they don't ask tough questions to try and determine why you vs. the competition...or to resolve concerns they may have about your solution, they're just not that into you.
--Either they have a budget or they don't. If they won't share that fact and the process to getting funding, they're just not that into you.
--If they don't have a good answer for the question: "If you didn't invest in _____, what would happen?"...they're just not that into you.

The Application

If you've been in sales a while you know it's not that simple, we always have to balance qualifying (self-centered) without sacrificing the relationship. Here are some keys to help you get at the truth:

--Encourage them to talk about what is on their agenda vs. framing the conversation around what you offer. If your solution is not on the list or low on the list, the opportunity is not very qualified.
--Focus the qualifying questions at the end of the first meeting. This will allow you to first establish a good foundation of trust, credibility, and rapport by concentrating on what is most important to them, but at the same time you must know where you stand at the end of the first meeting.
--Provide an other-centered (vs. self-centered) purpose for the questions you ask. Prime the tough questions with a reason why it is in their best interest to be honest about their answer. This will take some time because you will quickly realize that most of your qualifying questions are about you.
--Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. If it is a real decision-maker, their respect for you as a potential partner will increase. If the person is playing a charade, they may seem irritated, but just know that they most likely are trying to hide their true intentions. In other words, the decision-maker likes when you ask tough questions and someone who is wasting your time, doesn't. That being said, always assess how you have framed your questions just to ensure it is not your approach that elicited a negative response.
--Use a scale to ensure that any relative terms are clarified. For example: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely will you have the resources to invest in this type of solution?" This gives you a clearer perspective of your customer's reality and will help you fight the temptation to be overly positive about the potential opportunity.
--Lastly, appeal to their consciousness. Let them know that you just need their advice as to how to proceed (i.e., What would do if you were me?). Communicate that you are comfortable with the fact that your solution may not be a fit and you just want to make sure you don't waste their time. This approach creates a little less formal atmosphere and encourages the prospect to be a bit more empathetic to the challenges of your role.

Tom Stanfill is the CEO of Aslan Sales Training. Aslan helps organizations that primarily prospect, sell and manage customers using the telephone. Download their free whitepaper, The Seven Barriers to Inside Sales Success.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

They're Just Not That Into You

Don't worry, this isn't turning into a relationships blog - unless you count client relationships! Today Tom Stanfill at Aslan Training will explain why you may not be getting the whole story from your clients. Learn why, and then tomorrow we'll show you how to spot the signs of someone who's just not that into you.

"Your prospects are not telling you the truth," says Stanfill. "It's not that they are really lying to you, it's just that they are not telling you the whole story. Is that their fault or yours? It's yours. In this economy our biggest challenge as sales consultants may be getting to the truth and finding the real opportunities. Let me illustrate."

"Recently a friend called to ask me about my interest in partnering with him to buy a house in a very expensive development near the beach. Here's the reality (a key word) - although I would love to buy a lot in this development, I have absolutely zero ability to pull that off right now. But here's what I said, "Jim that sounds great. I've always loved that development. Why don't you look further into it and see what you find. Do you think we could get a deal?"

Why would I say that if I had zero ability to invest in a vacation home? For the same three reasons your prospects act interested in your solution when they have little or no ability to fund it:

--Pride. Pride keeps me from being honest about my actual resources or, in the case of your prospects, their power to access the resources or influence people in the organization
--Conflict avoidant. It's just easier to go along with the conversation than to deal with any potential conflict that may arise by telling the truth.
--Sincere desire for the offer. I really would like to buy a vacation home. So, just like your prospects, my desire for the vacation was more enjoyable to discuss than focusing on the likelihood of funding it.

"There is only one reason the prospect would be completely candid - to help you," explains Stanfill. "And it's just not that common to bump into a prospect whose focus is to make sure you don't waste your time."

"The bottom line is, regardless of the reason, we do not have the luxury of operating on half-truths. If my friend Jim had asked a couple of simple questions, he would have quickly learned I was not going to invest in the beach home."

Tom Stanfill is the CEO of Aslan Sales Training. Aslan helps organizations that primarily prospect, sell and manage customers using the telephone. Download their free whitepaper, The Seven Barriers to Inside Sales Success.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Quote of the Week

"The only certain means of success is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be." -- Og Mandino, author

Sometimes the littlest things mean the most. Let's say you have a meeting with your boss and he wants to go over projections. What about putting together the numbers beforehand, and giving them to him to look over before the meeting? Your ability to meet deadlines and save him time will be very impressive.

Or, a client calls in with a re-order, and you realize that if they changed their ordering schedule they'd be better able to take advantage of company deals. Letting them know about the change would be a money-saver for them - all while winning you major points with them.

What we're trying to say is, you don't have to give the farm away to impress your clients. Just think creatively, think ahead, and always meet your deadlines, and people in your life will be impressed with your hard work. Come on, you can do it!

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Who Wins the Gold?

We're now in the second half of the year, and things are changing. New prospects, marketing, and products have ramped up your sales, and you're ready to have the best quarter ever, right? There's nothing wrong with that, but sales trainer Skip Miller says there's something you need to think about first - your customer.

"How much time have you spent seeking to understand what your potential customers want in the second half of the year?" asks Miller. "It's all about them, and since they are the ones with the gold anyway it's time to do some research."

--Ask your current customers what's important to them for the next six months. They have plans too. Chances are your prospects have the same priorities as well.

--It's all about revenue, not about cutting costs. Everyone has already cut out the fat, and anything that will help get revenue and avoid more cuts will be looked at. Stop pitching your cost savings so much, and listen to the prospects plans to get revenue, and see if you can help them.

--Go on the Internet and ask what is important to your main buyer. If you sell to the CFO, CMO, CIO, or executives at small companies, do a search on what's important to them in 2009 or 2010. You will hear from people who ask and answer these questions for a living what they want/need.

"As you plan your prospecting blitz, remember to ask and listen to what's important to them over the next six months, and then determine if you can help them," continues Miller. "Pitching and hoping something sticks may have worked in the past, but not anymore."

"Help your prospects and current customers win their race. Let them get the gold medal. You will win your race, only if your customers finish first. They have a plan. Find out what it is, see if you can help, and if you can, you both get the medal. Now that's victory."

A recognized authority on the psychology of sales performance, Skip Miller has helped countless companies, already at the height of success in their respective fields, achieve an even greater level of sales productivity and success. Learn more at www.m3learning.com

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Budget - Unless, Of Course

Companies everywhere are cutting or their budgets - which, of course is pretty discouraging for us salespeople. After all, no money = no sales, right? Not necessarily, says Linda Richardson on her blog.

Read on for her tips for getting the sale - even when there's no money to be found.
Many of the customers we are talking to may be like your customers. Their budgets have either been cut or all but vanished.

They also have something else in common: their goal to increase revenue and save money in the short-term. You already know how important it is to justify your value to a customer. But, never before has value justification taken on such a critical role in closing business. It now is the key to finding, unlocking, and creating budgets. And the nature of value justification has changed. We are not only in a spreadsheet world but a world that is demanding creativity in finding rationale to buy and identifying non-typical pockets where budgets may be found.

I spoke with a salesperson who, in my view, is a master at conjuring up budgets even when the customer had been unsuccessful in doing so him or herself. It is said that "Necessity is the mother of invention." This seems true for the salesperson. His product was so new and original that not only was there no budget for it (even in good times), there was no one with the responsibility for it.

After identifying who in the organizations were most apt to have needs for his product and then engaging in need dialogues with them and being told there was no budget, he leaned heavily on metrics and creative analysis to prove his product was a smart move and would help his customers achieve their objectives. He captivated and convinced one customer by showing that if his product increased the performance of one of the company's 500 sales reps by 5%, that increase would pay the full cost of the investment. This brought not only a smile to the customer's lips, it gave the customer a rationale to bring to his boss and get the OK.

He showed another customer how his product amounted to .0001% of their total revenue and compared that to the increase in productivity. For another customer who put money aside for replacement of full-time equivalents in anticipation of the company's 10% turnover, he showed that by reducing that fund by one person, the cost of the product was covered, and this potentially reduced turnover and gave needed support to his team of managers.

In each case, he was able to close because he spelled out his value justification in a way that was graphic, concrete, tangible, practical, reasonable, and believable.

Today, it's necessary to go beyond "normal" thinking about value justification. It's necessary to really understand the company's business, deeply probe the customer's needs and find a direct link of your product to the customer's shorter-term objectives, and then justify the price specifically. It takes searching every nook and corner for ways to illustrate value justification.

Closing starts in prep time when you think about the value you bring to the table and continues in the deep need dialogue you lead so you can graphically show dollars and cents value. While the value you show can be longer-term, today, the shorter, the better, and the more specific, the more compelling.

Learn more about Richardson's sales training and performance improvement solutions at http://www.richardson.com

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nine Ways to Jazz Up Your Sales Presentations

Yesterday sales trainer Jim Meisenheimer shared with us four ways to start and end presentations to keep prospects interested. Today, he's back with nine ways to jazz up your presentations and keep them interested the entire time!

1. Always prepare and rehearse the first 25 words and the last 25 words of every presentation. Practice until it sounds spontaneous.

2. Start with your expectations. Tell them specifically what the take-aways will be early in your presentation.

3. Never read your presentation. Never. No exceptions. It's the quickest way to put your audience to sleep.

4. Show that you're alive by being animated. Remember it's easier to be yourself than trying to impersonate someone else.

5. Pay attention to your hands. Nothing will make you look more awkward than unnatural hand movements.

6. Keep slides to a minimum. They should emphasize and reinforce your key points - not tell your entire story.

7. Use large type, so everyone in the room can clearly see what's on the screen. Darken the screen as often as you can. You want the audience looking at you - not at the screen. To darken the screen hit the letter "B" on the keyboard. Hit the letter "B" again to turn the screen on.

8. Don't worry about making mistakes. Actually, mistakes make you human. Have fun, sharpen your sense of humor, and be sure to tell stories. Your stories are the quickest way for your audience to connect with you.

9. After every presentation, ask yourself, "How can I do it better next time?" Then next time, be sure you do it better.

Take it from someone who gives a lot of sales presentations, and had to overcome a fear of public speaking, these nine suggestions really work.

Adopt these as your own and I'll bet your next stand-up presentation will stand-out!

Jim Meisenheimer publishes The No-Brainer Selling Tips Newsletter, a fresh and high content newsletter dedicated to helping you grow your business and multiply your income. Use this link to sign-up for Jim's F-R-E-E The Start Selling More Newsletter and to get your copy of his Special Report titled, "The 12 Dumbest Things Salespeople Do."

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Creating Exciting Sales Presentations

One of the things sales trainer Jim Meisenheimer talks about the most is being different. Think about how many sales calls your prospect gets each day - who's he going to call back, the person who leaves a message with no value, or the person who devises a creative way to reach out to him? The same thing goes for sales presentations. Prospects see the PowerPoint go on and they immediately tune out. Start them off with a story or provocative question, and you're on the right track. Today, Meisenheimer gives us the four best ways to start and end a sales presentation. Then he'll be back tomorrow with nine ways to jazz up those presentations once you've started.

"Most salespeople are strong conversationalists when sitting down and talking with customers," says Meisenheimer. "When asked to deliver a presentation standing up, the dynamics can change dramatically for you if you're not prepared. You can easily make every stand-up presentation a conversation with your audience, regardless of size. Here's how."

The two most memorable parts of a stand-up presentation are the beginning and the end. The four easiest and most powerful ways to begin and end your presentations include:

1. Start with an exciting quotation that you can link to your presentation.

2. Begin your presentation with a compelling statement. Seven years ago, I gave a sales presentation titled, The 12 Best Ways To Increase Sales, Earn More Money, And Have More Fun. I began my presentation with, "There's not a single thing I can do for you today, to show you how to increase sales, earn more money, and have more fun. Not one thing ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to share 12 creative ideas with you today."

3. Start your sales presentation with a rhetorical question that creates a transition into your presentation.

4. One of the best audience grabbers is to start your sales presentation with a short story. Beginning your presentation with a success story that involves someone in your audience is even more powerful.

The next time you're preparing how to begin and how to end one of your sales presentations consider one of these proven approaches.

Jim Meisenheimer publishes The No-Brainer Selling Tips Newsletter, a fresh and high content newsletter dedicated to helping you grow your business and multiply your income. Use this link to sign-up for Jim's F-R-E-E The Start Selling More Newsletter and to get your copy of his Special Report titled, "The 12 Dumbest Things Salespeople Do."

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances...Strong men believe in cause and effect." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Often times in sales we're told that it's all about timing - which leads to thinking that it's all about luck. After all, you happened to call that prospect when he was in need of your solution - that's lucky, right?

Salespeople who want to take control of their own sales realize luck has nothing to do with it. You had a call scheduled because you dutifully follow up and make calls daily. You called at the right time because you researched the industry trends and saw an opening. You knew about the prospect because you're always looking for new leads using a variety of sources.

Do you see what we're getting at? The sale happens because of the work you do, and nothing else. Take responsibility for your sales and watch them grow!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Pick the Scab

Sorry, we don't mean to be gross. It's just that it's such a great way to remember to probe further into your prospect's pain. Sales trainer Kelley Robertson explains:

"Sales professionals usually ask a few questions in order to gain a better understanding of their prospect's situation. However, most of them don't probe deep enough into the size and scope of the problem or situation. I remember hearing a great phrase from another sales trainer/coach (I think it was Tom Stoyan). He suggested that salespeople "pick at their prospect's scab," referring to the pain or problem that a prospect may be facing."

"Your objective in taking this approach is to help your prospect discover the implication or impact of an issue or problem," says Robertson. "When you talk to a new prospect and they express a particular concern or problem, take a few moments and probe a bit deeper."

"For example, if they say they experience a few customer complaints ask them how often they get complaints. You may discover that a "few complaints" actually means three or four per month. Follow up by asking about the financial impact of those problems. In other words, how much does it cost the company to resolve those problems? Then, ask how those problems affect the prospect in terms of stress, time, and aggravation. This helps the prospect see the bigger picture and understand the impact of the problem on their business and themselves."

Pick at your prospect's scab and dramatically increase the value of your solution.

Kelley Robertson, author of The Secrets of Power Selling helps sales professionals and businesses discover new techniques to improve their sales and profits. Receive a free copy of 100 Ways to Increase Your Sales by subscribing to his free newsletter available at www.kelleyrobertson.com.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to Sound More Credible and Persuasive

Sometimes all you need to sound more credible is an outside source. Take a cue from tele-sales expert Art Sobczak and use these outside sources in your preliminary conversations.

TESTIMONIALS: You can say that your system can increase productivity by 20%. But it's more impressive to state that "Jan Halston at Allied Engineering saw a 22% increase in production output which he said was directly attributable to the system."

Action Step: Think of actual testimonials, case studies, and success stories. Get permission to use company and individual names. But even without names this still carries weight by saying, "I had a customer the other day who said ..."

INDEPENDENT INFORMATION SOURCES:
I typically roll my eyes when I hear, "We're the most respected in the business," or, "We're the leaders in ..." The skeptic in me is thinking, "According to whom?" What really carries clout, though, is something like, "According to a study done by Widget News Magazine, we are rated number one in customer satisfaction."

Action Step: Collect all the studies, news articles, and other information mentioning your company and products. Compile according to the categories and situations you can use.

THIRD PARTIES OR ENTITIES: If a savvy customer detects you can give him a lower price, he will keep grinding, trying to extract it from you. However, it's more difficult when the price is set by the Corporate Pricing Committee, and is based on a complex algorithm, market prices for raw materials, and the phases of the moon. Of course, your hands are tied in this case. You get the picture.

Action Step: Think of the situations you encounter where you are challenged. Prices, benefits ... then determine if there are other people or entities you can use to substantiate - not make excuses for - the way things are.

Art Sobczak, President of Business by Phone, Inc., specializes in one area only: working with business-to-business salespeople - both inside and outside - designing and delivering content-rich programs that begin showing results from the very next time participants get on the phone. Learn more at www.businessbyphone.com

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

There is Value in Struggle

"In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life." -- Albert Bandura, Stanford University

Do you remember the feeling you had after you finally accomplished a long sought-after goal? The feeling is so much better than if you had achieved the goal with little effort. That's why sales trainer Tom Reilly says there is value in struggle. Note that he didn't say there was pleasure or enjoyment in struggle, just value.

"By now, most companies have shed the inefficiencies and practices that no longer add value," says Reilly. "Most people have shed the excesses that have defined lifestyles for many. Neither of these corrections is inherently bad. Both are good for companies and individuals. Many have learned there is value in struggle and have developed a sense of self-efficacy in their efforts to prevail."

Here are some more ideas from Reilly to help you find value in tough situations:

There is value in getting lean. Streamlining and returning to one's roots is invigorating. It's the organizational equivalent to the vinedresser's pruning and prepping the vines for future growth. He removes the unproductive branches so as not to distract valuable resources from those that will produce.

There is value in being strong in weakness. It's not so much the promise of the philosopher, Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." It is more about finding strength you didn't know you had prior to the struggle. Each of us possesses a wellspring of strength we dip into when times get tough. The really good news is that the strength is also there for good times.

There is value in the synergy one must find to prevail in tough times. If energy is the resource for individuals, synergy is the indefatigable resource for survivors. John Donne wrote, "No man is an island..." Survivors understand the power of we over me. The wonderful part of a support network is that when one is weak, another can be strong. That reciprocity ensures someone is always willing to carry the load.

There is value in releasing the creativity and inventiveness that struggle calls for. Is necessity the mother of invention? Maybe. Resilience researchers at ASU found that survivors are inventive. They rely on their resourcefulness to find a way out of their difficulties. They make do with what they have.

There is value in the humility that accompanies adversity. Adversity strips away facades and introduces to our naked and vulnerable selves, generally the most likable part of any of us. It is in those dark moments that we cry out for the help that only the humble can appreciate, "I can't do this on my own." Then, miraculously, help arrives.

Tom Reilly is the president of Tom Reilly Training. He is an authority on value-added selling, and speaks to thousands of salespeople and managers annually on increasing their value to their company and customers.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Five Strategies to Minimize Risk

With most people tightening their belts nowadays, it's essential that you minimize their perceived risk of purchasing from you. "Prospects want to know that you are capable of delivering the results they want and that you will actually deliver them. No matter how good your product is, if you are perceived as risky, your prospect will not buy from you," explains sales trainer Tessa Stowe. "Conversely, people will knowingly buy inferior products if they perceive the risk is less and that there is more of a guarantee they will get the outcome they are looking for."

Risk is a huge deciding factor, so how do you convey that you are the lowest-risk solution? Here are five ideas:

Brainstorm all the reasons why you are the lowest-risk solution for your prospect.

Why are your prospects assured of getting the outcomes they want from your solution? What support do you offer that ensures they will get that outcome? Why should they feel assured you will be around next year to support them? You must be crystal-clear in your own mind about why you are the lowest-risk solution before you can explain it to your prospect.

Brainstorm all the reasons why your prospects might perceive you as a risky solution.

Put yourself in their shoes. Be honest with yourself. If you were your competition, what would you say about the risk of your solution? Now reframe that risk so it is not a risk. Turn it completely around to something positive. De-risk the risk!

Here's an example. In 2002 I was selling a billing solution to a telecommunications company. We were perceived by the prospect as high-risk as we had no references and we were using new, very advanced, technology.

I reframed that risk and told my prospect that we were actually the lowest-risk solution because we had the advanced technology that no one else had implemented. I went on to explain that, because this new technology would help them get ahead of their competition, it represented the lowest risk because it minimized the risk of competition in the future. They saw my point, and this was a major reason for their decision to buy the solution. You must name the elephant in the room, so to speak. Turn the perceived risk around to your advantage.

Be prepared with customer testimonials and case studies that talk about specific results.

The more customer testimonials and case studies you have, the more comfortable your prospect will feel and the less risky you will be perceived. Even if you have only one or two, they can be powerful risk-minimizers.

Make sure your true intent is to help your prospects get what they want, not to sell them something.

Always - and I mean always - act in alignment with this intent. If you do, your prospects will trust you. When your prospects trust you, they will perceive you as less risky.

Have a very open conversation with your prospect and tell them why you are the lowest-risk solution.

Go into as much detail and depth on each point as you need to in order to make them feel comfortable. Ask them if they are confident in the reasons you have mentioned or if they still have questions. If you have built rapport and trust, they will tell you in what areas they still perceive you are risky. This conversation can be a very revealing - and rewarding - one.

Implement these five ideas and your prospects will see you as the lowest-risk solution - and maybe even the no-risk solution. More sales are sure to follow.

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her FREE monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at www.salesconversation.com.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Passion persuades." - Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

If you're passionate about your solution it will show up in your sales. After all, passion is a quality that can be clearly seen in the way you talk, the way you move, the way your face lights up - and it's difficult to fake.

Your prospects will recognize that passion and know that you mean what you say when you talk about the benefits of your product. So start thinking about why you would use your product - what makes it great? What benefits truly make it something people have to have? Delve a little deeper into the reasons why your product is so great, and when you talk about them people will feel your passion and belief in your product - and trust you to sell them something great.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

If You Dread Follow-Up Calls, So Will Your Prospects

When marketing expert C.J. Hayden first started her business she was uncomfortable making follow-up calls, like many people. After all, you're basically saying, "So are you going to hire me?" and that can be an uncomfortable question for everyone involved. Hayden thought up a different approach to follow-up calls that made her and her clients feel comfortable. Read on for her tips!

"When I first started marketing my own business, one of the first things I noticed was how difficult it was for me to call people and ask if they were ready to hire me," says Hayden. "But I'm no recluse; I enjoy interacting with people. In fact, I even enjoy talking on the phone. So what was it about these particular calls I found so distasteful?"

Being the analytical sort, I decided to identify exactly what it was about these calls that I disliked and avoided. Here are the elements I identified:

1. Asking for a sale or referral.
2. Calling just to "say hello."
3. Making small talk about generic topics.
4. Fearing rejection.
5. Telling people how great I was.
6. Calling back someone who had already said no.
7. Feeling as if my call was an imposition.

"Reviewing this list, it seemed to me that the secret to enjoyable follow-up (that would actually get done) was to eliminate these elements that I didn't like and replace them with ones I did," continues Hayden. "This reverse engineering didn't happen overnight, but over time, I began to find more and more ways to follow up agreeably. Here are the alternative approaches I discovered to make follow-up a pleasure instead of a chore."

1. Offering something instead of asking for anything. Like many professional service providers, giving advice, making connections, and sharing resources comes naturally to me. Instead of focusing on what I wanted to get from the person I was calling, I switched my emphasis to what I could give them.

2. Calling with a specific, helpful purpose. I've had many salespeople call me just to "stay in touch," and it always feels like a waste of my time. Instead of calling people just to chat, I would call to invite them to a networking event, introduce them to a new contact, or let them know about a book, article, or workshop they might find valuable.

3. Having meaningful conversations about what's going on in peoples' lives. Making small talk about weather, sports, or entertainment news has never been one of my favorite pastimes. But hearing what's
going on in someone's life, career, or business fascinates me. Those were the topics I began introducing in my follow-up calls.

4. Avoiding rejection by staying away from selling. Phoning someone to ask whether they're ready to hire me feels awkward and pushy, and I'm sure my prospects often feel the same. I'd much rather help people than sell to them. Unless I was calling someone to follow up on a specific deal already in progress, I stopped asking for business and focused on having helpful, meaningful exchanges.

5. Telling people how great my clients were. While talking myself up feels uncomfortable, talking about my clients' successes comes easily. I began describing my work by sharing my clients' accomplishments instead of my own (honoring client confidentiality, of course). These success stories turned out to be much more effective than simply telling prospects what I could do.

6. Letting go of sales that were too hard to close. It's important to be persistent and follow up multiple times with prospects who don't respond or say they're not ready, but calling back someone who has actually said no can be pretty confronting. I realized that if I had a long enough follow-up list, I didn't really need to call those prospects at all. I could spend my time instead with people who were more likely to be interested.

7. Designing a call that anyone would welcome. If making a call just to push for business isn't a good experience for me OR to the person I'm calling, why make it? I'd much rather spend my time having conversations both sides can enjoy. I discovered that if I contacted people in a spirit of friendliness and generosity, instead of acting like a salesperson, plenty of sales and referrals resulted without asking for them directly.

"Now, I'm not talking about using these principles as a way to avoid answering direct questions or provide needed clarity, when those are called for," says Hayden. "If prospects ask about your ability to do the job, by all means, you should tell them about your skills and experience. If you've submitted a proposal, and are waiting for the prospect to tell you whether he or she has accepted it, asking whether you got the order is completely appropriate and usually necessary."

"But what I am suggesting is that you can design much more pleasurable, helpful, and relationship-oriented reasons to pick up the phone and call your prospects and referral sources, just once or many times throughout the year. And THAT can transform making follow-up calls from a dreaded task into a welcome activity -- for both you and the people you call."

C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Clients Now! Thousands of business owners and independent professionals have used her simple sales and marketing system to double or triple their income. For more information, please visit www.GetClientsNow.com

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two Keys to Great Client Relationships

What do you consider the most important factor in a great client relationship? Many people would say being liked is high up on the list, but sales trainer and referral expert Paul McCord begs to differ. Today he'll share what is and isn't necessary for a great client relationship.

"Despite the advice given by so many trainers that being liked by prospects is the key to sales success and to strong client relationships, the fact is that being liked by prospects and clients is well down the list of characteristics necessary to establish strong, lasting client relationships," says McCord. "In fact, being liked by your client isn't even necessary. There are thousands of examples of client/seller relationships where the client doesn't like the seller."

If you want to create superior relationships with your clients you must learn how to:

Establish Rapport
Often confused with being liked, rapport has little to do with being liked but everything to do with connecting with your client on a level where you understand your client on both an intellectual and emotional level. The dictionary defines rapport as a "harmonious mutual understanding," a meeting of the minds. Rapport may encourage the client to like you, but by no means is it necessary and certainly at times, rapport is present even while being liked is absent.

Building rapport demands you focus your attention on your prospect or client, not on what you want to get out of the session, what you're going to say next, or how you're going to get the signature on the contract. Much that has been written about building rapport has to do with tricks - matching the client's tone of voice or speech pattern, mimicking behavior, and the like. Although these may be helpful, I've found that more basic actions are more effective at building rapport - really listening to the client, hearing what they say instead of what I want them to say, making sure that I understand what they really mean, responding to the question they asked instead of the question I wanted them to ask, and answering their questions openly and honestly. In addition, asking questions that not only allow them to fully state their wants, needs, goals, and opinions, but that encourage them to do so.

Building rapport is about communication. The matching and mimicking tricks deal with non-verbal communication, which is certainly important, but the real skill comes in learning to verbally communicate; learning to listen, to encourage open dialogue and discussion, learning to accept divergent points of view; and learning how to give guidance and direction in a manner that supports the client and moves them in the right direction rather than creating a chasm between yourself and your client.

Establish Trust
Trust, even more than rapport is critical for successful long-term client relationships. The dictionary defines trust as "a firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing." "Trust implies depth and assurance of feeling that is often based on inconclusive evidence."

Trust is difficult to establish and easy to lose. Trust for most people isn't built on words alone, but on a combination of words and actions. For most clients, trust isn't established during a single meeting or even over a few meetings. Trust is earned by having one's actions match their words.

Building trust, just like building rapport, is an activity. It doesn't just happen, it's created by actively doing the things that build trust - by being honest in words and deeds, by doing exactly what you say you're going to do, by putting your client's good ahead of yours.

If you really want to create strong, lasting relationships with your clients that will be the foundation of your business, that will generate strong client referrals for you, and that will produce business year after year, invest time and effort in learning the secrets of building rapport and trust. Don't worry about being liked, being cute, or being their pal. Concentrate on being their trusted advisor, the one who really understands their wants and needs and who they know unselfishly pursues the best possible solution to those wants and needs for them. That's the secret to great client relationships.

Paul McCord, a leading Business Development Strategist and president of McCord Training, works with companies and sales leaders to help them increase sales and profits by finding and connecting with high quality prospects in ways prospects respect and respond to. He is the author of the popular Sales and Sales Management Blog

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dressed to Close

First impressions are a huge aspect of whether or not you get the sale. Your prospect's first impression of you colors every reaction he'll have to you after that initial meeting. The way you dress is a big part of that. Today image consultant Robin Walker shares some tips to help you cultivate an impression that will help you close the sale.

Dress with Purpose
Understand your prospect's image of how a successful person in your field would dress, and then dress the part. After all, would you buy "piece of mind" from someone who looks like they lost theirs? Would you choose a realtor who looks like they haven't had a sale in years? Probably not.

Start Wearing a Uniform
Learn what looks good on you, then set a standard. Consistency is key. Up and down dressing sends an unpredictable message and if you have a long sales cycle you can't afford to be caught off guard.

Wear Clothes That Fit
Clothing that's too large or too small will make you look out of touch with who you really are. Sales professionals need a tailored fit to look polished and successful.

Choose the Right Colors
Color is one of the most important aspects of looking great. Your best-looking outfit will complement your skin color. The wrong color will make you look old, tired and dull. The right colors get you sold.

Practice Impeccable Grooming
A touchy subject for most people, your hair and grooming can make or break your look. Find a trusted stylist and get to know them before they cut and color. And just so you know - nothing will ruin your look faster than a hairstyle that dates from another era or a comb over.

Purchase Clothing That Works Together

To make dressing easy and be in control of your image, you should plan your wardrobe so that most of your clothing works together. By purchasing mostly coordinates, you can easily mix and match to extend your clothing options.

Invest in Well-Coordinated Accessories
Nothing ruins a look faster than mixed-matched accessories. Run-down shoes, an evening bag with a casual outfit - all those things send the wrong message.

Dress like a winner. Success attracts success. Be good at what you do and look like it - be dressed to close.

Robin Walker is an image consultant and marketing maven who outfits her clients with the information - and wardrobe - they need to excel in personal and professional lives. To learn how you can create your own Image Advantage, visit http://askRobinWalker.com

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Sales Tactics

I know...it's summer and people are out of the office, no one's spending any money, and you may as well not come to work because you won't make any sales anyway - right? WRONG! You can make sales in the summer - you just have to make a few adjustments. Here are a few from sales trainer Mike Brooks.

Make more calls before noon. In summer, most people can't wait to leave the office and enjoy the sunshine while it's here. It's a proven fact that during summer most of the work, and attention given to that work by employees, takes place during the morning hours.

You need to capitalize on that workflow energy and dedicate yourself to making as many of your calls as you can before noon. That doesn't mean you stop calling after noon, but try to put off your other activities like paperwork, quotes, etc., until later in the day and do the bulk of your calling in the morning.

Also, try to make an additional 5 calls per day. If you can accomplish that, you'll put in over 315 additional calls this summer. That, combined with morning calls, will pay off for you big time.

Be prepared to talk vacation. Need an instant rapport builder? Ask your prospect where they are vacationing this summer and then let them talk! Did you notice that I used an assumptive question here? I didn't say to ask, "Are you taking a vacation this summer," rather ask "Where are you vacationing this summer?"

After you listen and ask some questions about their vacation, it's time to get back to business. Try a good transition sentence like, "You know _________, many of my clients are taking vacations as well and they are making sure to get all the business done that they can ahead of time so they can relax and enjoy their time off. I'm taking orders now for (your product or service), how many (your product or service) do you think you'd like to order before you leave?"

Adapt that script to fit your selling situation, but use it after talking vacation - you'll get more orders than you think.

Mike Brooks, Mr. Inside Sales, specializes in helping sales reps avoid rejection and make more money. Check out his free ezine at http://www.mrinsidesales.com/ezine.htm

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Sometimes the best helping hand you can get is a good, firm push." -- Joann Thomas

If you're struggling with your sales, it's time to make a change. Oftentimes accountability is the most important aspect of a sales turn-around. You've been saying you'll make more calls everyday, but how many have you actually done? How many days have you actually come in to the office early when you said you would?

It's easy to make plans, but the difficult part is following through on them. Talk with your sales manager, a colleague, or a friend, and ask them to be your sales accountability partner. Tell them you'll be sending them a daily or weekly activity report, or ask them to randomly drop by your office to make sure you're on task. Make sure they understand they need to be firm with you - it is not okay for you to stray off task, and they are allowed to do whatever you deem necessary to keep it that away.

If you're really struggling to stay committed, this may be the solution for you. Play around with the idea, and find what works best. No matter what, find a way to follow through on your goals.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Sales Tip: Is It Nagging or Is It Persistence?

There comes a point when maybe you've made one call too many. But how do you know when that is? Sales trainer Adrian Miller wrote a great post on her blog, in which she says, "It is instrumental to understand where that line is drawn between persistence and nagging. This requires the ability to recognize when a request or a question is self-serving and doesn't offer a benefit for the person being queried. Persistence is a good thing. However, to be perceived as persistent, yet not a nag requires the mastery of the following skills."

Here are Miller's tips to ensure you don't cross the line:

Respect
Persistent salespeople are very aware of their prospects' and customers' time. They respect each others time constraints and understand their priorities most likely don't include listening to lengthy sales pitches.

Value
When reconnecting with someone in a persistent mode, it's absolutely necessary to have something of value for them. Don't be tempted to just "follow up" or "check in". Instead, have information, an invitation, or an introduction to present to them. You'll be deemed far less self-serving by bringing something of value to the table, and they'll be far more receptive to your repeated attempts to get them to buy something.

Sensitivity
Knowing when to rein it in is essential. Even though you can't lose what you don't have, you can irritate prospective customers so much so that they will nix you from all forms of communication. Once again, respect and consideration are the rule.

The best salespeople are skilled in remaining persistent and not getting discouraged while never crossing the fine line between being a nag or nuisance. Being able to do this is one of the most valuable skills that a sales professional will learn and it requires ongoing practice to refine and master.

Adrian Miller
is the President of Adrian Miller Sales Training, a training and business consulting firm delivering sales-level performance training and executive-level business development consulting. A nationally recognized lecturer, she is also author of "The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success".

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Closing Excitement and Etiquette

Sales trainer Renee Walkup recently wrote about something that isn't usually talked about - but should definitely be recognized - closing etiquette. Her bad example is Ed Helms' character, Andy Bernard, from the TV show The Office, but I'm sure you know a few people just like him. Read on for Walkup's great tips.

If you are a fan of the TV show, "The Office" you aren't alone. Those of us in sales have to laugh when watching Ed Helms' character. Ed does a brilliant rendition of the "typical" obnoxious salesperson with his character, Andy. Just the other day, Ed was on my other favorite humor radio program, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." I almost fell out of my seat, when I heard Ed describe his character, Andy, like this: "Andy is totally transparent, but actually is convinced that he's stealthy."

Isn't that so true? Andy can't help but either snicker inappropriately, roll his eyes when he's annoyed, and do a jig when he closes a sale while shouting "YEAAAHH!"

So my question to you is, how do you react when you close a sale? Are you transparent, stealthy, calm, bored, excited, or what? What does your customer see and hear from you when you hear the sweetest love words a salesperson dreams of... "yes!"

Why then, do I see salespeople sometimes act inappropriately when they close a deal? For example, I have seen salespeople who calmly reply "ok" and then pack up and leave the scene (in person or on the phone). On the other extreme, I have witnessed salespeople embarrass themselves by pulling an "Andy" and breathing a huge sigh and say something to the effect of, "Thank goodness I can make my goal this month, YIPPEE!"

Now, you have worked hard to get this deal. Haven't you? How SHOULD you react? If Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, or Stephen Spielberg were directing you, the advice would go something like this: "Make your customer feel as though he/she has just made a significant decision that's important to you, but avoid peeing in your pants with excitement."

How to do that? Here are my tips for communicating excitement and enthusiasm while maintaining your cool professionalism.

1. Acknowledge the close. When your customer says "yes" the first action you should take is to comment. Make the customer feel important by acknowledging the close, or sometimes he will take it back later. You might say something such as: "That's great, Jake. We are excited about the opportunity of helping you grow your business." Another idea is: "Thank you so much for selecting our firm, Jake. That's great!" Or: "I'm delighted that we're going to team up on this initiative. We have a perfect match!"

2. After acknowledging the sale, offer up an action. "Jake, the first step we'll need to take is to make sure we have all the stakeholders contact information. Let's go ahead and make a list..." Or "I have the contract right here. Let's go ahead and get the agreement signed off on so we can get started for you." An alternative is: "OK, before we get started on the project, let's review our timeline together..."

3. Make sure the customer feels "the love" too. He should be happy that you are going to work together, because after all, he had other choices. There most certainly was competition and he's going to have to tell the other companies why he chose yours. If you have a skilled competitor and your contract hasn't been signed off on yet, you may be at risk of still losing the sale. Get him to smile and repeat essentially how eager he is to get started as well. You can do this with a question, such as: "Jake, we've worked hard to get this partnership sealed. I hope you are as eager to get going on this as I am. What steps do you want to take first?" Make sure that your customer has the buy-in for action by using your skills to keep him involved in the close.

Renee Walkup is president of SalesPEAK, a national sales performance company, as well as a well-recognized keynote speaker, sales coach, and author, with a 25-year background in sales, sales team management and training. Learn more at www.salespeak.com

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Smiling and Dialing No Longer Works

"There's a myth that selling by phone is a numbers game," Wendy Weiss says. "If you dial the phone enough times, someone is going to say, 'yes.' Perhaps that was true years ago; it is certainly not true today. It is simply too hard to get people on the telephone. When you do get a prospect on the phone, you had better have something compelling to say as you will probably not get a second chance."

Wendy's new e-book, 101 Cold Calling Tips for Building New Customers in a Down Economy, is a must read if you're serious about booking more sales. I've used Wendy's clear-cut advice and no-nonsense approach and it works.

Do you want more sales? I suggest you check out Wendy's new e-book.

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