Friday, October 30, 2009

5 Elements to Selling Large Accounts

Have you been making phone call after phone call, hoping to break into a large account? Today sales trainer Sam Manfer gives us the tips you need to break into these accounts - and tells us what you might be doing that's wasting your time - and not getting you any closer to that account.

"Large Account Management requires knowledge of where the account is going in relationship to its customers, competitors, industry and the economy," says Manfer. This knowledge is housed in the heads of the profit-center leader and his or her staff. So anyone that wants to manage a large account has to get to these leaders on a regular basis and learn issues, concerns, problems or target opportunities these people are thinking about. The only way these leaders are going to let that happen is if the vendor has established relationships with these C-level and senior executives. Here's the guide for large account managers to follow for establishing C-level relationships."

Successful account managers know there is a real purpose for being positioned at the top. Budgets are allocated there. Funds are released there - with or without a budget. Any changes to operations, systems or procedures are usually initiated there and are always approved there. Committees bring their recommendations for vendor selections there for approval.

Always ask yourself or your account manager, "What would happen to your chances of being the preferred vendor if your competitor gets there and makes a positive impact?" This should eliminate any doubt about purpose.

Getting to the top requires focus. If you set your sights there, you'll figure a way to get there. Caution: Do not ignore the people below on your way to the top. They have to be covered, but realize the job is not finished with subordinates.

Set your scope upward towards senior managers. Target those with P/L responsibility for the division, region, company, etc. where your products/services are used. If you don't, the ruling party will consider you a commodity that can be substituted or replaced, instead of a valuable resource to protect and use.

Confidence is the belief that you belong with these leaders. Unfortunately, the lack of this self-assurance becomes our worst enemy. The reason for this is that we have been programmed from childhood to fear authority figures. So we gravitate to lower, more comfortable levels and convince ourselves that the decision is made there.

There are also past rejection experiences from meetings with executives that went nowhere and rejection from subordinates saying in so many words, "You're not important enough to go beyond me." All of this conditioning has left many salespeople without the confidence to charge ahead and make contacts and relationships.

The solution to this overwhelming intimidation factor is to prepare for the meeting and prepare yourself. Get help from your information / introduction network. Rehearse what will be said and done in the meeting. Reprogram your thinking that this working person with a title is no different than you. Overcome any self-doubt by realizing you are feeling afraid and fear is just negative projection. Pump yourself up to positively project. Think, "This person wants to see me and our meeting will be great for both of us. If not, it's his/her loss - not mine."

Credibility is the door opener. If you've got it you can see this person anytime. Credibility means the person respects you, trusts you and believes you will deliver him/her results. Most salespeople develop credibility at lower levels. Establishing credibility at higher corporate levels is far more difficult because access is limited and what needs to be done and said is very different. Slip here with boring, annoying or no-impact selling approaches and you'll ruin any chance of credibility, further access and a relationship.

The key to gaining credibility is to use your Golden Network to transfer their credibility with the higher-level people to you. They need to refer you, introduce you, and help you establish respect. Once you're there, remember that to keep this busy exec's attention you must talk about what's important to him or her.

Finally, performance provides the real basis for attaining access, developing credibility and establishing relationships with senior executives. However, your performance at this level will be judged on what it does for the individual executive. It is now personal. Not only must the company benefit, but the executive must believe his/her career has been enhanced or protected by doing business with you.

Learn what the chief values and structure your proposition in a way that shows that she/he can get it better and with less risk of failure from you. Then deliver it. Measure the results by his or her standards and be sure the executive is satisfied. If so, that's great. Ask for more business. If not, set a course to bring the results to where they need to be.

Sam Manfer delivers keynote speeches and in-depth selling workshops for those anxious to increase sales. His hands-on coaching turns individuals and sales organizations into selling whirlwinds. Follow Sam's C-Level Selling Blog for more insights.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Assign Your Prospect Some Homework

Today the Whetstone Group is back with a sales problem and their diagnosis. You'll love what this tip can do for your sales - and how much fun it is to assign homework to people!

Problem: Mitch's company sold data storage solutions. A five-year veteran of selling, he called the other day for some coaching. He said that he had just completed a one-hour meeting with one of his top prospects, a large retailer who was a key prospect for his company. He explained that he had experienced difficulty getting the prospect into a discussion of pain and, when he finally did, he felt time pressure to hurry through the qualifying process. As a result, Mitch thought that he had done a poor job in the pain step. He said that this seemed typical of his meetings and that due to poor qualifying on his part, he was not closing some of the accounts that he thought he should.

Diagnosis: Unfortunately, Mitch lacked an effective way to quickly begin the pain qualification process. Without an effective tactic for getting quickly into the pain step, Mitch spent too much time building rapport and discussing inconsequential issues that only wasted both parties' time. While there were a number of tactics to find pain that Mitch had learned, none seemed to be working well for him.

Prescription: We told Mitch to add a new wrinkle to his initial meeting agreement. We suggested that he give his prospect some homework before the appointment. Mitch began saying the following to his prospects, "Mr. Prospect, in order to make our meeting as productive as possible, would you make a list of the two or three most challenging issues you are having with respect to data storage? Then we can really focus our discussion on your issues and try to develop a solution. Does that make sense?"

Interestingly enough, it did make sense to most of his prospects. When Mitch arrived at the appointment, he simply reminded the prospect about the list and asked what the issues were. From there, the pain conversation was easy to conduct. His got to the pain step quicker and was able to qualify in greater depth. He started closing more business because he understood the issues and was able to recommend better solutions.

Whetstone Group is a sales process improvement company that focuses on helping companies implement a proven sales process that will increase sales, shorten the selling cycle, increase closing rates, and improve margins. Learn more at


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are You a Chameleon When Selling?

Sales trainer Tessa Stowe has years of experience in sales, and today she shares a story of a dinner went wrong. The sales lesson that follows shows the importance of being a chameleon and blending in to different situations. Read on to see what we mean!

Several years ago, my former boss Peter and I went to dinner with the Chairman of the company we worked for. On that occasion, the Chairman talked and talked all evening. After the Chairman had finally left, Peter turned around to me and said "Tessa, we could have been anyone this evening." We felt that the Chairman had just talked at us all night. He would have had exactly the same conversation whether Peter and I were there or not.

The Chairman was not at all interested in Peter or me. In fact, by the end of the evening he knew absolutely nothing about us. It had not been a two-way conversation with us, but instead a monologue directed at us. His words would have been exactly the same no matter who was sitting opposite him.

Without realizing it, you may be acting like the Chairman. If your prospect would start daydreaming while you are speaking, would there be any difference in your conversation? You don't need their input for the conversation if you say the same things no matter who you are talking to.

Think back to the last time you spoke to a prospect. Did your words specifically change for that person, or were they the exact same words you have with all your prospects? Would a neutral observer think your prospect or you were at center stage?

So, what is the cure? It is actually quite simple. Become a facilitator of the conversation by asking powerful questions and quickly blend into the background and the conversation. Become a chameleon in the conversation.

For you to become a chameleon, blending into the background and the conversation, your prospect must feel comfortable about being at center stage. Hence it is critical that you ask your prospect questions about things they care about and know about. If you don't, your prospect will not want to be at center stage.

For example, a CEO cares about increasing revenues and decreasing costs, so ask questions around them. A marketing manager cares about standing out from the competition, so ask questions around that. When you ask questions, use the prospect's language - not yours.

When you are selling, you need to be a master chameleon and adapt your questions and your language to the person you are talking to. You want to blend into the background and make them center stage.

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


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cold Calling Isn't the Only Way to Get Prospects

Not many sellers will tell you they like cold calling - but most will say they do it anyway, because it produces leads. True, but according to sales trainer Kendra Lee, "Cold calling can be one of the most inefficient ways to find leads. Unless you have a list of specific contacts you want to reach, it simply isn't your best technique to fill your funnel."

"I'm a passionate believer in alternate ways of prospecting, especially when you've got a big region you're attempting to cover and you're strapped with a large number to sell," continues Lee. "Instead, you need a plan that'll bring leads in the door in a manner that's comfortable for you."

It's time to change your prospecting strategy. Here are some ideas for you.

Start an email campaign. Afraid of the spam laws? Keep your list small and personalize your emails to participants' needs so it feels as if you sat down to write them an individual message. Send a series of 3-4 emails three days apart to encourage a response.

Know your target market. You need to know where to look for your hottest opportunities. Keep your micro-segments small, 20-125 contacts at a time, so you can be more personal in your communications.

Hold an on-line event. Sound time consuming and expensive? You can run one practically for free so don't let the price stop you. If content or participation is your concern, remember that you're the expert. Make your topic relevant to your target market's top issues and they'll want to hear what you have to say. Share recommendations based on work you've done with other clients. Offer something at the end that'll separate hot prospects from warm leads.

Use social media, press releases and / or articles to get noticed. They'll keep you in front of your target market where they get to know you as an expert. You'll begin to create a relationship even before they require your assistance.

Create a mini-campaign by linking email, events, social media, and articles together to keep you in constant touch with your micro-segments. As a seller you don't have time to run a complicated 6-month campaign, but you can run a simple one over 6 weeks that generates new leads all along the way.

"Some people love cold calling. But if you aren't one of those people, relax, breathe a deep sigh of relief and change your prospecting strategy," says Lee.

"Not only will you build your funnel, you'll also create awareness for yourself and your company through consistent exposure. When your target prospects have a need, they'll remember you and reach out. And isn't that so much more inviting that interrupting their day with a cold call?"

Kendra Lee is a Prospect Attraction Expert, author of the award-winning book "Selling Against the Goal" and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business segment. Visit

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Quote of the Week

"It's the little things that make the big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class." -- J. Willard Marriot

You may have dozens of prospects and clients that you work with over the course of the week - but you certainly don't want them to know that! Making them feel like your only customer makes them feel important and keeps them working with you instead of your lower-priced competitor.

How do you make them feel like a star? Just like our quote says, it's all in the details. Remember their birthday - and their spouse's birthday! If they mention they like a certain team or author, show them you remember with a small gift. There's a lot you can do to make them feel special. What do you do to make an impression?


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Friday, October 23, 2009

Check Your Time: Social Media and Productivity

You all know how strongly I feel about time management - so it's no surprise that I think this piece from sales expert Mark Hunter is a great reminder to all. Of course, use social media - but don't let it get in the way of your selling!

"Don't allow social media sites to hurt your sales motivation," says Hunter. "Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and countless other sites are all designed to help you feel part of a community. I'm okay with that, as long as you are not spending so much time on these sites that involvement begins to hurt your level of sales motivation."

"It's very easy to start off spending only a couple minutes on a social networking site, and before you know it, you've been out there an hour," explains Hunter. "First, determine a time limit before you log in. More importantly, allow yourself to only spend time with those people who are a positive influence on your sales career. Second, keep in mind that social media sites are far more sizzle than meat. The dollar payout you can expect may be quite low, unless you have a very clear strategy for using the sites to either cultivate new prospects or stay in touch with current customers."

"Even with a strategy, always pay close attention to how the sites affect your sales motivation. I'm not saying you shouldn't participate in these sites. I am merely encouraging you to use them to build your sales motivation, not simply occupy your time. Social networking sites can definitely connect you to motivated individuals and motivational sites that help you go out and do your sales job more effectively."

Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter," helps individuals and companies identify better prospects, close more sales, and profitably build more long-term customer relationships. As a keynote speaker, he is best known for his ability to motivate and move an organization through his high-energy presentations. Learn more at

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Power of Silence

"If you're like most sellers, silence drives you nuts," says sales expert Jill Konrath. "When you're talking with a prospective customer and there's a brief lull in the discussion, I bet you jump right in to fill it. Research shows that the average salesperson, after asking a question, waits no more than 2-3 seconds before rephrasing the question, answering it themselves or moving on to another topic. And my experience shows that normal sellers have NO idea that they're doing this." Does this sound like you? Read on!

Let me ask you a question: What is the one single thing that you or your company could do in the upcoming 12 months that would dramatically impact your sales?

(one thousand one ... one thousand two .. one thousand three)

I mean, if you really thought about it, what's causing you the most trouble in your sales efforts?

(one thousand one ... one thousand two ... one thousand three)

I've been studying a lot about the challenges that salespeople are struggling with these days. They're really having trouble getting their foot in the door of big companies. Once they're in, it's really difficult to get people to change from the status quo. And, because of today's business climate, corporate decision makers are so risk averse.

Are you finding that to be the case? Which of those issues are causing you the most frustration?

(one thousand one ... one thousand two ... one thousand three)

Have you thought about how you could make it easier for you? I mean, like what kinds of marketing initiatives you could undertake?

(one thousand one ... one thousand two ... one thousand three)

Okay. I'll stop now. Hopefully you got my point about the continual rephrasing and butting in that sellers do after they ask a question.

What I really wanted to point out is what was lost because of the lack of silence.

Here's the 1st question again: "What is the one single thing that you or your company could do in the upcoming 12 months that would dramatically impact your sales?"

That's a provocative question. Decision makers can't answer it with a simple pat answer.

It makes them stop and think, "Hmmmm. What would that one thing be? New offerings? More calls? Additional money in our marketing budget? Which would have the most impact?"

That's what you want them to do. Then when they answer you'll learn a whole lot about what's going on in their organization, what the big challenges are, the decision maker's perspective on the issues and solutions and so much more.

But they can't think of all that in just two or three seconds.

They need much longer to ponder the question, to play around with it in their mind and to sort through their options.

In fact, research shows they need 8-10 seconds to formulate the start of their answer. And once they get talking, they think of more ideas.

When you cut them off at only 2-3 seconds, you lose in more ways than you can imagine.

--You don't get the benefit of your good question. You never learn all the good stuff they could be telling you if you'd just kept your mouth shut a little longer.

--When you don't learn all this info, it's so much harder to sell anything because you don't know how your offering can make the biggest difference to your customer.

--Besides that, your customer thinks that you're self-serving and only interested in achieving your own objectives. (Isn't that what you think when people keep cutting you off?)

--You don't establish a positive relationship with the person, so they really don't want to meet with you again.

And all this happens because you don't know how to count beyond three.

The value of silence in selling is rarely talked about. Mostly people focus on what they're going to say.

Instead, I suggest that you try a bit more silence. Ask a question, lean back and start counting to yourself. Start at one thousand one and keep right on going.

If you hit one thousand ten and still don't have a response, then you can rephrase or interject something. But not before. At first you'll be absolutely miserable doing this. (This is the voice of experience talking!) Nothing will seem harder. You'll be squirming and dying to jump in.

Don't do it! Keep counting silently to yourself.

Your prospective customers will start talking. You'll learn a whole lot more. You'll strengthen your relationships. They'll think you're smarter, more credible and more caring.

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies and founder of the Sales Shebang, is a frequent speaker at national sales meetings and industry events. For more articles like this, visit Sign up for the newsletter and get a bonus Sales Call Planning Guide.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ask Questions Now for Success in 2010

Planning for 2010 doesn't have to be a huge process - you can get major help from your current customers. Ask these questions from The Brooks Group, and you'll know more than ever about what your customers like about you - and what you may need to change.

Here are the essential questions to ask:

1. How long do your customers stay with you on average?
If you sell a product or service with a repeatable purchase history then you will need to know this information. This will allow you to spot trends in your customer loyalty programs. Should you change your programs or are customers leaving you quicker than they were a few years ago? Most businesses will generate 50-70% of their yearly revenue from their existing customers. Increasing customer retention is one of the fastest ways to grow existing revenue. Additionally, it is much more cost effective to retain your customer base then it is to find new customers.

2. Why do customers stop buying from you? Simply ask them!
It's amazing to me how many businesses do not track this information. The answer to this question will provide you insight into the core reasons why your customers leave. A band-aid, fix-it approach is not the solution and maybe you've used this method far too many times which is why you are loosing customers. Even if the reason is not your fault, then at least you gain a better understanding of why you lost a customer. Perhaps their top leadership changed and you need to resell the account.

3. What have you done to gain correct information on the following:

a. Who's buying your products and services?
b. Why they're buying?
c. Who's making the purchase decision?
d. How effective is your packaging?
e. What is your "Wow" factor?

All of these questions go together because they are designed to help you with your external/internal marketing efforts. For example, if 90% of your products and services are being bought by CFO's in mid-size organizations then you have defined your key market. You may want to craft a very targeted and specific message to this group of decision makers. Knowing why they buy provides insight into the trigger events that determine if someone is truly a qualified prospect. Even a minor detail dealing with how you package your product and the very color and contents of the outside packaging can determine a rise or fall in sales.

Take the time to review these key questions to see where adjustments may be needed.

4. What are your customers really saying about you and your organization?

Hopefully, they are saying good things. In today's world of online social-media outlets your customers are going to talk about you. Be aware of what they are really saying. Customers will talk to each other and for your sake that conversation needs to be a positive one. We live in a fast paced world where feedback is instant. Find out where your customers are talking and have a presence there.

Simply taking the time to go through these questions is the first step. The answers will lead you to add some extra meat to your overall strategy moving into 2010. I'm always amazed at how many organizations tell me they have never taken the time to answer these questions.

The Brooks Group is a Sales and Sales Management Screening, Development, and Retention company that has helped more than 2,000 organizations in 500 industries transform their businesses by focusing on building and sustaining top-performing sales, sales management and business development programs.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Quote of the Week

"It's not your position in life; it's the disposition you have which will change your position." -- Dr. David McKinley

I am a firm believer that attitude is everything. It affects the big things, like your interactions with clients, and the small things - from how you feel getting out of bed in the morning to how quickly you get started on the day's calls. Look at each day, each hour, even each minute, as an opportunity to do your best and you'll see wonderful results.


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Friday, October 16, 2009

Standing Out in a Commodity Market

A reader recently wrote in to sales trainer Colleen Francis with the following question:

In agriculture sales our product is commoditized and our prices are regulated by the markets. Of course we all have specialty and "unique" premium products but clients often see us all the same. What can we do to differentiate ourselves and not compete only on price? Thanks, Dean.

We agree with Francis, who says this is a great question for everyone, because in a marketplace where customers see similarities everywhere, we can all be reduced to commodities if we are not careful. What you need are a number of differentiators to use singularly or in tandem on each deal to break past the sameness and win the business.

Here are seven ideas:

--Give them something to talk about. Smother your prospects in testimonials and referrals from other companies. It's hard to ignore, or resist the word of respected peers in the marketplace.

--Meet their expectations. Ask them point blank what should be in your proposal, what it should cover and what it should cost. You might be surprised at how direct the answers are. Give the customer exactly what they want, in their words, and you will be surprised at how many more deals you close, more quickly.

--Acknowledge and appreciate. Thank your customers for doing business with you. Acknowledge that they are important to you. Reward them for staying with you. This will lead to repeat orders and referrals.

--Communicate with clients using their preferred technology. That could be face-to-face, phone, email, SKYPE, IM or FaceBook. It's not for you to decide. Meet your client where they are at and accommodate their requirements. That will set you apart from everyone else who refuses to participate in new modes of communication (and 80% of your competition will refuse to participate).

--Be nice. Remember their birthday, their spouse's birthday or even their dog's birthday. Remembering the person in a business relationship impresses the heck out of people!

--Be easy. Be the easiest to do business with. Let your customer be the diva for a change and help them buy from you in the ways that make sense to them.

--Be first. Return calls and emails so fast that it becomes part of what you're known for. Being there first is a dramatic demonstration of how much you care and how you work for the customer.

--Be last. Make your presentations and proposals last on their list for review so you can gage their comparison of yours to the others and make your memorable.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions. Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line. Start improving your results today with Engage's online Newsletter Engaging Ideas and a FREE 7 day intensive sales eCourse:


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Email Strategies That Reach Your Prospect

Have you been firing off emails left and right, with no real response to your efforts? You may be making one of these mistakes sales expert Wendy Weiss warns against. Read on to make sure you're not including any of these in your e-correspondence.

1. Create an attention-grabbing subject line. If your prospect does not open your email or worse still, deletes your email you are nowhere. Make sure that you have an attention-grabbing subject line. Go to the newsstand and look at magazine headlines. Use magazine headlines as a model. You are looking for a formula to follow. The topic is, of course, different.

2. Subject lines that use the prospects name and/or subject lines that ask questions frequently work well. If you have a referral put that referral's name in the subject line, "Jane Jones recommended that I contact you."

3. Keep your email short and to the point. No more than one screen in length. Remember that your prospect may be reading on their desktop or they may be reading on their Blackberry.

4. Just like a voice mail message, make sure that your email focuses on a benefit or result that you/your company/your product or service achieves for customers.

5. Make sure that your message includes a call to action. What action do you want your prospect to take? If you want a phone call you must say, "Please call me." Don't expect that your prospect will guess. It's your job to ask.

6. No attachments. Remember that your prospect may be reading on their desktop or they may be reading on their Blackberry. In addition, attachments will frequently get caught in spam filters, which means that your email will not be delivered at all.

7. No HTML or fancy graphics. Remember that your prospect may be reading on their desktop or they may be reading on their Blackberry. In addition, some graphics can get caught in spam filters, which means that your email will not be delivered at all.

Wendy Weiss is known as "The Queen of Cold Calling." She's written a bestselling e-book called "101 Cold Calling Tips for Developing New Business in a Downturn." Find out how it can help you sell more by phone here.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cold Calling Quick Tip - Approach with Sincerity

Many people have a hard time with cold calling because they feel like they are intruding on the person they're calling. If you're just picking up the phone and dialing, then that might be the case. If you've done your research and can honestly say you think you can help them, then that's no intrusion - that's help! Today sales trainer Sam Manfer shares a philosophy that will help you right away with your cold calling.

"People don't want to be bothered, and you know that," says Manfer. "They are doing you a favor by talking with you. However, you may be able to return the favor by helping them if they have a problem, concern, dissatisfaction, or unmet opportunity."

So apologize for your intrusion -- "Sorry to bother you." Then say something like one of the following;

"Do you have any issues or concerns about XYZ?" Where XYZ is the general field you serve. In my case XYZ would be sales or revenue generation or salespeople's productivity.

"Are you satisfied with your XYZ?" If they say "Yes", ask them what they like about it. If they say, "No", ask them, "What are some things you don't like about it or are dissatisfied with?"

"Are you missing any opportunities because of XYZ?"

"Are you experiencing any inconveniences because of XYZ?"

Expect an "Everything is fine" because that's the easiest way to get rid of you. However, what you've done with this approach, and these questions, is to be polite and focused on the prospect. This helps to establish a modicum of credibility. Needs and wants, coupled with the salesperson's credibility, are what make sales happen.

You probably should start with an intro - your name and the company you represent - but quickly follow it with a customer focused statement. This, again, is to minimize the all about you effect.

For example, "Hi, my name is Sam Manfer, with Sales Mastery. Sorry to bother you, but you or your company could be experiencing some challenges that we've helped others like you eliminate. Can I ask you a couple questions?"

Putting the second person, you/your, in the front of the sentence, and the first person, I/we, at the end of the sentence makes it more about them, rather than you. This is a subtlety that has a profound, unconscious impact on the listener - it's about them!

Since 1995 Sam Manfer has been speaking, consulting, writing and leading seminars in sales and personal development. As a keynote speaker and seminar leader Sam has addressed thousands of new and experienced sales people and managers all over the world in all types of businesses and industries. Learn more at


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"What's a "No" Worth?"

Continuing my thoughts about time management from yesterday, I thought this article from The Whetstone Group was very appropriate. Today they identify salespeople’s biggest time waster - and what you can do to avoid it.

According to The Whetstone Group, the ubiquitous "I need some time to think this over. Call me in a week or so" is salespeople's biggest time waster. Salespeople still have a problem getting their prospects to make a decision when they make a presentation and that stems from the fact that they just hate to hear "no." So, they permit their prospects to drag them through the purgatory of alternating hope and despair, just because they don't have the intestinal fortitude to hear a "no."

So what should you do? Face the facts. You know that most "maybe's" are just slow "no's," so why not get the "no" in the first place. Get rid of your old head trash. You don't have to sell everybody. Ain't gonna happen. You and I both know that.

Let's look at the problems with "think it over's" and "maybe's." It takes forever to get a "no," which permits the prospect to steal your valuable time and employ his system at your expense. The slow "no" causes pipeline and forecasting problems (how much of your current forecast is wishful thinking?) It gives you a false sense of security, but when it becomes apparent that there will not be a deal, it's devastating.

Here are two suggestions to eliminate "think it over's." First, make sure at the end of the meeting you discuss that you'd like to talk about the next step, assuming you're both in agreement that the dialogue should continue, and that your prospect understands that he doesn't have to string you along just because he assumes you're not comfortable hearing "no." Finally, your attitude on every sales call should be: "my prospect must convince me that there is a reason for my continued involvement in the sales process." In other words, if you're having any doubts that there's a reason for the two of you to do business together, tell that to the prospect. Let him convince you that he really does have a problem and that you should stay involved.

So what's a "no" worth? Just the most valuable thing you possess: that irreplaceable asset, your time.

Whetstone Group is a sales process improvement company that focuses on helping companies implement a proven sales process that will increase sales, shorten the selling cycle, increase closing rates, and improve margins. Learn more at


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Monday, October 12, 2009

Quote of the Week

"The key is not to prioritize what is on the schedule, but to schedule your priorities." -- Stephen Covey

How in the world is it already mid-October? With the days flying by, time management has been a big part of my thoughts lately. I've tried a lot of different strategies, and I've found that getting the big things scheduled and out of the way first is always best. Then you'll be able to sail through the little tasks feeling good about everything you've accomplished!

What time management strategies work for you? Let us know in the comments!


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Friday, October 9, 2009

Fourth Quarter Victory

We're nearing the end of the year, and if you're struggling to make sure you meet your goals, then this advice from sales trainer George Ludwig is for you! Today he shares his strategies to manage your time down to the minute, and fit in all those prospective sales still sitting in our pipeline. Read on, and get started!

Be a Time Management Master

Ludwig suggests you evaluate your sales funnel right now to determine which opportunities should be pursued. Come up with a short list by looking at factors like:

1. What's the size or profitability of the sale?
2. What's a realistic evaluation of where the potential sale is in the process and the probability of closing it by year-end?
3. What resources and actions are necessary to close the sale by year-end?
4. Are there any specific adverse customer behaviors as a result of economic conditions that may preclude them from being a hot-targeted prospect?
5. Are there any previous buying patterns the target has demonstrated as it relates to price, value, and purchasing urgency that might affect the opportunity?

After assessing these issues, prepare a brief strategy position for each opportunity on your list.

--Aim for the fruit closest to the ground. Consider a Q4 selling promotion targeted toward your current customers. In hard economic times, customers want to make safe choices with their limited funds, so they look to companies and products they know and trust. This is a good time for the sales department and marketing to team up and offer specific price promotions targeted to hit the sweet spot of current customers who are in the best position to purchase by year's end.

--Grease the skids with quick communiques. One way to save precious time in Q4 is to reach out to your customer and prospect database, especially your identified targets, using a variety of time-saving communication tactics. Email, snail mail, faxes, and telephone all complement direct sales efforts and keep you in mind, which helps close sales quickly.

George Ludwig is President of GLU Consulting which specializes in helping clients like Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, and Northwestern Mutual improve their sales performance. George is the bestselling author of Power Selling and a widely recognized authority on sales success and peak performance psychology.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Turn off the computer!

I think we can all agree that The Internet, social networking, and other breakthroughs in technology have changed the way we do business. It seems like everyday we're hearing about a new way to connect with our customers without ever having to see them or talk to them. According to referral expert Joanne Black, "The rise of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and LinkedIn have lured many sales pros into scaling back their personal interactions and relying on social media to surface 'qualified leads.'"

Today Joanne Black gives us her opinion on social media - and how it should be incorporated into your sales.

Get Real
Social media is a powerful tool for three things and three things only:

1. Search engine optimization—use your key words and raise your presence on the web
2. Find out who people are - learn about a person's background and your connections
3. Find out who people know - look for close connections that you can leverage

Some salespeople tell me they actually get clients through social media. Well, maybe if you have a commodity business. Could it happen? Yes. Do I rely on it? Absolutely not. I only count on what I bring about - through a proactive, intentional, referral strategy with personal introductions.

To Know You Is to Like You
There's a saying in sales: Clients buy with emotion and justify with fact. If our clients don't like us or don't feel comfortable with us, they won't buy from us. You can wow your clients with technology know-how now and try to win them over later, once they find out you're honest and reliable. But the reality is, you need people to start liking you within the first few seconds of your relationship. You need to start off on the right foot. Fancy gizmos won't make that happen. But a trusted referral and a personal connection will.

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, in his commencement address to the graduating class of the University of Pennsylvania in May 2009, urged college graduates to step away from the virtual world and make human connections. "Turn off your computer. You're actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us."

To Like You Is to Trust You
The most important business decisions are still based on personal relationships. There is significant research about why customers make buying decisions. Bottom line: It's because they like and trust the salesperson and his organization. Think about it. We're selling services, investments, systems, products... we're asking for people's time and money! Why would they work with someone who hasn't been referred?

3 Winning Tips
That said, a social media presence is a must-have in today's world. Start this way:

1. Develop a social media strategy - Like a sales plan or a marketing plan, write your social media plan. What is your goal, who is your audience, what do you communicate? Leverage social media as part of your go-to-market strategy. How does your strategy link to your customer's needs and your business priorities?

2. Establish relationships - Take the time to build your personal connections, pick up the phone and talk to people. Just because you have a name in hand, doesn't mean you have a relationship.

3. Communicate useful information - Social sites are not for selling. They are for establishing connections, identifying ways to collaborate, and providing value. What tips can you provide? Link to other sites that you recommend. Be recognized as the expert and build your web presence. Be a resource.

To Trust You Paves the Way
The most energizing and exciting part of our work is the relationships with our clients - the interaction. We enjoy learning about our client's business and matching our solutions to their needs. In an era dominated by ever-expanding technology and social media pressures, always remember that personal connections, referrals, and earning trust are what count. Yes, it requires brainpower. But isn't that what we love about what we do? Indeed.

Joanne Black is a leading authority on referral selling and the author of "No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust" from Warner Business Books. Learn more at her website:


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Surefire Way To Turn Prospects Into Buyers

If you're running into resistance from clients one of the main reasons could be that you haven't gotten them interested. The path of least resistance is for your prospects to say, "Tell me more!" Today sales trainer Jim Klein shares several ways you can get your prospect excited and ready to buy.

Make a Big Promise

You need to break your prospects preoccupation, and make a big promise. A big promise is something you know you can provide, or you believe you can help them achieve, and you know there's probably a pretty good chance they want it.

State a Feature That Backs Up Your Big Promise

What is a feature of your product or service? It's something that your product or service has to offer your prospect. It should be a major feature of your product or service, and preferably one your competitors do not have. In other words, fire your big gun, if you know what I mean. Hit them with the biggest and best feature you can offer.

Don't save it till the end of your presentation, because if you don't get their interest, this will be the end.

Give Them a Logical Benefit

Step three is to give them a logical benefit. People buy products or services based on emotion; however, they justify their purchase based on logic. So give them a real strong logical benefit to justify their purchase. Something you're sure that most of your target market and your ideal clients would want.

Give Them an Emotional Benefit

I'm sure you already know, as I stated before, people are driven by emotions. They make decisions, especially buying decisions, based on emotions. So, you want to give them a real strong emotional benefit they will receive by buying and using your particular product or service. An emotional benefit they will feel at the very core of their being.

There are 10 emotional triggers to make people buy.

Here they are:

1. make more money
2. save money
3. save time
4. look better
5. learn something new
6. live longer
7. be comfortable
8. be loved
9. be popular
10. gain pleasure

Some other emotional benefits are feelings of luck, success, recognition, security and freedom.

Back Everything Up With Evidence

Talk about how you've done the same for other people or companies just like them. If you have worked with someone they might know or recognize, maybe a top person or company in their industry, then get specific and use the name.

You want to show them you understand the industry, and you've been successful helping other people or companies with your product or service. If possible, let them know the exact results you have helped others attain.

Ask For Permission to Ask Questions or Probe

Many salespeople will just jump in and begin the qualifying process, assuming the prospect knows you are meeting so you can ask questions about their situation. However, it is common courtesy to ask the prospects permission to ask your fact-finding questions, and it will put the prospect at ease. It also shows respect, and sets a positive tone for the sales presentation.

Furthermore, because many of your competitors will not employ this simple courtesy, asking the prospects permission will set you apart from your competition, and will continue to build deeper rapport and trust with your prospect.

Your lead in to the fact finding portion of the sales process can be as simple as:

"Now I would like to ask you a few questions, is that okay"?

"By creating interest before you start probing for the problems you can solve with your product or service, you put the prospect in a 'tell me more' mentality," says Klein. "Put it all together and you will create excitement and willingness in your prospect that will allow you to dig deeper to uncover their true motivation to buy."

Jim Klein is the president of From the Heart Sales Training, a company that wants to make all sales "from the heart," rather than "from the hip." Learn more and sign up for his Sales Advisor Newsletter at


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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Get into Gear!

Who isn't busy these days? With everything you have to do in a day, it's likely you've become the ultimate multi-tasker - firing off emails to "talk" to potential clients, making calls while picking up the kids, and checking emails during meetings. While they are certainly efficient, sales expert Colleen Francis believes these behaviors cause us to lose sight of the real purpose of sales; to create engaging and memorable relationships with everyone in our network.

"There is a difference between connecting with someone and engaging with them," says Francis. "That difference is trust. And creating trust requires being nice, staying focused on their needs and treating them with respect."

What is respectful behavior in your relationships?

1. If you receive an email that you feel is challenging or upsetting, pick up the phone and call. Speak with them with genuine curiosity and respect.
2. If you must deliver bad news to a client or a colleague, use the phone or meet with them face to face to have a real conversation with them.
3. Listen, do not interrupt. A simple rule to follow is wait three seconds after someone has finished talking before you start. This will ensure you don't jump in, interrupt or overrun their conversation.
4. If email is the only option, write it once, save as a draft. Sleep on it and review your text the next day. Better yet - send an email that only says, "please can we talk".
5. Keep your private communications private - no need to tell the whole office or your networking group about an incident you had with a client, prospect or manager
6. Show acknowledgement and appreciation. In Honesty Sells Steven and I teach a technique called "getting into Gear". This technique works for client and internal relationships and it goes like this:

G: Genuine. Say it only if you mean it. People know when you are being insincere.

E: Exact. Explain what you are you acknowledging exactly. Don't just say, "Thanks for doing a good job." Say: "I appreciate the work you did on the Jones project. Your attention to detail on the contract negotiation was outstanding!"

A: At once. Catch people doing something good and acknowledge it right away. Don't wait a week. Do it now. Even if you have to make a phone call or send an e-mail rather than acknowledging someone in person. An immediate acknowledgment is always better than a delayed one.

R: Regular. You cannot harm people by over-appreciating them.

"Your success will be directly determined by your willingness to communicate with your network in a trust building way," says Francis. "In good times or bad, the type of salesperson you choose to be is entirely up to you. Choose to be kind, honest, open, and supportive of your clients. You'll see consistent sales growth; you'll build an excellent reputation; and you'll become a leader in your field - regardless of your market or the state of the economy."

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions. Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line. Start improving your results today with Engage's online Newsletter Engaging Ideas and a FREE 7 day intensive sales eCourse:


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Monday, October 5, 2009

Quote of the Week

"When you find yourself stressed, ask yourself one question: Will this matter five years from now? If yes, then do something about the situation. If no, then let it go." -- Catherine Pulsifer

How many times have you found yourself worrying about little things that aren't all that important? For me, it's probably every day! Coming from a long line of worrywarts, I get nervous very easily about little things - did I send the right copy of that proposal? Did I approach that prospect the right way? Did I remember to close the freezer? :)

When I think about my day, worrying about little things takes up more time than I'd care to admit. That's time I could be using much more efficiently! I'm going to tape this quote up in a very prominent place and remind myself that the little things will pass. Recognizing the important things and taking action is a much better use of my time!


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Friday, October 2, 2009

The Three R's of Professional Services Marketing

C.J. Hayden is a marketing expert whose advice often applies to salespeople who do their own lead generation. That's why I found this article so interesting - you may not be in marketing, but a marketing viewpoint when it comes to leads never hurts!

Hayden suggests you incorporate into your back-to-business agenda the back-to-basics curriculum of the Three R's of professional services marketing: relationship, referral, and reach.

#1: Relationship

The cornerstone of every independent professional's marketing strategy should be relationship-building. If a marketing tactic you're considering contributes to stronger relationships between you and your prospects, it's worthy of your attention. If it doesn't, think twice before using it, and certainly don't rely on it.

Marketing that leads to better relationships includes activities like lunch and coffee dates, giving educational talks, and personal exchanges via phone, email, or social networking. Marketing that rarely leads to - better relationships - and can sometimes damage them - includes phone calls, letters, and emails with over-the-top hype for your services, anonymous online ads, and besieging your social networking contacts with promotional announcements.

Don't be misled by advice pushing the flavor of the week in marketing. If a new tactic suggested to you isn't relationship-oriented, it probably isn't worth your time.

#2: Referral

Prospects who come to you by way of a referral are more likely to become clients than those who you connect with in almost any other way. They have often already decided to work with you when you hear from them, and are less likely to question your rates or your expertise.

Generating more referrals, then, should be an essential component of your marketing. Instead of expending all your effort on filling the pipeline with unknown prospects and making cold approaches, spend more time cultivating relationships with likely referral sources.

Many professionals mistakenly believe that if they simply provide good service to their clients, the referrals that naturally result will be enough. But this is rarely the case. The best referrals often come from people who have never been your clients - members of your trade association or networking group, other professionals who serve your market, and centers of influence in your community. Time spent getting to know these folks better can be much more productive than approaching strangers.

#3: Reach

Clients don't appear just because you are there waiting for them. You have to reach out. In marketing, reach takes many different forms - for example, you reaching out to people you already know to build better relationships, you reaching out to new potential referral sources, and you reaching outside your comfort zone to have personal interactions with prospects.

The point is that you do have to reach out rather than simply wait and react, even though outreach is often more uncomfortable. It's tempting to rely on build-it-and-they-will-come marketing like websites consisting solely of sales letters, or online "networking" platforms populated by people you don't even know, or classified ads, or directory listings. And there are plenty of vendors doing their own outreach to sell you on these approaches so you don't even have to go looking for them.

But if it was really that easy to get clients - just launch a website, say, or buy an ad, and you'll have all the clients you need - why haven't all the folks selling you these strategies retired to tropical islands by now?

As far as marketing tactics go, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So get back to basics with your marketing this fall. Build relationships, cultivate referrals, and reach out proactively to prospects and referral sources rather than waiting for them to find you. With the Three R's as your guide, you'll have everything you need to go to the head of the class.

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

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