Thursday, November 26, 2009

Differentiate Your Organization

Differentiate your Company from the Competition

To differentiate ourselves in a crowded, competitive marketplace, we need to be unique with exciting approaches to solving buyer’s problems. We also need to be present in a way that builds credibility and makes people want to buy. One of the most effective ways to do this is to build value in the solution of the sale. What we present and how we present it is critical to the buying/selling process.
  • Creative ideas result in new discoveries, better ways of doing things, reduced
    costs and improved performance.

  • Do your research to ensure that you’ve covered all bases and thought about all options.

  • Provide your client with the benefits of each solution.

  • Follow up by painting a word picture of your buyer using your solution, enjoying it, and benefiting from it
This is from the Dale Carnegie blog click here

Check out Erin Treleaven's slides on time management - they're terrific. Click here

Monday, November 23, 2009

Facts and Fallacies About Selling: Fallacy #7: Incentives increase sales

Fallacy #7: The way to increase sales and motivate salespeople is to offer “incentives” in money and merchandise.


Such schemes entice ineffective salespeople to put unnecessary pressure on prospective buyers. Short-term increases are the worst thing an incentive system creates.

For example, salespeople may delay processing an order or promise something sooner than they can deliver just to earn an “incentive.” These falsely created sales can seriously jeopardize an organization’s long-term viability and undermine customer satisfaction.

Poorly designed incentives temporarily mask incompetence and have a tendency to bring out the worst, not the best in people. No matter how cleverly disguised, any carrot and stick based process produces questionable long-term, sustainable results.

With competent salespeople, there is plenty of money to go around.

Manipulating behavior by offering reinforcements is a sound approach to training your pet beagle, but it may not bring out the best in salespeople. We realize this is an unconventional position, but there is current, sound, and factual evidence to support it.

If you’re curious about this subject, email me at and I’ll point you to the appropriate data.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Current Reality(?)

• Technology does not, and cannot, replace a professional salesperson
• Old-time salespeople and dated sales “techniques” are obsolete
   (this has been true for years)
• Prospects don’t have time to meet or listen to every salesperson
• It is difficult to find and connect with qualified prospects
• Professional selling is not obsolete – it’s just rare
• Non-commodity purchasers need help from professional salespeople

A memo to today's sales organizations:
If your customers need genuine help making their buying decision, you need a strong sales force of highly trained, competent professionals. If your sales-people look and sound like all the rest, you’re in fundamental trouble. If how they explain your offering is vague or hard to follow, your market share and margins are probably shrinking.

On the other hand, if your salespeople have the technical expertise your customers demand, and sales competence on behalf of a killer sales strategy, you might be invincible and probably have an expanding market share, high margins, and a loyal client base willingly giving you a steady revenue stream.

Never in history has there been so much researching, probing, and testing of salespeople and their work. In our opinion, most of this information creates confusion. A balance of strategy, technology, and highly professional salespeople consistently out-performs conventional cold-call salespeople, order-takers, product-peddlers, and/or technology or marketing driven initiatives.

Despite the controversy surrounding selling, one fact stands out clear and strong — the final responsibility for making sales still rests firmly on the shoulders of today’s salesperson.

Is this true - or not?
Please add your comments below.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Follow The Money

Virtually all executives we interview complain that their margins are shrinking. This is a concern since our market is a global, hyper competitive commodity and price driven, margin battering place. How you made money last year may not make you money this year.
We’re fascinated when we hear business people say they are customer focused or customer driven, yet their profit models are focused on their needs rather than creating genuine wealth for their customers and sharing that wealth. Even their business structure tends towards an “inner” view.

Thirty years ago the customer didn’t really matter. I know this sounds weird, but it’s true. Customer demand was higher than capacity and the seller was in the driver’s seat. They set their business goals based on their targeted profit margins. Today our capacity to produce is greater than demand and, unless you have a distinctly innovative product or service, the customer has a confusing amount of choice. Rarely can we set our own prices in a business climate filled with hungry competitors. Protecting margins involves much more than increasing prices and/or tinkering with administrative costs. In reality, the customer is now at the center of our business universe.

Dale Carnegie said: “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

It’s time to scrutinize whether we actually live this principle or just pay lip service to it.

Unfortunately, traditional market research is of little help since it uses what we call a “rear view mirror” approach. Usually customers are given a series of multiple choice questions. Even when augmented by interviews, the questions often do not get at clients’ genuine future issues. Why is thinking from the customer’s point of view so hard? Mostly it’s because we’ve been trained to continually focus on improving our products or services. An all too common model is designing a product (service) that we think serves a need and aggressively taking it to market with traditional techniques. Invariably the market responds with apathy, or strong resistance. [Do you remember Crystal Pepsi?]

As an organization grows, the natural, organic flow is away from customers. A recent survey indicates that senior managers spend seventy percent of their time dealing with internal issues, and a high percentage of the remaining thirty percent involves dealing with non-customer issues. Believe it or not, the best customers or prospects with whom to invest time are the ones most demanding, difficult, or dissatisfied.

Over 20 years ago, a successful retailer taught me to actively pursue complaining customers. “Dave,” he said, “a complaining customer is doing you a favor. They are telling you they want to do business with you, but they’re frustrated or irritated at something. They represent at least fifty other customers who, for whatever reason, are reluctant to bring their complaints to your attention. The best ideas to dramatically improve my business came from complaining customers.” He taught us the direct, inexpensive customer focus process we still use for both ourselves and our clients.

Asking the right questions is critical. It is important to uncover our most demanding client’s needs, aspirations, and future business focus. Just asking them how they like our service is vague and weak. Asking them about their “needs” is not enough. Prospective customers usually don’t know their future needs. They operate in the same dynamic business climate as the rest of us.

Ineffective, order-taking salespeople, for example, contend that they do think from the customer’s viewpoint. They tell us, “All our customers care about is price. The customers don’t want what we sell; there is no demand for it.” History gives us many examples of the flaw in this mindset. Years ago, vacuum cleaners were unknown and, when approached, retailers claimed there was no demand for them. However, once a few early-adopters began using the contraptions they purchased from a direct salesperson, demand increased. Now, almost every major retailer carries vacuums. This tells us is that “demand” is after-the-fact and often ineffective in capturing future opportunities.  

Suggestion: Seek out forward-looking customers. Listen carefully to their viewpoints and visualize the picture they communicate.

No one can predict the future, but these rare visionaries see what others do not see until it’s a commodity. Find out what books they are reading and read them yourself. Look for industry shaping publications, not “faddish,” rearview mirror-type books. Once a topic becomes trendy, bookstores are flooded with a wave of rehash publications that are of little value in uncovering potential future profits.

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Don't BUT heads with prospects

It’s sensible to avoid arguing with customers...but . . .

Customer objections can become stepping stones towards a sale or stumbling blocks. Many salespeople fall into the “yes but” trap which weakens their negotiating position and could blow the sale.

Infective salespeople typically follow a variation of the following:

Prospect: “Your price is too high...”
Salesperson: “Yes but considering all the features this is a great deal.”
Prospect: “I’m not prepared to pay that much...”
Salesperson: “Perhaps we would be willing to... (Value-added).”
Prospect: “That’s nice, but I think I’d like to think about this some more.”

Replacing ‘but’ with ‘however’ or ‘and’ is cosmetic at best, and does little to close a stalled sale.

SELLING PRINCIPLE: When a prospect objects, find a point of agreement.

Applying this principle is not as easy as it seems. Phrases such as “I know how you feel” or “I can appreciate that” or “I’m glad you brought that up,” are weak, slick, and come across as insincere - mostly because they are insincere or trite.

Let’s analyze the price objection and develop a point of agreement, which positions us as an assistant buyer, not a product peddler.

Prospect: “Your price is too high...”
Salesperson: “We’re not cheap.” or “This isn’t the cheapest system on the market...”

The use of cheap is deliberate here. It changes the emphasis from ‘too high’ to ‘not cheap.’ Cheap implies poor quality, minimum features, or a stingy buyer. Few prospects want the cheapest system; they want the most features for the least investment and they want a better deal. A select number of high ego buyers want the “finest system money can buy.”

There isn’t just one price objection,since several issues revolving around price. Does the customer feel the system is not worth the investment, or do they feel it is beyond their means? Do they believe they can get it elsewhere for less, or are they simply trying to put you off?

Clarifying the objection is up to the salesperson and, effectively executed, closes sales. (Ask the customer for clarification if you are unsure.)

Salesperson: Just to clarify my thinking, are you concerned this system is not worth the investment, or are you not sure how you can handle it?”

This salesperson changes price to investment which appeals to the customer’s sense of value and implies a longer-term benefit rather than short-term savings. By asking the customer to clarify their concerns, you allow them to answer their own objection. In addition, how you respond to “I don’t think it’s worth it” is distinctly different than handling the “I don’t believe I can afford it” objection.

Prospect: “I don’t believe I (we) can afford to spend that much...”
Salesperson: (Point of agreement) “I can appreciate why you would hesitate if you were concerned about the investment, in addition to the budget issue, is there any other reason that might cause you to hesitate?”

Caution: A sales script often sounds insincere, cold, and generic. Their effectiveness relies on the salesperson's capability to isolate a prospects genuine concerns and deal with them effectively. In the hands of a professional salesperson, the above process is a masterful way of helping prospects make the best and most informed buying decision as quickly as possible. The process is not manipulative; some salespeople are manipulative. As Stuart Chase contends, "Meaning is in people, not words."

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Facts and Fallacies About Selling: Fallacy #6: How salespeople learn

Fallacy #6: Salespeople can learn to effectively sell by reading books, watching videos, on-line learning, listening to experts, or simply emulating high-producers.

Many of us grew up with comparisons to a perfect model. An accusatory “Why can’t you be more like (your sister, brother etc.) ” still rings in our ears. Trying to live up to a perfect model is an impossible dream. The implication is that there is a “right” way to sell. Searching for this elusive “right” way undermines an individual’s capacity to think for themselves. There is no “one size fits all recipe for success.”

Rookie salespeople and "wanna-be" athletes spend thousands of dollars on videos hoping professionalism will somehow rub off on them. They rarely watch the whole program. If you doubt this, visit a used book store or yard sale and notice how many self-help books, videos and CD’s are in pristine condition. Incidentally, individuals who actually put these tools to work would not let their dog-eared books or worn out videos out of their personal library.

Only by thinking through their own selling issues and applying sound principles do salespeople (and athletes) dramatically improve their performance. This process requires high-level teaching and coaching skills – a rarity in today’s quick-fix, "personal coaching" environment.

Few salespeople put into action what they see, read, or hear. Each salesperson is an individual and, as such, cannot hit aggressive targets by simply aping top producers. At best, they gain a few “tips” to incorporate into their current (ineffective) approaches. Lectures and videos about how selling “should be” are visually impressive, but are ineffective in creating blockbuster sales increases.

Short-term, "motivational" seminars have their place; but the danger is a person who actually believes these sessions have a long-term, competency improvement effect. Habits are formed one way and one way only - repetition. Repeatedly selling ineffectively simply entrenches ineffective selling habits. Watching the pros is helpful, but at some point, salespeople need to learn their craft by actually applying what they've learned. 

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