Put the fire in their bellies…

Board Room

The fire and passion that is present in too few of our salespeople is found in the belly-THE GUT! The best of those managers who run regular sales meetings are acutely aware of the need to inspire that passion and turn on that enthusiasm in order to spark the ACTIVITY necessary for continued sales success.  As a speaker, I see many people get turned on in my sessions.  I see the fire in their eye actually change throughout the day as it grows and the passion becomes reality.  It is then that I KNOW that they will go back to their offices and begin the process of change.

However, it is way too often that I find the results do not match up with the initial ACTION.  Why?  Because firing someone up is not a sometimes thing!  Inspiration is fleeting and inconsistent.  Regular challenges must be made to pull results out of our people and ourselves.  I may inspire and challenge some short-term change in behavior for many in my workshops.  But it is the salesperson with continual reinforcement, continual access to tools and information, continual support, and a continual “shot in the arm (or kick in the butt) that truly has the best shot for long term success.  That needs to come from somewhere because there are not enough human beings out there with the ability to do it for themselves on a regular basis.

So a few parting thoughts for you on your quest to build a better sales meeting process for your organization:

  • Never have a meeting without a PURPOSE!
  • Never “wing it!”  Prepare better for these meetings than you ever did for any sales call in your past.
  • Imagine your people are your customers (They are). How will you get them to “buy” your message?
  • Become a role model for all that you wish to build in your people.  Success breeds success.
  • Never allow meetings to digress into negativity.
  • Save the data for memos. Use your sales meetings to INSPIRE, TEACH, AND GROW your people into superstars!
  • Have FUN!  Lot’s of FUN!  The mind is its most open to change and creativity when it is in a non-threatening, pleasurable, fun environment.

Sales meetings are a vital part of the success of your sales organization. Meetings run the right way can create better communication, camaraderie, enthusiasm, learning, fun, and overall culture.  Meetings run incorrectly (more often the case) are a major cause of miscommunication, interdepartmental divisions, poor attitude, the wrong culture, and thus, poor results with high turnover.  FOCUS on getting this right and the results you desire are not far behind.

It’s ALWAYS NO, unless you ASK


Here is an interesting question:  Why is it that we, as salespeople spend so long, invest so much time, energy, preparation, and effort on the phone with the prospective and existing customer during the sales cycle only to let the sale fade away or go to the competition?  Why is it that we place so much emphasis and commitment on the process of moving the ball down the field but yet design so very few plays to actually take the ball into the end zone?

We need to realize that whenever we do not actually attempt to create some closure–ask for the business–we literally destroy (or at least taint) all that we have worked for throughout the sales process.  We give up the connection and trust that we have built, the relationships that we have developed, the enthusiasm we have created, and the momentum of the process.  We simply let the sale wither away and die or get taken over by another more assertive, focused salesperson that was prepared  (AND took the leap of faith) to ASK for the business!

Do you feel that you offer such irrefutable evidence of value throughout your sales presentations that the customer will simply give in?  Do you feel that your features, advantages, and benefits (FAB points) are so compelling that prospects don’t need to be asked to buy them?  Do you feel that you will offend your prospect or customer if you were to actually ask them to buy from you?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to GET OVER IT! (and possibly consider another career!) Here are a few very key RULES when it comes to closing the sale:

Rule #1—You MUST ask for the business!

Rule #2—You MUST earn the right to ask for the business!

Rule #3—The customer knows why you’re there!

Rule #4—Sometimes the answer is NO! Deal with it!

Rule #5—If you cannot, will not, or do not ask for the business, someone else will!

Ok, so why does it happen?  Why do many salespeople have a hesitance to ask for the business?

It is my belief that most salespeople do not ask for the YES because they are afraid to hear the NO! 

Here are some other reasons:

  •      Little to no belief in their value proposition, their product, or their service.
  •      A lack of confidence or self-worth.
  •      No connection with the customer, thus no trust.
  •      The customer is in control-asking all of the questions.
  •      The salesperson doesn’t feel like they have earned the right yet.
  •      The salesperson has not discovered any motivators to create urgency.
  •      No time-lines have been discussed throughout the process.
  •      There is no defined sales process that the salesperson can follow.
  •      And many others

The good news is that ALL of these are within the control of the salesperson—the right salesperson.

FACT: is that it is not the responsibility of the customers to close themselves.  It is the job of the salesperson to get that done!  You are not paid to be a professional educator, a professional presenter, a hesitant visitor, or a walking-talking brochure-website.  You are paid to move the ball down the field and to score.  That’s it!!

The web site, the brochures, the advertising, and other marketing pieces often have very little to do with the Call to Action…but you do!  Your territory, products, prices, and your competition are what they are and they do not control your success…you do!  The prospective customer knows that you are there for a reason and that reason is to make the sale. Often, the only thing that stands in the way is you!  Are you willing to make the changes necessary to stay in the game?  If so, take a look at a few suggestions:

Learn how to ask better (more focused) questions to pull out true motivations (Pains-Fears-Desires) from the prospect.  Get to the WHY behind their answers!  Ask questions to gauge the prospects level of interest, understanding, and continued engagement in the process such as “So far, so good?”  “Up to this point, what questions do you have?” “Does that make sense?”

Have a clear purpose for each and every call that you make on the prospect.  If you don’t understand what needs to be discovered /uncovered and agreed upon in the sales process, how will the customer?  Going on a call without a clearly defined purpose and a clearly prepared Call to Action wastes both your time and the prospect’s.

Learn to “set the pace” of the sales cycle from the beginning.  Be in control by constantly and relentlessly moving the deal forward by calling the shots.  Get in the habit of thinking—and asking—“So what’s our next step?”

Do you homework and be prepared to address any objection or concern that stands in your way when you attempt to close the sale.  Write down the most common objections (there are fewer than you think) and practice the best way to clarify, validate, isolate, and address these with your customers.  Your confidence in addressing these objections plays a MAJOR role in overcoming customer’s concerns and getting a sale to completion.  That confidence is a direct result of your preparation and practice.

Be prepared to hear NO.  The best salespeople would rather hear a no today than hear a maybe forever.  And remember, often time a no is only the beginning of the sale.

Make sure you are dealing with the true decision makers.  Never try to create closure with someone that cannot say yes!  Anyone can say NO or derail your progress. Make sure you are dealing with “the Juice” before you begin ask for the business.

Have a very, very strong conviction in yourself, your company, your product or service, and the benefits that they provide to your customers such that you feel that NOBODY who truly understands the value of ownership could ever say no!  If you don’t have this conviction, get it or get out!  Remember, they don’t buy because they are passionate about what you sell….they buy because YOU are passionate about what you sell!

Fill your pipeline!  If every sale lost or won dictates your success or failure for the week, the month, the quarter, or the year, you simply do not have enough action going on. It is amazing how readily you will ask for the business when you don’t live or die by the answer you get in return.

In today’s economy, there is a lot of uncertainty and fear.  These two things cause hesitation and lack of action on the part of consumers.  It is NOW that a true salesperson must emerge and help the customer make that purchase.  Selling is tough if you are focused ONLY on your need to sell.  Re-focus your efforts on your personal Attitudes, Skills, and Activities that must be sharpened to HELP THE CUSTOMER BUY!  Now get out there and ask for the business!

Use Leap Day to LEAP into 2012 Results!

I am currently on a plane this morning to do a workshop in Southern CA today.  While in line at TSA an hour ago, I heard someone complaining that they had to work an extra day this year for free due to the fact that this is a Leap Year.  Obviously, this is a salaried person; not hourly or commission based and certainly not one with a very entrepreneurial mindset.  I would imagine that they would feel differently if February 29th had fallen on a weekend or if it was a paid day off!  I feel that they are looking at Leap Year in a totally wrong way.

Every four years the world is blessed with Leap Year, allowing us to catch up with the Earth’s rotation around the sun.  This extra day on our calendar every four years affords not only the Earth to play a little catch-up, it also allows every person to do a little of the same—should they choose.  What a gift!  What will you do with an extra 24 hours this year?  Here are a few suggestions:

For the salesperson:

  • Call or send a handwritten note to your top 20 clients and thank them for their business over the past three years since the last Leap Year.  I bet no other salesperson will do that.  Have no agenda other than pure Leap Year gratitude!
  • Schedule 2 hours specifically for prospecting 20-30 new major accounts.  This is like found time!  Imagine if you were able to create a new opportunity with it.
  • Get your butt out of bed at 4:00am and WORK until 9:00pm on all of the things that you never seem to get a chance to.  That is 17 hours of Leap Year productivity!

For the Sales Manager:

  • On Tuesday, the 28th, spend a few hours in the morning connecting with all of your sellers to go over their plans for their Leap Day.  Get their heads in the right place about the day making sure they take advantage of it.  (See above)
  • Spend the day in the field with 1-2 of your top salespeople showing them how to make new sales LEAP into their book of business!  Model the behavior you’d like to see every day from them.
  • Get your butt out of bed at 4:00am and WORK until 9:00pm on all of the things that you never seem to get a chance to.  That is 17 hours of Leap Year productivity!

For the Entrepreneur:

  • Use today as a chance to GROW your business!  Connect and add some value to the relationships with your top clients, your top employees, and your top growth initiatives today.  No maintenance today—just GROWTH!
  • Pull out your business plan for the year and make sure that you are at least one sixth of the way to your goal for the year.  Remember, today is a free day for you to gain on it and surpass it.  You only get this once every 4 years!
  • Have a morning ALL-HANDS meeting to “set the stage” for an ultra-productive, over-the-top, kick-ass day!  How about a “Sweat the Small Stuff—Everything Matters” Leap Day?  Perhaps a company-wide contest to see how many new sales dollars can LEAP to the top line?
  • Make Leap Day a super-fun, growth focused day that nobody will ever take for granted.  It’s a freebie!  If this were football, it’s an extra possession to gain yardage or score.  In baseball, it’s an extra “at-bat” to get a runner in scoring position or to hit a home-run.  In golf, it’s a “Mulligan” to get you closer or to make that putt!  In tennis, it’s a third serve to score that ACE.

…and, for all:

  • Use Lead Day as an extra day to give thanks for an extra sunrise and an extra day on this planet to pursue and accomplish your goals.
  • Use Leap day as an extra day to say I Love You to those closest to you.
  • Use Leap Day as a day to invest an extra 24 hours into making YOU a better YOU and the world a better place for our children.

I read an article recently that stated (in Europe) that the extra day on Leap Year will mean an extra 100 million Euros to the economy.  I would assume that similar gains stand to be made all across the world.  This Leap Year, I hope that some of those additional “digits” drop onto your bottom line!


The number-one skill in professional selling

What’s the all‑important, number-one skill in the profession of selling?

Listening. Nobody’s ever listened themselves out of a sale, right? On the other hand, a lot of us, every day, talk ourselves right out of a sale.  Remember  this: Your customers don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

And you can’t let them know how much you care until you really start listening. When you’re doing all the talking, the only thing you’re learning is what you already know.

Your customers have the answers. Only they know:

  • what their pains are
  • what their fears are
  • what their goals are

And they know those things better than you do, so stop assuming, talking and worrying about what you want to say, and start listening to what they need to say and what you need to hear.

You don’t need to remind yourself of what you think. You need to find out what the other person thinks. You’ve got to listen your prospect into buying, listen your customer out of their problems.

We often miss opportunities because we’re broadcasting when we need to be listening. What if you were just a bit more aware of the things your customers need from you? What if you had a little more understanding of their situation?

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Want to land bigger deals? You have to go after bigger customers

Bigger customers mean bigger deals.

Seriously, somebody is going to be selling the enormous accounts, and it might as well be you.

The question is, how do you prepare yourself, mentally and tactically, to go after those big accounts – and bring home those bigger commissions?

That’s what we’ll be looking at in the next few posts.

The first thing is, your head has to be in the right place. You have to have higher levels of belief in yourself. What does that mean?

Well, sometimes we talk to the guy on the loading dock, or the mid-level manager who will take our call, rather than going to the person who can make the decisions for hundreds of purchases. Why is that? Maybe our self image makes us feel inferior to those key decision makers in an account. We don’t feel comfortable rubbing elbows with people at the top of the org chart.

This could be related to not feeling worthy, not feeling like you’re up to par, not feeling you’re smart enough, not feeling you’re going to have something to say. So you see, your image of yourself as a sales professional can make or break your bottom line.

You’ve got to believe that you’re somebody who is worthy to meet and deal with people at all levels within an organization. And if you don’t, you’ve got to understand that it’s holding you back. How much could things change for you if you transformed your self-image a little bit?

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Test your sales approach — then change it

We’ve been exploring about how to deal with change, and in that context I want to ask you this: What does your approach look like? Specifically, what questions are you asking in your sales process?

Are the questions you ask getting you the desired answers? Are you getting information, or are you actually getting an understanding of where the customer is coming from?

Because that’s the difference between just getting data, and actually knowing the motivations they have.

What do those questions sound like? How do you ask them? Because you might need to enhance them slightly. Because we don’t want to ask a question without a purpose.

If you’re getting a bunch of information, but it’s irrelevant, then re-evaluate. Reassess your approach.

If I challenged you and said you cannot go out on a sales call unless you’ve got 20 solid, impact questions, the answers to which you are going to use to build your case, could you do it?

This is not just a good idea, it’s an absolute strategy you need to pursue.

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Why you need to get outside your comfort zone

There’s definitely some turbulence out there. It’s like when the captain comes on and says “Fasten your seat belt.”

We’re in a state of constant change — now more than ever.  Reading about what’s going on in your industry is one good step, what  else can you do to keep pace with that change?

You can attend conferences, workshops and seminars – events where you have access to those little gold nuggets of information that help you keep pace.

You can constantly sharpen your ax. Look to get outside your comfort zone, maybe see if you can speak at these industry conferences. Do a break out session and add some value – that’s a breakthrough change if you’re not used it.

Join Toastmasters if you’re not good at it. Learn how to get up in front of people and speak on different topics.

Attack networking opportunities like tradeshows and Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. Don’t go in like everybody else and hang out with who you know already. Get outside your comfort zone. Have a plan, a strategy, and attack it.

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How to take a proactive stance toward change

As a sales professional, you must be proactive in the way you manage change.

If you manage change as an event-driven activity or a reactive process, then it’s typically going to start long after the need to do so arises. It’s got to be a forward-looking activity, driven by your unique experience of your market.

For instance, several years ago I weighed 260 pounds, smoked cigarettes, and was heading, probably, towards my first cardiac arrest.

Fast forward 36 months and I’m flying back from Nashville, where I ran my first marathon. Why? Because there was a change in my outlook after we had a child a couple of years ago.

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Are you proactive or reactive?

I’m going to state the most obvious thing in the world: Change is constant – there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Why even bother saying this? Because here’s the less-obvious follow-up: For the sales professional, change management, the things we do to proactively manage the changes going on in front of us, are critical to our success.

In our arena, the difference between being proactive and reactive is monumental.

And it’s ongoing, every day. So how are you changing your approach to the marketplace right now? What questions are you asking now to differentiate yourself? Have you changed your voicemail over the past three weeks? Every day? Once a week? Have you changed it more than once?

How often do you change:
•    What you’re doing for your customers?
•    The way that you’re listening to your customers?
•    The way you prepare for your calls?

What have you done to change proactively, so that you can change your results?

Because you don’t make a change just for its own sake. You do it to provoke some different behavior. And if you’re making the right changes, those new behaviors are what drive the increase in your commission check.

So let’s consider the nature of change for just a moment. Think about your life. Have you changed your favorite meal in the past couple of years? Your favorite restaurant? Your favorite dish at that restaurant? Your favorite wine?

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An attitude of gratitude: the top 10 things for which I’m grateful

Every year my family and I get away for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Whether we visit extended family or it’s just our immediate family, I always look forward to the reflection time I get.  I’ve noticed that as I get older, I often will take stock of and give thanks for three specific areas:

A.    I look “back over my shoulder” at the things that I have been able to accomplish, the people I have met, the business that I have done, the wins, the losses, and the growth during the previous 10 months.

B.    I take full inventory of where it is that I am now and where I stand in reference to my goals in business, quality of life, relationships, health, spirituality and personal /professional growth.

C.    And I look out over the upcoming year and begin to outline and plan who and what I will connect with in my business and personal life.

Each year, regardless of the economy, I find myself adding up the many good fortunes that I have been able to leverage. Also, like most, I start listing some of the challenges that I faced in accomplishing everything I wanted to.

For the purposes of this article, I have listed the Top 10 Things for Which I am Thankful every year:

1.    I am thankful for being given the blind faith and enthusiasm to believe that I can achieve most things to which I set my mind.  I have read many books on self-belief and attitude to the point where I guess I am just dumb enough to believe that it is me who, in fact, decides.

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