What Motivates the Buying Process???

Every time I run a session, whether with sales managers and CEOs or with salespeople, I ask the question: What do people buy…benefits or features? Without exception, there is a pause and then the word benefits sneaks out. (Like they are not sure) YES!  Benefits are what people buy!  I don’t want your product!  I don’t care to own your service!  I simply want the benefit of what owning it does for me!

An overused example: All of us who own a power drill do not care to own the drill.  At one point in our past, we simply wanted a HOLE!  The hole is the benefit that the drill provides.

So it is with our products and services.  The things that are important to you about your product or service are typically not what is important to your customers.

I perform the following exercise in many of my sessions:  Grab a blank piece of paper and very quickly write down the three main BENEFITS of doing business with your company.

Did you do it?  If you did (and you are like most of those who go through this exercise), you probably have some of the following words or phrases on the page in front of you:

Quality, Service, Reliability, Trust, Dedicated Staff, Technology, Local, People, Knowledge, Track Record, Me,                 Relationships, Blah, Blah, Blah…

You see, EVERYONE says the same stuff all of the time!  We go into the marketplace and tout the benefits of quality, service, and reliability (the holy tri-fecta of sales).  Our competition is saying the same things.  We all sound too similar.  We all sound like we attended the same school of sales.  We are all putting ourselves into the same box.

STOP IT!  Start telling the customer what these words or phrases (FEATURES) translate to in the form of benefits for them!  What does “service” translate into for them?  What BENEFIT do I get because of your products quality?  The answers to these questions will bring the customer closer to the reason that they will but from you.

Here’s a quick tip to help: Follow up each of your feature statements with this sentence:

So……what that (the feature) means to YOU is this: ________________________.

There are only a handful of benefits that your customer seeks.  What main benefits do you feel that your product or service provides for your customer?  Is it Peace of Mind?  Is it Greater Profitability?  Is it Ease of Use?  Is it Looking Good or Status?  Is it to Dominate the Competition?

What is it that owning your product allows me to have that I do not have currently?  If you can answer this and speak to this in your efforts to sell to me, I will not only go out of my way to own your product, I will pay a premium as well!

How to Drive More Actions, Behaviors, and Results!

Every day, as a sales professional, each of us enters a competitive marketplace to face a variety of challenges to our success.  These challenges come in many forms and the thoughts that go through our mind before we enter the marketplace DEFINE our actions and behaviors.  Too often, salespeople enter the day’s activities in much the same way that many people enter the workforce; they just show up!  The actions in which they involve themselves each day are not a direct result of conscious thought, but rather repetitious activity.  They mindlessly go through the motions of making calls, leaving messages, visiting accounts, taking orders, and filling out reports.  When the dust all settles from the day, the results are very similar to yesterday, the day before, and the day before that.  As Earl Nightingale stated in his award-winning audio The Strangest Secret, “the enemy to success is conformity.”  In other words, we simply conform to the natural tendency to simply show up and do our jobs.  The first thing it takes to get out of this RUT is to think!!

In a 4-hour leadership session that I delivered recently, one of the attendees asked me a question: “What is it, Gerry that you believe that you sell?”  After pondering the question for a moment (thought) I answered that when I am speaking from the stage, I am really selling new ways of looking at things or new ways of thought!  Before anyone can or will take different ACTION towards something, they must first think about it in a different way.  Otherwise, there would be no motivation for the change in behavior or action!  Think about it for a moment.  Every bit of information that enters your head comes with it the seeds of new thought and possibly newly directed behavior or action.  When you read something that is new to you, you think about that topic differently.  When you view a documentary that provides a considerable amount of new information or data about a topic that interests you, your mind goes into a thought process that could potentially make you take action that you previously had not.  (At the time of this publication, ex-Vice President of the US, Al Gore has just received the Nobel Peace Prize for his documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth” which has led millions of people to think about their actions and thus behave differently based upon new thought!)

So, as a sales professional, what is it that you think about each day?  Pre-call preparation is an area that an overwhelming amount of salespeople could improve in.  Do you want to know the easiest place to get started preparing better for every sales call?  It’s in your thoughts.  Those of you that have spent any time in my training know that ONE QUESTION can begin this process.  That question?  “What is the PURPOSE of this call?” By simply starting with that question, it will force you to think about what it is that you wish to accomplish on the sales call that you are about to make.  Stephen Covey says that we need to “begin with the end in mind.”

Now, you need to go beyond the typical answer of the sales force: “We want to sell this guy something.”  That is the reward for achieving the result that you seek.  THINK!  THINK!  What is it that you need to accomplish?  What is it that you need to get the customer thinking about?  What is it that needs to occur for the circumstances (no decision to buy) to change in your favor (a decision to buy.)  Below, I have listed a few thoughts that you may want to take into consideration before making your next round of sales calls.  Turn off the TV (TIVO your favorites) for one week and spend your time with your thoughts.  Instead of simply showing up for next week’s sales calls and “spraying and praying,” try giving some thought to the ideas below in advance so that when you open your mouth, every sound brings you closer to your desired outcome.  Remember:  Talking too much usually follows thinking too little. 

Some thoughts to drive new actions, new behaviors, and hopefully new results:

“What is the purpose of this call?”

“What might this prospect/customer be thinking about me/my product today?”

“What are my prospect/customer’s highest value needs or most wanted outcomes?”

“What previous experience has this prospect/customer had with us in the past?”

“Where/who do they buy from now?”

“What is the benefit of ownership my product that they desire most?”

“How much time does this person have to meet with me?”

“Who else is courting this prospect/customer today?”

“How long has it been since my last visit and what have I done since to add-value?”

“What did we talk about last visit and did I take appropriate action on it?”

“What can I bring to the table that the prospect/customer will value?”

“How can I position myself as a resource versus a vendor?”

“How can I communicate my expertise without bragging?”

“How can I get the customer to want to know more about my product/service?”

“How can I create a need where there may not be a perception of one?”

“What do I need to get this prospect/customer talking about?”

“What do I need to know that they haven’t shared with the competition?”

“How can I avoid talking about price until I establish value?”

“How can I position myself as an EXPERT?”

“What stories can I share to communicate value?”

“What names can I drop to add credibility?”

“What does the customer value ahead of price?”

“How does the competition approach the customer and how can I differ?”

“How can I OPEN the conversation in a more impactful way?”

“How am I prepared to address the most common of prospect/customer concerns?”

“What will I say if they DRAG me to price early?”

“What 10 questions do I seek answers to and how do I best ask those questions?”

“How can I ask for the business once I have earned the right to do so?”

“Have I practiced the time condensed visit just in case we run out of time?”

“What information do I need to get from the customer to build a better case of value?”

“What OPTIONS have I prepared for the customer by which to say yes?”

“Have I made it easy to do business with me?”

“Am I thinking from my point of view or the prospect/customer’s point of view?”

Can you imagine having the answers to at least half of these questions before you made each of your sales calls next week?  Can you imagine the change in the level of confidence that you would bring to the market?  Can you imagine the change in your level of credibility?  Better yet, can you imagine the stronger you will be and the better experience that your prospect/customer will have because of it?  All this takes initially is thought!  Turn off the TV and turn on your brain!  Start developing a HABIT of running scenarios and thoughts through your head before showing up?  Start THINKING like a customer and you will start increasing your effectiveness in the conversations with them.  Dialogues will start becoming more meaningful and less about price.  They will begin asking advice of you because they will start becoming more aware of the fact that they are in the presence of a professional.

Always remember that a man is not rewarded for having brains, he is rewarded for USING them.   Understand and remember that thoughts lead to action!  Thinks better, act better, produce better, and earn better!

Or………you could make more cold calls!

The Cost of an Undertrained Sales Person

Consider for a moment the cost to your organization that an untrained (or undertrained) sales force can create.  Right now, as you read this, there are thousands of salespeople calling on prospects, customers, and clients with little-to-no idea as to what they can (and need to) do to identify opportunity, qualify buyers, manage common objections, identify buyer’s motivations, position themselves and the company as value-add resources, or ask the right questions to discover needs and to earn the business.  Instead, they have been taught how to pitch, present, and price!

I have the opportunity to work with several salespeople in a coaching capacity each year.  One particular day I was working with a salesperson in the industrial power battery industry.  A customer had set up a meeting with him to come in and explore options on the replacement of batteries on approximately 30 of their 50 fork-lifts.  This was the first visit by the salesman and the meeting was a result of dozens of cold-calls each day to set such an appointment.  The gentleman that we were meeting with was the operations manager and he had expressed a desire to get a quote.  After the obligatory “passing of the cards” and brief introduction of my salesman and his company, the “march towards commoditization” began.

The salesman that I was working with then proceeded to ask to see the equipment.  After a brief tour of the warehouse, we came upon a fleet of fork-lifts.  There were several makes and models as well as many varying sizes.  From a tactical standpoint, the salesperson asked which ones in particular would be in need of new batteries.  Once a thorough inventory (and subsequent notes) had been taken of existing equipment, the salesman proceeded to thank the operations manager for his time and said that he would get back to him with comprehensive quote within the next 48 hours.  At that point, the ops manager replied (pay attention here) with, “No hurry.”   This statement certainly struck me as important but seemed to make no impact on the salesman.

When we got back into the car, I turned to the salesman and proceeded (as I am know to do) with a series of questions that seemed to temper the “price quote” enthusiasm of the salesman.  I am sure that you have thought of some of these as my story unfolded above:

-Qualification of the “buyer”

  • How long have you been in this role of operations manager?
  • Do you make all of the equipment purchasing decisions for this operation?
  • Do you make these decisions for any other company operations?
  • When it comes down to deciding who to award the business to, in addition to yourself, who else might be involved in that process?
  • I see that you currently use ___________ batteries, why are you entertaining a change?
  • In addition to a competitive price, what other elements of value do you consider when purchasing new batteries for your equipment?

-Qualification of the opportunity

  • How many of these fork-lifts have you played a role in acquiring?
  • Why do you have so many different makes and models?
  • Will you be replacing/upgrading any of these in the near future?
  • How often do you typically replace these batteries?
  • What are your expectations of battery life for these units?
  • How are the forklifts currently used?
  • What is your current recharge protocol for your forklifts?
  • How are the forklifts currently maintained?  Who does that?
  • What is the timeframe that you desire to get these batteries replaced?
  • If I were to get you a quote today, when would we need to make sure that we have these batteries in stock for you?

Would you be open to look into a quote not only on the batteries themselves, but on a comprehensive maintenance program designed to extend battery life by up to 30%?

(By the way, here is a valuable exercise for you and your sales team.  Take each of the questions above and see if you can come up valuable reasons why I would ask each question.  If you or your people cannot come up with real-world valid reasons why I would ask these questions—regardless of YOUR industry—you need to pay some attention!)

I can think of dozens more questions depending on how some of the above are answered.  The problem here, however, is that NONE of these questions were asked.

Instead, feeling as if he were doing his job, the salesman simply went about gathering basic information about the “supposed order” and then proceeded to move on to the “proposal of price stage.”  The unfortunate part is that this type of thing is happening every day in every industry.  Our salespeople have been severely undertrained when it comes to uncovering and discovering where, why, who, how, and WHEN!  It seems that they are simply focused on the WHAT!

What do you want to buy and what it will cost you!

In the story above, the operations manager stated that there was “no hurry” to get him a proposal or quote.  At the very least, don’t you think that this should raise a question in the mind of the salesman?  It certainly raised a few for me?

–How was this appointment set and who set it?

–Could urgency and timelines have been established before the proposal stage?

–Did the salesman help to create any additional urgency in the customer?

–Is the operations manager the final decision maker?

–Does he need the quote or is he acquiring it for someone else?

–Is the salesman being measured on quotes or sales?

–Did the salesman provoke thoughts in the ops manager that he was not aware of?

It seems to me that there are an overwhelming amount of salespeople out there that don’t have a strategic bone in their body.  The only thought that seems to enter their mind is based upon making a sale.  Although that is the obvious goal for most situations, the approach that most salespeople take works counterintuitive to that goal!  AND that is costing companies sales, revenues, profits, and relationships every day!

Think about our example story above; The salesperson, left to his own, would have gone back to his office and spent several hours researching and preparing a proposal for an opportunity that was not urgent or pending and quite possibly may have not even been real!  The hours spent on this activity cost you money!   Now, let’s take into account that while he is back at the office working on this quote (that most likely will not produce any near-term revenue) he is not generating new opportunities for the company. I don’t necessarily blame him.  In his mind, he IS pursuing a real sale of 100-200 new batteries.  He has not been trained to qualify or quantify opportunity!  This kind of thing is costing the company money every day but management typically does not see it.  What they see is a quote opportunity instead of a mishandled opportunity and a potential client that will most likely not be earned!

This example only illustrates the need for more training in the areas of opportunity identification and qualification.  Although I center most of our training in this area on questions that need to be asked, the exercise is also based upon knowledge of what each answer could mean in the strategic approach to the sale.  Taking just that one area (discovery) in the sales process, imagine how many times per day, per week, per month, per salesperson that this type of thing occurs (or does not occur.)  The costs to your business could be much more staggering that you might imagine.

Now, think about how many other areas of sales dysfunction exist in your sales team’s day-to-day efforts.  What’s going on in their prospecting efforts, their presentation approach, their objection management efforts, their negotiation steps, and in their attempts to close?  In addition, what are they doing at those trade shows?  What does their pre-call preparation process look like?  How do their follow-up efforts stack up?  How much training has gone into any of these areas for your people?

It is abundantly clear that an uneducated or under-trained sales force is considerably expensive to your organization.  In this economy where many companies are seeing fewer sales opportunities and much greater hesitance and fear in the marketplace into which they sell, any mediocrity in the sales force becomes extremely costly!

In this example, the worst part was that the salesman just didn’t know any better. Why?  Nobody taught him how to do his job as a professional.  Instead they simply said to get out and sell something!  At this point, he is left to learn on his own how to do a better job and uncover true opportunity.

The investment you make in training your people will bare substantial returns if it is consistent, strategic, up-to-date, and actionable!  On the other hand, the cost of not consistently training your salespeople can be invisible but nonetheless, extreme!

Get Fit to SELL!

Today’s selling marketplace is not the same as it was 10 years ago.  There are more demands on our time.  There are more demands on us.  Customer’s expectations have increased along with their price sensitivity.  We are connected 24/7 via email, voicemail, cell phones, and IM.  We have to move faster, more efficiently, and more often to meet the needs of those with whom we wish to do business.  Our managers expect us to stop what we are doing and jump on a plane, make a sales call, fix a problem, take a client to a ballgame, have a late-night dinner, and do a variety of things to make sure that we don’t lose an opportunity or a client.

What is the answer as to how to compete—how to keep up?  Well, I have chosen to address part of the answer in this article.  GET FIT for the challenges that you face daily.  Oxygen has become an amazing additive to my daily/weekly diet through exercise.  Now, before you sign off in disgust at another exercise convert, I challenge you to read on….but only if you are interested in an EASY way to gain some additional edge over your competition.

Oh….do I have your attention?

The brain apparently is an organ that gives back in accordance to what it is given.  I have, for years touted the importance of feeding the brain by reading, listening to tapes and CDs in the areas in which you wish to improve, attending workshops & seminars, and reading industry magazines (yours and your customer’s).  It has long been my opinion that the more you feed your brain in the areas of expertise you need, the better your “shot” at becoming what you seek.  Although that has not changed, I now firmly believe in the feeding of something else to the brain—OXYGEN!

By setting up and following a simple regimen of exercise, you may very well increase your sales ability dramatically.  Let me see if I can give you a real-world example:

As a speaker, it is absolutely imperative that I am ON when I am on the speaking platform.  There is no excuse for a lackluster performance.  A client has engaged me to deliver a well-prepared message-to deliver content-and to do so in a way that will spark changes in behavior and thus, changes in results.  I need to be on my game.  I need to be well prepared and set to handle whatever may be thrown my way by the audience.  (Almost sounds like a sales call, doesn’t it?)

A while back, I was in Canada delivering two separate sessions to two different groups of CEOs regarding the development of a World Class Sales Organization.  I was to deliver two separate 4-hour sessions that would cover a variety of subjects including recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, retraining, and retaining of sales talent.  Because of the audiences that I would be addressing, (CEOs) I had to be prepared to adjust my content to the desires of those in attendance and be prepared for group questions, challenges, and other interaction.  Although I have delivered over 500 of these sessions over the years, every group is different and something new may come up at any time—I must be on my game!

The night that I arrived, I made sure that I got into my hotel and got prepared to deliver for the next morning.  My plane arrived late and I got to the hotel about 10:00pm.  I immediately unpacked for the next morning (my 1st session was to start at 8:00am).  After falling asleep around midnight, I arose at 5:00am to get in a workout in the hotel gym.  I have to say, I was not particularly motivated when I got up, but 10 minutes into a 2-mile run, I was looking forward to the weight room.  90 minutes later, I was set for the day.

My session that morning to my first group of CEOs was fantastic.  I had a very engaged group of people that questioned and challenged me throughout.  The session was delivered with high energy and it came sooooo easy.  It seemed that I had just begun speaking when I was given the sign that the session was over.  The grades that I received were unanimously perfect.  Not only was the session an effortless BLAST for me.  Apparently, the group thought it was content rich and value packed as well.

The balance of that day went to a coaching session with a client of mine that flew in from Winnipeg followed by dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.  Needless to say, the evening was late and the next morning held no exercise activity before I was going LIVE again at 8:00am.  Although the session was very similar and the audience was equally engaged, I had to put in much greater effort to get similar results.  I had to think more and try harder.  Why?  In my opinion, my brain did not get that release of oxygen in the morning before the session.  Although the end result was pretty much the same (great reviews), the effort I had to put in to get there was almost twice as much!

Have you ever noticed some sales seem to be effortless works of art where you gain an immediate connection with the prospect?  The questions that you asked seem to move the prospect towards your offer.  The answers that the customer seeks are right on the tip of your tongue and they come out so smooth.  The rapport and trust that you built was done so with very little effort and you walk away with a sale that you didn’t even have to ask for.  I’m here to tell you that the majority of your sales can go like that if you get in shape for selling.

Here’s all you have to do:

First, you gotta want it.  If you don’t do it for your health, do it for the additional commissions!

Second, you need to design a plan.  Use the 3 C’s:  Clarity-Commitment-Consistency

(Be CLEAR on what it is that you will do each day—Stay COMMITTED to your plan—and stay CONSISTENT with your efforts to feed your brain every day.)

Third, Take immediate ACTION to get started.

Whether you choose to walk, run, swim, or hit the gym and stretch or push some iron around, I challenge you to take that first step to your health and selling success by setting in ACTION a plan to “Get Fit for Selling”.

Are You ASKING For It?

ask for the sale

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?”

The Dog Days of Summer Are Here!

Dog Days of Summer

We call them the dog days of summer.  The long, hot days of summer seem to have salespeople and customers alike under a listless spell.  The call of the shoreline, the lake, the golf course, and many other assorted vacations pull the focus away from the necessary tasks at hand. Sales tend to lag, profits tend to decrease, and the fourth quarter is looming on the all to near horizon.

As we head into August this year, let’s take a long hard look at the state of our sales departments.  Fear, uncertainty, and multiple changes have slowed down the typical buying cycles and more is demanded of the salespeople to create results.  Now, add in the dog days of summer where decision-makers have “checked out” on various vacations, and the salespeople really have a challenge on their hands.

In such a diverse set of circumstances in the industries in which we are coaching, there is one thing that remains constant this summer.  That is the need for the salespeople to stay focused on what’s going on in their respective marketplaces and to project themselves and their sales heading into the upcoming quarter.

Have your salespeople met their projected results thus far this year?  If so, how will they continue that trend into the close of the year?  If not, what magical events will occur for them to hit company goals for the close of the year?  As we head into August, we might want to go back and take inventory of our people, our processes, our systems, and our goals.

Remember, the holiday months are less than 120 days away.  During those months, many companies tend to have a similar experience with the results of their sales departments.  People are focused more on the holidays then they are on finishing the year strong.  Why fall victim to this phenomenon this year?  Now is the time to start planning your approach in the marketplace for the end of the year.  What can be done different internally?  How can you look to build a platform on which your people will strive for greater results?

Here is a blueprint plan of ACTION!!

1-Turn up the volume!  HUSTLE!

I often see the management and leadership elements of organizations “taking a hiatus” during the summer months. Now is the time to increase your focus on your team.  Get on the phones with them today!  Get in the field with them today!  Show them the HUSTLE and URGENCY that you need from them.  Re-engage with your teams and model the behavior that you seek!  If you are willing to do it (and do it more than once), then they have no excuse!

2-Follow the LEADER

Do you remember playing that game with your friends when you were young?  Play it with your company now!  In order for the game to be any fun, however, you need a leader!  Are you willing to jump in with both feet and LEAD?  Leaders communicate, recognize, empower, coach, direct, and win with their people!  Managers aren’t always leaders.  Besides….who ever played “follow the Manager?”

  • Start an “intensity” month with daily morning huddles defining the day’s strategy.
  • Measure everything and inspect what you expect!
  • Have an ALL-HANDS meeting and bring in an expert to re-align all the players.
  • Develop a 6-month IDP (Individual Development Plan) with each of your people.
  • Redefine what WINNING means and start driving that bus!

3-Design and Run a New Contest

What do you need more of?  What needs more attention and focus from your team?  What areas need re-energizing?

  • New products need to get into the marketplace?
  • Customer service standards need to dramatically increase?
  • New accounts need to be opened?
  • Need to penetrate, fortify, and grow your top 25 accounts?
  • Relationships need to improve with your best clients?
  • Need to get new “breath” on the team?

4-STOP Recognizing and Rewarding Mediocrity

Is it OK to fail when working for you?  Is it OK to not really try when working for you?  Is it OK to not really be ALL-IN when working for you?  Is it OK to not meet minimum expectations when working for you?  If so……you are letting your people down.  Every time we let it be “OK” to any of the above things, we actually make it OK to be mediocre!  Why, because MOST people are only mediocre.  Most people phone it in, don’t really push themselves, and don’t ever travel the extra mile!

Identify those that have either “checked out” on you or on themselves and the team and do something about it!  They may choose to “phone it in” each day ONLY because you make it OK to do so.

We have less than 4 months left in the year to accomplish our goals.  Don’t let the summer Dog Days drag you, your people, and your results down.  DO SOMETHING about it….NOW!!

When is it OK to Fail?

Stressed businesswoman in the office

It is okay to fail when you have given it your very best effort, when you have played the game to win.    It is okay to fail when you have given it all you’ve got, leaving nothing in reserve. It is okay to fail when you have spent yourself in the effort.  It is okay to fail when you have gone way beyond what is expected of you.  It is okay to fail when you take the long shot gamble.  It is okay to fail when you try something new, something for which you have no experience or background. It is okay to fail after you have gone the extra mile.  It is okay to fail when failing doesn’t mean quitting, when it doesn’t mean you stop trying.

When is it NOT OK to Fail?

It is not okay to fail when you haven’t given your best effort. You may fail here, but this is not an honorable failure.  It is not okay to fail when you have something left to give, when you keep something in reserve, when you save yourself. You may fail here, but this failure is not acceptable when spending yourself may have meant a different outcome.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t prepared yourself for the game, when you haven’t done your homework. You may fail here, but lack of preparedness is not an acceptable reason to fail.  It isn’t okay to fail because you have ignored the fundamentals. And it isn’t okay to fail because you haven’t ignored the fundamentals enough. Sometimes succeeding is built on the fundamentals, and sometimes it is built on overcoming the fundamentals. It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t taken the safe shot, and isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t taken the inconceivable long shot.  It isn’t okay to fail when you have only tried to meet the status quo. It isn’t okay to fail because you have simply done what everyone else is doing. It isn’t okay to fail when you have only done what is expected. Conformity is a sure path to failure and to mediocrity. It isn’t okay to fail because you were focused on some big idea and you have ignored the details that make up the execution of that idea. Success is in the idea and in its execution.  It isn’t okay to fail when you haven’t used every resource to win. It isn’t okay to fail because you didn’t ask others for the help that would have made the difference.  It isn’t okay to fail if you don’t learn something from the failure.  It isn’t okay to fail because you quit trying. It isn’t okay to fail because you quit when the road got rough and the effort seemed too much.  It is never okay to fail when there is still time on the clock.  It is never okay to fail to get back up.

Getting out of your Comfort Zone—SHAKE Things Up!

out of comfort zone

There comes a time in every sale professional’s life that they get into cruise control.  They simply get into a mode of operation that finds them grinding through the same activities day in and day out.  This may be something that they have gotten into consciously or on purpose but more often it is a state at which they have arrived quite by accident.

There are several reasons that one gets into this Comfort Zone.  Maybe they are happy where they are, maybe they have too much going on to even think about trying something new (or at least that’s what they think) or, maybe they are coming off a great sales month and have decided to “take a breather” to enjoy their success.  Perhaps they have fallen into a routine of “meeting management’s minimum activity requirements, (“Hey, I made my calls and filed my reports!”)  Perhaps they feel that trying something new will increase their chances of failure and will cause more work for them.  Maybe they are too busy taking care of customers or simply feel tired, lazy, or misdirected.

Whatever the reason, or excuse, the dreaded Comfort Zone is a dangerous place for a sale professional to be.  It is a place where Maintenance is the goal and Growth is the stranger.  It is the place where Goals have been forgotten and Dreams have been eroded.  This is no place for a growth oriented sales professional to be!

Is a Comfort Zone a bad thing?  I guess that depends upon who you are and what you want out of your career and your life.  Most people get into the profession of selling based upon an earning potential that is sometimes without limitations.  The top performers among all sales professionals in the marketplace today are consistently looking for ways to improve and grow their results.  And even they can sometimes find themselves in cruise control mode!  For sales professionals, this is a BAD thing!

What need to happen to SNAP out of this Comfort Zone?  You need to S.H.A.K.E. things up a bit!  What does S.H.A.K.E. mean?

S-Set or Revisit Your Goals for the Year

It is my belief that when a salesperson gets too comfortable with the status quo, the main reason is that they have lost sight of their goals.  Each and every year it is imperative that salespeople take the time to set their goals for the upcoming year.  Why?  We are in a career that demands self-discipline and committed action. Therefore, we must decide what it is that we want to accomplish each year in our business and personal lives.  Our goals must be clear and concise rather than wandering and vague.  They must be written down and have deadlines (or lifelines-if you prefer) assigned to them.

If you find yourself working within your Comfort Zone, you need to re-visit these goals.  You need to remind yourself what it is that you really want to accomplish (to GET) out of this year!  There is an ancient Eastern proverb that says something like this; “When one is aware of the why, they can deal with almost any of the how.”  So, refocus yourself on your goals on this year so that you can get back to the business of working towards those things instead of just working.

H-Have a Solid Game Plan

Before you go rushing off towards a new (or re-committed to) goal, you must first have a clear plan of what to do—as well as what NOT to do.  Think of all of the things that need to occur in order to accomplish the goal.  What needs to happen?  What needs to happen this month, next month, next quarter, etc. What needs to “go on the back-burner? Make a list. Next, organize your list into a plan by priority and sequence.  Understand that there will be obstacles.  Understand that every plan will have potential unforeseen roadblocks that will come up.  Try your best to identify as many of them as you can beforehand with a contingency plan to work your way through them or around them.  No excuses, no blame!  If there is a game plan (a track on which to run) than you have a much better shot at accomplishing what it is that you set out to do.

A-Arrive Earlier to the Game

In reading a recent article in INC. Magazine about success traits of some of the nation’s top executives, one of the common things that all of them shared was they got an early start every day.  Most of them were up well before 5:00am and “in the chair” before most of their competition.  In the game of life, you have very few opportunities to “gather an edge” over the competition.  YOUR competition is your Comfort Zone—it is the competition for your focus and your success!  So… get up 1-2 hours earlier than usual for the next 60 days.  Get your ass out of bed and get busy 120 minutes before the competition!   The things that you can accomplish and the way you prepare in those “Golden 120” minutes between 5:00am and 7:00am will snap you out of your Comfort Zone and into your Action Zone!  Think about all of the things you can accomplish:

-You can read the entire newspaper (or two) and enjoy your coffee while you do.

-You can get in 30-60 minutes of solid exercise to “get the crud out of your veins” and get your blood pumping.

-You can write an entire chapter in your upcoming book or a blog post for your new, customer-focused blog.

-You can spend 10-15 minutes in preparation (doing your homework) for each of today’s sales calls.

-You could prepare 20 questions for every face to face sales call that you are going on today. (Heck, you might even be able to practice them aloud!)

-You can read a book on sales, self motivation, time management, overcoming objections, price negotiation, etc.

Are you getting this yet?  All of the things that you say that you never have time to do CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED if you “arrive to the game earlier.”

K-Kick up Some New Activity

I am often reminded of an old commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts that highlighted the donut maker waking up every morning, day-in and day-out, with the same phrase, “Time to make the donuts…”  Every day, he went about the exact same routine of waking up at the same time and mindlessly getting to work to crank out dozens and dozens of donuts.

I see too many sales professionals falling into the same trap.  They get up each day and mindlessly go through a set of prescribed motions designed to identify, capture and engage new customers while, at the same time taking care of existing customers.  The find themselves often times in a rut. (Which has been described as a grave with the ends kicked out!)

It’s time to Kick up some new ACTIVITY.  In order to get out of the Comfort Zone rut, we need to take a long hard look (hell, make it a short glance) at the myriad of things that we do each and every day and ask ourselves if each one produces the results desired.  Next, we need to identify 5 NEW activities that we can begin right now that will re-ignite our creative flames, get us out into the limelight (in front of our customers), and shake things up! Are you starting to get the picture?  Action begets Action!  Doing the same thing every day and expecting different results is what Einstein called INSANITY!

E-Enjoy the Results of Your Work!

When all is said and done; when you have recommitted to your goals for the year, built and taken action on a solid plan to accomplish those goals, gotten into the habit of arriving earlier to the game, and kicked up some new focused activity, the results will be apparent!  It is very important to celebrate your re-birth to the land of the committed.  It is paramount to enjoy the fruits of your re-found effort.  Enjoy, this is a game.  This is a journey.  As I said however, it is you who draws the map for the journey.  If you know the destination and can lay out a route to get there, you will have a much better shot of changing course when you take the occasional exit on the Comfort Zone freeway.

The choice is and will always be yours to make.  It’s easy to coast, to cruise, and to remain where there is little risk.  It’s easy to take the path of least resistance and stay where you know what you know.  However, this path will often not get you what you really want.  It may occasionally get you close, but if you are focused on what you really want, and are willing to stay focused, you can get what you really want!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:  “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

The next time that you find yourself staying too long inside your Comfort Zone, understand that you are not working up to your potential.  Your ability to unleash your potential is determined by your willingness to S.H.A.K.E. things up!  Now go get shakin’!

The Little Things Really DO Matter!

The Little Things Blog

There is a popular series of books that have been out a couple of years called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.  When it comes to sales, I do not believe the teachings apply as well.  In fact, it is the small stuff the separates the winners from the average players.

So much is taught in sales about the “big parts of the game” such as the cold call, the pitch or presentation, the sales cycle, working a pipeline, overcoming objections, and closing.  And yet, with all of this knowledge and training, the majority of salespeople still have difficulty managing the entire process through to the finish line.

At the same time, you will find there is a small group of salespeople that focus on, what most would consider to be the small stuff.  What types of things are these?  Here are a list of a few of the little things that matter in the profession of sales:

1-They schedule prospecting time every day!  They realize that, no matter how hot and heavy everything happens to be in their pipeline today, it is the plowing (prospecting) at the top of the pipeline that opens it up for continued results.

2-They build and consistently use a referral generation process.  They know that the best source of new business comes from existing clients and that by leveraging their existing relationships, they actually create a small sales force of their own that “keeps the leads flowing in.”  They also realize that they need to 1) Ask for the referrals, 2) Earn the right to ask, 3) Make it easy to refer, 4)and say Thank You.

3-They use target and personal marketing campaigns.  They realize that, in business, it is not who you know, but rather who knows you that counts.  They create a systemized “touch campaign” that not only reaches out to identified key prospects before they call upon them, but also continues to “whisper in their customer’s ears” regularly.  The true pro realizes that value-add relationships develop loyalty from their customer base so they make sure that all of their touches are unique and value-add.

4-They Say Thank You—A Lot!  Top producers sometimes go back and revisit the tactics used years ago and “dust them off” for use today.  One such tactic is the use of Thank You Notes in the sales process. Too many salespeople rely on brief email notes and voice mail messages to express their gratitude for a sales appointment, a referral, a sale, or anything else.  Although Thank You Notes were very common years ago, they are only in the arsenals of those who wish to stand out today!  By the way, can you say Thank You too much to your customers?

5-They do what they say they are going to do.  Although this seems like a very logical, natural thing for all to follow, the sad truth is that we live in a world where the broken promise is the norm and the “under-whelmed” customer is most common.  True sales pros focus on “managing the expectations” of their customers and adding value in the customer’s eyes by OVER PERFORMING on expectations.

In the marketplace, I suggest that, as sales professionals, we need to make sure that we are focused on ALL of the things that are necessary for our success.  The little things are what separates us from the crowd.  The good news is that, with a little work, you will build the confidence in your “scoring zone” to consistently achieve greater sales results.  So…Sweat the Small Stuff!


Focus Precedes Success

rsz_rsz_shutterstock_curiosity_smallerWorking with salespeople and sales leaders every month, I get the good fortune of discovering a lot about human nature in the profession of sales. The top producers that I observe do many things that many average sellers do not…….. many of things can are based upon their FOCUS!

In today’s sales profession, the bar has been raised for performance, expectations, and accessibility. Our customers expect more from their salesperson in the form of knowledge, experience, timeliness, immediacy of information, technological expertise, and service. Why? I believe it because they have more access to information via the internet. I also believe that they get inundated with information and opportunity via email the media. The sheer volume of this information drives their needs and their expectations. More and more often today, I see this trend creating a sharp distinction between the hitters and the heavy hitters in the sales profession.

There are a handful of common things on which top salespeople put their focus regularly. I have picked out three of these areas for this article so that my readers can get started (or continue) putting their constant attention where they need to:

I-Pre-Call Preparation

Top producers believe that what happens BEFORE the sale is more important than what goes on during the sale. They realize that today more than ever, they need to make a solid IMPACT in every call beginning with their first meeting with a prospective new customer to their regular calls with their valued clients. These top performers take time before every call to be thoroughly briefed about the person that they are about to see, the company that that person represents, the needs that they may have, the vendors that may currently have the account, and the influences that may drive interest towards the sale. They have done their homework by focusing on FOUR very important questions:

1-What is the purpose of this call? Top performers know that every sales call must have a clear and defined goal. That goal is not always to SELL something. There are a variety of purposes that need to be accomplished throughout the sales cycle and many of them have nothing to do with tactically closing a deal. The top producers are clear on their desired outcome before every sales call (on the phone and in person.)

2-What do I know? Top producers take an inventory of their knowledge of the account, the players, the competition, the products, the pricing, the history, etc, before making the call. Hitters never want to be caught off guard. They make a concerted effort, in advance, to find out everything that they can before they make the sales call. They do their homework by tapping into various sources (online and other.) They tap into their network of contacts to find out what they know. They turn inside their organizations to seek (what a past client of mine Bob Lewis in San Francisco calls) tribal knowledge. Why do they do this? It is NOT so that they can show up and tell the prospective customer what they know; rather, it is to help them prepare the questions and the dialogue for the meeting. Note: Top Salespeople realize that knowledge is a fluid thing. Yesterday’s fact may be meaningless or incorrect today. Many questions that are prepared for the call in advance are designed to verify, validate, and confirm what has been discovered in advance. Also, asked correctly, the right questions will communicate the professionalism of the salesperson in the preparation done in advance. Top producers know that customers want to deal with pros that are prepared!

3-What do I need to know? There are things that need to be discovered on every sales call that simply must come from the call itself. A sales professional’s value, to me, lies distinctly in their ability to get this information from the prospective customer. Top producers, like top doctors, have honed their diagnosis skills as much as their prescription writing skills. By understanding what they need to know and preparing, in advance, the questions that will help them discover these things, the top sales pros formulate a plan that most of the others do not. Think about YOUR thought process on a sales call.   As you are walking into the sales call, do you think, “What do I need to learn?” Or do you think, “What do I want to say?” There are certain pieces of information that are absolutely imperative to get before a sale can ever be completed. Top pros know that these are in advance and prepare to get them before they try to move the sale forward.

4-What do I need to “get out on the table?” Said in a better way, top producers work hard to get something out on the table that most other salespeople don’t. Top producers realize that it is NOT their job to SELL TO the customer (how many of you want to be SOLD TO?) Instead, the top salespeople understand that it is their role to help the customer discover their needs (both logical and emotional) to BUY and to help them do so. One of the best ways to shorten the sales cycle, increase trust, and thus, increase conversion rates is to help the customer discover their most wanted outcomes and then to get them to admit them. The best salespeople understand that when the customer says it, it’s FACT—to the customer. When the salesperson says it, it is SUSPECT (at best) due to the fact that salesperson has an agenda—a selling agenda!

These four simple questions in the preparation process help the top salespeople better arm themselves with questions and a question flow that will create more meaningful dialogue, involve the customer, differentiate the seller, drive perceived expertise, drive perceived value, and create a stronger buying environment! The purpose of these questions for YOU will be to help you THINK—that’s why so few people do it!

II—Begin with the End in Mind

Stephen Covey introduced us to this habit in his book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”   It is my belief that when a salesperson focuses on what the end result looks and feels like in any sales cycle, he/she will navigate the seas with a stronger purpose.

This area of focus butterflies well into Pre Call Preparation but it starts with a vision, a goal. When I speak to many companies looking to engage the coaching side of our business, I often ask them questions in the Discovery Process that are focused on 3 main timeframes:

1-A Look Back over Your Shoulder-(What got us to this point?)

2-A Current Overview (What is the “State of the Union?”)

3-What do you Want to be When you Grow Up? (What is the vision of the ideal future?)

This format allows us to “frame up” the things that got us to where we are and to define the things that are necessary to get us where we want to go. If my staff and I feel that the deliverable is attainable and that the process will be one that we can drive, then we build everything that we do with the END result in mind.

As a salesperson, I often looked at the entire sales cycle as a series of gates that needed to be entered and closed before we could move to the next. Once a gate was closed, then we could proceed to the next step. I believed, as I still do (and teach), that every step of the sales cycle must have two clear things:

1-A clear PURPOSE for the call and

2-A clear Call to ACTION (a close!)

The difference that I have found between top producers and most other salespeople is that they define the END of their sales cycle differently. Most salespeople think that the final stage is when the contract is CLOSED. Top Salespeople feel that the sales cycle is not complete until they have received their TENTH referral from the client. This one difference changes the strategy on most of the sales calls and changes the preparation and value-add initiatives on every interaction of the sales cycle!

III—Constant Forward Motion

I recently saw a movie with my children called “Meet the Robinsons.” In the movie, there was a character from the future who kept saying “Keep Moving Forward!” “Keep Moving Forward!” Apparently, in the movie, the kid’s father was a great inventor who continuously, relentlessly spoke of looking ahead to what could be instead of focusing on what is. The movie, and that character, made me think of some of the top salespeople that I have worked with over years and how they have a habit of relentlessly moving forward with an enthusiasm not shared by their peers.

In some of the training sessions that I do, one of the modules that we cover is CLOSING. Although I am a big believer in the fact that the OPENING and DISCOVERY process drive your CLOSING strategy, it is imperative that the salesperson is the Captain of these efforts. As such, the salesperson needs to call the plays and keep the other participants (prospects, influencers, decision makers, etc.) involved and engaged in the process. I find one of the easiest ways that top salespeople continually get to the next step is that they clearly define what the next step is and then they relentlessly ask for it and expect to get it.

They understand that most steps in the sales cycle do not lead to the close of the SALE but can (and often do) lead to the close of SOMETHING—and they call the shot by asking a simple “moving forward question” such as “So, Mrs. Customer, what’s our next step?” By getting into and keeping the habit of asking “So what’s our next step,” the salesperson keeps the prospective customer involved and engaged in the buying process. They continue to gauge the prospective customer’s level of commitment by attaching a forward step to every stage (gate) that you pass through.

Strategically, the top sales professionals also have a habit of focusing on “What’s the next step?” in their day to day business. They do not get bogged down in projects or analysis. Instead top salespeople understand that ACTION begets ACTION.

In the effort of effectively PLANNING with THE END IN MIND, the top producers always focus on WHAT’S NEXT!

The top sales professionals have a tendency to focus on just a few things that drive the behavior and action that sets them apart from the competition. The above three areas of focus are just a few of what I have compiled into the Top 10 AREAS of FOCUS of the Top Sales Pros. For a further deep dive click the link below to register for an event near you.




It has often said that THOUGHT drives BEHAVIOR/ACTION. In a selling environment today that demands more of the salesperson than ever, the areas in which they spend that thought become more important than ever. Start with the three areas above and understand that what goes on in your mind before the sale trumps what comes out of your mouth during the sale.