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Earn a Higher Price!

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What is it that you bring to the table that your competition cannot or will not?  What is it that you offer that your prospects, customers, and clients would be willing to stand in line and/or pay a premium to have?  What value do you bring to the equation that creates a greater perception of value for your product or service and thus commands a higher price?

Would you buy from you at premium prices?  If the answer is yes….and I hope to high heavens that it is….Why?

We are selling in a marketplace today that demands more from sales professionals.  Communication tools such as cell phones, email, and I/M are creating a level of expectation from our customers that is getting harder and harder to meet.  The internet is leveling the playing field as far as access to information.  (Everyone can Google you and your competition before you walk in the door.)  The result?  Buyers that have a higher degree of sophistication (or at least a higher level of belief of their sophistication) than ever before.  Where there is mystery there is margin and the internet has removed much of the mystery about you, your company, your products & services, and your pricing.

If we keep selling into the marketplace the same way that we have in the past, we will get passed up by SMART competitors and passed over by SMART customers.

What can we do to keep up?  What can we do to get ahead?  What can we do to earn the top margins in our ever changing and competitive marketplace?

Below, please find a list of 15 things that you can start to do today to stand out from the crowd, differentiate yourself (and thus your product/service), and command the respect and attention of prospects, customers, and clients:

1. Start a strict regimen of pre-call preparation.

Do your homework before making that call on any executive or decision maker.  Google them, research their industry, read their industry magazines, learn about them and their company. The things that you learn will help you build a platform from which relevant questions and conversation can begin.  In order to have something relevant to offer, have something relevant to ask and something relevant to say!

2. Decision maker or decision influencer?

Clarity on who it is that you are dealing with will help you build the appropriate value proposition.  If you are developing a “champion” or a “flag-bearer” in an account, make sure that the value of your offer speaks to their needs.  Typically, the decision maker is motivated by, and thus will act upon a much different set of criteria than those you met on the way in—sell accordingly.  Never assume what their motivation is.  Always dig, probe, & listen before you diagnose.

3. Make a few phone calls in advance.

I suggest calling anyone who may know anything about an account before actually attending a meeting to get a flavor for what you are about to face.  Knowledge is power—power can be leverage.  In addition, if there are to be several people in the session, I suggest calling as many of them as possible in advance to discover or uncover any issues or expectations.

4. Speak the customer’s language.

We tend to present our value propositions in a language that is filled with our industry words.  The problem?  The customer doesn’t know your industry like you do so a “disconnect” or confusion can occur.  I suggest that you record your value propositions, presentations, conversations, and questions as often as possible.  Get these recordings in the hands of non-industry people and get their opinion.  You might be surprised that the reason you are not closing enough sales is that the door to understanding has never been opened due to a language barrier.

5. Read, learn, grow!

Commit to reading a book every month on how to be a better sales professional.  You will be amazed at the new moves that you will adopt for your sales success.  In addition, read at least 2-3 business or industry magazines every month.  You will learn things that you did not know.  This can add to your confidence and, if you figure out ways to use this knowledge to differentiate you from the crowd (adding value to your customers) it will add to your commission check!

6. Be the quarterback of your sales efforts.

Someone must call the plays.  Make sure that on every interaction with prospects, customers, and clients you clearly define the purpose of the call and stick to it.  When the call purpose is met, clearly identify next steps as well as who is responsible for what.  You guide the timelines, you run the plays, and you call the shots.  The result will be getting to yes faster. (as well as getting to NO faster…see next item.)

7. Ask for the yes once you’ve earned it-but don’t be afraid of the no.

Get out on occasion to drive your pipeline business further along towards a yes knowing that the result will most likely be a few fresh no’s.  Is this a bad thing?  Absolutely not! Stop wasting time on those who can not or will not buy from you.  A full pipeline of no’s is worse than no pipeline at all.  The time you invest on qualifying OUT the non-buyers will be well spent once it’s re-invested in prospecting for those who can and will say YES!

8. Get a coach or a mentor.

This sales game can be tough.  Having someone to bounce ideas off and to strategize with will give you a leg up on the competition.  Think your good enough to fly solo.  Think again!  Even Steph Curry has a coach or two on his team.

9. Make the CLOSE a natural conclusion to your professional sales process.

Don’t let the “closing” part of your sales cycle be a surprise to your customer.  Don’t shy away from it either.  Your customer should know that you are there to do business.  In order to earn their business, you will have to learn to ask in such a way that it is less painful for both you and the customer.  Right now, sit down and write 5 closing questions that transition you from the presentation and negotiation to the action phase of the sales cycle.  When you have them written, ask them each aloud 100 times until they become less mysterious and thus, natural.

10. Talk Benefits rather than Features.

The customer does not buy quality, service, reliability, innovation, integration, knowledge, experience, teamwork, or the other features that you are tossing out there in an attempt to differentiate your company.  They only buy what those things can do for them and  what it is they want to accomplish.  The sooner you start talking about what they GET rather than what it does, the sooner you begin to earn a greater margin.

11. Ask them what will happen if they don’t…..?

Attempt to attach a cost or a price to in-action.  When you prospect and customers say they are “staying the course with the way they currently do things” you need to help them understand that continuing to do what they are currently doing will only get them more of what they are currently getting.  If (and this is a big if) you have attached a PAIN to their current situation (from their point of view), then you can attach a FEAR of the future.  Your product or service at that point becomes the cure to the PAIN and thus, a peace of mind to the FEAR.  This is called a solution, and it is worth more than what your competitor is selling.

12. Don’t lie—PERIOD!

The word character is not used enough in professional sales.  It needs to be.  This world of Google has opened all of our kimonos so there are very few secrets anymore.  Often your customer will ask a question that they know the answer to just to qualify your character.  You must pass the 1st time because you won’t get a second shot.  (Remember, they are more aware of their options today) Customers pay more for character and trust—count on it!

13. Quid-Pro-Quo

This Latin term that means “something for something” or “this for that” should be paid close attention to in your dealing with customers.  It works both ways.  If you are looking for forward movement in the sales cycle or an introduction to others to help you get it, practice quid pro quo from your end first.  Give to get.  Give a referral, get movement.  Give an introduction to a lead; get an introduction further into the customer’s circle of influence.  Add value first; get things you value in return.  On the flip side we need to understand that when a customer asks us to jump through hoops for them (put together a demo, draw me up an analysis of the benefits, etc.) it is only fair that we now can ask for something in return from them.  Example:  “We will put together a demonstration of the software, customized to your needs as you requested.  If the software performs and meets all of the specifications that we discussed, will you be prepared give us a commitment to move ahead with the purchase that day?”

14. Never make a call without a purpose.

In order to be the most productive with your time and the time of your prospects, customers and clients, have a clear purpose for each of your calls.  Don’t visit the customer without the express purpose of bringing something of value to the table or moving the sales cycle forward.  Don’t make a call to “just check in” some other nonsense.  If you don’t take your call seriously, why should they?  By being able to clearly state the purpose of your call and sticking to it, you will become a professional worthy of investing time and money with.

15. Look sharp!

If your product or service is pretty similar to that of your competitions, the little things will often be the deciding factors when deciding who to go with and how much to pay. Don’t underestimate the fact that people initially form a perception about you and your professionalism based upon appearance before you ever get a chance to open your mouth.  You want a higher price?  Look the part!  (Use an iron…it’s becoming a lost art!)

These 15 points are a good start to get you heading towards higher margins and thus, better commissions.  You can see that there are no tricks and no shortcuts.  Simply applying more in the areas of focus, self discipline, commitment, and a customer focused approach will change the customer’s perception of value regarding you and thus, your company, product or service.

Customer Service MAGIC!!!

Customer Service

Customer Service is a dying art!  The average attendee in my seminars, when asked, states that they have had mostly average experiences of customer service in the past month compared to a few horrible experiences and just one fantastic experience.  Tony Alessandra calls these Moments of Mediocrity, Moments of Misery, and Moments of Magic.  It has been my contention that every company has the ability to stand out by focusing on simply striving for the WOW experience that Alessandra calls a Moment of Magic.

Most of us feel that the customer service departments in our companies are responsible for this experience.  While I agree that the customer service professionals on your team do absolutely drive the customer experience, I would like to challenge those of us in the sales side of the business to take a closer look at our role in this process.

Let’s see if we can break down that M.A.G.I.C. into an easy-to-digest (and apply) acronym:

Managing Expectations

The sales process really “tees up” the customer service process by setting up the customer expectations.  Let’s face it; anyone can get anyone to buy anything by telling the buyer whatever they want to hear.  In fact, it is exactly this fact that has given salespeople bad reputations for years.  The true sales professional understands that they seek a customer for life (a client relationship) out of every transaction.  Just as with any relationship, there are expectations that both will have.  It is the salesperson’s job to discover the true expectations of the customer from the onset and to temper those according to true deliverables.  In addition, the sales professional must explain in detail to the customer the role that they must play in the relationship.  With properly discovered and mutually agreed upon expectations set in advance, the customer service experience has been properly arranged in advance so that the customer “knows what they are in for.”   At that point, it is up to the entire organization (every touch point) to EXCEED those expectations!

Assessing Needs

The first and most vital conversations that are held with a customer are done so with the sales professional.  It is during these conversations that we are to gather information in addition to giving it.  We have defined the shortest course on selling for years as “Asking Questions and Listening.”  This process is not important only for the discovery of a potential customer’s hot buttons and motivators which will guide them towards a purchase from us, it also helps us assess their HVNs (Highest Value Needs) so that we may communicate them to our internal customer service teams.

Here is an idea:  Create a form that will allow your salespeople to capture some of the basic HVNs of your new customers.  On the form, simply list categories that are important for the smooth transition from the sales process to the service process.  In addition, capture the communication style of the customer and any pertinent information that will create a strong communication foundation for the service team.  What has been promised?  What does the customer expect?  Where are the potential “landmines that we need to avoid?”  How can we WOW them early in the relationship?  What do we need to know about them personally as well as professionally to best serve them?

Growth vs. Maintenance

There are two ways to look at every interaction that we have with prospects, customers, and clients.  We can simply strive to MAINTAIN our current status, relationship, or loyalty with these folks or we can strive to create GROWTH in these areas with every interaction.  From a sales perspective, it is my belief that there should never be such a thing as a MAINTENANCE call!  The purpose of front line sales reps is to GROW the customer relationship, GROW the trust that a customer has in you, GROW the value that the customers perceives in you, and to GROW their account within the organization, thus GROWING your company.  When your goal is simply to MAINTAIN, there is very little preparation necessary.  There is very little need for pre-call planning, practice, or customer focused thought.  Here’s a good drill: Write down the two words above (Growth and Maintenance).  Under each word, write down 10 things that you need to DO to either Maintain or Grow an account.  I bet the list is longer and requires more action under GROWTH!

Interest – Show one-before, during, and after the sale

As a sales professional, if you were to be judged and compensated on the overall length and value of your relationships with your customers and clients, I would bet that your actions would be more focused.  We are all guilty of “moving on” from a relationship in the mind of the customer.  The courting stage is full of surprise, passion, excitement, and over-the-top communication when we have the prospective customer in the pipeline.  Early into the customer phase, we will stay in touch, make the occasional call to see how everything is going with our product or service, and do some of the things necessary to grow the customer (one-time, price focused buyer) into a client (lifetime, value focused buyer).  However, it has been said that familiarity breeds contempt.  Too often, salespeople tend to lose interest in an account after a while and in doing so create the perception that they are taking the relationship for granted.  Although you may think this way, it is really not important what you think—the customer/client is the king.  Good drill here:  Identify your top 10 accounts right now.  Next, schedule a face to face meeting with each one of them within the next 60 days.  The purpose of that meeting is to reconnect; “to renew your vows,” and to get into their hearts by attempting to re-visit their business needs (they most likely have changed since you were dating.)

Communication

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why customers get fed up and leave is a lack of true communication on the part of the company with whom they are doing business.  Of course, people don’t do business with companies—they do business with people.  Think about the world that we live in today.  Phones are answered by machines that guide us through a seemingly unending series of “press this” or “enter that” before we can get a chance to communicate.  Our email boxes are so loaded with spam that we have a tendency to DELETE courteous correspondence before it is read.  We are forcing our customers to websites to interact with us.  We are using “self-checkout” lines at grocery stores.  What in the world happened to good old-fashioned one-to-one communication?  When we survey customers as to what it is that they are looking for in the “service experience,” the answers rarely, if ever, mention cost effectiveness, efficiency, and electronically based communication.  Instead, they say they are looking for knowledgeable help, follow-through, basic courtesies, dedicated attention, feedback, empathy, and respect.  This begins with the sales professional.

As a salesperson, how can you create all of this and still be focused on getting new “fish in the boat?”  It’s not easy—especially on your own.  Don’t fall into the trap of keeping others in the company away from your accounts.  Furthermore, don’t micro-manage every detail of the customer’s interaction with your company.  Instead, create a team to deliver consistent Moments of Magic.

Using the acronym above, turn “inward” toward your support staff, your delivery staff, your installers, your customer service team, your help desk staff, and the accounts receivable staff for assistance.  First of all, set and manage their expectations of you and what it is that you can and will do with the customer on the front end and throughout the relationship.  Next, assess their needs.  What is it that they need from you in order to best deliver on your promises?  Next, look for ways to grow their knowledge of the customer, the sales process, and the service expectations of the customer.  In addition, try growing your knowledge of their position and what it is that they go through every day to meet your customers ever changing needs.  Next, show an interest in them.  As a salesperson, you try to spend time with top accounts in the interest of building a relationship.  Why?  So they continue to buy from you and never leave.  Create a plan to do the same with your inside team.  Spend time with them.  Show an interest in who they are and where it is that they come from.  Meet their families.  “DO” for them and they will line up to “DO” for you and your customers.  Finally, learn how to best communicate with them on a regular basis.  If you communicate with them via email only, you will eventually create a disconnection.  Try to develop the habit of the regular “team huddle.” Regular, value-add communication on the inside breaks down the walls and allows for creative juices to come up with the best ways to take care of your customers!

The profession of sales is for sales professionals but you need to know that, as a sales professional, the customer experience is something that demands your attention and commands your focus!  Sell Smart all the way through and you will find yourself with a never-ending stream of referrals and leads generated by over-the-top loyal fans on the outside (customers) as well as the inside of your business!

Cast Your Vote for 2013 Growth

So…Election Day has past. Did you vote? Did you cast your ballot for what it is that you believe in? Did you put in the effort to understand the issues, the politics, and the possible outcomes of your vote? Did you go out of your way and stand in line to exercise one of the biggest honors and responsibilities that you have as an American? Do you understand that we have people fighting every day in foreign lands so that you can exercise this right? And now that the votes are all in and the results are all in place, are you happy with the outcome? Will you now take a stand to facilitate change that is necessary or will you complain about circumstances that are present?
As an entrepreneur, a leader/manager, or a sales professional you get up each and every day to cast your ballot. You make a choice every day (many times a day) to ELECT to do what is necessary to get the results that you desire. There are many people that every day follow the lead of others and ELECT to be told what they are due in this world…but not you! YOU decide the vote you will cast to make those extra calls. YOU decide the ballot spot you will mark in your preparation efforts before every meeting, sales call, or decision you make. YOU decide your strategy, your approach, and your follow through. Therefore, this election season, I offer to you, regardless of your party or politician of choice, a FIVE POINT PLAN for your the growth of your company, your team, and/or your personal book of business for the future:

1-Define it-Design it!
Right now, I ELECT to decide what my 2013 will look like. I will set my company, team, and personal goals by defining my VISION for results this year. My VISION will determine my mission and thus, the changes that I must make to accomplish that VISION. No longer will I suffer the dysfunction of the masses by letting things and circumstances decide my results. I will decide

2-Preparation Before Execution

Today I begin to start down the path of strategic thought before committed action.  I will spend at least 5 minutes prior to each sales call or each meeting deciding, in advance, what I have in mind for an ideal outcome of the meeting.  I will declare (and write-down) targeted take-aways prior to the meeting, forcing me to THINK from all perspectives and take into account all those involved in the sales call or the meeting.  I will always have a plan before I get into the battle.

3-Growth
I realize I cannot accomplish more than I have without becoming more than I am.  I commit to my professional growth this year by increasing my exposure to new ideas, new strategies, and new actions.  I must learn more than I know today and I must take paths that I have previously not taken.  The marketplace demands more from every sales professional.  Every sales team can grow sales and profits on the wisdom, guidance, and coaching of their leader.  And the marketplace certainly demands more from every sales professional.  This year, I will rise to meet those demands. I will read more, write more, speak more, seek more coaching, more mentorship, and never cease.

4-Visibility

In order for my organization, my team and/or my marketplace to engage more with me and thus, do more business with and/or for me, I must become more visible.  If I am not visible to those with whom I choose to grow, I am, in fact, IN-visible.  I will learn ways to network better and more often.  I will schedule specific visibility both physically and online every week.  I will add value though all of these efforts.  I will connect, engage, and offer assistance everywhere.  I will become known for these things and create a brand of excellence that is known to the masses.  I will become more than I am currently to all of those who know me and many that do not as of yet know me.  And I will define my brand.

5-Action

The greatest secret all accomplishment is ACTION.  With the focus of the Four points above, ACTION is the secret to ignite them all.  I realize that I do not have to be great to start, but in order to be great, I must START!  Every day, I will take a bit more action.  I will make 5 more sales calls, meet with 1 more employee (and listen to them), or offer a bit more coaching to my people.  I will not only plan my work but I will put more effort into working my plan!  I will get up earlier, stay a little later and truly be present as I morph myself and my team/organization into World-Class results.

As a professional today, you need to ELECT to follow a plan for a better future, if only for the upcoming year.  Cast your vote now to unseat the complacent, comfortable incumbent that resides in your office!  GO—BE—DO!

Personal Branding…What are YOU Known For?

TOP Salespeople use Personal Branding as a very special way to stand out in the minds of the market.  Most of them don’t even know that they are doing it!  Why do they do it?

  • Personal Branding gets your phone to ring.
  • Personal Branding separates you from all of the competition.
  • Personal Branding puts VALUE ahead of COST.
  • Personal Branding elevates you and thus your company/product/service in the minds of your customer.
  • Personal Branding, quite simply, creates more sales for you!

Companies spend millions of dollars every year to burn their brand into the hearts and minds of their potential customers.  This is done with advertising, jingles, and repetition of their messages.  Nike built a brand around that “swoosh” logo such that its worldwide proliferation is staggering.  You cannot go anywhere in the world of sports without seeing the “swoosh.”  In fact, the “swoosh” has become synonymous with excellence in sports.  The result?  An empire of shoes, clothing and sports gear that commands top dollar in the marketplace.

Starbucks did it with coffee in a different way.   They chose to create a customer “experience” that is consistent throughout the world.  They created a brand and invested their millions into teaching us (through their employees) a different way to order and drink coffee.  They train their people (The Barista’s “Green Apron Book”) and invest in the customer experience that we receive in any Starbucks.  The result?  We will go out of our way AND pay a premium to “find a Starbucks shop.

What is it that YOU can do as a sales professional to position yourself and your company as THE CHOICE rather than simply A CHOICE?  Through the appropriate Personal Branding tactics, you can:

  •  Establish yourself as an expert (Don’t just be “in” your field…be perceived as the “best” in your field.)
  • Be known as a resource (Don’t be a “taker” of orders….be a “maker” of profits and success for your customers)
  • Create a demand for your product or service  (Customer’s will call you…instead of the other way around)
  • Build prospective customer’s trust in you and your company (People do business with whom they trust and know….get KNOWN to gain their trust!)
  • Differentiate yourself from the competition (If you don’t stand out, you don’t stand out!)

How can you create a brand for yourself as a sales professional?  Let’s look at some of the first steps that you must take:

  1. Clearly define the “brand” that your desire to create and communicate to your marketplace.  How do you want to be known?  What words or phrases will your customer’s use to describe you?  How will you choose to differ yourself from the competition?
  2. Establish  a “special sauce statement” that states what it is that you bring to the table in a way that nobody else does.  This should be from the customer’s viewpoint (benefit driven) not from yours (feature driven.)
  3. Create a list of no less than 10 ways to communicate this BRAND every day in every way to your prospects, customers, and clients.  You must walk the walk that you wish to be “known for.”  Consistency is absolutely the key.  Every move that you make needs to be preceded with the following questions: “Is what I am about to do consistent with the brand that I have created?”

Personal Branding is the key to greater sales.  It is often the difference between you getting the contract or the other guy.  More importantly, it is most often the main difference between you having to sell your product or service and people wanting to buy your product or service!

It has been said that in the profession of selling, it’s not who you know, but rather who knows you that counts.  Call our office today at 866-979-LAYO (5296)—yes, the phone number is part of my brand—and get enrolled for any of our upcoming events.  You can also go to www.GerryLayo.com and enroll  for any of these events online.

Remember, if you can’t name 2-3 things that you are KNOWN-FOR, how can you expect your customers to list ONE?

Show your best clients that they are special

Think about how the airlines treat you a little bit special if you fly with them all the time. It’s good for business, right?

So how do you show your best customers that you’d like to move them into the client bucket? How can you show them that they deserve a little special treatment?

Not that all the rest of your customers, the ones that aren’t in your client basket, should be treated like crap. It just means we move that up a notch. When they’re better customers, they move to clients.

So identify your top-tier clients. Identify them by profitability, or frequency of purchase, or after-sales service required, revenue, whatever it might be. And do some things to spend a little bit more time with them. Support some advisory councils, offer some incentive programs. Show some additional incentives, love trips or dinners or events.

Don’t worry about dropping prices for these people. If they buy more it tends to mean they’re getting more value from you.  Keep the margins where they are. Don’t drop price, add value instead.

Have some value-add training events. Go in and work with their staff, their people. Spend a few additional days with no strings attached. Have a client appreciation dinner. Give them a feeling of importance. That feeling of importance breeds a feeling of loyalty. The best way to get loyalty is to give it.

We’re looking to move people from customer to client so that our relationship with them is stronger, based on the value that we provide. And it really is about the way that they look at us in the end. But it starts with two things. It starts with the way that we look at ourselves and the moves we make.

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What does Valentine’s Day have to do with selling?

What’s the difference between a customer and a client? It’s all about the relationship.

Think about Valentine’s Day: Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, even little kids at school are making an effort to let that significant other know that they are special. So what if you looked to one of your customers in the next few days, next few weeks, next few months and, in effect, said: “Be my Valentine? I want a better relationship with you.”

Why? Because the best sales people don’t necessarily find more customers all the time. They look to penetrate existing relationships. They look to go deeper and wider into the accounts where people are already “raising their hands.”

They look for instances when their customers are saying or indicating things like:

•    Yes, I like you.
•    I like your products.
•    I like your services.
•    I like your prices.
•    I like your process.
•    I like who you are.
•    I trust you.
•    I value you.

When your customers are saying these things, you can leverage that relationship to go deeper and provide more value. And to get new introductions to other people inside or outside of that organization who also value what you deliver. So you get more referrals —  and more ideal prospects.

Photo: Dave Parker, via Creative Commons 2.0

Leading your inside team

Your inside team – whether they are called ‘customer service’ or ‘inside sales’ — enables you to grease the wheels of your progress inside your organization.

You just get more done, so it makes sense to build your team. How? By building relationships inside, and making sure that positive customer interactions are the norm.

Here’s what you do: Make an itinerary and agenda of every single thing you need to do to get deeper into these relationships. Get to know your inside team better. Know their names. Know their families. Spend some time. Have lunch with them.

You have to be the captain of the team, the quarterback who is going to lead the quality of interactions with your customers. And to do that you have to take care of your team.

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Good enough is not good enough to keep customers coming back

A common misconception about customer service is that if you’ve got a good-enough product or good-enough service, that’s going to keep them coming back.

Wrong. Today your customers are seeking more. They’ve got options. They can go to the Internet and can find 20 places to get a good product and a good service. In fact, most companies are in the position of selling a commodity — basically the same product or service as the competition.

You can’t believe that, however. You’ve got to be passionate that your product is unique and the best. And it’s only unique and the best if it is in the eyes of the customer.

And you have the ability, the right, and the absolute mandate to create that perception. The experience and the relationship you create makes your product or service stronger. It’s what keeps them coming back. And it doesn’t just happen when you sell it. It happens over and over throughout the life of the relationship.

The first principle is that we are driving consumers to become clients – and there is a substantial difference between those two. Customers are one-time buyers. Clients are lifetime buyers. A customer is a transaction, a client is a relationship. If a customer is liked, then a client is loved. If a customer is a handshake, a client is a hug and a kiss.

Smart salespeople get that trust towards an organization begins with you. Selling is a transfer of trust. Today people are more aware of their options, so that trust has to be communicated on a regular basis.

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