Nov 282011

Salespeople: do you know why you should undertake a task? Do you have a reason you can convey to customers that explains why doing something is beneficial? Has your sales manager explained to you the ‘why’ of what you are being asked to do or shortchanged you in the interest of simplicity and saving time and only given you the ‘what?’
Managers: Have you explained the ‘why’ to your teams? People who know why they need to do something, why they need to do it a certain way or in certain timeframe do it better as they are armed with a reason, rationale or logic. Take the time.

Asking ‘why’ also helps instill continuous improvement by questioning why something is done in a certain way and if a better process could come to be. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story Of Success has a detailed briefing on the risks of ‘soldier mentality.’ For example, Korean Airlines’ poor safety record in the 20th Century is partly attributed to pilots, co-pilots and other personnel never questioning an order and never examining the ‘why.’ It makes for interesting reading.

Aug 232011

For years the sales funnel has given order to sales opportunities, forecasting and businesses’ financial predictions and revenue reporting. But does it still matter? Does it work? The sales funnel or pipeline typically began with awareness/contact and progressed to the sales process’ completion. Nowadays though customers come much better informed, occasionally knowing what they want, having seen/ran their own demos online and care nothing for the sales process. In the information era how can a funnel exist if customers can enter it anywhere and anytime?

Aug 112011

Now I do not condone using sex as a sales technique, but a new CBC report on Toronto panhandlers is a good reminder of how important it is to cut through the jammed clutter of modern life to get the message through.
At least two enterprising Toronto-based panhandlers are using key words like ‘sex’ to grab the attention of passers-by to solicit money. Judging by the reported results it is working. They are holding up signs, which are, er, an upgrade over the standard ‘hungry, please help’ verbiage usually used!

As the article points out, while having meat on the bone i.e. a good product or service is key, grabbing the attention of prospects requires something that stands out from the masses (competitors) and a dose of humour or flash does not hurt.

Do you have the required flash and pizzazz and do you stand out?

Aug 032011

I don’t mean to understate the value of facts, data or rationality, but when selling never forget the power of emotions.
As much as we like to think we make good choices based on regimented and thought-out reasons, emotions are a big factor in our buying decisions and often a bigger criterion than most of recognize or understand.

Think about it. We all make decisions based on how we feel about something. After all, if emotions were not a major buying factor wouldn’t everyone buy the same car with the highest price-to-feature rating based on the class of vehicle one required? Of course, we consider a car’s features, horse power and fuel efficiency, but when all is said and done, we must like the look and image of the car. Wouldn’t the market for CD cover designs diminish rapidly? After all, we would be buying the disc based on its content and its style. Many managers know, but may not openly admit, that they hired a candidate based on a ‘gut feeling.’ There are numerous examples.

What this means is we need to understand the power of emotions when selling. It follows that we need to consider the customer’s feelings. The buyer must be comfortable. They must trust. They must have that ‘gut feeling.’ This is why advanced selling is often called ‘relationship-based selling.’ This is why they say ‘you have to sell yourself.’ Give people a reason to buy from you. Give yourself some emotional appeal. Make yourself part of a story… at least until human beings evolve to more rational beings!
This is not to suggest creating and demonstrating value is meaningless. It is meant to address the need for a balanced (using that word in this context seems odd to me) approach.

Your manager or company will ultimately not care if you made the sale because the prospect felt sorry for you, laughed at your joke or counted the most number of benefits in your service versus something else.

Jul 282011


One of the preferred traits for a salesperson is the acumen to disqualify a lead or a prospect when either one is either not a good fit or the circumstances are not favourable for a successful transaction.

It takes knowledge and mental courage as salespeople, and managers and companies that hire them, to be able to say ‘no’ to a potential sale. Better salespersons know how to optimize their time and resources and drive to better results.

Never assume a customer does not have the money and the budget. A person with a torn shirt and messy shoes might actually have more money left to buy a high-end television set than the suit and tie guy (who is living off his maxed credit card). However, establishing budgetary needs upfront is important.

Does the contact person at the prospect not have the authority to sign a cheque and is not part of the approval hierarchy? Time well wasted.

Timing is important. Occasionally, taking ‘no’ for an answer allows a ‘yes’ to follow later. It is never a good idea to destroy any chance of a rapport with the customer.

Salespeople need to know their products well enough to do it justice. In the era of information availability and dissemination salespersons who do not know their products or service are at a disadvantage to the customer who has read up on it on the net. Beyond a certain level, the salesperson needs access to a ‘technical’ or ‘more in-depth’ consultant or technician or expert.

What is required is mental discipline as well as a real understanding of one’s capabilities.

Jun 032011

One of the worst behaviours in the realm of sales and sales management is discounting. The corporate euphemism is usually something along the lines of ‘providing the customer an incentive to buy.’
Hold on a second! Why does a customer need another incentive to buy if the product has benefits and offers superior advantages over the competition?
Discounting – or positively responding to such requests from potential customers – is self-defeating and bad practice. It is a negative not just for the seller either. It is also a negative for the buyer. How so?
First, giving away margin and price points upfront is rarely, if ever, a temporary situation. The new lower price is now the permanent price. A customer that has successfully obtained a lower price will demand the same going forward. Not only are customers prone to protecting their gains, but also the discounted price is perceived as the fair value price for the product or service. Any salesperson that agrees to a lower price should not be under any illusion that the loss will be made up later. There is no such thing as an introductory price anymore.
Moreover, prices are set according to costs, business plans and market conditions. Losing the required profit margin might imply incurring a loss and jeopardizing the seller’s longevity or security. Buying a customer’s business is the wrong notion.

Why is the lower price ultimately bad for the customer? It does several things. A buyer and a seller should maintain a mutually beneficial synergistic relationship. When one is threatened, the other should be concerned. The seller needs to provide after-sales support and, in most cases, enhancements, maintenance and upgrades. Furthermore, discounting tells the buyer that the initial price was dishonest and false. Not a good start to a relationship. Pricing integrity takes honesty and courage in the short-term, but is a good idea for the long-term.

    1. Maintain a healthy pipeline
    2. Allow your fair pricing policy to become your reputation
    3. Sell according to identified benefits and Return On Investment and
    4. Remember that a customer should not be a loss leader.
      Apr 032011

      The rule of thumb in recent years for the success rate of cold calling prospects or following up on mailers by telephone has been a five percent achievement. In other words, typically in these situations, 5% of prospects allow the seller to advance further in the sales process.

      That ratio is now likely obsolete and too high. Nowadays, there is a whole cottage industry of experts and methodologies on how to prospect, or not to, but the fact remains that responses are less and less likely. It could be that the positive responses are at 0.5%. In other words, for every 100 prospects that receive an unsolicited call or brochure less than 1 moves forward and shows interest.

      Why? What can a marketer do?

      Knowledge is power. Prospectors need relevant information with which to target their customers. That means, one must call into a company in possession of much more information than before. One cannot cold call prospects without having up-to-date information. In fact, that would not even be cold calling.

      The ‘need to know’ goes beyond having a name and having perused a website nowadays. Know the name, the history, the events, the news and the website’s information. Have you studied the prospects’ social media profile? Have they tweeted something? Is your pitch aligned with their needs and is it targeted and customized?
      No more mass mailers. The mailing list requires customization and personalization for each an every prospect.
      Every potential client is unique and the marketer needs to incorporate that in the approach or risk failure.

      Read this again:

      Mar 202011

      The word “just” creeps into many sales conversations. It should not!

      Whether in the field, or more likely on the telephone, too many sales conversations include sentences like:

      • Just one more thing
      • I just wanted to reach you to say…
      • I just need a minute…

      The use of the word ‘just’ is a defensive mechanism by salespeople to imply understanding on their part of the customer’s time and lack of desire and designed to send a message that the customer’s commitment (at this stage) is minimal.

      Ironically, the word implies triviality, a junior status and assigns irrelevance to the topic, product/service and the person who utters it. Why would one denigrate one’s own importance, message or potential benefits of the goods or service?

      On the next sales conversation just banish the word ‘just.’

      Apr 172010

      Steps To Effective Listening:

      1- Listen – yes, oddly enough one has to listen without prejudice or interrupting.
      2- Listen For The Main Idea – what is the main and specific idea being put forth?
      3- Listen For The Reason – what is the rationale and reason behind the ideas discussed or proposed? Is the premise correct and based in fact?
      4- Organize – give the message conveyed an organization and order. It helps results gel and and for the listener to retain the information.
      5- Ask Questions – once the speaker has ended ask questions. Be sure that your own biases have not tainted what you heard.

      Taking notes is a good idea. It shows that the listener is interested. It also is a better method of keeping record than memory alone.

      *Things That Need To Go Away: listening meetings where the decision has already been made and conclusion already reached.


      Feb 172010

      I was recently part of a discussion on CRM and the best way to choose a Customer Relationship Management package. With CRM/SFA/contact management becoming mainstream and accepted more and more questions come up about which one of the myriad of options is the better one.

      I have been part of sales team for Oracle CRM and Sage CRM. I have also been the user, competed against or part of the buying process for Siebel, SAP, Salesforce and Sage. Here are my thoughts.

      First and foremost, the starting point should not be the features and functionality of the technology. The departure point is the needs of the buyer, the existing processes of the company, how they need to change and improve and the goals that need to be realized. If these factors have not been mapped then the company is not ready for a CRM purchase.

      Moreover, which software has proven capability in the buying firm’s niche, vertical or broad industry?

      Next, remembering that CRM is there to enable the company to know itself and its customers, how does the productivity tool play with the company’s actual data and processes? This is where a customized demonstration including the aforementioned information is very helpful. No, not a generic demo and no not a downloaded sample of the program. Can one see the needs fulfilled in the CRM and can one see the desired improvements fulfilled in the potential package? If any integrations are required, can this be demonstrated? What about the reporting capabilities, formats in which the reports are available and, crucially, their ease of use? Which vendor gives you the best training for their product?

      Incidentally, avoid paying for features one does not need and will not use.

      I don’t want to get into the hosted versus on-site flavours of CRM discussion here, but should one be considering a hosted or SAAS (Software As A Service)/cloud software (the cloud refers to the nebulous Internet mode of delivery) the question to ask is what happens at the end of the contract period. Who owns the data? How can one receive it from the hosting company? Is there an additional fee attached to these stipulations?

      Of course, cost is a factor. SAAS operates on the leasing model (low up-front costs/potentially more expensive overall), while the traditional method gives you the software in perpetuity (except there is an installation cost and time-line that needs to be factored in). As I said, won’t get into this aspect more at this time.

      The technology’s capability will only follow the determination of wants, needs, processes and desired outcome strategies. Mastering these has the added benefit that they necessitate consulting and working with the end-users of the product, thus helping obtain their buy-in. What is the purpose of buying CRM if sales, service or the marketing department really do not want to use it?