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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

Tactics

By becoming like your prospect, you dramatically increase the chance of the prospect buying from you. After all, most people like to be with those who see the world in the same manner. They are comfortable in this situation.

Katie had just finished her first week with her new firm and by digging right in, she had her first two orders. As she looked at the form to fill out for ordering product, she wondered who could have possibly come up with the five-part maze. The form was impossible to decipher.

“I know for a fact,” said Greg at the sales meeting, “exactly where I spend my time.” Looking around the table for a moment, he went on. “The only problem is I never have enough of it.”

“And thank you for calling,” said Nick. Looking over the short notes he had made while on the phone, on his ever-present legal pad, he added another reminder to get back to this prospect at work on Thursday morning at 9:30.

On the way out the door that morning for work, Mark was excited about the presentation he was to make at noon at the prospect’s office. For the past two months, setting up the meeting with everyone at the prospect’s company had been a major exercise in logistics. People were coming in from everywhere. Yes indeed, thought Mark, head down to the office, print out the final version of the proposal, bind it, get the overheads and slides done, a good one. He knew that Mary would help, and while she was doing her thing, he’d get on the phone to those five leads.

A small percentage of the general population understands the world from a feeling basis; these people are generally referred to as “kinesthetics.” How something feels inside to them and how something physically feels are of utmost importance.

“Melinda,” asked Nick one Thursday, “what’s your secret?” “My secret?” she asked in return. In the past month, Melinda had been promoted to regional sales director and was now in charge of 31 salespeople in seven states. Nick could not help but remember meetings with the previous regional director. Every meeting had been an eternity with boredom as the only result.

Oh my God, thought Greg, it’s past eleven, and I haven’t gotten the preliminary proposal done. Where did my morning go? And for a moment, he realized that he had been on the phone non-stop since getting into the office at eight am. Except for a quick dash to the coffee pot, he hadn’t left his desk. In fact, as he tilted the mug, he saw that most of the coffee was still in it. “Who did I talk to?” he wondered out loud.

Either the sales manager defines and proceeds to implement a common approach to selling for her sales staff, or the sales staff is left to their own devices.

Meetings that are held with no written agenda start late, last forever, and accomplish only the wasting of everyone’s time.

Everyone knows two “truths” about a filing system. First, anyone can create a filing system if he finds the few minutes he needs to do it. Second, actually creating one and using it is certainly not the responsibility of the salesperson. That’s what the sales assistant or secretary does.

Badgering a prospect for an appointment only reinforces in the prospect’s mind that you are just another one of those “pain-in-the-butt” salespeople. This will happen even if you get the appointment.

There is a difference between having a social relationship with someone and having a business relationship with someone. High income salespeople understand that a business relationship can be conducted in a socially correct manner. And at the same time, they also understand it is not a social relationship. They don’t try to turn one into another.

Without an agenda that everyone is focused on, meetings turn into social gatherings. If that is the purpose of the meeting, fine. However, it rarely is.

Some salespeople love group presentations because it allows them to “trot out” all the goodies that have been created to wow the audience. These salespeople suffer the disease of “ringing bells and blowing whistles.” In the rush to give a good performance, the only perception the salesperson has is whether or not he is getting through to the group members. If nine heads nod yes, but the tenth doesn’t, the urge to focus on the tenth becomes too much to resist.

Almost without exception, the moment a person “has to” leave the meeting, he misses crucial information. The chairperson can either let him go or forbid him to leave. If the person leaves, this raises two additional situations. First, the person misses the information that is conveyed and any ensuing discussion. It is impossible to convey all that information to that person at a later date. It is also difficult to explain the reasoning behind any decisions that were made. Therefore the “missing person” views the decisions as arbitrary. “I didn’t get my viewpoint heard, and had they heard my viewpoint, the decision would have been different.” The result is a person who may or may not follow through. The purpose of the meeting, for this person, has not been met.

Sales managers don’t manage salespeople. They manage winners, losers, and “at leasters.”

Nick, while sitting at what had to be the longest red light in the world, was ready to tear the steering wheel off the column and wrap it around the neck of the idiot driver in front. “Use the pedal to the right of the brake when the light turns green. Green means GO!,” he yelled. Fortunately, no one could hear him since the windows were rolled up.

Being able to identify unproductive behavior is not easy. In the story, the sales manager encourages Ray to continue in his unproductive behavior by having him recite back what appears to be the office gospel. Not only does Ray engage in unproductive behavior, the manager expects it.

If you don’t know what the specific and measurable goal of the behavior is, then the behavior is unproductive and nothing more than a time filler. In the story, Bob readily admits to spending the better part of a week on creating, laying out and printing the brochures. But does he ever ask himself, “Does this activity reach any of the goals I have set for myself?”

Ask yourself a question. Do the prospects care whether I put money in the bank or not? Are they going to stay up at night worrying about my personal financial condition? Probably not. Why should they? Absolutely no reason in the world they should. Consider this line of thought. Why should I waste my sales time thinking how much this sale would mean to me if I made it? My prospect doesn’t care about my needs; he only cares about his needs. If I take time to think about my needs, that’s time away from answering the needs of my prospect. That lessens the chance of the sale being made.

You don’t sell; you set the stage for the buyer to discover that your product will solve a pain he currently has, or shortly will have. In other words, the buyer is already motivated, and it is your job to show him how your product will solve his pain.

Some prospects hear their world, and if you don’t make music to their ears, not only will they turn the volume down, they’ll even shut you off.

Never state that more prospecting needs to be done. What you need to state is exactly what behavior will be done to accomplish more prospecting.

You can choose to understand what a prospect is saying or ignore the message. What is easier to do than ask, “I kind of get the feeling that you are talking about X and I’m talking about Y. How do you feel about it?”

The worst that could happen by asking for the order is that the prospect says “No.” If this is a real “no” and there is no chance of doing business, the sooner you hear it, the better, so you can move on. But before you cross her off your list, give her a chance to change her mind.

Michael got through the office gatekeeper by letting the receptionist help. More importantly, he did everything on purpose, not by accident. Consider what Donna’s pattern will be the next time he calls. Chances are good that once again, she’ll want to help. Finally, besides getting through to Andy, Michael also found out that the sales manager may, at best, be an influencer.

Some prospects hear their world, and if you don’t make music to their ears, not only will they turn the volume down, they’ll even shut you off.

Learning to be aware of what you are doing in front of a prospect takes some work. You have to convince yourself that the prospect’s picture of you has more do with making the sale than what your picture is of the prospect. Most salespeople have spent hundreds of hours in training programs that focus solely on what the prospect is saying and doing. Very little time is ever spent on learning what you are doing.

The easiest part of establishing a rapport with someone is to match his body movements and movement rhythm. It’s the easiest because you can see it happening right in front of you. All you have to do is look.

Salespeople get in a rut talking the same way to every prospect. The same words are used, at the same point in the conversation, with the same tonality. The prospect, or for that matter, even existing customers, can quickly sense when you slide into the rut. What do you think they are saying to themselves at that moment?

Idiotic tasks are a direct result of not having goals. The rallying cry for an idiotic task is, “I’ve (We’ve) got to do something, it’s got to be real soon, and I (we) need results fast.” The focus of attention is on the task, which always has to be done immediately, instead of on the goal. Remember, a goal is a well-defined, measurable, result of specific consecutive objectives.

Part of dealing with failure is truly seeing it as an opportunity to grow. If you see failure as some sort of blemish on your abilities, you will then seek to avoid failure situations. Thus, if you never fail, how can you possibly grow stronger? You cannot. By establishing goals that make failure a learning experience, you can become a stronger salesperson.

A good sales manager will see when a salesperson is heading toward the rocks, and the natural instinct is to quickly paddle over, shout a warning, and perhaps even toss a line to pull the sale to safety. After all, the sales manager’s job is to see to it that sales are made, correct? Or is that the salesperson’s job? Whose job is it?

Establishing rapport enables both of you to treat the other as an equal. In other words, the prospect/customer has less reason to see you as someone whose only interest in her is her money. The same applies to the salesperson. There is less reason for you to see the prospect/customer as just a collection of objections that you have to beat down.

You don’t have to live in your prospect’s world to do business, you just need to let them know that you respect their world. Consider for the moment where you meet your prospects or existing clients. If you meet them anywhere outside of your business base, you are meeting them on their turf. You must communicate to them that you respect their place of business.

Prospects will put up with a lot from salespeople. In fact, most salespeople wind up making the sale in spite of themselves. Buyers have become used to salesperson ineptitude. It’s something they have to put up with to get what they need.

There are a couple of commonly accepted sales tales handed down from one salesperson to another. It’s almost like a tribal mythology. One of the more enduring is how you have to spend much more than 40 hours a week if you want to make it in sales. Then the tale goes on to relate how Bill, or Mary, or whoever, spent a tremendous number of hours a week and by age thirty, was pulling down an income in the high six figures. Now remember these “tales” may actually be true.

If you see confusion, lack of interest, annoyance, frustration, or any other similar emotion on the prospect’s face, make it safe for him to tell you what’s going on, and then ask him what’s going on. The moment you do that, you will start hearing his real needs and wants. If what you hear is something you can provide, then all you have to do is wait for the buyer to let you know it’s time to buy.

There are some prospects who are complete pains. They will do their best to drive you right up the wall. Finally, when you think you have answered all of what seems to be their insane requests, they inform you that they just bought from someone else. The temptation to get even is overwhelming.

The first step in managing your behavior is accepting the reality that you cannot manage someone else’s behavior. If you can accept this fact, you will be on your way to a much more interesting and financially rewarding way of working as a salesperson.

Everyone has certain times during the day when you go through the motions. Have you ever driven to work and at some point realized that you have no memory at all of the last couple of miles? The same situation exists with salespeople in a selling situation. You are with a prospect, in person, on the phone, wherever, and in most instances, you have little awareness of what you are doing. You are so busy concentrating on what the prospect is doing, you have lost touch with yourself.

To understand the message you are daily delivering to your salespeople, you need to step outside yourself and look back. What you find staring at you might not be pleasant. It is, however, an important step to take should you wish to become more effective at communicating.

How rare is a salesperson who can comfortably approach an initial meeting with a prospect, knowing that there may be no business? Doesn’t this go against what every salesperson is supposed to believe, that every prospect can be a close if you are good enough to beat down the objections?

Part of dealing with failure is truly seeing it as an opportunity to grow. If you see failure as some sort of blemish on your abilities, you will then seek to avoid failure situations. Thus, if you never fail, how can you possibly grow stronger? You cannot. By establishing goals that make failure a learning experience, you can become a stronger salesperson.

Train yourself to listen to exactly what the prospect is saying. If you aren’t sure of what is being said, ask the prospect to clarify. When you ask these types of questions, it keeps you from getting carried away by your assumptions and subtly tells the prospect unconsciously that you really are listening.

How many salespeople look upon their relationship with their customers as one that should endure regardless of what product is being sold? Doesn’t it make sense to look at your customer base and prospect base as one that you will sell to over your lifetime? When you perceive them in this light, it is amazing how different a view you develop.

Salespeople, in general, frequently move on to other companies. There are many reasons: lack of performance at the former, poor product line, perhaps the former company was poorly run. The list of possible reasons is long. In addition to this well-known situation, for the past ten years or so, down-sizing has become a fact of life, regardless of one’s title. Your current contact at Acme Widgets may shortly be replaced, if he hasn’t been already. When your contact is replaced, what’s the first thing that runs through your mind?

Just as a salesperson ought to create a buying environment for a prospect, the same should occur with a sales manager and a salesperson. How you assist a salesperson in changing their behavior is by allowing them to see, hear, or feel what their behavior is like. If the goal is to “sell” them a behavioral change, what steps do you have to take to “close” them? It’s just like selling.

When do most salespeople ask for a referral? If they even remember to ask for a referral, it usually is right after the prospect has bought. And what is the usual new-customer response? After a moment or two of a vacant stare, nothing. And what is the usual salesperson response? “Well, if you think of anyone, I’d appreciate your mentioning my name.”

To make sales you have to be in front of prospects. The more time you are in front of prospects, the more sales. Doing anything other than getting in front of prospects was, from his perspective, a potential waste of time.

If you make the decision, you control your life. If someone else makes the decision, he controls your life. Make a decision.

Consider one of the common phrases used by most salespeople. “I really appreciate your taking the time to talk with me.” Do you really think that the prospect made time to talk with you because he’s a wonderful person who just wants your conversation for however long? He made the time to talk with you because he’s got a pain that you might be able to take away. In fact, he may be a horrible person who may need what you sell.

I once attended a seminar given by a fellow named Steve. It was so long ago, I’ve forgotten just what the seminar was about other than having something to do with electrical switches. Steve did something that was so clever, I had to find out how successful it was. While he later told me it worked well, I had no idea how well until I started doing it. Recently I met up with Steve again. He’s still doing the same thing with the same results.

Consider for the moment where you meet your prospects or existing clients. If you meet them anywhere outside of your business base, you are meeting them on their turf. You must communicate to them that you respect their place of business.

By asking facilitating questions, you can help the salesperson discover her own problem and potential solution. While you may think you know exactly what the need is, you can never know for sure until you dig down and see what’s going on. And you dig by asking facilitating questions.

Most salespeople, if they have goals, have goals 30 days into the future, based on meeting a quota figure set by management or themselves. A smaller percentage of salespeople will have yearly goals. Again, many of those goals will be monetary.

To keep what you want to hear from replacing what you actually hear, ask for clarification from the prospect on a regular basis. It’s very simple to do, and as a side benefit, prospects will feel in greater rapport with you.

What’s an absolute? Words and phrases like: always, never, everyone, at no time, and so on. Why do prospects and even salespeople use them? Simple. To avoid the messy problems associated with being specific.

“Why” questions are the same thing as asking the person to rationalize their behavior. “Why did I say that? Because that’s the way I feel about this topic.” Did the last two sentences convey any useful information? Not really. “What is important about what I said?” Now you are asking me to take a second and think about my response. In fact, I might even organize how I will relate my experiences to you so that I can fully answer the “what.”

Answer this question—from the customer’s “time to buy again” cycle, are you selling the same product today as the company sold 10 years ago? Twenty years ago? You may be tempted to answer “Definitely.” Reconsider. Car dealers are still selling cars, but 20 years ago, if a car lasted 50,000 miles with proper service, it was a miracle. Now cars routinely go more than 100,000 miles. Does this affect the “time to buy again” cycle?

The job of the salesperson is to get enough information from the prospect to determine if any more time should be spent. The faster the salesperson can get the information, the less time wasted by both the salesperson and the prospect. The sooner you start seeking information, the sooner you can determine if it is worth continuing.

Many salespeople get into a mental rut with a prospect. “I’ve done everything I can do, yet the prospect won’t close.” It’s not unusual for this type of prospect to make up a majority of the prospect list for some salespeople. Once a salesperson gets into this “I’ve done everything” rut with a prospect, the prospect will shortly be scratched off the list as dead. No one enjoys “beating a dead horse.”

Don’t hand the prospect the reason to immediately hang up. If you sound like all the salespeople, you will be treated like all the other salespeople. Prospects go on automatic pilot the moment they suspect you are a typical cold-calling salesperson. If you sound like the run-of-the-mill salesperson, you’ll be treated like the run-of-the-mill salesperson. Is this what you want?

The most important aspect of acting in a way that gets you what you want, is to know what you want. In general, getting the prospect to buy should not be the goal. The goal should be getting the prospect to make a decision. Either “yes” or “no” is ok because the decision to do that is what is important.

For the past two years, every Thursday afternoon unless it was a holiday, Sally had religiously made her follow-up phone calls seeking additional business or, not getting that, at least a referral to someone else. Her success in doing this was well known in the company. Other salespeople shook their heads, and some attributed her success to luck; others thought she mysteriously brainwashed her customers.

Sales training, regardless of who does it, or when during a salesperson’s career it is received, always requires that the salesperson do something different. It is a rare salesperson that will consistently try something different. The following are the four steps that assist a salesperson in adopting new behavior.

Pick a time in the next 24 hours when you are not at work. Sit down and jot down all of the positive sales “stuff” that you did that worked in the last 24 hours. Worked must be defined as something that resulted in a sale or resulted in a prospect moving toward a sale. Why are positive things—things that do work—so hard to remember? Perhaps it has to do with our culture that tends to say what not to do, and leaves what you should do entirely up to you.

Goals must be set individually. While you might be able to get 10 referrals from 10 current customers, another person in the office might only get five referrals from 10 customers. If your goal was 10 referrals and hers was five referrals, you both achieved 100 percent. Don’t blame the task if the goal was not met. Change the goal and try the task again.

Before you give your pain solution, remind those present what pain you are solving. Ask for them to confirm this is the terrible pain they need solved. If it is, proceed to tell them how you can take the pain away. Ask if the pain is gone with this solution. If it is, ask them what they want to do. Then shut up.

If there is a problem, either yours or your company’s that will affect your customer in any way, ask yourself whether your customer even needs to know about it. Customers never need to know about them!

any salesperson that uses trial closes knows to expect to objections from the prospect. Fully expecting that objections will arise, the salesperson is poised to swoop down and deal with them. And then try another trial close. Around and around in this cycle of trial close, raised objection, answered objection, and back to trial close. And prospects know that this is exactly how a salesperson will behave. The prospect also has expectations. The prospect knows and expects to be hit with a trial close, knows that she is expected to come up with an objection and then be hit with another trial close. Around and around. The relationship between the salesperson and the prospect does not have to be adversarial.

How you stay in touch with your customers depends largely on how many you have and where they are in relation to you. However you stay in touch, stay in touch in a personal fashion. Customers, if given the choice between buying from a stranger or buying from someone they know, will always buy from someone they know.

It’s very easy for a sales manager to commiserate with salespeople. Everyone loves to swap war stories or retell that special story that happened back when. One problem with commiserating is that it does not accomplish anything. So you swap stories. Other than maybe having a new story to tell someone else, what did you gain for the time spent?

Salespeople, as a group, resist calling customers who have just had a repair completed on something they sold. There is even more salesperson resistance to calling the customer just prior to the time the repair is made. Why the resistance?

I think there is something called the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” You change one thing and find out further down the road that the one change affected something you never thought it would. This is partly the reason why so many salespeople are loathe to change anything.

The vast majority of salespeople have been trained all their lives to answer questions. If a prospect is having trouble coming up with the words for anything, the impulse to play rescuer is irresistible. More sales would be made if salespeople learned to let prospects rescue themselves. So why do salespeople play rescuer?

Leaving sales literature or sending sales literature in place of being there yourself is a waste of time and money, except in one situation. If the prospect has told you exactly what he needs as a result of you questioning him and your sales literature is specifically confined to his need, then send it or leave it. In any other situation, you are wasting your time, your company’s money and perhaps more importantly, keeping yourself from prospecting for those who will buy.

Begging is a habit that is reinforced by prospects because prospects have been trained by salespeople who beg for a living. Begging someone for an appointment, setting yourself up in a situation in which you have to convince someone that you have something to offer, will eventually get you sales. But this is a hard, hard, hard way to make a living. All of the pressure is on you to perform. The prospect gets to sit back and decide if your performance is worth any more time. Would it not be better for you to determine if the prospect is worth your time and effort?

Your involvement in solving a problem may be nothing more than finding the right person to solve it. Once you find the right person, you may need to assist him in seeing it as his problem. Make sure that the problem you need to solve is your problem and not a problem someone else needs to solve.

This tactic is easy to learn, but very difficult for someone to put into practice. The reason for this—salespeople believe that their job is to have all the answers or get all the answers in the shortest time possible. The rationale is simple; if I have all the answers all the time, I’ll be more likely to make the sale. As a result of this, salespeople have conditioned themselves to leap on questions in the rush toward closing the sale.

It is absolutely amazing how many statements a prospect makes that a salesperson will automatically assume are questions and/or objections. In our story, “Your price is too high,” is a statement. It is NOT a question. The salesperson does not have to answer it.

How rare is a salesperson who can comfortably approach an initial meeting with a prospect, knowing that there may be no business? Doesn’t this go against what every salesperson is supposed to believe, that every prospect can be a close if you are good enough to beat down the objections?

Unfortunately, 99 percent of those selling have tons of literature for when the prospect requests it. And 99 percent of the literature that is mailed out to prospects never gets read nor is an appointment ever made. The salesperson has the illusion that something is going to happen. What really happened is that the prospect got rid of another salesperson that got past the secretary screen.

Far too often salespeople go charging into a sales situation without having the slightest idea whether or not the prospect can afford the product or service. The assumption on the part of the salesperson seems to be, “Well, if the prospect is talking to me, he must have some idea what I charge so there is no point in bringing up the issue of price.”Nothing could be further from the truth. The salesperson must never assume that the prospect knows what the investment will be. In fact, it is essential that you learn whether or not the prospect has a budget. If there is no budget, then there will be no sale.

Despite what customers and prospects say, they buy from you to get rid of some pain that either is present or will be present without your product/service. They do not buy the product/service because you are a wonderful person. Of course, this does not mean that you should be anything less than wonderful. The point is that your customers and prospects can buy what you are selling from any number of other vendors at anytime. So why do they buy from you?

Be an educated dummy.People buy a product because it solves some pain they have. People do not buy because some salesperson educates them. People in pain want relief, not an education.Do not assume that you know what the prospect is looking for nor that the prospect has any interest in knowing what you know about a product/service. How do you go about doing this?...

Most sales presentations, whether they be involved and extensive in a conference room or short and informal while leaning over a washing machine, are educational. The mistaken assumption is that if you can educate the prospect about your product/service, he will buy it. This is not the case.Unless the prospect is hiring you to educate him, you are wasting your time and his using an educational presentation.Before you make a presentation, you should know what the prospect’s pains are.

Unless you establish a contract up-front, the prospect has no reason to buy from you, regardless of your price, your quality or any other reason. And if the prospect does buy anyway, you were just lucky.

Prospects may not know the name of the closing line, but they are aware that the closing lines are used by hundreds, if not thousands, of salespeople. But these well-worn closings still work. Why change?

One amazing characteristic of salespeople is the belief that once you have a customer, that customer is yours for the rest of time. Of course, as time goes by and additional orders are not forthcoming, the salesperson begins to suspect that perhaps he cannot depend on this customer for regular orders. Then, as irregular or no orders come in, the salesperson accepts the customer’s excuses for not placing orders as legitimate reasons for a lack of business: the budget is cut; new upper management; wrong time of year; when I get back from vacation. The list goes on. The reason the salesperson is not getting more orders?...

Every customer gets buyer’s remorse, which is nothing more than asking the question, “Did I do the right thing buying?”Buyer’s remorse, if left unattended, results in canceled orders. There is also a more insidious version of this remorse which is even more detrimental. The order is not canceled, but the customer is not happy with the purchase.The result of this form of buyer’s remorse is the customer never comes back. He never tells you why; he just never shows up again. No repeat sales. How do you keep this from happening?...

Getting up and leaving a prospect is almost impossible for a salesperson to consider. Why would you ever want to give the impression that you are going to walk out the door? The reason for getting up and leaving is to let the prospect know it is time to make a decision. The pressure is now on the prospect where it belongs.

Negative prospects are being created every day by salespeople who do not sell but try to badger people into buying. Look on the bright side. These negative prospects really do want to buy something; they are just used to salespeople who do not know what to do with the pain they feel. Negative prospects are the easiest people in the world to sell if you remember one thing as you work with them...

The magic wand allowed the prospect a no pressure way to state unresolved concerns. Once these concerns were visible, the saleswoman chose either to deal with them or move on...

There are many ways for salespeople to prospect. Cold calling on the phone, physically showing up unannounced, sending invitations to seminars, asking existing customers if they were you, whom would they call—literally hundreds of ways. None of them will work unless...

Salespeople are not hired for their ability at mind reading. Unfortunately, when prospects make statements the common salesperson’s reaction is to agree with the prospect and hope the prospect keeps talking. And if there is nothing forthcoming from the prospect, the salesperson keeps the conversation going, not by asking what the prospect meant by some statement, but by filling in with more words.

Nobody likes starting over again, which is precisely how many salespeople feel when their contact moves on to somewhere else. The first thought that flashes in their mind is that “just when I get her on-track, just when I can depend on steady purchases, zap. Gone. Why did she have to disappear?”

The prospect has constructed a box made of questions and you find yourself in it; having to defend yourself, your company, and what some salesperson had or had not done years ago. None of the questions being asked by the prospect have anything to do with making a sale. The questions are being asked for the exact opposite purpose — to keep the sale from happening...

It is tempting for salespeople to display their product knowledge trying to convince someone to buy. After all, unless the product has never been sold before, somebody is using it. Learning how the product is being used is important information for a salesperson to have. But it is not important to tell a prospect how he should use the product.

Product knowledge and how past customers are using the product is very useful information to have. Unfortunately, many sales training programs have as their focus educating the sales staff with product information. From this focus on product information, the sales staff comes to believe that the way sales happen is by educating the prospects. The belief is that educated prospects are prospects who will buy. Nothing could be further from what really happens.

One of the “beliefs” of many salespeople is that they make the sale by overcoming the reluctance of the prospect to buy. Note the assumption in the last sentence, “the reluctance of the prospect to buy.” Are you nodding your head in agreement? Does this mean that every prospect who has ever bought from you really didn’t want to buy? And further, the only reason prospects bought was due to your sales ability? Hardly.

When do most salespeople ask for a referral? Well, if they even remember to ask for a referral, it usually is right after the prospect has bought. And what is the usual new-customer response? After a moment or two of a vacant stare, nothing. And what is the usual salesperson response? “Well, if you think of anyone, I’d appreciate your mentioning my name.”

Following up on what a prospect is going to do is good. Unfortunately, many salespeople don’t even make a single follow-up attempt. Yet, going beyond good follow up methods could land you being viewed as a pest that deserves to be treated as a pest. Subsequently, wasting your time and energy as well as causing problems for every salesperson who contacts this prospect in the future.

How many salespeople have the guts to state, “Off the record, since you have decided not to buy . . . what are you really looking for?” What is the salesperson afraid of when he makes this statement? Simple — the prospect is going to walk out the door. Consider this, if the prospect does immediately leave, then he never had any intention of purchasing. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time.

Remember when you were little and your mother told you that you couldn’t have something you really wanted. How did you feel when she said that? The truth — you wanted it even more. Likewise, when used at the right time, telling a prospect that “it’s over” can make the sale.

Would it not make more sense for a sales manager to ask a salesperson where do you want to be in three years? Use this as a starting point from which the salesperson works backwards to today. Instead of asking did you meet your sales goals this month, ask what did you do this month to reach your three-year goal? By taking this approach, you are bringing the future into focus relative to her actions today.

All conversations, including sales presentations, have naturally occurring lulls. During these lulls, many different things occur. Some lulls are used to figure out how to phrase what comes next; others are used to review what has been said; still others are used to make decisions and carry them out. A lull in the conversation is not a sign to a salesperson that something must be said. It is a sign to wait until it is appropriate to start talking again.

In general, this tactic, which should be used by salespeople, is almost exclusively used by prospects to manipulate salespeople throughout the country...Why do salespeople open their mouths in these situations? Simple. They fear the prospect will walk out the door without buying. Will the prospect actually not say anything and proceed to walk out the door? Absolutely not. So don’t say anything. Eventually the prospect will come to the realization that you are not going to give up, and they will say something instead.

Why do so many salespeople get sucked into the educational approach to sales? Because prospects ask questions and salespeople are comfortable answering questions. Both the prospect and the salesperson are comfortable with their respective roles. And sales, unfortunately, do happen with the educational approach. It is unfortunate because this approach only reinforces a destructive line of thought in the salesperson’s mind. When a prospect, or a customer, asks you a question about the product that goes beyond the basics, don’t answer the question. Instead, take the question and reverse it.

Many salespeople lose sight of why a career in sales was so alluring at first -- unlimited earning potential. Very quickly they discover that not every prospect will buy the salesperson consciously decides that a reasonable dollar amount has to be earned each month and back calculates what that translates into as total sales. This “total sales” number then becomes the dollar amount goal the salesperson strives to achieve. While this approach is practical and logical, it does not provide the motivation for the salesperson to perform at more than an average or below average basis.Thus the act of making the sale to the customer does not become the goal of the salesperson, but rather it becomes a step the salesperson takes to reach his real goal — bigger and bigger checks.

Unless the salesperson is totally oblivious to their behavior, they know how they're acting. What is gained by a sales manager recounting the incidents? Nothing. In fact, a recounting only encourages the salesperson to provide their side of the incidents as a defense. Are you interested in their defense or rather in changing their behavior?

Ask ten salespeople in a business-to-business sales situation who they would like to first speak with, and nine of them will tell you the president of the company. When it actually comes time to call on the business, nine out of ten salespeople would rather die first than call on the president. They will call on anyone else first with hundreds of excuses to avoid calling on the president. Consider this for a moment, what if you picked up the phone and called them?

Why do salespeople engage in conversations during which they hope that the prospect will see the wisdom of making an appointment? One reason is that they consider any other approach as pushy or perhaps impolite. The end result is that at best, the salesperson asks, “Would you like to make an appointment?” Try instead to state, "Get out your calendar." What is the absolute worst thing that could happen when you do this?...

When it becomes obvious that a cold call will not result in an appointment, often there is a desire to conclude the conversation as quickly as possible. What if you instead made the cold call productive by asking, "If you were me, whom would you call?"...

The top performing salespeople did not get to the top and stay there by just dreaming. They did things to get their customers and are continually doing the same things to get more.The major difference is that they are always attending to details. Nothing escapes their attention. They are constantly on the move mentally and in many instances, physically.

If you are selling dogs and ponies, then by all means give a dog and pony presentation. If you are selling anything else, then why are you doing a dog and pony?

Have you ever found yourself thinking,“It’s not my fault I’m doing (fill-in one of the following: poorly, marginally, about average), it’s because of (fill-in anything that the salesperson has no control over)”? So than what does it take to change those fill in the blanks and be a successful salesperson...

A strange thing happened that no one, not even Jim could figure out. He started slipping down from number one in sales to number two, then to number three and then a sudden free-fall to second from the bottom. But he was offering so much of his time, and services for free. Jim's clients even told him that he was the best salesperson they knew. Where was he going wrong? Why couldn't he bring in new orders?

Salespeople, if their performance as a group is not meeting a predefined level, will band together to find a common rationale to explain away their lack of performance. While the rationale may or may not make sense, the banding together happens almost 100 percent of the time.

Sometimes, in the rush to make a sale and/or keep a customer happy, it's very tempting and easy to make an offer to do something free of charge.Rarely does the salesperson consider this to be the slippery slope down which they slide to fewer and fewer sales. Consider the free offer from the prospect’s/customer’s point of view; you are telling them that you will work for nothing. Harsh, but accurate. The solution to this problem may be as simply as...

Some salespeople feel that specific customers owe total allegiance to them. Unfortunately, the salesperson’s ego sometimes gets in the way of reality.Consider the customer who is subjected to such a salesperson. No one likes, nor tolerates for long, a relationship where he’s totally dependent on someone else. Once a person perceives this to be the case, resentment builds. Once the resentment starts building, it is just a matter of time before something happens.

Why do prospects and customers use play-it-safe words? Why do salespeople accept play-it-safe words? In this story absolutely nothing was promised by either party. No commitments. Unfortunately for Tim, he is under the illusion something was promised.

Salespeople who are not performing well or those that bounce up and down, constantly tend to presume to know the answers to unasked questions. Why? Perhaps it is a pattern they have fallen into because they want the customer to know that they have all the answers. And if they have all the answers, then the customer would be silly to not buy from them, right? No. Think of the customer who’s sitting in front of you. The customer is interested in something. The customer has reasons for being interested. The customer feels that the reasons are important. The customer wants to see if the reasons are important enough to part with the money. Ignore this simple reality and lose the sale. The antidote to this pattern of harmful behavior is simple...

Prospects and on-going customers do not care to be on the receiving end of a one-sided conversation. While the salesperson may know a great deal about a product, what the salesperson knows may not be the reason why a prospect buys...

Getting a “no” is not losing. Getting a “no” is success. Getting a “no” allows you to go out and find a “yes.”

The only problem was that his customer base was eroding day after day. At first, the erosion was not apparent. But after two years, he finally noticed that his regulars were not coming by anymore.He knew his pricing was in line with what the competition was charging. His delivery was just as good. His location was just as good. What was wrong?

Every salesperson has experienced the positive prospect who makes all the right sounds and moves and is a sure thing. But then, usually within a few days or at most a week, never comes back. Or, when you call, never seems to be available. You wonder why.

The success or failure of a salesperson depends on how well a salesperson can change his behavior in a sales situation. Recognizing situations that automatically make a person react in a certain way is the first step to becoming a consistently successful sales professional.

What does a typical cold call script look like? We are all familiar with it. “Hi, my name is . . . I represent . . . I’m going to be in your area on . . . I’d like to stop by and . . .” There are some variations, but this is the standard monologue. That’s the key word—monologue. The person being called doesn’t have much, if any, chance to do anything but sit back and take it. Do you like getting these calls? What if there was another way to call...?

Allowing a prospect to see you struggling, which you know you are doing on purpose, allows him to relax and open up. He wants to help you make the sale if your product works for him. You “struggle” by asking questions, not giving answers. You may already know the answer, but ask the question anyways. The prospect may surprise you. You may find an answer you never considered. And that new answer, which the prospect gave you, may be the one to make the sale.

When you hear “verbal shorthand,” always ask for clarification. If the salesperson cannot explain what the shorthand means, without resorting to more shorthand, then you most likely have a salesperson who is also not communicating to prospects and customers.

When you sense that the prospect or even current customer is troubled by something. Have you ever tried asking about it? Salespeople are famous for not asking how someone feels emotionally. They will ask hundreds of intellectual questions and give hundreds of intellectual answers. What is there to lose by asking them how they are doing? If you don’t ask, a buying decision may be made that you won’t like. And you will never really know what the basis was for that decision.

The first salesperson spent 20 minutes totally confusing and frustrating my wife. And he didn’t make the sale. The second salesperson spent four minutes and made the sale. Which one was more productive? Which one knew their customer and used the concept of “similar” and “different” correctly to make that sale?

What’s an absolute? Words and phrases like: always, never, everyone, at no time, and so on. Why do prospects and even salespeople use them? Simple. To avoid the messy problems associated with being specific.

Prospects, or for that matter clients, don’t suddenly decide one morning to wait by the phone for salespeople to call. And then when one does, with the product they happen to want, buy it. Prospects and clients also don’t live in a vacuum between your sales calls. This may sound obvious, but many salespeople fall prey to the concept that “Jones will never buy from anyone else but me.” Unless you are the only person in the world making the product or offering the service, your client is approached at least once a week.Prospects and clients, despite how strange it may sound, can also think you live in a vacuum. Their perception becomes, “When I need it, I’ll call.” You know they probably won’t, but that’s what they say to themselves. There is a way for both you and your prospect/client to avoid believing the other lives in a vacuum. Just very few use it...

Despite what some folks may claim, selling is not a straight-forward, logical, step-by-step progression toward the close. Sometimes you may ask a question that on the surface, kind of makes sense. The purpose of asking questions is to get the prospect out of his standard “here’s what I say to get rid of this salesperson.” Just like salespeople who have standard objection-to-meeting responses, prospects have also standardized their responses. A question like, "You'll never buy from me," could change the whole direction of your conversation...

Salespeople have a tendency to focus on who I am going to sell to today or this month to meet the quota. Everyone else, potential prospects, current prospects, current customers and past customers, get ignored in the “meet the monthly quota” frenzy. Often times, planning on paper and mental planning is done to reach past customers, but realistically, nothing is ever done. When was the last time you contacted a customer who bought from you six months ago to find out what their future buying plans are? A couple of them? Do you contact everyone of them on a planned basis?

How often have you been in the presence of a salesperson who is full of enthusiasm, proceeds to tell you just how wonderful and marvelous his product or service is, and then at the end of his excitement, asks you to buy? Part of this technique is the thought that you will be swept away on the tide of his good feelings and when the wave crests, you’ll go along for the ride. Sometimes this works. Most often it doesn’t.The way to determine if it applies to you is to ask a simple question, “What percentage of the time, when I’m in front of someone, do I do the talking?” If you answer more than 50 percent...

The answers to “what” questions are steps that can be taken. The answers to “why” questions are rationalizations. Which one moves you toward managing salespeople?

When a sales call, or for that matter, any sales encounter, does not result in a sale, most salespeople wimp out. The salesperson gives up, and out springs the tired old line, “How about I call you in . . . ?” But don’t wimp out. Learn how two simple questions can turn the whole situation around and lead to a sale...

Salespeople are supposed to meet with a prospect to find out what the prospect wants to buy. There is no other reason to attend the meeting. But a prospect may have another agenda. In fact, the prospect may agree to a meeting and not have any real interest in buying what the salesperson is selling. Is the prospect just filling up an empty time slot? Probably not. Here are two of the most common “not interested in buying” prospect situations

Truthfully, the prospect you are cold calling has absolutely no idea who you are, what you do, or for that matter, whether she can trust you. Here is how to change that...

Every salesperson has a comfort zone. Their comfort zone is that earning level at which not much more than the bills are paid. Many salespeople, unfortunately, get stuck here for the rest of their careers.

Answer this question—from the customer’s “time to buy again” cycle, are you selling the same product today as the company sold 10 years ago? Twenty years ago? You may be tempted to answer “Definitely.” Reconsider. Car dealers are still selling cars, but twenty years ago, if a car lasted 50,000 miles with proper service, it was a miracle. Now cars routinely go more than 100,000 miles. Does this affect the “time to buy again” cycle?

Establishing a new behavior pattern is not easy. People like to do things the same way they did them yesterday and the day before. Behavioral change is tough work.

If you have committed to the behavior and your techniques need improving, the following are some general guidelines.

By simply asking the prospect to describe his world and his needs, you are being complimentary. You are tacitly saying, “Your view is more important than mine since you have to make use of what I sell you. Tell me about it.” Respond to his world by helping him see how your product will make his world better.

Most salespeople see their sales world divided into two unequal parts, “those I’ve sold who are now customers, a small number,” and “those I haven’t sold, a huge number.” As a result, more energy and time is devoted to searching for the “those I haven’t sold” to find a few to push over to the “those I have sold” side. It should be the exact opposite.

Many salespeople are so caught up in coming across as knowledgeable and friendly, they lose sight of what the prospect experiences when the salesperson comes over and says, “May I help you?”

Prospects, unless they have been hiding under a rock for the past 15 years, have so much more information available to read, see, and hear than ever before. This information has been showing up in their offices long before the salesperson ever shows up. Then, when the salesperson does show up, what is the prospect’s point-of-view?

Every person who buys anything from you has already decided, before they have even met you, what it will cost. Find out if they are being realistic.

Every salesperson is told to find the decision maker. But if the decision maker is hidden behind a group, then what?

Prospects don’t like receiving cold calls any more than salesperson like making them. Prospects also have a standard “get rid of this salespeople” script. Unfortunately, most salespeople are so well trained by prospects that they fall right into following the prospect’s script.

A salesperson’s job is to get his prospects and clients to tell him a story. The story line is how much they need what the salesperson has to sell. The conclusion of the story is the sale. Notice that the salesperson is never the one telling the story.

Understand that if you are calling the appropriate prospects for your product, that someday everyone of them will buy that product. While it may not be from you, they will buy. There are, however, a certain number of prospects who will buy within the next two months. You need to uncover them.

Why do many salespeople bail out when a prospect says that the sale is not going to happen? One reason is that many salespeople expect, before the call is even made, that the prospect will end it. “I call any 10 prospects and nine of them are a waste of time. Nine times out of 10 I lose.”

Never assume you know who OKs the check being written; it could well be the person at the meeting who sat there like a bump on the log.

Just because you sold your client something yesterday, doesn’t mean he’ll know you're still around today. Let him know you are.

Remember when you were in school and forgot to do that assignment? Now you are the teacher, and the prospect is the student. Nothing has really changed; you’re just acting out the same script, different roles. The only real difference is that now you aren’t going to the bank.

Learn what the “pain” is that is preventing the salesperson from doing what is expected. Just as with a salesperson and a prospect, you can only learn what the pain is by asking questions.

The first step in evaluating your client base is to know what the client is buying from you and why. The second step is to learn from the client what else you might provide for him either now or in the future. In many instances the client’s response will be, “We don’t need anything else from you at this time.” Wimp salespeople accept this response. A sales professional would respond much differently.

It’s good to have goals, attend sales meetings and maintain an appointment book. Unfortunately, many in sales feel that these are the sole management tasks necessary for a good salesperson.

One of the great, and usually destructive, tales of business handed down from one business owner to another, and from older salespeople to younger salespeople, is the burning of the midnight oil. “The only way to succeed is to burn the midnight oil.” “The sooner you start burning the midnight oil, the sooner you will have success.”

Many folks, not just salespeople, fervently believe that if you work hard every day, then success will show up at your door at some point in the future. There is nothing wrong with the right type of “hard work.”

There are always a couple of quick sales ready for the picking. Do you want to pick the quick ones or reap the entire crop? Companies who pick the quick ones manage to scrape by month to month. Companies who reap the entire crop prosper beyond imagination.

No businessperson wants to make a decision that is a mistake. So what happens so many times? No decision is made. By not making a decision, some managers and salespeople avoid the possibility of making a mistake.

No one is suggesting that company policy be ignored. No one is suggesting that salespeople take it upon themselves to make arbitrary policy decisions. However, when a decision needs to be made, and the folks who normally make that decision are not available, the decision should be made, not postponed until later.

Having a plan, regardless of what the plan is for, is the first step. The second step is following the plan step-by-step. That’s the hard part for many. Why bother with steps three and four, since I can skip them? Here’s the question you need to answer at that point. Why did you have a step three and four to begin with? To have written them down meant they were important. If you have forgotten why they were important, you have forgotten the plan you made.

Something was done in the past that did not work. As a result, ever doing that same thing again is seen as a waste of time. The list of things that “do not work” is added to over the years and handed down from sales manager to sales manager. The handing down to the newest sales manager usually happens pretty early in the new manager’s tenure.

Make a work list of the past two or three days, sit down with it. Now take a pen and mark those tasks you did without any assistance from anyone. Of those tasks, are there any you believe that only you are capable of doing? One or two would not be unusual.

In every company the phrase, “Haven’t got time to explain it,” is uttered at least once a day. If there is one phrase that should be banned, this is it. Rather one should hear, “I haven’t got time right this minute to explain how. When, in the next 24 hours, can we spend the time for me to explain?”

The largest time wasters in any business are those 10 drop-in visits from fellow employees, outside suppliers, and other salespeople. Only about five minutes, at most, of this time is useful for business purposes. The rest is socializing.

Goals must be set individually. While one salesperson might be able to get 10 referrals from 10 current customers, another in the office might only get 5 referrals from 10 customers. If the first salesperson’s goal was 10 referrals and the second’s was 5 referrals, they both achieved a 100 percent.

Unless your job is to make one call after another, in other words you are a telemarketer, then being on the phone all day or most of the day is robbing you of productive work time.

The old saying that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” might apply here. I could pick up the phone and call all my customers and get referrals, but I need to read this product literature. I could teach my salespeople how to make referral calls anytime I want, but at the moment they already have a lot to do.

How you stay in touch with your customers depends largely on how many you have and where they are in relation to you. However you stay in touch, do so in a personal fashion.

At 7am on Monday, Paul strode into the conference room and found, as he expected to find, all of his salespeople seated around the table. For the past six months, there had been a steady downslide in monthly sales figures. Worse, the margins were slipping even more. Most disturbing was the performance of his three top salespeople; while their monthly totals had remained the same, the margins were even worse than his poorest performing salesperson. As he reached the head of the table, his only thought was that “It’s time to kick some butt.”

OK,” said Greg, stopping at Mary’s desk, “I need you to print out mailing labels for each of my customers and then each of my prospects for the past six months.”

Tim was in trouble, and he knew it. He had a hundred things to do by the end of the month, now three days away, and nowhere near enough time to do half of them.

Why do so many salespeople get into a rut? The same reason everyone else gets into a rut—I’m comfortable, and I know exactly what is going to happen. There are no surprises because if I’m surprised, I might not be able to deal with it. Fear. Fear that changing a pattern will result in loss of control. No one wants to lose control. As a result, patterns of behavior both personally and professionally become the norm. “We (or I) have always done it this way. It might be better another way, but why take the chance?” How limiting.

You know the standard line. “If my references are in line, if my price is in line, will you buy today?” Asking the prospects if they will buy today is forcing the prospects to make a buying decision before they are ready. It’s a guaranteed way to create the “I’ve got to raise all the objections I can” mind-set in your prospects. No one likes to be pressured, especially when it comes to money. This is precisely what happens when you end with, “will you buy today?”

Harold, in charge of shipping product, was known throughout the company as always complaining about how salespeople screwed up their orders. According to him, as a result, clients got shipments later than expected. This had been going on for close to a year.

Two weeks ago on Friday afternoon, 15 minutes after normal quitting time, as Robin headed out the door to go home, Jesse, her boss, saw her walk by his office and called out to her.