Seven Deadly Referral Sins

April 27th, 2010

Seven Deadly Referral SinsA prospect who has been referred to you is five times as likely to buy from you as any other type of prospect. So you’d think salespeople would become masters at requesting and using referrals.

You’d be wrong.

Too many salespeople, business owners and professionals make the same mistakes over and over again, costing themselves sales and profits. That’s deadly to your career and your business. Here are the common behaviors to avoid:

1. Not asking
Whether out of fear of being rejected or because they don’t want to appear as a pest, many—if not most—salespeople simply don’t ask in the first place. Understand this, however: If you’ve delivered a great product and/or service, your customer wants to give you referrals. You just need to ask.

2. Asking at the wrong time
If you ask for referrals before your prospect has had a chance to become your customer and develop sufficient trust in you, you’ll be shot down every time. Worse, it will harm your relationship with your prospect. The best time to ask for referrals is after you’ve delivered value. Once you, your company and your product have proven yourselves, you have a green light.

3. Not asking everyone
Everybody in your network who knows and trusts you is a potential source of referrals. Don’t ignore anyone.

4. Being too broad when asking
The average person knows hundreds of people. But that’s too big a mental database for most people to sift through at once. Instead, help them narrow their focus: “Who else in your family…” “Who else in your company…” “Who else among your colleagues…”

5. Not asking often enough
When it comes to requesting referrals, once is not enough. People meet people. Companies grow and shrink. People who didn’t have a need last year may have a need this year. So ask periodically. (Daily might be a little too often.)

6. Failing to follow up
Too many salespeople are bad at follow up in general. But when you fail to follow up with a referral, it makes the person who referred you look bad as well. When someone gives you a referral, treat it with VIP status.

7. Not rewarding referrals
If you gave someone a referral and they didn’t acknowledge it, you wouldn’t be very likely to give them any more in the future. By contrast, if you received a thank-you note, a gift or a check from them, you’d keep your eyes and ears peeled for more opportunities. Be sure to reward the people who provide you with referrals, ideally as soon as they provide one, and again if the referral ends up buying.

If you’ve committed any or all of these sins, don’t chastise yourself too much. We’ve all committed them at some point in our sales careers. (I know I have.) Forgive yourself, and for your penance, call ten people who know, like and trust you and ask them for a referral.

You many not get ten, but you’ll get more than if you didn’t ask at all.

23 Things to Post on Your Blog

April 21st, 2010

A few weeks ago, I shared Ten Reasons Blogging is Good for Your Sales. However, a blog is only as good as its content. And coming up with fresh content on a regular basis can be a challenge.

If you’ve been contemplating starting a blog, but wondering what you could possibly post, or if you’re already blogging, but struggling to come up with good content, here are some ideas:

1. How-to articles23 Things to Post on Your Blog
2. Case studies
3. Lists of resources
4. Announcements
5. Contests
6. Product or service reviews
7. Book reviews
8. Questions
9. Humor
10. Poems
11. Songs
12. Survey results
13. Industry news
14. Staff or organization news
15. Promotions
16. Downloadable bonuses
17. Photos of you and/or your team
18. Photos of your customers
19. Before & after photos
20. Print, audio or video interviews
21. How-to videos
22. Video tours of your facility
23. Videos of your products in action

If, after perusing this list, you’re still at a creative roadblock, you can always use someone else’s content. Many bloggers are happy to allow you to repost their work, so long as you give them appropriate credit and a link back to their site.

Do you have other ideas you can share? What have you posted on your blog—or what have you seen on other blogs—that’s not on this list?

Who to Sell to and Who Not To

April 15th, 2010

Who to Sell to and Who Not to


I don’t need a lawnmower.

Because I live in a condo, I have no grass to cut.

There are a lot of other things I neither need nor want as well. Here are just a few:
• Cat food
• Prune juice
• A pedicure
• CAD software
• Hearing-aid batteries
• Baby formula
• The Blu-Ray version of the movie Beaches
• Laser eye surgery
• Oatmeal raisin cookies

There’s nothing wrong with any of these products or services. Every one of them has a market. I’m just not in it.

Which means, if you’re trying to sell one of these things to me, you’re wasting your time, money and energy.

Too many salespeople, professionals and small business owners convince themselves that because their product or service is good, everybody should want it. As a result, they invest too much of their limited resources trying to make a sale to someone who will never buy.

To avoid this trap, determine your prospect’s interest level right up front. If they’re truly interested, great. Pursue them. But if they’re not, cut your losses. Move on to another prospect who may actually have an interest.

You can’t possibly sell to everyone, so to maximize your sales results, you need to focus on those prospects most likely to buy. If that’s not the person you’re talking to, move on.

Seven Customers You Don’t Want

April 8th, 2010

We all want more customers, but some are more desirable than others. Here are seven types of customers to avoid at all costs:

1. The Cheapskate
According to the American Retailers Association, approximately 14% of consumers buy on price alone. They’re Cheapskates. To them, quality, service, durability, dependability and convenience mean nothing. They’ll drive 20 miles out of their way to save two dollars. And they’ll beat you up on price until you’re losing money on the deal.

2. The Deadbeat
Some customers always pay all their bills early. Other customers pay most of their bills on time most of the time. Deadbeats, however, pay as late as they can get away with, as often as they can get away with it. Not only do they create cash flow problems for you, they’ll often cost you more in collection efforts than you’ll ever make in profit from them.

3. The Liar
Jim Carey’s character in the movie Liar, Liar brought to life. The Liar believes truth is for suckers. They won’t tell you their true needs, issues, concerns or budget. Liars negotiate in bad faith, make promises they have no intention of keeping and blame everything and everybody else when something goes wrong.

4. The Diva
Sure, everyone likes to feel special from time to time, but the Diva demands special treatment all the time. Divas believe themselves to be above the rules, so your policies don’t apply to them. They’ll whine, they’ll cajole, they’ll even throw a tantrum to get their way. Basically, they’ll annoy you until you give in to them. What’s worse, attempting to cater to a Diva will actually drive good customers away.

5. The Problem Child
Problems are inevitable, but the Problem Child creates them. They can’t and/or won’t follow directions, no matter how clearly they’re explained. They ignore warnings because they don’t care or they think they’re smarter than the person who came up with the warning in the first place. And when a Problem Child screws things up, they’ll blame your product, your company and you.

6. The Abuser
Lacking empathy, Abusers have no respect for anyone else’s feelings, safety or rights. They bully people into doing what they want. Abusers yell, scream, threaten and call people names. And they will verbally—and sometimes, physically—assault you and your entire staff as long as you let them.

7. The Criminal
Most of the people in the above six categories aren’t truly malicious. At least, not intentionally. The Criminal is. This is the person who’s actually trying to rip you—or someone else—off. Whether they’re a con artist working a scheme, a shoplifter helping themselves to your merchandise or a drug dealer looking to spend some of their illicit cash, they prey on your willingness to be helpful and your desire to make a sale. By the way, if you suspect your prospect is a Criminal, it’s okay to call in an anonymous tip to the police.

All seven of these customer types will cost you more in time, money and aggravation than they’re worth. Some of them could even bankrupt you.

So how do you avoid acquiring these customers in the first place? As Mad-Eye Moody advises in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, “Constant vigilance!”

When dealing with a new prospect, keep your eyes and ears open for tell-tale signs. If all they’re focused on is price, they’re a cheapskate. If you catch your prospect telling a small lie, you can bet there will be bigger ones to come. If they lose their temper easily over small things, abuse is sure to follow.

Conduct credit checks and be cautious about who you extend credit to and how much. If it’s a high-dollar deal, consider doing a full background check. If there are convictions or lawsuits in the prospect’s past, you want to know sooner rather than later.

What if you already have some of these customers? Fire them. Politely decline their business. Refer them to your competitors. Ban them from your premises if you have to.

It’s always tough to turn away business. But some business you’re better off without.

The Secrets of Power Selling: Book Review

April 5th, 2010

Kelley Robertson understands that true sales professionals are always looking for an edge. He also understands that most salespeople are ridiculously busy and don’t have the time to slog through an entire book to find the nuggets they need to give them that edge.

So rather than write a book that needs to be read cover to cover, he wrote one that can be easily skimmed. Robertson collected 101 simple yet powerful ideas and assembled them into a single volume. The result is The Secrets of Power Selling: 101 Tips to Help You Improve Your Sales Results (Wiley, $19.95).

Each of the 101 chapters is short (two to three pages), concise and practical, with titles such as The Power of Adapting Your Approach, The Power of Self-Evaluation and The Power of Painting Mental Pictures. The book’s chapters are arranged alphabetically, so in effect, the table of contents is also the index. This makes it easy to flip right to the subject you’re looking for at the moment.

Whether you’re brand new to sales or you’re an experienced sales veteran, you’ll discover a number of useful strategies and tactics for increasing your effectiveness. I conduct sales seminars and training programs for a living and I found some great ideas in this book. Some of my favorite chapters included The Power of Apologies, The Power of Pausing and The Power of One.

In addition, Robertson shares:
    • six reasons salespeople fail to follow up;
    • seven things every salesperson needs to know to be successful;
    • five strategies for effective networking;
    • eight powerful prospecting strategies; and
    • seven tips for writing better proposals.

The content is well written and easy to read. Robertson provides clear examples and illustrative stories to support his points. And every chapter ends with a Sales Tip, which is really an action item. If you implement even a few of the suggested tips, I’m certain you’ll see your sales improve.

One recommendation: Don’t just stash this volume in your bookcase. This is not a book to be read once and then shelved away. It’s a valuable reference tool that you’ll want to go back to again and again. Keep it in plain sight for easy access. It’s likely to become one of your favorite sales resources.