Seven Dangers of Selling on Price

February 20th, 2018

Seven Dangers of Selling on PriceToo many salespeople—and too many companies, for that matter—rely on the tactic of beating everyone else’s price in order to make the sale. And it’s understandable why: Price is always an issue for buyers, and dropping your price to match—or undercut—a competitor’s price is an easy thing to do, requiring no thought or effort.

But while selling on price may secure you a quick sale or two, it’s extremely dangerous in the long run. Here are seven reasons why.

1. You will always be on the defensive.
No matter how low your price is, somebody out there will beat it. Which means you will always face price pressure on every deal. And you will always have to go lower.

2. You encourage your clients to be disloyal.
If the message you communicate to your buyers is “Price is all that matters,” then they’ll believe you. And the moment a competitor offers them a lower price, they’ll switch. Because that’s what you trained them to do.

3. You will work much harder and for less money.
Lower margins mean less profit and smaller commissions. So you have to close more deals just to survive.

4. You are making yourself obsolete.
The Internet has changed everything. It’s now possible to buy almost anything online without ever interacting with a live human being. If the only thing you’re bringing to the table is a low price, what the hell does a buyer need you for?

5. You are doing a disservice to your customer.
The lowest-price option is not necessarily the best option for a buyer. A good salesperson helps a prospect figure out which product or service will best help them solve their problem or achieve their goal and educates them as to why spending more money is worthwhile for them.

6. Your client may hate you.
If you don’t educate your buyer and simply sell them the cheapest thing, it may not be effective for them. And if the customer isn’t happy, the person they’ll blame is you.

7. You will lose the sale to someone who CAN sell on value.
Study after study has found that price is consistently at or near the bottom of the list of criteria that buyers use to make their purchasing decisions. Which means that a salesperson who can address those other, more important criteria is going to win the deal.

Selling on price may seem like a smart thing to do, but it’s really the opposite. Highlight what makes you better than your competition, justify your higher price, and focus on what will best help your buyer. You may lose an occasional deal with a rare person who is only price-focused, but you’ll more than make up for it with increased sales, higher profits and commissions, and stronger customer loyalty.

Are They Really a Prospect or Are You Just Wasting Time?

February 13th, 2018

Are They Really a Prospect or Are You Just Wasting Time?As a salesperson, business owner, or professional, you only have so much time. And if you want to maximize your sales, you can’t afford to waste that precious time with people who are never going to buy from you.

Which means you need to figure out—as quickly as possible—whether someone is an actual prospect or not. How can you tell? A real prospect has four qualities:

1. A Need
This may seem obvious, but too many people try to sell to everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a need. It’s a behavior you frequently see at trade shows, where booth staff try to talk every passerby into checking out their product or service, never even attempting to determine whether or not the attendee might have a need for it. You also see it at networking events, during cold calls, and on LinkedIn. Understand that if someone doesn’t have a need for what you sell, they’re not a prospect!

2. A Budget
Odds are, there are lots of people who have a need—or at least a desire—for what you sell. But not all of them can afford it. The ones who can, are potentially your prospects. They ones who can’t, aren’t. At least not right now. They may acquire the necessary budget in the future, but until then, they aren’t a prospect. If they have some budget, but not quite enough…maybe you can negotiate. Or help them find another financing source. Or recommend a cheaper alternative. But if they have no budget—or your price and their budget are way off—then it’s not going to happen.

3. Authority
Does the person you’re talking with have the authority to make a decision? If they don’t, they’re not the prospect. They might be an influencer, but they aren’t the buyer themselves. It’s easy to spend a lot of time with such a person, because they have a need and the budget to do something about it. But until you can talk with the actual decision-makers, you don’t have a true prospect on your hands.

4. Motivation
The person has a need, a budget, and the authority to make a decision. But do they have the motivation to act? Too often, they don’t. The person may not perceive the problem to be much of an issue. Or they think the problem will go away on its own. Or they may not see the opportunity that you do. Or they may believe other needs are more of a priority. Whatever the case, the person is not motivated to take action, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. This is the hardest person to walk away from, but walking away is precisely what you must do. Because a person lacking motivation is not going to buy.

Sales amateurs treat everyone as a prospect. Sales professionals know there isn’t enough time in the world for that. If you want to make the most of your limited time, you need to focus that time on the people who are actually likely to buy—people with a need, a budget, the authority to make a decision, and the motivation to act. A person who lacks any of these characteristics may be a great ally, information source, or friend, but they aren’t a prospect.

Understand this crucial distinction and make it a point to determine as quickly as possible whether any given contact has all four qualities or not. The less time you spend chasing people who won’t buy, the more time you can spend with people who will.

Why You Should Never Satisfy Customers

February 6th, 2018

Why You Should Never Satisfy CustomersMany companies proudly state that “We want you to be completely satisfied” or “100% customer satisfaction guaranteed” or similar sentiments. And while customer satisfaction seems like a good idea—you don’t want your customers to be upset, after all—it’s actually a recipe for disaster.

Here’s why.

If a customer is “satisfied” with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy. It just means they aren’t dissatisfied. That’s a pretty low bar.

A satisfied client is a neutral client. They got what they expected. The experience didn’t suck. Whoopee.

You get no points for doing what was expected. You get no credit for leaving your customer in a neutral state of mind. You’re acceptable. You’re okay. You’re decent.

Which is dangerous. Because a satisfied customer will go to one of your competitors for the slightest reason—a lower price, a new product, a little closer to them, whatever. Often a satisfied customer will try someone else just for the novelty. After all, what have they got to lose? If all they are is satisfied with you, then you’re just an option to them.

A delighted customer, however—a customer who loves you—will stick with you. They’re far less likely to try another company because they already know they’re going to have an exceptional experience with you, and the odds of having a similar experience with your competitor are minuscule.

Which means if you want to boost your customer loyalty, you need to leave your customers more than satisfied. You need to leave them feeling:

• Happy
• Grateful
• Relieved
• Proud
• Delighted
• Cared about
• Excited
• Confident
• Appreciated
• Special
• Thrilled
• Surprised
• Ecstatic

That’s a lot harder to do. Which is why so few companies attempt it. But those that do see stronger customer loyalty, better word of mouth, more sales, and higher profits.

If customer satisfaction is your goal, you’re aiming too low. You can and should do better. It requires more effort, but you’ll reap more rewards. Don’t ever be satisfied with satisfaction.

Twelve Ways to Use Stories to Boost Your Sales

January 30th, 2018

Twelve Ways to Use Stories to Boost Your SalesStories are extremely powerful. They can be both informative and persuasive, while being entertaining. And they’re engaging—neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are hard-wired for stories. (That’s why it’s so hard to walk out of a movie, even if it sucks.)

Are you using stories in your sales and marketing efforts? If not, you’re missing out. Here are twelve ways to leverage the power of stories.

1. Advertisements
Tell short stories in your TV and radio commercials, as well as your print ads. Weave them into your direct mail pieces, email campaigns, and brochures.

2. Your Website
While many company websites have a “Case Studies” section, don’t limit your stories to that one place. Sprinkle them throughout your site. On my website, I share two stories: one that illustrates the degree to which I customize my keynote speeches and seminars, and one that provides an example of the results sales teams get with my training. Those stories make my points far better than merely stating what I do.

3. Your Blog
Your company blog is the perfect place to recount all the stories of how you’ve helped clients. It’s also a perfect repository for stories about how your clients have used your products or services to help their customers.

4. Social Media
Social media was made for telling stories. And you can tell them using text, photos, and video! And social media facilitates the sharing of stories, increasing your reach at no additional cost or effort. Enable all of your employees—not to mention all of your customers—to share their stories on your social media channels. You’ll get more attention, more engagement, and more sales.

5. Networking
If what you do—or what your company does—isn’t immediately understandable, tell a short story to help your new acquaintance “get it.” Keep it very short though—telling a long, drawn-out story is not the way to make a good impression on someone you’ve just met.

6. Trade Shows
Trade shows give you multiple opportunities for storytelling:

• In your pre-show marketing
• On and around your exhibit, via text, photos, and video
• Through live presentations
• During your personal interactions with visitors
• Via your marketing collateral and giveaways

7. On-Hold Recordings
If you have to place a caller on hold, you can subject them to the same song over and over again, you can state repeatedly how important their call is to you (which is annoying as hell), or you can tell them stories. Because stories are entertaining, they make the time seem to pass faster. And because stories are informative, they can answer callers’ questions and give them ideas.

8. Press Releases
The media is constantly looking for stories. And while news outlets may not be interested in how you’ve helped clients, they are interested in how you’ve helped the community. What causes do you support? What issues are you fighting for? What are you doing to improve the lives of people in your neighborhood, region, state, country?

Additionally, your employees have stories of their own. What hardships have they overcome? What lessons have they learned? How are they helping others? All of these are tremendous PR opportunities.

9. Sales Presentations
Buyers don’t want products or services. They want results. So tell them about the results you’ve created for other clients. Share stories about previous clients who had the same challenges or goals that your prospect has, and how your product or service impacted them.

10. Follow Up Calls
Sharing a success story with a prospect can be a great excuse for a follow up call or e-mail: “One of our clients just told us a great story and I wanted to share it with you…”

11. Overcoming Objections
Objections are about fear. And one of the best ways to overcome that fear is to tell your prospect a story about a customer who had the exact same fear. You acknowledge the prospect’s fear so they feel understood and validated, while showing them via the story why they can have confidence in the outcome.

12. Closing
Have a prospect who’s on the fence? Often they just need a little nudge to move them to action. And a story can provide the nudge. Relate two or three stories for even greater impact.

Stories are potent sales and marketing tools. And they’re multi-purpose tools at that. Create a database of stories and actively look for ways to incorporate them in all your sales and marketing efforts. The more stories you tell, the more sales you’ll make.

What the Other Side in a Negotiation Wants

January 23rd, 2018

What the Other Side in a Negotiation WantsEvery sale is a negotiation. Some are short and simple, others are long and complex. But one thing all negotiations have in common is that they’re more than just haggling back and forth about price. Your prospect has a number of physical and emotional needs, and the better you can fill them, the faster you can close the deal.

What are those needs? Well, every buyer wants to:

1. Save money
This is the obvious one. And it’s the one that gets salespeople in trouble, because we tend to focus too much on it. It’s important to remember two things, however:

A) Saving money means more than just the purchase price. It also includes accessories, supplies, maintenance, financing, and more. How can you help your buyer save money on the things related to the purchase.

B) The other items on this list are just as important—if not more important—than money. How can you satisfy these other needs?

2. Get the best terms
Fast delivery. Staggered delivery over a longer period of time so they don’t have to store items. Being able to finance rather than pay up front. Priority service. Regular maintenance. Upgrades. Consulting or training. There are lots of things that can add value to a deal. What can you provide that your buyer values?

3. Save time
Negotiating takes time and time is money. Also, the longer the negotiation takes, the longer the prospect has to wait before seeing the benefits of your product or service. How can you speed things along?

4. Reduce risk
Every purchase is a commitment and every commitment carries risk. We all hate risk and want to avoid it whenever possible. Warranties, guarantees, free trials, testimonials, case studies, contracts, and training can all reduce risk for your buyer. Which can you use?

5. Look good
Most buyers have someone they need to report to, whether it’s a spouse, a boss, or shareholders. And they need to be able to make the case to those people that they made a good decision. They’re being judged on the deal they made, and they dread being berated like Jack’s mother yelling at him for trading the family cow for some magic beans. How can you make your prospect look good in the eyes of the people they have to account to?

6. Feel good
You relationship with your customer depends largely on how they feel after the negotiation is finished. Everyone wants to feel like they got a good deal. But people also want to feel important, special, cared about, valued, appreciated. The more they feel that way, the more likely they are to refer you to others. And future negotiations become faster and easier. How can you make your buyers feel good about the company, the buying process, and the deal they got?

Negotiating—like everything else in the sales process—is about people more than products. Understand that buyers have a variety of needs and wants, and that you can fulfill many of them with little effort and little to no cost. When you address both your prospect’s physical and emotional needs, you pave the way to a faster, smoother, more successful negotiation. That means more sales and happier customers. Which is exactly what you want.

13 Things You Need to Hate In Order to Succeed In Sales

January 16th, 2018

13 Things You Need to Hate In Order to Succeed in SalesLove is great and everything, what with it being a many-splendored thing, and conquering all, and making the world go round. And in fact I’ve discussed previously the value of love in your sales efforts.

But hate is also a powerful emotion. And it has its place in sales as well. Here are thirteen things it is perfectly okay for you to hate:

1. Losing
2. Wasting time
3. Lying
4. Manipulative, high-pressure sales tactics
5. Being bored
6. Missed opportunities
7. Seeing people being disrespected or treated badly
8. Excuses
9. Not knowing things
10. Seeing people being taken advantage of
11. Being late
12. Letting people down
13. Complacency

Note that one item that’s not on this list is “Your Competition.” That’s because you shouldn’t hate them. As a general rule, you should like and respect them. After all, they push you and your company to be better, which benefits your customers.

Hate isn’t always a bad thing. In the right context, it can be a powerful motivator to enhance your knowledge and skills, and better serve your customers. So let your hatred of the above items drive your quest for self-improvement and higher sales. Let’s give hate some love.

Are You Taking Enough Time Off?

January 9th, 2018

Are You Taking Enough Time Off?You’ve set your business and sales goals for the year: a prospecting goal, a closing rate goal, a revenue goal. But have you set a vacation goal? If you haven’t, you absolutely should.

Too many people don’t take enough vacations. One recent study found that 75% of Americans don’t take all of their paid vacation days, while another study found that nearly 42% of Americans don’t take any vacation days.

If you’re in either of those two populations, you’re hurting yourself and your sales.

It’s tempting to think that working more hours makes you more productive and thus, more successful. Yet science has conclusively proven the opposite is actually true. Dozens of studies have discovered that taking vacations:

• Reduces Stress
• Sharpens focus
• Enhances performance
• Sparks creativity
• Creates new perspectives
• Strengthens family relationships
• Boosts physical health
• Improves mental health
• Prevents burnout

Worried that taking more days off will hurt your chances of getting a raise and/or promotion? To the contrary. A study by Project: Time Off found that employees who take all of their vacation time increase their chances of getting promoted and getting a raise by 6.5% versus those who leave 11 or more days of vacation time on the table.

Still not convinced? Okay. In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor makes the case for the link between vacations, brain health, and success, concluding: “When the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple.”

All of this means, if you want to make more sales—and more money—you need to take more vacations. So I ask you again, are you taking enough time off?

Nine Ways to Make More Sales This Year

January 2nd, 2018

Nine Ways to Make More Sales This YearIf “Make more sales” is on your New Year’s Resolutions list (and I’m betting that it is), the question becomes “How, exactly?”

The good news is that there are lots of ways. Here are nine simple ones you can implement immediately:

1. Do more prospecting
If you want more sales, you need more prospects. Whether that means going to more networking events, spending more time on LinkedIn, joining a leads group, or just picking up the phone and making more calls, what can you do to put yourself in touch with more people?

2. Position yourself as an expert
People prefer to buy from an authority in the field. So demonstrate your authority. Write blog posts and LinkedIn articles. Tweet useful information. Deliver speeches and workshops. Post videos on YouTube.

3. Learn more about your customers
Sure, you know your product. But do you know your customers? Most salespeople don’t ask anywhere near enough questions. As a result, they don’t fully understand the prospect’s needs, issues, concerns, values, and priorities. That can lead to delays, missed opportunities, and lost sales. Ask more questions.

4. Polish your presentation skills
A great presentation arouses a prospect’s interest, provides them the information they need, and makes them want to buy now. A poor—or even mediocre—presentation costs you the sale. Read up on what makes a compelling presentation. Join Toastmasters to practice your presentation skills. Or work with a presentations coach to get better in every aspect of presenting.

5. Conduct better follow up
Most buyers take time to make a decision. But too many salespeople give up on a prospect too soon. Which means they often lose sales they could have made if they had just been a little more persistent. Follow up with every prospect consistently for as long as it takes.

6. Check in with your existing customers
Your best source of new sales is your existing customer base. They already know you, like you, and trust you. Find out if and how their needs have changed. Would they be better off upgrading to a new or better product or service? Do they have needs you never know about that you could solve? Do you have products and services they were unaware of? There are opportunities galore among your existing customers if you look for them.

7. Ask for more referrals
While you’re on the phone—or at lunch—with your customers, ask them for referrals. If you’ve taken good care of your customers and they’re happy with your product or service, they want to refer you. You just have to ask.

8. Delegate
All of these strategies require time, which you only have a finite supply of. So if you’re going to add something to your plate, you need to subtract something. Delegate whatever you can to free up time for the activities that only you can do.

9. Sharpen your sales skills
The sale doesn’t usually go the best product or service. It doesn’t usually go the cheapest product or service. The sales usually goes to the best salesperson. And if you want that person to be you, you need to invest in yourself. Buy every sales book you can get your hands on. Watch videos and webinars. Attend training seminars and workshops. Hire a sales coach. One single idea, one simple tweak, one crucial insight, can make a huge difference in your sales.

There you go—nine things you can do to boost your sales this year. Pick a few of these strategies and start right now. Make a plan and implement it. Get your sales manager or a colleague to hold you accountable. And adjust as needed.

Make this your best year ever!

Santa Facing Increasing Pressure to Stop Using Reindeer

December 19th, 2017

santa-facing-increasing-pressure-to-stop-using-reindeerAnimal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), added its voice to the chorus of organizations calling on Santa Claus to end his practice of using reindeer to pull his sleigh.

“Reindeer are proud, majestic, noble creatures who deserve to live independent, cruelty-free lives with their families,” reads PETA’s statement. “By keeping them captive and forcing them to perform exhausting labor in high-stress situations, Santa Claus is sending the message to the world’s children that it is perfectly okay to mistreat animals for your own ends. It is long past time for Mr. Claus—a supposed ‘saint’—to end this cruel exploitation.”

In a series of Tweets, Santa responded to PETA’s statement:

“I care about my reindeer more than PETA could possibly know. I have lived and worked with reindeer for more than a century.”

“Reindeer in the wild have an average life span of less than ten years. They are routinely eaten by wolves, polar bears, and Abominable Snow Monsters.”

“My reindeer live for decades in comfort and safety. I have elf veterinarians to provide them with free health care. They live fulfilling, meaningful, purpose-driven lives. They even sing, dance, and play reindeer games.”

PETA’s salvo adds an animal-welfare angle to the reindeer controversy. Until now, most of the opposition to Santa’s use of reindeer has come from environmental groups who allege that Santa’s reindeer contribute heavily to global warming.

“Because Santa’s reindeer are magic, they produce more methane and carbon dioxide in one night of flying than America’s entire cattle population does in a year,” argues Lulu Skiptamalu, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Research to Effectively Enact Zero Emissions (FREEZE).

Santa was conspicuously not a co-signer of the Paris Accords, which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At a heated press conference recently, Santa assured the assembled crowd, “Look, if anybody has a stake in keeping the North Pole cold, it’s me. We’ve reduced the workshop’s carbon footprint by 37% over the past fifteen years and we’re working toward LEED certification.”

When pressed about his reindeer’s contribution to climate change, an obviously exasperated Santa responded, “The few electric sleighs available only have a range of a few hundred miles. That won’t even get me to Nova Scotia. And even if there were charging stations all along my route, recharging the sleigh would add incalculable hours to my trip. It would take me at least a week to get everything delivered. I like a white Christmas as much as the next guy, but I only have one day to work with.”

Reached for comment, Elon Musk asserted, “Tesla is currently working on the next generation of electric sleighs. While the sleigh market is definitely a niche, we feel it is important. Sleighs present a unique engineering challenge because the necessary battery size prevents adequate lift. But we’ll do everything we can to support Santa. We’re big fans.”

Your Job is Not to Sell Anything

December 5th, 2017

Your Job is Not to Sell AnythingA lot of people hate selling. But that’s because they have the wrong idea of what selling is.

Too many people believe that sales is about manipulating prospects into doing something they don’t want to do. That it’s about conning a person into buying your product instead of someone else’s. That it’s about doing whatever it takes to separate a buyer from their money, even if it includes pressuring, lying, or cheating.

That’s not what sales is.

Sales is helping people acquire the things they want and need for a better life. It’s assisting them in making a good buying decision. It’s helping buyers overcome their fears and reduce their confusion so they can purchase something that enables them to solve a problem or achieve a goal. It’s preventing them from making a mistake that would cost them money, time or aggravation.

In other words, selling is being a customer advocate. A consultant. An assistant. A counselor. An advisor.

Which means looking out for your prospect’s best interests. Asking questions to enable them to determine their needs, wants, and concerns. Helping your buyer navigate through the maze of options and choices. Providing them with the benefit of your knowledge and experience. Giving them the confidence to make a decision and feel good about it. Being there for your customer after the sale.

As a salesperson, business owner, or professional, that’s your job. Think of selling in these terms and you’ll see that it’s a job you can be proud of.

Great salespeople don’t sell anything. They help people buy.

Stop Complicating Things

November 28th, 2017

Stop Complicating ThingsWe live in complicated times. Everything from our clothes, to our phones, to our investments is more advanced, sophisticated, and complex. We have access to more information than ever before and we have more choices than ever before. Which leads to a problem.

We’re overwhelmed. We’re uncertain. We’re confused.

And that creates a problem for salespeople. Because a confused mind shuts down. When people have too many choices, they often don’t make one.

So simplify things for your prospect.

• Instead of giving prospects more information (which they already have too much of), help them sort the most important information from the less important.

• Instead of dumping lots of data in their lap, tell them a story.

• Instead of providing them with a plethora of choices, narrow their choices down for them and explain why those choices are the most appropriate ones for them.

• Instead of including every last detail in your presentation, focus only on the key items that matter most to your prospect (that you learned from asking questions during your needs analysis).

• Instead of slides packed with tiny words and numbers, show a photo or a video.

Buying shouldn’t be complicated, but it often is. If you can simplify the buying process for your prospects, they’ll buy from you.

11 Ways to Close Your Next Presentation with Impact

November 14th, 2017

11 Ways to Close Your Next Presentation with ImpactIn my last post, I warned against using six weak approaches to closing a presentation. Whether you’re introducing a new product at a trade show, addressing your team at your annual sales meeting, or making the case for your company to your dream client, you want to end with a bang, not a whimper.

How can you do that? Here are eleven tactics for closing your presentation on a high note.

1. Share a quote
A great quotation can make people laugh, think, or feel. Sometimes all three at the same time. One caveat: avoid common quotations that everyone has heard dozens of times. Do some research and find a gem that isn’t as well-known.

2. Show a photo
A good photo can convey emotions in ways words simply can’t. What kind of visual would help you make your message memorable? A shot of a happy customer? An historical photo? A “before and after” comparison?

3. Play a video
Video has the capacity to pack even more emotional punch than a photo. Perhaps a testimonial from a grateful client. Or your product in action. Or a news report. Or a transformation of some kind.

4. Cite a startling statistic
Why is your message so important? Cite a statistic that hammers home why your audience needs to take action.

5. Tell a story
Stories are one of the most powerful tools in a presenter’s toolbox. Stories can communicate both data and emotion. They are also entertaining and engaging. They can make your audience laugh, cry, or hope. Advanced Tip: Open your presentation with the beginning of a story and close it by finishing the story.

6. Give a gift
If it works for Oprah, it can work for you. Give your audience a free sample of your new product. Or a gift card to use in your business. Or a book. Or anything else that will enable them to leave with a sense of appreciation.

7. Ask a question
Sometimes the best thing you can do at the end of a presentation is make your audience think. “So what will you do the next time you…?” “How much is it worth to you to…?” “Are you prepared for…?”

8. Offer a choice
The old way or the new way. Do nothing or take action. The short-term approach or the long-term approach. What choice could you leave them with?

9. Issue a challenge
People often respond well to a challenge. So what do you want your audience to do? Challenge them to do it and watch them rise to the occasion.

10. Make a call to action
Sometimes it’s best not to beat about the bush. Tell your audience what you want them to do. Tell them exactly how, when, and where to do it. And make it simple.

11. Combine two or more of the above
Amp up the power of your close by using several tactics together. Show a photo and tell the story behind it. Cite a statistic and challenge your audience to do something about it. Give them a gift and make a call to action.

As a professional speaker and sales trainer, I’ve used each of these approaches to closing my presentations. The specific one I choose depends on the audience, the message, the type of presentation it is, and how I want the audience to think, feel, and act when I’m finished. That’s what you want to consider as well when you’re planning your presentations.

Like me, you work hard to create a presentation that moves people. Heck, you work hard just to get in the position of being able to deliver a presentation. Make the most of it! Which of these techniques will you use to close your next presentation?

Six Ways NOT to Close a Presentation

November 1st, 2017

Six Ways NOT to Close a PresentationA while back I discussed six awful approaches to opening a presentation that you should avoid at all costs. However, the end of a presentation is just as important as the beginning. The last thing you say is the first thing your audience will remember. (That is, if they remember anything at all.)

The way you close your presentation impacts what people will think, how they’ll feel, and what they’ll do afterward. Yet too many salespeople and speakers end their presentations on a weak note, undermining their effectiveness.

Don’t make that mistake! Whether you’re speaking to prospects, industry colleagues, or schoolkids, avoid these six poor closes:

1. Summarizing
A summary of your main points can be helpful near the end of your presentation, but it’s a lousy ending. You want to finish on a high note. A summary is simply data. It lacks energy, punch, emotion.

2. Telling them what you hope they’ll do
At the end of their presentations, a lot of salespeople and speakers sound like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. They say things like “I hope you’ll consider us…” or “I hope you’ll think about…” Such a plea conveys weakness and uncertainty, hurting your credibility.

3. Asking them to call you
A different—but no more effective—kind of plea is the request to call you at some unspecified point in the future. Maybe. Presenters will close with “Call us when you’re ready to…” or “Call me if you have any questions…” Such presenters think they’re employing a call to action. But they’re not. Because the audience isn’t going to call. They never do.

4. The “Forrest Gump”
In the movie Forrest Gump, the titular character ends each of his stories by stating, “That’s all I have to say about that.” It’s a clumsy way to end, reinforcing the idea that the character is mentally—and thus, verbally—below average. Many salespeople and speakers close their presentations in similarly abrupt fashion. They get to the end and simply say something like “Well that’s my time” or “Okay, that’s all I’ve got” or “Thank you for your time.” Again, you’re missing out on the opportunity to finish with a bang.

5. Q&A
This is undoubtedly the most common way people close presentations badly. Question and Answer sessions are both popular and important, but they don’t belong at the very end of a presentation. If there aren’t any questions, you’re left standing there awkwardly. And if there are questions, you can easily get bogged down in technical details, dragged into an argument with a know-it-all, or sidetracked onto a minor issue. You don’t want your audience’s last impression of you to be any of those things. By all means, ask for questions throughout your presentation, or schedule a Q&A session before you close, but don’t end on it.

6. Getting cut off
How often have you seen a presenter get cut off by someone in charge? It’s one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a presenter. And it absolutely ruins your credibility and impact. Avoid this fate by planning for less time than you expect to have and rehearsing relentlessly. Know what you can cut if time runs short for reasons beyond your control. (Which happens all the time.) Pro Tip: Bring a small travel clock with you and place it in your line of sight in case there’s no clock in the room.

You work hard to craft an informative, persuasive, entertaining presentation. Don’t sabotage it with a weak ending.

Here’s my challenge to you: What could you do to end your presentation with maximum impact?

What’s the Opposite of a Good Idea?

October 24th, 2017

What’s the Opposite of a Good Sales Idea?If your instinctive response to this question is “A bad idea,” then you’re missing out on opportunities to boost your sales.

Because we don’t live in a binary, good/bad, either/or world. We live in an incredibly rich, diverse, complex world filled with unlimited possibilities.

And while the opposite of up may be down and the opposite of slow may be fast, the opposite of a good idea is not necessarily a bad one. It could be an equally good idea.

Wonderful Pistachios recently launched a new ad campaign that takes advantage of this concept. Their new TV commercials feature characters who have had outrageously unfortunate lives. One character—“Jim”—is described: “His third wife ran off with his second wife. Tornadoes chase him. During a near death experience, someone else’s life flashed before his eyes.”

The concept is effectively the opposite of “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign that Dos Equis beer has been successfully using for a decade. In fact, Wonderful’s Chief Creative Officer, Darren Moran, who created the campaign, refers to the characters as the “anti-Most Interesting Man in the World.”

It’s a smart strategy, considering that Dos Equis sales have increased 34.8% since 2007 when the “Most Interesting Man” campaign began. (Even more impressive when you consider other mass market beer brands have been stagnant or declined in sales in that time.) The advertisements worked, which means Wonderful Pistachios’ ads are likely to work too.

And while Wonderful Pistachios may be the latest to employ the “opposite” approach, they certainly aren’t the first. Savvy companies have long utilized the technique of looking to the opposite of a good idea for another good idea. Here are just a few examples:

giant size — mini size

hot coffee — iced coffee

super store — boutique store

strong adhesive (Krazy Glue®) —weak adhesive (Post-it® Notes)

value menu burger — steakhouse burger

full service — self service

wet shampoo — dry shampoo

donuts — kale

So the questions for you are:

• What’s the opposite of what you’re doing now?
• What’s the opposite of what everyone else is doing ?
• What’s the opposite of your strength?
• What’s the opposite of something that already works?
• What’s the opposite of a current trend?

Flip everything upside down and inside out. Change the positive to negative and vice versa. Look at things the other way around in reverse.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of assuming the opposite of a good idea is a bad idea. That’s just nuts.

How to Boost Your Fourth Quarter Sales

October 12th, 2017

how-to-boost-your-fourth-quarter-salesThe fourth quarter is already upon us. Are your sales where you’d like them to be? Want to finish the year strong?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 35-minute-long interview, we discuss:

• The biggest myths about selling in the fourth quarter
• The first thing you need to do to boost your year-end sales
• Where to find your fastest, easiest sales
• Ways to take advantage of the year-end holidays
• How to close prospects that are sitting on the fence
• And more!

To learn more about Michele Price and listen to her interview other business experts on Breakthrough Radio (which I highly recommend), check out TheBreakthroughRadio.com.

Great Thoughts on Sales, Business and Success IX

October 4th, 2017

great-thoughts-on-sales-business-and-success-ixThere’s a lot of wisdom, insight, encouragement, and humor out there. Here’s another sampling of my favorite quips and quotes.

“If you are not building value, you are losing sales.”—Laurie Brown

“When starting out, don’t worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way.”—H. Jackson Brown

“I have always recognized that the object of business is to make money in an honorable manner. I have endeavored to remember that the object of life is to do good.”—Peter Cooper

“Those things that hurt, instruct.”—Benjamin Franklin

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
—Gail Sheehy

“I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure.”—Og Mandino

“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”—William Arthur Ward

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”
—Beverly Sills

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”—Alvin Toffler

“If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all of your items, just carry those twenty percent.”—Henry A. Kissinger

“There’s no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting.”—David Letterman

“Success does not consist in never making blunders, but in never making the same one the second time.”—H.W. Shaw

“You may get skinned knees and elbows, but it’s worth it if you score a spectacular goal.”—Mia Hamm

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”—Linus Pauling

“How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success?”—Elbert Hubbard

“He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.”—Muhammad Ali

“Confront your problems head on. Issues that you run from, run your business.”—Jill Marcus

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”—Michael J. Fox

“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps—we must step up the stairs.”—Vance Havne

“If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent, it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?”—Robert Townsend

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”—Sun Tzu

“Whatever you fear most has no power.. it is your fear that has the power.”
—Oprah Winfrey

“I would rather have a good plan today than a perfect plan two weeks from now.”—George S. Patton

“There are two primary choices in life: accept conditions as they exist, or accept responsibility for changing them.”—Denis Waitley

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”—Benjamin Disraeli

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”—Maria Robinson

”The greatest mistake we make in living is living in constant fear that we will make one.”—John C. Maxwell

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”—T.S. Eliot

“Extend courtesy, thoughtfulness, and respect to everyone. Including yourself.”
—Don Cooper

For more inspirational quotations, check out Great Thoughts on Sales, Business and Success Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, Volume VI, Volume VII, and Volume VIII.

What are some of your favorite quotations? Share them in the comments section below!

The Wrong Time to Ask for Referrals

September 26th, 2017

the-wrong-time-to-ask-for-referralsIn many aspects of sales, timing is key. Knowing the right time to take the right action can mean the difference between success and failure. And in no element of selling is this more true than in the process of getting referrals.

Which is why it’s so surprising that so many salespeople ask for referrals at the wrong time. Because asking at the wrong time erodes trust and reduces the odds of receiving a referral to around zero.

When exactly is the wrong time to ask for referrals?

Before the sale is made.

It happens all the time. A salesperson sits down with a new prospect, they have a good conversation, and just before they wrap up the meeting, the salesperson asks the prospect for three or four other people they can talk to.

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

I don’t know you or trust you (or your company) enough yet to refer you to people. You wouldn’t recommend your friends go to a movie you haven’t seen or a restaurant you haven’t eaten at. So why would someone refer a salesperson or a company they haven’t actually done business with yet?

Worse, when you ask for referrals at this stage of the sales process, it reeks of desperation. Which causes prospects to trust you less, jeopardizing the sale you haven’t even closed yet.

When is the right time to ask for referrals? After the sale is made.

And not even immediately after. No, after that. After the customer has had the chance to experience the quality of your product or service. After they’ve seen that you follow through on your promises. After they’re sure they haven’t made a buying mistake.

Once your customer has experienced the value you provide, their trust level is at its highest. That’s when they’re comfortable connecting you with their friends, family, and colleagues. At that point, they want to give you referrals, because they want the people they know and care about to get the best possible products and service.

So don’t ask for referrals before you close the sale. Not only will you not get them, but you’ll endanger the sale you’re working on. Instead, wait until your prospect becomes a happy customer. That’s when your referral requests will be most welcome and most fruitful.

39 Things to Let Go of to Boost Your Sales

September 19th, 2017

39-things-to-let-go-of-to-boost-your-salesPlanes, trains, and automobiles—and boats too, now that I think about it—all have something in common: The more stuff they’re loaded down with, the harder it is for them to get going, the slower they move, and the shorter the distance they can go.

You are exactly the same. The more stuff you’re loaded down with, the harder it is for you to make progress as well.

The reality is, we’re all carrying at least some baggage—physical and psychological, as well as emotional. But the more you can unload that baggage, the more you can free yourself of its burden, enabling you to go farther and faster. Which means more sales in less time.

What kinds of things are potentially holding you back from achieving the success you want and deserve? Here are 39 things to let go of:

1. Your ego
2. The need to be right
3. What worked in the past
4. Fear of rejection
5. Any and all limiting beliefs
6. Over-promising to prospects and customers
7. Anger
8. Sense of entitlement
9. Preconceived notions and assumptions
10. Negative self-talk
11. Procrastination
12. The belief that you know everything
13. Technophobia
14. People who drain your time and energy without giving anything back
15. Guilt
16. Over-committing yourself
17. The need to be liked
18. Comparing yourself to others
19. Fear of failure
20. Blame shifting
21. Worry
22. Taking your customers for granted
23. Being judgmental
24. Self-sabotaging behaviors
25. Bitterness
26. Fear of asking for help
27. Passive aggressiveness
28. Unwillingness to change
29. Conflict avoidance
30. Jealousy
31. Pushing yourself too hard
32. Fear of public speaking
33. The need to control everything
34. Resentment
35. Activities that aren’t producing results
36. Insecurity
37. Negative influences
38. Smoking
39. The willingness to settle for mediocrity

To be fair, divesting yourself of many of these items is difficult. Which is why it can be very helpful to work with a mentor, a coach, and/or a therapist. But make no mistake, the more of these things you can free yourself from, the better your sales will be, and the happier and more successful you will be.

When “Sorry” Isn’t Good Enough

September 12th, 2017

when-sorry-isnt-good-enoughThis is a tale of two customer service failures. And the world of difference in the way they were handled.

The first occurred at a fast-casual restaurant. I won’t reveal the name—I’ll just note that it’s a place you can STOP to get WINGS. I placed my order and waited. Because their food is cooked to order, there’s always a wait, typically about ten minutes or so. I’m cool with that. Good food is worth waiting for.

The problem was, the wait went on and on. And on. My stomach was growling and a migraine was beginning to build in my head. After nearly half an hour, my food was finally ready.

Remember what I said a moment ago about good food being worth waiting for? Well, this food wasn’t good. The chicken was dry and the fries were undercooked. I was disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed.

I went to the counter and asked to see the manager. When she appeared, I recounted all the problems I had just experienced. Her response? “I’m so sorry.”

And nothing else.

I even pressed her: “Is that it?”

She said, “We’ll work to make sure that doesn’t happen next time.”

I told her that based on that experience, I didn’t think there was going to be a next time. And I’m pretty sure there won’t be. Not with all the competitors in that space.

The second story occurred at a supermarket. Again, I won’t name the establishment—I’ll merely mention that the FOODS they sell tend to be WHOLE.

I had placed a special order with the seafood department for a party I was attending. I arrived on the appointed day and went to the seafood counter to pick up my order. But when the man returned from the back, he had bad news for me: they had apparently been unable to get the product in. When I asked why someone from the department hadn’t called me—as they promised me they would if they couldn’t get it—he had no idea.

In a state of anger and shock, I went to the customer service desk and asked for the store manager. When she arrived, I explained what had happened, why that particular order was so important, and how significant my problem was.

Like the restaurant manager only days before, she also said, “I’m so sorry.”

Unlike the restaurant manager, however, she went further. She began looking for ways to make things right and rebuild my confidence in the store. She offered me anything in the seafood case free of charge. And before we finished our interaction, she gave me a gift card to use later. Even though I had experienced a problem with the store, she wanted me to leave on a positive note. And because of her actions, I will remain a customer of theirs.

Mistakes happen all the time. What matters is how they’re handled. For minor issues, a simple apology is often sufficient. But when a mistake ruins the customer experience, an apology just isn’t good enough. Action needs to be taken. Because that action can mean the difference between losing a customer forever and keeping them forever.

Any given customer can mean hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars in sales for you over their lifetime. (Especially when you include all the people they influence.) What’s it worth to keep those customers?

12 Keys To Being a Better Communicator

September 6th, 2017

12-keys-to-being-a-better-communicatorThe top salespeople—and top executives—in every field are amazing communicators. They have a gift for getting their ideas across and persuading others.

Except that it’s not a gift. It’s a set of learned skills that anyone can master. Here are the twelve things great communicators do that you can do as well.

1. Ask questions
Asking questions is essential to good communication. whether you’re just getting to know someone or trying to make a sale, questions are the most important tool in your toolbox. Most salespeople—heck, most people in general—don’t ask anywhere near enough questions, typically being in too much of a rush to get their own points across. Questions, though, enable you to forge connections and gather information, both of which facilitate more effective communication.

2. Listen attentively
People become much more open and receptive to your thoughts and ideas after they’ve had a chance to express their own. So listen. And listen well. When someone is talking with you, give them your full attention. Maintain eye contact with them throughout. Don’t look at your phone or around the room.

3. Keep an open mind
Whenever we listen to another person, we do so with a variety of filters, biases, and assumptions. All of which can prevent us from truly hearing, understanding, and appreciating what the other person is trying to say. Work on keeping your mind open and unbiased. (Click here for a free resource.)

4. Respect others’ viewpoints
It’s easy to dismiss other people’s viewpoints as wrong or stupid when they don’t agree with our own viewpoints. But that’s a huge mistake. Everyone’s beliefs, thoughts, values, priorities, desires and fears stem from their experiences, which are always different from ours. And each of those items is as valid for them as ours are for us. Don’t judge or dismiss. Seek to understand and learn. You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion or idea to respect it.

5. Look for subtext
When people talk, there are two things they are trying to communicate: facts and emotions. Facts are typically conveyed directly via their words. Emotions, however, typically aren’t. And emotions are every bit as important to understand as facts! Which means you need to pay attention to the feelings behind the words, as well as the tone the person is using. (Note: The idea that words only account for 7% of communication, while tone contributes 38% and body language makes up 55% is a complete myth.)

6. Acknowledge and validate what others say
People need to know they’re being heard. As they talk, give them feedback, both visual (smiling, nodding, frowning, grimmacing) and verbal (“Right.” “Gotcha.” “Definitely.” “Sure.”) Go even further and validate their thoughts and emotions (“I understand.” “Point taken.” “I don’t blame you.”)

7. Ask for clarification
If you don’t understand what the other person has said, communication hasn’t actually taken place. Anytime you’re not sure about something, ask for clarification or for more details. Instead of making you look stupid, it makes you look curious and caring.

8. Don’t interrupt
Nobody likes being interrupted. It’s rude and annoying. It communicates to the speaker that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. Shut up and let them talk.

9. Paraphrase
Summarize back to the other person what you believe they said. It helps make sure that you did in fact understand what they were trying to get across, and it helps them feel heard and understood.

10. Be positive
Nobody likes a whiner. If you’re always complaining, people will tune you out. Approach every conversation positively. Even if you’re bringing up a problem, frame it positively by tying it to the larger goals of the person or organization.

11. Aim to connect, not impress
Too many salespeople and executives try too hard to impress the people they talk to. They use big words, industry jargon, and acronyms. They brag about themselves and always have to “one-up” the other person—i.e. their story has to be more impressive than the other person’s story. But you know what people are really impressed by? Authenticity. Caring. Attentiveness. Empathy. Passion. Strive to be relatable and understandable, not impressive

12. Speak to both logic and emotion
As much as we like to think otherwise, we make decisions emotionally. We use facts and logic to justify our decisions, but we always make them based on emotions. So be sure to always address not only the facts of an issue, but the emotions surrounding it. Build your arguments logically, but include the emotional elements as well.

Whether you want more sales, or you want better results from the people you lead, work on these twelve skills. Read books, attend training seminars, get individual coaching, and consciously practice them every day with prospects, co-workers, family, and friends.

Great communicators are not born, they’re made. And you can be one.