Are You Turning Off Buyers Just by Answering the Phone?

September 27th, 2016

Are You Turning Off Buyers Just by Answering the PhoneThe way you answer the phone seems like a trivial, irrelevant detail. Yet it sets the stage for everything to follow and creates a powerful impression that can either work for you or against you.

Think about it—When you’ve called a company where the person who answered sounded bored or surly, did you want to do business with them? In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, one single bad impression can be enough to lose a sales opportunity forever.

So don’t take a chance on blowing the sale before you even get started. Here are seven tips to begin your conversation positively.

1. Answer Quickly
People hate waiting. Don’t make them.

2. Say the Company Name
Callers want to be certain they’ve reached the company they were intending to. Give them a quick confirmation.

3. Say Your Name
People want to know who they’re talking to. Remember, this is the start of a relationship.

4. Say Your Department
If you’re in a large organization and calls can be coming to you from both outside and inside, it can be helpful to state what department you’re in, so the caller knows they’re talking to the right person.

5. Don’t Be Too Wordy
But don’t go overboard with the opening script. I’ve called companies where people answered the phone with something like, “It’s a wonderful day here at OmniConsumerGlobalTech. Thank you so much for calling us. This is Josephine St. John Smythe in the customer care department. How may I be of service to you today?”

6. Speak Clearly
It doesn’t matter what you say if your prospect can’t understand it. Speak slowly enough and distinctly enough so your caller can easily understand you. This is one of the problems with an overly wordy greeting—people tend to rush through it, and the caller doesn’t get any of it.

7. Answer Enthusiastically
Words also mean nothing if the emotional tone of voice doesn’t support them. Sounding stressed, annoyed, tired or otherwise negative completely alienates your prospect, regardless of what you say. Even if you’re having a bad day, greet your callers with enthusiasm. Smile before and while you answer the phone. After all, this could turn out to be the call that turns your entire month around!

8. Ask Permission to Place on Hold
If you have to put someone on hold immediately, ask permission: “May I put you on hold?” or “Can you hold for a moment please?” And then wait for the answer. It only takes a couple seconds, and makes your prospect feel valued.

Answering the phone effectively isn’t difficult, but it does take some effort. It’s well worth it though, to start your conversation off on a positive note. Because buyers judge you and your company on every little detail. So make this detail a good one.

21 Things Buyers Fear

September 20th, 2016

Things Buyers FearWhile buying something new can be exciting, it can also be scary. And as salespeople, we can get so caught up in the excitement part, we forget just how scared our prospects can be.

And that’s dangerous for us. Because if a prospect is too scared, they won’t buy.

What exactly are buyers afraid of? Lots of things. Including:

1. The unknown
2. Buying the wrong product/service
3. Losing money
4. Delays
5. Missing out on opportunities
6. Being unable to upgrade or expand
7. Unexpected future expenses
8. The product/service won’t work
9. Not being able to return product
10. Being stuck in a contract
11. Getting sick or injured because of the product/service
12. Company not taking care of them after the sale
13. Having personal information stolen
14. Being embarrassed
15. Not being able to use the product/service
16. Their recipient won’t like the gift
17. Spending too much money
18. The product breaking or wearing out quickly
19. The results of the service not lasting
20. Things going to waste
21. Looking bad to their boss, team, spouse or kids

Even one of these fears can paralyze a buyer and prevent the sale. Which means we need to address their fears and resolve them in our sales process. Otherwise we’ll be bombarded with objections, put off indefinitely, or lose the sale to someone who’s better at allaying our prospect’s fears than we are.

So which of the above fears potentially afflict your buyers? How can you acknowledge them and alleviate them before they derail the buying process?

When you confront your buyer’s fears head-on, you make it easier for them to buy. And that makes closing easier for you. Because then the only thing your prospect has to fear, is missing out on the awesomeness of your product or service.

What else have you found that buyers fear? Leave them in the comments below!

How NOT to Prospect on LinkedIn

September 13th, 2016

How not to prospect on LinkedInI recently received this message in my LinkedIn mailbox (the names have been changed to protect the guilty):

Eric Miller
Junior Sales at Tuttle and Hobart Integrated Supply

Howdy! I was checking out your linkedin profile and was impressed. I would love to network with you.

Do you think your company could use a promotional video to help simplify your message? We also offer referral commissions.

Check out www.blahblahblah.com for top of the line promotional videos or email sales@blahblahblah.com.

BTW – we are now offering a linkedin promo – 35% off!

Please do not respond to this message on linkedin as I do not check my account often enough. Check us out online!

After I stopped laughing, I contemplated all the things that were wrong with this message:

1. “Howdy?” That’s your greeting? What are we, cowboys? I’m half surprised you didn’t also use “;pardner.”

2. “LinkedIn” has a capital “L” and a capital “I.” If you can’t get the little details right, how can I trust you to get the big things right?

3. In the first paragraph, you say you want to network with me, and then in the next sentence, you start actively selling me.

4, We don’t even know each other and you want me to start referring people to you????

5. You’re offering me a big discount right up front? That smacks of desperation and communicates that your product isn’t worth much.

6. Do not respond on LinkedIn??? You don’t check it often enough??? WHAT??? Are you kidding me???

The entire message is the equivalent of walking up to somebody at a cocktail party, shoving a brochure in their hand, and saying, “Read this and get back to us.” It’s amateurish, disingenuous, and insulting. Not only is it worthless, it actually gives me a negative opinion of the company. I will actively avoid this business as a result.

If you’re going to use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool, remember that it’s called “social” media for a reason. Get to know people. Take part in discussions. Provide value. Be social.

LinkedIn is a powerful sales tool. But like any tool, it’s only effective when you use it properly. So take the time to learn how to use it right. That will get you better results.

The Five E’s of Great Customer Service

September 6th, 2016

Great Service Equals Great SalesSales is service and service is sales. So if you want more sales, you need to be providing more than just good service. You need to provide exceptional service. What does that mean, exactly?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 8-minute segment, I share five elements of extraordinary service. You’ll discover what it takes to deliver service that leaves your customers not merely satisfied, but elated. When you ensure your customer service embodies these five factors, your clients will come back to you again and again, as well as refer you to everyone they know!

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

The Five E’s of Great Customer Service: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

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

The Best Thing You Can Say to a Prospect

August 30th, 2016

Best Thing to Say to a ProspectSalespeople–along with professionals, business owners, and others who have to sell as part of their jobs–are always looking for magic words. Words and phrases that will quickly capture a prospect’s interest, easily overcome objections, and effortlessly close the deal.

So in that spirit, I want to share with you what I have discovered—after much painstaking research—to be the single best thing you can say to your prospect. Write this down, commit it to memory, tattoo it on your arm. Without question, this will help you achieve more sales.

The absolute, single, BEST thing you can say to your prospect is…….
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
(wait for it)
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
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NOTHING!

Years of training, coaching, mystery shopping, and being a customer myself, as well as sharing with and reading other sales experts, has led me to one inescapable conclusion: The vast majority of salespeople talk too much!

So shut up!
Zip it!
Close your trap!
Hush!
Shut your pie hole!
Be quiet!
Put a sock in it!
Mute yourself!
Button your lip!
Clam up!
Shush!
Silence!

Instead of constantly running your mouth, hoping the right words will accidentally spill out, let your prospect talk. More often than not, if we just shut our yaps, our prospects will tell us everything we need to know.

To be even more effective, ask your prospect questions. Listen intently. Ask them to explain, or for more detail. Empathize. Smile. Frown. Laugh. Nod or shake your head.

Most of us believe—many of us have even been taught—that the more we talk, the closer we get to the sale. The opposite is actually true: The more our prospects talk, the closer we get to the sale. But they can’t talk if we’re talking.

So shut up and make the sale.

What Are You Willing to Fight For?

August 22nd, 2016

My Dad in the hospitalThis is my first blog post in nearly a year. Last September, my 74-year-old father was hospitalized for what turned out to be pancreatic cancer. (Those last two words kinda give away how this story is going to end.) I immediately flew out to Washington, DC to be with him.

Over the next seven months, in two hospitals and two nursing homes, he battled like a prize fighter. He endured two surgeries, four “procedures,” five trips to the Emergency Room, four trips to the Intensive Care Unit, feeding tubes, catheters, delirium, multiple infections, a concussion (thanks to the negligence of one of the nursing homes), and a stage 4 bed sore. (Whatever you do, do not—I repeat, DO NOT—do a Google image search for “stage 4 bed sore.” You’re welcome.)

Throughout this excruciating ordeal, I was by his side every day, doing everything in my power to help him survive. Several times over the course of those months—when he was struggling and suffering the most—I asked him if he wanted to keep fighting or if he wanted to just quit. Each time he said, “Let’s keep fighting.” So we did.

And that’s why you haven’t heard from me in so long. I didn’t blog, I didn’t tweet, I didn’t do any sales or marketing. I just focused on my dad. Talking with him. Changing his dressings. Learning all I could about his condition and care. Applying creams, ointments, and powders. Feeding him ice chips. Holding his hand.

If you know anything about pancreatic cancer, you won’t be surprised to learn that my father didn’t make it. But if I had to do it all over again, I would. In a heartbeat.

Because, DAMN it—he was worth fighting for.

And that’s my question to you: What are you willing to fight for? Your family? Your business? Your clients? Your idea? Yourself?

Whatever your answer is (and it can be more than one thing), put everything you’ve got into it. Don’t half-ass it. You may only have one shot.

There are never any guarantees in business or in life, but as long as you’re willing to fight—and willing to give it your all—you will always have a chance at success.
Thanks for everything, Dad. Love you.

Five Great Things to Say to Prospects

September 8th, 2015

Five Great Things to Say to ProspectsHave you ever struggled with what to say to a prospect? Do you wish you had an arsenal of powerful words, phrases, and questions that you could whip out and use whenever you needed?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 8-minute segment, I share five terrific things you can say to prospects in a variety of sales situations. And be ready to write or type, because I give you the exact words to use. These verbal tools will help you in your prospecting, qualifying, presenting, and closing!

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

Five Great Things to Say to Prospects: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

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

One Simple Trick to Improve Your Sales Presentations

August 5th, 2015

Do your sales presentations cause prospects to buy immediately? Or do they result in yawns, glassy stares and fidgeting?

If it’s the former, great! But if it’s the latter, there’s a simple way to make them far more powerful. What is this tactic? And how can you incorporate it into your next presentation?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 7-minute segment, I discuss how to up your presentation game instantly! You’ll discover how to turbo-charge your presentations so they result in more sales!

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

One Simple Trick to Improve Your Sales Presentations: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

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

15 Sales Tips from NSA ‘15

July 29th, 2015

Sales Tips from NSA 15As a sales trainer and keynote speaker, I am, of course, a member of the National Speakers Association. Which means that last week I was in Washington, D.C. for the 2015 NSA Annual Convention.

More than 1700 of the world’s top professional speakers and trainers gathered for four days to learn from each other. The result was an overwhelming outpouring of business ideas and insights.

Here, in no particular order, are fifteen of the best:

Paulson sales tip1. “In a world full of data, stories enable us to digest the information.”—Terry Paulson (@terrypaulson)
Data, while useful, isn’t as powerful a persuasive tool as stories are. Rather than bore your prospect with reams of data, tell them a story of how you helped another customer solve the same problem they have.

Kelly sales tip2. “The more you focus on them, the higher their opinion of you.”—Kelly McDonald (@kellycmcdonald)
Too many salespeople focus on their product or service, under the mistaken belief that doing so will make the prospect want it. But prospects don’t care about you, your product, or your company. They care about themselves. Focus on your prospect instead of your product and you’ll make more sales.

Ed sales tip3. “Each time you contact a potential client, your contact needs to be tied to a purpose.”—Ed Robinson
“Checking in” is not a good reason to contact a prospect. Every contact must serve a purpose, not just for you, but for your prospect as well. How can you serve your prospect with each contact?

Seanlai sales tip4. “Just because it’s effortless (for you), doesn’t mean it’s worthless.”—Seanlai Cochrane (@seanlaic)
Most of us undervalue our talents because they come so easily to us. To earn what you’re worth, it’s critical to remember that others can’t do what we do, and as a result they will pay handsomely for it.

Guest sales tip5. “It doesn’t matter how good the baker is, if the cashier spits on your cake.”—Laurie Guest (@laurieguest)
Your product can be the best in the world, but if your customer service isn’t good, people won’t buy it. Hire well, train continuously, and fire when necessary. Customer experience is paramount.

Gerry OBrion sales tip6. “Be different from your competition in a way your customers value.”—Gerry O’Brion (@gerryobrion)
Being distinctive is vital in a crowded marketplace. (If you’re the same as everybody else, why should I buy from you?) Yet just being different isn’t enough. The prospect has to see some benefit to them in your differentiation.

Dawnna sales tip7. “Your perfect audience is looking for you.”—Dawnna St. Louis (@dawnnastlouis)
Whatever you sell, some people will love it, some will hate it, and the vast majority simply won’t care. Rather than wasting time, effort, and money trying to market to everyone, figure out who your product or service is perfect for, and focus your marketing on them.

Mark  sales tip8. “We all need to belong.”—Mark Scharenbroich (@NiceBikeMark)
Human beings are social animals. And we need to feel part of a community. It’s a fact that companies like Harley-Davidson and Disney understand well and capitalize on. How can you foster community among your customers?

Jenn sales tip9. “Happier employees = happier customers = successful companies.”—Jenn Lim (@DHMovementCEO)
Want to ensure exceptional customer service? Take exceptional care of your employees. Companies such as Southwest Airlines and Zappos have learned that making employees a priority causes them to make customers a priority.

Owen sales tip10. “Consistency is the mother of trust.”—Owen Hemsath (@owenhemsath)
Trust is essential to the sales process. And consistency is crucial to building trust. When prospects and customers are disappointed, frustrated, or unpleasantly surprised, they trust you less and become less likely to buy from you.

DNewman sales tip11. “Prospects are lazy, busy, and befuddled.”—David Newman (@dnewman)
In today’s busy society, people don’t have the time, energy or mental bandwidth to devote to the buying process. So make everything about your buying process as easy as possible for them. The less they have to do, the more likely they are to buy.

Pettitt sales tip12. “It’s not about whether or not you make judgments (you do), it’s about what you do with those judgments.”—Jessica Pettitt (@jesspettitt)
It’s well documented that we all make snap judgments about people based on their appearance and personality. And those judgments can cost us sales. The prospect who walks in wearing an old t-shirt and ratty jeans could very well be a millionaire. Notice the judgments you make and consciously push them aside.

Jolley sales tip13. “Don’t let your pride poison your prosperity.”—Willie Jolley (@WillieJolley)
It’s one thing to take pride in your work and your accomplishments. (In fact, it can be healthy.) It’s quite another, however, to allow pride to mutate into hubris or ego, either of which can be detrimental to your career or business.

Mel sales tip14.“The only thing standing in the way of growing your business is you.”—Mel Robbins (@melrobbins)
Most of us are our own worst enemies. While it’s easy to blame the economy, competitors, employees, and others when we don’t get the results we want, more often than not, we’re the ones who are truly at fault. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own success.

Bradford sales tip15. “What will people pay for? Money, sex, happiness.”—Robert Bradford (@robertbradford)
Everything we buy is a means to an end. What is the end your prospects are seeking to achieve? Is it one of these three things? Or perhaps status, health, or security? Link what you sell to a result people want and you’ll boost your sales.

For more ideas and insights from these fantastic speakers, click on their names to visit their web sites or click on their handles to follow them on Twitter. (To follow me, click here.)

Need an exceptional speaker for your next event? Check out the NSA website or your favorite speakers bureau. (Or just click here.)

How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete

July 8th, 2015

How to Avoid Your Sales and Business Becoming ObsoleteTechnology, society and the marketplace are all changing faster than ever before. With those changes come both threats and opportunities for your business. How can you avoid the former while seizing the latter?

Listen in as Jeff Shuey (Chief Evangelist at K2) and I join Michele Price on Breakthrough Radio. In this special episode, the three of us discuss:

• What today’s pace of change means for your sales and your business
• How to seize opportunities that didn’t exist a year ago
• How to keep your business relevant
• The biggest danger facing your business
• Why failure is a good thing
• The most important skill set of the 21st century
• What you have to stop doing now

Be Advised: The complete show is a bit more than an hour long, so you’ll probably want to download it to your favorite mobile device. To do so, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete: Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

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

Nine Reasons Salespeople Discount When They Shouldn’t

June 30th, 2015

Reasons Salespeople DiscountOne of the most frequent complaints I hear from sales directors, VPs, and CEOs is that their sales team—whether it’s internal or their distribution channel—discounts too much and too often.

While it’s maddening, it’s also excruciatingly common. Here’s what drives that behavior:

1. Fear of losing the sale
Every salesperson fears losing the sale. So when a prospect asks for a discount, the salesperson often thinks the sale hinges on whether or not they give one. Salespeople rationalize to themselves that a small commission is better than no commission at all.

2. Fear of confrontation
Many salespeople—and even more professionals and business owners—hate confrontation. And because they see negotiating at confrontational, they acquiesce to discount requests in order to avoid it.

3. “Everybody does it.”
In many industries, discounting is the perceived norm. When salespeople believe they have to discount because everyone else does, discounting simply becomes part of the expected process, both for the buyer and the seller.

4. Don’t understand why they shouldn’t
Too many salespeople don’t understand the damage that discounting can do to a company’s profitability. And too many professionals and small business owners—most of my coaching clients among them—don’t even know what their profit margin is. As a result, they discount because the see a short-term benefit—a quick sale—rather than a long-term problem.

5. Don’t appreciate the product’s—or the company’s—true value
Value is subjective. We all value the same products and services differently based on our likes, dislikes, priorities, fears, biases, experiences, tastes, and more. So sellers often don’t see the value of what they’re selling the same way buyers do. This is especially true in B2B sales, where salespeople are often selling things—chemicals, machinery, software, advertising, business services, etc.—that they would never buy personally. When salespeople don’t fully appreciate their product’s, service’s, or company’s value, they cave to discount requests due to ignorance or even guilt.

6. Unable to articulate the value
Even when the salesperson does appreciate the value of what they’re selling, too often they are unable to communicate that value to their prospect. That results in pressure to discount.

7. It’s the easiest thing to do
Articulating value, justifying price, and negotiating require time, knowledge, and skill. By contrast, discounting is fast and easy.

8. Their managers encourage them to
Pressure to discount doesn’t just come from buyers. All too often, sales managers—either tacitly or overtly—pressure their salespeople to discount. Sometimes through their own example!

9. No one has taught them any other way
While some salespeople discount just because it’s the easy way out, many do it because they don’t know any other way of handling discount requests. Nobody has ever trained them how to deal with buyers pressuring them for discounts. (When I conduct training seminars, it’s always one of the biggest frustrations attendees have.) In the absence of training, people do the only thing they know how to do—say yes to a discount.

The good news is that all these issues can be resolved through effective training. Buy a book for everyone on your sales team, invest in some audio or video training programs for them, or bring a speaker in to your company to speak to them.

Buyers will never stop asking for discounts, for the simple reason that it’s in their best interest to. Salespeople need good reasons to be able to say no.

19 Ways to Be of Value to Your Buyers

June 16th, 2015

Ways to Be of Value to Your Buyers in SalesValue is crucial to sales success, and not just in the obvious way. Sure you need a strong value proposition to justify your price and distinguish you from the competition. But it’s also important to deliver value both before and after the sale.

Because delivering value to your buyer builds rapport, improves confidence, creates appreciation, and earns trust. All of which help you make the first sale as well as future ones.

So whether you’re trying to land a new client or looking to strengthen your customer loyalty, here are 19 ways you can be of value to your prospects and customers:

1. Educate them about your industry
2. Tell them what not to buy
3. Send articles, e-books, podcasts, and videos that relate to their needs, issues and interests
4. Provide a buyer’s guide
5. Invite them to events
6. Promote them
7. Send gifts
8. Feed them
9. Give them sneak peeks or free samples
10. Provide a free consultation, inspection, evaluation, or audit
11. Make them laugh
12. Give them referrals
13. Show them how to save money
14. Show them how to make more money
15. Alert them to risks they weren’t aware of
16. Support their favorite charity
17. Educate their distribution channel
18. Upgrade them
19. Connect them with others who can help them

You don’t need to employ all of these tactics of course, but the more of them you use, the stronger your relationship with your buyers will be. So determine which items on this list are appropriate for your company and your customers, and create a plan for implementing them. You’ll achieve more sales, more loyalty and more profits.

Four People You Need to Trust to Boost Your Sales

June 4th, 2015

Four People You Need to Trust to Boost SalesTrust is vital in business. And if you want to boost your sales, there are four specific people you need to trust. Who are they? And why is it so crucial?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 9½ -minute segment, I discuss who these people are and why it’s so vital to trust them. I also reveal which of these four people we have the hardest time trusting.

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

Four People You Need to Trust to Boost Your Sales: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

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

Why You Can’t Motivate Anyone (And 16 Things You Can Do Instead)

May 26th, 2015

Why You Can't Motivate Anyone In Sales© Alexskopje | Dreamstime.com

 I am not a motivational speaker.

While I am occasionally described as one—and I do speak at conferences, annual meetings and other events—the fact is that I’m not. For the simple reason that I can’t “motivate” anyone. And neither can you.

Whether you’re talking about a prospect, a member of your sales team, a volunteer, or anyone else in your business or personal life, you can’t motivate them to do what you’d like them to do.

Why?

Because motivation is internal. It’s personal. People decide what to do—along with when and how to do them—based on their own reasons, beliefs, and attitudes. You might have a dozen good reasons why you think someone should take a certain action, but they don’t because of their own reason. Which may be stupid, pointless or completely irrational. But it doesn’t matter, because that reason is theirs.

The good news is that you can tap into those personal reasons, beliefs, and attitudes to influence people. And there are lots of ways to do that.

So while you can’t motivate, you can:

1. Inspire
2. Encourage
3. Excite
4. Pressure
5. Cajole
6. Educate
7. Threaten
8. Incentivize
9. Guilt
10. Beg
11. Embarrass
12. Scare
13. Persuade
14. Shame
15. Manipulate
16. Trick

Which of these approaches you take will obviously depend on the situation and your relationship to the person you’re hoping to influence. If you’re trying to get a prospect to make a decision, you may want to inspire or excite them. If you’re after better performance from an employee, you might need to incentivize or threaten them. And if you’re dealing with someone who’s unethical, dangerous or mentally unstable, manipulation or trickery may actually be your best bet.

Whatever approach you use, keep in mind that in order for it to be successful, it has to connect to something the person cares about. So learn what’s important to them, what excites them, what scares them. Discover what they want more of and less of in their lives. Teach them what they don’t know and help them see the opportunities and dangers they weren’t aware of.

When we talk about “motivating” others, what we really mean is “influencing” them. The difference is subtle, yet important. You can’t motivate anyone but yourself. However you can potentially influence everyone you interact with. Learn about the people around you, develop your influence skills and you’ll see more sales, higher productivity and more success.

Twelve Powerful Ways to Open Your Next Presentation

May 19th, 2015

Ways for a Speaker to Open a Sales Presentation© Andresr | Dreamstime.comSuccessful Business Presentation Photo

In my last post, I cautioned you against using six terrible ways to open a presentation. Many of you kindly messaged me through various media and asked, “Okay Mr. Smarty-pants, big-shot, sales expert—how should we open our presentations?”

A fair question if ever there was one.

Because the first few seconds are critical to hooking your audience’s attention and establishing your credibility, opening your presentation strongly can mean the difference between failure and success. Whether you’re crafting a sales presentation for a big prospect or you’re preparing to be the keynote speaker at an industry conference, employ one of these twelve tactics to start your presentation off on the right foot.

1. Share a powerful quote
A good quotation can be funny, enlightening, or inspiring. Some can even do all three at once. The trick is using a quote that hasn’t been repeated to death. For that reason, avoid commonly shared sayings like Einstein’s “imagination” quote or Aristotle’s “excellence is a habit” quote. There are plenty of quote resources online. Invest some time to find a particularly good one.

2. Cite a startling statistic
Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated. 90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart. In 2012, there were 12.6 million victims of identity theft. More people own a cell phone than a toothbrush. 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school. Every second, more than an hour of video is added to YouTube. Every industry has statistics that will surprise—and thus engage—an audience. What are some of yours?

3. Tell a relevant story
Stories are inherently engaging. Scientists have proven that our brains are hard-wired for listening to stories. So if you’re delivering a sales presentation, tell a story about one of your other customers and how your product or service impacted them. If you’re a speaker at a convention, tell an original story—something that happened to you or that you witnessed. Don’t tell “public domain” stories (Cortez burning his ships, the “starfish” story, etc.) and never steal another speaker’s story. Few things will damage your credibility faster or more permanently.

4. Make a bold, contrarian—even controversial—statement
I open one of my seminars by stating, “Selling more of what you sell has nothing to do with what you sell.” By challenging the orthodoxy that the merits of the product or service are all-important, I get the audience’s attention.

5. Show a stunning visual
Due to inflation, a picture is now only worth 763 words, but that’s still a lot. What visuals would grab your audience’s attention? Consider a concept drawing, before and after pictures, or an historical photo.

6. Ask a question that makes the audience think
My good friend—and fellow speaker—Mary Kelly often asks her audiences of executives, “Who are you grooming to lead your company in 20 years?” She gets blank stares as answers, followed by excuses that they’re focused on the here and now. “And that is the problem,” she replies, having completely hooked them.

7. Show a video
Videos can be very effective as long as they are short, emotional, and relevant. One is plenty. You don’t want to come across as the host of a clips show. And be sure that you have permission to use it. Just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s fair game.

8. Discuss information about the audience
Your audience doesn’t care about you, your company, or your product or service. They care about themselves. So opening by mentioning issues, facts, concerns and opportunities that directly relate to them is a sure-fire way to get them to listen.

9. Craft an analogy
Metaphor and similes are terrific tools for making complex or unfamiliar concepts understandable and relevant. Ask yourself, what is this situation like?

10. Relate a statement made to you by an audience member
Talking with your audience before you speak is a great way to uncover stories, issues, factoids, humor, fears and more. And when you open with something an audience member told you, you’re not only guaranteeing relevancy, you’re demonstrating that you’re attentive and a good listener.

11. Ask them to envision a scenario
Asking your audience to visualize a scene is a great way to get them emotionally involved immediately. And this tactic works equally well with both positive and negative scenarios. “Imagine a world in which everyone has access to clean water.” “What if you got a call tomorrow telling you that you just suffered a massive data breach?” The words “imagine” and “what if” are powerful for getting your audience to envision what you want them to.

12. Use a prop
I once walked on stage with a feather duster in my hand. As I held it up, I described a similar feather duster from my youth. When the object’s significance became clear, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. What props could help you make your point?

There you have it—twelve ways to begin your presentation with panache and impact. Choose an approach that is appropriate for the both the audience and your personal style. Experiment with different options to see which ones work best. Practice and hone your openings to maximize their impact. Your results will be more engaged audiences, more invitations to speak, and of course, more sales.

Six Ways NOT to Open a Presentation

May 12th, 2015

Ways Not to Open Sales PresentationsWhether you’re delivering a sales presentation to a prospect, an internal briefing within your company, or the keynote speech at a conference, the first words out of your mouth have the power to make or break your effort. The way you open your presentation impacts your credibility and tells your audience whether or not they should listen to you.

Too many salespeople and speakers lose their audience immediately by opening their presentations poorly. To avoid their fate, don’t open with any of these six things:

1. A Joke
Newbie presenters are often counseled to open with a joke, on the theory that it will capture the audience’s attention, get them laughing, and start things off on a positive note. However, if you’ve heard the joke, odds are your audience members have too. Which means it’s not funny and instead, a waste of their time.

2. Your Company History
Your company has a long and glorious history. And if you tell your audience all about it, they’ll be impressed and your credibility will go through the roof. The reality is, nobody cares about your company’s history except the people it employs. I once watched a CEO stand up and walk out of a sales presentation because the salespeople were detailing their company’s history and the CEO decided his time was too valuable for that. Needless to say, the sales opportunity left with him.

3. Apologizing
Starting your presentation by apologizing for the weather, the room setup, a schedule delay, or the simple fact that there’s a meeting at all, undermines your credibility and signals weakness to your audience.

4. A Stupid Question
Despite what your parents and teachers told you, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Queries like “Who here would like to earn more and work less?” or “How many of you want to double your sales immediately?” are so obvious they insult the audience’s intelligence. And when an audience feels insulted, they tune out the speaker.

5. Telling Them What Else They’d Rather Be Doing
Opening with comments like, “I know you’d all rather be outside on a beautiful day like this…” or “I recognize that you have a lot of pressing work on your desk…” implies that what you’re about to say isn’t very important, which tacitly gives your audience permission to stop paying attention.

6. Talking About Yourself
Many speakers start their presentation by telling the audience their personal history, their accomplishments, their awards and so on, believing that recounting their success builds their credibility. But talking about yourself can be even worse than talking about your company, because not only does nobody care about you, but it can come across as bragging, making you seem arrogant. That’s a sure-fire way to lose your audience quickly.

With today’s audiences ready to whip out their phones the moment you lose them, you can’t afford to sabotage yourself with your first few words. Avoid these six mistakes when crafting the opening to your presentation and you’ll at least have a fighting chance.

What other terrible ways of opening a presentation have you witnessed? Share them in the comments below!

Photo © Andreypopov | Dreamstime.com – Young Businessman Discussing Work

When and How to Say “No” to a Customer

May 6th, 2015

Sales Speaker Discusses When and How to Say No to a CustomerIf you’re in sales or customer service, you’ve been taught that “the customer is always right.” But that’s not true. Sometimes we have to say “no” to a prospect or customer. But when exactly? And how?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Radio with Michele Price. In this 8-minute segment, I discuss why it can be crucial to say “no” sometimes. You’ll discover how to know when those situations occur and how to turn down a customer request without damaging your relationship with them. You’ll also hear about one of the biggest mistakes I made as a speaker early in my career.

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

When and How to Say “No” to a Customer: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Radio (mp3)

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

© Aydindurdu | Dreamstime.comBalancing Yes And No Photo

Do Enough People Dislike You?

April 29th, 2015

dislike for more sales
© Meikesen | Dreamstime.comDislike Photo

One thing that people and brands have in common is that we want to be liked. We really like to be liked. So we try to be universally liked. And that’s a huge mistake.

Because being liked isn’t good enough. If you want massive sales success, you need to be loved.

Which means you need to be different, superior, unique. And that opens you up to criticism, animosity, even hatred.

Which is fine!

Any successful person or brand has detractors. Think of Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, David Letterman, Giada De Laurentiis, Peyton Manning, and any U.S. president ever. In the brand arena, consider companies such as Apple, Fox News, Harley-Davidson, Starbucks, Disney, and Taco Bell. They all have legions of die-hard fans and they all have millions of people who can’t stand them.

No person, no company, no product is universally liked. And trying to become universally liked can ruin you. Because if you’re worried about people not liking you, you’ll avoid taking risks, or specializing, or being controversial. You’ll be bland, ordinary, mediocre. You—or your product, service or company—may very well survive, but you’ll never be a leader in your field or your category.

Instead, be different. Stand for something. Go in a bold new direction. Figure out who has a specific need that’s not being met. Challenge the status quo. Innovate. Think about how you can make your product or service more specialized or more exclusive.

Recognize that:

• No matter what you do, some people won’t like it.

• Authenticity, uniqueness, passion and quirkiness all sell.

• The more that people love your product or service, the more they’re willing to pay for it. (And the less that competition is a factor.)

• In order for you to be right for some buyers, you have to wrong for others.

• You must be willing to lose some customers and prospects to gain better ones.

• The more successful you, your product and your company become, the more detractors you’ll accumulate.

So don’t let the fear of being disliked prevent you from being extraordinary. Embrace the fact that being loved by some means being hated by others. Having detractors is not only okay, it’s necessary for your success. If not enough people dislike you, you’re not trying hard enough.

Sales Advice from The Princess Bride

April 21st, 2015

sales advice from princess brideOne of the most popular—and most quoted—movies of all time is The Princess Bride. Although it didn’t do particularly well at the box office when it was released in 1987, it has earned a massive fan base via video and cable over the years.

princess bride sales adviceThe story centers on Westley the farm boy trying to save his beloved Buttercup from being forced to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck. Along the way, he encounters a swordsman seeking to avenge his father’s death (Inigo Montoya), a giant (Fezzik), and others. The movie has action, adventure, romance, humor, and suspense. And an important sales lesson for keen observers.

Late in the movie, Inigo and Fezzik take Westley—recently killed by Prince Humperdinck—to see Miracle Max, hoping to revive him. The retired Max doesn’t want to be bothered and refuses to help. Inigo must persuade him, but his initial efforts fail. How does he succeed?

If you don’t have the entire movie committed to memory, or if—heaven forbid—you haven’t seen the movie at all (You haven’t seen it? Inconceivable!), watch this clip:

It’s only when Inigo appeals to something that matters to Max, that Max agrees to help.

So what’s the lesson? People do things for their reasons, not ours.

If you want your prospect to buy, you need to know what matters to them:

• What do they love?
• What do they hate?
• What do they want?
• What do they fear?
• What are their priorities?
• What are their values?
• What do they want more of?
• What do they want less of?

These are the things that matter to your prospect, not your features and benefits. You might have an amazing product or service, but unless you can relate it to something that’s important to your prospect, they’re not going to buy it.

By the way, this is also a leadership lesson. Everybody in your organization does what they do for their own reasons. Tap into those reasons and you can significantly improve productivity, teamwork, sales, customer service and profitability. And that is a noble cause!

Seven Things You Need to Study to Boost Your Sales

April 14th, 2015

Things to Study to Boost SalesThe top people in every profession got there by studying. Raw talent and intelligence will only take you so far. Whether you’re talking about doctors, athletes, lawyers, business leaders, artists, writers or teachers, the best are committed to continual learning.

The same is true for salespeople. If you want to join the ranks of the award-winners, here are seven things you need to study regularly:

1. Your Product or Service
Product knowledge isn’t everything, but it’s a starting point. Prospects typically don’t trust a salesperson who doesn’t know what they’re selling. Know the details of your product or service backwards and forwards. Not because you’re going to share every detail with your prospects—most don’t want to hear every detail—but because you want to be able to answer any question your prospect has.

2. Your Company
What’s your company’s history? What’s your company’s philosophy? What awards has your company won? How does your company take care of customers after the sale? What are the negative episodes in your company’s past and how has your company overcome them? What makes your company unique? Again, you’re not going to share all this information with your prospects, but if your prospect asks about any of them, you’d better be able to answer confidently.

3. Your Industry
What are the trends in your industry? What are the opportunities and dangers? How might these items affect your company and your customers?

4. Your Competition
If you’re going to effectively sell against your competitors, you need to know them as well as they know themselves. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do their products and services stack up against yours? In what ways are they superior to you? In what ways are you superior to them?

5. Your Marketplace
What are the trends in your markets? What are the challenges the people in them are facing? What do they want more of and less of? What’s happening to their budgets?

6. Your Prospect
Every prospect is different. This is where exceptional salespeople separate themselves from everyone else. They take the time to learn about each individual prospect—both in their pre-call research and their needs analysis interviewing. The more you know about your prospect, the easier it is to make the sale.

7. Selling
True sales professionals are constantly studying the art and science of selling. From prospecting to closing and everything in between, there’s always more to learn. Fortunately, there are more resources than ever before—many of them free!

Whether you’re brand new to sales or you’re a sales veteran, investing more time in studying these seven items will pay massive dividends.