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.

Who’s On Your Sales Team?

August 29th, 2017

whos-on-your-sales-teamThe size of your sales team is obviously dependent on the size of your company. A sole proprietor is going to have a smaller sales force than an international corporation. But in either case, the sales team is not what you might think.

It’s easy—and natural—to consider your sales team as being composed of your salespeople, sales managers, and possibly a Sales VP. In truth, however, your sales team is much, much larger. It includes your:

• Marketing team
• Customer service reps
• Receptionist
• Administrative assistants
• Cleaning people
• Shipping department
• Designers
• Service providers
• PR team
• CFO & COO
• Engineers
• Factory workers
• Maintenance staff
• Delivery people
• Social media team
• Checkout clerks
• Project managers
• IT department
• Service technicians
• Accountants
• Lawyers
• Interns
• HR department
• Trainers
• Meeting & event planners
• Security guards
• Board of directors
• Procurement department
• Contractors
• Vendors
• Spokespeople
• Ad agency

In short, everyone from the CEO to the janitor is part of your sales team. Because everyone in your organization—either directly or indirectly—impacts the customer experience and thus affects sales.

Keep that in mind as you budget for various departments, hire and fire people, and provide training and recognition.

And if you’re a salesperson, be sure to thank everyone who helps you do your job. They’re an integral part of your sales team. And your sales success.

The Most Important Sales Question You’re Not Asking

August 23rd, 2017

the-most-important-sales-question-youre-not-askingIf you’re a regular reader of this blog (You are, right? RIGHT?), you know that I’m a big fan of questions. Because if you ask your prospect enough of the right questions, they’ll tell you everything you need to know to make the sale.

Yet too many salespeople don’t ask anywhere near enough questions. And even those salespeople who do ask lots of question typically miss a critically important one.

Let me explain.

Throughout the sales process, prospects ask questions of all sorts:

• Will this product do X?
• Do you provide 24/7 service?
• What happens if we have a problem?
• How long does delivery take?
• Can it be configured to _________?
• What is the maximum capacity/output/speed?

Typically, salespeople answer the question and immediately move on. And in doing so, they miss the opportunity to ask an extremely powerful question:

“What makes you ask that?”

Whenever a prospect asks a question, there’s a reason for it. That reason is important for us to know. Asking their motivation for asking the question can give us insights into:

• What issues they’re dealing with
• What issues their customers are dealing with
• Challenges they’ve had with previous vendors
• The competitors they’re considering
• Who else should be involved in the buying process
• Their growth potential
• What else we can help them with

Note that you should ask “What makes you ask?” after you’ve answered their question. If you pose it before you answer, you come across as defensive or shifty. Also be sure to use the word “what” rather than “why.” Being asked “why” immediately puts prospects on the defensive, causing them to feel judged.

In sales, motivation is everything. And the more we know about the prospect’s motivations, the faster and easier the sale. Asking this key question whenever their reason for a question isn’t painfully obvious, will provide you with valuable insights that will produce more sales.

37 Ways to Unleash Your Creativity

August 15th, 2017

37-ways-to-unleash-your-creativity

 

“Be creative!”

It’s an admonition you’ve heard over and over again. You’ve come across it in countless books, articles, keynote speeches, training seminars, and mentoring sessions.

And the fact is, creativity is essential—in business in general and sales in particular. You have to determine your goals and come up with a plan to achieve them. You have to figure out solutions to ever-changing problems. You have to write brochures and e-mails. You have to produce sales presentations and videos.

But has anyone ever told you how to be creative?

Creativity isn’t a switch we can just flip on whenever we like. It’s a skill that—like any other—needs to be developed and honed.

And here are two pieces of good news:

First—You are creative! Even if you don’t believe you are. Because everyone is creative! Creativity manifests in all kinds of ways. If you don’t think you’re creative, you just haven’t found how you’re creative yet. Or you don’t appreciate your own creativity. (Which is common—I didn’t recognize my own creative abilities until my thirties.)

Second –There are lots of ways to explore, expand, and enhance your creativity. Here are 33 of them:

1. Draw
2. Paint
3. Sculpt—clay, wood, stone, etc.
4. Photograph whatever interests you
5. Shoot videos
6. Write—short stories, poetry, articles, jokes, etc.
7. Play a musical instrument
8. Make jewelry
9. Knit
10. Crochet
11. Make—or contribute to—a quilt
12. Take a class in any of the above
13. Hold a brainstorming session
14. Daydream
15. Buy a coloring book and colored pencils
16. Play with Legos
17. Reorganize your workspace
18. Practice origami
19. Join Toastmasters
20. Cook or bake
21. Explore woodworking
22. Explore metalworking
23. Make up stories about people in your head
24. Imitate an accent
25. Play with your kids
26. Join creative communities
27. Grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables
28. Doodle
29. Put together a scrapbook
30. Download a creativity app
31. Take an improv or stand-up comedy class
32. Carry a sketchpad with you and sketch
33. Make a collage
34. Buy flowers and arrange them in a vase
35. Imagine how to improve an existing product
36. Read to your kids and make up voices for each character
37. Attend a creativity workshop

It doesn’t matter how good you are at any of these things. The point is to enjoy yourself while stretching and strengthening your creativity muscles. The more you play with your creativity, the more creative you will be. And them more you will improve your business and your sales.

How NOT to Listen to Your Customers

August 8th, 2017

How-NOT-to-Listen-to-Your-CustomersThe legendary rock band U2 played a concert recently at the nearly-brand-new Levi’s Stadium in San Jose, California. And the fans complained.

Not about the band. By all accounts, U2 played a tremendous show.

What made the concert-goers furious was the venue—Levi’s Stadium itself.

On social media, fans complained vociferously about long security lines, interminable waits for food, an unclear—and seemingly inconsistent—policy on large purses, horrible parking lot traffic, and concession stands running out of food and drinks before the show even began. Some people said it was the worst concert experience they had ever had, with many saying they would never return to Levi’s Stadium.

The stadium management team immediately responded. In the worst way possible. By ignoring, downplaying, and arguing with the fans’ comments, telling the media that from their perspective, the event was a success.

“When we look at Twitter, we also understand you see feedback that isn’t necessarily representative of the entire population,” stated Bob Lange, a spokesman for the San Francisco 49ers, which owns Levi’s Stadium. “Fans had a great time overall.”

The tone-deafness of the response only adds to the Bay Area public’s negative perception of Levi’s Stadium, which has been controversial since before it was even built. Complaints have poured in since the first events were held in 2014, virtually none of which have been addressed or corrected. Responses like this one send the message that the stadium ownership couldn’t care less about their paying customers.

And those customers have responded, with attendance down dramatically at 49ers football games and season-ticket holders defaulting on their tickets.

The lesson here is that if you don’t pay heed to your customers’ words, they’ll start speaking with their wallets. Which message would you rather deal with?

The One Thing You Can Control

August 1st, 2017

the-one-thing-you-can-controlI was recently attending an aikido seminar led by world-renowned instructor, Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei. At one point, as most of the class was struggling with a particular technique, Ikeda Sensei uttered some extremely important words.

A quick note of explanation: Aikido is a Japanese martial art that focuses on redirecting an attacker’s energy and using it against them. Aikido takes advantage of momentum, gravity, leverage, and balance, rather than size or strength. For that reason, trying to out-muscle your training partner is typically counter-productive. And yet many of us were still doing it.

What Ikeda Sensei said to us was, “Don’t control your partner. Control yourself.”

And that was the key. Because most of us were trying to do something to our partner. The more we each focused on our own body, the more effective the technique was. Trying to force our partners into complying with our will was our mistake.

That principle applies to sales—and business in general—as well. Whether you’re a salesperson working with a prospect, a sales manager leading a team, or a business owner or CEO running an entire company, you can’t control anyone. And in fact, the harder you try to force your will on people, the faster they’ll run in the opposite direction.

What you can do is influence people. And the way you do that is through your own attitudes, words, and actions. The only person you can actually control is yourself. Which means if you want more compliance from the people you interact with, you need to work on you.

Depending on your role in the company, that might mean you need to:

• Become a better communicator
• Upgrade your leadership skills
• Learn more about your product or service
• Develop your coaching proficiency
• Be a better listener
• Discover how you’re sabotaging yourself
• Strengthen your presentation skills
• Ask more and better questions
• Be more supportive and encouraging
• Improve your responsiveness
• Get better at handling objections
• Be more generous with praise and appreciation
• Hone your negotiating skills
• Learn more about your competitors
• Invest more time in relationship-building
• Heighten your sensitivity and empathy
• Improve your follow-up
• Set better boundaries
• Work on overcoming your fears
• Sharpen your closing skills
• Provide more tools, budget, and training

What’s true in aikido is true in sales: If what you’re doing isn’t working, change what you’re doing. Instead of lamenting that your prospects are cheap, or your salespeople are lazy, or your customer service people are incompetent, focus on what actions you can take to improve things.

Don’t try to control other people. Control yourself.

17 Sales Tips from Influence ‘17

July 18th, 2017

17-sales-tips-from-influence-17As a professional keynote speaker and sales trainer, I am—naturally—a member of the National Speakers Association. So of course I was in Orlando last week for NSA’s annual convention, known as Influence 2017.

More than 1200 of the world’s best professional speakers gathered for four days to learn from each other. The result was an incredible outpouring of business insights and ideas.

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

1. “Learn from outside your industry to stand out within your industry.”—Sekou Andrews (@sekouandrews)
If the only examples you’re learning from are within your own industry, you will never be better or different than anyone else. Look outside your industry for ideas and inspiration.

2. “Stories change brain chemistry.”—Kindra Hall (@kindramhall)
New research has discovered that well-told stories trigger the release of oxytocin, which causes people to be more empathetic and more compliant. Find your stories, learn how to tell them effectively, and incorporate them into your marketing and sales efforts.

3. “In every interaction, we increase or decrease trust.”—David Horsager (@DavidHorsager)
Trust is vital to your sales, and everything you do—everything everyone in your organization does—impacts it, either for better or worse. Review your policies and marketing materials, hire mystery shoppers and outside consultants, and train your people continually.

4. “Take I” out of your language.”—Jill Lublin (@JillLublin)
People care about themselves, their families, their jobs, their businesses, their friends, etc. They don’t care about you, your company, or your product. So talk less about those things and more about your prospect.

5. “By the end of 2017, up to 90% of internet traffic will be video.”—Bill Cates (@Bill_Cates)
Video is becoming more important by the day. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures. What are some ways you could incorporate more video into your marketing and sales efforts?

6. “You’ve got to have a call to action.”—Marquesa Pettway (@SpeakerTalk)
In any marketing or sales interaction—whether it’s an advertisement, an email, a phone call, or a sales presentation—you need to let your prospect know what to do next. Otherwise they’re likely to do nothing, because: a) they’re busy, and b) nothing is typically the easiest thing to do.

7. “The things you are good at are the enemies of the things you are best at.”—Sierra Modro (@sierramodro)
There are a lot of things you can do, but the things you should do are the things you’re best at. The more time you spend on things you’re not great at, the less time you have to spend on the thing you’re awesome at. Delegate, outsource, or let it go.

8. “Our beliefs dictate our actions in life.”—Vinh Giang (@AskVinh)
Our positive, empowering beliefs enable us to achieve and succeed. Our negative, limiting beliefs not only keep us from succeeding, they can prevent us from even trying in the first place! What beliefs are holding you back?

9. “People share on social media out of self-interest.”—Erin Gargan (@eringargan)
People don’t share content because you want them to. They share because they want to be perceived as funny, or caring, or in-the-know. So if you want people to share what you post, create content that makes people look good for sharing it.

10. “A confused mind does nothing.”—Colin Sprake (@ColinSprake)
It’s easy to overwhelm a prospect with data, instructions, or options. But overwhelm will cause them to shut down. Simplify things for your prospects. Make interactions and next steps easy. People love easy.

11. “Doing something little can turn into something big.”—LeAnn Thieman (@LeAnnThieman)
A small client can turn into a big client. A small product can become a huge seller. A small gesture toward a customer can lead to massive referrals. A small risk can result in a great reward.

12. “Create good habits and rituals.”—Walter Bond (@walterbond)
Good habits and rituals help us to be more efficient and effective. Bad habits and rituals hinder us, slow our progress, and even sabotage us. Identify your bad habits and rituals and work on replacing them with good ones that will enable your success.

13. “Find a way to say ‘yes.’”—Randy Pennington (@RandyPennington
Prospects and customers hate the word “no.” It makes them frustrated, disappointed, and angry. They love the word “yes” however. It creates excitement, happiness, and gratitude. So look for ways to convert a “no” into a “yes.”

14. “People are willing to help, but you have to ask.”—Michele Payn (@mpaynspeaker)
Too often we avoid asking for help when we need it. We view asking for help as weakness and failure. But the reality is that no one ever succeeds alone. We all need help. And most people are happy to provide it. Just ask.

15. “Stop pushing. Let them come to you.”—Brad Montgomery (@bradmontgomery)
A common sales mistake is trying too hard. The more you press, the more desperate you appear. And the more pressure you apply to a prospect, the more likely they are to retreat. Relax. Chill. Calm down. Invite, encourage, and inspire your prospects instead of pushing harder.

16. “Who have you asked to buy from you?”—Melissa J. Nixon (@melissajnixon)
The above admonition should not be misconstrued as taking a completely hands-off approach. On the contrary, you always have to ask for the sale. If you want prospects to buy, you need to ask them to. You don’t have to be pushy or obnoxious, just ask.

17. “Serve and don’t keep score.”—Brian Walter (@thebrianwalter)
Sales is service. Service is sales. Serve your customers, serve your employees, serve your community. The more you serve, the more you’ll sell. And the more you’ll succeed.

 

For more ideas and insights from these great speakers, click on their names to visit their web sites or click on their handles to follow them on Twitter.

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

Nine Tips for Crafting Better Sales Presentations

June 27th, 2017

Nine-Tips-for-Crafting-Better-Sales-PresentationsA great sales presentation moves a buyer from interest to action. A mediocre one does little or nothing. And a bad one causes prospects to run in the other direction. How can you create presentations that result in closed deals? Here are nine tips.

1. Focus on benefits rather than features
Too many salespeople stuff their presentations full of features. The problem is buyers don’t actually care about features, they care about benefits. A feature is a characteristic of a product or service. A benefit is what it means to the buyer. So translate features into benefits and focus on those.

2. Use the words “you” and “your” frequently
Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. Instead of droning on and on about your company’s history, awards and “commitment to excellence,” spend more time talking about your prospect’s needs, desires, concerns, goals, outcomes, etc. Frame everything in relation to your prospect using “you” and “your”—the two most powerful words in sales.

3. Tell stories
Facts are boring. Stories are entertaining. Data is dull. Stories are compelling. Numbers are meaningless without context. Stories provide context and meaning. Tell stories to illustrate the points you want to get across.

4. Use testimonials
Anything and everything you say is suspect in a buyer’s eyes. What your customers say has a lot more credibility. Use testimonials liberally.

5. Incorporate photos and video
Due to inflation, a picture is now only worth 762 words, but that’s still a lot. Photos and video can communicate in ways mere words can’t. How could you use photos and videos to enhance your message?

6. Stick to the issues that are important to your buyer
Whenever you discuss a subject that’s not of interest to your prospect, you lose their attention. And once you’ve lost it, you may never regain it. Based on your needs analysis, you should know precisely what your prospect cares about. Focus on those items and ignore everything else.

7. Mention one drawback of your product or service
Your buyer expects you to talk about your product or service like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Your buyer doesn’t expect you to disclose any flaws or downsides to it. Which is what makes this tactic so powerful. When you admit one aspect of your company, product, or service that isn’t as good as a competitor’s, your credibility goes through the roof.

8. Engage as many senses as possible
If all you’re doing is talking, you’re only engaging a single sense, which isn’t very effective for communicating. Adding PowerPoint, photos, or video engages a second sense, which is better. But how could get more senses involved? Could your prospect hold your product? Could you light a candle or use an air freshener in the room? Could you serve them a beverage or a snack?

9. Ask for the sale
The purpose of your presentation is to make a sale. Therefore, it must close with a call to action. If you don’t ask for the sale, there’s no point presenting in the first place. Incorporate one or more closing techniques into the end of your presentation.

An awful lot of salespeople waste their prospect’s—and their own—time with a poorly crafted presentation. Which is great for you! Because when you utilize these nine tactics, your presentations will set you apart from them, give you a huge edge, and enable you to make the sale.

Why You Should Strive to Be a Beginner

June 20th, 2017

why-you-should-strive-to-be-a-beginnerI have a black belt in aikido. But that doesn’t mean I’m an expert in the Japanese martial art. Quite the opposite in fact.

In aikido—as in many other martial arts—a black belt is not considered to signify mastery. Achieving a black belt means you are now a “beginner.” You have put in several years of training and have reached a level of competence that enables you to fully explore the art. You understand the basics and can now learn the advanced concepts and skills that truly define that art. You can now begin your journey on the path to mastery.

It’s a concept referred to as “Beginner’s Mind” and it’s just as important for salespeople, executives, and business owners as it is for martial artists. Because no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. The moment you believe you have mastered what you do, you’re in trouble.

Great martial artists are constantly seeking out new learning opportunities: reading books, watching videos, and attending seminars. And they’re constantly practicing: honing their skills, looking for weaknesses in their technique, getting faster, becoming more graceful.

Great salespeople, executives, and business owners do the same, understanding that they need to get smarter, sharper, better.

When do you stop learning? Um…..never. The top teachers in any martial art will tell you they haven’t mastered it yet and they’re still learning.

That’s Beginner’s Mind. And if you adopt it, it will enable you to achieve incredible success in sales, business, and life. Wherever you are right now, consider that your starting point. Now you can begin.

Who’s to Blame When Sales Are Bad?

June 13th, 2017

whos-to-blame-when-sales-are-badAs a number of prominent companies have experienced declines in sales over the past few years, much effort has gone into uncovering the causes of those declines. Both CEOs and business “experts” have sought to explain the struggles of once-thriving companies. And while various explanations have been floated, a consensus appears to have formed as to who the number one culprit is: Millennials.

There has been a barrage of articles recently, bemoaning how millennials are destroying a wide variety of industries, sectors, and products, including:

• Golf
• Casual dining chains
• Movie theaters
• Cars
• Breakfast cereal
• Napkins
• Cruises
• Diamonds
• Banking
• Canadian tourism
• Retail in general and department stores in particular

What’s interesting is to read the comments sections on those articles. They’re filled with retorts by both millennials and non-millennials, effectively stating, “I don’t buy that/shop there because it’s not worth the money.”

And that’s a crucial takeaway for CEOs, corporate boards, executive teams, and business owners. The fact is, if people aren’t buying your product or service, that’s not their fault. It’s yours. Either your offering sucks or your marketing sucks. Possibly both.

It’s tempting, when sales are down, to blame everything and everyone but yourself: the economy, unfair competition, your sales team, and of course, those idiotic, cheap, fickle customers.

But if people really wanted your product or service, they/d buy it. The fact that they’re not should tell you something about your company.

Millennials are spending tons of money—they’re just not doing so with brands like Macy’s, Sears, Gillette, De Beers, Applebee’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings. The reasons for that have little to do with millennials and everything to do with the companies themselves.

If your sales aren’t as good as you’d like them to be, don’t resort to the Scooby-Doo Excuse: “If it weren’t for you darned kids…” Instead, look in the mirror. That’s where you’ll find the problem. And it’s also where you’ll find the solution.