To Sell or Not to Sell?

USP concept
Hand with marker is drawing USP concept on the transparent white board.

Selling isn’t about winning or losing.  It’s not about money, trips, plaques, or prizes.  Selling is not an easy job, nor should it be a job to kill time until the “real thing” appears.   It’s not a set of activities, calls, presentations, or ratios.

Selling is about helping others.  Helping others solve problems and improving lives in the process.  Simply put, to sell is to make something, or someone better.  If what you’re offering for sale doesn’t provide some improvement over the status quo you have no sale.  The key is to understand your buyer well enough to know exactly how your product or service will improve their life or business.

People know when they’re being sold.  They also know when they feel they’ve been helped.  Seek first to understand before being understood is a good way to approach helping others.  Set out to help others and the sales will follow.

Where are your buyers? How finding their hang-outs increases sales.


Ah, prospecting.  The art of finding your next customer. The part of selling that makes even the most seasoned and successful sales people cringe.  Why is that?  What is it about prospecting that causes people to start twitching, flinching, gasping for breath?  It’s not talking to strangers that cause concern, nor is it hearing “no I’m not interested.” What really creates prospecting frustration is not knowing where your customers are hiding.

Networking is one of the keys to success in sales.  The more people you talk to, the more likely you are to sell something.  But networking for the sake of networking can be quite demanding and draining, physically, emotionally, and financially.  Time is your most valuable resource.  Time is more precious than the Hope Diamond or the Seven Seas (Steven Spielberg’s yacht). You have a finite amount of time.  You can never have more time, but you can always waste time creating a shortage.  Spending this precious resource wisely is your best chance to succeed in selling.

Imagine if you knew exactly where your prospective customers hang out.  You know where they will be, when they will be there, and for how long. Knowing their hang-outs is critical to maximizing your sales results.  After all, you can’t sell something to someone you don’t know how to find.  If your prospect is a restaurant owner, her hang-out may be at a state restaurant association trade show. If it’s a CIO, his hang-out may be No matter who your prospect is, he or she has some typical, and predictable spots they go to learn, question, and advance their decision making process.  Knowing where these hang-outs are reduces the number of networking events you need to attend.  If you knew that all your prospects were gathering at a specific venue every Wednesday evening from 6 pm – 7 pm, wouldn’t you be there?  Of course you would.

How can you find out where your buyers hang out?  Ask them!  What publications do you read on a regular basis? What types of events do you attend and why? Who are your trusted advisors? How do you research potential solutions for a business need? Sure, this is buyer persona work and it takes time. Sure, your Marketing department should be leading this work.  But if they’re not? Do it yourself. What you’ll discover will help you serve more buyers, more quickly.

These questions will help provide the answers and the insights into where your prospects are spending their time during their decision making process.  Once you know that, you can focus your energy on being visible at these hang-outs whether that means in person, or through content posted on a specific social channel.  There’s great power in knowing where your prospects go to learn and decided. When you know that you’re more than half way to the sale!

If this is something you’re interested in learning more about let me know.

Stop Selling, Start Asking: 3 Questions That Will Improve Your Results


For many companies January represents the start of a new year.  A new beginning when all numbers are at zero and the uphill climb to reach the new year’s sales quota gets under way.  And whether your company sells cars, computers, insurance, or consumer staples it’s likely its increased its goals in 2015 from the prior year, and to you that means a bigger sales quota.

How do you reach that new number when last year’s number seemed big enough?  Where will you find the time to sell more and still have a chance to see your family, hit the gym, travel a bit, or simply sleep a little?  The fact is, making more calls isn’t the answer.  The more calls you make, prospects you talk to, emails you send, or LinkedIn invites you issue won’t be enough to hit a higher quota.  You’ve got to operate differently.  You’ve got to change your approach.  The most effective way to increasing your sales results is by asking better questions…the right questions.  Start with these 3 questions below when meeting with a prospect for the first time.

  1. In looking back on your results last year did you accomplish what you hoped?  Asking this question provides insight into the prospects priorities and values.  It also offers you a glimpse into how likely they are to provide you with the critical information you’ll need to construct a proposal or recommendation that adds tangible value to their business.
  2. What are your top goals or priorities for this year?  If you don’t understand your prospect’s business you have little chance of doing business with them.  Likewise, how much time, effort, and energy is wise to spend on a prospect who doesn’t know where he or she is headed?  With limited hours in the day, and that big goal in front of you, your best chance of success lies in working with people who all have clear goals…grow revenue, reduce expenses, improve turnover, etc.
  3. How do you currently determine if you’ll buy again from one of your providers?  It’s important to know up front if the prospect makes their decisions based solely on price, service, future product improvements, or ease of use.  Whatever their criteria is in sending you more business, be sure to take note and not only build it into your proposal but more importantly deliver on that expectation.  If innovation is important to the prospect don’t promise product changes if your product hasn’t changed in years or has no planned changes on the horizon.  Once you lose trust and credibility your reputation becomes worthless.

If you’re not comfortable asking these questions there’s likely a good reason which most of the time will be due to the lack of rapport built immediately on the front end of your interaction with the prospect.  Remember, if you approach a prospect like a typical sales person their natural defenses will be up, but if you approach them as a business person who has passion around your product and deep-rooted beliefs and experiences that showcase the value of that product you’ll find your prospect will be more open, more engaging, and inclined to forge a relationship with you.  Authenticity is your key to success and its something that has to be real and heartfelt, it can’t be pretend.

The Coercive Contactor Versus the Caring Connector

Sales people have been taught the importance of the numbers. The number of dials made each day, contacts made, and presentations scheduled, are all metrics sales professionals have had baked into their thinking. You want more sales, make more dials. You want more presentations, make more contacts. We grind it out every day focused on persuading, manipulating and influencing the prospect just enough to get them to see things our way and then…BAM…a sale is made. I refer to sales people that fit this description as coercive contactors…make the contact and then through sheer force of will, or fear-selling, make the sale.

But times are changing. The buyer today is far more educated than in the past thanks in large part to the internet. Most agree that a majority of the buying process is completed before a buyer ever meets with a sales person. How did this happen and what does it mean to you as a sales person?

Google has changed our world. In a couple clicks of a mouse we can find information on virtually any topic or question that we could dream of asking. Volumes upon volumes of data and content reside on the web, there for the taking. In the comfort of our homes and offices, cars or restaurants, we have 24/7 access to all the information we could possibly need to make informed decisions.

For the typical sales person this poses a huge threat. Most of us were trained in the art of persuasion, manipulation and influence, in order to bring the pain the buyer is feeling front and center. And while shining a light on the buyers pain isn’t wrong or inappropriate, it is a less effective selling tool if the sales person doesn’t know what to do with the buyers pain once they’ve identified it. You see, buyers have a much better sense today whether your solution will actually help them. They’re no longer completely reliant upon the sales persons power of persuasion and instead draw from their own research and education as to what may improve their circumstance.

Whether it’s an outsourcing solution to improve business performance or a new medication to improve your health, just about any information you’re looking for is available via the web. As such the dependency on the sales person has evolved from a pitch person to a “caring connector”. A caring connector is how an authentic sales professional presents themselves in what they say, how they say it, what they do, and how they act. Forget about the super slick, fast talking sales dude. Today the successful sales pros are ones who take the time to listen, ask thoughtful questions, and perhaps most of all, be honest enough to tell the prospect just how helpful their solution will be. They demonstrate genuine care in how they connect with the buyer. This is a huge mind shift in sales. In fact, many recent studies conducted by Harvard Business Review, as well as, in many books authored on sales including Jeff Thull’s recent Exceptional Selling, show proof that being willing to walk away from a sale because there’s simply not enough value there, actually enables you to sell more. The premise is that once someone trusts that you have their best interest at heart, and in mind, they’ll come back to you again and again. Additionally, once you’ve determined that there is little value to the prospect to move forward with your solution you stop forcing a sale and move onto the next opportunity, again freeing your time to engage with a buyer whose needs and circumstances better align with the value you provide.

So try it. Try shifting from that coercive contactor to the caring connector and watch your sales grow.

Your Doctor May Be Your Best Sales Coach


In my previous blog post I talked about a selling strategy that helps to eliminate lost sales.  Lost due to a disconnect between the prospect and the sales person.  A communication miss fire on either end is responsible for every sale not made.  If the sales person is communicating and observing the prospects response, or reaction, there should be no last-minute surprises of lost business.  In fact, if you were really honest about it, most of the time you knew deep down that sale was going nowhere.  But the sales gods have been clear for decades that you never give up, never walk away, always be closing, and never take no for an answer.  If you’re into self-deprecation that might be exactly the approach you’re looking for.  But for those of us who are interested in transcending the age-old image of a product pusher to one of a true sales professional, looking for the “no” is how you should approach each sales opportunity.

For years I have taught and coached sales teams across a variety of different industries to approach a prospect as a doctor approaches a patient.  Curious, thoughtful, prescriptive and honest.  Here’s how:

  1. Curious.  The first thing a doctor does when he/she enters an exam room is begins asking questions.  What’s going on?  When did it start?  Is it like this, or like that?  Do the symptoms increase in intensity during certain times or are they constant and unchanging?  The doctor is beginning to diagnose your problem.  Asking questions, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, is the first step to a proper diagnosis.
  2. Thoughtful.  In my experience (and to be completely honest I believe I have the world’s greatest doctor) great doctors never provide knee jerk responses.  They go through their diagnosis phase and take a moment to process the information they’ve just gathered.  Sure this process step may take seconds, but in most cases pay attention the next time you go to the doctor and watch for that “medical processing pause”.  This refers to the time it takes for the doctor to thoughtfully provide their assessment and prescribe next steps.
  3. Prescriptive.  Depending on the assessment of what’s wrong with the patient the doctor may have one to many different prescriptions to offer the patient.  The prescription may not be solely medicine related.  A doctor may prescribe physical therapy, or eliminating a specific food from your diet.  He/she may also prescribe a mobility aid such as crutches or a walker, or even a sling or splint depending on the injury.  The point is that in many cases there are a variety of paths forward and the doctor presents these options in the form of prescriptions.
  4. Honesty.  This element of the doctor-patient relationship is the most important.  No matter how good the doctor is, if there is no trust that exists between him/her and the patient the above 3 ingredients are useless.  By the time the doctor gets to the prescription phase of the patient examine, he/she is presenting options along with their personal choice.  How many times have you heard a doctor say, “if you were my son”, or “when my mom went through this we decided to do…” The trust and honesty that exists between a doctor and patient – their ability to communicate transparently with one another – is the ingredient that results in the patient’s ability to improve their condition.

The relationship between a doctor and patient exists for one of two reasons:  to fix something currently broken, or to avoid something breaking in the future.  Isn’t that the relationship between you and your prospect?  The prospect has either agreed to meet with you because something in their business is currently broken or because something may be changing that may cause something to break that they’re trying to avoid happening.  Regardless of whether it is a current problem or future, follow the 4 steps above and you’ll find a more engaging, trusting, and action-oriented relationship develop between you and your prospect, soon-to-be customer.

Tunnel Vision – A Salespersons Secret Weapon


As the internet-of-everything continues to grow, and social media becomes more robust with each passing day, professionals in every industry are forced to embrace the art of multitasking. In fact, so much so that our society places the skill of multitasking on a pedestal – a Holy Grail if you will of those who are super-efficient. Look at a handful of resumes today and you’ll find candidates advertising their ability to perform a dozen tasks with accuracy and proficiency. But can they really? Can any of us be really good at anything when we’re focused on everything?

Successful salespeople do many things well but one common area of frustration that plagues many is the never ending struggle to focus. To have a singular focus – perhaps tunnel vision – on only one or two things at a time. Tunnel vision leads to a laser focus on what really matters. Would a golfer think of his/her next drive while still on the green putting for birdie? Would a heart surgeon be thinking of office payroll with a patient on the table and chest open? Let’s hope not. Tunnel vision, laser focus, or concentration can all be attributed to those who excel in their particular craft.

Try these 3 Tunnel Vision ideas to improve your performance:

  1. Shut off email while making prospecting calls. Email is one of the biggest distractions a salesperson deals with. What if my customer needs me? What about my referral sources calling me with a prospect? The human mind often tends to work in extremes. A “this or that” mentality. The reality is that things are rarely this or that. Start out by shutting off your email for an hour while making calls and then check it after an hour to see what items require your immediate attention or response.  You’re ability to stay focused on your calls in the absence of the “You-Got-Mail ding” will yield better results.
  2. The early bird does get the worm. Start your day early setting aside 20 – 30 minutes to read. Glance at the news, read some blogs, or finish a chapter or two of a sales focused book. Starting the day early allows you to tunnel your vision on tasks that will enhance your conversations and activities throughout the day.  If your calls begin at 8 am, start your work day at 7:30 am.  Notice I didn’t say start your day at 7:30 am as my assumption is that your day is starting somewhere around the 6 am hour if not earlier anyway.
  3. Prepare your call list the night before. Being able to start your day focused on making calls rather than preparing for them is another way to focus your attention on action-based tactics. Preparing a call list requires a different energy than making the calls themselves. Be sure when you’re making calls you’re focused on nothing but the calls themselves. Multitasking will be heard and felt by the receiver of the call and will most likely lead to poor outcomes.

Be confident in knowing that acting with tunnel vision will produce better results while multitasking only produces diluted results.  The power of focus will help you prioritize your tasks for the day by applying the most amount of energy and skill possible during those activities.

5 Ways to Improve Your Teleprospecting Results



Sure it’s 2014 but the phone is still a big part of making sales.  In light of the internet, social media, and digital content, many products and services still require human interaction with the sales process.  If you have a product or service that requires lead generation through the use of teleprospecting here are 5 ways to improve your teleprospecting results:

  1. Write out your script.  I didn’t say read from a script, I said write it out.  Knowing what you need to say is important.  Making sure you have the salient points identified prior to a prospect answering the call is critical to your success.  Select your words carefully.  Forget the “$7 dollar Scrabble words”.  Focus on delivering a simple, clear message without the typical sales jargon.
  2. Practice the script.  Record your voice as you walk through your script.  Do it over, and over, and over again until it begins to sound natural as opposed to a forced message.  Get a mirror and watch yourself as you speak your pitch.  Try it sitting down and then standing up.  Often times you’ll be surprised as how much more relaxed you sound when your standing up.  Your diaphragm is elongated and your breathing and oxygen flow is much more streamlined than when sitting.
  3. Use tone and inflection strategically.  End your very first sentence on a high.  Be conscious not to end sentences on down tones.  When your voice drifts it comes across as boredom, lacking energy, or worse just plain unhappy.  Remember, when you’re on the phone your voice is your suit.  Since you’re not in front of someone you can’t wow them with your $2,000 Armani suit.  Instead you must have a $2,000 Armani voice.
  4. Have a list of client testimonials handy.  Referencing key clients or partners within the territory you are calling adds credibility to you, your product and your company.  You can be as general or specific as you’d like but be sure you have names to back you up.  “I work with more than X number of businesses (brokers, accountants, bankers, etc) in Philadelphia.”  If the prospect decides to challenge or question who you work with be ready with names.
  5. Set goals for calling.  A rule of thumb is 100 dials a day for teleprospecting, or 15 dials per hour.  This requires having a list ready that has this number of prospects on it.  Close your email, shut off your cell phone and start dialing.  Eliminate all possible distractions…just call.

Focus on these steps and watch how your productivity increases by 25% a month.  It really works.