How To Sell With Integrity

How To Sell With Integrity

There is no doubt that integrity matters in business and sales.  To become a successful sales person, you must be trustworthy, honest and dependable.  In today’s transparent marketplace, salespeople who will do or say anything to earn a sale are a liability that is simply bad for business. 

For instance, in 2001 the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to George Akerlof, for revealing the specific factors that increase buyers’ perceptions of risk when making a purchasing decision.  One of these factors was a lack of integrity.  Akerlof explains, “Dishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market.  The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”[1]  In other words, sales people who have a lack of integrity hurt both buyers and sellers. 

There is no doubt the profession of sales has room for improvement in this area.  This was evident in a Gallup Poll that asked people to rate the level of integrity of various occupations.[2]  The following are the percentage of those surveyed who rated each group as having high levels of integrity: 

  • Nurses 83%
  • Medical Doctors 61%
  • Pharmacists 68%
  • College Teachers 59%
  • Police Officers 59%
  • Clergy 56%
  • Journalists 25%
  • Business Executives 18%
  • Lawyers 16%
  • Insurance sales person 12%
  • Car salesman 7%

Occasionally, I meet sales people who contend that to sell in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace they must compromise their integrity.  To them I say one thing:  get out.  The profession of sales has no place for anyone who is not willing to sell with full integrity.  What’s more, if someone feels he must compromise his integrity to get a sale, he clearly has deficient sales skills and needs to be trained how to sell.  The reality is that selling with integrity is the only way to sell because it will enable you to both sell more and have no regrets about the sales you make.

How can you consistently sell with integrity?  The key to keeping your integrity is to understand how it can be lost.  Rarely does this happen in a single poor decision.  Rather, integrity slips away slowly, one small compromise at a time.  However, this does not have to be the case.  Here are three strategies that will guide you in selling with integrity.

1.  Create A Don’t List

The best way to sell with integrity is to actively commit to it.  Think through and decide what you will and won’t do to get a sale.  This is important because without a firm commitment to refrain from unethical behavior, when faced with a questionable, yet financially lucrative opportunity, you will be more likely to yield to temptation.   Although, if you have already made a commitment regarding what you will do and will not do, then all you must do is live out that commitment, which research shows increases the likelihood you will.

Creating a don’t list involves thinking through and writing out the actions you will not engage in regardless of the circumstances or consequences.  For example, one sales person’s don’t list may include:

  • I will not lie
  • I will not exaggerate or distort the truth in any way
  • I will not cover up a mistake, but will own it and make it right
  • I will not steal time from my employer
  • I will not compromise what I believe to be right, regardless of the circumstances

The key is to decide what should be on your don’t list and then document it.  It is also recommended that you re-read it periodically to keep it fresh and at the forefront of your mind.  These pre-loaded decisions will help you fend off the temptation to compromise your integrity. 

2.  Be Authentic

A number of years ago a friend (we’ll call him Will) had begun working at a new job as a sales account manager. I visited him soon after he started his new position.  As we chatted, he informed me that he had developed a new sales technique.  This technique was based on the sales person who was in the office next to him, who was a top performer.  Will told me that he had begun copying the sales person’s speech patterns in the hope that he would experience similar success.  The sales person Will was mimicking was from a rural area and spoke like a good ol’ country boy, in a very slow, unassuming manner that included plenty of “ums” and long pauses.

Of course, I informed Will that pretending to speak like another sales person would not improve his sales, but would actually hinder them.  Buyers would sense that he was not being true to who he was, which would erode his credibility.  After I said this, Will confessed that thus far the technique had not produced any of the desired results.

Unfortunately, Will is not alone.  I have witnessed many sales people lie about enjoying certain activities, the age of their children, where their children go to school, what cars they drive and even their religious or political beliefs, all in an effort to earn favor with prospects and sell more.

Yet, buyers are savvy and when sales people pretend to be someone they aren’t, buyers will pick up on the lack of genuineness and this will breed feelings of distrust.  In contrast, there is something refreshing about blunt authenticity.  It naturally attracts people.  So I would encourage you to resolve to always be you.

3.  Have Congruency Between Your Words and Behaviors

One of the core ways that a lack of integrity is made evident is when a person’s words don’t match their behaviors.  When I think about this, I remember the Church Ladies.  Who were the church ladies?  Many years ago, when I was in high school I was a manager of the McDonalds restaurant in my town.  Every weekday at approximately 10 am a group of ladies would come into McDonalds.  They had just come from Mass and were deemed, “church ladies” by my staff.  Due to their extremely rude behavior these ladies were disliked by everyone who worked at McDonalds.  The cold reality was that though they may have gone to church nearly every day of the week, no one from McDonalds would have ever gone with them.  Why?  Because their behaviors did not match what they said they believed about kindness and treating others with respect. 

Selling with integrity means both following through with what you say and making sure your claims about your product or service are accurate.  In essence, it’s making sure that you live out your words.  This is not just the right thing to do, but it has also been proven to significantly boost revenue.  One study found that those companies who had managers who followed through on their promises and lived out the values they preached were more profitable than companies who had managers lacking in integrity.[3]  The study also identified that this, more than any other management behavior that was measured, had the most significant impact on company profitability. 

What is Success?

How do you define success in sales?  For me, success is not just measured by how much you sell, but also by how you sell.  That’s the thing about integrity, it’s not something that you can claim; you must demonstrate it to others every day.  By deploying the three strategies that I’ve shared you can improve the likelihood that you will exhibit integrity when you sell.  Because when it’s all said and done, integrity is one of those things that is remembered.  I can think of no higher compliment for a sales professional then for others to say that you sell a lot and sell with integrity. 

[1] George A. Akerlof.  “The Market for ‘Lemons’:  Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.”  The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 84, no. 3 (August, 1970).  p. 495.
[2] Saul Kassin, Steven Fein & Hazel Rose Markus.  Social Psychology:  7th Edition.  (Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth, 2008).  p. 194.
[3] Tony Simons, “The High Cost of Lost Trust,” Harvard Business Review, (September 2002).

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10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline

10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline

Technology has evolved, but has your approach to your sales pipeline? This list of 10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline includes modern approaches and shows you how to apply technology to update a few classics that never go out of style.

10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline

No matter your organization’s size or industry, the need for a robust pipeline is something every salesperson has in common. Sadly, most leads aren’t ready to close right away. That means building and maintaining a pipeline is vital. Nothing is worse than closing a string of deals… only to realize you’ve neglected the top of the funnel and there’s nothing left in the pipeline.

These 10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline will help jump-start the top of the funnel and be more effective as you work your way to the close.


1. Use LinkedIn for prospecting

LinkedIn has implemented a ton of changes recently that make it usable for more than just a job search. It’s become an excellent resource for networking and research. Use the ability to efficiently identify prospects by company, location, or industry to your advantage. According to LinkedIn, salespeople focused on new business who exceed quota perform 52% more people searches each month.

2. Look a level deeper when identifying decision makers

Once you identify your “in,” don’t be afraid to stalk explore the person’s profile for mutual connections, common universities, discussions they’ve participated in. These are all great conversation starters. At SalesLoft, we’ve made reaching out to your prospects even easier with our LinkedIn integration. We help you find mutual connections and provide timely insights about when your connections change companies or roles.

3. Ask for referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from personal and professional networks. Finding a common acquaintance is the quickest way to turn a cold call into a warm call. Seeing an acquaintance’s name on an email will improve that first open rate dramatically! In fact, referral leads convert 30% better than leads from other channels, and they have a 16% higher lifetime value (Hubspot).

10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline: don't be afraid to ask for referrals!

4. Slow your roll

Take time to have discovery calls with people within prospect organizations. Don’t try to pitch them – use the steps to the top as a way to learn. Take that intel, and use it to A) figure out the best way to address a pain point and B) get past the final gatekeeper.  By the time you get to the decision maker, you must know enough to give them insights into their own business.  With 77% of buyers saying that they won’t engage with a salesperson if they don’t do the homework giving them knowledge into their business, it’s practically an expectation (LinkedIn State of Sales Report, 2017).

5. Use the Google machine

If you search: “CEO of SalesLoft,” I guarantee you’ll come up with lots of information from interviews, articles, personal blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter handles, and more. It’s all fair game! Use this to learn what makes your prospect “tick.”

Pro tip: You’ll probably also get a corporate website in the search returns. You’d be surprised by the information that is in plain view on that About page. Even if you can’t find an email, you’ll likely find the naming scheme.

6. Build your personal brand

The internet makes it incredibly easy to get your name out there. Make sure you’re representing yourself in the best possible light. Google yourself and see what comes up. On social media, be sure to include a professional headshot in your social profiles, craft a well-written description of your role, share insightful content, and engage with your peers and prospects in a way that adds value to the discussion.

7. Be a thought leader

According to research from Bambu, 92% of B2B buyers use social media platforms specifically to engage with thought leaders in their industry. Start writing short articles to share on blogs or social media. Participate in discussion boards. If you position yourself as a reliable source of knowledge (read: not a pushy salesperson), people will pay attention and remember your name when they are looking for solutions.

10 Tips for Building a Strong Sales Pipeline: be a thought leader!

8. Write solid sales emails

Email open rates were as high as 85% to 95% in the early days of email. According to MailChimp, today it’s just above 20%. Improve your open rate by grabbing attention early. Here are a few ideas:

  • Try using a social proof in the subject line: “50,000 CMOs are improving their open rates with…”
  • Use a creative, personalized subject line. If you share an alma mater, you might write the following: “128 Days Until Yellow Jacket Football”
  • Keep it concise, conversational, and get to the point (see #9 below)

9. Make it easy to reply

Many leaders save time in their day with efficient emails. They typically responded with few words. Did anyone else read this Buzzfeed article on Mark Cuban’s notoriously terse email replies? He is known for responding right away, often with just one word. Make it even easier for leaders to do this by giving them options. What could be easier than only needing to reply with 1, 2, or 3?  Here’s an example:

Would you like to learn more about how to save time in your day with my insanely cool technology?

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Try me in 2 weeks

10. Be a consultant

Know your customers better than your competitors do. If your target feels you genuinely understand them and their needs and you can put forward a solution that reflects that, they’ll choose you over the competition… possibly even at a higher price point. Research backs this up. Nearly 64% of B2B buyers report that they appreciate hearing from a salesperson who provides knowledge or insight about their business. Use the research techniques above in combination with your initial conversations to create a better buyer experience and move prospects down the funnel.


Now that you have these new ideas, make sure you’re delivering the right message at the right time. At each stage of the buying process, your prospect has needs and wants. Beyond the content itself, consider frequency and method of contact. Creating a cadence with defined stages allows teams to almost effortlessly keep track of pipeline stages. Work smarter, not harder. In the end, it provides a better experience for your buyer (and you!).

For a real-world example, check out our case study exploring how an enterprise media company optimized cadences to achieve a 5x improvement in new business acquisition.

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THE TRIFECTA FACTOR – 3 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PROSPECTING

THE TRIFECTA FACTOR – 3 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PROSPECTING

How do you adapt your prospecting approach to your prospects?

You’ve got the basic contact information of a prospect…now what? Sure, you could shoot them off an email that you’ve sent to dozens of other prospects that week, or maybe you could give them a quick phone call to see if they’ve got time to chat. Both are great ways to check off the ‘initial contact’ box in your sales process, but neither option is likely to lead to a purposeful conversation or better yet, a sale.

What should you do, you ask? Make your contact count by using the Trifecta Factor – 3 factors to take into consideration when adapting to your prospect!

1.  Their Decision Making & Influencing Role

The first thing to consider when communicating with a prospect is their role. Are they the Final Authority, in a position to make purchasing decisions? Perhaps they’re the Advisor and give input and advice to the Final Authority, influencing the decision. If their role is a Coach, they’ll want you to succeed, put you in touch with the right people, and give you any relevant information that may help you along in the sales process. Finally, Users – as the name suggests, they’re the people who use your product or service.

It’s important to consider which of the four roles your prospect falls into before reaching out! Be Strategic, Be Proactive and Be Brave to reach out to prospects that are the Final Authority, whenever possible – as that is the person who will be able to say “yes” sooner to you! Their job title or LinkedIn profile can often help to figure this out.

2.  Their Personality Style

The next thing to do is determine your prospect’s personality style.

Drivers are people who cut to the chase and don’t like chit-chat. They want to know the most important facts, and ultimately how your solution will benefit them.

Analytical people are statistic and fact hungry! The more information, proof, charts and graphs you can provide, the better!

Expressives are the type of people who are looking to build a relationship and have great rapport. They’ll want to learn more about you, your weekend plans, and new or exciting things before jumping into business conversations.

Amiable people are likely to make decisions based on emotions. They often consider the feelings of others prior to making a decision.

3.  Their Generation

The generation of your prospect is the final factor of the Trifecta to consider.

If you are a Baby Boomer selling to a Millennial – what do you think the Millennial is thinking when they meet with you? Vice Versa – if you are a Millennial selling to a Baby Boomer what do you think their initial assumption would be? These varying viewpoints are exactly why you have to adapt to the preferences of your prospect.

A prospect’s generation often links to their preferred form of communication. For example, a Millennial or Gen Z often prefers a LinkedIn message or text, and may rarely check voicemails. For Baby Boomers, the preference is typically a phone call or email, and they are much more likely to listen to their voicemail messages. Some Traditionalists still even prefer the good old pen and paper letters.

Conforming to your prospect’s preference is a key to securing their business

Conforming to your prospect’s preference is a key to securing their business.CLICK TO TWEET

For additional tools to help you with your prospecting, check out our Tools & Templates page and download the 90-Day Prospecting Blitz Activity or our Great Questions Template to help you make the most of your meetings.

Got a challenge you’d like some help with? Schedule a complimentary meeting with me to see how I can help!

Author:

Lisa is driven by the mantra – Be Strategic. Be Pro-active. Be Brave. – and has been successfully training and coaching sales leaders and their teams to do the same for over 15 years. As the President of Teneo Results since 2003, she has trained thousands of sales professionals at more than 250 companies across North America. She transitions salespeople away from the standard “product & price” approach to having purposeful business conversations with their customers that drive results.

 

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The Perfect 3-Step Sales Process

The Perfect 3-Step Sales Process

Did you know that buyers rate 65% of salespeople as average or poor?

If you fall into that two-thirds majority of salespeople, you’ll find it difficult to build rapport with hard-to-impress buyers who hear from countless salespeople each week.

In fact, without a proven sales process, capturing and keeping the attention of a high-level prospect can be nearly impossible.

On the other hand, with even a simple 3-step sales process as your guide, you can connect with more prospects and close more sales than ever before.

Of course, you don’t just want to pull a 3-step sales process out of thin air.

I’ve personally worked with thousands of salespeople and found a proven method shared by the most successful salespeople across industries.

In this video and article, I’m going to share the perfect 3-step sales process that has worked time and time again and can help you close more sales—and bigger sales—than ever before.

 

The Power of a 3-Step Sales Process

The power of a 3 step sales process

Avoid distractions and stay on the path to sales success with a proven sales process.

I’ve met with top salespeople across a wide variety of industries, and I’ve found that high-performing salespeople share a lot in common.

One of the strongest commonalities among top salespeople is that they all use a consistent and predictable sales process.

In many cases, this is a simple 3-step sales process that is easy to remember and follow but works nearly every time.

On the other hand, average salespeople who are struggling to keep up are simply winging it.

Their process changes from one prospect to the next.

This disorganized approach takes more time and effort than a simple, proven process yet yields far less in profits!

We all need a 3-step sales process in order to excel; it keeps us focused and on track.

Plus, a 3-step sales process will ensure we give each prospect a stellar sales experience that leads them to invest in our product or service.

Read on to learn more about the perfect 3-step sales process I’ve seen lead countless salespeople to success in sales.

#1: Build connections of trust with prospects.

3 Step Sales Process - build connections of trust with prospects

Prospects buy from salespeople they feel they can trust.

In order for you to make a new sale, there must be a connection of trustBuilding that connection is the first step of the 3-step sales process.

This goes deeper than merely building rapport.

First, you need the prospect to feel that you’re similar to him or her.

Even your body language comes into play here—a whopping 81% of buyers prefer to talk to someone with their same mannerisms.

Mirror the body language you see in your prospect, then look for things to connect over that you have in common.

To put it simply, prospects must feel like they’re someone you truly relate to and understand.

Second, the prospect needs to feel that you care about their situation.

Ask questions about their deepest challenges, then practice active listening.

When prospects see that you’re working to build a solution to their biggest problems—rather than simply pushing a product or service on them—they’ll be more likely to listen to you, trust you, and ultimately buy from you.

Once you’ve accomplished that, then you’ve created true connection of trust with the prospect, and you’re ready to move on to the second step in the 3-step sales process.

#2: Learn to disqualify prospects.

3 Step Sales Process-learn to disqualify prospects

Disqualifying prospects boosts your value and frees up your time to close more deals.

Now, this is probably language that you’re not used to hearing in a selling situation, but you have to learn to disqualify prospects.

The second step in the 3-step sales process may sound counterintuitive but it will save you a lot of time and really help you crush your sales goals.

My challenge to you is to stop chasing around prospects with a fancy sales pitch; they just don’t care.

Instead, start asking truly value-based questions to learn about their key challenges and goals.

For instance, try asking, “What is the most important objective that you would like to accomplish this year?” or “What are some of the biggest challenges that you’re consistently facing?”

If their answers reveal that they either aren’t facing or aren’t prioritizing the problems you’re equipped to solve, then they’re not a fit.

Instead of wasting your time trying to make them a fit—only to walk away without a sale—disqualify them on the front end.

By being willing to actually disqualify anyone who’s not a fit, you’re ultimately putting yourself into a position of being the selector.

It’s amazing how prospects will respond to this.

 When you begin signaling to a prospect that they may not be a fit, it’s going to raise your value in their eyes and also lead them to trust you more.

If they start to see you as more valuable, they may even encourage you to stick it out with them.

If that’s the case, you’re ready to move on to the final step of the 3-step sales process.

If not, you’ve now freed up your time to move on to a well-qualified prospect and start the 3-step sales process over again.

#3: Give a case study presentation.

3 Step Sales Process- give a case study presentation

Features and benefits presentations are outdated and dull. Modernize your approach to close more sales.

Canned presentations simply don’t get it done anymore.

If you’re giving the same features and benefits presentation to every prospect, then your sales meetings will be about as engaging as reading a high school textbook.

Case study presentations, on the other hand, keep prospects interested by telling a story of how you’ve already solved the problems they’re facing with other customers.

Set yourself apart from the competition by catering your presentation to the prospect.

Share examples of how you’ve helped other clients in similar situations accomplish their goals.

Have a few different examples ready to share, and when it comes time to actually present your solution, present only to the prospect’s challenges—nothing more.

This final step in the 3-step sales process will set you up to close more sales; all that will be left to do is write a proposal and get them to sign on the dotted line!

Conclusion: Crush Sales Goals with a 3-Step Sales Process

3 Step Sales Process- conclusion: crush sales goals with a 3- step sales process

Follow a proven 3-step sales process to close more sales and bigger sales.

There are two basic ways to crush your sales goals—by closing more sales and by closing bigger sales.

A proven 3-step sales process can help you do both.

By having a blueprint to follow, you’ll stay on track with each prospect to close more deals.

You’ll also earn the trust of highly qualified prospects at big companies and ultimately close bigger sales.

The first step of a perfect 3-step sales process is to establish a true connection of trust with prospects.

Mirror body language and work to figure out what you have in common with prospects.

It’s also important to ask thoughtful questions and really listen until you understand what’s going on in the prospect’s world.

Prospects can tell when you’re faking interest or empathy, but if you really care about helping them solve their biggest problems, your authenticity will shine through and help you earn their trust.

Once you establish that trust, you are ready for the second step of the 3-step sales process—qualifying the prospect.

Rather than trying to sell your product or service to anyone and everyone, be willing to disqualify someone who’s a bad fit.

Prospects will begin to see you as a trusted expert, and you’ll also stop wasting time on bad fits who are only going to throw a bunch of objections at you when you get to the close.

If a prospect is qualified for what you have to offer, you’re ready to move onto the final step of the 3-step sales process.

A case study presentation is crucial if you want to engage prospects and close sales.

Quality prospects hear canned, one-size-fits-all presentations all the time.

If you can cater your presentation to their needs and tell a story of how you’ve solved the problems they’re facing for other customers, you’ll stand out from the crowd and close more sales.

The Perfect 3-Step Sales Process

This 3-step sales process may sound simple, but it works.

Superstar salespeople use it over and over to crush their sales goals and rise to the top of their industry.

So now you know the perfect 3-step sales process to generate an enormous increase in your sales and closing ratios.

Which of these three steps did you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comments section, and I’ll respond to every comment I possibly can.

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Seven Strategies For Handling Difficult Questions – What To Say When You Don’t Know The Answer

Seven Strategies For Handling Difficult Questions – What To Say When You Don’t Know The Answer

 

Honesty is the only policy when presenting to a group. However, blatantly admitting, “I don’t know”, in response to a direct question from an audience member can be disastrous. The solution is to be honest and maintain credibility at the same time. No one can know the answer to every question. It’s how the inevitable situation is handled that separates great presenters from amateurs. Study the following seven strategies and keep them in your back pocket so that you can field even the toughest questions with confidence.

1. Reflection
Repeat the question and toss it back to your audience, “Does anyone here have any experience with that?” When you allow the audience to help you, they will save you without ever realizing it. In fact, the audience will revere you because adults love to be involved and share their knowledge. After you have fielded all of the contributions, be sure to summarize and add your own ideas if any have been sparked by the interaction. Summarizing at the end helps you to maintain control and authority. Always repeat questions before answering for the same reasons.

2. I’ll Get Back to You
This is an old standard and it works well if you do three things. First, write the question down. Be conspicuous. Make sure everyone knows you are writing the question down. I go so far as to tell the audience, “I am writing this question down.” Second, tell the questioner exactly when you will get back to them. Be honest. Then do it. Can you get back to them by the end of the day? If it is an all-day program, can you get back to them after lunch? Third, be sure to get the questioner’s contact information if you don’t have it. All of these things make this strategy very powerful. It is not smoke and mirrors. It is an opportunity to go the extra mile, expand your knowledge, and impress your audience.

3. Defer to the Expert
This is a more sophisticated version of the Reflection technique. Sometimes a question is legitimately outside of your area of expertise. You may be a marketing expert and someone asks a question about the engineering aspects of a product. This is a question that requires an engineer. If there is an engineer in the room you could say, “Sally, you’re an engineer. Do you have any insights into that?” If there are no engineers in the room, state that you will confer with an engineer and get back to them. Notice I have just combined two techniques.

4. Compliment the Questioner
For this to be effective, the compliment must be sincere. Sometimes I get lulled into thinking I have seen and heard it all on a particular topic. It never fails though, someone comes out of left field with a question I have never thought of and I say, “That’s a great question. I’ve never thought about it that way. Does anyone here have any ideas on that?” (I have just combined two techniques.) When I use this strategy it is usually not a conscious decision. It’s a reaction. That’s how sincere it needs to sound. It always works when it’s sincere because audience’s love to be complimented. I might also combine this technique with I’ll Get Back to You.

5. Answer a Question with a Question
Sometimes questions are too narrow or too general to answer. Reserve the right, as the expert, to open a question up or close it down by asking a question in response. Once upon a time I was a software trainer. One day a woman asked me a very specific question, “What does that button do?” I had no idea, but I didn’t confess, “I don’t know.” Instead I asked her a question, “What is your goal in pushing that button?” She elaborated for me and explained what she wanted to accomplish. I knew a way to help her and it didn’t involve pushing that button. She was happy. I was honest, credible, helpful, and very happy.

6. Parallel Answer
If you don’t know the bull’s eye answer to a question, offer what you do know quickly to demonstrate some credibility and then combine with a previous technique. When I was a software trainer I used to be an expert in the Lotus spreadsheet package. However Microsoft’s Excel began to gain popularity and I had to learn it so I could teach it. In the beginning I was on a learning curve. Sometimes I would be asked a question about Excel that I didn’t know the answer to, however I did know the answer in Lotus. Quickly I would say, “I know that is possible in Lotus. I’m not sure if that is available in Excel. I’m writing this question down. I’ll research it at the break and get back to you.” Refrain from droning on and on about your parallel knowledge. Brevity is the key to this technique.

7. Set the Rules
You can avoid many difficult questions simply by setting rules for questions in the beginning. Whenever you present to a group, you are the leader. You are accountable for everything, so lead. My experience is that if you set rules and follow them, the audience respects you. If you make rules up as you go along, you lose credibility.

The number of rules you set will vary depending on the topic. When I taught technical subjects, I set lots of rules because I knew the questions would be many and varied. I would start a software seminar by saying, “I welcome general questions at any time about anything on the agenda. If you have a specific question about a project you are working on or a subject outside of the agenda, please see me at a break for a private consultation. Because we have limited time together, I reserve the right to stop taking questions and comments. This is not personal. It is to make certain we cover every topic today.”

Summary
You can’t know the answer to everything. It’s how you handle yourself. Study these seven strategies and use them to maintain credibility and confidence.

Author:

ProEdge Skills, Inc.

About Mary Sandro

Mary Sandro helps organizations deliver exceptional customer service and standout presentations. In 1994 she founded ProEdge Skills, Inc. to deliver engaging training programs, videos, coaching, and train-the-trainer licenses that empower employees to achieve goals. Learn more at www.ProEdgeSkills.com or call 800-731-0601.

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14 Lessons Learned in Sales the Hard Way

14 Lessons Learned in Sales the Hard Way

Jamie-Shanks-if-i-were-22

Like most sales professionals, I wish I had a Delorean and could crank it up to 88 MPH, just to go back in time, to make better decisions.  I am proud of the fact that I’ve learnt many hard lessons only once, and I’ve used these mistakes to propel my career.

When asked to write “what I wish I knew when I was 22”… I thought I would take a different spin.  There are mistakes, miscalculations and maturation growth that’s been needed each year I’ve been a sales professional.

I want to share the oversights I’ve had at each turn… hoping you don’t make the same mistakes:

22 Years Old = Treating sales as a job, not a career

I was working as a stock broker straight out of University.  I didn’t understand the “10,000 hours” rule AT ALL, as I’d been in sales for a hot minute, and treated sales like it was an occasional hobby.  I thought sales was a job that you just do.  I had no idea that sales is a lifestyle, culture and needs to be part of your DNA.

23 Years Old = If you wake up wishing you were sick to skip work, QUIT YOUR JOB!

It took me another year to figure this out, but I really, really didn’t enjoy my job then.  The stock market collapsed (2001) and I wasn’t going to be a stock broker.  I literally wished each night I could break my arm, or have the flu… so I could skip work.  Lesson learned – DON’T do anything you’re not excited about doing!

24 Years Old = Not building a rock solid network!

I remember my mom would say “it’s not what you know, but who you know”.  In 2014, with the skyrocketing of Social Networking, that’s one of the truest statements ever.  So in 2002, I left to Adelaide, Australia to do my MBA.  It was an amazing 2 years!  But what I learnt by doing an International MBA, and returning to Canada… your social network is key to opportunities.  When I got back to Canada, I had no business network.  Doing my MBA in North America could/would have built me a stronger network.

25 Years Old = Don’t take a job just because they dangle something shiny in front of you

I came back to Canada $60,000 in debt.  I needed a job in the worst way.  The mistake I made was being a cat on a string.  I flipped 4 jobs in 10 months, trying to chase the shiny thing that would pay off my debt the fastest.  I should have landed an opportunity and sunk my teeth into it.  Any territory sales rep will tell you it takes 6 months to dig gold out of their territory.

26 Years Old = Work smarter, not harder

By this time, I landed at a corporate real estate company on 100% commission.  I would work 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, and come in on the weekends as well.  I worked harder than anyone, and it made me my first $100,000+ job at an early age.  But, I look back and know I could have made the same money working smarter, and 50% the effort.  I had no plan, didn’t understand time management, ideal client mix, pipeline management, basically anything about sales.  All I knew is that I worked harder than anyone, and I was exceptional at lead generation (winning at the volume game).  I used brute force, not intelligence.

27 Years Old = Not trusting your instincts

I had started to develop a reputation at the corporate real estate company as both a grinder, lead generation machine, and “garbage man”.  I would work any account for both the experience and any potential pay-out.  I began writing business plans to optimize the ROI.  The plan was to form teams within the company that would segment roles (lead generation, account management, negotiation).  While I would take less % of each deal, I could spend 10 hours a day driving leads, rather than 2.  This plan was rejected, and I was demoralized.  It led to me leaving the company… even after constant successful use cases.  Ironically, the company moved to this model years later.

28 Years Old = Don’t chance the shiny things… again!

How could I resist.  A start up tech company offered me a $100,000 base salary + commission opportunity to build their business.  Apparently I didn’t learn from before… you’ll forget about your paycheck quickly if you don’t love your career.  To over compensate, I bought a 2004 Jaguar S-Type 4.2, which was SUPER DUMB at $900/month!

29 Years Old = Don’t be afraid to make a career change if you’re not passionate about the business

I can’t believe I stuck around for 1.5 years, just to pad my bank account.  Don’t do anything you don’t love; life is too short.  If your alarm clock goes off, and you dread going to work… do something else.  The best advice I can give an entrepreneur is “if you’re willing to make 50% less than your salaried job, and still be completely satisfied, then become a business owner.”  Expect you’re doing this NOT for the money.

30 Years Old = 3 is a crowd

I had a hair brained idea.  I created Canada’s first zero-emissions landscaping company.  My success = 200+ accounts generated in the first 2 months of operations.  My failure = adding 2 partners (they were best friends of each other, not me) into the company.  I didn’t understand the technology, so I brought on one partner, than stipulated we bring his friend as well.  3 decision-makers, where you’re almost guaranteed to lose every agreement is just a silly business model to be in.  I sold my shares at a loss after 1 year… not a great start to the entrepreneurial world.

31 Years Old = Not seeing my true value an potential

I was now a Director of Sales at a fast growing software company.  We were pioneering Sales 2.0 in Canada, testing ever technology imaginable, and driving an unbelievable lead flow.  But the CEO would call me a “Demo Do’er”, just a chess piece… and I hated it.  While yet again I was making great money, I didn’t know my real potential.  I became amazing at my job, but my limitation was lack of attention spent on learning everything about sales… not just how to do my job.  Treat sales like an investment, because I wish I had when I was 31.

32 Years Old = Don’t jump into anything without a plan

January 1st, 2010 I left my job as a Director of Sales, to become a “sales consultant”.  Problem, I had saved 1 months’ pay, and had no plan of attack.  I had landed my first client months before, but I had no plan after that client.  Pure stupidity… and it almost bankrupted me by the time I was 33.

33 Years Old = Don’t jump into partnerships just because you’re afraid to go alone

I’ve only had partners as an entrepreneur.  3 failed, 1 successful.  What I learnt about myself was that I’m a little nervous to go at a venture alone – but that doesn’t mean partnering, just to partner.  My partnerships failed because I partnered out of necessity or circumstance, not necessarily passionate, vision and purpose.

34 Years Old = Pivot sooner, don’t worry about Pivots

It wasn’t until the end of 2011 did I realize my calling to help sales professionals with Social Selling.  A big regret of mine was not moving in that direction 12 months earlier!

35 Years Old = Don’t be afraid of your pricing

Because we invested most of the original Social Selling curriculum from scratch, we really didn’t believe in our value at first.  I was constantly afraid that someone would turn to me at the boardroom table an call “MALARKY”!  That lack of confidence, coupled with no formal training in negotiating, had me doing haircut deals just to land new clients.  My regret was not believing sooner that we had created something revolutionary.

Author:

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Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks

Focused on fixing sales-generated pipeline globally | #1 Pipeline Creation System in the world | Managing Partner @ Sales for Life

 

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How to Reinforce Sales Training and Maximize Your ROI: 6 Tips for Success

How to Reinforce Sales Training and Maximize Your ROI: 6 Tips for Success

Many organizations invest a hefty portion of their budget in training the sales force. While it’s a worthwhile investment to improve your team’s performance, it’s critical that you take the necessary steps to maximize the return on your sales training dollars.

Without effective reinforcement, you risk implementing training that’s viewed as the “flavor of the month” — something that your team engages with but fails to apply to their ongoing routines. To create permanent behavior change and protect your sales training investment, be sure that you’re following your training with a high-quality reinforcement program.

Sales training introduces new techniques and skills. A sales training reinforcement program gives your sales reps the structure to implement, practice and strengthen those techniques and skills on the job — preferably with guidance from an expert sales coach.

Sales training reinforcement helps reps translate their training from the classroom to the real world and convert their new knowledge into well-honed skills, long-lasting habits and effective behaviors. To permanently shift the performance of your sales team and maximize your training investment, use the following six steps to design, implement and optimize a sales training reinforcement program.

1. Strategically Develop Your Reinforcement Structure

The forgetting curve shows us that learners typically forget new knowledge within days or weeks of training — unless they consciously review the material. Give your sales training the best chance to succeed by planning reinforcement ahead of time.

An ideal reinforcement structure includes regular opportunities for salespeople to review key concepts during sessions with their coaches, either virtually or in person. In addition, there should be opportunities for reps to practice skills with a customer or prospect, with access to the coach to answer questions and assist with any challenges that arise.

This active learning approach cements new skills and turns them into habits. Communicate to participants that the follow-up is a mandatory part of their training. In most cases, sales reps will enjoy post-training coaching, as it allows them to practice applying their new skills with real accounts — and to see firsthand the success that it brings.

2. Prioritize New Capabilities for Reinforcement

People typically learn best when they can focus on a few key items rather than trying to retain everything all at once. Organize your reinforcement program to focus on one or two key skills at a time so that reps can master them. You should also identify lower-tier capabilities to reinforce when learners have mastered the high-priority capabilities. This approach helps ensure that all of your salespeople continue to improve, regardless of their current level of performance.

Reinforcement technology can help you measure the progress your reps are making and provide insight into areas that coaches need to focus their attention on.

3. Enlist Expert Sales Coaches With Real Selling Experience

A good sales coach can make an enormous difference in the success of your sales training reinforcement program. The person coaching your sales team should not only be highly skilled at coaching but also have real industry experience to draw from. Your salespeople must trust their coach and his or her advice, and they’ll quickly be able to tell whether a trainer or coach has real selling experience or not.

To be most effective, sales coaches should meet the following requirements:

  • Closely understand your sales strategy and business objectives.
  • Understand adult learning best practices that increase knowledge retention and help salespeople take ownership of new skills.
  • Be highly educated in the sales process you teach.
  • Be familiar and comfortable with the sales enablement tools that will make reinforcement successful.

4. Train and Enable Your Frontline Managers

After you deliver your training and reinforcement programs, your sales managers will be the primary source of direction and leadership for your sales reps. Setting them up for success sets the entire team up for success, yet many organizations fail to adequately invest in this step.

Sales management training is critical to give your sales managers and leaders the coaching and reinforcement skills they need to be a resource and guide for your salespeople. Your managers need a practical coaching system and a framework for keeping the new selling skills alive inside your team, so be sure to provide them with the appropriate training and resources.

5. Establish and Maintain a Consistent Reinforcement Cadence

Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight. On average, it takes 66 days (approximately two months) for a new skill to become a habit. This means you must expect to reinforce new skills consistently for six to eight weeks — ideally beginning right after training — at a cadence that is appropriate for the material and your sales team’s existing capabilities and knowledge. Without a dedicated cadence, reinforcement tends to erode over time, leaving salespeople to rubber-band back to old habits.

Regular reinforcement check-ins and skill refreshers help make skills learned in training the “new normal” for your sales team. Your documented cadence should include:

  • The frequency of reinforcement sessions. (Holding sessions on the same day each week improves attendance and accountability.)
  • The length of reinforcement sessions (ideally no more than an hour, to prevent loss of interest).
  • The material covered in reinforcement sessions.
  • The structure of reinforcement sessions.
  • The frequency and structure of individual coaching and other forms of reinforcement.

6. Measure and Track Success

A strong, strategic training and reinforcement system is one of the most effective ways to improve your sales organization’s performance in the long term. Reinforcement is key to maximizing the return on investment in training, and it’s important to measure and track success at various intervals along the way.

Effective sales enablement tools can give coaches and stakeholders insight into how each participant is progressing. This information reveals challenge areas that need more attention and helps to develop ongoing coaching plans for the future. In addition, consider measuring your ROI by evaluating critical success markers, including:

  • Additional sales that reps attribute to training.
  • Increase in sales volume as a result of training and reinforcement.
  • Increase in average sales amount.
  • Improved performance compared to quota.
  • Changes in the length of sales cycles.
  • Specific sales behaviors, activities and key performance indicators that yield the largest changes in results.

To maximize the return on your investment and give your sales enablement project the best chance of success, you should follow up with a quality coaching and reinforcement system. When choosing a training partner, look for one that provides best-in-class reinforcement tools and systems to help you build on the momentum of the training and solidify new behaviors. Doing so will maximize your ROI and make your short- and long-term goals easier to reach.

Author:

Training Industry

Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is the vice president of learning services at The Brooks Group, a corporate sales training and sales management training company helping organizations build top-performing sales teams. In her role, Michelle leads the strategy, design and delivery of training and assessment solutions to support clients in their talent development needs.

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12 Direct Sales Techniques to Sell Pretty Much Anything

12 Direct Sales Techniques to Sell Pretty Much Anything

If someone can sell even the most unremarkable of items, we call that great salesmanship. But direct sales virtuosity lies not in making people buy something they don’t need. It lies in making them feel their decision is right. Persuasion, not manipulation.

The ordinary pen is a popularly illustrated example. A pen doesn’t have to look special, it doesn’t require extraordinary features. It overall doesn’t have to do much but write. Hence, a pen is hard to pitch.

I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell
I am a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a well

Jay-Z

Anyone who makes that sale, though, most certainly came well-prepared . Here are some direct sales techniques to sell pretty much anything.

1

FAB (features – advantages – benefits)

The famous FAB technique consists of three consecutive steps that give a clear structure to sales talks. First you name features, attributes of your company or product. Then come advantages, what the feature actually does, then benefits, the positive impacts of that for the customer.

This technique addresses a common mistake among salespeople. Being too convinced that features automatically translate to benefits for the customer.

They disregard the customer’s individual needs and overestimate their knowledge of the product offered. They end up presenting product attributes explaining the positive implications for their prospects. Who then think “Great! Now why would I need that?”

An example of the FAB technique in action. Naming features of our own live chat software could sound like this:

1. “Our software is optimized for mobile.”

This feature description sounds nice but doesn’t target a customer’s problem nor offer a fix. It doesn’t incite to make a purchase. Thus, the FAB suggests to continue with advantages :

2. “Many of your customers are mobile when they enter your site. Serve them through a mobile-optimized chat window.”

Finally, explain how that advantage benefits your prospects:

3. “Offering your customers support wherever they are and whatever device they use will boost your sales.”

Sticking to the FAB structure will prevent you from empty feature bragging and make your product more comprehensible for your customers. They’ll receive a solid reason to buy.

2

The “I’m on your side” technique

With this technique out of Robert Cialdini’s Influence you pretend to team up with the customer against your own company.

In Cialdini’s example, the salesperson tells the customer he would like to make a deal for her, but that he has to convince his boss first. So, he puts the customer on hold for some minutes, while ostensibly talking to his superior in another room. Then he returns, worn out but happy to have sealed a deal for the customer. The assumed fraternization with the salesperson makes the customer trust the salesperson – a fertile ground for future sales.

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Of course, you don’t have to be in the same physical place as the customer, of course. Whether you’re on the phone or in live chat, you can create the impression of being on the customer’s side.

3

The favor upfront

The concept of reciprocity describes our intrinsic tendency to return in kind favors we receive by other people. This tendency remains fascinatingly stable, even when the favors are of rather symbolic value or of no real use.

Indeed, many experiments have shown how powerful a seemingly altruistic favor was in making the receiver want to return it. Free coke cans mints or christmas cards all reliably activated reciprocity.

As the donation-seeking letter by a health care foundation showed over the course of a decade , the system even works when a transaction between two parties is later reframed as a favor of one of them.

So, to leverage reciprocity, start your sales talk with a favor. Think of the countless things that can force a smile on your own face and you get an idea how versatile this technique is. Free samples, other gifts, or exceptional content made with dedication, like that of the SEO wizards of Moz , are sure-fire methods

We despise no source that can pay us a pleasing attention.

Mark Twain

But as social psychologist Naomi K. Grant and her team proved in a 2010 study , the non-material compliment ensures compliance by the complimented through increased liking. So, also consider dropping a few nice words in a sales conversation.

4

The because justification

As the Xerox machine line experiment by psychologist Ellen Langer showed , the likelihood of a favor being granted is dramatically increased if a reason for the request is given. Langer found that even silly reasons, like “because I need to print”, work as solid justification to be allowed to cut the line.

So, when dealing with a lead, justify your request with the open sesame word “because”. This will get you to the first base, from which you can follow up with the next direct sales technique.

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For instance, imagine you’re reaching out to a prospect who’s likely never heard of you to sell them your software. Your first base would be getting the opportunity to introduce your product. Request that opportunity with a justification: “I think you’ll be very interested in hearing about our software, because we have many of your competitors as customers.” or “I’d like to introduce you to our product in detail because we are running a special deal until tomorrow that you could benefit from.”

Among because justifications, scarcity is one of the mightiest. If you’ve been wondering why your local carpet store has been running their ‘final’ clearance sale for years on end, yet never actually went bust, read this post by Nir Eyal . Customers will be more tempted to buy your product if they believe the availability is or could be going down.

Still, don’t grab the sledgehammer by saying that you’re on the absolute last item. Rather casually mention how your stock will probably run dry or bring up the interest of another customer. Play on the scarcity principle in a subtle manner.

5

Gather – respond – deliver – close

This four-step technique introduced by abovementioned Ian Adams focuses on using information to navigate through any sales talk:

  1. Gather information
  2. Respond to information
  3. Deliver information
  4. Ask for something, the closing

Employed on the pen example in a more general way, Adams holistic four-step approach looks like this:

  1. Find out how they last used a pen (gather info)
  2. Emphasize the importance of the activity they last used a pen (respond to info)
  3. Sell something bigger than a pen, like a state of mind (deliver info)
  4. Ask for the buy (closing)
6

Questioning the status quo

Look at this technique as a sibling to the because justification. It’s ideal when you lack information about your counterpart and seek to reach a first common ground with them. Thereby, it protects you from the darkest spell uninterested buyers cast on salespeople: “Nah, I’m good.”

The because justification suggests dropping just any reason for asking for a favor. Questioning the status quo is a sharper blade and consequently requires special care. Your reason for offering a product is that the prospect’s current situation needs fixing.

 

Wouldn’t you say signing those new customer contracts is an important event for the business? ( nods head ) Then shouldn’t it be treated like one. What I mean by that is, here you are signing new customer contracts, an important and memorable event. All while using a very unmemorable pen.

If you take another look at Ian Adams’ pen selling example (above), you’ll find that he did exactly that. First, he uses a highly agreeable, in fact nearly irrefutable statement to create agreement on his prospect’s side: of course signing customer contracts is an important event.

His prospect probably used to successfully sign such contracts with normal pens. In fact, he could put his name on contracts with pretty much any pen and never care about the item in his hand.

But Adams came up with an issue that requires a fix, by questioning the status quo: memorable events, like signing a customer contract, require a memorable pen, not just any pen. As it happens, Adams has such a memorable pen on him at that very moment – and it’s up for sale.

7

The “but you are free” (BYAF) technique

Backed up by 42 psychological studies with a total of more than 22,000 participants , this technique lacks no validation. In his blog post , Jeremy Dean described it as “the one (really easy) persuasion technique everyone should know”.

Of course this post would be pointless if I’d agree with that. But I do think it has some huge benefits, like its simplicity and subtlety.

To gain compliance with the customer, the BYAF suggests, finish your sales pitch by reminding them of their freedom of choice.

The BYAF technique is so effective because it makes the receiver feel like she’s not persuaded but given additional information for making a sovereign decision. A rare occurrence in sales talks.

Ian Adams, after handing over the pen to sell to his prospect, says: “Try it out. If you’re not happy with it, I will personally come back next week to pick it up. And it won’t cost you a dime.” In this example, Adams’ “if you’re not happy, you can easily step back” is the BYAF technique at work. The customer now knows that he can make the final call.

Interestingly, throughout the studies, the researchers found the exact phrasing to be rather irrelevant. Anything from “but it’s your choice of course” to “it’s your call” or “if you’re not happy, you can of course return the item free of charge” should work.

8

Low-balling

The low-balling technique, famously reproduced by Robert Cialdini , consists of two main steps when applied in a sales setting:

  1. Offering a product for a hot price below the actually intended one
  2. Subsequently raising the charge.

The psychological concept at work here is that of commitment . You reach loose agreement over the low price first, then follow-up with the actual higher quotation. Once the appealing idea of the great deal and owning the product has settled in the buyer’s mind, the higher price is more likely accepted as well. They just can’t shake the auspicious feelings induced by your initial price.

Imagine you got a freshly maintained JEEP at hand that easily goes for $7,000 on the market. You meet with a potential buyer and, despite the car’s actual value, offer it to him for $6,000. The guy is a little puzzled but happy to make a serious bargain considering the great condition of the vehicle. You agree to meet the next day for signing the contract.

When you meet again, though, your offer is $7,000. You explain the higher price with the vehicle’s great condition and a heated market, perhaps with saying that a friend just sold the same car for no less than eight grand. After thinking on it for some minutes, the prospect finally exhales and accepts, teeth-gnashingly.

The first offer is no more than your hook to make buyers think they’re grabbing a bargain. It should not, however, make them believe you’re unaware of the product’s value or that there is some catch on it. Your entry level price should therefore be very attractive, yet not ridiculously low. In order for the low-ball to be effective, the buyer must not entertain suspicion.

The second offer should not be too high either, otherwise it will hit the buyer like a sucker punch and ruin your deal. Trivializing the additional money to be spent is a good way to prevent this. Also, of course, don’t use this technique to rip people off, but to reach a fair market-value price.

9

The door-in-the-face technique

This direct selling technique follows the same systematics as the low-ball, only here they’re inverted. Another study by Cialdini found that if people first refuse an extreme initial request, they are more likely to comply with a smaller subsequent request.

His findings are instructive for any direct sales context. First, set the price for your product or service so high that you force your prospect to decline. Then come back with a lower price that inevitably seems super legit in the light of your previous demand.

The idea behind that is the principle of making a concession, Cialdini describes this in Influence as well. If you make a concession, the other party feels obliged to do the same. You’ll often encounter this system in face to face situations on bazaars of the Orient and markets throughout South East Asia. It also works via phone. But when direct feedback options are limited, you’ll risk losing the customer more easily.

10

The foot-in-the-door technique

Did you know that if you want to borrow your new neighbor’s car, you better ask her to lend you her bike on a previous occasion? The foot-in-the-door technique suggests exactly that.

Another technique similar to the low-ball, it consists of making a low initial request and then following up with a larger one. The difference is that here the first request is not to be rejected and replaced, but much rather paves the way for them by being accepted.

The same works for selling. You place your foot in the door with an attractive first price. Then you widen the door crack inch by inch with higher requests of comparable nature. This is a particularly effective technique for upselling.

It was first proven effective by Freedman and Fraser in 1966 and plays into our urge to be consistent with previous behavior and opinion. Higher second and third requests are accepted because – and as long as – they are similar in kind to the one before.

11

SPIN selling

Before turning it into a book , consultant Neil Rackham based this technique on the results of his analysis of over 35,000 sales calls in the 1980s. It suggested that sales pitches are successful when the customer talks while the seller listens intently, following up with questions of these four types:

  • ituation: Attempt to establish a common understanding of circumstances and background information, searching leverage points for relevant more in depth-questions.
  • roblem: Question to center in on the prospect’s implied issues, troubles and dissatisfactions.
  • mplication: Question about the consequences and impact of the issue.
  • eed-payoff: Question asking about the need for a solution and the potential value of making the problem going away.

Using these questions as stages to progress on, the seller creates comfort on the prospect’s side, making him gradually open up and unveil his needs. Only after moving through all stages, the own product is introduced as a solution.

Profitworks has summarized this technique comprehensively on their blog with example question for each stage of the sales talk.

12

The referral technique

Sometimes people simply refuse to buy. Instead of dropping prices and walking away without profit, experienced salesmen will often use the customer’s natural tendency for making a concession. Instead of asking the customer to buy, they ask him for the second best thing: a referral. The contact details of friends who might be interested in the product are especially valuable for future sales.

When in talks with the next prospect, drop the friend’s name who referred you to them. “Jim told me you might be interested”. This creates proximity and gains you trust. From here on, making a sale will be much easier.


This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, Userlike earns from qualifying purchases. We donate all of these proceeds to our non-profit cause, the Atefa Girl’s School .

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How to Reassess Your Sales Opportunities

How to Reassess Your Sales Opportunities

As the first quarter of 2020 ended, sales pipelines began to deteriorate. Deals that were on their way to closing began to fall apart. Customer budgets decreased.

This upheaval is prompting many sales professionals to reaffirm the sale with the customer. The most effective sales professionals, however, are doing something different. They are reassessing the sale with the customer.

Rather than merely restating the effectiveness of the product or service, they are reexamining the customer’s changing needs. They are redesigning their pipelines with opportunities that address these new circumstances. Doing so requires considering the factors underpinning changes to the customer’s goals and challenges.

The effectiveness relies on the sales professional’s ability to apply questions in a way that addresses new and more challenging circumstances. The factors represent a repeatable framework that sales professionals can use to revisit the opportunities in their pipeline.

With these questions, sales professionals will be able to:

  1. Determine how well the opportunity is positioned for a win
  2. Identify any gaps preventing forward progress
  3. Target the most important customer information early in the pursuit

These three capabilities all serve one key goal: to focus the right skills on the right sales opportunities so that more of the sales professional’s efforts yield results.

A Structured Approach to Understanding the Customer’s Changed World

Here, we list six factors sales professionals must consider when reassessing the sale with their customers. While these factors serve the sales professional in a normal business setting, they have become even more important in our current environment.

1.     Pain

Many sales opportunities arise from a pain point within the customer’s world. This pain can be a missed opportunity, difficulty navigating an industry change, or an emerging competitive threat. While the list of possible challenges is limitless, they all connect to one of three base needs: to earn more money, to save money, or to manage risk. In the changed environment of today, sales professionals need to reconfirm their understanding of the customer’s pain because it has changed for most. Goals like increasing revenue have become goals like preserve revenue.

Without revisiting this topic with customers, the sales professional risks delivering a value proposition that addresses outdated needs and, in some cases, outdated business models. Sales professionals and stakeholders must work from a shared definition of the core challenge.

2.     Power

Here, power refers to the stakeholders who are authorized to make a purchasing decision. Sales professionals need to ensure that they are accessing this group and positioning the solution in a way that resonates with the decision makers. This approach becomes more challenging in a stagnant or shrinking economy in which budgets decrease and purchasing power consolidates within a smaller number of individuals. In this setting, budget authority often moves up the organizational chart. Therefore, sales professionals must seek new relationships with leaders who may not have been part of the original conversation. Moreover, sales professionals may need to overcome objections to a new set of stakeholders seeking to pause or cancel existing deals.

The sales professional may not be able to depend on their existing contact or an established advocate within the customer’s business. These relationships may be less influential to the sale but can also serve as starting point for navigating the new decision hierarchy.

3.     Vision

In most cases, the sales professional will need to alter the solution to ensure that it aligns with the customer’s most current challenges. They may need to get creative and rethink the solution components and how they are delivered. A truly aligned solution must also be differentiated and positioned to meet the customer’s long-term needs. For this reason, the sales professional’s role as an ongoing partner and collaborator is important because the customer will likely need to adjust the solution as the nature of their challenge continues to change long after implementation.

The most sophisticated sales professionals do more than track the customer’s current challenges — they also help the customer gain clarity on what those challenges are. In doing so, the sales professional has a valuable opportunity to shape the customer’s thinking. As businesses struggle to find their place in a changed economy, sales professionals have a chance to influence the customer’s strategy.

4.     Value

Customers are focused on value more than ever. Budgets have thinned considerably, and all spending demands a thoroughly vetted ROI justification. As a result, sales professionals will need to place the value of the solution within the context of measurable business factors like expected revenue gain, gross margin, or long-term savings. The value of the solution must exceed that of the status quo and any competing solution the customer is considering.

Anchoring value might require the sales professional to offer case studies that share quantified outcomes. Articulating value is difficult because it challenges the sales professional to convert some soft factors into numerical figures that place a stake in the ground. Over the long term, sales professionals must deliver on a commitment grounded in unambiguous measurement.

5.     Collaborate

Collaboration with the customer must increase as conditions become more dynamic. Customers are continuing to adjust and adapt. They are exploring new avenues for revenue as global business conditions slow. This process is iterative. Therefore, sales professionals need to work in lockstep with stakeholders. They must also ensure that they access all of the stakeholders who are involved in the long-term direction of the business. This group is likely to change and even contract as the business navigates uncertain terrain.

With challenging times and new solutions, customers might need more comfort when evaluating the purchase. In response, sales professionals need to mitigate risk with collaboration focused on how to evaluate a new or changed solution.

Sales professionals must understand the customer’s next steps. At this stage, sales professionals should begin to look at a timeline for reaching the sale. Collaboration is an opportunity for gauging the customer’s sense of urgency and their commitment to engaging in a solution.

6.      Compelling Reason to Act

No sale can occur unless the customer has a compelling reason to act. This fact is even more evident as new hesitations surface in a strained business setting. Sales professionals must ask themselves if the customer has a high-priority reason to continue. What may have been compelling at the start of the year may now be low priority. The factors that compel a stakeholder to move forward have become elevated. That is, the solution must yield more results, offer more certainty with regard to outcomes, and deliver outcomes faster.

In some cases, the customer may in fact find compelling reasons to not act. In this situation, the sales professional will need to use an objection resolution model by neutrally acknowledging the objection, asking questions to determine the underlying cause of the objection, then finally positioning the solution in a way that addresses the objection.

A Structured Plan for Preserving Pipeline Opportunities

Each of these factors represents a critical juncture in the sale. Recognizing these junctures is what enables the sales professional to approach the sale with a structured plan that preserves many of the pipeline opportunities that may otherwise be at risk due to the economic conditions of today.

Sales professionals can bring even more structure by assigning a numerical value of 0-5 to reflect the degree to which they have satisfied each of the six areas. A zero indicates no movement, and a five indicates complete success. This scale offers a measurability that is critical for success, as seen by research from Bain indicating that metric-driven initiatives “increase profitability by as much as 25% over sustained periods.” Metric-driven initiatives also bring much-needed stability to an unstable and uncertain world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 

Jimmy Touchstone is the Director of Learning Innovation. Mr. Touchstone has been a key contributor and evangelist of the development of role-based curriculum focused around programmatic approaches to training, development, and reinforcement.

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How to Reinforce Sales Training and Maximize Your ROI: 6 Tips for Success

How to Reinforce Sales Training and Maximize Your ROI: 6 Tips for Success

Many organizations invest a hefty portion of their budget in training the sales force. While it’s a worthwhile investment to improve your team’s performance, it’s critical that you take the necessary steps to maximize the return on your sales training dollars.

Without effective reinforcement, you risk implementing training that’s viewed as the “flavor of the month” — something that your team engages with but fails to apply to their ongoing routines. To create permanent behavior change and protect your sales training investment, be sure that you’re following your training with a high-quality reinforcement program.

Sales training introduces new techniques and skills. A sales training reinforcement program gives your sales reps the structure to implement, practice and strengthen those techniques and skills on the job — preferably with guidance from an expert sales coach.

Sales training reinforcement helps reps translate their training from the classroom to the real world and convert their new knowledge into well-honed skills, long-lasting habits and effective behaviors. To permanently shift the performance of your sales team and maximize your training investment, use the following six steps to design, implement and optimize a sales training reinforcement program.

1. Strategically Develop Your Reinforcement Structure

The forgetting curve shows us that learners typically forget new knowledge within days or weeks of training — unless they consciously review the material. Give your sales training the best chance to succeed by planning reinforcement ahead of time.

An ideal reinforcement structure includes regular opportunities for salespeople to review key concepts during sessions with their coaches, either virtually or in person. In addition, there should be opportunities for reps to practice skills with a customer or prospect, with access to the coach to answer questions and assist with any challenges that arise.

This active learning approach cements new skills and turns them into habits. Communicate to participants that the follow-up is a mandatory part of their training. In most cases, sales reps will enjoy post-training coaching, as it allows them to practice applying their new skills with real accounts — and to see firsthand the success that it brings.

2. Prioritize New Capabilities for Reinforcement

People typically learn best when they can focus on a few key items rather than trying to retain everything all at once. Organize your reinforcement program to focus on one or two key skills at a time so that reps can master them. You should also identify lower-tier capabilities to reinforce when learners have mastered the high-priority capabilities. This approach helps ensure that all of your salespeople continue to improve, regardless of their current level of performance.

Reinforcement technology can help you measure the progress your reps are making and provide insight into areas that coaches need to focus their attention on.

3. Enlist Expert Sales Coaches With Real Selling Experience

A good sales coach can make an enormous difference in the success of your sales training reinforcement program. The person coaching your sales team should not only be highly skilled at coaching but also have real industry experience to draw from. Your salespeople must trust their coach and his or her advice, and they’ll quickly be able to tell whether a trainer or coach has real selling experience or not.

To be most effective, sales coaches should meet the following requirements:

  • Closely understand your sales strategy and business objectives.
  • Understand adult learning best practices that increase knowledge retention and help salespeople take ownership of new skills.
  • Be highly educated in the sales process you teach.
  • Be familiar and comfortable with the sales enablement tools that will make reinforcement successful.

4. Train and Enable Your Frontline Managers

After you deliver your training and reinforcement programs, your sales managers will be the primary source of direction and leadership for your sales reps. Setting them up for success sets the entire team up for success, yet many organizations fail to adequately invest in this step.

Sales management training is critical to give your sales managers and leaders the coaching and reinforcement skills they need to be a resource and guide for your salespeople. Your managers need a practical coaching system and a framework for keeping the new selling skills alive inside your team, so be sure to provide them with the appropriate training and resources.

5. Establish and Maintain a Consistent Reinforcement Cadence

Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight. On average, it takes 66 days (approximately two months) for a new skill to become a habit. This means you must expect to reinforce new skills consistently for six to eight weeks — ideally beginning right after training — at a cadence that is appropriate for the material and your sales team’s existing capabilities and knowledge. Without a dedicated cadence, reinforcement tends to erode over time, leaving salespeople to rubber-band back to old habits.

Regular reinforcement check-ins and skill refreshers help make skills learned in training the “new normal” for your sales team. Your documented cadence should include:

  • The frequency of reinforcement sessions. (Holding sessions on the same day each week improves attendance and accountability.)
  • The length of reinforcement sessions (ideally no more than an hour, to prevent loss of interest).
  • The material covered in reinforcement sessions.
  • The structure of reinforcement sessions.
  • The frequency and structure of individual coaching and other forms of reinforcement.

6. Measure and Track Success

A strong, strategic training and reinforcement system is one of the most effective ways to improve your sales organization’s performance in the long term. Reinforcement is key to maximizing the return on investment in training, and it’s important to measure and track success at various intervals along the way.

Effective sales enablement tools can give coaches and stakeholders insight into how each participant is progressing. This information reveals challenge areas that need more attention and helps to develop ongoing coaching plans for the future. In addition, consider measuring your ROI by evaluating critical success markers, including:

  • Additional sales that reps attribute to training.
  • Increase in sales volume as a result of training and reinforcement.
  • Increase in average sales amount.
  • Improved performance compared to quota.
  • Changes in the length of sales cycles.
  • Specific sales behaviors, activities and key performance indicators that yield the largest changes in results.

To maximize the return on your investment and give your sales enablement project the best chance of success, you should follow up with a quality coaching and reinforcement system. When choosing a training partner, look for one that provides best-in-class reinforcement tools and systems to help you build on the momentum of the training and solidify new behaviors. Doing so will maximize your ROI and make your short- and long-term goals easier to reach.

Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson

Michelle Richardson is the vice president of learning services at The Brooks Group, a corporate sales training and sales management training company helping organizations build top-performing sales teams. In her role, Michelle leads the strategy, design and delivery of training and assessment solutions to support clients in their talent development needs.

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Much, much, more.
+++Business Credit Builder

Save up to $24,000 per year!

Contact Business Viability Solutions.

No Income No Asset Personal Lines of Credit

for

Startup, New Businesses or  Personal Use

Funding Up to $250,000 

Fund starts in 7-10 Business Days.

680 FICO

Co-signer OK

NO INCOME DOCUMENTATION

100% UNSECURED

BK must be over 4.5 years

Collections, Judgments, Late Payments must be over 12 months

Learn More