Sales Coaching Series Part 27: Red, Green, Yellow and Blue personality styles or "preferences"

One of the most powerful tools you can use in sales, or in any form of communications for that matter, is to understand yours and other personality types. You have a unique personality and it can be classified as "how" you do things, your observable behaviour or temperament.

It is little to do with "why" you do things/your motivators nor has it anything to do with "what" you do in terms of skills, knowledge and competencies. Personality theory today is largely based on Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung and his lifetimes research and publications in this area. I have had the great privilege of being able to study and qualify in one of the world's foremost systems called Insights Discovery that is based on his work.

I can state without contradiction that of all the skills that I have developed over the years, psychometric profiling, as it is known, is probably the most effective tool to have in one's armoury.

Why is this? Research confirms that having an in-depth understanding of yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, style preferences, how you like to learn, communicate, manage and so on, gives you control.

That of which you are aware, gives you control. That of which you are not aware, controls you. So, awareness is the key and psychometric profiling tools, like insights discovery, gives you that control.

In its simplest format, insights discovery is generated from several hundred thousand permutations of statements and positions you on a wheel in one of 72 different locations. People are either introverted or extroverted in their behaviour. People are also either thinking types (head) or feeling types (heart). This X and Y axis approach creates four highly different styles to which we attribute four colours.

Think of the four colours in the article heading above. Fiery red and sunshine yellow are extrovert colours, while earth green and cool blue are introvert. Fiery red and cool blue are what we consider as thinking or "head" energies while earth green and sunshine yellow are more warm, friendly and emotional, in other words, feeling/heart. This is illustrated in the following slide.

For more information on this, I am attaching a fact sheet, you can find it below. In summary, by dividing this four coloured "pizza" into eight unique slices, we can add concentric circles, and create 72 different positions on the wheel as illustrated below:

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Millions of people across the globe, at this point, have partaken in insights discovery and their profiles produced. As an organisation, Insights has developed a deep understanding, powerful statistics and data from this output to support our contentions on the way people behave.

It is important to understand that no one position is the best. All have their gifts, and all have their challenges. The wonderful thing about having your own psychometric profile at your disposal, is that you know what energy you lead with, what energy comes second, third and fourth (being your least preference).

Let me give you an example using my own profile. Being positioned in location 27 in right in the middle of the sunshine yellow territory, I lead with yellow, followed by green, then red and finally blue. In other words, what I am saying to people with my style is:

1.     Sunshine yellow... Say something uplifting and involve me!

2.     Earth green... Be empathetic, show you care about me!

3.     Fiery red... Please do things quickly, be brief, be bright, be gone!

4.     Cool blue... Okay, if you must give me the fine detail, do so!

Now that I'm aware of this and have a 40-page profile that goes into extreme detail about my behaviours across a wide range of activities, I am armed with information that puts me in control.

What it also does, is make me aware of other styles, observable behaviours and temperaments, so that I can adapt my style to communicate with and manage others. This gives me additional control and I will describe, next week, how powerful this is when in selling and business development mode.

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 26: Just before you go "on stage"...

Back from a week's break and ready to pick up again, where we left off...

This week I want to remind you of the importance of mental rehearsal before you begin prospecting.

When you are out amongst prospects and clients, and in selling mode, you are effectively on stage. You are performing. No professional actor, or sports person or musician goes on stage without mental rehearsal. You should be no different.

I regularly facilitate training programmes in front of 15+ people and sometimes seminars with hundreds of people in the audience. Each time I am travelling in the car to the venue, I am visualising the ideal outcome. It is a form of 'back to the future' thinking. I always visualise the faces of the attendees as they leave the room at the end of the day. They are happy, they are beaming, they have learned new concepts, ideas, methodologies and they are saying to me "thank you, that was great!".

Does it always work out exactly like this? I have to say, more often than not, yes. I have invested hundreds of thousands of hours crafting and perfecting the way I deliver; it is my own personal style and I make no apologies for it! It looks simple, however, I assure you, "it is simplicity AFTER complexity".

I know that after a full days programme, attendees can be tired, mentally drained and need space to absorb and distil what has just been imparted. On the other hand, I always feel invigorated. It is as if there is adrenaline coursing through my veins and I'm on a bit of a "high". I always feel like this as well, when I am prospecting or meeting future clients for the first time.

Prospecting should liken the Olympic high jumper; you know the athletes I am talking about. They get the crowd clapping behind them to build encouragement, confidence and self belief. You can see them visualising the steps they are about to take; their heads bobbing up and down, and reaching the point where they do their final lift and a mighty stretch to arch over the high bar. They repeat this visualisation again and again.

This mental rehearsal is essential for all top performing athletes and it is no different for you, for me, for all of us in sales. Actors rehearse and in order to become a part in the play or movie, some go to extremes. I'm sure you all have your favourites. So, what can you learn from these top performers?

I guarantee they never, ever think of past failures. They recall past successes and fill their minds with positive images of themselves...in the zone. What are the images that come into your head about yourself, when prospecting? What words and "vocabulary" do you express about yourself? I can guarantee you this; if you express self-doubt, self-limiting beliefs, negativities about any part of the selling process, you will not be disappointed!! You will get what you believe...and you will not be disappointed.

Almost everything is a mental game when you think about it. For example I played a game of golf, last week. I was playing okay for my standard. I remember thinking to myself "this is going too well"! In other words, I was almost waiting for myself to "blow up"; and anybody who has played any form of sports, knows that confidence and self-belief are critical success factors. I convinced myself that the next drive was going to be in the bushes! And it was! FATAL thoughts. Golf is amazing in that you can talk yourself into success, or talk yourself into failure. I'm convinced it is a game that is 90% mental and 10% skill.

I'm also convinced that sales falls roughly the same proportion. You must see yourself as the Ronaldo or Messi of your profession. How would the ideal you think, act, behave, plan, prepare, execute, deliver and follow-through? Think through the A-Z of the process.

Mentally prepare for the next encounter with a prospect; what comes at the start, what is in the middle and what is at the end? Remember, everything counts! The little things, the touches, the nuances...all are important and add up to the full package.

So, my suggested exercise for the next day is for you to take some time to plan out your next prospecting visit. Close your eyes, visualise the ideal outcome, visualise the ideal you, take control of what happens first, second, third and so on, and in particular, what you want to achieve from the meeting.

To repeat what Stephen Covey says, "begin with the end in mind". 

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 25: So, how do you approach people?

I know that when in my teens and going to dances/discos/clubs, whatever, there were some guys who NEVER had any difficulty in asking someone to dance. Straight up, out onto the floor and BANG! No problem! Oh, were it so easy for the rest of us!

Why is this? Most likely, fear of rejection and hearing that awful word “NO!”? Fear of failure and made to feel small? Any person who doesn’t admit to feeling somewhat like this at some point in their lives is trying to fool you. We all experience fears like this and no more so than in sales.

Some people say it’s a numbers game. The more you ask, the better you get at asking and the more success comes your way. A famous oil magnate when asked why he was so successful said “we drill more holes”. Fair point! If you approach and get in front of more people, the chances of success must increase. Talking to more people (= prospects), means you get better at it. Your vocabulary improves. Your descriptions of the features and benefits are far sharper. You perfect your pitch.

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Try it out on one of your colleagues who is responsible for growing sales. Simulate a scenario where you approach a new prospect. What does the person say first, second, third...and so on? How would you rank that now out of 100? Where are there areas for improvement? If there are gaps, fix them now.

Sometimes it is approaching to ask for an appointment at some future date when you have more time. Tie the date and time down if possible there and then. If you are failing at this hurdle, it’s time to look at what you are saying that is turning people off meeting you for a (free) coffee and cake.

As mentioned in earlier blogs, if you notice yourself straying into FEATURES rather than BENEFITS, you will generally turn prospects off. So, tell yourself in future that the process you will follow to approach and ask prospects for appointments, WILL WORK. Self-belief and confidence is critical here. 

Approaching prospects is like asking that person out on a date or to dance; you must BELIEVE and have the confidence that this WILL WORK; that the answer will be YES. If the answer is a definite NO without any possibility, politely accept it and move on.

The trick is not to take this “no”, personally (I know that might be difficult), however, in sales, view “no” as merely an opportunity to try again. Is the first impression you are making, not quite on the money. I advise you to check out your “spiel”, your “patter” as they call it. Are you coming across as “too hard sell” or even “too soft sell”? There is a happy medium and it is up to you to practice, practice and practice again until you get it right and perfect it.

 

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Go on a sales programme, a presentation skills programme, get yourself videoed…everything counts. It is quite amazing what one sees when one gets a chance to observe the self on screen.

I didn’t realise I used to click my heels when ‘on stage’ as I was making a point or moving on to the next part of presentations. WHAT!!!! I couldn’t believe it. There it was…click, click, click…and it was only by it being videoed and pointed out that I learned to eliminate it. When I think back on how many people I may have irritated in the past, I blush!

You can’t be shy in sales. I have seen great salespeople who are what I would classify as “grinders and minders”. That is, when they get the warmed-up gig/lead/prospect, they can look after the client very well. However, sales begin with and is very much about “FINDING”, not just grinding and minding. Perfect your hunter/gatherer skills for greater success. Don’t be shy. Tell people about what you do and what you can offer.

I recall sales expert Brian Tracy telling us of an old rhyme that says it all about sales:

He who has a thing to sell

And goes and (shhh) whispers in a well,

Is not likely to get the dollars

As he who climbs a tree and HOLLERS.

So, go holler!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 24: Final thoughts on making sales by phone

I asked you at the end of last week's blog to think about the types of questions that would grab the attention of the recipient and secure you a 10 minute window of airtime or ideally, face-to-face meeting with the decision-maker. Getting to the decision-maker can be one of the most challenging aspects of telesales.

If you are dealing with the receptionist or personal assistant to the decision-maker, very often they are trained to be the blocker and filter to prevent you from wasting their boss's time. This is a mini 40/30/20/10 scenario where you must build a quick relationship with the person on the other end of the phone, get to the needs, present and close. How do you do this?

Courtesy will never go amiss in situations like this. For example, you might say "I have been referred to Helen by Peter in company X, who tells me that she is the decision-maker for (our product/service). May I ask you is that correct"? (Answer is yes) "Great! So I wonder can you help me please?"

This "help me" is a great expression. When one human being asks another for help, rarely is the answer "no". So, asking for help to get this appointment and to, perhaps, make the person taking the call to become a bit of a "hero" in all of this process (because of arranging the appointment), is an added opportunity. By the way, if Peter in company X above, happens to be one of the senior bosses or executives in the company and the referral has come from on-high him, in other words, from the top down, now you are in a far better position of having the appointment granted.

If you happen to be put through to the decision-maker, there and then, your next big task is to secure this 10 minutes of face-to-face time. Explain that you will be brief. There will not be any pressure to make a decision. You need 10 minutes to SHOW your product or service. If the person asks you to send a brochure and so on, this is a classic get-out technique. Refuse nicely because, as you and I know, brochures , usually end up in the bin.

Try to explain that brochures don't work in your business...say it "very often brochures end up in the trash, and we don't want that". Certainly, encourage the decision-maker to refer to your website and any other social media commentary, however, your job is to get in front of the person to show.

What next? You must now be getting to the point where you are tying down the person to commit to the appointment.

"May I ask you to open your diary and we can book a time and date now?". If you have succeeded, try to always end telephone appointment conversations with an upbeat, positive statement like "I really think this is going to be great. You will be not be disappointed, I promise. I assure you that it will be your decision 100% and you will be the final judge of this".

So, can you see that this is a "low-pressure, no-pressure" approach? I am not saying, at all, that telesales is easy. Far from it. There is an old rule of thumb that when you are having a conversation with somebody, about 7% accounts for the words you say, 37% represents your tone of voice and the balance is body language. On the phone, the latter is completely absent so you have got to make up for this with your energy, smile, standing up, visualisation and positivity.You can use 100% of these when you get face-to-face, so make sure that you use the telephone to its maximum in order to secure this face-to-face appointment. If you are selling products or services where people are buying straight from over the telephone, we are into call centre techniques and the expertise that these businesses can bring to the mix.

One very good example of combining appointment setting with call centre skills was a company I dealt with a number of years ago. Very cleverly, they outsourced the appointment setting to an independent call centre. Now the sales people who came in on Monday morning, had warmed up leads and a diary full ahead for the week.

In other words, the sales people were now doing what they were paid to do, which was to get out amongst the prospects, build a relationship, listen to the needs, present the products and close the deals. If these sales people had also go through the difficult process of making appointments, being rejected, hearing "no" and so on, what would that have done to their enthusiasm?

If you are a sales manager or boss in the area of winning new business, consider outsourcing appointment setting to those outbound call centres who have the techniques, understand how to make focused marketing and sales calls and do not take "no" personally. This time-saving will create the space for your team to do what they do best, namely, SELL!

And no excuses this time!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 23: On the phone and making sales!

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Lots of people are pretty good when it comes to having a chat over the phone. In other words, we can be very competent at building relationships, asking questions and finding out about where the prospect may be having "pain" and , in general, getting to diagnose their needs.

However, when it comes to the final piece of securing business over the phone, why is it that so many of us "leave it behind"? What I mean by that is, why don't we ask for the order? We don't close the deal, we don't ask for money and we let people off the hook by saying "why don't you think about and come back to me when you've made a decision!".

Does this sound familiar? You are not alone!

This behaviour can be fatal in sales teams. Why is it that so many of us act in this manner? In my view, it refers back to one of my earlier blogs where I spoke about the fears that people have when in sales. These fears are real. They include fears of failure, of  rejection, of hearing the word "NO" and so on. Who wants to feel a failure, feel rejected and be told "no" like a child.

So how do we avoid it? We simply don't ask, pretend that it was a great call and the customer/prospect with come back to us again in their own good time and close the deal.

Not a chance!

Unless you're very lucky, have a product that is in short supply, have little or no competition, then maybe the prospect will come back. Life isn't like that because I can assure you the prospect, who has their antennae up and are looking for a solution to their problem, will probably come across multiple options and your "nice conversation" is now irrelevant.

So, do you want to fix this? If you do, read on.

I find when I am making a call of this nature, that I physically stand up. Yes, get out of my chair. Sitting down or even slouching, comes across to the prospect when on the phone. Smile, act happy, do whatever you can so that people get the sense that there is something uplifting/motivating coming down the track. This is why all successful outbound call centres have everything scripted. They have trained their people to, literally, within an inch of their lives. All angles and questions are covered. All objections have a ready-made answer. They are all heading for the point in the conversation where they are either going to ask for a deposit or the credit card or "can I get one of my colleagues to call by" ... whatever!

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 I'm sure you all been on the receiving end of high pressure marketing calls. The word "sale" is not a dirty or four letter word. It's what feeds the family. It's what keeps you in the style to which you have been accustomed and, to repeat what I said in the past, businesses survive because of one thing and one thing only, that is, high sales. Equally, businesses fail because of one thing and one thing only, and that is low or no sales.

What you want to do in order to get the receiver interested in what you have to offer is to break their preoccupation by asking a question that the prospect thinks "I wonder what it is?". Okay, so warmed up leads and referrals from other satisfied customers are far better than cold calling. I hate cold calling and in my view, frankly, it doesn't work to a great extent. It's hard work and unless you're a tough cookie, as they say, it can wear you down.

Let's assume the person knows of you through referrals or some other testimonial. Once you go through the niceties of introducing yourself, you then introduce this "preoccupation-breaking" question. In my business advisory and consultancy world (which is not the easiest service to sell), very often I would say something like:

·       "if I could show you ways to improve your staff productivity by 40%, would you be interested?".

·       "if I could show you ways to double your sales in the next 12 months, would you be interested?".

Of course they would!! This is just a few examples of questions that which gets the decision-maker thinking in pictures. The business owner is now thinking "OMG, wouldn't that be just great".

What's your question or questions that will get them thinking of giving you a chance to present your offering or getting an appointment. In consultancy, what you are really selling is 10 minutes, F2F to present your ideas...and let them decide!

Clear?

Think about perfecting this and we will pick it up next week.     

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 22: Final thoughts on being "creative"

Any firm that wishes to grow their business, can only really achieve it by following these four ways. They are:

1.     find more of the ideal customers,

2.     encourage them to buy more,

3.     improve your margin and

4.     ensure you have proper systems and procedures in place that will be robust enough to take care of the increased business.

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Consider these four ways now and have a real, in-depth think about each of them. For example, in relation to the ideal customers rather than using a scattergun approach and asking who could our customers be, ask who should our customers be. Big difference!

If you lead a team and part of your function is to grow the business, you owe it to yourself, and to your colleagues, to sit down regularly and brainstorm questions like this. Every office should have plenty of flipcharts, 'blue sticky gum stuff' and markers ...not to be sitting there looking pretty, but to be regularly sweated!

Have exercises like this scheduled into your monthly calendar. Make the sessions sacrosanct! Everybody must attend as if their lives depended on it. If the truth be known, their business lives probably depend on activities like this to generate new ideas for new business.

Brainstorming does require discipline and there are some do and don'ts, of course. We will speak about team values, and how important they are to the overall success of any team, another day. Suffice to say for now that you need to set ground rules for these type of sessions. As an owner/manager, your job is to create the environment in which people firstly, contribute what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviours when such sessions are being facilitated.

Why not give that job away to somebody who will be on the team? As owner/manager/ business leader, whatever, your job is to give away your job. In other words, all success comes from moving from activities of low value to activities of high-value; from low productivity activities to high productivity activities.

It may seem counterintuitive, however, the best managers always surround themselves with people who may, in fact, be better than the manager in some or even all areas.

Getting back to the brainstorming session, allow the team to create their own ground rules and as manager, only add to the list if there is an obvious omission. So, once the ground rules are set, keep an eye that there is clarity about timing, location, equipment, who will facilitate, what people are going to take part in the session, what is the ideal outcome and so on. Watch your own biases!

My personal preference is to always focus on quantity of ideas rather than quality of ideas. Why is this? If we put down an idea and then we have a debate about it, we will never have the time to become creative. I always try to aim for 25 to 30 ideas on a particular question that is written at the top of the flipchart.

You see, every other team in every other company will come up with the first 10 to 15 and I often find they may be of limited value. When you start exceeding 15 and getting into the 20s and sometimes 30s, this is where you will find the rich veins of ideas-gold.

Don't allow crazy ideas to be dismissed! Extreme left brain and right brain thinkers on teams can often be an amazing addition to creativity; lots of companies today are recruiting these type of people to shake up the thinking. We are often so close to the coalface in our day-to-day business lives, that we do not have time to see how new, innovative and creative ways of doing things can be brought into reality. We procrastinate and put that off till another day.

It's the difference between managing and leading. Managing is like taking a team through a forest ensuring that the brambles are hacked away in advance so that the work can get done. Leading is about climbing one of the trees, taking a look around and saying "wrong forest".

So, allow yourself the luxury of surrounding yourself with your selected team members and creating the environment in which brainstorming of new sales ideas is a regular feature of your routine. I promise, the answers are in their heads and you won't be disappointed!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 21: Becoming more creative in sales

So, what did you think of Strategyser’s Value Proposition Model? Thought-provoking, hopefully.

More importantly, what did you learn from it? What you should have taken from it is to never make any assumptions about what you think or feel your prospects want, need, use and afford. You have heard about the word “ASSUME”; it makes an “ASS of U and ME” and wrong assumptions in sales, are fatal. Sure, you can be lucky and go on a hunch. Sometimes gut feeling works and works well. However, today’s customers are more fussy, more sophisticated, more informed, they want it yesterday and in 50 shades!

True story. I heard about an old-stager in a board room recently hankering back to the good old days when the sector they were in was such that “customers didn’t have a choice and … they didn’t really matter!”. In other words, his sentiment was that this would be a great business today except for those pesky customers. In fact, he was also overheard saying “it’s not fair!”, concerning a new competitor who had diversified into his sector and had, proverbially, been eating this company’s "breakfast".

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Speaking of diversification and in the context of creativity in sales, it reminds me of a great Boston Box I came across in my early consulting days. This model, really challenges you to think deeply about the 4 areas in which you can grow your business.  

The model asks you and your team to examine your current customer/market base and current products/services and then to factor in new customers/market and new products/services. This creates a quadrant and leads to 4 strategies to explore.

It looks something like this:

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So what this is saying is that you have four areas to consider when being creative in your attempts to expand and grow your sales.

Quadrant 1 tells you that under your feet, right now are possibly some of the best opportunities you have to sell. This is often ignored because salespeople are so focused on getting to see other and newer customers, that they often neglect who they have already sold to and are possibly favourably disposed to you already. We see this regularly when we analyse sales by product and by customer. It is quite amazing when we carry out this exercise to find the high number of existing customers that do not have all of the products on offer. When we encourage clients to go back to existing customers with their current offering, we find that they were unaware that they also offered other products/services. ", Oh, no one told about this!"

Quadrant 2 tells you that you must be continually looking at your product and service offering and tweaking them or bringing new ones to the market. In other words, your existing customers may be looking for some different products/services that your team can design and bring to their attention. You are not going to find out what these needs and wants are unless you go and continually visit your existing customers and find out where their pains are. Get out from behind the desk, visit and ask.

Quadrant 3 is obvious. You must always be looking out for new leads, new opportunities that will put you in front of new potential customers with your current products and services. Of course, as you develop new products and services, these become existing offerings and these can also be brought to the attention of your new prospects.

Finally Quadrant 4. This is the most high-risk and lots of companies have been brought to their knees because they "did not stick to the knitting". In other words, business is littered with examples of companies who got into areas that were not complimentary with their core business. They end up investing lots of team time, resources and attention to an area that they may simply not understand; and the nuances get them in the end.

That is not to say that one should be put off diversifying. It might be the highest risk area, however it can also be the most lucrative. What you are looking for here is a new product/service that opens up a new market entirely. It may be achieved by bolting on an acquired company and suddenly these customers also become buyers of your existing products and services.

So, have a think about this and we will close it out next week.

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 20: Becoming creative in "selling"

When you Google the word creativity and search for images to describe it, you won't be surprised to find light bulbs and the brain, with lots of imagery and colour and phrases like "outside the box" coming up. In other words, it looks as if we are in a thinking game here. Sales has always been a thinking game and most of all, thinking about what it is your prospect wants, needs, can use and can afford from your stable.

There are various categories of creativity. The everyday stuff like getting the kids to bed at night, calmer and earlier, I'm sure has been "created" by every parent in one way or the other. You might then get some transformative ways of doing things, a little mini-brainwave that solves challenges around the place. In fact, if you look around you right now, I bet every item you have or service that you are using today, are as a result of ordinary people coming up with better, smarter, faster, easier and possibly cheaper ways of doing things that people did in the past. It is said that you can sell 1 million of anything you have brought creativity to the professional level. If millions of people adore what you've done, or are doing, perhaps you are in the realms of genius. Then you might have the top 1% of geniuses to compete with!

Einstein is reputed to have used by 15% of his brain… So, where does that leave us? I believe that there is genius in everyone of us; the difficulty is we have so little time to think about what we are doing, so many demands on us to produce the numbers, the results, that we do not use our creativity/genius.

So, if sales or any other profession, for that matter, is a thinking game, the game starts with you and your goals. Are you just going through the motions, work, work, busy, busy bang-bang! Or have you clear and specific short, medium and what is called a "BHAG", i.e. a big hairy audacious goal in mind? A BHAG makes you think what is that you truly wish for in your (sales) career. Do you want to be in the middle/ "average" or, have you dreams and ambitions to be in the top 5 to 10% of business development specialists?

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If you want to be in the top percentile, then you have to make a decision to move away from what Einstein called insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping to get a different result. I see people doing this all the time in sales. They never change what they are doing and how they are doing it. They are hoping against hope that the customer will change, that the market will change, or that something fortuitous might happen that Venus will cross Mars and everything will work out. Forget it! Change happens from within and unless YOU change first, the results will always be the same. It is like throwing a pebble into a millpond. It ripples out from you, to your boss, through to the team, to the company and eventually the customer gets it. The customer always "gets it", like it or not!

Being in sales, as I have repeatedly said, is difficult. Every day you put yourself out there. Every day you are subjected to hearing the word "no". Every day your self-esteem can take a hammering. So why would you do it? We love sales because there is nothing quite like the thrill and adrenaline of bringing a sale over the line, and like a top goal-scorer in soccer, you can't wait for the next match, the next opportunity, the next goal, the next thrill, and dare I say, high, the win!

One of my favourite business models is Strategyser's Business Model Canvas. Look it up and you will notice that gives you an overview of all the constituents that make up a business. There are some excellent free tools that you can download from them and also of course subscribe if you wish.

What I like most about this model, is a supporting methodology called value proposition. Again, without going into the fine detail of this, do yourself a favour and learn about value proposition. It talks about carrying out the diagnosis, first. Just like any good medical consultant, you must diagnose before you prescribe. What the Value Proposition model does is get you to think (there is that word again!) about what it is your target clients/prospects do every day, what job functions must they fulfil, and on what results are they going to be judged. What products and services are they using currently that help them to get these jobs done? Once you know the answers by asking questions, I guarantee everybody is going through some pain with their current use of product/services.

Equally, they leave work every day with dreams of someone (like you possibly), coming into their lives and easing those pains and, turning that pain into gain.

Think about that for the moment. When have you last gone back to your clients/prospects and asked them what we call "killer" questions? These will get them talking about the jobs they do, unearthing the challenges that they have with current products and services they use and painting pictures in their heads about some of the possibilities that are out there in the context of your product or service offering.

Think about this for next week and we will address your approach to offering your solution on our return.

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 19: Are you a "believable" seller?

So, we know what influences buyers. Now we need to turn to you and test if you can apply these traits, characteristics and behaviours to yourself to become credible in the eyes of the purchaser/prospect.

In my early career, I recall attending and later facilitating many psychology of success programs. I loved them. For the first time in my business, education, light was thrown on why people behave as they do. In particular the subject of fear caught my attention. I learned that people experience two types of fears, namely, fear of failure and fear of rejection.

Fear of failure is experienced in the front of the body. You have often heard it said that public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for many people. I'm sure you can relate to that. Suppose you were told that you had to step in for a very ill colleague to speak at a major conference and you are given 15 minutes to prepare! The front of your head would go light, your mouth and throat would dry up, your heart might begin to beat a little faster in the front of your chest, your intestines is might grumble and you may have to excuse yourself for a few moments, if you understand! That's fear of failure.

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People often experience fears of rejection down the back of the body like hairs on the neck standing up, shoulder blades tightening and your spine tingling. Just imagine you enter a noisy room full of gaggling people, they do see you and suddenly it goes quiet! Hmmm! Unless you have ice coursing through your veins, it is more than likely you will experience a bit of a chill going up your back. That's rejection!

Let's apply this to sales. The last thing people wish when they purchase something from you is buyer's remorse. You have to live with the consequences and, as that unfortunate buyer, every time you look at or use the product or experience whatever service in which you have invested, you get that awful failure feeling. Now, suppose this is a major purchase like a car, house, something that you have saved long and hard for... pretty galling, isn't it?

True story. This happened to me not to long ago when I decided to trade in my car for a newer model. It looked good, it felt good, the sales guy was very professional, I signed the paperwork, paid a small deposit...and (...I think the fact that he told me that I could change my mind), set the fear of failure process off in my head. Went home, thought about it and "ERROR" was screaming at me!!!! Next day, called the sales guy and said I had a change of heart. After the initial silence, in fairness to him, he was professional to his fingertips, he honoured the cancellation.

I'm telling you this story not to point out any deficiencies in his failed sales process. Very often you can follow the process 100% correctly; however, people do change their minds.

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In my car story above, I don't think the sales guy could have done anything more...it was my fear of failure, kicking in to scupper it.

The purpose of this story is to help you ensure that cancelled orders or incomplete sales are kept to an absolute minimum. How can you ensure this? It's about your credibility with the prospect so that every angle is covered and you can be almost certain that you have brought it over the line.

So what does credibility look like? Firstly, and number one, it must be about belief in yourself as a salesperson. You must have belief in your product/service. You must believe in your company, the people around you who will support you in after sales service, maintenance and communications. As I've mentioned before, when the pressure comes on, the chain will break at the weakest link. If you are out there at the coalface selling products/services, building relationships, listening to and bringing them over the line, it is a prerequisite to your sales success that you have belief in everything that surrounds your offering.

Every moment of impression needs to be positive. What are these credibility factors? Do customers trust you 100%? Do you trust your internal support team equally? If not, do yourself a favour and raise the concern today with your boss or whoever appropriate, and fix it! 

Again, one of my "pet" credibility factors...are you dressing appropriately? Do people see you as that consummate professional, that because he/she looks after themselves well, will probably look after your customer equally?

Is the way that you present your offering coming across as professional or somewhat haphazard? Do your brochures, handouts and livery reflect credibility? Don't give your prospect any opportunity to question this...it must come out all of the time, in everything you do, in the A-Z of the sales process. 95% credibility in the minds of prospects is 1,000,000 miles away from where you need to be.

So what is the 5% that might be impacting on your credibility? Are you always courteous, friendly, engaging? What do your customers say about you? One of the best credibility factors is how your current customers describe you, your products and your company. Have the courage to ask them and commit it to paper!

Let me leave you with this thought: positive testimonials and referrals from existing clients are, in my view, THE most important and number one form of credibility-building techniques you can implement. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask and if you have built up credibility and trust, they will be more than happy to provide.

SECRET TIP: What we do in our firm is, when happy clients agree to providing testimonials, we offer to write them up ourselves to save them time. We then forward the draft in a word document for editing and input, and we are 99% there.           I have ever written and oral Try it!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 18: Final ideas on "what influences buyers"!

So, what do you think you need to do to change your pitch, so that you and your prospect are both on the same wavelength?

We will go into the fundamentals of making presentations at a later date, however, suffice to say now that, in relation to your presentation, getting it right first time (aka G.I.R.F.T.) is a critical success factor that will influence prospective buyers.

Just a reminder, if you have taken my previous tips on board, you will know that presentations come at the end of the relationship building and identifying needs processes. This is because when you are making your presentation, it must be in accord or lined up with what your prospect has told you in the earlier process.

If I am ever asked to come in and make a presentation about what I do, I refuse! What is the point, unless I know and can establish the exact needs in advance. Otherwise, it is generally a waste of everyone's time... and time is money. And money is time!

Presentations are never about a one-fit-all solution. You will always customise your pitch/presentation to the people you have in front of you.

Why is this? If you have listened well enough, have taken copious notes and can then refer to these during your presentation, you can now relate your content to their desires for gain or fears of loss. This has worked extremely well for me in my consulting career as clients are, firstly, taking on ME, then my product/service that I offer and then my company.

Unlike tangible products that people can touch and feel and see, consulting services are far more difficult to sell. In effect, they are buying something intangible, a dream, a vision, an outcome. So the more that you can paint pictures in people's heads and focus on the emotion when selling intangible products, like consultancy services, the better.

If you can look into the whites of people's eyes when you are describing what you do and relate it to their needs, you are a long way down the road in converting prospects to clients. Remember, all prospects must want, need, use and afford your offering. If all four are not met, you may have to move on. Your job, when you are presenting your product or service, is to tap into the wants, needs, uses and affordability so that they are saying yes in their own minds.

So, challenge yourself. During your presentation, do you build bridges between you and the prospect by saying things like:

..."...and do you remember when you mentioned (X matter), well I have seen lots of similar situations in the past and our solution offers… "

..."... I recall you referred to a situation where..., well, we have a solution for that..."     

If you are a "professional" (the word is bandied about far too liberally and lots of people don't know what exactly it means to be professional, see below*), you should have a very logical and orderly presentation at your fingertips. It doesn't mean that every time it's a PowerPoint presentation, glossy brochures and overkill.

In fact, the best presentations come from the heart. You know your product and service so well, you've listened so carefully to what they have said, that you were able to match and position your company with theirs. Nailed it! It is seamless. It seems natural and the prospect is mentally nodding approval that your company and theirs are a perfect match.

Honestly, I think it's akin to courtship before marriage! You tell me about you, I'll then tell you about me and I'll explain why we should get together!

The great Stephen Covey spoke about one of the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People as possessing the ability to enter into only win-win relationships. It is exactly that in sales. What is the point in getting into any business relationship, or personal relationship for that matter, unless both parties emerge as winners.

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What are the alternatives?

1.     I win and you lose.

2.     I lose and you win.

3.     We both lose.

Yuck!

So, unless we both win, my belief is that there should be "no deal". On a few occasions, I sensed the chemistry was not right between me and the prospect. It might have been different values, different goals...for whatever reason, the inner voice in my head said that it was not going to work. Listen to the inner voice, it is usually a good friend! I believe that females are far better than males with their intuition.

It is better to cut your losses at the start and not invest in something that you have grave doubts about from the outset.

So, in summary, get it to work on the influencers highlighted in the last number of blogs. Focus your time and effort on those where you believe you are weak; there is little point in strengthening links in a chain that are already strong enough because when the pressure comes on, it will always break at the weakest link.

What's your weakest influencing link? Now, swarm all over it until you turn that weakness into a strength. Don't forget to keep in mind the other strengths that you have, keep the knife sharpened and continue to hone these skills.

Success is really about continuous improvement, not taking skills and competencies for granted. My advice is to become brilliant on the basics of those success factors that influence prospects to become your clients and your clients to be retained as clients. 

*Professional comes from the word "profess", meaning " to promise and keep that promise".

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 17: More of "what influences buyers"!

A quick note to explain why last week's blog wasn't posted:

Isn't it ironic that my most recent blog, #16, ended on "friendliness" as being one of the key skills of influencing others. If I had to pick someone in my circle of family, friends and business acquaintances who, not only possessed this skill and trait in abundance, but lead with it always, it would be my brother Dermot. 100%! He was "friendliness", personified.

He died very unexpectedly last week and has left a deep void in all of our lives. Friendliness, courtesy, respect and good manners were some of the many key success factors that he deployed to win over, not just family and friends, but also to retain his long-standing clients. This, coupled with his amazing creative and artistic talents, were an unstoppable combination that enabled him to become the success he was in his profession. I have learnt a great deal from him, will sadly miss him and will never forget his influence on all with whom he came in contact.

So what are the combination of "influeners" that you possess? So far we have spoken about positive attitude, dress, grooming and friendliness. What else? Body language is a critical success factor. You may be technically brilliant at what you do and know all there is to know; however, if you cannot communicate all of this knowledge and place hurdles in your way to communicate the message, you seriously limit your chances of success.

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Bad posture/ slouching, poor eye-contact, wishy-washy handshake (a.k.a. wet fish handshake...yuck, I hate it)... all of these factors are so important to have right. So, my advice, please practice this stuff…it is so easy to neglect and get wrong.

As we have repeatedly said, people are making up their minds all of the time whether they want to do business with you, or not. Don't give them any excuse to criticise you or to spot something they may not like about you. After all, they may be meeting you for the first time, and as they say, you need to put your best foot forward and do it from the word go!

What next? You must know your product and/or service in-depth...intimately! What I mean by this is not just the features of the product/service and why it is better than the competition's offering, more importantly, the benefits that will accrue to the buyer when they take it on board.

If you were awakened suddenly out of a deep sleep at 3 AM and asked to relate the top five benefits of your product or service, would you will be able to do it? If you couldn't, you don't know your product/service well enough and don't deserve sales success.

Get to work on writing these down, right now, putting them into properly structured sentences, go over them and critique until you get these to a standard that your prospects will understand, in plain simple language. Do not shroud these descriptors in technical language. Have other sentences prepared for someone who wants to get straight to the technicalities.

In my experience, people who are buying want to feel the emotion and as we say, we need to tune immediately into their favourite radio station, WII FM (what's in it for me!).  When you tune into their wavelength, I guarantee they will be thinking in pictures and thinking about the benefits that they are going to experience. Buying a new car, clothes, going to a restaurant... who really cares about what's under the bonnet, the designer and the manufacturing process of the garment, and how qualified the chef is.

I just want the experience. I just want the feeling. I just want the desire for gain.

So, do you need to change your pitch? Consider this the next time that you are approaching a prospect or an existing client with either a new product/service or simply catching up on how the client is getting on with your current offering.

Let's talk about pitching and presentations in the next blog, so until then, keep on keeping on with reading and implementing these tips and ideas.

I promise you will not be disappointed!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 16: Continuing with "What influences buyers!"

I trust that you have set out your sales goal, i.e., your B.H.A.G. (big hairy audacious goal) for the coming year.

I also trust that you have re-capped on some of my previous blogs to get you back into the mindset and on track for what is to come. Good! So let's move on with some more influencers.

We already referred to the major one, positivity.

Let's now turn to how you dress.

I recall working closely with great sales/management consultant, Brian Tracy, many, many years ago, as he was mentoring a group of us in Dublin. Always positive and always dressed impeccably, he shared some amazing sales ideas with us and encouraged us to not only practice positivity and be well dressed, but also gave us several other practical practices that he considered to be major influencers when we were out there, consulting with others.

By the way, when I speak about dressing well, I don't mean that every client expects you to have the cufflinks and shiny shoes (for us men) and the power-suits etc. (for females). In fact, this can be a complete "turn-off" for certain prospects, so it is important to know your audience and mirror them.

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I recall one time taking this advice and applying it to a situation where I was approaching a potentially suitable prospect in the manufacture/farming community. I knew that the last thing this guy needed was some other guy like me in a fancy suit turning up, sticking out like a sore thumb and being a major contrast, not only to himself as the boss, but also his senior team.

What did I do? I dressed accordingly. No tie, just a presentable sports jacket, slacks...you know what I mean. In other words, my clothing was not a distraction, and I blended in pretty well to the wider team. By the way, this turned out to be a €30k.+ client over time and a classic win-win for me and the prospect.

Was it down to the clothing only? Of course not, however, as I said earlier, "every little thing, counts". So, don't allow matters like clothing to be a distraction. Mirror what you think the future client might expect of you to wear and dress accordingly.  

A twin-sister of dressing well is one's grooming. Don't let your tardy grooming be a distraction, either. For example, pop in to the restroom in advance of any important meeting and take a critical look. Is the hair ok? How do the nails look?

I recall one colleague who had unexpectedly been called home at lunch hour as the young baby was ill and his wife needed a bit of support. He spent the 90 minutes helping his wife to catch up with chores and, in particular, by looking after baby.

This involved feeding, "winding (a.k.a. burping)" (I recall personal happy days doing this!), nappy changing etc. and were carried out as best possible by dad. He then left the house to go back to a pretty important meeting, not knowing that baby had burped the remnants of what he considered to be a very successful burp all over his jacket shoulder and down the back!

He went straight into the meeting... and the rest I will leave to your own imagination!

When you do go to a meeting and, say, you are bringing brochures, handouts, business cards or you have a notepad to take notes, how do these come across? How are these presented and how do they look to the prospect or client? Are they neatly folded or dog-eared? Do you have a briefcase or a folder? How does that look?

Let's face it; prospects and clients are making up their minds of all of the time. They are looking for moments of impression and is up to you to ensure that every moment of impression is a positive one. So, dress and grooming, while superficial I agree, are real opportunities to impress and influence buyers. Trust me on this... as the song says, "trust me on the sunscreen!"

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Let's now turn to another influencer called "friendliness". There is an old saying that states "people like doing business with people they like". People that are likeable, I'm sure you agree we can categorise as being "friendly". Do you believe that? I certainly do.

So where you on the "friendliness" scale; out of maximum 10 points, score yourself. Be brutally honest!

Friendly people tend to be open with others. They invariably put others in their conversation, right in the middle and ahead of themselves. They are easy with others and there is an outgoing, rather than inward looking perspective, when dealing with others.

You could also classify it as a type of kindness. It is the way they behave with others, an empathy, a response to what others are saying rather than one's own opinions and what one thinks, oneself. As Stephen Covey says "seek first to understand and then to be understood". Brilliant.

Kindness is akin to friendliness, literally, seeing "the child" and vulnerability in others. Think about that for a moment. It is important that you understand this aspect.

When you are in the business of selling to others, putting yourself in the other person's shoes and empathising is a key skill, a critical success factor and is one of the major influencers that differentiates the top performers from the average.

I'm not talking about being a "walk-over" or doormat to others! No.

So, are we okay with friendliness and what it means to you and more importantly to your prospects? Good!

For this week, I want you to be aware of your dress code, of your grooming and in particular, friendship factor when approaching prospects. Commit to improving these by 1% per month over the next 12 months and see how much your self-esteem, personal pride and confidence rises in you and all that radiates out in a positive sense to your overall sales approach.

Until next week, then!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 15: Being more aware of things that influence buyers!

Hi there...we’re back!

So, what new year sales resolutions and goals have you set for the coming year? Courageous and successful people in my view, generally set stretchy goals for themselves, goals that are specific and measurable…and where there is no hiding from them.

They also write them down and look at them almost all of the time to remind themselves of their personal commitments. They also set pretty precise deadlines.

Have your goals been set out for this year and do they meet these criteria? Respectfully suggest that if you haven't, do it now! No, not later...Do it NOW!

So, take that piece of paper and start writing…NOW!! Don’t read on until you have at least taken out a piece of paper and titled it "My Sales Goals" this year. Now sign it and date it at the bottom and complete it…best NOW or if not now...ok, before shut-eye today.

I listened to a goal setting Vlog last week, urging me to write down my goals. As a result, I was also encouraged to write a very kind and motivational letter to my favourite person.

Who is that you might ask? Of course, ME!

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So I put pen to paper. Didn't take long. Just a few sheets of paper out of the photocopier, took a pen and started writing. "Dear Billy, blah blah blah". I signed it and dated it. It ran into three pages and in it, I was congratulating myself on all I achieved during the year, what decisions I had taken, what prospects I had approached, what sales I had won, describing what existing clients and new prospects I had converted and so on.

Of course, it was all a work of fiction, my imagination running wild. Yes, you could describe them as really BIG dreams and goals; however, the more I committed my thoughts to paper, the more REAL, the goals became. Honestly!

B.H.A.G. is what? Big, hairy, audacious goals! What's your BHAG?

Oh yes…I also wrote a post-dated cheque for a very high and scary sum that I plan to cash this time next year. Heard that technique from reading about Jim Carrey's madcap acting career. He explains that he once wrote a cheque for $10m to himself way back in time, kept looking at it and promised himself, one day, he would cash it!

He did…and it did not bounce!

Speaking of bouncing, I always liken the visualisation of goals to the high jumpers at the Olympics. There they stand, 40 or 50 m away from the high jump...lean and long legged, urging the crowd to clap along with their movements. They are visualising every step... "boing-boing-boing-boing-boing and... over the high jump" as their heads bob up and down and imagining themselves floating over this unimaginably high bar.

It is the same with your goals. Close your eyes. Picture yourself as you go through the gates of the calendar year, celebrating next New Year and looking back on what you achieved in the past 12 months. No point in thinking about these lovely dreams unless you have made a clenched fist, with a feeling of determination and dedication welling up…seeing yourself "as if". "As if" what? As if you've already achieved it. Get the feeling! Get the emotion! Get the images hardwired into your subconscious!

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Now we are getting places.

Do you believe in the power of visualisation, imagination, affirmation, verbalisation and the like. I do. 100%! I think it was Einstein who said that imagination is more powerful than fact. If he said it, who am I to dispute!

So, come on, spend some time on this exercise and have a pen and paper to hand. I love mind maps. They are such a powerful tool when you are mind storming these thoughts. 

Summary:

So, where do we start this year? One of the first actions I would recommend you do is to go back to my previous dozen or so blogs and re-read them over the next week. Great revision I promise; it will not take long for you to get back into the swing and be ready for the next batch of blogs.

I'm excited to be bringing these ideas to your and assure you they will be highly beneficial in your sales efforts; however, you need to have a solid foundation to kick on to the next level and these recent blogs will put in that foundation for you. Guaranteed!

Best of luck and see you next week!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 14: You have to be aware of things that influence buyers!

You buy every day. What influences you to buy from a particular person or store?

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I’m sure you are aware by now that you are being influenced all the time to purchase. Apart from retail where it is "in your face"  morning, noon and night, other purchases might take some time to buy. In other words, it is not on impulse.

Let’s take professional services as an example of something that promises "gain" yet it is, somewhat, intangible. If you buy a car, a home, clothing, food, a holiday…you can touch, feel, see it; it’s tactile! Whereas if you are trying to paint a picture in someone's head that, by coming on board, taking e.g. my “professional advice”, you as my client will really, really benefit.

Hmmm...a different story. It’s “trust me”-time, track record-stuff  and definitely not impulsive.

Everything you do as a seller, has an impact. In other words, everything you do counts; it either adds or takes away from your process. Think about this for a moment. Everything you do has an impact, positive or negative. That means that there is nothing neutral going on here. Buyers are making up their minds all of the time. If you do something that ticks the box, that's a plus. If you say something that put doubt or is even neutral in the mind of the prospect, that's a negative.

This is not easy. Prospecting is not easy. It never was, is or will be. If prospecting was easy and winning deals was a piece of cake, everybody would be doing it.

So, you want to put yourself into the top percentile of prospectors? Is that correct? There are lots of things you need to consider and those who are in the top of their profession in this area, radiate certain qualities and influencers.

Positivity:

How do you think being positive and confident and having a 'can-do' attitude ranks in the list of influencers? Yrs, of course you're right, it is critical. If you go into any meeting or engagement with a potential prospect and you do not come across as enthusiastic, energetic, confident and someone who exudes self belief, and in particular, belief in the product or service that you are representing, then you have little chance of success.

Look at yourself in the mirror… Go on! Take a good, hard look and ask yourself if you come across as positive, passionate, committed and client centric? If you do not have the clients in the middle of your life you are doomed to failure. Many sales people have money in the middle of their lives, or results, or their commissions, or hitting targets and performance… and it is very, very easy to lose sight of the cause of your success, namely your clients.

If you treat your customers with anything other than 100% of your commitment, care, attention and, dare I say, friendship, then you risk losing sight of THE most important factor  in your career.

They say that positivity is contagious. I mentioned in an earlier blog that selling is a mere "transfer of enthusiasm". I have rarely bought anything from a sales person, that I don't see as demonstrating the characteristics I described above.

So, positivity is critical, yes? Agreed...good!

What else? Frankly, I like dealing with people who dress well! I know that fashion has changed and having "dress-down Fridays" is commonplace. No difficulty with that whatsoever! There is a "but"!

The word "BUT":

Oh yes, as an aside, try to eliminate the word "but" from your vocabulary. Simply replace it with the word "and"... You will be amazed what it actually does to your attitude. The word "but" is a downer...you know exactly what I mean? "You're doing a great job John, but..." Ouch!! For John, there is something coming down the line here and he is not going to be happy about it.

 How about replacing it with: "you're doing great John...AND... I'd also like you to...blah, blah, blah...". Much better, what ?

So getting back to my point about clothing, when I meet somebody for the first time, 90% of what I see is their clothing. Why don't you make a resolution, take a look at the clothing you are wearing and ask yourself what kind of messages that these are sending out to your prospects and clients? Don't ask your best friend, unless they are totally frank with you. Ask somebody who knows about this kind of stuff, what works, what does not, what is appropriate etc.

Is it said you should "dress for success". I cannot disagree. Someone once told me that you should always dress one or two levels above where you think you are in the pecking order of seniority. Trust me on this... "trust me on the sunscreen"...  do it!! It works!

Next week we will look at some other influencers, so until then...!!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 13: Establishing if your prospect desires, needs, can use and afford your offering

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Think of a time when you purchased something and the experience you went through where all of the boxes are ticked in your mind and you were confident that this was the right decision. We all purchase things everyday from a coffee in the morning through to a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. Psychologically, the person selling this to you will have painted pictures in your head, even if it is just that coffee was handed over to you with a smile and have a nice day! In other words, you must get "the feeling", warm and fuzzy, perhaps, that this was a good decision.

Let me give you a couple of personal war stories that happened to me recently to illustrate.

Purchase No. 1: My daughter moved into her new apartment and asked if I would help to mount her expensive TV onto brackets on a big, white wall. This meant me going out to buy an electric drill and to describe the task at hand to the guy behind the counter. I'm okay at DIY, but this was going a step further and I was full of trepidation.

In fairness to the guy he spotted my fear and said that if I followed his instructions that I would have four of the best drilled holes with plastic plugs inserted, that would be so strong and sturdy, it would hold up both the TV and myself if I wished!

What I realised I was buying was not a drill, but four holes that would make me look like super dad! To cut a long story short, the TV looks great and many weeks later I haven't received any emergency phone calls from my daughter!

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So, in this case, I wanted the four holes, and therefore needed a drill that I could use with confidence and frankly, whatever the cost of the drill was, I was going to afford and pay for it. Purchase done and dusted ... and a win for the hardware store and a win for me!

Purchase No.2: I recall asking my other daughter to help me pick out some clothing, new shirt, trousers, shoes that sort of thing for my birthday party that some of my friends were going to attend. Obviously, the guys at home wanted me to look my best, even though what I had in the wardrobe was, to my mind, fine. How wrong I was!

I must admit I don't enjoy retail that much, so I was definitely out of my comfort zone, going into this expensive men's department. It was then I saw HIM coming towards me! I had a voucher for about €300 that I thought it would be more than adequate to kit me out for the night, and hopefully, for many nights in the future. My daughter handed me over to HIM and chaperoned me around the store for the next hour. Shirt and trousers swallowed up the voucher in double quick time! In fairness to HIM, the clothes did look great and I felt good in them!

You know what is coming next!

There was something missing from the ensemble and, of course, my daughter agreed. Yes, I needed a jacket to finish it off and when he draped this particular jacket on me, I must admit, had an OMG moment.

It was perfect! I wanted it. I needed it. I certainly was going to use it and as for being able to afford it, what the hell!

To cap it all, he was brilliant, went for the jugular and strongly recommended that I add a leather belt (blood-red was the "in" colour... can't believe I am actually saying that) that added another €80 to the bill. Again, I have to say...it was perfect. So now, had I not only used up my €300 voucher, I was well on the way to more than doubling the budget. 

The purpose of these two examples is to illustrate that all buying is emotional. I really wasn't buying a drill and some clothing. I was buying confidence that four holes in the wall would hold up my daughter's TV forever, and, as regards the clothing, I was buying self image, confidence in myself and dare I say it, a little bit of ego enhancement.

Now ask yourself every time you are qualifying your prospects in future:

·        do they desire/want your offering?

·        do they need it?

·        can they use it? and finally,

·        can they afford it (or afford not to)?

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 12: Do I have the right prospect for me and my business?

I look back to my early days of prospecting for business and see many of the mistakes I made in trying to get to the closing of the deal. Far too fast!

In my case, my personality type was a combo of extroversion and emotion/heart, therefore building relationships came easy to me. So did transferring the enthusiasm for my service to the prospect…or so I am told!

While these attributes are useful and admirable, they often led me to making assumptions and rash proposals. In other words, I could not hold myself back from trying to consummate the relationship. In fact, I sometimes fall into that trap today as you know what they say about a leopard never changing his spots! People don't change that much.

So what have I done in order to "curb my enthusiasm"? (By the way, have you seen Larry David in that American comedy show of a similar name? Brilliant!). I have learned to behave in the exact opposite way to my style, even to the point of psychologically training my brain and mind to engage before my mouth is put to use.

Let the prospect speak. Allow him or her to tell you their story first. You must identify or diagnose their needs before you go into any reasons why they might even consider buying your product or service.

Many people in the early stages of their sales career fall into this trap. Don't you let yourself be one of them. Refer back to my earlier blogs where I emphasise the need for you to build relationships that are founded on trust, empathy and, dare I say, friendship with your prospect. If your prospect sees you as being a problem solver and solution provider to their pains and aches, business-wise, then you are a great distance down the road in being able to entice them to take you on.

So, let me repeat, not for the first time, diagnosis before prescription!

You are going to come across many different types of prospects in your career. Just remember that when you do win a new customer, that there will be people snapping at your heels, in an attempt to either get them back or to take over as a new client. Therefore, continuing with the business relationship is going to be a critical success factor in your career.

As I have said many times in seminars, many average or even below average sales people can probably win customers that they often don't deserve to secure. That's life. The more important question is whether they can get the second and third and fourth sales. In other words, can they make them lifetime customers? The purpose of your business is to attract in and retain customers, so we will talk in future blogs about retention activities and strategies. For now, let's focus on the prospects that you are trying to secure and get over the line for the first time.

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As I referred to above, there are many different types of prospects. The ideal one for you and easiest of course, is where they are really dissatisfied with their existing offering. In other words, you may be pushing an open door and once you start diagnosing where their pain is, you can later match these pains, with pain relievers, i.e. your product or service.

You may have prospects who are so content and happy with their existing supplier, that you may feel you are wasting your time. These are clearly the more difficult nuts to crack. Yet, I believe that these are also worth pursuing, if only to hone your diagnostic and communication skills. If there genuinely is no need, then there is no sale. However, you can still ask these prospects for an opportunity to tell you about their business, no strings attached. Perhaps some of the issues that the current offering/supplier may not be addressing is an opportunity. You may offer them some complimentary advice or opinion on a question that they may not ask their current supplier.

So, if you are interested in building long-term relationships with prospects and clients, you have to invest time in this. Again, I will repeat, get out amongst the prospects, attend networking meetings, bring plenty of business cards, identify people of interest, approach them, introduce yourself, but always ask first, if they haven't got in ahead of you, what do they do.

In a way, this is more about you having the self belief, self image and courage to put yourself out there. I can almost guarantee that the more you see yourself as being this successful prospector, the more success you will attract into your life. Picture yourself as this professional, competent and knowledgeable salesperson. In fact, see yourself similar to this medical practitioner we have spoken about.

Imagine going into a doctors surgery and everyone in there from the receptionist right through to the most senior practitioner, comes across as being unsure, lacking in self-belief and giving off an air of incompetence. Offer on the wall: half-price brain surgery, this week only!!

It doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

Think of the messages that you are currently sending out with your approach to prospects. Okay, so what do you need to fix right now before approaching a new prospect?

Go attend to it right now, fix it and let me know what gaps you have identified.

Until next week then…

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 11: Is all buying "emotional"?

A trusted mentor once said to me in the early stages of my career, that if I did not understand and get the message that all buying is psychological/emotional, then I would never be good at selling. It took me a while for the penny to drop and, I can assure you, once I got it, I saw it everywhere. In the last blog, we spoke about how important listening is. We listen actively and incisively to watch what the person is saying because we want to establish if the prospect is feeling any way dissatisfied with their current offering.

So what are these psychological and emotional triggers that will get your prospect to say "yes"? It is said that the reason anybody buys or rents anything, is:

1.      desire for gain or benefit...and/or

2.      fear of loss/losing out

Think about that for the moment.

In particular, think about some of your recent purchases. Suppose it was some clothing where you wanted to look your best or impress someone or just feel good about yourself.  What psychological and emotional thoughts went through your head? I guarantee at some point when you found that beautiful piece of clothing that looked really good on you, you thought that this ticked box number one above, in other words, this satisfies my desire for gain and benefit.

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Then a counter argument may have came into the decision-making. Ouch!... perhaps when you saw the price. Then the voice in your head says "if you don't buy this, you are going to lose out". Bingo! Box 2 above, is being ticked. Will I, won't I? You know how it goes. In the end you buy it because the desire for gain and the fear of losing out are overwhelming.

Now put yourself in the shoes of your prospects and the product/service with which you are trying to impress them. Have you painted pictures in their heads with your questions? We all think in pictures, don't we? If so, your job is to paint pictures in your prospects heads by emphasising the improvement that they are going to possess when they take your product/service on board.

Let's face it, everybody is only thinking about themselves. You could say that they are actually preoccupied with their favourite subject...themselves! Once you understand that, everything else falls into place in the sales process. People love talking about themselves; so, if they do, get on board with them.

These are the people that are going to feed you and your family and anybody that does that for me, I'm going to listen, listen and listen more, until such time I know exactly what these prospects want, they need, they can use and afford.

This is actually detective work! I used to love Colombo, remembered him...Peter Falk , the actor, played this detective. Look it up. It's a gas! You know, that moment and part when the murderer eventually reveals him or herself? It's exciting, yes! Selling is really no different.

You may ask a question and it can be the trigger or button, where the prospect truly reveals the desire for gain. In other words, what do they feel and think they are going to benefit by, when they take your product/service on board. Nobody has ever sold anything of worth unless they have been able to reveal this in a consultative selling process.

So how good are you at this aspect of the sales journey? If you can gather the facts about why others may have bought this particular product/service, then you have a far better chance of directing the conversation to those, what we might call, triggers or hot buttons. It is all about the needs of the customer, it is grounded in their desires, in their fears, in their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Therefore, it is up to you and only you, to be brilliant at this particular aspect of the process. Why would your customers be better off dealing with you? After all, the world of sales is changing so rapidly with competition, technology and information, that nothing is certain, any more. It is up to you, therefore, to know your product cold!

What I mean by cold, is that if somebody woke you up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep, and asked you about the benefits of your product/service, you would be able to rattle them off instantaneously. Could you do that now? Could you actually write down immediately, the top five reasons or ways that your customer would benefit, and therefore be better off by purchasing your product/service?

Here, I'll make it easy for you. Complete this now!

  1. ______________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________
  5. _____________________________________________

Once done, get out amongst your prospects and start testing this approach. You won't regret it!

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 10: The power of asking “killer” questions and LISTENING

Firstly, a BIG thank you to a few people who contacted me during the week to say that, as a result of my recent blogs and applying some of the concepts, they have WON new clients. My heart is so uplifted by that. GREAT!

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Listening. What is it? In order for people to speak and for you to listen (your job as a diagnostician), you have to firstly ask questions. We all know that there are different types of questions. For example, open questions are best if you want information. Use words like:

  • “How is that?”
  • “Tell me more”
  • “Why do you think that happened?”
  • “Explain that again to me, please”…and so on. How, why, what-type questions.

For completeness, closed questions ask you for “yes/no”-type answers. Do you want fries with that? Do you prefer the red one or blue one?  

There are times in sales when you use both. In the early stages of relationship-building, open questions are best. Put the prospect at the centre of your life. Get them speaking. Get them to tell you where is their pain, what do they dream about, what are they not happy about with their current supplier.

Have you got specific “killer” questions to unearth the prospects pain? If not, spend time after this blog writing them down. Some may be “thinking”-type questions…focusing on facts, metrics, results, statistics i.e. more head than heart. “Feeling”-type questions ask exactly about that…e.g. ”so, how do people around here feel about that?”. It’s emotion more than factual, more heart than head, ok?

Good!

I can honestly say that learning killer questions, being able to ask them in an open, honest and empathetic way, has literally enabled me to feed my family over the past 20 years in consultancy. Ok, so it’s only the starting point of the process…however, once you diagnose, you must be able to prescribe, present your solution and then close the deal. Identifying needs and finding out if this prospect is for you and you for them, requires effort, input and patience.

Personal case study: I recall being almost “coffee’d-out” having met a prospect once and then going back again and again over a period of 15 months and nothing happened, nada, zilch, zero! On the point of almost giving up, I went back for one more time and…hey presto, NOTHING again! However, one week later, a call. “Can you come see me ?…I think you may be able to do something for us”. Turned out to be a very lucrative client for me over a long period and I put it down to persistence, not being a “pain”, being empathetic and, mostly, being non-judgemental and an ability to listen. In other words, when you ask a question, ZIP IT! Ask for permission to take notes…ALWAYS do this as not to do so, will send out the wrong signals and the person may clam up thinking…”what the hell is he/she writing about me?”. Be careful about this so courtesy is essential before writing down your thoughts.

Ok, now for a bit of homework. Try this consultative diagnostic process on a “friend”, ask your killer questions, did you unearth the causes of the pain, did you spend 80% of your time listening and 20% speaking?

Ask for feedback, do the exercise again and again until you are fully comfortable with it. Only then, try it out on a prospect.

Best of luck…and tell me how you have done! 

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 9: How do you build strong business relationships?

Over the course of these initial blogs, the importance of relationships has been emphasised again and again.

So, how do you go about building this foundation that is so essential for sales success?

We mentioned previously that people like buying from people whom they like. So, what is your likeability factor? Do you come across as someone that is friendly, honest, caring and who shows respect for the other person? Do you respect their time? For example, showing up for meetings on time, prepared and ready for action, is a form of respect.

People who are late for meetings are essentially saying to the other person that, something was more important than you. If you are late for a meeting, do you actually apologise, ask for forgiveness and promise that it will never happen again? That's true  respect!

If the purpose of your business is to attract in and retain customers, then every moment of impression that you make on them, must be a positive one. Treating people with respect, like turning up on time and keeping to your promises are fundamentals and many people, unfortunately miss this critical success factor.

How much do you actually care about your customer? I mean really care about them and how you can become a trusted supplier. It is almost like becoming their "friend". I don't mean that you need to meet them at weekends and go on holidays with them... it's when you are with them, do you treat them with care and respect?

Anybody that pays my bills, in other words, my customers, I am going to love them! This does not mean that you get into false flattery, manipulation or activities that lack integrity. No, what I mean is that you treat others like you would like to be treated.

For example, when you greet them and meet, do you smile, are you courteous, do you shake their hand, look into their eyes, and demonstrates that you are really happy to be with them.

I am fully aware that in business, there are challenges with clients and customers, and that not everything goes smoothly and in straight lines. It is rarely La-La Land!

However, you are there to make sure that those kinks and boulders in the road of your relationship and on the journey are ironed out as much as possible. This means compromise, this means ensuring that the clients self-esteem is protected, this means that your communication skills need to be well honed.

Remember that when you meet a prospect or client, you have to be where they are right now, not where you wish them to be. You have no idea what may have happened to that individual before leaving for work that morning, what happened earlier in the day in their business and what they may be facing and is preoccupying their minds.

So, being non-judgemental and accepting what you find is a rather important success factor in the sales business. Judge not, lest you be judged!

It is easy to find something nice to say. Pass a favourable comment on how well the person looks or, (if not looking that well), find something else to praise. It costs you nothing. Be courteous and thank them for their time. In other words, they are taking time out of their busy schedule and day, to give you the opportunity to tell them whatever you have to tell them. In that case, a couple of "thank you" interjections will not go amiss. Thank you for seeing me, thank you for giving me your time, thank you for the information you gave me… thank you, thank you, thank you!

A poignant story comes to mind about being judgemental.

A young man with three children were on the underground in London and, it looked as if the three kids were out of control, running, jumping off seats, screaming, fighting and the dad behaved and looked oblivious to the mini mayhem that was going on in the carriage. There were lots of "tut-tuts" and sidelong glances by some of the passengers. After about 20 minutes, in exasperation, a passenger went to the father and asked him whether he would mind controlling his "brats", to reprimand them, control them and behave like a responsible adult. The dad seemed to be aware for the first time about what was going on around him and herded the kids together. Once they were calm, he went and apologised to the passenger and explained that he had just left the hospital where his young wife had just died and he was bringing kids to his mum's home to be minded.

One doesn't have to say much more about being judgemental and centred on oneself to get the oint across.

Think about how you can apply this lesson the next time that you are meeting a client or prospect. How different will you behave?

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Sales Coaching Series, Part 8: Why do I have to waste all this time on relationship-building?

This question was asked of me at a seminar recently. In fact, the full question was, "why do I have to waste all of this time on relationship building, when I could be out there picking the low hanging fruit and selling... and making easy money?".

What do you think the answer to that is?

Look, if you want to go after low hanging fruit business, don't let me stop you and knock yourself out!

However, you got to ask yourself if this is a sustainable way of building up long-term, profitable and loyal customers? I don't think so.

I know it is a cliché, however, it is said that "people buy people". In fact I would go so far as to say that prospects will buy you first, then your company followed by your product or service. This means that you must spend a great deal of time on yourself. Get to know and be aware of what others see when you are approaching them. What is your style, your behaviour, your temperament…the way that you sell. If you were a customer of yourself, ask yourself would like to be treated the way that I treat my prospects?

people-buy-people

Why is all this, pre-sales attitude, self awareness and temperament "stuff" so important nowadays?

Just like the world of work has changed, there is been a paradigm shift in the world of sales also. Think of the customers today, as opposed to 5, 10, 15 years ago. They are far more aware and informed about the products and services that they are going to buy.

Everybody Googles in advance today! So if you are dealing with a far more educated pool of prospects, you had better be as knowledgeable and informed about the choices that they have before you approach them.

Competition is everywhere. Many retailers complain, and rightly so, about the fact that their shops are becoming fitting rooms for "tyre-kickers" only for people to go back home and order the same product, online. Face-to-face selling therefore has to be far more relationship based than in the past, not just in retail, but everywhere.

In part seven, I mentioned the fact that you need to think of yourself as someone akin to a consultant, a doctor or trusted adviser. You would never walk into a medical practitioner's office and the doctor tell you immediately what is exactly wrong with you, write a prescription and turn you out the door to pay your bill at reception!

This would lack all sorts of integrity, honesty and I'm sure your confidence to go back in the future would be destroyed.

We therefore cannot manipulate people into buying our product or service. They have to see that we understand them, we know where their pain is and we know what they would wish to gain from dealing with us.

We will talk in the future about how you emphasise benefits rather than features when you are presenting your offering. Focusing on the benefits puts the customer or the prospect at the centre of the conversation. If you start talking about the features, you are very often showing off about how much you know about the technical side or "what's under the bonnet" in relation to your offering. If you find peoples' eyes glazing over, you may be falling into this trap. Avoid at all costs unless somebody is really, really, really (did I say really?) interested in how the thing works.

You cannot make assumptions about the prospect. The only way you will know how the prospect is thinking and feeling, and may act in the future, is by building a relationship with them and asking them questions.

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Have you got your questions ready? Take a minute and write down the typical questions that will enable you to diagnose where the customer's pain is right now, what they are thinking about, and maybe dreaming about, in terms of the type of product or service that you are offering so that when you come to the presenting, you can customise it to each prospect situation.

In next week's blog, we will talk more about how you build that trusting relationship, so that the prospect will open up to you.

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