Wednesday, November 23, 2011

20 Posts I Stole from Smarter People

This is my 200th post and I've decided it's time for a break. I am taking a hiatus from this blog. I have started a business and am trying to put all of my blogging and SEO efforts into it. To read my current blog, CLICK HERE. Small Business Storyteller is a blog about running a successful small business in the age of the Internet. I include a lot of information about sales, marketing, social media, leadership, etc.--a lot of stuff that carries the same theme as this blog. I'll leave this blog open for anyone who wishes to use its resources and I'm keeping the domain name, "How Does That Make You Buy?" because, let's face it, it's awesome!

I love writing about sales and may come back to this at some point in the future. In the meantime, check out my 20 favorite posts from this blog. And this isn't tooting my own horn--it's tooting the horn of the many writers who have significantly influenced my perspective and shaped my thinking over the past few years. If there is anything good that I have to share with you, it is because they weren't kind enough to first share it with me. Yes, I admit it: I am an idea thief. So, take advantage of what I've learned and receive some stolen property. Thank you for visiting!
  1. "Your Mission is Too Important"
  2. "Salespeople and Doctors"
  3. "Stuck in the Snuggly Duckling"
  4. "Four Words That Limit Your Potential"
  5. "The Golden Rule of Sales"
  6. "Losing Interest in Self-Interest"
  7. "Why I Hate Spiders"
  8. "Are You Seeking Employment or Opportunity?"
  9. "Price as the Final Decision Variable"
  10. "The Power of Certainty"
  11. "Lessons from a Bad Therapist"
  12. "Branding in Sales"
  13. "Suggestions, Requests, and the Fear of Rejection"
  14. "What's Your Student/Teacher Ratio?"
  15. "The Anti-Guru Movement"
  16. "Don't Take it Out on the Customer"
  17. "The Philosophy of the Snooze Button"
  18. "Why Are Companies in Business?"
  19. "How to Sell Junk"
  20. "If You Really Care..."
featured image courtesy of gingerpig2000 licensed via Creative Commons

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of November 13, 2011

Fantastic list of articles this week. Themes range from askings questions to overcoming obstacles to social media and technology. Check out these articles and learn from these amazing writers!
  1. Kelley Robertson, "23 Questions that Will Improve Your Sales" A killer list of specific, targeted questions broken down based upon the scenarios in which they are asked.
  2. Matt Heinz, "10 Best Practices for Cold Calling" A solid list of rules to go over before even picking up the phone.
  3. Brian Solis, "9 Laws of Consumer Affinity in the Digital Age" How to attract and retain customers in today's digital marketplace.
  4. Paul Castain, "10 Totally Random Thoughts about Questions" Insightful article about what good questions consist of.
  5. Neil Patel, "6 Ways to Be More Persuasive with Social Media" An application of Rober Cialdini's principles to the world of social media.
  6. Ellen Bremen, "When the Walls Go Up, How Do You Avoid Getting Down?" How to focus when life is cluttered with distractions.
  7. Daniel Newman, "Hope is Not a Strategy" Hope is a good thing but should not be used as a substitute when strategy is more applicable.
  8. Jim Keenan, "The  Best Salespeople are Critical of Their Customers" Great salespeople are not afraid to challenge their customers.
  9. Dave Brock, "Does Sales 2.0 Make You a Better Salesperson?" Technology can make salespeople more efficient, but selling skills must continue to be developed in order to make them more effective.
  10. Gini Dietrich, "9 Ways to Make Yourself Charming" A fun list of ways to make people like you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jumping through Trust Hoops

As I've started my own B2B venture, all the reading and writing I've done over the past few years has suddenly become much, much more real. I am dealing with issues in selling to businesses that weren't quite as complex as they were in selling to end users. One of the most profound struggles in selling what I do is something that I've written about before but haven't experienced in its fullness until now.  What I'm talking about is the challenge of building trust. Though I know there are exceptions, it seems the level of trust between buyer and seller is much more important in complex B2B transactions than it was in the B2C environment that I came out of. I, by the nature of the service I am providing, will be working with customers--not simply selling to them.

The Levels of Trust

To someone completely new in business, with nothing to go on but a handful of recommendations, you've got to build trust from the ground up. As I've spoken with people, the feedback I've gotten has taught me that there are two primary types of trust that buyers must have in order for salespeople to be successful with them. These are:
  • Trust in the salesperson's intentions
  • Trust in the salesperson's competencies
The cold calls I've made have been incredibly challenging. I now know that some of the terminlogy I've used in my scripts has alienated peole from even considering doing business with me. You see, they don't know me from Adam. I don't even have a recognizable company behind me so that I can say, "I'm from XYZ." I'm just me, and they--naturally--assume the worst. As soon as they caught wind that I might, possibly, maybe, potentially be asking them for money, they ended the call. Was it because they didn't think they needed what I was selling? Probably not. Was it because they didn't believe I was capable of doing what I said I could do? Maybe. But I think it's most likely because that don't know me and assume that my intentions are underhanded, selfish, and manipulative. "People don't know care how much you know until they know how much you care." And, when you people don't know you care, they assume that you don't.

The people that I've called based on recommendations have been much more trusting of my intentions. As I talked to them, the conversations swung quickly to my capabilities. They trusted my intentions--I was a friend of a friend--but they still knew nothing of my abilities to get the job done. In that respect, they still didn't trust me. They believed that I had a good heart and wasn't out to trick them, but they still didn't know if they wanted to shell out any money to pay for me. It makes perfect sense. I had not yet proved anything to them.

What are your experiences in building trust? Is it a different process now than it was from when you started? Has building trust gotten easier with experience? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

featured image courtesy of skycaptaintwo licensed via Creative Commons

Monday, November 14, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of November 6, 2011

  1. Dan Waldschmidt, "Waiting for Someone Else to Believe in You" Sure, it's nice to have the support and encouragement of others but, if it's a necessity for you, you're doomed from the start. Everyone has their own dreams, goals, and agendas that aren't yours. You have to be the one to give yourself permission. You have to believe in you even if no one else does because, at times, no one else will.
  2. Robert Terson, "Limiting Beliefs" We are only limited by what we believe about ourselves. We tell ourselves that we can't do this or that and end up not being able to do it. We've got to transcend this kind of thinking and start knowing that we can accomplish what we set our minds to.
  3. Gary Hart, "Are You Selling to Phantom Buyers?" The Internet has created a much smaller gap between seller and customer, but the level of contact in inbound web traffic is insufficient. People can come and go as they please when they are on your site, without ever being engaged in dialogue. Sales will always have the upper hand in being able to engage the customer directly.
  4. Rosemary O'Neill, "Are Your Customers Embedded?" How are you including your customers in the development of your business and brand? What have you named after a customer? What idea have you attributed to a customer? Something to think about.
  5. Paul Castain, "Don't Get Frustrated...Get Excited" Failure is a beautiful thing. It's a learning experience. A new discovery of another thing that doesn't work. Success is in the future waiting and the more times you fail, the closer you get. Failure is a cause for celebration!
  6. Mark Babbitt, "It's NOT 'It is What It Is?'" It's what you make it. We don't have to surrender to life's circumstances. In as much as we are able, we can create change. Resigning to the 'it is what it is' way of thinking is an insult to the human spirit. We are capable of so much more.
  7. Vanessa Van Petten, "5 Ways to Make a Killer First Impression" First impressons matter. Some people might never see you again, so your first impression could also be your last one. You want to make it count.
  8. Mark Hunter, "There Is No Substitute for Solid Integrity" Character counts. In the long-run, salespeople with integrity outperform those without it. Don't be tempted to take shortcuts and use shady, manipulative tactics to get a little ahead--even if your colleagues are doing it. Integrity wins out in the end.
  9. Kelley Robertson, "The Power of Networking" Meeting people at networking events is perhaps the best way to create life-long relationships. Introduce yourself to someone. Chat for while. Give him your card. Get his. Follow up. Meet again for coffee. Networking is powerful.
  10. Trevor Stevens, "Do You Smell Desperate?" Salespeople often use terminology that make them seem desperate.  Buyers are very good at picking up on when salespeople need the sale. Don't beg. Don't grovel. Don't say, "What do I have to do to get your business now?" What you have to offer is worth more than that. Act like it is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book of the Week: The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success

Brain Tracy has quite possible written more about business than I have yet to read in my lifetime thus far. He has a long, successful history in sales, management, leadership. operations consulting, and public speaking. His 100 laws of business success are broken down into the following categories: life, success, business, leadership, money, selling, negotiating, and time management. I could easily write 10 posts on the book alone. Fantastic advice laced with personal anecdotes and practical action items. Great book for anyone in a managerial or leadership position.

Here are, in my judgement, the top 10 laws Brian Tracy discusses in this book:
  1. The Law of Expectations. Our beliefs about our successes or failures are often self-fulfilling prophecies. If we think we can, we will. If we think we can't, we won't. The most successful people in business have high expectations for themselves and their people. What do you expect?
  2. The Law of Control. Successful people have what is called an internal locus of control. External events, circumstances, and other people do not determine their attitude and orientation toward life. They listen first and foremost to the voice inside and, in doing so, are able to take charge of their lives. What controls your life?
  3. The Law of Compensation. You get what you put in. You reap what you sow. You will be compensated exactly as much as you are willing to work. In the words of Zig Ziglar, "You can get anything you want in life by helping other people get what they want." Successful people are not afraid to give excessively. They know that it pays off. How much are you contributing?
  4. The Law of Decision. Great business leaders are decisive. They are not always right, but they are always firm. They aren't wishy-washy, but are always moving forward. If they are wrong, they take feedback, self-correct, and move on. What have you decided lately?
  5. The Law of Persistence. Never give up. Probably the biggest cliche on this list, but true nonetheless. As Tracy says, success only means that you are willing to keep going longer than anyone else does. Successful people know that enduring in spite of setbacks will inevitably lead to success. You can only fail when you quit. Are you still going?
  6. The Law of Differentiation. Jack Welch is famous for saying that, if GE was not at least number 1 or number 2 in its industry, it would not compete. Being able to do what you do different and/or better than anyone else is key to success. If what you are selling is no different than anyone else, you are setting yourself up for a price war. More than that, though, you aren't contributing anything of value to your customers. Successful people aren't afraid to think outside the box and come up with a great competitive advantage. What makes you different?
  7. The Law of Integrity. Successful people have a high degree of integrity. They are truthful, honest, straightforward, reliable, and consistent. They live the life and practice what they preach. They act like people are always watching them and never try to "get away with" anything. Character is foundational. If you don't have that, then you can't be trusted with anything. How is your integrity?
  8. The Law of Abundance. There is no shortage of money to be made. The best way to understand this law is in contrast with the law of scarcity--which says that there's only so much to go around. If I make money, it means someone else is losing it. This belief is destructive and causes not to embrace their full potential due (falsely) to moral inhibitions. The reality is that, when you make money, you creaet more wealth in the economy, because what you are doing adds more value than you were paid (otherwise the person wouldn't pay you). Who can deny that we have more resources available today than we did 100, 50, or even 10 years ago. Technology attests to abundance. Don't feel guilty when you make money; rejoice that you are making the world better. Is guilt falsely holding you back?
  9. The Law of Trust. People buy from those they trust. Think about how you feel about telemarketers or salespeople. Why are you so quick to turn them down? Probably because you don't trust them--you assume selfish intentions on their part. That is why it is so important, in selling, to really get to know your customers--asking questions about their business and expressing genuine concern for their problems--before pitching your products. Successful people know that trust comes before revenue. Are you building trust?
  10. The Law of Clarity. Successful people do not think or act in generalities. They are specific and clear about the goals they seek to accomplish. Brian Tracy suggests making a list of your top 10 priorities. Then, find the most important thing on that list and move it to a separate list. For that priority, write down the specific steps you wish to take to accomplish that goal. Do the same for all other priorities. Successful people focus on getting specific things accomplished. Are you clear about your goals?

I challenge you to live for 1 month in such a way that demonstrates belief in these laws and see if your life does not change dramatically. What do you think? Can you do it?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Importance of Character in Selling

Even if you aren't following the 2012 Presidential election campaigns, I'm sure you've heard of the allegations leveled against Republican hopeful Herman Caine. Women are coming out of the woodwork, claiming that he had used his position of power in the past to get them to have sexual relations with him and then paid them to keep it quiet. Why does this scenario sound so familiar? Oh, that's right! It happens every time someone runs for president.

I'm not defending or supporting Herman Caine or the Republican party; my political opinions are irrelevant. The point I wish to make is in regards to the commonly used ad hominem argument in political campaigns. It's so much easier to attack the person than it is the policy. If you can dig up some dirt on a candidate's character, you can take him down fast! Regardless of how effective he will be at administering his policies and regardless of how good those policies are for the country, if there is not a heart of integrity lying beneath them, nobody cares!

Character in Selling

Salespeople, like politicians, are often viewed as having questionable character. Politicians, after all, are salespeople. When giving speeches, they are really giving pitches. Their product is their ability to serve in office. They are selling themselves and their policies. When dealing with a salesperson, the default is often cynicism. Everything the salesperson says is taken with a grain of salt. If this is where the sales relationship begins, imagine where the relationship will go if the prospect suspects a lack of integrity on the part of the salesperson!

Now, it isn't likely that a salesperson have a charge of sexual misconduct leveled against her, but it is highly likely that her honesty and intentions be called into question. Most people have no problem believing that the average salesperson will willingly lie to get a sale. So, if the prospect even gets a vibe that you are being dishonest or engaging in manipulative tactics, you are in the same boat as Herman Caine--trying to defend your integrity while you should be focusing on showing your prospect the benefits of your offering.

I think it's time we raise the bar. Is it possible for us to change the stereotype? Will there come a day when people respond to questions about our integrity by saying, "That's ridiculous! A salesperson would never lie to me!" Perhaps that's wishful thinking. But let's focus on what we can do--we can choose not to perpetuate the stereotype. We can be honest and straightforward with our prospects. We can focus on helping them rather than manipulating and exploiting them. Yes, there will be dirt thrown on us--attacks on our integrity over which we have no control, but that doesn't mean we have to roll around in the mud. We can set a new standard for integrity in selling.
What about you? How do people perceive you as a salesperson? Is everything you say discounted, or do people trust your character enough to listen to what you have to say?

featured image courtesy of markn3tel licensed via Creative Commons

Monday, November 7, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of October 30, 2011

  1. Konrath, Jill. "Quit Being So Darn Nice!" In this article, Jill eloquently highlights the difference between being nice and being helpful. If you really care about your customers, you'll worry about helping them solve their problems rather than worrying about how pushy you come across to them.
  2. Morrow, Jonathan. "6 Ways to Sell Without Selling Your Soul." Great article on being a salesperson without acquiring the dread sales stereotype. We all sell, but none of us have to be manipulative jerks. We can sell with integrity and Jonathan shows us how.
  3. Weber, Joey. "How to Create Your Personal Brand in 6 Easy Steps." Interested in creating and/or enhancing your personal brand? Joey gives you some pointers on things you might want to do and then gives specific exercises to help you follow through. Great primer on building a better image for the world to see.
  4. Robertson, Kelley. "How to Tell if You are a Sales Zombie." My Halloween post of choice. Kelley draws great paraellels between zombies and sloppy, apathetic, poorly performing salespeople. Sometimes, we all get in to slumps and start to feel a little lifeless in our professions. Take a look at this post and see if you can relate.
  5. Keenan, Jim. "The 6 Biggest Changes in Today's Sales Environment You Nee to Know About." Tradition has no place in sales. You've got to adapt to your customers' buying behavior. Jim lays out 6 profound revolutions in complex sales and explains how salespeople need to embrace these new realities. If you've been selling the same way for decades, read this post and take notes!
  6. Cantrell-Kraig, Molly. "Do You Believe in Luck?" In this post, Molly turns the "good luck" and "bad luck" cliches on their heads. Believing in luck as the main cause of your success or failure makes you a slave to life's whims. I better way to live, a more enabling and empowering way, is take responsbility. Never say you are lucky or unlucky. Be accountable.
  7. Murphy, Shawn. "5 Beliefs That Undermine a Leader's Influence and Success." Leaders, like anyone, can fall victim to negative thinking. The problem is that, when leaders acquire poor beliefs, they inspire others to do so as well. Shawn gives us a solid list of dangerous beliefs a leader may hold in relation to her followers. See if any of these applies to you and then work on changing it right away!
  8. Iannarino, Anthony. "10 Ways to Be More Strategic and Less Transactional." The more transactional are in your selling style, the more commoditized you are in your pricing. If it's just about the single sale, the buyer will weigh you out against all the other "peddlers" out there. If you position yourself, however, as a strategic partner, the buyer will be buying a long-term relationship and that is much more difficult to cross-shop. Anthony provides us with a great list of ways to make that jump from transactional to strategic.
  9. Brock, Dave. "Unsolicited Email, Cold Calling, Prospecting, Nurturing..." Dave shares his thoughts on sending unsolicited emails and making cold calls. There is a violent revolt in sales today against any time of unsolicited prospecting. It's often construed as selfish and "pushy" behavior to cold call a prospect. Dave offers alternative thoughts about the importance of meeting new prospects and opening new relationships via cold calls. Definitely worth a read!
  10. Imbriano, Lou. "Always Give People More Than They Bargained For." Lou tells a great story about his grandfather's generousity in serving clients. Adapting his grandfather's example, Lou discusses the importance of giving more that your clients expect. Outgiving your competition is always the best business model. People respond to generousity.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book of the Week: SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

It's hard to believe that Neil Rackham's SPIN selling was written in 1988 and some of its most profound discoveries (especially #4 and #9 below) are still not being taught by sales trainers. I use the word "discoveries," because Rackham's book is unlike any other sales book ever written. Rackham is not a salesperson turned sales trainer. His background is in behavior psychology. While most sales books are written by retired sales people, giving their anecdotal perspectives on what does and doesn't work in selling, Rackham's book is the culmination of a huge research project. Rackham and his company actually follow reps on hundreds of sales calls to isolate trends in successful salespeople versus unsuccessful salespeople. SPIN Selling is a well-written, provocative telling of their findings.

Here are the top 10 takeaways that I believe every salesperson should know from this exhaustive research project:
  1. The traditional sales process only works in low-value sales. Rackham oultines the traditional sales process as: "opening the call, investigating needs, giving benefits, objection handling, and closing techniques." When the sales is simple and required a low investment, this simple process works--for example, in selling furniture, printers, electronics, perhaps even cars. In more complex sales--for example, major account business-to-business sales--this simple formula isn't sufficient.
  2. In major sales, you aren't just selling a product; you are selling a relationship. Rackham tells the story of a selfish, pushy overhead projector salesman that he did not like but bought from anyway because he knew that he would never have to see the salesman again. He then met another salesman the same day selling a new accounting software system--a more complex and more expensive product. While the salesperson was more refined than the previous one, he still seemed over-eager to get the sale. In this case, Rackham told him that he would have to think about it. The more involved the salesperson will be after the sale, the more important the relationship is to getting the sale.
  3. To improve selling, you have to improve the questions you are asking. Though you wouldn't know it from the title, SPIN Selling is a book about asking questions. Rackham's research primarily explores the type of questions successful and unsuccessful people ask throughout the sales call. His theory is that, by changing the type sequence of questions asked, you can alter the success of a sales call. Sure enough, he and his research team discovered a distinct pattern in questioning that was common in the calls of successful reps.
  4. Closing techniques are dangerous in complex sales. Rackham spends a great deal of time talking about the danger of using "closing techniques" such as the assumptive close ("you see that our product is right for you, so if you'll just sign right here..."), the standing-room-only close ("if you wait until next week, there may be a several month delay..."), and the alternative close ("would you prefer a month's trial installation or would it be better for your budget to buy outright..."). The prevailing theory of Rackahm's day (as well as today I believe) is that your success as a sales professional is directly proportionate to your ability to use as many of these techniques as possible. What Rackham and his team find, though, is that in complex sales, successful salespeople actually use fewer of these techniques than unsuccessful salespeople. Closing techniques in complex sales give prospects the impression that you are trying to trick them into buying and cause immediate distrust. One prospect, when a sales rep uses the "closes" I have listed above, ends the sales call with a closing technique of his own when he tells the rep, "I'm going to throw you out of my office. Tell me, would you and your friend in the corner prefer to go of your own accord, or would you like me to call security?"
  5. Great questions mirror the buying cycle of the customer. The problem with the questioning of the unsuccessful sales rep is that it reflects the sales process rather than the purchasing process. S.P.I.N. stands for "Situation questions," "Problem questions," "Implication questions," and "Need-payoff questions." These questions reflect the process a customer goes through when making a purchasing decision. First, they take account of their present situation. Then, they realize that there is a problem is some area. Next, they think about the negative effects the problem could have on their business. Finally, they evaluate the benefits of solutions. Traditional questioning jumps straight to benefits, without even bothering to discover if those "benefits" are relevant to the customer. SPIN selling walks the customer through the purchasing process in a manner with which they are more comfortable.
  6. Don't skip too quickly to selling the benefits of your product. When you go straight to selling the benefits of your product in a complex sale, the customer's trust dissipates. It becomes clear to them that you are only trying to get their money and do not truly care about their success. If you ask questions that follow the process identified above, though, trust is built as the customer comes to see that you are interested in their business and the problems they are having.
  7. The only effective benefits are those that meet explicit needs. Here, Rackham makes a profound point that I have not heard in any other piece of sales literature but that makes an incredible amount of sense intuitively. There is a distinction, he says, between advantages and benefits. Too often, sales people are selling advantages when they think they are selling benefits. Advantages are ways that a product or service generally helps all customers. Benefits, according to Rackham, are ways in which the product or service can help the specific customer being addressed. When selling benefits, most salespeople fail to connect them to the specific problems that customers are having; they tell instead how the product or service is intended to help most cusotmers. The problem is that customers only care about the benefits that are relevant to them. Great salespeople talk only about the benefits that relate to the explicitly stated needs of the customer being addressed.
  8. Salespeople are less likely to ask questions when selling new products. In discussing the selling problems with product launches, Rackham isolates an interesting trend. Salespeople have the tendency to oversell the features and advantages of new products or services. They get too excited and try to sell the customer on the novelty of the offering rather tha its usefulness to the customer. The problem is that the customers don't care whether or not it's new--they only whether or not it will solve their problems.
  9. Objections should be prevented rather than overcome. Flying in the face of conventional sales wisdom, Rackham's research proposes that receiving an objection is NOT a good thing. Traditional sales training says that an objection indicates interest. Therefore, the more times a customer objects, the greater interest they have in doing business with you. In his research, though, Rackham discovers that the most successful salespeople are met with the fewest objections. Why is this so? Because the successful salespeople frame the questions in such a sequence that it prevents the objection from occurring. Focusing on "objection-handling" creates an adversarial tone in the sales conversation and is more ineffective than is traditionally thougth to be the case. Focus should instead be on "objection-prevention."
  10. Opening the sales call is simply about getting permission to move forward. In Rackham's research, the sales calls with the highest levels of success were those that spent the least amount of time opening the call. Unsuccessful salespeople spent far too much time establishing rapport and engaging in small talk. The successful salespeople highlighted the purpose of the call, gained agreement from the prospect, and simply moved forward.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Forgiveness and Empathy in Selling

The Dreaded Problem Customer

In my previous sales job, I remember dealing with problem customers. These were the customers that were never satisfied no matter what I did. Whenever I followed up with them (unless they got to me first), there was always a complaint. I began, regrettably, to harbor resentment toward these customers.

Molly Cantrell-Kraig, founder of Women With Drive, had an interesting post the other day about the power of apologizing. She expressed the guilt she felt for being angry when someone actually apologized to her. Why did she feel bad about being upset with the person who had wronged her? My guess is that it made her realize that she could have just as easily been the one apologizing. This scenario caused me to think about my problem customers.

Customers with Problems

I can count on one hand the times I've been apologized to by my "problem customers," but that isn't the point. The point is that I am not perfect. And, while I often acquire an attitude of indignity when customers are rude or demanding, I should be acquiring an attitude of humility instead. How many times in my life have I been the problem salesman, the problem husband, the problem student, the problem employee, etc. and yet been completely oblivious to it? I complain. I'm rude an demanding at times, I'm sure. Why should I be so troubled when people treat me in the same way?

A better way to see a "problem customer," I think, is to see her as a customer with problems. There is a reason for her behavior. Something causes her to behave the way she does. We are so quick to rationalize and give excuses for our bad behavior but assume the worst of intentions in others. Especially as salespeople, we should know better. We are there to serve our customers, not to be pampered and placed on a pedestal by them. What does that say about our intentions when we become so bitter? Why not be a little more sympathetic? How about showing that we care, regardless of how we are treated in return?

The words of Jesus on the cross come to mind: "forgive them, for they know not what they do." I think it's time we be a little more empathetic in selling. Rarely are customers malicious for no good reason. Let's try to understand them and help them in their darkest hours. Apology or not, forgiveness is in order.

Who have you forgiven lately?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of October 23, 2011

  1. Dan Waldschmidt, "Cheap Crap Isn't Value": Value is redefined for us. In age where value is often equated with discounts, deals, and low prices, Dan shows us that it is something more. And, as salespeople, we can't offer value just by selling our stuff at insanely low prices.
  2. Molly Cantrell-Kraig, "The Power of an Apology": Saying your sorry can alter the dynamic of a relationship. Our tendency is to want to defend ourselves when we make a mistake but, if we are humble enought to simply apologize, we can have a much greater influence on the person we have wronged.
  3. Don Perkins, "What the Best Salespeople Have that Others Don't": Interesting insight. Don highlights the difference between "persistence of effort" and "persistence of purpose." What kind of persistence do you have? How is it working out for you?
  4. Cara Celli, "Funnel Vision": A nice primer on the sales cycle with a little passion and engagement thrown in for good measure.
  5. Carrie Wilkerson, "Marketing Lessons from the Pumpkin Patch": Free is the marketing. Carrie describes how the pumpkin patch she attends has free admission and is attended by thousands. They make their money from the concessions and vendors, by getting people to stay longer. Translation: the longer you can keep you customer interested (content marketing), the more they will spend.
  6. Kenny Rose, "12 Most Crucial Steps to 'Stop Marketing--Start Loving'": Customers are sick of being marketed to. They want to be shown interest in. They will buy from you when they buy into you. "Me" advertising goes in one ear and out the other these days. You've got to show your customers you love them.
  7. Bruce Sallan, "The Secret Sauce of Making Your Facebook Page Mmmm Mmmm Good": Fantastic ideas for planning your Facebook page. Most businesses with FB pages just post periodic articles. Bruce highlights ways to make the page an interesting of hub of engagement.
  8. Sean McPheat, "10 Important Tips On Your Professional Appearance": Yes, posts about attitude and self-improvement are more inspiring to read, but let's face it. Every now and then, we need to get down to the nitty-gritty. Sean gives us several tips on how to clean up and look presentable before going in front of an important client. No matter how confident and competent we are, if we have spinach in our teeth or inch-long nose hair, we aren't likely to get the deal!
  9. Kelley Robertson, "6 Ways to Impress a Prospect": That's what it's all about, really, isn't it--impressing the prospect? We want to WOW them--to remove all doubts that we are the provider they should go with. Kelley gives us some timely tips on how to blow them away.
  10. Bob Burg, "Focus Only On What You Can Influence": Bob tells the story of a man who pulled himself out of bankruptcy to become a great success. How did he do it? By focusing on what he could do to help his situation rather than on what he couldn't do. Oftentimes, we get bogged down with what has happened with us. Successful people will focus more intently on what they are going to do next.

Also, a reminder for all in the sales world: Jonathan Farrington's 2011 Top Sales and Marketing Awards will take place on December 15th. Polls will be open November 18-December 9. Be sure to vote for and promote your favorite sales superstars. This is an exciting event for sales-geeks like me! Check out the Top Sales and Marketing Awards website for more info!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book of the Week: Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

Think and Grow Rich was written in 1960. Fast forward 50 years and it is probably the most widely-discussed piece of literature in the success and motivation genre. When I went pick it out from the bookstore, there was an entire shelf devoted to it and the books that were written about it. "Master Mind Groups" are forming all over the world, as business leaders seek to inspire one another toward more successful lives.  Clearly, this work has had a profound impact on contemporary culture. When you read the book, it isn't very hard to see why. Napolean Hill writes with both clarity and intrigue. He uses real world examples and powerful stories to get his point across. His book set the stage for decades of "how to get rich" books that would follow. If you are struggling in this economy and want a way out, READ THIS BOOK!

Here are my Top 10 (just read it; there are tons more!) takeaways from the book:
  1. Determination is the first step toward success. Napolean opens up his book with the story of Edwin Barnes, a man who decided he wanted to go into business with Thomas Edison and, instead of simply applying for a job, showed up at Edison's labratory and told him of his intentions to become his business partner. Napolean quotes Edison as saying, "I gave him the opportunity he asked for, because I saw that he made up his mind to stand by until he succeeded." It all starts with a firm objective and the relentless desire to see it through.
  2. Leave no plan B. When you allow yourself to consider alternatives, you are subconsciously doubting your ability to succeed in your objective. Napolean tells the story of a general who, after unloading all of his troops on the enemy's shore, burns all of the ships--leaving them no way of retreat. He then tells his troops, "We now have no choice--we win--or we perish." The author suggests we should approach our goals with the same "no turning back" mentality.  We should burn all the bridges that are our contingency plans and throw everything into succeeding at what we set out to do.
  3. Don't be afraid to dream big. Napolean give us several examples of people who dreamt the impossible before making it a reality. One such story is of Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventory famous for making radio transmission possible. At one point in his life, his "friends" had him taken into custody and examine in a psychiatric hospital for his belief that he could send communications through the air without the aid of wires. We should never be ashamed of the alleged ridiculous of our dreams. Electricity was at one time impossible. Flight was at one time impossible. We can never make the impossible possible if we continue to believe those who would tell us that it is impossible.
  4. Faith can be created through repitition. Faith is often understood as something that either we have or we don't. We can't force ourselves to believe something if we don't naturally believe it. Napolean proposes the idea of "self-suggestion," that we can, by affirming an idea over and over again to ourselves, come to believe it. "Every man is what he is," Napolean says, "because of dominating thoughts which he permits to occupy his mind." We believe, essentially, what we tell ourselves. Our own impressions and thoughts create our deepest beliefs. If we can change our thinking and our persepective, then, we can change our beliefs. We can create faith by repeating positive thoughts.
  5. Knowledge is only power when it is applied. "Knowledge is only potential power." Napolean says, "It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action and directed toward a definite end." Napolean rejects the notion of learning for learning's sake. He proposes that knowledge should be acquired for specified purposes. The professors of the universities, he mentions, have more generalized knowledge than anyone and yet have little money. If what you know cannot be used to produce some result, it is useless.
  6. Great change begins with simple ideas. Coke was created when a pharmacy clerk paid a country doctor his entire life savings for a secret ingredient scribbled on a small piece of paper. A book publisher, just by changing the covers on his books, sold a million more copies--without changing any of the books' contents. Sometimes we think that we need to concoct something complex and grandiose to make a difference when all we really need to get us start is an idea. "Ideas are intangible forces," Napolean says, "but they have more power than the physical brains that give birth to them. They have the power to live on after the brain that creates them returns to dust."
  7. You only fail when you quit. "No man is ever whipped," Napolean says, "until he quits--in his own mind." The greatest successes that have been achieved throughout history have followed a series of failures. Rarely does anything good ever come out of the first try. Failure isn't failing once. It's ceasing to try. It's quitting after so many attempts. "A quitter never wins--and a winner never quites."
  8. Give if you wish to receive. When talking about applying for a job, Napolean says, "Forget about 'a job.' Forget whether or not there is an opening. Forget the usual routine of 'have you got a job for me?' Concentrate on what you can give." If we want to get anything out of life, we must first to our focus to what we contribute. Napolean lists as on of his "31 Major Causes of Failure" the gambling instinct, or "the uncontrolled desire of something for nothing." People seem to have the tendency to want to skate by and rely on luck to make them successful. Napolean says that you have to work. You have to put in effort. You have to give before you can receive.
  9. Great achievers rely on the support of others. Napolean discusses creating a "Master Mind group," a group of success-minded individuals that can serve as a support for creativity and persistence in achieving your goals. "When a group of individual brains are coordinated and function in harmony," he says, "the increase energy created through that alliance becomes available to every individual brain in the group." In today's world, we call it synergry. We feed off of one another's creative power.
  10. Time is always against us. Napolean ends his treatise with these words: "Life is a checkerboard and the player opposite you is time. If you hesitate before moving, or neglect to move promptly, your men will be wiped off the board by time. You are playing against a partner who will not tolerate indecision." Waiting is not an option. If you want to have a successful life, you must start NOW!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tips Any Salesperson Can Learn from Medical Sales: A Guest Post by LisaLivingston

The field of medical device and pharmaceutical sales is a particularly difficult branch of sales and marketing. People working in these positions must have a sophisticated understanding of not only their product but also of the medical field in general. Here are five tips from the medical sales field that can be helpful to any sales professional.

1. Know the Product – In most medical sales companies, the majority of training will deal with learning about the products. However, when you meet with a medical professional, you need to know twice as much as you think you will need to about the products. You’ll need to be one step ahead by knowing alternate solutions for a low budget or competitive products that will get them to choose your company over another.

2. Be Professional – First impressions matter, especially when working with highly skilled professionals in the medical field. Make sure that you dress for success. Dress conservatively and avoid lots of makeup or fragrant products. Be polite and punctual. Don’t chew gum during the meeting, but you may want to make sure that your breath is fresh beforehand.

3. Speak Their Language – Another way to impress a specialized professional in any field is to use their terminology. Healthcare professionals are highly intelligent and very busy, so they want to know that you aren’t wasting their time. Providing them with accurate information in a precise manner will help them make the best decision for their needs. They will also trust and respect you for taking the time to understand their field.

4. Do Your Research – Before you start calling potential clients, you need to do some research and planning. Find out what kind of products they have used in the past and what kind budget they have. You should also find out who actually makes the decisions about buying, so that you speak with the right person. This type of information is also important when doing follow-ups.

5. Be Patient and Persistent – Especially when starting out in a sales job, it’s hard to get clients at first. Set up a regular calling schedule - even after you have many clients, you should check up with them once a week. When working with older medical professionals, you may also need more patience because they often have set beliefs about what works. You may not convince them to get a new product immediately, but you can certainly keep trying!

Lisa Livingston runs the site Radiology Tech Schools. She likes to write articles related to healthcare and has been a radiologist for 7 years.

featured image courtesy of salimfadhley licensed via Creative Commons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Resource of the Week: Cinch

What is it?

Cinch is an audio-capturing application. It is free and available for desktops as well as in an application from the iPhone. To make an audio recording, you can use your PC, your iPhone, or dial the number (646) 200-0000 and Cinch will automatically add the recording to your feed if you use the number registered with your account. In addition to the audio recording, you can also add text and photos to enhance your messaging. Sharing of "Cinches" is currently available for Facebook and Twitter.

Why I love it

It adds another dimension to my content. Audio is a unique form of messaging in that it can be used while engaging in other activities. Working out. Mowing the lawn. Driving. It's another way to get your info into someone else's ears. Each "Cinch" goes into your Cinch feed that someone else can subscribe to; so it can sort of function as podcast. If you want to use Cinch for various purposes, you can also put your recordings into separate folders that can be subscribed to individually. Also, you can decide whether a "Cinch" is public or private, just in case it's something you don't want to share with the world.

Right now, I just use Cinch for audibly sharing content. But, I can foresee using it in the future to conduct meetings and interviews, record speeches that I give, and leave personal memos. It is incredibly simple to use and the sound quality is amazing. To give you a sample, I've created a "Cinch" of this post that I have put into my Cinch "How Does That Make You Buy?" folder.

Who uses it?

Here are a few people who currently use Cinch or have used Cinch in the past:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In This Economy...

I hear this phrase more often than anything these days. "In this economy, it's no wonder you can't find a job." "In this economy, how am I supposed to pay off my debts?" In this economy. In this economy. In this economy. Over and over again. We all seem to have our own, "In this economy." For the salesperson, it's, "In this economy, how can I possibly make my quota?" The economy seems to be the easy target for all of our misfortunes.

Is the Economy Really that Bad?

I would like to first make clear that I am not trying to diminish in any way the hardship of someone who has lost her job or is struggling to pay off debt. I am one of those students who spent thousands on school with the expectation that there would be a well-paying job lined up for me. Years after I graduated, I still have not attained the level of income that I was promised as a "starting salary." But I do eat rather nicely, I have a PC, a laptop, and an iPhone. I have a television with cable. I'm a subscriber of Netlfix (yes, I still am). Every week, I fill up my gas tank for my commute. I drink fantastic coffee each morning. All in all, I would say my life is pretty good.

The things I have listed above, I would presume, are not unusual. I don't have an 80k car. I don't even have a mortage. But I'm fine. Every day, I am perfectly capable of getting up and going at it again. Some people may consider me disadvantaged; some may consider me wealthy (though I assure you I am well within the 99%). The point is that poverty and suffering are relative. Contentment is a state of mind, not a state of net worth. Is it just me or is it incredibly ironic to see someone buying a latte at Starbucks while talking to a friend on his $300 smartphone about how horrible the economy is? We have so many luxuries and amenities today that we completely take for granted. I don't think the economy is quite as bad as we're making it out to be.

I've Just Asked the Wrong Question

Okay, so we can argue about whether the economy is in good or bad shape right now. Perhaps I'm delusional and we really are all doomed to poverty. But I don't even think that is the right question. The question isn't, "Is this economy good or bad?" The question is, "Given the state of economy, how can I make a succesful life for myself?" We should not be dwelling on the negative state of things; we should be focusing on how we might overcome. Whether our situations are good or bad, how can we make the best of them? That is the important question.

And this isn't just self-help mumbo-jumbo. This is the raw truth. We cannot control what environment we are born into or are thrust into by others; we can only control how we behave within it. When we preface any given statement with, "In this economy...," we are surrendering ourselves to an aspect of our lives that we cannot control. Whether it is good or bad, it is what it is. The only question that matters is the one that we can do something about: "What now?" Times will always be hard. In any and every economy, people will always find a way to excuse themselves from responsibility by saying, "In this economy..." But that isn't going to change anything. It isn't going to make anything better.

Let's stop making excuses and start making plans. Let's not talk about how hard it is but instead shift our focus to how hard we're going to work to improve it. That's the only way that we can overcome--if we change our thinking.

featured image courtesty of _PaulS_ licensed via Creative Commons

Monday, October 24, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of October 16, 2011

  1. Seth Godin, "Stupid and Lazy" Oftentimes, we justify falling short in our responsibilities by claiming that we were just too stupid to get the job done. The truth is that we just didn't work hard enough, but it's easier to blame a lack of intelligence (which is something we can't control) than it is a  lack of effort (which is something that we can control).
  2. Cara Celli, "Client Relationships Are Like..." Relationships with customers are like marriage. And, like marriage, many will end if they aren't nurtured with humility, honesty, and loyalty. This post offers tips on how to keep that relationship alive.
  3. Mike Lehr, "12 Most Crucial Business Lessons Learned from Battle and War" Business is a lot like war. This post gives us 12 battles/wars throughout history and brings out a lesson for business from each.
  4. Anthony Iannarino, "Who Have You Cast as Your Villain?" It's easier to blame the economy, our manager, our upbringing, and so on than to take responsbility for our lot in life. But it isn't as productive. The only way to make our lives better is to stop playing the victim.
  5. Dan Waldschmidt, "3 Extreme Behaviors that Produce Outrageous Business Growth" Extreme effort. Extreme differentiation. Extreme kindness. Mediocrity is no longer enough. You've got to go all out!
  6. Carol Quinn, "12 Most Intriguing Business, Success, and Life Strategies I've Learned from Dogs" Humorous and insightful lessons that we can learn from everyday antics of the canine species.
  7. Erica Nicole, "10 Positive Signs That You Are Cut Out to Be an Entrepreneur" How do you know that you've got what it takes to go into business for yourself? This post provides a good list of affirmations.
  8. Robert Terson, "Do You Give Greater Value than Your Cost?" Just getting by with as little effort as possible is a bad strategy for success. The well-lived life is that life of giving. Give more than you are expected and you will get more than you can imagine.
  9. Sean McPheat, "Internet Killed the Telesales Star?" Just like music videos destroyed the notoriety of radio hits, the Internet and social media revolution is replacing the telemarketer. Engagement is so much easier and less invasive through newer prospecting platforms and salespeople would do well to use them.
  10. Lori Richardson, "Salesperson as Publisher: the New Way to Grow Sales" Content marketing is becoming more and more prevalent for small businesses. Salespeople who want to stand out will be known for how much information they share with their prospects.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book of the Week: Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen

Difficult Conversations is without a doubt one of the most pragmatic pieces of literature I've ever read. Based on a massive research project conducted by the authors and their colleagues, the book gives invaluable insight into how to discuss awkward and difficult issues with other people. Going beyond theories of active listening, the authors role play dozens of scenarios in which difficult conversations may arise. In each conversation, they dissect the words and tones used and give advice on how to better manage the discussion. If you are able, I would recommend listening to the audio version to get the most out of it. But either way, it is an essential work for salespeople or anyone involved with interpersonal communication (that means pretty much everyone).

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the book:

  1. Begin every conversation with the intention to learn. This is the first point of the book: "Shift from a message-delivery stance to a learning stance." Too often we go into conversations in a one-sided manner, with our sole intention being to communicate our message to a recipient. The problem is that, if the other person approaches the conversation in the same way, there will be no receiving of messages, only sending. We should think more about what we can learn from the discussion than what we are attempting to teach within it.
  2. Most difficult conversations are not about truth. We try so hard to prove that we are right in conversation, but the conversation is rarely about right-and-wrong. More often, it is about values. One poignant example given is a father trying to get his daughter to stop smoking by telling her that smoking is bad for her. The problem is that she knows it's bad. That is irrelevant. She is doing it to assert her independence and escape the "good-girl" image, not because she thinks that is good for her health. In the words of the authors, difficult conversations "are not about what is true; they are about what is important."
  3. We often make the mistake of assuming intentions in other people. When we make judgments about other people, we often criticize their intentions, not just their behavior. In one scenario, a woman says to her boyfriend, "You have this need to put me down and make me feel bad." What she really means is that she is hurt by things her boyfriend says. But, she doesn't really know his intentions; maybe he doesn't mean to hurt her. She just assumes it. The authors encourage us to state how we are feeling instead of stating what the other person is intending. It's more accurate and makes them less defensive.
  4. Shift the focus from blame to contribution. Too often in a difficult conversation, we make the argument about who is at fault. But there really is no point in trying to find who should get the blame. What should matter is how to prevent the problem from occuring in the future. How we do that is by looking at how all parties involved contributed. If a woman is mugged in a dark alley, for example, the mugger is to blame. But she still contributed by walking through the dark alley. In the authors' words, "If we're looking to punish someone for what happened, we would punish the mugger. If we're looking to help you feel empowered in the world, we would encourage you to find your contribution."
  5. We all see things from a different perspective. The authors tell the story of a parade. Andrew, a young child, exlaims to his uncle Doug after the parade, "That was a great truck parade." It seems that all of the floats in the parade were pulled by trucks. Andrew, being fond of trucks, only noticed the trucks. His uncle Doug, of course, paid attention to what the trucks were pulling. But neither of them left the parade thinking that they merely saw their own version of the parade. Both of them went away thinking they saw the parade. Each of us sees events in a different way and we need to be accomodating of others' perspectives.
  6. Take the "and" stance. When having a difficult conversation, we use too many "buts." In doing so, we offer our view as a contradiction of the other person's. A better way is to state your view and the other person's as equally legitimate points. For example, instead of a wife saying to her husband, "I want to go see a movie with my friends, but you want ever let me spend any of our money," she might say, "I really want to go out with my friends and I know you are worried about our finances." (an aside, Paul Castain has an excellent rendition of this here). Using "and" takes the person off of the defensive and onto your level.
  7. Talk about the situation from "the third story." The others suggest discussing the problem from the perspective of an outsider. Pretend that you are a mediator or independent consultant. State your view and the other person's as equal alternatives. This will help you to maintain objectivity and loosen the other person up to hear your view as well.
  8. Autheniticity is essential. The others discuss briefly the prevailing pop-psychology of active listening. Many people that have actually tried to employ active listening techniques come across to their friends as sounding phony. The problem is that the people aren't being sincere; they are using phrases they read in a book and, oftentimes, don't really believe in what they're saying. If the other person can sense that you are ingenuine in a difficult converations, your words will be heavily discounted.
  9. Don't beat around the bush; be direct.  The authors tell the story of a woman whose husband takes up golfing on Saturdays. The time had been being used for the two of them to hang out around the house. The authors discuss a variety of ways the woman could approach her husband. She could say, for example, "You are playing too much golf" or "There is too much to do around the house." But neither of these things convey what the woman is really feeling: that she wants to spend time with her husband on Saturdays. The husband, therefore, is likely to defend himself by saying something like, "Nonsense! I only play once a week" or "I'll take care of the housework on Sunday afternoon." Neither of these responses solves the woman's problem. If, however, she is direct and says what she wants to say: "I miss spending time with you and am feeling lonely on Saturdays," the husband may, for example, start golfing instead only once or twice a month so that he can spend time with her as well. Being indirect takes the spotlight off of the central issue. Always be direct in difficult conversations.
  10. Never disguise statements as questions. This goes somewhat along with number 9. Oftentimes, we'll ask a leading or sarcastic question instead of simply making a statement about what we think or feel. For example, when you ask your spouse who is in the driver's seat beside you, "Where did you learn to drive like that?" You really mean, "I'm uncomfortable with the way you drive." Asking questions like this set people on the defensive and making a productive conversation impossible to achieve.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Resource of the Week: The Sales Blog

What is it?

The Sales Blog is the blog of B2B sales consultant S. Anthony Iannarino. In addition to being a B2B sales coach, Anthony teaches at Capitol University and is the president of Solutions Staffing. Though he started his blog in January of 2008, Anthony has published a post every day on The Sales Blog since January of 2010. His posts aim at helping sales people develop the necessary skills and attributes to succeed in the profession.

Why I love it

Given both the frequency and depth with which Anthony writes, The Sales Blog is the most exhaustive resource for sales professionals. With each post, Anthony addresses issues and challenges relevant to sales people and also provides a series of questions to reflect upon. I find these questions extremely thought-provoking and activity-inspiring. While there are many blogs I read in which I find inspiring ideas, I find myself more compelled to act upon the ideas within The Sales Blog more than any other. Anthony writes in a practical and yet motivational manner. Much of what I've learned about sales I've learned just from reading his articles alone. If it isn't on your daily reading list, add it now!

Who uses it?

I suspect that the vast majority of people active in the online sales community are familiar with Anthony's blog. Some of my favorite sales bloggers have been introduced to me through reading Anthony's blog and interacting with other commenters. Here are some of the first sales giants (and their blogs) that I discovered through participating in Anthony's community:
featured image courtesty of insideview licensed via Creative Commons

Monday, October 17, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of October 9, 2011

  1. Shawn Murphy, "12 Most Destructive Management Behaviors or Beliefs" Giving example after example of things that employees say about their managers, Shawn exposes some of the most demoralizing attributes and activities found in today's managers.
  2. Ali Luke, "Are You Relaxing or Just Procrastinating?" Procrastination and relaxation are very different; the former produces anxiety and the latter relief. Ali shows us how to shift our behaviors from procrastination to relaxation.
  3. Dan Waldschmidt, "Breathless Business" Today's business is laden with mediocrity. Dan pushes us to adopt business practices that take our customers' breaths away.
  4. Brian Vickery, "12 Most Obvious Reasons I Suck at Sales" In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion, Brian explains several things he struggles with that inhibit his sales effectiveness. Working on the things you "suck" at is what makes you better.
  5. Paul Castain, "Scouting Ahead" Visualization is a powerful tool in achieving your goals. Paul shares with us how seeing himself in the future on a dream vacation with his family solidified his resolve in getting to that point.
  6. Anthony Iannarino, "Are You Missing Out On the Real Value of Social Media?" Meeting via social media should be a catalyst to meeting in real life. Anthony tells us of the real relationships he's created with the people he's met online. All it takes, when you're traveling, is a few phone calls to arrange a dinner and take your community to the next level.
  7. Christopher Scirpoli, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" When you forget about your customers, some other salesperson will get their attention. Chris reminds us to stay on top of our customers and also to acquire customers who other salespeople have let slip through the cracks.
  8. Seth Godin, "Open Conversations (or Close Them)" Seth reminds us of the appropriate language we use to facilitate conversation. Open-ended questions prompt discussions while "yes or no" questions end them quickly.
  9. Ted Coine, "12 Most Inspirational Ways to Turn Your Attitude Around" Many people in today's economy find themselves stuck in miserable jobs. Ted gives us ways to reconstruct our attitudes to get us through the day-to-day struggles of work we don't like.
  10. Jim Domanski, "5 Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Cold Calling" Cold calling strikes fear in the majority of salespeople. Jim gives us some actionable ways to overcome the fear and get to the calling.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book of the Week: How to Become a Rainmaker by Jeffrey Fox

Jeffrey Fox notes that the difference between an organization that flourishes and the organization that fizzles boils down to its ability to generate revenue. A rainmaker in Native American folklore is one who is able to conjure up rain when there is a drought, thereby saving the village. For an organization, be it for-profit or not-for-profit, a rainmaker is one who is able to bring in a substantial amount of revenue when the organization is thirsty. Fox gives us an abundance of tips on how to become the person who conjures up rain to save our village. Fantastic advice for anyone in sales, fundraising, or business development!

Here are my top 10 takeaways:

1. Rainmakers sell money. Rainmakers don't sell products or services. They sell the economic benefits those products and services provide. They dollarize everything, helping their customers to see how the purchase is a great investment. They shift the focus from how much the customer is spending to how much she will be saving.

2. Rainmakers put themselves in their customers shoes. As a customer, no one likes being lied to, patronized, brushed aside, overcharged, etc. Rainmakers can emphathize with customers and treat them as such.

3. Rainmakers understand that customers don't care about them. In Fox's words. "Customers don't care if you have a mortgage to pay. Customers don't care if you need their business to win a contest. Customers don't care why your shipments are late, what you like, where you went to school, or what sport you play or played. The only thing customers care about are themselves and their problem...Rainmakers say you they don't say I." Rainmakers never use guilt to get business.

4. Rainmakers go where there are customers. Fox uses the example of fishing. You can have all the best equipment, from the pole to the tackle to the boat, but if there aren't fish where you are going, you won't catch any fish. Rainmakers focus first on finding customers; they realize that is what business is about.

5. Rainmakers go on sales calls to talk business. Rainmakers cut to the chase and don't waste the customer's time. Meetings are for business. Not small talk. Not having coffee. Not eating lunch. Not playing golf. These things may be present, but the rainmaker focuses on the purpose of the meeting. She does not talk about the picture of the prospect's family, the culinary quality of the coffee, or her hole-in-one. She gets down to business.

6. Rainmakers turn customer objections into customer objectives. When the customer has an objection, the rainmaker reconstructs it as a customer's statement of a mutual objective. For example, if the customer says, "Your delivery time isn't fast enough," the rainmaker says, "So, what we need to do is find a way to get the product faster?" The rainmaker positions himself on the same side as the customer, as if they're working together to find a solution for the customer's problem.

7. Rainmakers are polite to everyone. "Why be unlikable?" Fox asks. It doesn't matter if she's talking to the secretary, the CEO, a supplier, or a colleague, the rainmaker is always nice. She realizes they she stands to gain nothing from being rude to anyone.

8. Rainmakers talk about points of difference. Many times, customers will assume that you are the same as your competitors unless you explain to them explicitly how you are different. Rainmakers thrive on differentiation. They know that if customers can't see a difference, they'll buy what's cheaper.

9. Rainmakers always plan ahead. Fox gives the illustration of a wine tasting gone bad. The host, a wineseller, failed to taste a certain wine himself before serving it to a group of connoisseurs. The wine ended up tasting horrible. Rainmakers are obsessive about precall planning. They will not hesitate to spend 8 hours preparing for a 20 minute meeting. They research and rehearse relentlessly, so that the meeting goes on without a hitch.

10. Rainmakers don't use icebreakers. "There is no ice," Fox says, "between a rainmaker and her customer."  Customers don't make "cold" calls. They know about the customer thoroughly before the
first meeting. There is no awkwardness, no hesitancy, nothing preventing the rainmaker from getting
down to business.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Social Media Matters for Your Business: A Guest Post by Patricia Duggan

1. Not Just a Fad – While some people continue to think that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are just fads, tech experts are saying that social media is here to stay. Just Facebook alone has over 500 million users – that’s a worldwide phenomenon. Ignoring social media will be nothing but a disadvantage for any business.

2. Transparency – Social media has allowed for a more open dialogue between businesses and their customers. Businesses can connect with customers on a personal level and make them feel valued. The important thing to remember is to be honest while maintaining a certain level of professionalism.

3. Reputation – A business’ reputation is connected with the level of transparency they present through social media outlets. If customers do not think a business is giving them the services they deserve, they will complain about it to anyone who will listen. Social media is one of the easiest ways to be heard. On the other hand, if a person is impressed by a company, they will recommend that business to all their friends – again, mainly using social media.

4. Marketing – Social media has totally reinvented the way businesses do marketing. Advertising must be innovative and interactive to reach customers and contribute to the personalized experience that social media provides.

5. Professional Networking – Social media sites have transformed from teenage gossip centers into professional networking tools. Professionals have discovered the potential of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and especially LinkedIn to create and maintain business connections.

6. Young Customers – As the “Net Generation” comes of age and begins to enter the adult world, more and more young customers are likely to follow social media such as blogs and tweets than they are to read a magazine or watch television with commercials. To reach this demographic, it is increasingly important for businesses to have a strong social media presence.

7. Market Demand – Compared to traditional methods of market research, social media is a much faster way of gathering customer opinions and create marketing strategies. This also helps the customers to feel more involved in the consumer choices they make.

8. Coworker Rapport –In addition to networking with business connections, social media is an easy way to deepen relationships between business colleagues. A word of encouragement after an important presentation or a notable accomplishment can increase trust among co-workers.

9. Knowledge Sharing –Another advantage of using social media within a business is the potential for knowledge-sharing. An employee can post a link with useful information for their co-workers’ benefit. What might have been a lengthy presentation becomes a link that company members can view at their convenience. It may even lead to a full online discussion with questions, answers, and more link-sharing, which benefits everyone in the company.

10. Customer Loyalty – In an economic downturn, this is one of the most important advantages to using social media. Social media helps people learn about brands through other people they trust, such as their friends and family. It’s about as valuable as a recommendation in person.

Patricia Duggan has a Masters in Psychology and has been practicing for 11 years. She maintains the site Psychology Degree. She writes about various subjects within the psychology field.

featured image courtesty of ivanpw licensed via Creative Commons

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Resource of the Week: Triberr

What is it?

Triberr is a relatively recent Twitter application for bloggers developed by Dino Dogan and Dan Cristo. The premise is for its users to form groups called Tribes. In these "Tribes," members can automatically retweet blog posts of their fellow tribe members as well as have their blog posts automatically retweeted by fellow tribe members. Essentially, Triberr is a way to automate the tweeting of mutually beneficial content.

Why I love it
I found out about Triberr through my 12 Most community, a valuable resource in and of itself. Many of the writers for this community were bloggers that I already read on a consistent basis. When I was invited to the 12 Most Tribe, I was enabled to have those posts automatically sent out to my network.

For a relatively unknown blogger, though, Triberr was HUGE for me. I had written well over 100 posts on my blog and, upon joining Triberr, the amount of pageviews I received per post grew by 300%! The raw numbers are staggering, but that's not even the best part.
I have, in the past month or two in being on Triberr, met a great amount of awesome people on Twitter. I've begun to follow many "Tweeps" who commented on and retweeted my blog posts. Triberr has helped me not only in breadth of relationships but in depth as well.
I highly recommend getting involved with Triberr. If you are a blogger, it can work wonders for you. Triberr is by invitation only. If you blog on business, sales, social media, marketing, leadership, etc., I would love to have you join my "Tribe." Here's the blog I have associated with it. Just let me know if you are interested in being invited and send me a link to your blog so that I can check it out.
Who uses it?
Here are some of the many Tribemates I have on Triberr and links to their AMAZING blogs. They range in topic from sales to education to parenting and so on. I highly recommend checking these people out. Their content in enriching, informative, and inspiring. I share it with pride.

featured image courtesy of Native American Seals/Logos licensed via Creative Commons

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Top 10 Tributes to Steve Jobs

Much has been written about Steve Jobs in the passed few days. Indeed, I've read 30-40 articles myself. Accordingly, I figured I would do a little something different this week. In addition to my "Top 10 Blog Posts" for the week, I have included a "Top 10 Tributes to Steve Jobs" list. Many great people have had many great things to say about the innovative giant that has just left us. Check out these articles below and be inspired by the legacy of Steve Jobs.

"Top 10 Tributes to Steve Jobs"
  1. John Boyle, "12 Most Community iCelebrates Steve Jobs"
  2. Kelley Robertson, "What Steve Jobs Taught the World"
  3. Joel Brown, "The Amazing Life That Steve Jobs Lived"
  4. Dino Dogan, "Steve Jobs is Dead. Long Live Steve Jobs"
  5. Tim Berry, "Steve Jobs On How to Live Before Dying"
  6. Jim Keenan, "Getting Real--the Reminder in Steve Jobs Passing"
  7. Paul Castain, "Thank You Steve Jobs"
  8. Scott Ginsberg, "When Steve Jobs Freed Us"
  9. Aaron Biebert, "Warrior Down: Steve Jobs Has Died"
  10. Seth Godin, "A Eulogy of Action"
If you've taken the time to read these twenty posts, you are without a doubt a better person. If you have another couple of minutes, check out my tribute to Steve Jobs here.
featured image courtesy of acaben licensed via Creative Commons