Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Closing

There is no doubt: nothing gets done in business without closing. It doesn't matter how many relationships are opened, how many appointments are arranged, or how many features and benefits are sung if deals are never closed. Closing pays the bills. Closing keeps the lights on. You can't continue to provide a service to your clients if you aren't generating the revenue necessary to fuel the machine. When all is said and done, if you cannot get your client to sign on, you aren't selling. You're just having conversations. Selling is closing.

It is this reality, I think, that has led the great majority of salespeople to the notion that is their clients who must be closed. There is much talk about working the customer, overcoming the customer's objections, and closing the customer. What is wrong with this line of thinking? It is adversarial. It makes the customer the enemy. Our goal in sales has become, not to help the customer, but to conquer him. Closing means defeating the customer--breaking down her defenses and making her feel vulnerable enough to sign the contract. The customers are the enemies and, when we close deals, it means we are beating them.

Let me offer another perspective on closing: we don't close the customer, we help the customer close his problems. We don't work the customer, we work for the customer. We don't overcome the customer's objections, we help the customer overcome that which is keeping him from being successful. We are on the customer's team. This concept may be difficult to grasp for the salesperson who is accustomed to using tricks and tactics to dupe the customer into signing a contract. However, I think that going this route is far more effective than objectifying the customer and making her into something to be overcome. The customer has problems and that is why she is hiring us: to help her conquer those problems, not so that we can conquer her.

Let us ask ourselves, "Whose side are we on?" In a negotiation with a customer, are we trying to beat them or are we trying to help them beat their problems? Are we closing them or are we helping them close their problems? The fact is that customers don't hire salespeople so that they can be taken advantage of. They hire salespeople so that salespeople can help them take advantage of opportunities to improve their businesses. The customer is not the enemy. The enemy is the customer's problems. If anything, for salespeople, the customer is the damsel-in-distress and we are the knights in shining armor. Let us make sure when we are closing that our sword is pointed in the right direction. Let us close the right thing. Let us slay a little more dragon and a little less damsel.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of May 22, 2011

This is definitely the best week to date in the world of sales blogs. Lots of newcomers! Topics include risk-taking, differentiation, sales management, customer-service, goal-setting, excuses, and more. Excellent insight, everyone!

10. Chris Brogan, "Launch and Learn"

9. Carrie Wilkerson, "You Must Think Like a Star in Your Business"

8. Anthony Iannarino, "Effectiveness Multipliers"

7. Bob Phibbs, "Is Your Human Resources Management Creating Drones?"

6. Paul Castain, "Are Your Policies Customer Friendly?"

5. Dan Waldschmidt, "Quotas Are for Quitters"

4. Kelley Robertson, "'Always Be Closing' and Other Lame Sales Advice"

3. Ali Luke, "Visualization: You're Doing It Wrong"

2. Seth Godin, "Looking for the Right Excuse"

1. Dave Brock, "The Commoditization of Referrals"

Quote of the Week: "People who have a built-in all-purpose excuse often end up failing--they have an excuse ready to go, so it's easier to back off wen the going is rough." - Seth Godin

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Salespeople and Doctors

My whole theme for this blog is predicated on the notion that salespeople are, or at least should be, like doctors. Great salespeople cannot be commoditized. They offer unique solutions that the client cannot get anywhere else. Salespeople don't sell products or services; they sell help. Salespeople are master helpers. Salespeople, then, are to clients as doctors are to patients. Patients have an illness that the doctor can treat. Clients have illnesses too and salsepeople, if they are doing their jobs, will be qualified to treat those illnesses. Clients have problems and salespeople are hired because they have solutions. To help qualify my metaphor, below is a list of ways that salespeople are like doctors.

1. A salesperson is trustworthy. When we move to a new area, my wife and I spend a great deal of time seeking out a new physician. We don't just go to the closest one. We don't just accept the first name on the list of preferred physicians from our insurance. We seek out referrals. We ask people at church. We look online. We want to know that the doctor we end up with is trustworthy. Patients will not trust their information and well-being to just anyone. In this same way, great salespeople are trustworthy. They are sought after. Their reputation proceeds them. Clients know that, when they visit such a salesperson, they are in good hands. Trust is key.

2. A salesperson is knowledgeable. It's great to have a doctor that we can trust, but sincerity isn't enough. The doctor has to know what he or she is talking about. A patient places great confidence a doctor's medical knowledge. A doctor's expertise, when it all comes down, is why we hire them. They possess unique knowledge about their field that we don't have the time or ability to find out for ourselves. Salespeople should be the same way. We should possess unique expertise that the client respects. That's why we are hired. We know something that the client doesn't. We are professionals. They know that we possess the business acumen they need to solve their problems.

3. A salesperson asks questions. Whenever you go to the doctor for the first time, chances are you have to fill out paperwork. You have to answer questions about yourself, your insurance, your medical history, and the reasons for your visit. A good doctor will not see you without such questions being asked because they help the doctor to understand your problems. A salesperson is the same way with her clients. She needs to know the client's basic information, her background, and the reasons she is seeking (or should be seeking) help. Without asking questions, there can be no good answers.

4. A salesperson listens. There is nothing more frustrating for a patient than a presumptuous doctor. You walk into the office. The doctor takes one look at you. Then, he begins writing the prescription. This behavior does not fly with most patients. We like to know the doctor is cognizant of our concerns. Even if the doctor is so good that he can merely glance at us and diagnose our problems, we like to be heard first. The same is true with salespeople and their clients. Whatever we tell the client, whether it be true or not, it falls on deaf ears if we will not first listen to her side of the story.

5. A salesperson diagnoses. Patients expect the doctor to have an opinion about the their problems. We go to the doctor because, first and foremost, we want to know what's wrong with us. We want to know what is at the root of our symptoms. We want a name for what we have. Clients are the same way with salespeople. They look to salespeople to help isolate the root of certain problems. Issues with productivity, human resources, advertising, etc. arise from somewhere. Before selling his product or service, the good salesperson will help the customer understand the root of her problems.

6. A salesperson prescribes. A patient gets medication. Typically, that's the last thing that occurs before a patient leaves the doctor's office. The doctor has investigated the condition of the patient, isolated the problem, and now comes the time that she proposes the best possible solution. The doctor writes a prescription. The salesperson does the same thing for her clients. Once she understands the client's issues, she is able to propose the best-fitting solution in the form of her product or service. This step is synonymous to 'closing the deal.' It's not just writing the prescription; it's asking the patient to take the medicine.

7. A salesperson follows up. I have never left the doctor's office without setting a date for a check-up. The doctor always wants to check-in on my progress with the medicine that she has prescribed. Salespeople are the same way. Their greatest opportunities are after the sale. Just like a doctor wants his patient to see him as his 'regular physician,' a great salesperson will want his client to see him as his 'regular salesperson.' A doctor is relentless about following up with her patients. A salesperson should show the same level of concern for her clients.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Contractor in a 7

I recently overhead a conversation between a sales rep who was considering getting into a BMW 3 Series and another guy who was having some work done on his house. The homeowner mentioned that the contractor he had hired was driving a BMW 7 Series (a $100,000 car) and that worried him a bit. He wondered if he was being ripped off due to the caliber of the car his contractor was driving. The sales rep had the same reservations. Could he show up to sales calls even in a $40,000 car. What would his clients think? Would they wonder if they had hired the right guy?

Of course, I felt inclined to butt in and offer the flipside of the argument. If the sales rep was driving a nice car, his clients would assume he was successful--that he is good at what he does. I find it interesting that the homeowner in the above paragraph never mentioned the quality of the work done by the contractor. The mere notion that he drove such a fancy car made the homeowner feel as if he was being taken for a ride (pun intended). Why should it matter how much the contractor was making as long as he held up his end of the bargain?

I don't know why we think in this way, but we are concerned about how much the other person is making off of us. We don't simply care about the price. We care about the profit packed into it. If we know there is a high profit margin in what we are buying, we are turned off by it. Why is this so? Is it really even our business how much the salesperson or his company stands to profit? Why should we even care? What is, or should be, important to us is the quality of the work that is done.

It goes beyond this. I believe that we should want the person we are doing business with do make as much money as possible. We get what we pay for. Allowing the company we are doing business with to make large profits enables it to continue providing superior quality service. At least in theory, the contractor driving his dream car is going to be much more motivated to excel than the contractor driving something he could barely afford from the corner used car lot. Businesses are made of people and people are people. If we reward them for a job well done, they will continue to do their job well. If we punish them for a job well done, they will not feel very inspired to succeed again.

What kind of car do the people you do business with drive? What kind of house do they live in? Are they successful? If they aren't, you shouldn't be happy that they aren't 'ripping you off.' You should ask yourself why you aren't helping them to become successful. It's not only better for them to make higher profits. In the long run, it's better for you that they succeed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Selling Your Inherent Value

Sometimes, as salespeople, we think we need to build more value into what we are selling. We think that if we just packaged our product or service a little better, prospects would be more likely to buy. We think that we simply need better marketing. This idea may be true to some extent. Awareness of what we are selling is often key. However, when we start to think that all we need is slicker packaging, we are running the risky of seriously discounting the value that is already present in the product or service we are selling.

They will never know unless you tell them. What can your product or service do for the customer? That is the key question. If you are selling to end-consumers, how can it make them happy? If you are selling to businesses, how can it make them money? That is really all that matters. The value you create throughout the sales process is secondary, the icing on the cake. So, don't forget about selling your product. What relevant features and benefits do you fail to mention because you are too focused on your presentation? How often have you lost a sale, because the customer simply did not realize that your product or service actually could do something useful for them? Product is key. Find out whatever matters to the customer and sell every aspect of your product or service that matches.

They will never believe unless you show them. Simply telling your customers about the features and benefits, though, is not enough. They must be demonstrated. Let the customers touch. Let them play. For intangibles, use Power Point. Show the customer your product or service in action. Tell stories about what it has done for previous customers. Moreover, follow up with the customer after the sale to be sure your product or service is making good on its promise. In doing this, you will reinforce to the customer that your product or service was all that you said it would be...and they will likely buy again.

Sometimes, you don't need slicker word tracks or smoother talk to get the customer to buy. Sometimes, all you need is right in front of you. It is latent in the product you are selling. Your job as a salesperson is to find out what the customer needs and pull the features out of your product that satisfy those needs. The solutions for your customer are inherent in what you are selling. You just need to extract them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Take It or Leave It Approach

There's something to be said for having enough pride in your product or service to tell the customer to either sign the contract or get lost. If your proposition is really good and you know it, you may be able to create enough demand to be indifferent as to whether or not any one particular customer takes your offering. You make your presentation and then leave it to the customer to decide. If the customer has any objections, you will not hestitate to look over the customer's shoulder and holler, "Next!"

I call this "the take it or leave it approach." It's a very gutsy move, but it does signal to your prospect that you aren't messing around. You have something extremely valuable and you know it. You don't need to use persuasion tactics to be convincing. You don't need to beg. Your product sells itself. You are just the messenger. If your prospect doesn't take you up on your offering, well, they are just stupid. The next person in line may just be smart enough to know what's good for them.

Many prospects, at least on the surface level, will like this approach. It's a "no-pressure" strategy. It puts the ball in the customers' court. You are leaving it up to them to decide. They don't feel like they are being pushed into anything. And we all know that customers hate pushy salespeople. However, I think that there is one problem with the "take it or leave it approach." There is one signal that may turn customers off and influence them negatively at a much deeper level.

What is the problem with this approach? It signals to the customers that you do not care. You don't bother handling objections, because you don't truly care about helping the customer. If the person sitting in front of you will not buy your product without a moment's hesitation, you know the next person will. Taking this approach, you don't ask questions. You don't digger deeper into the customer's problems. You don't try to understand how your solution can fit with their unique issues. You don't care. You are not really selling. You are just taking orders.

If there's one thing a customer hates more than a persistent salesperson, it is an apathetic salesperson. To not be able to find help when they need it is much worse than to be peppered with questions from passionate salesperson. Customers, I believe, do want to feel like they are in charge. But they also want to feel like you are concerned about the decision they make. Otherwise, why are they wasting their time with you? Salespeople walk a fine line between pressure and indifference. The customer doesn't want to be pushed, but neither do they want to be ignored.

I say to throw the "take it or leave it approach" out the window. Dig deeper and try to understand your customer better than that. You may truly have something great to offer. But your customers are still too important to be written off. You are not an order-taker. You are a salesperson.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of May 15, 2011

Nice week in the world of sales blogs. Keep up the good work!

10. Paul McCord, "Are You BS'ing Yourself with Your 'Prospecting' Activity?"

Takeaways: Not all sales activity is prospecting. We often have the idea that all the information gathering, schedule organizing, and idea generating activites we engage in can be considering prospecting. Actually, prospecting only occurs when we are actually engaged in conversation with a customer. We are prospecting when we are on the phone or in a meeting, not when we are simply preparing to be. Productive salespeople will spend less time "preparing" and more time actually prospecting.

9. Scott Ginsberg, "The Art of Taking It Personally"

Takeaways: People often say that you shouldn't take it personally when you are insulted in business or in life. In actuality, you should. Taking feedback personally encourages you to actually care, to make thoughtful choices, and to take responsibility for your behavior. If you don't take it personally, you have to have a sense of detachment from your work. And that isn't good for you or the people with whom you have relationships.

8. Charles Green, "The Limits of Rational Trust:Part 1"

Takeaways: It's a possible to be trustworthy situationally. Some businesses are only trustworthy as long as it's a strategic move. When the possibility of future interaction with any given customer diminishes, there is no longer a need to be trustworthy for that business. Dealing with businesses that have a limited snese of trustworthiness is dangerous. It is always better to have a long run view of trust.

7. Cameron Chapman, "5 Social Media Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur and Cost You Sales"

Takeaways: Social media is as necessary for business today as a website was 5 years ago. However, many businesses new to social media may make costly mistakes that drive customers away. Posting promotional updates too often and not responding to negative comments, for example, can cause customers to ignore you or even crusade against you.

6. Sharon Drew Morgen, "Are Sales People Going the Way of Telemarketers?"

Takeaways: With the ubiquity of information available for buyers, salespeople are becoming less and less needed. The number of salespeople in the work for is supposed to dwindle massively in the coming decade. What is a salesperson to do? Become more than a salesperson. Become a buying consultant, an advisor through the sales process and beyond rather than just someone pushing a product or service transactionally.

5. Jonathan Farrington, "Customers Not Complaining? Be Very Worried"

Takeaways: If customers aren't complaining, it is not necessarily a sign that business is good. Most customers won't complain but will merely express their dissatisfaction by taking their business elsewhere. A conscientious business person will proactively seek out criticism from customers. That is the only way you can know the changes you need to make to keep your customers loyal.

4. Mark McGuiness, "How the Buddah Solved His Marketing Problems"

Takeaways: Siddhartha Gautama is perhaps one of the greatest salespeople of all time. He spread his ideas beautifully by narrowing his audience, lacing his truth with relevance, and packaging his ideas in a way that was easy digest.

3. Geoffrey James, "Sales Reps Are More Important Than CEOs"

Takeaways: All functions of a business should exist to support the sales team. Products should be engineered so that they are easier to be sold. Products should be manufactured so that the quality keeps a customer buying. Advertising should be created that makes selling more seamless. Everything in a business exists for the sale. The salespeople, then, are the most delicate and instrumental aspect of any business, and they should be treated as such.

2. Anthony Iannarino, "How to Be a Superhero in Sales"

Takeaways: Salespeople are superheros. A salesperson has superpowers--skills, be they a broad knowledge base, communication expertise, the ability to make an emotional connection, etc., that enable him or her to overcome great obstacles. A salesperson has an arch-nemesis (not the competitor) in the problem that he or she is trying to save the customer from. Lastly, a salesperson has the ability to defy the odds and think quickly when under pressure to save the world just in nick of time. Salespeople are, or should be, superheros.

1. Allen Majer, "Make People Want to Buy"

Takeaways: The importance of salespeople to the world is greatly underestimated. We often believe that products are created and services introduced because there is demand for them. Actually, products and services are demanded because there are salespeople who create the demand for them. From the railroad to the steamboat to the sowing machine and more, if salespeople weren't around to propogate new ideas, they would never catch.

Quote of the Week: "If sales don't happen, you don't have a business, you've got a hobby." - Geoffrey James

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The World Ends Today

Harold Camping and his followers believe that the world will end at 6pm today. Apparently, the Bible predicts (forget what Jesus says in Mark 13:32) that a worldwide earthquake will begin at about 6pm and strike each region as that time rolls around in each timezone. In this case, the world is going to end for me at 2am on May 21,2011--hence, the post at 1:59am. Naturally, I have to get one more post in.

I don't really believe that the world is going to end today. If you are reading this at a reasonable hour in America, it is clear that Camping was mistaken. However, the notion of the world coming to an end is a sobering thought. It's something that all of us, not just the paranoid, should be thinking about. Why? Because regardless of what we believe religiously, the world will someday come to an end for each of us. It's called death.

Live each day as if it were your last. We've all heard and perhaps have even aspired to this cliche, but how many of us are actually living up to it? We say that if we had 24 hours to live, we would do this or that. But how do we know that we don't have only 24 hours to live? Not another breath is guaranteed to us, let alone another day. Life is short. Why do we live as if it lasts forever?

The world ends today. I don't mean that literally. I mean it as a call to action. Your world could end today. If there is something about your life you are unsatisfied with, change it now! How is your career? How are your relationships? Are you living the life you dreamed of? If not, the time is now to stop dreaming and start living. Your world is coming to an end. Do something about it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't Forget About the Competition

Sales is about helping people. I believe that 100%. It's about solving problems for people. This truth is the essence of what it means to me to be a consumer psychologist--to help people find viable solutions to their market problems. There is, however, one other element to selling that we don't like to think about. We prefer to think of the only players in the game as us and the customers. When we think in this way, we are forgetting one important fact: we aren't the only doctors on the block.

Ours is not the only practice. The customer's metaphorical Yellow Pages is flooded with alternatives. In reality, the game consists of us, our customers, and our competition. It's us--the problem-solvers, our patients, and a whole host of other doctors who claim to be able to solve our patients' problems better than we can. We are not the only ones asking, "how does that make you buy?"

So, how should we view the competition? Aren't they trying to help the customer in the same way that we are? Aren't they problem-solvers too? Aren't they more like colleagues than competition? Well, no. The key thing to remember is that the competition has the same intention as we do. They want to help. To think of the competition in any other way--as being devious and under-handed for example--is cynicism and arrogance on our part. We should assume that our competition has the same level of concern for our customers. The difference is not in the intention but rather in the quality of the proposed solutions. Our solution is better for our customers than that of our competitors. If we don't believe that with every fiber of our being, then we shouldn't be selling what we are selling. Our job is to convince our customers of what we know to be true--that, while all of our competitors certainly are well-meaning, our offering will solve their problems better than the alternatives.

But let's not forget about the competition. Let's never make the mistake of assuming we have a monopoly on our customers' attention. Our competitors are very real and they believe in their solutions just as much as we believe in ours. If our competitors provide a better solution, we can no longer help our customers. We've got to stay on our toes. Not so that we can stay ahead of the competition--but so that we can make sure that our customers are being taken care of.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Numbers Don't Work

I'm a huge fan of using quantitative data to assist in productivity assessment, trend analysis, and even some decision-making. I have an Excel spreadsheet overflowing with convoluted sales data. I can tell you the exact percentage of my sales that come from each of my 15+ lead sources. I can tell you exactly how many calls I've made and how many emails I've sent per lead. I can even tell you the average distance that my customers travel in order to do business with me. Ask anyone who's seen my sales sheet and they will tell you that I am absolutely obsessed with numbers.....and I bet I'm not the only one.

Numbers are safe. Numbers give us certainty. We know whether we should let a guy bat first by looking at his batting average. There is no certainty with a rookie--someone wearing the uniform for the first time. We can look at our average balance in the bank account to tell whether or not we can afford that vacation. But what if we just got a new job in which the bulk of our income will come from commissions? Numbers are safe and that's why we like numbers.

There is one situation I can think of, though, in which numbers simply don't work: that is the case in which data doesn't exist. Sometimes, you are doing something new. Sometimes, your best batter gets hurt and the rookie is waiting for his chance. Sometimes, you've just got to take that vacation. If you are doing something that hasn't been done before, you cannot use data because there is none. In this case, you have to rely on less certain things like intuition and experience. We often shy away from this kind of behavior (trying something new) because it involves a higher level of risk.

My advice? Create the data that others will use. You have data that you can make safe decisions with because somewhere along the line someone took a risk to create it. You don't always need data to give you permission. Often, the best work is done by those willing to take chances. People who are deemed crazy are often the next moment deemed genius. All data, whether primary or secondary, comes from somewhere. Why not from you? Don't be afraid to take a leap of faith from time to time. Yes, it's risky. But the payoff may be greater than you could ever imagine.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What is Your Student:Teacher Ratio?

I know that this isn't revolutionary idea but I want to make a statement and then explore its implications: learning is a lifelong process. I'm sure you've heard this before. After you graduate from a traditional school, you should still keep up on your field. You should attend a seminar here and there, maybe read a book or two. Even though you've attained the degree that makes you somewhat of an expert in your field, you need to keep a fresh mind in order to maintain that 'expert' status.

I want to make another statment: learning is a way of life. Maybe this one doesn't sound so familiar to you. What I mean by this is that learning is not only reading books and attending seminars. It is an attitude that we can integrate into all we do. When we approach a specific task, do we assume we already know everything about it or do we seek to understand it more? Do we approach the obstacles in our lives as teachers or as students? I would like to propose that successful people will endeavor to be students more often than teachers. Why? Well, here are a few qualities that student possesses:

  1. A student asks. Students have insatiable curiosities. They are always asking questions, always wanting to know more. They are not afraid to look unintelligent because understanding means more to them than pride. A student doesn't get ahead of himself. He wants to learn before he teaches.

  2. A student listens. Students have bigger ears than mouths. They are well-accustomed to the lecture. They are sponges. They can absorb what people are saying without interrupting. They view the person speaking to them as the teacher. They lean forward for every word. They take notes. They want to make sure they've gotten it all down.

  3. A student adapts. Students are never stagnant. They are always expanding their viewpoints, broadening their perspectives. They aren't insulted when they discover that they are wrong. They are delighted that they've uncovered a new truth. They have no problem changing their minds when they are in error. A student wants to be right and is order to admit being wrong to attain that goal.
A person who practices these behaviors in front of clients, colleagues, or bosses will undoubtedly become more successful in his interpersonal relationships. A student always gains the upper hand. Now, granted, a time comes when all students must assume the role of the teacher. Traditional students call this time 'exams.' Eventually, the student has to regurgitate all her or she knows. But the time of testing is always much much shorter in duration than the time of learning. A period of learning may be 2 months while a test is two hours. This is the student:teacher ratio that traditional students maintain.

How about you? How much time to you spend studying versus the time you spend proposing solutions or offering your opinions? I would suggest a high student:teacher ratio. 80:20, maybe even 90:10. The amount of intense study and discovery you do justifies your opportunity to take the test. You cannot teach if you have not sufficiently learned. Ask Questions. Strive to listen. Be willing to change. Orient yourself as a student. You will be grateful when the time comes to take the test.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of May 8, 2011

This is getting increasingly more difficult. I'm having to cut out a lot of really good articles. You may be tempted to think that it's a stretch to find 10 decent articles per week but, with the abundance of content out there, I could easily do a "Top 50" without including anything mediocre. The posts that I have selected are both inspiring and enlightening. You are doing yourself a great injustice if you do not read them.

10. Scott Ginsberg - "How to Stop Editing People"

Takeaways: People want to be accepted for who they are. They want to be listened to rather than corrected. It is often self-deceipt to think you are solving someone's problems when you are often merely stripping them of their freedom of expression.

9. Mark Hunter - "Sharing Something from the Past is a Good Thing"

Takeaways: The second time you meet with someone, repeat a piece of your previous conversation. It will make the person feel as though you listened and cared about what they had to say.

8. Nancy Bleeke - "Top 10 Big Questions for Sales Success"

Takeaways: As salespeople, we spend a lot of time focusing on the questions we are asking our prospects. Sometimes, we need to take a moment to think about the questions we ask ourselves.

7. Dave Brock - "Sitting on the Customer's Side of the Desk"

Takeaways: A common mistake that salespeople make is attempting to sell their products through the lens of the way they think the product should be helpful rather than selling it through the lens of how the customer needs it. Relevancy is above all.

6. Dan Waldschmidt - "Stupid People Are Your Biggest Threat to Being Successful"

Takeaways: The biggest obstacle to success is the people who tell you to play it safe so that you don't get hurt. They may be well-meaning, but they are keeping you from greatness.

5. John Jantsch - "Are You Food or Foe?"

Takeways: Customers are like wild animals--they either think that you are a predator or prey. They either run away from you in fear or the draw upon you for survival.

4. Craig Rosenberg - "Reports of the Death of the Salesperson Are Greatly Exaggerated"

Takeaways: Sales isn't dead. The role of sales has merely changed. Salespeople who don't change with the role are the ones who will die.

3. Kelly Robertson - "Have You Got the Courage to Ask?"

Takeaways: All salespeople ask questions. Asking the tough questions that cut to the heart of problem resolution is what sets a great salesperson apart from a mediocre one.

2. Seth Godin - "Self Directed Effort is the Best Kind"

Takeways: Anyone can be successful just following the orders of someone else, but whose success is it really in that case? The best kind of success comes from self-motivation.

1. Anthony Iannarino - "Cynicism is a Recipe for Mediocrity"

Takeways: The biggest killer in a sales organization are the people who think they are too cool to believe in what they do, and let everyone else know it. Cynicism kills passion and, without passion, there can be no success.

Quote of the Week: "You may believe you are too cool to drink the Kool-Aid, but by not drinking it you are cheating yourself, you are cheating your company, and you are cheating their dream clients. Either drink the Kool-Aid or go find some Kool-Aid that you will drink." - Anthony Iannarino

Saturday, May 14, 2011

4 Must Have Apps for Bloggers


I'm addicted to blogging. There, I've taken the first step. I'm absolutely obsessed with developing and sharing my ideas. I've always dreamed of being a published writer and, even if in a non-traditional sense, the Internet has made it possible for me.

I suspect I'm not the only one enthralled with the idea of blogging. Everyone has an opinion and most love to share it. I'm willing to bet that most people who don't blog don't do it because they don't know how or they don't think they have time. Well guess what? I am married, go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays (sometimes), work 60 hours a week, and attend grad school. Believe me, you have time. And, with platforms out there like Wordpress and Blogger, it's easier than you might think.

One thing that has made blogging a lot easier for me is my smartphone. There are certain applications that I use to prep myself so that, when I actually end up posting, it's quick and easy. These 4 apps are must-haves for any blogger. So if you're already a regular blogger or you're merely toying with the idea, I highly recommend looking into them. They are:

1. PULSE. Anyone who is or aspires to be a blogger will be greatly benefitted by reading the blogs of others. Pulse is an application that allows you to integrate feeds from up to 60 sources. You can pull blogs, but you can also pull anything in RSS format--CNN, Car and Driver, Sports Illustrated, Glamour. You name it. This resource integrates a wealth of information to help writers develop an amazing base of knowledge.

2. INSTAPAPER. This is the only app on my list that costs money ($4.99), so you can judge for yourself whether or not it's worth it. Basically, Instapaper allows you to save a nearly unlimited number of articles for later viewing. You can even organize them into folders for easier access. The cool thing about Instapaper is that it works in conjunction with Pulse. You can browse through the sources in your Pulse app and send the articles of interest to Instapaper so that you aren't cluttered with the articles in Pulse that you don't want to read. Personally, I've found the app well worth 5 bucks.

3. EVERNOTE. Okay, this is the app that I can almost say that I couldn't blog without. Every time I have an interesting thought, Evernote allows me to type it and save it in a folder for later editing. Actually, this might surprise you but I'm typing this entire post in Evernote. Everything you put into the app is instantly transferred to your account online so that, if you want to, you can finish a post later on your PC. In addition to text, you can also add GPS location, tags, pictures, and voice memos. Hands down, this is my favorite app. Period.

4. POSTEROUS. This app is revolutionary for getting your blog post exposure. With Posterous, you can set your writing to automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Buzz, Plurk, Flickr, Tumblr, and more. And, if you blog on Blogger or Wordpress, you can type (or copy and paste) into Posterous and have it automatically post to your blog without even in to your blog's account. If you do a lot of mobile blogging, this blog is imperative.

Wanna know my process with these apps? I start with Pulse. I browse through all of my streams and read the articles of interest as they are posted. Then, I flip my favorites into Instapaper. Each Sunday, I narrow down what I believe to be the top 10 posts of the week and post a special entry on my own blog, recapping them. I jot every idea I have down in Evernote and go back and edit it when I have time. If I finish a post in Evernote while I'm not at my PC, I use Posterous to post it. That's how I blog. You should try it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anonymous Superstars

I live about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland and many people in my area were just 'uncelebrating' the first year anniversary of Quitness Day, the day NBA superstar Lebron James left his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavs, to play for the Miami Heat. (After living in northeast Ohio for a couple of years, I really can't blame the guy). This unusual anniversary got me thinking about the importance of Lebron James to those brave enough to call themselves Cavalier fans. The organization is still essentially the same. Only James is missing. As far as I know, it has the same owners and the same coaches. Management is the same for the Cavs. They just lost an employee. Yet still, everyone is freaking out.

Justin Bieber (for reasons that I cannot fathom) has in recent years become a pop sensation. He's got music, a book, a documentary, and more. His fans love him. He's a superstar. But who is his manager? Who negotiates his contracts? Who is his trainer? Who teaches him to sing and dance? Does anyone know the names of these people--the people who bring Bieber into the limelight?

It seems like, in the Entertainment industry, it is oddly enough the line workers who get all the credit. The managers--those in charge of these entertainers for hire--are the unsung heroes that fade into the background. Think about industries outside of entertainment. Everybody knows who Steve Jobs is, but can anyone name a single Apple engineer that assisted in the creation of the iPad? You may have heard of Howard Schultz, but I'm still waiting to catch wind of a nationally-recognized Starbucks barista? In entertainment, it seems management gets the short end of the stick. In all other fields, the contributions of employees on the frontlines go unnoticed.

This post is dedicated to the unsung heroes. The anonymous superstars. The producers for the latest blockbuster. The defensive coordinator for the team leading in sacks and interceptions. Or perhaps the people who designed your room at the hotel you are staying at. The people who put together the engine in your car. To all the people who don't get the credit, whose contributions do not appear to be valued, who we just don't seem to care about: we DO care. We'll never tell you. You probably won't get any press. Likely, you'll always be in someone else's shadow. But that doesn't matter. YOU ARE A SUPERSTAR. Not because WE say you are, but because YOU are creating something valuable and YOU know it! Keep doing what you're doing. You're a gift to the rest of us, even if we never let you know. You ARE a superstar.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of May 1, 2011

10. Sharon Drew Morgen - "Buyers Don't Sit and Wait for Sellers"

9. Dave Brock - "Sales IS a Numbers Game"

8. Carlos Hidalgo - "3 Ways to Ditch the 'And' in 'Sales and Marketing'"

7. Anthony Iannarino - "The Handoff--Making Certain Operations Succeed"

6. Scott Ginsberg - "The Bob Dylan Guide to Owning a Room"

5. Jonathan Farrington - "Do You Expect to Be Successful?"

4. Chris Brogan - "What Goes Into a Punch"

3. Mark Hunter - "Why Sitting When You're On the Phone is a Bad Idea"

2. Jim Keenan - "The Elephant in the Room"

1. Dan Waldschmidt - "Selfishness, Sales, and the Sad Excuses We Try to Justify"

"Selfishness doesn't have to be a way of life." - Dan Waldschmidt

Great post Dan! Way to dismantle the arguments we use to convince ourselves that it's okay to make it all about us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Feedback or a Pat on the Back?

I went through the drive-through at my bank the other day. I sent a check in through the tube to be deposited and they sent me back a receipt. As I extracted the receipt, the teller said to me, "You might receive a telephone survey today. Please remember to rate us excellent on every question." I nodded and thought nothing of it. But then, as I pulled away, I heard the teller for the guy in the line next to me say the very sane thing. And this got me thinking...

Why do companies offer surveys? Is it truly for feedback or is it really for a pat on the back? The instance with my bank was not the first time I was asked not only to fill out a survey but to fill it out a certain way. Most likely, it is pressure put on the retail workers that forces them to ask for positive feedback. If they don't get perfect scores on these surveys, management comes down hard on them. And then we as consumers end up saying we are more satisfied than we really are, merely out of sympathy for the line workers. The company issuing the survey gets the results of the survey back and think they are doing just fine.

If the survey actually measures the value of the retail worker, there is some justification for it. A bad survey can alert management of a poor employee. But what if the problem is management itself? What if the employee is just acting out the systems that the manager has in place? Often, this is the case in retail. The line worker is just doing what he or she is told. Yet, they and the managers above them as well as the managers of those managers have an incentive to guilt the customer into exaggerating satisfaction. How is this helpful?

Perhaps we are confusing the purpose of a survey with the purpose of a review. We want all reviews of us to be positive, because they are used as marketing tools for future customers. A survey, however, should be used for constructive criticism. We don't want our employees to get excellent feedback? What on earth can we do with that? We want to know what we're doing wrong. What want to know what we can improve. We want feedback, not a pat on the back. Just once, I would like to purchase something and have the salesperson say to me, "You may receive a telephone survey. Please remember to say exactly everything about the sales process that you were DISSATISFIED with."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Take Me Off Your List

The other day, I was making a sales call to a prospect that I hadn't spoken with since our initial contact. It had been about a week and I was waiting for the voicemail to pick up. Surprisingly, he answered. I began to introduce myself, but was cut short. "You can take me off your list," he said, "we already purchased."

Take me off your list. This wasn't the first time I had heard the statement but, this time, it stopped me in my tracks. What are the implications of a prospect ending the relationship with these words? What is the prospect signaling to me? It's a hard truth to face but, when prospects ask to be taken off of a list, they perceive themselves as being nothing more than names "on a list."

Are your prospects merely names on a list? I know that you have a list of names and each prospect is simply the next one on the list. But do you treat each prospect as if he or she is on a list? It's quite possible that the gentleman above who asked me to take him off my list did so because he knew I was a salesman and would have a list of people to call. However, I can't help but think that he made such a request because I made him feel like he was on a list.

Sales tip of the day: make every prospect feel as if he or she is the only one you are calling. Don't be thinking about the next call. Don't sound like you're reading from a script. Be prepared for genuine conversation. Make every call exclusively about the person you are calling. Write your next 10 calls on Post-it Notes and tear each of them off only after the call is completed. Be creative. Do whatever it takes. No one likes to feel like just another name on a list.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sales Blog Book Club: Trust-Based Selling by Charles Green Pt. 1

I recently joined an online book club hosted by Anthony Iannarino of http://www.thesalesblog.com fame. The first book on the reading list is Trust-based Selling by Charles H. Green. This post is a copy of my comments on the first 7 chapters posted for the book club. Enjoy!

Here are my thoughts ok the first 7 chapters. I am probably unique in this conversation in that I work in a very specific industry of b2b sales--the automotive sales industry. That being said, I cannot think of a more fitting book for a car salesman to read! The ideas in here are utterly paradigm shifting if not a little idealistic for my industry. Here are my takeaways:

• On page 11 Charlie mentions the Acid-test of trust in selling. I realize that referring a customer to a competitor is a last resort and I also realize that it would be a vivid indicator of me truly having the customer's interests at heart. However, how do possibly justify such a practice to management. Maybe it's because of the specific buying process/cycle of my industry, but I can't imagine in my wildest dreams my manager putting a rubber stamp on sending a customer somewhere else. If we can't help the customer, isn't it our job in sales to convince the customer that we can--regardless of what they say?

• On page 26, Charlie writes what I think is the most profound statement of the book: "the relationship is the customer." It does something psychologically to me as a salesman to see the customer as an end rather than the means. I don't know how effective this is in actually producing results in my industry quite yet but, as I've put it into practice, it sure makes me feel better about myself. I've been hammered, since starting in sales, to drive toward closure. That agenda has now taken on new meaning. The sale is not the close. It is a means to the close. The long-term relationship I have with the customer is the close. This is a downright revolutionary thought for me. I now find myself calling and following up with people who didn't buy from me because I care about our relationship and still want to know how satisfied they were even if I didn't sell them. This is a great and much-appreciated thought.

• On page 45, Charlie discusses the trust-equation. I've read other books on trust that have included credibility, reliability, and (by other names) intimacy, but the notion of self-orientation seems new to me. Here's the equation: Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self-orientation. Thus, self-orientation is the denominator. If I am the most competent, knowledgeable, personable salesperson in the business, it doesn't mean anything if the customer can see that I am in it for myself. This is so true. I believe that true customer-focus, the opposite of self-orientation, is everything Charlie says it is. My question is, "How can I break the stereotype?" How can I get a customer to see me as anything but self-interested? Sometimes, it seems as if there is nothing I can do to change the denominator. What are your thoughts?

• At the very end of page 65, Charlie gives a short list of practices that indicate a lack of collaboration with the customer. Number 5 on that list I find to be all too true: "You discuss with your team what the customer really wants, rather than asking the client directly." I cannot count how many times I've personally fallen into this trap. When the customer leaves or gets off the phone, I start venting to the salesperson next to me--coming up with all kinds of assumptions about why the customer behaved the way they did. When I should be qualifying the customer, I am often qualifying another salesperson about the customer! I think that the reason for this, though, is my own fear. I'm afraid to ask the customer questions. I'm afraid of the answers I may get. Yet, I realize that this fear forces me into being combative rather than collaborative. When I talk with other salespeople, it's like I'm conspiring against the customer. If I just pick up the phone and call, I am sending a signal to both myself and the customer that we are on the same team.

Those are the key takeaways that I noted as I was reading. Of course, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Trust-based Selling is full of cool stuff! I am delighted and priveleged to be introduced to such a potentially life-altering work. Trust (especially in my industry) should never be considered an afterthought. It is foundational. This book is a spectacular reminder of that fact.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Paying Attention

Money is important. For most of us, there is an end to its supply. We make choices about how we spend our money and, more importantly, we make choices about how we don't spend our money. We pay for things that we value and we withold our money from those things which don't mean as much to us. In business, marketers and salespeople certainly are after the customer's money. Revenue keeps the machine going. It is the fuel for business. Money is important, but there is something more important.

Time is important. More important than money. Time, for everyone, is finite. Everybody has 24 hours in a day. Time must be spent very carefully. If we waste our time, no amount of hard work and intuition can get it back. How we spend our time is also, therefore, an indicator of what we value. For marketers and salespeople, understanding how consumers spend their time is key to understanding how they will spend their money. People who spend money need the time to spend it. The reverse of the old adage 'time is money' is also true: money is time. But even time is not our most precious asset.

What is our most precious asset? What is the one thing that, if we give it, indicates a near 100% devotion to what we are giving it to? What is that one thing that marketers and salespeople should seek from us above all else? It is our attention. If something has our attention, we value it. If a marketer can capture our attention, he or she undoubtedly can capture our time and money. We often use the expression "paying attention" to indicate a single-minded focus on something. I think the expression hits the nail on the head. When we give something our attention, we our paying attention. We our spending our attention. And nothing else is more sacred for us to relinquish.

What are you paying attention to? If you are in business, how much attention are your customers willing to pay for your product or service?