Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Power of Giving

I heard a quote a while back that really caused me to think deeply about the power of giving: "Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching." To give is to live without doubt or reservations. To give is to live without consideration of what you might get back: to work without regard for compensation, to love without regard for being loved, to dance without regard for whether or not people will join in and dance with you. Giving is risky. There's no doubt about it. Only the most courageous are daring enough to live a life of giving. But where there is great risk, there is great return. A life of giving is the most influential life a person can live.The power of giving lies in the law of reciprocity. When you give, people are naturally inclined to give back. No one wants to feel like they owe you. They will want to compensate you; they will want to love you; they will want to dance your dance. Giving is taking the first step that no one wants to take. Being the leader, setting the example, will inspire others to follow you. Giving is inspiring. When you are willing to take the risk of giving, people will respond. When you give, others will join in the giving. Taking, on the other hand, is not inspiring. It makes people want to avoid working with you. It inspires others to want to take as well. There is nothing more destructive in a relationship than the prevalence of self-interest. If you want to push people away, show them you are only in it for yourself. If you want to attract people, show them that you are in it for them. Giving trumpts taking any day of the week.

Giving is not a strategy, though. It is a way of life. You can't give with the intention of getting back; that is manipulation. And people usually know when they are being manipulated. No, giving must be done in an authentic manner. You must give, because you want to positively influence other people. You must live as if you really aren't in it for yourself. You must live as if you authentically care about the lives of others. Your gifts cannot have strings attached. When they do, they aren't really gifts. To give is to remove your own interests from the equation. Make no mistake: when you give, others will respond. But you cannot give with the intention of getting what you want. Effective giving is always about the other person.

If, at the end of my life, the sum of what I've taken exceeds the sum of what I've given, then I have lived in vain. As Jesus has said, "It is more blessed to give than it is to receive." A fulfilling life is not about what you take with you but rather what you leave behind. What contribution will you make to humanity? What will you create that changes the world? What will you sell that makes a positive difference in the life of your customer? How will the people in your life be better off having known you? These are the important questions. "What's in it for me?" is an empty posture. "What value do I add?" Now, that's a fulfilling posture. That is powerful.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Too Smart for Sales

I read A LOT! Since I got into sales a little over a year ago, I've read about 30 books and 3,000 blog posts on sales and marketing. I am currently attending graduate school for my MBA. I've kept up on Business Week, Fortune, and a number of periodicals specific to my industry. I am a knowledge maven. I thrive on learning. I get a rush from getting a new insight into how to improve myself. The more I know, I reason, the better salesperson I will be...I wish it were that easy.

You see, sometimes, I think I know too much. Sometimes, I think I place too great an emphasis on learning and not enough on application. I know enough to write a nice blog and even to successfully coach other people but, when it's crunch time, I sometimes falter in applying the things I have learned to my own sales behavior. It's easy to be enamored by a revolutionary idea but it's another thing entirely to have enough guts to implement it. I know plenty; it's the implementation that I struggle with.

I've been told that I have too many things going on in my head at once. I read so many different ideas that I can't reconcile them and translate them into cohesive behavior. This could be true. I know that I think way too much. Yet still, I try to justify my endless contemplation. If I am not learning different ideas, then I will never be learning better ideas. I want to learn as many conflicting viewpoints as possible so that the position I take, in the end, will be that much more powerful. That's all fine and good but, if I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that I sometimes just have too much crap swirling around in my head to think straight.

When football players come off the sidelines and attempt to run a, "play," the quarterback doesn't stop thinking about the play. However, his mind is no longer in the playbook; it's on the field. The same goes with salespeople like myself. I need to get my head in the game. When I'm sitting down in front of my client, I want to be engaged in the conversation, not thinking about what I read in that last blog post. Knowledge is good, but it should be foundational. You should not have to think about a sales technique when in front of a client; it should come through naturally. Integrate knowledge into who you are. When you're on the field, it's time to run the play; not to study it.

What about you? Are you like me? Do you read a lot? It's great if you do, but is it a distraction during game time? Do you have your head in the game? Are you engaged in conversation? Don't over-think it. Don't be too smart for sales.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Four Words That Limit Your Potential

There are four words we use all too often that make it incredibly difficult for us to be successful as salespeople. Those four words are, "It's not my fault." Your customer did not receive her order on time. You say, "It's not my fault." Your boss is upset because you are falling behind on reaching your quota. You say, "It's not my fault." Whenever a problem comes to you, your immediate response is to defend your own ego and throw up your hands in protest. Whatever the case may be, you are not to blame. It is not your fault.Sure, no one wants to believe that they have messed things up. No one wants to accept blame. Admitting fault is admitting guilt. It makes you vulnerable and can put your integrity at stake. However, it is much worse to be in denial. You may think that saying "It's not my fault" will take the spotlight off of you and remove the guilt from your conscience, but it will limit your ability to be successful and overcome obstacles. Here's why:

  • Are you sure it's not your fault? In the book, Difficult Conversations, the authors discuss taking the focus off of "blame" and placing it instead on "contribution." If you are mugged while walking down the street late at night, it isn't your fault, is it? If you're trying to console yourself, you may say that the mugger is to blame. It is his fault. You are the victim. However, if you are trying to avoid the problem in the future, you will look at how you contributed to the problem. You were alone. It was late. It was a bad neighborhood. You contributed. You share some of the fault. The same is true in business situations. You may make yourself feel better by denying fault but, if you want to effective in similar future situations, you will look to how you contributed. If you look hard enough, there is probably something you could have done to alter the outcome. There is probably a part you played. If you resign to, "It's not my fault," you are telling yourself that there is nothing you could have done. Do you really want to feel that powerless?

  • Do you even care? Let's say it truly isn't your fault. You didn't (highly unlikely) contribute anything to the problem. Still, using these four words is detrimental to your success. Saying, "It's not my fault" doesn't only signal that you aren't to blame for the problem. It also signals that you don't care about the problem. When you immediately jump on the defensive, you are making it all about you. Your customers, your bosses, and your colleagues do not care about your guilt complex. They care about their problems being resolved. When you deny your contribution, you are not only saying that it isn't your fault. You are saying that it isn't your problem. You are saying that you don't have anything to do with it. You don't care. Again, do you really want to be that powerless? Do you really want to give up the opportunity to be the hero? Playing the victim is much easier but much less rewarding.

  • Isn't it still your problem? Why are they coming to you? Maybe it's not your fault, but it still your problem. Actually, it doesn't matter whether it is your fault or not. The point is that you are the one responsible for dealing with it. It isn't an issue of blame; it's an issue of problem-resolution. If you don't think it's your responsibility, maybe you shouldn't be in the position that you are in. Problems are opportunies for you to differentiate yourself. Do you really want to signal that you can't handle the problem? That's what you are saying when you say that it isn't your fault. "It's not my fault" is translated as, "I can't handle it." Do you really want to live that powerlessly?

"It's not my fault." Do you find yourself saying these words? For your own good, STOP! It doesn't matter whether or not it's true. It says all the wrong things about you. You are incompetent. You are indifferent. You are not the right person for the job. Take the responsibility and fix the problem. It's not about you. It's about them. Don't play the victim. Be the hero.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Bottom Line is Not the Bottom Line

I recently bought a copy of the latest issue of "Fortune 500." I like this list because it ranks the largest companies in the U.S. based on what I think is most important. No, it's not profits. Actually, a handful of companies on the list posted losses. The Fortune 500 ranks companies based on revenue. How much money did the company bring in? How much did it sell? We hear a lot of talk about profits, about the bottom line. Yet, revenue is what drives growth. It's not about how much money a company keeps; it's about how much it makes.

Don't get me wrong. Profits are important. If a company does not at least break even, it does not have a sustainable business plan. Yet, in this case, it isn't an issue of how much profit the company does make but rather how much it can make. When a company can't make the profits it needs to stay in business, then it has a problem. But what about the company that makes an excess of profit? What about the company with the biggest "bottom line?" Is this a succeful company. I would say, "No." Or at least it's not successful as it could be.

The bottom line is not the bottom line. I heard a quote once, and I can't remember who said it, but it goes like this: "I am not in business to make money; I make money to be in business." You see, the company that does not plan on sticking around only needs to be concerned with profits. But the company that wants to be an enduring enterprise that really creates an impact on the world will not want to post high profits. That company will want to reinvest the money that could have been profit into more revenue creation. Better technology. Better product development. Better salespeople. Great companies feed the machine rather than extracting all they can out of it and letting it starve. Companies that are in it for the long-haul don't care about profits. They are merely a means to an ever-evolving end.

What about you as a salesperson? There is a notion that salespeople are only interested in making money. Sales is all about commissions. The most successful salesperson is the one who is the richest--the one who profits the most. Is this true? I don't think so. I think that richest salesperson is simply that--the richest salesperson. The most successful salesperson is the one who reinvests in himself. He is always seeking to improve--to develop himself so as to create more revenue. He pays for sales training out of his own pocket. He wants to improve. He is not in business to make money. He makes money to be in business. What about you? What kind of salesperson are you? Is it a career or just a means to some quick money? What kind of impact will you leave on the world through the revenue that you generate? Or are you only concerned with profits?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Product Knowledge and Customer Questions

Never lie. Since I've been in sales, I've been taught that, if you don't know the answer to a questions, don't make something up. Admit that you don't know. Your prospect understands that you are a human being; you aren't expected to know everything. Besides, you should err on the side of caution. If you might know the answer and you tell them you do, you can end up being wrong and the result will be catastrophic when your prospect finds out you lied to them. Even if it wasn't your intention to lie, that is how the prospect will typically perceive it. Being untrustworthy is always worse than being unknowledgeable. If you don't know something for sure about your product or service, admit it without a moment's hesitation. It will save you a lot of headache down the road.
If you don't know, it is a good idea to admit that to your prospect. But do you know what is even better? To be able to say honestly and confidently, "Yes, I do know!" Saying I don't know to question after question can make us feel pretty ignorant and make us look like we don't know anything about what we are selling. It always better to be able to give satisfactory answers to our customers about our products. It is always better to know. That is where a good foundation of product knowledge comes in. The more we know, the more questions we will be able to answer. The more questions we can answer, the more credibility we have. And the more credibility we have, the more business we get.

But what about the question that comes out of left field? What about the question we have not been asked before? You have no choice, in this case, but to admit that you do not know. However, the next time the question is asked, you should be able to answer it without even thinking. You should never have to say "I don't know" twice to the same question. As a matter of fact, most of your product knowledge probably came about from finding answers to your customers' questions. You can learn all you want about your product but, if it doesn't answer the questions that customers will have, the knowledge is worthless.

My advice? Be prepared for questions before they are even asked. Ask yourself what questions you would have if you were the customer. Ask yourself what questions have been asked before by customers in similar situations. As you are asked more and more questions, you should be able to give better and better answers. If not, you either aren't listening or you aren't doing the right research. Focus on learning what you need to know to make the sale; focus on learning what your customers expect you to know. That is really all that matters.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Needs Analysis is Worthless

How do we get a customer to buy? How do we discover his buy buttons? Usually, we perform some sort of "needs analysis." We ask the customer questions, trying to uncover areas where the product we are selling can be of benefit to the customer. When we see a hole in the customer's satisfaction, we try to wedge our product into it. That is how a sale is made. Find where the customer is dissatisfied and fix that need with your product. A successful salesperson, then, is one who is able to satisfy needs.As salespeople, then, it is no suprise that we are obsessed with "needs analysis." We think that our job is to meet the needs of our prospects. And, sometimes, it is. The problem is that, in the developed world, rarely does anyone need anything. If we are trying to sell a car and ask our prospect about her vehicle needs, she will say, "I don't need one. I already have a car." If we are trying to sell insurance and ask our prospect about her insurance needs, she will say, "I don't need it. I'm already insured." Doctors already have drugs. They don't need them. Businesses already have CRMs. They don't need them. Needs. Needs. Needs. What is there for salespeople when nobody needs anything?

Perhaps, we are focusing on the wrong idea. Sure, it's easier to go after customers who actually have needs, but there aren't too many of them left. We are going after a very small piece of the pie if we are only seeking out customers who are in need. Besides, if customers need something, they will seek it out. They ask for it. And when we are merely giving customers what they ask for, we are transitioning from salespeople to order-takers. Order-takers, in world where customers are perfectly happy with the status-quo, have very skinny children. Needs analysis is a nice idea but, in the end, it's pretty much worthless. Might I suggest something else?

We are fighting a losing battle if we seek out only customers who have needs. However, if we seek out customers whose situations, we can improve, the list of leads is endless. Perhaps now is the time to make the shift from "needs analysis" to "opportunity analysis." Rather than ask, "Do you need a car?" We should be asking, "What do you like and dislike about the car you are driving?" Rather than ask, "Are you insured?" We should be asking, "What are you satisfied and dissatisfied with about your current insurance plan?" We could always offer better drugs. Better CRMs. Better. Better. Better. Opportunity is the new need. We should assume that customers don't need anything but that they could always improve what they do have.

What about you? Do your customers need anything? No. Well, can they improve anything? What can you to make the lives or businesses of your customers better? That is the right question.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of June 12, 2011

Fantastic week in the blogosphere. 5 newcomers on the list! Some tips gleaned from these amazing posts: you are your biggest obstacle to success, the bad economy is only an acceptable objection in so far as a customer plans not to stay in business, profits are not the bottom line, people respond to an emotional connection rather than to facts, and we should say, "I'm sorry THAT..." when we are apologizing instead of, "I'm sorry IF..." These are but a few pearls of wisdom contained in the posts that made this week's top 10. It was a very competitive week. Great content all around. Enjoy!

  1. Geoffrey James, "The Top 6 Enemies of Your Sales Success"

  2. Kelley Roberts, "This Might Possibly, Perhaps, Probably Work...I Think"

  3. Sean McPheat, "4 Steps to Overcoming the Economy Objection"

  4. Kevin Eikenberry, "Why Remarkable Leaders Are Vulernable"

  5. Tim Berry, "Entrepreneurs: Profits Are Overrated"

  6. Dan Waldschmidt, "The Illogic of Selling Logically"

  7. Liz Strauss, "Please Don't Ask Before You Say Hello and 9 Other Don'ts"

  8. Diane Helbig, "I Just Called to Say..."

  9. Anthony Iannarino, "The At-Risk Column and What to Do About It"

  10. Stewart Hirsch, "I'm Sorry IF I Upset You"

Quote of the Week: "People want to feel inspired after listening to you--not emotionally taxed. Talk about what moves people in their soul." - Dan Waldschmidt

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If You Really Care...

I heard a story the other day about a young woman who got a job working in an animal shelter. The job required the woman to draw blood from and give fluids to the animals. In other words, the woman had to stick those animals with needles. NEEDLES! How cruel? She couldn't do it. "The poor things," she said, "it will hurt them!" My wife and I are crazy cat-lovers. Right now, we have four and we love them like they are our children. Nevertheless, neither one of us will hesitate grab one of them by its scruff and shove a pill down its throat--regardless of how uncomfortable it may be for them. We care about them...and that's exactly why we are willing to do what's good for them.
The animal shelter is not the only place that people let their emotions get in the way of them doing their jobs. What about the therapist who gets too wrapped up in the problems of her client to help that client work through her problems? How about the police officer who lets something slide because they feel bad for the person who is breaking the law? Imagine if your dentist refused to work on your teeth unless it was a pleasant experience for you. We often hold these people who let their emotions prevent them from providing their service on a pedestal. We make them out to be heroic. "They care too much," we reason, "that is their only weakness." In reality, the reason why they can't do their jobs is that they don't care enough.

You see, if you really care, you'll get results. You have a job to do. You are a therapist. You must help you client. You are a police officer. You must uphold the law. You are a dentist. You must fix teeth. You work in an animal shelter. You must do whatever it takes to save those animals. If your concern for doing your job is real and not just a facade, you will get results. You will finish the job. You aren't heartless if you are doing your job. On the contrary, you have more heart than the person who falters under emotional strain; your heart will simply be in the right place. Your heart is set on finishing what you started. Your heart is set on results.

What does this have to do with sales? EVERYTHING! How often do we let our emotions prevent us from helping our clients? We may feel bad that our clients just don't have the budget, and we would be imposing if tried to sell them what we have to offer. We may feel bad that the client is pressed for time, and we would be adding injury to insult to ask her to meet with us. What we fail to realize when we let our emotions keep us from selling is that, if we aren't selling, we aren't helping. Let me repeat that: IF WE AREN'T SELLING, WE AREN'T HELPING. As a matter of fact, we can never help our clients by not selling them. Do we really care about our clients? Then we should want them to have what we offering, because we know it can improve their situations. We are accomplishing nothing by getting ourselves worked up and emotional about our clients. If we really care, we will sell them. If we really care, we will get results.

What about you? Do you feel bad for your clients? Good. Now, do you feel bad enough to sell them something? Do you care enough to get results?

Friday, June 17, 2011

7 Killer Sales Podcasts

I really got into podcasts when I was a junior in college, studying economics. Russ Roberts, professor of Economics at George Mason University, hosted (and still hosts) a podcast called Econtalk. Each week, he held an hour-long dialogue with various thinkers and workers in fields relating to Economics. Some of the most engaging discussion and profound insight I have ever heard or acquired came from this podcast. I listened to it while I was driving, while I was walking from my car to class, while I was doing things around the house. I never had to take the time to sit down and listen to a podcast exclusively. I could always multi-task, and thought caused me to get addicted to podcasting.

Since I got into sales, I've noticed that blogging runs rampant while podcasting is scarce. Over the past year, though, I have picked up a few gems and wanted to point them out to readers who don't have time to open up a book or click through RSS feeds. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I have an ever-expanding repretoire. So, stay tuned for a part two...hopefully, will be in the works.

  1. Daniel Wood's Your Path to Your Dreams Podcast: Daniel Wood is the author of Looking to Business, a blog and platform for his sales consultancy business. Daniel sometimes goes solo on his podcasts but has also featured guests such as Anthony Iannarino and Kelley Robertson.

  2. Paul Castain's Sales Playbook Podcast: Paul Castain is the author of Sales Playbook, a blog, online community, and hosting site for his sales coaching business. Paul typically goes solo on his podcasts and offers lively, motivational conversation in conjunction with his writing.

  3. Clayton Shold's Salesopedia Podcast: Clayton Shold is the author and administrator of, a resource for sales professionals that includes blogs from many influential salespeople in the business. The podcast often features a variety of guests.

  4. John Jantsch's Duct Take Marketing Podcast: John Jantsch is the author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine. He is one of the most widely-known small business consultants. His podcast typically features a conversation with a guest author, recently Scott Ginsberg and Eric Ries. In addition to his podcast, John writes the Duct Tape Marketing Blog on a nearly daily basis.

  5. Joe and Mike's Sales Roundup Podcast: Joe and Mike are veterans in the technology sales industry. Their podcast is often a dialogue stemming between the two of them in regards to various contemporary issues in sales.

  6. Brad Trnavsky's Sales Management 2.0 Podcast: Brad is just a guy with a passion for sales and technology. His blog, Sales Management 2.0, gives weekly insight into contemporary sales issues, especially relating to technology.

  7. Jeb Blount's Sales Guy: Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast: Jeb Blount is the creator and administrator of, a collective resource for sales professionals. The Sales Guy podcast is a division of the "Quick and Dirty" podcasts that range in topic from legal advice to financial advice to pet care advice. Each podcast is only about five minutes long and contains, as the title suggests, quick tips to "getting a deal done."

Suggestions, Requests and the Fear of Rejection

I recently read a blog post by Kelley Robertson about the way we phrase things when we are speaking with clients. Sometimes, instead of saying, "I've got something that's perfect for you," we might say something like, "I have something that you might like." Might? May? Could? Are these words customers want to hear when they are spending money on what you are selling? Probably not. The lack of confidence implicit in this kind of dialogue sends the signal to the prospect that there's a chance our solution might not work. Nevertheless, we tend to phrase things in a hesitant manner rather than a confident one. When we go to ask for the sale, we don't really ask for it; we just mention that we think it might be a good idea--something the prospect may want to consider. We make suggestions rather than requests. Why do we do this?I think that it's all about the level of emotional risk involved in what we say to people. If we make a mere suggestion and it is turned down, that's okay because it was just a suggestion. If we make a request, however, and are rejected--then, it's personal. We are being rejected. We are being turned down. We are being told, "No!" And that's tough to handle. So, we shrink away from being direct with our prospects. We don't make absolute statements or requests. We always leave ourselves an out so that we can be psychologically bulletproof when the sale goes south. When we ask for something, we are making ourselves vulnerable. There is no risk in merely advising.

The problem is that, where there is no risk, there is no return. The less direct we are with our prospects, the less they will feel compelled to make a decision. Human beings have a natural affinity toward the status quo. Rarely will a prospect change anything unless they are actually asked to--even if it is in his or her best interest. When we succomb to advice-giving and suggestive-selling, we are merely planting seeds that some other salesperson with more guts is likely to reap.

There is a lot of talk about conquering the fear of rejection, but I don't think it is ever something that can truly be overcome. It must simply be dealt with. We're all people (yes, even those of us in sales) and we don't like to be rejected. That's not going to change. It isn't about getting rid of fear; it's about acting in spite of it. Those who never try, never fail; but they never succeed either. The great salesperson lives by the mantra of Rocky Balboa: "It ain't about how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can GET hit and keep moving forward." It's about taking the rejection, getting back up, and then moving forward.

Success is only an option for those who are willing to fail. Are you willing to fail?

Acceptance is only an option for those who are willing to be rejected. Are you willing to be rejected?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Building Rapport May Be Hard for You

Not all of us are people-people. Sometimes, we may find it difficult to make small talk and engage people in conversation. In sales, we can hardly enter a prospect into the buying process without first "building rapport." We get to know the prospect and share a little about ourselves. We ask her about what's going on in her life, how her day is going, maybe share a few stories. Sometimes, though, we just can't get the words right. We stumble through the conversation and it's a little awkward. Why can't we build rapport? You'd think that it's the easiest thing we could do.

Maybe it's because we're looking at building rapport wrong: maybe it isn't a step in the sales process but rather an integral part of the entire process. Think about it. We've got a few topics prepared when we sit down with a prospect. Breakfast. The weather. Kids. The weather. The conversation can sometimes seem a little stilted and inauthentic. It is often clear to the prospect that we are merely talking to them because they are at that point in our sales process. And what wonder why it's awkward.

How do we talk to our family? Our friends? The people waiting in line with us at the grocery store? We don't have to think so hard about our topic of conversation because it comes out naturally. Why do we see our prospects as any different? They are people too. Do we feel the need to check "building rapport" off of the list when we are talking with our friends? Then, it should never be such a regimented activity with our prospects either. A natural, authentic conversation will go miles further than a scripted dialogue full of weather-talk.

So, next time we go in to "build rapport," we should realize that it is not something to be checked off of our list. It is not a step in the process. It is the development of a natural human relationship. If that "rapport" is established and developed naturally, the prospect will be a lot more likely to say yes at the end of the process. Because he won't see himself as part of a process. Instead, he will see himself as part of a relationship. And it's a lot more difficult to say no to a relationship.

How about this? Don't establish rapport. Live rapport.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Fighting

Dale Carnegie offers perhaps the most profound words of wisdom ever uttered when it comes to an argument, "There is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument--and that is to avoid it." When you fight with someone, whether it be a spouse, a friend, a coworker, a boss, or a customer, what exactly are you trying to accomplish? You are trying to convince them, right? You are trying to get them to see that you are correct. The problem is that they are doing the same thing. They believe that they are right just as much as you believe that you are right. So, you fight. You argue but, try as you may, you cannot win. Even if you prove your argument with all the evidence in the world, you will not accomplish what you have set out to accomplish. You will not persuade the other person. For, you will have wounded the other person's pride. And, as Carnegie says, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

Might I suggest an alternative to this "fighting" arrangement? Most of us, in an argument, look at it as if we are on opposing sides. Each of us is at war with the other and the victor gets the satisfaction of being right. If that's what we are going for, to reinforce to ourselves that we are right, then this model will work just fine. If, however, we are trying to convince the other person that we are right, we need a model that does not paint that person as the enemy. We need a model that positions us both on the same side--leaving the enemy something else altogether. What if we were fighting side-by-side? What if we were on the same team? What if the disagreement or the problem is the enemy? Maybe then, both of us can win.

What, you have objections? Let's hear them:

  1. But I am right! What if you are absolutely, 100%, beyond the shadow of a doubt correct in your argument? It does not matter. You cannot convince a person driven by emotion by striking them with logic. And logic goes out the window in the heat of battle. Chances are, you aren't even being as logical as you think you are. If you were really being reasonable, you would try seeing things from the other person's perspective.

  2. But he started it! Sometimes, the other person will pick the fight. You won't want an argument, but the other person will practically beg you for it. This is a test of your character. Do not give in for, the second you do, you have lost all hope of persuading the other person. It takes two to fight. It isn't really a fight until you hit back. So, whatever you do, don't take a swing!

  3. But what if I lose? Sometimes, you will lose. You win some; you lose some. Ever hear that old adage? How about, 'It isn't win or lose; it's how you play the game?' If you lay down your weapons and approach the other person for a conversation rather than an argument, sometimes, the other person will end up convincing you. Get over it! You can't let your fear of losing the argument cause you to ruin your chances of ever winning. Your only shot, though, of convincing the other person, is to find common ground and help them to see that you are on their side. Otherwise, you are fighting a losing battle.

Who are you fighting? And how's that going for you? My guess is that it's tiring and unproductive. Time to lay down your boxing gloves and go for the handshake instead. Time to substitute the conversation for the confrontation. Fighting is for people who want to feel better about themselves. Empathy is for people who want to make a difference. Which person are you?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lessons from Some Unconventional Salespeople

A few nights ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to engage in a religious discussion with a couple of Mormon missionaries. All cards on the table, we are Christians--traditional, Biblical, book-chapter-verse Christians. So, we admittedly did not have the most open-minded intentions in inviting the young duo over for a visit. What fascinated me most about this encounter, though, had very little to do with religion and a lot to do with sales. Before they even stepped foot in the door, it occurred to me: Mormons are salespeople.

Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz write in Bruce and Stan's Guide to Cults, Religions, and Spiritual Beliefs, "By all measurements, Mormonism--also known as the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS)--is the most successful blended-belief cult in the world. With membership topping 11 million worldwide, it is the largest. With more than 300,000 converts a year, it is the fastest growing. And with assets of somewhere between 25 and 30 billion dollars, the Mormon Church is also the wealthiest." Need I say more? These people are clearly serious and unwavering in their message...and it shows. Therefore, I think there are some things that salespeople can learn from them:

  1. You are not a salesperson. You are a missionary. Mormons, for the two years following high school, go on a missionary trip, sharing their message door-to-door. And they describe it as that: a mission. It is not a pitch. It is not a swing. I is not a shot. It is a mission. They are prepared. They are committed. They are resolved. Maybe we would do better to take our "mission" more seriously. Have many of us really believe our sales message? I can tell you from the conversation my wife and I had with these people, they may be absolutely delusional, but they I have little doubt that they are sincere. They believe in what they do. It is never a drudgery. It is their life. What about us?

  2. Make an appointment. Call to confirm. These are, of course basics, but it astounded me that they actually did it. They stopped by and spoke with my wife first. She said that I would be home Saturday evening and they would be welcome to come back then. They asked her, "How about eight o'clock?" She agreed. About an hour before 8 on Saturday night, they called and asked if eight o'clock was still okay? They asked for the appointment. They set it. They confirmed it. How many salespeople today settle for "popping in sometime Monday afternoon." Mormons planned on coming back on a specific date and at a specific time and made sure that it happened. What about us?

  3. Find common ground. The one gentleman's opening words: "Our message today is one to us that is really important. And, to us, it's centered around Jesus Christ. So, just to get that one question out of the way that many people have, "Are Mormons Christians?" The answer is yes; yes, we are." They knew that my wife and I professed to be Christians. They approached us by recognizing where we come from and insisting they they come from the same place. We in sales may call this "building rapport." How often do we skip this step?

  4. State your intentions. "Understanding our message comes through time, through reading, and through prayer. It's something that we can just explain all at once. We're not here to make anyone accept or reject our message. It's just inviting everyone basically to come to Christ through faith in him, through baptism, receiving the holy ghost, and enduring to the end. That's really our purpose as missionaries: that's what we do." They made no mistake about what they were hoping to accomplish. Basically, he said, "We're not going to shove anything down your throat but these are the steps to our salvation and we are going to show you why you should take them." I at no point in the conversation was confused about what they were expecting from me. How many of us as salespeople find it awkward to ask for the sale because the customer never really knows if that's what we are attempting to accomplish? We need to state our sales message clearly and explicitly. If the customer doesn't know why we are there, then we have no business being there.

  5. Ask questions about your customers and their relationship to what you are selling. At the beginning of his pitch, one of the gentleman stopping talking and turned the conversation on us. He asked us, "What are some things in your lives that testify to you that God loves you?" In asking this question, the gentleman was able to understand what God meant to us and to tailor his presentation toward that definition. It was brilliant. How often do we as salespeople fail to ask our customers about their background, their business, the "widget" they are currently using? "What are some things in your business/life that testify that widgets are beneficial to you?" Do we ask questions to understand our customers or do we make assumptions about how they experience themselves in relation to what we are selling?

Okay, I could go on and on. The point is that these people mean business. They are hitting the pavement, going door-to-door, speaking with strangers about very uncomfortable, controversial subjects? What are we doing? If these people can talk to strangers about God (and not even the conventional God), can't we muster up the courage and committment to talk to our customers about widgets. If these people can believe so passionately in something they "feel" is right, can we not acquire the same believe in the product we have seen produce proven results for customers time and again? No, sales in not religion. But it is important. High school is over; it's time for our mission to begin.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts for the Week of June 5, 2011

10. Richard Ruff and Janet Spirer, "Selling Value is More Important Than Ever"

9. Kelly Robertson, "Tell Me About Your Company"

8. Andrea Vahl, "The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Marketing"

7. Seth Godin, "The Task Master Premium"

6. Art Sobczak, "Listen for Problem-Trigger Words"

5. Dave Brock, "Do You Really Want to Sell?"

4. Jim Keenan, "Assuming Will Kill You"

3. Jeb Brooks, "It's Not in the Budget"

2. Anthony Iannarino, "No One Makes You a Leader"

1. Scott Ginsberg, "Are You Offering Content or Enabling Contact?"

Quote of the Week: "We don't need more access to information--we need more access to each other. In short: contact is the new content." - Scott Ginsberg

Friday, June 10, 2011

Calls Vs Contacts

I was at a sales meeting yesterday and one of the sales managers from another branch made an interesting suggestion. He said to pay particular attention to the contact history in our CRM when we are making phone calls to new leads that we are unable to get a hold of. Each attempt we make to call a prospect is given a timestamp so that we know exactly what time each day we've tried to call. He said that when he looked at his salespeople's contact history, he realized that for the most part, they were attempting to contact the these new leads at the same time every day. He suggested trying a different time each day unread. Maybe those leads were more available and receptive of sales calls in the afternoon.


This suggestion is not a revolutionary concept. It should be a no-brainer. Yet, it struck me really hard because I knew what my contact history for new prospects such as these probably looked like. Since I make the vast majority of my phone calls in the morning, I probably call them at the same time every day. I am guilty of this poor sales behavior and, frankly, I'm disappointed with myself. Why is it such a big deal to me? Because the way I make my calls signals what I really care about in making them.

Am I shooting for call volume or contact volume? Does it matter how many calls I make if I never speak to anyone? You see, day in and day our, I find myself going down the same list, mindlessly dialing the same numbers and checking off the same names as I go. If is almost as if I don't care whether or not I get ahold of them because I am trying at the same time and in the same way every day to do if. My call list becomes a to-do list. I see it as something to get done. The problem is that, IT ISN'T ABOUT SALES CALLS: IT'S ABOUT SALES CONVERSATIONS! My goal should be to have insightful, game-changing discussions with prospects rather than checking their names off of a list. I'm not selling if I'm merely calling; I'm selling of I'm conversing.

What about you? How many calls did you make yesterday? And how many conversations did you have? When your prospects actually picked up the phone, were you so shocked that they actually answered that you stumbled through the conversation or were you ready to engage in effective dialogue? My advice? Change your way of thinking. Set out each day to maximize the amount of conversations you have, rather than the amount of calls you make. Calls don't generate revenue. Conversations do. Calls don't solve problems. Conversations do. You aren't in sales to call people; you are in sales to actually talk to them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Objections

What is an objection? Many people have written and spoken about "objection-handling" and "overcoming objections." Sometimes, these ideas can be helpful but I think that, more often than not, the objections themselves are not the problem. The problem usually is that salespeople fail to understand what objections really are. Let's start with what an obejction is NOT:

  1. An objection is not an insult. Too often, salespeople take personal offense to an objection. Unless the prospect says, "I don't like you" or "Is there someone else who can work with me on this?" It more than likely has nothing to do with you. Let me repeat that, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! When a prospect has an objection, it is about them. It is about how they can benefit from the transaction. You are in it to help them succeed. If they have an objection, never take it personally. That just signals that you are more focused on yourself than you are on your prospect.

  2. An objection is not a turn-down. Unless the prospect says, "No," they are not refusing to do business with you. Even something as direct as that should be explored. However, if the prospect says, "the price is too high," or "the specs aren't right," or "I need time to think about it," you can always dig deeper into why they think these things. They are not telling you, "No," in these cases; they are asking you to convince them. If you can show them that they are getting a good deal, that you're product actually works for them, and that they would be better off acting now, what's preventing the sale from closing? But never take an objection as a turn-down--it will cost you the business when it doesn't have to.

  3. An objection is not adversarial. The tendency for a salesperson when they hear an objection is to fight back. "The price is to high" is answered with, "No, it isn't!" Salespeople see the interaction as a battle, they and their prospects being on opposing sides. This is the wrong story to tell yourself. You must believe that you are fighting for your prospect. You are in your prospect's army; the enemy is the problem that you are trying to solve for them. You should, therefore, see the objection as the prospect does--something that is preventing them from winning the battle. After all, are they really losing if you sell them something? Aren't they benefitting from the transaction? Then, act like overcoming objections is a victory for them as much as it is for you.

This last point, I think, is key. Jeffrey Fox, in his book How to Become a Rainmaker, says, "Rainmakers turn objections into objectives." I couldn't say it more profoundly. An objection from a prospect tells the salesperson, in a roundabout way, what the prospect is trying to accomplish. An objection is not a setback; it is an opportunity. It is an invitation for the salesperson to come on board and help the prospect work out the kinks. An objection, therfore, is not something to be merely overcome; it is something to be explored. Great salespeople help their prospects win--an objection then is not something they "handle", but rather something they help their prospect handle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to Build a Brand

I heard a story about two car salesmen. A woman walked into their dealership one day and began to approach them. One of the salesmen jumped up and met her halfway across the showroom. The woman said, "I didn't buy my car here, but I was wondering if someone could show me how to work the navigation." The salesman agreed without a moment's hesitation. He ended up spending about 15 minutes with the lady, showing here not only how to use the navigation but also how to pair her phone with the vehicle's Bluetooth and how to take advantage of the upgraded features in her cruise control.

When the salesman came back into the showroom, the other salesman said to him, "I'm glad it was you and not me, because I would have told her to get lost!" The first salesman, as he sat down in his chair, thought for a second and replied, "No, I'm actually kind of glad that I helped her." The second salesman looked incredulously at him and asked, "Why? You didn't make any money off of her." The first salesman shrugged his shoulders and said, "Because that's how you build a brand."

I've not been able to get that response out of my head, "that's how you build a brand." Recently, it has occurred to me that not every activity a salesperson engages in can possibly be revenue-generating, but every activity a salesperson engages in can be brand-enhancing. I'm not talking, obviously, about the brand of the product you are selling or about the name of the company you represent. I am talking about you, the salesperson; you, the consultant; you, the brand. What does your name mean to customers, prospects, and the general public. Or does it mean anything at all?

The salesman who helped the lady with her car did not make any money off of her directly, but he does not know who she might have told about how helpful he was. I don't know about you, but I want to be known as the guy who was helpful rather than the guy who didn't care. Building a more valuable reputation, actually, is revenue-generating; it simply isn't easily traced or quantified. You can measure the value of cold calls. It isn't so easy with your personal brand equity. Nevertheless, I think the market is too competitive today to not be focused on enhancing your personal brand. There are too many salespeople selling too many products for too many companies. How do you stand out?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adventures In Bicycle Shopping

I am going to pick up a new bike today (I added the photo later today). It is a Trek 7100. Right now, they are assembling it and putting on the accessories I purchased; it should be ready in about an hour now. The funny thing is, I think I knew I was going to buy the bicycle before I even walkd into the shop. You see, about a week ago, I sent an email to the shop and received a stunning reponse from the owner. In the meantime, I was able to visit another bike shop that had a vast selection and brands and styles. When I walked into this bicycle shop today, I simply had to ask the salesperson a few questions and, within 1o minutes, he was writing up the order.

Here is the email I sent to the owner of the bicycle shop:

I'm considering getting a bike for my 4 mile commute. I'm a runner and I
haven't done much biking. I don't know what to get. My commute is approx.
from Rt 46 at the aqueduct in Niles to Preston BMW on Rt 422. I may bike
leisurely, but it will likely be through town. I weigh about 180 and I'm
about 5'9". What do you have and how much would it cost?

Here is the owner's reply:

Doug, The Trek 7100 in a 17.5'' frame is the perfect choice for you. This is
an aluminum frame bicycle that has large 29'' alloy wheels, 80 PSI tires,
adjustable front suspension, and a seatpost shock. Our website features this
bike in more detail. is our web address. The 7100 on sale is last
years model, Rootbeer/cream is the color. We had it on sale for $399.95 last
year, and currently have it priced at $250.00. Call me for more information
at 330-392-6288. We have a test ride bike built, come in and test one.

Why did this email have such a powerful impact on me that I was ready to make the purchase when I walked into the shop? Here are a few reasons that I think make sense:

  1. The owner of this shop told me about a specific bicycle. When I had looked online, the breadth of options available to me made the whole endeavor of finding a nice bike to ride rather daunting. The same thing happened when I went to the other shop. The salesperson said, "These bikes are used for this and those bikes are used for that. Which one do you want?" The owner of this shop listened to my needs and recommended something specific to them. That made my search simple.

  2. He listed minimal features and gave me a resource (which I did use) to find out more. He hit the bike's main selling points but didn't go too far into technical detail. I know nothing about bikes but he gave me just another to spark a little curiousity. Adjustable front supension? Seatpost shock? What do these mean? I had to explore. What I found fit the context of what I thought I would need in a bike for my daily commute.

  3. He gave me perspective on price. This was the first time I had looked at prices for a bicycle outside of Target. I knew they were going to be more expensive than I was accustomed to, but I didn't really know what to expect. The owner told me what the bike had previously been priced at, what it's market value was when it was new, and used that as a benchmark for the amazing sale he was having on it. $150 off? I'm one of the least price-conscious people you'll find if it means I'm getting what I want, but really? That's a lot of money, especially when I went to the other bike shop and rode a $459 bike with similar specs that was not on sale at all.

  4. He offered an invitation. He gave me his number to call and, more importantly, he asked me to come in for a test-ride. He wasn't content to just give me information. He wanted to prove himself. He wanted to sell me. He wanted me to experience the product for myself. He built up expectation. I wanted to come see the bike with 29" Alloy Wheels and 80 PSI tires. I wanted to see the $400 dollar bike on sale for $250. And he asked me to--how could I refuse?

These are amazing lessons for salespeople. Granted, I'm an easy-sale and I enjoy doing business with people who are helpful. But I think this email was impressive nonetheless. This salesperson sold himself and his product before I even saw it. He helped me narrow down my selection, he connected the specs with my needs, he gave me what I perceived to be a great price, and he asked me for the sale (or opportunity at least).

What do you sell? Do you help your customers in the same way that this bicycle shop owner helped me? My guess is that he didn't think much of it, just another email answering a customer inquiry. But that's just it--it was his natural response to guide me to the sale. And he did a fantastic job. I've got to go. My bike is waiting.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Should Salespeople Use Scripts?

Daniel Wood, author of Looking to Business, recently wrote a post called, "Should You Use a Sales Script?" Soliciting response from people in the sales arena on this highly-contested issue, I made a fairly lengthy comment. Here's what I had to say:

This is a tricky question, because a script can range from a word-for-word reading to an outline to simply a list of questions that need to be asked. It really depends on how narrowly you define a “script.” A general defintion that I think makes sense is “whatever you plan on saying to the client.” That, in a nutshell, is your script. Now, do you plan out the entire conversation word-for-word or do you pick out a few keywords or phrases you plan on integrating into the dialogue? How much, I think the question is, of your dialogue should be scripted?

I will endeavor to answer this question the way I think any sales question should bs answered, by asking, “What does the customer think about it?” Does the customer want us using the script? Now, I think our gut response is, “Of course not!” They think it’s phony, right? Like they’re talking to robots. Or maybe they think we’re just trying to close them and go for the quick sale with carefully crafted language designed to trick them into buying. Often, this is undoubtedly true. But let me ask the same question a little bit differently: does the customer want us to be prepared? Oh, well that’s a different story. Of course the customer wants us to be prepared, right? Well, is that not the purpose of a script? We have a script so that we know what to say and we consequently don’t waste the customers time. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Okay, here I am two philosophical paragraphs later and I still haven’t answered the question. I guess my answer would be a cop-out: it depends on the situation. A cold call should probably be more heavily scripted than a follow-up call. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there but maybe it’s the shorter the conversation, the more rigid the script. An appoint can be set with a rigid, word-for-word script but more flexibility should be allowed when calling a customer after fhe sale to ask questions about their experiences with your product. A presentation can be scripted but flexibility should be allowed for a discussion.

I guess I agree with both camps. I want to be genuine with my customers. I want them to feel like they are talking to a real person. People value authenticity. At the same time, I understand the everyone uses scripts in communication. Emails are scripted. (Who doesn’t use the backspace button more than any other button on the keyboard?) Phonecalls, to an extent, are scripted by everyone. (“Hello, may I speak to so-and-so?”). My comment on this post is scripted. I really don’t want to say anything stupid or out of place when I’m communicating with anyone, even more so in communicating with customers. That’s where preparation, or a script, comes in handy. Sometimes, scripts make us helpful and sometimes they damage our credibility. The key is knowing when and to what extent to use them.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The 30 Weeks That Will Change My Life

Tomorrow, I will embark on a journey throughout the remainder of 2011 that will utterly transform who I am now to who I will be on January 1, 2012. No, I am not joining a cult. I am not following a reading plan in an inspirational book. I am doing something that I have decided will be not only beneficial for myself but downright life-changing. I am going to become a new me.

I have been fascinated with the idea of self-improvement for the past couple of years. I have been relentlessly reading books and blogs on self-help, entrepreneurship, sales, communication, and relationships--all the the intent on changing. I want to be more trust worthy, more proactive, more empathetic, and so on. There are characteristics like these that I value but do not see in myself to the extent that I wish to. Years ago, I started wanting to change. But here I am two years, 40 books, and thousands of blog posts later--still the same me.

Currently, I am reading simultaneously "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey and "The 25 Sales Secrets of Highly Successful Salespeople" by Stephan Schiffman. Both of these books focus on personal development. But, in reading them, I've realized that my approach up until now has been almost entirely ineffective. These books emphasize habits and behaviors. These are things that you do to improve who you are. Yesterday, I had an epiphany. It isn't enough to have the desire for improvement. I can't simply decide to be a better person. I become a better person by doing better things--engaging in better behaviors. If I can improve my practice, I can improve my person.

I've heard (and I realize there may or may not be statistical validity to this number) that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Now, most people use this plan as a way to stop chewing their fingernails, to stop smoking, to start an exercise routine, or to read more consistently. But I am going to take this concept and apply it to the development of my personality. It just so happens that, beginning tomorrow, June 5, 2011, there are exactly 210 days remaining in 2011: that's 10 blocks of 21 days. Yesterday, I sat down with someone very close to me and asked that person to help me come up with 10 bad habits that contribute to my character flaws. As I developed this list, I realized that these behaviors are at the root of my inability to progress. These poor activities define who I am and why I cannot change. It has had nothing to do with my intentions. It has had everything to do with my behavior.

Below is the list of my bad habits, what I intend to do to change them, and the character I intend to develop as a result. I am planning to take each habit and focus on it exclusively for 21 days. After I have every minute of every day focused on breaking free from this negative behavior for 21 days, the theory goes, I will have turned that bad habit into a good habit and I will not have to consciously work to improve myself in that aspect of my character. The below list is going to make me vulnerable, but that's okay, because it will as a result make me accountable. Besides, maybe you have similar habit. Perhaps you can benefit by my own cleverly-devised self-help plan. Perhaps there is something you are doing that can be changed in order to become the person you want to be. Perhaps. But, without further ado, here is my plan.

1. June 5, 2011 - June 25, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: Sometimes, when I am speaking with people, I don't listen to them--or at I at least give them that impression. I break eye contact. Sometimes, I even yawn! When I do respond, I change the subject. I take the conversation from what they are talking about to what I want to talk about. I interrupt. I make irrelevant comments. I make the conversation about me.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will maintain eye contact with people. I will not yawn. I will not interrupt. I will insist on not saying anything until there is at least a 2-3 second break in what the other person is saying. When I respond, I will keep the conversation focused on what they are talking about. I will paraphrase. I will ask relevant questions that probe them to go on. I will make the conversation about the other person.

  • How I Will Improve: I will become a better listener, a better conversationalist, and a better communicator. People will want to talk to me and will value my opinion. I will become more empathetic as I seek to understand and care about what other people are saying instead of what I want to say in response.

2. June 26, 2011 - July 16, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I am saracastic in all of my conversations. I always have something tongue-in-cheek to say. Sometimes it's funny but, more often than not, it damages my credibility. People never know when I'm serious. I never know when I'm serious. I'm always making a joke. I joke around so much that I don't take anything seriously.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will limit myself to 5 jokes a day, 5 saracastic comments. I will force myself to use them sparingly for only the most fitting occasions. I will use a joke to break uncomfortable tension but, for the most part, I will be serious in what I say.

  • How I Will Improve: I will be taken more seriously. I will take myself more seriously. I will no longer be perceived as a clown but rather as someone who truly cares. Other people will see that I value them because I take them more seriously and I will become more trusting of myself as I take myself more seriously.

3. July 17, 2011 - August 6, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I am argumentative. I always have clever, combatitive retort to everything people say to me. Even if I don't really disagree, I find some way that they can be wrong and point it out to them in an "Aha!" sort of fashion. I think that I just enjoy the ensuing discussion and dialogue but the other person perceives me as being disagreeable. They don't see it as discussing; they see it as fighting. They think that everything they say to me, then, will be wrong in my eyes.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will not aruge. I will not disagree. I will listen to what the other person is saying without criticizing it. I will then validate their opinion rather than pointing out the flaws in it. I will tell them why they are right rather than why they are wrong. If I offer my opinion, I will offer it as an addition to theirs. I will only contribute--only offer opinions that build on their arguments rather than opinions that destroy them.

  • How I Will Improve: I will become a more agreeable person. I will be seen as more open-minded, more willing to understand and accept the viewpoints of others. People will trust me with what they have to say because they will not that I will not pick it apart.

4. August 7, 2011 - August 27, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: When I don't feel like doing something, I will not only refrain from doing it but will justify my laziness by arguing that it isn't important. When I do this with people, I send the signal that if it isn't important to me, then it isn't important at all. I won't do things unless I see the immediate benefit for me. I am lazy and only selectively, selfishly, hard-working.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will do whatever people ask me to do (within reason), regardless of how it benefits me. I will not try to come up with a reason why I shouldn't do it. I will fulfill the person's request because they asked--because it is clearly important to that person that task get done.

  • How I Will Improve: I will be more helpful and less selfish. I will be seen as a valuable resource for other people. I will develop an interest in what other people care about in addition to what I care about.

5. August 28, 2011 - September 17, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I think about too many things at once. I try to "mult-task" but end up being ineffective at everything I'm doing. I am always thinking--thinking about lunch, thinking about my blog, thinking about my future, thinking about my vacation, thinking about the book I'm reading, thinking about cars, and so on. I'm always thinking about something other than what I'm doing. I never focus exclusively on the task at hand.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will focus exclusively on the task at hand. I will not actively thinking about anything other than what I am doing. I will be in the moment. If I happen to think about something not presently relevant, I will make a note, forget about it, and move on.

  • How I Will Improve: I will be more focused and less scatter-brained. I will not be as absent-minded and clueless as I presently come off to be. I will be seen as and feel more organized, controlled, and disciplined.

6. September 18, 2011 - October 8, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I am inconsistent. I will adamantly decide to do something one week and will let it fall by the wayside the next week. I will pick up a new interest about which I am passionately convicted and then will lose it abruptly. I can never seem to make up my mind.

  • What I Will Do Differently: This one is tricky, because most of the things about which I am inconsistent are more long term. However, I will keep at the forefront of my mind the things that I have said to other people, the opinions I have expressed, and the convictions that I have held. I will nurture these things. I will continue to immerse myself in them and, if I change my mind about them, I will have a very good reason.

  • How I Will Improve: I will become more consistent. I will not change my mind unless I have good reason. I will not perceived as whimsical or flighty. I will be more trustworthy and credible because there will be more concrete definition in my interests, convictions, and commitments.

7. October 9, 2011 - October 29, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I am forgetful. I make promises and commitments that I do not keep simply because I do not remember them. I make statements that I will later not remember that I made. I will do things or see things that I later don't remember having done or seen. I appear to others not to care, because I have a terrible memory.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will take notes religiously. Everytime I say something, do something, or observe something, I will make a note of it. Every hour, on the hour, I will review my notes from the past hour.

  • How I Will Improve: I will become more organized. I will appear to others to care more deeply about what I do, see, and say. I will be more consistent and trustworthy because I will begin following through on the commitments I actually remember that I made. I will be more reliable because I will do the things that I say I will do when I actually remember them.

8. October 30, 2011 - November 19, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I am incredibly impulsive. I make rash decisions, especially financially but also in other ways. I eat ravenously when I'm bored without thinking about the crap I am putting into my body. I will sometimes blurt out something inappropriate without thinking. I have no inhibitions. I act without pausing to reflect whether my actions will be positive in the long run.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will not buy anything unplanned without mulling it over for at least 24 hours. I will not say anything without thinking for about 5 seconds before saying it. I will not eat without thinking about what I've already had to eat and what I plan on having later. In everything, I will try to show reservation and discretion before action.

  • How I Will Improve: I will be a better decision-maker. I won't make stupid, costly choices, because I will have weighed out the pros and cons before making them. I will be more disciplined, because I won't be acting capriciously. I will do things because I have logically concluded that they are reasonable things to do.

9. November 20, 2011 - December 10, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I am annoying. I bug people. I ask questions just to get on their nerves. I say things that have no purpose, are irrelevant, or simply don't make any sense just to provoke people. I pepper people with questions when I don't really care about the answers. I just want to make them uncomfortable.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will not ask a question of someone unless I really want to know the answer. I will steer clear of random comments, of provocative hypotheticals, and of non-sensical dialogue. I will not try, on purpose, to annoy people.

  • How I Will Improve: I will be less annoying. The smart, helpful things I say will be perceived as more valuable because they won't be muddled without all of the stupid, senseless things I say. People will enjoy conversing with me more, because I will not have it as my goal to get under their skin.

10. December 11, 2011 - December 31, 2011

  • My Bad Habit: I have trouble speaking my mind with people whom I perceive as being more important than me. Whether it be a boss, a highly successful co-worker, a professor, a business leader, someone from church, even a customer, I cannot communicate effectively with people that appear to be more successful or well-off than I am. This is a confidence issue--a self-image issue. I don't think enough of myself. The problem is that, if I am going to be successful, I must dialogue with people--be they bosses, teachers, or customers--that I see as more successful than me. I need a deeper, more consistent level of confidence.

  • What I Will Do Differently: I will attempt to have at least one conversation per day with someone that I am typically afraid to converse with. I will talk to important bosses, important customers, important college professors, important family members. If I am uncomfortable or scared to initiate a conversation with any particular person, I will make it a point to speak with that person.

  • How I Will Improve: Chances are, these people are not as important as I am making them out to be and I am more important than I am making myself out to be. As I open up and talk to important people, I will begin to see that they are really not so different. I will develop the confidence and courage necessary to confront and convese with higher-ups. I will become socially fearless.

There you have it. My cards are on the table. I've spilled the beans. My plan is laid out for all to see. If I have actually followed through with this plan, let me ask you, how is it possible that I will not become a better person by January 1, 2012? How will I not change? How will I not grow? I will I not become the person I want to be? Can you even imagine me being the same old me? Because I can't.

Tomorrow begins the 30 weeks that will change my life. And I would like to issue a challenge for you to join me. No, you may not have the same bad habits. You may not even have as many as I do. So you have 5? Become a new you by September 17 of this year! Whatever your habits, your detrimental behaviors, are and however many you have, do this with me! Take three weeks, 21 days, at a time, and work singularly on each habit. I challenge you to do this seriously and consistently. You will indefinitely become a better person. You will improve. Join me, and change your life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Other Ratio

Salespeople are well-acquainted with the "closing ratio." It is a metric that has been used for decades to measure a salesperson's ability to persuade a prospect. What is the percentage of deals you've closed out of the number of prospects you've acquired? This number has been the gold standard of a salesperson's effectiveness over the years. If you have a high closing ratio, you must be really good at selling. If you have a low closing ratio, well, you might want to start thinking about a career change.

There is a problem, though, with this metric: it encourages salespeople to be too picky. I've known salespeople that will only interact with potential customers if they believe that those prospects are sure buyers, just for the sake of maintaining a high closing ratio. If you only take opportunities that involve low risk of falling through, chances are, you're going to come out looking like a powerful closer. Sure, you're letting some opportunities walk but at least you can flaunt your high closing ratio and make yourself look important.

There is another ratio that I think salepeople should aspire to raise. This metric, I believe, is even more important than the closing ratio. It isn't talked about much, probably because it is difficult to quantify. It also does not correlate directly with revenue generation but, without its maximization, revenue generation is impossible. Without this ratio being high, the "closing ratio" is just a fancy number that really doesn't accomplish much in the way of sales volume. What is this mysterious ratio that I'm speaking of? The opening ratio.

What is the percentage of prospects that you acquire out of the number of prospects that you have the opportunity to acquire? What percentage of your potential customers have you gotten into the funnel? This is the question that effective salespeople should be asking. Why? Because it encourages salespeople to be proactive. The closing ratio is a productivity inhibitor--it is risk-averse. Don't take the opportunity unless it takes you. Salespeople obsessed with a high closing ratio tend to simply be order-takers. Focusing first on the opening ratio encourages salespeople to be go-getters. It is about initiating contacts, opening relationships. As a result, the raw numbers of a salesperson with a high opening ratio but a low closing ratio are most likely going to be higher.

I just finished listening to an audio book called "Poke the Box" by marketing guru Seth Goding (I'll leave the meaning of the title a surprise for those who would like to give it a listen). Seth's opening words are, "this is a manifesto about starting." And it is. It's about innovating, initiating, entrepreneurially implementing ideas without looking back. Failure is an inevitable event on the way to success. At one point in the book, Seth says that if you haven't failed, you're either incredibly lucky or you simply haven't done enough. I could not agree with this more. In terms of what we've been talking about, if you have a high closing ratio, you're either incredibly lucky or you haven't gotten enough prospects into your funnel. More often than not, the latter is true. Your fear of failure limits the frequency of your successes.

This talk about opening ratio versus closing ratio is not true only for sales--it's about life. How high do you set the bar for yourself? That is really the question at the root of this dilemma. What is the purpose of your goals if you set them so that you will always, without the shadow of a doubt, succeed? Will you really improve? But, for some of us, maybe improvement isn't what we're after. Maybe we just want to feel good about ourselves or look good in the eyes of others. We want to be seen as someone who always accomplishes what we set out to do, even if we rarely set out to do anything. At least we'll be dependable, right?

No, that's not enough for me. Of course, I want to accomplish what I set out to do. But the raw number of successes is what matters to me, regardless of how many failures it takes me to get them. I am not impressed by the deceptive statistic the closing ratio offers me and nor do I expect anyone else to be. I want to succeed at the things that others are not even willing to attempt. I want to be proactive. I want to pursue every opportunity. This endeavor is what will make me better in sales and in life. The closing ratio is secondary--an afterthought. I want to be focused on starting. I want to increase my opening ratio.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Top 5 Reasons for Customer Satisfaction

Several months ago, I completed a textual analysis of online reviews for a specific B2C industry. I poured over 100+ positive reviews across a two week period from people all across the United States. Each time I saw a commonly used key word or phrase, I would give it a tally. When finished, I lumped these key words and phrases into categories. For example, "a great deal," "a good price," and "within the budget," all fell within the category of price. These categories are the reasons that these customers were satisfied with their purchases. Below is a list of the top 5 mentioned reasons and my comments on them.

  1. Recognition of the sales rep(s) as hard-working: Customers want to have a sense that we are working hard to get them the best deal. They like us to "go the extra mile" or "to great lengths" to get them help them achieve their goals. More than anything, they appreciate the notion that we are working--and working diligently--on THEIR behalf.

  2. Recognition of the buying process as an easy one: "HASSLE-FREE." If there are any snags whatsoever in the buying process, it will raise red flags in the customer's mind. An easy, pleasant experience will almost guarantee a good review and repeat business every time.

  3. Recognition of the sales rep(s) as being friendly: It seems so simple but an overwhelming amount of the good reviews I read mentioned the friendliness of the sales rep(s). Customers like dealing with friendly people. It's obvious and almost goes without saying, but a smile and a conversational tone will end up going a long way.

  4. Recognition of the company as not being the stereotypical sales organization: This is HUGE. Professionals in sales do not typically have the best reputations. Overcoming our stereotypes is a big deal to the customer. When their expectations of us are so low, we leave a great impact when we show them that we are quite the opposite.

  5. Recognition of the good communication and follow-up of the sales rep(s): In spite of the ever-present nagging temptation to call reluctance, customers actually LIKE it when we follow-up and keep them informed. We need to make every customer feel as if he or she is our only customer.

So, there you have it. These are not the reasons that people buy, but they are the reasons why people are glad that they did. This metric of customer satisfaction, I think, is a very useful one to know. A happy customer is much more likely to be a repeat customer. Remember, these are customers that were satisfied enough to bother filling out a review...and, in today's fast-paced world, that means a lot. I know this was for a specific industry, but I think the principles can be applicable to all businesses. Hard-work, a smooth process, friendliness, uniqueness, and follow-up: these are all qualities that any of us in sales would love our customers to perceive us as having. Let's make it happen.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taking Care of Yourself

No one likes a selfish person. In sales, if you are perceived as being selfish, it is often a dealbreaker. No customer wants to do business with a selfish salesperson. A salesperson that treats the customer as a means to an end, that is concerned only with how much commission he will be getting from the sale, is not likely to make a very good impression. In sales, "Looking out for number one" takes on a whole new meaning. "Number one" is the customer. Relentless and authentic focus on and concern for the client you are helping is how you become successful in sales. It's not about you; it's about them.

That being said, I want to stress the importance of making sure you are well-equipped to serve your customer. Focusing on someone else begins with focusing on yourself. Before you take care of others, you have to take care of yourself. A sick doctor can do her patients no good. In the same way, salespeople need to make sure they are healthy--physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially--before they can properly address the concerns of their clients. Here are the dimensions in which a salesperson must be well-prepared herself before she can do any good for her customers.

  1. Physical. Good old-fashioned diet and exercise. If your body can't take it, you can't take it. Fitness should be a top priority for the salesperson. However, many salespeople let it slide because it can be time-consuming and there doesn't seem to be a direct correlation to working out and becoming better in sales. Exercise can prevent illness and keep you from getting tired or stressed. When your body is healthy, you'll have the energy necessary to work long hours and the stamina necessary to engage in tense conversations without losing your cool. Getting all the sales training in the world without making sure your body is in good shape is putting the cart before the horse. You are nothing without your body.

  2. Intellectual. Are you constantly learning? Do you spend your downtime watching dramas on TV or reading material that will improve your understanding? There is a daunting amount of material available for sales, marketing, self-improvement, and business available in the form of books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, audiobooks, ebooks, etc. There is more content more easily accessible than ever before. Are you taking advantage of it? The more you learn, the more business acumen you will have to help your clients solve their problems. Chances are, another salesperson has been in your situation before. Why not learn from them? Read a book a month. Listen to a weekly podcast. Browse through blogposts everyday. Keep your mind sharp. It will make all the difference.

  3. Emotional. If you are in peak physical condition and are the smartest guy in the room, you still will not be able to hack it in sales if you aren't emotionally prepared for the job. Customers can be hostile. Coworkers can be cynical. Bosses can be unreasonable. How will you handle it? Whether it be through prayer, meditation, or simple reflection, having a heart that is daily prepared for the day's activity is essential to becoming a successful salesperson. Perserverance. Courage. Passion. These necessary sales traits have nothing to do with how much you know. They come from the heart. Without them, you can't make a difference. How's your heart? Is it prepared?

  4. Social. Sales is definitely not a career for you if you don't like people. The time you spend with others will greatly influence is meetings you have with customers. An unsocialized salesperson is akward. They cannot connect with customers in a meaningful way. They don't understand basic social protocol. How much time do you spend with other people? Do you go out with friends or do you spend all of your time in isolation? A successul salesperson will have plenty of practice mingling. Customers, after all, are just people. They can be engaged in conversation like anyone else. Are you prepared for conversation? Can you handle the social-role of the salesperson?

Taking care of yourself is not selfish. As a matter of fact, not taking care of yourself is the most selfish thing you can do. What good are you to anyone else if you don't first equip yourself to be a difference-maker? The end-goal, of course, should always be to serve others. You are wasting your talents, skills, and creativity if you don't use them to positively influence the lives of others. However, if you don't first make sure you are the best person you can possibly be, you are worthless to anyone else. Go ahead, take care of yourself. It is the most selfless thing you can do.