Monday, October 31, 2011

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

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

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

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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

featured image courtesy of salimfadhley licensed via Creative Commons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Resource of the Week: Cinch

What is it?

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

Why I love it

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

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

Who uses it?

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In This Economy...

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

Is the Economy Really that Bad?

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

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

I've Just Asked the Wrong Question

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

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

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

featured image courtesty of _PaulS_ licensed via Creative Commons

Monday, October 24, 2011

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

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

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

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

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the book:

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Resource of the Week: The Sales Blog

What is it?

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

Why I love it

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

Who uses it?

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

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

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

Saturday, October 15, 2011

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

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

Here are my top 10 takeaways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

featured image courtesty of ivanpw licensed via Creative Commons

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Resource of the Week: Triberr

What is it?

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Top 10 Tributes to Steve Jobs

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

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

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book of the Week: Can I Have 5 Minutes of Your Time? by Hal Becker

Hal Becker is one of the most widely known speakers. He is famous for becoming Xerox's #1 sales rep (out of 20k+ reps) at the age of 22. After Xerox, he started a telemarketing form called Direct Opinions and eventually sold it to become a professional consultant. 5 Minutes was his first book, written in 1993, and serves as a primer on the fundamentals of great salesmanship. The concepts Hal discusses are the foundation of sales training programs in organizations all across the world today. It's a simple yet profound read.  If you read it and think, "Duh," that's kind of the point--it's living it out that's the real challenge.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the book:

  1. Attitude and desire are fundamental. "I can train people to sell," Becker says, "but there's just one catch. You have to want to learn, to practice, to excel. I can't train desire." If you don't actually have the drive to be successful in sales, no process, tactic, or approach will do you any good. It all starts with intrinsic motivation. Are you self-inspired?
  2. A problem is an opportunity. "A problem is a creative opportunity for me to be a hero." Most salespeople avoid problems at all costs. They don't want to deal with customer complaints. They fail to follow-up, because they are afraid of dissatisfaction. These sales people usually don't have a lot of repeat business. Each problem should be viewed as an opportunity for another sale, or at the very least a referral. Are you a hero for your customers?
  3. Benefits are more important than features. People don't care, whether they are in B2B or B2C, about what the product is. They care about what it does. The benefit is what really needs to be communicated; the feature merely serves to validate the benefit. For example, you might be talking about improved fuel economy in selling a new car. Only when someone asks you how the fuel economy has improved to you need to talk about the new transmission, braking technology, etc. Benefits take precedence.
  4. Steer clear of misunderstandings. More often than not, it's merely a misunderstanding that kills a sale--or a relationship. Poor communication is detrimental. It's important to actively listen to customers and paraphrase what they tell you to be sure that you are both on the same page. Each of you needs to know what the other expects. Otherwise, your customer will end up feeling as if you've broken a promise or you may end up harboring bitterness toward your customer. Have an open, honest conversation.
  5. To avoid commoditization, makes sure your customer knows what makes you different. In discussing price, Becker says, "Price is not the overriding issue unless your customer is uninformed...when you don't know much about what you're buying, you buy price." It's true. Think about it. Why would you buy what you perceive to be an identical item if it's more expensive? You have a better product to offer. Show them that it's better! Don't assume that your customer just believes that a higher price represents a higher value. They don't. Often, they're cynical; make them believers. Prove that you deserve to command a higher price.
  6. Selling starts with dissatisfaction. When you're looking for new business, looking for dissatisfaction in prospects. Becker suggests using the phrase, "If you could change anything about your present supplier, what would you change?" Often, customers will have some dissatisfaction but not realize it unless you bring it to their attention. Their current sales people are too afraid (see #2) to ferret out that dissatisfaction, so that provides a perfect opportunity for you. Do some digging. Most customers could go for some improvement.
  7. Great salesmanship boils down to hard work. Becker dismantles the notion of "work smarter, not harder." He says that working smart is just common sense, but it's those who are willing to work hard that really make a difference. He admits to not being the smoothest or the smartest. He became Xerox's #1 rep by working the hardest.  And this notion resonates will nearly all great sales success stories. You get what you put in. In some lines of work, you can rely on your brains and coast your way into a comfortable livelihood. Not in sales. In sales, you are exactly as successful as you push yourself to be.
  8. Seldom make promises. This advice flies in the face of traditional old school tactics of "tell them anything to get them to buy." Becker says, "Never make promises unless you're 100% sure you can deliver." The temptation for us as sales people is to overpromise. After all, customers often push us into a promise, don't they? "Your competitor does this. Can you do it too?" I don't think most of us are just trying to trick our customers into buying. I think most of us are just people pleasers and we want to make our customers happy. We need to curb this desire and be willing to risk turning away business if it means being honest about our capabilities. An unkept promise is death to credibility.
  9. Reputation is everything. "Never, ever compromise your reputation to make a sale." This one is tricky because pressure is often placed upon sales people by upper management to get the sales at any and all costs. The "Code of Ethics" waiver is often inconsistent with the day-to-day demands of management. But, there: one of the most successful sales people that ever lived said it; you now have permission to act with integrity even when it means losing business. If you get fired for your integrity, you don't want to work for that company anyway.
  10. Selling can be fun. This is Becker's final thought: "Make selling fun." It doesn't have to be a chore. It can be an emotionally rewarding career. There is no greater opportunity to provide value for and establish relationships with people than in sales. If it's just a job or you're just doing it for the commissions, you're missing out on a lot. Sales can be exciting in an of itself. It just takes a little bit of #1: attitude.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Resource of the Week: Sales Playbook LinkedIn Group

What is it?

There are thousand of groups to participate in on LinkedIn. Whatever industry your in, whatever market you serve, whatever strengths or interests you have, there is a group to join. Groups on LinkedIn are very useful for professional interaction and engagement. The group that I've found most helpful is Paul Castain's Sales Playbook! The group, of course, is headed up by sales trainer Paul Castain and serves as a valuable resource for thousands of sales professionals across the globe.

Why I love it

Paul (Uncle Paul as his group members fondly refer to him) does a fantastic job of moderating his group. He has a set of rules that keeps the group (yes, even a "sales" group) from becoming a platform for pitches. It is not about self-promotion; it's about self-improvement. Questions can be asked by any group member and several topics are introduced daily. As a relatively new sales professional, it's great to get feedback from sales pros that have been in the game for years. There are just under 25,000 groups members in Sales Playbook, which allows for a great variety of opinion in the discussion. Never, in any group on any platform, have I seen such lively, consistent, professional discussion taking place.

Who uses it

For the purpose of confidentiality, I will refrain from mentioning the names of people in the group (why don't you just join and find out for yourself?). Instead, I will post below a list of the most recent questions/comments posted for sales pros to react to, so that you can get a feel for the discussion that takes place:
  • Why do many outside sales reps quit before they have given themselves enough time to become successful in the role that they took on? (currently 12 comments)
  •  Doesn't price matter a little bit? (currently 38 comments)
  •  How would you define the secret to your success in a paragraph? (currently 5 comments)
  • Twitter updates on LinkedIn!!!! Are you a fan of that??? (currently 16 comments)
  • There is a sales mindset that goes something like this . . . "I don't have clients . . . I have friends" (currently 14 comments)  
This list goes in; this is just from the past few days.  I highly recommend, if you are in sales or a sales-related field, that you get involved and benefit from this amazing group.

featured image courtesy of Nan Palmero licensed via Creative Commons