People Buy From People

People Buy From People

101 Shares .A catalyst is an agent of change. There is not a better way to describe sales people. When your customer begins to shop, they are beginning a process of change. If you are the sales person who makes the sale, it will usually be because you were better at assisting the customer to make that change.

As a sales professional, it can be an eye-opening experience when you go shopping for yourself. Weaknesses in other’s presentations can teach us lessons about how to strengthen our own. One common theme you might notice is that many people don’t seem to recognize that people don’t buy products or services. People buy from people.

People buy solutions to perceived or real problems. Good sales people assist buyers in solving their problems through emotions, visual imagery, and proper logic and people skills. The one component of sales that makes everything come together is people skills. You may be great at product knowledge, presentation, demonstrations or closing skills, but none of those things will matter if you don’t create a relationship with your customer.

A catalyst is an agent of change. There is not a better way to describe sales people. When your customer begins to shop, they are beginning a process of change. If you are the sales person who makes the sale, it will usually be because you were better at assisting the customer to make that change. Let’s look at some ways to make those changes happen in a positive way that allows your customer to buy. Take notice of the phrase “allows your customer to buy,” rather than “you selling the customer.”

Imagine, for example, going to shop for a hot tub. You go to a nationally known store that has obviously conducted sales training for their sales representatives. The sales person has a very specific sales presentation. He also has considerable knowledge about his product and the competing products. The sales person is enthusiastic and energetic. In other words, he has a lot of good things going for him.

However, the sales person has a fatal flaw in his approach that probably costs him lots of business. The sales person tries very hard to be a sales person but he misses being just a person by a mile. What’s the difference?

The sales person begins to immediately show you the hot tubs and begins his process without taking the time to ask any questions and build a rapport that creates trust. When someone starts off a sales process in this manner, they are beginning what could be called the “Spray and Pray Method of Selling.” They spray out a presentation and pray that the customer gets excited about something in their verbal barrage about the product. They have no idea what that something might be.

This method lacks specifics, empathy, warmth, personalization, communication and listening skills, just to name a few problems. Imagine a different approach. A sales approach where the salesperson would have asked the some of the following questions:

• “Who will be primarily using the hot tub?”

• “How many people will usually use it at a time?”

• “Will it be used for recreational purposes, therapeutic or both?”

• “Will kids be using the hot tub?”

• “Do you currently have or have you had a hot tub in the past?”

• “If so, what did you like and dislike?”

• “Where will the hot tub be located?”

• “What kind of foundation will it be on?”

• “Will the area that the hot tub will be located at be enclosed or open?”

• “What is the most important thing to you about a hot tub?”

• “How long have you been shopping for a hot tub?”

• “During this shopping process, what has been the No. 1 thing about a hot tub or any features that has excited you the most?”

• “During your shopping process, has there been anything you may have wanted that you have not seen or anything in particular that has disappointed you?”

You can think of a ton of questions that would allow specific answers and enable the customer to experience the change they are looking for. You can use the keywords and answers the customer supplies you to laser in on what they want to accomplish, using specific examples that involve active and present-tense ownership imagery.

When you are doing these things, you are relating to your customer in an empathic and personal way that separates you from all the other sales people. Never forget that you were a person before you became a sales person, and that people buy from people.

 

Consistency and Sustainability in Selling

Consistency and Sustainability in Selling

Certainly, these are unprecedented times, but fundamentals are fundamentals.  When you stray from them, you get into trouble.  When in trouble, return to the fundamentals and return to consistent and sustainable sales success.

In today’s market place, you can survive the short term by making quick adjustments to your sales plan, pricing and market strategy.  These adjustments will be reflected in your sales pipeline and in your monthly sales results; however, what you will see in the end is that these adjustments will do little to secure consistent and predictable sales growth.   This is what you need to focus on to survive the current environment.  How do you do that?

Sales Fundamentals

Although the marketplace is sensitive to pricing, don’t automatically reduce your pricing or margins just to get a sale. Yes, this will help you today, but if you keep that client, you will have re-established your brand as the low cost provider or a price-based resource.

As difficult as it might be to maintain your pricing, I understand that you may have to sharpen your pencil in order to get a deal. Ok, then start selling additional services so that you can increase the revenue value of that client. Start focusing on average revenue per account instead of average size sale.

Focus on the client. The marketplace today certainly wants good pricing; however, they also are seeking “comfort” in a relationship. As much as we have discussed “not showing up and throwing up”, the market has changed. Prospects want assurance that your product will work; you willbe there when they need you; and that your business is sustainable. Start early by providing them information that will satisfy their need for security.

ABP = Always Be Prospecting. You need to step up your prospecting activity. If your normal mode of penetrating the market is through introductions, then you need to increase the number of meetings that you have with centers of influence. If you market yourself through networking, then do more networking.

One-time hits are valuable right now to prop up your sales and to support your financials, but understand that the one-time hit is exactly that, a one-time hit. If that hit is a $100,000 deal, then your strategy for next year needs to include how to replace that revenue event. You are better off transitioning those one-time hits into long term clients by closing the immediate deal and then entering discussions as a valued advisor.

Certainly, these are unprecedented times, but fundamentals are fundamentals.  When you stray from them, you get into trouble.  When in trouble, return to the fundamentals and return to consistent and sustainable sales success.

 

Rocks, To Do’s and Intentions

Rocks, To Do’s and Intentions

Over the years, I’ve discovered that when sales people tell me that they have prospecting on their “to do” list, what they really are saying is that they “intend” to prospect.  When sales people tell me that they are going to call a prospect and get a decision, they do call and they intend on getting a decision, but they really aren’t committed to the intention.

What have you done for yourself lately in sales? Did you move your “rocks”? Did you finish your “to do’s”? Did you do what you intended to do?  (According to Rockefeller Habits, Inc., rocks are the action items that will be most responsible for achieving your quarterly and annual goals.)

Over the years, I’ve discovered that when sales people tell me that they have prospecting on their “to do” list, what they really are saying is that they “intend” to prospect.  When sales people tell me that they are going to call a prospect and get a decision, they do call and they intend on getting a decision, but they really aren’t committed to the intention.

Finally, when sales people tell me that this is the year that they are going to self-manage to extraordinary performance, what they are really telling me is that they are going to get ready to get ready and not move any rocks that are consistent with successful selling.

As harsh as this may seem, I would ask you- Does this look or sound anything like you in the past? If so, then join me and the multitude of others who struggle with prioritizing their time so that their rocks get moved, the “to do’s” get done and the intentions get ignored.  Let me tell you that I will be the first in line this year to correct this problem, because I may be one of the biggest offenders.

Perfect example- Last Tuesday, prospecting was on my rock list.  When did I get to it?  Friday at 2:30 pm and I had success.  I scheduled three appointments and moved the rocks a little further up the hill. But what would I have done if an emergency, a real one, had shown up on Friday?  I would have put myself in a position to make the lame excuse: “I had an emergency and couldn’t get it done”.  The reality was that I put other stuff first on Tuesday and made myself vulnerable to failure on Friday.

Lesson #1 Be a slave to the schedule.  Schedule your prospecting and make sure you do it when you have it scheduled.

Lesson #2 Rocks are rocks- these are the non-negotiable objectives of your business.  When you state something as a rock, then nothing short of an emergency gets in the way.

Lessons #3  “To do” lists are, for the most part, horse pucks.  How do I know?  The stuff on the list doesn’t usually get done.  Make sure you clearly identify “to do” from intention.

Lesson #4 Intentions are just that, things you intend to do and would be nice to do and might bring you some self-satisfaction, but in reality, they have nothing to do with moving rocks.

Lesson #5 You must find a way to hold yourself to high standards of accountability.  I am holding huddles with my staff weekly and my COO and co-owner every week to make sure the rocks get moved and the “to do’s” get done.

Determine your rocks and your accountability for selling today:

My Sales Rocks:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

 

 

Are You Busy, Busy, Busy Doing The Wrong Things?

Are You Busy, Busy, Busy Doing The Wrong Things?

The best account managers are busy.  Average account managers are busy and below average account managers are busy.  Everybody is busy, busy, busy.

If everybody is busy, why isn’t everybody as productive as the best account managers?  Unfortunately, it’s obvious that the busy account managers who aren’t productive are busy doing the wrong things.  Since you don’t want to be one of those people, let’s review the right things to be busy doing:

1) The actions that get one closer to making a sale

2) The actions that ensure the success of a sale already made

Uh, that’s pretty much it.  Let’s examine Category #1 in a little more detail.

The other day, an account manager pointed out to me that she had sent an e-mail to a client with an interesting article attached.  The article was relevant to the customer’s business and sending it was a good idea.  Does her action fall into Category #1?

Her action should have fallen into Category #1 as she was trying to get closer to making a sale.  But, based on the content of her e-mail, I can promise you that she didn’t get closer to making a sale because she didn’t ask the customer to take any action.  Her e-mail said something like this:

“I saw this article and thought about you.”

Coincidentally, another account manager also copied me on an e-mail that he sent to a customer with an article attached.  His e-mail said something like this:

“Did you see this article (attached)?  Let’s get together and brainstorm ways to make this work for your business.  We always come up with great ideas and I am sure that we can do it again!”

Two busy account managers.  One productive account manager.

To give you some additional guidance about the difference between merely busy and productive let’s expand Category #1:

1) The actions that get one closer to making a sale

a.  Prospecting

i.  Research to identify prospects

ii.  Research to identify industry trends

iii.  Contacting prospects with valid business reasons to convince them to spend time with you.

b.  Qualifying

i.  Determining if the prospect has enough money to purchase your products through research

ii.  Determining if the prospect has enough money by meeting with them

c.  Presenting

i.  Sending presentations that ask for an investment

ii.  Delivering presentations face-to-face that ask for an investment

While this list of ways to get closer to making a sale is incomplete, one should get a better idea about why the second account manager’s activity was productive.  He was contacting a prospect and providing a valid business reason to take a meeting to discuss the client’s needs (a-iii).

 

Obvious Truths: Who among you is immoral?

Obvious Truths: Who among you is immoral?

Now, I was in a hurry.  The map had appeared pretty straightforward but the walk was longer than I expected and if I didn’t kick it up a notch I would be late to my first Philosophy class.  Frankly, I was pretty excited about this class because it was one of the few electives of my Freshman year at the University of North Carolina.  The majority of my schedule was filled with requirements – English, Foreign Language, Math, etc.  Philosophy was not required and it sounded interesting so I surely didn’t want to be late for day number one.

I walked into the room as the professor was wrapping up a conversation and began to address the class.  With my back turned to him, I climbed up about twenty steps trying to find a seat amongst the 200 or so other students.  I’m saying my excuse me’s to a couple of dozen knees as I listen to the professor say,

“This class is about morals and ethics.  Let me ask you this:  Who among you is immoral?”

I raise my hand and continue to the empty seat in the middle of the row.  As I turn to sit, I notice for the first time that all eyes are on the only raised arm in the room – mine.  Oops.

“You there.  What’s your name?”, the professor says.  I tell him the name of the only immoral person taking Philosophy 101 and he says, “What makes you immoral?”

“Because I do immoral things,” I answered.

This was not going so well.  I wet my lips with my tongue and looked around.  I thought I recognized one girl from a mixer that we had attended the other night.  It was hard to know if it was her because on that night she was bleary-eyed and puffy faced from drinking.  Wait a minute, wasn’t that a guy from my dorm who told me about an organized ring of students who sold last year’s history tests?

I was tired of being the center of attention, so I was ready when the next question came my way,

“What sort of things do you do that are immoral?”

“I lie.”

“Are you lying now?”

“Yes.”

The professor smiled and moved on.

To me, the professor’s question should have been met with a roomful of raised arms.  The obvious truth is that most college students are immoral at least some of the time.  But, experience has shown that people are not willing to assign negative attributes to their own behavior.  Not when it comes to their morality while in college and not when it comes to their behavior at work.

When sales are down, my experience has been that sellers will blame conditions first, other people second and admit their own shortcomings third.

If the sales manager were to come into the weekly sales meeting and ask, “Who among you isn’t doing everything possible to generate revenue?” my bet is that an organization would be lucky if even one seller had the courage to raise her hand.

But, just like in my Philosophy class so long ago, the room should have many raised arms attesting to the obvious truth that there is always a little more that each of us can do.

Then and now, there is no shame in admitting an obvious truth.  The shame would be to go on as before without making any adjustments to our behavior.

 

Dump The Script during Panel Presentations

Dump The Script during Panel Presentations

Here’s something to consider:  The next time you have to make a presentation in front of a panel, prepare the content as usual and then set it aside.  Spend time practicing the dynamics of making the presentation.  What you must do is to make an indelible impression on the panel.

We knew what to expect but it didn’t make it any less nerve racking.

Our on-time arrival went unrewarded as the group in front of us was still making their presentation.  We sat down on plastic chairs at the only clean table in the break room and double-checked our inventory.

Several copies of the presentation?  Check.

Gift bags filled with station merchandise?  Check.

A stack of business cards?  Check.

Courage and determination?  Check and check.

The competition exits stage left and we are greeted and ushered in to a too large room.  The “prospect” is a five-headed panel sitting behind their laptops at individual desks –  lined up side by side as if the Supreme Court itself was now in session.  But, the Supreme Court is not yet in session because the judges are trying to decide what to order at Starbucks.  The seller and I introduce ourselves to each as they finish describing their lattes and iced coffees to a page.

Although no one says to, we take our place at a circular table in front of the laptops.  As the assistant heads out, the seller thanks the prospect for inviting us to make a presentation and then she begins.

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Make no mistake.  The initial sales presentation in front of a panel is one of the hardest sales calls you will ever make.  Here are five reasons why it’s hard:

Prospects act differently when they are part of a panel.  Members of a panel are more conservative, reserved and difficult to engage.  The decision makers on a panel will rarely exert their power while receiving a presentation and the underlings are very unlikely to step up to ask questions or make comments.  While a seller may have developed a relationship with one of the panel members during previous meetings, that panel member is likely to shrink into the background so as not to appear biased in favor of one presentation team.

A panel typically includes out-of-towners.  Folks fly into town to be a part of a panel because they believe they’ll learn more by seeing face-to-face presentations.  The problem is that the travelers are out of sorts.  They are thinking about people back at home or at the home office.  They are thinking about the fact that they forgot their favorite shoes or that they didn’t bring work-out clothes.  In short, they are distracted.

A panel sees a lot of presentations.  The purpose of a panel is to get all the decision makers together and view presentations from all the competing vendors.  By seeing everyone in a day or two, panels hope to come to informed decisions.  Unfortunately, all those presentations end up blending together and a typical panel is unable to say which idea was presented by whom.

Panels don’t have much time.  We are usually asked to make a presentation in half of our usual time.  This is virtually impossible because we have prepared so completely that we have even more to say than usual.  We’ve included pictures and video and creative ideas that the panel asks us to e-mail to them after the meeting.  The resulting presentation appears rushed and incomplete – because it is!

We act differently in front of a panel, too.  Most of us, who are fine in front of a person or two, act much more nervously in front of a panel.  Our nervousness makes us more reserved and we become less interesting.  Less interesting people tend to blend together in the mind of a panel.

Typically, we attempt to combat the effects of a panel presentation by preparing more completely than usual. Unfortunately, some of our extra work actually contributes to a less than positive experience.

Here’s something to consider: The next time you have to make a presentation in front of a panel, prepare the content as usual and then set it aside. Spend time practicing the dynamics of making the presentation. What you must do is to make an indelible impression on the panel. Here are five ideas on how to do it:

Bring refreshments. If your meeting is at 3 p.m. then bring coffee. But, don’t just bring cups of coffee. Roll in a cart with an expresso machine or bring a barista to prepare specialty drinks. If you are first up in the morning, bring a tray of pastries the size of a mountain!
Prepare your anecdotes. Perhaps, you have a forty-five second story that segues nicely into reasons why the prospect should hire you. Or, if you know the children of one of the panel members you might prepare a fun, relatable story about one of your children of a similar age. The point is to have a couple of these stories in your hip pocket that you can use at the beginning of the presentation to get the panel to pay attention to you and remember you.
Dress in character. This might be especially difficult for some as it calls attention to ourselves in a way that is dramatically different than usual. Of course, that is the point. If your presentation includes information about a Cinco de Mayo promotion you might dress as a Mexican soldier. If the presentation includes something about weddings you could bring along a bride and groom that make an appearance at exactly the right time. One of the best panel presentations that I was a part of included a skit that illustrates one of our points. We brought along six people whose sole purpose was to perform the skit. Of course, no one else did a skit and we were remembered with an order.
Bring a celebrity. Does your presentation include something about sports? Bring an athlete with you. Ideally, the athlete is dressed as his athletic self and not his street self but you might not get Carl Edwards to wear his coveralls on your sales call. Don’t think you know a celebrity who would go with you? You’d be surprised at who you know who goes to the same gym as Ralph Sampson (that would be me). Or, you might know somebody who went to the same high school as Dominique Wilkins (my old friend Bob.)
Stand and deliver. When invited to sit, let the panel know that you prefer to stand. Standing allows you to peer over the top of the laptops shielding the panel from your influence. Standing allows you to move around which forces the panel to watch you. While they watch they will be forming an impression of you that will allow easy recall. “Which company proposed that we include a stalk of celery with every purchase? Oh yeah, that was the guy who stood up the whole time.”

A presentation in front of a panel demands a show. So, get out there and perform!

Partnering Can Sometimes Mean Patience

Partnering Can Sometimes Mean Patience

What is my role as a salesperson?  What do my customers expect from me?  How can I be of the most benefit to my clients?

While salespeople are notorious for wanting to close deals quickly, a sales consultant positions him or herself as a partner who can help customers in reaching both their short and long-term business goals.  If you’re not sure how your product or service will positively impact these goals, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and take a look at the bigger picture.

So you thought by now you’d stop hearing the words, “No” or “I’m not interested”, from your prospective customers.  Yet, time and again it appears that there just isn’t a need or worse:  Salespeople are being told that prospects just aren’t buying or that their decision to purchase is “on hold”.  What many salespeople do when they hear the bad news is to mark on their calendars a reminder note to call in 60 days to see if the prospect’s decision to buy has changed.

If you fall into this kind of postponement thinking where you plan for success at a later date, your chances for success are significantly reduced.  Think about it a minute:  Why would you accept at face value that your prospects don’t need what you have to offer, regardless of what the economy is doing?  You know yourself that you will always find a way to purchase if you see that the value of your purchase outweighs the financial or emotional risks of buying.  In other words, if your prospects are like most people they’ll find a way to buy what they need and justify why buying was the smartest decision they could ever make.

Your role in fostering a good buying decision is in knowing how your customers measure a good return on investment.  Before you assume that paying as little as possible is the highest priority on your customer’s wish list, consider some other possibilities:

Would your customers spend a few extra dollars if it meant saving them huge amounts of time?

Would they invest a little cash to get control of a perceived chaotic work environment?

Would your prospects talk to you if you could show a way to move them to the forefront of their industry and increase their sales revenue?

Would your customers pay for a way to improve their working relationships with their own customers?

Regardless of market conditions, customers are still buying.  Fortunately for those of us who can meet their needs, they’ve become highly selective concerning who they’ll buy from.  They’re looking for straight talk and for salespeople who can see beyond an immediate sale.  Let’s face it:  Some of your customers are getting less business than usual from their own customers.  The main challenge, then, for the smart salesperson is to create ways in which to improve your customer’s profitability.

Ask yourself: What is my role as a salesperson? What do my customers expect from me? How can I be of the most benefit to my clients? While salespeople are notorious for wanting to close deals quickly, a sales consultant positions him or herself as a partner who can help customers in reaching both their short and long-term business goals. If you’re not sure how your product or service will positively impact these goals, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and take a look at the bigger picture.

Once your customers see you less as a vendor and more as a consultant or strategist, your opportunities to solidify long-term business relationships increase significantly. Position yourself to succeed.

Forget Closing The Deal | Get The Appointment!

Forget Closing The Deal | Get The Appointment!

Salespeople who are less than successful in securing appointments are sometimes told by others, “It’s not you; we’re just in a bad economy.”  My contention is that maybe it is you.  Think about it a minute:  When you get a real person on the other end of the phone line in place of a voice recorder, what are you actually saying and in what order?

There rarely is a sale without a face-to-face encounter with the prospect. Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about what salespeople can do to improve their sales performance.  Let’s start by looking at securing the infamous sales appointment.  If you’re hearing your prospects say something to the effect, “I’m not ordering” or “I’m perfectly happy with my current supplier”, take it personally!

Salespeople who are less than successful in securing appointments are sometimes told by others, “It’s not you; we’re just in a bad economy.”  My contention is that maybe it is you.  Think about it a minute:  When you get a real person on the other end of the phone line in place of a voice recorder, what are you actually saying and in what order?

After introducing yourself and your company, are you immediately launching into a litany of reasons why your product or service is just what the prospect needs?  Are you so thankful to have a live person on the other end of the phone that regardless of the prospect’s resistance you’re going to get an appointment?  If so, beware:  You may already be perceived as a person who cares more about yourself than you do about your prospect.

The real question is, “Do you have a plan or a telephone script that works?”  You may know what your goal is (to get the appointment) but if you don’t have a clue how to go about increasing your chances for arranging a face-to-face meeting, why pick up the phone?

Most salespeople who are in it for the long haul and who love the thrill of the hunt as much as the victory of closing the deal know exactly what they’re doing right.  They aren’t randomly trying this approach or that until something sticks to the wall.  They’ve already been through the heartaches and have learned to not only avoid them but to predict them.  They have a plan.

Here are some solid ways in which to increase your appointment-closing ratios:

Always, always, always ask if the person you’re speaking with has a moment to talk with you. If not, ask when is a better time for you to call back. I’ve often heard salespeople say they don’t want to ask this question for fear of being told not to call back at all! If you follow this line of thinking, ask yourself, “Am I entrapping my prospect into talking or meeting with me?” If so, you may once again have your own agenda in mind.

Always state the purpose for your call. Never forget that initially your goal is to gather information and build rapport. You want to see if what you offer might be of interest or benefit to the prospect, from the prospect’s perspective, not yours. Notice that I didn’t mention selling ANYTHING! You’re not making a sales pitch. You simply want to find out if what has worked for your clients might similarly work for your prospect.

Ask only 3-4 questions that may lead you to a problem or challenge the prospect may be experiencing. Remember that your immediate goal is to LEARN! You may discover during this mini-telephone assessment phase that this particular prospect is truly not a good target prospect for you, in which case you can send off some literature and save everybody a lot of time.

Be sure to indicate a benefit to the prospect if the two of you decide to meet face to face. For example, if you’ve learned in conversation that your prospect is overloaded with work, time strapped, having to deal with employees who have morale issues, or is simply tired, think of ways to take him or her out of pain that ties in with your product or service.

Ask for the appointment to see if there might be a mutual fit between your companies—period! When prospects aren’t threatened by a salesperson, they’re more likely to be open for a visit. By gaining control over the sales process they feel empowered to decide whether or not to work with you. You’ve given them permission to say, “No”. The truth is you’re not sure yourself at this point that you can meet their expectations, so why pretend you are?

Try to match the prospect’s communication style at every turn. If the prospect speaks rapidly and you don’t, pick up your pace a bit. If the prospect appears to be detail oriented, know your product or service well to cover their questions. If the prospect has a sense of humor, relax and show your humorous side. If, however, your prospect is a no-nonsense person, get to the point quickly.

So the next time you think you’re not getting appointments because of a poor economy or because of your competitors’ margin-shrinking mentalities, think again. You have within your power the ability to build rapport with anyone you encounter. Take the time to understand where your prospects or customers are coming from–then proceed with caution. There’s rarely a sale made that isn’t preceded by an appointment.

Don’t Become a Sleeping Beauty

Don’t Become a Sleeping Beauty

In the real world, passively waiting for clients to court you and give you business is a sale strategy doomed for failure. Regardless of how great your product or service is, you need to remain proactive in good times and bad if you’re going to make sales and achieve the success you truly want.

When times are tough, it’s easy to fall into the trap of unwisely hoping that a fairy tale-like customer will miraculously save the day and bring you business on a silver platter. Who wouldn’t like a prince of a client to ride up on a white horse and sweep them away from a slumping economy and faltering sales? Unfortunately, only in a Disney movie does sleeping beauty live happily ever after.

In the real world, passively waiting for clients to court you and give you business is a sale strategy doomed for failure. Regardless of how great your product or service is, you need to remain proactive in good times and bad if you’re going to make sales and achieve the success you truly want.

If you’re guilty of being a sales sleeping beauty, it’s time to wake up and start concentrating on the following:

Prospect with Enthusiasm

Prospecting should always be thought of as a priority in your schedule. Don’t wait until you’ve finished everything else to begin this absolutely essential part of business development. Allot yourself a certain amount of time each day for prospecting and focus your efforts on obtaining scheduled appointments to present your offerings. Drop-in visits are rarely successful. Instead, make appointments for when you aren’t an imposition on your prospect’s time, and don’t forget to confirm via phone or email beforehand.

Manage Your Database with Diligence

There is simply no excuse for not using technology to your advantage. Database software is easy to use and provides you with a wealth of tools to keep track of your sales prospect information. Everything from birth date to business details can be efficiently maintained to enable you to be a thoroughly-informed, incredibly capable salesperson.

Sell Smarter

Stay on top of not just your company’s offerings, but your competitors’ as well. Have benefits and features at the tip of your tongue. Keep track of industry trends and events. Continuously put your self in your customers’ shoes and develop a profound understanding of their needs and wants. Basically, be smart and prepared for answering a wide variety of questions, objections, and inquiries from your prospects.

Network Strategically

Networking is more important than ever. If you’re not utilizing online and face-to-face networking opportunities, you’re basically handing business to your competitors. Now is the time to realize the true value of staying connected both within and outside of your industry. Generously provide leads to others, and don’t make assumptions about leads that are provided to you. Often times, those who appear to be the least likely to give you business are exactly the ones that end up surprisingly you with the biggest sales.

Make Me Feel Important! Winning Friends and Influencing Others

Make Me Feel Important! Winning Friends and Influencing Others

Last week I overheard three businessmen in a New York restaurant try to out-perform each other with stories of their latest victories. It was painful to watch… I can only imagine how small everyone in that conversation must have felt. No one was listening, no one really cared about their dining companions and no one expressed any interest in anything but themselves. Can you imagine sitting next to one of those guys on a long flight?

Greetings from 33,000 feet somewhere over western Virginia! I’m writing from seat 21D as I travel to Williamsburg for a program tomorrow. I’ve decided to preempt the originally planned article this month because I’ve just watched one of life’s great lessons play out before me.

A lot of people don’t enjoy air travel. The lines, congestion and delays are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m on a plane almost every week, so I’m no stranger to these biases.

But today was different. Today I had a great flight.

It wasn’t great because I got upgraded to first class, because I didn’t. It wasn’t great because the plane left on time, because it didn’t. It wasn’t great because of the friendly service, because the flight attendants still had an attitude.

Today was different because I got to watch the person sitting across the aisle put on a clinic in making others feel important—a valuable skill that I wished more people possessed. Suddenly I’m surrounded by passengers who are enjoying being trapped in a small aluminum tube as it hurls through space. How in the world is that possible?

Think about the last time you made a focused effort making someone else feel important. Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Although the concept sounds simple, many of us can’t get past the temptation of making ourselves feel important. You see it all the time.

Last week I overheard three businessmen in a New York restaurant try to out-perform each other with stories of their latest victories. It was painful to watch… I can only imagine how small everyone in that conversation must have felt. No one was listening, no one really cared about their dining companions and no one expressed any interest in anything but themselves. Can you imagine sitting next to one of those guys on a long flight?

All of us enjoy those rare moments when others make us feel important. It is one of our deepest and most universal human desires. I once read that everyone has an imaginary tattoo across their forehead that reads M.M.F.I.  It is there to remind others that we want to feel important (Make Me Feel Important). We all want that feeling and will gravitate towards those who make us feel that way.

So what does it take to help others shine? Here are three practical and powerful ideas to help change your focus, and maybe even change your life.

Ask great questions

Focus your energy on being interested, not interesting. Talking about the weather, sports or last night’s news is polite, but it won’t make others feel important. Develop three great open-ended questions that encourage others to share some of their story with you.

Listen to learn

Do you actively listen to others, or do you just listen for the opportunity to interrupt and hijack the conversation? One of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People tells us that we should seek first to understand. Try it and watch what happens to the depth of your conversations.

Remember what Mom taught you

Being polite and courteous never goes out of style. Helping someone stow their overhead bag makes them feel good, makes you feel good and makes everyone watching feel good. You may not be on a plane today, but I’ll bet you can still find an opportunity to serve someone else in a similar way.