What is your prospect thinking?

Selling has become more difficult and challenging in recent years. However, if you think it’s tough to sell, try being a corporate decision maker.

Anyone who is responsible for making buying decisions experiences stress when they are faced with these decisions. Even if they like your product or service they will have questions and concerns about making a decision.

The problem is that many of these questions will NEVER be verbally expressed.

Here are just a few of the possible concerns and questions that occupy their mind space during your sales conversation.

1. How can this sales person or his company help me?

2. What’s in it for me? How will I personally benefit?

3. What happens if the company fails to execute or deliver what this sales person says they will do?

4. Are the claims about this product accurate?

5. How will this decision affect me and my position?

6. I’ve heard other sales people say that before, why should I believe this person?

7. What will happen if I do nothing?

8. How hard am I going to have to fight to get approval for this? Is it worth the fight?

9. Who is going to challenge me and oppose this decision?

10. How will this decision affect my boss’s perception of me?

11. What will my boss think about this decision?

12. We tried something like this before and it didn’t work; why should I consider it again?

13. How difficult is it going to be to implement this solution?

14. Is it worth the headache and hassle to make the change or is it simpler just to deal with the status quo?

15. Is the problem really big enough?

16. How much is this going to cost in terms of soft costs such as people, time, meetings, etc.?

17. What hasn’t the sales person told me?

18. What hidden costs haven’t been factored into this solution?

Not every decision maker is going to have ALL of these questions running through their head but I guarantee that ALL of your prospects will have several questions or concerns at the very least.

That means it is critical that you find out what questions your prospect has on their mind.

Unless you uncover AND deal with these questions and concerns, it is unlikely that your prospect will actually make an affirmative buying decision.

The next time you’re talking to a prospect about your offering think about the questions running through their head and figure out how you will deal with those concerns.


Are you winging it?

1 The other day I was reading an excellent blog post about the effectiveness of Steve Jobs’ presentations. The writer accurately suggested that part of Jobs’ success was the visual component because he knew exactly how to create a compelling presentation on Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint).

A reader of the blog commented with the following statement…

“I have a presentation tomorrow morning to a group of new employees at our company. I have given it once before, about 3-4 months ago. I worked for a while on it them, and it went well. So I was going to wing it this time. But after reading this, I spent a few minutes reviewing it to ensure I bring the enthusiasm to it that our new employees deserve.”


Just because you delivered a presentation ONCE, several months ago doesn’t mean you should wing it. I don’t believe you should EVER deliver any type of presentation without first rehearsing it. And spending a few minutes reviewing does not count as rehearsal!

When a company hires me to deliver a keynote speech at a conference or sales meeting, I run through my presentation up to ten times prior to the actual day of the conference. I don’t memorize every word but I do make sure that all of the points flow properly together and that I remember the key points and examples I want to make.

Sales presentations deserve the same attention

Rehearsal helps to ensure that your presentation flows logically from one point to the next. You can ensure that the key points are properly addressed.

As you practice you can think of potential objections and address them directly in your presentation. You can also time your presentation to make sure that you finish ahead of schedule

Rehearsal also gives you the opportunity to run through your slide deck and update any slides that are outdated or no longer relevant.

Recipe for disaster

Winging a sales presentation is a recipe for disaster, regardless of how experienced you are.

I have conducted countless sales meetings and still make sure that I run through my presentation a few times beforehand to ensure that I am prepared.

But…I learned this the hard way…

Last year I was invited to conduct a sales presentation for several days of sales training. Because I knew the company and the people and had worked with them before, I didn’t rehearse my presentation. I figured I could wing it.

BIG mistake!

Shortly after I began I noticed a typo on one of the slides. Then, someone asked me a question I hadn’t anticipated (although I should have) and I faltered in my response. When I left their office I couldn’t help but shake my head at my poor performance.

Don’t wing it

The next time you catch yourself thinking, “I’ve done that presentation before so I can wing it” remember that your prospects deserve more. Plus, you also give a competitor who doesn’t wing it a better chance to capture that sales opportunity.


How to Succeed at Cold calling

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post called, “How to Waste Your Time When Cold Calling.” It sparked some conversation and several people asked me what they CAN do to improve their cold calling efforts.

So, here are 9 things you can do that will help you achieve better results when making cold calls. Please note that this is for B2B sales situation and not mass calls in a business-to-consumer setting.

1. Target your cold calls

The first and most important way to succeed at cold calling is to use a targeted list. Flipping through the telephone book or picking up the telephone to dial for dollars is not an effective way to prospect via telephone.

People who achieve the best results use a carefully targeted list of companies who have used or need their product, service or solution. Ask any cold calling expert and they will tell you that the quality of your list with have a direct impact on your results.

2. Research before you cold call

Once you have a good list of companies to contact, you need to do a bit of research. This research will help you determine the best approach to take and how to capture your contact’s attention.

For example, as a sales trainer, if I learned that a company recently downsized their sales team, I would use this information to craft my opening.

3. Refine your cold call opening

Your opening needs to be short, concise and to the point while also demonstrating how your prospect might benefit from your offering.

If we use my example from the previous point, my opening might sound something like, “Mr. Jones, Kelley Robertson from Fearless Selling calling. I read in the national paper that you just laid-off one-third of your sales force. Our research has shown that companies often experience an immediate decline in morale when this happens and their sales suffer as a result. What’s your experience been so far?”

The key is to open quickly and keep your opening as short as possible…ideally no longer than 20-25 seconds at a slightly-slower-than-normal pace.

4. Avoid the pitch

If you noticed, I didn’t immediately launch into a pitch about my services or what I do. Instead, I gave my opening and followed it by a question.

Now, the chances are my prospect will ask, “What do you do?” or “Who are you?” or something similar before answering my question.

Don’t get tricked into talking about yourself yet!

Instead, give a brief reply and ask your question again.

“I specialize in helping companies keep their sales team motivated and up-to-date with the latest selling strategies. When I saw that you had downsized I thought it would be appropriate to contact you. How has your team’s morale been since the lay-offs?”

5. Speak slower during your cold call

Most of the sales people who call my office tend to speak to quickly and they also change their tone while calling.

When you slow down your pace you come across more natural and your tone will become more conversational. Plus, it makes it much easier for your prospect to understand you.

6. Engage them

One of the keys to cold calling is to engage people in a conversation and the most effective way to achieve that is to ask questions.

However, you need to lead into your questions and start with softer questions. You can’t open a conversation by asking, “So, what are the three biggest challenges you face right now?”

You need to demonstrate to your prospect that having a conversation with you will be worth their time.

7. “Send me information”

Many prospects will say, “Send me information” in an effort to end the call. However, before you agree to this, you need to ask at least one more question.

Sending generic information will not close a deal for you so I suggest that you say, “I’d be more than happy to send you information. What exactly do you need to see?”

8. Use a referral

It is much more effective to connect with a prospect if you both know someone in common. Whenever possible, use your existing network to connect with new prospects.

It’s all about the numbers

Regardless of how you slice or dice it, cold calling is a numbers game. Recognize that the majority of calls you make will NOT result in a sale.

9. Start cold calling immediately

Very few sales people enjoy cold calling so they procrastinate and work on other tasks.

However, it is much more effective to get started first thing in the morning because it creates momentum and gets the unpleasant task out of the way.

Set a goal of making a certain number of calls or booking a specific number of appointments and don’t quit until you achieve that goal. If you’re new at this, set small, attainable goals and gradually work your way towards larger, more challenging targets.


Cold calling is still an effective way to generate new sales leads and revenues. Use the ideas in this post to improve your results and stop wasting your time.


Faking it?

You have probably heard the saying, “Fake it until you make it.” This expression suggests that you should fake something until it actually happens or comes true.

I don’t disagree with this…at least not for some things…

There have been times that I have been sick on the day of a presentation and I kept telling myself, “I feel great. I feel great. I feel great.” And when it came time to deliver my speech, I did feel better.

I have experienced days when I was wasn’t feeling tremendously confident but I changed my body positioning and tone of voice, and a little while later, my confidence level improved.

However, sometimes faking it isn’t the best approach.

A few days ago, my wife and I were taking a walk through our neighborhood and we came across a property whose owner had replaced the grass on his front yard with artificial turf.

That’s right…artificial turf!

I’m not sure what his rationale was but replacing real grass with fake grass just didn’t work. His lawn stood out—and not in a good way!

Unfortunately, some sales people still think that faking it is an effective sales strategy.

In my profession as a sales trainer, I have encountered sales people who say, “If you don’t know the answer to someone’s question, just fake it” or “Baffle them with B.S.” or “Tell them what they want to hear” or even “They don’t know so it doesn’t matter what I tell them.”

I once heard someone say, “If you never lie to a prospect you will never have to remember what you said.”

I think that’s wise advice.

It may be tempting to pretend that you know something, but in the long run, your prospects will find out that you don’t. It is much more effective to say, “I’m not sure about that, let me find out and I’ll get back to you.”

Faking it can be a great way to improve your mental outlook or break out of a slump. But it is not an effective approach to use when engaged in sales conversations with your prospects and customers.

via Blog | Fearless Selling Kelley Robertson – Part 2.

How to Turn a Relationship Into a Sale

Sales teams that focus on relationships quickly learn the value of providing personal and professional value to clients rather than focusing solely on the sale.

The impact of relationship building with your customers may surprise you. Ferrazzi Greenlight’s study of 16 Global Account Teams (PDF) showed that these strategic, relationship-focused teams grew their accounts at least twice as fast as regular transactionally-focused account teams. This happened despite the fact that the relationship-focused teams worked on the company’s largest, most mature accounts — the most difficult to expand rapidly because they were already so large.

Why? People do business with people they know and like. And people like people who focus on their success. That means a sales call is a success if it advances your customers’ cause and builds the relationship, not just if it closes a transaction.

This won’t be news to most salespeople, who excel at building relationships. What can be hard for many sales people is turning the ongoing conversation of a relationship into a transaction.

The good news is that transactions often happen as a matter of course when sales teams focus on building great relationships with generosity.

Generosity Without Expectations of Tit for Tat

One of the things I advise salespeople to do is to be prepared with five packets of generosity and no expectations. Do the homework required to go into each meeting with a list of five ways to make the person you’re meeting successful. That’s what’s going to arrest people’s attention and make them willing to develop a closer relationship with you.

What kind of homework? I’m not talking about the usual research on the company and its need for what you’re selling. Research the person! You’re looking for personal reasons to care. Find a way to introduce something that leverages your shared interests. Failing that, fall back to some deeply-held personal interests of your own. Talking about them will make you human, not just a sales person pushing a service or a widget.


The End of Relationship Selling

I am not going to sugarcoat this, and I am not going to be polite.

All of this talk about the end of relationship selling is pure, unadulterated hogwash. While those that declare relationship selling to be dead shout louder, ignore their words. They couldn’t be more wrong.

You will hurt yourself and your sales by believing and acting on this horrid and horrible idea. Relationships are an essential part of winning an opportunity. They are also the biggest part of retaining your clients.

Where the Critics Are Right (and Wrong)

There are two reasons that the critics bash relationship selling.

The first reason critics bash relationship selling is that too many sales people believe that a warm, friendly relationship is enough to win and sustain client relationships. The critics are correct; it isn’t enough. Your relationship must be built on the firm foundation of your ability to continually create value for your client.

The critics mistakenly suggest that relationships and value creation are mutually exclusive. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the stronger your relationship, the greater the likelihood that you will be trusted to sell the ideas that create value, especially the big ideas that lead your client.

The second reason the critics are crooked on relationships is because so many salespeople avoid the necessary conflict that accompanies selling. These salespeople are conflict averse. And again the critics are correct.

But the critics of relationship selling make the mistake of believing that a warm relationship and an ability to deal effectively with conflict are mutually exclusive, that they can’t exist in the same body at the same time. But relationships and conflict aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, a strong relationship improves the odds of a conflict being successfully resolved. Wouldn’t you want a strong relationship going into a conflict? Wouldn’t you want to have a relationship that could withstand a nasty issue?

What Is and What Isn’t a Relationship

A personal friendship is a surely a relationship, but it doesn’t rise to the level of an effective sales relationship. Your warm, friendly, personal relationship must be coupled with an equal or greater amount of value creation.

If your personal relationship means that you can’t effectively manage the conflicts that accompany selling, then you don’t have an effective sales relationship. One who can’t deal with conflict in sales is an order-taker.

An effective selling relationship is personal, professional, value creating, and built on trust. If you would be a trusted advisor, you are going to have to deal with conflict, and you are going to have to have the relationships to withstand those conflicts. If you are going to be a Level Four Value Creator, you are going to need the relationships that allow you to act as part of your client’s management team, and your clients don’t want people on their team with whom they don’t have great relationships.

You can make a lot of mistakes and still win in sales. Believing that you can go without relationships isn’t one of them. In a time when so many people are behaving like sales is transactional, swim against the current and build the deep relationships that success is built on.

All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still probably win.


Are your relationships important to selling effectively?

Can you have a personal, warm, friendly relationship with your client and still sell effectively? Can you have that relationship and still create value?

Do your relationships enable you to effectively deal with conflict, or do they cause you to avoid conflict?

At the time of your dream client’s decision, would you rather have a strong personal and professional relationship, or would you rather just try to sell the value you create?

Have you ever lost a deal that you should have won because your competitor had the relationship? Have you ever won a deal that you should have lost because your competitor had a strong relationship?


4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning

Stymied about what to say when you contact a prospect?

It’s especially tough if you feel like you don’t know enough about their organization to craft a relevant message. Recently, Katrina wrote to me about her frustration with pre-call sales planning:

“In your books, you talk about the importance of doing research prior to contacting a prospect. I’m having a hard time with that. I sell to marketing departments. But since companies don’t share that information publicly, it’s really tough to find out what issues they have. What should I do?”

She’s right. It’s virtually impossible to find that kind of information online. Companies don’t want to have their problems exposed to the public unless absolutely necessary.

4 Tips for Pre-Call Sales Planning

If you consistently sell to the same decision makers, make assumptions. Assume that they have similar objectives and face similar challenges as your existing clients. For example, most marketers today are under intense pressure to bring in more high quality leads or to justify their marketing spend. My Buyer’s Matrix is an excellent tool to help you outline the challenges your prospect is facing. (Click here to download it for free.)

If you typically sell to certain industries, immerse yourself in them. Join their associations, attend their meetings, get their newsletters and dig into their websites. Another great resource for learning more is via LinkedIn groups. You’ll find groups focused on certain industries as well as job positions. Personally, I belong to groups for VP’s of Sales just so I can keep up-to-date.

Prep some questions ahead of time to ensure you learn what’s top-of-mind for your prospect. Use your assumptions and what you’ve learned in your immersion as a starting point. When you actually meet with prospects you’ll want to find out their perspectives on these important topics.

Don’t be afraid of not knowing everything. No one expects it. They just want you to be knowledgeable and show you’ve done your homework.


If Winning Isn’t Everything, Then What Is?

Topping the leaderboard. Being first to complete a mission. Earning the most points. Much of the current talk around enterprise gamification understandably focuses on competition and status as the primary human drivers of an effective gamified experience inside corporations.

But new data suggests it may be time to start challenging that notion.

Yes, it’s true that a desire for mastery and tangible rewards are key human motivators. These drivers grab the brain’s attention, focus its energies and inspire repeat performance. And this effect absolutely can be amplified when employees are able to compare their performance to others and compete within the same experience.

The question is: are these the most important behavioral drivers? Not so much, according to new research by The Maritz Institute:

In a recent U.S.-based employee study, we found that the most engaged employees work for companies they perceive to value “self-expression” in the form of self-direction, stimulation, and universalism. Yet, this constituted only 21% of the organizations. The least engaged employees work for companies they perceive to value “self-enhancement” in the form of achievement, power, and conformity. This constituted 60% of the organizations.

These insights are reinforced by the findings of the World Values Survey. It shows that as more workers are lifted out of poverty and the world becomes an increasingly connected place, values globally are shifting away from material gain and toward self-expression. Business that want to succeed in the new normal should be paying close attention to this trend.

So, what does this mean for your employee engagement strategy? One guide might be The Maritz Institute’s re-imagining of Maslow’s well accepted, but (IMHO) slightly tired, Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. In their revised model, the desire for self-expression sits on high, trumping the desires for material success and basic security. This says to me that while generalized competition and rewards can be part of effective engagement design, an exceptional gamified experience will focus even more on the top of the pyramid, where personal meaning, collaboration and trust-building within the organization are the most critical drivers.

This can show up in your engagement design in three key ways:

Personalized Missions – One-size-fits all really means challenges that fit no one. Recognize that you have noobs and experts, thinkers and doers, and that your sales people and your IT team have different needs and values. Creating missions that are personally meaningful to them and their work will have a far greater impact than asking everyone to do the same thing.

Group Challenges – Collective action is a significant part of the global shift toward self-expression. Be sure you can create challenges that require the effort of every member of a team to complete, or which encourage different parts of the company to form spontaneous teams working together in order to level up. And if you still want competition in the mix, encourage competition between teams while your encouraging collaboration within them.

Choice – The human brain uses iterative processing cycles and feedback loops to explore options and make choices that match personal values. This means we attach more strongly to that which we choose, vs. that which is dictated to us. You’ll see more engagement when you offer employees a variety of challenges, mission types and rewards to select from, letting them be masters of their own destiny inside of a structured gamified experience.

Gamification is a proven tool for driving higher levels of engagement, but it’s a tool that will be most effective when applied with an understanding of the differing and shifting values of your employees. Simply put, figure out what winning really means to them and engagement will follow. Just don’t assume it always means topping the leaderboard


5 Reasons to Apply Gamification to Your Sales Team

don’t even like to call it a buzzword, because the idea of sales gamification is really grabbing hold. Where? See some examples of making it work are out there, like this, and this, and oh yeah that.   So how do you know if you could benefit from using gamification within your own sales team? Will it really make an impact, or just drive a short-term spike? Below are 5 reasons your sales organization may benefit from gamification:

1. Your Salespeople Are Competitive Beasts

Gamification helps you tap into the competitive nature of your salespeople by creating competition around the behaviors you need to motivate. Salespeople are often checking out the company sales reports to see where they stand relative to quota, and relative to their peers. That’s one of the main reasons you created sales dashboards in the first place – to provide visibility and keep people motivated. By applying gamification concepts within Salesforce.com, you can build competitions around just about any behavior you want. Just pick the activity you want to drive, and create a competition around it. The data is in your CRM, now you can reward people for it.

2. There’s Always Some Key Initiative

There are always times throughout the year that you need to drive specific activity from the sales team. Your base compensation plan should keep people motivated to sell and hit their goals. However, there is always some other specific behavior you are trying to get your team focused on. Maybe it’s taking a new product to market, making a few extra phone calls this week, following up on trade show leads more quickly, or booking more meetings. Your comp plan is focused on closing, but you can use gamification to point people toward some specific activity you need to motivate.

3. Your Sales Pipeline Has Inaccurate Data

Do your salespeople keep their opportunities updated? This is one of the biggest struggles for sales managers – having a solid view of the sales pipeline. Salespeople tend to do one of two things: Put opportunities into the system and then never update them until the deal is won or lost, or put opportunities in at late stages only before the deal is about to close. Both scenarios result in an inaccurate view of your business that you can’t take action on. So apply a little gamification to it – every time someone updates the close date or sales stage, give them a point. Every point is an entry to win, or whoever has the most points at the end of the month wins.

4. You Want to Drive Collaboration

Today’s sales organizations are more separated than ever before with folks working from home offices, or huddled behind their desks living in social media. By creating competitions around a key initiative, you rally everyone together around some specific objective. Everyone on the team can see a real time leaderboard on where they stand and how others are doing. This motivates people to want to learn from their peers to see what they are doing differently, and gives you a reason to talk about it in team meetings and one-on-one sessions.

5. To Make Your CRM More Interesting

All CRM systems could use a little creative boost. Applying gamification ideas keeps people inside of Salesforce.com. Since the competition is all tracked based on data in Salesforce, the sales team becomes motivated to keep their data updated and can be regularly reviewing the leaderboards and status updates on the competition.

The benefits of gamification will be unique to the environment and goals of each company. Have you applied gamification ideas to your own sales organization? What have you seen work?