Taking Control of the Sales Process

Taking Control of the Sales Process

Sometimes it takes a massive change to produce better sales results. It might take a major overhaul of what you do and how you’re doing it. But sometimes small changes can have a major impact on your sales results. You might be doing most everything right, but something relatively minor causes serious problems, like losing control of the sales process and extending your sales cycle time.

Here are two small changes that can give you back control over your sales process, shorten your sales cycle time, and allow you to create more value throughout the process.

Linking Commitments to Commitments

Sales managers and sales leaders complain about persistently long sales cycles. They have a sales process—even if isn’t given the attention it deserves. Reducing the cycle time would help them produce better results, and it would help their clients to realize the value that they create sooner too.

One simple change can make all the difference in the world. Here it is: never leave a sales interaction without scheduling the next sales interaction.

By never leaving a sales call without another commitment for some activity that advances the sales, you link commitment to commitment and more the sales process along. This little change alone can squeeze weeks out of the sales process, normally those weeks that you spend trying to get your dream client to return your calls, respond to your voicemail message, or return your email messages.

Choosing the Right Medium

Some people insist on emailing pricing to their dream clients. But by emailing their pricing, they lose control of the sales process. Once your prospect has your emailed pricing and proposal, they can make their decision without you. If they have concerns, they can resolve them to their satisfaction—but not to yours.

Email is a poor medium for delivering pricing and proposals, unless your business is seriously transactional, and even then you’d gain an advantage by choosing a more effective medium. Email is also a poor medium for negotiations. It’s more effective to speak face-to-face or by telephone to talk through issues than it is to send revision after revision back and forth with no real dialogue.

The nature and outcome of the interaction drives the choice of medium, not what’s easiest. Maintaining control of the sales process means choosing what’s most effective, not what seems to be most efficient. In fact, the effective choice is the most efficient choice—it’s the one that most quickly gets you the outcome you want.

Questions

Have you ever made small changes to realize a dramatic improvement?

Can one seemingly minor mistake have outsized repercussions?

How do you recognize the blind spots or mistakes you might be making?

Do you ever leave a sales interaction without scheduling your next sales interaction?

Do you ever choose a medium that might not be the very best choice for the outcome you want?

 

Consistent Effort is the Key to Better Sales Results

Consistent Effort is the Key to Better Sales Results

One of the primary reasons salespeople produce sporadic results is because their actions are equally sporadic. Their effort isn’t consistent enough to produce the results they want—or need. It’s zero effort for a long time, and then it’s time to play catch up. But that doesn’t work.

You can’t go long periods without prospecting and then prospect like crazy. You can’t make up for lost time and cram to get results. Building a pipeline doesn’t lend itself to sporadic activity. To build your pipeline, you need consistent effort over a long period of time. Anything less gives you wavy results—it if it gives you anything at all.

You build a pipeline through consistent prospecting.

You can’t follow your sale process for a little while and then abandon doing what you know to be effective in hopes of succeeding by taking some easier actions. There are all kinds of occasions to fall out of your sales process, especially when what you are seeing means you have to get creative. But not following the sales process means poor results, longer sales cycles, and lost opportunities.

You win sales opportunities by consistently following your sales process, by making it your standard operating procedure.

Speaking of prospecting, nurturing is another area we can produce an inconsistent effort. If you only make a call every 90 days, you aren’t nurturing the relationships you need—you’re neglecting them.

You only open the relationships with a frequent and consistent effort to create value.

It’s easy to ask for the commitments you need when it feels like the answer will be in the affirmative, and it’s easy not to when you fear the answer will be no. By failing to ask for what you really need, you go without information that you need to create and win an opportunity. You also go without the access to stakeholders that you need. Then, you’re surprised to learn that you lost an opportunity for which you are perfect.

By consistently asking for the commitments you need, you improve the likelihood of winning the opportunities you create.

None of this is true for sales alone. It’s true in whatever your endeavor, for whatever result it is you hope to achieve. Consistency is the key. It’s the daily stacking up of your efforts, brick upon brick, which ultimately produces results.

Questions

What do you do most consistently? How are your results in that area of your life?

What do you do only sporadically? How are your results different?

What do you need to commit to doing more consistently to produce the results you want?

What do you need to stop doing so consistently to produce the results you’re after?

 

What We Can’t Measure

What We Can’t Measure

Did you create value during that sales call? How much value exactly? What was your dream client’s perception of the value that you created?

Did you influence the buying process? Did you create trust? How much trust?

Does your dream client like you? Are you more likable than your competitors? What is the depth of your relationship? Is it as strong as it should be? What metric are you using to determine the strength of your individual relationship?

Did you uncover your prospective client’s real motivations? Is the worldview they described really their view, or is it the company line? Is the buying criteria they described what will really be used to make the decision? Or is it really a price decision with the criteria serving to justify a lower price later?

This list could continue on interminably.

The world is ruled by invisible forces. Most of what effects our lives, including the outcome of a sales opportunity, can’t be seen. We can measure much, but what we can glean from those measurements doesn’t often reveal anything we can rely on with anything that resembles a scientific certitude.

Keep Your Processes and Methodologies

But none of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t follow a sales process and good sales methodologies. It doesn’t mean that generalizations and patterns aren’t valuable. There are many generalizations worth capturing and implementing. In fact, much of what we do in life is following patterns that work (or worked at some time).

If your dream client agrees to take the next step with you, then there is some good, even if less than scientific, evidence that you created value during a your sales interaction. If you are denied that future appointment, there is some evidence that you might not have crated value.

We capture this agreement to advance as proof positive that enough value was created. Scientific? No. Close enough for rock-n-roll? Absolutely.

If you ask for and obtain the information you need to help your dream client, then there is some good evidence that you have established some level of trust. If you are denied the information you need, then there may be some evidence that your dream client doesn’t trust you with the information–or they don’t trust you to do anything worthwhile with the information.

When you acquire information, it likely means you can close some gate in your sales process. Does this mean your dream client trusts you like their oldest friend? Well, not necessarily, but nor must it. It means that, as far as your sales process is concerned, you’ve earned enough to move forward.

We can’t measure most of what’s really important. But the questions at the beginning of the post, difficult as they are to answer, are the important questions. The best we can do is capture and measure some outcomes that give us some evidence that what we are doing is working–and what we are doing that isn’t.

Questions

Because something is difficult to measure does that make it unimportant?

What are the important factors that lead to a sale that can’t be measured?

What do we measure instead?

How do we align what we can measure with what we can’t measure?

 

Better Public Speaking

Whether we’re talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time.

We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way that people think about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern.

The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well. This article explains how!

The Importance of Public Speaking

Even if you don’t need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are plenty of situations where good public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities.

For example, you might have to talk about your organization at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to new recruits. Public speaking also includes online presentations or talks; for instance, when training a virtual team, or when speaking to a group of customers in an online meeting.

Good public speaking skills are important in other areas of your life, as well. You might be asked to make a speech at a friend’s wedding, give a eulogy for a loved one, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event.

In short, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.

However, while good public speaking skills can open doors, poor speaking skills can close them. For example, your boss might decide against promoting you after sitting through a poorly-delivered presentation. You might lose a valuable new contract by failing to connect with a prospect during a sales pitch. Or you could make a poor impression with your new team, because you trip over your words and don’t look people in the eye.

Make sure that you learn how to speak well!

Strategies for Becoming a Better Speaker

What’s great about public speaking is that it’s a learnable skill. As such, you can use the following strategies to become a better speaker and presenter.

Plan Appropriately

First, make sure that you plan your communication appropriately. Use tools like the Rhetorical Triangle, Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, and the 7Cs of Communication to think about how you’ll structure what you’re going to say.

When you do this, think about how important a book’s first paragraph is; if it doesn’t grab you, you’re likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.

For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that pertains to what you’re talking about and resonates with your audience. You can also use story telling as a powerful opener; our Expert Interviews with Annette Simmons and Paul Smith offer some useful tips on doing this.

Planning also helps you to think on your feet. This is especially important for unpredictable question and answer sessions or last-minute communications.

Tip:

Remember that not all public speaking will be scheduled. You can make good impromptu speeches by having ideas and mini-speeches pre-prepared. It also helps to have a good, thorough understanding of what’s going on in your organization and industry.

Practice

There’s a good reason that we say, “Practice makes perfect!” You simply cannot be a confident, compelling speaker without practice.

To get practice, seek opportunities to speak in front of others. For example, Toastmasters is a club geared specifically towards aspiring speakers, and you can get plenty of practice at Toastmasters sessions. You could also put yourself in situations that require public speaking, such as by cross-training a group from another department, or by volunteering to speak at team meetings.

If you’re going to be delivering a presentation or prepared speech, create it as early as possible. The earlier you put it together, the more time you’ll have to practice.

Practice it plenty of times alone, using the resources you’ll rely on at the event, and, as you practice, tweak your words until they flow smoothly and easily.

Then, if appropriate, do a dummy run in front of a small audience: this will help you calm your jitters and make you feel more comfortable with the material. Your audience can also give you useful feedback, both on your material and on your performance.

Engage With Your Audience

When you speak, try to engage your audience. This makes you feel less isolated as a speaker and keeps everyone involved with your message. If appropriate, ask leading questions targeted to individuals or groups, and encourage people to participate and ask questions.

Keep in mind that some words reduce your power as a speaker. For instance, think about how these sentences sound: “I just want to add that I think we can meet these goals” or “I just think this plan is a good one.” The words “just” and “I think” limit your authority and conviction. Don’t use them.

A similar word is “actually,” as in, “Actually, I’d like to add that we were under budget last quarter.” When you use “actually,” it conveys a sense of submissiveness or even surprise. Instead, say what things are. “We were under budget last quarter” is clear and direct.

Also, pay attention to how you’re speaking. If you’re nervous, you might talk quickly. This increases the chances that you’ll trip over your words, or say something you don’t mean. Force yourself to slow down by breathing deeply. Don’t be afraid to gather your thoughts; pauses are an important part of conversation, and they make you sound confident, natural, and authentic.

Finally, avoid reading word-for-word from your notes. Instead, make a list of important points on cue cards, or, as you get better at public speaking, try to memorize what you’re going to say – you can still refer back to your cue cards when you need them.

Pay Attention to Body Language

If you’re unaware of it, your body language will give your audience constant, subtle clues about your inner state. If you’re nervous, or if you don’t believe in what you’re saying, the audience can soon know.

Pay attention to your body language: stand up straight, take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. Don’t lean on one leg or use gestures that feel unnatural.

Many people prefer to speak behind a podium when giving presentations. While podiums can be useful for holding notes, they put a barrier between you and the audience. They can also become a “crutch,” giving you a hiding place from the dozens or hundreds of eyes that are on you.

Instead of standing behind a podium, walk around and use gestures to engage the audience. This movement and energy will also come through in your voice, making it more active and passionate.

Think Positively

Positive thinking can make a huge difference to the success of your communication, because it helps you feel more confident.

Fear makes it all too easy to slip into a cycle of negative self-talk, especially right before you speak, while self-sabotaging thoughts such as “I’ll never be good at this!” or “I’m going to fall flat on my face!” lower your confidence and increase the chances that you won’t achieve what you’re truly capable of.

Use affirmations and visualization to raise your confidence. This is especially important right before your speech or presentation. Visualize giving a successful presentation, and imagine how you’ll feel once it’s over and when you’ve made a positive difference for others. Use positive affirmations such as “I’m grateful I have the opportunity to help my audience” or “I’m going to do well!”

Cope With Nerves

How often have you listened to or watched a speaker who really messed up? Chances are, the answer is “not very often.”

When we have to speak in front of others, we can envision terrible things happening. We imagine forgetting every point we want to make, passing out from our nervousness, or doing so horribly that we’ll lose our job. But those things almost never come to pass! We build them up in our minds and end up more nervous than we need to be.

Many people cite public speaking as their biggest fear, and a fear of failure is often at the root of this. Public speaking can lead your “fight or flight” response to kick in: adrenaline courses through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases, you sweat, and your breath becomes fast and shallow.

Although these symptoms can be annoying or even debilitating, the Inverted-UModel shows that a certain amount of pressure enhances performance. By changing your mindset, you can use nervous energy to your advantage.

First, make an effort to stop thinking about yourself, your nervousness, and your fear. Instead, focus on your audience: what you’re saying is “about them.” Remember that you’re trying to help or educate them in some way, and your message is more important than your fear. Concentrate on the audience’s wants and needs, instead of your own.

If time allows, use deep breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and give your body the oxygen it needs to perform. This is especially important right before you speak. Take deep breaths from your belly, hold each one for several seconds, and let it out slowly.

Crowds are more intimidating than individuals, so think of your speech as a conversation that you’re having with one person. Although your audience may be 100 people, focus on one friendly face at a time, and talk to that person as if he or she is the only one in the room.

Watch Recordings of Your Speeches

Whenever possible, record your presentations and speeches. You can improve your speaking skills dramatically by watching yourself later, and then working on improving in areas that didn’t go well.

As you watch, notice any verbal stalls, such as “um” or “like.” Look at your body language: are you swaying, leaning on the podium, or leaning heavily on one leg? Are you looking at the audience? Did you smile? Did you speak clearly at all times?

Pay attention to your gestures. Do they appear natural or forced? Make sure that people can see them, especially if you’re standing behind a podium.

Last, look at how you handled interruptions, such as a sneeze or a question that you weren’t prepared for. Does your face show surprise, hesitation, or annoyance? If so, practice managing interruptions like these smoothly, so that you’re even better next time.

Key Points

Chances are that you’ll sometimes have to speak in public as part of your role. While this can seem intimidating, the benefits of being able to speak well outweigh any perceived fears. To become a better speaker, use the following strategies:

Plan appropriately.

Practice.

Engage with your audience.

Pay attention to body language.

Think positively.

Cope with your nerves.

Watch recordings of your speeches.

If you speak well in public, it can help you get a job or promotion, raise awareness for your team or organization, and educate others. The more you push yourself to speak in front of others, the better you’ll become, and the more confidence you’ll have.

AIDA: Attention-Interest-Desire-Action

“Free gift inside!”

“Dear Jim, You have been specially selected.”

“Calling all Parents.”

Every day we’re bombarded with headlines like these that are designed to grab our attention. In a world full of advertising and information – delivered in all sorts of media from print to websites, billboards to radio, and TV to text messages – every message has to work extremely hard to get noticed.

And it’s not just advertising messages that have to work hard; every report you write, presentation you deliver, or email you send is competing for your audience’s attention.

As the world of advertising becomes more and more competitive, advertising becomes more and more sophisticated. Yet the basic principles behind advertising copy remain – that it must attract attention and persuade someone to take action. And this idea remains true simply because human nature doesn’t really change. Sure, we become increasingly discerning, but to persuade people to do something, you still need to grab their attention, interest them in how your product or service can help them, and then persuade them to take the action you want them to take, such as buying your product or visiting your website.

The acronym AIDA is a handy tool for ensuring that your copy, or other writing, grabs attention. The acronym stands for:

Attention (or Attract)

Interest

Desire

Action.

These are the four steps you need to take your audience through if you want them to buy your product or visit your website, or indeed to take on board the messages in your report.

A slightly more sophisticated version of this is AIDCA/AIDEA, which includes an additional step of Conviction/Evidence between Desire and Action. People are so cynical about advertising messages that coherent evidence may be needed if anyone is going to act!

How to Use the Tool:

Use the AIDA approach when you write a piece of text that has the ultimate objective of getting others to take action. The elements of the acronym are as follows:

1. Attention/Attract

In our media-filled world, you need to be quick and direct to grab people’s attention. Use powerful words, or a picture that will catch the reader’s eye and make them stop and read what you have to say next.

With most office workers suffering from e-mail overload, action-seeking e-mails need subject lines that will encourage recipients to open them and read the contents. For example, to encourage people to attend a company training session on giving feedback, the email headline, “How effective is YOUR feedback?” is more likely to grab attention than the purely factual one of, “This week’s seminar on feedback”.

2. Interest

This is one of the most challenging stages: You’ve got the attention of a chunk of your target audience, but can you engage with them enough so that they’ll want to spend their precious time understanding your message in more detail?

Gaining the reader’s interest is a deeper process than grabbing their attention. They will give you a little more time to do it, but you must stay focused on their needs. This means helping them to pick out the messages that are relevant to them quickly. So use bullets and subheadings, and break up the text to make your points stand out.

For more information on understanding your target audience’s interests and expectations, and the context of your message, read our article on the Rhetorical Triangle.

3. Desire

The Interest and Desire parts of AIDA go hand-in-hand: As you’re building the reader’s interest, you also need to help them understand how what you’re offering can help them in a real way. The main way of doing this is by appealing to their personal needs and wants.

So, rather than simply saying “Our lunchtime seminar will teach you feedback skills”, explain to the audience what’s in it for them: “Get what you need from other people, and save time and frustration, by learning how to give them good feedback.”

Feature and Benefits (FAB)

A good way of building the reader’s desire for your offering is to link features and benefits. Hopefully, the significant features of your offering have been designed to give a specific benefit to members of your target market.

When it comes to the marketing copy, it’s important that you don’t forget those benefits at this stage. When you describe your offering, don’t just give the facts and features, and expect the audience to work out the benefits for themselves: Tell them the benefits clearly to create that interest and desire.

Example: “This laptop case is made of aluminum,” describes a feature, and leaves the audience thinking “So what?” Persuade the audience by adding the benefits”.giving a stylish look, that’s kinder to your back and shoulders”.

You may want to take this further by appealing to people’s deeper drives”… giving effortless portability and a sleek appearance and that will be the envy of your friends and co-workers.”

4. Conviction

As hardened consumers, we tend to be skeptical about marketing claims. It’s no longer enough simply to say that a book is a bestseller, for example, but readers will take notice if you state (accurately, of course!), that the book has been in the New York Times Bestseller List for 10 weeks, for example. So try to use hard data where it’s available. When you haven’t got the hard data, yet the product offering is sufficiently important, consider generating some data, for example, by commissioning a survey.

5. Action

Finally, be very clear about what action you want your readers to take; for example, “Visit www.mindtools.com now for more information” rather than just leaving people to work out what to do for themselves.

Key Points:

AIDA is a copywriting acronym that stands for:

Attract or Attention

Interest

Desire

Action.

Using it will help you ensure that any kind of writing, whose purpose is to get the reader to do something, is as effective as possible. First it must grab the target audience’s attention, and engage their interest. Then it must build a desire for the product offering, before setting out how to take the action that the writer wants the audience to take.

4 Basic Steps to Closing More Sales

How many times have you had this kind of experience selling your products or service…?

You get a phone call from a potential prospect. You chat, and there seems to be a real connection. They’re interested in what you offer so you schedule that first, free “get-to-know-you” meeting or no-charge consultation.

The meeting goes great! You like each other, and it seems you do indeed have something they need. Now you’re on a roll and excited about this awesome new client you’re pretty sure you’ve landed.

Then that’s it. Even though they seem to like you and want what you offer, they don’t hire you or buy. And no future meetings are scheduled. Somehow the hungry fish you had on the line just slipped right off your hook (again), and you’re not entirely sure why.

4 Simple Steps to More Sales

Frankly there could be any number of reasons why you lost the sale. But rather than focus on the negatives, let’s examine a simple 4-step formula that works like a charm to close sales.

Best of all, it works for even the most sales-phobic entrepreneur, because this method isn’t about trying to sell at all. It’s about getting to know your prospect’s wants, needs and problems, making a connection, and explaining how you can help.

Step #1: Forget About You and Focus On Them

Get to know your prospect by asking questions, and listening much more than talking. Find out what they do, what their goals are, and why they haven’t been able to reach them yet. Try to uncover their biggest problems and desires, and what they think they need.

Step #2: Problems, Solutions and Benefits

Once you understand their problems, wants and needs, simply explain how you can help. Ideally give examples of how you’ve helped others with similar problems. And use stats and specific numbers whenever possible when discussing results (e.g., “In 3 months I was able to help so-and-so double their revenues.”).

Remember, it’s still not about you and what you do or sell…it’s about them and what they need. So focus on results and benefits more than processes. Prospects must understand what’s in it for them or they aren’t going to buy.

Step #3: Check In

Let them know what you believe you can do for them. Then ask, “If I could do X for you, would that solve your problems or help you achieve your goals?” (Feel free to paraphrase here.).

If they say yes, you’re one giant step closer to making the sale. Move on to Step #4.

If they say no, you need to find out why. Chances are you’ve either misunderstood their wants, needs or goals, or they didn’t share a critical piece of information. So return to Step #1, ask more questions, and then go through these steps again.

Step #4: Use the Assumptive Close

Once you’ve offered a solution they agree will help them reach their goals, it’s safe to assume they want to move forward. Who wouldn’t, right?

So don’t ask if they want to hire you or buy now. Tell them what happens next (e.g., “Great! I’m looking forward to helping you X. I’ll send you a proposal/contract tomorrow and we can get started”. Or, why don’t we go ahead and schedule our next meeting now. What days are best for you?”). Then make it so.

Voila! Sale closed.

Close the Loop & Close the Deal

If, for some reason, they start trying to wriggle off the hook now, you need to find out why so you can address the issue. So go back and start at Step #1 again.

Keep in mind, much like you won’t always catch a fish on the first cast, sometimes it’s going take more than one meeting or contact to make the sale—especially if what you’re selling is high priced. So be sure you have a solid process for following up with a thank you card, phone calls, and helpful information (NOT just sales pieces) via email and print.

Then, each time you speak with them, follow this simple process until you’ve closed the deal.

Tie-Downs Are Critical To Sales

If you knew two little words that could improve your sales, you’d use them, wouldn’t you?

When you see your customer has some reservations, it makes sense to get the issues out in the open, doesn’t it?

And after the ink is dry on the deal, you should make every effort to make sure your customer is satisfied, shouldn’t you?

So why all the questions?  They illustrate a simple technique – sales tie-downs – that can help you improve your sales.  By getting your customers to agree with you in small steps along the way, you have a better chance of reaching agreement when it’s time to do business.

The salespeople who effectively use tie-downs are more successful.  The ones who don’t aren’t nearly as successful.  It’s that simple.

So what exactly are sales tie-downs?

They are short phrases that can be added to statements to turn them into questions that get your prospective customer to start saying yes long before you go for the close.  You ask these little questions throughout your sales presentation to engage your customer and get them used to saying yes.  Psychologically, they will then be more likely to say yes when you ask for the sale.

John Eliason, CEO of First Financial Merchant Services, a credit-card processing firm in Minneapolis, gives the analogy of Gulliver’s travels.  When Gulliver goes to the land of little people and falls asleep, he wakes up and is tied down to the ground.  Gulliver is the sale and all these ropes are the tie-downs.  John says, “If there were only one or two ropes they would not be strong enough to tie down Gulliver.”

Too often, sales reps just regurgitate their presentations and expect that strategy to work.  It doesn’t.  People tune them out because they aren’t engaged in the process.  The remedy is to ask little questions along the way, and monitor the feedback.  Doesn’t that make sense?

You know what I mean?  Are you following me?  These are tie-downs.  End statements with questions like:  Wouldn’t you agree?  Is that right?  This simple technique serves to tie a statement down.

Tie-down questions can be as simple as:

  • Aren’t they?
  • Can’t you?
  • Isn’t it?
  • Shouldn’t it?
  • Won’t they?

Perhaps you have been using these questions with your customers all along and didn’t know there was a name for this technique.

Tie-downs have to become a natural part of your conversation before you can use them in your sales presentations.  Be aware of your tone so the questions don’t sound threatening or argumentative.  Learning how to use tie-downs effectively takes rehearsal.  Practice tie-downs on your spouse or friends.  Have some fun using them in role-playing exercises with other sales professionals.  That will help you develop a rhythm that will include enough, but not too many tie-down questions.

Unfortunately many people in sales don’t ask these little tie-down questions and lose their customers at some point during their presentations.  Give your customer a chance to respond and ask questions of you.  Pay close attention to their reactions, because that will lead you to your next tie-down.

There’s another benefit to tie-downs as well.  They keep you in control and confirm that your customers understand what you are saying during your sales presentation, and that it’s okay to continue.  Are you with me?

Most often, sales people use tie-downs at the end of sentences, but they can be used at the beginning of a sentence as well.  For example, if you are selling an alarm system you might ask:  Isn’t it important for your family to have peace of mind?  Can you see how this will provide safety?

A lot of sales are based on price, so you want customers to agree that savings are important.  You might ask:  Saving money is important to you, isn’t it?  If I could show you ways to save, is that important to you?

Another benefit of using sales tie-downs it that you don’t need a big close, as many sales reps believe. You risk losing your customer when you save all the good stuff for the end.  Keep the customer actively involved throughout your presentation and watch your results improve.

Now let me ask you again, if you knew two little words that could improve your sales, you’d use them, wouldn’t you?  I think you know the answer.

Are You A Sales Leader Or Merely A Sales Manager?

You can buy someone’s physical presence, but you cannot buy loyalty, enthusiasm or devotion. These you must earn. Successful organizations have sales leaders who focus on the future, rather than cling to the past. Leaders bring out the best in people. They spend time developing their people.

Here are the qualities of a leader:

• Leaders have a clear vision of what they are working towards. They don’t keep their vision a secret – they communicate it to their people.

• Leaders are consistent – they keep their principles and values at all times.

• Leaders can and will do what they expect of others – they are prepared to walk the talk.

• Leaders are not threatened by competence – they enjoy promoting people and are quick to give credit to those who have earned it.

• Leaders enjoy developing their people into leaders, not followers – they train people to take on more challenging tasks and responsibilities. They develop people’s confidence.

• Leaders don’t betray trust – they can treat confidential information professionally.

• Leaders are concerned about getting things done. They don’t get embroiled in political infighting, gossip and backstabbing – they encourage those around them to do likewise.

• Leaders confront issues as they arise. They do not procrastinate – if something needs fixing, they do it right away, even if it is uncomfortable. The longer things are left, the more difficult they become.

• Leaders let people know how they are doing – they reward and recognize performance that is above expectations and they help people identify ways of improving poor performance.

• Leaders are flexible. They welcome change – they do not stick to an old position simply because it is more comfortable.

• Leaders are adaptable – they see change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

• Leaders are human. They make mistakes – when they do so, they readily admit it.

• Leaders reflect on and learn from their mistakes – they see errors as a chance to improve their skills.

• Leaders enjoy challenge. They are prepared to take risks and encourage others to do likewise – if they fail, they treat the exercise as a learning experience.

• Leaders focus on the future, not the past. They anticipate trends and prepare for them – they develop a vision for their team and communicate it to them.

• Leaders are open to new ideas – they demonstrate their receptiveness by supporting change.

• Leaders treat staff as individuals – they give closer attention to those that need it and lots of space to those that deserve it.

• Leaders encourage and reward co-operation within and between teams.

Team Leadership

• Leaders develop guidelines with their team – they constantly enlarge the guidelines as the team becomes willing to accept more responsibility.

• Leaders change their role according to the demands of the team – for example, they become more of a coach or facilitator.

• Leaders listen to their team members.

• Leaders involve people in finding new ways to achieve agreed-upon goals.

• Leaders create the opportunity for group participation and recognize that only team members can make the choice to participate.

In Summary

Without managers, the visions of leaders remain dreams. Leaders need managers to convert visions into realities. For continuous success, organizations need both managers and leaders. However, as most seem to be over-managed and under-led, they need to find ways of having both at the same time. Perhaps the best way to handle this paradox is for managers to aim to be managers when viewed from above, leaders when viewed from below and to remember that the need for leadership grows as we move up the organization. This is only one of the challenges that can make working life fun

Six powerful prospecting tips

Why is it that some sales reps consistently earn a six-figure annual income while other reps, putting in the same hours, selling the same products and trained by the same sales manager struggle each month financially to make ends meet? The answer to this question is painfully simple: the six-figure sales reps spend more time on the phone and never forget to ask for referrals!

Top producers don’t need to be told to ask for referrals or follow up on hot leads, because they understand that prospecting is a necessity and not just an activity. The good news is that prospecting for new business, like any other skill, can be trained and developed into a habit.

Here are six powerful prospecting tips to build your business.

 1. Don’t forget to ask for referrals

When it comes to asking for referrals, timing is everything. Research indicates that the most effective time to ask for referrals is right after you’ve made the sale or provided a valuable service for your customer.

Asking for referrals prior to closing the sale is a big mistake and may even jeopardize the sale itself. Once the sale has been completed, your customer will be on an “emotional high” and far more receptive to the idea of providing you referrals.

2. Train and reward your advocates

An advocate is a person who’s willing to go out of his or her way to recommend you to a friend or associate. Most customers are initially reluctant to provide referrals without some basic training and motivation.

Once you’re given a prospect, it’s a good idea to take the time to role-play with your advocate to demonstrate how to approach and talk to their referral. A brief role-playing exercise will build your advocate’s confidence and keep them from over educating their referrals. During your role-play session, be sure to prepare your advocate to expect some initial resistance. This training will pay big dividends by making your advocate more effective and less likely to become discouraged when faced with rejection.

Always take the time to thank your advocates and give them feedback on the status of their referrals. I recommend that you call them and then follow up by sending a thank you card and or gift.

3. Strike while the iron is HOT

Prospects, like food in your refrigerator, are perishable and therefore need to be contacted quickly. Each day you let slip by without making initial contact with your referral dramatically reduces the probability of you making the sale. Develop the habit of contacting your referrals within two-business days or sooner.

Have a system to keep track of your referrals so they don’t end up falling through the cracks. It’s critical to have a computerised client contact management system to record your remarks and track future contacts and appointments. Relying on your memory alone is a very poor business decision that will cost you dearly.

 4. Schedule a minimum of two-hours a day for phone calling

Make your phone calls in the morning while you and your referrals are both fresh and alert. Treat your prospecting time with the same respect you would give to any other important appointment. This is not the time to check your emails, play solitaire on the computer, make personal phone calls or chat with your associates.

Avoid the temptation to try and sell your product or service over the phone. Your objective for every phone call is to create interest, gather information and make an appointment. If your prospect asks you a question, get in the habit of going for an appointment rather than giving a quick response.

Don’t shoot from the hip; use a script. It’s important to use a phone script when you contact your prospect so you don’t leave out any key information. It’s a good idea to role-play your script over the phone with your sales manager until he or she feels you sound confidence and professional.

 5. Qualify your prospect at maximum range

Unfortunately, not every prospect will be interested or qualified financially to purchase your products or services. Successful sales reps don’t waste time chasing after low-probability prospects and know when it’s time to cut their losses and move on.

 6. Don’t take rejection personally.

Selling, like baseball, is a numbers game, pure and simple. Rejection is to be anticipated as a natural aspect of the qualification process, so don’t take it personally. Learn from rejection by using it as a valuable feedback mechanism. Salespeople who take rejection personally lack perseverance and seldom make the sale.

For the majority of salespeople, prospecting for new business is without a doubt the most challenging and stressful aspect of the selling process. Selling is a contact sport and daily prospecting for new business is the key to every salesperson’s long-term financial success. By integrating these six powerful prospecting tips into your daily business routine, you’ll be able to keep 

The power of positive thinking in sales

In aviation, the word “attitude” is a term that refers to the angle that the plane meets the wind, if the wings are level with the horizon and whether the aircraft is climbing or descending. The pilot who fails to take responsibility for the attitude of his or her aircraft is in serious trouble. And likewise, any leader who fails to control his or her thoughts and take responsibility for their attitude runs a similar risk.

As a sales manager, you not only set the pace for your sales team, but you’re responsible for setting the tone as well. For better or worse, the leader’s attitude is contagious and permeates throughout their organization. Positive, upbeat companies are always led by positive, upbeat managers. While we’re not always able to control our circumstances, we can and must control how we respond to life’s difficulties, setbacks and challenges. We have a choice about how our day is going to be.

What do you say?

How often do you talk to yourself and what do you say?

Research in the field of psychology indicates that the average person maintains an ongoing mental dialog, or “self-talk,” of between 150 – 300 words per minute. Unfortunately, not all of these thoughts are positive. In fact, it has been estimated that of the thousands of thoughts we have each day, approximately 40% of them tend to be negative and self-critical in nature. Most of us are generally unaware of this negative background chatter, let alone its sabotaging effect on our emotional state, performance and well-being.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.” – Anonymous

Earl Nightingale, co-founder of the Nightingale-Conant Corp., concluded that life’s “strangest secret” is that you become what you think about all day long. If you want to know where your predominant thoughts lie and what you believe, look at what you’re experiencing in your life. Your thoughts are creative by nature and express themselves through your emotions, which in turn, drive your actions. Everything you say both positive and negative is in fact an affirmation and reflects your belief.

Whatever you think, feel or say about your life today is the scaffolding that builds the events you will experience in the future.

Affirmation and positive self-talk

William Shakespeare said, “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The first step in the process of changing your belief system is to monitor your thoughts and the next step is to control them through the power of choice. Once you become conscious of the critical aspects of your internal dialogue, you can choose to reframe your negative thoughts by substituting affirmative statements.

World-class athletes understand the value of affirmation and recognise the impact of their mental preparation on their physical performance. They use the power of positive affirmation to reduce anxiety and increase their expectation of achievement.

To be of maximum benefit, an affirmation must be simple, encouraging and stated in the present tense. By repeating an affirmation over and over again it becomes embedded in the subconscious mind.

Do affirmations really work and can they propel a person to greatness? As a teenager beginning his boxing career in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay would frequently affirm, “I am the greatest of all time!” While many considered him boastful and few took this 89 nine pound, 12-year-old seriously, Mohammad Ali used the power of affirmation to become the greatest boxer of all time and arguably the most recognisable sports figure in the world.

Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” Your belief system, like your computer, doesn’t judge what you input; it simply accepts it as the truth. The key to cultivating and maintaining a positive mental attitude is to use your power of choice and take control of your thinking. It’s a challenging task to develop a calm, focused mind, but well worth the effort.

Action plan

Here are some suggestions to help you have a good day every day.

Establish the habit of getting up early.

Upon rising, read or listen to something positive and inspirational. Clinical studies indicate that our mind is most receptive to suggestion during the first 15-minutes upon awakening. Here are some books that will help you start your day off on the right foot.

How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Sellingby Frank Bettger

The Magic Of Believingby Claude M Bristol

You’ll See It When You Believe Itby Dr Wayne W Dyer

The Power Of Positive Thinkingby Dr Norman Vincent Peale

Think and Grow Richby Dr Napoleon Hill

Psycho-Cyberneticsby Dr Maxwell Maltz

Take a few moments to consider the upcoming activities of your day. Visualise events flowing. See people accept your ideas and your day unfolding in a harmonious and productive way. This is a good time to verbalise your affirmations.

Take time for some physical exercise.

At noon, take a 10-minute mental break to relax and replenish your energy