Tag Archives | sales tips

Why do sales people make things so hard for themselves?

heBuying is a great way to learn about selling. Some years ago I worked with an organisation and several of their members became interested in using a particular product. Because I knew about these products they asked me to contact the vendor to arrange a meeting and negotiate a group deal. So I contacted the vendor’s CEO who confirmed that they would be delighted to meet up and arrange a group deal. Their VP Sales was cc’ed on this response and I was told he’d be in touch.

Over a month later I hadn’t heard a thing. Frankly if I’d been buying the product for my own company I would have gone elsewhere. But my client’s members were still interested so I persevered, a meeting was arranged, a deal agreed and business was done. But this was despite their sales guy’s poor follow up on multiple occasions.

The VP Sales was charming and knowledgeable face-to-face and in some ways this might be the root of the problem. Many sales people are charming and knowledgeable and love the face-to-face aspect of their job so much that they lose track of the dull, boring stuff such as following up on actions agreed. But you have to remember that people might buy from you the first time because they like you, but they’ll only buy again if they trust you. And by trust I don’t mean honesty, 99.9% of us are honest, I mean trust in the sense of knowing that what you say, you’ll do.

If you find it difficult to follow up promptly on your meetings, it’s up to you to improve your time management skills and effectiveness.


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Judge me by my questions

We all know that asking questions, particularly open questions is a key sales behaviour. We also know some of the reasons for this. The primary one being that you need to understand your customers issues, situation, problems, goals, priorities, hopes and aspirations before you can begin helping them through your product or service.

That's a very good question

But there is another very important reason why questions are so important. The 18th century philosopher Voltaire captured it when he said “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Any fool can stand up and parrot a Powerpoint presentation. But when you ask that hit-the-nail-on-the-head quality question that stops your customer in their tracks and makes them think; that is when you show that you really do understand the issues they face. You often know when this has happened because they tell you! ”Hmmmm… that’s a very good question”.

As with all things in sales and life in general the ability to do this is part inspiration (which comes from experience) and part persperation (preperation). When you research your customer before the meeting (I’m sure you do that) you should be able to put together two or three questions really specific to them and/or their market.

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Eye contact may not be such a great way to persuade (Psychology Today)

Eye contact and selling

Is more eye contact the answer?

David DiSalvo recently wrote in Psychology Today about the latest research on the role of eye contact in persuasion. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it appears that in some circumstances too much direct eye contact can be detrimental to getting your point across.

From a sales perspective, this makes sense to me. If you have a relationship with the customer you will automatically tend to have more eye contact. If you don’t know them very well, or they are raising an objection then using too much eye contact can be interpreted as “staring them down”. One thing that I’m certain about is that avoiding eye contact never comes across well.

How and when you look someone in the eyes is such an innate thing that it’s quite difficult to deconstruct what you’re doing (the researchers in the quoted study used the latest eye-tracking technology). Also the sales dynamic should be qualitatively different from that in the study where participants are passively watching a speaker.  In sales we’re aiming for an active conversation with a customer not to just talk at them. So who is talking, who’s listening, who’s taking notes, who’s thinking, who’s presenting at any particular time will all affect eye contact.

In fact this scientific research seems to reinforce the old adage “telling isn’t selling”. Have a read of David’s piece (the first couple of paras are below) and let me know what you think?

Few popular beliefs are as unshakable as, “If you want to influence someone, always make direct eye contact.” But new research suggests that this bit of sturdy pop lore is hardly gospel—in fact, in many circumstances a direct gaze may result in the exact opposite effect.

Researchers from Harvard, the University of British Columbia and the University of Freiberg used newly developed eye-tracking technology to test the claim during two experiments. In the first, they had study participants watch a speaker on video while tracking their eye movements, and then asked how persuaded they were by the speaker. Researchers found that the more time participants spent looking into the speaker’s eyes, the less persuaded they were by the speaker’s argument. The only time looking into the speaker’s eyes correlated with being influenced was when the participants already agreed with the speaker’s opinions.

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Whiteboard every time

whiteboard presentingGeeky types (of which I am one) often debate the pros and cons of software tools. No more so than when it comes to presentation software. Powerpoint is so omnipresent that the word is now almost interchangeable with “presentation” e.g. “She came in and gave a Powerpoint”. However younger, more creative and frankly better-looking folks trumpet the benefits of Keynote when it comes to winning that advertising account. Meantime at the bleeding edge those in the know may use Prezi with its hypnotic, swirling transformations.

Despite my geeky tendencies I suggest that the best tool for sales presentations is a good old fashioned whiteboard. Let me explain why.

Should you be presenting at all?

As we are often reminded, we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that ratio. Our most important goal is to understand the needs of the customer so that we can figure out if/how we can help them. Too often I’ve seen sales and marketing people arrive, exchange pleasantries and then launch with relish into an hour long Powerpoint presentation on how great their company is. Telling isn’t selling.

But I’ve got to tell them something at some point!

Sure you do. At some point the customer will ask you about your company and products. The whole idea is to have a two-way conversation with them, so you can’t keep asking questions forever. It’s not the Spanish Inquisition! But you don’t have to do this as a major presentation. You can tell them the relevant facts about your company and products face-to-face and leave them with the collateral material to back that up.

So where does the whiteboard come in?

The whiteboard is excellent to help test your understanding of the customer’s problem/opportunity and how you can help them. If you start sketching this out on the whiteboard the customer will immediately start correcting you, filling in the gaps and giving you feedback. When you start drawing in how your product can help the effect is more immediate, obvious and relevant. It’s not unusual for a customer to grab a marker and join you… suddenly you’re working together!

Why else?

  • It’s spontaneous and enthusiastic so breaks up and enlivens what might
    otherwise be a dull meeting
  • Once you stand up and grab the marker you are in charge!
  • It’s reliable. As long as there’s ink in the pens (keep one in your bag) a whiteboard can’t crash! We’ve all suffered from computer woes when presenting like this unfortunate TED presenter.
  • There are no distracting special effects. Prezi is a very cool tool, but I often wonder if people are concentrating on the zooming and whirling effects rather than the message.
  • You get to show your competence and understanding of their requirements. Any fool can read from a ppt slide

So it may not be right for every situation, but next time you get the chance leap to your feet and start “talking and chalking”.

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Seven tips to help you set next year’s sales goals

Achieving next year's sales goals

Achieving next year’s sales goals


It’s Q4 (where did the time go?) and whether you’re self-employed, a small business owner or a sales pro now is the time to be setting your sales goals for next year. Most customers are goal and budget setting as well, so it’s is an excellent time to sit down and set targets for the coming year. Here are some goal setting tips for you…

1. Top Down. If you have objectives set by your management they should, of course, be in there. If you have larger personal or life goals they should also feed into your 2010 sales goals.

2. SMART. Make your goals SMART ones…

  • S = Specific. What, why, and how?
  • M = Measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
  • A = Attainable. You probably won’t really commit to a goal that’s out of reach. Too easy and you won’t get that sense of achievement when you get there.
  • R = Realistic. Is it something that is under your control? If not it’s a hope not a goal.
  • T = Timely. Set a timeframe. Include milestones along the way… don’t just set a year-end goal.

3. Make your goals tangible. What will it feel like to achieve those goals? Imagine what you will buy with the commission, what will you do on your President’s Club trip, how will it feel when you get presented with the Sales Person of the Year award at the next annual sales meeting? Use all of your senses here… imagine what that champagne will taste like!

4. Include professional goals as well as sales targets. What job do you want to be doing this time next year? Do you want to move to another company? Do you want to set up on your own as a rep? What new skills do you want to attain in the next year?

5. Learn from your mistakes. Take the opportunity to look back on the last year. What did you do well, what could you have improved upon and how? What will you do differently this year?

6. Reward yourself along the way. Regardless of what your company’s reward policy might be, give yourself some treats along the way for goals/milestones achieved.

7. Keep the number of goals manageable. Nobody was ever one-sixteenth committed to anything. Better to have two really crunchy, very specific, achievable goals than sixteen flaky goals including how often you should back-up your PC.

Good luck and good selling for the next year.

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First thing to do in the New Year – Make that difficult call

Make that difficult call now

Make that difficult call now

I was wondering what’s the most productive thing that you can do now that we’re back after the holidays. How about making that difficult call that you’ve been procrastinating about for a while?

We all have customers or prospects who we’ve been trying to contact for a while, but perhaps we’re not too unhappy that we didn’t manage to do so at the end of the year. Either we’re not sure if our product or service is a good fit for them, or we’ve dealt with them before and it hasn’t been a lot of fun.

Well now’s the ideal time to make that call. We’re rested and ready to go, so are they, and who knows, chances are that their “gatekeeper” isn’t even back from the holidays. It’s always difficult to get responses from people at the end of the year as they try and get projects finished before the year-end, put together budgets for this year, etc so now’s the ideal time. So pick up that phone now…