Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Use Layering Questions

When first speaking with a new prospect, you want to find out as much about them as possible. They have all of the answers as to why or why not they will buy. It's your job to uncover them so you can make the sale. How do you do that without sounding like you're playing 20 Questions? Sales trainer Mike Brooks is an expert on scripts, and believes layering questions are an essential part of them. Read on for his advice on layering your questions to get the most information as possible.

"Only the top sales reps use layering questions, and the reason they are so valuable is because they get your prospect to go a little deeper into an area of interest they have, or in an area of concern," says Brooks. "By scripting out and using layering questions, you will be able to fully understand what is driving your prospect to make a decision, and/or why your prospect might not be ready to do business with you."

Here are some examples from Brooks of layering questions you can use during the prospecting phase to learn who and what is motivating the buying decision:

When qualifying to find out who is involved in the decision process, you're going to start with a nice assumptive question like:

"Besides yourself, who else is involved in the decision process?"

And when they say their spouse, manager, or boss, etc., you then layer the question by asking:

"And what do you think they would do?" Or, "What direction are they leaning in regards to this?" Or, "What do they usually do in this kind of situation?"

You can also use layering questions to expose objections before you get ambushed by them when closing:

If your prospect is looking at other vendors, ask:

"Tell me __________, who else are you looking at in regards to this solution?"

Then follow up with these layering questions:

"And which companies look good to you so far?" Or, "Who are you leaning towards right now?" Or, "If you had to make a decision today, who would you go with?"

And then ask, "Why is that?"

"You must listen carefully to each response you get because your prospects will often reveal the objection that is going to kill your sale later on," continues Brooks. "Top 20% reps would rather know this information now rather than send out their info, go through the trouble of trying to track them down, go through a long presentation, and then get the no."

"Layering questions are effective, powerful and easy to ask. If you want to get instantly better, then use the two above (or adapt them to your sale), and begin to write more of your own."

Mike Brooks,, is creator and publisher of the "Top 20% Inside Sales Tips" weekly Ezine. If you're ready to Double Your Income Selling Over the Phone, then sign up to receive your FREE tips now at:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are You Recovery-Ready?

When will this recession be over? I certainly don't know, but the stock markets have been looking up lately. It's always best to be prepared. Sales trainer Tom Reilly has a few points to get you ready to take advantage of the future economic recovery and sell like crazy!

"The indicators I watch all point to our beginning the climb out of the economic trough we have been in," says Reilly. "Will it be a fire-hose thrust as the spigot opens or a long, slow slog? I don't know. But I do know that you must be ready and first in line to drink from that spigot. Are you ready for the recovery?"

Being recovery-ready means three things:

1. Are you lean? Have you shed yourself of the fat you accumulated during our recent expansion? Companies get lean when they re-examine their infrastructure, simplify and sculpt for efficiency and growth. Salespeople get lean when they abandon bad or lazy sales habits.

2. Are you focused? Organizations focus when they direct all of their resources at their core business and shed the excess of success. This includes markets and line extensions that never made sense. Salespeople focus when they concentrate on their high-value target accounts and shed their profit piranhas.

3. Are you prepared mentally?
How is your attitude? How much studying have you done? This slack period has been a gift of time for those who used it to train and increase their knowledge. If you haven't used this time prudently to reinvent yourself to relevance, how will you do this as the spigot opens? You will be too busy scrambling for business. Those who used this time to increase their skills and knowledge will capture most of the value during recovery.

During the last recession, 15% new industry leaders emerged. Do you think they had a plan and made themselves recovery-ready? You know they did.

Tom Reilly, president of Tom Reilly Training, is an authority on value-added selling, and speaks to thousands of salespeople and managers annually on increasing their value to their company and customers. Learn more at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Be Bold, Take Chances

I love stories with creative ideas for getting through to a prospect or client - they inspire me to try new things as well! While you may not be ready to be as creative as sales trainer Joe Guertin was, read his story and be inspired. A little creativity never hurt anyone!

Years ago, I made a sales call on a fast food franchiser...decked out in full uniform, from the shirts their counter people wore to their little hat and name tag. There were more than a few moments where I thought I'd get ridiculed for looking stupid. Instead, the client was impressed! The buyer said I was the only one who looked ready to go to work for them...and the sale was made on the spot. (Thanks, Glenda, for making me do it.)

"Don't Be Afraid to Innovate; Be Different." That's one of the Ten Secrets to Success, a feature of Investors Business Daily, touting their best strategies for succeeding in business and life. "Following the herd," they say, "is a sure way to mediocrity." Very true. If you want to blend in with the pack, just do what they do.

A lot of times, buyers have a hard time telling one 'vendor' from another because they all say the same things ("we can save you money" or "we're the best at..."). In today's high-stress business arena, sales superstars stand out and get noticed.

You don't have to act the fool to get noticed, but you should look for ways to break away from the pack. It might be with content-driven voice mail messages or creative mailings that stand out and say "this is unique!" I know of salespeople who deliberately use props in their presentations.

Be professional always, but standing out and getting noticed is a sure-fire way to boost sales, and make it a lot more fun.

Joe Guertin specializes in new business and selling value vs. price. As a sought-after speaker and consultant, Joe has worked with thousands of salespeople, managers and business principals to measurable boost internal sales systems, customer development and team skill-building. Learn more at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Worry often gives a small thing a great shadow." -- Swedish Proverb

Are you looking for more stuff to worry about? Somehow I doubt it! We all have plenty to stress over without letting small issues become bigger than they need to be - but it's so easy to let just that happen.

If you're anxious about something, take a minute to calm down. Go get something to drink, put water on your face, call a friend - anything to take your mind off it for a minute. Then go back to the issue and write down what needs to be done - and ways you can accomplish it quickly. Once you've taken some time to assess the situation with a clear head and logical view, you'll feel better and the great shadow will be gone!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Build a Fortress

There's a battle brewing outside your office. Teams are planning their strategies and getting ready to execute long-prepared plans. But what exactly is worth all the trouble? Your biggest client. Sales trainer Tim Rohrer knows what it's like to defend oneself against attacking competitors. Heed his advice to keep those big clients strongly on your side.

"The vast majority of us have an account with whom we do more business than anyone else in our industry," says Rohrer. "Whether the reason is our better service, our better price, our better selection, our better location, our better relationship or any combination thereof, we are somebody's preferred provider. And, our competition knows it."

"Our dominance with this account is the subject of sales meetings, strategy sessions and after hours angst," Rohrer continues. "Our competitors seethe over their losses. It doesn't matter if they enjoy more wins than we do, they still want to win our best account and they will stop at nothing. Our only defense is to build a fortress."

Here's how:

1) Dig deep into the account to build trusting relationships. Just as the best fortresses have multiple defenses so, too, must you. When your attacker scales the outer wall, there must be another wall that may not have been visible from the outside. And, then maybe a moat or a dragon.

a. Of course, you already have a great relationship with the primary decision maker. Ask your ally to introduce you to the secondary decision makers and the support staff.
b. Get your boss involved with your decision maker's boss. Just as you want to be more involved, you want your client to be more involved with your company.

2) Understand how you became and why you still are the preferred provider. Your fortress is worthless if you choose to defend against the wrong kind of attack. That can happen if you don't know exactly why your best client loves you so much. Sellers have a lot of pride and it is common for the successful seller to believe the account has reached its status because they love him so much. Maybe they do but is that the reason your company has become the preferred provider in your industry? Just to be on the safe side you need to ask and the best way to do this is to have someone other than the seller do the asking.

3) Do an honest assessment of your attacker's strengths.
Your competition is almost always stronger than you give them credit for. And, if they aren't strong enough to mount a decent attack right now, you should count on them getting that way in the near future. Your fortress doesn't need to meet today's minimum requirements. Your fortress must be strong enough to deter your attackers even as they strengthen and become more sophisticated. The key to making sure you aren't vulnerable even as your competition gets better is to act as if you are still trying to win over the account. In other words, don't just service the account - continue to sell it!

4) Go on the offensive.
Your fortress has weapons and you shouldn't be shy about using them. Make the enemy back off by launching an attack against their best account. By making them defend their turf you may get them to back off for a short while. Use the time to shore up your defenses!

Are you inspired? Get your shield and start protecting your accounts!

A recognized leader in sales, sales management and sales training, Tim Rohrer is available for speaking engagements and consulting. Contact him at and check out his blog at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You Have to Ask for the Sale

Telesales expert Art Sobczak makes a lot of great points through his stories and experiences. Here's one that reminds you to take the step and ask for the sale.

I needed my home gutters cleaned, so I went to the classified section of the paper and called four of the advertisers and told each that I needed my gutters cleaned.

I did not say I was shopping, or looking for the lowest price. Each gave me their price, then was silent. The first one who asked for the business was going to get it. Which happened to be the last one.

"It will be $65. I can be there tomorrow, OK?"


If you handle calls where inquirers call for information such as availability and price quotes, make it a point to always ask for the sale before you hang up. They are going to buy from someone. Why would they call otherwise? It should be from you.

Too often I'll hear reps handle calls, burn trails through the company looking for specific information, and then provide it to the caller. The rep waits passively, then they hear, "Oh, OK, well, I'll get back to you. It looks pretty good."

Instead, make it a habit to say, "Yes, we have that in stock. It's only $496. How many should I ship you?"

Or, if the request requires work on your part and you'll need to get back to the caller, ensure you're not working for free. "I'll be happy to check this for you. Tell me about your project. How does this fit in?"

Get them talking about their situation. After learning more, should you even decide the work will be worth the effort, ask them, "Great, after I find this for you, assuming it's satisfactory, how many will you be getting from us?"

Then you can ask, "So, what would be satisfactory?"

It's tough enough to find opportunities. Be sure you are taking advantage of the ones that show up at your door with money to spend. Help them get what they want - from you.

Art Sobczak helps sales pros use the phone to prospect, service and sell more effectively, while eliminating morale-killing rejection. To get FREE weekly emailed TelE-Sales Tips visit:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prospects Buy on Their Time

Don't you just hate it when a prospect doesn't buy from you when you think they should?

Sales trainer Steve Martinez knows the feeling, especially the sense of confusion regarding why they won't buy now. "We have a tendency to expect prospects to see our viewpoint and when they don't make the move we expect, we wonder why," says Martinez. Here's what he has to say on this frustrating subject:

Most prospects aren't ready to invest when we expect or want them to.

So, the question is, what do you do when they aren't ready to buy?

1. We can piss them off and hammer them with other options and try to close harder.
2. We can seek to understand their point of view and then offer a solution that matches better.
3. We can wait until they are ready and keep them on the drip-marketing list.
4. We can question them and try to identify what is the hidden reason(s) they aren't ready.

Most of the time, an objection is really a question. It could be more than one question and the secret is to understand what is rolling around in their heads. The customer could be waiting for just about anything and they could just feel that they aren't ready. In many cases, the customer doesn't agree with you that you have proven your point and developed the value you will give them to part with the investment.

It could also be that they aren't ready - it could be that simple.

If they aren't ready, they aren't ready and you might be better off waiting for them, just not forgetting them.

Too many salespeople and businesses don't have a plan to keep themselves at the top of their prospects' minds so that when a prospect is ready, they will move forward with an opportunity. You have to create top of mind awareness. Be the one that has a plan, be the one that your prospects don't forget and you will win more deals. Create and develop a sales pipeline that creates and develops the relationship for you, automatically with a drip marketing campaign. Your prospects will ripen like fruit on a tree and you will generate a harvest of over flowing opportunities. You just need a plan that does this for you.

Steve Martinez is a leading authority on automating and systemizing the selling process. His company, Selling Magic, LLC teaches businesses how to simplify, balance and automate the complex selling process. Learn more at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five Simple Things You Can Do Every Day to Improve Your Bottom Line

Prospecting is the most essential part of building business. Yes, client retention and customer service are important, but you can't do those things without having the clients in the first place!

According to sales trainer Colleen Francis, "The key to successful prospecting is to make it a daily habit. Never let a day go by without doing at least one thing to generate new business. Recognize that each time you do this; you're putting new potential leads into your funnel. With time, your commitment to that one simple act will bring great results, including a boost to your bottom line."

Let's look a bit closer at those daily prospecting habits. Here are five simple things you can do every day to refine your skills.

1. Pick up the phone. One of your most powerful selling tools is sitting right there on your desk. Pick up the phone and make a new call to a new potential lead. Successful people who are in the top ten percent of any organization will tell you that this habit is vital for finding new leads and turning them into customers. Not every call is going to result in a new sale. And sales are not the only reason why you need to pick up that phone every day. Talking to people builds your confidence and teaches you to fine-tune your listening skills. Both of those will help you go a long way to meeting your sales goals.

2. Go to a networking event. Whether it's a sales seminar or a charity golf tournament, a networking event is your opportunity to show your face in the community and to meet new people. To be clear, no one is there to buy anything, so no pitching! People at networking events are most definitely keen on making new connections...and new connections can lead to some great relationships. Make time for events in your business calendar, and always be on the lookout for new ones by subscribing to email distribution lists for social events in your area or by joining business- or trade-related groups on social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.

3. Send an email. The third thing you can do to hone your prospecting skills is to send an email to a prospective customer to follow-up on an earlier discussion. It costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time and the mere act of reaching out to someone helps to cement the relationship you have with that person. Don't fall victim to the "out of sight, out of mind" principle. Stay on your prospect's radar. Remember that for every 30 days your prospects goes without hearing from you, they lose 10% of their potential value to you.

4. Rekindle.
Maybe there's a reason why that's happened. A quick note or phone call is often all it takes to rekindle that business relationship you once had with a client and that can result in some pretty exciting leads. Reviving lost customers can be a profitable way to generate business now.

5. Call a satisfied customer. Call a customer that you know who is really happy with your services. You can call just to say hello, you can share with them a business-related tip, a link to a great news article you just finished reading, or you can even take the opportunity to ask for a referral or a testimonial. Satisfied customers, especially those that you have recently started to work with, have already seen the benefits of the product you sell or the service you provide. Staying in touch and remaining a familiar face is how you reinforce that positive experience.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions. Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line. Learn more at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much." -- Robert Greenleaf

Here's advice I can't say enough: once you've made initial contact with a prospect, ask them a question and then be quiet. What can you ask? Ask about what's worked well for them, what problems they're having with suppliers, what they would ideally want from a supplier, or just how they're doing - but once they start talking, you don't!

Even when you think they're done speaking, give it a couple seconds. They might just have one more thing to say. No matter what, you'll have gathered a lot of information to help you move along in your sales process.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Leave Your Comfort Zone

To be great in selling, you must have a willingness to leave your comfort zone. For a lot of people, every day spent reaching out to strangers is a struggle - but it has to be done. Sales trainer Tom Black believes you can't be a great salesperson without reaching outside your comfort zone. Here's his take on the constant struggle to gain confidence in sales.

Sometimes it's in the approach. You just hate to make a cold call, knock on a door, or pick up the phone and call someone you don't know.

Sometimes it's in the set-up. You just hate to ask the prospects questions about their business, their children, or whatever.

Sometimes it's when you close. You just hate to bring the prospect to a point of decision.

Sometimes it's in the follow-up. You just hate to hear another objection or stall.

Sometimes it's when you ask for money or payment. You say: "Can't we just send them a bill?"

Maybe it's all of these, but whatever it is that's uncomfortable, to be great you must overcome it

For me, it's the close. When I was selling books for the Southwestern Company, laundry day would come, and I'd be surprised each week at how fast the toes of my socks were wearing out. I thought it was the brand of socks I was buying, and then it dawned on me - I dug my toes into my shoes every time I closed.

That's how I dealt with the uncomfortable feeling of asking a prospect to buy. Get your own trick that gets you through it, but get through it and stop making excuses. Great pro baseball players swing a bat the way a coach taught them, not like they would naturally. They left their comfort zones. Part of your attitude must be that you are willing to be emotionally uncomfortable in order to perform at the highest level.

Based in Nashville, Tenn., The Tom Black Center for Selling offers customized sales training services to national clients of all sizes in a wide range of fields. Areas of specialization include basic sales skills, key account strategies, sales management training and keynote speeches. Learn more at

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Best Sales Practices - Part 2

The basics are important - especially in sales. Today sales trainer Colleen Stanley continues where she left off yesterday with the important basics you have to be comfortable with to be a top salesperson.

Get Rid of Arrogance
A top producer that has achieved the "top of the hill" status can quickly move to the bottom of the hill because of arrogance. Arrogant individuals stop learning because, after all, they are the best in the business. What can they possibly learn after 20 years in the profession? The real issue is that young, hungry, competitors haven't caught the disease of arrogance. The competition continues to learn, change and grow. The result is a new king or queen of the hill looking down at a stunned, retired past king or queen.

Get Focused
A poor producer can work very hard. Lack of sales isn't from lack of effort; it's that the effort is focused on the wrong prospect, activity and partnerships. Top producers have clearly identified their ideal client and have built a strategy around meeting, influencing, and creating value for that specific client. They are very clear on who they will sell and what they will sell. Top producers walk away from prospects that don't fit their ideal profile; leaving them more time to walk towards best-fit clients. They leave the price shopping prospects to their competitors who get to invest all their time in writing proposals that go nowhere.

Manage Your Time
Top producers are good at calendaring. They set aside very specific times each week for business development (prospecting calls, client retention calls, calls updating referral partners, etc.). Top producers have discipline and don't allow outside distractions to deter them from their most important appointment - the appointment with themselves and working their plan.

Invest in Yourself
Top producers don't wait for someone else to make them good (I.e. I will only attend a sales training course if the company is picking up the tab). I am reminded of a client, "Jill," who came to me seven years ago. She was an administrative assistant desiring to enter the sales profession. Her current employer would not offer her a sales position because they just didn't think an administrative assistant could sell. Jill believed she had the ability to be very good in sales and invested her own time and money in sales training. She eventually applied for a sales position at another firm and became the number one salesperson at the new firm. Jill did not wait to get good based on someone else's beliefs or dollars.

Get Going
Are you getting ready to get ready? Listen up: Perfection is highly overrated. While you are waiting to get all the research done on a prospect, perfecting your technique, or redoing your PowerPoint one last time, the salesperson that is showing up is getting the deal. Strive for perfection, but don't wait on perfection.

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, and hiring/selection. Learn more at

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sales Best Practices

We know you're constantly working to improve your sales skills, and there's no better place to start than with the basics. Sales trainer Colleen Stanley has outlined the important basic skills and traits of top salespeople - master these and you'll have a solid sales foundation.

1. Ask for Help
Average producers are not good at asking for help. This may stem from lack of confidence in not wanting to be transparent about a weakness in their selling process. Lack of asking for help may also come from not being committed to doing what it takes to succeed. If you ask for advice, people expect you to execute on the advice. Top producers, on the other hand, are confident and have no problem admitting they are not perfect. They are also committed to do what it takes to become excellent in their profession. Top producers seek out advisors and mentors. I have also noticed they are the best students during a sales training course. They bring case studies for review or call for extra coaching. Top producers understand that no one gets great by themselves.

2. Sales Activity
When I first entered the sales training profession, I had a sales coach. The first question asked during our weekly coaching sessions was, "Tell me about your sales activity plan." At first, I found this question puzzling. I was in the sale guru business. Wasn't he supposed to ask me about my ability to find "pain" on a call or uncover corporate decision-making process? This wise coach understood that the sales training business is no different than any other business. If my sales activity plan didn't lead me to prospects, it didn't matter how good my selling or training skills one would ever know! Top revenue producers understand that a consistent sales activity plan is the key to finding new clients and driving revenue.

3. Eliminate Excuses
Poor producers spend most of their time discussing excuses that prevent them from making their sales goal; i.e. increased competition, problems with operations issues at the company, or the current market. Top producers invest most of their time discussing how to achieve results, how to beat increased competition, ways to improve/work around operations issues, and how to sell regardless of economic issues. Top producers live by the mantra, "We are judged only by results, not by excuses."

4. Lose Your Mediocre Friends
Remember your mom saying, "Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you what you are like." (Okay, so maybe it was just my mother.) This quote is absolutely true in sales. Tell me who you "hang" with and I will tell you what you are like. Mediocre performers like to "hang" with other mediocre performers. The bar for success is low and membership criteria is easy...expect and accept less. The weekly agenda for meetings is always predictable and preset: Bring one new excuse for discussion.

We'll be back tomorrow with more best practices from Colleen Stanley. See you then!

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, referral strategies, consultative sales training, sales management training, and hiring/selection. Learn more at

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Should I Buy From You?

Here's a challenge from sales and business coach Tessa Stowe: Tell me in 30 seconds why I should buy from you over your competition. Don't read any farther until you do this.

How did you do? Did you include any of the following in your response?

-We have been in business for x years.
-We have great support and care about our customers.
-Our products are proven, best of breed, flexible, etc.
-We are industry leaders.
-We have lots of clients.

Look back at what you said. Does your competition say any of these things as well? Be totally honest. Put a line through each item you listed that your competition would also say (whether it is true or not), because your prospect will ignore it when he or she compares you to your competition.

I'm not saying that having great support, experience, products, clients, and so on is not important and absolutely essential. I'm saying that, if your competition also says they have those things, your prospect will probably not take them into consideration when comparing you.

So, after putting a line through each "me too" item, what are you left with?
What you are left with is what your prospects will see as the differences between you and your competition.

Now ask yourself:

--Do your prospects care enough about these remaining differences to choose you over your competition?
--Do these remaining differences make you the obvious choice over your competition?
--Would you choose you over your competition if these were the only differences?
--Have you been conveying these differences in all your interactions with your prospects?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your prospects will have to struggle to work out why they should buy from you, and you will have to struggle to make sales.

To eliminate this struggle for both you and your prospect, work out a crystal-clear answer to the question, "Why should I buy from you?"

Then, when you have your crystal-clear answer, make sure you convey all or parts of it in every interaction with your prospects - in meetings, in demonstrations, in presentations, in marketing materials, in proposals...everywhere you come into contact with prospects. Your objective is that, when you win the sale and someone asks your prospects why they chose you, their answer will be identical to your crystal-clear answer!

When you have a crystal-clear answer as to why prospects should buy from you, your enthusiasm and confidence will soar. You will be enthusiastic about helping your prospects because you will be confident in why you are absolutely the best solution for them. Enthusiasm and confidence are contagious: Your prospects will pick them up, and they will become enthusiastic and confident about working with you and becoming your client.

To work out the answer, try brainstorming first. Then ask your current clients why they bought from you. Then brainstorm a bit more. If you want to try some "out of the box" thinking, take what you perceive as your biggest weakness and reframe it so it is your biggest strength in the eyes of your prospects. For example, if you are small, how could that be a strength?

Make it a top priority to work out the answer to "Why should I buy from you?" If you do, you will make more sales faster and at higher prices.

Tessa Stowe teaches small business owners and recovering salespeople simple steps to turn conversations into clients without being sales-y or pushy. Her free monthly Sales Conversation newsletter is full of tips on how to sell your services by just being yourself. Sign up now at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quote of the Week

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." -- Michael Altshuler

Are you working harder to squeeze in more time for prospecting calls, proposals, and meetings? If you are, great job - every little bit gets you closer to the sale. Of course, you shouldn't have to work a twelve-hour day to get it all done.

It's important to thoroughly examine your day for time-wasters. For one day, keep a notebook handy and write down what you did about every hour or so. Doing this will allow you to see time pitfalls you may not have thought of before and allow you to make adjustments so you're able to spend more time outside of the office.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Keeping Your Job in an Uncertain Economy - Part 2

Yesterday we relayed sales speaker and author Jeb Blount's first three rules for holding onto your sales job in an uncertain economy. Today we'll share his last two - but keep in mind, they are excellent rules for anyone to follow, no matter their job situation.

Rule Four - Make No Enemies: Unfortunately, in most companies, non-salespeople don't like sales professionals. This dislike is motivated mostly by jealousy. The other people in your company are jealous because you work less, have a flexible lifestyle, go on the award trips, and out earn almost everyone - including top executives. Because of these feelings, your non-sales co-workers are looking for a reason to hate you. Normally this is not such a big deal. However, in a recessionary economy, you must not create enemies; and if you have enemies, do whatever you can to repair those relationships. Be flexible with demands and difficult people. Bend over backwards to accommodate. Let insults and affronts to your character roll off your back. Smile. Be polite and respectful. Stay away from office politics at all times. Never say a disparaging word about anyone because it will get back to them.

Rule Five - Have a Back-up Plan:
It is always easier to find a new job when you have a job - especially if you are at the top of your game. Even in a recessionary economy top sales professionals are in demand. The proof of this are the more than 100,000 sales jobs currently listed on Unfortunately, many people only start searching for their next sales job the day they get fired or laid-off. You must be prepared. Start by getting your resume in order - get a professional service to put it together for you if you don't have time. Post your resume on job boards where you can hide your personal information. Begin searching online to get a feel for the sales jobs that are available and which companies and industries are expanding. Build and nurture your professional network now. It will be too late if you end up on the street. Most importantly, keep your eyes and ears open. Pay close attention to the moves your company makes. Don't make any career changes in haste or in a panic. But, if after careful consideration, you feel like your demise is inevitable and you are about to be cut, take action to make a change while you are still employed.

Jeb Blount is the founder and CEO of, author of Power Principles, and considered one of the leading experts on sales and sales management.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Keeping Your Job in an Uncertain Economy

Do you feel lucky to have a job? I know I feel lucky, and would like to do whatever I can to keep the paychecks coming. With that said, Jeb Blount, founder of, has some excellent tips to keep you from being next in the line of lay-offs. His five rules are great advice. Follow them no matter what your situation. People will be impressed with your work ethic and want to keep you as a part of their team.

Rule One - Activity Is Everything: Complete all of your customer visits, make all of your prospecting calls, hit all your new appointment and closing appointment targets. Even if you are not at quota you don't want anyone questioning your activity. If you are achieving your activity targets but not hitting quota, the economy, not you, may get the blame. Activity is tangible. It can be measured, analyzed, and reported up. When you hit your activity targets the perception is that you are working hard and toeing the company line. Your company and your boss are more likely to invest in and keep the salespeople they perceive to be hard workers. One more note here - be sure that your reports and paper work are perfect and always on time and keep your CRM updated.

Rule Two - Don't Complain: You are stressed out, your company is cutting back, the boss is more demanding, and things are changing. You may even be asked to take a pay cut. Heed this warning: DO NOT COMPLAIN. Don't complain to anyone, for any reason, at any time -- no matter what. If you complain to co-workers, they will use your words to throw you under the bus and save their own hides. The last thing the boss wants to deal with is a complainer. The boss is likely much more stressed than you are. She doesn't need you to remind her of how bad she already feels for reducing entertainment expenses, cutting spiffs, or having to announce that the annual awards trip has been canceled. So learn to keep your mouth shut. Instead, start repeating to yourself, "I'm lucky to have this job." or "It could be worse; I could be unemployed." Keep a smile on your face, accept things as they are, and stay focused on your activity targets.

Rule Three - Become Indispensable: In the past when companies downsized it was always last in, first out. Today, however, most organizations choose who goes and who stays based on productivity. In other words, people who generate more value for the organization stay. Being indispensable means more than just doing your sales job perfectly. It means volunteering for projects, looking for ways to add value, and consistently asking the boss if there is anything you can do to help. Change your way of thinking about work - the party is over for Work/Life Balance. Right now your job must become everything. Devote yourself to it - even if it means putting other things (like time with your family) aside. Work longer hours, be seen often, and always offer to lend a hand. Your goal is to create the perception that you are an employee the organization cannot live without.

We'll finish up with Blount's rules tomorrow - in the meantime, take the first three to heart.

Jeb Blount is the founder and CEO of, author of Power Principles, and considered one of the leading experts on sales and sales management.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Which Toxic Sales Assets Do You Need to Dump Today?

It's not enough to work harder these days - you also have to work smarter. One way to work smarter is to take a step back to examine your sales skills - what works for you, and what doesn't. Sales expert and author Jill Konrath recently wrote a piece about toxic sales assets that many people have, yet don't realize. Keep an eye out for these during your self-assessment, and you'll be working smarter in no time.

Here are just a few of the toxic sales assets Konrath sees every day.

--Winging It: Failing to adequately prepare for sales calls is enough to get you dismissed or deleted immediately by time-sensitive decision makers.

--Diarrhea of the Mouth: If you're doing the majority of the talking, you're negatively impacting your credibility and connection with your customers.

--Inadequate Knowledge: Today's buyers have no tolerance for sellers who refuse to "pay the price of admission" and haven't researched their organization.

--Product/Service Dumps: The people you're calling on don't care about your offering. Period. If that's your focus, they'll tune you out in no time flat.

--Too Much Too Quick: When you rush the sales or give too much data in one meeting, your prospect gets overwhelmed and pulls back from you.

None of us are immune from screwing up! The key is to be ruthless in analyzing your sales assets. What worked for you in the past may no longer be effective. In fact, it may have actually turned into a toxic sales asset that needs to be removed from your portfolio.

After every call, analyze what worked and where you ran into trouble. Be on the lookout for toxic behaviors that cause your customers to throw up objections, tell you they're not interested or choose another company to work with.

Hanging onto those toxic sales assets of dubious value could lead to lost opportunities, a major meltdown in your pipeline and potentially, the demise of your sales career.

No one is going to bail you out! Dump those toxic sales assets today. Your ability to replace ineffective sales skills with new ones is essential for your ongoing success.

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, helps sellers crack into corporate accounts, shorten sales cycles and win big contracts. She is a frequent speaker at annual sales meetings and association events. Visit

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Strategies for Writing Proposals

The proposal document is an expensive, time-consuming, yet necessary document. Therefore, it better hit the right buttons with the client so it takes you to the shortlist or gets you invited to do a presentation. Sales expert Sam Manfer has some excellent advice to make proposal writing a much less painful process:

The Line Items
Every line item in the spec must consider three factors. (1) You must show you understand why that line item is in there and what it means to project success. (2) You must show you can handle/deliver it. (3) You must know who this line item is important to or who is worried about it.

Everything above is about the voters and getting their desires met. Many salespeople and companies are focused on what the competition will say in their proposals. This is a major mistake, yet competition cannot be ignored. Winning a proposal is not like a sporting event where you have to beat the competition. It is an election where you have to win the votes of the powerful.

Numbers, Names and Details
Numbers are believable. They are also easy to visualize and understand. 13 is more powerful than "many times". 21 years' experience is more understandable than "very experienced". Details of how you accomplished a line item for another project are important to the people concerned about that spec item. Names validate you. They provide concurrence and favorable associations.

Red Flags and Strengths
For each line item or section of the specification, you must consider your red flags (areas of weaknesses) and your strengths. Now just because your competitor is "better" than you in certain areas doesn't mean it's a weakness for you. That certain area has to be important to one of the powerful voters for it to be a red flag. Many people get hung-up on some capability of the competition that is meaningless to the voters. Remember it's all about the voters. The same applies to your strengths. They have got to be of significance to a voter. Being global is not a strength to someone looking for local service.

The No Contact Clause
Since most people are off limits after the spec has been issued, the best after-the-fact way to learn about an individual voter's desires is to use your network of people that know the voters. If you open your mind and do some asking, you'll realize you know people that know these voters. They will help you if you ask. However, you've got make the mental effort and then make the calls. Most people dislike asking for help and come up with every reason not to. You've got to get over it. People will help if asked.

Since 1995 Sam Manfer has been speaking, consulting, writing and leading seminars in sales and personal development. As a keynote speaker and seminar leader Sam has addressed thousands of new and experienced sales people and managers all over the world in all types of businesses and industries. Learn more at

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quote of the Week

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere." -- Frank A. Clark

We've all encountered obstacles on the path to success, and if you haven't yet - you will! Keep in mind that getting past these obstacles is part of your success. Not only can you be proud of yourself, but you'll show others you have the tenacity to keep going until you've found a solution.

Friday, April 3, 2009

3 Rules for Improving Communication with Customers

Are you a people person? Are you always comfortable striking up a conversation with a stranger or new acquaintance? If so, it's probably a big part of why you got into the sales profession, and why you continue to succeed.

While it's very important to be able to talk with your clients, effective communication also includes equal parts listening and understanding - and it's hard to maintain equality if you just keep talking and talking.

If you need some points on how to pare down your words while still making them count, check out this post from sales blogger Scott Sheaffer. With fewer words, you'll have more time for listening and understanding - and your customers will appreciate someone who lets them get a word in for once!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This "Innocent" Word Kills Your Credibility

The English language is a tricky thing. Small words can take on big meaning, and words you think mean nothing can make or break a sale. Sales trainer Kim Duke wants to throw open the doors on one of those small words that carry big meaning - and most people use without realizing - "just".

How the Word JUST Kills Your Credibility

"I love my sister," says Duke. "She's my only sibling. She's important, she's fabulous, she's smart, loving and she's always got my back. But there's something she says that drives me nuts."

She'll leave a message on my voice mail saying "Hey Kim - it's just your sister calling."

"JUST my sister, the only person on the planet who knows all my secrets, what I looked like in my Grade 5 photo and who understands what I'm thinking with only a look???"

Some Examples of Nasty "Justs" That Are Showing Up With You:

On the phone...
"Oh hi Client X, I'm calling to just touch base to see if you've reviewed my proposal?"

In email...
"It was wonderful meeting you on Tuesday. I wanted to just see if you've had a chance to try our product yet?"

In person...
"If you could just squeeze me in - I'll only take 10 minutes of your time."

People use JUST as a way to relieve pressure, guilt and pushiness.

However, it makes you look and sound unsure, needy, and desperate. It doesn't display confidence in you or your product/service at all. Think of how these phrases sound instead:

"Hey Kim - it's your sister calling."
"Hi Bob - I saw sparks flying over your office so I knew you'd read my proposal."
"I've been thinking about your business and I've come up with a brilliant idea."

"Trust me - you're going to catch yourself saying the word JUST a lot, however, do your best to save it for when it makes sense. And with customers it never does."

Kim Duke is an unconventional, sassy and savvy sales expert who shows women small biz owners and entrepreneurs how to increase sales in a fun, easy, stress-free way! Learn more and sign up for her free e-zine at

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Use Testimonials to Attract Prospects and Win Sales - Part 2

Yesterday sales trainer and author Kendra Lee gave us some excellent advice on how to acquire testimonials from your current customers. So, now that you have them, how do you use them effectively? Here are a few more tips from Lee to make the sale:

Integrate testimonials into your sales kit

Now that you have testimonials, don't forget about them! Incorporate them into your selling activities throughout the sales cycle. Go beyond including them in proposals or offering them as references during the decision process. Rather, use your client's voice and share the good word to attract and win new prospects!

Mention them in a first meeting to demonstrate credibility and create interest. Introduce a specific testimonial or two early in conversation when you recognize similarities between a client and a prospect. Use them as examples to help uncover potentially hidden needs.

The next time your prospect mentions an issue they're grappling with, you'll be able to say, "You know, we helped a client just like you save $x by..."

Leverage your testimonials to attract new prospects

Put a plan of action in place to maximize their power and get the message out there! Think about how you can communicate your testimonials in your prospecting activities.

Add them to emails, cold calling scripts, marketing materials, or an upcoming event. Make one or two an offer after a webcast. I often refer to testimonials during prospecting calls, picking out the results or a good quote. They become my stories when I'm delivering a webcast, and examples when I talk about how we help other clients.

Strong testimonials make prospects long to engage you - especially when times are tough and companies are cutting expenditures. They see you as the answer to their prayers. Add them to your sales kit and you'll soon find prospects asking you to engage with them.

Kendra Lee is author of the award-winning book "Selling Against the Goal" and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group helps companies rapidly penetrate new markets, break into new accounts and shorten time to revenue with new products in the SMB segment. To find out more visit