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4 Essential Sales Skills to Focus on Improving

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Sep 22, 2016 12:20:00 PM

As the competition gets stronger and the decision process more complicated, it’s important for sellers to get back to the basics of selling and concentrate on improving the skills needed to consistently reach and surpass their goals.

In 2016, the selling skills you should focus on refining are the ones that affect the buyer’s journey. While there are many sales skills needed for success, we’ve selected 4 of the basics that are essential to your competitive advantage.


1. Prospecting

Prospecting for new opportunities is just the first step in the sales process.

Whether you’re finding your own leads or receiving inbound leads from your marketing team, there’s a lot to consider before making a call or sending an email.

A lot of sellers are looking for shortcuts and how to be more efficient, but oftentimes that can end up hurting rather than helping your chances of winning a sale.   

You can become a more efficient prospector by practicing personal marketing, using targeted templates, and tracking your ratios.

Practicing personal marketing means that you are actively sharing resources and information of value to your network of connections or participating in discussions and other industry related events. This works to your advantage because it helps build your network and establishes your credibility.

Using targeted templates means segmenting by each different buyer persona and then taking the time to learn something specific about the person you’re reaching out to in order to tailor your messaging. This helps establish a more personal connection because it shows that you’ve put in the effort of learning about the individual(s) and company you're reaching out to.

Tracking your work and ratios as well as understanding how much time it takes to go from one step of the sales process to the other will provide insight into where you are spending your time and how you can improve. 

2. Leading Great First Meetings

Have you ever had the experience of walking out of a meeting and thinking, “I should have said this instead…” If you said yes, you’re not alone.

Selling is a performance art and you usually don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

When leading a first meeting, there are three different components  to consider, which are: (1) Research, (2) The Starting Point, and (3) Questions.

Research is needed at every step of the sales process, especially before the first meeting. The research you do before you conduct the first meeting should be more extensive than just looking at the company’s website. Consider taking a deeper dive into the website, but also think about similar companies you’ve worked with on a project like this so that you can provide examples and case studies. It’s also crucial to look into the person or people you’ll be meeting with to discover any personal or business interests that you may have in common.  

The starting point of each and every meeting is what sets the tone and opens the relationship. You should know before you go into the meeting how you are going to open, what questions you’ll ask, and how you will move the deal forward to the next step.

Finally, the key to having great first meetings is asking the right questions and being prepared to answer difficult questions. Questions create the right conversation, which is why they are so important to think about in advance of every first meeting.

For instance, as the seller you should be prepared to answer:

  • What do you offer?
  • What makes you different?
  • What makes you better?
  • What makes your offer worth our budget?

And you should be asking questions like:

  • What are you trying to accomplish with this initiative?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What is your timetable?
  • Do you have a budget for this initiative?

And remember, you must continue to test and fine-tune both the questions you ask and answers you give in order to improve your skills and sales results. 

3. Presenting Your Solution

Once you’ve had the first meeting and have determined the prospect is the right fit for your solution, it’s time to have another meeting to present your offering.

Winning sellers focus their presentation on getting the prospect’s feedback about three main areas: the budget, the timetable, and the proposed solution.

The budget. Well, we know the prospect will eventually be alone with the proposal looking at your suggested price.  So if you proposed $X but they were thinking $Y, then that may delay the sale. However, you can give yourself an advantage by making sure you know their reaction BEFORE you put it in writing so that you can adjust on the proposal if necessary.

The timetable for delivery. Now, this is usually the least explored area of the sale but should be discussed early on in the sales process. Why? Because we need to understand their timing and communicate a sense of urgency to the prospect in order to prompt a decision. Typically, prospects will only make a decision when they have to but if you’re offering a solution that will move the prospect closer to solving their problem or achieving their goals, then you’re more likely to get a decision in a timely manner. 

The proposed solution must fit with the needs of the prospect and the goals of the individuals making the buying decision. They’ve looked into your service or solution for a reason and they want to make sure it’s the right fit for their organization. So, as you prepare your presentation, consider how you will tailor your message to resonate with your prospective buyer.

4. Negotiating & Closing

Negotiating, and eventually closing the sale, should not have to be some painful activity that comes up after you’ve already sealed the deal. Rather, it’s the culmination of the entire sales process.

When you get to this phase of the sales process, it’s critical to know what you’re up against so that you can anticipate the customer’s walk-away points as well as what the ideal solution looks like to them.

This is why the presentation meeting is so important. You must gain the reaction of the decision maker(s) so you know where you stand. The moment you can’t walk away from the deal, or sound desperate, you’ve lost. Always play from a position of strength so you can avoid negotiating against yourself.

The sales games has changed, and to keep up you need to continually be refining your prospecting strategies and tactics, leveraging the right questions to lead great first meetings, create the right reaction when presenting your solution, and play from a position of strength when negotiating and closing a deal. If you work on improving these skills, you’ll beat the competition in no time.

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Topics: sales, improving, sales improvement, sales skils,

4 Negotiating Strategies to Make You a More Efficient Negotiator

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Sep 14, 2016 8:27:00 AM

Are you an efficient sales negotiator? If your proposals and your contracts are always the same number, then you’ve reached 100% efficiency. But that could also mean you are leaving money on the table, which is why the customer may have been so quick to accept.

When a sale gets to the point of negotiations, there’s usually a lot of discussion and debate around the elements included in the proposal as well as the total price, which is why sellers commonly lose value between the proposal and contract stages.

If you’ve ever been in that type of situation, here are four strategies to help you avoid losing value in order to reach 100% negotiating efficiency.

Negotiating Efficiency

1. Pick the Right Starting Point

How do you typically begin negotiation conversations? Do you offer to talk first? Or do you try to get the other party to talk first?

When we think about negotiation meetings, most customers are playing the same game about deciding who should begin the conversation. Why? Because picking the right starting point sets the conversational tone for the entire meeting.

A lot of sellers may start with a question like: “Do you have any questions about the proposal I sent in advance of our meeting?” Ideally, the customer says “Everything in the proposal looks great, we are ready! Where do I sign?”

If only making a sale could be that easy! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way.

In a dramatic example of a powerful starting point, a recent negotiation began with the one party telling the other “…you know, I was going to cancel this meeting because I am not sure we’ll be able to come to an agreement.” That changes the meeting in a hurry and focuses both parties on identifying and, if possible, jointly solving the problem that will prevent the deal from happening. The first thing it does is get to the all-important reaction that will tell you whether the other side is truly interested. It gives them the out they need to quickly and politely back out of the deal if that is their inclination anyway. But, by agreeing to continue talking they are demonstrating a willingness to find a win-win.

If you want to be a smart negotiator, then you’ll consider the right starting point as well as the risk and reward of every outcome in advance of the meeting. The exercise of visualizing each likely scenario will help you operate from a position of strength.

2. Have Two Potential Buyers

In almost every sale, there is an element of limited resources.  

For example, in advertising there is limited inventory. In finance, there are limited number of hours you can book your analysts to talk to your customers. In software, there are limited number of installation-service teams or available training dates.

When limits are introduced, there is a new-found sense of urgency. Especially if there are two customers who want the same limited resource. I used this strategy to sell my house, when the market was down, in one week. By setting the right price, I received two offers on the first day of listing the house.

If I received only one offer, then the buyer has the upper hand. However, the power returns to the seller when they are “caught in the middle” between two potential buyers. All of a sudden, a typical buying process has been turned into a competition with an increased sense of urgency for both parties to try to “win the auction.”

3. Include Something to Remove

When two people or parties are negotiating, the sound of their conversation has a familiar ring. You can tell they are seriously negotiating when one party announces, “what if we take away this piece in exchange for an earlier start date?” This signals that one party is ready to make a commitment; they’re serious about finding a win-win solution.

The person who makes this suggestion is usually the one who is in control. They are being proactive. It's much better to boldly offer to remove something that is potentially a problem then it is to wait for the customer to ask you to remove it. If they ask and you cave in, then you look weak. If you suggest it first, you look strong and observant.

People who negotiate against themselves strip down the offer so much they never leave enough to spare for this strategy. To give yourself a negotiating edge, make sure you include “excludes.”

4. Sell the Dream, but Move Forward on Phase 1

Most salespeople try to sell the customer the biggest possible deal they can. The result? It takes for-ev-er to close.

When we expand the deal, especially the budget, we are making the consideration process longer and more complex. The odds of closing the sale is now reduced and the seller’s available time to prospect is gone. The result is no sale now or in the future. But, every so often, a huge sale comes in. And that is the validation needed for most sellers to continue swimming in this circle.

I, however, have found more value in closing the sale faster over getting the most money you can. Now, that doesn’t mean I happily leave money on the table. It means I am more interested in simplifying the buying process for the customer – and myself.  I want the sale to close faster and be worth more over time.

My strategy is to whet the buyer’s appetite about the future upside we can potentially deliver to that customer – over time. I then get on the customer’s side when we discuss budget where I ask them how they would rationalize spending that much money on that service. From that conversation, we discuss ROI benchmarks, sometimes aggressive ones. I maintain that we can achieve those results – over time.  Now that I know the benchmarks they will use for the “big” sale, I offer to scale the whole deal down to a much smaller budget, which I call phase 1. While phase 2 has hard goals against a big budget, phase 1 is a test with easier benchmarks that will serve as “proof of concept” supporting the decision to go to phase 2.  The entire time I am delivering phase 1, I am talking with them about examining performance, benchmarks, and how to optimze in phase 2.  This can be an effective strategy for Account Managers, but especially good for Hunters.  

Remember: it is much easier for the customer to go from spending $1 to $2 than it is go from $0 to $1.  First get the dollar, then grow the relationship.

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Topics: how to negotiate, sales tips, negotiating

3 Common Objections when Selling Digital Video

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Sep 7, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Handling objections shouldn’t be about arguing, it should be about understanding the other person’s response and then positioning your solution in such a way that it reassures the potential customer and entices them to want to learn more about what you’re offering.

So if you’re trying to sell more of your premium video inventory but you keep running into obstacles, then practice handling these 3 common objections to more confidently lead your next sales conversation.

Handling Objections

Objection #1: “We get our video for less money.”

If a prospect says this to you, then you should ask them if they know exactly what they’re buying.

The reason you should ask this is because it’s not uncommon for a buyer to believe they are getting only pre-roll when in fact they are also getting mid-roll, post-roll, auto-initiated video, and in-banner video.

For instance, many programmatic offerings don’t provide advertisers with enough visibility to know what they are really getting. In general, the lower the CPM, the less premium the inventory. And blended CPMs can mask a lot of undesirable inventory.

Without the right campaign visibility, there is no way for the advertiser to know exactly what they are buying. Turn this objection around by reassuring your prospective customer that working with you means having full visibility and access to superior reporting capabilities.

Objection #2: “We’ve tried it, but it didn’t work.”

Not exactly what we want to hear, but let’s take a step back and try to understand their response. What is their level of digital knowledge? Was it their first campaign ever? Or have they run other campaigns before they decided it didn’t work?

If you learn the “why” behind the objection, then you will gain greater insight into how to personalize your response while emphasizing the value your solution could bring.

If you get this kind of objection, then you could say something like: Let’s explore what didn't work together. I've heard many stories from other new-to-digital advertisers telling us the same thing. That’s why we’ve taken the approach of offering higher quality service enabling us to provide robust lead generation campaigns using a multi-platform strategy that includes: TV, mobile, social, and custom content integrations.

Take the time to ask and learn the past experiences of your prospective customer. Doing this will foster a better sales conversation as well as provide an opportunity for you to help educate your buyer.  

Objection #3: “We’re already buying inventory from you programmatically through an exchange.”

If an advertiser tells you this, then ask how they are precisely targeting the right users?

Depending on their response, you could position your solution as a complement or replacement to their current strategy. Basically what it comes down to in this scenario is data.

Whether it’s first, second or third-party data, the most important thing to understand is the difference between the data sets available, and how they are unique.

First-party data is your data. It’s data that’s created and owned by publishers and marketers themselves. This may include data from actions taken across your website(s); data you have in your CRM; subscription data; social data; or cross-platform data from mobile web or apps.

Second-party data is basically first-party data that you are getting directly from the source. This type of data gives you access to many non-endemic audiences you might not have previously been able to reach.

Third-party data, on the other hand, is generated on other platforms and often aggregated from other websites. Companies such as BlueKai, Peer39, and eXelate sell third party data. These companies are also known as DMPs or Data Aggregators.

The next time an advertiser says they already have access and are buying inventory from you through an existing programmatic vendor or exchange, you can combat this by focusing on the advantages of working directly with you. For example, you’re the only one that has access to your own site’s first-party data, so all other parties serving ads on your website are limited to third or second-party data.

You must utilize your knowledge of data by helping your prospects and customers understand that not all data is equal and then work together to create the right data set to maximize campaign results.

Start handling these common digital video objections more confidently by remembering to focus on the advantages of your solution in terms of campaign visibility, learning your prospective customer’s level of digital knowledge and past buying experiences, as well as highlighting your ability to leverage a unique data set.

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Topics: sales, selling digital advertising, objection handling

4 Salesforce Mistakes Your Sales Team is Making and How to Fix Them

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 31, 2016 10:10:00 AM

As the lead trainer for DM Training, I work with sales teams across the globe and across a variety of industries. Here is some news from the front lines:

Today’s sales teams are making 4 preventable administrative mistakes that are costing them money and time.

Most of my clients use Salesforce as their CRM, which they have customized for their needs. Plus they have adopted workflows and business rules all intended to ensure a rich database of information that could benefit both the seller and sales management.

However, sellers are not doing the administrative part of their job right and the ripple effect is causing inaccurate forecasts, frustrated salespeople who are not closing enough deals, and managers without the right data to know how to properly coach their team.

Salesforce CRM

As a sales manager it’s time to take charge and get rid of those errors. Look to see if your sellers are….

1. Not converting leads into an opportunity or a first appointment

Leads should be converted into an opportunity or a first appointment the moment they are qualified or that meeting is scheduled. It’s not something that should be done after the fact.

Sellers often skip this crucial step until the opportunity is further advanced, presumably to save admin work until they are sure there is a real opportunity.

Here’s the problem: not properly tracking scheduled first appointments denies the seller and you as their manager from easily seeing critical CRM-generated answers to 3 questions essential to diagnosing sales behavior:

  • How many first appointments does this salesperson schedule per week/month (on average)?
  • How many first appointments do they have over the next few weeks?
  • How many first appointments should they schedule, given their personal first appointment to closed/won ratio?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, how does anyone know how many leads the salesperson needs to generate and how much time should they allocate everyday toward making new first appointments?

2. Not making a new opportunity for every new opportunity

Regardless of whether an opportunity begins with a scheduled first appointment or not, it needs to be logged in the CRM immediately.

When your sellers do this reliably, you can determine the actual sales cycle of closed/won sales because there will be an accurate “start date” stamp on every opportunity. Comparing every new sales opportunity to closed/won sales cycles is the most accurate way to bet on a winner and avoid projecting the wrong (long) sales.  

3. Putting tasks in the opportunity screen, rather than the account screen

Because of this seemingly innocent workflow choice, the seller will be less reluctant to kill the opportunity (that is, convert to closed/lost) both administratively and mentally, because they are afraid of losing the task notification.

That opportunity will remain open even as the opportunity ages out and is no longer following the closing pattern. The opportunity cost of spending and wasting time with those prospects is not spending enough time pursuing candidates which are statistically more likely to close.

4. Not parking stalled sales in a column reserved for stalled opportunities

Simply putting a prospect in a column doesn’t change the odds of closing that sale. But keeping prospects in a funnel intended for advancing prospects is misleading.

When a sale stalls it is no longer predictable. It may close later than you think, or not at all. If the salesperson is unable to control the timing then forecasting is impossible.

From the point of view of collecting data which will give insight into the most likely to close opportunities, it is smarter to convert stalled sales to closed/lost or move them to a column specifically designated for stalled opportunities. If and when they restart, your sellers can return them into the pipeline.

Don’t assume your salespeople are using Salesforce to everyone’s advantage. Help them make these 4 tweaks to put you all in a better position.

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Topics: sales tips, CRM, common sales mistakes

What I Learned from Watching the Olympics and How it Applies to Selling

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 29, 2016 10:05:00 AM

Maybe I can’t run as fast as Usain Bolt or swim faster than Michael Phelps, but I can be a better salesperson than I am.

Here are four things I learned from watching the Olympics that you can apply to selling and will make you a better salesperson:


#1. Miracles can happen at the finish line.

There were countless times, across many sports, when the team or individual predicted to win came in 2nd (or worse), beaten by someone the experts said was not ready to win.  In many events, the predicted winner was ahead – until the last few inches.

I visualize my competitors as the athletes who came up short.  If someone is only going to push for the first 95% of a race and lose at the end, then let it be the other guy.  Salespeople must train for those final 5 meters of each sale.

Why? Because how many times have you stopped working on a sale just before it closed – either because of over-confidence or fear of failure?

The Sales Lesson:

Don’t assume you have the deal sown up until you have the signed contract in your hand.

If there is a delay in getting the signed contract, we must anticipate this feeling of frustration and adjust our strategy accordingly. Did you misread their buying signals? Maybe they weren’t as ready to buy as you thought?

The solution is to get creative and change the conversation. Don’t keep sending “checking-in about the contract” emails, but rather, keep pushing the sale forward by verifying you have the right information and gently start communicating urgency around any type of collaboration that’s needed to start planning for implementation of the product or service.

#2. When things go wrong, we must adjust.

Cyclists had collisions, swimmers tore their bathing caps, and relay runners dropped their batons – all before finally winning their events. 

As a salesperson, we can learn a lot from how Olympic athletes are trained to handle these types of unfavorable situations. If you don’t train and practice for every different situation, then all you’re doing is hoping you don’t fall apart under pressure.

Instead of freezing up or panicking when something goes wrong, like if you experience a technical problem during an important meeting or if there’s a last minute location change that completely throws you off, you must train yourself to adjust and re-strategize.

Training helps us continually adapt and optimize our approach to every element of the sales process. You can begin by recognizing your own patterns, like having a knee-jerk response to ever-changing sales objections. Don’t get thrown off. Instead, invent new strategies, habits, and best practices to change your results. You may not be able to prevent the myriad of sales problems from occurring, but you can train yourself to stay calm and confident under pressure like Simone Biles from the US Women’s Gymnastics team.

The Sales Lesson:

There is more than one right way to do everything. The opportunity cost of selling in one way is not learning how much better another way might work. By increasing the range of questions you ask, answers you give and next-step strategies you recommend you become better and better at being ready for anything—even if you feel like you’re not.

#3. Even individual events go better with a team approach.

I love watching the relays – it is the best illustration of how individuals, even Michael Phelps, can actually go faster when competing for the team not just themselves.  Even when the athlete had no official teammate, they often credited the tips they learned and the extra motivation they got from other athletes.  Somehow, when other racers won gold, they inspired their teammates to follow suit. While the best athletes pull great performances out of themselves, they seem to do it better when they allow themselves to be open to other athletes.

The Sales Lesson:

We salespeople are part of a huge community of professionals who may not be directly competing against us but are doing the same things we all do: prospect, qualify, present, and close.  We can - and should - learn from each other.  Here’s a few ways how:

  • Join sales discussion groups and professional organizations
  • Read sales books and other books related to sales (Emotional Intelligence, Game Theory, etc.)
  • Take a course in public speaking and improvisation.

Stepping out of what’s familiar and trying something different can help us develop a new sales technique or strategy. Personal motivation helps, but it only goes so far. Keep recharging your own efforts by seeking out other salespeople whose examples inspire you.

#4. Learn and build upon both success and failure.

A lot of the athletes who won in Rio this year said they were motivated from losing in the 2012 London Olympics. Now, athletes who lost at Rio are committed to getting to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

Similarly, sales is like an emotional roller coaster ride – one moment it is the best job in the world and the next it is the worst. We are ready to quit in the morning when a customer announces they are moving in another direction, and then high-fiving in the afternoon when we hear about a deal moving forward.

The Sales Lesson:

As salespeople, we should be as committed to our sales goals as Olympic athletes are to their goals. There is no quitting, there is only continuing, no matter what.  Don’t let momentary ups and downs distract us from the daily processes that set us up for long-term success.  Every day, focus on the things that a year from now you will wish you did today. Because we sell for a living, not just to make money.

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Topics: sales, selling tips, positioning against competition

4 Sales Activities To Do Today

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 24, 2016 8:42:00 AM

Do you want to make sure you end the year on a positive sales note?  Are you ready to get a head start on next year?

Sales Activities to do Today

Here are 4 things you need to do today to ensure your future success:

1. Get Ready to Sell Again

Most of the salespeople I know believe the summer is a hard time of year to reach people and as a result they don’t prospect that much in the summer. If that is the way you think, then what is the day we should begin prospecting again?  When is it safe?

On that day we’ll wish we spent these last few lazy August days preparing so we don’t have to lose time during the frantic “back-from-vaca” sales season, which is already in progress beginning in September. 

Now is the time to do some research in advance of our next meeting or initial outreach, apart from the obvious activities like checking out the customer’s website or if there were any recent press releases. Let’s learn something new about their industry, their market share, and their competitors so we can connect the dots to determine hot issues, budgets, and timetables.

Come out of this “get ready” stage with a plan to test a customized approach to your market broken down by thinly sliced audience segments. The more segmented and personalized, the better. You will need to get started now to be ready for September meetings.

2. Polish Your Presentations

By this point in the year, you have delivered your standard presentation template enough times to be able to do it in your sleep. But when was the last time you really looked at your own material with a critical eye?  Have you seen what the competition is doing?

No? Well, first it's time to give your presentation another look and make adjustments. What reaction are you trying to get from the audience when you present your material? To give yourself better insight, practice delivering the presentation in front of a co-worker or your manager. This way, you're rehearsing before you go live with a real, potentially paying customer.

It would also serve you well to do a little investigative work into what your competitors are doing and how they are positioning their solution. 

Take advantage of this time to optimize and practice your presentation. You'll be in good shape before the selling season starts. 

3. Get Ready to Defend Yourself

Your competitors are just as determined as you to win more sales. Even if you think you are selling the better solution for your customers and prospects, have you thought about the best way to position your solution against competitors? 

Practice answering these questions to give yourself a competitive advantage:

  • What is your solution?
  • How is your solution different?
  • Why would someone choose your solution?
  • What is the ROI of your solution?

Can you answer how your offering is different? Better? Better ROI?  Can you explain to a customer loyal to your competitor why they should consider your offering? Would you be able to close that deal? 

Between now and Labor Day, assume your competitors are practicing answering these very same questions and working on refining their sales “arguments.” To be safe, you should too.

4. Make January Easier on Yourself

So many salespeople work so hard to close out the 4th Quarter that they walk into the first quarter with nothing. It is much easier to get a head start and find January opportunities now than it will be if you wait till December or January. 

Right now, many customers are set or getting set for the remainder of 2016. But, the opportunity to look at something new in the new year is smart for the savvy customer and easy to agree to. 

Start reaching out now asking people about 2017 – you will have much more pleasant conversations because they will not be rushed like 2016 conversations will be.  In January, you will be glad you began that long process of finding those savvy customers in August.

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Topics: sales, sales activity, sales improvement

How to Use Deadlines to Achieve Sales Goals

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 22, 2016 8:25:00 AM

Deadlines. It’s a powerful word that strongly suggests we must meet the time limit that’s been set, otherwise we’re dead if we miss it.

Most people have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. In most cases, deadlines are set for us by other people and can make us do crazy things. Things we don’t normally want to do like: get up extra early, work outside our comfort zone, or stay up extra late. All because we have to meet the deadline.

The ironic thing is that nothing provides more focus on our priorities and time management skills better than setting a deadline. We are usually at our best when we are racing to meet the timeline that’s been set because we are determined and focused on completing the assignment or project at hand.

With this in mind, imagine what we could accomplish by not waiting for someone else to assign a deadline, and instead give ourselves deadlines for everything we need to get done. But how do you assign yourself a deadline that will actually stick?

We’ve outlined 3 simple, but not easy, steps to help you use deadlines to achieve your sales goals:


Step 1: Commit

The first thing you must do is identify your goal and then commit to achieving it by a certain date.

Whether we are talking about a big or small goal, the best way to fully commit is by breaking down your goal into smaller steps that you can work on each day or week.

As a general example, let’s say you’ve just set yourself the goal of landing a new account with a large revenue opportunity.

In your experience as a seller, you understand there are a lot of internal and external factors that must be taken into consideration when mapping out your goal. And depending on your process and sales cycle, closing a large deal may take anywhere from a few months to a year.

That’s why we must break the larger goal down into smaller goals by creating a backwards timetable, like this:


When you look at your goal this way, it helps you think about what sales meetings need to be scheduled and what activities you should focus on during the months leading up to your target close date.

Let’s break this down:

If you need to close a sale in August of next year, then you need the verbal agreement by Q2, let’s say June.

Before that, you need to present a proposal that outlines the right solution for the client. Keep in mind this is the time when negotiations may happen, which could possibly delay this step. But on average, let’s say this will take about 1 to 3 months.

Now, that brings us backwards to Q4 of this year when you want the prospective client to express their interest, timetable, and confirm they have a budget for your product or service.

Even before the prospective client can express interest, we must get a better understanding of their business goals and challenges by launching a discovery process to gather more information. That will take about 1 to 3 months.

Naturally, we had to have a number of first meetings and conversations with a variety of stakeholders throughout the organization before we could get to the discovery phase. And depending upon the number of decision-makers involved, getting these meetings scheduled could span anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

That brings us to now. It all starts with your outreach efforts and making the first contact. So, when is your deadline to get started? Today!  

Get committed and start thinking about: What do I have to do to make sure I hit the goal?

Step 2: Be Realistic & Honest

When it comes to setting and achieving an audacious goal, it’s important to consider timing.

Be realistic about your process and sales cycle in terms of knowing how long each part of the sale will actually take. If you started today, how long would it take to secure a qualified first appointment with a large sized account? And then once you’ve conducted the first appointment, how long after that would you get to the proposal stage?

Be honest with yourself about your time and priorities. Are you already working on a long-term project that requires a lot of your attention? Do you have anything going on in your personal life that could interfere?

More often than not, everything takes longer than initially anticipated due to the inevitable “things” creeping up and stealing your time. However, it's amazing to see how much harder people work when they are running out of time, as opposed to when they have plenty of hours to burn.

This is why the most successful salespeople set deadlines for themselves. It creates a sense of urgency and helps push you forward to completion.  Deadlines create determination and focus while discouraging you from delaying steps or becoming sidetracked on something else.

Step 3: Use the Power of Negative Thinking

Yes, you read that right. The power of negative thinking.

The idea here is that when things go well we seldom assess or analyze how we achieved the end result. On the other hand, when things go badly we suddenly have 20-20 insight into what we should have done.

Thinking about what might go badly, while you still have time to do something to change the outcome, will help you create a solid action plan outlining the right activities and behaviors to focus on.

So, leverage negative thinking by imagining it is August of next year and you missed your goal and didn’t close that big sale. What should we have done?

You should have filled your pipeline with similar opportunities. When you create parallel initiatives with several other potentially large deals, you put yourself in a much better position to reach your goal.

Remember, today is the last day to get that big sale you want to close next year. Today is your deadline. Don’t miss it, or you will push out the close date – possibly to 2018 unless you hurry. So now is the time to get committed, be realistic and honest with yourself about timing, and use the power of negative thinking to ensure you reach your goal.

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Topics: deadlines, sales tips, goal setting

4 Ways Coaching Your Sellers Improves Sales Activities

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 16, 2016 3:45:00 PM

As a sales trainer I believe that every salesperson, including myself, benefits from sales training. I believe most salespeople generally know training is helpful, but, like exercise, not at this moment.coaching_solution-1.jpg

However, even those sellers appreciate the advantage of coaching, especially 1-on-1 time focused on their unique needs. Today’s sellers aren’t getting enough training to support their ever-changing and increasingly competitive world.

So, without a coach how can today’s sellers improve these vital activities?

#1 - Emails

Today, most sellers prospect by email. But has a coach critiqued what you’ve written in order to improve your response rate? When I coach sellers, we look at the emails they send. What we learn together is their opportunity to be less frustrated and more successful.  Most of the “first” emails are not personalized, the word choice too rambling, the benefits too one-sided toward the seller when they should be focused on explaining what’s in it for the prospect or customer. However, it is the 2nd and 3rd follow-up emails that benefit most from an analysis and rewriting.  My coaching uncovers opportunities to redefine customer profiles, customize new email templates, and re-strategize timing and testing while strategically layering in phone calls. During coaching sessions, I help sellers leverage personal marketing via networking and social media adapted for their unique sales role and territory.  The result is that sellers can measure improvement immediately, especially an improved number of first conversations with prospects.

#2 - Presentations

Most everyone has created and delivered a presentation in a variety of live and virtual settings, but have you ever had a coach who helped you analyze how to handle each situation or how to improve your closing ratio? When I coach sellers, we look at both their delivery skills and their presentation. This exercise helps to uncover how most sellers deliver a one-size-fits-all approach to presenting their offering whether it's a live demonstration to a committee of people or a 1-on-1 through video conference. Oftentimes, PowerPoint can make it difficult to illustrate your point because you may have too many pages with too many words, which doesn't help direct the sales conversation. Coaching shows sellers how to adjust both the content of the presentation and how they lead the conversation in order to advance the sale beyond the presentation.

#3 - Prospecting and Selling with Confidence

Every seller gets stuck when they encounter certain objections or issues. Have you ever worked with a coach to give you new strategies or ideas to solve these challenges? When I coach sellers, we dissect each stubborn obstacle that blocks that salesperson from building a path to their goal. I find the best way to increase energy levels and confidence is to help them overcome objections by inventing new ways of addressing customer issues and concerns.  As a coach, I work with each salesperson to understand what they are really trying to say and together we find a better way to say it.

#4 - Getting Back on Track

We are all assigned goals to hit, but have you ever had a coach help you get focused on achieving big goals or refocused after missing goals?  In my role as a coach, I have observed countless occasions where salespeople are uncommitted to their goals or unclear about what they are really trying to accomplish. In other cases, they are simply too beat-up from past failures to have the strength or courage to dream big.  Some sellers stop themselves from stretching to reach big goals because of personal fears, while others are boldly going off without a solid plan. When I take a salesperson through my coaching process, we begin by getting very specific about both short term and long term goals. I help them create a plan with benchmarks that enables them to track the little wins needed in order to be properly motivated to take each next step of their journey toward success.

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Topics: sales activity, coaching, sales coaching

4 Tips to Help Your Team Build Sales Momentum

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 10, 2016 8:40:00 AM

Being a sales manager can be incredibly frustrating or extremely rewarding, depending on how the wind is blowing. To make sure your team is continuously headed in the right direction you need to put the wind in their sails by helping them build sales momentum.

Sail on a boat

Here are 4 ways you can talk to your salespeople about building and maintaining momentum:

1. Keep Score

When salespeople get to more leads, calls, emails, etc., they meet more people, learn how to optimize their approach more quickly, and end up making more sales, more often. However, most sellers miss their goals and many never even move in the right direction.


They spend too much time doing the wrong things. To consistently get the right things done they should begin by simply trying to get more things done.

You’ll need to carefully track the most critical activities that move the needle for your team: prospecting outreaches, customers spoken to, proposals sent, contracts out the door, etc. Then create a scorecard with a daily activity score to reflect the subactions within those categories and establish minimum daily standards.

Tell your team: The day can’t end until you take these actions, get these results, and get this score! You’ll help your team get to more things when you use this different kind of time management system.

2. Future Me

Make sure your team spends time each day helping the future version of themselves.

How many sales will that seller need to close each month/quarter? In order to consistently hit the goal they’ll need 3 kinds of sales to close on a regular basis:

  • the big sale,
  • the existing customer upsell,
  • and everyone’s favorite sale: (the ironically named) easy sale.

The third kind of sale is really easy - at the end. That’s the part where the customer contacts your company! The part before that is the hard part. That’s when the seller is doing personal marketing, combining social media, email marketing, phone prospecting, and networking.

Are your sellers managing their time to fit personal marketing into every day? To do this right they need to consider these questions:

  • Who am I trying to reach?
  • What are they thinking about right now?
  • When they want to know something that’ll make their job, department, or company better, where do they go online?
  • Who do they talk with?
  • Who do they listen to?
  • What platforms, sites, blogs, or videos do they and their peers engage with?
  • How many inbound leads will future me need each week?

Before your team can personalize their personal marketing plans they need to make sure they are asking the right questions. It can take a year or more for some of those actions to percolate into inbound leads. Don’t regret not having your team start today.

3. Speed Dating

Nothing builds momentum like first appointments.

Psychologically the first appointment is a new chance to get things right, to find the right customer, to ask the right questions, and present in the best light. Arithmetically, more first appointments means more sales. Strategically, first appointments minimize the danger of getting too busy with unqualified prospects because having lots of first appointments forces the seller to get right to the qualifying questions.

So what can your team focus on to determine whether a prospect is qualified? It’s not that person’s need or budget, but rather their ability to make a buying decision soon.

Without enough appointments to sift through, your sellers will be tempted to promise everyone they meet a proposal. However, with enough appointments they’ll learn to qualify better and spend time with the right people while nurturing – rather than hounding, stalking, and wasting time with all the others.

4. Crazy Busy

Encourage your salespeople to get a CLEW by being crazy busy, without going crazy.

For me personally, this was the breakthrough. I realized that I need to get to 4 things everyday:

  • Critical things: a prioritized “to-do” list
  • Learning: things that have to be read or watched and understood
  • Exercise: physical activity to get the extra energy needed to maintain a faster pace and help problem solve
  • Writing: things that have to be written

Put it all together and it spells CLEW (pronounced CLUE), which is the report I look at every day.

Your sellers need to focus on the critical things, such as prospecting and administration. They should also continuously be learning more about the industry, what information prospects are looking for, news from your marketing team, and evaluating their own past sales efforts. Writing will help them improve their outreach and credibility in the industry. Set an example by keeping yourself accountable for these tasks as well.

When you share these 4 concepts with your salespeople you will see tangible results. If they try to adopt these principles---or they ignore them – either way, you will know right away. Make sure your entire team adopts them and puts wind in their sails (sales).

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Topics: sales tips, sales management

4 Mistakes Sales Managers Are Making

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 8, 2016 12:15:00 PM

Attention media sales managers: As you sit here in August, midst of the Olympics and months before the Presidential Election, 2017 feels far away.  But don’t let that feeling fool you. Next year will be here before you know it and if you aren’t planning for Q1 now, you may be too late.

Now is the time to ask: What will 2017 look like without the Olympics or an Election?  Am I prepared?  Are my sellers prepared?

Here are the 4 biggest misconceptions about preparing for 2017 and beyond:


#1 Focus on passing the IAB Digital Media Sales Certification

Passing the IAB test should give a person confidence, it’s a challenging test that requires a lot of knowledge and experience.  However, no one has ever closed a sale – or even got a meeting – because they passed.  

Statistically, people who pass the test sell more digital.  But that is correlation, not causation.  

The only people who pass the test are the ones qualified to take it in the first place. 80% (or more) of every sales organization will not be qualified.  Of the qualified, only 80% will pass the test regardless of which “prep” course they take.  Why?  Because qualified people have worked on enough campaigns!

Specifically, they’ve worked on campaigns with performance issues. Over time, they have learned the many “technical problems” (pixel implementation, VAST tags, etc...) that, done wrong, can prevent a successful campaign.  They’ve learned these important principles from actively selling and working on renewal campaigns. Simply working for a company that has had a digital offering for the last few years, will NOT qualify you.

Time spent making sure your sales team passes the test in 2016 is time lost on preparing them for sales they will need in 2017.

Here’s my advice:

The best way to prepare your team is to help them focus on understanding the business and marketing goals of the advertisers and agencies in their territory.  Both local and national sellers will benefit from analyzing their advertisers and agencies. That means learning what they are doing digitally and what the digital opportunity really is before simply pitching inventory packages.

Specifically, salespeople will benefit from training that helps them close more business with the accounts they need most: Auto, Retail, Finance and all of the eCommerce and lead generation advertisers in their territory.

Digital sales training helps properly prepare your sellers to discuss digital opportunities during critical sales meetings.  The right training delivers insights from digital thought leaders and examples of successful and unsuccessful campaigns.  Otherwise, your pure-play digital competition selling auto-endemic inventory as well as specialty agencies providing paid and organic search in addition to social media are poised to take away your remaining budget from those major ad categories.

Do your sellers know enough about their own competition and their advertiser’s goals to hold onto traditional “linear” budgets and sell even bigger multi-platform budgets?  

If their strongest closing line is “a lot of people watch, listen, and read our great content – they have loved us for many years!” then your team is not ready for the IAB – or 2017.  But if your goal is to get your team to pass the IAB’s test, train them to sell more digital. Ironically, it’s preparing for those sales that eventually qualifies salespeople to take the test.

#2 Skip training because we are too busy with other initiatives

There is a common misconception about training – you may think it’s for teaching new things, but really, training is practicing.  

Sales training is about practicing so much that when a seller is under the pressure of deadlines and budgets, they get the right words to come out of their mouths during important meetings with decision makers. Sellers need training to ensure they are prepared when they are up against competitors who are also great communicators and have a compelling solution with even better targeting, reach, and inventory.

If you are not practicing those essential conversations, then you are practicing the art of winging it, which over time locks us into patterns and provides a false sense of confidence.  We forget how to learn new things and become increasingly more comfortable in doing what we’ve always done rather than what’s needed to adapt.

Here’s my advice:

Focus on training as a springboard to change.  When sellers know expectations are higher, and management supports these higher standards through training, they are open and eager to learn. Direct this eagerness and enthusiasm to topics that are critical to closing multiplatform business with new and existing clients.  Some ideas for topics that are practical and will move the needle on sales are:

  • Using research more effectively for sales preparation
  • Capturing the biggest possible deal for target accounts
  • Learning the advertiser’s goal(s)
  • Thinking like a digital marketer
  • Presenting a winning campaign strategy
  • Developing success benchmarks for more renewals and upsells

If you aren’t delivering this essential training to the troops, how can you expect them to grow? Train now for the skills needed in 2017 and beyond.

#3 Rely on internal training to meet all of our needs

The sales challenge is not to learn from the best and imitate their secrets.  It is to blaze new trails. Tomorrow’s successful salespeople will have to do new things and go beyond the surface level.

It’s a combination of things that few, if any, have ever done before like using not-yet-invented apps, research offerings, data visualization dashboards, and communication tools.   Whatever the future holds, salespeople must adapt quickly.

Even if you’ve hired the best, most knowledgeable person to train the troops the trainer quickly becomes part of the sales team, and with each passing day, the internal trainers get further insulated from outside influence.

On the other hand, an “outside or external trainers” like myself has the ability to bring in new ideas and a fresh perspective by sharing first-hand observations from across many industries around the world.   Internal trainers, by comparison, become experts on their company’s offerings and people in a way that is perfect for helping to extend the outside trainer’s message.

Here’s my advice:

Utilize your internal training to deliver ongoing reinforcement; but don’t expect them to develop and field-test the content too.  There are too many specialties, emerging subjects, and best-practices for an internal trainer to develop into workshops.  

However, a lot of outside training companies are now compiling this new information into workshops, webinars, and online training portals that internal trainers can tap into. By working closely with the right outside trainer or resource, your internal training team will help elevate your sales team to new levels.

#4 Recognizing you should have a digital strategy but thinking you have all the time in the world to develop one

No one is better at forecasting than eMarketer and even they didn’t see how fast mobile and programmatic would take off.   The perfect storm of programmatic/header bidding, video, social are all hitting our mobile devices at the same time.  There is a rising generation—across all age groups – of digitally savvy consumers who are and will continue to drive the economy.  

When does that change happen to the degree that every single advertiser has, if nothing else, a digital budget?  5 years?  2 years?  2017?  No one really knows.  But, I do know that if you wait until that year, your competitors with a better relationship advantage will prevail.

Your team needs to get there first and stay in front.  They need to be covering the marketplace and evangelizing your company’s message.  Not getting out there sends a very different message.  The media landscape is changing under our feet and doesn’t know to wait for us to get ready for it.

Here’s my advice:

Start now.  Break down the accounts in your territory to determine their true potential value – linear plus digital.  Branding plus performance.  Blended CPMs that back into benchmark success metrics.  

Find your new sweet-spot and build a business around that core. Start today by developing that plan to sell to your target list. Look at your competitor’s offerings. Proactively make something happen now before someone else proactively takes away the budget you were going after.

Today is the last day to affect the end of Q1 – make it count!

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Topics: sales tips, sales management, coaching