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How to Develop Competitive Sales Skills

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Feb 9, 2017 4:22:00 PM

Developing competitive sales skills focuses on being prepared to perform under pressure, in any type of situation or environment.

Sales professionals who have competitive sales skills are the ones who think of sales in the same way professional athletes think of their jobs: with confidence about their own abilities and fear of their equally skilled competitors who may be better at using their abilities.

Confidence, born from focus, attention and ongoing skill development is the chief ingredient for success, no matter what industry you are in.

So, whether you’re training yourself, or your team, it can be challenging to determine specific areas of development that are important to focus on.

 That’s why, in addition to the insights shared by Steve Bookbinder in the video above, there are 4 important lessons that you must also focus on in order to gain a competitive advantage and own your success.

Approach big challenges differently than you do day-to-day challenges

Thinking about the future tends to cause our brains to minimize the obstacles we'll face and instead focus on desired outcomes. We look at goals differently based on whether they are a short-term or long-term goals. For instance, 3-months ago when you booked a trip home to see your family, you were focused on abstract ideas like “quality time with my family and friends” or “downtime.” But I would imagine when it came time to actually leave for your trip, you were more concerned about your immediate needs like: "what should I pack" or “how am I getting to the airport?” It is only when goals get closer and more immediate that people start to think about them more concretely. So, focus on making small, incremental lifestyle changes that may feel less glamorous, but will have a much greater chance of creating real change in your life.

Always be realistic about your starting point when facing a big challenge.

There is no advantage in exaggerating your abilities or skills; it’s more productive when you acknowledge areas in need of development and then set out to improve upon those areas in order to achieve your goals. Asking the right questions will help lead you down the right path. But that requires being honest with yourself, and not coming up with an unrealistic plan that you’re overwhelmed by, instead aim to take stop steps each day. And remember, play within your own abilities, and recognize constraints of your product, your company, and the marketplace.

challenging_challenge_climb_cliff_group_help_together-1.jpg

Focus on identifying everything that can go wrong, rather than blindly trusting optimism.

While it is good to remain positive and confident that you will prevail, that is not the fuel that will help you prepare fully and give you the confidence you will need to overcome your biggest fears. Fear makes most people stop. But we can use our fear and feeling of being uncomfortable to propel us forward. Consider holding yourself accountable by involving a friend, co-worker, or partner to hold your feet to the fire. When we have support as well as keep pushing ourselves forward by stepping out of our comfort-zone, those are times that test our abilities and help us grow and gain a better understanding of our own work styles.

Don’t stop until you reach your goal.

The competitive sales professional will stop at nothing. They are driven, focused, and persistent.

Whatever you’re selling, you’ve got competition. Somebody besides you is selling to your clients and customers on a regular basis.  Assume that it’s a zero sum game, which means that if someone is getting “more”, then someone else is getting “less.” While we can’t control all of the factors involved in making a sale, we can certainly take all the right steps to properly prepare.

In a competitive situation like a playoff game or a race, every player wants to win at the start of the game --- the consistent winner isn’t the person who wants it bad enough at the starting line; it’s the person who was willing to prepare on all of the days leading up to the big game day!

Conclusion

Competitive salespeople beat their competitors as well as their own best records from previous years by focusing on all four of these lessons.

To develop your skills as a sales professional, you must work towards understanding yourself and equally as important, you need to understand your competition.

The best competitive sellers are willing to do whatever it takes and they ask themselves:

  • What are my competitors doing that I should be doing? Or shouldn’t be doing?
  • How many prospecting calls will they make?
  • How will they prepare for their sales meetings? Oh and by the way, these are sales meeting that are with the same type of people you want to meet with.
  • How will they handle objections?
  • How will they answer the tough question: “how are you different from your competitors?” How will they make their offering sound compelling and ROI+?
  • What are they doing to prepare for a successful year that includes beating you at your game?

Unless you consider these questions — even if the answers scare you — you will not as likely prevail like a competitive salesperson. So gather your confidence, skills, and go out there and conquer the sales world!

4 Steps for Improving Your Time Management and Sales Skills - Free eBook

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Topics: training, sales tips, sales training, goal setting, how to be your own coach, Investing in Sales Training, salespeople, high performing salespeople, sales tools, competitive selling, how to, confident, confidence

3 Pro Athlete Takeaways for Sellers

Posted by Anna Adamczyk on Dec 17, 2015 9:30:00 AM

What do professional athletes have to do with sales? Well if you’re in the market of selling supplements or sneakers, maybe it’s more than we can possibly imagine. But even if you’re just in the business of selling, there’s a lot you can learn from the pros.

Professional athletes aren’t just born. Sure, some of the them may have a natural advantage over others, but the only way they can maintain long term success in their sport is through dedicated practice and training. (Check out The Sports Gene by David Epstein if you want to get really technical.)

Most of us probably think that some people just have an innate knack for getting people to buy stuff. Perhaps to a point that’s true, but usually that just means they have great people skills and a subtly persuasive personality.

At the core, we generally overestimate the seemingly inherent nature of someone’s selling ability. Even if they’re not glaringly obvious, that “natural” seller has had some kind of training and experience that got them to that point.

Thinking that it’s all simply based on luck or some kind of inborn quality shouldn’t even be a consideration. In order to become truly successful, each seller needs to establish their own process and a solid objective.

runner_elite_athlete_sport.jpgAthletes don’t just train when they feel like it and then hope for the best on game day. They have schedules that stretch far in advance to plan out every bit of their strategy to attain a goal. They know when, where, how, and what they will need to do along the way to eventually reach their target.

As a seller you have to be your own agent by learning to manage your process and time properly. You’ll have to figure out what works best and track your progress. Of course you’ll have your sales manager to keep you accountable, but in order to ensure you’re really set up for success you can only truly rely on yourself to stay on top of your game.

The pros put pressure on themselves to be on top, instead of simply counting on others to push them. Their coaches and trainers merely supplement the intrinsic motivation they already have.

Athletes know all their PRs, stats, and averages even in their sleep. Sellers should always have an eye on their numbers and know what they’re doing, why, and the effect it’s having.

Understanding that your job at its core, is the same as those of the elites is necessary to having the right mentality. Athletes don’t shy away from challenges, but attack them head on with a plan and a concrete objective in mind.

Here are 3 ways to get aligned with a pro mindset:

1. Seek out challenges.

Athletes don’t wait to break records, they strive to beat themselves and others constantly. You need to be on a mission and force yourself to face your fears. Pushing yourself to the limits will help you improve and evolve, continually.

2. Be realistic.

The pros know they won’t be able to knock 10 minutes off their marathon time in one week.

You need to be realistic about your starting point. There’s no advantage in exaggerating your abilities or skills. It’s better to humbly accept how much further you have to go to achieve your goals so that you’ll be prepared to have an effective game plan.

3. Use the power of negative thinking.

Professional athletes don’t wait until the day of to think of a Plan B or C or D. They have already assessed every possible scenario and prepared themselves to deal with it.

You should focus on identifying everything that could go wrong, rather than blindly trusting optimism. Only this will give you the groundwork you need to be fully confident and prepared to handle any obstacle.

Not all of us have the ability to run a 2:05 marathon or serve a tennis ball at 150 mph, but approaching your job with the same outlook that professional athletes have when approaching theirs will help get you where you need to be in your game.

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Topics: competitive selling

Gaining A Competitive Advantage - How to Position Your Digital Sales

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 4, 2015 9:01:00 AM

If you are selling advertising today, you’re always competing whether you realize it or not. You’re up against competitors that you know about, as well as those you don’t.

Assume 10-30 competitors per day are reaching out to your customers and prospects trying to win them over.

To the advertiser, you may all seem alike. Every one of you essentially “argues” the same thing - “We’ll get your message in front of the right people, at the right time, with the right ROI”.

To gain a competitive advantage in the market today, it’s more important than ever for you to make your argument compelling and more persuasive by pointing out your unique differences. Do it right and you’ll get the customer’s attention and their budget.  

If you’re selling relatively low-cost inventory, you may claim that your low point of entry or low CPM will undoubtedly have a positive ROI. If you offer premium inventory, you will argue that your premium CPM inventory has the best cost per engagement (CPE), meaning that the value of the conversions off-sets the media cost.

But what else can you talk about apart from the cost of your media?

Try focusing on the value of your inventory from a performance point of view, as well as, your technology, your process, and your people.

In a competitive situation, the most essential part of articulating your unique differences is producing the right response. If you want a better response to your pitch, consider these 4 sales principles:

numbered-list-bubble1. Numbers

You should know how many things make you different and start your explanation with that number.

Your goal, as a salesperson, is to convince your prospects that there are only two kinds of companies out there: all the other companies, who all do basically the same thing and then there’s your company, the only one out there that is doing something truly unique.

“There are 4 (or 3 or 5) things that make us different…” is a confident way to begin and it helps the listener organize your pitch in their head. They’ll now be listening for the 4 (or 3 or 5) items, instead of just thinking the only difference is the media cost.

2. By-Degree

Some things are the same even if you’re doing them slightly differently.

For example, every campaign, particularly digital campaigns, include optimizing. But, optimizing isn’t simply on or off. If everyone optimizes, but you use both auto-optimizers and human optimizers, that is a great by-degree difference.

Maybe everyone uses auto and human optimizers, but most of your competitors never really look at a campaign or only look once a month. Meanwhile your company optimizes every day. Then that’s your by-degree difference.

Maybe they also optimize using auto and human optimizers every day, but your technology is faster and your data is better. Never forget about the human resources: maybe your team working on optimizing local campaigns is more experienced than anyone else. In that case, it is the combination of optimization, data, and experience which form your by-degree difference.

3. Prioritize

Any numbers you are citing should be prioritized so that they reach a crescendo. Simply reciting a bunch of big and small numbers, percentages and whole numbers, tends to confuse most listeners. They’ll tune out before trying to make sense of it all.

They won’t be able to remember any of it and most importantly won’t be able to later relay those numbers on to other decision makers.

Instead of confusing them, give them an easy way to repeat your sound bite, by staging the data in a particular order. For example, “We reach 1 million uniques, 10 million visitors, and serve them more than 1 billion targeted impressions.”

This makes it easier for you to ensure the numbers have true impact and you’ll be better able to control the communication to other influencers in the buying process.

4. Your angle

Tell them which side you’re on!

Umbrella or specialist? Proprietary vs. best in breed? What verticals does your team specialize in? Or is your value in the fact that you’re the only company with in-depth knowledge across the entire spectrum of industries and advertiser goals? Is your technology better because it is the best-in-class, most respected, or because it is proprietary?

Either way, you’re certainly unique, especially when combined with other advantages - make sure you spell this out.

Every salesperson is trying to gain a competitive edge. Focusing on the right things, especially when describing your unique advantages during important meetings can make all the difference.

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Topics: digital sales, positioning, competitive selling

How "Disruptive" is your Value Proposition?

Posted by Molly Depasquale on May 28, 2014 4:10:00 PM

By Buff Parham/Parham & Associates LLC

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Welcome to the age of massive disruption!

"Business as usual" just isn't--and being perceived as operating in that manner just isn't good enough anymore. We should be offering value propositions that offer new approaches and solutions that will move our clients' businesses forward. And if they win, we as salespeople win!

If you're asking your clients to do the same old thing, then don't expect any different results.

To gain and maintain a healthy partnership with our clients, we should be thinking about what they're thinking about--looking closely at their enterprises and figuring out how our products and services can bring positive and rewarding change to theirs. There's nothing wrong with being "reliable" as long as we're not being relied upon to be the same unimaginative "taker"--instead of an engaged and committed giver.

Being disruptive is not about being critical; it's about helping to take our clients' businesses to the next level.

In our conversations, it's "have you considered?" as opposed to "that sucks!” It's being the consultant who has obviously done the necessary homework in order to put forth thoughtful and practical ideas that clients can incorporate into their operations. It's the opportunity to become known as the person who always brings solid ideas and suggestions to every encounter with a given client. Smart and savvy business people welcome "positive disruptions" that will make them more efficient, productive and ultimately prosperous.

Clients want to do business with people who are looking forward not backward!

There's nothing worse than a sales call that rehashes past negative situations or makes apologies for lack of results. The client knew all that before we walked in the door! If problems have occurred, then we walk in with solutions that point the way forward. Each and every problem presents us with the opportunity to come up with a "disruptive" solution. If something didn't work last time, is it really a good bet that it will work next time? Probably not…

Even though it may be your idea, make it theirs!

Giving clients' ownership of your offerings simply speeds up the journey to "Yes." Once a client starts feeding back suggestions that you made in the first place, the potential for "conflict" has rapidly subsided. And don't let your ego get in the way of making a sale--simply acknowledge the validity of the client's point of view, and close the sale!

All of the above ought to be fun!

If being disruptive sounds like a chore, then maybe you're in the wrong line of work. Everyday, salespeople have the opportunity to be catalysts, fire starters, who put great ideas and solutions in motion. If you focus your energies on being that kind of salesperson, the world will beat a path to your door!

 

 

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Topics: sales, value proposition, competitive selling, business tips, client relationship building, solution selling

Selling In A Competitive Media Landscape

Posted by Molly Depasquale on Feb 7, 2014 12:30:00 PM

If selling is a competitive sport then selling digital media has become the NFL of sales.
There are four functions that all sellers have to do well to be successful, but digital sellers have to be the extreme athletes of media sellers:punch_impact_box

1.) Finding the right person - and learning the right stuff in advance.

2.) Getting in front of them - and opening the meeting right.

3.) Asking them the right questions - the right way.

4.) Suggesting the right solution - in the right way.

Digital media sellers have to do that while outperforming the other talented sellers who are playing the same game and trying to reach that same person with an even more compelling-sounding message. Like rugby players fighting for the ball, you are all going after the same pile of money. Who wins? The one with the best scale and capabilities? Surprisingly, no (well, not always). It’s not the scale, necessarily but it is the fit. How well can you match your offering to the advertiser’s goals? That’s the play and it’s the same one all the other teams are using. As in the NFL where all the teams use similar plays, the winning team is the one who executes their game the best when all the pressure is on.


In the digital sales world, the sale often goes through the busy agency buyer - who sees a parade of sellers who all claim to be the best at…(choose one) reaching the right person; engaging with the most desirable audience; scaling the most targeted campaign and achieving results which outperform benchmarks, etc... You may have 10 minutes every few months to communicate a memorable message that will convince the buyer to include you on their budget—or give you a bigger share than last quarter. Which seller can perform their sales meeting the best?


How do you get on the All Pro Team? How do you keep your message resonating in the buyer’s mind? There are four things Hall of Fame sellers do:


1. Learn the right stuff


In advance of the meeting – do the right research to learn what you need to know about an advertiser. This will take equal parts Sherlock Holmes, MacGyver and Jack Ryan. But if you take a thorough look at all of their digital assets, engagement points, conversions and lead recapture strategies you will often find an opportunity. You need to learn about the advertiser’s target customer, their digital marketing-monetization strategy, their competitor’s digital marketing efforts… and then find an opportunity to sell them something.

Find the research tools you need to prepare yourself to sound contagiously enthusiastic. To do this right, make sure your research includes:

a. Who is the advertiser targeting? How else can you help them reach the right audience? How does your audience compare?

b. What are all the digital assets the advertiser directs traffic to? How visible are those assets on social media and search engine results pages? (Look into which keywords they are visible against). And while you are at it, find a relevant past success story that you can share.

c. What are all the conversions, partial conversions and engagement opportunities across all of their digital assets? Have you helped an advertiser with similar goals?

d. What are this advertiser’s competitors doing to target (retarget), reach, engage, and influence their audience?

Figure out why, from their perspective, it would make sense for them to buy from you.

 

2. Open right


You should be going into each meeting with a compelling business reason. You may think of first meetings as social visits/fishing expeditions—and to be clear, you ideally should be identifying new addressable future opportunities every time you meet with anyone. However, you can’t sound like that. The sound of your meeting should be as if there is a reason you are there today. Two weeks ago, you woke up and shot out of bed absolutely driven to help this advertiser. A giant lightning bolt of revelation startled you awake compelling you to find a way to help the advertiser—a way that no one has ever thought of before. You have been driven by this compelling challenge like an English Channel swimmer who trains for 18 months for a 12 hour swim. You marshaled your internal team of experts and are now ready to showcase the results of what you and your team have been working on tirelessly without break. All to help this particular advertiser! That’s the kind of caring professional you are.

After learning through your research, analysis and dedication who the advertiser is targeting and how they leverage their digital assets into campaigns you have deduced their digital strategy. The reason you came in to the meeting today is to share your ideas. Your agenda is to complement their current approach, learn what is changing and see if the agency agrees that you are onto a great idea. Your enthusiasm is contagious---both your confident enthusiasm and your unenthusiastic support of your own idea. Even if you don’t sound sure, why should anyone else be sure? On the other hand, if you sound like you have made the pursuit of the perfect solution for this advertiser a personal mission, who can resist listening to you?

 

3. Ask right (Ask the right questions, the right way)


Like a press conference, prepare and ask the right questions. But unlike a press conference, consider how best to work in your questions into a conversation. It’s not just what you ask but how you ask and how you interpret their answers. How well can you engage a hard to engage person? That’s the game.

Most non-NFL sellers ask questions like the way a bad dermatologist examines a patient – from across the room they try to guess what is making the patient scratch themselves. You have to get under the skin. Every advertiser thinks they are different. They believe they have unique challenges and goals. How can a salesperson sound like they learned those differences after asking 2 or 3 questions over a 5 minute meeting with a total stranger? Picture a first date – how much do you really learn about the other person? Compare that to what the person will tell you after you are dating for a year? Married for 20 years?

Consider the questions you ask. Does the buyer respond with “….hmmm, that’s a good question?” or “wow, I never really thought about it that way” or “that’s an important question and a surprising number of sellers fail to ask that (or words to that effect).” Consider the answers you get – are they really opening up and telling you something that reveals their true buying motivations? Or, are they giving the kind of rote answers you get from most 1-800 number help desk people? Did you learn something that your competitors didn’t learn? If yes, you may be going to the Super Bowl.

 


4. Suggesting the right solution in the right way


Most sellers are like waves on a beach: they are going to crash through the walls of each uniquely constructed sand castle with the same overwhelming wave. What does each sand castle really want? Water that doesn’t destroy the walls but finds the canals and tunnels which bring life rather than destruction to the little pretend village. What does each buyer want? Same thing. Meanwhile, most sellers I meet sound like hammer salespeople who view every unique problem as the same nail which can be solved with the same “hammer solution.”

Tailor your solution story to both the right person and the right problem: the advertiser’s/agency’s specific goals. Make sure you are using vivid examples of how to leverage your media –targeting offerings to that buyer’s goals. Begin your solution story by referring to another advertiser, with the same challenges. Make sure you include the details about the urgency of solving this problem and how well your solution really worked—from an ROI point-of-view.

Your goal is to elicit the same response a happy kid has on Christmas Day: “Wow, how did you know I really wanted that toy?” With the same enthusiasm as the winning NFL quarterback tells us about looking forward to getting to Disney World after winning the Super Bowl.

 

About the Author:
Steve Bookbinder is Co-founder and CEO of Digital Media Training, a training partner to some of the most successful sales organizations around the world. DMT delivers training which treats sales as a competitive sport and changes behavior needed to help sellers consistently win. DMT is a leader in M-learning training reinforcement with a proven track record of improving sales through training. Steve has delivered more than 500 keynote speeches at national sales meetings, conducted more than 3,000 training workshops and trained, coached and managed more than 35,000 sellers and managers from leading companies around the world for more than 20 years.

 

 

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Topics: selling, sales training, selling digital media, digital media sales, competitive selling