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3 Strategies for Effectively Developing the Right Calling Approach

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Feb 23, 2017 8:19:00 PM

Whether you’re new to sales, or an experienced pro, developing the right approach to making sales calls is a strategic advantage.
 
As a salesperson, oftentimes the first impression you make is over the phone. Whether that’s talking to a new prospect, building a client relationship, or maintaining contact with long term clients.
 
Developing an effective calling approach and phone persona is essential to your sales success. But how can you develop an approach that will consistently drive results?
 
Consider these 3 strategies as you develop, refine, and optimize your calling approach: 
 
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1. Personalize Your Message

Think about who you are calling and why you are calling them before you pick up the phone.

First, we must consider what kind of leads are you calling and what’s the right strategy for each?

For example, let’s say you were just assigned a new lead. This lead came in through the website as an inbound lead who downloaded your newest eBook. What’s the approach for this type of lead?

To start, we must do our best to research who the person is, what company they work for, why they might be interested in the eBook, and whether they’ve downloaded any other resources from your website.

Why are these things important?

Because each piece of information helps you paint a picture of who you are calling. The more you know about the company, the person, or the industry in general will set you up for success because you’ll be able to tailor your message by saying something that resonates with the lead.

In this inbound lead example, you could personalize your message in a simple, yet logical way by helping them identify the key takeaways from the eBook they just downloaded and offer ideas about how the information applies to their job, company, or industry.

Taking this approach helps you position yourself as an expert, presents your company/offering in a positive light, and lets you take the role of the helpful salesperson who is educating them on new information and solutions.

 

2. Build Your Sales Story

 Identifying the right approach for each type of lead is only part of the game. The next step is to build your value proposition by crafting a compelling sales story.

We often think that facts and figures are what motivate people to take action. But the truth? Facts and figures aren’t nearly as effective as telling a great story.

Let’s say you’ve got a prospect on the line and they want to learn more about your solution. Instead of rattling off numbers that will mean nothing to them, consider walking them through the story of how you’ve helped other companies, maybe even mention a competitor of theirs, and help them visualize how your product and/or service delivered results for that company.

For example, you could say something like: “We’ve had a lot of success with companies like yours who have experienced some of the same challenges you may be facing, so I’d like to learn more about what you’re doing, tell you how we’ve been implementing solutions for businesses like yours, and see if there’s a match.”

You’re not only going to get their attention fast, they’re going to want to know how they did it, when they started doing it, how far behind they are, and what they need to do to catch up.

 

3. Understand the Rhythm of the Call

Listening is the key to a great conversation. So when we are speaking with prospects and clients over the phone, we must listen to the rhythm of the call and make certain decisions based on the rhythm.

If you ask a question and the other person responds as soon as you finish speaking, this probably means they’re tuned in. On the other hand, if there’s a long gap and their response doesn’t really relate to the question you asked, they’re probably not connected to the conversation.

As sales professionals, our goal is to ask 2nd level questions in order to create a more substantial conversation. 2nd level questions, asked in the right context, encourage the customer to share relevant information needed to understand their true interest in our business solution as well as their motivation to help their organization acquire it.

This is the type of conversation when the customer reacts to the salesperson’s interest and capabilities by sharing relevant information about their background, biases, plans as well as their power, influence, and motivation to buy.

The best way to help them make more sales is to maximize their time with people most likely to buy and minimize their investment in time with the rest.  At the same time, sellers need to dig out opportunities that are not immediately obvious but lying just below the surface waiting for a skilled salesperson to uncover and close.

 

Conclusion

Remember these 3 strategies the next time you’re ready to pick up the phone, and you’ll be on your way to building a connection with your prospects and clients while creating a more open sales dialogue.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated.

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Topics: sales, tips, selling, sellers, prospecting, value, skills, sales tips, sales training, digital media training, cold calling, call, small business, improving, marketing, strategy, phone

4 Steps to Take When Closing Your Next Deal

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Feb 2, 2017 6:30:00 PM

Closing a deal is the ultimate reward for all of the research, preparation, and follow up that goes into building new relationships and maintaining a high level of client satisfaction.

Every now and then, it’s important to remind yourself to go back to the basics of selling to ensure that you’re not simply closing a deal, but instead, opening a new relationship that has future growth potential.

So, when the time is right and you’re ready to close your next deal, remember these four tips: 

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(SLA) Service Level Agreement

SLA stands for Service Level Agreement; in other words this is the document that outlines the timing and delivery of the products and/or services you will provide. This is a critical point in the sale because this is where all expectations need to be set and understood by both sides.

When you close a deal, it’s not enough simply to get the sale. You want to be able to leverage the sale in the future. To do this, you need to confirm with the customer that he or she feels your level of service is superior and that you did more than simply meet the minimum requirement. So, when formulating your close, review what the minimum deal is and then determine what else you can add. Be sure that you have added in enough elements to your deal to get that agreement.  

TRY THIS:

Review a sale you are closing now or have just closed. Decide what you can add (product, service, conditions terms, etc.) to enhance the service level without increasing cost to you.

On-Boarding Process

Sales continue even after the close.  As the seller, you are the “face” of the sale to the customer. So, the customer will always look to you to explain and validate every step of the implementation even after the close. Therefore, meet with your internal team and carefully review who does what, when, why and how. Then, repeat the process with the customer explaining who on your team will be taking over the implementation on your side. Be sure to always point out the value of each person taking charge of the steps in the implementation. This builds rapport and helps pave the way for future sales.

TRY THIS:

Think of a current sale and review your on-boarding process for the account once you close the deal. Use a tool like the following to think through all the steps in on-boarding. This will help you be ready to both explain the process to the customer and to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Future Opportunities

A single sale for a single deal may have a finite point. However, the superior seller knows that each successful sale leads to another... and another…. You can leverage past success into future success by ensuring that the job you do with the first sale is not only adequate but superior, beyond expectations – in effect, stellar. This way, you develop equity within the account and draw upon that equity to pursue one successful sale after another.

TRY THIS:

Review a current or upcoming sale. Review the terms of the offering. Find something that will help the sale exceed expectations – something you or your company will do, a “deal sweetener,” etc…

Strategizing the Right Time to Ask for Additional Business

 A major goal of the consultative seller is to position him or herself as the “conduit” of a range of products and services that address multiple functions within the account. This process is called “evergreening.” To successfully evergreen an account, you have to be extremely observant to what you see and hear and what you can deduce to identify opportunities all the time. Then, when you spot an opportunity, you move on to that one if your present sale is going well. This way, the present sale “evergreens” into additional business.  Account selling is not linear.

TRY THIS:

Review all your active accounts. For each, think of additional opportunities and note how you think you can transition from your present deal to the future opportunity even before you close the first one. Use a tool like the one below for your analysis.

Conclusion

Before closing your next deal, take these four things into consideration and utilize them to your advantage by ensuring that you: set expecations up front, properly on-board new clients by clearly outlining how your product or service will be implemented, understand what a future opportunity might look like, and strategize the timing of asking your client for additional business.

How to ask for the deal without sounding too

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated.

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Topics: sales, training, tips, managing, manager, client, cold calling, building client relationships, strategy, deal, service level agreement, client on-boarding

3 Tips to Help Managers Coach Sellers More Effectively

Posted by Digital Media Training on Jan 13, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Managing a sales team can be challenging.

Sales managers are responsible for a range of diverse tasks, including managing a sales pipeline, coaching their team, forecasting, hiring new sales representatives, strategic planning, and sales administration.

Additionally, managers are held accountable for hitting sales quotas and responsible for a target list of accounts. Not to mention dealing with a variety of independent and strong willed salespeople who establish their own process with little to no daily contact with their managers.

With all of this in mind, we want to help make your job easier, so here are three things to focus your seller’s attention on:

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Tracking

Every year, salespeople are presented with new challenges. The challenge of selling in a more competitive marketplace, hitting a higher quota or goal, and all the while gaining more responsibilities.

As a manager, your job is to enable your seller’s success through coaching and support.

The first step is helping your sellers identify what metrics they should be tracking.

For example, each rep should know how many:

  • Open opportunities are in their pipeline
  • Closed opportunities (both won and lost)
  • Average deal size
  • Average sales cycle length

Once you’ve determined the key performance indicators important to you and your team, then you can create a dashboard that tracks and measures progress against these metrics.

Your dashboard can be as simple as using the CRM you already have in place, or creating a separate spreadsheet to track everything outside of the CRM. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s a platform your team can easily and consistently update.

When you have an understanding and baseline of your performance, it’s much easier to reverse engineer what it will take to hit your new quota or goals.

The First Conversation

The first meeting or the first conversation with a prospect is a crucial point in the sales process. It can either make or break the deal, which is why it’s vital to your sales team’s success.

You need to help your sellers strategize the first meeting in terms of:

  • Have you done your research? What do you know about the company/industry/person your meeting with?
  • What’s the goal of the meeting? (from their perspective and from ours)
  • What is this prospect trying to accomplish?
  • What do we need to learn? (Budget, timing, authority, etc.) What questions to ask?
  • Does our solution fit their needs?
  • What’s our next steps?

When you encourage your sellers to prepare for and consider in advance what the first meeting will look like, your reps will increase their confidence and ability to start the right conversation that leads to having a great first meeting.

Is it Worth It?

As a manager, you need to help your sellers prioritize their time and understand the difference between opportunities worth pursuing vs. dead end leads. To do this, analyze and refine your qualifying criteria.

Qualifying is one of the most important conversations a salesperson can have with their prospect. This is where you learn whether the prospect is a good fit for your solution and if it makes sense to move forward together, or go your separate ways.

HubSpot has put together this comprehensive guide that will take you step-by-step through the fundamentals of qualification, five different frameworks you can use, how disqualification works, and conversational tip-offs to listen for.

As you work with your salespeople, help them establish a measurement mindset in order to track their progress, emphasize the importance of the first meeting, and finally, work with your team to assess and refine your qualifying questions and criteria in order to maximize time spent with the right opportunities.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

 
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Topics: sales, training, sales tips, managing, sales coaching

3 Ways to Polish Your Sales Performance with an End-of-the-Year Evaluation

Posted by Digital Media Training on Dec 29, 2016 2:45:00 PM

The end of a year can conjure up positive connotations of new goals and resolutions, but it can also trigger lots of deep introspection and regret.

In sales, if you’ve already hit your target or are about to - why should evaluating the past be necessary? If you know you’re going to miss the mark on this year, quarter, or month - why would you want to relive your failures?

While it might be easier to jump ahead and see the year coming to an end as a new start, it’s equally important to look back with a sharp eye on the last few months.

Taking objective inventory of how you got where you are today and how you’ll try to replicate, improve upon, or completely refocus in the future is critical to making the next year even better.

Pay close attention to these three things during your end-of-the-year evaluation to help polish and improve your sales performance next year.

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Your Numbers

Regardless of whether the revenue goal is on track or not, there are a multitude of numbers/metrics you should be taking into consideration when evaluating your performance.

We sometimes think that if we make a change it will be evident almost instantaneously in our numbers, but sales is like a new workout regimen or a healthy diet - it takes time to see results. It also takes time to see set-backs.

Try this:

Pick two months to analyze. The first should be your worst month and the second should be your best.

How many first appointments did you have in each month? How many outreach emails did you send? How many phone calls did you make? How many proposals did you submit?

Look at those numbers in the months at hand or two leading up to each one.

What differences are apparent? Do you see a certain trend in previous months that affected your worst and best month?

Based on these numbers, determine what you would need to change in your processes or strategy to improve them.

Your Sales Stories

Sometimes we focus too much on anecdotes from our own experience. These make rare exceptions seem like the rule and they can ultimately impair us in future situations, but they are extremely valuable.

All sales usually seem unique, but there are many patterns that can be discerned when looking at the bigger picture. Looking at the larger story of your interaction with a lead (whether they closed or not) can provide you with valuable insight into what you led to them closing or walking away.

Try this:

Identify two particular sales - one that you thought wasn’t going to happen, but did and one that you were sure was going to close, but didn’t.

Do they have anything in common? What differentiated them? Look for what was in your control, but also recognize what was out of your hands. What can you learn to do differently next time?

Keep in mind that some things will always be out of your control, but it’s always important to debrief to strategy how you can better handle the situation in the future if it were to arise again.

Your Feedback

How many customer service surveys have you avoided taking? How about those regarding your performance?

Feedback is extremely valuable in providing otherwise missed insights and providing a base for improvement.

It can be daunting getting feedback since it can sometimes be looked at like criticism, but knowing how others perceive your actions will help you have a more objective view of yourself.

Try this:

Ask for feedback from your clients, manager, and moving forward - your prospects.

For those who bought from you, ask them what in your actions or presentation helped them make their decision.

For those who said “no” to your offer - ask them for candid feedback.  Their decision might have to do with your offering or it might be personal. Either way, knowing what it was that lost you the business will give you power for the future. You’ll be able to switch up your pitch and adjust your approach for the next prospect.

When it comes to your manager, set up a 30-minute meeting to see what feedback and insight they can provide. If you bring the numbers you should have analyzed by now, this can guide the meeting and help you both set a plan for the upcoming quarter.

Key Takeaway

It’s not always pleasant looking at ourselves with a critical eye. However, towards the end of the year, it’s necessary to take inventory of how we did and learn for the future.

Analyzing your numbers, stories, and getting feedback are the best ways to quickly determine what will make a difference in the coming year.

Take Client Relationships to the Next Level - Start Here

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated.

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Topics: sales, sales coaching, sales performance review, sales performance, sales evaluation

What’s the Cost of NOT Training Your Salespeople?

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Dec 15, 2016 2:05:00 PM

Well, let’s just say it’s costing you a lot more by NOT training your sales team.

You’ve probably all seen the endless statistics and reports about employee disengagement, unemployment rates, and the seemingly unrectifiable skills gap. Maybe you yourself are feeling disengaged or seeing too much turnover and not enough qualified individuals to fill open positions.  

Well, if you or your company have been putting off professional development and training for far too long, then it’s time for a change. Because realizing the importance of educating, coaching, and training employees and then actually implementing effective programs is the only way to achieve long term company success.

So why does your company need sales training? Consider asking these questions:

  1. If we raise the seller’s goals, do we expect them to hit their goals without improving skills, strategies, or tactics?
  1. If we haven’t hit the goals that our competitors have reached, what does that say about our previous forms of training?
  1. If your company invested in training last year but didn’t achieve the intended results, did anyone reinforce that training or was the expectation that the effect of training would be like a tattoo on each seller’s brain?
  1. If last year’s skills are the best we can hope for, what will that cost us this year?

While some sellers and managers may view sales training as “optional” or as a “luxury,” that thinking is short sighted and unrealistic. Simply “checking the box” on training won’t cut it anymore. If it actually worked, then everyone would do it that way.

Professional football teams would take the week off before a big game and then just sort of warm up before each game. Actors and actresses on Broadway would meet a few weeks before the show so the director could hand them the script and say “obviously you’re a professional, so you know how to perform the script. No need for rehearsal, see you opening night…”

But this doesn’t happen. And there’s a reason professionals make a habit of practicing and fine-tuning their skills.

When people are training all the time, they develop a "muscle memory" and get really good at processing information.  They become accustomed to finding something that resonates and then they are able to apply it to their daily activities. But when people rarely attend training, their skills fade and they struggle process and apply the training information.

Benefits of Sales Coaching and Training

Okay, so now that we’ve covered a few key considerations and reasons why you should invest in sales training, let’s look at some of the benefits:

Improved Performance

Employee education and training is designed to give your people the proficiency and tools they need to learn new skills and refresh old ones. It’s key in every industry to stay on top of new trends, timesaving technologies, and how to stay competitive. Providing training will make sure the entire team is fully competent and can help you set clear expectations with regards to new goals. Whether the company’s output is struggling or already doing a stellar job, training will only help to increase its performance further and deliver a great return on investment.

Higher Engagement

It’s no secret that unhappy, disengaged, and uninspired employees can eventually become less productive. Ensuring employee happiness with appropriate benefits and perks is only one part of the formula. Keeping them truly engaged by cultivating their specific skills further, as well as, providing education in the areas where they aim to improve, will increase their interest in their work and new projects.

Higher Retention Rates

Re-engaging employees through training and further education will improve their overall job performance and satisfaction. They’ll be less likely to let their eyes wander for other career opportunities since they’ve increased their skill level and hopefully intend to conquer new challenges. Investing in your company’s employees helps to show them their value, potential expertise, and the company’s focus on maintaining a long-term relationship with them. Having higher retention rates will decrease the huge costs often involved in employee turnover. Making the small additional effort to train your current employees will save your company the headache of later trying to replace them.

Cohesive Onboarding

If your company has been expanding and adding to its staff then you’re probably already familiar with the difficult task of getting new members up to speed. If not done properly, you may later experience many unforeseen problems and confusion. Thinking ahead and providing onboarding training to your newest employees will help eliminate future turbulence due to unclear expectations and potentially unfamiliar methods. It will also convey the company’s desire to engage with and improve upon the skills new workers bring to the table.

Elimination of the Skills Gap

Some companies are having trouble finding the right people to fill open positions. Closing the skills gap is something that your company can do with training. Whether there’s a current employee who has shown incredible potential and just needs some more knowledge to transition into the open position, or a prospective hire that’s promising if it wasn’t for their minor lack in a certain area, why shouldn’t you just train them? It’s unrealistic to believe that if you’ve already been waiting for months, that if you just wait a little bit longer, the perfect, ideal, absolutely spectacular candidate will come along. That’s not to say you should lower your standards, but accepting that you will most likely have to teach anyone coming into the role a thing or two, why should you contribute to the growth of the skills gap if you could just rectify the situation and start training?

Reduction of Skill Fade

Do you remember everything you’ve ever learned? Of course not. Even the most dedicated and skilled employees will eventually start losing grasp of things they learned decades, years, months, weeks, or even days before. Having regular training sessions or better yet - ongoing training - will help reduce the previously inescapable skill fade-out phenomenon. Reinforcing previously learned material will ensure employees are always current with their knowledge and continue to increase their performance.

What it comes down to is that sales organizations must redefine what training and learning means to them. Success in sales means being prepared, nimble, and continuously developing the right skills that will have a positive impact on the entire business.

What is your company’s biggest excuse for not training their employees? Is it too expensive to train them? Or is it a bigger expense if you DON’T train them?

The 12 Days of Selling - Free DMTraining eBook Offer

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Topics: sales, tips, sales training, managing, digital media training

4 Ways to Create Urgency in the Sales Cycle

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Nov 11, 2016 7:38:24 AM

As a professional salesperson, a common challenge is creating a sense of urgency with your prospects and customers.

Creating a sense of urgency without appearing aggressive or pushy is a learned skill based on conducting good discovery, understanding the needs of the prospect, and asking the right questions of the right people in the sales process.

Basically, it comes down to “training” our prospects to understand that if we plan to work together, then we must have a shared sense of accountability.

Some salespeople might resist the notion of creating urgency by saying it’s too difficult to “train” a prospect to think this way, but the truth is, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you’re selling. In order to create a mutually beneficial business relationship, you must set expectations at the beginning of the relationship.

We’ve identified 4 simple ways you can start building urgency and accountability into every interaction with a prospect or customer.

Creating urgency in the sales cycle

Guide Your Prospects

Your prospects can’t benefit from your product without acknowledging that they need it — so get them to see the big picture with open-ended questions that demonstrate where their needs are and how you can help solve them.

The challenge for a lot of people is putting a name to what they need. They know their challenges and objections, but they are not at the point where they are able to identify how they should go about solving their issues.

That’s where you, the sales rep, comes in. When you can help your target prospect recognize their needs, you will create urgency and increase the likelihood that they’ll take action.

And remember, your actions will affect how your prospect takes action. So make sure you “train” them to understand that time is crucial in the sales process, and if you see a sale lingering, then you must win some commitment for action like a scheduled next step meeting. Or, if you’re unable to get something set on their calendars, then you must decide whether the sale is really worth it, and if it’s not then you need to determine if it’s time to move on to a more qualified or ready opportunity.

 

Understand the Decision Making Process

Stop asking “Are you in charge of this decision?” Instead, go below the surface level of the conversation and try to ask questions that will lead you to understanding exactly how the decision making process works when considering an investment in your product or service. It’s also important to understand who is involved in the decision making process and what criteria they are specifically looking to fill.

If you can understand how they’ve made a decision about a similar product or service in the past, then odds are that the decision about your product or service will be made in essentially the same way.

So, if you learn that past decisions have always been made by a committee, then try to find a way to make your presentation directly to that committee so you can ensure you deliver the same information to the entire group. And if you find out the individual you're talking to has no idea how the decision was made last time, you are talking to the wrong person and should find a more appropriate person to guide you.

 

Listen More, Sell Less

Establishing trust and rapport with a new prospect or client takes time. It requires proactive communication, delivering valuable information, and most importantly, active listening.

Selling effectively means listening more than you speak.

The less you pitch your product or service, the more you’ll command the attention of your prospects by leading a two-way conversation. Of course, you will ultimately be trying to demonstrate your value, but the key to a successful conversation is simply lending an ear. Making the conversation primarily about them, as opposed to what you’re selling, will keep your prospect engaged — and you may be surprised at the urgency you can create by allowing your prospect to come to their own conclusions, as opposed to overwhelming them with sales speak.

 

Communicate Value

When you communicate value, you’re offering beneficial information that informs your prospects’ decisions and helps them in their daily role. Providing a piece of actionable information will be welcomed and helps you maintain communication while building rapport in the process.

Approaching your communication in this way will help you gradually build urgency for those prospects and customers not quite ready to make a decision yet. You worked hard to plant the seed with your prospect, now make sure it grows. Providing value with persistence is what leads to sales wins.

Do this by consistently keeping your prospects engaged with thoughtful and personalized notes, updates, relevant articles, case studies, eBooks and referrals. It only takes a few minutes of your time, and becoming a valuable resource while staying on their radar will keep your offerings a point of focus.

Try incorporating these simple steps into your everyday sales process, and you will not only create a stronger sense of urgency among your prospects, but help build the right expectations and level or reassurance that will ultimately make the buying journey a success for everyone involved.

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Topics: sales, key sales questions, communication, sales cycle

3 Types of Sellers Who Need Coaching

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Oct 5, 2016 11:46:29 AM

Coaching salespeople, like most things in life, does not favor a one-size-fits-all approach. 

In theory, all salespeople are motivated by money. But when it comes to motivating and coaching sales reps into action, it’s slightly more complicated.

If you’re a manager, then you’re already well aware that each seller on your team has their own unique personality and quirks, which can be challenging when it comes to managing and coaching these individuals.

Your goal as a manager is to build purposeful relationships that matter to your team so you better understand who they are, what drives them, and then find creative ways to help everyone feel personally motivated to succeed.

But, how do we properly coach to the most challenging types of salespeople?  

We’ve uncovered three of the most common types of sellers who may resist coaching, but who need it the most: The Defensive seller, the Yes-You-to-Death seller, and the Poisonous seller.

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Type #1: Defensive

You may already know the type.

You bring them into your office to talk about their prospecting, specifically their lack of consistent prospecting. And they immediately fire back with: “I don’t agree, just yesterday I called 20 people.”

To which you add “yes, but last month….” They cut you off with “last month I was busy closing that big sale –which would you rather I did, close or prospect?” 

My bald head is actually the result of yanking out all of my hair while having these kinds of conversations.

To solve this challenge, you first need to understand how this kind of person thinks.  They are convinced they are always right and feel under attack if anyone questions their decisions.

In this situation, the coach needs to move to the same side of the table as the seller, both figuratively and literally.  Direct the seller’s attention to the facts, ideally on a screen or piece of paper. Point out the data that led you to the conclusion that the seller’s problem is they are not prospecting enough.  

For instance, a manager once asked me to coach an extreme case of the defensive salesperson. This rep was consistently missing their goal and wasn’t open to getting advice. The manager and I walked into their office where the seller was waiting for the meeting to begin.  Their body language strongly suggested they were closed off and ready to attack.  Instead of sitting in the manager’s seat across the desk from this seller, I sat alongside the seller. Together, we looked at their pipeline. I asked them “If you were the manager and I was the seller and this was my pipeline what would you tell me?”  Even though they were trying to be defensive they couldn’t resist their overriding urge to be right – in this case, right about how clever they are at correctly diagnosing a pipeline that hardly had any prospects.  They told me “I would tell you to prospect more.” Bingo!

If you don’t start from the right point, there is no reason in having a coaching conversation. In the example above, I was able to reframe the situation because I knew what type of person I was dealing with and it allowed me to select a starting point that would ultimately lead to a more productive conversation.

Type #2: Yes-You-To-Death

While these people aren’t as infuriating as the Defensive type of salesperson, they are frequently underperforming. They always appear to be on the verge of success, but can never seem to win despite their willingness to do everything that is asked of them. That’s the curse. 

These types of people can be great to have around because they are so willing to help, but it becomes a hindrance when they don’t have a good handle on their capacity. Saying “yes” too quickly can lead to confusion about expectations and results.

While it’s important to keep the positive spirit alive, you must pay close attention to everything they do in order to make sure they fully understand what’s being asked of them.

For instance, I once had a “yes-you-to-death” seller who agreed to use a specific negotiation strategy. While at the moment it appeared they understood exactly what to do, it became clear they didn’t really know when I made them role play it out with another co-worker, while I observed. As I had expected, they either never really heard what I said or misunderstood, but judging from their role play we were not on the same page.

Similarly, if I ask a seller to send an email to an important account, especially an email that requires nuance and subtlety, I always ask to see their draft before sending.

As these examples show, you can overcome the challenge of coaching these types of “yes-you-to-death” sellers by positioning your coaching in a supportive way that emphasizes practice and repetition before “going live” to ensure the seller truly understands, and if they don’t, you’ve created a safe environment where they can ask questions to clarify the goal and expectations.

Type #3: Poisonous

These people have the ability to spread negativity throughout an organization like wildfire. They carry their pessimistic attitude wherever they go.

And in the worst cases, these people will even go as far as combining their negative attitude with the “know-it-all” syndrome. 

As you may already know, or can imagine, coaching this type of person is next to impossible. While you may have hired them for good reasons, the damage they are doing to the morale of the team is extremely detrimental.

While in some cases you may need to sever ties with this person, there are other cases where all hope might not be lost. There is a two-part strategy needed here. 

Part 1: Acknowledge the Obvious

Yes, that’s right, you have permission to directly address the “elephant in the room.” This is an obvious move, but not an easy one.

When we bring up the “elephant in the room” it usually revolves around addressing difficult people with hard-to-solve problems. It’s socially painful and can be a little stressful for people who aren’t comfortable with confrontation.

So, what usually happens is that everyone plays nice while never really identifying, discussing, or solving the issues at hand. Now the poisonous person, who knows meetings typically unfold this way, remains safe as no one ever confronts them. 

Stop giving them a pass. It’s time to ‘Acknowledging the Obvious’ by saying something like “…are you aware that every time I ask you to make a change you react in a way that makes it impossible for us to discuss the issue openly and honestly?”

Framing the issue in this way will allow you to start the conversation and bring the issue out into the open so that it can be discussed. However, don’t be surprised if the other person goes on the defensive. It’s a normal response when someone confronts an issue head on, because sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  

Part 2: Remove the Poison

This is the part where we separate the poison from the other members of the team. 

The most obvious way of getting rid of this person is to fire them. But let’s say that’s not an option and we need to get creative. Here are two examples from my own experience:

At one point in my life I was managing a team of salespeople who were unionized and the poison person I wanted to get rid of was the shop-steward. Once I was determined to get this person off my team they dug in their heels and threatened to use the power of the union to stay put.  Rather than directly fight union, I found this woman a better job—one where should could excel.

In another instance, a manager told me he had a poisonous salesperson that was related to the owner of the company. Due to the circumstances, the manager felt he couldn’t fire the person. How did he deal with it? He “promoted” this person to what he called Group 2. The salesperson was stunned. They asked what this meant and if they were really fired. The manager assured them, “you aren’t fired, but you’ve been promoted to Group 2, which means you don’t have to attend meetings or training and no more paperwork. All that’s required of you is to try to sell, and if you close a deal, then you get commission.”  

This manager’s approach to preventing these negative, poisonous people from infiltrating the rest of the team was to keep them separated. While this may not work in your situation, the point is to consider your options before letting that person go.

Managers should strive towards having healthy, open relationships with every member of the team. In some cases it will be more challenging, while in other situations it will be effortless. Take the time to support your sellers, even the difficult ones, by remembering to reframe the situation and pick the right starting point, remain helpful while reinforcing your expectations of each seller, and finally, be patient and get resourceful when necessary.  

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Topics: sales, sales manager, coaching, sales coaching

Get a CLEW: The Daily Activity Dashboard You Need to Organize Yourself for Success

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Sep 30, 2016 3:15:00 PM

No disrespect intended, but based on my personal observations, few salespeople are organized, and even the organized ones are seldom organized around the task of being successful.  This level of organization not only keeps you pointed in the right direction but has an empowering effect that will give you the confidence you need to tackle and overcome the challenges in your competitive marketplace.  

Let me be clear: in today’s world, there are tons of tools that will help sellers get organized from a “file stuff perspective” – from CRMs, Marketing databases, SFAs (Sales Force Automation tools), Dropbox, OneDrive (and other cloud-hosted solutions) to Post-it notes.  So, the problem of filing is solved but the real challenge is finding what you’ve filed.

Consider a busy salesperson who is always on the move using many different devices and typically only has a minute to find what they are looking for.

You’ll need to consider how you will file these documents so that it’s easier to locate when you’re in crunch time. That will save you tons of time and reduce stress levels. But, to be successful in sales, we need another layer of being organized. And that’s when you are organized around the task of being successful. But how?  

Here is my 4-part daily system to get on track, stay on track, and position yourself for long term sales success.

"GET A CLEW"

Create a Daily Dashboard

The name I use for my own Daily Dashboard is “GET A CLEW” (pronounced CLUE), which is really an inside joke to myself about giving myself a clue everyday as to what I need to prioritize in order to achieve my goals.

CLEW stands for Critical, Learning, Exercise, and Writing; and the “GET A” is an acronym that stands for Goals, Expectations, Timetable and Accountable – I will explain the significance of this below.  

OK, maybe you’re thinking: “Wait! If I’m not organized already, how will adding a new dashboard going to help me? That will just add yet another distraction and dashboard to maintain.” I used to think the same thing until I realized the consequences of skipping this step. Let me explain.

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution only to completely forget it by mid-January? Have you ever felt like you’ve been making the same resolution year after year? I call that swimming in circles.

The main reason you didn’t accomplish your goals is because you took your eyes off them.  You forgot to focus on them, you forgot to apply the big picture goals of your life to your daily activity choices. Instead, you reverted to old habits and patterns, which as we learn every year, brings us back to our original starting point.  

My CLEW report helps remind me of my business, family, and personal goals every morning before I start my day.

I begin each day by opening my CLEW report and re-reading my goals, which are broken down into short term and long term goals for business, family, and personal. This also gives me an opportunity to assess and refine when needed. The more specific your goals are, the more likely you will accomplish them.

Each morning, I’m able to re-commit to my own Goals by reviewing Expectations of myself, my Timetable (for example: deadlines, benchmarks, and time management choices such as ending the day with one more call or email to a prospect you’re working on), and finally, my report is a daily reminder of how I need to remain Accountable for my own success and happiness.

Get into the habit of looking at this dashboard every day, even if you’re just starting with the “GET A” part first, it will point you in the right direction and set your day up for success.

Now, let’s dive in to see how we can fully “GET A CLEW.”

C = Critical

Once you’ve completed the “GET A” part to starting your day, it’s time to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the first big task of each day:  aligning goals with daily activity.  

Making a “to-do” list sounds fine but by definition is merely a list, and is typically not prioritized or scored by importance. This results in unimportant tasks mixing in with activities that are crucial for achieving your goals. That’s why I look at my Critical list of items to get done, which are arranged 1 through 10 for both my personal and professional tasks. 

Every morning I cross off items done yesterday and re-prioritize the remaining items on my 1-10 scale. What a great feeling it is to re-examine my tasks every day to double check that I’m not missing anything and I’m working on the most important tasks to push me closer to my goals.

From a psychological point of view, it’s the little things that provide the greatest sense of satisfaction and empowerment: crossing items off and then adding new items to the list.

Remember that despite your level of organization, in sales there will always be more to do than time to do it. Each day you will not get to some things. Make sure you always get to the things Critical to achieving your long and short term goals by toggling between Critical and your calendar to make sure you have an appointment with yourself to do the most important things.

L = Leads and Learning

I’ve grouped these two things together because they are related.

First, if a salesperson is not spending at least a little time each day upskilling themselves about the latest trends impacting their industry, then they are falling behind.  Reading industry publications including comments on discussion groups and white papers is now a necessity – if only because we have to assume that both the customer and your competitors are reading – and interested – in learning more. 

Staying up-to-date works to your advantage in two ways: you’ll be the one informing your customers and prospects about the most recent or upcoming trends, and you’ll find new leads and opportunities in the process. An added bonus is that while gathering information you’ll gain greater insight into how to communicate the value of your offering.

So, to be organized around the task of learning, I work on learning in my off-hours. And rather than lose precious time deciding what to read I make a list of topics that I am interested in reading for both business and pleasure. Then, during my more relaxed times or in the early morning while transitioning from my first cup of coffee to my second cup, I review that list and select what’s on top. My goal is to “pleasure” read for an hour a day and “work” at least an hour a day. 

Learning is like exercise. Always a great idea, just not at this moment.  Everything in your day will pop up just in time to block you from getting to this important reading. So what’s the key to following through? Schedule time in your calendar, and stick to it!

E = Exercise

Regardless of your feelings about exercise, physical activity should be part of your everyday routine, even if it’s as simple as taking a walk around the block. Aside from the long list of health benefits, nothing will give you more of a mental boost than exercising.

In my case, I will think of the problem I’m working on and then I’ll swim for 30-60 minutes. When I get out of the pool, I come away with ideas to solve the problem. And you know what, every swimmer or runner tells me the same thing. Exercise an outlet. Are you using it to the fullest? Tell us what you think and your response may be included in an upcoming blog.

When I look at the Exercise section of my daily dashboard, I always remind myself of why I am exercising and what areas am I looking to improve? Reviewing what and why will help you stay committed to scheduling time on your calendar to exercise. A best practice of busy professionals is to exercise first thing in the morning because it helps fully energize and empower you to tackle the Critical tasks of the day.

W = Writing

While learning and reading are essential, writing is another piece of the puzzle that engages parts of your brain that push you to think harder and smarter.

In today’s world, sellers need to deliver impactful answers and examples to leave a lasting impression.  You need to reassure your prospects and customers with success stories while explain new offerings to people who may know more than you or less than you.  That’s why writing is a critical activity that will help you compile your thoughts, questions, and answers as you prepare for important meetings.

Spend time writing every day. What should you write?  Start by writing down your most common objections and then try turning-around each objection. Answer those hard questions like: What makes your solution different? Why is it better than the competition? How is it worth the money?

Assuming your improvisational skills will suffice is a dangerous bet – especially if your competitors are following my advice and staying organized around the task of beating you. And while spending the time working out the wording on “paper” may be painful, it will result in a more prepared and well thought out response, which leads to you sounding perfect when the sale is ultimately dependent on your answer.

So if you’re looking to gain a competitive advantage and not sure where to start, “GET A CLEW” will provide the framework to help you become more organized and create a daily routine that sets you up for success.

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Topics: sales, time management, organization

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.

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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,

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