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How Overcoming Obstacles in Life Applies to Sales

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Mar 23, 2017 7:45:54 PM

Today’s salespeople must be versatile.

On one hand, you have to be great at classic sales skills like prospecting, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as time management.

On the other hand, you have to be willing to adjust and reinvent your approach to incorporate new skills and technology. Your own company’s products, services, marketing support and competitive advantages will continue to evolve in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace.

Everyone is now selling more complex solutions and they are selling across many platforms to a growing number of influencers and decision makers.  And guess what? Your competitors are working hard to beat you and they are targeting your customer’s budget. 

So, this means we have to be innovators and pioneers too, especially when it comes to reaching bigger goals and overcoming obstacles along the way.

That’s why I’m sharing my story about how success in sales is a lot like successfully swimming the English Channel, which is the world’s hardest open water event.

In 2008, I successfully swam the English Channel as part of a 4-man relay. In 2009, I had my next English Channel. This time it was to launch a successful company in the middle of a recession after losing my job. In both the real and metaphorical English Channels, I was determined to succeed, but had an even stronger desire not to fail. 

Selling is filled with English Channel challenges. And it’s a metaphor you can apply to any challenging goal that you don’t want to fail at achieving.

Here are the 3 things I learned about overcoming English Channel challenges and how it applies to sales:

How to overcome obstacles in sales and life

#1 Getting in Shape

As soon as I agreed to join the 4-man relay, I knew I was out of shape but I wasn’t quite sure what type of “in shape” was needed?

What I learned was the importance of crafting the right description of your goals. Anyone can get “in shape” but if you’re going after a specific goal, then you need to be as descriptive and specific as possible.

Lessons applied to sales

Know Your Starting Point

Be honest with yourself by assessing your current position. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Are there risks involved in going after this goal? Or are there more opportunities available? Your starting point will help you determine how to take your next steps.

Commit Yourself to the Goal

When you’re committed to a goal with relentless focus and determination, it makes the inevitable roadblock more bearable. This is because if you hold yourself accountable, then you will take responsibility to think of every possible idea or path to make it to the finish line.

Organize Yourself around a Task

If you’re focused on achieving a big goal by a certain deadline then you have to align and organize your time, your activities, and your resources. If you’re trying to get X number of appointments each week, then you need to ensure you’re organizing yourself around this goal or task.

Develop a Dashboard to Track Progress

If you want to improve, then you have to establish benchmarks. This is so you can compare your current position to your progress along the way. Let’s say you want to improve your customer retention rate, then you need to track how many clients renew at the end of each contract. When you see yourself improve, you are more motivated to keep going.

Leverage the Power of Negative Thinking

Imagine you’ve missed your goal. You’ve failed to successfully cross the Channel. Now what? Well, when those feelings of disappointment creep into your mind, they will trigger ideas and insight. All of a sudden, the things you should have thought of or didn’t know become clear. This is especially helpful when applied to sales because you now know what you would have done differently. But usually it’s too late. So, before a situation like this occurs, consider leveraging your feelings of disappointment to generate ideas about what you “should” have done in advance of missing the goal.

#2 Jumping into Cold Water

The thought of it is worse than it actual is, but fear of the unknown is an element that often stops people in their tracks. When you’re navigating obstacles, you will experience a lot of cold water that you’ll have to dive in head first. But when you prepare and anticipate you’ll be well positioned to face this type of obstacle and overcome it.

Lessons applied to sales

Take Small Steps

Break down your goals into small steps. No matter how unpleasant the thought of doing something may be, if you break down a bigger task into smaller steps, you can think in terms of minutes or days instead of hours or months. Adding one more minute of training, or one more prospecting call to the end of the day, you’ll be one step closer to reaching your goal.

Do Your Research

The more you know, the better off you’ll be. When you do your research and consider the information available, you can interpret and apply what you’ve learned to inform your decisions. In sales, it’s now standard operating procedure to be knowledgeable and prepared prior to every meeting.

Know Your Weaknesses

Mostly everyone would succeed in an ideal setting under perfect conditions. But what matters is how you react under pressure or difficult circumstances. In sales, there are many instances that lead to stress or uncomfortable situations that need to be dealt with professionally and proactively. That’s why you must acknowledge your weaknesses and work towards improvement.

#3 Avoiding Jellyfish

What is your personal kryptonite?  When you fear failure, what does that fear look like? When you brain is yelling: DANGER! How can you stay relaxed enough to recognize the fear while remembering and practicing your new reaction.

Lessons applied to sales:

Reinvent Yourself

When you’re set in your ways and have established patterns or habits, nothing short of shaking things up by trying something new will help you face your personal fears. Everyone has a fear of change, to an extent. But when you’re on a constant mission to break old habits, you begin training yourself to change. This takes time, but once you get started you’ll have renewed energy and enthusiasm for the goal you’re trying to accomplish.

Keep Training

When you’re constantly training and engaged in ongoing development, you become very good at absorbing information and then applying it to your own situation. If you stop learning, just like exercise, your muscles will atrophy. Consider finding yourself a mentor or coach who will advise and guide you on an ongoing basis.


Both life and sales are full of uncertain obstacles and rough waters, but when you have a willingness to learn and reinvent yourself as well as make an effort to prepare, anticipate, and hold yourself accountable you can pioneer your success.

Tune in to the DMT YouTube channel for weekly tips.

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Topics: sales tips, sales training, overcoming sales challenges

Selling Complex Solutions and Why Conventional Sales Training Won’t Work

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Mar 9, 2017 8:15:00 AM

Your technology or solution fits the client's needs but they are currently using another solution. While selling against the competition is a common problem for salespeople across all industries, advertising and marketing technology or software solutions challenge salespeople in a way that conventional sales training and product training doesn’t address.

Selling innovative technology requires a new multi-platform approach to training that goes beyond just building confidence to providing the right understanding and resources needed to win the first few sales.

Now, some people would like to believe that technology just sells itself, but consider the key element in closing every sale: interaction with a salesperson.

The relationship between the buyer and seller as well as their respective organizations is a major competitive advantage when selling technology.

While the buyer has most likely conducted their own research to first understand, frame, and give a name to their problem or opportunity, their motivation to buy really comes down to whether your solution is a good business and personal fit.

The buyer makes a decision based on how well the salesperson is able to connect the dots between the customer’s needs and how the solution will be the right fit to address those needs.

If it were just the technology, you wouldn’t need the salesperson. 

But since that’s not the case, here’s why you should kick conventional sales training to the curb and focus on winning more sales with these ideas:


Be an Expert

Traditional sales training is typically built on the premise that you must memorize and regurgitate facts, figures, features, and benefits of your products and services. While yes, salespeople must know this information, the problem is that a lot of companies lump “selling skills” and “product knowledge” training together when they should be completely separate programs. Selling skills training is all about how you communicate your message. But the first step is having a solid understanding of the product and market knowledge prior to learning how to present the solution.

You can be an expert by focusing on:

Knowing the Market

Understanding our target market and niche is critical. We need to understand the unique circumstances, competitive environment, and business processes of our target market. In doing this research and preparation, we are better equipped to address the needs of our target market and identify what core business challenges our technology can address.

Knowing the Client

We need to go beyond the market and spend time getting to know each individual company’s situation and circumstances. Each client will have unique business challenges and processes that need the support of technology in a customized way.

Factors that will affect the type of solution needed will vary depending on their stage of business growth, current processes and systems in place, business goals, and management methodology.

BONUS: Here's a video from our CEO, Steve Bookbinder, about how to stay knowledgeable and up-to-date on the latest trends going on in your industry:

Be Curious

Typical sales training is focused on you and your company. However, in the real world of selling you will only have success by focusing on the customer.

Sellers must work towards building a deeper connection and trust with their buyers in order to be successful when selling their technology solution.

To do that, you must master the art of being curious and learning how to uncover needs by going below the surface of the sales conversation.

My advice is to practice asking 2nd level questions and 3rd level questions.

For example: Let’s say it’s a first appointment where you’ve proactively prospected to get the sales meeting. The prospect begins by telling you, “The reason I wanted to meet you is that we are currently looking to change vendors and I thought your solution might be what we are looking for.”

Typical response: “Great! Tell me more about what you’re looking for.”

Below the surface response: “Before I go into our offering, can you tell me why you originally chose your current vendor and why their approach hasn’t worked for you? Did something change?”

Finding a solution that fits the customer requires going below the surface of what was explicitly said so you can ask about the implicit – what you deduced from the customer’s words.

Be Prepared

While conventional sales training may address how to turn around sales objections, it doesn’t teach you the strategies necessary to anticipate and handle new objections.

Most salespeople sound confident when they already know what they are going to say before they say it. They are at their worst when they don’t know what to say. And nothing can stop a salesperson more than fear of not knowing how to answer a question or turn around an objection.

My advice is to encourage all sellers to share the objections and questions they’ve been getting on a weekly or monthly basis. This will provide real world examples so that you can continually practice and refine your answers. This is also a great way for the whole team to share essential information that will help everyone do their job more effectively. 

Be a Problem Solver

Elevating ourselves from the status of order taker to trusted advisor and problem solver can give us a real advantage in the marketplace.

To do that, it’s imperative that salespeople understand the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the technology.

Start by mastering the specialist vs. umbrella argument. Either your company offers all related services under one “umbrella”, or you specialize in services that umbrella companies offer, too, but your version is better. 

Umbrella companies offer a single point of contact and the ability to move services to the ones the client needs.  Specialists are stuck only providing their one service which may not be the right fit over time.  But, if you are a specialist company, your argument is that no one else can reach your level of specialty and for that reason the fit with the customer’s needs will be closer. 

By understanding our limitations and setting expectations early on through effective communication, we can dispel any misconceptions the client may have and avoid misunderstanding or off-target results. Truly knowing all about your solution will help maximize revenue and client satisfaction.

My advice is to develop this “positioning” skill. It requires ongoing verbal practice; over your career at various points you will need to be an expert on one side or the other of this argument. To be seen as a consultant, we need to have a thorough needs analysis approach, build our profile as a subject matter expert, have a high level of rapport with the potential clients, and look for ideal solutions—not just “our solution” to client problems.


Traditional sales training needs to evolve into a more comprehensive approach. Because to become an excellent salesperson, it’s less about selling skills and product knowledge, but more about your ability to translate your message and make a connection to the buyer and their problem.

Tune in to the DMT YouTube channel for weekly tips.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated.

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Topics: sales tips, sales training, solution selling

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: 
sales call approach ideas

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.



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.


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

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.


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!


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

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

7 Strategies for Selling Search Engine Marketing

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Dec 29, 2015 9:30:00 AM

1. Start with a Great Target List

If you observe veteran search marketing salespeople, you will see that they receive inbound calls and email inquiries quite frequently from potentially ready-to-buy advertisers. Unfortunately, half of the calls will be less than optimal and shouldn’t be considered real prospects, but the other half will be first class opportunities.

Watching those veteran sellers, you may wonder what sort of magic makes them so effective. What is the real magic? The seller and his/her company have been prospecting for years.

The odds of cold calling someone today and reaching the final decision maker is low. But you can sow the seeds today- make sure they already know about you, and make them impressed enough to remember to contact you when they are ready.

So if you want a successful career, think ahead to the advertisers you want to be working within the next 1-3 years and begin pursuing them, without appearing desperate. Each day, given that you will have to make about 10-30 calls (especially if you are in your first year of SEM sales), you should be having at least one good conversation with a decision maker/advertiser.


2. Prospect Every Day

Although this seems obvious, especially given the point mentioned above, it can sometimes be difficult to carry it through. Since you sometimes actually reach an interested advertiser, you lose some prospecting time.

The "interested" calls can easily go on for about 10-45 minutes. Those calls often result in the promise to send something. That something can take an hour to 3 days to prepare. Managing your time so that, despite these needs, you still find time to prospect enough, ideally, you should aim for a call to be only a few minutes long that results in a face-to-face meeting.

3. Prepare for Each Meeting Like an Investor

Before investors will put their money into a company, they want to know everything about that company. Therefore, apart from the information you will glean online and from various databases, etc., you need to make sure you understand how big the vertical is, how big a share your target-prospect has and what their plans (ideally budget) and timing needs are to grow that share.

This level of information can only be acquired through conversations with the prospect. You may even need more than one good conversation before you can learn enough about this advertiser.

Remember, you are also trying to determine if this advertiser is a good fit with your own agency. Given your competition, you may never get a second chance at getting that advertiser back.

4. Create a Presentation that Tells Your Agency's Story

The normal flow of events leading to a sale with a new advertiser goes either through the RFP process or through a process led by the search agency. The RFP process gives the customer total control while the other gives the agency total control.

Either way, you are likely to need two presentations. The first is either the RFP response or your agency's initial presentation; the second will include the agency fee structure.

If you are involved with an RFP, you will likely be presented with a variety of categories (for example Proprietary Technologies, Bid Management Strategy, Service Team Structures, etc.) with a series of detailed questions below each. Your answers should tell a story about how your agency services accounts.

If the sale is outside the RFP process, then the focus still needs to be on telling that story: the story of how your agency's philosophy of servicing accounts is a superior fit for that particular advertiser.

5. Create a Sense of Urgency

Assuming the advertiser is trying to improve the ROI of their search campaign, the seller needs to be specific about the advertiser's timing for those changes. Even if the advertiser's goal is to increase their SOV of search traffic (and conversions) to their vertical by the following year, the good search seller will be able to build up a sense of urgency in the client.

How does one do this?

By building a backward timetable.

Let's say it's currently January, and the advertiser wants to take advantage of the Q4 traffic increase. By describing each and every step leading up to October/November/December along with the amount of time needed to test and optimize each step (including keywords selection, creatives, matching strategy, landing page, etc), you can easily show the advertiser that starting in January may not even be enough.

6. Involve Your Team of Experts Pre-Sale - Without Wasting Their Time

If the seller is the smartest person in their agency, then the advertiser will suffer having to work with a not-as-smart service team. On the other hand, if the service team is a bunch of rocket scientists that the advertiser never meets, then the advertiser may have trouble visualizing the benefits of working with them.

Make sure you as a seller appear well-informed, but then top yourself by introducing the advertiser to at least one additional member of either the management or the service team - ideally both. Consider the introductions of other team members a great "next step strategy."

7. Stay Involved While Handing Off Campaign to Your Account Management Team

Some agencies ask their sellers to stay involved after the sale - some even insist that the seller joins weekly Account Manager calls. Other agencies ask that the seller cleanly hands off the advertiser, turning to focus on the next sale.

Either way, the seller is well advised to make sure they schedule a conversation (or 2, 3 or 4) during the first week/month of the new advertiser's campaign with both the Account Manager and the client. The last thing a search seller wants is to learn - too late - that the advertiser was unhappy and unable to get resolution through the account team.

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Topics: training, sales process, prospecting, value, sales tips, sales training, marketing, strategy, phone, account manager, agency's story

4 Effective Ways to Onboard New Sellers

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Aug 13, 2015 9:03:00 AM

Let’s start by admitting the enormity of the challenge - onboarding and getting sellers up to speed is a huge task. They’re different than previous sellers, the market might be different, and their job might also be different. To reach their goals and those set for them, new sellers have to learn a new way of succeeding in a new environment.

They need practice, motivation, and team-building to help them, which boils down to training. Without training how can we expect them to meet and surpass our expectations?

Here are 4 activities that every manager should do weekly to begin the training process:

1. Practice qualifying questions


Most sellers are not asking enough questions to properly understand the customer’s goals and might not even fully know what they’re listening for. They need to ask questions in order to learn their customer’s business and identify the right fit.

So which questions uncover the right information?

Try playing “The Press Conference” game. Begin by bringing in a member of the staff who has been with the company for a long time and can authentically and intelligently play the part of the client. The new sellers then get to pepper “the client” with 20 questions. When done, the individual playing the client should reveal their real goals, issues, business problems, and opportunities.

Most sellers will be surprised by how little their first 20 questions penetrated the customer’s world. They will also learn to listen, rather than simply rely on the same “tried and true” all-purpose questions for each sales meeting and gain more insight into your company’s specific clients.

2. Role-play

Role-playing most closely resembles real life and serves as an important rehearsal for actual upcoming meetings where a lot may be riding on each moment.

Selling is performance art.  Do you really want your sellers performing unrehearsed? How do you know what they may do in the field if you don’t even watch rehearsals?

The benefits extend beyond the person playing the seller. Observers can learn even more by analyzing the performance. The most experienced sellers can share their insights and the new hires will quickly learn to be prepared for the sales challenges presented in role plays, which will extend over into their actual sales conversations. 

3. Create They say – I say exercises

Challenge your sellers to write down their most challenging objections and then draft their best turnarounds. New hires can refer to this and experienced sellers can keep refining this document.

Sellers will begin to see their world as a series of easily-answered questions and objections that can be quickly turned around. In a sense, their sales conversations will begin to slow down and they’ll anticipate what is going to happen, as well as, recognize different variations of the same objections and questions. 

4. Storytelling

Sellers need to have a story for every situation. By being armed with success stories that can add color to their sales presentations, they’ll be much better prepared to satisfy their prospects.

Elaborate case studies aren’t always required, but each seller on your team needs to at least have the talking point version of a success story that can help answer these common and challenging customer questions:

  • What is the advantage of working with your company?
  • What are the differences between your company and your competitors?
  • What makes your company worth the money?
  • What is the ROI of working together?

Setting aside time each week for your sellers to share their stories with each other will help your entire team be better prepared.

Establishing these training exercises early on will not only help to quickly onboard your new hires, but will also increase the entire team’s success. Creating an effective sales team requires consistent training and coaching to develop confidence and greater selling competence.

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Topics: selling, sales training

Assessing Results from an ROI Based Approach to Sales Training

Posted by Buff Parham on Jan 27, 2015 2:36:07 PM

Missed the first few posts in this series? Read Does Sales Training Really Work? and Getting Started with an ROI Based Approach to Sales Training

Being accurate about the “return" is even more important than being accurate about the “investment.”

More than likely, you’ve kept careful track of how much time, effort, and money went into training everyone for this new market environment. Corporate finance probably also has ascertained the overall expense of the undertaking. In order to be fair to all parties, measuring the return demands the same kind of rigor. It’s tempting to assign revenue that may be “borderline”, but it’s also counterproductive. For the same reason that “miscounting” golf strokes doesn’t work—no one really gets better by overstating the results of his/her efforts. So rather than “enhancing” the results, let’s go with a sober clear-eyed analysis of what can be attributed to the undertaking. There will always be room for improvement in the next cycle!

The quality and quantity of the results both matter!

Mere numbers will not tell the whole story. There will be a lot of anecdotal evidence that should be included in your assessment.  In the long run, the qualitative aspects of any improvement in performance will be more valuable than one might think. Numbers tell an obvious story but not the whole story. In addition, the qualitative component is an “annuity” that will continue to pay benefits to you and your salespeople way beyond the sales cycle currently in question.

Check in with your pre-existing and new clientele.

evaluation_report_cardYou should be able to ask your most trusted and valuable clients if they’ve seen any improvement from their point of view. They may or may not be spending more money with you for a variety of reasons, so once again, look beyond the bottom line here. Most people love to share positive stories, so you should tailor your inquiry in that fashion. Simply ask your key clientele if they feel as they have benefited from the relationship with your salesperson or sales team over the past cycle. If the response is an emphatic “yes”, then you’ve got additional justification for the initial investment of time and money.

Do your salespeople feel more accountable?

If they haven’t come forward with an answer to this question already, then ask them! This is the manager’s “report card”—no one should expect greater accountability unless it is explicitly requested if not demanded. After a full sales cycle, there’s no grey area here. As always, there will probably be a range of responses, so it’s the consensus that will tell you how well you conveyed the objective as the manager

Are your KPIs truly useful on a daily basis?

A really effective KPI dashboard should become indispensable, much like our smartphones or our personal computers. Sure we did business before they were invented, but now that we have them, we can’t live without them. Does that describe the set of KPIs that you established at the beginning of the sales cycle? If not, take some time to assess and refine those that are crucial and relevant, and get rid of the ones that aren’t. Remember, your KPIs should be working for you everyday!

Were specific goals achieved for selling any new and additional platforms?

Expanding everyone’s skill set is what drove this commitment in the first place…along with everything else, did the team secure the most lucrative part of the mission? Success in selling the new platforms builds confidence and experience that carries over to enhanced performance with the original one. Reaching these specific goals will make future goal setting for all platforms a much more “holistic” process. Getting to that next level will guarantee even more growth in the return on that original investment! Competitive Selling


About the Author

buff_parham-1Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He started in the mailroom at CBS, but quickly moved on to selling locally at KABC/Los Angeles and nationally for ABC Spot Sales in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Buff then continued on to spend almost 12 years with Univision, first as General Sales Manager at KUVN/KSTR in Dallas, and then 5 years in New York as SVP/Sales.

Buff believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

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Topics: sales training, ROI

Getting Started with an ROI Based Approach to Sales Training

Posted by Buff Parham on Jan 20, 2015 1:47:00 PM

Does sales training really work?

An ROI based approach must start with the end in mind. What does success look like 12 months from now? How will we know that we've actually accomplished anything significant from embracing a robust sales training program? An ROI approach demands a monetary value to be achieved by the end of the target revenue cycle.

Doing the math really matters! There's a formula for success here that must be determined by management to get the process started. While it's relatively easy to assess the current or historical output of each salesperson, it's more of a challenge to project what each person's output will be after rigorous sales training. But that process simply must be undertaken. What's the "plus" on each and every salesperson on the team? While using the same arbitrary "bump" for everyone is convenient, it's simply not realistic. The payoff in terms of improved performance will vary dramatically from salesperson to salesperson. Spend some time figuring out what the number should be for each person respectively.

Effective sales training will help salespeople with both existing and potential clientele. If that's true, then calculating each person's upside potential should be reflected in both the expansion of current accounts as well as the development of new accounts. Far too often, sales managers assume that sales training focuses solely on new business development. That assumption ignores the opportunity to empower salespeople to perform better with their existing clientele. As additional products and/or platforms are added to the sales portfolio, it's crucial that salespeople know how to sell those through where they already have solid relationships!

Effective sales training should automatically raise accountability. An ROI based approach will take a lot of the "mystery" out of the sales process. "How?" and "How many?" are equally important questions in any analysis of enhanced sales performance. Benchmarking current activity should include number of calls, number of existing and new accounts, average spend per account and any other relevant metric that will give a clear picture of the starting point. Those will become the key performance indicators (KPIs) that define the quantified goal for each salesperson as well as the team.

retro-car-dashboardTruly relevant KPIs also guide day-to-day progress. More than likely, we've all been exposed to "dashboards" that monitor the sales process. But how many sales managers really use them? Too often, it's an "out of the box" application that may or may not be a good fit for a given operation. The right answer here is to build your own dashboard of KPIs that supplies the critical data for success with your particular team. It's not a complicated thing to do, but it simply must be done. Embarking upon a critical journey without a reliable compass is unrealistic!

Selling new and additional platforms requires both effective sales training as well as specific revenue goals for them. Corporate finance can and will generate a "hard" expense number for those new platforms. The ROI for those platforms will be significantly enhanced if resources are allotted for effective sales training as well. The "fringe benefit" of that training is the upside performance on pre-existing platforms and the traditional "core business." Effective sales training takes even the best sales people to a higher level of performance and accelerates the growth of those with less experience. In other words, all boats rise when salespeople are better equipped for success!

Investing in Sales Training


About the Author

buff_parham-1Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He started in the mailroom at CBS, but quickly moved on to selling locally at KABC/Los Angeles and nationally for ABC Spot Sales in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Buff then continued on to spend almost 12 years with Univision, first as General Sales Manager at KUVN/KSTR in Dallas, and then 5 years in New York as SVP/Sales.

Buff believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

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Topics: sales, training, sales training, ROI, Investing in Sales Training

Does Sales Training Really Work?

Posted by Buff Parham on Jan 15, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Sales training only works if we really want it to! Far too often, sales managers will give “lip service” to sales training, but never really do what’s required to make it worth the time and effort. Merely “checking the box” on this critical piece of any sales operation is simply not enough. Both managers and salespeople must perceive sales training as an integral part alike—it must be an important component of the culture of the organization, and not something that’s either “optional” or “extra.”

tablet-chart-graph-upEffective sales training must have a clear objective. What’s to be accomplished by taking on this effort in the first place? In the best seller “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Dr. Stephen Covey’s second habit says, “Begin with the end in mind.” Where is this journey going to take us and how will we know when we get there? Clearly defining and stating the objective of sales training to all involved parties is absolutely essential. We need to describe the desired end product in very tangible terms. Broad descriptors such as “getting better” or “improved performance” are too vague and subjective. In order to get the necessary buy-in from both superiors and subordinates, spelling out the objective in no uncertain terms is the necessary first step!

The nature of the commitment will impact the nature of the outcome! Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies…if management doesn’t display a serious tone about sales training, then no one should be surprised if things don’t work out very well. It’s one thing to declare a specific objective, it’s quite another to project a consistent and urgent attitude to getting it done. This is where weaving sales training into the “DNA” of the operation becomes so important. Short term and long term planning must indicate to all that sales training is at the same level of importance as other activities that are part of the operation’s routine.

Effective sales training must have adequate resources. It’s often difficult to secure the materials that are necessary, but trying to do well without them is almost not worth the effort. Needed resources may require managers to go beyond their immediate realm. Qualified and successful outside sales trainers can bring a more objective approach and discipline to the table. There may be digital curriculum and/or specific reading assignments that are needed. It’s highly unlikely that a sales manager can do his/her best job of training without additional resources. Sales managers also tend to train salespeople “in their own image” which may not be sufficient in a rapidly changing media sales landscape.

ROI is the key metric for evaluating the result of sales training! The primary objective of any sales training should reflect a very tangible and measurable return on the investment in “hard” and “soft” assets that are to be expended. Along with the tangible resources that will be acquired, we should also figure out the value of the time invested by all participants in the process. Establishing the total value of the investment will reinforce the importance of the undertaking and will give superiors a clear and quantifiable set of expectations. More than likely, sales managers will be asking for significant material resources—justifying those requests on an “ROI basis” is the best way to go.

Effective sales training doesn’t just happenit needs to be clearly defined, seriously committed to with adequate resources and justified on an ROI basis. If all of those criteria can’t be satisfied, then the chances of achieving lasting success are seriously compromised!

Competitive Selling

About the Author

buff_parham-1Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He started in the mailroom at CBS, but quickly moved on to selling locally at KABC/Los Angeles and nationally for ABC Spot Sales in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Buff then continued on to spend almost 12 years with Univision, first as General Sales Manager at KUVN/KSTR in Dallas, and then 5 years in New York as SVP/Sales.

Buff believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

Read More

Topics: sales, training, sales training, Investing in Sales Training, sales training mistakes