Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Failure or success

Salescoach Colleen Stanley's Top 9 principles for success or failure in sales :

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

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

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

4. Lose Your Mediocre Friends
Remember your mom saying " Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you what you are like." This quote is absolutely true in sales. Tell me who you 'hang' with and I will tell you what you are like. Mediocre performers like to 'hang' with other mediocre performers. The bar for success is low and membership criteria is easy! Expect and accept less. The weekly agenda for meetings is always predictable and preset: Bring one new excuse for discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

2008 has given us many opportunities, great successes, inspiring challenges, and new perspective.

Have you gotten the most out of the past year?

There's a new opportunity ahead of us: the year 2009!

With the financial crisis, this may be a challenging year in business for some - but sooner or later you will find the competitive edge to stand out from the crowd. Challenges have their upsides too....one of them being that others are experiencing the same threshold and once you've gotten over the hurdle, you may have a head start to the rest.

Now is the time to plan your goals, milestones, accomplishments, and successes for the coming year.

What went well? What could have been done better?
Did you notice other people's successes? Is there anything from their actions that you can incorporate into your daily/weekly/monhtly schedule?
What do you want to learn/experience/achieve next year?
Is everything in place to live your dream?

Many questions... some of which are tough to answer, as none of us have a crystal ball to see the future. Yet we can fulfill our own prophecy, by putting real and practical actions next to our goals.

I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may all your dreams come true in 2009 !


Friday, November 28, 2008

Mount Everest

Last night, I woke up early because of my jetlag.
Around 3.15 am it occurred to me (the weirdest thoughts come up at night) that getting started in sales has some similarities with climbing the Mount Everest.

A couple of months ago, my good friend Marco Hoogerland (an amazing mental coach for top athletes, including top-notch football players, world and european champions and olympic athletes) hosted an evening event with Robert de Vries.

Robert de Vries is a Dutch climber, and one of few men that has endured the severities of reaching the top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth.
Robert presented his movie to the in-crowd, accompanied by stories and many questions of the dazzled audience. What an unbelievable performance - I was stunned by his humbling and riveting story.

It also occurred to me that you have to be somewhat crazy/selfish to reach the absolute top.
Many things have to be left behind (sometimes even relationships with loved ones) to achieve the goals at hand. I am not saying anyone should.

I am just saying that my observation of the journey and end-line to these unbelievable achievements seem to have some commonly shared factors:

Dedication, focus, taking risk, preparation, training, endurance, persistance, triomph, glory, and hardship. It doesn't come for free...

It seemed to me that getting started in full-commissioned sales is somewhat like climbing (albeit more comfortable perhaps).

Sales isn't easy...
You can see the top, but have no idea (yet) how to get there.

Considering the following:
- No gear when starting (job knowlegde, product knowledge, industry knowlegde)
- Some are already trained when they start, some aren't.
Trained (experienced) people may have an advantage to reach the top sooner, but it may also hinder them in a way, because they might think they know it all and get reckless/careless while climbing is dangerous.
- You earn your climbing gear (product/job/industry knowledge) along the way, as you proceed through the basecamps.
- Some will fall or go back
- Some get stuck in snow storms and have to wait a while and watch weather conditions before they can proceed to the next camp.
- It is hard work, no matter how experienced you are - you will still have to walk the walk.
- You need your co-climbers, so be a good colleague
- It's great at the top, but anything below doesn't satisfy your dreams, so you may have to endure dissatisfaction, or disappointment when things aren't going as smooth as you had hoped for.
- Getting to the top may not be fun, but there's no easy way there. You have to pass through all basecamps
- Sherpa's (mgmt? finance? administrative colleagues?) can do a lot of the work, but you will still have to climb yourself.
- If your goal is to reach the top, you can't stop when others are not making it.

- Prepare (create prospect lists, organize your approach, create a plan, work the plan)
- Train (read, learn, ask, look around, copy, whatever makes you improve)
- Focus on your goal (top of the ranks)
- Be lead by the leader (pick your example)
- Persist (be relentless)

Dream about the impossible becoming possible by putting the first step in the right direction

Don't let yourself down

Be tough when it gets tough

Take the hardships like a man: it comes with the journey

Celebrate the basecamps, so you can enjoy the journey too

Learn from the winners, not the whiners.

If this doesn't make sense to you: it was late ;-)


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Temporary silence?

It is quiet you say?

That is true.

This week and next, my better half Chantal and I will be packing boxes and cleaning out our house before.... we move to NY on the 26th.

The website will have a grand change within the next 6 - 10 weeks or so, with added features and a full-fledge professional layout, so it will get better eventually.

While we're busy with 'the move', your contributions are much appreciated.
Please feel free to forward any articles or thoughts you'd like to share.

For the time being:
The last month-and-a-half of the year...

If you're still shooting to crush your targets, break a new record, or want to set yourself up for a nice Christmas paycheck: it is now or never.

Put in all the energy and effort you have - we can all relax once we reach year-end, but it ain't over til the fat lady sings!

Happy selling everyone


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A bit of Motivation

Some motivational words from the trenches to keep you focused and upbeat while reaching for your goals:

1. People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily. - Zig Ziglar
2. Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything. - Napoleon Hill
3. You have a very powerful mind that can make anything happen as long as you keep yourself centred. - Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
4. When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live. - Greg Anderson
5. Do more than is required. What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile. - Gary Ryan Blair
6. You control your future, your destiny. What you think about comes about. By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands - your own. - Mark Victor Hansen
7. If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. - Napoleon Hill
8. There's always the motivation of wanting to win. Everybody has that. But a champion needs, in his attitude, a motivation above and beyond winning. - Pat Riley
9. Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. - John Quincy Adams
10. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. - Thomas A. Edison

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stress management strategy

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it.

Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem is avoided in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same.

  • Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
  • Be more assertive. Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.
    Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead, you can avoid these stress-inducing pitfalls.
  • Time management tips to reduce stress
  • Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.
  • Don’t over-commit yourself
    Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take.
  • Prioritize tasks
    Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
  • Break projects into small steps
    If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
  • Delegate responsibility
    You don’t have to do it all yourself, whether at home, school, or on the job. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.

Stress management strategy #3:

Accept the things you can’t change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control— particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.

Look for the upside. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist. Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.

Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

Stress management strategy #4:

  • Adapt to the stressor
    If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
  • Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.
  • Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”
  • Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
  • Adjusting Your Attitude
    How you think can have a profound affect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Eliminate words such as "always," "never," "should," and "must." These are telltale marks of self-defeating thoughts.
    Source: National Victim Assistance Academy, U.S. Department of Justice

Stress reduction tips
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by making healthy lifestyle choices and taking care of yourself. If you regularly make time for rest and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors when they inevitably come.

  • Nurture yourself
    Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
  • Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
  • Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative effects of stress.
  • Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
  • Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.

Healthy stress reducers
- Go for a walk.
- Spend time in nature.
- Talk to a supportive friend.
- Sweat out tension with a good workout.
- Do something for someone else.
- Write in your journal.
- Take a long bath.
- Play with a pet.
- Work in your garden.
- Get a massage.
- Sit down with a good book.
- Take a yoga class.
- Listen to music.
- Watch a comedy.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension.

- Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
- Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary "highs" caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
- Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

How to Reduce, prevent, and Cope with Stress (1)

If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your entire well-being at risk.
Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.

The goal of stress management is to bring your mind and body back into balance. By adopting a positive attitude, learning healthier ways to cope, and changing the way you deal with stress, you can reduce its hold on your life.

In our frenetic, fast-paced world, many people deal with frequent or even constant stress. The overextended working mother, the hard-charging “Type A” personality, the self-critical perfectionist, the chronic worrier: they’re always wound up, always stretched to the breaking point, always rushing around in a frenzy or juggling too many demands.

Operating on daily red alert comes at the high price of your health, vitality, and peace of mind. But while it may seem that there’s nothing you can do about your stress level—the bills aren’t going to stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day for all your errands, your career will always be demanding—you have a lot more control than you might think. In fact, the simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management.
Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.

Stress management strategy #1: Avoid unnecessary stress
Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you’re close to reaching them. Taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress.

Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.

Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic’s got you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.

Avoid hot-button topics – If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.

Pare down your to-do list – Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The basics on Myers-Briggs

" Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills."

In sales, we often find ourselves in a situation in which we have to adapt to our prospect to make him/her feel comfortable digesting a sales-y call and to feel safe to talk business.
Consciously, preferably.

However, this is hard to do without knowing the strengths and weaknesses of our own personality.

Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Meyers aimed to develop a personality test that could explain and predict behavior and make the psychological types as developed by C.G. Jung understandable.

The test therefore, could help us get more insight into our personality, and help being more aware of the perception we create with our 'audience'.

There are 16 psychological types that can be derived from the following 4 characteristics:

Favorite world:
Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

Each psychological type has an extensive description if you google the outcome of your Myers-Briggs test. I hope it will provide you with valuable insight about your own behavior, and that it prompts you to contemplate how you could be more effective when dealing with people of another type, thus becoming a more effective salesman (or colleague/partner/parent etc.)

Take the test on the following link to find out about your type:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Main reasons to get objections

The following was forwarded to me by our new superstar salesman for Italy, Nicola d'Amato, and I think this is great material to share:

Let's have a look at the main reasons you get objections so we can lessen the chances of getting them in future.

Reason No. 1: A Poor Opening to Your Calls
Many companies will record the calls of their salespeople in order to determine areas for improvement. I'm sure if the salespeople actually listened to these recordings on a regular basis, they'd be horrified at what they actually say on the phone!

Remember, the first 15 seconds of your outbound "new business" calls are crucial. This is where the prospect on the other end is forming their impressions about you, your company and whether they can do business with you.
How many people do you think create a positive first impression in this situation? The answer is not many. Far too many salespeople stumble over their words, deliver their opening statement half-heartedly and then wonder why decision makers are not engaged or interested in their product or service.

Reason No. 2: Lack of Motivation
I've lost count of the amount of sales calls I've heard where the salesperson sounds despondent, de-motivated and, quite frankly, disinterested. How they expect that type of call to motivate the decision maker to buy, or even consider them as a credible value-added supplier, I'm not quite sure.

Reps can be de-motivated for any number of reasons, but it probably has something to do with a lack of results from their prior sales calls. This, however, is a "catch 22" situation their results won't get better until their motivation and their call strategy improves. Can you see how this results in a negative, downward spiral of both motivation and outcome (and, therefore, their activity levels and sales figures?)

If you're looking for decision makers to feel confident in you, feel comfortable with you as a potential supplier, and feel passionate and enthusiastic about the prospect of doing business with you, guess who has to display those traits first? That's right, you do. If you sound as though you'd rather be doing anything besides making that sales call, how on earth can you expect any kind of result?

Reason No. 3: Suggesting Your Own Objections
Now this may sound a little strange to you at first, but you'll soon notice just how many salespeople actually suggest objections for clients to give them. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it's absolutely true.

Let me give you some examples of things I've heard salespeople say, and the effect it has on the customer:
"Well, with the economy the way it is at the moment, I expect you'd be looking to cut back on your spend in this area, wouldn't you?"

What kind of a question is that? In the first place, how arrogant of that salesperson to presume what the client is going to do, never mind the fact that he just gave the client a really easy way out of the call - all the client has to do is agree with him and say, "Yes, you're right. We won't be doing anything for at least 12 months. Call us back then."

"You probably get a lot of calls like this"

If any of you out there are saying this sort of thing, stop it right now. What kind of response do you think that will elicit from the decision maker?

You're opening the prospect up to another easy way out "Yes we do, and we're not interested in this one either. Goodbye!" Now how do you feel?

"You probably won't be interested, but we have a special offer on xyz at the moment" These examples get worse, don't they?

Again the salesperson opens himself up to the typical response, which will be something like, "You're right, I wouldn't be interested. Goodbye!" Hmmm.. not the sort of response you were looking for, was it?

Reason No. 4: Talking Too Much About Your Product or Service
This is probably one of the most common problems. It's far too easy to fall into the trap of talking too much about your product or service too early in the call.
If you're looking to be more persuasive, get more buy-in and be considered a consultative supplier, you should be asking questions to elicit needs and wants before you position your product or service.
In addition, talking too much about you or what you offer early in a call will usually result in you getting objections that you wouldn't have had if you'd been asking questions, such as "We have no need for that at the moment" "We're happy with who we use" or "We're under contract for that at the moment."

However, if you start by asking questions about your prospect's current situation and potential future needs, you can then position your offering based on those needs, be far more persuasive and have a far better chance of converting the prospect into a client.

Happy selling everyone!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Key Performance Indicators

Today's exercise is meant to be interactive...

The question at hand is:
" What are a salesman's Key Performance Indicators?"

In other words: how can sales management objectively assess one salesman's performance?
While wondering:
What factors are crucial?
How are they measured?
Does sales management typically fail to see factors that are of importance?
Is revenue the only real indicator?

Here are some that I consider to be important:

External factors:
  • Revenue
  • Gross Profit per deal
  • Delivery performance to customer
  • Quality performance to customer
  • Market share development
  • New business revenue (hunting)
  • Customer retention rate / loyalty
  • Target versus Actual performance
  • # of new customers created
Internal factors:
  • Level of knowledge (products, sales, business environment)
  • Job satisfaction / motivation / attitude
  • Training / learning opportunities
  • Input to internal team / culture
  • Education / training attended

What are your thoughts?

Your input is much appreciated!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Elevator pitch

When getting into sales, it is important to ultimately get your point across to the person that is taking the time to listen to you. In order to be effective and to be respectful of your audience's valuable time, it is crucial to be able to relay your 'message' in few words, with maximum impact.

It is said that many of the most important decisions made on the floor of the United States's Senate are made "within the span of an elevator ride" as a staff aide whispers into a Congressman or Senator's ear while they head down to the floor to cast their vote.

The subsequent term "elevator pitch" is typically used in the commercial context of an entrepreneur pitching an idea to a venture capitalist to receive funding, but clearly the concept of an elevator pitch should appeal to any salesman that wants to be heard and understood within limited time.

Venture capitalists often judge the quality of an idea and team on the basis of the quality of its elevator pitch, and will ask entrepreneurs for the elevator pitch to quickly weed out bad ideas.
Therefore it must be short, concise, and appealing, and not take more, say, 100-150 words.

Key Elements
An effective elevator pitch generally answers questions such as:

Who are we?

What do we offer?

Why should it be interesting to you?

In general, you could say that it is a short pitch, derived from a company's value proposition - the sum of all advantages a company offers, and the core reason why the company could solve a client's problem.

This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.
Companies use the statement to target customers who will benefit most from using the company's products, and this helps maintain an economic merit.
The ideal value proposition is specific, to the point, and appeals to the customer's strongest decision-making drivers.

My advise is to go through the exercise of a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). Strengths and weaknesses pertain to the current plusses and minuses of the (internal) organization. Opportunities and threats can be derived from market conditions (external), and allow you to picture the potential as well as negative market influences.

Depict the strengths and opportunities so that it becomes clear to you how your organization could solve other people's problems by being of service to them, and try to picture which type of organization benefits from your offering. Once you start prospecting organizations that likely have a need for the offering, you'll need to outline the advantages, and address that you understand (but you'd like to learn) there is a need to fulfill - but do it short and concise.

Happy selling!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Starting December 1st, my blogs will be written from New York city.
I am very excited about taking on a new role within our company, and thankful for this great opportunity.

Our family will move to the Big Apple towards the end of November.
It's a big change for us - with lots of exciting challenges and new experiences to come.

We'll keep you posted on the Big Move and there will be more food for thought than ever, if I were to guess

PS> Sten & Remco if you're reading this - you lucky bastards!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Habit 1 - Be proactive

Stephen Covey writes: " This is the ability to control one's environment, rather than have it control you, as is so often the case. Self determination, choice, and the power to decide response to stimulus, conditions and circumstances"

Here's an interesting quote that elaborates on response to stimulus:

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes."

Friday, August 8, 2008

What exactly is a goal?

We've talked about setting goals, and pursuing them hard.
Yet, we have not defined what a goal is, and that may be a good addition to the discussion.
Today's blog is about goals.

What exactly is a goal?
Is it financial, personal, emotional?
Is it defined towards your career, or your personal situation - or both?

My definition of a goal is:

A premeditated/intended outcome, that requires action and fulfills needs

If we break it down:

1) Pre-meditated/intended: You have to know what your goal is, before you can pursue it. It has to be defined prior to taking action. Or reversed, any action without a goal, doesn't necessary fulfill your needs in the long run, so by default that would be energy wasted. Think about your desires, dreams and wishes and visualize what you'd like to achieve. Ask yourself why you'd want to achieve that goal. Once you have determined your desire is worth pursuing, it is so much easier to do what it takes.

2) Outcome: The outcome can be visualized, rationalized, felt, seen, maybe even held or driven ;-). It can be a specific role within your job, a dream house, a job title, being a good parent, anything - but it has to be something you really want to come out as a result of your actions.

3) Requires action: We all dream, everyone has dreams.
The one distinguishing factor between the people attaining them or not is whether they are prepared to act on them, and do what it takes. It requires following the guideline, and not allowing yourself to be sidestepped or distracted. It requires saying 'no' to other temptations, not eating french fries, not buying something if you need the money for something else, not drinking that extra beer, or going out late. It may require putting in more energy, leaving earlier from home, or coming home later from work (depending on the goal) - I'm sure you can think of many more. The bottom line is: he who is not prepared to do, will not get.

4) Fulfills needs: You decide whether the needs you want to fulfill are personal, social, emotional, financial, directed towards your career, or a complete mix. The trick is to plan your actions so that the desired outcome is both attainable and attained. That is why it is so important to understand why you want to attain that specific goal - it tells your character, but it also sets your determination - which in turn is needed to find your inner strength and motivation to put in the energy when acting. Determine what needs your dreams would fulfill (and why) - if you want a wholistic goal, and you set a target on financial matters, you may end up being disappointed. But the reverse may be true also.

Everyone has dreams that can be viewed as goals. Sometimes the dream is too far out from attainable reality that it needs to have an 'intermediate' goal (a milestone). It keeps you motivated. Imagine a goal that is ten years out - you wouldn't want to be waiting for ten years to find some successes in your actions, would you? We have to have some fun doing it, and have to celebrate our successes getting there.

Share your dreams, set your actions, make yourself accountable for your actions, and go get 'em!
Good luck - and have some fun!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Why would you start with Stephen Covey's 5th habit, if there are 4 others to be read first?
Well...good question.

It appears to me that listening skills are easily overlooked in most sales trainings.
So - let's talk about that.

Salesmen pitching their value proposition in 45 seconds from the moment their prospect picks up the phone aren't the salesmen that will be successful in this era. In today's environment, it is increasingly more important to be a consultant to your customer than before. Without doubt, understanding your customer's problems, and solving their pain is the best road towards building a long-term mutually valuable relationship.

Seen in that light, asking the right questions, and listening to your customer are more important than pitching your value prop. The great thing is: you learn more about the customer, you receive information you didn't know perhaps, rather than shooting off a well-rehearsed pitch, that you've certainly heard yourself doing hundreds of times before.

Stephen Covey claims that communication is the most important skill in life.
I agree - in fact, by default communication is the only way to break solitude.
As a professional, as an individual, as a partner, a parent, in any environment really.

You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. but what about listening?

What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right? If you're like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across.
And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you're listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely.

So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your past experiences and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar? "Oh, I know just how you feel. I felt the same way." "I had that same thing happen to me." "Let me tell you what I did in a similar situation." Because you so often listen autobiographically, you tend to respond in one of four ways:

Evaluating: You judge and then either agree or disagree.
Probing: You ask questions from your own frame of reference.
Advising: You give counsel, advice, and solutions to problems.
Interpreting: You analyze others' motives and behaviors based on your own experiences.

Trying to relate or sympathize by drawing on your own experience isn't mal-intended, and in some cases another person specifically asks for help from your point of view or when there is already a very high level of trust in the relationship. However, listening to the person without bias, as difficult as it may sometimes be, is the only way to true understanding.

Are you listening?
Bueller... anyone?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Salesguru.nl - UPDATE

Your connection with Salesguru is much appreciated!

Since inception, I have received requests to connect on our LinkedIn Group from India to Canada (how did that happen?), and I am very excited (amazed?) to see that some enjoyed the blogs so far. Feel free to invite anyone you think may have an interest. The more the better.

The full-fledge website launch is still scheduled for Q4 this year. As mentioned before, the blog will be complemented with book reviews, a forum, and more exciting stuff for salesmen (m/f), and sales management.

One last comment: many thanks to you for telling others about salesguru.nl - the more people join, the more content we can publish, tailored to your wishes. Let me know what you like, and what you don't like, or what you think should be added to make the website more interesting and fun. Sales manager Jakob Thusgaard (jakob.thusgaard.com - also check out his training schedules if you like to exercise/athletics) posted an excerpt from one of the blogs, and it is very cool to see that he - as experienced as he is in sales management and motivational stuff - liked it too. Keep those coming! ;-)

More content later!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We become what we think about

When asked as a kid, you would say you wanted to become a fireman, a policeman, or a rock star. As a kid you imagined becoming what you thought was a great thing to be.

As an adolescent or young adult, life shows some more complications, but also more opportunities, and you pursue what you want to become with greater detail and...sense of reality.

The truth is that we become what we think about.

Did you ever go to a high school reunion?
Beforehand, you wondered what your classmates had 'become'.
And somehow, as if you knew, most had become what you thought they would, with a few exceptions here and there. In generalities they had become 'just a white-collar worker', a journalist, a musician, a red-cross non-profit doctor, a banker, comedian, or salesman.

They lived what they thought about, and radiated what they thought about long time ago already, and they finally became what was destined to happen.

We have become salesmen.

And within that realm of excitement for most (and probably disappointment for some), there's another truth:

The (financial) results of this job are so straight forward that they are great for comparison against your peers. You are great if you rank with the top performers, and you will need to step it up if you aren't. It's a cruel truth for the latter, but an exciting long-term confidence boost for high rankers.

Now let's get back to our first statement: we become what we think about:

Do you think about making the minimum performance targets? Or do you think about beating the current #1 performer?

Do you think of the problems you could have if you don't hit your sales, and commission isn't enough to cover your rent, or do you think of the 911 you always wanted to buy?

Here's the difference between the average and the great.
Dream your dreams and think about how you want to become the best you can be.
Picture the dream house, vacation, car or achievements you want to focus on.

Forget about negativity, hurdles, and bad luck.
No-one said it would be easy, and how much fun is it really if you just get what you want without having to really work for it?

Let's make it happen and dial for dollars!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back from vacation - with new insights

Relaxed, refreshed, well-rested, and with renewed personal perspective I have returned from my vacation (in beautiful Spain).

As always, besides the relaxation, a vacation allows you to contemplate, re-seat, plan, and focus on the future. With a different horizon and a different environment it seems easier to see your daily reality with clarity and without bias. Major topics vs. periphery.

And in going through that process, I came to several points of thought, including:
- Where do I want to be a year from now?
- What is my goal? (On a professional, and a personal level)
- Am I doing the things I need to do to reach my goals?
- Is anything distracting me that I should eliminate, for me to be successful?

It makes sense to re-align goals and focus over time by comparing the above answers with the answers you had last year.

In addition, I read the following wisdom somewhere, that I thought was as corny as it is true:
" Happiness is a journey, not a destination "

Interesting if you add that wisdom to your answers.

In other words:
" Live your dreams, and work hard at it, but make sure to have a ball getting there. "

More 'corny' wisdom for you - so true:

- If you ever want to HAVE, you must be willing to DO
- When duty calls, people of character will rise
- Ordinary people can do extraordinary things
- Overcoming insurmountable odds requires courage
- Everyone has their own line to cross, and hurdle to take
- Living with purpose results in a purposeful life



A wise lesson:

1) PREPARATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ARGUMENT; aggression will loose to preparation
5) NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER; you may be surprised by your contemplated weakness
7) PLAY UP LESS IMPORTANT FACTORS; so it will seem bigger when you concede them
8) SEEM MORE BEFUDDLED THAN YOU ARE; your opponent will underestimate you

Saturday, June 28, 2008

From the Heart

Sales, money, success - we take ourselves very serious sometimes, and I'd be the first to admit that I take myself too serious. In the past year I've - finally - learned that I get stuck if I try to make people belief that I'm perfect. In fact, I started to believe this myself.
This doesn't work, got myself fooled, but what's worse: it puts people off, at the expense of your relationship with them. This is not a third person novel; the reality is that I've put people off at the expense of my relationship with them. And I'm sorry, it shouldn't have been that way.

Fact is, I just hadn't figured it out, and now I wish I had sooner than I did. It's been so much better since. I am learning a great deal about humbleness, and I was lucky enough to get great perspective offered to me by an unbelievably experienced man and one of the best mentors I've met to date - Chuck Sheldon. Thank you Chuck - if you ever read this - for putting your trust in me. I will not let you down. I am just a lucky man that works hard, and hope to be of help to others when I'm ready.

Now what's next in my phase of falling and running at the same time is that I need to figure out how to be me with all the flaws I have, but also with what I hope I can bring to others.

The truth is, there's something to learn from every person you meet, you may just have to look harder sometimes and go beyond the obvious. Be open, learn, don't judge, and most of all: be true to your dearest by valueing the relationships you've built over time; pay your dues - put in the energy people deserve. Isn't this what we're all about?

Below is a post written by my favorite artist John Mayer. He's famous, has the money, is dating Jennifer Aniston, and yet seems to be real about the world and his role. He's thirty some years old and I think he saw the light much sooner than I did - I am not worthy. Thank you for these words JM - I wanted to share them with anyone reading this blog. Your message is understood.


I need to write this.
I've been traveling alone in Japan for the better part of three weeks now, and it's been so remarkable an experience for me that I can't book a ticket home yet. I haven't spoken very much out loud these days, but I've been thinking to myself in what feels like surround sound.

I can see so many things clearly, and feel so connected to myself and the world around me that I need to share the perspective with you.I'm already aware that when I sing, say or write anything, 50 percent of the response will be in support of it and the other 50 will want to discount it.

This blog, though, is directed to 100 percent of people reading it. If my blog truly does have any cultural effect, then it should be used for more than just pictures of sneakers and funny youtube videos. (If you don't think my blog has any effect, than you can't by definition be reading this right now and therefore don't have to respond to it in any way. Isn't that tidy?)

What I'm about to write isn't about fame or success or celebrity or the media.
That's my business.

This is about us all. This is about a level of self consciousness so high in my generation, that it's actually toxic. This is about the girl in her bedroom who poses in front of the camera she's awkwardly holding in her outstretched hand. She'll take a hundred photos until coming up with one she's happy with, which inevitably looks nothing like her, and after she's done poring over images of herself, will post one on her myspace page and then write something like " I don't give a f*ck what you think about me."
This is about the person trying out for American Idol, who while going off about how confident they are that they were born ready to sing in front of the world, are trembling so badly they can hardly breathe.
This is about me, the guy who walks through a throng of photographers into a restaurant like he's Paul Newman, but who leaves a "reject" pile of clothes in his closet so high that his cleaning lady can't figure out how one man can step into so many pairs of pants in a week.

This is about us all. Every one of us. Who all seem to know deep down that it's incredibly hard to be alive and interact with the world around us but will try and cover it up at any cost.
For as badass and unaffected as we try to come off, we're all just one sentence away from being brought to the edge of tears, if only it was worded right.

And I don't want to act immune to that anymore. I took the biggest detour from myself over the past year, since I decided that I wasn't going to care about what people thought about me. I got to the point where I had so much padding on that, sure, I couldn't feel the negativity, but that's because I couldn't feel much of anything.

And I think I'm done with that.
I'm not the first person to admit we're all self conscious, Kanye was.
But what I want to do is to shed a little light on why we're all in the same boat, no matter the shape of the life we lead: because every one of us were told since birth that we were special. We were spoken to by name through a television. We were promised we could be anything that we wanted to be, if only we believed it and then, faster than we saw coming, we were set loose into the world to shake hands with the millions of other people who were told the exact same thing.

And really? Really? It turns out we're just not all that special, when you break it down. Beautifully unspectacular, actually. And that truth is going to catch up with us whether we want to run from it or not.
The paparazzo following me to the gym ain't gonna be Herb Ritts and the guy he's following ain't gonna be Bob Dylan. It's just a matter of how old you are once you embrace that fact. And for me, 30 sounds about right.

What now, then? I can only really say for myself: Enjoy who I am, the talents and the liabilities. Stop acting careless. In fact, care more. Be vulnerable but stay away from where it hurts. Read. See more shows. Of any kind. Rock shows, art shows, boat shows. Create more art. Wear hoodies to dinner. Carry a notebook and hand it to people when they passionately recommend something and ask them to write it down for me.

Root for others.

Give more and expect the same in return, but over time.
Act nervous when I'm nervous, puzzled when I don't know what the hell to do, and smile when it all goes my way. And never in any other order than that.

And when it's all over, whether at the end of this fabulous career or of this life, which I hope takes place at the same time, I should look back and say that I had it good and I made the most of it while I was able. And so should you. I'm going quiet now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Set yourself up for success

Today's blog is about how you motivate yourself to be successful.

Do you know?
I mean: Do you actually know what triggers you to get up in the morning and be ready to make things happen?

Have you ever thought about what goals you want to achieve both professionally and personally over this year? Did you break those goals down in quarterly/monthly/weekly goals?
Do you know what you have to do today to start moving the ball forward so that you can attain those goals?

Here's the real secret to success.
Many books have been written about this subject (including the book 'The Secret'), and millions of people spend money on courses and tutoring, but the real trick is this simple:

1) Dream your dreams
2) Set your goals (1yr, 5 yrs, 10yrs, lifetime) to make your dreams come true, and share them with your environment (to create accountability, and allow others to help)
3) Break those goals down into realistic timeframes (half year, quarter, month, week, day)
4) Plan your day with those goals in mind (priority setting)
5) Make it happen, by being faithful to the daily targets you set (discipline)
6) Celebrate your milestones (don't make them too easy, and don't make them unattainable either)
7) Repeat

The bottom line is: if you want a castle, or a dream job, or you want to be the world's greatest guitar player: you can make it happen. But: nothing comes for free.

If you need to train, train.
If you need to save money, save money.
If you need to invest, invest.
And if you need to build skills, experience or knowledge, make sure that anything you do builds on those skills.

It isn't rocket science, but it certainly takes discipline, will-power, and perseverance. Every day, you will have to choose what action builds on your goals and set your decisions to it.

In sales, it isn't much different.
You have to set your goals, prepare your work, work it, and be successful at it by improving your game every single day. Make a game out of it, have a ball, talk to others about it, and share your successes, your thoughts, your imperfections, and learn.

Change your screensaver to your long-dreamed ferrari, or beach house.
Set your mind to where you want to be, and live it!

Nike's brilliant slogan is still valid today:


Happy selling and have a great day!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Splitting The Difference

More about negotiation in today's blog. We negotiate every day - who's going to get groceries, who's picking up the little one from day care, and who will drive on a night out. Our sales job is ALL about negotiations, it is about closing a deal, with an end-result that makes both parties feel good.

Here's an excerpt of an article originally written by Dr. Chester L. Karrass, that sheds some light on 'position' when negotiating:

This month I received an email from a client that asked me to elaborate on what happens when, in the negotiation process, you agree to "split the difference" to finalize an agreement.

This is an interesting negotiating topic. Research shows that "splitting the difference" can provide a simple, quick way to reach agreement. Many people use this approach all the time.

After all, people are used to giving and getting equal shares at home, at restaurants, and at birthday parties. Splitting in the middle is simple. Not splitting in the middle is full of problems. It brings up a tough question: "If not in the middle, where else?"

Think about it. When someone offers to split the difference, haven't they just offered you half the difference as a concession? Rather than saying "OK," your next thought should be: "How much of the remaining difference do I need?"

However, in professional negotiations "splitting the difference" can be a mistake. This is true if you are negotiating prices, hours a job will take, development costs, determining which department does what, scope-of-work issues, skill levels of people required to work on a project, ownership of intellectual property or software code, and a multitude of other negotiating situations.
Things that are equal may not necessarily be equitable. Splitting the difference is certainly equal, but it may not be equitable or fair. And, it may end up leaving both parties to the negotiation unsatisfied.

I know buyers who use the split approach. They make a low starting offer, raise it only slightly, and then say, "Okay, let's split the difference." These buyers know it's hard for a salesperson to say no to such a reasonable request. The salesperson gets sucked into the split and then discovers they give away too much. If a buyer suggests a split, sellers should respond, "I can't afford to." Then provide more information to justify why a simple split is not equitable and use this as an opportunity to explore other options.

What about the buyer? What happens in the buyer's mind when a salesperson quickly says, "OK you've got a deal," to a request to split the difference? The buyer suddenly realizes they could have done better. It was too simple. They should have asked for more.

The research proves that the best agreements come when both parties are satisfied. In this example, chances are both parties have lingering doubts about the agreement. Both think they could have done better. Neither is fully satisfied.

You have a better opportunity to reach a mutually satisfying agreement if you resist the urge to "split the difference." The first person to suggest a split immediately establishes a benchmark which the other person, even if they think the split is reasonable, should resist accepting. Take more time - remember the value of time and effort. Take the time to explore other options, other ways to look at the split, re-define what will be split up and what cannot be split up, see if there is a way to "expand the pie" before you start dividing up who gets what. Your time and effort in this discussion may reveal options neither party had thought of before, and open a route to a truly "both-win" agreement. Even if you end up agreeing to the originally suggested split, this extra time and effort will help raise the satisfaction level of both parties. "We got the best agreement that was available."

Happy selling and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Advance the Sale: How to Sell More in Less Time

Would you like to make every contact count?
Find out how to make even the most basic contact move you further down the sales cycle. In today's blog we're covering an article originally written by sales trainer Jim Domanski.

There are only four outcomes to any sales situation:
- a sale
- no sale
- a continuance, and..
- an advance

The first two outcomes are easy to comprehend.
But the line between continuance and advance is the line between mediocre reps and immensely successful reps. If you're interested in reducing the sales cycle, working on better qualified leads and generating more sales, pay attention.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of reps are superb at 'continuing' a sale.
A continuance is where it appears that the sale cycle is being closed but in reality, it is only being extended.
This is sometimes a tough concept for reps to understand.
Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean:
" I'll send you some product brochures in the mail "
" I will give you a call sometime next week to discuss the proposal "
" Give the sample a try and we'll review it later on "
" I'll fax you the material and we'll go over it "
" Let's meet sometime next month and we'll assess your need then "

On the surface, these statements would suggest that the sale is moving forward.
Not so. Did you notice the two common denominators?
There is no firm commitment on behalf of the prospect or customer to take specific action.
There is no firm follow up date.
Some sales will, of course, occur but if you are interested in getting more sales in less time, and if you would like to disqualify those clients who are not actually interested in your product or service, then you must learn to 'advance' the sale.

Advance: The advance differs from a continuance in that it gets the client to take a specific action within a given time frame.
Here's how the above examples would look/sound like with an advance:

I'll send you a product brochure on Nite-White in the mail and what I would like to recommend is that we review these together next Thursday. How does 10:15 look to you?

I'll give you a call next week to discuss the MEA proposal. Suppose we schedule Wednesday at 2:20?

I'll be glad to provide you with an Atrium sample. Specifically when will you use it? What is the criteria for evaluation? What I would like to recommend is that we set up an appointment for Friday, at 8:30 a.m. to review your evaluation. How does that sound?

I'll fax over the material right now. Can you review them so that we go over documents together in about 45 minutes?Let's set up an appointment for next month, say the 15th, at 2:45. At that time we can reassess your situation. Is that date okay with you?

Do you see the difference?
Each example suggests a specific action that must or should be taken by the client.
This creates active participation from the client which moves the sale further through the cycle. Next, each example has a specific time frame for the accomplishment of the action which creates commitment. This is a powerful one-two sales punch. If...If the client will NOT commit to any action or follow up, it suggests that perhaps their interest is not particularly strong at this point in time. If the client will NOT commit to the action, then withdraw the advance.

For example:
Mrs. Huxtable, I get the impression that perhaps now is not the best time to send the literature. If it is not possible to set up a review date, perhaps it would be best if we waited and I call you at a later date.

It takes guts to do this but what it really does is allow you to focus only on genuine sales opportunities. By qualifying your opportinities on timing in addition to revenue potential, you prevent yourself from wasting time 'watering dead plants'.

Happy selling!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Open vs. Closed questions

During some recent coaching sessions the use of open questions has been a big topic.

Several individuals (after weaving more open questions into their sales dialog) mentioned how much more info they are getting from prospects and customers.

The message is: Don't sell yourself short by asking closed questions.
Listed below are a few examples of how probing questions are typically asked. Below those examples are suggested ways to turn those closed questions into open questions.

This stuff really works.
If you currently ask more closed than open questions, put a post-it on you monitor frame with "Open Questions" or "How, What, Why Questions" as a reminder.

Closed Questions; 50/50 shot of getting a "No" - hate those odds
"Is there anything you are looking to buy today?"
"Can I help?"
"Do you have any new projects/requirements coming up?"
"Do you have any needs?"

Open Questions; forces more than Yes/NO responses - love those odds
"How can I help?"
"What new projects/requirements coming up?"
"What are your current needs for XYZ?"

Examples of Open questions by subject:

Information gathering:

  • What prompted you/ your company to look into this?
  • What are your expectations/ requirements for this product/ service?
  • What process did you go through to determine your needs?
  • How do you see this happening?
  • What is it that you'd like to see accomplished?
  • With whom have you had success in the past?
  • With whom have you had difficulties in the past?
  • Can you help me understand that a little better?
  • What does that mean? How does that process work now?
  • What challenges does that process create?
  • What challenges has that created in the past?
  • What are the best things about that process?
  • What other items should we discuss?


  • What do you see as the next action steps?
  • What is your timeline for implementing/ purchasing
    this type of service/ product?
  • What other data points should we know before
    moving forward?
  • What budget has been established for this?
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Who else is involved in this decision?
  • What could make this no longer a priority?
  • What's changed since we last talked?

Rapport, trust & credibility:

  • How did you get involved in?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing?
  • What's the most important priority to you with this? Why?
  • What other issues are important to you?
  • What would you like to see improved? How do you measure that?

Let's dial for dollars!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Keep it simple - sales is about closing deals

There are few jobs out there that allow you to control your work, your income and your future.
But if you're in a commission sales job - this is one of them.

However, your job is what you make of it, just like your life.
If you let opportunities pass, nothing is going to change for you.
Guess what, opportunities don't come knocking on your door.
You'll have to take control and make it happen.

A sales job requires you to cold call, warm call, build relationships and close deals.
That's what we're all about.
Don't let this opportunity to build your future slide.
Needless to say that making enough calls comes with the job's responsibility, but it's crucial to realize that YOU are in the driver's seat.

Here are some do's and don'ts:
- Do make 20 calls in a row before getting up from you chair to get a coffee. Concentrate.
- Do practise your pitch, use a mirror at home, or ask a colleague to run through your pitch with you
- Do make it simple - ask yourself if you would do business with someone that sounds the way you do. If not, change your behavior.
- Do set up your calling list in advance. Good preparation is part of any great achievement.
- Do plan your quotes and e-mails between 8-9 am / 12-1 pm / 5-7 pm, and don't use up time that is perfect for making calls
- Do set your targets, whether they be materialistic, personal development, or just sales targets, and chase them
- Do reward yourself when you hit your milestones - don't set milestones too far out
- Be realistic about where you are and listen to what others have to offer, you're never too old to learn

- Don't expect other people to do it for you, deals are closed only by you - you're the salesman
- Don't overcomplicate this job - it's sales - you should be speaking with clients
So...don't pretend you're busy writing e-mails or quotes, BE busy calling and write your e-mails at the end of your day
- Don't think you're doing well if you have made your minimum targets - look up, and take the best as your example
- Don't let yourself be lazy, discipline is a great thing, and it feeds from people's success. You have an obligation to yourself (and your family) to be the best you can be.

Let's make it happen. The opportunity is right in front of us. This is not a carrot, it's the real thing! Now, today, and every day, you have the opportunity to make it happen. Take it while the opportunity is there -

Let's dial for dollars!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How to genuinely enjoy cold calling - Part 5

5. Let Go of Expectations, but be prepared to win

Never assume anything beforehand.
Allow the conversation to be one of exploration and discovery.
Stay focused on the dialogue instead of any private agenda.
Determine whether it makes sense to continue the conversation by truly listening.

Never presume your prospect should buy what you have to offer, even when it seems they're a perfect fit. You are not calling to create a situation that is focused on your personal gain, but on helping the other person.

Simply have a conversation to explore whether you can help them in some way.
This takes pressure off both of you. You'll be more relaxed and they'll be more honest about where they stand.

However, be prepared to win. If you don't anticipate on a positive outcome, it will be exposed during your call implicitly. Be prepared to offer a win-win solution and you will come a long way.

Believe me, once you start applying these perspectives it will transform your day-to-day worklife. Instead of dreading cold calling, you'll anticipate the adventure of creating a situation where everybody wins.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to genuinely enjoy cold calling - Part 4

4. Get into the Other Person's World

Shift your mindset away from what you have to offer and focus instead on what their problem is. So many of us have been trained to think about our services and products, that we don't think about the client's point of view. Many salesmen aren't really interested in their client's issues and how they can help solve them.

Be interested in their world and their challenges. You'll find this intriguing.
Most of us have a natural flair for problem solving. We enjoy 'fixing things'.
So find out what's going on with the person you're talking to.

Make sure the solution you have really does 'fix it'. Get rid of any hidden agendas and truly listen. Let them know you're interested in them and their world.
Move outside your own sales agenda to focus on the needs of others.
This makes you a better human being and helps you leap past the fear of cold calling.

Another way of saying this is: find the pain and offer to solve it.
But be honest if you can't. Underpromise and overdeliver. And know what you have to offer, but also know that stretching your promises for delivery too far can cause a harmful situation.

Be good - be well

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to genuinely enjoy cold calling - Part 3

3. Be Yourself

Engage people in natural conversation.
The more natural you are, the more comfortable you will feel.
This makes the other person feel more comfortable as well.

Avoid playing a role, especially reading from a script. Most people can tell when you're using a script. There's nothing personal about it, and they pick up on that.
Being artificial puts you in the 'typical salesperson' category, which is exactly the role most of us detest.
It doesn't feel authentic. And unless you're a born actor, it makes you feel skittish about cold calling. Give yourself permission to follow the rhythm of natural interaction. Allow the conversation to 'breathe'. Let it be the kind of conversation you would have with a friend. Practice this and it can turn your cold calls into pleasant conversations.

And you may actually look forward to meeting that new person the next time you pick up the phone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How to genuinely enjoy cold calling - Part 2

2. Be Honest and Truthful
You're in a very good place when you choose to be truthful in your cold calling.

If you're not trying to fool anyone, you naturally feel better about making the call. You know that you're trustworthy. And people respond to you in a positive way.

When you approach a potential client with integrity and common sense, you are more personable and less tense. Being fully honest is one of your better attributes. And it gives you an opportunity to enjoy the interaction rather than being artificial or manipulative.

People do seem to have a sixth sense about integrity. When they feel you can be trusted, you can truly shine as a person as well as a potential supplier.

Price is often not the only reason why someone is a customer. Keep in mind that connecting with your prospect, happens at multiple levels. At the professional level, at the product/price/delivery level, and at the personal level. All three aspects have to be addressed either explicitly or implicitly. Trust is definetely one of the most important aspects when it comes to connecting on both a personl and a professional level.

Happy selling today!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to Genuinely Enjoy Cold Calling

This is an excerpt from an article originally written by Ari Galper.
If you don't know him, check out his website http://www.unlockthegame.com/.

Most of us dread our days of making cold calls.
We take a deep breath, pump ourselves up, and prepare to talk with a perfect stranger. Is there any wonder a gray cloud sometimes hangs over our desk? It really doesn't have to be this way. Cold calling can be an interesting, intriguing, fulfilling adventure.

Here are five perspectives that will (honestly!) create enjoyment in your cold calling, and will give you an entirely new outlook on cold calling. When you apply these new perspectives, cold calling can actually be enjoyable. It can become personally fulfilling as well as financially rewarding.

Today, we start with # 1:

1. Focus on Helping the Other Person
It's against our nature as human beings to create an uncomfortable situation with another person. That's the core reason many of us get that knot in our stomach when we start dialing a cold call. When we're only focused on making the sale, this is not a natural meeting place for both people. We want the sale, but the other person usually wants us to go away. Being intrusive is not the finest of character traits, and on some level we know it. So how can we feel good about cold calling? We change our mindset from getting the sale into being helpful. We look at cold calling as an opportunity to assist. How can we possibly feel uncomfortable doing that? Helping people is one of the best character traits we possess. When cold calling is aligned with our very best way of being, it becomes an adventure. We truly want to help people. We feel very good about this, and it shows in our voice. People hear it. And their response will surprise you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rules of engagement

We were talking about the cold calling blitz the other day .
Today - happy Mother's Day by the way - we are giving interaction and cold calling a bit more thought:

The single most important reason to make a cold call is to find someone new that will potentially buy your product. Once on the phone, experienced salesmen know that if you keep talking about your product offering, the client has too much info to process.
You have to connect to the buyer first, so that he understands that his money is well spent and trusts you with his buying decision.

A great way to connect is to ask your prospect questions about his business and job environment and adapting your 'Spiel' to his circumstances, so that you are sure to address topics that are of interest to your prospect.

Even though there are many ways to convey your message and show the value you can offer, there should be a recognizable value in every contact you have with a customer, so that you create a 'brain position'. In other words: any time your prospect is prompted to buy a product you're selling, you'd like him to think about you first.
How do you create that recognition, other than your corporate branding, logo, etc.?
Well...it's you!

The reason why a prospect buys something from you for the first time, is because you attracted him to the product and your company. However, there is a way to make sure your message is appealing and connects to your core beliefs every time you speak with a prospect or a customer:

I call them the 'rules of engagement' for salesmen.

These are the rules:

1) Talk about the customer first - then the product

2) When engaging, don’t do the talking, but ask the questions

Dialogue = Information
Information = Knowledge
Knowledge creates loyalty
Loyalty = Profit

3) Ensure that the prospect/customer sees the value of each interaction with you and your company.
Deliver information that shows that you’ve learned from the interaction and confirms what you have discussed or have agreed on.
Be precise, and implicitly re-affirm the prospect or customer why he is doing business with you and your company.

4) Quote what is valuable to the customer (value for money, saves budget, best quality etc) and inform him when he is uncertain about some aspects of your value proposition (ask first).
Never quote a quote, but quote a done deal. You're not in the quoting business. If your quote does not reflect what you have discussed with the customer, and is valuable to him, how can you expect to close a deal like that?It should just be a confirmation of what was already discussed, not a starting point for discussion. (In that situation you'd be much more vulnerable to uncontrolled situations, other influencers outside of our sight etc)Be in control and don’t leave it to the odds - or worse – the competition.

5) Do not avoid a topic when it really needs to be addressed, but don’t bring up bears on the road if the customer’s not seeing any.
If a customer wants a red machine and you don't have it, but you know he will not do a deal unless it's red - there's a topic to bring up and discuss.
If a customer hasn't mentioned color is an issue to him after asking what matters to him, why bring up that your products come in a purple color?
Simplified - but do you see my point?

6) Ask for the business, go for the deal.
You're a salesman - there is no reason to hide there.
The customer knows you are, and so he knows that you're doing this to make business happen.
You might as well be clear about that and ask for the deal.
( "So...if I can offer this for $x, do we have a deal?" )
Don't think sounding salesy is bad - if he's expecting to speak with a salesman, it would be bad if you sound like a clerk.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Qualifying your customers

Customers are demanding – and rightfully so.
They’re spending hard-earned dollars with us, and we should recognize that.
Now, not every customer brings the same value, as some buy more than others…. and some demand more time from you than others, regardless of how much they’re buying.

The bottom line is that your customers deserve to be treated right – they should have a rep that takes them seriously and helps them with the product they need in the best possible way.
Good customers that is. There is nothing wrong in deciding that some customers just don’t match with the value you can bring.

So, the limited time you have, should be spent with customers you determine are worth spending your time on. How do you decide? Well – here’s some help on how to qualify your prospects and customers. If you can answer these questions, you should be going a long way:

- What individual client’s needs need to be met to secure long-term competitive advantage for us? (is it really just price?)
- What advantages does your company/product offer to meet the individual client or prospect’s needs? (e.g. international presence, flexibility, speed of delivery, product knowledge, availability, product quality (compared to competition in your market space) etc)
- Can you name your top 20 clients and top 20 prospects? What shared characteristics do they offer? What similar needs do they have (if any)?
- In what way does this compare to the answer in the 2nd question. (apparently, you have something special to offer that client. It has allowed you to build a long-term relationship with them. You should sustain that advantage, so you need to be aware of what makes you special)
- Do you have any customers that are costing resources (money/time etc) so that they are not worth keeping? (asking too much time in product advice compared to actual business, too many quotes with little orders, need too much help from pre-sales etc). What are their characteristics?
- Are you spending enough time on your top 20 customers and your top 20 prospects? Are you spending time on customers/prospects that aren’t worth it?
- Who are your most ‘growable’ customers? Do they share any characteristics – similar needs?
- For prospecting; Is there a vertical that has an apparent need for the competitive advantages that your company/product offers? Have you been particularly successful in a certain vertical and can you copy those best practices into a strategic approach? Can you share references with prospects?
- Is there any rationale/validation for expected future loyalty amongst your top 20 accounts?
- How can you ‘build a fence’ around them to protect their value and loyalty?
- Are there opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling in your existing client base? (other products, complementary products, accessories etc)
- What collaborative value is present? Are they willing to communicate / meet with you face-to-face / respond to questions about their business and needs / open to receiving marketing/sales info?
- Have you identified the preferred medium for interaction with the key identifier? (e-mail, face-to-face, phone, IM etc)
- Are there ‘prestige’ accounts that you have or need to grow in order for you to be successful in a certain vertical? Can you develop those accounts into a referral?
- Have you identified the key influencer or key decision maker in each of your accounts? (have you fully penetrated the account when comparing actual sales to how much that customer spends on the same product on a yearly basis – if it is less than 20%: find out who you’d need to talk to so that you can identify opportunities prior to the order being sent, rather than being transactional.)

Think about it - it's really this simple.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cold calling Blitz

May 6th, two months before the vacation season starts. Typically business slows down in the summer, but it means that business is thriving now, because most companies need to get a lot done before everyone's out on the beach.

No better time to pick up business than today.
Today, we're having a cold calling blitz. Pick up 5 new companies you've never spoken to before. Pick up 5 companies that you've called and have potential, but aren't a customer yet and pick up 5 that have done too little business to be able to call them an actual customer.

No procrastination - just calls.
Make 40-60 a day and your business will thrive, make 10 and it will be ok, make none and you're going to struggle eventually.

Besides, we're in sales - what else are we supposed to do? Answer e-mails? Not really.
Now let's get on the phone and dial for dollars.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Back to work

Two days of fun and relaxation - now back to biz.
While the sun is out there (finally), we're closing deals.

God I love this job ;-)

P.S. Did you ever read about motivation?
Motivation to get out of bed and go to work. To pick up the phone and make those calls. To be prepared and make things happen. To change your attitude. To prepare for being a winner.
To be the best salesman you can be, and most important of all: to be the best parent you can be.

If you want to learn from the best, there are many ways to be introduced to motivation, but there's one thing that inspires me to great length: sports athletes. Athletes train in anonimity, sometimes for years, to be able to eventually achieve great results on events like the Olympics, or European championships, national leagues, climbing the Mount Everest and more.

Yesterday, I was at someone's birthday party (don't we all frequent these and end up speaking with someone completely new to you who has a wonderful view on life and does things we'd all like to do ourselves), spoke to a guy who's a hardcore mountain biker. We ended up talking about the Iron Man series, and I looked into it later that evening, to learn more about the challenge.
Here's what it is: 3.8 km swim / 42.2 km run / 180 km bicycle.

In other words: people stumble over 'just a' marathon, or 'just a' 180km bike ride.
These guys do it all - at once. Unbelievable. I read through some websites giving training advise, and found a sentence that epitomizes what this is all about:

" Be optimistic. Your mind can burn endless energy worrying about factors that will never become issues ."

There are many things you can train for physically, but mental preparation will ultimately separate the good from the great. When training: show patience and pacing discipline. Why? Because in doing so, you 'train' your (brain)cells how to behave under extreme endurance, which will ultimately help you attain your goals. It is no different in life. Internalizing the important things you need to accomplish helps you preparing for success. But if you haven't laid out the things you want to achieve, how can you find a way to get there to begin with?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Queen's Day 2008

Today is our national day for mayhem. Businesses are closed and people dress up in orange to salute the royal family. Games, concerts, and mostly beer make this a pleasant day for all.

For all you expats out there: enjoy, especially if this is your first Queen's Day.
I apologize for the weather (it rains - as always), but it will still be a fun and amazing day.

Enjoy to the fullest

Salesguru.nl - favorite books

Coming soon

salesguru.nl - for all you salesgurus out there!

Book reviews
Sales jobs
and more...