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

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.?'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?