Six Selling Truths…

Here are six truths that very unlikely change in the world of selling

  1. Listening is still the personal skill a salesperson can ever master.
  2. Failing to get in front of the real decision maker is a fatal error.
  3. If you can’t close sales, you’ll never be successful as a salesperson.
  4. Successful selling requires a significant level of skill in time and self-management.
  5. Great sales people are simultaneously both competitive and resilient.
  6. Sales is mostly about presence and persuasion.

Abstract of the book: Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call, William T. Brooks, 2006.

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“Assertive Selling”, a Choice Made by the Best Sales Representatives

Canadian companies are faced with B2B and B2C clients becoming better informed and consequently gaining more control over the sales cycle. Faced with this change in buying behavior, sales professionals must drastically modify their approach and become assertive.

A recent study published by the Sales Executive Council in the United States indicates that business development professionals who get the best sales results today are those who adopt the “Assertive Selling” aproach, also called the Challenger Sale.

First, the “Assertive Sales Reps” TEACH their prospects and customers. That is to say, they dare to identify the needs for them, because the “Assertive Sales Reps” have a deep understanding of their client’s industry key drivers and challenges.

Second, the “Assertive Sales Reps” TAILOR their business proposals according to the respective needs of each decision maker involved in the buying process.

Finally, the “Assertive Sales Reps” CONTROL the entire sales cycle. Not only do they strongly challenge the customer during the first meeting, they also simplify the purchasing process. They know how to create constructive tensions to strengthen their position on the decision making process.

In short, companies that will succeed in the coming years will hire “Assertive Sales Reps” who know how to leverage the business intelligence from their marketing department on issues about the industries their clients and prospects belong to.

If you want to transform the sales culture of your business, to ensure that your sales professionals become “Assertive Sales Reps”, we invite you to contact us at :

Louis Larochelle
Vice President Professional Services

How To Get Appointments: The Sale Within The Sale (Brooks Group)

When you’re prospecting by telephone, it’s important to keep the conversation on track and moving toward an appointment. Unfortunately, you’ll find not all prospects are easy to keep on track. You’ll encounter objections and your prospects may refuse to set appointments.

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons why prospects raise objections to granting you an appointment:

1. Your approach to getting appointments may be poorly designed.

You can solve that by understanding one simple thing – At this stage your task is not to sell your product. Never be tempted to sell any of your product’s benefits on the phone. Otherwise there’s no reason for your prospect to see you. Your goal is to sell an appointment.

Once you understand that setting an appointment is like making a miniature sale, it’s easy to see how you might need to adjust your approach. You’ll want to make the best possible impression when you “meet” your prospect over the phone. Star t by asking if it’s a good time to speak. Then ask questions that will help you qualify the prospect and sell the appointment:

• How familiar are you with our organization and our products and services?
• What kind of a time frame, if any, do you have for making a decision or seeing potential suppliers?
• What are you tr ying to accomplish with a product like ours?
• I understand that your biggest problem is “????????????”. What steps have you taken to alleviate it?

Then, move toward setting the appointment: “it sounds as if we can help you. We’ve helped lots of other organizations with the same issues.” Now, set up the appointment – ask, “Would Tuesday be good, or is another day this week better?”

2. The second reason you might fail to gain an appointment by telephone is if you ask too few questions and do too much talking!

Don’t fall prey to this temptation. Your chances of setting up an appointment will be slim to none if you do all the talking. Instead, ask questions and listen carefully – you’ll learn a lot more about your prospect’s needs and wants, and you’ll start to gain more insight into their buying requirements.

Practice active listening – repeating what you’ve heard to confirm your understanding. For example, you might say something like, “So, Ms. Prospect, what i’m hearing is that your company would like to have a solution in place by next spring? is that accurate?”

Don’t forget to take notes and never interrupt.

3. The third reason for failure could be related to your expectations.

Are you in the habit of expecting the prospect NOT to grant you an appointment? Change your expectations! Even over the phone, your prospect will pick up on any self-doubt from the tone of your voice. Learn to mentally prepare yourself before each call, so the tone of your voice clearly indicates you fully expect the prospect to want to meet with you.

4. The single biggest mistake is failing to convince your prospect that the appointment itself will provide a benefit.

Like any other sale, selling the appointment requires letting the prospect know what’s in it for them. Although the appointment isn’t going to cost the prospect any money, you are asking the prospect to give up some valuable time. You need to be able to ask the right questions and then provide a strong reason for the prospect to believe that an appointment with you will be time well-spent.

Use These words to Ask for an Appointment, and You’ll Get Great Results:

“Let’s get together and let me show you how we can be of service to you and help you resolve the issues you’re concerned about. But i’ll promise you this: if it looks like our product won’t be a perfect fit, I won’t hesitate to recommend someone else. Does that sound fair? What is a good day to get together?”

Note: Don’t use this as a hollow trick designed to gain an appoint- ment. If your product is not a good fit for your prospect, you should always be willing to say so. and you’ll gain more in the long run if you recommend someone else instead of trying to force a sale when your product doesn’t fit the prospect’s requirements.

Confirming Your Appointment

never assume that your prospect will remember your appoint- ment. instead, do ever ything in your power to ensure that you have the best chance of a positive and receptive hearing. Con- sider sending a handwritten note or a friendly email to remind your prospect about your appointment. You may want to fur ther confirm it with a telephone call to guarantee that you won’t be wasting time by going to visit someone who won’t be there!

Some salespeople argue that confirming the appointment is not in your best interest because it will give the prospect an oppor tunity to cancel or reschedule. That logic is flawed for two reasons:

1. If you have to worry about “giving the prospect the oppor tu- nity to cancel,” you probably haven’t done a ver y good job of selling the appointment.
2. Your time is better spent pursuing other oppor tunities than traveling to an appointment that doesn’t happen.

How to ensure Your Appointments will never Cancel

Here are some things you can say to guarantee that your prospect will be excited about your upcoming appointment:

• “We have some great solutions to those issues you described. let’s get together, and i’ll show you how we can help you.”

• “I’m glad to hear you have gotten to the point you’d like to solve some of the things we’ve talked about. i’m looking forward to showing you how we have helped others like you.”

• “It sounds as if we might be able to help. When can we get together?”

The Bottom Line on Prospecting

If, after three attempts to secure an appointment with a prospect you are still getting the brush-off, find another prospect! Your goal in prospecting is ver y simple:To get enough appointments that you’ll be in a position to make enough presentations to quali-
fied prospects. You’ll need to sell each appointment in exchange for some of the prospect’s valuable time. and you’ll need to ask questions that will help you qualify each prospect along the way. it’s as simple as that.

What Business Are You Really In? (Brooks Group)

In the face of tougher competition, more demanding customers, shrinking margins and diminishing customer loyalty, sales organizations now more than ever need a clear and compelling vision that defines their purpose.

The truth is that far too many people have no idea what business they’re in! It’s not unusual for salespeople to say, “I’m in the real estate business,” “I sell heavy equipment” or “I sell insurance.”

If you push a little further and ask a salesperson what they really sell, many will say, “I sell value.” If they provide a service, they may even say, “I sell myself.”

All of them are wrong!

Lots of salespeople have a surprisingly simplistic view that forces them to concentrate on their product or to focus on themselves.

Let’s look at it from the buyer’s point of view. Chances are, the customer who’s interested in buying heavy equipment, for example, doesn’t have a strong desire to own a piece of heavy equipment just for the sake of owning it.

In other words, your customer may not be focused on the actual product at all. Their chief concern might be something along the lines of, “Our construction project is running behind schedule. We need to increase our productivity by at least 15% or we won’t be able to meet the terms of our contract.”

Which salesperson is more likely to get this customer’s order?

The one who says, “Our equipment is safe, reliable, easy-to-operate and energy-efficient.”
Or the one who says, “I would recommend this particular piece of equipment for you because it will allow you to speed up your project by at least 25% so you won’t have to worry about failing to meet your deadline.”

The first salesperson presented benefits that are likely to be attractive to potential customers. Who doesn’t want something that’s safe, reliable, easy-to-operate and energy-efficient? That’s all very nice, but this particular customer will just tune it out. This customer is preoccupied entirely with speeding up the project. Nothing else matters.

Clearly, the second salesperson hit it right on the head for this customer. But what if that salesperson says the exact same thing to every single customer? Chances are that salesperson won’t get too many orders, either.

The next buyer that salesperson deals with may not care at all about speeding up a project. What if the buyer is just getting started in the construction business? For that customer, financing or the option to rent equipment might be the chief concern. Nothing else will matter if they can’t obtain the equipment. But the next customer will probably be focused on yet another entirely different issue… So what do they all have in common? They’re all looking for solutions.

So what do you really sell?

That’s right, solutions.
Successful sales organizations are in the business of identifying and delivering specific solutions to each customer’s unique demands. And the most successful ones provide those solutions in a way that meets each customer’s expectations and increases their receptiveness toward purchasing them. If more salespeople and sales organizations understood this, there would be more satisfied customers and fewer struggling salespeople.

So how can you get you or your sales team to stop obsessing over products, features and benefits and reach for the broader goal of identifying and delivering specific solutions?

You can start by making sure that your organization has a cohesive sales strategy that supports this goal. It may require a little organizational soul-searching, and you may discover that your company as a whole doesn’t always know what business it’s in.

10 Important Questions You Should Consider:

1. How critical is your product or service to your customer’s core business strategy?
2. Based on the importance of your product or service, are you or your salespeople calling on accounts at the right level?
3. Is you or your sales team using a sales approach that is congruent with the expectations and demands of the level you or they are calling on regularly?
4. Do you or your salespeople invest an adequate amount of time understanding the complexity of problems, solutions required and level of commitment your customers are seeking?
5. Are you, your salespeople, your organization and your product positioned in a way that attracts favorable attention?
6. Are you having difficulty getting the attention of the people you need to be in front of in order to sell your product?
7. Do you have the appropriate sales tools, aids and resources that appeal to the correct level of prospect?
8. Do you or your sales team have enough depth of understanding about each product to ensure the absolute best application?
9. Are you or your sales team equipped to deliver the solutions appropriate to the demand and level of expertise your customers require?
10. Do you or your sales team have the necessary support from your organization to deliver the most effective solutions your product promises?

Your next step is to teach your salespeople how to uncover what solution each buyer is after. It sounds simple, but for most salespeople the hardest part is unlearning their bad habits.

Most of the time, salespeople are so eager to launch into their “benefits pitch” that they never find out which benefit is most important to their customer. Instead of taking the time to carefully line up their shots to hit the target, they fire off hastily in every direction and hit nothing.

The most important piece of advice that you can learn yourself or offer your sales team in this area is to “Shut up and listen!” Without listening skills, you or them will never going to be able to learn a thing about their customers’ most pressing problems.

The next thing to tackle is improving the questioning skills. With the right questions and careful listening, you or your salespeople can begin to figure out what solution fits each customer.

Do You Have A Passion For Prospecting? (Brooks Group)

One of the biggest mistakes that salespeople make is not prospecting enough.  In fact, the single biggest reason that salespeople fail is a lack of prospects.

Not having enough prospects sets off a downward spiral that eats away at every aspect of your career:

First, it can undermine your attitude – let’s face it, it’s difficult to project positive confidence when you’re not sure you have any opportunities for success.
Next it begins to erode your positioning – you appear more and more desperate to your dwindling prospect list.
Then it cuts into your ability to demand full price – you can’t afford to lose any sale when you don’t have another prospect waiting in the wings.
Finally, your selling skills may start to dull – you don’t have the opportunity to use and develop them with real live prospects on a consistent basis.

Of course, facing these conditions can only do more damage to your confidence, leaving you caught in a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape. So, the only solution is to make prospecting your absolute, number one priority every single day.  If you’re like most salespeople you’re probably thinking:

“But I’ve got this big presentation today…”
“But I’ve got to turn in my expense reports this week…”
“But I’ve got to pay a visit to one of my biggest accounts soon…”

The problem is, all of those things are urgent; they have short-term consequences that you just can’t ignore.  However, if you don’t make a conscientious effort to set aside time and energy for prospecting, it won’t be long before you don’t have any big presentations to give, no expenses to report and no accounts to call on.

Think of the old-fashioned well pump that requires a little water to “prime” it each time.  The sales presentation you’re going to deliver tomorrow is like the urgent need for water – you just can’t ignore it. But focusing all of your attention on your immediate tasks is like drinking that last cup of water – you’ll soon run dry.

Salespeople who really excel at prospecting go far beyond just setting aside time for it.  For them, it’s a passion. They have an insatiable thirst for finding new opportunities and an inquisitive nature that helps them uncover those opportunities.

And they never stop prospecting no matter how long they’ve been selling or how many prospects they have lined up.

Their quest for finding new prospects is rooted in the belief that they have a product or service that is truly valuable.  These salespeople genuinely want to get their product into the hands of people who want or need it.  That’s what motivates them to keep searching high and low for every potential prospect and it’s also what helps them find prospects that other salespeople overlook.

So, how can you develop a passion for prospecting?

A good place to start is with your existing customers.  It’s worth taking a little time to look at letters, emails, testimonials and conversations to figure out exactly what people find valuable in doing business with you. That’s the foundation. Once you gain a deep understanding of your existing customers, you can use that information to uncover more potential prospects that might have similar needs, desires and problems that your product can satisfy.

Studying what your customers say has another important benefit – there’s no better way to learn to articulate the value of your product to potential prospects. Take note of the benefits and the results that your customers describe and learn to use the words that come directly from your customers.

How can you build an inquisitive nature that will help you uncover more opportunities?

The key lies in questions.  Most salespeople have a very limited view of questions.  They think in terms of asking the prospect questions during the active selling phase.  But in order to get there, you’ll have to ask lots of questions of lots of people – including yourself.

What are the questions you’ll need to ask?  They’re fairly easy to remember and they fall under the age old categories of why, what, when and how questions.

1.  Why questions are great for helping you prioritize your own time.  They’ll help you decide where to concentrate your efforts at any given time. These questions can also help you determine which approach you should use with each prospect.

Helpful Why Questions:

• Why would this prospect be in a position to make a purchase decision now?
• Why might they resist buying at this point?
• Why would my timing be especially good or bad at this point in time?
• Why might I get a particularly good (or bad) hearing now?
• Why would my product or service be particularly appealing?
• Why might it be unappealing?

2.  What questions empower you to target a specific prospect’s wants, needs and problems so that you can create a powerful and persuasive presentation.

Useful What Questions:

• What will this prospect find most attractive about my product or service?
• What might they find least attractive?
• What should I do to get this prospect’s attention?
• What do I need to know about this person?  Their organization?

Their preference for buying?

• What will my objective be for the first call?
• What do I have to do to get an appointment?

3.  When questions are perhaps the most underutilized tool in a salesperson’s toolbox. When questions give you the power to be in front of your prospects when they are most receptive to your message.       They can also help you target prospects that you might otherwise be unable to reach.

Productive When Questions:

• When is the best time for me to prospect?  When am I at my best? When is this prospect’s schedule likely to be the lightest? Most hectic?
• When is the most likely time that I will be able to make contact with this prospect?  When is the least productive?
• When should I contact this prospect again if my first efforts fail?

4.  How questions are the most critical for you in your prospecting success. You’ll find that a lot of your “how” questions are ones that you’ll want to ask yourself as you continually develop and hone your prospecting strategy.

How Questions That Work:

• How can I prospect more productively without hurting my face- to-face sales time?
• How can I be more effective at prospecting?
• How can I improve my prospecting skills?
• How can I maximize my skills in approaching tough prospects?
• How can I follow up on every prospect more effectively?

So how can you begin to find the answers to these questions? You can start by doing some investigating on your own. Here are ten places to look for information about potential prospects:

1.  The internet. Start with the prospect’s website, then dig deeper for information from other sources: articles, blog entries, press releases, customer comments, etc.

2.  Annual reports, if available.

3.  Trade journals, magazines, or newspapers with articles about the prospect.

4.  People the prospect sells to or buys from (NOT those that are your direct competitors).

5.  People who know the organization through any sort of interaction with the prospect.

6.  People who work at the prospect’s place of business.

7.  Current customers who know the organization.

8.  Prospect’s internal newsletters or public documents.

9.  Prospect’s technical manual or warranty documents.

10. Prospect’s promotional materials.

The secret to prospecting is to leave no stone unturned. Keep asking questions of yourself, of your network of colleagues, of your internal advocates and never stop digging for answers that might lead you to your next prospect.

3 Reasons Why Your Reps Need You in the Field (Brooks Group, May 2011)

64% of the sales managers we polled in 2010 told us they joined their salespeople on sales calls fewer than six times a year, and half of those said they “very seldom” (once per year) or “never” went out in the field with their salespeople on joint calls. In our seminars and coaching sessions, we often hear sales managers say they “just don’t have time” to get in the field as often as they’d like. Ideally, at least one third of a sales manager’s time should be spent on joint calls—that equates to six to eight business days on the road per month. But company leadership frequently tie up sales managers’ time with conference calls, meetings, and requests for reports.

I’d argue that you don’t have time NOT to get into the field with your salespeople. Joint calls are the single best tool sales managers have in fulfilling their three core responsibilities; they give you most of the information you need to do your job well. If your company’s leadership challenges your need to be out observing your salespeople or you feel you don’t have time to do it, try emphasizing how being in the field lets you achieve the results your company needs:

Core Sales Management Role #1:  Developing strategy.
How joint calls can help…

Being “in the trenches,” face-to-face with your company’s customers, gives you insight into how your company is perceived, how your products and services compare, and what new solutions prospects are seeking. This will allow you to help your company maintain and enhance the value of what you offer to your customers, define new markets, and stay on top of trends. When you observe all of your salespeople regularly in the field, you’ll notice patterns in what they do right…as well as what they do wrong, helping you make decisions about hiring and firing, training opportunities, and territory assignments with 100% confidence.

Core Sales Management Role #2: Communicating regularly about critical sales activities, expectations, and results.
How joint calls can help…

Are you providing ongoing feedback related to the sales activities that directly affect results, and do your salespeople know what those activities are? Are you holding them accountable for the right activities? Sales numbers don’t tell the whole story. What if your highest volume salesperson is sacrificing margin because he or she is intimidated by objections? What if the salesperson who hasn’t met quota for the last three months is sitting on a goldmine prospect but doesn’t realize it?

There’s no substitute for being on sales calls with both your top performers and your worst performers, observing how they handle critical sales activities. Joint calls are a natural environment for communicating with salespeople in a way that’s relevant to their real-world challenges.

Core Sales Management Role #3: Coaching to empower and improve.
How joint calls can help…

While the first part of coaching is providing clear expectations related to goals, measurement, conduct, and priorities; the second part is helping your salespeople make progress toward the goals, measuring their results, observing their conduct, and keeping them focused on priorities (their own and the company’s). Being in the field with your salespeople allows you to do all of those things, plus demonstrates to them that the sales role is important…and that you value the job they do. And when you make coaching points immediately after a sales call, they’re so effective because the experience is fresh in the salesperson’s mind and he or she knows you were fully present during the interaction.

I’m not suggesting you can transform your organization’s approach to sales management overnight. It takes time and demonstrated results to convince your boss, whether it’s a VP or the CEO of the company, that being out regularly and frequently with your salespeople on joint calls is a valuable endeavor. If you’re one of the 64% of managers who rarely join your salespeople in the field, consider making incremental changes to slowly increase the amount of time you invest on joint calls. Keep yourself focused on the three core sales management roles while you make joint calls, and you’re guaranteed to get compelling results.

Your Personal Sales Talent Audit (The Brooks Group, May 2010)

To maximize your talent, you need to identify what talents you really do have. The most successful salespeople in the world are those who are most aware of their strengths. They also know what their shortcomings are and work very hard to (a) recognize them, (b) improve them and (c) avoid relying on them until they have improved them to the point that they became an asset.

Here is a short, self-scoring audit. Please be as honest as you can about yourself. The only way to improve at anything is to have a baseline that says, “I’m good at this and not so good at that.” People who refuse to face the truth rarely improve at anything. And professional selling is all about continuous improvement. Here we go:

How Did you Do?

Let’s take a look at your score and what your score means.

If you had between 18-21 yes answers, congratulations! You’re well on your way to sales success. If you scored less than 14, you might need some help.

Either way, evaluate if there is a particular area or two that you could develop. Sometimes focused attention and improvement in one phase of the sales process can make a big difference in your overall performance.

What do the various questions ask?

Questions 1-6 dealt with the Investigate Step of the IMPACT Selling System. This step involves prospecting, uncover• ing information about your prospects, and the general things you do before you ever get in front of anyone.

Questions 7-8, the Meet Step. This step involves the initial meeting with your prospect and the things you do during • that part of the sale.

Questions 9-10 dealt with the Probe Step. The Probe Step involves asking your prospect targeted questions in order • to determine what type of product or service to present to them.

Questions 11-14 are the Apply and Convince Steps, while questions 15-20 dealt with the Tie-it-up phase of the • process. The Apply Step involves presenting your product or service in a way that satisfies what your prospect really wants, while the Convince Step pertains to proving your claims, handling objections and anything else that comes up. The Tie-it-up Step is the close.

Number 20 was a straightforward question relative to how you feel about sales as a profession.

Depending on how well you did on the audit, you may want to take a look at targeting these specific areas and working on strengthening them.