Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Take the Initial Sales Call Seriously

Many reps think closing calls are more important than prospecting calls. They'll zip through the prospecting call in hopes that their next call could be a closing call. The correct approach is to understand the importance of the prospecting call so you will plan and execute it effectively.

On every call, including the initial sales call, you should be trying to advance the account as far as possible towards a sale. The goal of each call is the same -- to get them to a close, not to send them your literature or schedule the next call. Half the battle is getting people to talk with you. Why would you want to cut it short?

There are a few components that are unique to your initial sales call:
1. Introduction: This occurs when you are calling on a new customer or a new contact at that customer. You need to share your niche statement and introduce yourself as their salesperson.
2. Ask key "knockout" questions: Some standard "knockout" questions center on budget and decision-making ability. If they don't have money to buy what you're selling or they don't have the authority to buy what you're selling, why are you talking with them? If you don't ask your knockout questions on your initial sales call, you will waste your time (and theirs) until you get those questions answered.
3. Establish their first impression: You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Much of their attitude towards you will be based on this initial sales call.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Monday, April 7, 2014

"What Do You Do?" Tailoring Your Niche Statement

You can't make the sale if the person you're talking with has no idea what you do. And they won't give you half an hour to explain it to them. That's why it's important for you to take the time to craft a niche statement. A good niche statement isn't "one size fits all." A tailored niche statement, combined with your statement of purpose, gives enough information so the contact understands who you are, what your product is, and why you're calling. But don't give enough information for them to think they can make an informed purchasing decision.

Tailored niche statements:
1. Are only applicable on you initial sales call
2. Get the prospect's attention quickly so you can continue the conversation
3. Let them know who you are and why you're calling without providing too much detail.

You will leave them wanting more information about you. If you say too much, you give them an opportunity to develop a preconceived opinion that you're not a good fit for their needs. It's better to leave them wanting more information about your company. This can be a way to spark interest.

How To Tailor Your Niche Statement
1. Set up the framework for the rest of the call
2. Be direct and succinct. Think "elevator pitch." If you cannot describe your product to a prospect while on an elevator by the time they reach their floor, it's too long.
3. Be accurate and applicable
4. Purport a potential fit between the customer and your company
5. Convey your overall focus
6. Convey a stature or uniqueness (e.g. "We are the leading..." or "We are the only...")
7. Be tailored to the prospect based on information you've gathered about them. For example, if you're selling to a family doctor, you should emphasize family doctors in your niche statement. Then, when you're calling on a specialist, you should mention their specialty in your niche statement. Remember point #3 when tailoring your niche statement -- it has to be accurate and applicable.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Importance of Precall Planning

Precall planning is the process of preparing to make a True Sales Call. A precall plan can:
1. Help you ID the desired Business Outcomes and Emotional Outcomes of a call
2. Help you tailor your "elevator pitch" to the client
3. Help you align pitches and proofs
4. Give you something to start the conversation with and get their attention
5. Help you understand what the client does

The time it takes to develop an adequate precall plan could be anywhere from 10 minutes for a prospect to 30 seconds for a follow-up call deep into the sales cycle. You want to limit your time because you could get lost in the planning which will affect your ability to achieve a sufficient volume of True Sales Calls. There's no bigger waste of time than preparing an hour for a prospect only to find out 45 seconds into the call they have no legitimate need for your service.

For an initial call, gather just enough information so you don't sound like a neophyte and enough information to star a conversation. Do you understand what the prospect does? Do you know the right person to call? Also, prepare your potential proofs and put them into a folder dedicated to that prospect.

For follow-up calls, much of your precall planning should occur when completing the previous call while it's still fresh in your mind. Reviewing your notes (which sometimes look like hieroglyphics) two days after the call is not as effective as planning immediately after the call. Think about and plan what you want to do next and record it. Then, prior to the next call, review those notes to refresh your memory of the account.

These tips aren't earth-shattering. But we've seen a common reason sales reps don't achieve their desired outcomes with a customer is simply because they didn't plan -- they didn't prepare prior to the call and they didn't complete takeaways from the previous call. Some reps do get away with little preparation (for a time), but don't leave your success to chance.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


NETSCAD stands for Not Enough True Sales Calls A Day. This is a disease that has a 100% mortality rate in salespeople. You need to speak with the final decision-maker (DM) or someone in the DM loop who has the ability to influence the DM.

On a True Sales Call, you can achieve:

1. Identifying the client's budget constraints to make your initial sale as lucrative as possible
2. Probing to understand their value opportunities (needs and wants)
3. Providing value that shows you can help them
4. Uncovering/revealing attitudes
5. Validating a current customer's expectations and satisfaction
6. Validating previously delivered value. Get them excited again about what you've done for them.

You need to apply skepticism to ensure you actually made a True Sales Call. The client may want to just be nice but did not give you any real information that was useful. Set aside your feelings about the call (emotions) and consider the facts:
1. Was the same topic/information simply rehashed?
2. Have you progressed toward a sale or upsell?
3. Did you get new actionable information?
4. Did you get additional critical information such as DM loop, budget, and new value opportunities?
5. Ask yourself the hard question -- "What information did I actually get from the contact and is that information useful?" -- and give yourself an honest answer.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Effective Closing Tips

If you do a good job at closing on points as you move through the sales process, it should lead to you closing on the sale. That phrase will be repeated throughout this posting for emphasis. Closing on a point occurs during your sales discussion at the end of your comments in QACF, prompting the client to provide feedback. The feedback from the client is usually one of four attitudes: Acceptance, Skepticism, Indifference, or Objection. These attitudes may also be revealed by the client/prospect without you asking.

There are at least 6 good reasons to close on points:
1. It reveals and validates an attitude.
2. It helps determine if you need to ask more questions.
3. It helps you determine if you need to deliver more value.
4. It can lead the customer to sell themselves.
5. Validate your understanding of what they're saying.
6. Demonstrate engagement with the contact (active listening).

As stated before, if you do a good job at closing on points as you move through the sales process, it should lead to you closing on the sale. If the customer rejects the sale, there is most likely a true objection that has not been addressed.

How To Close On Points
Your goal is to get and build acceptance. Ask questions which prompt "yes" responses along the way. Doing this increases the chance of the prospect giving you a "yes" answer in response to us helping them with a Value Opportunity. And, it increases the chance of getting a "yes" answer on the sale. For example, "So, do you see how we can help you with your branding?" and "Would that help you increase your sales?"

Closing on a point can be hard or soft. Media advertising examples --
Hard: "Is that somebody you would advertise to get in front of?" "Would you advertise in order to get customers like that?"
Soft: "Are those the types of people you're trying to get in front of?" "Is that the kind of person who would be a potential customer for you?"

Their response when you present Value Propositions will reveal their attitude. Remember, most salespeople want to hear acceptance. If you can be skeptical and remove emotion from your call to remain objective, you will be better at recognizing attitudes. The degree of their response is directly tied to the degree to which you probe to fully understand their Value Opportunities.

Additional Tips

* Speak to their agenda, not yours.
* Don't assume that a Value Opportunity is accepted. Ask the question to tie down.
* Balance empathy with aggressiveness.
* If you are closing on points properly, you can uncover and respond appropriately to attitudes so that closing on the sale will be assumptive or soft.
* If you do a good job at closing on points as you move through the sales process, it should lead to you closing on the sale.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Business Development Strategies For Professional Services

Many Erie Sales Club members provide services to businesses and/or individuals, so when asked at our Nov. 13 sales workshop, the attendees were happy to provide insights on selling services. Here's some of the advice they offered:
  • One of the biggest struggles with selling services is that they tend to be complex, intangible, and do not have evident urgency. For example, if your car is totaled in an accident, it's clear the buyer needs a new vehicle ASAP. But that urgency does not apply to life insurance, advertising, or consulting services.
  • Follow the law of reciprocity. Give, give, give, give, give, and eventually it will come back to you.
  • You need to define your services in a way that is attractive and enticing to the buyer. Talk in terms of outcomes that will benefit them, not just activities you perform.
  • Create testimonial letters about what you were able to accomplish for your customers. Be sure to highlight the problems you solved for them. That will speak loudest to your prospects.
  • Specialize by selling your services to vertical markets. This will help you learn that market better and create tailored solutions for those customers. Market yourself as "the leading ___ provider for the ____ industry."
  • Don't just ask for referrals; have a referral strategy. Determine the key companies you want to sell to and then develop a plan to get into those companies.
  • Thoroughly research companies before you call on them. This way, you can match your solutions to their problems on the first call which will be more enticing to them and increase your chances for a second call (and a sale). 
  • Sources for key contact information include LinkedIn, Sales Genie, Data.com, Hoovers, and Inside View.
  • Read the book The Challenger Sale, which provides great insights and direction on the concept of Commercial Teaching.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

All About Networking

Networking is always a hot topic among sales professionals, so there's no surprise it was discussed at the Nov. 13 Erie Sales Club workshop. Attendees shared several interesting ideas and points on this subject.
  • Attending face-to-face events is a must, especially for local salespeople. You need to carve out time in your schedule to attend these events.
  • Networking at the event is just step number one. Step number two takes place after the event: always get in touch with people you met at the event to explore a possible partnership moving forward.
  • For networking events such as the Erie Sales Club, Erie Chamber Business After Hours and Erie Small Business Alliance, make sure you are an asset to the group. Beyond participating in discussions, volunteer to help the organization such as being the greeter at the door.
  • Related to the previous point: don't over-promise and under-deliver. If you volunteer for the organization, be sure to follow through on your commitment.
  • Building relationships takes time. Don't just attend one networking event and then decide to never attend another because you didn't generate immediate sales.
  • One easy first step to connect after networking events is on LinkedIn. Find people you met, then send a personalized message asking them to connect with you. Follow-up with a phone call after you've connected.
  • You can also network by joining a group on LinkedIn and then connecting with fellow group members. The cost to do this? Free.
The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sales Team Motivation Tips

Motivation was one of the many topics discussed at the Nov. 13 Erie Sales Club workshop. The sales pros in attendance shared several interesting ideas and points on this subject.
  • Before implementing a sales contest, you need to understand each individual's competence and motivation. Without that, your techniques will be misguided and likely ineffective.
  • As Daniel Pink details in To Sell Is Human, what people want is mastery, autonomy, and purpose. If you're not providing those, your team will not be fully motivated.
  • Another book that provides strong motivational advice is Ownership Thinking by Brad Hams. This book provides best practice instructions for establishing a 90-day Rapid Improvement Plan to improve a key business activity.  
  • Sales contests that reward the activities which lead to sales are often motivating. For example, develop a contest that gives a point for each phone call or sales contact. The highest score receives an award at the end of the week.
  • Contests can be daily as well. Pin $20 to the corkboard and set a contact or sales goal for the day.
  • Seek accountability partners. Find colleagues you can share your goals with and ask them to keep you on task. Knowing that someone else is counting on you can be very motivating.
The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Build Value, Build Your Territory

Building Value is a function of strengthening your Value Propositions with additional examples within a Value Opportunity (VO), applying multiple Value Propositions to a VO, and repeating this process throughout multiple VOs (for complex sales).

7 Tips Related To Building Value
1. Building value with many little proofs (examples) is a subtle way to build acceptance and rapport. It is nonthreatening to the prospect, and they don't feel as if they're "being sold."
2. If you can keep adding specific Value Propositions that address a VO, you will gain acceptance.
3. Doing this shows you are actively listening to the customer. It validates your understanding of the customer's VOs.
4. It can increase the amount of your sale. Even if they want to buy, deepening the acceptance of value provided on already identified Value Opportunities can increase the amount of the sale.
5. You come across as having more in common with the customer. You don't feel like a stranger, and rapport is built quicker and stronger.
6. You come across as someone who understands their issues and has put thought into what real solution could be, as opposed to just pushing your product on them like many other sales reps do.
7. Once you feel you have reached a point where you can trial close, a powerful tool will be going back to summarize the multiple Value Propositions provided over multiple VOs.

How To Build Value
If you have deeply probed to gain a full understanding of a customer's particular VO and presented customer-specific value, you should get acceptance. Once this initial acceptance is revealed, present additional Value Propositions that you know will address that VO.
* Presenting more of the same Value Proposition: Present more specific examples of a Value Proposition to address a VO. For example, if the Value Proposition is the Marketing Director of the prospect company "needing qualified leads," then present to him or her more examples of the same type of leads you can offer them through your marketing service.
* Presenting additional Value Propositions: Your goal is to address multiple VOs with multiple Value Propositions and build enough overall acceptance to close. For example, if you are selling an truck to a customer, they may also need help selling (or trading in) their current vehicle. Plus, they may need guidance purchasing accessories for the truck, including a truck bed cap and a tow hitch. The more value you show them in those areas, the higher the likelihood of you making not just the vehicle sale but add-on sales.

When Building Value, keep it conversational. Don't get into a canned sales speech, and keep it in a context that's specific to the customer. Keep building value on a point that they like to talk about. Try to find as many examples of specific value as you can to ensure maximum acceptance.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pitches & Proofs Lead To Profits

Let's start first with a definition of Pitches and Proofs before we talk about how to make them work for you. A Pitch is a snippet of information presented in a somewhat broad sense to show how you can provide a product/service that will address the client's Value Opportunities. It's a claim you make -- the concept of what you can do. It is possible to make sales on the concept alone, but it's more effective if you offer Proofs.

Proofs are specific examples that prove what was described by the pitch. It's a validation of value. Here are some principles of strong Proofs:
1. More powerful if someone else (another customer of yours) is saying it. Think reference letters and testimonials.
2. Uses specifics to show or imply the benefits of your features. "Company X is great to work with" isn't very specific. "Company X and their MarketConnect product provided me with 100 leads which increased my sales by $250,000" is much more specific and effective.
3. Includes specific numbers and stats

How To Deliver Pitches & Proofs
Delivery of Pitches and Proofs is important in determining whether or not the pitch/proof results in accepted value. When using QACF (Question, Answer, Comment, Feedback) to probe, the comment can be a pitch or proof. Do not deliver until you are sure the pitch/proof is both:
1. Appropriate -- adds value to address an identified Value Opportunity
2. Complete -- tells not just what you can do but how it will benefit the client.

It's a good idea to compile and organize a stack of proof sheets so that as fast as you are identifying Value Opportunities, you can find proofs to reinforce the value you deliver. The client should control how quickly you reach a point to deliver a pitch/proof. Let them take their time to define the Value Opportunity. Accuracy is more important than speed.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are You Satisfying Needs ... Or Just Selling?

Throwing out value without knowing that it will address a Value Opportunity of your customer is uneconomical. There's no reason for a person to buy something unless it satisfies a need. If the customer can see exactly how your products/services can help them, they will be much more likely to buy.

When To Offer Value Propositions
You should initially offer value at the following times: (This does not include offering additional value to build acceptance. We covered that in another posting.)
1. During probing for understanding, once you are confident the Value Proposition will effectively address their Value Opportunity. Delivering customer-specific Value Propositions will build acceptance and lead to closing on the sale.
2. To get the attention of a non-responsive customer if they are trying to get rid of you. You must make an educated guess what value will match their needs based on your precall plan.
3. Part of soliciting feedback to show you're listening to their needs.

How To Offer Value Propositions
- these are delivered during the call. You react to what they say with the pitches and proofs you know.
1. Use QA (Question/Answer) to gather as much information as possible about the different needs they have that legitimately match up to the services we provide. Do not promise what we cannot deliver, but make sure you uncover all of the ways we can help.
2. Use their excitement level as a way to gauge which needs are of higher priority. They may also tell you their priorities.

Active note-taking (and accurate CRM entries) are crucial to ensure you don't miss anything. Don't just "vomit value." Value should be customer-specific to ensure that you are always adding to their acceptance. What is valuable to one prospect may not matter to another.

Proactive - these are delivered offline, not during the call. You evaluate their Value Opportunities and develop creative Value Propositions and/or creative ways to communicate with them. Here are some ways to offer value if you can't get a meeting with the DM:
1. Email -- but don't get lulled into doing everything via email
2. Fax or Direct Mail -- remember when we used to do this all the time? Well fewer people are faxing or sending direct mail pieces nowadays, so your message will stand out (if it's a good one). Don't just send your marketing materials; always, always, always include a personal note.
3. Through social media - do they have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn listing?
4. Call before or after hours (when the gatekeeper isn't in)
5. Send them a greeting card -- you can find people's birthdays on many social media outlets
6. Send them a personal item -- if they like jellybeans, drop off a bag for them with a note attached.
7. Send their staff a gift -- we recently sent a customer $1 scratch-off lottery tickets for their staff and it was a real hit.
8. Send them a testimonial letter -- this can work especially well when the testimonial is from a competitor of theirs.
9. Join groups they are a member of -- like the Erie Sales Club!

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Objections Sales Workshop Highlights - Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of highlights from the Erie Sales Club's Aug. 14 sales workshop on objections. (Click here for 5 additional key points of advice from the workshop.) A group of nearly 30 professionals from the Erie area participated in the 90-minute workshop which featured expert panelists Jay Fritzke of Employee Insights, Dan "The Real Estate Man" Omniewski of Marsha Marsh Real Estate, and Derek Van Slyke of Jameson Publishing.

Here are 5 additional important points of advice from the workshop:

6. Make it your goal to embrace objections -- as opposed to the natural reaction to quickly defend yourself against the objection, which only strains the relationship. Train yourself to make your first reaction be to thank your customer for sharing; then go to work to understand why they have that objection.

7. The process to manage any objection is RIPO: Restate, Isolate, Probe To Understand, Overcome. Give your customer a chance to clarify by repeating their words. When they say "I don't have budget," did that mean they don't have any budget whatsoever or they don't have a budget for you?

8. Your discussion on objections should be sincere. If the truth is your product/service isn't the right fit for the customer, that's fine. Treat them like they are a family member. Would you recommend they buy or not buy from you? Help them make an accurate decision.

9. Be prepared to overcome objections. Know potential pain points up front and be prepared to share that data with the prospect. Data could include industry statistics and success stories of your customers who were in a similar situation.

10. With most budget objections, there's a good chance the buyer hasn't "done the math," so by all means do the math with them. Help them see the cost/benefit of either moving forward or not. Even if it's not calculable, describe in detail both alternatives. Help them see the risks of doing nothing -- give them all the facts.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Objections Sales Workshop Highlights - Part 1

Discussing objections is typically a popular topic among sales reps and managers, and that proved true at the Erie Sales Club workshop held on Aug. 14 at the offices of Jameson Publishing. A group of nearly 30 professionals from the local area participated in the 90-minute workshop which featured expert panelists Jay Fritzke of Employee Insights, Dan "The Real Estate Man" Omniewski of Marsha Marsh Real Estate, and Derek Van Slyke of Jameson Publishing.

Here are 5 key points of advice from the workshop. We'll post more in the near future -- there was a ton of excellent conversation at the workshop we'd like to share with you.

1. Many salespeople struggle because they are trying to overcome multiple objections that are actually a lack of perceived value. If you're getting price/value objections, don't accept that as the real reason the sale can't move forward. Evaluate if you've really done your best at uncovering needs and aligning value.

2. Ask the customer for help identifying the value they see in your solution vs. others. If your "stack" of value isn't bigger, you don't deserve the prospect's money.

3. To appropriately understand the prospect and their objections, have present a group of questions that will help you uncover this information. Take notes so you can review where your solution aligns with their needs (and where it doesn't). Also be sure to share information about yourself and your solution so the prospect can help you align your value with their needs.

4. "It's always about the price and it's never about the price." If you can solve their problem, they will buy from you. But first you need to know the problem.

5. When you receive a price objection, don't race to defend your value. Ask the prospect, "Why do you think people pay us more for our solution?" This will test how well the prospect understands your value proposition. Ask this question, and you'll be surprised at the answers you receive.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Grab Your Sales Rifle, Shelve Your Sales Shotgun

We've talked previously about identifying Value Opportunities (VOs) and getting to the decision maker. Let's talk today about how to align your Value Proposition(s) with their VOs.

We see too often that a prospect presents a VO and we rush to throw out our Value Proposition(s). The Value Proposition is often mismatched because we do not fully understand the VO first. This does not build acceptance, it can create skepticism and/or indifference, and you can lose credibility when you're wrong in this guessing game. Also, trying to align value too soon is not consultative. You become just another pushy salesperson trying to pitch them something.

There are two approaches to aligning your Value Propositions:
1. Shotgun Approach: Providing value that you THINK is valuable. Maybe the value is important and addresses a Value Opportunity, or maybe it doesn't. It it unlikely the Value Proposition will address the VO.
2. Rifle Approach: Providing value to the prospect that you KNOW is valuable to them. By fully understanding the VO, you know (vs. you guess) the Value Proposition you offer will address the VO.
Obviously the Rifle Approach is the only acceptable method.

If executed properly using the Rifle Approach, eventually you transition from how you could possibly be helping them to how you will be helping them. This can lead to them closing themselves. All of this is rooted in taking the time to ask the right questions. You cannot simply pull VOs from a list, and every customer will have different VOs.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Navigate Sales Conversations Through Segues And Bridges

Segues (pronounced SEG-ways) and bridges are important to executing your line of questions (LOQ) effectively. Segeues are logical, smooth transitions into another line of questions. Segues usually feel very conversational. The customer may not even realize you have shifted to another LOQ. Bridges are more abrupt changes in your questions. It will feel to the customer like a change in the direction of the conversation.

Sometimes you can make the bridge feel like a segue by using what the customer has previously said to make the transition into anther LOQ topic. Example: "... so to tie that back to what you said a few minutes ago about meeting with Jason Smith next week, how is he involved in the decision making process?" This provides two benefits -- it shifts the conversation where you want it to go and it shows you are actively listening to what they're saying.

Usually, it's required and appropriate to segue from one of your LOQs to another to fully understand one Value Opportunity. This means that you will often segue to another LOQ topic before fully exhausting the current LOQ topic. If this occurs, you must segue back to the original LOQ topic later in the conversation to ensure you gather all of the necessary information in that LOQ. That could be kind of hard to follow, huh? This is why we encourage you to take good notes during your sales conversations.

Some LOQs will warrant deeper probing and more questions than others. Ask yourself, "What do I need to know to about this subject to sell this account?" Once you have gained that information, move to the next appropriate LOQ topic. You should go to a depth necessary to close them before moving to another LOQ without overselling.

Reading The Prospect
Prospects may provide a cue to prompt you to segue. Examples include:
* Tone of voice: The customer may be excited or particularly animated with their response to your questions about a specific subject.
* Repetition: The customer may mention another LOQ topic several times.
* Their Answers: Trial close them and ask for feedback.

When a prospect throws out a cue to segue to another LOQ topic, you should:
* Recognize the cue and if it will move you off the current Value Opportunity you are discussing
* Decide if you should segue right then or not. If you are going down a path that is important to them, stay with it. It is preferred to fully understand the Value Opportunity, give value, and get acceptance before covering the next VO.

If no cues are presented, move to the next LOQ topic once you have a good understanding of the current topic. When moving to the next LOQ topic, refer to the customer's responses to the previous questions that you noted to keep the discussion conversational.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

5 Seconds To Glory, 30 Seconds To Clarity

The "5 Seconds To Glory" ad campaign by Klondike Bars has been entertaining for sure and probably sold a boat load of ice cream. If you want to make sales yourself, you'd better be able to listen for more than 5 seconds ... and you'd better be able to talk for less than 30.

The 30-Second Rule improves communication and understanding between two parties because it keeps individual points separated, making them easier to digest and understand, even in long, in-depth conversations. Basically, the guideline with any discussion is to talk 30 seconds or less each time you speak so you don't jeopardize the effectiveness of the conversation. If you talk longer than 30 seconds at a time, the higher the likelihood the person will miss your point. Obviously, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's a good guideline to make sure you don't overwhelm the other person with too much information.

To be effective with the 30-Second Rule, provide small pieces of information on the topic you're trying to convey. Follow up by asking for feedback (QACF). Doing this provides improved communication between two parties because you actively engage the other person in the conversation. While more complex topics require more explanation, the information will be more easily understood if you stop and ask for feedback during the explanation. Resist the tendency to keep talking until you exhaust the subject.

Here are some techniques to help you stay within the 30-Second Rule:
2. Ask for feedback or questions every 30 seconds.
3. Plan your conversation in advance of you opening your mouth.
4. Ask more questions. An excellent (and brief) question is "Why?"
5. Ask the person if they need more data before you continue. Speak for them, not for you.
6. Lead with the punchline. Nobody likes it when you "beat around the bush." So don't.
7. Use silence.
8. Warn the person in advance if you are going to break the 30-Second Rule.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.    

Monday, July 1, 2013

Get A Full Understanding, Not A Fool's Understanding

Here are 5 topics that you can ask questions about to learn more about your customer (and their company if it's a B2B sale):

1. Company Goals: Fully understand what the customer is trying to accomplish in relation to the product/service you're discussing and what's preventing them from accomplishing the goals.
2. Expectations: Fully understand what the customer expects to gain if they purchase your product/service.
3. Competition: Fully understand how the customer views and evaluates your competition.
4. Company Information: In addition to understanding their goals, understand the basics of their company.
5. Personal: Understand enough about them as a person to make a connection. People buy from people they know and like.

Here's a sample line of questions related to #4 Company Information:
* What makes you different from your competition?
* What's the most unique thing your company does? Why do you do that?
* What are the biggest changes your company has experienced recently?
* What changes are on the horizon?
* How many locations do you have? Do you plan to add more?

And here's a sample line of questions related to #5 Personal:
* What do you do for a living? Tell me about your career path that got you there.
* Why did you make your last job move?
* What are your future plans?
* What do you like about your job?
* What do you like about the city you live in?
* Tell me about your family.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.   

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sales Acronym Of The Week: QACF

No, QACF is not the sound a duck makes when it's trying to quack and eat at the same time. QACF is an acronym that represents the pattern your sales call should follow: Question, Answer, Comment, Feedback.
* Q and A is the process where you ask the contact a probing question and they answer it (information gathering). When you ask questions, they should be clear and succinct. Speak plainly. Avoid cliches such as "hot button" and "pain point," as the contact may feel as though they are being sold.
* C is when you comment in response to their answer. The comment validates your understanding of the answer. You can present a Value Proposition to address one of their needs.
* F is when the contact provides feedback. Did you understand the information provided in their answer?

When gathering feedback, you will uncover the contact's attitude. It will fit into one of four categories (1) Acceptance: "I agree. I like that." (2) Skepticism: "I don't believe you." (3) Indifference: "I don't care." (4) Objection: "I won't."

7 Tips For Effective Use of QACF to Advance an Account
1. Listen to the contact's answers and react to their cues naturally.
2. Don't assume anything.
3. Let them fully answer your questions. Don't interrupt. Use live note-taking to capture pertinent points that you want to come back to later in the conversation.
4. Engage the client. Talk about what's important to them.
5. It helps to have a good understanding of your products/services. While you listen to the contact's answers to your questions, there may be a point in time where your internal alarm should go off to tell you, "Hey! There's a match. We can help them with that."
6. Listen! You should be succinct with your Q and C. The contact should be more verbose with A and F.
7. If you talk too much, the contact may:
- Feel as though you are not trying to understand them
- Not have the time or opportunity to fully answer your questions
- Begin to ignore you
- Think as though you are serving your own agenda, not theirs

I could go on-and-on about the topic of QACF ... but I don't want you to begin to ignore me or think I'm serving my own agenda and not yours.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ask (Questions) And Ye Shall Receive (Sales)

The only way to determine if your contact is a good fit for your products/services is to begin asking questions to understand their goals and other vital information. You are doing them, your company, and yourself an injustice if you do not get a complete understanding of their needs. The person must feel a bit of comfort with you before you can begin asking those key questions. If you are too aggressive (or not aggressive enough, depending on the contact's personality), you may have your conversation cut short before you get any information on the client's Value Opportunities. If done properly, you will get an explosion of information, and they'll do most of the talking.

Two Types Of Questions
Surface-level questions are used early in the conversation to determine if the contact could be a good fit for your products/services:
* Does your product/service match what they do? (You can't sell a jitney to a doctor.)
* Can they afford what you're selling? (Good luck selling enterprise-level software to a mom-and-pop operation.)
* Is the contact part of the decision making process?

In-depth questions are asked after you determine the client could be a fit for your products/services. Because that list of questions is almost endless, we'll just list the category headers here:
* Identify and fully understand their Value Opportunities and business processes
* Identify and present the specific value that will build acceptance from them
* Better understand and respond to their objection
* Better understand and respond to skepticism if necessary

If you're hit with a smokescreen, stall, or objection early in your conversation, that should be your cue to begin asking questions. Then you can understand, isolate, and eliminate the objection to continue the conversation or to acknowledge it, put them at ease, and keep going.

Here's the mindset you should have: Ask questions as though you have $50,000 to invest with them and you need to determine who you will invest in.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting

Monday, May 13, 2013

Expert Advice On Prospecting, Cold Calling

At an Erie Sales Club Workshop, our group discussed Prospecting and Overcoming the Fear of Cold Calling. Here are some highlights and comments from that discussion that we hope you'll find helpful:

1. What are the reasons you hear why salespeople fear cold calling?
- Fear of rejection
- Don't want to appear "salesy" or pushy
- Believe they will eventually be more effective if they could just arrange a convenient meeting some other way (email, face-to-face, etc.)
- They're more comfortable maintaining current customers
- They feel like they're interrupting someone else and infringing upon their time

2. Many sales “experts” say don’t cold call. What do you say to those who say you shouldn’t cold call?
- Depends on what your definition of "cold" is. If it's "call someone who doesn't know you and bother them," then you shouldn't cold call. If it's "calling on someone we believe we can help, but we don't have a relationship with yet" -- then I'd defend that to the death. Why wouldn't you want to do that?
- There are a lot of so-called sales experts screaming that sales has changed and we have to do everything different these days. I think we have to look at what's changed and what hasn't changed. Today buyers are more informed than ever. They have the web, social media, and they get information from networking with their peers. They know a lot about our products and services before we ever have a chance to interact. As salespeople, we know a lot more about our prospects, because we have the web, social media, sales 2.0 tools like LinkedIn, etc. We have more communications options (face-to-face, mail, phone, mobile phone, email, text, social media, etc.) True "cold calling" is less effective -- because buyers have a right to expect you to know a lot about them before you call. What hasn't changed in the world of complex products and services is that you can't buy or sell effectively without a conversation. No matter how much they read our product brochures, advertisements, and websites, buyers won't know what they should know unless they interact with a professional salesperson. And, no matter how much homework we do on our prospects, we won't be able to provide the right solutions without a conversation. So it has to start somewhere and that's the first call.

3. What advice do you have for someone who fears cold calling?
- Don't make cold calls, make "warm" calls by doing your homework on the prospect.
- Understand your product and your industry. For example, a real estate agent should know about other houses in the area and where interest rates are.
- Use referrals and/or marketing that produces warm leads.
- Don't make your cold call your sales call. Advance the call but don't close on the first call. Determine 1 or 2 other basic outcomes for your cold calls (qualify, appointment setting, trial close, etc.).
- Build an action plan for these conversations. Not a script but an outline.
- Don't stick your toe in the water. It's cold and if you don't like cold water it'll just prolong your misery. Jump in and swim as fast as you can or you'll never get warm. Jump in all the way, give it a real effort.
- Have a strong belief (conviction) in your product and yourself. If you don't have this, get it.
- Practice: test and track what's working and what isn't working.
- Study and memorize your delivery and value -- own it.
- Look for trigger events to integrate into your call. For example, a newspaper article on the company.
- Start your day with a warmup call -- to your spouse, a good customer, even a co-worker -- to get started right.
- Record your calls and listen to them.
- Wear your company logo attire everywhere so people you call are more familiar with your company name when you call.
- Use brutal honesty: Tell the contact it's a sales call right off the bat.
- Discipline yourself: "At 10 AM every day, I will make 5 new business calls." Get an accountability partner to hold you to it. You don't have to like it, just do it.
- Work through all your fears. Successful sales reps live outside their comfort zone.

4. What cold-calling techniques have you seen that have NOT worked?
- "Let me tell you how great I am."
- "Bait and switch" or any other type of trickery.
- "Weather, vomit, close." How's the weather where you are today? Let me tell you how great I am! Buy now!
- Unprepared pitches -- the rep doesn't know anything about the company they're calling.
- Calling on a cell phone with poor reception makes a bad first impression.
- Bullying -- browbeating the contact and talking over them to force them into a sale.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting