"The Navigator" News Blog

Category Archives: The Navigator News

Five Tips for Maximizing Video Selling

Last time out, I discussed the top trends in selling coming out of Covid-19.  If you haven’t read that one, you should read it now.  But, the #1 trend that I have identified, and that I think will be evergreen (meaning it will outlast Covid-19 and the aftermath) is the increasing use of video in selling.

With everyone working from home, more and more people have gotten comfortable with video conferencing, whether it’s a Zoom call or a different platform.  And many of those people have found it to be a time-efficient way to have meetings.  Those people may want to continue to use video conferencing when you are selling to them – so you might as well make it good.  Here are five ways you can maximize video as a sales tool.

  1. Ask for the upgrade. I said before that video selling lies between two-dimensional (phone) and three-dimensional (in person) activity.  So, when your contact wants to set a phone appointment up (you are making appointments for your phone calls, right?), ask for an upgrade.  “I’d be happy to have a call with you at that time – but would you rather have a Zoom call?”  Remember, more people are familiar with this technology than ever before. On video you can get more cues to and from your buyer – so the more calls you can upgrade from phone to video, the better off you’ll be.
  2. Respect the request. On the other hand, if your customer requests that you meet through video instead of in person, respect that.  Right now, many people are still leery of face-to-face meetings, and if your customer is one of them, you could put them off by pushing for a face to face meeting.  Accept the video call.
  3. Make sure your video is right. The great thing about video is that you have control over the visuals.  Think through your equipment and your backdrop.  Today’s laptops and phones have very high quality HD cameras on them, so that’s not a problem – but the camera lens should be at eye level (so you are making quality eye contact with your customer) and you should be looking AT THE LENS instead of at the screen.  That one’s difficult.    The backdrop should be interesting but free of anything off-color or distracting.  The lighting should be at your front and not your back.  You may want to get a good quality external microphone (mine is a Blue Yeti).  The best way to ascertain all of this is to set up as you would for a call, and then shoot some video of you talking.  Practice and get comfortable.
  4. Learn the technology. Right now, there are many different technologies out there.  They all have their pluses and minuses.  My best advice to you is to pick a technology that you like, get really comfortable with it, and then when you do schedule a video call, you be the person who does the inviting, rather than expect the customer to do so.  I will freely admit that I myself have been a bit tardy on this one.  That said – if your customer already has a preferred tech, go with it – which means you need to be conversant with many platforms and not just your own.
  5. Show up ten minutes early. The same rules apply for this as for a face to face call.  If you’re going to participate in a video call, you should log on ten minutes early, whether it’s your tech and platform or theirs.  If you’re on early, that means that when they log on they don’t have to wait for you; if it’s theirs, that means that if there are any technological hoops you didn’t know about (such as an app to download), you have time to do it before it’s meeting time.

Video calling is something we are going to be working with forever now, at least until someone invents a hologram so we can project ourselves into the customer’s office.  Do these things and you’ll be very effective at it, and you’ll beat salespeople who aren’t.

How to Make Rules For Your Sales Team

How to Make Rules For Your Sales Team

This is another short clip from a Las Vegas speech a few years back.  What I said is still true – there is a three-part criteria for determining the value of any rule you have, or make, for your salespeople (or any other department), and you need to pay attention to it.  If you don’t, you’ll have lower sales performance than necessary, higher turnover, and all the negative effects of those two things.

How to Onboard Salespeople in 3 Steps

How to Onboard Salespeople in 3 Steps

Onboarding salespeople is one of those activities where “act in haste; repent in leisure” certainly applies.  There’s a big difference between “doing it” and “doing it right.” If you rush onboarding now to get them out in the field quickly, you’ll probably regret it later.  This also goes, by the way, for industry experience hires, as I explain in this video.

In this video, I explain how to build a 90-day, three-step process for successfully onboarding salespeople so that they succeed now and later.  Make no mistake – a great onboarding process results in more successful salespeople AND greater sales longevity.

Want my help? I can help you build a great onboarding program as part of one of my Hiring Assistance programs.

Six Tips For Better Video Selling

As I noted in my previous article, our world is changing around us.  Will we get back to face-to-face selling?  Yes, we definitely will.  Will some of our formerly face-to-face customers (whom we are now seeing by Zoom call or other video technology) want to stick to video calls?  Yep.  You bet they will.

But, there’s an opportunity for an upgrade with some of our customers.  As our customers have gotten used to video technology, some of our phone-only customers can be upgraded to video – and that is an upgrade, make no mistake!

That said, it’s important that you do video right.  Here are my tips for a great video call.

5 Sales Trends After Covid-19

5 Sales Trends After Covid-19

Experts tell us that if there is to be a recovery, it’s to be a V-shaped recovery. We are at or near the bottom of the V.  That leaves us no place to go but up.

And second – if that recovery happens, we (salespeople) will be the spearhead taking us up the hill.  As I’ve said before, we are a key economic driver in the country.  That hasn’t changed.  What has changed is HOW we will have to lead the economy back up the hill.  There are certain aspects of our profession that will, in my opinion, be changed both in the short term and permanently – and before you get down in the dumps about it, those changes are not bad, if we embrace them.

  1. Video substituting for phone and in-person activity. Right now, if you’re selling, I’d almost guarantee that you’re doing a lot of it by video conference – Zoom, Teams, Skype, or other platforms.  You might think this will be a temporary substitute for “real” selling.  In some cases, it is; in others, it won’t be.  You will find that some of your customers prefer this type of interaction over face-to-face or phone sales calls.  This doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Alan Weiss likes to say, “email is one-dimensional; phone is two-dimensional; face to face is three-dimensional.”  Let’s call a video conference two and a half dimensions; it’s somewhere in between phone and in-person.It’s tempting to think of this as a way to lose quality with customers.  And, it’s true that when it substitutes for face to face, you lose half a dimension. But – when you sub a video call for a phone call, you GAIN half a dimension!  And if you can sub video calls for more phone calls (appointments) than you do for face to face calls, you can have a net gain in your sales activity.  This is a good thing – so get good at video conferencing.  I’ll be creating a video later this week on how to maximize video conference time. What is certain is that this trend will definitely influence, if not create, the next trend.
  2. More efficient sales calls. One side effect of the above trend is that your sales calls will, of necessity, become more compressed.  Sales dialogues are typically shorter because a lot of the “fluff” of conversations goes away when you’re on phone or video – you won’t talk as much about the weather, the game last night, or other extraneous “stuff.”  Instead, your customer will want you to focus on the matter at hand.   You’ll find yourself covering the same, or more, ground in 30 minutes (or less) than you used to cover in an hour.  One positive result of this could be more sales calls; if more of your appointments are video appointments, they will both be shorter and you won’t have to spend time driving between them. Hence, more appointments per day.What that also means is that, if you’re not good at the meat of sales calls (asking great questions and making great presentations, you need to GET good at it.  If you don’t, you won’t get customer time.  And speaking of customer time and efficiency, if you’re not tracking and recording your customer time, you’re going to lose to people who are.  To do that, you need to consider the next trend mandatory (too many don’t).
  3. CRM. Don’t get me wrong; CRM has been out there for decades – but I’m still shocked at how many companies aren’t using it, or aren’t using it well.  It’s time.  Actually, it’s past time – but if you haven’t yet, do it now.  CRM facilitates communication among all the people in-house that can affect the customer experience, and if you are dependent upon in-person communication to make the experience a positive one, you’re in trouble right now.  Your customer information is the most critical and valuable asset you have – beyond your products and even beyond your people.The key is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  I see even small companies spend months or even a year or more finding “the right” CRM; in the process, you’re losing customer data.  There are many systems out there that are cheap or even free that will allow you to be up and running with all your salespeople within days.  I use HubSpot.  It’s free, online, and it has a really nice mobile app.  You don’t have to use it – but you should use SOMETHING.  If you decide to switch later, you can always port your data over.  But if you don’t have any data, you’re losing sales to sales teams that do. Falling behind is going to be bad for you, because the speed of the sales world is picking up – which accentuates another trend that has been going for awhile:
  4. The end of the Good Time Charlie. There are salespeople out there – I call them “Good Time Charlies” – whose sales technique consists of telling jokes, laughing, and buying things like lunches, football tickets, etc.  Those salespeople are handcuffed right now – it’s hard to buy lunch when you can’t get face to face with your customers.  Tickets to sporting events don’t matter much when you can’t GO to sporting events.The truth is that sales has been pivoting toward more substantive and value-based selling for years, and the “Good Time Charlies” have been losing ground for awhile now – but now, they’re stranded in the water.  If you’re one of them, or you employ one of them, it’s time to change.  And speaking of change – embrace it.  That requires the next trend:
  5. Agility. Know what?  I do think the above four trends will be evergreen after Covid-19.  There’s also the possibility that I could be wrong; that one or more of the trends will change (I don’t see it, however).  Or, it could be possible that new trends or tech emerges.  So – the most important trend going forward is agility.  Don’t get locked into a single approach; one of the great things about selling is the constant change.

It’s going to be a Brave New World of selling after we come out of this.  The key is to be brave and embrace the new.  Over the next five weeks, I’m going to be going into each trend in specific detail, so keep reading this space.

How Salespeople Can Maximize Their Time And Relationships During Covid-19

How Salespeople Can Maximize Their Time And Relationships During Covid-19

If you’re like most salespeople, you’re working as hard as you can to get a good path forward going during the Covid-19 crisis. Maybe you’re having more trouble getting ahold of prospects, or maybe you’re struggling with in-house interactions.  And, if you’re like me, you’re getting very tired of two popular video types that I’ve seen:  The “Sunshine and Roses” video, or the “Get off your butt and just sell” video.

I think it’s time to get real.  Let’s get serious about where we are in the sales profession, what’s available to us right now, and how we can best use our time and talents to recover from Covid-19 as best we can.  In this video, I explain my thoughts.

How to Get Veteran Salespeople to Use CRM (video)

This is the answer to a question I get asked frequently.  “Troy, my veteran salespeople (and maybe some of my non-veteran salespeople) don’t want to use my CRM program.  How can I persuade them to do it?”  I’ve seen a lot of people attempting to answer the question, but they all come at it from a tech-centric perspective, not a sales-centric perspective. Well, I’m a sales guy, so this is from a sales perspective.

When It Comes to Service, Don’t Put on the Ritz – 7 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

When It Comes to Service, Don’t Put on the Ritz – 7 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

In my experience, most customer service training is about “conflict resolution,” when in fact, it should be “conflict avoidance.” Many customer service issues – and the attendant harm to your customers’ experience with you – don’t have to happen. I was reminded of this when I decided to have a snack.

I love Ritz crackers. Well, at least I used to. For the past few years, I’ve noticed that far too many Ritz crackers turn into crumbs as soon as you open the package. I threw away a new box yesterday because I opened all four sleeves, and it was impossible to remove an intact cracker from the package. Although I’ve seen this a lot, and I decided to do a little research. My research, quickly, found that thousands of other people had posted about the same thing.7 Ways to Improve Your Customer Service

On their Facebook page, there is a thread that is six years, and over a thousand comments, old, of people reporting the same issue. Here’s the funny part. Someone at Ritz took the time to respond to every post. They said (paraphrasing; not all responses were identical in words but they were in sentiment):

“We’re sorry this happened to you. Please send us a private message with the batch number and the store where you bought the crackers so we can investigate.” Thousands of times, thousands of comments, and this was the response – essentially, pretending that it’s an isolated problem with just a few affected boxes, when in reality this is pretty much a systemic problem.

What’s happening is that someone at RJR Nabisco has decided that they have two options: First, they can figure out why this is happening now and didn’t before and fix the problem, or they can train some entry-level employee to type out rote responses every time someone claims, knowing people will continue to buy the crackers because of the brand. They have chosen option number two.

This syndrome isn’t just confined to big corporations, either. I see small and medium sized companies doing the same thing every day. Don’t do that. If you have a recurring problem, here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Be honest. Is this a real problem? In other words, is what the customers are experiencing a genuine problem with the product or customer service, or an isolated incident? If it’s happening consistently and repeatedly, it’s not an isolated incident. It’s like the person who has been married seven times – at some point, you have to admit that it’s not them; it’s you.
  2. Embrace transparency. You must realize that, whatever the problem is, it’s going to get out. That’s one of the ways that social media has changed the world. The old saying used to be, “If you do something good for someone, they’ll tell one person. If you do something bad TO someone, they’ll tell ten people.” Now, either way, they have the capability to tell the entire world. Ritz’s customer service person i
    s responding to those customer complaints as if they were communicating one-on-one. You have to recognize that not only will the PROBLEM get out – how you HANDLE the problem will get out.
  3. Why is the problem actually happening? Is it traceable to a human error (most are), a product or raw material error, a process error, or a customer error? Nearly every ‘service’ issue is traceable to one of those things.
  4. Fix it. Human errors or customer errors are fairly easily fixable by training and setting expectations; processes can be rewritten, and product or raw material errors can be addressed – but first, you have to know what they are.
  5. Individualize your communication. One of the aspects of this that really upset customers on the Ritz page was that, not only was Ritz pretending that these were isolated instances (hundreds of times over), they were giving the same rote response and not responding to individualized queries. When customers ask questions, answer THEIR question – not everyone else’s – and respect THEIR situation. Yes, you might be communicating with the entire world (see #2 above), but you’re still dealing with THEIR problem.
  6. Set customer expectations. Too often, customers are blamed for expecting “too much” of a product or service, when in fact, it was the seller who set that expectation in the first place. I once worked in an industry as a sales manager where our service manager said, “It’s your salespeoples’ jobs to sell fantasy; my job is to sell reality.” In other words, my team was supposed to paint an unrealistic picture of what the result would be, get a contract signed, and then turn them over to service, who would reset their expectations. Not surprisingly, customers weren’t delighted with this approach, and I left that industry not long after that conversation. If your sales or marketing is painting an unrealistic picture, you need to fix THAT – false expectations will damage your business far more than losing a few deals because someone else is “selling a fantasy.”
  7. Make it right. Find a way to make the customer “whole” again. This can be done any number of ways, but the worst way is to give them more of a flawed product. I’m thinking of the airlines who, upon delaying you for hours and messing up your plans, give you a voucher for more flying. Or Ritz, who offered to send a replacement box of crackers.

If you know you have a problem, you need to either fix it or acknowledge the problem BEFORE the customer buys, so they can make an educated decision about whether or not to buy.

In the case of my beloved Ritz crackers, all I want is something I can put cheese or peanut butter on. After reading that thread on Facebook (and throwing away many, many bad crackers over the last couple of years), I’ve decided to switch to a different cracker that holds together. Will I go back? Probably not. If you have a problem, don’t acknowledge or fix it, and your customer finds out, they probably won’t, either.

If You Haven’t Already Updated, It’s Time – 10 Social Distancing Tips for Salespeople

Social Distancing Tips for Salespeople

Boy, has our world changed, am I right? Thirty days ago, we were rocking and rolling along with not a care in the world. Now, unless you live in a select few states, you’re basically on lockdown. Even salespeople in “essential” businesses are reporting that their customers either don’t want to, or can’t, see them face to face. This has huge implications for many salespeople who have, throughout their careers, relied solely on face-to-face sales calls to make their impact, show their value, and make their quota.  That’s why I put together this list of social distancing tips for salespeople, to raise to the crisis at hand.

A couple of months ago, I was doing a training program and we discussed LinkedIn as a small part of the program. Half of the salespeople in the room basically said the same thing: “I just show up on the job site and do my selling there – I don’t need or want to know how to use that stuff.” Those salespeople are struggling right now. In fact, let’s be clear – if your entire sales approach is dependent upon in-person interaction, you’re dead in the water right now. What’s more, sales itself will change because of what we’re going through right now, so it’s time to adapt and update. Let’s talk about how.

Make no mistake. Selling is still happening, and people are buying things (and not just N95 masks). They are just doing it through different venues: Over the phone, by web conference, and yes, on social media. We’ll leave social media for another day, but let’s talk today about how to maximize your selling through phone and web conferencing.
“But, Troy, I know how to sell over the phone!” Do you? Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. In any case, here are a few things you might want to understand:

Your 10 Social Distancing Tips for Salespeople

1. Get a good phone. I know, that sounds elementary, but all phones are not made the same. Some smartphones are far more “smart” than “phone,” and leave you sounding like you are calling from the bottom of a barrel. When I go phone shopping, I take my wife with me, pick out a few possibilities, and then I have her go outside. I then call her from the demo phones so I can check out the quality of both incoming and outgoing sound. That plays a big role in my choice.

2. Also, get a headset. You should also have a quality headset. Mine is a blueparrott B250-XT. For the best call quality, I prefer one that actually covers at least one ear and has a microphone that goes in front of my mouth. Sure, there are smaller units, and ones that don’t make you look like you’re an unpaid extra on the old Battlestar Galactica TV show – but mine has great sound quality, and that’s why I like it. Full disclosure; I resisted a Bluetooth headset until two years ago when I was called upon to do a three-hour webinar. Now I seldom make any phone call longer than five minutes without using it. Why a headset if you have a good phone, as in above? The phone quality is for short calls and when someone calls YOU – this one is for longer calls when YOU are calling.

3. Don’t use speakerphone. Please. For all that is good and holy in selling, do NOT use speakerphone – your customers will spend a lot of time saying, “Can you repeat that?” If you can’t be heard, you can’t sell.

4. Remember that the phone compresses conversation. A sales call that would normally occupy an hour will now take 30 minutes. This is because a lot of the “small talk” that fills time tends to get tossed over the side in a phone call. Your ability to get to the point will be critical on a phone call, as will your ability to have a quality game plan for the call.

The phone is great, of course, but many customers will still want to see your face – and you theirs. If you aren’t already proficient, or at least competent, at video conferencing, it’s time to get proficient. I’m not going to discuss particular platforms here, for two reasons. First, that’s not my expertise, and second, many of your customers will have their own preferred platform. These are general tips that will help with most platforms.

5. Consider the background. The camera on your laptop (or phone or tablet) can see a lot more than just you. Think about what’s behind you, beside you, and in the view of the camera, and how that might distract from your image. I did a web conference a year ago with a guy who was doing the conference from his dining room. No judgment there – I do the same thing – but behind him, I could see a sink full of dirty dishes! That’s not a great image. Think about what’s in view; the background doesn’t have to be blank – in fact some objects can be interesting – but what’s behind you shouldn’t distract from the call.

6. Consider the view. Now I’m talking about the view of YOU. You don’t have to be in full dress clothes, but you should be in a nice shirt. The camera lens on whatever device you are using should be at EYE LEVEL. If you have a laptop on your desk, to get the lens aimed at you, the camera will be angled UP. Nobody looks good like that. Trust me on this. If I’m doing a webinar on my laptop, I will boost the laptop up with coffee table books (this is a highly technical process, folks) so that the camera is level with my eyes. The camera also shouldn’t be angled DOWN at you – so get rid of those habits you’ve developed for great selfies. You should appear level and eye to eye with your customer.

7. Look at the camera, not the screen. This is something I still struggle with. It’s only natural to look at the image on your screen, but if you do that, you will never be making eye contact with your customer; you’ll be looking down as if you’re reading from notes. This is a bad look. The 7th tip in our list of 10 social distancing tips for salespeople, is  when you’re speaking, look at the camera, and when your customer is speaking, look at their image on the screen.

8. Remember the sound. I would advise not trusting the built-in microphone on your device if at all possible. Many times, on webinars, I’ll use the separate call-in number with my headset (hence the Battlestar Galactica reference earlier). I also have a USB microphone that plugs into my laptop in case I want or need to use the webinar’s sound system; again, the sound quality is much better this way.10 Social Distancing Tips for Salespeople

9. Test. Have you recorded a video on your device yet? You should. Set it up exactly like you will in the web conference, record a video of yourself speaking, and then play it back. If you don’t like what you see, make changes until you do – whatever you see is what your customers will see.

10. Show up early. We all know about showing up to a face-to-face sales call ten minutes early, but web conferences induce the bad habit of showing up at the appointed time. Don’t do it. Instead, log on ten minutes early and test your tech. Some apps will require you to download an app before you start, and if you show up at 9:59 for a 10:00 AM call, you’ll be late. If you show up early, you can test the video and the sound and make sure all the tech is working. ALWAYS test the tech.

Social Distancing, Final Thoughts

That should get you started, if you haven’t already started, on becoming more effective at selling on the phone and on the web. Make no mistake – selling will not go 100% back to where it was. These things never do. Some of your customers will decide that they prefer phone or web contact, as an example, and those salespeople who get good at those technologies now will be far ahead.

It’s time to update and stay relevant.

Want to book a Webinar on this topic? Click HERE and let’s make it happen!