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How to Double Your Sales In Two Weeks!

OK, the title is a bit of a fib.  Unless your sales are pretty lackluster now, I probably can’t tell you how to double your sales in two weeks, and neither can anyone else.  But I got your attention, didn’t I?  What I CAN tell you is a great way to maximize your sales ability and time in 2023, and that’s the topic of this article.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  Your biggest asset as a salesperson is TIME.  More specifically, it is the time you spend, face to face (or voice to voice, in the case of inside phone-based salespeople) with a decision making contact at a customer or prospect.  And when it comes to sales activity, the basic equation is this:  (Quantity of activity) x (Quality of activity) = RESULTS.  So let’s talk about the best way to maximize the quality of your face-time.

It’s not hard.  To maximize your effectiveness, you must have an objective for each and every sales call.  Period.  Every sales interaction with a customer or prospect should have a real reason for being.  The biggest reason that salespeople underachieve is the agenda-free sales call.  I used to hear these called “stop-ins,” or “P.R. calls.”  If you’re making sales calls “just to see how things are going,” you’re wasting your time and that of your contacts. If you focus and think about it, it is possible to have a reason to make every sales call, and make yourself and your relationships a bit better each time.  Here are some excellent objectives:

  1. Gain information. This is a simple objective, and it’s one that can (and probably should) be employed on each and every sales call, no matter how long you have been calling on someone.  You never know everything about a customer – and sometimes what you do know can become obsolete.  If you go into each sales call with at least 2-3 good questions to ask, you’re always going to come away with something you didn’t know – and that both advances a relationship and can move you toward a new sale.
  2. Give information. Sometimes, the information you give will be a result of the information you gained above – for instance, you’ve identified a previously unknown need and you can help solve it.  Other times, there’s a new development.  Maybe your company is rolling out a new product or service, or maybe there’s a product or service that you’ve not shown them before.  Regardless, this is a great way to give your customer value for the time spent with you.
  3. Internal referrals. Are there other people in the organization whose work is affected by the products or services you sell?  Who are they?  “High, wide, and deep” isn’t just a catch phrase.  It’s how you should be living.  Your objective in B2B selling should be to have relationships as HIGH on the corporate ladder as possible, to get as WIDE within the company as possible by having as many people know about you and what you do as you can, and as DEEP as possible by making sure that not only do people recognize your face but that they have an understanding of the value you bring and create.  On the average, people change jobs every 3-5 years, and if you only have one contact at an organization, you’re back to cold calling if they leave.  Make sure that you are always working to get high, wide, and deep in the organization by occasionally asking your contact (in a non-threatening way) to connect you with others in the organization.
  4. External referrals. We all know what these are, right?  Your contacts likely know other people in similar positions at other companies; if you’ve done a good job for your contact, they should be willing to introduce you to their counterparts (as long as it doesn’t create a competitive situation).
  5. Testimonials. If you’ve really helped your customer, they may be willing to say, for the record, how you have helped them and how you might be able to help others.  With today’s technology, getting a testimonial on video is easier than it’s ever been.  Don’t be afraid to ask.
  6. Moving a sales process forward. Ideally, you should always have your customers in some sort of a sales process, whether it’s a new prospect or an existing customer that you are trying to upsell or cross-sell. In this case, the key is to keep conscious of where you are in the process, where you want to go next, and how to get there.  One caution – just as bad as the “see how things are going” trap is the “see if they have any questions” trap.  Both are lame and do nothing to move a sales process.  Instead of that, have specific questions ready about time frame, purchasing processes, etc., so that you don’t fall flat.

If you have a reason for every sales call you make, you might not double your sales in two weeks, but you definitely WILL sell more, be more successful, and have better customer relationships.  Make that your New Year’s Commitment (resolutions are usually broken within weeks) for 2023.

How Are Your Sales Fundamentals?

A short time back, I attended a dinner meeting at a local restaurant in Kansas City.  The meeting was for a business club of which I’m a member, and the dinner meeting drew about 25 people.  25 hungry and thirsty people, in fact.  I arrived at the restaurant, got a drink from the bar, and headed into the meeting room.  Menus were on the table.  Some of the members had arrived earlier and had already ordered.  I, and the three people seated adjacent to me, waited for one of the three servers taking care of us to take our dinner order.

And we waited.  Finally, after about 20 minutes, the guy next to me stopped the waitress walking by and said that we’d like to order food. She assured us that she’d be right back.  She never returned. I finished my drink.  15 minutes later, another waitress walked by and I stopped her, explaining that several of us hadn’t ordered food and that I could use another drink.  She told me she’d be right back.  I was there an hour and a half.  You guessed it.  No food order and no drink refill offered. By the time the meeting was over, I was decidedly hangry (as you probably know, that’s when you’re so hungry you’re mad about it).  I started out of the restaurant.

The manager stopped me, smiling, and asked how “everything” was.  I told him that I had no idea, because there was no ‘everything,’ and instead of having the steak that I’d had my mouth set for and that the restaurant was known for, that I’d be getting a drive-through burger because I just needed food in my stomach. I left him stammering.

A few weeks later, this very same restaurant made a tearful post on Facebook that they were being forced to close forever “due to Covid.”  Well, when I was there, our meeting room was packed, as was the dining room.  You will excuse me for thinking that their problem might be more due to the lack of business fundamentals (there are few things more fundamental to a restaurant than taking orders and serving customers) than the “effects of Covid.”

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many very strong businesses that have had severe hardships due to the restrictions imposed on us during the last two years, and some of those businesses have unfortunately failed.  But – one thing that the last two years should have done is to emphasize the importance of fundamentals in your sales program.  There are still companies out there succeeding and making sales in nearly every industry, and they are doing so because they had the fundamentals of sales covered.  Here are some of the fundamentals you should have in place:

  1. Good sales KPI’s. Far too many companies only manage by looking at their overall sales in a given period.  The problem with this approach is that sales is a historical measure, not a forward-looking one.  Good sales managers are looking forward and forecasting from predictable norms and ratios, not looking backward and guessing.  At a minimum, you should know your ratios from Proposal to Sale, from Presentation to Proposal, from Discovery to Presentation, and from Prospecting to Discovery. You should know your year-to-year customer retention rates, and you should have product/service matrixes to spot opportunities for cross-selling to current customers.  That’s the minimum, and many companies don’t have it; in fact, when I do a Sales Audit for a client, it’s rare that they have it.
  2. CRM. Yes, I’m going to hammer on this again. You MUST have a functional CRM system – and by “functional,” I mean one that is constantly fed with sales data that you can use to market and to manage your team.  The primary purpose of CRM is to get data out of individual heads and into a format where it can be accessed and used to greater benefit and grow the company.  At a minimum, you should have contact information, activity recording, and opportunity management.  Good CRM is not expensive these days – in fact, some platforms are free in the Cloud.  If you don’t have one, get one.  And using CRM can be made much easier; watch this video to see how.
  3. Prospecting. You must always prospect.  Period.  The reasons are numerous, but the biggest one is that you will lose customers from year to year, sometimes through no fault of your own – and if you aren’t constantly working to fill your customer base, you just have a shrinking company.  Individual salespeople should have a prospecting target and be managed to it.  For a salesperson, prospecting is like a muscle.  If you don’t keep using it, it atrophies quickly, and it’s  much harder to regenerate than to simply keep using.
  4. A Meaningful Sales Process. This should be obvious – and it ties to all three of the above – but many sales teams don’t have one.  A sale of any type goes through five distinct phases.  First you must find a Prospect to sell to (sometimes this can be an existing customer, of course, but someone has to be identified); then you must Discover their needs through good questioning; next you must Present your recommendations for solving their needs; then you must Propose a specific product/service for a specific price; and finally, you must gain a Decision.  Too often, the Discovery step is skipped – and that’s where winnable sales go to die.  Once you have a process, you must constantly train your salespeople to use it.
  5. Homework. With the information available at our fingertips, there’s no excuse for walking into a sales call uninformed.  Sure, everyone knows to look at the prospect’s web page – but have you looked at their online reviews (Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, etc.)? Don’t think that if it’s not a Yelp type business that there aren’t reviews – Google Reviews has reviews on every type of business, and some of those reviews might shed light on your program.  You should also research your contact on LinkedIn.  We can’t walk into a sales meeting anymore fat, dumb, and happy – and trying to do so will quickly end the sales call.

2020 and 2021 were difficult years, no question, but don’t allow yourself to get caught in the trap of thinking that the fundamentals don’t matter anyway – they do.  If your sales program is right, you CAN win sales and succeed in most instances.  Even now.

How to Get Rid of Schrodinger’s Proposals

You might be familiar with the scientific paradox called “Schrodinger’s Cat.”  If you’re not, here’s an extremely simplified version.  In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger suggested that, if you were to place a cat into some sort of a box with a potentially (but not necessarily – it could activate at a random time) lethal device in it, that the cat could be thought of as both dead and alive at the same time, as long as you didn’t open the box.  Unless and until you opened the box, you would never know which it was.  Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than this, but that’s the basic idea and that will work for our purposes.

What does this have to do with sales?  There are a lot of deals out there that I like to think of as “Schrodinger’s Proposals.”  Those are customers with whom deals have been proposed, but no answer has been received.  And to the salesperson, those deals may be very much alive – but to the customer, they are dead.  The salesperson doesn’t know because he hasn’t “opened the box” by getting a firm decision from the customer.

Look at your CRM system (you DO have one of those and it’s working and maintained, right?).  How many proposals do you have in it that have past-due closing dates?  If you’re like most salespeople, probably quite a few.  Those are Schrodinger’s Proposals.  When you look at them, those deals are alive and in the back of your head, you are counting on those as part of your upcoming sales performance.  The question is – are they alive in the mind of your customers?  There’s only one way to find out.

Open the box.

The older the proposal, of course, the more likely that it’s dead.  And the older the proposal, the harder it is to follow up.  So how do you follow up?  First, let’s look at a couple of ways to NOT follow up on a proposal:

“Hi.  I’m just calling to see if you have any questions about the proposal.”  This is plain dumb on many levels.  First of all, you’re saying that if they have questions, they aren’t smart enough to get ahold of you and ask them.  Hence, you insult their intelligence. Worse is the word “just.”  When you use the word “just,” you diminish the importance of any other words that accompany it.  Never say “just calling,” or words like that – you make yourself unimportant.  You have importance.

“Buy now for a special deal!”  This is the worst thing you can do.  “Buy now for a cheap price” approaches are low-end sales tactics and are usually a lie. The customer usually responds, “So, if I buy later, I can’t get that deal?”  And you stammer and stutter.  Don’t invest yourself in false and cheap sales techniques.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the correct approaches, all of which I teach in my training.  Keep in mind that your proposal is designed to solve a problem for your customer (and if it doesn’t, no wonder it’s sitting there).  We’re also assuming that you’re talking to the right person – if not, that’s a completely different problem, which we will address in an upcoming column.  If your situation meets these criteria, here’s how to open the box:

The assumptive approach: My favorite close is the assumptive close.  That’s a close that assumes that they have already decided to buy, and you are just confirming the details.  It works like this.  “Hi, Mr. Customer.  I’m calling to find out when you would like to start service on that proposal I gave you last month.”  Yes, it’s aggressive and assertive, and that’s perfectly okay.  You’re calling to do business and you are being respectful of your customer’s time and your own by doing this.  And it works – I’ve personally used this approach to rescue a stalled proposal.

The process approach:  Sometimes, by depersonalizing the conversation, you can uncover information to get the proposal moving again.  “Hi, Mr. Customer.  I’m calling to follow up on the proposal. What’s the next step in the process for getting started?  I’m looking forward to working with you.”  You’re assuming that there is a process and that the problem is that the next step needs some input from you to make it happen.

Put the burden back on yourself.  Sometimes, acting like you have missed something is a great approach.  “Hello, Mr. Customer.  I’ve been reviewing the proposal I gave you and I have to think that I’ve missed communicating something to you.  This unquestionably solves these problems that you were facing, and I’m wondering where I’ve fallen down in my obligation to you.  What can I provide you so that we can get going on this process?”  Putting the burden back on yourself eases into the conversation and makes it better, psychologically, for the customer to have an open discussion.

Ask for the “no.”  Sometimes a proposal is stalled and the customer has gone silent.  You’ve called, emailed, texted, and heard nothing.  Let’s be honest.  There is a 90% chance that this one is dead when you open the box.  Still, you need to close out the sales process and get a decision.  This is the opposite of the assumptive close – you are assuming that the answer is “no,” and you are just confirming.  The communication goes like this:  “Hello, Mr. Customer.  I appreciate the time we spent together in crafting the proposal for these services.  Since I’ve not heard back from you, I assume that the answer is ‘no,’ and you are simply too nice a person to tell me.  I assure you that my feelings will not be hurt by hearing ‘no,’ as hearing that word is part of any salesperson’s job.  So, if it’s ‘no,’ please don’t hesitate to tell me.  We can circle back up again in the future.  If, on the other hand, you are still interested in pursuing this solution, I’d welcome a chance to reconnect.”  In my experience, this has about a 10-20% chance of restarting a dead sales process.  Either way, you are closing the process.  Send this communication, wait a week, and if you have heard nothing, close the proposal out and get on with your life.

Schrodinger’s Proposals take up head space for salespeople and sales managers, and clog up a pipeline.  Open the box – and focus on real proposals.

Is it a Supply Chain Problem, or a “You Chain” Problem?

We all know that things are difficult right now in the economy.  Product shortages abound.  Finding employees is a challenge.  In some areas, restrictions on the operation of your business still exist.  Costs and prices continue to escalate.  There’s no question about these issues – but some companies are still thriving in all areas, and some companies are struggling more than most.

It’s tempting to blame problems on “the economy,” as I wrote back in 2008 during a very different set of economic challenges.  But what I found then – and continue to find now – is that economic challenges have a way of exposing issues that were already existing in a company’s business model and culture.  Perhaps I should say that a strong economy can paper over those issues, and the rough economy strips the paper away.  Here’s what I mean.

There’s a restaurant chain with several locations in Kansas City, and all of those locations have two big things in common:  Huge wait times, even though the parking lot is nearly empty, and a list on the door of menu items that are unavailable.  The wait times are due to the fact that they are short-staffed, and the list is due to the fact that they are having difficulty getting product from their suppliers.  This is true of all of their locations – and it’s not the overall environment, since all these restaurants are located in the middle of other restaurants, all of whom are doing business more or less at a normal rate.

I was thinking of this as I had breakfast recently with a client of mine. This client employs a few hundred people in all phases of operating a large distribution company – sales, warehouse, drivers, customer service, management, etc.  He was telling me that he’s fully staffed, that he is meeting all of his customers’ needs for product, and that he is having a record year.  His competitors are struggling with the conventional issues of personnel and supply, while he is not.  He’s been challenged, to be sure, but he’s overcome those challenges.  How has he done it?  Well, the truth is that many of the things that he has done are simply good business practices that he implemented long before things got weird last year – and others have been skilled adaptations to the environment.

Treat your employees well:  This should go without saying, but it doesn’t.  He does the little things very, very well.  For instance, when his route trucks return from their routes, someone goes into them, picks up any trash, vacuums them, and cleans them up so that the driver has a clean, hospitable workspace.  He does the same with his office personnel.  It’s a little thing, but it matters.  Every employee, from the President on down to the person who does that cleaning, is treated respectfully and reminded that they are an important part of the machine that gets product to the customers.

Compensate appropriately:  Yes, wages are escalating.  Yes, some of this is due to forces outside simple supply and demand.  You can complain about it or you can do something about it.  He doesn’t overpay his people, but he pays them well and they appreciate it.  One thing that he does not do is pay sign-on bonuses.  His reason – a correct one – is that sign-on bonuses are a slap in the face of your current employees.  It sends a signal that the new employee is more valuable than someone who has been there.  Sign-on bonuses typically happen in high turnover environments, and perpetuate the turnover as current employees become dissatisfied.  Instead, pay everyone appropriately, treat them well, and you attract and keep good people.

Market your new hiring opportunities:  Most job listings are absolute junk.  Hiring managers take the lazy way out, and grab the job description out of the HR file and slap it up on the Web.  Make no mistake – hiring is a marketing project and should be treated as such.  Get your marketing department to write a killer ad that explains why anyone who reads it should be dying to work for you, and gives them a call to action.  Or, you could check out my Hiring Assistance Programs, and I’ll do all that and more for you.

Have great vendor relationships.  My client is able to get product from vendors – even when those vendors have to short other customers to get it to him.  Why?  Because he’s always treated his vendors and their reps well and with respect.  When supplies get tight, vendors are people too, and they’ll prioritize those who have treated them well and shown loyalty.  A couple of months ago, I participated in an industry roundtable Zoom call, and in this call, one dealer President complained bitterly that his main vendor rep was “screwing” them and not supplying them with the key product that they needed, while taking care of other dealers in his market.

Well, two years ago, I had presented at their sales meeting.  During this meeting, that vendor rep also presented, and his sales staff raked that rep over the coals. I mean, they just took it to him and enjoyed it.  It was immediately clear to me that they were mainly doing it for the enjoyment of it – none of their complaints at the time had to do with key issues like product quality or availability.  I could see the rep getting madder and madder, but he handled it like a pro.  I mentioned this to the President later, and he just laughed and said, “Oh, they always do that.”  During the Zoom call, I reminded him of this and said, “Hey, remember the fun you had at that meeting?  It’s coming back on you now.”  He got a little upset, but the truth hurts.  Take care of your vendors.  Oh, and the restaurant that I mentioned at the start of this article?  They are known for changing suppliers at the drop of a hat over the smallest price savings. Now they can’t get product at any price.

Have great customer relationships.  This should go without saying – but great customer relationships always help you through difficult times.  The trouble is that most salespeople and business owners don’t understand customer relationships.  They think they have a “relationship” with everyone who buys from them.  Read this article to understand the three levels of customer relationships.

Tell them what you can do, not what you can’t.  As I was about to finish this article, I had a call from another Smooth Sailing Coaching client.  He had a situation where a customer had asked him to speed up implementation of a service, and he’d told them that he couldn’t – so the customer went to another vendor who could.  On the face of it, this might have been inevitable, but it might not have been.  I coached him to instead, ask the customer for a bit of time to come up with a plan, and then come up with some sort of an action plan to start handling their needs more quickly.  Maybe it wouldn’t have worked anyway, but it might have.  The flat “no” simply sent the customer elsewhere.  Instead of saying “no,” take a little time and give them a positive “here’s what I can do” answer.  Customers are remarkably understanding.

The restaurant chain may not recover from all of their problems – but the companies who implement good fundamental practices like the ones above, and then improve upon them as they can, will be the winners in this or any other economy.

The Best Ways to Keep Your Remote Team Happy and Motivated

When implemented correctly, remote working can benefit your employees. A better work-life balance, an increase in productivity, and greater work flexibility are just some of the many perks that remote working can provide your team. But despite these benefits, remote workers are still prone to feeling isolated and less motivated. In fact, a study by Emotive Technologies notes that employees who work remotely are nearly two times less engaged than their office-based counterparts. This decrease in engagement rates is due in part to poor communication, a lack of coordination, and virtual fatigue.

If you are managing a remote team and are struggling to keep them happy and motivated, don’t fret! In this post, we’ll discuss the best ways to engage and uplift your remote team.

Foster a culture of connectedness

As we’ve mentioned, remote workers are prone to feeling lonely and isolated. Because of this, you should try to facilitate genuine connections between your remote employees. This also means recognizing that your employees are more than just your workers and have unique interests, ideas, and backgrounds. To create a virtual space where your employees feel safe in sharing their experiences and authentic selves, be sure to hold regular check-ins where you can have a light-hearted conversation and catch up with your remote employee.

In addition, weekly virtual town halls where they can nurture a meaningful relationship with their coworkers can also help. Business resource IdeasPlusBusiness.com highlights how icebreaker activities, Q&A sessions, and games can make your town halls more exciting and engaging. By fostering a culture centered on connectedness, you can offer emotional support to your remote employees and prevent them from feeling disengaged and unproductive.

Help them stay on top of their finances

Your employees’ financial woes can affect their performance at work. An employee financial wellness survey by PwC highlights how finances are the leading cause of employee stress. If you fail to help your remote employees get their finances in order, their financial anxieties can impact their productivity and your business outcomes.

This is why it’s important to offer a financial wellness program at work, which can help your employees gain financial literacy and stability. Your financial wellness program should include guidance on how they can manage their own money and find financial independence down the line. For one, your program should point them to money and investing resources for additional reading. AskMoney.com, which has insightful articles on investing, budgeting, and loans, is a perfect example of a website that can help educate your employees on achieving financial stability. In addition, you should also employ the services of a trusted financial advisor to offer financial coaching and behavioral management to your employees. By doing this, it can help your remote employees squash their financial anxieties and focus on their tasks at work.

Send thoughtful care packages

Don’t let distance prevent you from giving your remote employees a token of your appreciation. Sending care packages can show your employees that you care about their wellbeing and mental health, which will help boost workplace happiness and engagement rates. In a time where a lot of companies are experiencing high turnover rates, it’s advisable that you keep your remote employees content by sending carefully curated care packages. The packages should include things like trinkets and items that your employees will appreciate. If you’re too wrapped up with work, you can contact a small business that can organize corporate care packages and gift boxes for you.

The tips we’ve listed above can help to improve motivation and boost your remote employees’ happiness. For more sales coaching and management insights, be sure to have a look at our other posts here on TroyHarrison.com. And if you have any other tips on how to keep your remote team engaged, feel free to leave your comments below.

How to Sell Anything to Anyone, Every Time!

I just lied to you when I said I could tell you how to sell anything to anyone.  Right there, in the title, I told a lie.  But I have a reason.  You see, I’m tired of ads popping up on my Facebook page and my LinkedIn profile promising “THE SECRET TO CLOSING EVERY DEAL AT THE HIGHEST PROFIT EVER!”  “WORKS EVERY TIME!”  I’ve had it up to here, because if someone tells you that anything “WORKS EVERY TIME!” in sales, they’re lying to you.  Nothing “works every time” in sales, because we sell to human beings with their own frames of reference, worldviews, needs, and perceived solutions.

Those ads are designed to sell one thing – whatever course they are peddling.  They sell to salespeople who are desperate and want a “magic button” solution.  Hint – there is no magic button.  I’m sure that there is some benefit in all of these courses, but their “works every time” promise will always remain unfulfilled.  In fact, I’ve had people advise me to sell my own training that way, and I simply refuse.  I have more respect for your intellect than that.  With all of that said, let’s talk about a 5-step program that will actually increase your sales – a program you can implement on your own in a couple of hours a week.  And best of all, I’m not going to charge you for this program; I’m giving this knowledge to you.  The work is up to you.

Successful selling happens in five steps:  Prospecting, Discovery, Presentation, Proposal, and Closing.  What if you took, say, 20 focused minutes every day, picked one of those steps, and refined your technique in those 20 minutes?  It could look like this:

Monday – Prospecting:  Let’s face it.  Most salespeople – probably 90% or more – are boring when it comes to prospecting.  “Hi, Mr. Smith, this is xxxx from xxxxx company.  I’d like to talk to you about your printing supplies.  Do you have a minute?”  Or even worse – “Hi, Mr. Smith.  I’d like to quote on your next order of printing supplies.”  Yaaawwwwwnnnnnn.  Those approaches will get you off the phone in seconds.  Be interesting.  Explain – QUICKLY AND CONCISELY – how you have solved problems for other customers, and might be able to solve problems for Mr. Smith.  Spend 20 minutes working on your approach statement and try it out on customers and co-workers.

Tuesday – Discovery:  This is the most important phase in the selling process.  It’s also the most shortcut.  It’s the most important because if you don’t discover what your customer really needs, what their priorities are, and how they define success, you’ll never be able to solve their problems.  It’s shortcut because too many salespeople are anxious to get to their “pitch.”  Don’t be that salesperson.  Try this – each Tuesday, spend 20 minutes coming up with two new questions that you can ask customers.  Then try them out.  Figure out what works well.  Keep what works, throw away what doesn’t, and rinse and repeat.

Wednesday – Presentation:  I’m not a fan of carefully scripted and rehearsed presentations. It’s more important to be able to think on your feet, and draw good presentation statements out of your head, than to spend hours rehearsing a big presentation.  Learn your product or service.  Each Wednesday, spend 20 minutes learning at least one feature/benefit coupling of your products that you don’t know.  Internalize it so you can recall it on the spot when your customer needs you to.  And think of your presentations in groups of three.  For every problem your customer faces, you should have three reasons your product will solve it.

Thursday – Proposal:  The key to the proposal is confidence.  You must be able to quote a specific price/service/product offering and not waffle.  Get rid of the weasel words like “last shot at the price,” etc.  Every Thursday, spend 20 minutes creating a concise proposal document (hypothetical or real), and then practice quoting it to the customer in a way that both communicates the value of your offering and communicates that this is the last word on the price.  Role play with other salespeople if possible.

Friday – Closing:  This is the part of the sales process that all of the “win every deal” charlatans focus on.  Spoiler alert – it’s also the simplest.  All you have to do is just ask for the business in a forthright manner.  That won’t take up many Fridays, will it?  So, after you have mastered that skill, use this 20 minutes to go back over the previous week’s activities and do a strong postmortem on your wins and losses.  Use that to target your 20-minute days for the next week.

Now, you’ll notice that there’s no “magic button” there.  I don’t promise that you’ll “CLOSE EVERY DEAL,”  or even “HOW TO SELL ANYTHING TO ANYONE!”  But successful selling is a process, and by using that process to guide you toward incremental improvement, I can guarantee that in six months’ time, you will be a MUCH better salesperson than you are now – even if you’re great right now.

And continuously practicing to improve your sales skills is the one thing you can do that really does WORK EVERY TIME.  That’s no lie.

How To Manage Your Schedule

Time for another old blog post.  I wrote this one, admittedly, in a fit of pique – but it still holds up well.  There’s really not much I’d change, but I will add some tips on how to manage your schedule at the end.

“Scheduling Integrity” is an important part of sales professionalism.  If you don’t know what that is, read on.

Well, the phone just rang.  Looking at the number, I knew what was about to happen.  Sure enough, it’s a person that had requested a meeting with me today, and that meeting was scheduled for a few hours away.  And she was calling to ask if I would reschedule.

“Reschedule.”  That word really is a pain in my rear end, to tell you the truth.  The call went like this:  “Hi, Troy, we have a meeting today.  I’ve had a conflict come up, and I need to know if we can reschedule.”  I agreed to do so, but not happily.  See, I know what “something came up” means, and so does everyone else.  “Something came up” means “Something better came up.”  The problem is that, while something better came up for the other person, now I have an hour of my business time that I’ve already committed – and I can’t sub in another meeting.

I’ve come up with a term for this, and it’s “schedule integrity.”  Basically, it means that when you make a meeting, you take it seriously and honor it.  When someone – anyone – agrees to meet with you, they are making a commitment to you.  Your commitment to them should be at least as serious; more so if you are the requester of the meeting.  Cancelling a meeting that YOU requested is a big sign of disrespect.  It shows that you don’t know how to manage your schedule.

You see, in most meeting dynamics, there is the person who expects to ask for something, and the person who will be asked.  We’re talking about the basic customer/salesperson relationship here.  It happens in networking environments, as well.  A while back, I was asked to “meet and do some networking” with someone that I know.  An hour before the meeting, he did the ‘cancel and reschedule’ number.  On the rescheduled meeting, he canceled a half-hour before the meeting.  I haven’t rescheduled, and I won’t.  Again, a lack of respect.

It’s not tough to avoid these situations.  When you request and get a meeting, consider that time locked on your schedule, and set new meetings at times that don’t conflict.  That’s what adults – and professionals – do.  And as I noted, the dynamics are different depending on whether you are the requester or not, but if you request meetings with someone that continually reschedules, consider that a message that your meeting won’t happen, and won’t be productive if it does.

If this were an occasional situation, I wouldn’t take the time to blog about it; however, I am constantly amazed by how many salespeople fly by the seat of their pants with respect to scheduling.  Professionals always have something scheduled, make the most of their time, and respect the scheduling of others.  If you don’t have this trait, and you’re wondering why you’re not part of the ‘elite’ group of salespeople, here’s a big indicator.  This is basic time management.

These rules do of course change in the event of personal sickness and personal emergencies.  I had a candidate reschedule an interview on Monday with no penalty due to illness: I prefer to keep the vomit reflex as far from my office as possible.  But I find that situations like that are the exception and not the rule.

Bottom line – if you want to be respected as a professional, and treated as one by your customers and associates, step one is to have (or adopt) schedule integrity.

Now that you understand schedule integrity, here are some tips on how to manage your  schedule:

  1. Maximize customer face time during face-time hours.  Every industry has hours that their customers will be more available – you should be working to maximize yours. 
  2. Regularly disqualify old proposals so you’re not spending time chasing things that won’t close.  Here’s a video giving ideas on how to do this.
  3. Build prospecting time into your schedule a week ahead – make an appointment with yourself and keep it. Schedule integrity matters for commitments to yourself.
  4. Don’t let “better things” come up.  When you make an appointment, consider it inviolate for all but the most dire of emergencies.  “I can close a sale over here” is not a dire emergency – if a customer calls requesting a meeting time that you already have booked, simply explain that you’re booked and land on a new time.  The fear is that the customer will decide to buy elsewhere because you’re in demand.  Nonsense – customers appreciate that you keep your commitments, and will understand that you will treat THEIR commitments the same way.
  5. Underbook yourself.  That’s right, I said UNDERbook.  If you plan a day when you’re going hammer and tongs from meeting to meeting, I will guarantee that something will come up and you’ll miss a meeting.  Don’t be that guy or gal.  Book a strong week but a reasonable one.  With technology the way it is today, if you end up with 30 extra minutes between meetings, you can always do productive work in your car.
  6. Always give the customer value for time spent.  More on that here.

If you respect your schedule and those of your customers, they will respect you and yours.

How to Create an Effective Sales Presentation

I’m often asked how to create an effective sales presentation. Creating a great sales presentation isn’t hard – but you have to remember who the star of the show is.  Hint – it’s not YOU.  Too many salespeople think that the presentation is all about THEM and THEIR stuff, and not about the CUSTOMER.  This is one of the primary aspects I work to get across in my training.

Here’s the thing – the customer cares what YOU can do for THEM.  They care about THEIR problems.  So any tutorial on how to create an effective sales presentation begins with that focus, like this one does.  It’s a great video, and it’s a good investment of five minutes of your time.

For more on sales presentations, here’s a video of me speaking at a convention in Vegas a few years ago!