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How to Sell by Text: Navigating Modern Sales Communication

“Troy, all these gosh-darned younger buyers want to do is text!”  That’s a complaint I hear quite frequently when I speak at conventions.  And it’s true. Sales communication methods have undergone a significant transformation. The rise of younger, tech-savvy buyers is one of the Four Key Trends in selling – and it has brought about a preference for text messaging over traditional communication channels like calling or emailing. While this trend might pose challenges for some seasoned salespeople, selling by text messaging is a powerful tool can help you win new customers – and keep the ones you have.

Here’s the key to remember:  this trend isn’t going away.  The people who are moving into positions of buying authority came of age when they were marinated in technology, and communications technology in particular.  The rotary phone isn’t coming back.  Will some of these buyers be open to more traditional means of communication, such as incoming phone calls or even walk-in cold calls?  Perhaps, but that’s probably not the way to bet.  Sales is about meeting customers where they are – and where they are is in a place where your texting skills aren’t just an asset, they are mandatory.

The Shift Towards Text Messaging

As technology continues to shape how we communicate, the preferences of buyers are shifting, and sales professionals must adapt accordingly. Younger generations, raised in an era of instant messaging and social media, have developed a strong affinity for texting as a means of communication. It offers them a level of convenience, efficiency, and informality that traditional methods often lack. Sure, there’s the old joke about two people sitting next to each other on a couch, texting each other instead of talking – but texting is our reality.

Embracing the Change

For many seasoned salespeople, selling by text might seem daunting. I’ll be honest – I’m not the biggest fan of thumb typing, either.  However, the benefits of integrating text messaging into your sales approach are undeniable. Texting allows you to meet buyers where they are, respecting their communication preferences and building rapport on their terms. By embracing this change, you position yourself as a modern sales professional who is not only willing to adapt but also committed to providing exceptional customer experiences.  That perception is going to wrap itself around every aspect of your customer interactions.

When I get the question referenced in the opener of this article, my response is, “So, how good are you at writing a persuasive text?”  Most of the time, I get blank looks.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Art of Selling by Text

Crafting a persuasive text message requires finesse and strategy. Unlike longer emails or phone calls, texts demand concise communication that captures attention and drives engagement. Your texts need more “power per word.”  Here’s a roadmap to writing compelling text messages:

  1. Know Your Audience: Just as in any sales interaction, understanding your audience is crucial. Research your prospect’s needs, pain points, and preferences to tailor your message accordingly.
  2. Personalization: Start with a personalized greeting to show you value the individual you’re reaching out to. Reference past interactions or shared interests to establish a connection – but again, do it CONCISELY.
  3. Get to the Point: Text messages have limited space, so cut to the chase. State the purpose of your message upfront, whether it’s introducing a new product, requesting an appointment, addressing a customer need, or offering a solution.
  4. Highlight Value: Clearly articulate the value proposition of your offer. Explain how it can solve a problem, enhance efficiency, or fulfill a need. Keep the benefits concise and compelling.
  5. Engage with Questions: Engage the recipient by asking open-ended questions related to their needs. Encourage them to share their thoughts, challenges, or goals, fostering a two-way conversation.  Once you get a two-way conversation going, you can request an appointment.
  6. Concise Language: Use concise and direct language, avoiding jargon or unnecessary filler words. Each word should contribute to the message’s impact.
  7. Embrace the Informal Tone: Text messages are inherently more informal than emails or calls. While maintaining professionalism, feel free to adopt a slightly casual tone that resonates with modern buyers.  That said, don’t tell them how you ‘wnt 2 b’ in front of them.  “Informal language” still uses WORDS.

Overcoming the Challenges

For sales professionals accustomed to traditional methods, the transition to text messaging may present some challenges. Here are a few tips to help navigate those hurdles:

  1. Training: Invest in training programs that teach the art of persuasive text messaging. Equip your sales team with the skills they need to excel in this new communication landscape.
  2. Practice Makes Perfect: Encourage your team to practice crafting persuasive text messages. Provide feedback and offer guidance to refine their approach over time.
  3. Feedback Loop: Foster a culture of learning and improvement. Encourage your team to share their experiences and insights from text messaging interactions, enabling everyone to learn from each other.
  4. Measure and Adapt: Use analytics tools to track the effectiveness of your text messaging efforts. Analyze response rates, engagement levels, and conversion rates to refine your strategy.

The bottom line is this.

Mastering the art of persuasive text messaging is a critical skill for modern sales professionals. By adapting to buyers’ texting preferences, you can build stronger relationships with buyers and drive higher engagement. Embrace the change, refine your strategy, and equip your sales team with the tools they need to succeed in today’s dynamic sales landscape. As the saying goes, “Adapt or be left behind.” I don’t want to be left behind – do you?

The Tech-Savvy Myth: Don’t Let Excuses Kill Your Sales Success

Today, I want to address a pressing issue that’s been eating at me for far too long. It’s time to debunk the excuse of salespeople who claim they aren’t “tech-savvy” and turn up the heat on those who rely on this feeble justification for their lack of progress. Being “tech-savvy” is a choice.  Staying relevant in the sales profession is a choice.  And nowadays, if you’re choosing to not embrace technology, you’re choosing to see your relevance fade away.

Look, I get it. Change can be daunting, and technology is advancing at breakneck speed. Some of you are still fighting CRM (welcome to 25 years ago), and now we’re talking about AI.  But let’s be brutally honest here: being “tech-savvy” is not some condition you’re born with or an elusive talent only the chosen few possess. It’s a CHOICE. Yes, you heard me right. Being tech-savvy is a mindset you embrace, a journey you embark on, and a battle you fight every single day.  Your customers are embracing technology and information.  If you’re not, you’re putting your own expiration date on your career.

Now, let me address the managers out there who accept this excuse from their sales teams. It’s time to shake things up and demand better. Your role as a leader is to inspire and push your team to greatness, and get the most from their talents. When you accept artificial limitations, you are selling your salespeople, yourself, and your customers, short. It’s time to hold your salespeople accountable and challenge them to rise above their self-imposed limitations.

So, how can you break free from this technophobic trap? Let’s dive into some actionable steps that will help you shatter the glass ceiling of excuses and propel your sales success into the future (which, by the way, is happening NOW):

  1. Embrace a Growth Mindset: Stop seeing technology as an obstacle and start viewing it as an opportunity. Every new tool or platform is a chance to enhance your sales skills and reach new heights. Embrace the mindset of continuous learning, experimentation, and adaptation.
  2. Seek Out Learning Opportunities: Attend webinars, workshops, and conferences to stay abreast of the latest sales technologies and strategies. Dive into online courses, podcasts, and industry blogs that provide insights and practical tips. Make learning a habit, not an occasional afterthought.
  3. Leverage Your Inner Circle: Surround yourself with tech-savvy individuals who can mentor and guide you. Build relationships with colleagues, attend networking events, and join sales communities where you can tap into the collective knowledge and experience of like-minded professionals.
  4. Get Hands-On: Don’t just observe from the sidelines; immerse yourself in the digital realm. Experiment with new tools, apps, and software. Learn how to navigate social media platforms, harness data analytics, and leverage CRM systems. Embrace the power of automation, AI, and other emerging technologies that can assist your sales efforts.  You might even enjoy it!
  5. Take Ownership: Own your personal growth and development. Don’t rely solely on your company’s training initiatives or your manager’s guidance. Take the reins and invest your time and resources in honing your technological skills. Remember, the onus is on YOU to stay relevant in this fast-paced world.

So, what tech tools are being used by the well-prepared salesperson these days?  I’m not going to attempt a comprehensive list, but here are a few basic categories:

  1. CRM.  The most basic tool in the tech stack. CRM is great because even if you forget, it doesn’t.  Today’s CRM apps are much easier and user-friendly than the old ones (trust me – I had to use Goldmine in the 90s).  They have mobile apps and will do much of the work for you.
  2. Social Media. Your customers are (depending on your business) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and maybe even Threads.  Are you?  Good salespeople go where their customers go.  What are the preferred platforms of your customers, and are you interacting with them there?
  3. Communication tools. More and more customers these days want to communicate by video – and if you sell nationwide, like I do, video is a definite upgrade from a phone call.  Being a salesperson today means understanding Zoom, Teams, maybe even Google Meet.  Can you jump on a video call at quick notice?  If you can’t, your competitors probably can.
  4. Sales intelligence tools. One truth of business is that change begets change.  Sales intelligence tools let you know when change happens with your customers and prospects, so you can get in the middle of the change and perhaps use it to your advantage.  Google News Alerts are essential, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator (catchy name) is a big help, too.  While you’re at it, do you have a Google News Alert for your own company?  Do you know what your company’s Google Reviews are, and when a new one is posted?  Your competitors might – your prospects probably do.
  5. AI. How long does it take you to create a persuasive email, blog post, or article?  ChatGPT can do it in just a few minutes, if you know how to prompt it.  That gives you time for other, more important tasks.

Look, sales is about learning, and you’ve learned a lot.  You’ve learned your products, your services, your company’s value proposition, your customers, and other key issues.  Yes, the tech stack I posted above seems like a lot – but it’s really not.  Most of it is automated and will actually be a time-saver.  In fact, if you get good at the tech, the result will be more time for the thing about sales we all love.  Face time with your customers.  And that’s the big win here.  You can do this.

In conclusion, the excuse of not being “tech-savvy” is a cop-out, a self-imposed limitation that hinders your progress and undermines your potential. Let me be clear.  Anyone of average intelligence can learn these tools, no matter their age or experience level, if they choose to do so. The choice is yours—will you evolve with the sales profession or succumb to mediocrity?

If you’re a manager, it’s time to light a fire under your team’s collective behinds and eradicate this excuse once and for all. Challenge, support, and empower your salespeople to be the best versions of themselves. Technology is an intrinsic part of the future.  In fact, it’s an intrinsic part of the present.  Get on board.

Stay hungry.

Stay current.

Make the choice to stay relevant.


The Art of Giving: Why “Free Consulting” Can Lead to Profitable Relationships

A few weeks ago, I attended a Webinar for speakers. The topic was on how to generate more customer inquiries and “back of the room” sales from presentations and Webinars.  Well, I had my Webinar coming up on “The Top Four Sales Trends That Could Double Your Bottom Line,” and I figure I can always learn something, so I signed up.  Unfortunately, that ended up being 33 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

There’s a lesson here for every salesperson, and it’s a lesson that addresses a complaint that I hear about customers every time I speak.  Salespeople bemoan the customers who want “free consulting” and then take the salesperson’s ideas and get a cheaper price.  I’m going to give you my view on that situation and how to handle it – and hopefully the webinar story will be a bit entertaining as I give you those pointers.

I should note that I didn’t actually “sign up” on my own.  I was cold-called (through an auto-dialer, grrr…) by someone who was obviously in an overseas call center with a very limited ability to speak English. So, after a few moments of trying to understand what he was saying, I asked him to email information.  Instead, he signed me up for a Webinar.  It was tastefully called, “Get the Freaking Money!” I looked and I thought, what the hell, I’d go ahead and attend.

In the week and a half between the initial call and the Webinar, I was called three more times from various people involved with the presenter attempting me to sell something that they wouldn’t define.  I finally told them to leave me alone and I blocked two phone numbers.  Still, I was curious (morbid curiosity at this point), and I signed onto the Webinar.

The first 20 minutes – not kidding – were about how much money the presenter makes.  Yes, 20 minutes.  Nothing about how I could make money, just about how much he makes.  Some of that time was video of people rushing to his table after a presentation.  At this point, I was like the little boy who, given a pile of horse manure for Christmas, begins digging thinking that there has to be a pony inside all of that crap.

I should note that the whole time, he’s already pitching us on some undefined product or service.  I still don’t know.  Finally, at about 30 minutes, he gives us some of his “magic.”  His first point is that, in speeches, I should give “minimal content.”  You see, if I actually taught people something useful in my programs, they might decide that they could just work with that and not spend money with me.  NOW is this sounding familiar?  In other words, he’s telling me not to give “free consulting.”

Here’s the thing – that’s not me.  In fact, it’s never been me, even when I was in a sales territory years ago.  I’d give my customers lots of information.  Did some of them take my information and go buy at a cheaper price?  Sure they did.  But I always figured that those weren’t my customers.  Here’s the thing:  your good customers value you for what you bring to the table, not just numbers on a page.  Sure, it sucks to lose a deal on price when you have given someone a road map to solving their problem.

But I’m going to tell you another secret.  Customers are going to buy from who they want to buy from, regardless.  The only thing that you accomplish by being cagey with your expertise is that you reduce their desire to make you that “person they want to buy from.”

My philosophy is this.  I’ve always figured that, if I gave customers some good information for free, they would figure that there was great information to be had if they bought from me.  And they would be right in thinking so.  When I do a Webinar, or a speaking presentation, or my one-on-one Sales Strategy Review, I do give away good stuff that people can use to make money.  There’s better stuff available if they pay – but I always have made it worthwhile for customers to spend time with me, even back in the days when I was selling industrial components.  That made them want to spend more time, and eventually, spend money.

If you don’t give at least some value for time, customers are going to assume that there’s no value to be had – and move on.  That’s what I did in that Webinar.  I realized that the rest of my time on this Webinar would be wasted time – and worse, he had not fulfilled his promise of telling me how to “Get the Freaking Money.”

The truth about this guy was that he was scared.  For all of his bravado and braggadocio, e was absolutely petrified that if he told me a little bit of useful information, I wouldn’t need him.  And he might have been right.  But by not telling me anything useful, he made me think that there wouldn’t be much useful knowledge – even if I paid for it.  So, 33 minutes in, I detached from his Webinar and I will not entertain any more calls from his people.

What’s funny is that, over the years, there have been many occasions where I have given what looked like “free consulting” at the time that ended up being very lucrative to me.  Once, when I was in the industrial sales business, I gave “free consulting” to someone who then bought at a cheaper price.  Six months later, he referred someone to me because he was appreciative of what I did, and that referral became my #2 customer.  Other times, people have come back, even years later, and did business – because I helped them in a meaningful way.

So here’s my advice to you when you are wondering if you’re giving out “free consulting.”  Do it.  Remember – customers will buy from who they want to buy from, regardless.  Helping your customer increases the chances that that person will be you.  And, honestly, it’s just the right thing to do.

R.I.P. Secrets: Welcome to the Age of Sales Transparency

I’m here to break some news that might make you shift uncomfortably in your seats: the era of sales secrets is dead and buried. Yep, that’s what I said. In this age of technology and unlimited access to information, your precious secrets are no longer hidden in the shadows. It’s time to face the music, folks. Sales transparency is here to stay.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Troy, what the heck are you blabbering about? I’ve been guarding my sales secrets like Fort Knox!” Well, my friend, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Whatever you think are your secrets – pricing, contracts, billing terms, product features, and even your failures with customers – they are out there. Let me break it down for you.

  1. The Rise of Technology: In today’s hyperconnected world, technology has become our best friend and worst enemy. It has armed your buyers with a wealth of information at their fingertips. A few clicks and taps, and voila! They know your prices, your product specs, and even how many cups of coffee you had this morning. Thanks to technology, there are no more hidden corners for your secrets to hide.
  2. The Information Avalanche: In 1998, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said, “By 2005 or so, it will become apparent that the internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”  Ol’ Paul just might have been wrong about that, not that he’s ever done a mea culpa.  The internet, gang, is a treasure trove of knowledge. It’s like a never-ending buffet of information, with data swirling around like a whirlwind. Customers can read reviews, compare products, and research market trends all day long. And you know what that means? They can easily discover your secrets or find an alternative that suits their needs. It’s like trying to hide a needle in a haystack.  Ever tried it?  It doesn’t work well.  Don’t ask me how I know.
  3. The Power of Social Media: Ah, the mighty social media beast. It’s not just a platform for sharing cat videos or stalking your exes anymore. It’s a tool that amplifies every whisper, every word, and every secret. Customers are connecting, sharing, and discussing their experiences with products and services openly. So, if you think your secrets are safe from prying eyes, think again. Social media is watching, and it has a bigger audience than the Super Bowl – wait, I mean “The Big Football Game.”  I don’t want the NFL to sue me.

For salespeople rooted in the past, this can be a problem.  You see, once upon a time, sales was built around the idea that we were the repository of all the valuable information that customers would want, and that we could mete it out as we saw fit – giving the customers the info we wanted them to have, and withholding that which might have been damaging to our case.  It worked well while it worked – but it doesn’t work anymore.

That means that those old tactics that depended on holding back information are dead.  If you’re still using the “up front close,” worried about “spilling your candy,” giving out “free consulting,” or worst, still executing the “firing Horace,” STOP IT.  Your customers will spot it in a heartbeat (in fact, there are websites dedicated to helping them spot cheesy sales tactics), and they’ll toss you out of their buying process.

This shift in the sales landscape isn’t all bad news. In fact, it’s an opportunity for us to adapt and thrive. Here’s how you can rise above the rubble and embrace this new era of transparency:

  1. Build Your Relationships on Trust and Transparency: In a world where secrets are scarce, trust becomes your superpower. Focus on building genuine relationships with your customers based on solving their business needs, not just talking about football. Become their go-to person for expert advice, guidance, and insights. Show them that you’re not just a salesperson but a trusted ally who has their best interests at heart. Trust me, they’ll choose you over a competitor, even if their prices are lower.
  2. Differentiate With Your Customer Experience: When everyone can access the same information, it’s the buying experience that sets you apart. Go above and beyond to deliver exceptional experiences to your customers. Be responsive, proactive, and attentive to their needs. Provide personalized solutions that address their pain points. Give them a reason to choose you, not just because of your secrets, but because you’re simply the best damn salesperson out there. Oh, and don’t say, “We’ve got great service!” to your prospects (that’s like fingernails on a blackboard to me).  Platitudes don’t work anymore.  DEMONSTRATE your service with testimonials, case studies, statistics, and the like.
  3. Continuous Learning: Embrace the never-ending quest for knowledge. In this transparent world, staying ahead means constantly upping your game. Stay up to date with the latest industry trends, sharpen your skills, and invest in your personal growth. Knowledge is your secret weapon in a world where other secrets have faded into oblivion.  Too many salespeople are static, and don’t learn and build their skills.  Don’t be one of them.  Learn more.  Get better.  Be better.  Do better.

Want to succeed in the future (and the future is NOW)?  Embrace transparency, adapt to the new rules of the game, and show your customers that you’re a valuable and integral part of their business.  Make it so that dealing with you isn’t optional if they want to be the best they can be. Remember, it’s not about the secrets anymore—it’s about the value you bring to the table.

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.