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From the Editor
"Ask an Expert" Briefs
"Live" Coaching: Your Role in a Team Call
“Live” coaching is coaching that you do based on your observations of your people. Certainly it is critical to look at the metrics of how salespeople are performing against objectives to guide your coaching. Equally and maybe more important is to sit down and work with your salespeople to find out firsthand what they are doing, what they know, and where they need support so they can achieve the metrics.
After the Presentation
After your final sales proposal, while the prospect is making a decision, there are some important things you can do to, as Rev. Jackson says, 'to keep hope alive.'
Always Ask about Competitors
Sometimes you can get so caught up in learning about the client's needs and so excited by your own enthusiasm for your solution, that you can miss asking about the competition even if the client mentions 'competitors.' Although you can, you may not want to ask about the competitor the minute the client brings it up, but you must get back to it....
Ask for Feedback
With the new year comes a new page. Before you begin to fill the page, get a sense of what your clients and colleagues see as your strengths and your opportunities for improvement. Identify five clients and at least two colleagues from whom you will get feedback. The reason to ask for feedback is because we all need an outside view. We can only see so much about ourselves.
Asking the Tough Questions
The best salespeople know their clients. They know more about clients than their competitors know. They know how to ask questions that go beyond product needs. They know how to listen and drill down. They ask questions that allow them to understand their client’s strategic objectives and personal needs and aspirations. Gaining this kind of client information requires the ability to ask questions that can be challenging to ask, questions about the decision-making process, budgets, how the client feels about your solution, organization, and you, how they feel you stack up to the competition, and “sensitive” questions that have the potential, if asked in the wrong way, to offend the client. Here's how to ask them....
Be a Closer
We have all heard 'He/she is a closer.' There are salespeople who are really good at closing and others who find it much more difficult to close. In the current business environment, even the closers are finding it harder to close. In this article, we'll look at the reasons some producers have trouble closing and what they can do about it.
Be Your Own Coach
There are many things you can do to improve your sales skills such as training, sales books, tapes, and team calling. But since you are often out there alone, one of the most important things you can do is reflect back and self-coach. Self-coaching takes time, but not a lot. What it takes is discipline. Here's how to do it....
Client Demands That Are Tough or Impossible to Meet
In spite of your best efforts to meet client expectations, requests, and demands, there are times when you can't deliver exactly what the client wants and/or exactly when he or she wants it. When you can't meet a client demand, meet a time line, or deliver in spite of your best efforts, how you handle the situation can make a tremendous difference in how the client feels about it.
Sometimes customer relationships become damaged. What to do? Client recovery takes time, skill, and heart to get the relationship back on track and to win back trust. When credibility is tarnished, there is no easy fix. If you are lucky, you can find a way to be a “hero” on another front the client is facing, but while that works wonders, it is also rare. But you can rebuild relationships. Here's how....
Clients Who Delay Making a Decision
More and more salespeople are facing sales situations in which clients are delaying the close. To begin to get the sale back on track the salesperson has to first really understand what is causing the delay. Is it really a delay? Does the opportunity exist? If so, what are the best steps to regain momentum?
Closing is Not a Bag of Tricks
Closing isn't a bag of tricks. It has more to do with what you do before the Close than the words you use to ask for the business. In this article, we'll look at the three phases of closing that can help increase your close ratio.
Closing Starts with the First Call
To maximize the first call with a prospect so you have the best chance of closing later, it is critical to ask questions and understand needs and avoid presenting solutions prematurely. While you must listen and learn, it is also critical to 'give' during the first call. Here's how....
The use of conference calling continues to increase. Travel, a desire to save time, reduced costs, and added convenience have increased the use of conference calling, not only for introductory and follow-up sales calls, but also for closing deals. You can create a competitive advantage if you know how to maximize the conference call.
Creating Powerful Sales Letters
Although e-mails have taken a front seat in business communications, the business letter remains an important communication medium for salespeople for more formal or complex situations. Also, since the business letter is used less frequently than even a year ago, writing a letter can be a way to differentiate yourself. Sales letters can be powerful. Unfortunately, most fall short. Here's why....
Credentialize with a Prospect
Credentializing is the process of positioning yourself and your organization to help establish your credibility. Although salespeople constantly must credentialize their organizations and themselves with prospects, many are not prepared to do so in a way that shapes their prospect's perceptions and puts them and their organizations in the best light.
How you credentialize yourself goes beyond how you introduce yourself (name, organization, position) in that it helps build your credentializing and forms the impression clients have of you. It also says something about how you view yourself. The time to credentialize yourself is usually in the Opening of the call with a prospect/new client, after the Rapport and Purpose, but before the Need Dialogue.
There are two critical dimensions to resolving objections, especially regarding complex and critical corporate-wide issues. First technical knowledge — you know how important it is to have the technical knowledge you need to develop a credible, substantive response. The second is communication skills.
Many salespeople resist using their CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems). When asked why, their reasons vary from no time, no value to them, tool for management to evaluate and track them, difficult to use, slow, repetitious to their other systems, and so on.
December Thank Yous
If you like feeling appreciated by your clients, if you want to strengthen relationships, and if you want to win more business, start making thank-you calls today. Here are some tips and guidelines to get you started....
Decision Makers vs. Influencers
What salesperson has not been disappointed to hear he/she has lost a deal as the result of selling to the wrong person? Despite asking, many salespeople, without knowing it, find themselves pitching to someone other than the decision maker. Because this can be a fatal error, let’s think about how to identify and get to the true economic decision maker.
Discussing vs. Sending Price
We've been taught for years to not make price an issue when selling insurance, so often it's not even mentioned in detail during the sales presentation, but rather in a follow-up communication. NEVER give the price of your product/service without first discussing it with the client, positioning the pricing, and linking it to value. Here are some guidelines to consider....
Escalation as a Negotiation Strategy
Escalation can be a highly effective negotiation strategy. Having unlimited authority in a negotiation can seem, and is, powerful, but it can be equally dangerous. If your client thinks that you have unlimited authority, he or she can read that as a green light to keep driving for more.
Exercise Your Ears
How often have you heard it said “Salespeople don’t listen?” When clients say salespeople don’t listen, they usually don’t mean that during the sales call salespeople zone out. Few salespeople do that. In fact, most salespeople do try to listen. Yet they are perceived as not listening.
Final Presentations, The Finish Line
After days or weeks of preparation, after a strong presentation, don’t drop the ball as you near the finish line. How you follow up after your sales presentation will help you get across the line.
High Mileage Rapport
Most salespeople handle rapport casually compared to how important recognizing client rapport is. Few really prepare for rapport, and in not doing so, miss a big chance to differentiate themselves and make critical personal connections. Like all other aspects of the sales dialogue, being excellent at rapport takes thought. The goal is to create a connection and build on it in a way that is concise and genuine.
Holiday Parties - Small Talk
Not everyone is that comfortable with holiday parties. One reason is that even salespeople, most of whom like to talk, can feel they are not good at “small talk.” Some think that if they are not talking about business, they won’t know what to talk about. Here are a few ideas....
As the year wraps up and you focus on closing business and reaching your goals, pause for a moment and make a list of clients to call with a holiday wish — whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza…or the New Year. Think about the message you want to convey live or in a voice mail. Here are a few ideas to help you prepare to express your appreciation for the trust, business, and time your clients have given to you to maximize the impact of your call.
Honestly, What's Your RQ?
An RQ is a Relationship Quotient. It is a combination of client focus, interest in and concern for the client, courtesy, and energy. Clients begin to assess your RQ in a matter of seconds from the moment you approach them...whether face-to-face or phone. From the first moment, you send a message to clients of who you are and what they can expect from you.
How Persuasive Are You?
The words you choose — spoken or written, letters or e-mails, delivered face-to-face or by phone — help shape the client's perception. Take every opportunity to shape perceptions by positioning what you say. Every word that you utter to a client should be 'positioned' vs. 'exchanged'. Language helps sell! Here's how....
Prepare what you are going to say. Pay careful attention to your posture, tone of voice, and eye contact. Review and practice it. Tailor it for each client/colleague. Update it as needed. Do you know how to properly introduce yourself to prospects? We are providing a crisp, clear model we hope helps.
Just Send Me the Price
“Just send me (or tell me) the price.” Salespeople hear these words early in the sales process from clients every day. But the wise ones know the pitfalls of this seemingly reasonable client request and the skilled ones know how to turn this trap into an opportunity to identify needs and position value.
Listening is more than being quiet when the client is talking. That is just a start and anyone who makes it in sales can do that fairly well. Effective listening is what you do with what you hear. It is my experience that for every percentage a salesperson's listening ratio goes over 50% of the call, there is a greater chance of closing. As a rule of thumb, listen at least 50% of the time in each sales call.
Marketing at Trade Shows
If you target a particular industry, a prime marketing vehicle could be a trade show within that industry. Trade show attendance and participation have been declining in recent years...fewer attendees and fewer exhibitors. However, the good news is that the attendees are more likely to be serious buyers. This, coupled with fewer exhibitors (i.e., fewer competitors ) makes for a unique sales opportunity.
Negotiating the Final Trade
At the end of a negotiation, you may be tempted to make an unwarranted and costly concession. Before you agree to the final concession, make sure you fully understand its true cost now and in the future. In this article, you'll find a list of issues you should consider before giving in.
Office Party Small Talk
Many people are shy when it comes to working a room and engaging in small talk with people they don’t know or with whom they don’t normally interact. The holiday office party is a fertile ground for “small talkitis.” It is also a perfect opportunity to hone your networking skills to expand your contacts beyond the coworkers you already know.
Opening the First Meeting with a Prospect
Your very first face-to-face meeting with a prospect is critical. Being able to execute the elements of an exceptional opening takes preparation. It is worth the effort because it sets the direction for a client-focused dialogue vs. a generic product pitch. Here are the critical elements of an effective opening....
Overheard on the Street - On a "Sell" Phone?
If there is a chance to win deals in a competitive marketplace, we must be more assertive, have established rapport, and make a second and third effort. It's not easy to stay composed when you get bad news. As salespeople, it is important to be ready to acknowledge, question, and find a way to reposition.
Popping the Question
Valentine's Day is a day to 'pop the question.' In the spirit of that, let's focus this month on closing. Just as a sweetheart's answer should not come as a shock to the one asking, you should have a strong indication of how the client will respond when you close. By asking for feedback throughout the dialogue with questions like, 'How does that sound?' or 'How will that work?' you can gauge where you are and gain the confidence to close.
Position Your Message to be Persuasive
A client agreed to meet with a salesperson based on a referral. The client was predisposed to use the salesperson’s services. In spite of this — no sale! What happened? As the client described it, she was “completely turned off.” A debriefing of the call showed the salesperson had the solution, but the way he presented it resulted in his losing the opportunity. Here's why....
Praise from the Heart
For many people, Valentine's Day is a day of hearts and flowers and other expressions of affection. Although we are not suggesting that you send flowers to your salespeople, all salespeople want to feel appreciated. So why not make a special effort this month to provide praise to recognize the extra effort and what your sales team members have accomplished?
Prepare Your Seniors
A painfully uncomfortable sales scenario is the team call with a senior that does not go well. Whether the senior has been blindsided or the salesperson just wasn’t prepared, a bad call with a senior not only hurts the client relationship, but also internal credibility. Before you make your next call with a senior (or a colleague), take steps to make sure the call is a win for everybody involved.
Priority Relationships Take a Team
Few priority client relationships are managed by one sole salesperson anymore. Whether the team is large or small, local or international, it takes a team to meet the demanding and complex needs of big clients. The more complex the relationship, the more team communication you need.
Prospecting: Getting Through Voice Mail
Reaching a prospect is no easy feat. One salesperson experienced a voice mail obstacle that was more daunting for him than most. Here is the voice mail message: “If you are calling to sell me X, don’t hold your breath for a return call.” Better cross this one off the list, huh? Not so fast....
Questions to Help You Close
Knowing all you can about the client’s decision process can give you an edge in winning the business. Most clients expect to be asked about decision criteria and most salespeople do ask these questions. However, the real value comes by drilling down once they get an answer.
Red, Yellow, Green? Where Are You?
Every time you speak with a client/prospect, whether at a meeting, by e-mail, voice mail, or letter, before and after you do so, ask yourself, did this communication: (1) hurt the relationship, (2) get nowhere, or (3) move the relationship and sale forward? This will provide you with a red, yellow, or green alert.
Relationships with Inactive Clients
Most salespeople work hard to find business, identify new prospects, and close the deals that are in the pipeline. As much as salespeople truly want to sell, it is surprising how few keep track of inactive and/or former clients. Regardless of why you lost the client, it's a good idea to occasionally return to the scene of the crime.
Rethink How You Open
Most salespeople take how they open a sales call for granted — many hardly think about it at all. The opening is a place to differentiate yourself and get your calls (especially first calls) off to a great start. This requires taking the time to plan how you will open. Although it takes a small amount of time, you create the foundation of the entire call with your opening. By giving in the opening, you will get a lot more in the remainder of the call!
RFP Responses That Win
Many larger businesses and governmental entities shop their insurance via an RFP (Request For Proposal). The most common proposal mistakes are being generic, not well organized, not adhering to the client's prescribed sequence/headings, and ignorning instructions. This article provides some ideas that will enable you to gain a competitive advantage when responding to RFPs.
Salespeople are often alone as they make sales calls. Many say they don’t get coached. Most are hungry for good feedback and would benefit greatly from it. However, you can be an effective SELF coach. After each call, critique the call by specifically reviewing your strengths and areas for improvement. Focus on one area at a time and set a plan on how to improve in that area. Here's how....
Strong Teams, Bigger Sales
Because clients’ needs have become increasingly complex, most salespeople recognize that to meet those needs a team effort is required. Being able to gain access to team members, preparing with them, and performing in front of the client as an effective team are essential to meet clients’ broader and more complex needs.
Team Calls...Who's on First?
Team call situations are ripe for confusion and frustration unless the team members agree on a clear call plan. Team calling demands a much more specific definition of roles. To ensure that you and your teammate are on the same page, create an agenda. Clearly designate roles, agenda items, times, and transitions.
The Agenda Question
The salesperson was persistent and managed to reach and get to see the client. When he got there, he identified the problem and uncovered the competitive risk. But, what he didn’t do during the appointment phone call was ask an Agenda Question. An Agenda Question is the question to ask once you secure a date and time to meet with a prospect.
There's Gold in Those Hills
If you are like most salespeople, you feel that you know what your clients are doing, especially when the relationship is longstanding. But take a step back. Client needs and situations change so fast and so do your capabilities. Without checking in, you may be missing opportunities.
Turning AAs Into a Competitive Advantage
We surveyed 160 Administrative Assistants and Executive Secretaries and asked them to identify the key things salespeople could do to gain their support in reaching their bosses. Many of these things apply to the CSR/producer/owner situation in an agency.
The one skill that I see the superb salespeople excel in is positioning. In light of my book title, Stop Telling, Start Selling, this may seem odd because positioning is the 'telling' skill. But it is really a contradiction because positioning (vs. telling) is the end product of questioning and listening. Positioning is not possible without questioning, listening, and preparation.
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