Showing posts from 2011

Make the phone work for you

Thanks for taking the time between your facebook posts to read my blog.  A friend just texted me that he was following a tweet that suggested another blog encouraged emailing your friend list.  In today's e-connected culture, the true art of how to talk to another human being... I mean, really talk, well - that's becoming a lost art.

So, let me help you with a few tips on how to make the phone work for you.  First, some philosophy.  When calling prospects to schedule another appointment with them, two things can happen - you talk to them, or go to voicemail.  So, the first philosophy is that when you pick up the phone, you better have 2 plans, based on the two possibilities!

So, if it goes to voicemail, your whole mission is to entice the receiver to call you back.  Don't sell, don't give away incentives, don't be desperate.  Get them to call you back.  The best way to do that is to be personal and intriguing.  Try something like "This is Bob at XXXX, 444-2323…

Ask a Better Question

While counseling Sales Pros who have been slumping, the conversation often moves between technique and strategy.  Too many I have met focus completely on technique and ignore strategy altogether.  Oddly, they often also lack on technique! 

Technique is usually focused on how you handle the interactions with a client.  How you present, how you handle concerns, and how you close.  Strategy typically is how you plan or prepare for interactions, whether for an individual client, or for your month or year in general. 

Today's post is both technique and strategy.  As a strategy, I feel it is wise to always learn what you can from the client.  The customer has some pain, some problem that needs to be solved, and they have chosen to discuss it with you, the sales pro.  I have a very funny family physician with a heavy Russian accent that, whether I go in for routine checkup or a cold, enters the examination room with a solution and a smile:
 "I prescribe you 2 aspirin.  You weel be…

Confidence and Competence

Take yourself to the simplest of all transactions.  You've undoubtedly been through a drive through.  Countless, I'm sure.  How many of those transactions can you remember?  Seriously, of ALL time, how many can you remember?  Probably, the best and the very worst.

Well, I had a memorable one this week.  I just wanted coffee and a yogurt parfait.  Nothing complicated, as Bon Qui Qui would shout "I gotta complicated order!".   Just a coffee and yogurt.  I sat staring at the callbox for a good three minutes, feeling myself aging.  I glared at the box, thinking that somehow that might get translated to the disinterested person on the other end.  Finally my order was taken, and I progressed, irritated, through the line.  I get to the window to find a very entertaining lady talking to herself and shaking her head.  She occassionally would look at me, inviting me to join the conversation, but I simply smiled. 

"I just can't believe..... oh boy.... I just, well...…

Sell from Strength

Buzzwords in the Sales profession come and go like fads.As I sit here in my parachute pants and tie-die shirt listening to Depeche Mode, I realize that not all buzzwords that are new and current are necessarily fads!I’ll try to make my point quickly, as my Jackson 5 tribute band has practice in 20 minutes. Selling from Strength seems like a passing buzzword, but it really should go into your mental inventory as a true north principle-based habit.True north on the globe doesn’t change.It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is, which season, or where Haley’s comet is in the solar system.True north always stays the same (magnetic north does change, but this isn’t a science lesson now, is it?) One of the biggest behavioral observations I have in the post-2008 market environment is that most buyers are looking for value.Shoot, I went to Sonic drive in last week for happy hour and made the manager top off my vat-sized 85-cent diet Coke because I felt like I was being ripped off!I mean…


In a "down" market, I have seen few principles as clearly as I have seen the principle of BATNA. What is it? It is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Said simply, it is your next best choice if this current deal falls through.

I'll never forget being in 9th grade in Greer, South Carolina. I was attending my first year of high school, which I began with much intrepidation. Towards the end of the year, a senior girl I had met invited me to her prom. Me? A 9th grader? I know what you're thinking - she must have been a dog! Did she have fleas? Did she kick her leg when I scratched behind her ear? Actually, she was pretty cute, just shy. My brother, who was a senior that year at the same school, was incredulous! How could his little brother be going to his prom? He begged my parents to not allow me to go, he bribed me, and maybe even threatened. At the end of the day, I still went. K (I'll protect her full name in case she is some huge re…

No Pain, No Sale

In a sales slump?  I have been in some in my career that made me question EVERYTHING.  "Should I quit sales?", "I wonder how much money a ChickFilA manager makes in the first year?", and "As a professional truck driver, what happens if you space out and miss a weigh station?" 

  I have a reminder for you that is true no matter what your product is.  So, before you give up on your career in sales and move to Helen, Georgia to pick up the trade of glass-blowing or wood carving civil war chess sets and Star Wars memorabilia, you might want to check out how you are doing on this simple fact-finding mission in your sales presentation.

    The truth is that there is no sale with no pain.  Someone enters a restaurant to buy food typically because they are hungry.  Someone enters a car dealership typically because they need transportation, or theirs is aging or failing.  Someone buys medication typically because they have an ailment.  And people take out a second…

Smoke out the Objections

Few things are as frustrating as being in front of a customer that you can tell is holding something back, but is "chesting their cards."

I have found that the best recipe to overcome the tight-lipped buyer is simple...ask!  You should assume a few things before we get to this point:
First, the fact that the customer chose to visit with you at all is proof that at some level they respect you or the product you represent.The customer hasn't up and left or kicked you out yet, meaning they haven't ruled you out entirely yet - they are waiting to be wowed!They are DYING to tell you what is holding them back.  OK, that might be a little dramatic, how about we agree on they are "willing" to tell you if only asked.So, with our assumptions tied down and squarely in place, we endeavor to smoke out objections.  It's actually quite simple - you hear that phrase that we all love in the sales arena "Thanks!  I need some time to think about it."  For the s…

Just say "Yes!"

We did a fun event with the team today at a midtown Improv comedy theatre.  On top of side-splitting laughter and acting like fools, we also learned some invaluable lessons from the world of Improv.

Cut loose - too many people take themselves too seriously.  By getting out of one's own way, they open themselves up to become real to those they are dealing with.  It's amazing how customers soften and open up when they feel their salesperson is being "real" and transparentBe creative - Most of the games are versions like games we played as kids.  That being the case, it's amazing how hard it is for adults.  I mean, one game is telling a story, one word at a time, as we went around the room.  It is staggering how many adults struggled to come up with one noun or verb!  When that creativity is stimulated, it becomes infinitely easier to become a problem solver with customers and come up with real life solutions to objections that used to stump you.Just say "yes!&q…

Social Skills

It never fails - when I go to a conference and we take a break, the networking and collaboration have come to a grinding halt. As if captured by some mind ray, you see a sea of business-dressed junkies face down in their late model smart phones. It could be a business crisis, updating Facebook status (conf is lame, let's do drinks l8r), or trying to figure out what to do with 4 U's in "words with friends". Whatever it is, you'll see tons of people inches from each other NOT TALKING!

Here's some advice - be prepared with some networking questions that are irresistible whenever you find yourself or someone you are trying to do business with in a smart phone coma. Here's a few to get you thinkin':

At a conference/meeting:
"How did you break into this industry?"

"If you were in charge, what would you change?"

"What is your most memorable business meeting?"

When selling to a Smart phone addict:
"Tell me about Your firs…

Put First Things First

One of the most common things I hear from top producers is "If I only had more time!"  This feeling of task saturation can become as frustrating as trying to push a rope uphill.

Here's what else I know - the common skill set that seems to accompany most salespeople often misses an ingredient of planning.  Some of my favorite salespeople begin their day with war paint on their face, like Mel Gibson in "Braveheart". In their best Scottish-American accent they fiercely stare at themselves in the mirror and declare this day to be a day of Victory!  "We will conquer!  I will do this for my family!  I will do it for braces for my twin girls!  I will do it for the payment on my german compact luxury vehicle!  I will do it for my Cobalt speedboat!  I am in debt up to my eyeballs, failure is not an option!"  Then they are off, sword drawn, to vanquish any objection that dare separate them from another order.

What they, and maybe you, could be missing is: plann…

Selling the Sizzle

When I lived in Houston, one of my good friends owned the BEST mexican food restaurant on the planet.  Literally, La Escondida ( is the finest Mexican food this side of the border, saturated with authentic recipes and amazing flavor. 

I loved ordering their fajitas - they come in Chicken, Beef, seafood, all garnished with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes.  Yes, mashed potatoes!  Minutes after I ordered it, I could hear my food from the kitchen as they pushed through those double doors, with the tray elevated high above the waiter's head.  Then, as he approached the table, he would undoubtedly pause - straining his voice above the crackling meat and veggie feast - and warn my nearby kids how hot the platter was.  Just gimme the food!  By this point, I am thinking that the iron skillet itself may not be spared the torment and fury of my insatiable hunger!  Wow, Sergio and his team knew how to sell the sizzle!

In homebuilding, this translates to …

Activity breeds activity

You've tried everything you can think of - called your best clients, dressed better - maybe you even bathed today!  However, you are not getting the results you desire.

Many salespeople, no matter how grounded or religious in other areas of their life, get very superstitious when it comes to sales. 

I often ask a sales professional "Why do you have a salt shaker on your desk, and your trophies are all turned backwards?"  The response, with all the confidence and shock in the world, "Well, I have a strong appointment today, and I don't want to jinx it."  Really?  Don't you hope your surgeon has more confidence in her ability the next time you need a procedure??

Here's the cold, hard, facts.  Sales is a blend of art and science, of  "try" and "do" work, as one of my old bosses used to say.  On the art side, it is an art to read buying signals, to know when to shut up, to know when a buyer is bluffing.  The science side is much, mu…

Real Estate advice for 3500 years

For those that thought that when Moses went up on Mt. Sinai that all he came down with is 10 simple instructions, you are sorely mistaken.  Know what else he got from God?  Real Estate advice.  No, not just the "I am giving you the land of Milk and Honey" type advice, but the kind of advice that would have prevented this entire housing crisis we have experienced over the last 4-6 years.  Who knew - it's been written down for 3500+ years, and we all missed it.

Here's your chance today - buried in Leviticus 25 is God's real estate picks.  From Fair pricing methods to valuation guidelines, it's all there.  Yep - God, from his perch on high, was even the first to put a premium on a property in a gated community - (v.29-31) - over a property in the suburbs.  Other than the birds, He had the only available topographical view at the time, so it probably was painfully obvious!

For valuation guidelines - my real point - Value in Leviticus was to be determined by the n…

Build Value into Relationships

Over the years, "fads" have crossed the sales profession, from "Spin Selling" to "Relationship Selling".  It's funny, dust off one of the fad techniques in your next pitch, and your peers and boss will look at you like you came to work in tight parachute pants and a "Pantera" t-shirt.  Oddly, human behavior has not changed significantly, we just continue to evolve to try to understand it better.

Here is what is different, whether you are selling retail goods or B2B, the buyers have become more selective as their budgets have tightened.  I saw this firsthand last month in the US territory of Saint Thomas, a vacation destination that relies heavily on tourism.  In 2003 I visited, and everybody was happy go-lucky, there were steel drums everywhere, it was all lots-of-laughs.  Enter 2011, and the weekly cruise stops have dwindled from twenty-something plus to less than 5.  Doors are closed, businesses are suffering.  Now, the street "handle…

Fear of Loss Trumps Desire to Win

It rarely fails - I am coaching one of our sales counselors through a negotiation, only to recommend a negotiation point that strikes fear into my counselor.  Not just "I don't think that will work, Stephen." kind of fear - no - I'm talking sweaty palms, dilated pupils, "I don't want to get shot", and "I'm-going-to-be-so-broke-my-three-year-old-will-have-to-go-to-community-college" kind of fear.  Why is that?  Because the closer you get to realizing a sale or a deal, the more one fears losing it.  However, we homosapiens are funny creatures, because this phenomenon goes way beyond sales, it's true for all aspects of our lives.

It is our nature that anything that we care about, we want to keep.  At the very least, we wish to stake our claim in what we already have firmly prior to evaluating other options.  This is why a high school senior may really want to ask out the head cheerleader, but will keep his current date UNTIL he gets a fir…

Welcome to Sales Pearls!

After years of speaking to people and hearing "you really should write" - I figured now would be the best time to do it.  After all, it's Father's Day, and I am perched on my throne as King of my household.  I may be slightly delusional, but to a father of five, it is rather unusual to have a Sunday afternoon without a honey-do list longer than the Constitution.  My youngest, whose nickname is Red Bull, made me a paper Burger King-esque crown today, which I've worn with a great deal of pride.  I could tell the state highway patrolman was contemplating whether or not to stop me as I raced the 9 passenger family van down Georgia 400 wearing the contraption, but the regal open hand wave certified that I was legitimate royalty.

I have been in some kind of sales my entire twenty-four year career.  Better yet, I've been pretty darn good at it!  Most of you are in sales, too - whether or not you know it!  Ever need a better price on a car?  Question whether your ser…