• Are Your Prospects Wasting Your Time?

    Hello and welcome to this week’s blog.  I’d like to show you a straightforward way to save time, decrease your workload and increase your closing rates.

    Did you know that, on average, 52% of the prospects you engage with won’t do anything?  The ability to spot good and bad prospects could save you frustration and time.

    Recently we worked with a company designing and selling IT software.  When we looked into their sales cycles, we found they varied greatly from one project to another. The longest sales cycle occurred when dealing with organisations who had over 200 employees and several divisions or external partners.

    Not only were these their longest sales cycles, but they also delivered their lowest close rates.

    So what action did the company take?

    They made a conscious decision that if a prospect had over 200 employees with multiple divisions, they would not pursue it any further.  They knew that this situation was a bad fit for their business. They knew that pursuing these prospects would tie up their salespeople for many days (or even weeks) with little chance of success, causing them to become frustrated and demotivated.

    Once they removed these companies from their sales funnel, they were able to focus on the prospects that had much higher closing rates, and they saw business improve. At the same time, they saw work became less pressurised, with fewer late nights for key staff and improved employee morale, motivation and engagement.

    All this just from disqualifying difficult prospects.  Many businesses waste time chasing bad prospects but it takes guts to disqualify them!  When you do though, you can focus your time and energy on the best prospects for your business.

    Sandler Training is recognised as a leading authority on business development, offering sales and leadership consulting and training across all market sectors including professional services.

    Neil Liddell

    Neil Liddell

    Neil enjoys premium recognition with leading decision-makers, he embraces the lifeblood of the Sandler™ methodology. As Managing Director of Sandler Training Central-England, he brings drive, passion and decades of goal-breaking experience to what he and Sandler™ do best; create world-class sales professionals and help CEOs drive lasting growth through training, counsel and ongoing support. Tel: 0845 0573563 Mobile: 07547 227442

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  • Interview Questions

    Developing no-nonsense questions for sales interviews.

    Interview questions nigel

    Let’s face it; every sales person has a great CV. And they all interview well. Those that don’t just get a lot more practice before they eventually turn up at your office.

    We also know there is a huge difference between those that can sell, and those that actually will. Those that say all the right things and those that can actually execute the plan.

    “Sell me this pen”. Do you remember that popular interview question from the eighties?

    Those of us that asked it quickly discovered that answers to this question and many others failed to predict accurately whether the hopeful candidate would actually be able to sell.

    So what questioning strategies might work better?

    1. Cheat! Using targeted interview questions derived from a thorough skills and competencies assessment tool, such as the Devine Inventory. These enable the interviewer to probe essential competencies such as “ambition and Drive”, “ positive outlook” “self-responsibility” and even “sales prospecting”. The report suggests questions to ask, quickly turning an amateur interviewer into a professional.
    1. Collect a list of tough questions that work for you. Here are 5 from my top 40.

    “ Why do people buy, and how do they make decisions?”

    “Successful sales people are always getting referrals and regularly prospecting. I’m sure you keep a list of prospects to call. Would you mind making a couple of calls now while I listen in?”

    “ Tell me about the prospecting plan you have developed for your job search?”

    “ What questions do you ask a prospect on the phone in order to determine whether they qualify for a meeting?”

    “We have a culture of accountability. That means we’re going to have measurements of behaviors – cold calling, follow up calls, appointments set, and of course sales closed.  Accountability means that you’ll be reporting these behaviors on a weekly basis.  What’s your opinion and past experience with accountability?”

    The interview is often a meeting between 2 needy parties. The candidate who needs a job, and the company that needs to hire. Tough questions are just one way to avoid hiring mistakes.


    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand runs Sandler Training in the Midlands based at the Innovation Centre in Longbridge.

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  • A winning attitude breeds success

    I’m just back from an interesting conference where I listened to one of Team GB’s top performance directors, Nigel Laughton, speaking about his work with elite athletes. He was recently appointed to the post of CEO, Pentathlon GB, where he will oversee the association in the run-up to the Olympics in Rio in 2016 and beyond.

    I took particular interest in his current work with Olympic athletes. The individuals involved in skeleton and modern pentathlon sacrifice everything for their dream. They are unpaid and penniless; there are no impressive football salaries for these stars. They spend day after day punishing themselves in the gym for the dream of an Olympic medal that at best is years away. Their diets are punishingly strict; they miss out on family events, friendships outside of the team, lie-ins and all the normal things that most of us take for granted. Why? Because they have a dream and they will do anything to make that dream a reality.

    We all need to have a reason ‘why’ we get up and run our businesses or make our sales calls. We need a purpose to drive us; for some it’s helping others and bringing good into the world; for others it’s about children and family goals; for some it’s about a passion for their subject and being the best at what they do. Whatever it is for you, you need to find it and focus on it, so that on the dark days when you feel like quitting, you push through to the other side. In business, we will encounter mountains blocking our paths; we need to find an inner strength so we can climb them and enjoy the view from the summit.

    During Laughton’s talk he played a video featuring 26 year old Lizzy Yarnold, British Skeleton athlete and gold winner in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. In the film Yarnold tells us “I’ve got to be the best version of me that I can be.” And she was talking about every single day she performs – be it in training or during competitions.

    We can all learn a lesson from the young athlete. She is striving to perform at her absolute best and outperform the competition. We must take her words and her gutsy attitude and apply them to our businesses, our approach to sales and into our personal performance. It starts with demanding the very best from ourselves; only accepting daily personal bests in everything we do.

    This attitude then filters through our teams, our businesses, our children and our communities. It creates a habit of winning and a momentum that makes special things happen. We can all be Olympians in our own right, if we have a dream and the right attitude to do the behaviours to make that dream come true.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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  • The number one thing sales people DON’T do

    It has probably taken me nearly all of my 25 years in selling and 5 years training sales people to really understand their number one problem.

    It applies to all of us, almost all of the time. It is both very easy to recognise but very difficult to do anything about.

    The problem is most sales people are completely oblivious to it, and when I mean sales people I mean from the MD downwards.

    Oddly, you do have people who are very good at it in your organisation; they are probably in customer services or perhaps engineers.

    Some of the best I have met are not even in the commercial realm. I have been lucky enough to train groups of nurses on selling and they get this immediately, in fact they are surprised it has to be taught.

    If you haven’t guessed already, it was a key element in the title of Richard Branson’s latest book “The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh, and Lead”.

    He dedicates a series of chapters to listening.

    Sales people tend to be hired because they are very focused and driven. Nearly universally this drive comes from them wanting to do the best for themselves firstly, the company next and the customers thirdly. Although it is often all about themselves, and this is the root of the problem. You cannot listen at all effectively if there is any of “you” in the conversation.

    Many salespeople are stuck in transmit mode, telling to sell. The better ones start to ask questions, some even ask good questions. Few really listen to the answers or try to understand what is behind what has just been said and ask further questions. That is because they are trying to steer the conversation in a way that suits the sales person, so their brain is focused on the next “great” question and not on absolutely every aspect of what and how the prospect is communicating.

    The very best sales people develop a mindset that I call, curiously sceptical. Being curious is fantastic because you will keep on wanting to find out more, understand why and what is happening in the prospect’s world. Sceptical drives the mind to want to dig deeper to try to figure out why someone may be saying something, perhaps what they are not saying is even more important. In a meeting with several prospects at a time there is lots of non-verbal interaction. It takes real skill to observe and detect everything going on. Again you can’t do this if “you” are in the conversation.

    There is a lot written about non-verbal clues and body language. I am not a fan at all of the “mirror and matching” approach to bonding and rapport. When you are in rapport you can’t help “mirror and match”. Gain that rapport by deep listening.

    And a final tip – we all have a noisy head, a gibbering monkey, distracting us during meetings. It is easy to calm this annoyance. Once you have noticed you are thinking up the next question or wondering what you are having for tea or the weather forecast for the weekend, just pause and become aware of your breath. Don’t try and control it or change it. Just become aware for a couple of moments and refocus that curiously sceptical mind on your prospect.

    I was once told I was the most interesting person an Academic Lawyer had ever met (probably says more about the circles they move in than me). All I had done was truly listen with my curiously sceptical mindset.

    So the next time you are in company with anyone why not practice truly listening? You never know they might think you are the most interesting person they have ever met. Or failing that just decides to buy from you…

    Alan Mackie

    Alan Mackie

    Alan has been in various sales roles for 25 years and works with businesses struggling to grow revenue and profitability to the levels they wish. Often their sales people are using excuses to hide lack of prospecting or perhaps saying everything is down to price when really it’s their ability. Often the business doesn't have a successful sales culture.

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