• Do your clients see your sales people as
 Trusted Advisors?

    trustWant to get you or your people more effective at selling?  Check how consistently you/they are following steps 1-3. Even small improvements in any of these can help establish you as Trusted Advisor early on in sales conversations

    1 Gather more information than you give

    Or listen more than you talk. Ideally your prospective client should be talking 70% of the time and you 30%. How can we do that?   By asking questions, really listening to the answers and probing the answers in more detail.

    I profile a lot of people who sell (sales people, business owners, professional services) and one of the behaviours I look at is how effective they are at listening. On a scale of 1-9 (1 being low, 9 being high) the vast majority of people score between 2-4.  Even if we think we are listening, are we really?  Or are we listening some of the time, sometimes getting distracted by our own thoughts and mentally preparing the things we want to say?

    There are a lot of very smart questions we could be asking, but often the simpler ones are just, if not more, effective.

    Can you be more specific?  Could you give me an example?  Which means…? And what impact does that have?

    The advantage of asking lots of questions, not talking much and listening well is that it stops us talking too much (too soon) about us, how wonderful we are and how we can solve their problem. Instead it means we can gather information on pains, their budget and decision-making process to work out how real an opportunity this is before talking about us.

    2 Be challenging

    This is not about being awkward, or challenging just for the sake of it. I see our role as a Trusted Advisor to get to the crux of the clients issues and sometimes we need to help our prospective clients work that out too, which ties back to tip 1.

    Trusted Advisors ask tough questions that make their prospects think differently about their situation.  Equally they are prepared to have tough conversations if necessary – if you don’t think what the prospective client is asking for is in their best interests I believe its better to tell them rather than avoiding it.

    3 Be prepared to say no

    Honesty and selling don’t often appear in the same sentence, but if we want to be seen as a Trusted Advisor then that means we have to give our prospective clients the truth, rather than what they want to hear.

    If you are not best placed to help them for whatever reason I think it’s far more powerful to say that and refer them to someone else if you can. In my experience they will really respect you for that and as a result are more likely to come back to you further down the line.

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • Growing your team, why is it so hard?

    One of the biggest leaps a business owner takes is hiring that first employee.  When is the right time? What role should they do? Can I afford it? How do I know they are the right person? All big questions need to be overcome.

    The problem is that for a lot of businesses recruiting subsequent employees doesn’t get much easier either. It may be less of a quantum leap adding more employees but some of the same questions remain in particular how do I know they are the right person?

    Research suggests that hiring the wrong person can cost businesses at least 5 times their salary, which is a hefty price to pay whatever the size of your business. But why is it so hard to find the right candidates?  According to recent research interviewing is only a good predictor of a candidates fit for a role 50 per cent of the time. I was pretty shocked when I read that, that feels a lot like guessing to me. Especially as most of us are interviewing on a pretty infrequent basis, we are not honing that skill. And remember that if you are hiring for a sales role, sales people are good at interviewing but that doesn’t mean they are a good salesperson. Too often I see companies hiring candidates first and foremost because they like them rather than because they are right for the job. Try doing some anti-bonding and rapport with sales candidates and then see how they work to build that rapport when they are out of their comfort zone. After all that’s what prospects will do to them every day.

    So what’s the alternative to interviewing?  Behavioural profiling such as the Devine Inventory provide a more evidence based check from which to screen out candidates or interview more effectively. Good tools like these enable you to highlight flags in the candidate’s profile which can then be probed more robustly in interviews. I don’t know about you but I don’t have time to be hiring people who either can’t do the job, or can do the job but won’t. I only want to be investing my time in those that can and will and 50 per cent isn’t a high enough ratio for me to want to trust my gut through interviewing alone.

    Induction is another equally important part of hiring. Too often I see new hires start in companies, get introduced to everyone, taken for lunch, given a high level overview and to all intents and purposes left to get on with it. Hideous for the new starter and risks the employer waiting too long to know if their new employee is going to make it and what additional support they need to be more self reliant.

    Companies that do this part really well have a very comprehensive induction programme running for at least 90 days, supporting the new hire in all aspects of the role, but crucially making it very clear what the new hire has to do on a weekly/monthly basis to be successful and ensuing that progress checks happen.  If it’s so hard to find the right candidates in the first place let’s make sure that we set them up to succeed, or work out sooner rather than later if we’ve made a mistake and deal with it accordingly.

     

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • THE BUDGET STEP: SO HARD FOR SO MANY

    The 4th step in the Sandler sales process is Budget, having a direct, honest conversation about what that individual/company would be willing and able to invest in addressing their issues.  Written down on paper it sounds like a straight-forward conversation but we all know that in reality it’s far from that simple.   So often people either avoid this step completely or do it in a token way that neither helps them nor the prospect.

    Why do we struggle so much with talking about money?  One word, headtrash. Transactional analysis teaches us that we all grow up hearing messages from our parents that we adopt (often inappropriately) as our own and some of those messages can include ‘Its rude to talk about money’ ‘Don’t talk about money in front of other people’ ‘Don’t ask questions about money’. Those of us (myself included) who grew up with these types of messages have to overcome that scripting to have effective budget conversations.  And remember your prospect may well have the same hang-ups, which can end up with everyone trying to avoid the topic or at least skipping over it as quickly as possible.

    So why does this matter? Well, if we accept that selling should be about both parties having very honest, direct conversations so they can both work out if it makes sense to work together, knowing the budget is fundamental to that.  For so many of my clients the solutions they could provide to a client can be tailored according to budget so not having this conversation is equivalent to having a stab in the dark that ‘this is what they can afford’.  Based on what?  What cars they drive?  How smart their offices are?  Or the prospect ends up getting a massive shock when they open your quote/proposal which either means the end of your opportunity (after you have invested a lot of time and effort) or you end up on the back foot having to justify your prices.

    The alternative is to bite the bullet, plant your feet, ask the budget questions and not movie on until you have the answer. Not accepting phrases like ‘no we don’t have a budget for this, you tell me how much it should cost’ or ‘money’s no object’.  Making the end goal of the budget discussion a figure that you can both work within.  Or if the budget isn’t enough agreeing how to move forwards, if at all.

    The push-back I get from some people is that their prospects won’t give them an honest answer.    If that happens regularly to you then I would suggest that there are more fundamental challenges in your sales approach than just talking about budget.

    One of the differences between being average or really good at selling often comes down to a few seconds at a time, being brave and asking those difficult questions, planting your feet and not moving on until you have got the information that you need.  If you are uncomfortable talking about money then this may be the part of the sales process that takes the most guts. So next time you are in a selling situation set yourself a goal of having an effective budget discussion and don’t allow yourself or your prospect to duck out of it.  Trust me, once you’ve done it you can walk that little bit taller and next time it will be a little bit easier.

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • Glencoe Blog

    Four months ago my husband bought me a present.  How nice you might be thinking.  Well hang on because the present was entry to an off-road mountain marathon in Scotland in October.  As you may imagine my reaction was probably more muted than he had anticipated.  To give you some context, I have done a marathon before but it was 5+ years ago, and I found the training and event itself an incredibly painful experience, plus I’ve had a child and eaten lots of cakes since so wasn’t really in the mindset of embracing another one.  However I am a competitive soul, so to be told that he was doing it too spurred me to start training in the flatlands of Cambridgeshire, not the ideal mountain training ground.

    Very quickly I realised that something was different to when I trained for the previous marathon.  For some reason I wasn’t finding it as painful, not spending every minute thinking ‘when will this be over’ ‘why is running so hard’ ‘I hate hills’ etc.  It took me a little while to work out what was different. Attitude.  Since my last marathon I started journaling every day and one of my affirmations is that exercise makes me more effective in work.  Stepping up the training was the first time that I realised that this journalling had fundamentally changed how I viewed running and made the whole experience more enjoyable.

    Having made that connection, I took it further and started to do some visualization, which I had heard a lot about but never done.  Now as I am running I am channeling my inner Alistair Brownlee. That world class triathlete has a very distinctive upright running style which makes for highly effective running.  Previously my husband has described my running as rather pigeon-toed suggesting there was clearly some room for improvement!  I got some external guidance on my style and was told that running more upright would make the single biggest difference when transforming from pigeon to athlete.  Of course it’s the first thing that goes when I get tired but visualizing AB’s running style helps me correct that.

    I’m also in the process of changing my attitude to pain. Previously I would see it as an awful thing and drop back into the negative mindset, making the whole thing harder than it needed to be. Now when it hurts, I think this is making me fitter and stronger and more effective at work.  Writing it down makes it sound a bit daft, but its really helping.

    There are still 4 weeks to go, but my training times are coming down, my mileage has increased surprisingly easily and I’m feeling much fitter, stronger and most importantly mentally stronger.

    So, what on all earth does any of this have to do with sales?   There are so many parallels I could draw on but I’m going to pick on prospecting.  I used to have a similar attitude to prospecting as running.  I used to hate prospecting, what a waste of time cold calling, no-one is ever in etc.  But over the years I’ve been journaling about prospecting too, as well as getting external help with technique and even now every day continue to work on making my attitude more positive. And boy has it helped with my results.

    So my challenge to you is what do you think too negatively about and how does that affect your performance.  What are you doing to change your attitude, improve your techniques and ultimately improve your sales performance?

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • Decision-making process: black hole vs clear future

    About a week ago a client rang asking for help with a really big prospect. Based on the first sales meeting with the decision-maker she agreed to write a proposal, but having submitted it all had gone quiet. The opportunity wasn’t dead but had got stuck somewhere within the prospect’s company.

    As we debriefed her meeting it became obvious that she didn’t have a clear idea of the prospect’s decision-making process. She had established she was talking to the main decision-maker, but the rest was a mystery so she didn’t have a clear future of what would happen next. This is far from uncommon, the importance of really understand the decision-making process of your prospect is often underestimated, yet without it you can easily lose control of the sale temporarily (prolonging the sales cycle) or permanently (lose the sale) as my client did.

    Some of the questions we talked through in the debrief were:

    • Why did they need a proposal?
    • What happens on the prospect side once the proposal has been submitted?
    • Who else would be involved in the decision-making process? How would they be involved?
    • When were they going to make their decision/go ahead with the work?

    Here are a couple of tips to help you with understanding your prospect’s decision-making process:

    • Don’t rush this step
    • Ask more questions so you really understand what their decision-making process involves, not just who is involved

    o   Prepare the key questions you need to ask in advance

    • Be prepared to challenge their process if it doesn’t make sense for you/them. Often companies ask for proposals because that’s what they have always done, not because it helps them make the right decision.
    • Always have a clear future about what happens next
    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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  • How to make a slight edge that makes all the difference

    Most salespeople I talk to tell me that they are great with people and that bonding and rapport is something they have nailed. It doesn’t cause them any problems. But is it really that straight-forward?

    If we accept that bonding and rapport is about quickly establishing and maintaining trust, what might happen if we aren’t doing this effectively?

    • Prolong and complicate the sales process – prospect may ask for additional steps to get more evidence that you are the right solution, could include wanting to see what other work you have done in their industry, referrals from your clients
    • Prospects may challenge us more, raising more questions and objections, including price
    • Unequal business status, could lead to prospects wasting our time, getting think it over’s

    Any of these ever happen to you?  Could it be that better bonding and rapport might make them happen less often?

    Most people think that of bonding and rapport as small talk, but effective bonding and rapport goes a lot further, after all not everyone likes small talk.  Adapting our style through matching and mirroring allows us to meet the prospect’s needs as people like and trust people who are like themselves.

    To be good at bonding and rapport we need to be highly attuned observers, using active listening and awareness to understand our prospects style so we can adapt accordingly.

    There are three key areas to focus on during matching and mirroring.

    1. Communication style
    2. Core motivators
    3. Decision-making style

    Communication style

    The most obvious area to be aware of.  How are they speaking?  Fast or slow, detailed or big picture, direct or more wordy?  Adapt from your natural style to mirror this – easy when they are similar to us, harder when they are an opposite style.

    Core Motivators

    What’s important to them?  What are they talking most about? Other people or themselves, results or the process to get the results, their attitude to risk.   Whatever it is we can then adjust our messages so we are focusing only on what is important to them.

    Decision-making style

    You can get clues to this from assessing their communication style. Do they make quick, gut-instinct decisions or are they more evidence-based, slower decision-makers?  How can you adjust your approach accordingly?  For example if your process is one call close, if your prospect is an evidence-based decision-maker you either have to accept that it may take longer, or adjust how you deliver information to enable them to make a quick decision.

    So next time you are in front of a prospect try taking your observations up a level and constantly be adjusting your style, language and approach to be more like them.  Unless of course gaining a slight edge isn’t important to you.

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson

    Caroline Robinson is Director of Sandler Training based in Cambridge, working with fast-growing companies who are ambitious about taking their business to the next level. Tel: 01223 882581 Mobile: 07739 344 751

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