• 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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  • Weasels

    Two weekends ago, I got to take my youngest daughter to a 4-year-old’s birthday party. I’d forgotten how elaborate some of these parties get, and this was a nice reminder. The parents of this little boy had hired an animal trainer to bring some rabbits and let the kids see them.

    The highlight of the show was a weasel that did tricks. I had never seen a trained weasel and so I asked the trainer how he did it. The story he shared was interesting: “I learned a long time ago that the key to weasel training is simply teaching them what they are not allowed to do first, then helping them figure out what they are supposed to do instead.”

    I asked the trainer about his process. Each weasel trick had two elements, a prop, and a sound. To get the weasel to do a trick, the animal simply has to react to the prop when it hears the sound.

    Too often in sales, our clients show up on our doorstep complaining about their prospects who’ve been weasels. They come in saying: they didn’t do what we expected, they misled us, they ignored us, and they lied to us. In other words, their clients have not reacted to a sales call in the way the salesperson wanted. Typically salespeople spend their time blaming the weasel when they should take some time and look at the trainer instead.

    In the sales world, prospects are tough to engage. They have plenty of distractions and, honestly, most sales pitches bore prospects.

    Your prospects have been trained to ignore most of the sounds you make and they are indifferent to the props. But for your sales team to succeed, prospects have to be a part of the show.

    We spend our time helping our clients understand what buyers are looking for, what sounds they react to, and what props have value. We teach our clients a simple rule: You can’t get mad at a prospect for doing something you didn’t tell them they couldn’t do. And we help our clients understand how to better train their prospects to respond right way.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Listen to me!

    After collecting my car from the garage after another very expensive repair I thought it may be about time I bought a car that I could trust would end the journey without the help of a low loader.

    So I went to a local dealer of quality second hand vehicles very excited about the prospect of a new toy.

    The second hand car dealer came up to me he was, smiling (great teeth), had a firm hand shake, and a hint of snake oil fragrance.

    In order to shorten the sales cycle I carefully (I thought) explained that my needs are simple, and in priority order: Automatic, Bluetooth hands free and cruise control ( I can’t afford another speeding fine). Everything else was negotiable.

    He was clearly unshaken by my simple requirements and took me over to the latest (and most expensive) car he had for sale.

    Apparently, it was a thing of beauty, shiny, a head turner, it would look great with me in it and on my drive. I suspected some of that may be correct.

    It was also manual gear change, didn’t have Bluetooth or cruise control.

    I re-explained my needs but clearly my needs didn’t match what he had, so he suggested we go out on a test drive, then I would realise ‘we should be together’ (me and the car, not snake oil boy). So I clambered into the car which exactly addressed all the needs I didn’t have.

    After an hour driving around the country side, feeling the handling, hearing the exhaust and all the other stuff the (sic) salesman thought was important, we arrived back at his premises. I’d missed a call from my wife (no Bluetooth), my dodgy hip was aching from crushing the clutch and I might have broken a speed limit or two (again).

    I didn’t buy the car (see needs above), the salesman was annoyed I’d wasted a quarter of his top selling day. But I got to have fun in a great sports car for an hour which would normally cost a lot of money.

    What happened?

    The car dealer didn’t carefully listen to the prospect, he didn’t question the prospect to confirm the impact of not having their needs met (although not being contactable by my wife did appeal to me) and he gave free consultancy on things that wasn’t needed in addition to wasting a lot of time.

    That’s a lot of bad habits. In the end he thought it was my fault. Stupid prospect.

    There were many basic Sandler rules broken here which culminated in an expensive, non-productive time for the dealer. From the prospects point of view, I learned lots of stuff I didn’t know, had some fun and a great story to tell.

    I guess you haven’t ever wasted time, chasing someone who was never a real prospect and got annoyed about not getting an order for your efforts. But, if you recognise some of this, talk to your local Sandler trainer. They’ll listen and teach you some good habits.

    I’m now going to call the garage as my car is sitting by the side of a road near here quietly steaming, just like our heroic car dealer.

    Roy Johnson

    Roy Johnson

    For twenty seven years Roy Johnson worked globally where he held leadership positions in market leading industrial automation and communications companies. Having left corporate life in 2014 he started his own sales training and management consultancy. Typically, his clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners. These are often people who went into business to follow their passion with a requirement to build a client base to make it successful. They are either looking to put a sales system with coherence and clarity in place and/or take the business to the next level. Roy helps them to develop a successful sales culture so that they can make tough sales decisions based on real data rather than instinct. Mob +44 (0)7867525868 Tel +44 (0)1782 518040

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  • So whose decision is it, anyway?

    So there you are, talking with this great potential client, right in your “sweet spot”. He has so much aching need for what you can do for him and he is prepared to spend time, money and resources to fix them.  Moreover you have the perfect solution within that budget which will make them pleased to have done business. What could possibly go wrong?

    Have you been there? And then, just as it is all about to happen, once they have details of your proposal, presentation and proof of concept, your potential client casually mentions that they need to review against competing providers, or take time to discuss it at board level; or they will need to get authorisation from the FD.

    I have been there. I am sure you have too. We can blame the prospect all we want or take it all on the chin as inevitable in business, but really it is our fault – Totally our fault. We get so excited about what we can do for the prospect and what that will mean for us, that we just plain slide over a major part of the client acquisition process.

    Before we do anything, before we waste time, hope, money, resources, (more hope), we have to fully qualify our prospect.  Who else is involved in the decision? Who will be affected by it and might put a spanner in the works? What needs to be decided? It could be that a whole raft of things has to happen internally or with us before the decision can be confirmed. When would that be? Are there critical time lines that we are not aware of? Is the timeline they gave us at the outset real? Where geographically or in the organisation will the decision be made? How will that decision be made? According to what criteria: Price? Return on investment? And why is the decision being made at all or at least, why is the decision being made that way?

    What difference would it make if we knew all this before we got excited and emotionally involved? Would it change the way we present our solution? Perhaps we would stop in our tracks right there. We could save hours of everybody’s time if we had the courage to ask for this detail. “Mr Huge Potential Client, will it be OK if I asked you some questions about how you make a decision like this, who tends to be involved, that sort of thing?” How long does it take in the sale interview to ask for this detail? Perhaps as little as four or five minutes. Five minutes versus enormous waste of resources including false hope.

    Do not forget this important disqualification step. If you do forget, you may wish most heartily that you had spent more time with a Sandler trainer to help you with some techniques and even, perhaps, to instil the required courage.

    Paul Glynn

    Paul Glynn

    Paul’s experience spans over twenty years of selling, sales management and training. He has worked in the financial services sector including accountancy and has been responsible for the commercial success of sales departments at director level in advertising. His clients report up to 300% increase in turnover by working with him. He is dedicated to helping businesses grow through assessments, training, coaching and mentoring. Tel: 01784 390623 Mobile: 07866 518848

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  • 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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  • How to differentiate your business

    As businesses continue through uncertain times, I thought I would look at how differentiation could be the key to your success.

    Has the word “differentiation” started to sound a little tired? If so, this is because it is both misused and over used.

    We need to pause and think about what differentiation actually means to businesses. In business, when we talk about differentiation we are talking about separating ourselves from our competitors. Ideally, we want to achieve two things by doing this. Firstly, to attract customers to buy from us, and secondly, to have them buy at our price. Working with businesses from a number of sectors, I find that they don’t always realise that a key purpose for striving for differentiation is to maintain their price point; as a result they often end up selling themselves short. This doesn’t look like real success to me.

    Differentiation should therefore not be seen as an end in itself but a means to an end, namely to sell on terms that make sense. Additionally we need to adapt our attempt to differentiate our businesses to today’s tough and increasingly cluttered marketplace.

    In a series of 2 blogs I have looked at the 5 things you need to consider when striving for that all important differentiation.

    1. Know your competitors

    Understanding your competitors is at the crux of differentiation – it’s only by doing this, that you can carve out your own market segment. However, this again requires a new way of thinking.

    Your competitor isn’t necessarily the shop next door. You need to think wider than this.  There are obvious competitors here such as similar products/services, geographies or employee pools. There are also the less obvious ones such as people who provide a very different solution but one that fixes the same problem, meets the same need as yours.  There is also the frequently overlooked ‘competitor’ which is the option to do nothing or to do it in-house.

    It is therefore important to think carefully about your competitors, know what they offer and know what you have to do differently to deliver a more attractive proposition for your customers.

    1. Authentic differentiation

    We hear a great deal about developing our unique selling proposition.  However, your USP, like differentiation, is a concept that can come across as trite and pedestrian in customer engagement as we all work so hard to prove how different we are from competitors and as a business. As brand-savvy consumers, expectation of differentiation had grown.

    There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to crystallising your USP or point of differentiation. I quote Steve Jobs here when I say, quite simply, “Brands are themselves”. You need to know – beyond making a profit – what the purpose of your business is and what you believe in it. There has to be that authentic core at the centre of what you do, rather than merely focusing on “What will sell more?” Customers today are sophisticated and discerning – they will see through the empty promise. Working with CEOs and business owners, I constantly encourage them to go back to the seed of their business.  To identify your business essence, get back in touch with yourself and your business to create that consistent and genuine proposition.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • Ever thought of how “Change” effects selling?

    Change

    This blog looks at change from the context of buying – and selling.

    Buying and selling can defined be in its broadest terms – selling a product or service or an idea. So it applies to a non-sales selling situation such as being persuaded to do something, support something and persuading someone to do something, support something etc.  It can also be applied to more traditionally defined sales situation – exchanging a product or service for money.

    Looking at buying.  Any purchase of any kind – thing, service or idea – requires a change.  Looking at some examples:

    • Buying new clothes or new shoes – they will feel different (and make you feel different) and thus are a change
    • Commissioning a new website – this requires a change in the look and feel of your online brand, new processes (if it includes different functionality), new opportunities
    • Investing in sales training – this requires you to let go of some of the things you do, change what you do and take some risks
    • Agreeing to do something different at work, or adopt a new work practice – this changes your actions or your beliefs

    It follows therefore that when we are selling we are actually facilitating a change.

    Looking at our change equation, change is a function of:

    • dissatisfaction with the present
    • a vision of the future
    • some first practical steps

    And to be personally motivated to make the change the sum of these needs to be equal to or greater to the cost or pain or effort of making the change

    Therefore before we can sell something to someone they need:

    • to be dissatisfied with what they have at the moment
    • a clear vision of the future – of where they could be, what could be happening
    • an idea of how to get there and confidence that it is possible – and then in turn, the actual route map
    • for the above to be equal to or great to the cost or pain or effort of making the change.

    If any of these elements are missing you will not make a sale.

    Taking an example of investing in sales training.  If I am happy enough with my client acquisition processes, even if I know at one level that I ‘should’ be bringing on more clients, unless something more compelling drives me (and creates dissatisfaction) I am not going to make a change.  Equally if I cannot imagine a future where I have more clients and enjoy some real benefits from this, I will not make the investment (in time, money and personal upheaval).  And finally if I do not think that you are the person to take me there I will not buy from you (i.e. I need to see my ‘first practical steps’).  And even if those things are in place, if I am not convinced that the cost – in terms of my time, my money or the demands placed on me – will be met or exceeded through the investment in training I will not buy.

    To sell effectively we need to facilitate our buyer in exploring the change equation for themselves and making a decision to change or not to change.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • Stop handling objections, it’s old school!

    If you are getting objections in your sales conversations, you’re doing something wrong. A Sandler colleague of my mine in Ireland summed up this theory in a recent communication of his;

    There isn’t a single one of the common objections below that could not be prevented.

    However, for the ones that slip through the cracks….read on….

    Top three Objection Handling mistakes you must correct

    •    Assuming that objections are part of the sales process. I bet you have bought many items without stalls and objections. Therefore, they are at best, optional.
    •    Believing that you need to ‘handle’ them. They’re not your objections and when you discover the underlying reasons for them, you’ll agree that the best person to resolve them is the buyer.
    •    Not realizing that if you are getting ‘stalls and objections’, it’s your fault.

    The Dirty Dozen

    •    You’re too expensive/complex/big/small
    •    I have no budget/time
    •    Call me in 6 months
    •    Send me literature, an email
    •    Why should I, buy from you
    •    Can you provide references
    •    What can you do for me
    •    How are you better, faster, different
    •    Our budgets have been cut
    •    We’re happy with what we have
    •    Your competitors are cheaper
    •    How much discount are you going to give me?

    Underlying reasons? There are only four underlying motives behind all objections you have  every received or will ever hear.

    •    Lack of conviction
    •    Undiscovered concern
    •    Prospect is Not OK (feeling…confused, annoyed, embarrassed, not-so-clever)
    •    It’s a tactic to gain advantage/leverage (typically in negotiations)

    For example…the objection “You’re too expensive” has little to do with price. The subtext of this objection is “I haven’t found a good reason (conviction) why I should pay more……….. ………………………………………………………

    Whose fault is that? Consider the objection…     ”I have no budget“. Again, it usually has little to do with money and everything to do with a lack of conviction. The subtext is “I haven’t discovered a good reason to go find the money”.

    It’s the same with time. When a prospect tells you that they don’t have time (or are too busy) what they are telling you is that they don’t have a good reason for making the time. Think about it, if their boss said that they needed them for an hour…guess what….they’d find the time!

    Learn to identify the underlying motives and you’ll never fear another objection ever again. Although there are only four motives underlying the objections you get, there are only two reasons why you end up coming up against one of these four motives

    •    Something that you did or said that you shouldn’t have
    •    Something that you didn’t do or say that you should have

    Rule #1 of Objection Handling is – Prevention is better than cure. After every call, document any objections you received and ask yourself – what could I have done/said differently to prevent it.

    Rule #2 of Objection Handling is – If you can’t prevent it, you must be fluent at dealing with it

    Six tactics you need to master to deal with any objection

    •    Reversing
    •    Dummy curve
    •    Struggle
    •    Negative Reverse Selling
    •    Silence
    •    Story Telling

    Paul Lanigan of Sandler Ireland cites plenty of examples such as;

    there are many ways you could respond to the classic “you’re too expensive” objection using one or more of the tactics above… Prospect: “You’re too expensive” You     (using a Sandler ‘Reverse’): Mr Prospect, generally when someone tells me that I’m too expensive, what they are typically telling me is that what I offer is worth more. What would     you need to see or hear from me to feel it was worth paying more?

    Or………… You (using a Sandler ‘Dummy up‘): When you say “too expensive” Mr Prospect, what does that mean?

    Or…(my personal favourite, because if you’ve done well up ’til now, it stops them in their  tracks. Watch the prospect backtrack – every time. The biggest challenge you’ll have is not grinning while they back pedal. You (using a Sandler ‘Negative Reverse’): Does that mean you’ve decided not to explore this any further?

    Or…………. You (using a story): That’s the exact same thought I had last week when I was booking a car for a family holiday. I looked at the pricing of the top brands and compared with the other providers and I felt that they were just too expensive. So I reserved a car with one of the cheaper companies. When I landed, my jaw dropped. The line at my car hire desk wrapped around the entire arrivals hall.  It took me two hours to get the keys. To make matters worse, they didn’t have the car type that I had booked. Then I had to catch a bus to an off site car park. When I got there, the car was covered in dents and dings that weren’t recorded. I ended up standing for another hour in 30 degrees heat waiting to get served. The kids were screaming, everyone was bickering. It was awful. In my experience, cheaper always has a price. Can I ask you a question Mr Prospect?……why do you think our customers pay us more?

    Rule #3: Read rule 1 and 2 again and again.

    Take lessons from our friend over the Irish Sea and stop handling objections.

    Mark Wormald

    Mark Wormald

    Before launching Sandler Mark spent the previous 20 years notching up engineering, sales and sales management successes in blue-chip companies in the technology sector and in the IT industry. He dropped out of corporate to run his own media business, publishing obscure science and technology magazines. An engineer by profession, Mark spent his whole career sceptical of salesmen, sales methods and has the firm belief that 99% of sales training simply does not work. His team helps business professionals win business by breaking the rules.

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