• Are your competitors helping you, or are you helping your competitors ?

    Have you ever played poker? During my miss-spent student days, a friend of mine took me a Casino, and attempted to educate me in the nuances of the game. One lesson I remember particularly well.

    “ There is a mug on every table. If you have played at a table for more than five minutes and haven’t figured out who the mug is, get up and leave.- you are the mug”

    Years later, I learned a similar lesson in business. We would put huge amounts of work into proposals and presentations for big business opportunities. We’d get great feedback…but not win the deal. Eventually, in one of these “beauty pageants”, we found we had such a great relationship with the prospect, they helped us build a presentation that would beat our competitors. We enjoyed watching all the other mugs waste their resources in a futile exercise.

      Here are some common situations that our competitors can inadvertently help us by being the “mug”:

    Educating vs understanding

    “Our competitors do a great job of opening the door and educating the customer,… so we can close the deal at a higher value, often even using their proposals as a starting point”

    Promoting vs attracting

    “Their slick marketing, advertising, free trials and samples, is often interpreted either as too-good-to-be-true, or desparation-to-sell. That makes it easier for us to win on Trust “

    Hiring out of necessity vs Talent management.

    “My competitors hire B-players in a hurry. Often because they lost an A-player to me!”

    Hope strategy vs prospecting plan

    “Our competitors waste valuable time and resources trying to close deals that will never close. Our team gets the NO early and uses the time saved to get in front of real prospects that our competitors neglect “

    My old student friend now is now a private banker working in Switzerland. He’s no mug!

    Without being insulting, how often are members of your sales team “mugs”?

    Nigel Dunand

    Nigel Dunand

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

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  • Rich Ripples From One Tiny Pebble

    Would you like to feel more confident in communicating your opinions—to be able to “hold your own” in a meeting? Do you want to be able to express your feelings (whether positive or negative) in an authentic way? Or do you want to curb your habit of losing control and get angry at those who may not deserve it? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then why not throw one tiny pebble into the pond of ‘Assertiveness’ and watch the rich ripples appear.

    Being assertive does not come natural to many people, it can feel like being between a rock and a hard place, or what has been described as “a middle ground between being a bully and a doormat” (Barnette, 2000).

    Write the word aggressive on a piece of paper. Now list how you describe aggressive. Then do the same with the word assertive. Notice any difference?

    Most people find that the descriptions of aggressive are predominately negative. Assertive on the other hand, doesn’t have that negative connotation.

    I’d like to have you consider the notion that as a sales professional, you have rights. If you are denied your rights in a sales situation, you should be wondering whether or not you are sitting in front of the right person.

    Your rights include getting answers to questions that tell you: Does this person/company have issues that need to be solved? Does my company have a solution to the issues? Is there a budget to address these issues? How does this prospect go about making a decision to take care of these issues?

    Getting answers to these concerns means asking a lot of questions. To get the needed information, you will have to be assertive, but not aggressive. Being aggressive will usually get you a request to “send me some literature, and I’ll call you.”

    Being assertive means getting clarification on specific issues. For example, when a prospect tells you “We’re probably going to be replacing this machine soon”. An assertive reply would be something like “You mean you’re not sure?” Get clarification and you won’t find yourself in a chasing mode, leaving voicemails that never get you a return call.

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    You have the right to make sure you understand what the prospect is telling you. To make sure you don’t cross over into aggressive, use softening statements before asking for clarification. A softening statement is a positive stroke to the prospect’s ego that precedes asking for more specific information. For example, “That makes sense. When you say soon, do you mean this quarter?” When asking questions, you need to make sure you don’t put your prospect on the defensive.

    Bottom line is, you have the right to qualify a prospect. If you get clarification on the pertinent issues using softening statements with your questions, you should be on the road to being assertive without being aggressive. May the ripples of assertiveness spread throughout your business because the person with the most information gets the order every time.

    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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  • What Are People Buying?

    What’s the quick one-word answer you come up with to that question? Most likely, many of you named your product or service; others may have said quality, my expertise or me. I believe what every prospect buys is confidence – both yours and theirs.

    If they don’t have confidence in you, your products, your service, etc., they won’t have the confidence to write you a cheque or a purchase order. They need to have a ‘peer to peer’ relationship with you; one where they believe that you are more than a vendor or solution provider and more of a consultant, advisor and partner.

    We all sell good products and services but buyers may see one product as much the same as its competitor. You have to differentiate yourself. If you want to avoid the decision coming down to price, you had better find a better way to instil confidence in the buyer that the choice to buy your product or service is the best decision. As we move into 2014 and a new year of sales targets, are you confident in your ability to help your prospect make a confident buying decision?

    Buyers need to trust you. If you’re doing well in a sales role, then you already have some ability to communicate clearly and find out what it is your prospect is looking for. Ask yourself though, do you have the ability to craft compelling questions to find out not only what the prospect needs, but why they need it and how of the purchase will solve their issues on a surface, business and personal level. Most sales people are only dealing with the ‘what’ is needed. It’s important you also define what it will take to do business. Buyers need to see you as credible.

    Your reputation, the level of understanding of the client’s issues and helping them discover the importance of those issues and how committed they are to fixing them is equally paramount to developing confidence in the buyer-seller relationship. As we round out 2013 and move into 2014 with a new target and new goals, are you prepared to focus on the things that will create confidence? It’s got to be less about features and benefits and more about how you develop client’s needs and your mutual understanding of each other’s ability to work together to get the right solution.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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  • Is Now the Time to Burn Bridges?

    At this time of year, there is a lot of (wise) talk around setting goals, creating plans or making New Year resolutions – with a desire for a breakthrough year, or perhaps a year of positive transformation.

    But, all too often, many of us find we had similar aspirations a year ago that did not materialise.  So why should this year be any different?

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “Don’t burn your bridges!” Sometimes it’s good business advice, for example, allowing us to ask for referrals from a previous prospect or client.

    Are you insane?

    However, sometimes “burning a bridge” is exactly what’s needed to succeed.  If we want different outcomes or improved results, we often need to change our behaviour and do something different.  I’ll quote Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

    Scared?

    So what stops people changing what they do to get different outcomes?  Often, it’s some fear or discomfort: a fear of failure, imperfect execution, the unknown or ‘change’, a fear of what others think – things outside our comfort zones that make us uneasy.

    The problem is when those different activities become uncomfortable or difficult, it’s often too easy to return to the same old comfortable things we’ve always done (…and then wonder why results don’t change).

    We become obstacles to our own success.

    So what to do?

    In situations that call for a commitment to change our behaviour, David H. Sandler identified 3 bridges that people fall back on, which prevent success and so need to be “burned”:

    1. The Bridge of Reliance

    Some people…

    • rely on certain customers to help reach their targets each month (because it’s easier to rely on these customers than going out to win new customers); or
    • rely on popular products or items in their portfolio to make their numbers (because the less popular but more profitable items are harder to sell).

    These people should burn that “bridge of reliance” – because it may not exist tomorrow! Focus on looking for new customers, and how to sell more of the more profitable lines.

    2. The Bridge of Hope

    Have you come across people who…

    • chase prospects who are happy to talk, but never buy? (They say “drop in when you’re in the area” or “we’re always happy to hear from you”); or
    • invest time with people who won’t help them reach their goals?

    These people often hope those prospects will eventually decide to do business with them, when it might be better to burn that “bridge of hope” and go and make something happen today…not some day. Go and talk to somebody else.

     3. The Bridge of Comfort

    I’m sure you know people who invest excessive amounts of time on low-volume prospects because they’re comfortable with them (they know the prospects should be buying more, but don’t want to “rock the boat” and push them to buy more – because they don’t want to make their prospects or themselves feel uncomfortable).

    My advice to them: burn that “bridge of comfort” – get out of the rut, break out of their comfort zone and do something great!  Approach and speak to their prospects about doing more business – isn’t it better to know now, rather than later, if a prospect is never going to buy from you?  And if that prospect’s not interested, spend time on another prospect who is.

    So you’re ambitious and committed, but find you are falling back on one or more of these bridges?  If you want different outcomes, you need to burn those bridges, because they will only serve to help you to maintain the status quo.

    Roger Plahay

    Roger Plahay

    Sandler Training in Bath & Bristol A Chartered Accountant by profession, Roger spent his whole career sceptical of salespeople, sales methods and has the firm belief that 99% of sales training simply does not work. He leads effective Sales Development and Business Growth for ambitious business professionals by helping them break the conventional rules that constrain them and win more business.

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  • Ancora Imparo – are you?

    At the age of 86, Michelangelo scribbled the Latin phrase: “Ancora Imparo” into the margin of one of his last dissertations. It means: “Still, I am learning.”

    The world of professional sales is often misunderstood by those who have not worked in the day-to-day competitive world of business development. Many think it’s all about being the gregarious, extravert who can sweet-talk his/her way to the prospect’s wallet. Others may perceive the job to be simply showing up with an armful of information and brochures and simply the prospect will buy. If it were that easy, everyone would want to do it.

    Professional selling requires ongoing education in three areas.

    First you must be a professional communicator. Understanding people’s preferred communication style, developing the relationship and working to craft compelling questions is essential.

    Second, we need to constantly counter the high-rejection that comes with the job. Business development is a career where failure is daily. People say “NO” to you and developing a strong ‘backbone’ is required if you are to survive and excel in this business.

    Finally, you must be planned and disciplined. Every day you have to start fresh and be proactive.

    We’re talking about the elements of the “Success Triangle” – Techniques, Attitudes and Behaviours. These things are not static. They change with the customer, the market and the times. Continuing to upgrade your techniques, attitudes and behaviours is essential in any profession. Those who believe that this process has an end are undermining the profession.

    The moment we think we know everything is the moment we stand in the way of our own success. What was the result of Michelangelo continuing to learn at 86 years old? Genius, respect and success.

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli Thomson

    Anneli is an expert in sales culture and talent management. She is a keen champagne drinker and triathlon enthusiast. The UK Franchisee of the Year 2014.

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