Tag Archives: sales

10 Biggest Mistakes Sales Professionals Make in Their Presentations

By Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Patricia FrippLike Hollywood actors, sales professionals put themselves and their companies on the line with every word—taking a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome. Just like actors, even the best, most experienced salesperson benefits from script review, rehearsal, and coaching.

Here are the 10 most common mistakes seen on the sales stage and ways to avoid them:

  1. Unclear Thinking: Imagine that a busy executive says, “You have exactly ten minutes to tell me I need to know about your company.” You should know in advance what your prospect is really asking. The real question is, “What do I need to know about how your company can improve our company? Will your products or services solve a problem, create new opportunities, increase savings, maximize earnings, simplify our processes, develop our human capital, or increase market share?” Accomplish this, and you can present your options more formally.
  1. Talking Too Much: The key to connecting with a client is conversation and asking questions. The quality of information received depends on the quality of your questions and waiting for and listening to the answers! A successful encounter early in the sales process should be mostly open-ended questions—the kind that require essay answers rather than just yes and no. And never rush on with preprogrammed questions that ignore the answer you’ve just received!
  1. Wrong Structure: Do not build your talking points and presentation structure around your company. Structure them around your prospect’s interests, challenges, or opportunities. Put their words into your presentation. Yes, you will be talking about your company, your satisfied clients, and your uniqueness to prove that you can appeal to their interests, solve their challenges, and maximize their opportunities.
  1. No Memorable Stories: People rarely remember your exact words. They remember the mental images your words create. Support your key points with vivid, relevant client success stories. Create a movie in their minds by using satisfied clients as memorable characters. What was their starting situation? Their problem that your prospect can relate to? What are their results since you worked with them?
  1. No Emotional Connection: Your customer or client justifies working with you for analytical reasons. What gives you the edge—what I call the unfair advantage—is an emotional connection. Build an emotional connection by incorporating stories with characters they can relate to, by using the word you as often as possible, and by talking from their point of view. Congratulate them on their success. Thank them, not for their time, but for the opportunity to present your solution. Don’t say, “I will talk about . . .” Say, “What you will hear is . . .” Remember, their unspoken question is, “What’s in this for us?”
  1. No Pauses: Good music and good communication both contain changes of pace and pauses. As counterintuitive as it may seem, you actually connect in the silence. This is when your audience digests what they have heard. If you rush to squeeze in as much information as possible, your prospects will remember less. Remember the rule: “Say less, say it well.” Give your clients enough time to ask a question or reflect.
  1. Hmm, Ah, Err, You Know, So, Right: Non-words and low quality words often fill spaces where silence is needed. How often have you heard a presenter begin each new thought with “Now!” or “Um” or “So” as they figure out what comes next. Rehearse in front of your sales manager or colleagues, asking them to call out whenever you hem or haw. Audio-record yourself, and note any digressions. You will never improve what you are not aware of.
  1. Weak Opening: Engage your audience with a powerful, relevant opening that includes them. For example, “You have an awesome responsibility,” or “Congratulations on your company’s recent success.” Then focus on their needs: increasing sales, reducing errors, cutting overhead, expanding their market, increasing their digital footprint, or perfecting their sales presentations. How can your product help?
  1. Weak Closing: After reviewing your key ideas, answering their questions, making suggestions for the next logical step, and thanking them for the opportunity, make your last words linger. Conclude with a strong, positive sentence that will be embedded in their minds. Do not introduce a new idea. Reinforce one of your main advantages or benefits; e.g., “Remember, 157 profitable quarters,” or “99% of the Fortune 100 do business with us,” or “We are large enough to satisfy all your requirements and small enough that you will be a valued client.”
  1. Lack of Specificity: Specificity builds credibility and helps position you above your competition. Tons and bunches? Can you really get a ton of ideas? Do you leave the trade show with bunches of business cards? Don’t say, “With our program, you will really grow your business.” Instead, “There are no guarantees; however, our last three clients increased sales an average of 32% in seven months.”

Avoid these, and you’re on your way to being a sales star, delivering a dazzling performance every time.

When your message must be memorable and your sale successful, sales expert Patricia Fripp can help in person and also with online training:  www.frippvt.com, pfripp@ix.netcom.com, 415- 753-6556.

Three Deadly Words

The Phrase That Can Spell Career Disaster

By Todd Cohen

Todd CohenThe English language has an unending supply of words and phrases that are built to create conversations that convey meaning and leave impressions. How you use and deliver these words makes a huge impression on people and leaves them thinking and feeling a certain way about you.

Every conversation is a selling moment that constructs lasting images in others’ minds. Considering how important first impressions can be, there are three words that are absolutely deadly to sales, your career and your very psyche. These three words, when uttered, send an extremely negative message to everyone around you. These words—just nine simple letters and one apostrophe—can have an incredibly detrimental effect on your ability to create new relationships, establish credibility and attract others. Ready? Here they are:

“I’m just the…” 

These three words by themselves send a very strong message about how you feel about yourself and how you view your value and contributions to your organization. “I’m just the” sets up a cascade of unflattering perceptions and opinions in the mind and hearts of the people being spoken too. It creates an indelible image that you have little to no value.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in regard to these three, seemingly harmless little words. They can negatively impact you in a number of ways.

  • This expression is one you are so wired to say,and it sends the message that “I don’t matter”. It’s akin to saying, “Please don’t take me seriously”. There is another dimension to the very damaging effects of these words. Imagine you are approached by your supervisor, manager or a colleague and they ask you some questions about a situation. The questioning could be entirely innocent or pointed—eliciting a defensive response in the form of “I’m just the” in an attempt to deflect blame or responsibility. These words are an intentional or unintentional way to defer accountability. It’s the unconscious way these words are used that set you up for failure and disengagement.
  • It’s similar to using “but” when you should say “and”. Using the word “but” is a bad idea because it negates everything that has been said up to that point. The same result occurs when you say, “I’m just the”. You make it harder on yourself to get what you need, and it drastically affects your ability to leave a lasting, positive impression. You must engage people to further your goals. Let them know you matter!
  • It sends the clear message that you don’t have confidencein what you do and how you contribute every single day. One of the most common questions in business is, “What do you do?” When faced with that question, you typically have a few seconds to make your mark. Don’t waste that opportunity by starting with “I’m just the”.
  • It telegraphs your insecurities.Everyone has them, and anyone who suggests that they are not insecure at some level is actually insecure. Secure people are ok with their insecurities and face them with courage and determination. Life can be hard enough without adding to it with these three words.
  • Clients and decision makers like confidence.Project confidence and be able to articulate what you do quickly (your value proposition) and capture people’s imagination and passion. Don’t squander that golden opportunity with the following answer …”I’m just the” and then your title. Snoozer.
  • It’s competitive out there!When you use these words you don’t differentiate or set yourself apart in any way. You might as well say “Please ignore me and talk to the next person.” When people attempt to engage you in conversation, believe that they want to try and find some common ground. Your job is to engage with others and to display an open willingness to taking the conversation to a deeper level.
  • It’s all about attitude and mindset. “I’m just the…” speaks volumes about your attitude and mindset. Whether accurate or not; once the message is sent then perception is set. Perception becomes reality and then it becomes very hard to turn that ship around. Don’t make things harder on yourself than need be. Perception is reality.
  • It does matter what people think! When you were growing up did your parents ever say, “It doesn’t matter what others think?” While that may be true in certain situations, when it comes to selling yourself, explaining your position or seeking consensus it does matter what people think. Please be very careful about your word choice when you are engaged in a conversation. Don’t make it easier to be dismissed by others by uttering the words ‘I’m just the”.
  • Respect. When you hold yourself accountable and refuse to hide behind “I’m just the” you show the world that you accept responsibility for your position or your opinion on a situation—regardless of outcome. Avoiding “I’m just the” will earn you respect and admiration.

If you have ever wondered why you have not gotten something you want, consider that your use of these three words might have been the roadblock in your mission. Attitude is everything. Even if you have not said them aloud, you may still be telegraphing this mindset. Watch your words and watch what happens.

You are important and vital. Tell the world!

Todd Cohen, CSP is an accomplished and sought after speaker, sales culture expert and author of Everyone’s in Sales and Everyone’s in Sales; STOP Apologizing. Todd’s dynamic and motivational presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of career path or position, everyone is a salesperson. Since 1984, Todd has led sales teams to deliver more than $850 million in revenue for leading companies including Xerox and Thomson-Reuters. For more information or to book Todd Cohen for your next meeting please visit www.ToddCohen.com.

Increase Sales with Clear Intent

By Mark A. Vickers

Mark VickersSales success relies on your ability to communicate effectively with your prospects. The problem is we often get in our own way by not being intentional about the intent of a meeting. Kelly knew that the sales reps on her team were dedicated to their customers but they seemed to be running in circles. There was a tremendous amount of “Sales Person Activity” but not enough “Sales Activity.”

Kelly knew that based on the activity, her team should be closing more business. When she sat in on a week’s worth of calls and meetings, she determined that her team was lacking a clear focus on the intent of their meetings.

Know Your Intent: Taking the time to properly prepare is the key to successful sales communications. As you begin intentionally preparing for a client interaction, ask a simple question: What is the intent or outcome I want from this meeting?

As you consider the objective of the next interaction with your prospect, be tactical. Your initial thought may be that you want them to:

  • Buy if they are a prospect or
  • Buy more or upgrade if they are already a customer

However, your intent must be a next step not the final step or goal. Your intent falls into one of two categories: “Believe” or “Do.” Depending on the situation and where you are in the client relationship, you may need them to:

  • Believe and trust you and your value
  • Believe they have a problem you can help with
  • Believe they can achieve something
  • Believe their life will be better if something changes

As you are building rapport early in the relationship with your prospect, your intent is likely to be focused on “Believe.” Your ability to move from “Believe” intents to action-oriented “Do” intents will depend on creating strong connections with your prospects.

Once you have a relationship with the prospect, your intent will be more “Do” or action-oriented shifting to:

  • Get a next meeting to gather more information
  • Get an introduction to a decision maker
  • Gain agreement on details to be used in a proposal
  • Gain commitment on a decision date
  • Close the sale

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you don’t ask for the sale in a meeting if the opportunity presents itself (just don’t rush it). In the majority of cases your sales process requires multiple steps. At each step along the way, the more intentional you are the faster you will move through the process.

Primary and Secondary Intents: In some situations, you may achieve two intents in one successful interaction. For example, one of Kelly’s reps had been working for weeks to get a meeting with the CEO of his prospect company. The rep had multiple meetings with a key advisor to the CEO, and in each meeting would try to “sell” their service. His call to action was to ask for a meeting with the CEO. In each meeting, the advisor found ways to delay and avoid taking any action.

When Kelly asked what the Primary Intent of the meeting was, the rep, surprised by her question, told her “To get to the CEO so we can close the deal.” Kelly worked with her rep to prepare for the next meeting with a new intent: To help the advisor believe that they could help them and their company to achieve more success.

The rep met again with the advisor, and this time was not concerned with the Secondary Intent of meeting with the CEO. By concentrating on the belief of the advisor, the focus of the conversation shifted. To the rep’s surprise, the moment the advisor believed in his ability to understand their needs and deliver a viable solution, he scheduled a meeting with the CEO.

Not only had the Primary Intent been achieved, it was a requirement in order to achieve the Secondary Intent. Be careful not to be deceived by Secondary Intents. For Kelly’s rep, focusing on getting a meeting with the decision maker was actually preventing the achievement of their Primary Intent of getting the advisor on board.

When determining your Primary and Secondary Intent, it is important to consider who you are meeting with and their role in the decision hierarchy.

What is the Decision Hierarchy? In many client situations you work with a number of people throughout the process. Understanding their role will make it easier for you to determine your intent and approach to each discussion or presentation.

Is the person you are meeting with an Advisor, Minor Influencer, Significant Influencer, or a Decision Maker?

  • The Advisor: It is common to be working with a Technical Advisor early in the sales process, but also for them to be part of the overall decision-making team. In general terms, The Advisor is tactically oriented, often skeptical and will have many questions. Progress with advisors will be made by learning what drives them and providing them the technical information they need to move the project along.
  • The Minor Influencer: The Minor Influencer is likely to have some accountability for the success of initiatives and may be the supervisor of The Advisor. The Minor Influencer may share the assessment of The Advisor with senior management, and may be looked to for recommendations on the viability of different options. It is important that The Minor Influencer is comfortable with the details but also with the high-level benefits. In order to achieve support, the emotional benefits to The Minor Influencer must be clear.
  • The Significant Influencer: A Significant Influencer may be a senior manager, budget holder, or key stakeholder that you need to create a connection with. Typically, The Significant Influencer is concerned with the big picture and the overall impact of the recommendations. In addition, their stake in the success of the project and the company can be used to connect the emotional benefits.
  • The Decision Maker: Whether it is the owner of the business or a senior executive, they are responsible and accountable for overall success. Depending on the size of the organization, you may only deal with The Decision Maker, or you may deal with any combination of the four roles of the Decision Hierarchy.

Win More Sales With Clear Intent: When you are clear on who you are meeting with—and your intent is clear—you will deliver a more effective message and win more sales. Start today by identifying the Primary Intent of each conversation or meeting, and the role of the person you are speaking with.

It’s time for you to enjoy stronger sales through intentional presenting.

Mark A. Vickers is a Certified Professional Coach, and Certified World Class Speaking Coach. Mark helps you and your sales team improve performance through improved presentation and speaking skills. Mark’s creative and engaging programs and coaching are designed to help your team become more effective quickly.

5 Tips to Close More Sales

East to use techniques to help prospects make decisions in your favor

By Patricia Fripp

Patricia FrippIn your business, how long does it take for you to go from an inquiry to a serious sales presentation with the buyer or executive team? Weeks? Months? When the time comes, are you prepared? Do you know exactly what to say in order to customize your presentation to meet your client’s interests? Or is your presentation the same no matter who the client is?

Sales presentation skills trainers are continually appalled to find that thousands of sales professionals are not adequately prepared. They repeatedly make the same drastic mistakes. Sadly, throughout their sales careers they are often not trained to stop making dumb mistakes.

Is it their fault or their companies’? Companies in all industries spend months training their sales professionals on product knowledge, the history of their company, and the reasons that their products and services are superior. The big void in the training, however, is the failure to teach them how to ask the right questions of their clients and then communicate their message from the prospect’s point of view.

As one executive said, “We only hire seasoned sales professionals with at least 5-10 years of experience selling technology-related products. We naturally assume that they can tell our company story. We had a meeting where they had to present to our executives, and we were horrified at how terrible they were.” Over the years, trainers have heard many different versions of the same problem.

So what is the drastic mistake these knowledgeable sales professionals make? They all follow the same presentation formula:

  • This is who I am.
  • This is who our company is.
  • This is what we do.
  • This is why we are the best.
  • This is who does business with us.
  • We would like your business.

Remember, if you sound the same as everyone else, you have no advantage.

You might not want to think that your prospect is sitting there during your sales presentation thinking, “Who cares? Why do they sound like everyone else? What difference will this make to our company?” Unfortunately, many of them are.

The research clearly indicates that today’s buyers are more educated about what they are looking for, and their expectations of a sales person are greater. If you have an appointment, the prospect has most likely already researched your company. Often they know more about your company and your products than your newer associates do.

Selling isn’t about you or your products; it’s about how your prospects will benefit from them. To be persuasive, you need to appeal to the other person’s rational self-interest. People make decisions for their reasons, not yours. Here are five valuable, easily-employed techniques to help them make those decisions in your favor.

1) Forget your company history or industry jargon which might be the biggest “who cares” of all. A bored mind gets distracted and will likely cut your meeting short. Use phrases such as, “Based on 15 years of helping clients of your size and complexity, I have discovered . . .” or “With the last five clients in your industry, I have found . . .” or “In our 20 year history, our leadership has always . . .” Work that information into your presentation without belaboring the point and by focusing on their challenges, priorities, or interests instead.

2) In the beginning of the relationship, remember that the key to connection is conversation, and the secret of conversation is to ask questions. The quality of the information you receive depends on the quality of your questions.

3) Take notes on what they say. When appropriate, feed back their words in your conversation and then in your proposal. Our prospects never disagree with themselves! When you are discovering if they have a need or how big the opportunity is or how much it is costing them without your product or services, let them do most of the talking.

4) For your initial conversations, even if you know your discovery questions backwards and forwards, write them down. If you are part of a team, collaborate with your teammates and add their input to your list, since it’s easier to be creative with a couple of minds working on the challenge. There is no true quality without consistency. Your company and clients are best served when everyone on your team, from novice to most senior sales associate, follows the same questioning and presentation structure.

5) Clarify how your prospects can benefit from your product or service. Based on their answers to your questions, structure your presentation around these points:

  • Congratulations on your success…
  • Thank you for the opportunity to present our solution…
  • You told us you are most interested in…
  • Here is how we can help you accomplish your goals…
  • Hundreds of our satisfied clients will tell you…
  • Based on what you have heard, what questions can I answer?
  • Our next logical step is to…

In the initial discussions, keep your sales questioning conversational; it’s not an interrogation. During the formal presentation, answer the prospect’s concerns in a way that brings in your past experience with other clients like them. Make sure you use more of a “You” focus than an “I” or “We” focus. Remember, they are more interested in themselves than in you.

Finally, don’t forget to ask for their business.

Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, is a Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech coach, and sales presentation expert. When your message must be memorable, your presentation powerful, and your sales successful, Patricia and her interactive, web-based training, FrippVT, can help. For more information, go to www.frippvt.com.

The Silent Selling Tool We All Have

By Todd Cohen

Todd CohenSelling is something everyone does each and every day. Every conversation is a selling moment and a perfect opportunity to leave an indelible impression with whom you are speaking. That impression you leave can have other people wanting and clamoring to engage you. But wait – there is another selling tool that everyone uses every day. It is used more than conversation and many people do not have an active realization of how critical this tool is to success. Curious as to what it is? Here you go: Presence.

Presence is much more than you being physically present. It means how you present yourself in every situation you are in. It’s how you show up and engage people. Presence is how people perceive you as being interested in them and their business. Presence is how people see you as being in the game. Your ability to demonstrate your presence is a powerful—and potent—silent selling tool, and one that is all too often underestimated and misunderstood. In fact presence is a skill that is at times not respected. You have to have respect for yourself and others to be present.

Your presence creates an indelible impression on others and profoundly influences their very desire to engage and work with you. If you are present and can show it, you will find many more people who want to work with you and be your customer. It’s that simple.

So what is this thing called “presence”? It is not just one thing that you do—it’s a combination of behavior, body language and appearance.

Presence means much more than just being physically there. It means that you are showing that you want to be there. It’s showing that you are emotionally connected. An emotional connection demonstrates your dedication to being engaged and contributing. Presence displays your enthusiasm. It means that when you are with an audience, such as a training workshop or listening to a speaker, you are sending a message that you want to be there. How do you send that message? Keep reading!

Presence is body language. Eye contact, listening skills, and how you sit and show your interest is monumental to your presence and subsequently your success. If you are attending a class or seminar, how you sit and show you are paying attention says volumes. If you are sitting in a colleague’s cube or office, or in a meeting with a client or your manager, how you present yourself through your body language means a great deal to the perception of your interest level.

Presence is being self-aware. Highly successful people are highly-aware of how they are acting, and how their behavior is perceived at all times. They make their ability to be present work for them! Being proactively aware of your presence means you are in control and can make success happen.

Do you know what else highly-aware and present people do very well? They know through acute self-awareness when they have acted or behaved in a way that sends a negative message or has the wrong effect on people. People who are self-aware and present are comfortable with being vulnerable and owning their behavior. Presence is being accountable for who you are and how you act.

Presence is how you put yourself together. Remember “dress for success”? Well, it never stopped being important. Looking good means feeling good, and that screams presence. You don’t need to spend a lot to look great, and it will provide a boost to your presence and your job performance. Shined shoes, a tie tied correctly, pressed clothes and attention to detail takes very little time and does not have to be expensive. It takes being proactive by asking yourself, “Does how I appear help me achieve presence”? When you take the time to look good, you say you care about many things—and people take notice.

Presence is not taking yourself too seriously. There is an expression that absolutely fits the bill here: “Get over yourself”. People who are present are confident and self-assured. Another way of expressing this would be to say that people who are very present do not have to be the smartest person in the room. They have their ego in-check and, as a result, are more present and visible to people that one could ever imagine.

Not having to prove yourself right is an incredibly compelling way to sway and convince people of something. People who show up to prove others wrong or can’t keep their own insecurities in control just wind up silently telegraphing a message that they are not in the game and have an agenda that is their agenda only.

What’s my name? Those who are truly present use people’s names and use them often. When people hear their name used, they see that the person who they are speaking with is actually interested in their time and interested in them. Use your prospect’s name at the right time and interval. For example, when meeting someone, say “Nice to meet you, Ann” instead of just “Nice to meet you.” Or when you’re conversing, seek understanding by saying “Mike, does what I’m suggesting work for you?” instead of “Do you understand?” Using someone’s name naturally engages them and displays your level of engagement!

Your presence says everything about you and how you want people to see you. Don’t ever underestimate how your presence telegraphs a message to others. Being present is enthusiasm, passion and positive energy. Is that you?

Todd Cohen, CSP is an accomplished and sought after speaker, sales culture expert and author of Everyone’s in Sales and Everyone’s in Sales; STOP Apologizing. Todd’s dynamic and motivational presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of career path or position, everyone is a salesperson. Since 1984, Todd has led sales teams to deliver more than $850 million in revenue for leading companies including Xerox and Thomson-Reuters. For more information or to book Todd Cohen for your next meeting please visit www.toddcohen.com.