Cowboy Up, Sales Rep!

December 14th, 2006

The old cowboy and his son were sitting in front of the fire, smoking their pipes, just crossing and uncrossing their legs. After a long silence, the father said, “Son, step outside and see if it’s raining.” Without looking up, the son replied, “Aw shucks, Paw, why don’t we just call in the dog and see if he’s wet?”

Okay, every one of us has that little lazy streak that creeps up from time to time.

Can you pay attention to it enough to recognize what helps it happen? Perhaps you don’t have your day planned well in advance. Maybe you’re tired and that de-motivates you. Sometimes we can even hit a big sale and slow down to mentally and physically celebrate.

Any of these experiences can leave us lazy for a time.

Question for you is, are you good enough, tough enough, smart enough to keep pushing through and leave lazy behind.

Great sales pros pay very close attention to themselves and therefore improve bit by bit.

Don’t let lazy rain on your earnings. And don’t dog your performance, whether things are going well or to, uh, that other place.

Ancients & Vending Machines

December 13th, 2006

The earliest vending machine was described by Hero of Alexandria in the 1st century ad. A coin dropped into this early vending machine struck a lever, causing a valve to open, which would allow a certain amount of holy water to flow out of the machine. During the 18th century, simple vending machines were used in England and the American colonies to dispense snuff and tobacco. The first chewing gum dispensers were placed on New York City train platforms in 1888. By the time World War II ended in 1945, vending machines dispensing a variety of merchandise could be found throughout the United States.

http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/RefArticle.aspx?refid=761567614

You’ve heard the old saying “There is nothing new under the sun”? Evidently the same holds true for vending machine as well as sales techniques.

For example, feature benefit selling is so old school.

“Here’s all the good things that might happen if you buy from us,” is a summary of this approach to business-building.

You don’t want to sound like everyone else out there.

So don’t say the same things they are saying.

Every sales pro should have at least two basic approaches to opening conversations with prospects.

One involves a benefit-laden dialogue. Another is a conversation directed toward problem-solving.

You won’t impress buyers with ancient strategies. So unless you want 1st century earnings, drop the old stuff and adopt some mental flexibility.

And, until you do this, your earnings might only allow you to be able to shop out of vending machines.

Does Dell Deserve to Die?

December 12th, 2006

GREAT STORY! A guy buys a computer from Dell and after 40+ tech calls to people he can’t understand, decides to take a legal approach…

Finally, Dori sued Dell in small-claims court in Bergen County — with a twist. In a ploy that impressed legal experts, he had the legal papers served to a Dell kiosk — a counter where blue-shirted Dell employees sell computers and HDTVs — in a Paramus mall, rather than to Dell corporate headquarters near Austin.

When nobody from Dell showed up in court, Dori won a $3,000 default judgment. Court authorities were empowered to seize merchandise or shutter the kiosk if the money was not paid.

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-10/116556106729650.xml&coll=1

What a brilliant strategy for getting the attention of Dell’s highest executives, a world full of delighted Dell haters and, perhaps more importantly, the press!

How creative can you get to gain the attention of your best prospects?

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done to inspire your market to sit up, take notice and see the value of your offering?

Later, we’ll cover some ideas that just might juice you up to do the same.

Nutcracker Season & Sales Manager Nerves

December 11th, 2006

Took the family to see the classic Christmas play Nutcracker, performed by the Chicago Civic Ballet this weekend.

If you recall the story, it’s the 1800s and at the holiday, a famous toymaker gifts a girl with this wooden toy soldier. His jaws are built to crack nuts and her jealous big brother snatches, throws and breaks the present.

That night the young girl dreams this fantastical experience, comparable to the drug-induced Alice in Wonderland saga. During the night, the gal travels the world and meets bizarre, unique and foreign characters, all who can dance like professional ballerinas. The strangest moment occurs where mice are battling soldiers and the “mouse king” appears – with seven mouse heads on his shoulders. Classic chemical encountering brain matter stuff.

Highly recommended, but by now you’re wanting the sales lesson or more detail or a little of what she had.

The reason our little ballerina star dreams is because she is anxious that her Nutcracker soldier will not be repaired from his disastrous collision with the floor.

Your sales managers are having the same dreams this time of year. Because 2007 looms near and they need to know how well you’ll perform or how badly you’re broken.

Remember that YOU ARE ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SUCCESS, not your company or boss.

Any part of your self that needs fixing? Perhaps your legs need to be stronger – to walk your way through more prospects. Maybe your eyes could be strengthened to see the value (or lack of it) in each of those prospects. Or your jaw might be broken, in that your command of influential language might be missing or limited to a few predictable phrases.

“Be the best you can be” is the soldier’s message. How are you doing on the selling battlefield? Can your manager count on you to blow into 2007 and take your marketplace by storm? Work hard today and you can attend your victory dance tomorrow.

Beauty in Death

December 1st, 2006

No, we’re not talking about Sales Autopsy and reps dying in front of prospects. It’s about weather and snow and winter’s entrance.

Chicago here got nailed with about a foot of snow in a few hours overnight. Nature has officially announced a change in seasons.

Winter represents death in the earth. Plants die, the ground freezes, insects and animals disappear. It’s like hitting a cold spell, a real cold spell in your seling life that just kills your productivity.

But with that death comes rejuvenation and the realization that it’s getting better from here on out. When sales begin to die, a pro steps back and asks “what is really going on?”

Is it the marketplace, economy, buyers? IS IT ME?

What selling season are you in right now? For many the holidays harken a heated-up marketplace with buyer frenzy and ringing registers. For other businesses, it’s transition time, siesta time or time to vacation and worry about sales when you get back to reality.

Realize that there are seasons for salespeople, just as there are seasons to life. If sales are hot, rejoice. If sales are not, decide whether to hide, assess yourself or just plow through the snowstorm of the season. You can get better, even when you’re not doing well.

And that’s the beauty in death.

Capgras Syndrome and Suffering Sales Managers

November 30th, 2006

Capgras Syndrome is a bizarre, but real condition where people act as if they are in a parallel universe and the people they know are “doubles” or “impostors.”

They might even believe that inanimate objects – chairs, desks, computers are replacements, exact duplicates, of their real property.

Whoa! How bizarre is that? It’s more common, I believe, in the sales population than anywhere.

I’ve known sales managers who exhibit Capgras Syndrome. They have great performers working for them. Then suddenly sales go slack and they wonder if the reps on their team are actually doubles, impostors, the evil twins of their productive people.

The office environment also doesn’t even feel the same when the air goes out of company sales.

So who are you today? Are you that consistent, steady selling performer or do you fluctuate wildly, leaving your manager wondering who showed up to work this morning?

A good daily work plan and managing your energy during that day are key to steady growth. Do this and you won’t freak out your sales manager into believing he’s suffering from any condition other than that of serious success.

Leave parallel universes to psychologists and sci-fi movies.

Bomb-Sniffing Bees in Training for War

November 29th, 2006

Nov. 28, 2006 —U.S. military defense scientists have found a way to train the common honey bee to smell explosives used in bombs, a skill they say could help protect American troops abroad.

The scientists used Pavlovian techniques on the bees’ natural response to nectar, a sticking out of their tongue, or proboscis extension reflex.

By rewarding them with sugar water, the scientists taught bees to give the same reflex action when they were exposed to vapors from explosives such as dynamite, C4 plastic and TATP (triacetone triperoxide), often used by suicide bombers.

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2006/11/28/bee_ani.html?category=animals

As someone who lives in the world of sales training, I’m fascinated at what can be accomplished when a student is properly motivated.

You’re a trainer, too? Did you know that? You train your prospects every day.

You train them to ask for literature – when you send them literature.

You train them to hide behind voicemail – when you don’t set next steps in the form of actual, scheduled appointments (phone or face-to-face).

You train them to negotiate price – when you neglect selling value.

If I could fix just one of these, I’d like to go back in time and put a stick of dynamite (pre-bee training days) under the desk of the first guy who mailed literature when a buyer said, “Sounds great, send me your information.” It’s been downhill from there.

So what are you training others to do? Or not to do?

In a later post, I’ll address how to handle these poorly trained prospects. While you’re waiting, think about how to avoid these situations yourself. Just one change, one un-trained, re-trained prospect can land you a sweet sale. That’s like honey to a bee.

Can you Trust a Smile?

November 28th, 2006

Interesting article on culture clash for the Beijing Olympics. In the Chinese society, smiles often are treated with suspicion.

Some local university students, who will form the backbone of the volunteers in 2008, have actually been organized to take training in flashing a smile to visitors, such as learning to “smile three metres away.” But the students said that it needed a lot of practice to be able to smile three metres away with ease and calm, according to local media reports.

During a recent international softball game, student volunteers found their university had set up a special room for them to discuss their experiences after work, so they would be less stressed out and could smile from their hearts.

So why does the city need to make such an effort to get people to smile ?

Unlike in the West, where a person wearing a smile would be most likely regarded as someone who is friendly, kind and can be trusted, people in China are traditionaly encouraged to be serious looking than to show a big smile to strangers. In popular literature, people who always wear a smile or smile “without a reason” may be depicted as being silly or even harbouring an ulterior motive.

This can create problems when serious-looking Chinese persons meet more friendly foreign visitors.

A young US student in Beijing recalled that once during her first month in the city she bought some chestnuts at a campus grocery store. She thanked the seller with a smile because she had tasted one and she liked it very much. The man said something long in Chinese, without any facial expression. The young woman thought he was being angry, until somebody told her that the man was actually asking her to buy more if she liked it.

And because people didn’t smile back, she soon smiled only to those Chinese who looked friendly, she told local news media.

http://chinadaily.com.cn/2008/2006-11/24/content_741911.htm

Wow! What a fascinating problem China faces to integrate their culture and accept the rest of the world for their 2008 summer Olympics hosting duties.

How well do you show sincerity when you sell?

In our society people are pretty adept at realizing whether someone means what they “show.”

For example, you sit down at a restaurant and a waitress says, “Hi, how are you today?”

The difference is dramatic between a person who really means it, really wants to know – as opposed to someone who says it because it’s their standard opening line.

In the same vein, salespeople should be cautious about opening conversations with language that is frivolous. A genuine smile can take you a mile down the road toward a close, as opposed to a silly comment like “how are you today?”

Smile from your heart and you’ll touch the heart of that hard working buyer who’s got to buy from someone. Why not you?

How to Get Financially Fat during the Holidays

November 27th, 2006

I remember working for a boss who didn’t want his sales team (about a dozen reps) to make phone calls on Friday afternoons during the summer.

No reason to spend money running up phone bills prospecting when all the prospects were out golfing. All of them. He evidently had some insights into our buyers that we were not privy to. They were HR executives, by the way.

So I disrespectfully disobeyed the man.

Went right on contacting people while my fellow reps went (I guess) golfing as well.

I stayed in the office, teed off on the phone and drove my sales to about double the next closest teammate. And none of my sales buddies ran into any buyers on the golf course.

This same attitude will inflict or affect or afflict the world of salespeople right about now, during holiday time.

What will you do when the world around you is slowing down? Will you keep up your normal pace and keep up your normal income? Or will you amp it up a bit and watch your competition disappear in the rear view mirror?

You have a commitment to your career, your company and your family. You’ll get your holiday time, just don’t waste your working time by slowing down while everyone else gets sluggish and sloppy.

Keep that commitment and work hard. Remember in sales you pay yourself. And, if you’re smart and consistent, you can get financially fat during the holidays.

Thank you, Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2006

There’s an old concept called “Count your blessings.” So I’ll do that here today, the day we want to be thankful for everything we can think of.

Thank you for all my sales friends who put Sales Autopsy at the #1 business best-seller position with Barnes & Noble in October.

Thank you my 2 million plus readers who laugh and learn through my sales horror stories in magazines like Agent’s Sales Journal, Independent Agent Magazine, Advantages, HIU and more.

And when you contact me after reading a tale or two to invite me to speak at your national sales conference, I’m grateful for the additional exposure and income from speaking.

Then, when I speak and you offer up more selling blunders during our “confession session,” I’m further thankful for more stories to share with my reading audience (it’s like The Circle of Life!).

I’m thankful for my wife who supported me when Sales Autopsy was just a funny idea that turned into a vision and into a viable, profitable, incredibly fun business.

I’m thankful for the Bob Pike Group and key executives there, Bob, Betsy & Russ who have made an intellectual property guy’s dream come true. The company has seen the value of Sales Autopsy thinking and strategies and turned it into an incredible sales training program which I’d put up against anything in the marketplace. And anything includes Miller Heiman, Sandler, Carnegie, SPIN and more – all of whom endorsed my approach to teaching reps from way back at the beginning.

I’m thankful for the rest of my family.

I’m incredibly thankful for my Sunrise Hoops guys. Having a place to play every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at 4:45am is a huge stress relief and gives me joy in my other area of expertise – basketball (by the way, any readers who might be in the Chicago area and want to run, track me down).

I’m thankful most of all for this incredible planet we live on because it’s a reflection of the Creator who put us here (sorry, but evolution takes a bit more faith than I have).

Have a GREAT thanksgiving and when was the last time you created a list like this? I’d love to see yours!