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June 2012 archive

Sales Training: 5 Attributes of Highly Successful Sales Professionals

In this week’s sales tip, we’ll take a look at 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals.

1. Focus on being productive rather than being busy.
Being busy with this and that only creates the illusion of productivity. Success comes when you slow down, do one thing at a time, and prioritize.

2. Work beyond your comfort zone.Be willing to expand yourself and accept new ideas and challenges. Don’t put off taking on an unfamiliar task with the notion that you don’t yet have all the knowledge and skills required to succeed. Accept the challenge and approach it with faith and confidence.

3. Recognize the importance of other people.Do you know and utilize others that can help you be successful? Much of a sales professional’s success can often be attributed to leveraging people. Consider who you talk to learn from; continuously be learning.

4. Maintain a positive outlook and learn from mistakes.Those who think positively tend to be more open minded, and hence, more likely to recognize opportunity. I think it is fair to say that a positive person makes more opportunities than he finds. The key to mistakes is making a different one the next time.

5. Keep it simple.In sales, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of information available – product information, marketing data, pricing structures, etc. Simply judge what is most important to the customer and approach that.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Sales Training: How to Handle an Upset Customer

Here are some tried and true measures for dealing with upset or angry customers:

1. Acknowledge the other person’s anger quickly.
Nothing adds more fuel to someone’s fire than having their anger disregarded. The faster you verbally recognize their anger, the better.

2. Make it clear that you’re concerned.
Let them know you’re taking the situation seriously. Make note of every single detail they give you.

3. Don’t hurry them.
Be patient, and let them get it all out. Never try to interrupt. In most cases, the best move is to simply listen while they vent.

4. Keep calm.
Don’t make things worse by getting yourself upset.

5. Ask questions.
Your aim is to determine what, specifically, can do to correct the problem. Try to get precise information about the difficulties the problem caused.

6. Get them talking about solutions.
This is where you’ll learn just how reasonable the client is. By the time you get to this step, their anger should have cooled enough to discuss the challenge rationally. If it hasn’t, tell them you want to schedule a later meeting, even if it’s in an hour, to come up with some reasonable solutions.

7. Agree on a solution.
After you know exactly what the problem is, you’re in a position to look for some kind of action that will relieve the challenge. Propose a specific resolution.

8. Agree on a schedule.
Once you’ve agreed on a solution, set up a schedule for its accomplishment. Agree to a realistic timeframe that you know you can handle. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that can’t be done.

9. Meet your schedule.
Give this schedule top priority – You’ve talked yourself into a second chance with this client, so make sure you don’t blow it. Once you’ve satisfied the client with regard to this situation, you’ll have earned another opportunity to serve their needs in the future, as well as the needs of those they’ll tell of how well you handled it.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Sales Training: Writing Prospecting Emails That Get Replies

Though nothing will ever replace having face-to-face or over the phone conversations, there are cases where an e-mail will have a better chance of getting you a response from a prospective client.

This post will focus on writing prospecting e-mails that will give you a much better chance of getting replies (and then give you the opportunity to engage the prospective client in conversation).

Below are five tips that will help:

1. Initiate a conversation based on something they do or just did.

Take a minute and look up the prospect online. Did their company do something recently? Did the prospect? Did their quarter just end? Find something relevant to them.

If you are responding to an inbound request, be as specific as possible about what triggered your email. Put this trigger in the subject line so they know you are writing about them.

2. Be timely.

The “shelf life” of any activity is getting shorter and shorter, and the value of being timely is higher and higher. If you can reach out within a minute after a prospect does something, that’s great. Within an hour – good. Within a day – OK. Within a week – That’s borderline at best. Longer than that? Forget about it…

3. Give them value.

You made a first impression with the trigger event. Now build on that by giving them something of value. Share a link to a relevant article, white paper, video, etc.

4. Invite prospects into a conversation by asking a question.

Having offered your prospects something valuable, you can then ask them to engage.

The more specific and straightforward your question is, the better. You want to make it easy to reply and you want to make sure they clearly see the benefit of doing so.

Ideally, your question links the resource you offered with the services you provide or are selling.

5. Follow up with recipients and let them know that you will do so.

This is key. Once you have sent the e-mail, it gives you the opportunity to follow up. If they received/read it, great! If they did not receive/read it, great! You have a reason to call either way.

Be sure you send something that someone will read. As always, 2 to 3 short (as in a couple of sentences on average) paragraphs with white space between each.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Sales Training: Understanding Who is in Your Pipeline

In order to be most productive with the opportunities in your pipeline, you must understand who the people are that will facilitate your ability to move a potential sale along.

Let’s take a look at who these people are.

Your prospect.

Let’s begin with the obvious. What isn’t obvious, however, is all of the details you need to understand about your prospective customer’s world so that you have a real opportunity to earn their business. You must understand why the prospect is looking at solutions.

Other things you need to understand are what options your prospects have besides your solution, and what other issues they are dealing with as bigger pressing issues will cause your deal to stall in many cases. Don’t let this surprise you. Instead, increase your knowledge of your prospect’s world.

Your partners.

Channel partners, strategic partners and referral partners all can affect revenue in your pipeline. Are you communicating with them on a regular basis? How can you help them help you?

Your internal team.

If you don’t have internal support for your opportunities, specifically the large ones, you need to sit down with those involved and get everyone on the same page. Determine if this is profitable business.

You (yes, you).

Sales representatives ruin opportunities to make sales every day by “rookie” mistakes. Some of them include:

• assuming that you understand the prospect’s full scenario

• poor internal communication with your organization

• poor communication with the prospect

• slow follow-up

You must look at your pipeline as “a living document” and determine what it is telling you. Understanding all of the people involved will help you greatly. Better pipeline understanding leads to better pipeline management which leads to enhanced ability to move your opportunities along.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Sales Training: Price Objections

Price objections can be divided into three classes:

1. Those which the customer does not object from the point of view of value but instead that the prices are higher than they can afford to pay. These customers desire a cheaper grade of products.

2. Those which are made solely for the sake of argument. Many customers think it is their duty to make many objections in the course of buying, and their most frequent objections are to price.

3. Those objections which are made with all sincerity. The customers object because they sincerely believe that the price is too high for the product. They are sincere in their objection, and believe in what they are saying.

When an objection is made to price, you must be able to tell to which class it belongs.

If your product is too expensive, you have to be able to read this, and to judge what the customer is able and/or willing to pay.

The next time you hear price objections from your prospects, try to understand to which class the objection belongs and then handle it correspondingly.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Sales Training: The Dos and Don’ts of Developing an Internal Champion

There is no doubt that a strong internal champion can pay huge dividends, but why is developing internal champions one of the more effective sales practices? The answer is that a lot of discussions and decisions about the “winner” take place when you’re not there. Therefore, if you have a champion in the room, it’s more likely you’ll have a better outcome.

Like many exceptional sales strategies, developing an internal champion is not easy.  It requires substantial thought, time, and effort to get favorable results and the negative consequences can be telling – if you don’t get it right and your competition does, it could be the difference between winning and losing.

Below are some of the traps that you need to avoid when developing internal champions:

  • Confusing friends with champions – A major trap is failing to distinguish between someone who likes you and someone who is an internal champion; the latter will probably be fond of you as well, but champions have the added characteristic of being willing to “sell” for you when you are not there – big difference.
  • Selecting the wrong person – To be effective, an internal champion not only has to be willing to be your champion, they also have to be a player in decision making. People you develop as champions cannot be of much benefit if they do not have decisive authority. In a complex sale, this is an easy trap to fall into as it’s often difficult to determine the true decision making authority or influential power that various players possess.  A wrong selection can be telling because of the time and effort it takes to develop a truly effective internal champion.
  • Failing to rehearse your champion – Let’s consider a scenario in which you have a champion that likes your solution, is willing to speak up for you in a key upcoming internal meeting and is one of the primary participants in the decision process. Sound good? The trap is the failure to leverage your advantage. The final step in a scenario such as this is to rehearse your champion on how best to sell for you in that upcoming meeting. You’re the sales person – your champion isn’t – so help them to help you.

We all likely have internal champions.  Consider what they are realistically able to accomplish on your behalf.  Their development will be a cornerstone to your success in securing major accounts, so consider who you are pursuing to be your champion and why.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Why is video such a big deal?

Well, the time has come for me to leave Cary and travel to the northeast to shoot video of ASPE courses in action. I’ll be visiting four classes this week: BA Boot Camp, Agile Boot Camp, Google Boot Camp, and SharePoint boot camp. I’m sitting at the airport with an hour before my flight, so that’s just enough time to write a bit while I wait.

Why is video such a big deal?

So why is ASPE investing the money to send me to these four classes just to obtain video footage?

If you spend any time eavesdropping on the marketing department around here, you hear us talk about video a lot. It’s a very integral and important part of what we do as a marketing team. Furthermore, it’s even more important to marketing when you look beyond our own company at the overall business and technology landscape right now. Technology is developing in a way that makes it easier than ever to produce, access, and store massive amounts of video. This ease of use and huge popularity is having big impacts on how businesses work and what they can do. As a result, companies big and small are integrating video into their marketing and operational activities more and more. Even in our own company, we were able to drastically increase our organic web traffic almost overnight simply by incorporating video into our sites’ web pages.

So…businesses like video, search engines like video, and it’s easier than ever to use. But even more fundamentally, why is it so hot right now? Why does one of the most important marketing topics today revolve around a technology that has existed in some form for more than sixty years? Sure, surfing YouTube may be fun, but how do you explain why video is so transformative to marketing and to business?

It’s all about communication. It may seem basic, but remember that communication at heart is simply the transmission of an idea from one person to another. It may be a fun idea, it may be an emotional idea, or it may be a business idea that stands to make money. Or it may simply be the ordinary day-to-day communication that keeps a business running. No matter what it is, the capacity for communication is one of the most important factors in achieving success with anything you’re trying to do. And when it comes to the compelling mass communication we marketers are interested in, video is the best medium to do it.

Only about 10% of your meaning is contained in the actual words you speak

In our PMP boot camp, aspiring project managers are taught a well known management principle…that different methods of communication vary in the amount of information that can be conveyed. They’re taught that face-to-face interaction in person is the most effective way to communicate, because only about 7-10% of your meaning is contained in your actual words. The other ninety percent is transmitted by how you speak them…intonation, body language, and facial expressions.   So consider how much potential information is lost with something like email, which only contains your words. A telephone call achieves more, because intonation and attitude is easier to detect, but it still contains only about 45% of the potential communication experience when compared to face-to-face interaction.* So, the full payload of our thoughts is rarely communicated in its entirety unless we’re communicating in person.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. The reality is that when it comes to the communication channels we have available to us as a business, video is the only one that comes anywhere close to achieving the same type of effectiveness as in-person interaction.

To give an interesting real-world business example, consider Cisco. Cisco believes strongly that anything less than in-person communication is going to result in loss of business potential every time an interaction occurs. So they’ve invested heavily in the business case for purchasing better communication solutions. They’ve also invested in the development of those solutions as marketable product lines: network telephony, teleconferencing tools, and so forth. For their enterprise clients, they work hard to convince them that integrating video into their network solutions is always going to be a good move. If video is already integrated, then they try to convince them that better, higher quality will improve their solution. Of course, every time your network needs to support more or better video, you’re increasing the rate of data flow and bandwidth, and you’ll need more expensive routers and network gear. And you know who sells that? You guessed it: Cisco.

But lest you think that being champions of video is just a marketing ploy for Cisco to sell more hardware, let me share one last thing. Cisco runs its own in-house HD video conferencing network. And when I say in-house, I’m not just talking about the RTP campus or regional intranets here and there. No, they’ve built a global high-definition platform just for their own employees to conduct business via HD video. They’ve invested in this solution for themselves because they really believe in it. And that speaks to the core vision of the Cisco leadership: to dissolve the barriers of distance which rob people of their full communication potential, and use high-bandwidth technology to enable what they’ve termed “telepresence.” Because despite innovations in phones and conferencing equipment, the key communication factor that’s still lacking is actual presence: real, person to person interaction. Can that be duplicated without actually being there? Cisco believes it can, and they believe video is the key.

Seeing is believing

Now, all this gets a little high-minded, and it might not seem that relevant to us here at ASPE. And it’s true that the video I’ll be shooting this week will be a far cry from the hugely expensive type of video we see enabled by Cisco or big production companies…it will be pretty amateur stuff and it won’t be very polished. But we have to start somewhere. And I can guarantee that even a couple minutes of real, actual footage from a real, actual class will be a powerful marketing tool even if it’s low-budget. Because potential customers will still be getting a real glimpse into what happens in the classroom: the charisma of our instructors, the quality of our content, and the experience of our classrooms. No amount of marketing copy or words on a website will be as convincing as actually seeing for themselves what it’s like. When they get a brochure in the mail or speak to a training advisor, they know we’re trying to sell them something. But they won’t be able to argue with video.

Well, I’m off to catch a plane. Wish me luck, and I hope I’m able to deliver even a fraction of the potential marketing value video has to offer. If I can, this trip will be a success.

 *based on Total Message Impact, as contained in the Communication Model used in the Project Management Body of Knowledge, v4 (r)

Millennials: What Video Games Teach Us About the New Workforce

One of the perks of my job is that I am expected to research and understand the latest trends and issues impacting the business world. By keeping a finger on the pulse, we are able to offer training that helps people stay cutting edge. It means I get to meet and work with some really interesting thought leaders. One of the areas we are exploring right now is the impact that the Millennial Generation (also known as Gen Y) will have on the workforce.
It has been fascinating researching this topic as it specifically applies to me as a member of the Millennial Generation. It’s a topic I have become passionate about, as it has really forced to do some self-reflection.

The Reset Generation: What Video Games Teach Us About the Next Gen WorkforceMeet Alexander Macris, co-founder, president & CEO of The Themis Group and his presentation, “The Reset Generation: What Video Games Teach Us About the Next Gen Workforce.” I have embedded a video of his presentation at the NC State Fidelity Investments “Leadership in Technology” Executive Speakers Series, as well as posted his slides from the event (see the bottom of this post).  I’m really excited to have an upcoming meeting at the Themis Group’s office with Alexander to talk more with him about the topic.

In his presentation, Alexander brings up the fact that 99% of males and 94% of females in the Millennial Generation play video games. Because of this high figure, he believes video games are a great metaphor to understand the generation as a whole. Here is my feeble attempt at quickly summarizing his presentation. He believes:

What Video Games Have Taught Gen Y:

  1. You Are the Hero: In books, you empathize with the main character/protagonist and are as he puts it “along for the ride.” With video games you are the hero. You are the main character.
  2. Your Avatar is Customizable: Video games have taught us that there is extra value in customizing your character. In life, this translates to how we dress and the fact that Millennials prefer to stand out or look unique and rebel from strict corporate dress codes. This means as managers, flexible dress codes can be seen as an added value or benefit used to attract Millennial employees.
  3. Difficulty Can Be Adjusted: Many video games allow you to choose what level of difficulty to face. Some of this same expectation can translate to issues with facing difficulty in the real world or the office, but I have my opinions about this that I will present later.
  4. Feedback is Constant: In video games you get constant updates about your score, how much time is left, etc. You always receive feedback about how you are performing. For managers, this translates into an increased importance for Millennial employees in regards to performance reviews. Annual reviews will not suffice for much of this new workforce. To retain good talent companies will have to adjust accordingly.
  5. Everything is an Achievement: Video games offer seemingly endless goals in the form of levels, power ups and bonus points as players complete various stages of the game. This has made them very goal- and achievement-oriented. In regards to the office, these employees will desire a similar work environment (think weekly recognition and company awards/challenges).
  6. There is No Failure…Only Reset: If you make a mistake while playing, you can simply hit reset or start over. There is little accountability or consequence to your action. This he aligns to the Millennial Generation’s high percentage of employee turnover. Some studies show the average employee working an average of only 18 months at their prospective jobs before bouncing to their next employer. Again, I have my own opinion which I’ll present now.

Surprise. Surprise. JT disagrees.

Video Games Taught Us: Problem Solving 

Now, I’m not a gamer. Never really have been, but I have a completely different stance in regards to the impact of video games on the Millennial Generation. The gamers I know are actually some of the most critically analytical people I know. I think video games actually had huge influence on our generation’s problem solving ability. Think about it…

Video games essentially put everyone on a common playing field. The character always has the same capabilities, the buttons always do the same thing and the game you buy is no different than the game I buy. What makes the individual better at the game is the practice and time they have put in at trying to solve the problem (or level) of that game. We may take completely different approaches, but we both saw the problem and figured out a way around it. One person’s way may be more efficient or better, and I think video games actually gave us (as a member of the Millennial Generation I will use this pronoun throughout much of this post) a way to benchmark how good we were at solving the problem. How many points did you get versus how many I got? Did it take me two lives and you just one?

Video Games Taught Us: Risk vs. Return

I think they also affected us on a standpoint of balancing risk and reward. Is it worth me taking the time to get those extra points or extra life, or is it just going to cost me more in the long run?

I think sports have had, and continue to have, a similar impact on all generations. They force you to look at problems and find a solution, as well as judge risk and reward. The extra value in team sports is that it actually forces you to look at the strengths and weaknesses of those around you to find the best possible solution. They teach you to play up strengths of the collective while mitigating the weaknesses.

That being said, I actually love the fact that online gaming can give these same life lessons. Where sports actually loses out is in the commitment and negativity that often come with it. Very few parents sit and watch and critique their kids as they play video games. Instead they leave them there to figure it out on their own. On the flip side, sports are often shoved on kids and it becomes hard for many parents to accept that their kid may not the best. That parenting fault of previous generations probably has more to do with the ego and entitlement issues that many associate with the Millennial Generation. I think video games actually offer a lot of the same values as sports, while avoiding some of the unnecessary stress, pressure and self-esteem issues associated with sports. Video games provide a safe environment where you can learn some of these life lessons (critical thinking, problem solving, risk vs. return) through trial and error.

Video Games Taught Us: Persistence

My biggest disagreement though comes from the interpretation of the Reset Generation piece. I love the analogy, but actually think it points to a completely different characteristic of the generation. Saying that hitting reset made us quitters is completely in accurate. We didn’t hit the power button. We hit reset. We didn’t give up. We didn’t change games. Instead we started over from scratch and tried again. And again. And again.

I think the lesson to take away from that is actually that video games may have had an impact on the perfectionist attitude that a lot of us have. We hit reset because we weren’t happy with making a mistake. We wanted a perfect score. We kept trying until we got it exactly right…better than what anyone wanted us or expected us to do. It was the challenge of beating the computer instead of being scared of it like previous generations.  We didn’t switch games, like the characteristic of changing jobs might imply. We started from the last point and tried again until we got something we were happy with.

Game designers have realized this. Look at Angry Birds for instance. Why do you think they have the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards at each level. It’s because they know that there is an innate human instinct that we have to get the best score. You don’t just go on to the next level. You keep playing and trying new things until you get that damn tower to fall with just one bird. We can all relate to that feeling of accomplishment of seeing that level full of all gold stars, even though we’d already successfully beat the whole level. It didn’t mean anything until all those gold stars.

Two other lessons I think we got from video games:

  1. Nothing is Permanent. If we really want, we can hack into things and make them what we want. Look at the changes to IT. My generation doesn’t want to be locked down or be told we can’t do something on ‘our’ computer. We will find a way around it. We will jailbreak our iPhones. We will use our smartphones to access social media if you restrict the internet access to our computer. We are far more tech savvy then previous generations. We will find a way.
  2. There is a Solution. Every game has an end, and no matter how long you make me play to reach it, it is possible. I know a lot of people, myself included, that can’t stand to start a game without finishing it. It kills us to not know what’s at the end. It kills us not to be the best or finish something. I know far more of my friends pulled more all-nighters playing video games than they did for studying. It was being the first one to do something or knowing something that somebody else didn’t. It was bragging rights. It was accomplishing something.

So while many people struggle with the evolving workplace and how the Millennial Generation will impact it, managers should not fear the impending (and unavoidable) change. Change is not bad. It means we are moving forward. Accept it. Embrace it. I think Alexander has some really interesting thoughts, and his idea of using video games as a metaphor for understanding the Millennial Generation can help managers and companies with these new members of the workforce.

Sales Training: Opening Statements – Part II

Opening does not take long, but how you start often determines how you finish. Although there are no magic words, you do need to think about how you present yourself in your opening statement. Three specifics stand out – you should determine how you would:

  • Create initial rapport.
  • Gain agreement on the purpose of the call.
  • Establish the customer’s permission to ask questions.

There are, as usual, some common mistakes but opening mistakes are relatively easy to overcome. The three most telling mistakes are:

Wrong Time – This is a failure to “pick up on” the fact that it is an inappropriate time to talk.

Wasting Time – This happens when you take too long in creating rapport. Rapport is important, but customers are busy and wasting their time is a bad way to start the call. When it comes to opening a call, short and straight forward often wins over long and elaborate.

Starting with your Product – “I wonder if I could just take a few minutes to talk with you about our product X…” By throwing weak talk in with the product, no matter what happens next you’re probably in trouble. In successful calls the buyer talks more than the seller and the seller ask more questions.

Interested in receiving more sales training tips? Check our the web seminar recap from this week’s free web seminar Strategies for Sales Professionals. This one-hour web seminar covered the 5 attributes of highly successful sales professionals, managing price expectations/price objections, and understanding your potential buyers (and their roles).

Web Seminar Recap: Strategies for Sales Professionals

If you ask your sales team who taught them how to sell, you will discover that most sales representatives have not had formal sales training. This is surprising since sales training can boost all measurements of success: close bigger deals, shorten the sales cycle, achieve or surpass quotas, and increase revenue and make more money. When approached ethically and constructively, selling can be a wonderful profession. People are not born sales champions, but some do have more talent than others. Success in selling comes down to fundamentals and using those fundamentals consistently.

On Tuesday, June 19th ASPE Vice President of Sales Clay Pernell presented the free web seminar “Strategies for Sales Professionals.” In this web seminar, Clay discussed the fundamentals of the selling process in our own internal sales training. He reviewed opening statements, negotiating, managing price expectations/ price objections, understanding your potential buyer, and 5 attributes of successful sales professionals.

Listen to a recording of this web seminar in its entirety by clicking View Event Recordings (at the top right).

Do you have a question for Clay? Leave your comments or tweet us! Follow @ASPE_ROI and use hashtag #ASPEEvents.