Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain's Boldness Reflects the "Risk" Versus "Reward" Argument in Sales

It is hard during this intense political season to not be influenced by the political developments in the current US Presidential race. I have often found that many of these developments, however, relate so much to our sales world.

McCain shocked the world and took Obama off of the front pages by selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate. This will certainly further his maverick image and independent streak. In a race that is within several points for either candidate, this was a very risky move for the Senator from Arizona.

I have already analyzed the potential upsides and downsides to this move. Met bet is, however, that the maverick McCain made this move believing that his boldness to embrace "change" would be rewarded. In a race that is about change, this move was probably needed to keep McCain in the running.

Every transaction we take in life will carry risk - it will always be this way. Your job as a salesperson is to mitigate this risk as much as possible so buying will take place. Always position your recommendations to be viewed as logical; but do not underestimate the emotions your customers or prospects are going to feel in regards to the risks they are taking. You have to persuade your prospects into understanding that there are no rewards in taking no risks. If you can channel into this powerful emotion effectively, buying can still take place even with lackluster proposals.

Only time will tell if this VP pick for McCain will work out. But in my estimation, I would rather lose by being bold than lose by staying conventional. This sales mindset has always driven me to take risks, which has many times been paid off by big rewards.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Please Take Time to Vote in the New Top Sales Blog Poll!

I have listed a poll in the top right hand corner of Top Sales Blog that I would like your participation in. While I have gotten into meat & potato issues from time to time, I would like your input (my readers) as to what is the #1 topic you would like me to cover. After voting has been completed, I will put together a plan to cover this topic in detail for a two week period. In the end, you will have a detailed plan for implementing a strategy for this issue.

The four areas I have listed are the topics I will bring the most experience and insight to in regards to coverage. Please take the time to vote as your input is needed. Thanks in advance and I look forward to seeing what is your top interest!

"Flashback" Friday: What's on the Back of Your Business Card?

Many salespeople leave blank one of the simplest ways to market their products & services. What is on the back of your business card? Like most business cards, chances are it is blank.

There are a number of ways to market yourself on the back of your business card. It can contain sales awards, a one-time discount for new customers, your different locations, or even a short sales pitch. You can even take this one step further by having several versions of your business cards with different material on the backside.

I'll be publishing more posts in the future on the specifics of what a business card should contain. Stay tuned, and start thinking of ways you can "brand" yourself as a salesperson by using this method.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The "Bully" With the "Juice"

I'm a big fan of Steve Martin's Heavy Hitter Sales Blog. A while back, he published an article titled - Selling in a Recession: The Best Recession Sales Strategy. His description of the "bully" with the "juice" (the man or woman that can make your sales deal happen) is one of the best I have ever run across. Please check this article out when you get a chance, as it will provide you with a fresh look at selling in an economic downturn.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ezinearticles.com / Will Fultz Profile

If you have not run across some of my additional articles on the net, you can take a look at them by going to http://ezinearticles.com/?expert_bio=Will_Fultz

A couple of months ago, I published a number of sales articles on ezinearticles.com in order to promote Top Sales Blog. To my surprise, the number of times these articles showed up in Google search rankings at #1 is amazing. I would highly encourage you to visit this page when you get an opportunity. This is certainly some great material you can use in addition to this sales blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Truth & Honesty in Selling Will Take You Far...

Thinking back about all the wonderful information and strategies that I have posted on this sales blog, I decided I needed to take some time out to discuss the simpler aspects of what makes a good salesperson.

If a salesperson operates with truth and honesty, this individual will go very far in selling. That means you might have to pass on a sale from time to time, take the high road instead of "bashing" your competitor, and give customers answers they don't want to hear. It sounds simple, but maintaining a truthful approach to selling is a very difficult task indeed.

Don't take this too far, either. Operating with truth and honesty doesn't mean that you pass on every little negative detail about your products or services. After all, you are a salesperson who needs to bring in numbers. But if your product or service does not fit in well for a customer, you need to have the integrity to speak up and say so.

Loyalty is built on the rock of "trust". You cannot expect your customers to give you loyalty when the foundation of trust hasn't been laid. Take these tools of trust and honesty and apply them in every sales situation. This will take you to another level in your personal "branding" and will put your name in a much higher category than your competitors.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Being Genuine is Key in Sales

I'm a big believer that you have come across as genuine when working in sales. This will be a key factor in whether or not you will become successful.

I wanted to demonstrate this by using a scene for the Shawshank Redemption. One of the main characters, Red, comes before the parole board time and again as the years of his sentence goes by. It is not until he genuinely tells them what he believes to be the truth, that his parole is granted.

It is a powerful scene, and I hope it demonstrates to you that slick sales tactics are no match for someone that comes across as genuine and honest.


Friday, August 22, 2008

"Flashback" Friday: The Politics of "Change" and What It Teaches Us

As we enter yet another Presidential election season, the politics of "change" have taken center stage (which they always do after eight years of any President). Both candidates are scurrying about trying to present a strong image of change. There is a lesson that we as salespeople can learn from this Presidential election.

As salespeople, we are also agents of change. After they have been doing business with our competitors for some time, we arrive to change the situation to their favor. We reduce expenses, improve profitability, and recover lost revenue for our customers as this change takes place.

No matter which candidate you are pulling for in this election, remember, you must also be an optimistic agent of change to win. Doing so will draw new customers into your camp. Think of each sales dollar you bring in as a "vote" for your candidacy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Common Sales Question: Can I Increase My Overall Sales And Margins at the Same Time?

A pretty common sales question is the following: Can I increase my overall sales and grow gross profit margins at the same time?

That question has perplexed almost every CEO, business owner, executive, and top sales pro for many years. It is certainly one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in sales, maybe even the most difficult. Sales managers and top level executives try to rally the troops (salespeople) into believing it is very realistic, but in the real world it hardly ever happens.

The following two realities usually always happen in regards to sales growth or lagging sales and gross profit margins. As sales grow, gross profit margins shrink. As sales decline, gross profit margins grow. I don't care where I have been, this rule has almost always been universally applied as a "truth" in the sales world.

To me, the two following questions are the most realistic approach for salespeople, sales managers, executives, and business owners to ask when dealing with this problem:

1) How much overall gross profit margin am I willing to give up to increase overall sales?
2) If sales are lagging, is the overall gross profit margin high enough to sustain the overall sales decline?

If you can't answer these questions, your business is certainly headed for the "gutter". Salespeople need to be able to have a coherent answer and plan for attacking this primary business issue. It cannot be simplified to the level of "we need more sales" or "we have to get a higher price", so we need to "cold call more". If anything, a heavy sales increase accompanied by a steep margin decline is a result of cold calling.

Lastly, you might ask again, can you grow profit margins and overall sales at the same time? The short answer is "yes" but it takes a lot of positioning. To accomplish this goal, you will need most of the following:

1) Strong "Branding" (For the Salesperson & Company)
2) Strong Qualification Requirements of Prospects
3) Vast Amounts of Incoming Leads
4) Strong Negotiating Skills
5) Weak Competitors
6) Your Industry is Growing Beyond Inflation

I hope this article gets you thinking about what a challenge this area of business will always be. Remember, you must have a clear vision and plan when addressing this issue of balancing overall sales against your overall gross profit figure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taking Sales Qualifying Too Far...

I am a big fan of qualifying your prospects, but this situation in the video is going a little overboard. Well, at least the salesman knows a sale is not going to take place! Enjoy the video...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dressing for Sales Success: What a Lot of Sales Guys Get Wrong

This is one of my by biggest pet peeves in our current sales world. I want to go through some standard areas of "dress" that a lot of sales guys get wrong. I also don't want anyone to think of me differently because I am addressing this area. I'm no Rico Suave or latte drinker. I am no "fashion" elite, either. I just want everyone to know some of the basic standards when it comes to business attire. I would hate to think that someone would lose a sale or credibility because nobody took the time to teach them about dressing properly.

First off, if you don't know how to dress in business attire, don't get down on yourself too much. There are many salespeople who don't dress correctly and never learn how (I was in this category at one point myself). In addition to using the advice from this article, go out to your local suit & tie store to do some shopping. The salespeople there can teach you all the basics, even if you don’t purchase anything.

One area a lot of guys get wrong is the shoes and socks. I am going to make this real simple. The socks you wear should come real close to matching your pants. It doesn't have to be an exact match, just close (example, do not wear black socks with khaki paints). For shoes, you need a minimum of a pair of brown and black. Black shoes will go with black and charcoal gray paints. Brown shoes will go with pretty much everything else. One final tip in this area, your belt needs to match the color of your shoes (i.e. brown shoes, brown belt).

Never mix black or charcoal colors with navy clothes. I see a lot of sales guys getting this wrong as well. Make an executive decision, and then go with one or the other. Although brown shoes will work with navy, the correct color of shoes is a reddish brown. Wearing a tie & dress shirt with no jacket is also a big problem. I've even seen a tie with a short sleeve shirt (this is even worse!). If you are going to wear a tie, include a suit or sport jacket. I cannot stress this enough. Bottom line: scrap the tie if you don't want to wear a suit or sport jacket.

Do not wear a short sleeve dress shirt with a jacket. If you have to for whatever reason, do not take your jacket off. This should be a no-brainer, but believe it or not I have seen a lot of men do this as well.

One area that is acceptable is wearing a suit jacket with no tie. This is quite popular right now and everyone from the President and on down uses this look.

I hope this helps in correcting some areas of common mistakes. Remember, how you dress does matter in how you are perceived in the business world!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Your Customer And Prospect Information Is Worth Well Over a Million Dollars

Many salespeople do not understand how much their prospect and customer business cards are worth. Think about the following: If you make only $50,000 a year for twenty years from your sales career, then the customer/prospect cards you have in your possession are worth a million dollars.

I have to admit; when I started out in sales I was pretty careless with contact information, even important business cards. It only takes losing a few business cards or other contact information before you learn a valuable lesson: To take the time to preserve and protect one of your most valuable assets, your contact information.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michael Phelps Reminds Us of What Greatness Is

Isn't Michael Phelps just amazing? As an American, I could not be prouder of an athlete. He truly reminds us of what greatness is in any capacity.

How does this relate to selling or sales you might ask? Any person, regardless of what they do, is great to watch when they dominate what they do for a living. When they are simply the best. It is no different for top sales pros, as we should each strive to be the greatest salesperson out there in our industry.

Thanks again - Michael - for inspiring everyone to be great!

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Flashback" Friday: Putting the Last Nail in the Coffin of Your Competitor


Oh no, the most dreaded words we could possibly hear. "William, well I know I said I was going to go ahead with the order, but...I just feel like we been with this vendor so long, I really...uh...maybe things will change down the road. I’m going to give them another chance.”

You got in the door with the prospect. You gave them a good price, a profit justified solution, and got a "yes" answer. Hell, you didn't even close, the deal closed itself.

Now comes the dreaded call two days later. Your competitor undercut the price and begged to keep the business. Here is how the conversation started, “We have been doing business together for years Mr. Customer, and we will do whatever we need to do to keep your business.”

The bottom line here is you could have prevented this from happening. How? Confirm with the decision maker with a scenario like the following:

“Mr. Prospect, I know you told me you wanted to move forward in doing business together. I’m very appreciative of this decision, but still, I’m sure you current vendor is going to be pretty frustrated in losing your business. I’ve obviously very excited about getting started, but I need to know something before putting the work into making this business transaction happen. If they cut their price, beg for your business back, are you going to change your mind?”

Almost universally, the prospective customer will answer with “No, let’s go ahead and move forward.” To hand this business back, they must now break their “word” with you. It could still happen, but most likely your competitor is out the door for good. The only way you can let them back in is by breaking your “word”. Execute this strategy, and you will mortally wound your competitor before they even have a chance to fire a bullet back at you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why Do Great Salespeople Make Poor Sales Managers?

It is sort of a rule in the selling community to take your best salesperson and make this individual a sales manager. I think this is a big mistake in most cases.

Being a salesperson and a sales manager is much farther apart than most people think. A sales manager's primary responsibilities include recruiting, creating an overall sales plan for multiple sales representatives, making sure the salesperson is paid correctly, sales training and whatever else is deemed necessary by the company. A salesperson’s responsibilities are achieving a sales quota and developing new business. Do you see the difference here?

Here is another example. How often do the best professional athletes go on to be the best coaches, trainers, or managers for sports teams? It happens, but it is certainly the exception. Some of the best managers in sports have even been poor athletes themselves. Sales management is no different.

If you are a salesperson aspiring to be a sales manager, there is nothing wrong with your goal. You must remember, however, that the waters you are going into are much different than being a salesperson. To a certain extent, you will be leaving your sales career behind. After all, the focus on your new title is "manager" and not "sales".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If You Are Going to Cold Call, This Is When You Should Try

To me, cold calling is the last avenue of attack. Let's say you know of a prospect that absolutely could use your product or service. You have tried finding another method of getting in the "door", but all of your efforts have fallen flat. This is one of the few situations where cold calling is still applicable.

Ok, now we have a prospect that we need to place a cold call on, right? Well, not so fast. I happen to think the timing for yourself has to be in place also.

What do I mean by that? Quite simply, if cold calling is going to take place, it needs to be done when your energy and confidence is at the highest. When are you at your best? You are at your best right after closing a deal with a new customer or finally getting a purchase order for that big order you have been working on for weeks. There will be no time better for cold calling than this.

Trust me, regardless of the outcome of the cold call, any negative feedback will bounce off of you like bullets on superman. While negativity is very damaging to a salesperson’s mindset (which is why I have a problem with cold calling), this will be the one time where you will be invincible in this area. Do yourself a favor the next time you close a big deal. Instead of hitting the golf course early, make just a few cold calls (on well-known prospects) and you will see that my advice rings true.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Today's Sales Training is Lacking For Salespeople

I'm often very surprised at most of today's sales training. Sure they go over prospecting, presenting, and closing (what I call the "usual" suspects). Even if a sales trainer presents a unique way of selling, the trainer still tends to leave out one of the biggest changes that has come about in our business world. How can they do this with an 800 lb gorilla sitting in the room?

The gorilla I am talking about is the internet. It has forever changed our business world. Think about this. When you are purchasing a product or service, do you research it on the net? Do you price it on the net? Do you try to get reviews on the product or service from third party sources? I am betting the vast majority of salespeople, executives, and business owners almost always take a "peek" on the net when it comes to newly discovered products or services.

Don't get me wrong, face to face selling is still applicable in our business environment for many products and services. You still need to be able to master basic and advanced selling skills. However, why in the world would you ignore such a powerful force like the internet (that could increase your sales with ease)?

Many of these “so called” sales trainers have great websites and pay-per-click campaigns to get their customers. If it works for them, why are they not teaching these same methods to work for you? A big change is brewing in the selling community, and it is about to take place.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are the Cold Calling Police Coming to America?

As many of you know by now, I am not a big fan of cold calling. I ran across this video on youtube.com, and got a great laugh! In Wales, they actually have a police force to stop cold calling! Can you believe this?

Although I'm not a big fan of cold calling, this is going too far. Our liberties continue to be chipped away at the edges more and more. Let's hope this sort of nonsense doesn't make it to America...

Even though this spokesperson is trying to stop cold calling, he is actually performing cold calling himself by going door to door. Is he breaking the law?

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Flashback" Friday: Problems Are Always Opportunities

Do you want to build rapport with your customers and prospects? Do you want loyalty and referral business? How about expert credibility, is this something you desire to have in your sales career?

How you handle problems will largely determine your reputation in the marketplace. This doesn’t mean you need to give everything away for free when a problem arises, but responding quickly with a resolution will do wonders for “branding” your name. We can’t prevent all problems from happening, but we can determine our response. Because we can control our reaction, problems with customers or prospects will always become opportunities.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Salespeople Need Customer Testimonials

Chances are your company already has testimonials on their products or services you represent. I can tell you first hand, this will do very little for your sales results if decide to present these sort of testimonials to your prospects. Would do you need to have and present in the way of customer testimonials then?

You need to seek out current customers where a great business relationship exists. Explain that because you are constantly trying to gain new customers, you want to set yourself apart from other salespeople by having testimonials that build your credibility.

Don't forget to mention the benefits for them, also. Explain to your customer that this testimonial will promote their company, too. Let them know as well that when you have great testimonials it shortens your sales cycle, thereby allowing you to take care of existing accounts (like them) much better.

Lastly, you need to make sure and write this testimonial yourself. Think about this, does your customer really know what you provide them better than yourself? Also, will your customer write the kind of testimonial that will get a positive response? To finish, make sure this testimonial is written on their company letterhead and signed by the individual.

Testimonials can do wonders for your business. It will certainly set you apart from 95% of salespeople out there right away. Instead of building a brand name for a product or service, you are building a “brand” for you as a salesperson. Take the time to do this, and you will reap the benefits down the road.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Sharpening Your Pencil" a Little is Alright to Close a Deal

Many times, when a customer is right on the edge of doing business with you, they might ask you to sharpen your "pencil" just a little. Especially if it is large business deal, you will have to think really hard about whether or not you need to do this. If the deal is still profitable, my advice is to go ahead and get the dotted line signed.

I'm not talking about a huge price drop here, either. When I refer to sharpening the pencil, it requires a reduction in price by less than 5%. While your price might be justified and already strong, it is simply a last bit of leverage the customer is exercising on the "deal". Sure, you could hold your price and still get the business in many cases, but at worse the deal could fall apart if the customer gets the least bit insulted.

By agreeing to this concession, this also puts you in a position to ask for something in return. There will be no better time than now to get the type of quality referral we dream about as salespeople. I'm not talking about a name and a phone number here, either. This will be the best time to ask for a three-way lunch or personal referral letter to a prospect of huge importance that this customer knows. If you ask this in return for your price concession, your customer will gladly help you in this area as this will not cost them anything.

Negotiation is relevant in all aspects in life, and this includes sales. Don't ever be afraid to ask for something in return, especially if you are making a concession on price.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Napoleon Hill: This Guy is Good...

After publishing yesterday's article, I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression about my beliefs. I absolutely believe in some of our past authors. Napoleon Hill is one of those such authors. Do yourself a favor and search this guy out on the internet. Because his books are coming up on being written over a hundred years ago, you can get his materials for free on the web.

I just wanted to leave a famous quote from Mr. Hill today. This is one of my favorite, all-time, inspirational messages:

"Before success comes in any man's life, he's sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and the most logical thing to do is to quit. That's exactly what the majority of men do."
-Napoleon Hill

What could I possibly add to that?

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Best Sales Books Are Not In Book Stores Yet

Without a doubt, my belief is that the best sales books for top professionals are not in book stores yet. The main reason is that our sales world is changing faster than it ever has before. Companies are still trying to make the "old school" methods of activity level planning successful in the face of an ever changing business environment.

Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of worthwhile materials in book stores. However, many of the sales books are still focused on activity level and cold calling. These methods of selling can still work, but these strategies have certainly seen their better days. Salespeople are finding these methods of selling are becoming more and more difficult to generate the types of sales numbers they need to sustain a great living.

The information age has educated prospective customers more than ever. Rather than fighting the tide, the next generation of salespeople and companies are going to have to embrace this change to stay on top.

This goes for sales authors, too. Many of the 21st century's great sales authors have yet to be discovered. Looking on the web for sales advice, strategies, and new sales books is certainly where a salesperson should be headed if this individual wants to be tomorrow’s sales "superstar".

Friday, August 1, 2008

"Flashback" Friday: Direct-Mail for Salespeople

Direct-mail can be really expensive for the low returns it brings in. Chances are, a prospect you have never met will not read or respond. If that is the case, why bother to take the time for a direct-mail campaign?

Although direct-mail is a poor marketing system for prospects you haven't met, it is a great idea for prospects that you have met in person. A prospect/customer newsletter allows your name to stay in front of decision makers and keep your phone ringing. More importantly, it builds a strong "branding" around your name for prospects that know very little about you.

Go through your business card stacks and look at who you are not currently doing business with but have met with in the past. This is a great place to start for a targeted, direct-mail campaign that will yeild results.