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For two weeks I looked forward to a sales appointment. An appointment where I was the buyer, not the provider. My company desperately needed the service being offered and I had high hopes I was going to get a solution to a nagging issue.

Imagine my surprise then when Mark showed up at my office, sat at my table, opened his portfolio and said, “Well, I typically like to just get right into it.” And off he launched into a series of very direct questions he referenced from a checklist in front of him.

As he asked about our revenue, cash flow, etc. I kept thinking, “Really? He’s asking for marriage before a first date!”

Being a sales coach and consultant, I wanted to see where he would take this. How would he earn my trust and establish credibility? And would he think he’d done enough to actually ask for the business?

He sure did! After 25 minutes of collecting data and asking some questions that made me feel outright stupid (which I think was his intent), he told me how the engagement would begin and then said…”You’re a sales consultant, you know what happens next.”

What? Was he serious? (Read to the bottom for my response.)

What Mark skipped in his “let’s get right into it” approach wasn’t the small talk that so many professionals hate; he skipped the smart talk that would have allowed:

  1. Insight into the context of the data he was asking for
  2. How I like to buy
  3. What it would take to earn the business and a “Yes” decision that day
  4. And some valuable advice on his own approach to selling
The Mistake of “Getting Right into It”

Professionals, from financial service providers to technical experts, tell me how challenging they find (or how much they hate) the small talk at networking events, conferences, and sales opportunities. When asked why, I’ve heard:

  • It’s so superficial
  • It’s a time waster
  • I don’t want to talk about the weather or sports
  • I don’t know what to say
  • No one likes that anyway
  • It’s easier to just get to the agenda
  • They might go off on a tangent that:
    • I have nothing to contribute to
    • I couldn’t care less about
    • May take too much time and we won’t get to what is important
    • Ends up with one of us “pitching” to the other

It seems there are many reasons NOT to engage in the basic human courtesies that lead to an open and productive information exchange!

Yet, in a productive sales conversation or networking conversation…two people need to engage in an information exchange that achieves an outcome.

And a good conversation involves human engagement…and connection.

How to Stop the Small Talk

If you don’t like small talk, don’t talk small! Instead talk smart. Or rather, “ask smart.”

But first…a hard truth…people won’t care nearly as much about YOU or what you have to say. Instead when you put the focus on them, you’ll be more memorable…and have something to follow-up on.


Here’s How to Make the Smart Talk


1. Focus on your mindset.

Set your sights on engaging with a person or people. It’s about them anyway, not you. Instead of worrying about what you should say, think about what you should learn.

What questions will you ask to get them talking and you listening and learning? Select a couple of “go tos” that are broad enough for the person to respond to. I call these Connection Questions – and if someone gives you a short, curt response, you know they don’t want to talk about it, and instead you can segue into agenda items.

At networking events:

  • How long have you been involved with __________? (the organization, subject, etc.)
  • What have you found most useful so far?
  • What are you looking forward to?

In scheduled sales conversations:

  • How was your travel in?
  • How is your day so far?
  • Here’s the part some people take issue with…chatting about the weather or sports. Surprise! LOTS of people want to talk about weather – or anything that is happening now! Sports, world news, the geography you are in, etc. are common topics for a reason. For example, even though I am not a huge basketball fan, if someone speaking with me last month mentioned the Milwaukee Bucks playoff run, it would have been a good way to connect.

If you talk with people out of your area, look online for recent news. What is happening locally that could be a good connection question?

2. Ask the follow-up questions

Ask follow-up questions that show you are listening and are interested!

  • That’s interesting, tell me more.
  • How did that ________?
  • What’s best (or most interesting) for you about that?
3. Prepare for the human connection

Prepare for the human connection by doing your homework. Who are you meeting with? What are their interests? Who do they know that you know? What is their business? Role? Personal situation?

Googling someone and learning more about them is NOT stalking! It’s research and smartly prepares you to focus on what is important to them from the get-go.

To keep it from being creepy or stalkery – don’t say, “I really liked the green shirt/dress you had on in your photo at the charity event.” Or, “I noticed you have a pretty daughter.”

Instead, use information about what you see with a question they may want to answer! “As I prepared for our conversation, I noticed you are involved in several volunteer organizations, what led to your involvement in ________?”

Or, “To make the most of our time together, I reviewed your background online. It seems we have a common connection, Bob Smith. I’ve known Bob for a long time. How do you connect with him?”

Now, to loop back to the story I began this message with…when Mark told me I should know what to do…I played dumb. And he NEVER asked me for a specific next step. He asked me when I would make a decision … His last question was, “How did I do?” My response, “I have a few suggestions.” He then said, “Well, if we talk again, you can tell me then.”

I quickly escorted him to the door.

If only he would have engaged in some smart talk not just as we got started, but throughout the conversation instead of relying on a generic list of questions to collect the data he thought he needed to collect as fast as possible….he might have understood the context of the situation, the motivators I had for fixing the problem, and the value and next steps that would’ve earned him a new client.



Want more tips for starting conversations and ending with sales? Check out the replay of our recent Webinar The Art to the Start of Sales Conversations.

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The post It’s Not Small Talk; It’s Smart Talk appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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How did getting new clients get so hard?

When you started it was easier: You had people to talk with and maybe even some existing client relationships that followed you, but now you aren’t getting the “Yeses” you used to.

What happened? Did you get bad at selling? Do you need to change your pricing? Is your business model all wrong?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone.

So, let me shed some light on the situation with the 3 hidden traps you don’t know you may have fallen into.

Trap 1 for getting new clients: You didn’t realize you had to sell

At first you had low hanging fruit with people who already knew you or were directly referred to you by someone who did.

This referral or existing prospect was pre-sold. You probably didn’t have to sell…you just had to not blow the opportunity.

Now that you’re meeting prospects who are more removed from you, that’s when selling is needed.

Not the hard, aggressive selling tactics where you ask leading questions and don’t let them leave the conversation until they’ve said “Yes.”

I’m referring to the selling where you work with that prospect to guide them through their decision-making process from beginning to end.

A guide to help others make decisions is much more palatable than a “salesman” isn’t it? And that’s what the most successful professionals understand.

Selling isn’t forcing anyone to do something against their will. Good selling isn’t manipulative, self-serving, or sleezy.

Nope. Selling is simply earning trust, demonstrating expertise, and guiding the prospect through their buying process to the next step in the sale — because it is the buyer’s buying process that will always win.

Effective selling creates a big winner’s circle for you, the buyer, and your company.

Of course, marketers may tell you that if you do your marketing right, selling isn’t ever necessary, that you can easily get leads from your website, your name on association listings, and ads and that sales will magically follow.

Oh, if that were the case. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Those fabulous marketing efforts do provide leads…but leads aren’t clients and leads don’t pay the bills.

You do have to sell.

Trap 2 for getting new clients: You’ve told yourself “I’m not in sales”

Let’s face it. Selling and salespeople still get a bad rap.

This past weekend when my friend introduced me to 15 of her cousins at an event, she told them I was “in sales.” She might have said I also regularly beat small children from the looks I got. It’s not typically a good social introduction is it?

Most people didn’t go to college for sales or set their sights on a career in sales. It’s not high on any list of respectable professions.

Yet, if you are in a role where you help people do something, where you need to gain agreement on decisions or move people forward, you are in sales.

Selling is simply working with your buyer to help them
DO or DECIDE something.

It’s guiding them through their buying process conversation by conversation to confidently make a decision or take action.

Your success in getting new clients begins with belief that you, what you offer, and the role you have are valuable to your clients. It’s a mindset that your selling efforts help people get something they need or want. If you don’t help them, they are left worse off.

If you can embrace you are selling in all your prospect, client, and networking interactions you’ll be more effective in attracting and converting the right prospects.

Trap 3 for getting new clients: You haven’t put effort into building the necessary skills

Selling is a skill. The “born salesman” is a unicorn. When people say someone is a born salesman, they are typically referring to a verbally fluent, direct, and very social person.

Yet did you know that the people who are really good at the selling described in Trap #2 are better listeners than talkers?

Did you know the best salespeople don’t need to be the center of attention and instead are great problem solvers?

Like any skill, you can learn how to sell well. You can learn how to lead productive conversations with your prospects and not lose your soul in the process.

You can build from the skills you have in working with people and use your technical expertise in your selling efforts to sell well!

Here are the key skills needed to sell well — as you read through them, you’ll notice they aren’t magical or unattainable. They are the same skills that make you a good planner, advisor, and solutions provider.

1. Preparation

Preparing for sales conversations productively increases your chance of achieving the desired outcome by 17-25%.

Not many people disagree that preparation is important. What they haven’t figured out is how to prepare well.

Preparation for sales conversations should focus on these specifics:

  • Identify the objective – from your viewpoint and theirs.
  • Research your prospects. With the internet, there isn’t much you can’t find. In today’s digital world. As long as you aren’t creepy about what you’ve learned, “Hey, I loved the shirt you wore in your photo last week.” You aren’t risking being a stalker. Use the information you find as context to how you start the conversation and set up your questions.
  • Outline the conversation from start to finish…the key here is to outline each component with a focus on What’s in it for Them.
  • Before the conversation, prepare your mind by breaking preoccupation so you can focus on them from the first moments of contact.
2. Communication

There are several aspects to communication skills important in your selling efforts.

  • Listening. Not just to hear, but to understand, clarify, and show the buyer they are important.
  • Asking relevant questions. Yes, you need to collect data, but don’t forget to learn the context to the data, the real story to their problems, opportunities, wants, and needs.
  • Working through objections. This is problem solving at its core. What’s the root cause of the objection or concern? Clarify and then share relevant information.
  • Asking for decisions. Is this a communication skill? Yes! Learn how to identify the clues your buyer is ready, and then summarize the value they will receive by taking the next step, and asking them for a decision or commitment.
3. Demonstrating Empathy and Care

The communication and preparation skills already noted are crucial to this skillset. Yet there is more to it: the ability to focus on your buyer and dig into the emotional factors surrounding their situation and desired outcomes.

4. Problem Solving Skills

The bigger the problem you solve, the more value you give. You can increase your skills in problem solving by…solving more problems! You can solve more problems for your prospects when you ask better questions that determine not only the “problem” but that also gather information that allows you to present opportunities to do something better.

Each of these selling skills can be developed. What seems to stop many professionals from developing these skills is that they don’t believe or are uncomfortable with the fact they sell, so they haven’t embraced training that will help them build the skills and habits necessary for success.

One more trap that’s killing your sales growth…

And now that these 3 hidden traps that you might not know are hurting your sales growth are described…here’s one more:


There are so many “activities” that seem like a good idea when you’re seeking new business. Yet, thinking about selling, evaluating options for what you should do, talking with dozens of people to see what they are doing, and so many other ways of using your time and effort are less productive than you think.

I’ve seen people without a lot of skill gain a lot of new business. I’ve seen people with less technical knowledge than others blow their sales goals out of the water. I’ve seen people with a solution that isn’t as strong as others earn a lot of income.

Why? They are out there selling. They get themselves talking with enough people and they convert them. They realize they can’t help people with what they offer if they aren’t guiding people through their decision-making process to decide to work with them.

To summarize, is getting new clients hard? Not really. Is it hard work? Yes…at first. Then as you develop the right skills, make better connections, serve your clients well, and become more comfortable it becomes easier and easier to take the action you need.

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The post Why is Getting New Clients So Hard? 3 Hidden Traps You Don’t Know You’ve Fallen Into appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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Ready to grow your business? Who isn’t? The problem is that it can be frustrating, confusing, and hard!

So, let’s simplify it. Generate more leads and then convert them.

Of course, doing this isn’t easy. Lead gen and lead conversion both need effort, time, confidence, resources, and skill.

While my focus is on equipping people to increase their conversion rates with collaborative conversations that sell*, that doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough leads or prospects to convert.

After hundreds of conversations with small business owners over the past few years about lead gen and lead conversion, I landed on an explanation for lead generation that makes sense to those who aren’t career sales professionals or marketers.

Lead Generation Simplified

There are many ways of getting in front of more prospects for your business, which is what lead generation is. It’s a challenging, confusing, and expensive endeavor for many small businesses. It’s hard to determine where to put your time, money, and energy for lead gen activities.

And it seems that THE lead gen most people believe will bring in the most and best leads is digital lead gen. It’s the hope that, “If you build it, they will come.” So, they put lots of effort into building campaigns, ads, articles, and such.

Somehow the lure of passive leads pouring in pushes us to put all available time, money, and energy into the digital lead gen bucket.

A digital approach — blogs, website, SEO, ads on the right sites, etc. are all an important part of lead gen.

What’s also true is they aren’t the only lead gen small businesses need.

Nope. There is more to a productive lead gen approach and plan.

3 Levels of Small Biz Lead Gen

Here’s a simple approach to small biz lead generation: Think of it as levels of lead generation. To simplify the levels, we’ll call them high-touch, mid-touch, and low-touch.

  1. High-touch lead gen activities are actual conversations with someone who may be a prospect themselves or who can directly connect/refer you to prospects.Activities such as the 1,000 cups of coffee, meaningful one-on-one connections/relationships with centers of influence, or direct calls to potential prospects are high-touch. While many people don’t like these “cold calls” they still do work.This direct prospecting is a necessary part of building a business and securing new clients, especially early in your business lifecycle.
  1. Mid-touch lead gen activities include efforts that get you in front of many people at once.Activities or events that may be solely your own, joint seminars, networking events, trade shows, association meetings and such.Tip: A great way to build relationships with centers of influence and combine high-tough and mid-touch efforts is to feature both of you in a setting focused on a specific topic where you present info relevant to your expertise and they present info on that same topic connected to their expertise.
  1. Low-touch lead gen activities are just that –low-touch. It’s sharing information, building your brand, and letting the tech do the work but not in a conversation with a human. This is where your website, blog, podcast, published articles, contributions to publications, advertising, social media campaigns, and inclusion in association listings, etc. fit.

What’s important is to make sure you have all 3 levels of lead gen in motion at all times.

How do you decide where to give the most effort? It depends on the stage of your business and how full your funnel is.

Though most small business owners don’t want to hear it…the most direct way of getting new prospects is the high-touch activities.

If you need to fill your pipeline quickly, spend more time there. If your lead gen is giving you all the leads you need, then you can put more effort into the mid- and low-touch areas. But never skip the high-touch for too long.

Barriers to High-Touch Lead Gen

If high-touch is the most direct way to go, what keeps most small business owners and teams focused on the lower touch activities?

The three barriers I observe most often are:

  1. Emotions. Fear, frustration, confidence, belief, and so many other emotions come into play when we are “putting ourselves out there” in a conversation. It’s a huge barrier for so many. What’s the fix?
         a. Practice. Focus on What’s in it for Them (just getting ready for a conversation with that focus will increase your confidence that people should want to meet with you because you can help them fix a problem, capture an opportunity, or address a want or need).
         b. Change your mindset. It’s possible to change your mindset about selling, about whether you are asking for a favor or proactively helping someone. Affirmations and reminders of the value of what you offer (messages from clients, thank-yous, etc. can be read over and over again) do work. Just stick to it for twenty-one days.
  1. Egos. Oh yes, the ego is powerful. “I don’t want to be seen as salesy.” “I’m good and shouldn’t have to stoop to that level.” Or “I do great work for my clients; they will refer me when they’re ready.” Or “I will look desperate if I ask for connections and referrals.”
    Like emotions, this is a “head job” and something you can change with affirmations and practice.
  1. Effort. All progress comes with action. And action takes effort. I’ve seen people put effort into ALL kinds of actions that have a low yield of actual prospects. And avoid efforts for the activities of high-touch that will get them prospects. Why? See numbers 1 and 2.
    If you find your efforts aren’t at the level necessary to generate the leads you need, dig in to identify why. While “time” will be the biggest excuse used, I can guarantee there is a deeper barrier. This post explains those internal factors that get in the way of action. 

What Lead Gen Level Needs Your Focus?

And there you have a simple, yet not easy, way to approach your lead generation. Identify what you are doing for high-, mid-, and low-touches and what they yield.

Don’t like your current yields? Move up a level. If that makes you cringe and procrastinate, that’s okay – just be ready to put in more time, money, and lag time to land the leads that will convert the clients you need.

*Up to 50% in just 12 weeks with our Genuine Sales training course.

The post A Simple Approach to Small Biz Lead Gen And the 3 Barriers to Doing What Works appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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No Matter What You Think…Any Client Is Not Better Than No Client.

This week I’ve spoken with three different financial advisors about a very important factor when adding new clients: Not EVERYONE is going to be a good client/customer fit for you.

The difference in whether the client will be a good fit or an ill-fit is found in the criteria you have to qualify them as good clients…or ill-fit clients.

Learn from My “Bad”

I recently had a prospect who made me question whether he was going to be qualified or not from the very first conversation. He was referred by someone [I trust] who thought our services were just what was needed.

During our first conversation, the prospect, we’ll call him Yani, told me exactly what he wanted and when he wanted the service delivered. What he wouldn’t share was a budget (Oh, we’ll figure that out when we see the suggestions) or why he wasn’t working any longer with the consultant he had in the past (I don’t see how that is relevant when I just told you what I needed done, you can either do it or you can’t.)

I asked about timing to make a decision (Within the next 3 days to meet our timeline.)

I didn’t want to take the next step, as Yani didn’t seem like a good fit, but he was a referral from a great source that I didn’t want to disappoint. I decided to take the 2nd meeting and proceeded to prep a limited recommendation.

Before presenting the recommendation, I explained that I had some concerns regarding “our fit” in working together. He and his partner explained to me that they were “difficult buyers”, but great clients once they made the decision.

I was still skeptical and yet took the next step, another 30-minute meeting and another 45 minutes of prep for a final recommendation.

Guess what happened? The proposal meeting lasted 20 minutes. Yani said he had what he needed, would not set a next step, and has been unresponsive for many weeks now.

Yikes! Yes, I should have known better. It just goes to show that even knowing to look for specific clues or criteria, I bent. I could give a lot of reasons why, but the fact is, I wasted time and energy I could have put into so many more productive endeavors.

Qualifying Completely

I suggest if you find yourself not working with whom you best believe you should or have too many (which could be just 1) pain in the arses – clients who demand more time/attention/brain space than they are willing to pay for – to look closer at your criteria for clients.

It’s Not Just About the Numbers

Criteria is multi-faceted and should take into consideration quantitative and qualitative factors.

Quantitative criteria is important so you are sure to get paid what you are worth; your firm is profitable; and you can afford the team, tools, and overhead needed.

Possible quantitative criteria:

  • Investable assets today
  • Investable assets in the next XX years
  • Annual income
  • Size of business
  • Ability to afford the fees either through investments or income
  • Size of one-time project

Collecting this information is pretty straight forward – when you have enough trust and credibility – ask for it.

Quantitative criteria/factors are important. Yet there is more to ideal clients, isn’t there?

The Qualitative criteria should not be ignored. Your clients are people and different people will be a better fit for you to work with than others.

These intangibles are going to create a reaction when you hear different people on the phone.

  • Good-fit clients: “Great! I’m glad to talk with them/work with them.”
  • Ill-fit clients: “Arrggh. Them again?”

Possible qualitative criteria:

  • Niche fit — this could be their career, life stage, personal hobbies, etc.
  • Personality — if you can’t “connect” with them, they might not be a good fit. Shared interests make a more enjoyable working relationship as well.
  • Working style — are they someone who likes to pass things off and you enjoy that? Are they someone who likes control and will want to be involved in all the drudgery?
  • Decision making process and ability — this isn’t just for making a decision to secure your services. In your ongoing work with clients, there are more decisions to be made. Does how they make a decision fit with how you work? One advisor, Joe, needs quick decision makers and if they don’t make a decision to work with him quickly, he knows they aren’t a good fit. While Alex loves to nurture and walk the clients through each piece, step by step, and is as patient as anyone I have ever seen.
  • Willingness to pay — not the same as ability to pay. Willingness is their mindset for paying for professional services. Are they of a DIY mindset who only pays for services when they absolutely must? Or are they someone who willingly has someone taking care of their house, their legal situations, tax work, planning their trips, etc.?
  • Time and Attention demands – what are their expectations on how much attention you pay them? Will you need to be at their beck and call 24/7? Will they be impossible to get in touch with when things need to get done and you are left waiting…in limbo for answers or action? Do they procrastinate which then becomes your emergency? Some advisors like that, and others don’t.

There aren’t right or wrong qualitative fits – it’s up to YOU! If you are part of a team in your firm, you might have some variances of the qualitative criteria – and then you can pass those who aren’t a good fit to you to someone else on your team!

How, then, do you collect this information? While you could ask, “What qualities do you have that make you a good client?” That’s not a question most prospects would know how to answer…or could probably answer in the right perspective.

Instead, you could ask:

  • Please tell me about the best “service” relationship you have. What do you value most in that relationship? What do you wish was better?
  • What’s the most valuable relationship you have outside of your family and work?

And that’s still not enough – you need to pay attention to EVERYTHING they say and do throughout your process and interactions.

Observe everything they do and say which shows who they are. Are they realistic on deadlines and next steps; how much detail do they need and does it fit best with what you provide; do they take action on what they are supposed to in the timeframe they committed to?

What You Don’t Want to Hear

At about this point in the conversation, when discussing criteria, advisors ask, “Well, if I am just starting or really need revenue quickly, shouldn’t I just work with anybody who can pay for my services?“

The short answer: That depends on how much you need that business.  Seems like a non-answer? It’s meant to be.

What you should do is think REALLY hard about whether any business is good business today… 12 months from now, 2 years from now.

I strongly encourage you to be more selective. Ill-fit clients early on remain ill-fit clients later on, and firing clients isn’t as easy as you may think.

You may think, But they could be a great referral source.

While that is true in theory, consider this, ill-fit clients often refer more ill-fit clients!

In the early stages when you need to drive revenue, build credibility, and seek testimonials, you may have “light” criteria for qualifying. That’s good – just don’t have zero criteria.

You may tighten your qualification criteria as you advance your business, but if you start with the “anyone who needs my help” approach, you will waste time and resources working with misfits that keep you from the KEY actions you need to focus on for best fits.

Just for Team Firms

If you have a team of more than 2, there is more for you to consider regarding criteria. When you have advisors just starting to build their book of business, criteria can become a major source of frustration.

Clarify up front what will be acceptable. What can be stretched or bent. The amount of leeway they have. It will save you all a lot of frustration.

Final Words

Here’s a final tip for figuring out your qualification criteria. Identify your top 6-10 clients — those who you enjoy working with, are profitable, and have the right complexity for your services. Then, one at a time identify the specifics that make them ideal. Complete this review no more than two clients at a time to have a fresh perspective.

When all your existing ideal clients are reviewed, look for patterns and you’ll find the criteria.

Yes, it can be that simple!

Growing your client base is important. Growing your client base with the right clients is critical.

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Join Sales Pro Insider CEO and Top Sales Book Author, Nancy Bleeke for a brand new workshop.

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The post The Qualifying Conundrum appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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Here we are at year-end…the hustle and bustle of the holidays with a year-end push for completion on projects all while trying to make time for family, and so much more to fill our days!

Yet, now (as in TODAY) is the best time to launch your 2019 business success.

It begins with a business review.

Let’s make this review simple and begin with ONE question:

Have we(I) realized the success/results needed this year?

If Yes – Congratulations to you, and best wishes for more success in the coming year!

If No – Pause and dig deeper with these additional questions:

  1. What caused the lack of desired results? Hint: If you are only identifying external factors, you aren’t looking close enough.
  2. How did your own personal activities, beliefs, and planning help or hurt?
  3. How effective was your support team in accomplishing the main goals and objectives?
  4. What was done to celebrate milestones and achievement of the goals that were reached?
  5. What obstacles popped up? What did you learn from them?
  6. Which goals were not achieved? How important were they? What was your commitment to the actions to achieve them? What did you learn from this?

Your answers to the question in #6 may be THE most important to your company’s future. Were the goals realistic? If they were important, what really got in the way of you acting on them?

If you are ready to take on 2019 with focus, action, and commitment, ask and answer these next set of questions:

  1. What is my growth potential? What evidence supports this? Do I believe this is possible?
  2. What will it take to reach the annual goals? Identify what is needed: the resources, and people, and commitment that will make it happen. What do I personally need to contribute to set the vision, strategy, plan, and accountabilities?
  3. What may get in the way? How will I remove those barriers early or reduce the possibility of these obstacles?
  4. How can I help our customers achieve their goals along the way?
  5. What benefits or real rewards will be realized for everyone involved when these goals are achieved?

Then complete Goal Planners which include all the components necessary for goal achievement — they’re included in this free eBook on Achieving Goals.

Your responses (followed by action) to these powerful questions set your business up with a fresh focus and commitment. And you can start the entire process with ONE question to launch 2019’s achievements.

The time you make now starts with learning from the past, planning for the future, and execution!

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and happiest (successful) New Year!!!

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The post Now is the Time to Launch 2019 appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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We’ve officially entered the “season” of holidays for the year…closely bundled together in the US anyway, we have Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and New Years.

I’m grateful it starts with Thanksgiving. There are no gifts to stress over, no need for fancy clothes (comfy is key with the hearty food), and a day when taking a nap is acceptable!

I’m grateful for the focus on thankfulness and helping others at work and home. 

It’s a great time to pause and reflect on what is good. The people first and then the rest.

What I’m grateful for this year makes for a very long list.

it begins with family. While I don’t share a lot of family things, this year was a personal high and low year to say the least.

  • We are grateful our son, Jackson, returned from a deployment as a US Marine, completing his five years of duty, and returning to WI safely to start engineering school.
  • Grateful our daughter, Jenna, completed her Bachelor’s degree and has solid roots to hold her as she figures out this “adulting” thing.
  • Grateful our son, Kevin, found a job he really feels valued in and can use his degree! and is recovering well after a very serious bicycle accident that still has many hurdles for him to cross in the future during his recovery.
  • I’m grateful for a husband of many years who still makes me laugh, frustrates me, encourages me to get out there and help, and creates the stability our family needs.
  • Grateful for the opportunity to travel and enjoy time with friends and extended family. So many engagements, weddings, and babies that have joined us!
  • Grateful that we still live in a nation where freedom reigns, and that freedom allows us to have differing opinions and still care for one another.

And for Sales Pro Insider, the business, the great things to be thankful for are many!

  • First, you. I am grateful you are a part of the Sales Pro Insider tribe, reading our content, using our services, and sharing your challenges and successes with us. That you understand that selling and business growth is not something to be ashamed of.
  • I’m grateful for the team of people who make up SPI and bring their talents – hands, heads, and heart to all they do for you – Linda, Melissa, Austin, Matt, Noreen, Esther, Janice, and Bernard.
  • I’m beyond grateful for a platform where we can help others be more successful in their work endeavors so they have time and energy (and money) to do what makes their heart sing outside of work.

So thank you for connecting and sharing with us. I’m grateful for you and wish you a GREAT holiday season.

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The post The Great of Grateful appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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Most people know who first responders are…those heroes that charge into danger to save the day!

 In selling efforts, though, we are more likely to run into non-responders. Those prospects who seem to run away from you after a conversation.

The non-response reaction starts harmlessly enough. You have a meeting with a prospect that seems to go well. They agree that it would be a good idea for you to send them a recommendation/proposal/overview and “follow-up” with them.

 Sounds like a good plan, after all, doesn’t it?

Then reality hits.

You put together the discussed information and send it. You call to check in – Crickets.

You send an email – Crickets.

You call again. You email again. No response at all.

So you conclude: They’ve decided it’s a “no” and stop following up.

Sound familiar? It’s a situation I hear about several times a week during sales strategy conversations.

After exploring more about the specifics of what occurred during these meetings, several common “situations” surface:

  1. The prospect never made a commitment to do anything. They let you make a commitment to put in effort and send them something. This made them the judge and jury when that information was received, without any obligation to ever talk with you again.
  2. The conversation focused on telling the prospect what you thought they had to know…and not enough time learning about the compelling reasons they would be willing to do something about their situation or their openness to the service.
  3. The “seller” volunteered to send the follow-up information prematurely. The information sent was “generic” and the prospect didn’t see its relevance.
  4. A shared, clear objective and agenda was not established pre-meeting and start-of-meeting.

What can you do to set yourself up to STOP the chase and follow-up of these non-responders and remove the four situations outlined here?

Stop Chasing Your Prospects

  1. Always identify the objective of the conversation in preparation of a sales conversation.
  2. Start the conversation with a shared agenda and permission to move forward. There are important “dos” to start a productive conversation. Connecting to the person/people and agreeing on the agenda is a good way to begin.
  3. Investigate their problems, opportunities, wants, and needs (POWNs) and uncover the risks and rewards that are important to them.
  4. Ditch the pitch. Connect any information you share specific to what you’ve learned about them. If you can’t connect it to the prospect specifically, it’s premature!
  5. Ask for concerns or objections and problem solve through them with the prospect. Ask for and then work through the objection using an early-life lesson!
  6. Ask for a specific commitment and action at the end of a conversation. Close the conversation, if not the sale! If you get the, “We want to think things over…we’re not ready for a next step but why don’t you send us xxxx.” Don’t do it without some sort of commitment from them. The commitment could be:
    1. A 15-30-minute phone call to review the details.
    2. A specific date that they will get back to you with responses.
    3. Clear next steps of any sort — that include your actions and their actions/commitment.

This seems like a lot to consider, but your preparation is what will make this a reality. It is the most important time you can use to increase your probability of the desired objective.

This valuable prep time sets you up as the guide and leader in the process; not the chaser. You will be the first responder who is navigating the process with the prospect. When you have an engaged buyer, because you have given them the opportunity to collaborate and participate, they stop non-responding and  move forward responsively.

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The post Stop the Prospect Chase and Follow-up appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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“Nancy….you’re making this too difficult for me.”

A client recently wrote those exact words to me in an email.

Those are not the words I ever want to see — or hear. The email then went on to tell me how busy he was, what he wanted to “just get done”, and for me to take care of it.

What came to mind as I read that email was advice I received early in my sales career: Never underestimate the laziness of your buyer.

I knew I could make this right and quickly simplified my request for his next action and the sale was made that day.

While I don’t know about the actual laziness of my buyers, I do know that if a sales process for securing our services isn’t easy — we quickly lose them.

This is why we need to make it easy for our buyers to get what we offer from the start to the finish.

Make it E A S Y for Buyers to Buy!

How do we ensure we’re aren’t overcomplicating and delaying or losing the opportunity to work with our buyers so they can get the help they so badly need? By making the decision-making EASY.

E – Engage with us and our solution. Whether you sell face-to-face, virtual live, or use resources on your website for buyers, the buyer needs to be engaged. Based on research of buyer’s demands from those selling to them, buyers want to be part of the process. They don’t want to be “sold to” they want their interactions to be inclusive.

In our conversations with buyers, if we don’t make it easy for them to get what they need – the information, proof, samples, etc. – they disengage and won’t respond to future emails or calls.

If your first “meeting” spends 75% of the time explaining your expertise and your services, you’re not engaging with them and learning what is important to them.

I’ve had Financial Advisors tell me that this is their opportunity to explain their services, so the person can decide if the fit is right for them. The problem with that is that your explanation of services, if not connected to something important for them, is not engaging and will end with a low probability of you earning their business and the opportunity for them to benefit from your services.

A – Act on their next steps. If the buyer needs to DO something, we must make it easy for them by clearly stating the why, what, how, and when.

In my example at the start of this post, Rob was looking for a pre-hire assessment for a candidate. The assessment he had used in the past wasn’t right for this situation and so I asked him to take 10 minutes to complete a profile for a better assessment. Notice, BETTER is key here. What he did in the past was not as effective and is better accomplished with the assessment for a sales role, not a personality assessment.

Yet, the extra step with 10 minutes didn’t fit into his schedule and he wanted to act quickly on the candidate.

The solution was for me to complete the profile for him (I knew the role and could do so) and send the link to the candidate. Completing this action for him got the sale done and the client’s response was “You’re the best.”

In the process for selling your services, is it clear what the buyer needs to do along the way? Does it require a lot of upfront effort from them without them understanding the value it can be?

While questionnaires and online forms in advance of meetings are helpful, and buyers with a big immediate need will complete them, for your buyers who are just starting to look at services or who have trepidation about sharing their very personal information with someone they haven’t met, this may stop them early.

Of course, you may say, “Well, I only want to work with buyers who are ready.” And if you find yourself with more business than you know what to do with, that’s a reasonable criterion.

However, if you’re like many of the practices I know, you do need to help some buyers through the decision-making process to secure your services. And that’s when you must engage them from early on, so they will willingly share information. How? Explain the value of the questionnaire for them by noting…

Completing this information in advance of our time together will help you start the process of looking at your entire financial situation and clarify your objectives of working with a professional advisor. The information is confidential and will be a starting place for our conversation to ensure your time is well spent.

S – Sort through the information around their problem, opportunity, want and need, and the value that they will receive if they work with you.

People’s brains are full. They simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on information that doesn’t matter for them.

If you leave it up to them to figure out the value of what you offer or why they should take an action, they won’t. This is where the perceived “laziness” comes in. It might not be as much about physical exertion as it is about mental exertion to “figure it out.”

Make it easy for your buyers to get the information that is important to them. How? Begin with finding out what they already know, what they’ve already done, their opinions, fears, and dreams. That information will help you “right size” what you share. Right sizing means adjust the depth, breadth, and style of the information you share.

For example, an analytical person has most likely researched solutions to their situation. They’ve most likely gathered details, examples, and data and what they need from you is a way to put it into context relative to them. They will be turned off if you tell them what they already know. Instead, when you can validate, cut out the clutter they don’t need, and share information that builds on what they know, you are valuable to them.

If your planning services include an entire section on college planning, but the couple never plans on having children, the information you share is a waste of their time and may even get them thinking they could be overpaying for your services because they won’t be using all of them.

Y – Yearn. Buyers need to yearn for or desire what we offer them. They need to see that our services are going to be valuable to them and should want the solution quickly.

To help the yearn or desire takes some work. We must make sure that everything we describe is connected back to What’s in it for Them (the WiifT). The more they see and understand the value FOR them specifically, the higher the urgency and yearning.

How does this sound in the real world? If you are explaining how your annual meetings lay out to a couple who are focused on paying down debt, instead of saying, “You’ll have four meetings a year to review your status and progress on the plan.”

You would say, “We’ll meet four times a year to review your progress on the plan and celebrate your debt reduction. Then you’ll be able to determine if there is more you want to do in that area or whether getting that newer car is important.” The key is to make the information relevant and connected to something very important to them.

So, there you have it, E A S Y ways to stop your buyers from letting laziness, overwhelm, or full brains stop them from the important decision to work with you.

Don’t let your buyer’s busy brains be lazy when making the important decision to work with you. When your buyer’s journey is easy, you’ll see faster decisions, more confidence in the decision, and have a whole lot less follow-up.

Now that’s an easy way to grow your firm and help more people, isn’t it?

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Join the free workshop November 14th and learn how you can quickly and easily use a collaborative conversation to convert more of your hard-earned leads to clients.

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The post Don’t Let Your Buyer’s Laziness Stop Your Sale appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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Just the other day, I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a very long time; we served on a school board together years ago. As we did the typical “what are you up to?” chit chat… she said, “Are you…uh… still in sales?”

At first, she impressed me by remembering that I have spent the last 20 years not only “in sales” but as a champion for everyone in sales.

And then I noticed her face and tone. Her face was kind of crinkling up and she almost whispered, “in sales…”

I wasn’t sure what to make of it… was she afraid to say the word out loud? Was she nervous someone near us would see her associating with someone “in sales?”

It broke my heart a little.

Why, oh why, do so many people still think of selling so negatively?

There is no evidence, I know of, to support the widespread stereotypes and negative connotations associated with the profession or for those who have businesses where they need to sell what they offer to win clients. Sure, there are the “stories” and I’ve had my fair share of bad sales experiences.

But, I can counter those experiences with the thousands of sales professionals – from rookies to tenured and solopreneurs to Fortune 100 teams – I’ve worked with. Nearly every one of them are ethical and caring people who are charged with “bringing in business” for their company.

After all, if a business doesn’t have customers or clients buying what they offer…it’s not a business for very long, is it?

I decided to look further into this phenomenon of fear or embarrassment for being “in sales” which I had hoped was going away so I scrolled through the LinkedIn profiles of professionals in my network. I saw titles such as Account Executive, Business Development, Client Success Manager, Client Strategist, SDR, and BDR.  There are many titles used to give a name to one of the most important roles in any business… Sales.

I also noticed one very creative business owner who is capitalizing on this fear or apprehension for salespeople. Through hourly radio advertising, he touts “no salespeople” ever in his stores. It’s DIY where you can shop, compare, and purchase without having the dreaded salesperson pressure you.

This shows how much work we still have to do to change those misperceptions and remove the stereotypes of the loud, brash, aggressive, and self-serving sales professional.

While a positive connotation with selling will build confidence for those in sales, there are so many additional benefits for the buyers:

  • Getting real time answers instead of searching online
  • Having someone else provide insights and best practices
  • Time savings
  • Possibly a better solution (product or service)

Small business owners with technical expertise (that’s you financial advisors, CPAs, lawyers, engineers) or products that are valuable to the consumer seem to have an especially hard time being comfortable and skillful with the sales part of their responsibilities.

In fact, I see many of them pour more money than they should into marketing and other efforts just so they don’t have to sell. The problem with that approach is this: At some point, conversations with potential buyers do occur and in fact, may be needed to help buyers make confidence buying decisions; and they aren’t prepared for a collaborative conversation that will secure the “yes, we’ll work with you” decision.

It’s time to change these perceptions.

While I am fortunate to be a part of a group of sales authors, trainers, and consultants who are making a positive impact on sales every day, we need more people on the bandwagon.

Will you help me? Let’s jump into a movement to make selling a desirable profession (or role within our profession) we should be proud of.

Let’s get more conversations started without fist pumping, bragging, or self-serving antics; and instead, educate the world and raise up role models who exemplify all the good that comes with being “in sales”.

I can’t do this alone, my company can’t do it alone, my community of Women Sales Pros can’t do it alone…we need YOU!!

Let’ start with this: What do you think needs to be done to change the perception of sales? What would make you proudly greet someone you haven’t seen in a long time and confidently let them know you are “in sales”?

I can’t wait to see your ideas…and action.

My vision? In the near future, when I see someone who asks me if I’m still “in sales”, I can not only say “yes”, I can add, “Isn’t everyone that’s relevant and valuable?”

Free Workshop Training - Don't Wing It! Win Clients with Conversations that Convert

Join the free workshop November 14th and learn how you can quickly and easily use a collaborative conversation to convert more of your hard-earned leads to clients.

Click here for more information and to register.

The post Why Does Sales Still Get a Bad Rap? appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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Ever notice that if you share a stretch goal or dream to a super achiever, they often respond with the, “No pain, no gain” type of comment?

How do you feel when you hear that reaction? Most of us react with a big sigh…pain? As humans, aren’t we wired to avoid pain whenever we can?

But what exactly is painful when we are trying to gain by doing something better? What is the pain when we are trying to achieve more, build a business, live healthier, or connect stronger with others?

The pain can be real if we are physically trying to be stronger and healthier. Take for instance a gain I sought for my household: a gain of eating more natural foods. While it sounded great to my husband initially, the reality was a bit more painful. We already ate healthy, with low fat and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. So, eating more natural foods was painful at first because of higher grocery receipts (organic and fresh are more expensive) and harder for my husband as well because of less red meat.

Harder still for him was the taste of green smoothies at least three times a week and the lack of BBQ sauce on his entrees. I think he didn’t realize I would notice him adding the sauce at the dinner table until I reminded him that it was not going to help be more natural.

At work, the gain of helping more clients with your service or product can be painful too. Maybe you aren’t comfortable with talking to prospects, selling “yourself”, or asking someone to make a decision.

It’s painful to take action in areas where we are uncomfortable, fearful, or embarrassed in some way, isn’t it?

What makes seeking gains painful?

Why is gaining painful? Because achieving gains usually means a change of some sort…and change can be painful, although it doesn’t need to be. In fact, we can make little changes which  may be uncomfortable but not painful.

How? We can adopt the Japanese approach for slowly incorporating small changes that lead to big results.

Small Changes, Big Results

You’ve probably heard of the “kaizen” philosophy. While it mostly relates to continuous change or improvement in large companies, the actual philosophy can apply in small businesses and in life.

Focus on small, seemingly insignificant, changes that compound.

Some small changes that can build into big and long-term successes are:

  • One less forkful of food at each meal, two less bites the next week, and so on.
  • An additional two minutes of walking, jump roping, or taking stairs each day for a week; four minutes the next week; and six minutes the following week.
  • One more phone call to potential clients, centers of influence, or networkers a day.
  • One additional personal note or contact to existing customers/colleagues each week.
  • 5 more minutes of sleep each night.
  • One more item finished on your To Do list.
  • Identifying and asking one more question in a sales conversation before you launch into your product/service offering/explanation.

These small steps will compound and lead to bigger and bigger successes.

You will be slightly uncomfortable more often of course, but that is where you will build your biggest gains.

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The post Gain Without Pain? Little Actions Lead to Big Results appeared first on Sales Pro Insider.

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