Monthly Archives: April 2010

How Much Time For A Sale?

Time for another preview from my book!

I often get asked about time–that is, “How much time should I spend on each individual client or potential client?”

It’s a good question. You can see some pros debating that very question here, in Friday’s Globe & Mail:

This is my thinking. Obviously there are exceptions to these rules, but here is what I tell my coaches:

1) 3 strikes & they’re out. If you’ve sat down with someone three times, & gone all over what your product or service can do for them, & they are still hedging…time to cut them loose. Don’t give them the brush off, if they call you, by all means return the call; but don’t call them. 9 times out of 10, someone who keeps saying “Maybe” is really saying “No.”

2)Spread your time around. Do your best to balance out all your clients so that they feel satisfied that you are giving them your best!

3) Most of the time, selling is one-on-one, so never neglect your business relationships. I am not saying you have to be buddies with everyone; I am saying you have to play friendly. You never know what might happen in a year’s time. Brushing off someone has risks….you don’t know what job they’ll have in a year!

4) Listen to your gut. If you think there’s a sale imminent, then go for it. If you think someone is (politely) wasting your time, then stop calling. In the long run, this is good for everyone–but especially for you, since you can start focusing on current or new clients!

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(Eventually) Getting to Yes

The toughest thing for any salesperson, especially the good ones, is overcoming that one nasty call.

All of you who sell for a living know what I’m talking about.

I heard about this happening to a colleague of mine in Toronto. He sells for a communications company based in Montreal. He was after a major account, & like all good sales people, did his homework. He checked into the company’s history & made sure he had all his facts right. He made sure his product would provide excellent value for the potential client. Like the best very sales people, he also took the trouble of getting a referral. (In this blog, & in my upcoming book, when I say “referral” I mean “having an introduction.” That is, when you cold call a potential client, you say something like “Hi, my name is x. John Smith said it would be ok if I gave you a call.” Don’t skip this part–& make sure John Smith is on board.)

So, my friend did all this. He was very prepared. (He always is.)

He took a deep breath & phoned. He introduced himself & said that “Tom Smith” had said it would be ok to call.

The response?

“I’m in a meeting.” And then he hung up.

That was it. No “I’ll call you later,” “You’ve caught me at a bad time,” “Can we try this later,” etc. Just “I’m in a meeting.”

I asked my friend how he dealt with this.

“Well, it wasn’t easy. But every rude no is one step closer to an enthusiastic yes.”

I literally couldn’t agree more. He’s right: those calls are NOT fun. But they are good news in the long run. Why? A) those calls make you savor successes all the more.

B) you’re going to get a “No” every once in awhile. Nothing wrong with that. But every no you get gets you closer to the next yes. Perseverance is the key!

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The Great Recession?

Did anybody else see this piece in the Financial Post the other day?

Basically, a couple of economists from the Fraser Institute are urging us to keep things in proportion; and noting that  the recent recession was bad, but nowhere near the worst.

Actually, recessions aren’t always the worst thing that can happen to your small or medium sized business. Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT saying they are 100% good news, that people aren’t hurt by layoffs & high interest rates.

I know they are. Laying someone off who is doing good work is the hardest thing in the world, believe me.

Here is what I am saying: recessions make us think. How smart are we? Could we do better? Is everything we do 100% customer focused? Do we hire only the best, & pay accordingly?

This is what I tell my small business clients (10 employees or fewer): now is the time to really excel. Recessions are tough for large companies because they are full of nice people who don’t do a whole lot for the customer, but have nice-sounding job titles, so they stick around, whether there’s money around or not.

If you’ve worked for a large company, you know what I’m talking about. There are always a group of people somewhere, usually on one of the top floors, who are nice enough, & work hard, but their jobs have nothing to do with customers. These kinds of companies suffer during a recession.

But medium size businesses can afford to go after their clients hard. There are no highfalutin committees or boards or panels at your company; you’re not paying people to confer with each other. NOW is the time to hustle even harder.

This is what I tell my medium sized (100 employees or fewer) business clients: you have many of the advantages of the small business–focus, dexterity, speed. And you also enjoy the advantage of bigger resources, so you can go after new customers that a smaller business cannot. It’s the best of both worlds, really.

And for the big businesses–100 employees or more? It’s simple, really. They are lucky in that they have the resources to ride out tough times that smaller companies do not. You can absorb losses that would wipe out some of your competition. That’s the good news. The bad news: you  won’t be able to absorb the losses forever. So as I mentioned above, now is the time to review everything you do, to see if it’s customer focused. If it’s not, chances are very good you can do without it.

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Starting Your Own Business? Good, now Where do You Begin?

A friend of mine in Las Vegas sent me this article yesterday:

I was NOT surprised to read something like this, or that so many people find it tough being on their own.

As one of the experts notes–“People see it as an opportunity to be their own boss, then we have to give them the facts of life.”


Starting your own business is just that: the chance to be the boss. The problem? No one to pass the buck to!

For instance, let’s say you work for a large corporation we’ll call BIG. You don’t like it much at BIG, but the pay is regular, every two weeks, whether BIG is having a good or bad quarter, earnings are up or down, or their customers are paying on time. You might have money problems….but that’s probably because you’re living outside your means. BIG pays you on time, every other Thurs, like clockwork.

Now imagine having money problems when you have no idea when, or sometimes even if, you will be paid. This is the hidden stress people don’t see about ‘Being The Boss.’ Say you have a small printing press & a client owes you $100 for a minor printing job you did for them last week. Money is due today. But they haven’t paid. You call. They’re not in.

You take a deep, deep breath & wait until Monday. You call again. “Oh, accounts payable is off this week. I can take a message?”

Everyone who has ever owned a business has a hundred stories like these. It’s among the reasons why so many new businesses fail.

So I applaud this story in the Las Vegas paper &  I am very glad the local chamber of commerce is doing everything they can.

And while I’m at it, I also applaud the fact that so many businesses realise they could use some help. I encourage all of those owners, small, middle or large, to look into hiring an ActionCOACH if it’s within their means. (Our plans are flexible & very affordable.) One, a coach has been there before & knows EXACTLY what you are going through. That’s a tremendous help in itself, since so many people have no idea how tough it is. Two, a coach can bring your business the one thing you can’t: an outsider’s perspective.

This is the crucial aspect. Even tennis expert Pete Sampras had a coach. You think: why would he need one? He won so many majors. But he had one precisely because he needed someone other than Pete Sampras to analyse his game. It’s why even professionals in baseball have batting coaches & first-rate hockey players have skating instructors.

It’s no different in business & all the most successful businesses have thrived with the benefit of coaching. I urge you to check out our site!

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Great Sales tips for you!

I probably should stop giving out previews of the book I’m working on, but when I see so much bad business writing out there, clearly written by people with no sales experience….I just have to get my say!

As the CEO of ActionCOACH Canada, I sometimes prepare videos for my coaches. These videos try to teach one thing–the art of sales. I use ‘art’ on purpose, since it’s not easy & not everyone can do it.

One of them is called Bold Calling–a lot of people ask to see this. I recommend Bold Calling because a) it’s tough & b) the best way to learn the trade.

What is Bold Calling? That’s when you stop hiding with email or the phone & actually go to businesses & present yourself in person. You are not rude or pushy. But you do go see them in person.

Part 1: ask to speak to the manager. If the manager is in, great. Say who you are & why you’re there. Be polite & friendly, never rude or brisk. Keep it simple & brief. Ask for a business card & then follow up within one business day.

Now, what if the person you are speaking to says the manager is not in–can you wait?

And the answer? It depends.

Why? Because there is a thin line between hustle & desperate & a good salesperson never crosses it. That is, if they ask you to wait a few minutes, fine. But if they ask you to wait for 1/2 hr or more, politely take your leave. You cannot seem desperate. (Or idle.) If you do wait around, believe me, you’ll regret it. Why would someone buy a product or service from you if they know you have that kind of time to kill?

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