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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,

Professional Development

Some time ago I stood in the security line at Logan. I was on my way to Orlando to speak at the National Conference of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Using "the three foot rule", which says "whenever you are within three feet of someone ask them what they do as they may be a prospect", I struck up a conversation with the gentleman behind me. He turned out to be the Head of the Central and Eastern European Divisions of L. Hoffman LaRoche.

You don’t tightly target your prospects. When business is slow, the temptation to tell your story to whomever will listen is great. After all, talking to someone-anyone-is more productive than sitting at your desk waiting for a potential customer to call. Right?..

I have met many excellent sales people that were chief executives. They could prospect, qualify, close and negotiate. Their closing ratios surpassed their best sales people. Yet, they couldn't train their people to sell. Even though they tried, by coaching, running sales meetings, showing and telling, they weren't effective at training sales people. In fact, in some cases it made their sales people worse as they tried to emulate the Boss.

Up-front contracts are a powerful tool in the Sandler Selling System. By agreeing, up-front, with a prospect on what will take place during a sales interaction, including an agenda, time limit, and next steps, you are in control of the sale. But beware—a wishy-washy contract is as good as no contract at all.

Scheduling appointments with prospects is hard work. You not only have to arm-wrestle with gatekeepers, but then you have to contend with voice-mail. But eventually, whether by sheer persistence or a little luck, you get through to the intended prospects and you schedule appointments. All of those efforts, however, are wasted if you’re not properly prepared for those appointments.

Maybe you thought you were the only one with a sales person that everyone loves, but is a terrible closer. The reality is that most sales teams have one or more such non-closers. Compounding the problem of these people not being very profitable is the fact that they are likeable, as many of them tend to have good people skills.

Why is it that so many salespeople start their selling careers with a great deal of enthusiasm— truly motivated to grow, to succeed, and to advance their careers—and then, somewhere along the way, the motivation fades, and the “career” becomes little more than a job…a way to make a living? What happened to the motivation?

After 18 years of helping Chief Execs, Sales Managers and Sales People capitalize on their strengths and overcome weaknesses, here are my top five ways to convert your good salespeople to great salespeople!

When you’re counting close friendships, loving relationships, acts of kindness, or the gold bars securely stashed away in your secret vault, the answer is, “Yes!” It’s better to have more…rather than fewer of them. Is the same true when it comes to the tools for building and growing your business?

You have an inventory to take, a phone call to make, and a report to write. But instead of diving in and getting the tasks completed, you put them off. “I’ll get to them soon,” you tell yourself. But your definition of “soon” and Webster’s definition have little in common.

Not all “fine-tuning” activities are driven by procrastination. Some people have a need for perfection. They’re not ready to take action until everything is perfect…every contingency has been identified…every twist and turn predicted and appropriate actions planned. They put off implementation until everything is perfect. But it never is. So, the planning continues and the “doing” never begins.

Whether you are a small business owner or sales manager, you should take advantage of sales coaching. Once a salesperson understands that sales coaching can help them to make more money and have more fun, it's inevitable that they'll want to introduce their sales manager or sales trainer to the concept, too.

Interpreting a statement as a question, and then attempting to answer it, often puts you in a defensive posture. You may find yourself attempting to justify, defend, or explain a position that may not even be an issue for the prospect. Don’t waste time, effort, and good will trying to “turn around” an objection that may not be an objection at all.

For most prospects, facing challenges (solving their problems or achieving their goals) is only a means to an end—realizing an outcome. It’s the desire for that positive outcome that provides the incentive necessary to face the challenge in the first place. 

We never forget the first time we heard the pitch. “Being in sales is incredible. You can literally make as much money as you want. You control your earning potential.” And they’re right. Sales and business owners have limitless earning potential. For sales, our book of business shows in our paycheck and we sell like we own the business.

You’re sitting at your computer, and you press a key expecting something specific to happen. It doesn’t. The first thing you do is press the key again. Again, what you expect to happen doesn’t. You press the key again and again, but still no result. 

Multitasking. It’s a buzzword. Quickly defined, it means “Doing more than one thing at once.” What’s not in the definition? “Doing more than one thing at once, AND doing all of those things well.” We’ve all been there. Many people depending on you for information, direction, and production. Moving things along a little bit at a time to keep production moving.

Why is it that when we grow in our position, even as the owner or CEO, we seem to take on more responsibility yet we receive less thanks and recognition?

Has this ever happened to you? You had an initial meeting with a prospect. You asked that prospect what seemed to be all the right questions. You had what felt to you like a good conversation, and based on that conversation, you scheduled the next meeting. You sat down at your computer. You prepared a proposal…which bombed.

Is learning the tricks of the trade a quick path to success? No! It’s a quick path to failure. How can that be? Without such knowledge, won’t the competition have the upper hand? Won’t you have a handicap when it comes to maneuvering a prospect into a buying position? No, again. The path to success is not paved with tricks: it’s paved with knowledge and skill.

Almost everyone in business—owners, CEOs, presidents, VPs, managers, and department heads—wants to be perceived as leaders not only by those who report to them, but also by those to whom they report. Salespeople, too, want to be viewed as leaders by their peers and customers. But, what makes one a leader?