The Cardinal Sin of Selling

Sep 22

Sales Pitch 2


During a sales training workshop I conducted last week, we discussed the worst way to open a sales conversation, meeting, appointment or call (cold or warm) and that is to talk about your company.

This includes your background, history, number of locations, how long you have been in business, your client list, awards you may have won or anything else that is self-serving.

The same concept holds true for your slide decks. Most companies insist that their logo is prominently displayed on every single slide in the deck. And, it’s not uncommon for marketing departments to insert up to a dozen slides in the beginning of the deck, all of which focus on your organization.

Needless to say, this was a tough concept for some of the participants to swallow. I heard a lot of “Yeah, but…” comments such as:

“Our marketing team says we have to open with those slides”

“Our prospect’s don’t always know who we are so we need to tell them right away”

“It shows how diverse we are”

“My boss says every presentation has to start this way”

But, here’s the deal…your prospects don’t care about that stuff. They don’t want to know about your company or your business.

They only care about THEIR business and THEIR problems which means the faster you laser in on key business issues they face (related to your solution), the quicker you will get their attention and stand out from your competition.

Sounds simple, right?

I will be the first to admit that it can be tough to get others in your organization to change to this approach. One company I used to work with started every sales presentation with a slide titled, “The Four Reasons We Exist” and no matter how much I encouraged them to eliminate this slide, the Sales Manager refused, stating, “This is really important and our prospects need to know it.”

But, I can say that during my 12 years of private practice, I have never had a prospect say, “I didn’t see anything about your company in this presentation” nor have I lost a sale because I did not include my company background, client list, etc.

Here’s a suggestion that might help shake you from this habit…

Ask a few of your existing clients if the detailed information about your company influenced their original buying decision. Unless you are dealing with a highly analytic individual (who ALWAYS wants more info) the chances are that client will tell you that your corporate marketing slides, brochures or review of your company’s awards, history, etc., did not affect their decision.

If you need more persuasion, here is what happened after last week’s class.

One of the participants in last week’s workshop decided he would put this idea to practical use to see if it actually worked.

That night, he reached out to a prospect who he had been trying to connect with unsuccessfully for several months. His previous approach had been similar to one above, but this time, he changed his strategy. Once he introduced himself, he asked the prospect a few questions about his business, and after a short conversation, he secured an appointment with that prospect for the following week.

He admitted that he was surprised but he said, “I now realize how difficult I’ve been making it for myself to get appointments and meetings.”

I encourage you to focus more on your prospect the next time you need to give a sales presentation or make a sales call. I guarantee they won’t mind or object!

Discover what else you can do to create and deliver a dynamic and compelling sales presentation that will motivate your prospect to take action and buy from you. Check it out here.


You Had Me At “Welcome”

Sep 15

During our trip to Boston and Washington in August, my wife and I took advantage of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours. I enjoy these tours because you get to see most of the major highlights and points of interest in a large city.

Interestingly, it was the driver that made the difference in the tours. Over the course of four days in the two cities, we had seven or eight drivers, and one individual stood out from the rest.

He quickly caught my attention when he welcomed the bus load of people to the tour and explained his nickname, “Muckah.” He used self-deprecating humor and made fun of his Boston accent and immediately endeared himself with the people on the bus.

This is a critical skill for sales people, too.

If you can get prospects to like you as well as respect you, you increase the likelihood of moving that sales conversation forward because they will be more open and straight-forward with you.

Don’t forget the impact of first impressions.

Using appropriate humor can break the ice and reduce tension. A great smile combined with good eye contact can make the other people feel good. Your appearance, attire and body stature deliver unspoken messages to your prospect. And, your overall communication skills greatly affect your results.

The key is to ensure that you do everything possible to demonstrate that you are a professional and to capture the other person’s attention in a positive manner.

BTW: The driver explained that he enjoyed “mucking” around in the dirt and mud when he was a kid and when asked for a nickname he automatically said, “Mucker”. However, with his Bostonian accent it sounded like, “Muckah” and the bus company engraved that on his name plate.


What’s Your Warm-up?

Sep 08


While in Boston on my recent vacation, my wife and I decided to take in a Red Sox game at the infamous Fenway Park. We arrived early and I watched the two starting pitchers (Joe Kelly, Boston and Collin McHugh, Houston) warm up.

Kelly spent time stretching and limbering up before throwing. And then, he stood about 60 feet away from his catcher and threw several dozen pitches. An average warm-up, I’d say.

McHugh’s took a different approach. He started about 40 feet away from his catcher and threw easy pitches into the strike zone. After each throw, he moved back a step or two and soon he was throwing from the standard 60 foot distance. However, he didn’t stop there.

He kept moving back, and eventually, he must have been at least 100 feet away from his catcher. That meant he had to throw harder and faster to reach his target. And he did! I was impressed how accurate his throws were from that distance.

His warm-up intrigued me because I knew that after pitching the ball over 100 feet, the 60 foot distance during the game would seem easy.

Houston went on to win the game 8-1.

McHugh’s routine got me thinking about warm-up routines in sales.

An effective warm-up can make the difference between a deal and “no- sale”. If we go into an important sales conversation without properly preparing or “warming up” we run the risk of losing that opportunity.


What’s your warm-up before a sales call, meeting or presentation?

What actions do you work through to ensure that you are fully prepared?

What mental preparation do you undergo before an important call?


Can You Disconnect?

Sep 02


My wife and I just returned from a much-needed two-week vacation. We spent the first week driving to, and touring, Boston and Washington (that’s the Washington Monument in the background). Then we relaxed in Hilton Head for another week. It was a perfect mix of activity and rest.

Unlike previous vacations, I resisted the temptation to respond to emails and engage in work-related activities. I admit that I did reply to a few emails, but I simply advised the senders that I was on vacation and would follow-up upon my return.

This is a serious challenge in today’s business environment. Many sales people feel an overwhelming need to stay connected and respond immediately to emails and voice mails even when they are on vacation.

I don’t buy into excuses such as, “My clients expect a quick response all the time”. With rare exceptions, customers don’t expect you to be at their beck-and-call when you are on vacation, and if they do, I would seriously consider whether that client is worth keeping.

I believe that it is critical to disconnect from work even when we enjoy what we do.

We need to give our brain a rest from work activity. We need to see new sights, take in different experiences, try new foods and take a complete break. And that means disengaging from email and other work-related activities.

During the upcoming posts, I will share sales insights that were gained from our trip.


Stop Spouting Off!

Aug 25

While I was having my car serviced recently at the dealership, I ended up speaking with the General Manager (we knew each other through recreational softball).

During our conversation he stressed how their company was changing their approach to selling cars by focusing more on relationships rather than “telling” people everything about the vehicles they were looking at or considering. He noted that people know all the “stuff” about cars so telling them about the technical aspects was a waste of time.

However, about 30 minutes later I watched a sales person lead a customer through the showroom. And, not surprisingly, he was telling the customer everything he knew about each vehicle.

Wake up!

Spouting off product knowledge or specs about your product is NOT going to compel someone to buy from you. People can get that information from the Internet and, in most cases, they do before they call or visit you!

As Linda Richardson once penned, “telling is not selling” so stop spouting off. You can close more sales, earn more credibility and differentiate yourself from your competition by asking deep, thought-provoking questions that get your prospects to sit up and think.

It’s much effective than spouting off.


Are You Willing to Put in the Effort?

Aug 18

Last week I was conducting a post-training call with a client’s sales team and during the call we discussed what concepts the team had implemented since the initial sales training workshop.

I was not surprised to learn that several sales people had not implemented the concepts into their sales routine. I also wasn’t shocked to learn that these individuals had not made much progress in their sales results since the initial training program.

Improving your results takes effort. You can’t expect to implement something new and get great results.

New skills take time to master. You need to practice. And you need to put in the effort.

Think about your favorite hobby, pastime or non-work activity.

Whether it’s gardening, pottery, playing a musical instrument, doing puzzles, golfing, etc., I guarantee that you went through learning curve before you started mastering that activity. I play darts in a Division 1 league but it took many hours of practise and playing to reach that level.

It’s no different with sales.

Changing your approach takes discipline, effort and hard work.

Today’s sales environment has changed and if you have not changed and improved your approach, you are going to get the same results you always have. 


Get Personal

Aug 11



Wow! Last’s week’s post about sales lessons from a Jack White generated a ton of emails! Not only from the sales ideas but mostly because readers learned that I am a fan of White’s.

That got me thinking…

We need to get personal with our customers and prospects, too.

However, not in the traditional sense of spending time trying to find common ground in hobbies or interests. That’s an old-school approach of establishing rapport that is not nearly as effective as it once was simply because busy decision makers don’t have time for social chit-chat.

Instead, we want to ask questions that get personal insight from those individuals.

Insight that help us identify their business and personal goals determine key pain points, areas of opportunity, and deeper knowledge about their business. Executives love to talk about their business providing, of course, you are not wasting their time asking basic questions that could have been gleaned from their website or front-line employee.

Senior decision makers are always looking for insights and knowledge that can help them achieve their business goals which means we can also get personal by demonstrating knowledge about their business, industry, trends and challenges.

When we help our prospects and customers accomplish their goals, me make it personal. And, that helps block out the competition.


What Jack White Taught Me About Selling

Aug 04

Jack White live at the ACC in Toronto

Last Thursday I saw Jack White perform at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Although the vocals were often difficult to hear (it was the ACC after all), White’s performance was outstanding. As I watched him perform, I couldn’t help but think of some of the sales lessons he provided during his show.

He gave it 100%

Since early June White has done 30 shows across North America and Europe but you would never know it by the energy he put into his performance. He danced, strutted, jumped and played the guitar like it was the beginning of the tour.

Sales lesson: Are you putting 100% into every sales call, meeting and presentation?

He talked very little

Many performers spent time between songs talking about the next song, how they came up with the idea, etc., to introduce it. White did very of this. After all, we weren’t there to hear him talk; we wanted to watch and hear him play.

Sales lesson: It’s common for sales people to talk too much. Limit your talking and invest more time asking questions.

He had a simple stage show

Unlike many concert acts, White did not have an elaborate stage set up or show. There were no pyrotechnics. No big screens, lasers or complex light show.

At first I was surprised but as the show progressed I realized my attention was focused on the music instead of watching other stuff that often happens during a concert.

Sales lesson: Less is more. Sales presentations don’t have to be elaborate or complex to be effective.

He got us to pay attention

I generally take dozens of pictures during a concert but last Thursday I only took a handful. There were two key reasons…

First, before White came on stage an MC came out and suggested that everyone put away their phones so we could fully appreciate the show. He went on to say that photos from the show would be posted on Whites website the following day where they could be downloaded at no charge.

As a result, I didn’t feel compelled to take a lot of photos which allowed me to focus on the show.

Sales lesson: What can you do to gain your prospect’s full attention?

He was focused

During one of the encore songs, a young guy gained access to the stage and began dancing. White didn’t even blink an eye or miss a beat when this happened or while security escorted the guy off the stage. Instead, he remained completely focused on playing and singing.

Sales lesson: How can you improve your focus during a sales call, meeting or appointment to achieve better results?


Take Off Your Watch

Jul 28

cool watch

Let’s face it. Sales people don’t always get the respect they deserve and rightfully so sometimes.

If you read last week’s newsletter, you that some salespeople deliberately mislead prospects in order to get them on the phone or schedule a face-to-face meeting.

However, assuming this is not your approach and you are meeting with a new prospect for the first time, here is sure-fire way to not only capture their attention but to instantly earn their respect.

Take off you watch and place it on the table or desk in front of you. Then say, “Mike, I know your time is valuable and I don’t want to overstay my welcome. Do you still have 30 minutes allotted for this meeting?”

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Look at it from a prospect’s perspective for a moment.

Most decision makers have been forced to endure long-running meetings where the salesperson droned on and on. I know I’ve been guilty of running overtime on a sales call or two and that behavior seriously affects our credibility.

I can practically guarantee that your competitors don’t do this which gives you a perfect opportunity to stand out from your competition.

BTW: if you don’t wear a watch, you can use the same approach with your smartphone.


If You Need to Leave Voice Mails Like This Maybe it’s Time for a New Career

Jul 21

Caution Head

Last Thursday I was working in my office and received a voice mail message that said, “Hi it’s Dan. I was just looking at your website and I’m interested in learning about your training.”

As you can imagine, I returned that call pretty quickly and here’s how it played out…

“Hi, Dan speaking.”

“Dan, it’s Kelley Robertson returning your call.”

“Hey, thanks for getting back to me. I was on your website and saw that you do training. I work for (a company who provides online printing services) and wondered if you have heard of us.”

“Sure have. A couple of people from your company reached out to me last fall. So, would I be correct in assuming that you’re not actually interested in training but you want to sell me your services?”

“Yeah, are you interested in booking an online demo?”

Combined with the negative experience I had last fall with both sales people from the company (one missed the scheduled online demo and the other called me Rick in her voice mail and email) AND the fact that Dan had left that voice mail simply to get a return call, the rest of the call went downhill fast.

I despise sales people who use manipulative tactics to get appointments or return calls. It is individual’s like this that give professional sales people a bad reputation.

Misleading people to get them to return calls is not an effective long-term strategy. You might get the call-back but it’s going to be tough to earn your prospect’s trust and close the deal.

Do yourself a favor…be honest, open and direct in your prospect communications.