12 tips for storytelling during sales calls

Salespeople who are able to share engaging stories that resonate with the listener make a connection. It’s one thing to list why a customer should do business with you; it’s another to be able to relate a past success story that brings that list to life. It’s not a little bit different – it’s a whole lot different.

Here are 12 tips for effective storytelling:

Focus on the prospect – Tell stories that relate to solutions that address the customer’s needs.

  • Leave the jargon at home – Translate the story into language familiar and relevant to the prospect.
  • Make the story make a point – Have well-researched, provocative viewpoints about the story that relate to the customer’s environment.
  • Don’t rely on PowerPoints – Verbal communication is a better way to create images when telling a story.
  • Dramatize the story – Make clear the contrast between the customer’s current state and their desired state after using your solution.
  • Build up your story inventory – Have an appropriate story ready to illustrate a point and advance the sale.
  • Role-play the telling in advance – It always sounds different when you hear what you say aloud!
  • End with an unexpected benefit – When possible, share unexpected benefits. For example, after highlighting the benefits achieved, round off the story by saying something along the lines of “… and on top of that, the unexpected benefit was …”
  • Punch up the story – Keep your audience engaged with your story, challenging conventional wisdom, and using appropriate humor.
  • Use images – Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Spend more time preparing – Your presentation should not be a features “dump.” It should be tailored to your audience, focusing on what you know about them, your understanding of their needs, and how your solution will help them achieve their goals.

©2018 Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Call Execution, Uncategorized |

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Handling 5 mistakes to get sales back on track

Salespeople dread dealing with mistakes. At best they get you off track … at worst they lose you the sale.

Mistakes run the gamut from corporate issues, like defective products or billing issues, to mistakes generated by the salesperson themselves, like sharing faulty information or missing a key player involved in making the buying decision. Some mistakes are just annoying, some are financially costly, and some have even more dire consequences. But no matter one’s skill or luck, mistakes occur.

No matter how clever your sales strategy or how much value the salesperson brings to the customer, all that is easily forgotten when mistakes emerge. Furthermore, if not handled properly, it’s not uncommon for salespeople or their company to be branded as risky to work with, non-responsive, or unpredictable. There is no way to avoid mistakes completely, so learning how to handle them is critical to sales success.

The bottom line for handling mistakes is that when something goes wrong, take responsibility for it – and do it quickly. By owning up, you’re telling the customer you acknowledge the mistake. While the customer may still face a problem, they now have an acknowledged partner working with them to solve it.

Some additional tips include:

  • Analyze the mistake from the customer’s perspective. The first step is to get on the other side of the table. From your side it may not appear to be a big deal – you may have seen the mistake many times before. Not necessarily so for the customer. This impacts how you handle the mistake both in tone and in substance.
  • Act professionally. As you begin to tackle the mistake, start with your attitude. Customers should recognize that you understand a mistake has occurred, you take it seriously, and you will handle it professionally.
  • Remember, bad news documents itself. It is rather uncanny that one has to go to great lengths to promote and publicize good news while bad news documents itself and does so quickly throughout the customer organization – think “wildfire.” So handling things immediately is a basic requirement.
  • Explain how the mistake happened, but be thoughtful about your explanation. While people like to know why something happened in general terms, they don’t want to hear a saga involving a litany of accuses – especially when the storyline places blame everywhere but where it belongs.
  • Don’t forget that prevention is better than cure. When a mistake happens, and the customer gives you the opportunity to rectify it, take the time to analyze how you are going to prevent it from reoccurring. Make sure you communicate to the customer what you will do in the future to minimize the risk of reoccurrence.

While these techniques won’t guarantee a second chance with a customer, they’re critical if a salesperson wants to retain the customer relationship. By handling the mistakes professionally, it’s very possible you will win customer respect. Best case, of course, is you impress the customer so much on how well you handle the mistake that it becomes a plus rather than a negative!

©2018 Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Strategy, Uncategorized | Tagged

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Acknowledge selling mistakes … don’t panic!

No one likes to make mistakes. What’s to like? At best, they get you off track … at worst, they lose you the sale.

Mistakes run the gamut, from corporate issues, like defective products or billing issues, to mistakes generated by the salesperson themselves, like sharing faulty information or missing a key player involved in making the buying decision. Some mistakes are just annoying, some are really difficult to handle, and some are potential deal breakers. But regardless of one’s skill or luck, mistakes happen.

No matter how much value you have previously brought to your customer, it can easily be forgotten when bad mistakes emerge. Furthermore, if not handled properly or if the mistake repeats itself, it’s not uncommon for the salesperson or their company to be branded as risky to work with, unresponsive or unpredictable.

There is no way to avoid mistakes completely, so learning how to handle them is critical to sales success. The bottom line for handling sales mistakes is when something goes wrong, take responsibility for it, and do it quickly.

By owning up, you’re telling the customer you acknowledge the mistake. You must also simultaneously convey that you are going to do something about making things right. While the customer still faces the problem, they now have an acknowledged partner working with them to solve it. Having this type of conversation in a compelling manner is a highly skilled interaction. It is not something one just picks up. It requires training and practice. Five tips for getting it right:

Analyze the mistake from the customer’s perspective. The first step is to get on the other side of the table. From your side, the mistake may not appear to be a big deal. You may have seen the mistake many times before. Not necessarily so for the customer. This impacts how you handle the mistake both in tone and in substance.

Act professionally. As you begin to tackle the mistake, start with your attitude. Customers should believe you understand that a mistake has occurred, you take it seriously, and you will handle it professionally.

Remember, bad news documents itself. It is rather uncanny that one has to go to great lengths to promote and publicize good news. On the other hand, bad news documents itself and does so quickly throughout the customer organization – think “wildfire.” So handling things immediately is a basic requirement. Second, check to determine if the fire has spread and if you need to take some additional action.

Explain how the mistake happened, but be thoughtful about your explanation. While people generally like to know why something happened, they don’t want to hear a saga involving a litany of accuses – especially when the storyline places blame everywhere but where it belongs.

Don’t forget, prevention is better than cure. When a mistake happens and customers give you the opportunity to rectify it, take the time to analyze how you will prevent it from reoccurring. Make sure you communicate to the customer what you will do in the future to minimize the risk of reoccurrence.
In many cases, executing these tips will provide a second chance with a customer. Customers understand the complex environments on both sides of the table, so you have a good shot at understanding if the mistake is handled skillfully.

By managing the mistake professionally, it’s also possible for you to win the customer’s respect. Best case, of course, is you impress the customer so much on how well you handle the mistake that it becomes a plus rather than a negative! The latter result requires skill, a bit of luck and a certain type of customer.

©2018 Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Uncategorized |

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Great sales coaching starts with receptivity

Sales coaching can make a difference, and it should be a priority. In fact, pros agree that sales coaching is a critical piece of the puzzle in developing a world-class sales team.

Yet, when it comes to giving coaching feedback, most sales managers don’t do it enough. Many times it’s water off a duck’s back, and sometimes it makes matters worse.

There are many reasons why giving feedback often fails to make a difference. Some relate to the mindset and attitude of the salesperson receiving the coaching while others pertain to how the feedback is provided.

Let’s look at the salesperson being coached first. One of the underlying reasons why feedback often doesn’t work stems from the fact that most people struggle when self-assessing their strengths and weaknesses. What most people end up doing is seeking out evidence that confirms their positive opinions about themselves and ignoring contrary evidence. When this happens, many salespeople hold onto a positive self-assessment, even after their sales leader has shared contradictory feedback. So, receptivity is an issue.

A part of the receptivity issue also relates to the content of the feedback. Another, and equally important part, is how the feedback is provided. A partial answer for the latter is giving more attention to the details of the language used – specifically the pronouns.

If receptivity is to be improved, it’s important to distinguish between situations where sales leaders are providing feedback about things the salesperson does positively versus a negative behavior or action. The positive part is usually not a problem. On the other hand, the negative part can be much more difficult to handle effectively. So, let’s compare two different approaches for handling feedback about a negative.

Approach 1. “Lee, in the call yesterday, the way you handled the objections didn’t go very well. That is something you need to work on.”

Approach 2. “Lee, in the call yesterday, I couldn’t track the way you handled the objections. That is something we need to work on.”
When comparing the two approaches, the key is to determine which question is likely to create greater receptivity. We would suggest the second approach does a better job because it conveys the notion that the sales leader and salesperson are in this coaching effort together.

Now, if a sales leader provides a salesperson with feedback only once every two months or so, this subtlety of language will probably not make a difference. But for salespeople who provide more frequent sales coaching feedback – words matters – they can influence receptivity.

©2018 Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Leaders, Sales Management Coaching, Uncategorized |

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More people in the game equals more sales

Sales teams - more people with "sales antennae up" = more wins

Sales teams – more people with “sales antennae up” = more wins

The investment required to make a sale is lower when selling to existing customers versus new customers.  In the former, there is a relationship in place and you have extensive knowledge of the customer – including challenges, how they operate, and their decision process.

So a strategic question for driving profit is: Are you leveraging the investment in your existing customer base? One underutilized approach for achieving this goal is the potential for technical and service people to identify sales opportunities.

In major accounts, multiple people within your company are involved in implementing the sale and supporting the customer.  These people spend a significant amount of time at the customer site.  In the case of major IT or consulting engagements, it is every day for extended periods of time. Although the technical and service staffs have an opportunity to grow the business, they often don’t for a variety of reasons – such as they don’t see it as their job, they don’t have the skills and/or they just don’t like doing it.

Yet, these people can play two key roles in growing the business.

  • The first and most obvious is providing quality products and services. After all, the effectiveness of the work all of these people do has a direct impact on a customer’s satisfaction with the solutions your company offers.  Success brings additional sales; failure takes a company out of consideration for future business.
  • The second role is more difficult and is often totally neglected.  Every person who interacts with customers should have their antennae “up” for potential opportunities for their company. This can take several forms – being alert for new opportunities coming down the pike with existing contacts or with different contacts within the customer organization. This perspective is especially important when a company offers a wide range of solutions where the customer might not be aware of the breadth of their offerings.

Regarding the second role, the technical person should simply to “keep their heads up”. They should identify possible opportunities and convey to the customer an awareness about capabilities. This is about identification, not selling. If the opportunity looks promising, they need to alert the salesperson.

When seeking to sell more to existing customers, it isn’t just the responsibility of your salespeople. Everyone who interacts with the customer should be a member of the sales team. If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2017  Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Strategy, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

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How can new sales reps build their credibility?

Onboarding New Sales Reps

New Sales Reps

What would successful sales reps and sales managers tell a new salesperson on how to gain credibility?  We posed that question to our customers and heard many great recommendations, like:

  • Listen to the customer’s needs
  • Determine what you should do, and then do it 100 percent of the time.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do, always follow through, stay true to your word
  • Don’t overpromise and under-deliver.

We also asked sales reps about credibility. We posed the question: How can new sales reps build their credibility?

One theme that emerged is credibility is divided into two pieces: company and personal.

  • Company credibility is the easier of the two. It derives from product and company knowledge.
  • Personal credibility is a little more interesting. For new sales reps, personal credibility isn’t built overnight. It’s a long-term process. One of the sales reps spent a lot of time talking about this, noting that a new sales rep doesn’t need to make a big impression immediately. Rather, a new hire should create a “plan” that allows him/her to build their personal credibility over time and avoid the big mistake upfront

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2017  Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in New Hire Sales Training, Sales Best Practices, Sales Call Execution, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

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The lost art of call planning

Call PlanningAfter many years of sitting in on sales calls and even more providing feedback to salespeople in sales simulations, we’ve noticed there definitely is variability in the amount and quality of pre-call planning.

Pre-call planning improves when someone else is on the call, like a sales manager, colleague, or even a consultant along as an observer. But the boost doesn’t last. Too often it’s replaced by the amount of time salespeople have in their car prior to the call or the time it takes to drink a latte at Starbucks.

This story has been told thousands of time. No need to rehash it here. What’s more interesting is talking about a frequently missing ingredient in pre-call planning – even when pre-call planning does happen. Salespeople usually identify what they want to say and what questions they want to ask, but they stop there. They omit considering want to propose as the next step to move the sales cycle forward.  As many sales managers have told us – every salesperson should close for a commitment that moves the sales cycle forward on every call.

When giving feedback in sales simulations we often share with sales reps and managers that the sales person should plan multiple advances. Why? If the call doesn’t go as well as planned, they can close the call with something less aggressive that moves the sale along. On the other end of the spectrum, what if the call goes better than anticipated? If they haven’t thought about a more aggressive advance – how will they close the call?  Too often the result is a missed opportunity.  The best planned and executed sales call that doesn’t end with moving the sales cycle don’t lead to generating revenue!

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2017  Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Call Execution, Sales Strategy | Tagged , ,

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Trials and tribulations of new sales managers

Sales Management Coaching Session

Sales Manager

New sales managers often are promoted for their sales success – not sales management expertise. So what happens after the sales manager assumes the role and responsibilities of their new position?

Too often “paperwork” like CRM systems, HR concerns, and other administrative requirements take precedence.  Additionally many new sales managers are inundated by their sales team with fires to put out.  Few new sales managers find themselves “ahead of the curve”.

These institutional obstacles are difficult for a sales manager to avoid because they don’t go away. This means the answer centers on time management not prevention. On the other hand, there are some self-imposed pitfalls that can be avoided.  Let’s take a look at three:

1. Believing the way they sell works well – so their sales team should use similar strategies. So, when a salesperson wants to pursue a sales strategy that differs from how the new sales manager would attack the account, tension often arises because each thinks their strategy is better.  For argument’s sake, let’s say the sales manager’s strategy is better.  But the key question is: Does the salesperson have the experience and skills to execute it successfully? Just because a sales strategy or sales technique works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for another. And in the end … if the salesperson “gives in” to the sales manager and isn’t successful, there is resentment and lost revenue.

An alternative approach is for the sales manager to spend time upfront understanding each salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses and coaching then on an approach that fits each individual. It takes more time, but the long-term payoff is substantial.

2. Holding the reins a bit too tight. It’s impossible to script and/or approve every interaction between a sales person and a customer. If sales people have to go back to their sales manager to get an answer to every customer request – no matter how small it is – the sales person becomes frustrated, and looks “small” in the customer’s eyes. In these cases the new sales manager becomes a bottleneck – resulting in declining customer satisfaction and even revenue declines!

3. Being a funnel, not a filter. The most successful sales managers we know say they’re are a “filter, not a funnel”. They filter the unnecessary information “coming down” from the division or HQ and only funnel to their sales team the information the sales person needs to succeed.  As they explain, we’re “eliminating the clutter and freeing up more time for the sales person to spend on selling.”  Unfortunately too many new sales managers don’t eliminate the clutter and their sales teams spend a disproportionate amount of time playing with “paperwork” rather than calling on customers.  This can be difficult for a new sales manager but the sooner it happens the better.

Today it is more important than ever to have a superior sales force.  It is safe to say that it is near impossible to have a superior sales force without having a great group of front-line sales managers – front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for driving sales excellence.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2017  Sales Momentum® LLC

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Account friend or internal champion – it matters

Internal Champion

Internal Champion

In major B2B sales where the sales cycle is long, competition is keen and multiple players are engaged in the decision, developing internal champions is one of the more effective best practices. Why? A lot of the discussions and decisions go on when you’re not there.  So if you have a champion in the room, it’s more likely you’ll have a better outcome.

But like many things that work really well, developing an internal champion is not easy.  As a matter of fact, it requires substantial thought, time, and effort to get it right.  And the negative consequences can be telling – if you don’t get it right and your competition does, it could be the difference between winning and losing.

Because it’s an effective best practice, let’s explore some of the traps that sales people need to avoid when developing internal champions.

  • Confusing friends and champions.  A major trap is failing to distinguish between account friends and internal champions. Both account friends and internal champions will like you but champions have an added feature – they are willing to “sell” for you when you are not there – big difference. This trap has the added negative that you may think you have a champion when you don’t.
  • Selecting the wrong person.  People you develop as internal champions cannot help if they are not one of the decision-makers or key influencers.  In a complex sale, this is an easy trap to fall into because it’s difficult to determine the decision making authority and influence power of the various players.  A wrong selection can be telling because it takes time and effort to develop an effective internal champion.
  • Failing to rehearse your champion. Let’s take the following scenario.  You have a champion that likes your solution, is willing to speak for you in that upcoming key internal meeting, and is one of the key players in the decision process.  Nice picture.  The trap is the failure to leverage your advantage. The last step in such a scenario must be to rehearse your internal champion on how best to “sell” for you in that upcoming meeting.  You’re the sales person – your champion isn’t – so help them to help you.

In summary, two points to consider:

  • To win major account business you have to continuously get to the right person, at the right time, with the right message.  An internal champion can be of tremendous help in getting that done!
  • Because developing internal champions is an important and a highly skilled task, the topic of internal champions should be included in every basic sales training program and coaching effort.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2017  Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Call Execution, Sales Strategy, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

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New business from existing business is smart business

Grow Existing Business

Grow Existing Business

You’ve decided the best approach is to ask your sales reps to grow the business in their existing accounts.  You have called a meeting with the sales reps to share best practices for generating new business from existing accounts.

Six ideas that you could pass along are:

  • Look at the current situation through the lens of your last sale. From time to time when you are engaged with a customer look back and think about the situation that preceded your sale. What was the impetus for the opportunity? What did you observe? What situations were present? Who did what just preceding the opportunity?

New opportunities are a response to something. Was the last opportunity consistent with what you understand to be the customer’s plan, or did it appear to be a reaction? What things were in motion before the opportunity occurred? With these insights, sales reps can look for new opportunities.

  • Assess organizational changes for clues. Another set of signals that an opportunity may be in the offering is changes in the organization. Whether a company is preparing to implement a planned strategy, merging with another group or responding to a problem, very often personnel are tasked before the opportunity is visible to the outside world. Teams of required skills are assembled and units are disbanded or reduced.

Look at new and expanded organizations and what kinds of skills, and in what quantity, are being added. If you have been working with the organization it is important to leverage the sales team’s knowledge of the customer. They can provide insight to what specific changes may mean and not mean. This can help you determine what kinds of opportunities may be coming down the road.

  • Observe what is happening in overall ongoing expense management and related capital budgeting. Implementing new ideas and acquiring new capabilities cost money. Even when they are budgeted they have to be funded. Is the customer experiencing any changes in spending patterns you can identify? Are expenses being restricted or expanded?

Large opportunities are rarely standalone and companion efforts may have very different schedules and critical paths. Look for opportunities that may signal other opportunities.

  • Remember it’s a network. In major accounts, many players are involved in the decision. A few are key decision makers; others are influencers. Still others are gatekeepers who can’t say yes, but can say no. You have to know who is playing which role, the relationship between the players, and what they think about you and your competition. An average sales performer has a general understanding. A top sales performer has a comprehensive understanding.
  • Don’t forget to tell your story. In case you spot an opportunity be able to subtly, but clearly reinforce just what it is you do that is of value to customers. Customers don’t spend much or any time pondering what you do. They worry about what they need and when they do only the organizations that are top of mind, come to mind.

More often than you wish, customers will even forget all of what your company does. If that happens, you simply won’t be considered. Too often, if you don’t share the range of things you do well periodically, a customer might say, “Oh, I wish I had known you can do X, because you did such a great job on Y and, had we known, we would have used you.” Always have an up-to-date value proposition about your core capabilities and a new story about how those capabilities have been used by others.

  • Bring in fresh thinking. Think about leveraging literature, speeches, research, stories you’ve heard that relate to the customer’s agenda or you know are of particular interest to the individual. Even if they don’t produce a lead today it builds relationships and often creates leads in the future.

Most companies would be better off if they spent more time thinking and acting strategically about how to grow their business in existing accounts.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2017  Sales Momentum® LLC

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Strategy | Tagged , ,

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