Success Secrets: Selling Your Ideas, by Suzanne Bates

Posted by WABC

Wouldn't you like to know how to persuade others and, in the process, get what you really want?  Persuasion is both an art and a science. The secret is to find out what others want, and then learn some essential skills of persuasion.

Assume that you have an initiative that is mission-critical, but you're encountering a lot of resistance. You're proposing change, it costs money, and it isn't absolutely guaranteed to work. Sound familiar?

As Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish poet and novelist, once said, "Everyone lives by selling something." If you want to lead an organization you must learn to sell. Building support for your ideas, winning converts, and getting things done are largely dependent on your sales skills.

Quick question: What's the most important word in selling?

Answer: The word "why."

You must learn why people would want or need to buy your idea, concept, program, service, initiative or new, new thing. If you do not know about them--their problems, needs and views--you will never successfully sell your ideas, period. People tune out when they know you're only focused on what you want. They tune in when they sense that you have an interest in them as well.

Another question: What's everybody's favorite topic?

Answer: Themselves!

People want to hear about themselves. They want to hear about their projects, initiatives, goals, timelines, challenges and interests. Unless you have factored their concerns into your presentation, go back to the drawing board. Don't show up at the meeting until you've sat in their seats or walked in their shoes for awhile. Actually imagine yourself on their team, working in their office, managing their project. Remember, this is not about you and what you need. It's not about how great your ideas are. It's not even about what's good for the company. Face it--a lot of people really don't care. What they care about is getting through their day, meeting their quotas, hitting their deadlines and making their bosses happy.

So remember, your talk should focus not on you and your idea, but on:

  • Their problems
  • Their hopes
  • Their dreams
  • Their goals
  • Their needs
  • Their timetable
  • Their budget
  • Their success

How do you learn about their problems, hopes, dreams and goals? It's pretty simple. You ask! Long before you give a presentation, make the effort to meet informally, by phone or in person, to ask questions and gain some understanding of your prospects' concerns. At the very least, take any information you already have and extrapolate their highest priorities.

People appreciate it when you take the time to sit down with them, learn about what's going on in their world, and understand what they're up against. If they are going to buy into your proposal, they must first feel comfortable with you, believing that you're on their team and that you are sensitive to their needs. Anyone who can influence a decision, get it approved, or implement it has a choice--support you, ignore you, or undermine you later.

Here are some questions you can ask to find out what you need to know:

  • What is your goal?
  • What is most important to you?
  • What are your priorities?
  • How do you need it to work?
  • When could we make it happen?
  • What are the budgetary considerations?
  • What are your human resources?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What does an ideal solution look like to you?
  • What would make this a success for you and your group?

What do you do with this information? Incorporate it into your presentation! You might even mention the great opportunity you had to meet with a key group member and learn about the group's concerns. Then, when you outline what you're going to discuss, address those specific issues, confirming that those issues are also priorities for you. With that reassurance, your prospects will relax and be more receptive to your ideas.

Of course, one of the greatest benefits to doing this homework is that prior to presenting any plan or initiative in the future, you'll be more likely to take others' needs and priorities into account from the very beginning. You'll go through fewer revisions, receive fewer objections, and be applauded for thinking of the big picture. Those are outcomes that get you noticed and win you rave reviews!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February Issue 2005, Volume 1, Issue 4). Copyright 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Suzanne Bates is a speaker, media personality, business consultant, executive coach, and author of McGraw-Hill's new book, Speak Like A CEO: Secrets for Commanding Attention & Getting Results. Read more about her work at www.speaklikeaceo.com. Suzanne may be reached by email at Suzanne@bates-communications.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Business Development, Networking, Marketing. It’s Still SELLING! (Part 2 of 2) By Barry Trailer

Posted by Barry Trailer

In my last column, I discussed some of the associations that may be hindering your ability to sell your services—and feel good about doing so. In this issue's article, I'll delve into another challenge to selling professional services: maintaining an ongoing sales initiative.

Activity and Productivity

A second challenge to selling professional services, particularly for sole practitioners or smaller firms, is maintaining an ongoing sales initiative. You're either getting work or doing work; and when you're doing work you're not getting work. This balancing act if not managed can mean long periods of doing work ("I'm completely booked out with a major client's entire executive team!") followed by as long or longer periods of finding your next client.

The longer a client drought persists, the more flexible (i.e., desperate, less discerning) you become. This is the precursor to the notion that any client is a good client—which of course is not true.

The best time to do prospecting and selling work is right after you've been engaged by (i.e., closed) a new client. You have momentum on your side, you're much more likely to stick to your standards and maintain your pricing, and most importantly, you're psychologically better able to sustain the inevitable rejection ("Thanks but, NO!") that goes along with prospecting and selling.

Think about it. You've just signed a new client for $US80,000 worth of consulting over the next quarter and you need to get started right away. Still, you contact two new names on your prospect list (more on this later) and they both say, "Thanks for being in touch but now is not a good time for this." Or, more simply, "No, not now, not ever!" How much has that hurt you? After all, you have to get going on your new client and the only reason you took time to be in touch with these two is because you read this stupid article!

OK, same two prospects only now you've been prospecting for the past six weeks and have not had steady income for more than two months. The prospects say the exact same thing: "Thanks for being in touch but now is not a good time for this." Or, more simply, "No, not now, not ever!" How much did you feel it this time? Likely much more.

If you discipline yourself to do the tough work of prospecting when you least need the business, you'll do better: a) because you radiate more confidence; and b) because the rejections or pushbacks you receive are much less damaging to you.

Many sales managers and independent business owners confuse selling activity (A) with selling productivity (P). Their formula for success is:

A = P

And their basic philosophy is "the harder I work the luckier I get." This is true if compared with folks who always intend to go out and call on a prospect but never quite get around to it; however, many people have been involved in a sales "blitz" and have seen minimal or no results.

There is another factor in the sales productivity equation, namely the quality (Q) of the activity. Our selling equation thus becomes:

A x Q = P

The question then becomes "How do you define quality in sales?" This is the stuff of sales process and the gist of my next article, but here is a quick introduction to quality for now. There are five places to improve sales quality.

1. Prospect Quality—Cultivating and working on the right Sales Opportunities

2. Process Quality—Doing the right Selling and Marketing Actions, with the right people, at the right times

3. Execution Quality—Doing right Actions well

4. Reference Quality—Doing the right Customer Support/Service follow-through well and ongoing

5. Metrics Feedback Quality—Sustaining Performance and Improvement in all of the above

To wrap up this piece, we'll focus on the first of these areas: Prospect Quality. How you define a quality prospect is up to you, but whether you'll do so is not really optional. If you don't create a Perfect Prospect Profile (PPP), you'll be doomed to chasing whatever comes your way or you become aware of. And, if we return to the relationship model, this means trying to establish relationships with people/firms that are really not a good fit for you. Which is what many people have done and is, in my opinion, why so many people hate the idea of selling!

Your PPP

Your PPP can contain both demographic (size, industry, location, budget) and psychographic (professional, honest, energetic, win/win) elements. A truly worthwhile exercise is to not simply identify these components, but also create a scale for each. For example, if a prospective client's Willingness to Play Win/Win is one of your psychographic measures, you could rate each prospect as they demonstrate the following:

+10: We can't win if you are not winning as well; how do we make
this happen?

+8: We want this to be a good experience for you as well as us.

+5: We recognize that this needs to be good for you as well as us.

+3: Here's what we're looking for.

0: It's our way or the highway for you.

Clearly these are subjective but it's your scale so make it work for you. Once you've developed similar scales for each of your PPP criteria, then rate prospects accordingly and rank them on desirability. If you have five demographic criteria and five psychographic criteria, the maximum score would be 100. You can set a baseline that says you will not pursue (or accept) business that doesn't rate at least 60.

Now go prospecting to find firms that are a good match for you and your practice. Work to build a list of at least 50 worthwhile candidates (minimum score of 60 percent of your maximum) and keep current research available on your top 10. If you don't know certain aspects, this is a perfectly legitimate business reason to be in touch and ask who has this information and what might be their view of the things that you feel matter. [Note: I'm sure even as I write this, readers will be balking. We'll take this up next time as well.]

Finally, to the extent that you can, putting together some standard packages or information nuggets that are easily and readily assemble into a relevant and timely introductory package or proposal will solve one last prospecting problem—sending them something.

If you've taken my advice and are prospecting just when you've signed a new client, the worst thing that can happen is to have another prospect say, "That sounds interesting, please send me a short proposal." You're now thinking, "I don't have time to send you a proposal, I have to get going with my new client!"

If you have some standard verbiage and informational nuggets (not printed hard copy but pieces you can quickly assemble in a soft copy document) that you can quickly send out, it will be all you need to do to get the ball rolling. Now that you've done so, you can get started with your new client and also have another prospect or two bubbling on the back burner. Go for it!

To Dos

  • Build a list with 50 PPP candidates (emphasis on Quality)
  • Keep current research on top 10 candidates
  • Have readied kits to send out quickly
  • Reach out to prospects each time you close

In my next column, I'll talk about your sales process and the quality of your process execution.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (October 2008, Volume 4, Issue 2). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Business Development, Networking, Marketing. It’s Still SELLING! (Part 1 of 2) By Barry Trailer

Posted by Barry Trailer

We worked with a bank many years ago and the executive who brought us in to do sales training said, "This is great. We really need what you guys have. Only one thing: don't call it 'selling.'" Many professionals are uncomfortable with the term 'selling' and prefer to say they're doing business development or marketing or are simply networking with other associates. What's wrong with saying you're selling?

ox y mo ron (noun)
a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together for special effect, examples: 'wise fool' or 'legal murder' or 'jumbo shrimp'

Professional Selling: Oxymoron?

For many trained professionals the notion of selling can be uncomfortable or, worse, unattractive. There can be a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is a negative buying experience they may have had in the past with a pushy or annoying sales rep. These and other stored images can combine with a sort of righteous indignation that "Our work speaks for itself," and that self-promotion is a reflection of a personal or professional deficit.

This article attempts to surface associations that may be hindering your ability to sell your services—and feel good about doing so.

pro fes sion al (adjective)
engaged in an occupation as a paid job rather than as a hobby; very competent; showing a high degree of skill or competence

sell (verb)
make people want to buy something: to increase the sale of or the demand for a particular product

Let's start right there with this notion of 'making' people do or want to do anything. That doesn't seem right and, in my view, it isn't. In workshops when I've asked participants what images or words come to mind when they hear the term salesman or saleswoman they'll offer: pushy, assertive, money driven, glad hander, insincere, etc.

Who would want to be part of that club? And yet there is this countervailing truth in business that: Nothing happens until someone sells something. How to reconcile this important fact with a desire to be of service but not a pest?

Business in general and coaching in particular are grounded in relationships. Many abuses and sloppy behavior have gone down in the name of 'relationship selling.' A model we've presented over the years to help clarify and structure this discussion is the level of relationships graphic depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Level of Relationships
Figure 1: Level of Relationships

This model is useful for a couple reasons. First, identifying the various levels helps locate where one is in relationship. If, for example, you've heard yourself saying, "We're being used for a lot of free consulting here," this actually implies a mid-level relationship. The problem is not the consulting piece; the problem is you're doing it for free.

The pyramid also helps convey the notion that the mass is largely weighted toward the bottom of the pyramid; that is, there are many more vendor relationships than actual partner relationships, though people will often mouth the word 'partner' when they really have a vendor or supplier relationship.

There are business components that increase as you move up through levels of relationship. Among these are trust (which is synonymous with credibility), access to others (players, departments, projects, etc.), repeat or add-on business, references and referrals, to name a few.

And there are things that decrease as you move up through levels. Price sensitivity (though this may never go away entirely), numbers of competitors, the significance of a particular credential or certification, time to close a particular piece of business and more (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Business Components and Level of Relationships
Figure 2: Business Components and Level of Relationships

If you now consider these things that are increasing along with those that are decreasing, you'll find they are all very good for business—your business. And this model also forms the basis of our definition of selling: Establishing and elevating relationships over time.

We have found in working with groups in the past, that this definition is much more acceptable than the notion of making or convincing people to want something. So, how best to move up and enjoy the increase of these various elements? If we return to the levels of relationship pyramid once more and rotate it 90 degrees (see Figure 3), we see how we can add value, increase our contribution and, therefore, elevate both our discussions and our relationships.

Figure 3: Relationship Pyramid
Figure 3: Relationship Pyramid

Simply stated, the more you know about a company, its customers, its industry and competitors (and your own), the more you bring to the table. The better you are able to understand the pressures your prospective clients are facing and situations they're confronting. Your immediate reaction may be that you can't possibly know this much and that you needn't have to, because coaching is really about facilitating and drawing out what is going on with (and within) your client. It is my premise that in taking this stance you are limiting your ability to ask truly relevant questions or to understand the full meaning and implication of your clients' answers.

This does not mean that you need to become an expert at manufacturing and insurance and advertising if you have clients in each of these areas, but I do mean to suggest that the more conversant you are with the major pieces in motion in these industries, the better you can sell—and, by extension, coach.

In my next column, I'll discuss a second challenge to selling professional services, maintaining an ongoing sales initiative.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (October 2008, Volume 4, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

The Power of Partnerships: The Key to Increasing Sales, Margins, and Profits, by Denise Trifiletti

Posted by Denise Trifiletti

Powerful partnerships are the key to improving sales revenues, margins and profits. They are also the best way for you to exponentially increase your business success. Why is this so?

Partnerships can increase your:

  • Qualified leads and word-of-mouth referrals
  • Differentiation and competitive edge
  • Credibility and effectiveness
  • Close ratio and margins

Let's explore what partnerships really are by first defining the term. The one I prefer is this: A partnership is a relationship between two or more organizations whereby everybody contributes, and everybody wins. Risks and rewards are shared, and neither party gains strictly at the other's expense.

As you consider new ways to grow your business, remember that building such "Power Partnerships" can give you maximum sales results while being more cost-effective than any other marketing strategy.

You can build or improve partnerships with your clients, prospects, networks, employees, and vendors by asking yourself, "How can I improve my attitude, skills and knowledge to become efficient and effective at building such partnerships?"

Think of a specific partnership you would like to establish or strengthen. Explore the possibilities of a breakthrough by calling that individual. A potential Power Partner must be a decision-maker, have a problem that you can solve or a need that you can meet, and be willing and able to spend some valuable resources (time/money/energy) on a solution. Ideally, a Power Partner will also fill a gap or meet a business need that you have.

Once you have determined that the potential for a partnership exists (I call this qualifying), you should meet, one-on-one, with that prospective partner. Agree on an agenda, including a discussion of:

  • Partnership benefits (goals)
  • The parts you both will play in the relationship (roles)
  • The values and standards which will guide your relationship (operating principles)
  • How you will define and measure your results (wins)

When you use this approach, it is critical that you ask in-depth and open-ended questions regarding each of these four areas. Why is that? Asking in-depth questions can provide you with a complete understanding of your potential partner, enabling you to explore a variety of ways of creating a truly powerful partnership. Perhaps you barter or co-market the products or services you each provide. You may pay each other for referrals that result in actual business. You can also define your expectations in great detail, to avoid surprises in the future. You can ask your potential partner to quantify the value of the anticipated benefits or "wins" resulting from this partnership. Knowing your value proposition enables you to better understand the advantages you bring to the partnership, allowing you to price and negotiate for optimum margins.

Building a powerful partnership means taking the possibilities inherent in the partnership to the highest level, allowing all involved to reap benefits and win. Wins may be monetary and/or intangible, professional and/or personal. Quantify the value of the wins so you can measure your results. Measuring your wins validates the fact that you have achieved the goals that both you and your partner defined and pursued.

How Partnerships Increase Leads and Referrals:
View yourself as a "consultative salesperson" with a large network of strategic referral partners who offer various quality products and services. When meeting with a client or prospect, you ask questions that unveil many needs, and perhaps some of them lie outside your product/service capabilities. You introduce your strategic referral partners to your prospect, and they may be able to meet the prospect's needs. Thus, you gain a satisfied client who refers more business to you--and who may also provide you with a testimonial. You receive referral fees or other remuneration from your partners in recognition of your efforts. It's an all-win proposition! Meanwhile, your strategic referral partners are driving other potential clients to you. How much business can you handle?

How Partnerships Increase Credibility and Effectiveness:
Armed with a host of top-quality solutions offered by your partners, you are confident in asking questions about a wide range of client/prospect needs. You are not pushing a single product or service; rather, you are focused on solving their problems by sincerely attempting to meet their needs. Asking questions is the key to sales effectiveness. In a consultative role, you can help them to discern their challenges, explore the value of the options you provide, and assist them in determining their best solutions. Some of those solutions may come from you and some may come from your partners. This approach renders you credible, trustworthy, effective and valuable.

How Partnerships Increase Your Competitive Edge:
You distinguish yourself from your competition by providing a true value-added service to your client--a host of solutions through your referral network. Unlike others, you are a "one-stop-shop," providing a resource that saves your prospects/clients time and money.

How Partnerships Increase Your Close Ratio, Sales Revenues and Margins:
Your partnerships will allow you to close more business. By asking a host of questions, you will confirm the value of your solutions, which leads you to employ value-based pricing (pricing based on your client's perception of the value of your offerings). You need not lower your prices to get more business, and you may even be able to charge more.

A good test of whether you are ready to take the next step towards establishing powerful partnerships is to assess the following:

  • Do you have an abundant "all-win" attitude and belief in the possibilities of partnerships?
  • Do you employ the skill of asking in-depth questions to really understand your partner?
  • Do have the knowledge to jointly develop goals, roles, operating principles and a method for measuring wins? Can you apply that knowledge effectively?

Developing powerful partnerships is the key to increasing your sales, margins and profits. This approach has been proven effective, and it can work for you!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring Issue 2006, Volume 2, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.