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The Future of Sales and Marketing

The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Stephanie Downs

Recent Posts

How to Ask Better Needs Analysis Questions

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Have you ever set a goal for yourself to run a race? Whatever the motivation, you decided to do it. It may have been on a whim, but nonetheless you realized there was more to it than showing up the morning of the race and running. You probably found a race that suited your ability, recruited a friend to join you in the adventure, set a training schedule, and off you went. By no means did you show up for registration the morning of with no prep at all. Well, I hope not anyway. If you did, it probably didn’t go as well as you would have liked. You may have looked back and asked yourself what you could have done differently to change the outcome. I’m guessing the answer is, almost always, more training so you were better prepared.

Running a race without adequate training is no different than showing up to a first time meeting with a new prospect unprepared. Yet, it happens. Preparing yourself to ask better needs analysis questions will help you not only finish the race, but to finish with the intended outcome: to get an assignment from the prospect.  

Where to start? Here are a few suggestions for how to ask better needs analysis questions.

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Topics: Needs Analysis, Sales

How to Craft a Proposal that Won’t Get Rejected

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"The end depends on the beginning (and everything in between)."

Yes, we have heard this a thousand times, but no truer words have been said when it comes to developing proposals. I had an epiphany pretty early in my sales career. I had been on a sales call to a restaurant, and they asked for a proposal. I rushed back to my desk so excited with the opportunity to get to present, only to stare at my computer for what seemed like an eternity. Crafting that proposal took a lot longer than it should have.

Later, when looking back, I realized it was because I didn’t have enough information. I had missed the mark on a number of things. Here's a little advice on how not to make the same mistake.

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Topics: Proposal, Sales

Becoming the Company of Choice

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In working with companies large and small and in cities large and small, the number one thing I hear most often from managers is how hard it is to recruit. There is no doubt that it can be challenging, especially if there isn’t a clear strategy in place to tackle it. Most managers don’t make recruiting a priority until when? Yep, you guessed it: when there is an open position. That is exactly the wrong time to do it (or to start doing it).

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Topics: hiring salespeople, Talent, Sales

Can Your Clients Live Without You?

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Have you ever thought about changing banks? I’m guessing most of us have. Either because of a poor experience, or relocating, or because of better rates and lower fees at another bank. If you are like me, you quickly realized what an incredible and daunting task that would be. Auto drafts, direct deposits, checking accounts, savings accounts, home equity lines, home mortgages and the list goes on and on. So, what did you do? You stayed put. Well, I did anyway. I couldn’t bear the time and the energy it would take and the fear of forgetting to transfer something like my electricity bill (aka my internet bill).

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Topics: sales strategy, Sales

How to Make Your Weaknesses Irrelevant

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Weaknesses. We all have them. But we all have strengths as well. Which do you focus on? 

Human nature leads us to naturally focus on our weaknesses, but it is a proven fact that we can be significantly more effective when we do the exact opposite! 

In sales coaching, you can get a 10x lift from a salesperson if you focus on their strengths. This is the most highly effective use of your coaching time when you consider that you will only be able to improve people in an area of weakness by about 10%.

Yes, easier said than done at times, so here are some suggestions on how to accomplish that.

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Topics: sales performance, Talent, Sales

Was It Really a Good Meeting? How to Make Sure Your Prospects Call You Back

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“I had a really good meeting! But. . . I can’t get the prospect to call me back!” or “I had such a great meeting, but I never got an answer to the proposal.” I hear statements like these frequently when working with salespeople. They return from a meeting telling their manager how great it was, but then nothing happens. Wishful thinking sets in. Calls get made to the prospect on a weekly basis, managers ask about it in their weekly meetings, and salespeople start saying, “I don’t know what could have happened—the meeting went so well!”

What does “I had a really good meeting” really mean? For some, it means the meeting was long. For some, it means the prospect opened up and talked a great deal. For some, the client nodded and sounded interested. This list could go on and on.

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Topics: successful sales meetings, Sales

Are You, as a Sales Manager, Consistent and Predictable?

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I seem to regularly have conversations with sales teams where I hear managers talk about accountability, implementation, follow-up—all referring to a system, process, or new business development that is lacking. Most of the time, my response is: "let’s talk about your weekly meetings and your weekly sales plan."

Here is the tried-and-true guide to great one-on-ones.

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Topics: sales management, Sales

Sales is About Teaching

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I recently overheard a telephone conversation when traveling, and it concluded with the person saying, “Sales is all about teaching.” Well, having been in outside sales, sales management, or consulting sales organizations my entire adult career, I stopped and pondered this. My gut reaction, was "No it isn’t," but then I thought, "Well, it is." I concluded, it’s both. It depends on what filter you are looking through.

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Can the “7 or Higher” Rule Drive You to Greater Success in Sales?

Success in SalesAnyone who has ever brought a first baby home from the hospital knows how it changes your life. The days of being a childless couple suddenly seem distant, almost alien. You may have thought you were busy back then, but with a new baby in your life, you have discovered what busy really is!

The "7 or Higher" Rule

This very scenario popped on a TV show I was watching recently. The new parents were finding themselves pulled in a thousand directions and unable to give as much attention to their friends as in the past. To try and explain this to their friends, they would tell them about their “7 or higher” rule. If something wasn’t a 7 or higher (on a 10-point scale), they probably wouldn’t even consider carving out time for it. And if a friend were to approach one of them wanting to discuss something or seek some of their wise counsel, that friend was likely to be greeted with the “7 or higher” question: My time is really limited these days, but if you tell me this is important, that it’s a 7 or higher for you, I’ll make time for it.

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Topics: time management, Sales

What I Learned Again about Sales—from the Guy Who Poured My Wine

learning-about-sales-from-the-guy-who-poured-my-wineAnybody who knows me knows I enjoy a glass of red wine. I am not a connoisseur by any means, but I do love a good glass of Cabernet. 

While traveling recently, I requested a glass at dinner and the server went above and beyond the call of duty. Instead of serving me the house Cabernet (honestly, I would probably have been fine with that), he immediately asked what I liked. Full bodied? Heavy? And then he proceeded to pour me three samples to choose from. The dollar-per-glass charge for samples became a moot point. I knew what I was getting and that I would enjoy my vino with dinner. What service!

This server also called most customers by name when they entered, poured their “usual,” and asked about their kids and pets. Oh, to have more servers like this….

What was the sales lesson I was reminded of as I watched this genius server in action?

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Topics: Sales, sales process