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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

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?

Topics: Sales sales process

Add One Word to Your Definition of Prospecting and See What Happens

prospectingSince the first salesperson roamed the earth in prehistoric times (yes, we know what she was selling, but that’s not the focus of this article!), prospecting has been defined as looking for people who might become customers, or simply, looking for customers.

There’s a slightly different definition, not nearly as well known, that opens up a whole new vista of opportunity: Looking for customer needs. Just one word is different, but it changes the entire meaning.

What this New Definition Does to You

The first thing that happens when you add that word is that you automatically—instantaneously! —start focusing on customer needs instead of the products and services you handle. Your empathy, expertise, and problem-solving capabilities take center stage, making you more interesting, more useful, and more likely to be viewed as a trusted and valued source.

Topics: Sales sales process

Are Your Prospects Dying of Boredom?

dying-of-boredomIf every time your prospect or customer felt like you were pushing your products, rather than focusing on his business, he transformed into a Hollywood film director and screamed, “Cut. Boring! You’re out of here!” He’d be doing you a favor. What happens more often is that the prospect is bored and finds a semi-polite reason to show you the door. He’s just polite enough that you don’t get the bigger message—that you were boring.

Topics: Sales sales process

Derail the Sale? Five Sure-Fire Ways

Now, be warned. Each of these methods for undermining success is potent. If your purpose is to ensure that the prospect doesn’t buy, all you need is one of these five. Any one will do.

1. Fail to Qualify the Prospect


Since this is the first significant step in any professional B2B selling process, it’s your first opportunity to mess up. And this mistake has become harder to make in recent years, but if you go out of your way, you can do it. Harder to make? Yes. Qualifying the prospect requires information, and information is abundant these days. You can search for information about a company and find buckets full. In some cases, you can learn about specific challenges they’re facing or opportunities they’re chasing. And information about specific people at the company that you might approach? If you want to stay in the dark about them, be sure to steer clear of LinkedIn. Not only is it easier than ever to qualify a prospect, but these days many of the best prospects are raising their hands and qualifying themselves. But never mind all that: Derail your sale by investing gobs of time in an unqualified prospect.

Topics: Sales sales process

How to Solve the Stage Fright of New Business Development

stage-fright-salesperson“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” 

- William Shakespeare

An account manager recently sent me a note with this cool compliment: “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I always feel so confident after we speak.”

That last line stopped me in my tracks and brought a smile to my face. Confidence is such an important aspect of what we all do. With it, great things can be accomplished; without it, few things will even be attempted. So I reflected on the conversation that led her to make that statement. Why did she reach out to me? And what, exactly, happened during our call?

Topics: new business development Sales sales process

What do Ordering Dessert and Selling Have in Common?

ordering-dessertI know you have been there. We all have. You go to any restaurant, and they are always trying to upsell you. Do you want a drink with that? How about a jumbo large fries? And even at nice restaurants they ask if you would like to see a dessert menu, or they just bring the dessert cart to your table without even asking.

Are they really doing that for you? Are they trying to solve your hunger problem after you just ate a huge meal or ordered a double meat cheeseburger? Of course not! They are trying to solve their problem, which is to grow their bottom line. (Drinks and desserts have the largest profit margins on most menus, but you knew that.) And we know we are being upsold because if we wanted or needed that pie, we would have ordered it!

Topics: Sales sales process

Checklists Save Lives. They Can Save Sales, Too.

checklists-save-livesA decade ago, a group of hospitals in Michigan implemented a procedure in their ICUs that reduced the infection rate by 66%, cut expense by $75 million, and saved an estimated 1,500 lives. Some new technology? A wonder drug? Nope. 

It was a checklist, used when inserting an intravenous line into a patient. Author James Clear calls this the power of never skipping steps, and he wrote about in a recent blog post at JamesClear.com. Surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande wrote a very strong-selling book about the extraordinary impact of the simple checklist, The Checklist Manifesto

Topics: Sales sales process

SQUIRREL! Helping Clients Stay Focused in a World of Distractions

squirrelA colleague was recently lamenting the proliferation of competition he was now facing. “Customers have so little loyalty anymore. They jump around from one new thing to another, and the result is that they have a much less cohesive operation and lack overall direction.” His business is sales and sales management for a digital and legacy media organization, but his problem is not unique. All kinds of businesses are facing all kinds of new competitors… and it is likely that you, too—whatever your business—are finding loyalty more difficult to come by.

When you find yourself in this “Squirrel!” sales environment, it’s important that your degree of objectivity prevails over your level of frustration. That new company you see as an emerging threat or competitor? Your customer sees it as a new option. When that option is attractive to your customer, the reasons are usually pretty simple. Some of these issues you absolutely can control, some of them you can’t. And sometimes, these sales challenges are found somewhere in the middle of the influence spectrum, meaning you are neither in control… or without it. So why do customers look past you, and beyond your product line?

Topics: Sales sales process

6 Things to Include in Winning Proposals

winning-proposalA couple weeks ago, we were talking internally about the sales process. The topic of proposals came up, and the conversation became spirited.

I asked several colleagues,

What's the one thing you should always include in a winning proposal?

and they came back with amazing answers. These are tried and true solutions from winning sales consultants, so keep this list handy!

1. A Dotted Line

This one might sound obvious,

Topics: Sales sales process

The Best Defense is a Killer Offense

keeping-track-of-target-accountsToo often, we define “new business” as the business a competitor once had until we stole it. Here’s the bad news: They often think of new business the same way. Thus, competitors engage in a constant war of churn, where quite often there really is no “new business” at all; just an exchange or recycling of clients as if sales was nothing more than a tennis match, and the client is the ball.

Topics: Sales sales process