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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Don't Call on the Person in Charge of Buying

calling-warm-leadsCall the person in charge of selling, not buying! Sound crazy? Not if you’re developing new business. The problem with calling on the person in charge of buying when you’re trying to develop new business is their focus is on your product, how expensive you are, and other technical aspects of your delivery. People in charge of buying are trained to compare products and dismiss you, or to pit you against your competitors to get the lowest price.

If you want a solid sales strategy, and you want to develop new business for your company, why not call on the person in charge of selling? There is a director that runs a smoking cessation clinic in your city. He has a quota to make. There is a regional manager for a group of health clubs in your market and she has numbers to meet. There might even be someone in charge of indirect distribution for one of your wireless providers–someone who has to figure out how to get more phones and more contracts out of mall kiosks and other retailers they sell to.

Topics: sales strategy Sales

How to Get Upgraded to First Class—in Sales!

first-class-upgradeI recently read an article on how to get one of those choice seats in the first-class cabin. One suggestion was to be nice and smile at the gate agent. Gee, I don’t think so! Yes, I should be courteous and warm, but no, there is darn little chance that being sweet will get me upgraded. I know the computer makes those decisions based on the passenger’s status in the airline’s loyalty program, how much they paid for their ticket, when they bought it, and numerous other factors. Rarely does the gate agent have any discretion as to which of us weary travelers gets that last first-class seat.

But the article did have value—because it made me think about how salespeople get “upgraded” in the minds of our prospects. In that realm, there’s no computer and no algorithm. And while smiling probably won’t make much of a difference, how we behave totally determines how we’re perceived and whether the prospect gives us first-class treatment (an appointment) or not.

Topics: Sales

The Trap That is Set for All New Salespeople

free-cheddar-mouse-trapI saw this quote on the bathroom wall of my favorite Asheville coffee shop this week.

“There’s always free cheddar in the mousetrap baby.” 

It’s a lyric from a Tom Waits song, a song I’m not particularly fond of, but this lyric line got me thinking. The main message, of course, is that the easiest path is not always the best. The mouse would be better off slowly nibbling on alley scraps through the day to end up with enough food to survive, instead of trying to grab the full days’ worth of nutrition at one time from the mouse trap—making it his last meal!

As I thought about this timeless truth, I started thinking about the trap I see many new salespeople fall into. Too often, a new seller makes a quick sale or two before they know what they’re doing, before they are following the right steps and committing to enough activity.

Topics: Sales

Are You in Sales or Service?


I can still see it in my mind—the old commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Two people would run into each other, and then exchange accusations: “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate.” “No, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter.”

You should think of selling and customer service in the same way. It’s not one or the other. They should work together. That was always the case, but these days it is even more dramatically true: selling and serving should be inseparable, and nearly indistinguishable.

Topics: Sales

Science Proves Early Birds Get More Worms

early-birds-get-more-wormsWhat have you been reading lately? There's so much content published every week that a person can never read it all themselves. That's why we're here.

Here are the five articles that piqued our interest:

1. 11 reasons (provided by science) why early birds are more successful {Inc.}

I am an early bird, so I am naturally drawn to this article. Early birds are happier, more proactive, and get things done when there are fewer distractions.

2. Delacroix writes about the conflicting needs of socializing and solitude. {Brain Pickings}

Excerpts from Eugene Delacroix's journal show his increasing need for solitude while working. Glimpses like these into the great minds of previous centuries make me wonder what they'd accomplish with today's increasingly distracted world.

3. Binge drinking facts to use with DUI attorneys {Marketing Mind}

Topics: Wrap-up

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: 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

These 3 Things Will Derail Your Goals

10_Message_Goals_in_Two_Paragraphs_Can_You_Do_ItThis was another great week in terms of engaging content. We found a lot that made us think.

Here are the five articles that piqued our interest:

1. 3 things that'll derail your goals {Inc.}

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they're mostly internal. Sure, the third thing is external, but if you read closely, it's actually how you react to external forces.

2. 51(!) productivity tips for startups {AlleyWatch}

These range from the obvious (email is a beast, don't let it rule your life) to the not-so-obvious (never accept vague goals) to the downright clever (focus on vice presidents when looking for an intro).

3. Auto dealers aren't great at social media {Marketing Mind}

Topics: Wrap-up

You Can’t Hire a Great Salesperson Right Now

iStock_000016534806_SmallYou can’t hire a great salesperson right now. I know that’s what you want. I hear you saying that’s what you need. But I’m telling you it’s not going to happen. How do I know?

Because if you’re telling me this is your big, urgent need, then you’re also telling me that you don’t know just where you’ll find that person. That makes it clear to me that you don’t have a talent bank. And without a talent bank, the likelihood that you will hire a great salesperson right now is near zero. You might hire a great one, but it will take you much longer than you’d like. Or you could make a hire real soon, but it won’t be a top talent who can grow into a top performer.

The Magic of a Talent Bank

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

How to Transform Your Boring PowerPoint Presentation

transform_your_powerpoint_presentationsThis was another great week in terms of engaging content. We found a lot that made us think.

Here are the five articles that piqued our interest:

1. Before & After PowerPoint Presentations {SlideShare}

I love this visual representation of slideshows. The transformation from title and bullets to a more visually pleasing look is astounding.

2. Why You Should Care About Holocracy {First Round}

The term holacracy caught my eye. When I read this I thought about some of the better managers I work with right now. They tend to follow this principle of dispering control and ownership so it doesn’t all reside with them.

3. How to Be More Resilient When Things Get Tough {Inc}

Topics: Wrap-up

The One Thing Every Brand Should Do to Improve its Social Media ROI

every-brand-needs-to-pay-attention-to-the-headlineAs a former Digital Sales Manager turned consultant, I am constantly asked How can I make sure this social media campaign will work? As with any campaign, there’s plenty a marketer needs to do to maximize success. But there’s one thing that’s enormously impactful and often overlooked:

If the headline doesn’t click in their head or their heart, there’s no way their finger will click.

The headline is the first thing a person sees—and too often the last. Social media are as cluttered today as are every other medium. People who are active in social media are often on several different platforms every day, and every one of those feeds is jammed with new information, new content, every time they check in. Do they carefully read it all? Ha. Do you? Of course not. 

Topics: Digital

You Can Smell a Good Leader a Mile Away

smell-a-good-leader-a-mile-away"Shepherds ought to smell like sheep."

-Allan Taylor

That’s one of those quotations that slows you down and makes you think. It got me thinking about how important it is for sales managers to be in the field with their people. Sales managers ought to smell more like the funky field than the sterile office. 

It’s tempting to want to continually shut your door, block out distractions, and catch up on email and paperwork (it’s probably time to start calling this screen work, don’t you think?). Yes, there are times where you need to stop down and do some of that. But if you want to be a good leader and stay connected to your people and their work, to encourage best practices, and to spot opportunities for skill improvement, you need to get out there!

Get Out in The Field

Topics: leadership

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

10 Habits to Ditch to be More Productive

be-more-productiveThis was another great week in terms of engaging content. We found a lot that made us think.

Here are the five articles that piqued our interest:

1. 10 habits to completely eliminate in order to be more productive {Entrepreneur}

Stop checking email all the time, stop weekly status report meetings, stop losing sleep, stop skipping breakfast, and more.

2. Richard Branson knows how to have fun {Inc}

Here's a guy who knows how to let loose, have fun, and... apply eyeliner! The slideshow is a fun feast for the eyes.

3. How good is your company's grammar? {Marketing Land}

Topics: Wrap-up

What Redemption Looks Like for the Beleaguered Sales Manager

what-redemption-looks-like-for-a-sales-managerWith the great religious holidays about redemption—Easter and Passover—both happening this weekend, we thought it would be fun to think about what redemption might be like for an earnest, hard-working sales manager. This is the manager who works his or her butt off to get it right, but life being what it is, still has plenty of near-misses and disappointing outcomes.

When that redemption day finally arrives at the sales manager’s office, it might look like this:

  1. Staff turnover is reduced to zero for one full year. No one quit, and no one needed to be sacked.
  2. An entire week goes by with no emergency emails after 6pm that “absolutely have to be dealt with right now.”
  3. A year of bliss in which the sales team makes budget in every category and on every line the company measures.
Topics: leadership

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