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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson

Recent Posts by Mike Anderson:

Everyone in the Company is in Sales Support and Customer Service

Everyone_in_the_Company_is_in_Sales_Support_and_Customer_Service_In this job, there’s never a shortage of unusual travel experiences. And many could be considered “teaching moments.”

The gate agent for a recent flight said my name over the intercom. (Nothing else, just my name. No instructions, such as “please see me at the desk,” just my name.) As I walked up, she was looking down at the notes on her desk. I said, “Hi, my name is Mike Anderson, and you just paged me.” Then, without so much as looking up from her desk, she slapped a new boarding pass (first class!) on the counter and shoved it my way. She did not say, “Hello.” She did not smile. Nothing.

Here’s why this matters: Airline upgrades just don’t happen as often as they used to. And if you travel a lot, they’re kind of a big deal. (More room to open up your laptop and get work done, and better snacks and beverages.) As often as gate agents have to deliver bad news to the traveling public, you would think she might have savored this opportunity build on the goodwill an upgrade to first class represents. It would have made the trip—and the airline—more memorable and enjoyable.

Nothing went wrong with this experience. It just didn’t go nearly as right as it could have.

Topics: Digital

You Got the First Appointment. Now What?

You_Got_the_First_Appointment._Now_What_A young account manager asked my advice recently about how to handle his first meeting with a particular prospect. It was memorable because the seller who got the first appointment admitted  he was surprised this big prospect gave him an appointment at all… and now he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it.

I started by asking what Valid Business Reason he used to gain the prospect’s interest and attention. Turns out the VBR was “okay,” but not great… focusing a little too much on the product the seller was hoping to pitch, and only slightly on a community service initiative that he thought might appeal to the prospect. But it was the latter that got the CEO’s attention and got the salesperson this appointment.

So, we went online to explore the prospect’s website and learned what we could about the organization’s community involvement. Studying their efforts led us to understand the prospect’s passions. We spent a little time browsing the site further, for other press releases and to get an idea of what the company’s priorities were (based on the way the website was designed). Then a quick stop at LinkedIn revealed some of the CEO’s additional accomplishments and a visit to his Facebook page shed light on his personal interests.

Topics: Sales

Are you Floating an Idea, or Clinging to a Sinking Ship?

Are_you_Floating_an_Idea,_or_Clinging_to_a_Sinking_Ship_Not long ago, I had the chance to watch a role-play workshop. The consultant from The Center for Sales strategy was playing “the client,” and an account manager was playing “the salesperson.” 

A few minutes into this hypothetical needs analysis, a light bulb turned on in the account manager’s head. It was as if the clouds parted, and a ray of inspired genius shone down on the salesperson from high heaven. (Or at least, that’s how the salesperson felt, based on the look on his face and the way he started fidgeting.)

Unable to contain his enthusiasm, he interrupted the client with, “Hey! I have an idea. You know what we could do…?” And of course, he dove into a thorough explanation of his epiphany. The idea was okay but not great. The client was patient and polite, but her reaction was subdued; not nearly as positive as the account manager had clearly anticipated. So the seller re-approached: “Yes, but you don’t understand. The reason this is a great idea is…” And he repeated his idea three times, in three different ways. Each time, the client was becoming less patient, less interested, and understandably less polite.

Topics: Sales

The Best Salespeople Can Hit a Moving Target

The_Best_Salespeople_Can_Hit_a_Moving_TargetI was recently asked how to provide an example of the kind of valid business reason that is sure to get a return call when left as a voicemail. My answer: There isn’t one. But let’s talk about some principles the best salespeople follow that are more likely to get you face-to-face with your prospect.
Topics: Sales

You Can Do This, But You Have to Concentrate

You_have_to_concentrateRecently, I had the chance to observe a sales meeting where all of the current revenue initiatives of a company were being reviewed by management. And there were lots of initiatives. There were incentive programs, inventory priorities, special promotions, new product introductions, price-point packages, and a new website and workflow system to support all of the above. 

The point of management was obvious: “You have so many different things to sell, how can we possibly not hit our numbers?!”

But what the sales team was hearing was also obvious: “You have given us so many things to “focus” on, how can we possibly hit our numbers?!”

Look, I know I’m not going to—nor do I want to—talk anyone out of innovating new products, promotions, and sales ideas for their team. But I think it would be smart to reflect on the rules of concentration of force.

Topics: Sales

Focused on Customer Needs? Think Smaller to Sell Bigger

Focused_on_Customer_Needs_Think_Smaller_to_Sell_BiggerClients of The Center for Sales Strategy know that it’s more important to know your prospect than your product, and that well-defined needs lead to the most dramatic revenue opportunities. But finding customer needs is not enough.

What you’re looking for is an assignment.

The Difference Between a Need and an Assignment

A need is a way you can help (and chances are, you’ll find a lot of these). But an assignment is an important need for which the client has said they want your help. 

Consider narrowing the list of needs to the client’s most urgent and important priorities in order to sell bigger with questions like these: 

  • “We’ve talked about a lot of areas where it sounds like I could be of help to you. If you had to narrow it down to one or two priorities that are important right now, which would they be?” 
  • “If we could only focus on this list of needs by working on one thing at a time, which item would come first?”
Topics: Sales

Why People Won't Give You the Time of Day

time_of_dayThe short answer:  There’s never enough of it.  (Time, that is.)  But the more elaborate answer will help you get prospects to make time to see you.

It’s important to understand that people don't grant appointments based on whether they have the time.  (Not the ones worth seeing, anyway.) They allocate their time to people who they believe have the capacity to understand and help with their priorities.

So the question becomes, how can you figure out, in advance, what some of those priorities might be?  Their company priorities are likely to be conspicuous at the company website (look on the home page, the press/news release page, and in the annual reports or investor section of the website, if that applies to this prospect).  You might find some insights as to the prospect’s professional priorities by snooping around on their LinkedIn profile, or other networking sites.  And perhaps their personal priorities might be clear when you look at their Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites.   Finally, dig around for some industry news or consumer trends that might be relevant to this prospect… and dig for other research that speaks to challenges they might face or opportunities they may have.

If the prospect matters, it’s worth your time to figure out what matters to the prospect.  Find their priorities, and they’ll find the time of day.

Topics: Sales

How to Know if your Industry (or Career) is About to be Disrupted

only_person_who_still_listens_to_CDsLook at the calendar. If it is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday—or sometimes even Saturday or Sunday—your industry and your career are likely going through or preparing for a disruption. No one is immune.

Ask anyone who used to sell compact discs containing recorded music. Ask the guy who used to sell those phones that were tethered to a wall. Ask the staff photographers at the Chicago Sun-Times. Ask the guy who puts lug nuts on the wheels of every Ford that comes off the assembly line (oh, no, wait… that guy’s a robot now). If you think you’re not going to experience a disruption in your category or career, you might be crazy or have a serious case of denial.

If you’re reading this blog, you are likely employed in sales, management, or marketing. So how do you survive disruption and thrive in a new era? There are two ways. First, you can be the disruptor (that one’s easy to say but not so easy to do).

Topics: Digital

How Well do You Know Yourself? A Lesson in Personal Branding

look_in_the_mirrorA while back, there was an entertaining story about a tour bus in Iceland that had pulled over so passengers could inspect a volcano field. One of the passengers stepped into a nearby restroom to freshen up and change into clean clothes. Upon her return, she found the rest of the passengers frantically looking for a woman that had gone missing. She joined in the search, of course, but neither she nor the other tourists could find the lady matching the description of the person who had wandered off.

Topics: Digital Brand and Connect

Professional Branding: The Common Denominator between Mercedes, McDonald’s, and You

mcdonaldsWhen you hear the word Mercedes it is likely that a visual image of a luxury German automobile pops immediately into your mind. Likewise, when people hear McDonald’s it conjures a specific image almost immediately. You might picture a restaurant with golden arches somewhere near your home or your favorite menu item. You might see a logo, hear the company’s jingle, or recall an experience you had at a McDonald’s restaurant.

Such is the power of branding. From FedEx to Kleenex, from Macy’s to Applebee’s. Having a brand means that an image pops immediately to mind when you hear or see the name.

And the same is true of you. You have a brand.

Topics: Digital