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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Stop Working so Hard! And Sharpen your Axe.

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Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” Honest Abe and I see eye-to-eye on this, but as I’ve often said, simply knowing what to do is never enough. It’s the matter of actually doing it that makes all the difference.

After speaking with a sales manager last week, I wondered, “How would Honest Abe’s philosophy apply to sales management today?” I’ll let you decide. Here’s what this manager said when she was talking about quality prospecting: 

Topics: new business development Management Talent Sales

Curiosity Killed the Cat, but Saved the Sales Rep

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Have you ever noticed how many questions little kids ask? Every parent has a story to tell about the funny or embarrassing questions their kids have asked at the most inopportune times, all those occasions their child has scrunched up their little face and asked, “Why is Grandma so wrinkly?" or "Why do we have to go to school every day?" or "Why do I have to eat those gross green things?” If you don’t take control of the conversation, the third degree can go on indefinitely—because the curiosity in children is limitless!

Somewhere on the journey from childhood to adult professional, though, much of that unfettered curiosity gets left behind. I would argue that we have become a society of head-nodders where people are often afraid they’ll look dense if they ask a question. You’ve seen it—people nodding in agreement, as if they completely understand, when you are certain they don’t. Their fear of losing the respect of others actually keeps them from learning. 

As we grow up, we naturally become more self-conscious, so much of this may be related to those normal insecurities. Or, who knows, maybe all those times our parents said, "Stop asking so many questions!" curbed a bit of our inquisitiveness. Or maybe expressions like "curiosity killed the cat" have actually impacted our innate desire to pry.

Topics: new business development Needs Analysis Sales

What is Your Sales Strategy—Pitching Proposals or Providing Solutions?

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The best B2B salespeople follow a sales strategy that includes the use of a needs analysis meeting with new business prospects or existing customers. Do you?

Without a needs analysis the sales process breaks down transforming salespeople into peddlers—pitching, hoping and praying… pitching, hoping and praying… pitching hoping and praying! 

A better approach involves a conversation with customers and new business prospects to uncover business problems or opportunities. 

Topics: new business development Needs Analysis sales strategy Sales

A Sales Strategy to Double Time Spent Selling

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When a colleague conducted a "time spent selling audit" for one of her clients, the data showed the organization's best sellers spent slightly over 20% of their time actually selling. Keep in mind, the audit included the best sellers in the organization! Here are five reasons why this happens:

Topics: Setting Appointments new business development lead generation Management Sales

How Do You Tantalize a Prospect?

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Is a prospect’s first impression of you a list of bold claims about your product and how superior it is to competing products? I hope not. It’s boring to the prospect. You see, dangling product in front of a prospect is usually ineffective for many reasons:

Topics: new business development Needs Analysis Sales

Speed Up Your Sales Cycle With Focus And Preparation

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You're only as good as your last great sale. Are you getting your next one fast enough to reach your goals? Many salespeople approach their next big win like it will take months. That's a bad assumption to make if you want to accelerate your sales cycle. With the right focus and preparation, one salesperson I work with got her "next great sale" in a short amount of time. Here's how:

Topics: Setting Appointments new business development sales strategy Sales

Sales Strategy: How Preparation Speeds Up the Sales Process

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New business efforts are full steam ahead! As I am helping execute new business sales drives for different sales organizations from all over the country, I am uncovering a significant difference between how management feels this should be accomplished versus the salespeople charged with generating the revenue.

First, here's what management wants: to hit an aggressive new business goal in a specific amount of time from the very best prospects for their industry, which has been strategized to meet overall growth objectives. This is good; sales organizations need to think this way to grow and compete.

Now here's what salespeople want: to hit that number by calling on as many prospects as they can, so they hopefully get enough first appointments set, so they can complete the rest of the sales process, and hopefully close enough new business. This is NOT good because this philosophy leads to choosing and spinning your wheels on lousy prospects and hasty approaches to getting first appointments. Both of which will certainly impede any salesperson trying to hit their numbers.

Topics: Proposal new business development Needs Analysis Sales

Three Steps to Generating Quality Case Studies

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The need for quality case studies has never been greater than it is right now. B2B salespeople are encountering more competition than ever before, and they are working harder to earn the business and attention from both their prospects and their current clients. There’s a lot of information out there online, and businesses are increasingly conducting their own research and independently garnering information that allows them to evaluate your products and services. 

Topics: business development case studies business relationships new business development Sales

Referrals—Just Try Them!

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The other day I was talking with a sales manager who was lamenting that his people were having a very tough time getting appointments with quality prospects. We talked about all the ways we recommend salespeople warm up otherwise cold calls, but we ended up focusing on perhaps the most powerful way to get a warm reception — a referral from a current, satisfied client. The problem is, most salespeople simply do not ask for referrals because they are not accustomed to doing it. So we decided we would instruct everyone to ask five clients for a referral in the next week. Simple, yet new! You know what is going to happen here.  

Topics: referrals new business development Sales

To Improve Sales Performance, Remember To Switch Your Hat!

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To improve sales performance, remember to switch your hat... and only wear one at a time! Let's talk about the difference between educating and presenting. There is no doubt you are aware of the products, or capabilities, you have to sell. Most of your clients are aware of your "heritage" products, but when it comes to some of the more complex products you are capable of delivering, your clients and prospects need to be educated about what they are and—more importantly—how they can use the products to achieve their business goals.

Topics: new business development Needs Analysis Sales