Monday, May 31, 2010

Tips for Selling from June to December

We are halfway through 2010. Tomorrow I will begin a four-part series on how you can have a record-breaking, money-making second half of the year.

Check back tomorrow!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mistake Number 10

Mistake Number 10: You engage in too little new business activity.

How many prospects do you talk to every week? For all too many salespeople in all too many weeks the answer is a big fat zero. Are they really that busy? Or because they’re successful, have they allowed selling—the job they were hired to do—to take a back seat to servicing? To be good at prospecting, to cold call and get people to talk to you on the phone, you must practice. Otherwise when the bottom falls out and you’re scrambling for new work, your skills are rusty and it’s tougher to convince prospects to buy. Be proactive about seeking new business and succeed no matter what fate throws your way.

I'll be taking off Monday to enjoy the holiday! I hope you enjoy your day off, too. Happy Friday!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mistake Number 9

Mistake Number 9: You wait until you lose one account to start looking for another.

Over the years I won accounts and lost them. Early in my career, one big loss blind-sided me and taught me this painful lesson. If a client is worth $10,000 in yearly billings, you may be able to replace them quickly. If they’re worth $100,000 or more, it takes longer. The “I’m too busy to sell” mentality permeates the printing industry. Allowing that thought pattern to take root in your mind is a mistake to fix today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mistake Number 8

Mistake Number 8: You spend every moment servicing customers when you should be selling them.

Servicing and selling are two different tasks. Servicing focuses on current projects while selling looks for future business. What questions do you ask when you’re servicing an account? What questions do you ask prospects to get new business? They’re different, right? At least once a month, plan a sales call and talk to current customers. Learn about new sources of pain. Discuss goals. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that servicing and selling are synonyms because they’re not.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mistake Number 7

Mistake Number 7: You assume the customer thinks they’re getting a great price.

Why do customers buy from you? Value or habit? If it’s habit, be warned. Just because price isn’t questioned doesn’t mean the customer sees your value. What if one day your customer walks into their office, looks at your quote with fresh eyes and say, “Holy $&@%! This is way too expensive!” Somewhere right now, a buyer is thinking that exact thought which is why smart salespeople have closing conversations. It’s a perfect opportunity to reinforce value and convince buyers your price is worth every penny.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mistake Number 6

Mistake Number 6: You’re overly dependent on one relationship inside an account.
The buyer loves you. Does their boss have a clue you exist? All too often, the answer is no. We live in a world where companies get reorganized, departments get downsized, and people get reassigned. Find ways to connect with more people within the organization. Get to know the buyer’s boss. Someone takes over when the buyer goes on vacation. Be a friendly face and get to know them, too. Don’t make the mistake of depending on the strength of a single connection. Build a network and sleep better at night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mistake Number 5

Mistake Number 5: You allow customers to make dumb mistakes.
“I buy from printers who watch my back,” a buyer once told me. No one wants to make mistakes or look stupid. Making big expensive mistakes can get a print buyer fired, so it’s your job to prevent customers from making them. Ask more questions. Insure buyers fully understand processes and delivery schedules. Point out potential problems and discuss them. If you catch a typo late in the game, speak up. Let the buyer make the call on fixing it. If you’re asked to produce a job in a costly and inefficient way, discuss it. Stopping customers from screwing up is a big value-add, so be sure you include it with every order.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mistake Number 4

Mistake Number 4: You fail to communicate bad news at the right time in the right way.

No one likes to deliver bad news but if you delay it often makes the situation worse. It’s important to deliver bad news the right way. If you screwed up, admit it and apologize. If there is a legitimate reason for the problem, explain but remember the line separating reasons from excuses is thinner than a sheet of 20 lb. bond. When you call to talk about problems, be prepared to talk about solutions. Customers forgive mistakes. What they won’t forgive is dishonesty, deception and delay.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mistake Number 3

Mistake Number 3: You’re too darn difficult to deal with.

I talked to a friend who spends about $3 million on print annually and she told me, “I fired a printer this week because they were too hard to deal with.” What about you? Are you easy to work with? Do customers laud you for your quick response to phone calls and emails? Do you anticipate needs and fulfill them before you’re asked? Print buyers are busy people. They don’t have time to chase down answers or check to make sure you do your job. If you’re hard to deal with and use up too much valuable time, they’ll fire you and find another salesperson like my friend did.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mistake Number 2

Mistake Number 2: You overestimate the value of the service you provide.
All humans have the same bias. We think we’re better than we really are and that leads us to overestimate the value of the service we provide. Sure, you turned a complicated estimate around in a day, made the job look great on press and got the hot job out on time. Be honest. Would your competitors have done any less? Sometimes the answer is “yes” but often enough what you regard as a brilliant performance simply met the customer’s expectations. The bar for “Wow!” constantly gets raised. Don’t underestimate the competition. There’s a good chance they work just as hard as you do.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The 10 Worst Mistakes Salespeople Make

Over the next 10 days, I will be sharing the 10 worst mistakes salespeople make.

Mistake Number 1: You assume long-time customers are loyal.
Evidence in this area confirms the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of all customers are satisfied and only twenty percent are loyal. Satisfied customers like you, but they don’t love you and they will shop. Loyal customers may love you, but they don’t always remain loyal forever. Start asking yourself three questions.

  1. Who is loyal and who is satisfied?
  2. What can I do to convert satisfied customers into loyal ones?
  3. How can I reward loyalty so customers stay loyal?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Effective Follow-Up: Part 3

Part three of the effective follow-up

Inspired Selling Gets Follow-Up Appointments.

Inspired selling starts with a positive attitude that is visible to the buyer from the first moment you meet and genuine concern for the buyer’s best interests. In a world where buyers have many options, inspired selling creates competitive advantage because it focuses on a critical differentiator that can’t be copied—YOU!

Inspired selling delivers a message customers want to hear. It’s aspirational as well as personal. It doesn’t just tell customers what you can do for them. It evokes emotions and is visionary, painting a clear and compelling picture of how life will improve by making the purchase.
Inspired selling will get you follow up appointments and will inspire buyers to buy.

How Often Should You Check In?

Greg Guess said, “A call every two or three months is sufficient.”

Relationships are built on communication. To maintain a relationship requires you to maintain communication.

Linda Lindsay, Principal of Little Brown Dog Marketing offered sound advice. She said, “I believe sales and marketing should work together on this... once a suspect is proven to be a prospect if sales is unable to engage, they should be turned back to marketing for nurturing. Selling is all about timing and being able to strike with then need is in the forefront of the buyer's mind.”

Most printers don’t have a marketing department or a plan for nurturing leads, so what should you do? The simplest answer is to dial the phone every other month and check in with the buyer. In between calls, send an email or mail a sample. It’s not fancy, but it helps you stay top of mind.

And maybe one day the buyer will need something and thinks of you. Maybe—or maybe not.

Before you invest the next year of your life in consistent follow-up, heed these words from supply chain expert Dave Taylor. “Look at how big the budget is,” he recommends. “Decide if the company buys enough to justify your time. If they don’t buy much or they buy infrequently, then the only way you’ll get an opportunity is if one of the current vendors falls out of favor.
Sure, that could happen but maybe there’s someone better out there for you to call on.”

A good prospect buys what you sell. A great prospect buys a lot of what you sell. A perfect prospect buys a lot of what you sell and is interested in buying it from you. Don’t spend valuable time chasing low-value prospects, especially if they ignore your calls and emails. Instead, find new prospects, focus efforts on them and follow-up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Effective Follow-Up: Part 2

Part two of the effective follow-up: Did You Bring Enough Value?

Mark Gulledge bought print and sold it, too. He said, “You have to bring me something—expertise, new options—something that has a positive impact on my business. If you can’t tell me how you can make me better off, I don’t need to see you again. Bring me value and my door is open.”

Dave Taylor said, “Generally, I have three to five vendors in a category. Price is not my only criteria. I buy value and that’s determined by a vendor’s ability to meet critical requirements relating to product usage, delivery dates and material requirements.

Value is built on benefits. In “Selling to Anyone Over the Phone,” Renee P. Walkup categorizes benefits in five basic categories.

  • Saving time.
  • Saving money.
  • Increasing revenue.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Improving productivity.
Customers desire some of the benefits you offer and don’t care about others. They don't always buy the best solution. They buy the solution with the best value.

Greg Guess, Principal and Chief Creative Officer at G2 Communications, said “I don’t like pushy sales people who don’t ask enough questions to find out what I need, but try to sell me something anyway. Since I’ve purchased printing for many years, I have established vendors and I chose them based on capabilities, quality, service and pricing. The only reason I would go outside of my group was dissatisfaction in one of the four criteria above.”

Buyers are busy. They agree to meet the first time because they want to solve a problem or because your offering sounds intriguing and they’re interested in learning more. If education was the motivation and they learned all they needed to know in the first call, you won't be invited back.

If there is a problem and you have a solution, opportunity exists. Your challenge is to demonstrate value and prove you’re the best choice among the available substitutes. To accomplish this I developed a technique called Clarify and Confirm.

  • Make a statement outlining a specific problem you can help the buyer solve.
  • Ask a question to clarify if this is an issue for the buyer.
  • If the buyer agrees they would like to solve the problem, share the specific benefits of solving the problem with the buyer.
  • Ask a question to confirm the buyer is interested in receiving the benefits.
Dave Taylor said, “Highlight your strengths. Tell me what makes you different.”

To put it another way, offering up a platter heaped with benefits isn’t enough. They must differ in significant way from ones currently supplied by the incumbent, or the buyer won’t be motivated to make a change.

Part three...tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Effective Follow-Up

Did you know that buyers tell you how to sell them?

Here's what happens to everyone. You meet a prospect, have a pleasant chat and they appear interested. They may schedule a second meeting, or even a third. But then that dark day comes. You call and email and you’re ignored. Sometimes, the problem is you.

Part one of the effective follow-up: Did You Click With the Buyer?

Personality is built on unique psychological qualities that influence behavior and thinking. Sometime a buyer and seller click and in thirty short minutes, they establish a meaningful emotional connection. Both parties find it easy to read and interpret the other’s verbal and nonverbal cues, and conversation is comfortable.

In other cases, personalities clash. Take the example of Bob and Howard. Bob is in his thirties. He goes to an appointment with Howard dressed in khakis and a golf shirt. Howard is in his late fifties and a traditional thinker. Bob’s attire offends Howard because he believes it demonstrates a lack of respect. Bob’s questioning style is direct and assertive. Howard doesn’t like that either. He slaps another label on Bob, reading “Too pushy.” When Bob tries to schedule a follow-up appointment, Howard won't take his calls.

David Taylor is a Certified Purchasing Manager and president of Supply Management Alternatives. He purchased printing for several companies. When asked about the personality issue, he said, "I’m turned off by the person who represents the stereotypical used-car salesperson. They talk a blue streak, want to make a deal with everyone, brag about how their price is the best and don’t ask enough questions.”

“We decide who we don’t want to be friends with before we decide who we do want to be friends with,” Beverley Fehr writes in her book, “Friendship Processes.” Face-to-face meetings and selling conversations expose similarities and differences. When we encounter people who read from a different script, it’s uncomfortable to some degree. Salespeople are more willing to chug through discomfort and look for common ground because building a relationship with a potential buyer puts money in our pocket.

To earn a return invitation, focus first on rapport building and be more likable. In his book, “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less,” Nicholas Boothman says, “Likeability has something to do with how you look but a lot more to do with how you make people feel.”

Some buyers enjoy chit-chat about personal issues. Others want to get right down to business. To establish what the buyer desires ask, "How did you end up at this job?"

Do they enthusiastically share bits and pieces of personal history such as where they grew up or went to school? Or do they limit their answer to a short unembellished recitation of career highlights? No matter what is said, the answer illuminates preferences and copying the buyer’s conversational styles helps you establish rapport and keeps the sales cycle progressing.

More on the effective follow-up tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


While I sincerely hope that my blog is engaging sales professionals who sell a variety of different products and services, I myself am a long-time veteran of the commercial printing industry. One publication that caters to print sales and marketing professionals is CANVAS. I have had the pleasure to write for this wonderful magazine and over the next few weeks I will be sharing advice and sales tips from my favorite articles.

Are you a CANVAS Subscriber? What's your favorite article in the most recent issue?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Three Cold Calling Tips That Work - Tip 3

3. Stop fortune-telling before you pick up the phone. You can't predict whether or not prospects will talk to you. The only way to find out is by smiling and dialing. In ten minutes, you can make three cold calls. Stop predicting failure and stop saying you don't have time. Start calling instead.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Three Cold Calling Tips That Work - Tip 2

2. Persuasion is a process, not an event. If you want to persuade prospects to talk to you, use intelligent persistence and script out 8 voice mail messages. Start each one with "Did you know?" Tell prospects one way you deliver value in each message.

Have a good weekend!! Check back Monday for the third and final cold calling tip that works!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Three Cold Calling Tips That Work

1. Everyone wants convenience. How do you create it for customers? Use your answer to script a call that starts by asking prospects, "Are you looking for convenient ways to . . . ?" When you get an affirmative answer, follow by saying, "Our customers do business with us because . . ." and tell the prospect how you deliver convenience. If they say, "No, I'm not," in your friendliest voice find out why.

Check back tomorrow for tip #2.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The next Twitter

Twitter user or not, a new voice-based Twitter could be the hot, new social media networking tool.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


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Monday, May 3, 2010

One Question Helps You Convert Prospects into Customers

When you're in the dating phase of a prospect relationship, does getting the chance to quote mean you have a real shot at getting their business? Find out by asking, "Is there any reason why you wouldn't feel comfortable giving us this order?"

Listen to what the buyer says and how they say it. Do they sound genuinely interested in doing business? Do they give you a direct answer? Genuine interest and specific information indicates the potential customer sees no barriers to a developing a deeper relationship.

Evasive answers, hesitancy and a doubtful tone communicates the customer has concerns. Ask more questions. Draw the client out. Address issues and then ask "Does that put your concerns to rest?"

If they answer "Yes," you just increased the odds of making a sale.