Monday, January 31, 2011

Selling in the Social Media Age: Birthday Messages

Tomorrow the Sales Is Not For Sissies blog is one! To celebrate the blog, I thought this post was appropriate.

When I celebrated my birthday in November, I received a flurry of messages from well-wishers on Facebook and LinkedIn. One stood out—and not in a good way. That’s because this message wasn’t a sincere wish for a happy birthday. It was a canned sales pitch.

If this message arrived in the mail, I wouldn’t have minded. But it showed up on my Facebook page. As I read the first paragraph, annoyance crept over me. I read no further, deleted the message and shook my head.

Sales professionals need emotional intelligence to succeed. That means you step outside yourself and look at the world through the eye of the customer. And trust me on this—customers and potential customers won’t like you more if you springboard off birthday wishes to launch into a sales pitch.

Wishing a customer happy birthday should be about them—not about you selling to them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

KeFactors Friday: What’s Your Emotional Capital?

If you attended our Relationship-building Strategies webcast series in 2010, you know Linda Bishop ( and I talked a lot about trust and how customers equate value with care. Trust, value, and care carry an emotional charge. Now consider the consequences of ignoring that. The following is based on an actual organization:

Twenty years ago, XYZ began with a groundswell of public and private support, answering a real need for international insights and services. As a 501(c)3, it occupied a crucial niche in the hearts and minds of its constituencies, and relied on their financial support as well. But despite this promising start, over time XYZ believed its press and fell victim to its own complacency.

Captains without a compass. The board and management believed themselves to be experts, so customers became characterized as whining loons. Board members micromanaged daily activities. Management treated themselves to generous pay hikes and travel opportunities, but cited operating-budget shortfalls as justification for rate increases. Not surprisingly, XYZ’s board and management disallowed anything they deemed “negative”: their communications were self-congratulating, and only the most positive customer reviews were published.

Customer service…? Minor customer questions and complaints were treated dismissively while potentially more threatening issues were listened to with perfunctory attention—but then left unresolved. Increasingly, mistreated customers scoffed at any positive news released by XYZ or reminders of its original charter. Its culture became famous for dysfunctional relationships — expressed by the number of litigations brought against XYZ by staff and customers. The company sought to suppress negative PR by presuming to put customers under a gag order.

Silent complicities. Roles and protocols became murky: employee relations with customers were marked by constant strife or, at best, the sort of cooperation brought on by an informal and inappropriate system of personal favors.

Consequences. XYZ embarked on an expansion campaign requiring new capital. Customer queries re: this new expense were never adequately answered. Demoralized staff either left or stayed long enough to undermine such initiatives. Customers also defected. Those who did remain were treated no better than staff.

At this point, XYZ’s leadership is baffled. They blame the U.S. recession and a broad customer base for diminished donations, resorting to an ad hoc “strategy” of relying on large single donors versus a coherent case statement and mass appeal to its publics. Its board and management continue to be coddled while staff and customers remain unheard.

What began with a few routine customer complaints — easy to fix; opportunities for forging deeper bonds with customers — has become a ship that’ll need to turn on a dime in order to survive, much less thrive.

And yet it’s not really about the money, which is only a symptom of the emotional capital XYZ squandered over the years—by proving themselves to be uncaring, untrustworthy, and ultimately of diminishing value.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

E-mail Tips

Today, a lot of us communicate via e-mail with both current and prospective clients. Especially when it comes to e-mailing prospects, there are a few important tips you should follow:
  • According to HubSpot, Tuesday at 11am is one of the worst possible times to send e-mail messages/campaigns.
  • E-mail subject lines should be no longer than 50 characters. Statistics show that if you can get your count down to 48 or 49 characters, the success rate of e-mails opened is even higher.
  • The recommended length for emails is 3-5 short paragraphs.
  • It’s important to avoid common spam words like free, click here or click below, Dear Friend or Dear another generic term, call or dial or toll free used with 800 or 888 or 877 or 866 or 855 or 844 or 833 or 822, Risk Free or no risk, Save $$$ or Save Millions or Save up to or Save Thousands or Save Money, Free offer or Special offer or Trial offer.
Good Selling!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Word of Mouth

Do you have a copy of my first book, "Selling in Tough Times"? Even attorneys are finding it a worthwhile read.

Pick up your copy today on TTBooks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Demanding Boss—or Bully?

Very often in my classes, I see individuals who prefer to believe they work for bullies when in fact they’re resisting demands placed by a more exacting boss—eg, more appropriate work apparel, more reliable work hours, and higher standards for performance.

Over 75% of workplace bullies are bosses, so it’s easy to assume all bosses are bullies. The majority is also male, so it’s easy to assume all bullies are men, especially as female bullying behaviors tend to be less tangible and more covert.

Take a look at this criteria:

There should be clarity and consistency in what’s expected of you. A conscientious but anal-retentive manager may be a stickler for meeting performance goals, but a bully boss will cherry-pick and manufacture issues to make your life really miserable.

When you make an honest mistake, your boss should be able to state clearly how it needs to be corrected and prevented from happening again, even if it entails an unhappy conversation between the two of you with notes to your file. Bully bosses tend to inflate mistakes to personally humiliate you; but are just as likely to overlook and forgive them in pursuit of other targets or intentions.

Feedback from a demanding boss will focus on work and performance issues. A bully boss will personalize it, either by citing herself as “your model for success” or focusing on details of your life and personality irrelevant to work. You should also receive balanced appraisals, both positive and corrective.

Demanding bosses are human, after all, and will make errors in judgment if they’re under pressure or misunderstand your intentions. Consider keeping a “daybook” that logs any behaviors you think may be bullying, because if they’re good at anything, bullies are at least consistent in their inhumanity.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Blogger: Kevin Shaffer – Identifying Exceptional Sales People; Separating Dabblers from the Disciplined

As the Director of Sales for an International Human Resources Consulting Firm, I've learned that sales people fall into two categories - Group A and Group B. If you're a salesperson, which category do you fall in to? If you're an employer, which category do your employees fall in to?

“Group A” are the people that get it and are disciplined and fully engaged. These people have very specific traits:

Group A - Disciplined

· They plan everything in advance and don’t assume anything

· They organize their day to achieve maximum outcomes

· They look to maximize every moment during peak business hours

· They always ask better questions, they listen and they know when to stop talking – no exceptions

These people tend to command attention when they enter a room. They are effortlessly engaging and they make you feel good about them and they even make you feel good about you. They follow the system and are money driven, but they understand work hard and focus pays off. They don’t chase money, it simply comes in.

Then you have “Group B”. These people would most likely get out of sales as soon as they get the chance. They got into sales because they thought the money was something they deserved, but once given the chance to sell they realized they do not have what it takes. These people tend to have the following traits:

Group B - Dabbling

· They never have a plan and seem to perform sales tasks for appearances sake, everything is a chore

· They are looking for every outside variable to blame for less than exceptional, mediocre performance

· These sales people want a better territory, better delivery times, better products, lower prices, more marketing, more training, better admin staff, accounting hates them, their computer never works, and on, and on, and on. Simply put, they are typically in the squeaky wheel club and functioning at 50%.

Stop for a moment. Think. Do you know anyone in Group A? Group B? If you took the people you know from both groups and put them in a room, could your direct report successfully put those people in the right group? Be careful, even weak sales people can sell themselves well. So, how do you find these “Group A” sales people?

It’s simple. First, you need to take your time and ignore your gut feeling. Performers perform and they know it. As a result, they are ready to share their accomplishments and they usually have documentation to support their claims of greatness. Here is the most important part… and it’s quite simple also. Listen. Listen to what is happening in the interview. If they are doing all the talking, let them walk away, I don’t care how good they are. If you are doing all the talking, get excited because you may have a star sitting in front of you. If you are doing all the taking and enjoying the conversation, you need to realize what is you have. Excellent sales people ask great questions and are exceptional listeners. They don’t waste your time with conjecture you don’t care to hear. If you reach this point, do any assessments you have or behavior trait measuring. This person is worth it.

Kevin Shaffer is the Director of National Sales for Kushner & Company, an International Human Resources Consulting Firm and Benefits Administration company located in Portage, Michigan. Kevin has trained, managed and strategically influenced sales teams for local companies resulting in millions of dollars in additional revenue. He has served as Board President in the not for profit arena and has had extensive experience working directly with sales professionals and executive management teams. Kevin was a key contributor in designing the territory management concept “Areas of Concentration”, and has also been a key contributor in designing and implementing “” specifications and workflow solutions for multiple organizations. If you'd like to speak with Kevin about this article, or any of his contributions and sales concepts, please e-mail him at