How to Hold Your Salespeople Accountable – Part 1 of 6 on Sales Management |

What is the number 1 challenge faced by sales management? Achieving sales targets…Handling difficult clients…Geographical distance…Managing personality diversity…Motivating salespeople or Keeping clients happy?Based on the feedback we have received for over the last 10 years the greatest challenge for sales management is how to achieve consistent sales performance from their salespeople.By the very nature of sales it’s a tough job yet there are salespeople, who quite frankly would be better suited in another role but they are still in sales. The question is why? To amplify the point a research paper written by Julian Griffith, ‘Taking the Lid off your Sales Organisation’ concluded that 74% of salespeople are underperformers, 20% are strong performers and only 6% are in the elite category.With such a high percentage of underperformers the problem rests squarely with sales management. Quoting from the same paper:
• 18% of sales managers should not be in sales management
• 34% of sales managers are not trainable
• 7% of sales managers are considered elite performersAs a manager responsible for sales, let’s face it salespeople are not the easiest group of people to manage. They don’t like to be held accountable particularly the underperformers who cause most of the headaches and consume most of their sales manager’s time.In successful sales organizations sales management do hold their salespeople accountable and have the respect of their salespeople. In this environment salespeople will go the extra mile to achieve and surpass their sales targets. They set a standard that others in the salesforce want to follow. The push for higher sales performance comes from peer pressure and not so much from sales management.Where to begin?
Create buy-in with your salespeople and openly discuss and encourage interaction by using the following sales accountability tools:1) The measures and performance they will be accountable forBegin by asking yourself, what is this salesperson capable of achieving and is there anything preventing them from achieving it? When discussing measures and performance let your salesperson know the reason for the sales or other targets by linking them back to the business goals. This will help them to understand why.Talk about financial incentives and or sales awards on offer and your accountability to them. Your accountability could be the minimum days you will commit to working with them in their sales territory. When they know you are accountable to them as they are to you it demonstrates that accountability works both ways. This often has a motivating effect on salespeople.Measures and performance need to be clearly defined so there are no uncertainties. Whilst measures should be realistic and achievable there needs to be a stretch factor to make it challenging for the salesperson. Measures can be daily, weekly or monthly units.Example:
– Number of daily sales calls made to existing clients
– Number of daily sales calls made to prospective clients
– Number of on time reports handed in per month
– Percentage profit margin per product2) Taking personal responsibilityIf a sales manager doesn’t take personal responsibility for his or her actions and uses excuses for non performance then how can they expect their salespeople to behave any differently? The leadership you demonstrate and the environment you create can inspire your salespeople to want to follow you.This can include:
– What you say is what you do
– You don’t use excuses but find other ways to get results
– You don’t accept excuses from your salespeople
– You demonstrate your commitment to your salespeople’s success
– You expect nothing less than the best from your salespeople
– You set the tone and pace of sales performanceIf you have a salesperson who doesn’t take responsibility then you may need to mentor them. Focus on their behaviour and the problems it is causing and not on the person. They need to be held accountable for their actions which can include low prospecting activity, not meeting sales targets and low margin sales.
Only when your salespeople fully appreciate that by taking total responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, behaviour and sales results can they experience great success. This is a proactive approach to accountability.3) A results mindsetThere are basically two occupation mindsets:
3.1) Task orientated which leads to much activity but often doesn’t provide productivity gains
3.2)The results mindset that focuses on daily activities that are aligned with the sales targetIf you have a salesperson that is task orientated begin by showing them how this behaviour leads to poor sales outcomes and is typically revealed by a low sales call to order ratio. You will need to spend time coaching them because there will be sales skills issues that you need to address, for example not qualifying prospective clients.It may be tempting to become emotionally involved when holding your salesperson accountable but you need to remain focused or you will lose control of the situation. You are the sales manager so do what needs to be done even if it feels somewhat uncomfortable initially. The bottom line is that you are responsible for sales.

How to Cure an Ailing Sales Process |

“Selling’s hard,” she moaned, shoulders drooping. “I get told “No” a lot more often than “Yes” and I’m not sure how long I can keep this up.” How many times have we heard comments like this from a sales person? Selling is hard, but for many it’s harder than it needs to be. With a proper mindset and the right approach, sales can occur much more “naturally.” So what does it take to be successful at sales? 1. Sales Requires a Buyer’s MindsetMany sales people have a selling first mentality, focusing primarily on their products and services. Their approach is all about the sale, the transaction itself…closing the deal. I’ve heard it termed the NIGYYSOB (“Now I’ve got you, you SOB”) mentality. A more appropriate mindset is that of an “assistance buyer,” which is all about helping your prospect understand their challenges and address their problems. This approach requires getting to know each other, building rapport, and discovering the prospect’s wants and needs, instead of merely “throwing up on them” about your wonderful products and services. Jeffrey Gitomer says that “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” If you can help solve their problems versus merely trying to sell them something, your chances of success increase substantially. 2. Selling Takes TimeSure, some sales happen quickly, but they are the exception. Relationships need fostered, trust and credibility developed, and an understanding of each other’s needs and wants gained. Typically, all of this takes time, and frequently it takes lots of time, involving multiple contacts or “touches,” as shown by these sales statistics (if you are not familiar with them they might surprise you):2% of sales are made on the 1st contact3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact10% of sales are made on the 4th contact80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contactIf you believe these numbers, what do they say about your sales process? If it is true that only 1 in 5 sales occur before the 5th contact, what do you need to change? Are you staying in touch and adding value throughout the entire buying/selling process or are you pushing too hard or giving up too soon? 3. Selling Needs TrackingSales people don’t always effectively track their sales activities. However, there are some fairly simple metrics that can be utilized. At a high level, T. Scott Brumley recommends the following five ratios for tracking the effectiveness of a sales person or entire sales team:Ratio 1: Total sales compensation/gross sales = direct selling costs (%)Ratio 2: Gross sales/total hours worked by salespeople = sales dollars per hourRatio 3: Number of sales/number of full-time-equivalent salespeople = number of sales per salespersonRatio 4: Gross sales/number of full-time-equivalent salespeople = sales dollars per salespersonRatio 5: Gross sales/number of sales transactions = average sales dollars per transactionIn addition, at a more tactical level, utilize metrics such as:Number of new connections made with targeted decision makers
Number of meetings and conversations held with targeted decision maker
Total number of contacts made with targeted decision makers (see sales statistics above)Tracking can help you pinpoint the problem, analyze it, and take action. If these particular ratios are not applicable to your business, then I challenge you to identify which ones are. Whether or not you currently have a sales plan, the numbers you get from these measures might be used to develop sales quotas or targets. 4. Selling Requires ManagementSales managers need to be hands-on and spend as much time with their sales people as possible. Regular “one on one” meetings are an effective way for both parties to monitor sales activities and targets. Sales guru Hal Becker recommends four areas to cover each and every week:1. Go over the previous week’s sales and the sales person’s weekly goals. Look at the sales person’s calendar for the week that just ended to gage level of activity and results.2. Plan the next week’s activity and short-term goals. Look at the sales person’s calendar for the coming week to see what they have scheduled.3. Take a look at the sales person’s list of prospects. Match sales calls with prospects or orders to see what has closed, what is pending, and what new prospects have been added.4. Ask the salesperson what areas he or she thinks need improvement.The more knowledgeable sales managers are about progress towards sales goals, the better that priorities and activities can be adjusted to improve results. 5. Selling Demands ConsistencyMost sales people and sales managers are not consistent: they do not do the right things all the time. It’s been said that “Consistent persistence will win out over talent every time.” Don’t let paperwork, e-mails, budgets and all the “office stuff” keep you from doing your job! Sales requires discipline at prospecting, making calls, meeting with contacts, providing support, issuing proposals when necessary, relationship-building, and getting commitments for sales. Discipline must be used to perform these activities all the time, not just when sales are slumping. Have a plan that works for you and stick to it. Schedule time and put the appropriate activities on your calendar, and then execute on those actions to maintain forward momentum. Be proactive and constantly measure progress against your goals.Sales can be relatively easy if we focus on what we want to learn about our prospects and how we can address their issues. Sales people often have their own way of doing things, but rarely is this done consistently. Follow the above recommendations to improve the health of your sales process and get better results…right away!

How to Motivate Your Sales Team So They STAY Motivated: Build a Foundation of Motivation |

Do you feel that your sales team needs constant motivation? Do you feel you continuously have to pump-them-up just to meet minimum sales quotas? Of course, there is always a need for continuous positive and constructive input from sales management. However, your sales force should never become completely dependent on motivational food alone. When the team becomes hooked on the regular and excepted motivational high, they become like addicts who, without that fix, slip into the sales abyss.If you feel sales production rises and falls according to the amount of handholding or cheerleading time the sales team receives, then you need to build your team on a motivational foundation rather than motivational rhetoric.My team is already motivatedSome may be thinking, “My team seems to be as motivated as they can be and not always when I am around to pump them jump.” Many sales managers and directors believe that since the team seems to be moving right along; sales are ok, production is par-for-the-course and no one is complaining, then the team must be on track. Since you have received no criticism and no one has quit this week, then everything must be OK—right? The biggest sign of an under-motivated team is no sign at all. That is when you get a quiet, steady flow of the “Just enough to get by,” mentality and sales people who meander in a maze of mediocrity. Build on a foundation of motivation and reach new levels of production.Silent MotivationUnfortunately today, many sales managers believe that motivating a team means to engage the impressionable, unsuspecting souls in some ear-shattering, tambourine banging, adrenaline pumping rah-rah, you-can-do-it pep rally for an hour or two. While others feel that motivating is to utter the right words at the right time, lifting someone’s spirits after she has lost a big sale. Or, to deliver a speech at the sales meeting to fire the team up so they will believe they can do a little better this quarter than the last.While those thoughts have their merit, they are temporary and superficial. However, there are real, tangible, technical and structural measures that you and your company can take to help sales people develop true enthusiasm in their hearts, and a sense of self-motivation that will inspire them to greatness. True motivation comes from within.Below are three motivational pillars to build a foundation for your sales force. Concentrate on these three concepts, and the rest of your problems will take care of themselves! Be forwarded however, that these tips are probably not what you were expecting and some people are not going to take this very well. However, like most good medicine, it may taste bad going down, but it is what you really need.Pillar #1: Show Your Sales Team That the Company CaresContrary to popular belief, the primary motivating factor for sales people is NOT the money. It is true that most sales people originally join the organization they work with primarily due to the lure of money. However, the primary reason they stay with the firm is that they feel the company cares about them-personally. Prove to your sales team that you care about them: their personal welfare, their success. Let them know that you put their success before yours and the company’s, and they will stay motivated from the inside.Sales People Come FirstFrankly, as a sales manager, putting the sales person first, should be your personal philosophy anyway. If they fail, you and the company fail. Their success does come before yours. Often however, sales people feel as though the company puts everything and everybody before them. Many sales people feel the firm only cares about the money, and that they, as individuals, are as expendable as any tool or pawn. When people reach this low self-worth mindset, no amount of money, cheering or anything else will motivate them to reach high levels of success. To build on a foundation of motivation, first you must show sales people that the company cares, and note, I said SHOW them not TELL them.How to SHOW Your Firm CaresSo, how do you show, demonstrate or otherwise prove that the company cares for the sales person? In fact, how do you know if you are doing that now or not? Look at some of your organization’s policies and begin with your pay schedule. I am not referring to the amount you pay your sales people, nor the commission structure. The question is WHEN do you pay your sales people?In many an organizations, the sales person, who is responsible for generating the money in the first place, receives his or her pay (the commissionable portion) last. If your firm pays the receptionist, the secretaries, the cleaning people, the VPs, you, the CEO, CFO, CIO, and everyone else first, then pays the sales person out of the leftovers, you are not putting the sales person first. Now of course, one could argue that technically, everyone is involved in the sale, not just the sales person, and that is true. There is the CIO and the website that attracted the lead, the marketing crew that created the sales collateral, the receptionist who answered the call, shipping who got out the literature on time, etc. However, if that sales person does not go out and close the sale, the fact is, none of those people ever get paid. Look at your pay schedule, your charge-back rules, your benefits plan, the sales break room, your intranet. Look deep and be honest. Are you putting the sales team first?Pillar #2: Treat Sales People like the Executives They Are.Treat your sales team as if they are true executives; directors or CEOs and give them the support they need to perform as such. Create a sales support system that allows sales people to do what they need to do: SELL.In an effort to save money, too many organizations pile a bunch of petty, non-essential, non-sales tasks on the sales team. Someone figures that the organization can save $25,000 by NOT hiring an administrative person to handle some paperwork. Instead, “Let’s just have the sales people do it.” Well, you might save the $25,000 salary of the admin person, but you will lose a million dollars in the process. What is obvious and quantifiable is the time your sales people must spend doing things other than selling. What is much harder to calculate is the enormous loss you suffer due to the damage to the sales person’s psyche. How can you convince someone that they can go out and secure a seven-figure deal, when you have them doing four-figure work all day? Give your sales team a support system and staff so they can spend 90% to 95% of their time on income producing activities, and they will feel like executives and you will see motivation from within.Pillar #3: Get Sales People Involved in Company DecisionsOne of the main reasons people become sales professionals is because they want to be in control of their destiny. Most sales people will tell you that feeling in charge of their income and controlling their fate is a driving force in their career decision.When a sales person feels that the company will do whatever they want, whenever they want, it’s all over. With total disregard for the sales person, the company makes blatant decisions that significantly and often adversely affect the sales person’s life and family. The sales person feels like they no longer control their own fate when they have no say in decisions. Also, keep in mind that every sales person believes they know more about the industry and what is going on in the field than anyone at the office or corporate. Whether that is true or not, the fact is the sales person’s primary security of being in charge of his or her fate is lost.Before any major or reasonably significant decision, meet with the sales team, individually. Let each know that their opinions and ideas count. This does not mean that you have to agree or follow their suggestions. In fact, the sales team will be grateful no matter what happens because they feel involved.Build a foundation of motivation for your sales team:Show the sales team the company cares about them
Treat the sales team like the executives they are
Involve the sales team in company decisionsOnce you establish a motivational foundation, you will significantly decrease turnover, increase sales and maximize productivity. Then and only then will those rah, rah, you-can-do-it pep rallies begin to make sense, dollars and sense!

3 Ways To Get Out of a Sales Slump Fast |

We all have sales slumps: Those times when you just can’t find your selling rhythm. When you can’t seem to close the sale despite your best effort. When each sale that you do get seems much harder than than it ever was before. When you are working harder than ever but your volume is down and the pressure is on.This phenomenon is not unique to sales. In economics it is called a correction, a recession, or even a depression. In sports it is a slump or a cold streak. In life it is a “rough patch” or a rut. It poker it is a bad run.If you are a sales person in the midst of a sales slump, you know you have to get out of it, and fast. After all, selling is how you make your living and without sales you are without income. While we will all go through sales slumps from time to time the key is to minimize them when they do occur, and get out of them fast.The problem is, sales slumps have a way of self perpetuating, with the lack of sales eroding our confidence and expectations of positive results, which in turn makes it even more difficult to return to the good form we have lost along the way.How does a sales slump start?Usually a sales slump starts by chance, an unfortunate set of circumstances or bad luck that costs us a sale or two. Why it continues has to do with the self perpetuating nature of a slump. When those bad circumstances cost us a sale, rather than recognizing the short lived circumstances as the cause, and that it should not last as an impediment to future sales, we quickly start to develop a negative expectation based on them.The external circumstances tend to become internal circumstances because our reaction to it internalizes it in our mind where it becomes an expectation going forward. So what happened to start the slump remains in our mind after the circumstance itself has gone away, and continues to cause the slump even though the circumstance in no longer present. We are having a sales slump because of the expectation created by a limited circumstance or run of bad luck remains in our mind long after the circumstance itself.This is encouraging in that there is most often nothing external creating the sales slump, and if we can restore a positive expectation we can get out of the sales slump. It’s not that this is easy, but since it is internal and entirely controllable it is something that we can get out of quickly.Here are 3 steps to get out of a sales slump.Keep swingingGoing into July of 1942 Joe DiMaggio, one of baseball’s greatest hitters, was in the midst of a massive hitting slump. His season average was .268 meaning he was failing to get a hit almost 3 out of 4 trips to the plate. In his career he had never batted under.330.This is what Joe said about getting out of his slump:”I’m also convinced the only way to get out of a slump is to stay in there and keep swinging. Nobody can help you. I’ll bet at least 100 players gave me advice during the season and no two had the same idea”I think that this is good advice in two ways.First, you have to keep swinging, or in sales keep getting in front of prospects, keep presenting, keep up all the activities that lead to sales. Often, the tendency for slumping sales people is to stop doing the things that make sales. Out of a sense of futility they stop engaging in sales activities. “What’s the use,” they think, “I can’t seem to make a sale no matter what I do.” This extends the slump because by taking yourself out of sales activities you are decreasing the odds that you will find the success that will get you out of the slump. The more you are in front of customers the greater the odds of a ‘normal’ mix of customers- some that will buy and some that won’t. By limiting the number of prospects you see, the chances are much greater that you could get a few bad ones and none of the goods ones.I also like how DiMaggio rejected the advice of the 100’s of players that gave him advice. This is important advice for salespeople trying to break out of a sales slump. If you have been successful then you know what to do to be successful again. You just need to keep doing it. If you change what you are doing based on the various advice of everyone who wants to help, you will end up with a way of selling that may not work for you, and one that would probably be so disjointed as to not have the cohesion required to bring success.Image if DiMaggio had taken the advice of those 100’s of well intentioned players and made the changes that each of them suggested. The result would not be the swing that made him great up until that point, and the swing that saw him finish the season batting back over.300. If your “sales swing” has made you successful it will again if you, like Joe, keep swinging the way you know works.Give yourself a resetWhen you are in a sales slump, the pressure really starts to mount. When you are faced with a situation where you have not sold in awhile it becomes very difficult to see how you will get out of the hole you are in. Let’s say you normally close 5 out of 10 prospects. You start a month 0 for 10 over the first week and know that to get back to the 50% conversion that you are accustomed to you will have to sell your next ten prospects in a row, or 15 out of your next 20. The can seem impossible and cause you to give up hope in turning things around in time to reach your goals for the month.Rather than let the pressure of getting out of the sales slump diminish your motivation, give yourself a reset. By this I mean reset your sales statistics to zero for zero and start the month over. Reset your goals from today forward as if the first week never happened and go forward with a fresh start. Now you have eliminated the overwhelming challenge of digging out of the hole you are in and put yourself in a position to move forward without all the pressure at your normal rate of success. Sometimes you just need to take the pressure of, allow yourself to forget the slump by putting it behind you, and start with a clean slate.If you are a sales manager you can occasionally do this for members of your team who are slumping. Take the pressure off by giving them a reset, and let them know that you are forgetting their sales slump and evaluating their performance going forward. I’ve seen many salespeople respond very positively when the manager takes the pressure off by letting them start over, often times reaching new heights in performance.Break your patternsSometimes a sales slump is as much about about mental fatigue as it is about anything else. Break this fatigue and refresh yourself by changing your patterns. This piece of advice may sound contrary to my first suggestion that you keep on swinging without making changes to what has made you successful in the past, but it really isn’t.I’m not telling you to change the way you sell, but to change some one thing that will indicate to your mind that things are changing: Wear your watch on the other wrist, get a new haircut, have oatmeal for breakfast instead of a banana, take a new route to work, or listen to loud music instead of talk radio. Often times the breaking of one pattern contributes to the breaking of other patterns, including that of poor sales performance.In the profession of sales we will all occasionally find ourselves in a sales slump. When that happens a true professional will recognize it early and then take the steps needed to minimize the slump, and turn it around fast. I hope these suggestions help.Fantastic SellingIf this article added value to your sales career, please pass it on with the links below.

Sales Process Implementation Is Not a Simple Task But Rewards Justify Your Investment |

You’re back in your office, having just returned from a morale building, fist-pumping session of sales training with your entire sales team. The question now becomes this: how do you build on the momentum you achieved during the training, ensure that the tactics are used successfully, the new sales process is followed and get a good return on your investment?While sales process implementation is not a simple task and may require more of your time now than you’d like to attribute to it, the rewards justify your investment and payback comes much sooner than you would think.The proof is in the numbers.After training his team on one of the top ten sales methodologies/process, I spoke with a colleague who I have worked with in the past and who has implemented sales process several times. He is currently the Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing at an information services company in New York City. Here’s a sampling of the results he achieved after six months of implementation:When he first joined the company, his sales team was at 60% of quota. After implementing his sales training program and new sales process, the team’s productivity rose to 95% of quota.His pipeline (in dollars) grew by 68% and the number of deals grew by 100%, much of which he attributes to his new sales process.His top performers were at 75% and 88% of quota initially – that increased to 124% and 122%, respectfully.90% of his team improved their productivity.His philosophy is that unless a company continues to train and manage their business according to the sales methodology and process they choose, the initial investment in the training is wasted. The sales force won’t accept it as standard operating procedure, they won’t use it, and there is no derived benefit.Since he had such great success with sales training methodologies, I asked him what he thought the biggest benefits of implementation are for sales managers. Here are some of his thoughts:Once the sales process is in place, the entire organization is speaking the same language, from sales to marketing to operations to executives. Both sales person and manager speak the same language, providing you with a common ground that allows you to manage more effectively.As a manager, you gain much more control over forecasting and sales cycles than you ever had before. You can identify more readily when something will close and your forecasting accuracy increases immensely.You can also manage your pipeline better, for both short-term and long-term opportunities. The process that you follow will help your sales people qualify better and focus on deals that are “winnable” so the ratio of wins to losses increases.Once your sales process has been implemented, a sales manager now has the tools to recognize and head off potential performance issues. If a sales person isn’t filling a pipeline 90 days out, you can easily recognize that and you won’t have any surprises as the sales cycle proceeds. You’ll be able to work with the under performing sales person and head off potential problems.You can also determine where your sellers are most productive – whether it’s prospecting, qualification, negotiation, proof steps, or closing. My colleague discovered by looking at a pipeline report that someone on his team didn’t have any experience with closing. The sales person built a great pipeline, but had just passed leads before. The sales manager was able to work with the sales person to increase their close rate.My colleague told me that implementing a sales process greatly contributed to the success of his company’s revenue growth and that tools and processes such as pipeline management, sales process management, sequence of events letters, and action plans are key. Simply put, he said, “It’s all about controlling the sales cycle and making it more predictable.”I asked my colleague what advice he would give fellow sales executives who had just put their people through formal selling training based on a structured methodology and it was this: be relentless! Relentlessly manage your people using the methodology, because if you don’t believe in it and if you don’t manage your people to the process, they are not going to adopt it. He also added that while implementing might be a time consuming task to start, it’s well worth it once you’re up and running. Moreover, his numbers certainly support that statement.He also wanted to pass along this thought: make sure you have executive support because things might be worse before they get better. You’re going to use a sales methodology to relentlessly clear out your pipeline and you’re going to get a real wake up call. You’ll find that there are things in the pipeline that shouldn’t be there, but then, you already know that, don’t you?Remember how his pipeline grew? It’s almost impossible to achieve those results without full implementation of a sales methodology. It’s worth it in the end and the proof is in the numbers.If you’re ready to implement, here’s what I would consider the top 5 things you should kick off right now. They will take a little time, but they’re the initial steps that are needed in order to get your people on the road to success.1. Territory Reviews – Start scheduling weekly individual “Territory Reviews” and do this for at least 90 days. Make this an event that no one is exempt from. This is your opportunity to coach your sales people on the “how” to do in order to be successful and not just the “what” to do.2. Pipeline Analysis – Have your sales people grade their existing pipeline according to the sales process steps you are asking them to adopt. Make sure they take an honest, hard, realistic view. Remember that this is not about being right or wrong, it’s about everyone using the same process for selling. This is your opportunity to get them started on speaking a common language.3. Identify the Top Opportunities – Mutually identify the top 5 – 10 opportunities and have your sales people prepare tactical plans to convert them to a status in which decision-makers have agreed to evaluate your products and/or services. Use role plays here to help sellers be prepared to ask good questions to identify prospects goals, problems and needs, and obtain necessary measurements and metrics.4. Document the Process – Ask your sales people to document the results of their sales calls in a letter they can share with their buyers and a preliminary evaluation plan. This provides them with a powerful communication tool for keeping in alignment with prospects and gives you something objective to review when coaching the seller on the opportunity.5. Create a Development Plan – Determine the health of each salesperson’s pipeline and help them create a business development plan to fill their pipeline to obtain revenue goals. Help them calculate how many new opportunities they need to put in their pipeline each week and help them devlope a prospecting plan to reach that level of activity.

You Can Always Sell More, By Helping Your Sales Team Hold Their Prices |

An ongoing challenge to any sales leader is how and when to give a price concession when a sales person asks for pricing help to win a sale.The Six Realities of Giving Price Concessions.As a sales and sales management consultant and trainer I’ve been constantly asked how to handle this situation from both sides, from the side of the sales manager as well as from the sales rep’s side. There are six realities to understand and communicate as a sales manager if you want to do anything other than just granting the price reduction request, (and giving away significant profitability for your company).Reality #1 – You Are Not In A Price Driven Market.The first reality of any business is that you are not in a price driven market. There are no markets that are truly price driven. The only time price is relevant to a buyer is as the second driver of any buying decision. The first and primary decision of any buying evaluation is a differential in value. If a buyer perceives no differential in value then they will of course buy based on lowest price. However, the more of a differential in value they see then the higher a differential in price they will be willing to pay.The bottom line of all selling and buying is that a buyer can always find a vendor who will be willing to offer a cheaper price for the same products. The way to compete against these low price sellers is to not fight them on the differences in your price but instead to fight them on the differences in the increased value and lower total cost your company can instead offer this buyer. A sales person does not have to be the lowest price to win the business when they can prove they can provide a lower total cost solution.The Trap of Trying To Own the “Lowest Priced” Vendor Position in a Market.The easiest position to win, but also the easiest and fastest position to lose, is that of the lowest price position. It takes little to no selling skills to sell a message that “we’ll be the lowest priced vendor.” However, winning business based on lowest price means you have to be constantly cutting your price against your competitors to be able to keep this customer and their business. If a buyer was able to negotiate a discount for their original purchase then of course they will also demand and expect similar discounts for any additional products or services purchased in the future.A Sales Person’s Goal Is To Exceed a Competitor’s Value Instead Of Only Matching Their Low Price Demands.Customers naturally want to buy the lowest price possible, wouldn’t you? However, the lowest price quoted will not necessarily also be the lowest total cost to a buyer. In fact, the lowest price will never be the lowest total cost in a competitive marketplace when all costs, opportunities, risks, and exposures are considered.Customer loyalty is achieved when your customers see enough extra value and uniqueness in your company that they will be willing to build a relationship with you at the expense of your competitors. Otherwise, why would they be so loyal to you when they could save money by buying from a lower priced competitor?However, the lower the experience and skills of a sales person then the more likely they will only have enough skills and awareness to sell a “lowest price” message to their buyers. It takes time and selling skills to communicate and prove how and why you can lower a buyer’s risks and total costs.Reality #2 – By The Time A Price Reduction Request Gets To You (The Sales Manager) Your Sales Professional Has Likely Already Positioned Themselves As A “Low Price” Competitor In Front Of Their Buyer.There are really only two alternative positions available to a sales person selling in a competitive market. They can either communicate or “sell” a message of lowest price, or of increased value and support, (offering a lower total cost). No truly competitive market will allow any one vendor to offer both.So what competitive message of uniqueness has your sales person already been communicating to this buyer? Have they been pushing their ability to be the “lowest price” or have they been selling their “higher price but lowest total cost and risk” message to their buyer? How have they been answering their buyer asking them “Why, based on all the competitive alternatives available to me as a buyer do I want to buy from you and your company?”If a sales person thinks the only way they can win this business is with the “lowest price” then it is also a safe assumption they have also already positioned themselves and your company as a low price player who will cut whatever price is initially quoted. They’ll also be constantly asking their buyer for a “last look” as a strategy to win business…a strategy that also means they can only win business when they offer the lowest price…killing your profit margins. By the time they come to you asking for more pricing help they have most likely already positioned and trained their buyer to expect them to come back with either a “lowest price” or at least an offer to match the lowest price quoted by your competitor.Now you, as the leader of your sales team, are in a lose-lose situation. Either you give them additional pricing help so they can finally close the business, giving up profit margins, or you push them to hold their price and most likely lose the sale due to the buyer’s already established expectations they will be receiving a significant price break as a condition of signing an order.Reality #3 – Even If You Cannot “Save The Profit Margins” In This Sale You Can Still At Least Begin Repositioning A Sales Team On How They Need To Be Selling In The Future.There is not much you can do to hold your pricing and refuse a price concession request if your sales person has already told their buyer, “I’ve done all I can do on price…Let me talk with my manager to see if I can get any more concessions on your quote.”Even if you cannot save the profitability on this sale, you can still use this customer situation as the reason to begin working with your entire sales team on how to win without having to drop your prices. You will be approving fewer price concessions as soon as your sales team increases their selling and positioning of your uniqueness and added value.Reality #4 – The Key To Getting Stronger Margins Is In Your Sales Management Coaching And Leadership Efforts.The average sales person has minimal concerns for the long-term pricing and profitability of their company but instead is only focused on closing the next sale. One of the jobs of a sales manager is to help their team better communicate your organization’s lower risk (and greater value) so buyers will buy from you at a higher price.Use this pricing request as the opportunity to lead your team in the discussion of what they can do long-term to increase the value and support they can be promoting to all their buyers to win a “lowest total cost” message, at a higher margin. A critical responsibility as the leader of your team is to help them package and communicate this “lower risk and lower total cost” solution available from your company.Reality #5 – You Can Use This Price Reduction Request To Push The Need For More Sales Coaching And Training So They Can Learn How To Win Business Even When They’re Not The Lowest Price.Keep talking about ways to strengthen your team’s message and positioning of your ability to be a higher priced, but lower total cost supplier due to your ability to best lower a customer’s risk as well as save them the most money in the long-term.Reality #6 – You Do Not Have To Give In To a Sales Rep’s Price Cutting Demands.Defending business against lower priced challenges is a normal and ongoing effort of any sales person with an established customer base. Buyers today more than ever are evaluating, or re-evaluating, if they can buy what they need at a cheaper price. Most sales reps I meet are being forced to spend significant amounts of time defending their existing business from competitive attacks, especially lower priced competitive attacks. However, a sales person can win this “higher price” battle if they take more proactive control of their multiple-stepped selling processes and take a more proactive position from the beginning that they and their dealership “…will not be the lowest price, but will be the lowest total cost.”All sales reps talk about their “added value” and uniqueness. Now is the time to take a realistic look at how often they are actually working to communicate and prove more uniqueness, value, or savings than their competitors.Value is always a part of any vendor replacement evaluation. Your competitor will take business away from you when they can show a buyer they can provide the same (or greater) value than you, but at a cheaper price. Very few buyers will take the personal risk of being responsible for switching to a lower priced vendor who has significantly lower quality or service levels.So how much value, uniqueness, and savings are your sales people currently communicating and providing to their customers? The simple reality of business is…the more of a differential in value you see then the more of a differential in price you will pay.A sales rep asking for price concessions is only a symptom. The real problem is your sales team is not improving their selling skills and ability to communicate successfully a consistent message of increased uniqueness and value to their buyers. When your sales team increases their positioning and communications of lower risk and increased value, then all of these price reduction requests will start to disappear.After all, we know you as the leader of your sales team are good, now the question is are you good enough…, and strong enough to lead your team’s “higher priced” selling efforts?Jim Pancero

Short Sale Fraud: Are We Missing the Point? |

There has been lots of talk lately about short sale fraud. Understandably an appealing topic, most of the recent discussion centers around a recent Corelogic report suggesting one in every two hundred short sales across the United States are “very suspicious.”Although discouraging we remain in economic turmoil on the housing front and distressing that despicable individuals continue prey upon the misfortunes of others, it’s misleading to categorically label an investor driven back to back transaction, known as “flopping,” as fraud. Though a noble cause, focusing efforts on how to stop bad people from doing bad things is not only a losing battle in this instance it completely ignores the root problem of the short sale process and prevents us from finding a relevant and lasting solution.Phenomenon of the Short SaleShort sales occur when a homeowner (borrower) attempts to sell his or her home at a price that is less than the full amount owed to the bank (the lender). Most often a short sale occurs as a last ditch effort by a homeowner proactively trying to avoid a full foreclosure proceeding, which results in losing their home to the bank, being forced to move, and like a bankruptcy, becoming locked out of the financing market for a period of seven to ten years.Banks prefer short sales to foreclosure because they (in theory) resolve the outstanding debt faster and result in the bank losing less money in the settlement of the bad debt. Before the emergence of our current housing crisis, banks reluctantly agreed to a short sale unless the homeowner displayed one of five generally understood “hardships.” Those included, loss of job or income, forced relocation (typically due to a job), death of a spouse or income provider, divorce, or an increase of interest rate that made the monthly mortgage unaffordable.This all changed after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the shifting political winds created amid bank bailouts, job losses, and precipitous drops in home values. American tax payers and politicians demanded something be done to help “Main Street America.”The result of this perfect storm included the largest federal infusion of tax payer capital into the banking system since FDR was in the White House and a myriad of federally mandated programs aimed at helping banks remain solvent (on paper) as they work through bad loans. For Main Street, the programs give unfortunate and honest homeowners relief until they get back on their feet (HAMP) and allow other homeowners a graceful exit from the stress and burden of unsustainable mortgage debt.Short Sales, once rare, have become more prevalent and outnumber both traditional sales and REO sales in some of our hardest hit markets. For example in Stanislaus County, dubbed the mortgage fraud capital of the country, two of every three home sales occurring last year (ending June 2010) were short sales.Mechanics of a Short SaleA short sale does not occur unless the current homeowner decides he or she wants to sell. Further, the homeowner alone decides to whom they will or will not sell the property. This bares repeating; In a short sale the borrower, not the bank, markets and sells their home to a willing buyer.Banks do not enter into the short sale process until the homeowner finds a suitable buyer for the home, enters a binding contract, and submits the required financial and hardship documents to the lender.Although reported as a simple transaction, the short sale is anything but a “straightforward transaction.” I tell my clients the short sale actually involves two transactions. One the primary real estate transaction between the owner of the home and the potential buyer, and two the debt settlement transaction between the owner of the property and the lender holding the mortgage(s) in default.With the exception Wells Fargo (only applying to securitized loans initiated by Wachovia, Golden West Financial, and World Savings all failed banks previously absorbed by Wells Fargo) a bank will not begin negotiating the debt settlement portion of a short sale transaction until a seller has submitted a valid offer from a ready, willing and able buyer. In other words, they will not discuss accepting less money on the outstanding debt until someone steps up to buy the property. If this does not happen soon enough, the bank will foreclose on the home. This is the crux of the problem.Most buyers making their housing decisions have real life issues to contend with. Children entering the school year, coordinated moves from one home to the other, obtaining financing for the new purchase all require the buyer to spend money and meet deadlines. In a traditional sale, the buyer makes an offer and the seller responds within 3-5 business days of receiving the offer. This is not the case in a short sale.Although the seller may respond within the same time periods outlined above, neither party is contractually bound to deliver on the agreement until the bank decides what price and terms they will accept. To make matters more complicated, most banks can take from 30-60 days (sometimes longer) before responding to an offer. Adding insult to injury, most banks leave little to no margin for error, all the while reminding sellers and their agents that they may pursue the unpaid debt after the short sale (deficiency judgment), and oh by the way, the clock is ticking, so…The result of this mess is fewer buyers willing to wait around for a short sale to close unless they have a reason to do so (translation: cheap enough to wait it out). Another result, buyer agents refuse to expose their buyers to such nonsense or, on the listing side seek innovative and creative ways to prevent their clients from losing the home to foreclosure.This is key factor in the process. The real estate agent represents and is bound by a fiduciary duty to the seller of the property. In no way is the real estate broker/agent representing the bank in a short sale transaction, and in no way are the banks looking out for the seller’s best interest. It’s also important to note the seller, with few exceptions outlined in the HAFA program, is expressly prohibited from benefiting financially as the result of a short sale transaction. Therefore the primary goal of the seller in a short sale is to avoid a foreclosure; real estate agents are bound by their fiduciary duty to the seller to work diligently and obediently towards that end.Motivating Factors of a Short SaleIn light of all this why does anyone attempt to complete a short sale? This answer is different for all parties to the transaction.Banks and/or lenders are primarily driven by profits or the mitigation of a loss. Simply put they are attempting to collect as much as possible on a bad debt. In a recent article at John Gittelsohn writes, “the average loss in principal for prime loans that went into foreclosure was 42 percent, compared with a 33 percent loss for short sales, according to Amherst Securities Group LP, an Austin, Texas-based company that analyzes home-loan assets.” Banks lose less and recover faster by allowing and encouraging sellers to pursue short sales.Sellers are seeking closure. Coming to grips with the financial loss or loss of a family home is devastating to everyone who faces the situation. However the most excruciating part of this process more often than not is the wait; waiting for the phone calls from creditors, waiting for the mailed letters demanding payment, waiting and wondering if the Sheriff will show up one day and lock them out of the house and throw all their belongings to the front lawn.Many sellers are motivated to complete a short sale to once and for all put an end to the ordeal. Unfortunately the process welcomes them with more waiting; waiting for a real buyer, waiting for the bank to respond to that offer, waiting for the bank to process paperwork, the list goes on.Of course there are other very valid reasons why a borrower would pursue a short sale. For example a short sale is far less devastating to your credit rating compared to a foreclosure. After a short sale, a defaulted homeowner can re-enter the housing market and obtain financing on a new home in two years or less as compared to the seven to ten years they wait after a foreclosure. In a short sale you are proactively advocating for the best possible debt settlement from the lender, in a foreclosure you are leaving the outcome to chance and the lender will not be kind as they seek to remedy their loss (of course this does not begin to address the reasons associated with strategic defaults, another topic all together).Buyers too come with their own set of motivations – most clearly seeking a bargain. This is not a bad thing, nor is it surprising; Finding a deal is as American as Apple Pie. If you need examples visit a going out of business sale, the wholesale district of your local central business district, or a Ross Dress for Less on a Sunday afternoon. However, as most of these retailers will tell you, there is no brand loyalty in the bargain basement. Translation, buyers are fickle and unreliable more often than not in a short sale, and most will leave the transaction in a heartbeat if a better deal comes along, leaving a seller vulnerable to missing a short sale opportunity and again facing a foreclosure.Enter the Investor…Some Investors are Their Own Worst EnemyType “short sale wholesaling” into Google and you’ll know what I mean. They market themselves as ninjas, guru’s, money making maniacs, and often times resemble Family Guy’s Al Harrington more than a trusted financial adviser or capable real estate expert. Many of these so called investors present themselves surrounded by piles or cash, expensive homes or cars and expound the virtues of making huge profits with no money and little effort. In a nutshell they are out for themselves and work at the expense of all other parties to the transaction.They make promises they cannot keep and suggest outcomes that are unlikely to occur. They proliferate because distressed homeowners are desperate for financial salvation, want to believe anything that sounds like a solution, and have lost faith in government programs that fall short of expectation and benefit some while neglecting others. This opportunistic group, gives sound capable real estate investors a bad name.Crazy as this sounds, this “speculator” has his or her place in the current market and a seller is still better served by this group “flopping” a short sale compared to going through a complete foreclosure. Unfortunately, left unchecked or unregulated, these groups edge out real investors or home-buyers who add value back to a distressed asset through renovation or deliver a once dilapidated property back to the rental market after moving through a distressed sale. Their actions also cause banks and government agencies to take sweeping actions that harm the overall housing recovery (eg. initiating the 90 day no flip rule).There is no place for fraud, misrepresentation, or lack of compassion. Those acting with such reckless abandon should have no place in a short sale transaction and won’t when banks begin expediting the short sale approval process. A faster process will attract better buyers willing to pay more and intent on sticking with the transaction to the end. With the risk of losing a buyer over time mitigated, sellers will also be more willing to continue with a buyer willing to pay more for the property. This will effectively edge out the “floppers” all together.The Same Goes for Many Real Estate AgentsThe sad fact is that for a few hundred bucks, an Internet connection, and a few hours over the weekend any agent can become a Certified HAFA Specialist. Equally, by paying a few bucks to the local Association of Realtors and attending a half day seminar any agent can become SFR (Short Sale and Foreclosure Resource) Certified by the National Association of Realtors. Conspicuously missing from the list of requirements in obtaining these “expert” designations is actual real world application. Yes you read that correctly, you can become a certified expert without completing a single short sale transaction!Yet this new market along with new and innovative technology provide for a new paradigm for real estate professionals. As Chris Brogan and Julien Smith reference in their book Trust Agents, today’s influencers are those who trade in trust, reputation, and relationships. Author Seth Godin describes the indispensable business leader of today as a Linchpin, the artist who inspires change by connecting with people in a positive way, changing people by connecting with them in a way they want you to connect with them. He goes on to suggest it’s all about adding value.It’s no longer good enough to plant your face on the bench at a bus stop, at least nor more than it’s about hanging as many for sale signs as possible in a particular neighborhood and waiting for the calls to roll in. It’s no longer about gathering a litany of acronyms to follow your name, at least no more so than it is about controlling the flow of information on the local MLS.It’s time to become less of a salesperson, and more of a trusted and capable adviser.Finding a Solution by Shifting the FocusSo what is the point of all this? This is an opportunity for all of us affected by this housing crisis to step up and become indispensable by allowing ourselves to shift the focus from prevention to solution. It’s a call to action for all of us working towards a greater good. One of my little league coaches taught me that there is a very big difference between playing to win vs. playing not to lose. I believe the same applies to the current housing crisis.We’ve been in prevention mode long enough – preventing the meltdown of the financial crisis, preventing foreclosure for homeowners who are upside down on their mortgage, preventing fraud, preventing strategic defaults…Bad people do bad things, we’re not going to change that. However, it’s a heck of a lot harder for bad people to do those bad things when everyone else is actively participating in making things better.If banks don’t want to get short changed on a short sale flop, make it faster and easier for everyone to get a short sale completed. The “flop” in and of itself is not illegal and banks do not have the right to force an owner to sell to anyone. They do have the choice to foreclose or allow sellers to settle their debts for less.If you want to make money as a short sale investor, become part of the solution for everyone. Don’t turn a buck at the expense of someone else, make your spread by adding value to the transaction.If the government wants to fairly help Americans resolve their mortgage issues, stop unfairly dictating who is and who isn’t justified in walking away from their mortgage debt, and once and for all let the market correct itself. As David Streitfeld of the New York Times alluded to last Saturday, there is a growing sense of exhaustion with mortgage intervention. It was a valiant effort to save homes and help new buyers enter the market, yet our free market economy seems reluctant to prop up an over-leveraged market.Finally if you want to become a more successful short sale agent, become a Trust Agent, trading on reputation and relationships. Know your client, continue to learn and always serve your client’s best interest in the transaction.After all, the ultimate fraud prevention is a viable solution.Bad people do bad things, we’re not going to change that. However, it’s a heck of a lot harder for bad people to do those bad things when everyone else is actively participating in making things better.© 2010 Allan S. Glass – ASG Real Estate Inc. ®

The 7 Closing Habits of Highly Effective Tele-Sale Reps |

Ever notice that some tele-sales reps consistently out sell other reps?Why is that? Why do some reps continuously lead the pack in terms of sales and revenues and others don’t?Sure, knowledge and experience play a role in their success, but when you scratch the surface you quickly discover that highly effective tele-sales reps all have one thing in common: they are exceptionally good closers.They know precisely how to get the client to commit, take action and buy the product. This is not an accidental trait. It’s a habit they have formed. In fact, there are seven closing habits that highly effective reps share. Here is the first.Habit #1: Great Closer are Prepared for the CloseHide behind a corner in your office and watch a top closer. Very rarely do you see them pick up the phone and start dialling and smiling. What you’ll see is that virtually every top closer takes a few extra seconds to plan out their call on a pad of paper.A good closer begins by assuming a sale has been made and then works backwards from the point. They ask themselves, ‘what must be done to get me here?’ While each rep will have their own individual approach they all focus on three core components of the call:ObjectivesFirst, highly effective closers have two sets of well-defined objectives.Primary objectives are those objectives that they want to achieve on that particular call. Depending on the situation, the primary objective is often to get the sale – dollars in the door. But not always. For example, the primary objective might be to get the prospect to attend a webinar. The primary close is not the monetary sale but rather the commitment to the webinar. The sale might come next. Whatever the case, the rep knows the end game of that call and writes it down. This sets the tone for the rest of the planning.Great closers also have secondary objectives. A secondary objective could be a contingency objective. For example, the primary objective might be to close the monetary sales but failing that, a webinar might be the contingency objective. A secondary objective might also be an action that the closer would like to accomplish in addition to the primary objective. Perhaps it is a cross sell or a referral.The StrategyOnce the objectives are clear, the next step is defining a strategy. A strategy is nothing more than the ‘way’ the objective will be achieved. Typically, a good closer will address three issues.Questions -Prior to the call, a highly effective closer will have a handful of key questions that are designed to direct the client’s thinking. Almost like signposts, these pre-planned questions point to the challenges or the opportunities that a client might be experiencing. These are the motivators that must be tweaked if a successful close is to occur. Motivators are what gets a prospect to take action… and hence, buy.Selling Points – An effective closer will jot down the key selling points that will have the strongest impact on the prospect. Usually in bullet form, the selling points revolve around the ultimate benefits the prospect will derive. Writing them down on a sheet of paper ensures that they will not be forgotten or diluted when presented.Objections – Finally, great closers are never caught off guard. They will note the major objections that he or she is likely to encounter and are prepared to respond accordingly.The Close or the AdvanceThe third area that closers focus upon when planning is the ‘close’ itself. Top closers are not hesitant about writing down a closing phrase or two. For instance, “Would you like to give it a shot,” or “When would you like to get started?” “How many do you need.” The act of writing the close imprints the close on the mind of the rep and increases the likelihood that it will happen.Similar to secondary objectives, highly effective closers prepare a back up ‘close’ – called an advance – that they can apply if closing the monetary sale is premature. An advance is action that the client agrees to take (e.g., attending that webinar) by a given date and time. Effective closers do not say, “Attend the webinar next week and I’ll give you a call later on.” Effective closers say, “Let’s sign you up for the Webinar on Tuesday, the 9th at 11:00 a.m., and I will give you a call to discuss the session and the next steps, later that afternoon…how does 2:15 look on your calendar?”Highly effective closers begin with the ‘end in mind’ (as Stephen Covey might say). They know precisely what they want to achieve from the call and have a written plan on how they are going to achieve it. Having a call road map is the first step to a higher closing rate.Habit #2: Effective Closers Recognize Buying SignalsHighly effective closers are acutely tuned into buying signals.A buying signal is anything that a prospect says that indicates a legitimate interest in purchasing the product. Buying signals are sign posts that indicate if the call is on the right track. Closers follow the signs.Buying Signals 101Okay, here’s the skinny on buying signals. First of all, buying signals don’t necessarily occur at the end of the call. Depending on the situation, a client can indicate interest at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the call. So what that really means is that you have to been tuned in 100% of the time. Missing a sign post at the beginning of a call may take you away from your final closing destination. Following at buying signal at the beginning of a call may act like a secret path and take you to the close immediatelyNext, buying signals come in hot, medium and mild. In other words, some buying signals are stronger than others. When the client speaks as though she has already taken possession of the product, you have a hot signal. On the other hand, if the client simply says, “That’s interesting” in a non-committal manner, it’s mild. Highly effective closers understand this and can separate the two.Third, a lack of a buying signal doesn’t necessarily mean the client is not interested but your spider senses should be tingling. Great closers will actively solicit a buying signal to assess where they are on the trail. (More on that in Habit #3: Trial Closes)And finally, buying signals over the telephone fall into two categories: verbal and tonal.Verbal Buying SignalsVerbal buying signals are questions or statements from clients that indicate specific interest.”Will that integrate with my current software?”
“So there is absolutely no charge for the trial?”
“That would be easy for us to implement…”
“What sort of support do you provide?”
“That sounds interesting…”
“That’s a neat feature!”
“Can it be leased?”
“How long does implementation typically take?”Another verbal buying signal is when the client speaks as though he or she has already taken possession of the product or service.”So, when we are ready, you’ll do the training, right?”
“How often will I get updates?”
“So, we’ll get unlimited access to the resource center, correct?”
“I’d need to speak to our IT guy to see if there’s room on the server.”
“So after you give the training you can show us how to coach?”Tonal Buying SignalsTonal verbal signals are “sounds” that prospective buyers make that indicate interest or value. Unfortunately, trying to provide a tonal example in a written format such as this article is a bit of a challenge but I think you know what I am talking about, don’t you?For example, suppose you make a key point and you hear a positive “Ohhh…” This suggests a sense of delight or interest. It’s a buying signal. Similarly, if you hear a thoughtful “hmmm…” chances are the prospect is contemplating the benefits of ownership.The effective closer listens for these indicators because she doesn’t have the benefit of face-to-face contact.Highly effective closers are keenly aware of buying signals. Of course, it is not enough to recognize a buying signal. You need to do something with it. Leverage it. Shape it. Use it. And that’s where the third habit kicks in. A great closer uses trials closes to make the most of the signal.Habit #3: Good Closers Use “Trial” ClosesHighly effective and successful tele-sales reps routinely use trial closes in their selling conversations. Do you?A trial close is a ‘test balloon’ that you float up during a sales call to gauge client interest, to ensure that you are on track and to determine if you can move to the final close. On the telephone, a trial close is particularly critical because you do not have the visual clues that you would normally get face to face. The very best tele-sales reps fabricate those clues by using trial closes.Passive Trial ClosesThere are two kind of trial closes: passive and assertive. Both are valuable and service different purposes. A passive trial close is more ‘gauge-like’ and seeks to determine if the client is following your point. Passive trial closes are deliberate sign posts that you toss out to ensure you are going in the right direction.For example, suppose you provide a feature and benefit about your product or service. At the conclusion, you might say, “Does that make sense?” or “Do you see how that might work for you?”Questions like these assess client’s interest and comprehension. The moment after you ask, stop talking and listen closely. Listen not only to what the client says but the tone in which it is delivered. If the client sounds doubtful or uncertain, you need to stop, go back and clarify. For instance,”Hey Jim, I hear a bit of doubt or uncertainty in your voice. Is there something I can clear up?”The trick to being more effective in closing in telesales is to liberally sprinkle these test closes throughout your conversation.Assertive Trial ClosesThe second trial close is the assertive close. As the name implies the assertive close is much more directive and sales focused. It seeks to determine if the interest to BUY is strong or potentially strong. This type of trial close often uses a hypothetical question:”Wendi, suppose we could provide 3-day delivery on this item, would this be something you’d consider purchasing?'”Mark, putting price and budget aside for a moment, does the solution I am presenting sound like something you could work with?””Chris, let me ask you a hypothetical: if we could stock those items on a regular basis would you move your business over to us?”Note that these questions have a “if/then” kind of approach. They get the client to project or to imagine a certain scenario. If that scenario is positive and the client agrees to it, the chances of closing the sale are much more significant.DangerAssertive trial closes can make some clients feel uncomfortable. Some can see the question as “cheesy”, “salesy”, “manipulative” or “pushy.” (These are actual client remarks) The client can feel as those they are being painted into a corner and this can lead to strong resistance or resentment.Mitigating the Risk – Softening PhrasesDespite the risk, assertive trial closes are extremely valuable because they gauge INTENT. The trick is to ask the question without being quite so blunt. And it’s easy to do. Here’s how:”Chantal, I don’t mean to put the cart before the horse, but suppose for a moment that we could…”
“Yvon, I’m not sure where you are in the decision making process, but let me ask you a hypothetical question…”
“Maria, not to put you on the spot and not to be presumptuous, but I’m curious, if I was to…”Notice how these trial closes are softened with the addition of a few words and phrases. They acknowledge that the remark might be a bit bold.Here’s the bottom line, highly effective closers keep track of client interest and concern throughout the entire sales conversation by asking questions that ‘test the waters.’ Depending on how the client responds, the good closer knows when to accelerate to the final close or when to slow down or even reverse. Trial closes are vital. Use them and watch your sales grow.Habit #4: Effective Closers ASK for the Sale Okay, here’s where the rubber really hits the road.After preparing for a call, after keeping an ear out for buying signals AND after using test closes to gauge client interest, top closers simply ASK for the sale.It seems kind of ridiculous to hammer this point home because it’s so dang obvious but good closers ARE good closers because they unfailingly ask for the sale. They don’t sit on their hands and hope for a sale. They don’t wait for the client to raise their hand and volunteer to buy.They seize the moment.Here are five closing techniques that top closers use. Three are ‘classic’ closes and two are ‘nouveau’ closes.The 3 Classic Closing Techniques1. The Direct CloseThe name says it all. The direct close is just that: direct and to the point. There is no confusion about what the tele-sales rep is asking. I find the very best closers tend to use direct closes most often. For instance,”So, Mark, would you like to place that order now?”
“Bevin, would you like to purchase the software?”Because it is so ‘black and white,’ it gets the prospect to give a definitive answer one way or another. It’s quick and easy.2. The Assumptive CloseThe assumptive close assumes the sale has been made, and the tele-rep closes on a smaller issue. The theory is that the client is no longer making a major ‘buying’ decision but rather a minor ‘administrative’ decision. For example,”Carson, how many would you like?”
“Okay Morgan, I can get those out on today’s truck.”The assumptive close is probably the most popular closing technique. It doesn’t seem as ‘assertive’ as the direct close so it appeals to a broader base of tele-sales rep. Who cares as long as it works?3. The Choice CloseThe choice close is really an assumptive close with options. Here again, the theory is the client is making a decision on two administrative points rather than on a major purchase:’Would you like to begin with the 3-pack or the 5-pack?’
“Would you like overnight delivery or 3-day ground?”The 2 ‘Nouveau’ Closing TechniquesIf you’re not French or ‘hip’, nouveau means “new.” These two techniques seem to work exceptionally well in a tele-sales situation.1. Give it a Shot CloseThis close is simple but a highly effective close. Assuming that you’ve presented your solution to their needs, you close by saying, “So, Janis, would you like to give it a shot?”This colloquial, off-the-cuff close positions the sale as ‘no-big-deal.’ This makes the decision to buy seem easier. Giving something a shot implies that the decision can be rescinded and that it is not permanent. Psychologically, the client feels there is a ‘way out’ if necessary. It’s a bit of a mind game and that’s what makes this such an excellent close. It’s my favorite.2. Any Reason Why We Can’t Proceed CloseThis close works exactly the way it looks. Again, presuming you’ve done your needs analysis and presented a solution, your closing remark is this,”So, Carrie-Anne, is there any reason why we can’t proceed with the software installation?”It does two things. First, it solicits any objection that might be lurking in the background. Get rid of the objection and you get the sale. Secondly, it moves the client into the ‘closing mode.’ If you’ve presented well, this question is almost rhetorical because it implies that saying ‘yes’ is the only logical choice. Simply pause and let them reply.Great closers always, always ask for the sale because it increases the closing rate. Period. What close you use is a matter of personal style. If you’re more casual, use the nouveau approach. If you’re a little more subtle, use the assumptive or choice. If you like to go for the brass ring, use the direct close. But use ONE of them.Habit #5: Closers Invoke A Vow of SilenceTop tele-sales closers always invoke a ‘vow of silence’ after they ask for the sale.Highly effective telephone sales reps ask for the sale using a traditional or a nouveau close and then they ‘zip it.’ Nothing passes their lips until the prospect speaks. They let the silent pause go to work for them.Silence is particularly powerful and effective in telephone selling compared to face to face selling. Because there are no visual distraction in tele-sales, silence is perceived as three to six times longer than it really is. What this does is create a noticeable gap – a vacuum in the conversation and, in turn, this creates a degree of tension. It literally compels the prospect to fill the silent void. Silence is an itch that needs to be scratched.Beware! 2-Way TensionBut tension works both ways.Telephone reps can acutely feel the awkwardness of silence just as easily as the prospect. Maybe even more so because there’s a sale at risk! There can be an overwhelming impulse to fill that gap with a rush of additional information on the product or service. Or even worse, some reps go to the extreme and torpedo the effort with comments like, “Well…ah…maybe you’d like some more time to think about it,” or “Why don’t I send you some information and you decide then.” Yikes!Effective closers resist the urge because they know with absolute certainty that additional conversation of any sort detracts from the objective of closing. Instead they invoke a vow of silence. They doodle or file their nails or clear their desk. And they wait it out.Give your client the time to digest your offer. Give them the time to weigh their options. Give them time to say yes.

Habit #6: The Best Closers ALWAYS Say ‘Thank You’Here’s a secret tip that highly effective tele-sales reps use to their advantage after the prospect has said ‘yes’ to the sale.Great closers say “thank you.”That’s it. That’s all.Doesn’t seem like much, does it? Seem like common sense, right?But when was the last time YOU said thank you when you got the order? The fact of the matter is that most sales reps don’t say thank you. It is not that they aren’t grateful for the sale, it’s just that they forget. This might have been the fifth, sixth or seventh sale of the day. The thank you gets lost in the ‘busy-ness’ of the transaction or the day.Others don’t say thank you because they don’t feel it is necessary; that the buyer has made this decision many times before with the sales rep and dozen like him/her. In other words, it’s not all that important; part of the routine; no big deal.But it is.Why ‘Thank You’ is So ImportantThe best closers know that from a psychological point of view that the close is often the most critical phase of sale. They know that at some level – subconscious or otherwise- the buyer feels that he or she has ‘bestowed’ a sale on the rep. In an odd way, is not unlike a ‘gift.’ The buyer had a CHOICE. The choice was you and not someone else.It doesn’t matter that this is business. It doesn’t matter that you had the best price, the best product or the best service. At a gut level, the buyer is looking for something reciprocal; something that acknowledges the sale; something that balances the scale of the relationship. It’s human nature.A polite, sincere and quiet thank you is typically all it takes to even the scale.Delivered well, it says to that buyer “I know you had a choice and I appreciate that you chose me.” It says, “I don’t take you or the sale for granted.” It says, “I’m not complacent and I remember that YOU’RE the customer.”Here’s another thing that highly effective closers know. They know that the thank you is important for this sale, but they also know that it is extremely important for the next sale and the sale after that and the sale after that. And so it goes.The CardHere is one other thing that top closers do to make the NEXT sale easier to close.Depending on the nature of the sale, a great closer will send a hand-written thank you card. If the sale is the first with that account, a handwritten note and card is sent with a real stamp attached. This small gesture shows the new client that you ‘took the time.’ This is a form of reciprocity. It is recognized and remembered. If the sale is a large one from an existing client, savvy closers will send a card that acknowledges the moment. They don’t whip off an e-mail. E-mails are fast and impersonal and easily forgotten. There is little value in an e-mail thank you. Don’t bother.The GiftGreat closers will occasionally reward clients who have made multiple buys. Sending a big package of Hersey Kisses or some other candy with a little note that says, “Thank you for all the business” is small and inexpensive but can pay huge dividends in future sales. A pizza lunch, a bottle of BBQ spices, a coffee mug… any little gesture… can have a powerful effect on the relationship and on future closes.Say thank you after each and every sale, big or small. Be discrete, be sincere. Don’t over do it.Habit #7: Highly Effective Closers Wrap Up Every CallThe final habit that great closers employ to their advantage is the ‘wrap up.’The ‘wrap up’ occurs after the “Thank you” (Habit #6). It is there that the nitty gritty details are discussed and the sale is completed. It is not a particularly glamorous part of closing but it is vitally important because little things, if ignored, can throw a wrench into the works. Good closers proactively take steps to avoid any nasty surprises that could cancel the deal or impact customer satisfaction down the line.At this stage of the sale everyone is happy. You are happy because you closed the deal and the client is happy that the decision has been made. This is the perfect moment to quickly wrap up, handle the details and finish the call. There are four things that should occur:Step #1: Explain what happens nextHere is where you outline what will occur next relative to getting the sale completed. Be thorough. For example,
“Okay Tracie, I’ll process that order now and it’ll be shipped out _____ (tonight, tomorrow, whenever…) by UPS Ground and you’ll get it by _______ at the latest. I’ll send you the tracking number by e-mail the moment the delivery is processed.”It’s nothing elaborate and special, is it? But it covers all the bases. Your ‘next steps’ might be a little more complex. Whatever. Be sure to detail it. And another thing: even if you have processed similar sales to this one with the same client, continue to provide the details.(NOTE: ideally, you should go over the order/sale details; line by line. Not all clients want this and will tell you. And of course, some orders might include multiple lines of product which makes the task rather onerous. But where possible, review the details of the sale. It shows you listened and understood. It shows that you are a detailed individual.)If you’re out of stock, if the client has missed the shipping deadline for today, if there’s ANYTHING that will impact the processing of the sale, NOW is the time to reveal it. Goodwill is stronger at this point than any other time. Consequently, the client is more forgiving and accepting. In short, practice full disclosure.Step #2: Get PaymentLike duh! Don’t forget this step. After you’ve given the client the ‘what’s next’ summary, conclude by giving the client the total price of the product or service. You can include taxes if you want or you can say “plus taxes.”Some people argue that there is a risk at this stage; that the client might shy away from the sale if they hear the total price; sticker shock or whatever. I disagree. Better to ‘surprise’ the client now then when they get the invoice. If they are surprised ‘after the fact’ they tend to get resentful. Some will think you hoodwinked them.Don’t risk it. Again, practice full disclosure.Then say,”All we need now is to wrap up the payment. How would you like to proceed?”
” The only thing left to do Mark is tackle the payment. How will you be handling this?”
“Eva, to get us started I’ll simply need a deposit of 30% on the total price. That comes to $700. How would you like to handle that?”
“Jenna, the way our billing works is this…”Step #3: Add on Sell (if applicable)The real difference between a good closer and a GREAT closer is the ability to leverage the moment further and increase the value of a sale through a cross sell or an up sell.Mediocre closers are so glad they got a sale that they say no more. What they don’t realize is that the client is in a positive frame of mind. Receptive. The major decision of buying is already completed. In effect, the wallet is open. Great closers know that it is easier for a client to say yes to an item that complements the original purchase or that provides greater value. Of course, not all products or services lend themselves to an Add On. Smart closers know this and utilize this step only when appropriate.The trick to a good add on is to make the suggestion sound casual and easy. This eliminates any sense of pressure or hype. You do this by using trigger phrases like this,”Oh, Steve, before we wrap up, did you know you get a price break of 15% if you order 5 or more? You’re only two items away… would you like me to add those on?””Maria, I see that your order comes to $465.85. Did you know you can get free shipping with orders of $500 or more. Is there anything else you might like to add?””Gordon, before I enter this, do you need any sleeves or socks for those devices…just so you’re not caught short?”
“By the way Chantal, how does your stock look for test strips? You haven’t order in a while and it might save you some time and hassle to order now.”Notice that these offers are consultative in nature and benefit oriented. Good closers know that clients don’t see the effort as ‘salesy’ but rather as value added. So they don’t hesitate to ask. The worst a client can say is no but good closers are well aware that about 25% of buyers say yes. Good odds.Step #4: Say “Anything else?” and Good-ByeEffective telephone closers ask one more question: “Anything else?” The vast majority of the time, there is nothing else. But they ask because it is a quick way to conclude the call and not draw out the conversation. There’s nothing worse than strained, awkwardly polite chit-chat where overly grateful sales rep sputters niceties. Meanwhile the client is anxious to get off the line.Look, if there’s nothing else, simply say, “Great, look forward to speaking to you again. Good bye.”The final habit is a tidy habit. It cleanly completes the sale. It nips any potential problems in the bud. It paves the way for future sales.ConclusionSo there you have it. The 7 closing habits might seem long and tedious…maybe even unnecessary. Perhaps that true. On the other hand, it is probably why greater closers sell so much more that the average rep. Practice the 7 habits and sell more!