Category Archives: Sales

Ask Every Sales Candidate This Provocative Question

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

If you want to save yourself from another bad hire, then ask this question toward the end of your first interview:

“We’re about finished with this interview. After this, I will start checking your references and doing my due diligence. Is there anything you would like to tell me now rather than have me find it out later from an outside source or reference?”

Watch closely and listen carefully.

See if the candidate’s eyes dart about in his head. Follow the thought processes as a candidate reaches back into his past to see if there are any secrets he’s willing to disclose.

Allow lots of “dead air” to give the candidate plenty of thinking time. Then, get ready to receive some fascinating new information.

Candidates will reveal some negative information about themselves that they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Why?

Because they would rather put their spin on the information rather than have you hear it from a reference or discover it online.

Just ask.

“Is there anything you would like to tell me now rather than have me find out from an outside source or reference?”

Please leave a comment about this short article. And when you do, feel free to share your favorite interview question.

Reprinted by permission

The Sales Contest

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

Let me tell you a story because that’s what I do.

Some of you will remember when I used to tour with Radio Sales $101. It was a one-day seminar for new radio advertising salespeople that cost $101.

Clever, huh?

We got a call from a budget challenged sales manager that went like this:

“We can’t afford to send our whole team to your seminar in Columbus. So we’re going to have a sales contest to see who gets to attend,” he said.

“I hope you’re planning on sending the loser,” I replied.

“We’re planning on sending the winner. Why would we send the loser?”

“Because the winner of your sales contest will have the least need for sales training,” I said. “And the loser will have the most need for the training.”

“But we reward people who sell well with extra training,” he objected.

I tried to reason with him one more time. “Why not reward the winner with a weekend at a nice hotel in the city and some theater tickets? Make the loser sit through six hours with me.”

There’s nothing wrong with training and retraining your best salespeople. The lapse in this sales manager’s logic was thinking of sales training is a reward for, and not a driver of, performance.

You can also be using your sales training program as a recruitment tool. Many entry level people want to know what you’re going to do to make them successful. Their friends are talking to them about the training they’re getting in their first jobs.

Ongoing learning should be part of your retention program, too. Market your sales learning program to your current team. Let them know that you have a budget for their ongoing development and how much it is.

Here’s why: When salespeople think of your sales department as a place to grow rather than just a place to work, they will stay with you longer.

Reprinted by permission

The Debrief: Five Questions to Ask at the End of Your Meeting

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

Sarah and I are in Bermuda with her brother, Bob, and his wife, Kathy.

On Tuesday morning we get up, get on our motor scooters and go to breakfast. Then we journey to Hamilton to shop. We eat lunch together. By 2:30 p.m., we’re playing golf at the St. George Club.

As we watch the sunset and sip cocktails on the patio, I ask, “What was the highlight of your day?”

We go around the table.

Kathy: “I loved turning the corner and seeing the pink sand beach. Spectacular!”

Sarah: “The lunch in Hamilton was my highlight. It was so relaxing sitting in that open air space overlooking the harbor.”

Bob: “It was on the way to breakfast. As we rode by the airport, there was an awesome military plane being refueled. What was your highlight, Chris?”

Chris: “I should say it was waking up with my lovely wife in this beautiful country. But it was saving par from the sand on sixteen.”

We experienced the same day, the same restaurants, same stores and the same golf course. But we had four different takeaways.

Let’s apply this to you and how you run your sales meetings.

Until and unless you ask, you’ll never know how your salespeople are processing your sales meeting or your training session.

Five salespeople will bring five points of view to the meeting.

You want to find out what they think they have learned. You can’t influence their thinking further if you don’t know what they’re thinking.

To find out, you might ask, “What was the highlight of this meeting for you?”

Once the first person offers a highlight (takeaway), go around the table and get a response from each person. (In the training biz we call this a “whip around.”)

Listen to the responses. Review the whole meeting from the perspective of each person.

Don’t leave it there.

Here are the five (coaching) questions I promised:

1. How does what you learned differ from what you’re doing now?

2. Does the learning apply to a specific customer you work with or a situation you’re facing?

3. What do you think might happen if you use this new skill (learning) in this situation?

4. Do you need more information or practice before you act on this?

5. When will you act?

To know and not to do is not to know. Training that doesn’t change behavior is as useless as a parachute that opens on the first bounce.

“Transfer” means the learning gets from your conference room into the customer’s office.

Without “transfer” there can be no results from your training efforts.

Great sales managers concentrate on and coach the transfer of learning.

Don’t have time for 5 questions? At least ask these two:

1. What did you learn?

2. What are you going to do about it?

Thanks for reading my article. If there was a highlight for you, then please share in the comments section.

Want more? Watch my Year of the Sales Manager Video for more transferable sales training ideas.

Reprinted by permission

Stop Making These Top 10 Marketing Mistakes

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Duane Alverson

By:  Duane Alverson, President
MacDonald Broadcasting Company (Saginaw & Lansing)

If you’re like most business leaders, you’re likely struggling to navigate the myriad of marketing channels available to advertisers these days. With so many options out there, and with attention spans so fragmented and disjointed, how are business owners to know how and where to best spend their precious marketing dollars–especially with limited budgets?

Reflexively, most people fall back on one of three “safe” plans:

1.) They rely on hunches, and/or use the “trial-and-error” approach. They spend a little bit here and a little bit there, hoping that something will pay off somewhere. Then, when none of it works, they’re left scratching their heads.

2.) They play “follow-the-leader,” and simply do what their competitors are doing, without much rhyme or reason to the approach. But what if the competitor is making the “trial-and-error” mistake themselves?
3.) They do nothing, out of paralysis that comes from not knowing where to start. And we all know what doing nothing gets you.
Unfortunately, all three plans are neither safe nor strategic. As a result, these businesses end up repeating one or more of the  Top 10 Most Common Mistakes in Marketing.

Is your company making one of these 10 mistakes? CONTINUE READING to find out–and to learn how you can reverse course and make the most out of your marketing budget! Of course, there is much more to discuss than can be covered in one article. If you have any questions about how you can avoid these mistakes and maximize your marketing potential, contact me to schedule a time when we can review your particular goals in person.

Duane Alverson currently serves as President of MacDonald Broadcasting Company. Duane has been with MacDonald Broadcasting Company for 32 years serving in various sales leadership positions. He served as Chairman of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters in 2012 and as President of the Michigan Jaycees in 1981-82. Duane resides in Saginaw, Michigan.
Reprinted with permission. 

The Real Job of (Sales) Management is Getting Into Their Heads

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

I do not have a degree in psychiatry.

But as a sales manager, I often felt like I needed one.

You too?

Maybe all you really need is the willingness to listen to your salespeople.

“Hey Boss, got a minute?”

Turn away from the computer.

There should be no rolling eyes or heavy sighs.

Give them the gift of your time and attention before you shower them with your wisdom.

My late colleague, Norm Goldsmith, was fond of saying this:

“You can’t influence a salesperson’s thinking until you know what s/he’s thinking.”

That’s why my first rule of coaching is to ask seven questions before giving an answer.

Listening to your salespeople and getting into their heads is a huge part of your job.

It’s not psychotherapy. It’s just good (sales) management.

You empower people by listening to them. You build loyalty, too.

So find out what your people are thinking. Then (and only then), begin to influence their thinking, Boss.

Chris Lytle is the author of The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve and The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Team to Record Profits. Because sales managers are pulled in so many directions, Chris built this resource for you.

Reprinted by permission

This Word Increases Your Personal Power

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

Sarah and I are on a two-hour drive to a vacation cottage we’ve rented in Michigan.

Our three cats are along for the ride.

We’re making great time on I-94.

Until . . .

Bang!

We hit the mother of all potholes. We watch as the tire pressure indicator drops from 32 to 24 to 4 to zero psi in a few seconds.

The first thing I say to her is, “Well, this is inconvenient.”

Because, that’s all it is.

“Inconvenient” is a fine way to describe things you don’t like, but which aren’t disastrous.

We hit a pothole. There is no collision. There are no injuries.

I learned to think this way from the late Larry Wilson, the sales and leadership guru.

I was watching one of his videos and he said,

“Personal power is having access to and control over the energies and emotions required to optimize and maximize your performance.”

Then, he told his audience,

“Most people never think about what they think about. Have you ever thought about that?”

What a question. It stopped me in my tracks.

Too often, we think about the event. In this case, the flat tire.

Then, we think about how we feel.

But, what causes the feeling is what we think about the event. And, then, what we say about the event to ourselves.

I could have thought and said, “Well, that ruins the first day of our vacation.” I might have gotten mad about having a flat tire.

But, saying: “This is inconvenient” put things in perspective and I felt neutral about the flat tire. I wasn’t happy about it, but I wasn’t mad either.

Truth is, we have a late model Cadillac ATS. We can drive up to another 50 miles on a flat tire.

So, we drive to a GMC dealership in Benton Harbor and pay $175 for a new tire.

No biggie. Just a minor inconvenience.

Larry Wilson taught me to think about things like flat tires, late flights and cancelled appointments as . . .

“Inconvenient.”

I believe that idea has added years to my life. Because I’ve learned to think about what I think about, I don’t get angry about the small stuff anymore.

Start thinking about what you think about.

It’s pretty important.

Chris Lytle is the author of The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve and The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Team to Record Profits. Because sales managers are pulled in so many directions, Chris built this resource for you.

Reprinted by permission

You Can’t Bore People Into Buying From You

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

In 1976 there were no cell phones or email. We had a message nail.

When you walked into the office, the first thing you did was retrieve all the little pink message slips from the message nail and go through them to see which calls needed to be returned. One afternoon there was a message for me from the new manager at one of my car dealer clients. The fact that the message was on a pink slip was ironic because, in essence, the new guy was firing me.

The message read, “Bob Voss, Schappe-Conway Dodge, called. Cancel all of our advertising schedules immediately. You will have a twenty-minute meeting to re-pitch the entire year’s advertising budget on Thursday. Your appointment with Mr. Voss is at 1:20 P.M.”

Twenty minutes to present an entire year’s advertising program. The meeting was in forty-eight hours.

The bad news: The client had canceled his advertising. The worse news: I was his 1:20 meeting. That meant he was meeting with sales reps from every media for twenty minutes each. He had an 8:00, 8:20, 8:40, 9:00, 9:20, 9:40 and so on. I was going to be the fourteenth media rep he would see that day.

Mr. Voss canceled his advertising on Tuesday. The twenty-minute meeting was set for Thursday. In preparing for the meeting, I called a salesperson at the dealership. I learned from her that Mr. Voss had just been hired away from Dodge City in Milwaukee to turn around the Dodge dealership in Madison. For those of you who can remember back that far, that was pre-Lee Iacocca, and Dodge was struggling nationwide.

I planned my approach.

I decided I didn’t want to be like every other rep, in there for twenty minutes desperately presenting the year’s budget. My goal was to sell Mr. Voss on the fact that twenty minutes wasn’t long enough to plan a year’s worth of advertising. My strategy was to differentiate myself and my presentation from that parade of media reps I imagined he was meeting with and the presentations they were making.

I made a conscious decision to not even present him a year’s schedule, even though that was what he requested. I left the Arbitron local ratings book at the station. I didn’t pack a rate sheet or a brochure on the station. All I had in my fiberglas™ briefcase when I walked in the door was my customer needs analysis form and a notepad.

At precisely 1:20 P.M. on Thursday, the door of Mr. Voss’s office opened and out came the salesperson with the one o’clock meeting. He was rolling his eyes and surreptitiously shaking his head in disgust. As he made his exit, I made my entrance. As I walked into Mr. Voss’s office with my briefcase in my left hand, I extended my right hand and said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Voss, I’m Chris L- . . .”

“You’re my 1:20 appointment. Sit down and pitch me.” He said it in an obnoxious, but not abusive way.

“This is going to be an interesting meeting,” I thought to myself. I had never been to a seminar on neuro-linguistics to learn about mirroring a client, but I was astute enough to realize that here was a tough customer and I had better change my style of selling and become the salesperson he wanted me to be. Gruff, quick and to the point. Get to the bottom line.

“Mr. Voss, I don’t know if you should be on our station or not,” I said. I knew he hadn’t heard that line from any one of the thirteen eager salespeople who had come before me.

“What do you mean you don’t know if I should be on your station or not?” he shot back.

“Well, Mr. Voss, I know that you’re already a successful car dealer and I’ve heard about your work with Dodge City. We’re having the biggest month in the history of our radio station. So we’re both successful and we’re doing it without each other.”

(Even when I was twenty-six years old, I wanted to see myself as providing a valuable service instead of taking someone’s money.)

I looked him in the eye and said, “I work with Len Mattioli at American TV, Jon Lancaster at his dealership and the Copps account. I’m helping them get some big sales increases.

“This is the way I work with them. See if it makes sense to you.

“Most of my important clients want ideas that help them improve traffic, sales and profits. In order to be in a position to bring ideas instead of just rates and ratings, I use a tool that helps me learn about nine key areas of your business that may give you an advertisable difference over your competitors. It takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and one half to do this right.

“I could present a schedule and show you what your predecessor and I were working on. But I imagine you have bigger goals and tougher targets than Steve did or you wouldn’t be in that chair.

“Mr. Voss, I want to be in a position to make an intelligent proposal based on your objectives and not just my need to sell you a schedule. Does that make sense?”

“Yes,” he said, his voice softening a little bit.

And then I made The Gesture. I raised my hand and gestured to his credenza and he looked around. On the credenza was a pile off all the media kits every other salesperson had brought to the meeting. “Mr. Voss,” I said, still gesturing at the stack, “have you had any intelligent proposals so far today?”

The man changed before my very eyes. The gruff, powerful executive was now slumping in his chair. His face sagged. He looked at me and said these words: “Chris, this has been the most boring day of my life.”

“Mr. Voss? Can we go through this analysis together?”

“Chris, please, call me Bob.”

“Bob, what are your plans for turning this dealership around?”

Ninety minutes later, Bob Voss accompanied me out of his office. There were four salespeople in the waiting room, like planes circling over O’Hare Airport on a stormy night.

Two weeks later, the client was back on our station in a big way. They were one of the top ten advertisers on the station that year.

The most boring day of Bob Voss’s life was made up of thirteen consecutive meetings with people presenting their rates, ratings and schedules. They were talking about buying advertising. Nobody talked to him about selling cars, which was the only thing he was really excited about.

I might have made a quicker sale if I had pitched him in the allotted twenty minutes, but I don’t think I would have made a bigger or longer-lasting sale. I would have been just one of the vendors he bought from, not one of the people he looked to for advertising advice and ideas.

And it doesn’t matter what you’re selling.

Accidental Salesperson Axiom: You can’t bore people into buying.

Corollary: Your clients buy the way you sell before they buy what you sell.

This is an excerpt from The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve.

Chris Lytle is the author of The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve and The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Team to Record Profits. Because sales managers are pulled in so many directions, Chris built this resource for you.

Reprinted by permission

Psst! Googling “best sales closing lines” wasn’t my best idea. Who knew?

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

So, I thought I’d write another article about closing sales. To get the ball rolling, I googled “best sales closing lines.”

Unfortunately . . .

What came up first were some of the worst closes I have ever seen.

Trust me. I’ll be 80 in 13 years and I’ve been exposed to a lot of bad ones.

This site lists dozens of old school, high-pressure manipulative closes:

Concession Close: “John, if I reduce the price by 10% will you sign the contract today?”

Shame Close: “Your son really deserves the new model, don’t you think?”

I won’t even bother you with the Embarrassment Close or Ask the Manager Close.

Manipulative closes are way past their sell by date.

In Spin Selling, Neil Rackham writes about closing, pressure and manipulation:

“In low value sales, given unsophisticated customers and no need to have a continuing relationship, closing “techniques” can work very effectively. With professional buyers, closing techniques make you less effective. They reduce your chances of getting the business.”

Good advice, Neil.

Look, I’m assuming you don’t have a lot of one-call closes.

I’m figuring you’re calling on sophisticated buyers who meet with many salespeople.

If I’m right, then avoid the closing lines you’ll find by googling “best sales closing lines.”

Like the one I found on this site in an article about the best closing lines for life insurance agents:

The Level With Me Close: Polly, level with me. Have I failed to show you the value of what you’ll receive from your investment? (Then, be quiet.)

I like the “be quiet” part. But that’s it.

I kept looking, though. Ultimately I found this good idea from thought leader and author Dave Kurlin.

“Let’s assume that you’ve decided to ask for the order and ask at the right time. When is the right time? It’s when you’ve touched all the bases. You’ve reached first, second and third and you’re sliding into home plate. You haven’t taken any shortcuts. So, what exactly are you asking. You’re asking if they want your help. You might have to customize it a little. “Would you like my help closing more sales?” This question is a close anyone can execute. But you still have to ask.”

Thanks, Dave. I like it. It’s straightforward and fresh. And it’s devoid of any pressure or manipulation.

Here’s what I wrote in The Accidental Salesperson. Hard to believe that book turns 17 this June.

“A Success magazine survey of a thousand top sales performers found out that more than half had abandoned any kind of closing technique. 56% of the salespeople said they looked the client in the eye and said something like, “This is right for you. Let’s do it.” And, then, they waited for the client to sign the order.”

It can work, especially if you believe in what you’re selling. Because problems of belief are more critical than problems of technique.

Here are two closes I teach today in my seminars and webinars:

  1. I would like to have you as a customer. Is there any reason we can’t get started? I got that one from the great copywriter, Bob Bly. It works because it states what you want. It invites the customer to tell you if there’s anything standing in the way of moving forward.
  2. What would you like me to do next? It works because it gives the prospect all the control. No pressure.

Oh, I almost forgot: There’s one more shockingly simple close I really like. I wrote a whole article about it.

If you visit this project of mine and like what you see, then use the promo code LINKED at checkout. You’ll like the price unless I somehow fail to show you the value you’ll receive from your investment.

Hmm. Maybe that close isn’t so bad.

Chris Lytle is the author of The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve and The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Team to Record Profits. Because sales managers are pulled in so many directions, Chris built this resource for you.

Reprinted by permission

Are Any of Your Salespeople Hooked on This?

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

Let politicians deal with the opioid epidemic.

Sales managers need to address this career-threatening addiction:

“Hope-ium.”

Salespeople get hooked on it. This usually happens when a prospect says, “I’m interested, call me next week.”

The salesperson dutifully makes a note to call next week and leaves.

And guess what?

When she calls back her “interested” prospect doesn’t pick up the phone.

Her “interested” prospect doesn’t return her calls or emails either.

What to do?

Make sure to teach your salespeople this magic question to ask every prospect who feigns interest: “Are you willing to work with me on a calendar basis?”

Real prospects put your salespeople on their calendars for a next step.

They engage.

However, information seekers, will blow the smoke of “hope-ium” at your salespeople to mollify them.

Plan an intervention.

Teach them the magic question at your next sales meeting.

And whatever you do, never put information seekers into your company’s sales projections. Because you can’t afford to have your CFO hooked on “hope-ium” too.

Chris Lytle is the author of The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve and The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Team to Record Profits. Because sales managers are pulled in so many directions, Chris built this resource for you.

Reprinted by permission

This Close is Shockingly Simple

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

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Chris Lytle

By: Chris Lytle, Content Developer
InstantSalesTraining.com

“Send me a proposal.”

I dread hearing those four words.

“Send me a proposal.”

Those four words can add hours of work to your day.

“Send me a proposal.”

Those four words can add days to your sales cycle.

Look, not every sale is an enterprise solution. Not every product can be customized. Sometimes we’re just out there selling stuff that solves a common business problem.

Quick story.

I’m meeting with the CFO of a broadcast company. We’re 90 minutes into the discovery phase.

He’s hesitant to invest in sales training. His sales managers are having trouble finding good candidates to train. There is too much turnover.

I happen to be selling an aptitude test for evaluating potential employees. I steer the conversation toward selecting better salespeople.

“This is exactly what we need,” says the CFO. “Send me a proposal for fifteen of them.”

(The tests cost $100 each.)

“I brought an order form,” I reply.

Silence.

“That will work,” said the CFO.

Done deal.

“I brought an order form” is the shockingly simple close that will work for your salespeople too.

When will you teach it to them?

Chris Lytle is the author of The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve and The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Team to Record Profits. Because sales managers are pulled in so many directions, Chris built this resource for you.

Reprinted by permission