3 Ways to Make Sure you are Selling to the Decision Maker(s)

Feb 20, 2018


Have you ever spent two, three, six (or more) months working on a deal? You have momentum. Everything seems to be going well. Your solution is perfect. Your contact returns your calls. He replies to your emails. He meets with you when you are at his office. He even goes to lunch with you, as long as you’re paying. All is good. Until it’s time to finalize the deal – close it. That’s when you learn that your contact (we’ll call him Carl) doesn’t have the authority to approve the deal.

That’s a “spirit-crusher”! Carl could have said NO at any point along the sales cycle, but you waited until the end (months later) to learn that he could not say YES. One of the worst feelings in sales.

This spirit-crushing lesson doesn’t need to be learned more than once. You don’t need that feeling in the pit of your gut ever again. Then why does it happen over & over? There are a few reasons:

  1. You trust Carl. Your “happy ears” hear what they want to hear & you don’t think you need to dig deeper.
  2. You don’t want to offend Carl by going over his head. And it works. You never do. (Solves that problem).
  3. You don’t believe you “belong” at the higher level. You are comfortable with lower-level Carls.
  4. You don’t want to “upset the applecart” – “better not screw things up by asking too many questions”

We’ve heard ‘em all. If any of these items ring true in your selling life you will fall victim to another spirit-crushing deal. Or should we say, “no deal”?

The lesson here: You must fight to get to the decision maker/makers & understand how the process works.

You read it right. The who, who else & how. Every single deal. We are not suggesting you go over Carl’s head in any way that exposes you to Carl. No need to offend Carl (you need Carl). We are suggesting that Carl help you get to the appropriate person/people.

Carl knows his place. If Carl wants you & your product or service, he will help you. Remember, Carl can say NO… he just can’t say YES.

Here are 3 ways to make sure you are selling to the decision maker(s):

  1. (How before who) When you make decisions like this, how does it work & who is involved?
  2. (Who before how) When you make decisions like this, who is involved & how does it work?
  3. (Every business is different…) Every business we work with is different. When you make decisions like this, how does it work & who is involved?

These questions are worded very carefully. They are designed to gather the information you need to ensure you are dealing with all the appropriate people & that you understand the process.

Be sure you don’t break a cardinal rule of selling & give Carl the chance to lie to you by asking, “Are you the decision maker.” Some Carl’s out there can’t wait to get their needs met, can’t wait to puff their chest out & give you the perception that they have “power” & will immediately say YES to that question. Wrong question.

Serious Question Sales Pros: Would You Buy from You?

Feb 6, 2018


Might seem like an odd question to ask yourself: Would you buy from you? Yep, pretty odd.

Most salespeople will answer (without thinking), “Of course I would.” “Why wouldn’t I?” “Sure would… I’m good… really good.” It’s natural. What salesperson, who makes her living selling, is going to admit that she wouldn’t even buy from herself?

OK, so we’ll attack this from a different angle. If you were being ridiculously honest with yourself, in a room by yourself, with nobody listening… would you buy from you? Would you?

Let’s do a quick survey:

  • Would you buy from someone who doesn’t do his homework?
  • Would you buy from someone who talks 80… 90… 100% of the time on sales calls?
  • Would you buy from someone who can’t wait to tell you how great her products & services are?
  • Would you buy from someone who can’t wait to tell you how great he is?
  • Would you buy from someone who doesn’t ask you questions?
  • Would you buy from someone who follows up with you like a stalker?
  • Would you buy from someone who had the audacity to drop his price as soon as you objected?
  • Would you buy from someone who just waited & waited for you to send him an order?
  • Would you buy from someone who took forever to return calls or respond to your emails?
  • Would you buy from someone who isn’t the least bit curious about you & your business?
  • Would you buy from someone who bad-mouths his competition?
  • Would you buy from someone who lacks charisma, passion & desire?
  • Would you buy from someone who shuts off his cell & email at 5 or 6 PM (& on weekends)?
  • Would you buy from someone who doesn’t prospect or hunt for deals on her own?
  • Would you buy from someone who does canned quotes/proposals for everyone that wants one?
  • Would you buy from someone who thinks they are always right & the customer never is?
  • Would you buy from someone who sets meager goals for himself & blames others when he misses them?
  • Would you buy from someone who stays in the office & would rather be there than engaging a prospect or client?
  • Would you buy from someone who thinks working hard means putting in 40 hours per week?
  • Would you buy from someone who disrespects his sales manager?
  • Would you buy from someone who doesn’t have 20 years of experience but 1 year, 20 times?
  • Would you buy from someone who spends more time planning his Sprig Break vacation than his sales career?

Me neither.

4 Times You are Sounding Desperate in Sales

Jan 23, 2018

Sounding Desperate in Sales

Face it: Nobody likes a desperate person. Desperation smells a mile away & turns people off instantly. You remember that feeling back when you were dating (or if you are dating, now): He calls too much! He texts me every day. What is wrong with him? That’s your personal life. Sales is no different. You need to play it cool. Nobody wants to buy from or work with someone who is desperate – nobody!

Fact is, most of us know not to cross the line between eager & desperate in social situations. But, when your job is on the line, good judgment goes right out the window. When you need to consistently sell each month to hit your number, the pressure can make you come off a bit too strong with your prospects.

In the pursuit of making quota, salespeople often don’t even realize that they’re looking desperate. If you’re guilty of any of these 4 Desperate Cues, stop immediately before you send your prospects running. 

  1. Being too nice & accommodating

This is more important than you think. Yes, you should serve your customers. Common sense says that. Common sense does not say that you should act like a servant, though. We speak a lot about the “pandering” salesperson. The salesperson that says “yes” too often, says “thank you” more in front of a prospect or customer than they do to their family. You know pandering: pandering is the waitress that comes to your table five times before you are done with your appetizer to “see how everything’s tasting”. Sure, she wants a tip. She’ll get a tip, but if she comes back one more time…”

Too accommodating looks like, “I’ll see what I can do.” Or “Let me ask my boss.”  The ultimate in too accommodating is discounting too quickly. You know the feeling. You always know when you lower the price before it’s necessary. You wimped out. Instead, will you dig into all of a prospect’s additional requests to understand why they need it, & if it’s truly important.

You’re going to hate this: How about when you allow a prospect to disrespect your time? When a prospect cancels a call at the last minute, they’ll likely apologize the next time. Most salespeople respond with “No problem!” This is so wrong. The moment you do that you are putting your prospect on a pedestal. You are telling them that they are important & you are not! Try asking, “Is everything okay?”  & then move on with the conversation. You should be respected as someone who adds value, & when you let a prospect treat you with disrespect, you show you’re desperate for the business. A great way to weaken your position!

  1. Jumping on problems (PAIN) too quickly

On one hand, we’re happy that you ask your prospects the 9 Knock-Out Questions to get a feel for their PAIN points, & understand if your product or service is the solution. It’s great when there’s a match between the PAIN & the fix. On the other hand, you CAN’T be too eager to make that connection. It’s too soon. You have to be suave & debonair. You must be cool about it.

Ideally (through your questions) the prospect realizes on their own that yours is the right solution. By asking questions & telling stories about other people like them, the prospect should see themselves in the stories. Prospect sells himself. That’s professional selling

Instead of letting the prospect connect the dots in their own mind, a lot of times salespeople say, “Oh, we can help you with that…” & explain how they can solve the problem (DUMP). Problem is, that might not be the way they want to do it. Highlighting your product from the get-go is salesy, it’s “old-school” & can drive away a good opportunity. Looks desperate. Resist the urge.

  1. Assuming the prospect is interested

This is a killer. How many times have you failed to ask a prospect if they are interested in your product/service (& assumed it)? They gave a few signals & your” happy ears” heard what they wanted to hear. This will make you look not only desperate but foolish. You know what they say about the word assume. Can’t do it – ever.  Probably the most common way this comes out is when you suggest a meeting or call in your first outreach. It’s premature & makes you look desperate. This early, you can’t really know whether the prospect is a good opportunity or not. Prospects will spot it a mile away.

  1. Not taking the hint (stalker-like follow up)

One of our occupational hazards is that most of our sales opportunities won’t go anywhere. We fail more often than we succeed. Can you imagine if your accounting or production department said that? Ah, no! It’s crazy. Sometimes prospects won’t even answer your email or return your call. They go completely off the grid. That’s OK. Get over it. What’s not OK is refusing to move on, & sending email after email & leaving voice mail after voice mail (the dating example up top.). Poster-child for desperation

It’s going to take a discipline to look at yourself in the mirror & ask, “Am I making a fool of myself?” Or “Would I buy from me?” Stop for a second & reflect on the ‘dating game’ & you’ll know what to do. Of course, it’s a lot easier to not appear desperate if you have a full pipeline of opportunities. But that would mean you are prospecting… we’ll leave that for another Coach’s Chalk Talk.

It’s 2018. What’s Going to be Different this Year?

Jan 9, 2018

We’re 9 days into 2018. You’ve had enough time to settle in. And you didn’t win the Powerball (or your Fantasy League for that matter). Here’s a question for you: What’s going to be different this year? More specifically: What will you do this year to take your sales to the next level?

If you’re satisfied, coasting, or as a friend of ours used to say, “Livin’ large,” stop reading now & go back to doing whatever it is you were doing.

This won’t be one of those corny blogs that attempt to motivate you & tell you what a great year this will be. The motivation won’t work & making it great is up to you.

What we will do is ask: What’s going to be different this year?

If you are not happy in your sales role; if you are not making the money you want, what will you do differently this year to change things? Blame the leads? Complain about your territory? “Dog” the competition? Bitch about your management?

How’d that work for you last year? And the year before?

Nope. This year will be different (if you want it to be). This year you have the choice to hold yourself accountable — to point the finger right where it should be pointed — right between your eyes.

Whatever problem a salesperson is struggling with you can bet big dollars that it can be factored down to the fact that he or she does not have enough opportunities to close business. This is because he or she does not “open” enough business. And this is because he or she is not prospecting enough. Almost every “sales” problem is a prospecting problem!

Do any of these sales problems look familiar?

  • Feeling pressure to lower your price? You probably don’t have any other logs in the fire.
  • Following up with a prospect enough to classify you as a stalker? You probably don’t have any other real good opportunities.
  • Spending all your time talking with lower level non-decision makers? You probably have a wide-open calendar.
  • Keeping a pipeline full of a bunch of low % opportunities. You probably have not opened any high % opportunities.
  • Spending all your time “farming” current accounts waiting for one of them to “place an order.” You probably have not called a new prospect since people watched TV instead of Netflix!

Enough already! Why don’t you get out of your own way & start doing what you control? Your prospecting & sales activity. Break out of your comfort zone & start calling people & companies that buy what you sell to see what they are up to.

In the spirit of 2018 here are 5 things to do differently this year:

  • Make a pact to call 15 new prospects per week
  • Agree to ask 15 current clients (or friends) for a referral or introduction each month
  • Stop “driving by” facilities that buy your products – stop by 15 this quarter
  • Thank 15 clients for their business before St. Patrick’s Day (lunch is good)
  • Dig down deep into your gut & find that 5 seconds of guts it takes to do these things

Or not. You can keep bitching about your boss — it’s probably her fault anyway.

Sales is NO PLACE for Shortcuts!

Dec 26, 2017

One of the most common characteristics of successful salespeople = impatience. Show me a patient salesperson & I’ll show you a salesperson with skinny kids! Most want to rush, get as much done as possible & move on to the next deal. Their mantra is more, more, more. Pretty normal.

Image that says no short cuts work for it!The great ones are decisive, results-oriented, accountable to themselves, hunt for their next deal & as we have mentioned time & time again comfortable with the word “NO”. All great qualities — including the impatience.

Yep, all great qualities for successful selling. Yet, nowhere on that list does it say, “Tend to take shortcuts”. Shortcuts kill sales. Shortcuts kill salespeople.

Think of that last two or three deals that slipped through the cracks. Good chance that in each case there was information that was missing. Information that you didn’t get — but your competitor did. Information crucial to qualifying an opportunity that you were too rushed & hurried to gather but your competitor wasn’t. Good chance you took a shortcut or two.

When our clients do “post-mortems” on lost deals it’s almost 100% of the time that there is a gap in information that is critical to qualifying the opportunity. Sure, the salesperson will say the prospect did not share the information. Upon deeper inspection, it’s clear the salesperson did not ask for the information. He took a shortcut.

If there is one thing you glean from this blog it’s this — NO SHORTCUTS IN SALES. Your production department doesn’t take shortcuts. Your engineers don’t take shortcuts & by all means, your accounting department does not take shortcuts. So why do salespeople? That’s the $64,000 question. The $64,000 answer = it’s easy to take shortcuts. Really easy.

That doesn’t mean it’s right.

Do yourself a favor & be anal-retentive in your pursuit of the information necessary to qualify the opportunity:

1. The compelling problem (PAIN).

2. The budget (money conversation)

3. The decision maker & decision-making process.

Failure to get any of these items is a killer of deals.

Try this:

The Compelling Problem (PAIN):

  • Ask what is happening/ what’s the problem?
  • Ask how long it’s been going on?
  • Ask what they have done about it?
  • Ask how much it’s costing them?
  • Ask what happens if they don’t find a solution?

The Budget (money conversation):

  • Ask if there is money to pay for the solution (in the budget)?
  • Ask how they planned on paying for a solution?
  • Ask where the money will come from (you are allowed) 

The decision maker & decision-making process:

  • Ask how they make decisions & who is involved?
  • Ask who is involved in these kinds of decisions & how their process works?

Answers to these questions help to make sales opportunities qualified — help you get to reality quicker. It’s not easy but at the end of the day (or month, or quarter) it definitely pays off a lot more than the shortcuts you were tempted to take. Be disciplined. Be great. Leave the shortcuts to your competitors.

Order-Taker or Order-Maker?
5 Things Contributing to Your Order-Taking Status

Dec 12, 2017

Sales leaders out there, how familiar does this sound? One of your salespeople (Willie Weakcloser) arrives at the office between 8:15 & 8:45 (like he does every day). He hasn’t been in the office before 8 AM since the first week he was hired – 12 years ago. 

It’s like Groundhog Day: He makes his way to his desk, turns on his computer, doesn’t even bother to check voice mail, goes for a cup of coffee, stops & talks to 2 people about the game last night, grabs his coffee, on his way back talks to 3 more people about the games this weekend, sits down, checks his email, makes a personal call, makes another personal call, texts a few buddies, too much coffee … better hit the bathroom, stops to bother someone on his way to the bathroom, grabs another coffee, back to his desk (but not before he bothers 2 more people), makes a few more personal calls, surfs the web, checks his Fantasy Team, goes to an internal meeting that lasts 3 times longer than it should, back to his desk, calls production to complain about something, eventually replies to an email, almost time for lunch, gets up & asks one of the people he likes to bother to go to lunch, another coffee, one more trip to the bathroom, back to his desk to kill a few minutes on the internet before lunch.

Don’t laugh. You know it’s true. Painfully true. 3.5 to 4 hours in the office & NOT ONE THING ACCOMPLISHED THAT LEADS TO GROWING YOUR BUSINESS. Not one thing. Here’s a guy that spends his time getting ready to take an order. Willie is nothing more than an expensive order-taker.

There can be a multitude of things causing this: He could be making more money than he ever dreamed of & doesn’t see a need to go out & sell more. He could not have enough to do (not enough accounts to call on). He could be better-suited for another position (not outside sales material). He could lack the competitive spirit that is so important for sales professionals. He likely has a very low level of desire, drive & commitment (also critical characteristics for sales professionals). Then again, he could be flat out lazy.

Willie will never admit any of these things. Talk to Willie & he’ll tell you he works his ass off. He’ll do his best to get you to believe that his job is hard, it’s not fair, he’s underpaid. You know Willie, he has all the answers on how to run the company. Willie is an authority on all things sales. Willie is an authority on everything. After all, Willie has 12 years of experience. Who knows more than Willie?

When it comes right down to it, Willie can’t sell his way out of a wet paper bag. Willie is an order-taker. Willie doesn’t have 12 years of experience. Willie has one year of experience 12 times. Willie is killing your company.

So, what do you do about it? Well, you’ve been living with it for years now, so there’s a good chance you aren’t going to do anything about it. But you know full well that you’d be better off with Willie working at your competitor. Perhaps that’s for another blog…

You certainly can put in systems & processes to ensure that the Willies of the world don’t make their way onto your sales team in the future. Let’s look at some things you can do keep the Willies away.

Here are 5 Things Contributing to Your Order-Taking Status:

1. Not Assessing Your Sales Candidates: Very often the things that lead to someone turning into an order-taker are uncovered in assessments (desire, drive & commitment to name three).

2. An Out-of-Balance Compensation Plan: How do you know if you are compensating your salespeople appropriately. If Willie is making more money than he ever dreamed of that’s great (if he earned it). Problem is there are many Willies that aren’t earning it. Their comp. plan is way off balance. Willie probably has a high salary & low bonus /commission structure. Willie is getting paid to NOT SELL. Start paying your sale team for performance & watch the order-takers weed themselves out.

3. Too Many Internal Meetings: Are you like most companies where you folks don’t buy from yourselves? Of course, you don’t. So, if you don’t buy from yourselves, why do you have so many internal meetings? Why so many meetings with yourselves? It gets ridiculous. Bet you can cut your meetings in half. That leaves a hell of a lot more time for Willie to check on his Fantasy Team (or go see customers).

 4. Not Maximizing Resources & Technology: Does Willie sync his desktop to his cell phone? Not that he has any sales calls… but if he did, would all his appointments be on his phone for easy access? Is he using your CRM system the way it’s intended? Does he duplicate efforts? Bet he writes things down, enters it somewhere & then re-enters it like a lot of other Willies that aren’t comfortable with technology. Huge waste of time.

 5. Not Prospecting for New Business: Good chance that Willie is unwilling to hunt for new business. He’s very comfortable with the status quo. He likes his current customers — they like him. They just don’t buy more new products — they order the usual. On top of that, Willie hates rejection — can’t stand the word no. He solves that problem very easily. He never hears it. Never puts himself in a position to be rejected. Can’t hear the word NO if you don’t go out & prospect for new business. Willie is a genius.

These are 5 of the many things that lead to a person like Willie becoming (& staying) an order-taker. Now, Willie is just one person. How many like him are on your sales team?

It’s the Holidays, I’m a Salesperson…Nobody Wants to See Me. That’s Total BS!

Nov 28, 2017

What would the holiday season be without the “It’s the holidays blog…”?

It’s that time of year. Time for a reality check.

How many salespeople do you know that go on cruise control between Thanksgiving & New Year’s Day? How many companies do you know that will actually admit to winding things down right about now?

It happens every year. So common. We could call it an epidemic at some companies & an easy way out for many salespeople. Saying things like, “Nah… they don’t want to see salespeople…it’s the holidays. Or, “I’m sure they don’t want to see us over the holidays.” Or, “Nobody’s even there, they’re all off, it’s the holidays.” Total BS.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t you play your cards right & get in to see some decision makers between now & the start of 2018? Make it a point to capitalize on your competitions weakness—laziness! Epidemic laziness!

It’s time to buckle down & do the one thing that you actually control in your daily selling lives. Pick up the phone & call prospects. Go see prospects & customers. Yes, you control that activity. Nobody else will be doing it so you will stand out automatically. Nobody else thinks anyone is “in”— so I like your chances.

Strong salespeople don’t go on cruise control — ever.  Successful companies don’t wind down during the holidays. They make things happen.

The holidays are great times to see prospects & current clients & customers.

Here are 5 reasons to keep prospecting for new business & keep seeing current clients during the holidays:


1. It’s your job

2. Companies review current year incumbent products & services & decide what to do for the next year

3. Prospects will see you — it’s their job

4. It’s a great time to plan new programs for 2018 with current clients (your competition won’t be there)

5. As my mother always said, a Thank You is never inappropriate — thank your clients for their business

Business does not stop between Thanksgiving & New Year’s Day. Some salespeople do. Don’t be one of ‘em!

5 Steps to 2018 Goal-Setting

Nov 14, 2017

Let’s get this out of the way right now — this will not be the sexiest blog you have ever read. Not at all. The topic is goal-setting. How sexy is that?

Not sexy, but necessary. We’re 6 weeks away from 2018. If you haven’t thought about what 2018 will look like, good luck making it happen.

You might be shocked to learn that we see many sales organizations & salespeople that spend a hell of a lot more time planning their winter-breaks or summer vacations than they do their sales careers. It’s ridiculous. Think about it. It’s a “risky proposition” to put yourself out there & have a sales goal. Most people shy away from it for fear of being held accountable… thinking things like, “If I don’t have a goal, then I won’t have to achieve anything.” (actual thought in career salespeople’s minds). Most people would rather not be held accountable.

Common but not right. You have all seen the Harvard Business School study that documented an entire graduating class. 10 years after graduation the 3% of the class that had both written goals & a plan were making 10 times as much as the rest of the 97% of the class. 10 times. Probably just a coincidence…

Time after time, study after study, it is proven — goal-setting works. Don’t believe it? Try not setting goals. Forget the plan. See how far you get. Wait, most of you are already doing that. How’s it working?

The problem is, most salespeople “think” they have goals. They say things like, “I want to sell more next year.” Or “I want to earn more money in 2018.” And that’s it. That’s their goal. NOT! That’s a wish. A dream at best.

When does a wish or a dream become a goal? When it becomes SMART.

There’s a good chance that most of you have seen & heard the S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym. Well, you’re about to see it again. Question is, what are you prepared to do about it?

We put a subtle spin on the SMART Goals acronym (the R). Check it out here:

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

1. S pecific

Sales goals must be specific. I will sell more or I will increase my sales in 2018 are not SMART Goals. They become SMART when you add specifics. I will sell $750.000 in 2018 is SMART. I will increase my sales by 20% in the calendar year is SMART. They have “meat.”

2. M easurable

Sales goals are measurable. This is the easy part. They’re numbers. It’s easy to see & compare what you did in 2017 & compare to 2018. Enough said.

3. A chievable

Sales goals must be achievable. Not too easy & not too hard. How many people do you know that hit their sales target by September & take the rest of the year off (coast)? Dangerous. Equally as dangerous is a sales goal or quota that is too far & reaching. If you have been clipping along at $500,000 in sales year after year how much sense does it make to have a goal of doing $1.5 million next year? Sure, it could happen. But unlikely. The mere thought of that daunting task turns many salespeople off & they often shut down before the year even starts. Dangerous. Think it through & determine what is possible. Stretch, yes. But don’t “pie in the sky” for the sake of impressing people. Be real.

4. R ewarding

Here’s the spin. R often stands for “realistic” in some SMART Goal acronyms. Realistic & achievable mean the same thing. We’ll go with REWARDING. You should reward yourself for hitting your sales goal. The reward should be in addition to the compensation (commission or bonus) you will earn anyway. We have seen people reward themselves with trips, cars, fun “toys,” etc. Make it something separate — something fun to work for. The money will come as a result of hitting it.

5. T imely

Sales goals must be timely. We are all for a 5-year plan or a 3-Year goal. Problem is you can’t manage a 5-Year or 3-Year goal. You can’t even manage a 1-Year goal. But you can break that year into chunks. A 1-year goal has 12 months. 12 months have 4 weeks each. What are the manageable activities you will do to hit your weekly number (resulting in your monthly number) & ultimately your annual number? Back into it. Start with the annual goal & work backwards to determine what you need to do monthly & weekly to hit it. These “sales activities” are completely under your control (dials, emails, etc.). This activity leads to meetings, demos, quotes, proposals & closed deals.

Sexy? No. Necessary? Yes.

Sometimes Selling Can Be Damn Scary!

Oct 31, 2017

Why did you get into sales? A lot of people say it’s because they like helping people. Or, they like people. Or they like the freedom. All valiant reasons. But, from where I sit, if “for the money” or “income potential” isn’t right up there, we should talk. For another conversation, though.

Did you ever imagine that a sales career would be such a scary proposition? For those who have never prospected for an appointment, called a stranger, or endured so much rejection must wonder, “How scary can sales be?” Try it for a week.

When we say scary, we’re not talking about the bone-chilling kind. Nobody screams at the top of their lungs in fear.

We’re talking about the 6 inches between the ears & the feeling in the pit your stomach when you must do something out of your comfort zone.

Scary, you say? Here are a few examples of what scares many salespeople:

  • For some salespeople, the very thought of a commissioned-based career is scary. They say things like, “I need the security” or “I have a family. I need to know what’s coming in every month”. That’s fine. There are many careers like that out there.
  • For other salespeople, the concept of talking to someone who doesn’t want to talk with you about something they don’t want to buy is scary. It’s called prospecting & many salespeople do it daily. Others don’t & yet they wonder why they aren’t earning a living.
  • Still, other salespeople can’t fathom having to ask someone for the sale. The thought of asking someone to buy is scary. Ask any real sales stud or studdette, don’t ask & lose out to the one that does.
  • There are career salespeople who think that asking for a referral is the scariest thing in the world. The fear of someone saying, “No, can’t think of anyone” is so strong they would rather make cold-calls (go figure).
  • Spend a few weeks in a Sales Coach’s shoes & you’ll learn that there are salespeople that are deathly afraid to ask people about their budgets (the money conversation). These salespeople have the skinniest kids.
  • Then, there are the salespeople that are completely freaked out at the idea of asking who the appropriate decision maker is. They don’t want to go over “Carl’s head” & aren’t suave enough to figure out another way.
  • Other salespeople are so afraid to dig deep & ask tough questions because they like to keep the conversation “high level”, saying things like, “I don’t want to upset her, she’s my prospect.” Good luck separating yourself from your high-level talking competitors. And you wonder why you are all reduced to a commodity.

A few examples of how scary the sales profession can be. Horror-filled terror? No. But, scary none-the-less for many people. After all, if it were easy wouldn’t your HR or Accounting departments do it?

Interested, Curious & Wondering Aren’t Buying Signals

Oct 17, 2017

Can you remember, back in the early days of your selling career, when you would get excited because you found someone that was interested in talking to you about your product orImage of heart and brain on question mark teeter totter for Sales Coaches' Corner blog "Ask Open-Ended Questions in Sales" service? Be honest. Have you ever gotten that feeling in your stomach when someone was curious to learn what you do? OK, have you ever spent the commission dollars in your mind the moment someone said they were wondering if you could help them with a business problem?

You know who you are. That’s right. You know who you are. Because there is a good chance you are still doing it.

Let’s face facts: selling is hard. Prospecting for sales appointments stinks. When someone “bites” it feels good. If this describes you that just means you’re normal. The problem comes when you feel so good that you let your guard down. When you take words like interested, curious & wondering & turn them into buying signals. Dangerous territory.

There are other “dangerous words” out there too. Do you ever fist pump your colleague when someone said they wouldn’t mind comparing you to their incumbent supplier? How about the times you went running to your boss’s office because a prospect said they were looking into your products technology? Who do you know that jumps on a couch, like Tom Cruise, whenever he finds a prospect that would consider meeting with him?

Other zingers: hoping, shopping around, evaluating, market study, checking out, etc. Don’t you dare take these words for anything more than what they are — conversation-starters. And that is perfectly fine.

These are words you will hear at the beginning of sales opportunities — conversation-starters. They are intellectual words used when the process is still early & can be nothing more than intellectual — & that is A-OK. When was the last time someone bought your product or service (at the dollars you charge) out of curiosity? When was the last time you got the P.O. because your prospect wondered if it would work? Never is a good answer. You aren’t selling the latest new flavor of Tic Tacs, or a $9.99 gadget spinner online (two things people buy out of wonderment & curiosity.)

It’s time to get serious about the career that feeds your family & take these words at face-value, & the face says (“not there yet, too soon…”). If the conversation stays intellectual & technical you are sure to be reduced to a commodity — you know that’s the truth. That happens to you every day.

It’s time to dig in & have serious business discussions. Let’s get away from the platitudes & high-level “fluffy” discussions that get you nowhere. Takes work. Takes a bit of skill. But, you can do it. You do it by asking questions. Open-ended questions that generate more than a one-word (yes or no) answer. Questions that (by design) help you gather more information. Questions that start with WHAT – HOW – WHY – WHEN – WHERE – WHO. You know this.

You learned them in the 3rd grade.

Then why did you stop asking them? One reason: it’s easier to not ask open-ended questions. It’s easy to keep the discussion high level — after all, “fluffy” feels good. Problem is: fluffy doesn’t sell!

Get comfortable with the open-ended question words & you just might start learning a lot more about your prospect’s serious business problems. You need to turn wondering into worried. How about considering into confused?  These are the feelings (emotions) that people & companies pay big dollars to get rid of.

Other suggestions: (there is not a 1:1 correlation between the words on the left & the words on the right – just examples)


The alternative is to keep it high-level & fluffy. Let your competitors do that. Remember: fluffy doesn’t sell!