October 30, 2008 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Customer Service, Marketing, sales, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

I did some shopping today. Nothing elaborate. Just some odds and ends purchased in stores near my house. I was also invisible today, at least in the stores that I shopped. No one came over to me, offered their assistance or made any sign of recognition until such time as I took the initiative and went over to them.  

Got me thinking about my recent trip to Istanbul.

There in the Grand Bazaar you couldn’t help but be noticed. The merchants were on their feet, making eye contact, extolling the virtues of their wares, heck—trying to make a sale.

I think some of the sales folks that I encountered today could take a lesson or two. In enthusiasm, interest, energy and focus and if they tempered it a bit with our more laid back sensibilities, then that would be OK too.

But it would feel awfully nice to not feel invisible when trying to make a purchase. Not so very hard to ask for, is it?


How to Make Certain They’re Not Sleeping Through Your Sales Meeting

October 28, 2008 at 8:51 pm | Posted in Marketing, sales, Sales Training, small business, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Who hasn’t sat through a tediously boring sales meeting that seemed to go nowhere and drag on forever? Unfortunately, these office pow-wows not only waste time and drain the energy out of employees, they are also unproductive.


However, meetings are necessary for the development of a sales team and can lead to positive results. They serve as an important way for your organization to collectively learn, share thoughts, and establish cooperation. But, these positive outcomes can only come from meetings that are optimized for success.


Here are the steps you need to take to make certain that the sales team won’t sleep through your next meeting:


Set an Agenda

Too many meetings are conducted without a defined purpose or agenda. Ultimately, the purpose of a meeting is to disseminate key information that will help your sales staff to sell. It’s not supposed to be a lengthy lecture. Determine what the goals of your meeting are ahead of time and stay focused on them. Give your sales staff a copy of the agenda before the meeting so that they know what to expect.


Set a Timeline

Now that you have the goals and an agenda, set a realistic timeline for your meeting that recognizes that time is money. Keep in mind that shorter, regularly scheduled sales meetings are far more effective than having them lengthy and infrequent. Aim for one meeting every week, or at least once a month, and keep the length from 30 minutes to no more than two hours.


Remember consistency is the name of the game in meeting planning. Set a regular start time and day, as well as a maximum length of time for the meeting. And, be aware that your attendees will be more alert in the morning than after lunch when you might as well hand them a blanket and a pillow so that they can take a post-meal snooze.


Keep It Relevant

Once you have an agenda for the meeting, limit the discussion to only the designated topics. Start with a positive story to engage them and reinforce your message. Avoid negative comments, and keep the conversation focused on group concerns, not individual problems. Further, save discussion about administrative issues for emails or other get-togethers.


Keep It Fun

Salespeople should look forward to meetings because they are both informative and enjoyable. It’s not enough to simply gather your team around a conference table and spew updates and figures at them. Rather, meetings should be used to connect, motivate, and appreciate. Provide refreshments, tell a joke, or invite a guest speaker, along with delivering your message.

Make It Interactive

Involve everyone in the meeting. Let individuals share sales tips, review mistakes and successes, and present product demonstrations. Encouraging dialogue will help everyone close more sales and ultimately be more successful.


A productive sales meeting requires planning, setting expectations, and having the right tools in place. With the right mix of these components, you’ll create less boredom and more enthusiasm, and will ultimately uncover the collaboration and productivity that sales meetings are supposed to provide.










Closing the Networking Loop

October 10, 2008 at 7:25 am | Posted in Networking, small business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For anyone in sales, being savvy at networking isn’t just a good skill to have, it’s necessary for long-term success. Networking is an important part to building relationships with clients, vendors, and even your competitors. The reality is that people choose to refer business to and do business with those they already know and trust.


To build these enduring and hopefully profit-generating relationships that will help you in your career, you need to be able to present yourself as smart, professional, and sincere. These traits are what will give you the edge you need to stand above the countless others who are also vying to network to get ahead. Like all other aspects of business, networking has unspoken rules of play that are essential to follow if you expect any success. Let’s call it networking etiquette. Here are the rules you need to know:


Express Your Appreciation

If someone has taken the thought and time to refer you to one of their contacts, consider it one of the most sincere forms of flattery. Interestingly, many of us often forget to thank those who make the effort and take the time to refer.


If you want to continue to receive referrals, thank these individuals promptly and genuinely. Express how much you appreciate their efforts. While a hand-written thank you note is always appropriate, a phone call or even a quick email is much better than letting these generous actions go unacknowledged.


Keep Them in the Loop

After thanking a person who has given you a referral, find out if they want to be kept in the loop. Because there is a vested interest, they just might appreciate being copied on emails or receiving updates on how things are progressing. Give them the opportunity to tell you what level of involvement they want and then, most importantly follow-through with their requests.


Announce When You Win the Business

So you’ve thanked the person who gave you the referral and kept them in the loop through the sales process. What’s the next step? Don’t keep them hanging; notify them as soon as you win the business. It’s a perfect opportunity to once again express your appreciation.


Reciprocate If You Can

Networking is most certainly a two-way street. It’s great to receive referrals, but it can be just as rewarding to give them, as well. And, it’s not always all about making a referral to someone who needs a product or service immediately. Make connections and referrals to a wide spectrum of influencers and other great networkers, and your consideration and interest will be recognized and rewarded.



Mystery Shop Your Office

October 9, 2008 at 8:18 am | Posted in Customer Service, sales, small business, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Having had one too many bad experiences calling into a diverse group of companies, I’ve come up with this idea:  Mystery shop your company!


Today, it’s just a fact that if you’re not focusing your attention on how your customers are being treated, your business is almost certainly doomed for failure. Increasing competition has created the need for customer service to be a fundamental business component. If you’re not paying the necessary attention on how your staff is treating customers, you might want to be asking yourself why?


Sure, time and money needs to be spent on operational efficiency, strategic planning, and marketing initiatives, but developing and executing a customer plan that includes regular assessment is extremely important. Managers and C-level executives can easily become detached from the frontlines and often have a very inaccurate picture of what customers are experiencing. Often what’s being missed is that the customer service team is lacking in enthusiasm and is not dedicated to helping customers or actively trying to close sales.


One of the best tools for learning about your frontline team is to record mystery shop calls where a third-party shopper poses as a prospective customer. Of course, you’ll learn a great deal about what words are being said, but also about the tone and manner in which they’re being heard.


However, mystery calls are only valuable if they are being used to help employees improve their sales and communications skills. Once you have the data, you then need to:


Review Calls with Employees

Sure, it can be enlightening for you to hear the calls, but it’s your employees who really need to listen to them. Take the time to review calls with employees before any specific actions are taken.


Detail Specifics

Once an employee has listened to a mystery shop call, begin the dialogue to highlight areas in which he or she has excelled and faltered. Discuss ways to improve techniques, and emphasize the important that each and every call has on day-to-day business.


Develop the Guidelines

Without clear guidelines as to what good customer service entails, training can become very random, and employees will decide on their own how to treat customers. This isn’t the best way to deliver the best customer service. Clearly define what is expected and how best to deliver it.



While it’s important to offer constructive criticism, it’s just as vital to encourage practice. Customer service and sales techniques are learned skills. Give the support and encouragement employees need to reinforce behaviors. Use role-playing in training and discuss tips and techniques during meetings.


Get Outside Help

Sometimes, there just aren’t the internal resources to effectively develop a customer service team. This is when outsourcing might just be the answer. An outside training partner can help define objectives, clarify challenges, and tailor training to meet your particular organizational needs.


There is clearly no short-term fix for building an effective customer service organization. It’s always a long-term commitment, and mystery shopping is only one component. To stay competitive, it is essential to invest in assessments, evaluations, and training to make positive changes that will permanently and positively affect company culture over the long-haul.



Dispatches from Istanbul or What I Learned About Selling From the Turkish Carpet Salesman

October 8, 2008 at 9:34 am | Posted in Customer Service, sales, Sales Training, small business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just back from a fabulous week in Istanbul. Saw the sights, ate great food, took a Turkish Bath (!) and, yup, shopped.


Here’s what I learned from Ahmed, my favorite guy in the Grand Bazaar:


Aim to be first. (Heck, Fast Company once had a cover article entitled something like “How Fast Are You” but I think Ahmed had this covered before them.)   Here’s what Ahmed knows. The salesperson that gets to the prospect, presents a compelling value-proposition and then pushes back buyer resistance stands a much better chance at winning the business than the slow-to-the-dance sales rep that makes their calls and presentations “after the fact”.


Aim to be different.  Not better.  OK, of course you are better but do prospects really like to hear that they selected an inferior product or provider and that they were duped in the past or have been deluded all this time. Of course not. Aim to point out how your benefits make you DIFFERENT and then, of course, show how these points of difference make you better (don’t use the word!)…but lead them to recognizing the fact that you are better and don’t push the fact down their throats.


Aim to be gracious.  Yes gracious. I was offered tea in every stall in the Grand Bazaar. Everyone was polite and yes, even insistent, but it was all done with grace and good nature and even when I did not become a customer, the pleasant demeanor and courtesy was always there.


Aim to be flexible.  OK, your prospect or customer is not receptive to your first offer. Think about how you can reposition what you are delivering so that the benefits are more in line with what they need and want.  In this business economy it is surely not the time to adopt a “my way or the highway” demeanor yet that is exactly what happened to me the other day when trying to get a new phone system for my office.


So there you have it. A few quick reminders to help you keep your sales flowing. Tea anyone?

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