How to Find Hidden Opportunities

By Jeff Beals

“Great moments are born from great opportunities,” said the late Herb Brooks, one of the world’s most famous hockey coaches.

Brooks certainly seized opportunity during his career.  He agreed to coach the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that beat the “unbeatable” Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York during the famous “Miracle on Ice” game on the way to winning the gold medal.  It was a modern-day “David vs. Goliath” matchup. Many coaches would refuse such an overwhelmingly difficult job.  In fact, several did.

But Brooks saw opportunity in the monumental challenge of leading a bunch of young, college all-stars against the essentially professional players of the Soviet Union.

That opportunity paid off, to say the least.

Whether you’re talking about sports, business or any other subject matter, seeking, finding and capitalizing on opportunity are among the most important things a professional must do.

There’s one big problem with opportunity, however.  It is often hard to find and even harder to harness.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations,” said religious author Charles Swindoll.

I agree wholeheartedly with Swindoll’s characterization.  The best opportunities are often hidden.  They are often located in places we least expect to find them and are presented by people we least expect to provide them.

That reminds me of the old story that sales managers like to share with their young trainees: “On his way back from a three-day fishing trip, a multi-millionaire visits the showroom of an upscale, luxury car dealer.  The salespersons, seeing an unshaven, disheveled, poorly dressed man, essentially ignore him.  Offended, the multi-millionaire buys a top-of-the-line model the next day from a direct competitor.”  There are a lot of ways to tell that classic missed-sales-opportunity story, but they all sound something like that.

If opportunity is so important to our success, and so difficult to find and recognize, we need to focus more of our energy on it.  Unless you’re naturally good at it, finding and capitalizing on opportunity needs to be a deliberate focus:

Open your eyes and ears – we can no longer afford to be indifferent, or even worse, oblivious to the world around us.  Be on the lookout for ideas that could lead to new opportunities.  Even more important than eyes and ears, keep your mind open too.  Many of us miss opportunities, because they don’t fit into our pre-existing paradigms.

Remember that all people count – sometimes we get so obsessed with the “right” people, we miss out on valuable opportunities from people, who on the surface, can do seemingly nothing for us.

Fight through the fear – one of the biggest reasons we miss out on extraordinary opportunities is because we are too afraid to leap.  Herb Brooks wasn’t too afraid to leap; we shouldn’t be either.

Take risks – As the old saying goes, “nothing risked, nothing gained.”  Unless you take a chance and do something new, you’ll keep running into the same old opportunities.

Work really hard – “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work,” said the great inventor Thomas Edison.

Set meaningful goals – make those goals specific too.  The more you clarify what you really want, the quicker you will recognize it when it shows up.

Find quiet time – many people have found great opportunities, because they prayed for them or spent time meditating about them.  Such activity creates focus in your mind, and a focused mind is a powerful mind.

Believe – visualize success and tell yourself that good things will come.  A positive mind is more receptive to hidden opportunity.

Prepare – as the old Boy Scout motto says, “be prepared.”  You never know when the perfect opportunity will open up.  If you’re not prepared, you might not act on it quickly enough.  In his autobiography, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he believes in “relentless preparation.”  He constantly prepares for crisis, so he will perform properly.  Same thing applies to opportunity.

Could You Use Some Help?

At any given time, I personally coach a handful of sales leaders and top producers.  Whether you want to recruit better talent, motivate an underachieving team or just want to advance your career, it might make sense for us to work together.

Here’s a testimonial from a sales leader I worked with last year:

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales-and-leadership coach, I have signed over 20 new, top-tier clients and have positioned myself among the top three sales producers in my company nationwide. Jeff has helped me create a beneficial success plan and ensures, through an accountability process, that I’m actively accomplishing my goals. Not only is Jeff an incredible coach, he’s a true friend, mentor and wonderful human being.” – Carter Green, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Stratus Building Solutions, Oklahoma City, OK

All my coaching clients complete three personal assessments and one organizational assessment, so we can design a customized program for you and your company.

If you believe you could benefit from professional coaching, the first step is to schedule a telephone conversation.  We’ll figure out the right path from there.  Call 402-510-7468 or simply respond to this email.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

How to Beat the RFP Process

By Jeff Beals

Yesterday was one of our full-day meetings for the Sales Leader Mastermind Group, a leadership program my company provides for executives who lead sales teams.  Our mastermind discussions are always fascinating, but a particular topic came up that always rankles me: RFPs.  One of my members was lamenting that RFPs were becoming more common in his industry.

I find everything about the Request-for-Proposal (RFP) process to be irritating, and I rarely respond to them.  Clients who expect me to participate in an RFP are generally not good candidates for my customized services.

I hate RFPs, because they are one-sided, manipulative tools that reduce your offerings to disposable commodities and ultimately deliver mediocre results to the client. Everybody loses in the RFP process:

  • A company decides it needs a new vendor, so several employees sit down and think of all the things they do and don’t want and then dream up a bunch of hoops for would-be vendors to jump through.
  • They send the RFP to every potential vendor they can think of.
  • Prospective vendors practically do backflips trying to meet all the RFP requirements and end up rushing to meet the deadline.
  • The company that issued the RFP then examines all the proposals that were submitted and compares them.  Ultimately, they decide that some of the proposals are basically offering the same products/services, so they choose the lowest-priced bid.
  • And it can get even worse.  The finalists are sometimes pitted against each other in a bidding war to see who is willing to discount their price to the lowest number. It’s a race to the bottom.
  • The “winner” ends up doing a lot of work for too little money.
  • The client gets a product or service that is watered down or delivered by an inferior vendor who was willing to “give away the farm” in order to get the business.

This is not a recipe for happiness and high profitability.

Generally speaking, I recommend you respond to RFPs only when your relationship with the client is so strong that you are essentially guaranteed of winning.  Some companies have policies requiring that vendor relationships go out to bid periodically. If this is the case at one of your best client companies, tell them you will help write the RFP.  You can then write the RFP to favor you and the way you do business.

If you don’t write the RFP, or at least have heavy influence on the RFP, it very well could be an expensive waste of your time replying to the RFP.  An exception would be when the RFP is a mere formality designed to make shareholders feel better and you are the pre-chosen winner.

Now, I realize that there are some industries where RFPs are a rooted part of the culture. In other words, they’re so common that there’s no getting around them.  That’s not the case in most industries.  When at all possible, avoid RFPs.  You have little chance of winning.  Meanwhile, you spend tons of time and money preparing a proposal and get no revenue in return. If by some miracle, you are chosen, you’re probably going to get skewered on price.

When at all possible, just say “no” to RFPs!

The Top 41 Motivational Speakers

ResourcefulSelling.com just published its list of “Top 41 Motivational Speakers Who Can Energize Any Sales Team.”  Guess who made the list!

Check it out by clicking HERE.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

How to Be More Creative

By Jeff Beals

Back in 1866, a 19-year-old man in Louisville, Kentucky purposely requested the overnight shift when he accepted a new job working on the Associated Press news wire. The typically quiet wee hours of the morning allowed him plenty of time to do what he truly enjoyed: reading, imagining and testing his new ideas.

One evening he got a little carried away. The curious young man was working with a lead-acid battery when he spilled sulfuric acid onto the floor. It ran between the floorboards and onto the boss’s desk downstairs. The next morning he was promptly terminated.[1]

In retrospect, the whole world should be thankful he was fired, for that young man was Thomas Edison, who would go on to become one of the world’s most prolific inventors. Few people in history have done more to improve the human condition.

Edison’s creativity earned him a personal fortune and helped crank up the American industrial economy. While creativity was important in the 19th Century, it’s immeasurably more important in today’s complex, global economy. Have you ever thought about how you could achieve more success by leveraging your creative abilities?

To help you get your creative juices flowing, here are my “Top 10 Ways to Be More Creative”:

1. Curiously explore your world – creative people never stop asking questions.

2. Be well-rounded – even if you have a highly specialized job, learn about other professions and avocations. Keep up-to-date with the world around you.

3. Spend time with someone from outside your industry – imagine how that industry’s practices can be transferred to yours.

4. Exercise & eat a healthy diet – releasing those endorphins helps you conjure up new ideas while good nutrition keeps your brain healthy.

5. Mentally exercise – puzzles, quizzes, games and mind-mapping help you condition your brain for idea formulation.

6. Do something artistic – this is especially important if you work in a technical, analytical or highly quantitative field.

7. Fear only fear itself – consider your risks to be opportunities. Many of the world’s most successful people have failed before getting it right.

8. Tolerate ambiguity – if your life is too administered and oppressively structured, you are less likely to encounter an “aha” moment.

9. Avoid anti-creativity traps – group-think and excessive rationalization kill creativity.

10. Use props – when trying to come up with new ideas, randomly gather a handful of physical objects and imagine how they could relate to your problem or question. Write down your ideas – even the silly ones. After a while, you just might come up with the perfect solution.

The Hungarian-born, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Now is the time to look at YOUR business/job/life and start thinking what nobody else has thought.

[1] Baldwin, Neal (1995). Edison: Inventing the Century. Hyperion.

One of the World’s Best Sales Speakers

ResourcefulSelling.com just published its list of “Top 41 Motivational Speakers Who Can Energize Any Sales Team.”  You might recognize one of the guys who made the list.

Check it out by clicking HERE.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

How to Find the Real Decision Maker

By Jeff Beals

Sales professionals searching for insight into prospective clients would be wise to think of themselves as detectives.  The more research you do on a client the faster you speed up the sales cycle and the more likely you are to increase transaction size.

As you do your detective work, it eventually becomes clear who the real decision maker is and who the primary and secondary influencers are.

More than anything, it is important to determine the true decision maker, the person who has veto power and whose signature seals the deal. But almost important is determining who the key influencers are.

No matter how independent and self-confident a decision-maker may be, that person usually has valued and trusted advisers whispering in his or her ear.  We need to know who those influencers are and get to them as early in the process as possible.

Some sales detectives prefer the direct approach and ask questions such as:

“Who is the most influential person helping you make this decision?” 

“Whose advice and counsel will be most valuable to you as you make your decision?”

Other sales pros are more subtle, but once you identify the key influencers, you need to build a trusting relationship with them too.

Sometimes a prospect will be vague and non-committal when asked to name influencers. A mid-level person might not want to give up control or admit that he or she lacks decision-making power. Such a person could also be protecting c-suite executives from interruptions.

Some prospects worry that disclosing influencer names will cause the sales process to grow deeper before they are ready.  When you’re having trouble drawing information out of a prospect, be patiently persistent.  Keep asking, digging and researching.  You can also look at precedent…What kind of influencers did similar prospects in the past have?

A word of warning: be careful of false influencers.  There are those people who get some sort of psychological payoff pretending to have influence over the buying process.  Do your homework. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have performed thorough due diligence on the prospective client.  A little extra work will increase your closing ratio!

Attention Sales Leaders – Are your sales reps letting too many leads slip through the cracks?  Is your sales team actively prospecting or are they sitting at their desks waiting for the phone to ring?  Is your sales team “pretty good” but not reaching their potential?

If so, check out my Sales Training Menu, which has a couple new courses for 2019.  There are many options when I visit your company: a motivational kickoff message; a half-day sales training program; or a full-day prospecting workshop.

Let’s schedule an on-site program at your office so your team can bring new prospects into their pipeline, shorten sales cycles and crush it in 2019!

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

The Referral Gap

By Jeff Beals

Most companies are getting only one-third of the referrals they could receive from current clients

That’s according to a 2018 Texas Tech University study showing that 83 percent of satisfied clients are willing to refer products and services, but that only 29 percent actually do.

The underutilization of referrals is nothing new.  Back in the day, the legendary Dale Carnegie claimed that 91 percent of customers said they would be willing to give referrals, yet only 11 percent of salespeople ask for them.

If your company is like the average company in the Texas Tech study, you are failing to get referrals from approximately two-thirds of your clients who would otherwise be more than happy to give them to you.  The study referred to this as the “referral gap.”

It’s time to close that gap, because you can’t afford so much missed opportunity in a competitive marketplace.

I believe that latent referral potential is the biggest wasted resource in the sales profession.  There is simply no better way to get a cold prospect to talk with you than to have a referral from someone that prospect trusts.

But why does this referral gap exist?  Why are sales reps hesitant to ask?

There are several reasons, but we’ll start with fear of rejection.  Fear is a natural part of everyone’s psyche, even confident, gregarious people.  After building a trusting relationship with a client and cashing a commission check, it would painful to hear “no,” upon asking for a referral.

Similarly, some sales reps fear asking for too much.  They think along these lines: “I spent so much time with the person, and they agreed to buy, so isn’t it going too far to now ask them for a referral after everything they have already done for me?”

But if you have done a good job of serving the client while at the same time building trust, you could make the argument that the referral actually strengthens your relationship with them.  It’s kind of flattering when a vendor wants me to make referrals on their behalf.  It shows me that I was an important and prestigious client.

Asking for a referral puts you and the client on the “same team” and creates more of a friendship between the two of you.  Furthermore, saying nice things about you to others reinforces and reminds your client why you’re so awesome.

In an era when buyers are jealously protective of their time, a referral from a trusted source is your ticket to the show. The higher up a prospect is in a company, the more important referrals are.

Reaching busy decision makers is not the only reason you should ask past/current clients for referrals.  By asking for business leads, you could find out about prospects who otherwise would remain hidden from your view.  There are essentially thousands of prospective clients out there who you do not yet know and who have not heard of you.  A referral is your ice breaker, a chance to know someone who could someday become one of your best clients.

Additionally, referrals can get prospects thinking about making a change even when the thought of changing hadn’t previously entered their minds.

For example, let’s say there’s a client who is marginally happy with their current vendor.  They’re happy enough that they don’t feel compelled to look around but they’re not so satisfied that they wouldn’t consider an unexpected solicitation from someone who referred you.  A referral could be just enough of a catalyst to make them consider a new provider.

Always be grateful for any referrals you receive. When clients allow you to use their names to seek business from their cherished contacts, they are putting their reputations on the line just to help you.  That means you have an obligation to treat those referrals with the utmost care and respect.  Caring for referrals is a sacred trust in the sales world, so take your job seriously.

Attention Sales Leaders – Are your sales reps letting too many leads slip through the cracks?  Is your sales team actively prospecting or are they sitting at their desks waiting for the phone to ring?  Is your sales team “pretty good” but not reaching their potential?

If so, check out my Sales Training Menu, which has a couple new courses for 2019.  There are many options when I visit your company: a motivational kickoff message; a half-day sales training program; or a full-day prospecting workshop.

Let’s schedule an on-site program at your office so your team can bring new prospects into their pipeline, shorten sales cycles and crush it in 2019!

Simply reply to this email or call me at 402-510-7468.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.

Ingredients of a Good Voicemail

By Jeff Beals

In last week’s article, we analyzed a poorly executed sales voicemail I had received.  This week, we go a little further and talk about what you SHOULD do when leaving a voicemail for a cold prospect.

Focus on the Recipient’s Value – Make your voicemails interesting by focusing on what the recipient cares about. Remember that people are more interested in their lives and their businesses than they are in you and yours. Research recipients before you call them. Talk about what interests the recipient or what matters to his or her business.  Do not talk about your company or your product’s features and benefits in a prospecting voicemail.

Be compelling – Think of a strong idea you want to convey in your message and say it. Surprising or insightful messages have a much higher likelihood of being returned. Boring, rambling messages as well as messages that are too focused on the caller’s (salesperson’s) interests are easily deleted and not returned.

Don’t “Touch Base” – Never say you’re calling to “touch base” or “check in.” Those are useless reasons to waste a prospect’s time. Always say something of value.

Use an Old Advertising Trick – Use an enticement. Hint what benefit the person will receive if they return your call. Then spark their curiosity, saying you have something to share with them that they will find valuable or interesting. Another trick is to ask a thought-provoking question at the end of the message. That could compel the listener to call you back.

Conserve Your Words – Say a lot in a little amount of time. Voicemails need to be short, ideally less than 20 seconds but no more than 30 seconds. In that short time, convey a captivating message. Be like a newspaper reporter writing an article in that you put the most important idea in a powerful and information-rich lead sentence.

Be Easy to Reach – Leave your call-back number. One of the easiest excuses a prospect has to NOT return a voicemail message is if the call-back number is not readily available.  Only 7 percent of sales voicemails are ever returned, which means it’s hard enough to get call backs.  Don’t do anything that lowers the likelihood.

No Deception – Some sales reps like to deceive prospects in their voicemails either by implying that they are returning the recipient’s call (even though the recipient never called them in the first place) or by name-dropping a person they don’t really know. You don’t want to do anything that comes back to embarrass yourself if you do end up getting a meeting.

Don’t Give Up – You’re being naïve if you think one message – no matter how creative it may be – will do the trick. Your prospects are so busy that they just assume callers like you will eventually call them back. I’m not saying you should carpet-bomb people with daily messages, but it is now taking 8 to 12 attempts to get a cold decision maker to return your call. This is especially true with high-ranking, senior decision makers. The average sales rep gives up after only 2.5 attempts.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide.  He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states.  A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.