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Why Sales Reps Hate Telephone Prospecting and How to Fix It

By Jeff Beals

Earlier this week I made a critical error – I picked up the phone even though I didn’t recognize the number.  It was actually a live human, and he had this to say:

“Good morning, Jeff. I represent an overseas SEO and web-development company. We have a team of 70+ IT professionals and we aim to deliver high-quality services at cost-effective prices and without compromising on client satisfaction. We can work for half the cost of our U.S.-based competitors. Our team handled over 400 SEO projects and obtained 15,000 manually built links in the past year.  I know you’re busy, but I’d love to sit down with you in the next week or two to go over our package and pricing.”

The caller got through that entire text before taking a breath.  I sat there listening partly out of fascination that he could talk so fast and partly because I was amazed that people still start phone conversations that way.  The caller chose the worst possible start to a phone call.  His message

It reminded me of my high school days in the 1980s, when I worked as an outbound telemarketing sales rep.  For five hours each evening, I would call people when they didn’t want to hear from me (usually during dinner) and tried to sell them something they didn’t need.

We telemarketers had a very sophisticated selling strategy:  If you talked fast enough, you might get through your whole script before they hung up on you.  And we had a second strategy: If you barfed up enough features and benefits, the prospect might be so dazzled, they’d buy the crappy service you were peddling.

There’s a reason why most sales reps don’t enjoy telephone prospecting.  They don’t do it properly.  When you sound like a cheesy salesperson, your prospects will do whatever is necessary to get off the phone as quickly as possible.  Here are four things you can do to make telephone prospecting more effective for you:

1. Research your prospects before calling – I try to take an hour or so on Sunday evening each week to do background research on the prospects I plan to call that week.  I look at their personal career paths, study their company and research their industry.  I look for things that are unique about them and try to determine what they value.

2. Lead with value – When you do call the prospect, start the conversation with issues and concerns that the prospect likely has.  You know this because of your pre-call research.

3. Ask questions and listen intently – If the prospect is amenable to chatting, ask probing questions that reveal the prospect’s problems and concerns, the things they value and care about.

4. Focus on outcomes, not features and benefits – Once you know what the prospect values and cares about, only talk about the ways you can satisfy that value specifically and exactly.  When you do talk about your products and services, focus on the outcomes you provide rather than features and benefits.

Would you like to see a couple good ways to start a prospecting call?

Let’s say I sell copier machines, and I call the office manager of an accounting firm:

“In my work with other accounting firms, I have found that office managers like you hate three things about copiers: one-sided lease agreements, ridiculously complicated machines and unresponsive repair techs.  We have a new membership program specifically built from an office manager’s point of view.  Twenty-five of my clients have switched so far. I’d be happy share what this means to you.”

Now, let’s say I’m a Realtor, and I call a homeowner I’d like to represent:

“We’re finding three things holding back homeowners who would like to move to a new house: What if my current house sells too fast; what if the new house is too expensive and what if we have to settle for a house that doesn’t measure up?  Fortunately, I have some ideas that will get rid of those worries for you.”

In both the examples above, the caller catches the prospect’s attention with a compelling statement and then focuses on things he or she believes the prospect cares about.  How does the caller know what the prospect cares about?  Because the caller is an expert in the field and researched the prospect before calling!

How can you tweak your telephone prospecting messages so that they are more compelling and value-based?

Prospecting Help

If you want to get your prospects’ attention, you need compelling language that convinces them you bring relevant value.  That’s what my prospecting masterclass is all about.

If your sales team is not prospecting as effectively as it could, schedule this in-depth masterclass for your office.  It can be a half- or full-day program.  Either way, it will give the sales reps in your company actual language they can use to turn cold prospects into paying clients.

Click HERE for an outline of this interactive prospecting workshop!

How Do You Know If a Prospect Is Too Good to Be True?

By Jeff Beals

I’ll never forget that summer afternoon in 2001 when a very unique man walked into the commercial real estate office where I worked.

He had just moved to my city from a different part of the country, and he brought some impressive ideas with him. He wanted to interview our real estate company in order to have us represent him as he developed property and built major buildings in his new city. His ideas were downright grandiose, and he assured us he had access to unlimited capital. He told captivating stories and dropped big names.

Though I was a relatively inexperienced real estate broker at the time, an alarm went off in my head. This guy sounded too good to be true. My boss was equally skeptical. Our initial thought was to just laugh about the meeting and not waste our time with the guy.  But there was something that kept pulling us back. Something about the guy seemed genuine, so we decided to do a little background research on him.

For the most part, his stories actually checked out. We learned he had been involved in some significant real estate deals if not as big as what he was proposing to us. We found evidence that he had done work with a couple of the big names he mentioned. A banking reference he gave us was legitimate. We learned that a couple other local companies had signed on to work with him including a respected business consultant and a major architecture firm.

While it still seemed too good to be true, we decided to move forward with this guy at least for a while.

Though we were suspicious he could accomplish his plans, a couple questions in the back of our minds kept haunting us: What if he is legitimate and we pass up the opportunity? What if we walk away and one of our competitors ends up doing this once-in-a-career project with him?

As we proceeded, this man ended up demanding an extraordinary amount of my time, which eventually made me feel suspicious again. But after a while, we came to a moment of truth, a chance for him to prove himself. The client decided to make an offer on a prominent piece of real estate. We wrote up the contract, and he produced a sizable cashier’s check for the earnest deposit.  Finally, this strange man with the fanciful ideas put up some real cash and signed a purchase agreement!

During the due diligence period following that contract, the client took even more of our time, but instead of focusing on the matter at hand – closing this deal – he was focused on other, bigger properties he wanted.  His head was in the clouds. I became more and more frustrated, because the guy wouldn’t focus on first-things-first. How could we conquer the local real estate market if he couldn’t even focus long enough to close the first deal?!!?

As I pushed him, his personality changed. He got confrontational and combative. It was frankly kind of disturbing. Some of his other advisers (architect, lender, attorney, etc.) were noticing the same thing.

At the last minute, he came up with a crazy excuse and killed the deal just as the due diligence period was about to expire. Many people had worked long and hard for absolutely nothing.

What did the mysterious client do next?

He asked us all to start working on another property he claimed to want.  This one was even bigger and the plans he had for it were even more spectacular.

That’s when I finally had enough. My real estate firm cut ties with him.  Some of the other companies that had been working him followed suit.

That was 17 years ago. The would-be, life-changing client never ended up purchasing or developing a single, solitary property in my city. He moved away many years ago and invested in (I’m not making this up)a chain of stripper bars. I haven’t heard from him at all in that time. Just out of curiosity, I have Googled him a few times over the years and very little shows up.

I can remember him once telling me that he preferred “to fly under the radar.”  I’ve heard that from other prospective clients and vendors over the years. Without exception, every person who has said those words to me has turned out to be illegitimate in some way.  If you ever want me to run away from you and never ask to do business with you ever again, simply tell me you like “to fly under the radar”

Other than avoiding people who fly under the radar, what did I learn from this time-sucking client?

Another thing to look for when qualifying prospects!

I had always thought qualification was about discovering their motives and determining their ability to perform financially.  In reality, qualification is about more than that. Some people are dreamers. Some people are wannabes.  Perhaps for some psychological reason I don’t understand, some people want to play fantasy business instead of accomplishing real things.

If you are willing to allow them, people will happily usurp your time even for things that don’t necessarily make sense for you.  I try to remind myself that the qualification process is all about elimination. We need to eliminate posers, pretenders and usurpers before they can steal your most precious resource: time.

I’m glad the strange man came into my professional life all those years ago. The time I wasted with him back then turned out to be quite valuable. I’m much more efficient today and my eyes are more keenly aware because of what I learned back then.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“In the three months since Jeff Beals became my sales 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

(402) 637-9300

What Does Sales-Rep Job Hopping Mean to You?

By Jeff Beals

Workers in the United States are choosing to leave their jobs at the fastest rate since the internet boom 17 years ago, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, and it’s paying off for them in the form of bigger paychecks and more satisfying work.

The Labor Department reported that 3.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, near a 2001 internet-fueled peak and twice the 1.7 million who were laid off from jobs in April.  The job-hopping phenomenon is not limited to certain industries, instead occurring across the economy.  Workers are buoyed by a strong economy and the lowest unemployment rate in years.

As you might imagine, young people are switching more than older employees.  Approximately 6.5 percent of workers under age 35 changed jobs in the first quarter of last year, according to the article, versus 3.1 percent of those ages 35 to 54.

What does this dynamic employment market mean to you?

If you’re an employee, it means that you may have more choices now than at any other point in your career, perhaps ever.  But you now have the “curse of choices:” some employees may agonize over leaving a comfortable or safe job versus chasing a new opportunity that pays more and offers more enjoyment/career satisfaction.

If you’re looking to hire or retain talent, your job is getting harder, and it’s probably going to get worse in the future.  There is growing evidence that artificial intelligence (AI) is actually creating more jobs than it kills thanks to the massive productivity gains it causes.

So how do business leaders make sure they have enough talent in a talent-scarce environment where workers are becoming more restless?

First and foremost, you need to create a motivational culture that people don’t want to leave. Second, compensation needs to be competitive.  Third, you need to recruit perpetually.  Recruiting talent is the lifeblood of a company.  Even when you’re “full up,” you need to keep recruiting at least a little because personnel situations can change fast.

This is especially true if you lead a sales team.  More than 26 percent of sales jobs are expected to turn over this year.  Even during down economies, it’s difficult to find talented, motivated sales people who are willing to work on commission.

Here are a few ideas to help you find the sales talent you need:

  1. Look for a vendor who is good at selling. That talented salesperson who sells things to your company might enjoy becoming a part of your company.
  2. The same thing goes for a client.  Obviously, you have to be very careful about this, but if the situation is right, there might be a sales rep from one of your client companies that might be a good fit for you.
  3. You can post ads online, but for many companies in many industries, this turns out to be a waste of time and money.
  4. Engage a recruiting firm?  Some companies have a lot of success with this.  Other companies prefer to bird-dog for sales reps on their own.
  5. Good, old-fashioned networking is the best way to bird-dog for reps.  The key is to network efficiently and with the end goal in mind.  Only network at events and in places that are target rich.  Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
  6. Seek referrals from your current reps.  Ask your reps, “Who would you like to work with?”  Some companies give incentives to reps who recruit people.
  7. Social media is critically important. You most likely won’t directly fill vacant sales jobs solely through social media, but it will help.  Social media builds brand familiarity and credibility.

This is important:  If you’re a sales leader, be sure to sign up for my webinar, “How to Recruit Rockstar Sales Reps,” which will take place on Thursday, August 16th at 10:00 a.m. Central Time.

We’ll share with you:

  • The simple, right-in-front-of-you places you can find top-shelf sales reps
  • How to get prospective sales reps excited about your company’s culture and growth opportunities
  • How to differentiate yourself from all the other companies competing for the best talent

It’s only $49, and each attendee will receive the “Recruiting Blueprint,” a printable resource which provides you with a step-by-step process that will help you win the sales-rep recruiting race!

Click here to register!

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

 

What Do Sales Reps Fear the Most?

By Jeff Beals

Which part of the sales process is most difficult for you?  Which part intimidates you?

Hubspot.com set out to determine which part of the sales process causes reps to struggle the most, and the survey results were quite interesting:

Prospecting 42%

Closing 36%

Qualifying 22%

That is the exact order I would have predicted before I even read the study.  The only thing that surprised me was that prospecting didn’t have an even higher percentage.

When speaking to sales reps, I sometimes like to conduct an unscientific survey of the audience.  With a show of hands, I ask them which part of the process is their least favorite.  “Prospecting,” usually gets 60 to 70 percent of the votes.

Why is prospecting more intimidating and less enjoyed than other parts of the sales process?

Well, to start, let’s look at the definition of prospecting:

“Prospecting is the art of interrupting someone when they don’t expect to hear from you in order to provide them with something they need that they might not yet know.”

The key word in that definition of “interrupting.”  Most people are uncomfortable interrupting someone especially when it’s a stranger who is not expecting to hear from you.

And we know that when you interrupt someone, you are risking rejection, one of humanity’s biggest phobias.  If you research, “top 10 phobias,” the fear of rejection pops up frequently.

Most people HATE being rejected.  As social beings, the avoidance of rejection is a powerful motivation.  It’s hard-wired into our DNA.  It’s a matter of survival, because people need other people to survive. That was especially important in prehistoric times when primitive humans banded together to raise food and protect themselves from external threats.  If you didn’t fit into the tribe, you were left on your own to fend off predators.

Even though we have evolved into sophisticated beings with technology at our fingertips and complicated social structures to protect us, it’s hard to shake our ancient traits.  While a fear of rejection helped us to survive 5,000 years ago, it can hinder us in today’s competitive business environment.

How can you overcome your natural predilection to avoid rejection at all costs and push forward as an effective prospector?

Envision success – Like an athlete preparing for a big game, you have a higher likelihood of succeeding if you picture yourself doing well in advance.

Keep it in perspective – It’s not the end of the world when you get rejected.  It may have meant life and death in primeval times, but in the 21st century, it’s just a speed bump.  You will live to fight another battle.

Externalize it – For most of us, it’s normal to take rejection personally, which means we internalize it.  Try to see the rejection as something outside of you, external to your life and your personality.  A sales rejection is NOT an indictment of your personality.

No self-fulfilling prophecies – Avoid a defeatist attitude.  To avoid being disappointed, some sales practitioners start to assume the prospect won’t pan out before even contacting him.  That can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning you’ve lost before you even begin.

Build a big list – Make sure you have a large number of leads in your pipeline, so you’re not too dependent on any one lead or prospect.  Rejection hurts more when you don’t have any other prospects to take the rejector’s place.  Plus, too few leads make you desperate.

The right kind of leads – Study who you have been targeting in the past.  Is it really the right group of people?  Should you be targeting a different prospect profile?

Have a plan – Those sales reps who have a well-developed personal plan for prospecting tend to fear rejection less.  A good plan means you have a dedicated prospecting time and a step-by-step system you follow when engaging new cold prospects.

Persistence – Because most prospects are so busy, it is now taking about 9 attempts to get a cold prospect to return your call or email.  However, most sales reps give up after 2.5 attempts.  If you give up too soon, your pipeline will be too skinny, which makes you too dependent on too few leads.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

 

 

How to Use the “Farming” Technique in Your Prospecting

By Jeff Beals

There is a long-time real estate sales concept known as “farming” in which residential real estate agents choose a certain geographic area to place particular emphasis. It typically is one neighborhood or subdivision consisting of several hundred houses. This area becomes the real estate agent’s “farm.”

There’s nothing to stop such a real estate agent from doing deals outside her “farm” in a variety of neighborhoods throughout the city, but she places particular prospecting focus on the one neighborhood. She memorizes all the houses in that subdivision and tries to get to know all the current owners. She becomes the specialist or expert in that neighborhood. She makes sure every homeowner in her “farm” has calendars, pens and other tchotchkes with her name and contact information on them. If the neighborhood has a Fourth of July parade or a block party, she’s there.

The hope is that anyone thinking of selling a house in the neighborhood would think of the agent and list the house with that expert agent.

There are other forms of real estate “farming.” Some agents “farm” an organization like Rotary, a school’s PTA or a country club as a way of finding clients. Farms don’t necessarily have to be geographic.

Professionals of any industry can learn a lot from real estate farming not just from a selling perspective but from a personal branding or self-promotion perspective.

While professionals like you and me probably won’t focus on a residential subdivision as we build our personal brands, there is much to be gained by farming your industry or your community.

Real estate agents, as well as salespeople in a variety of other fields, should develop spheres of interest. These would be groups of people they work with, socialize with or share some other common interest. These spheres of interest help salespeople find new clients.

Having a sphere of interest is similarly important for anyone trying to build a bigger and better personal brand, because just like a real estate agent you too are selling. What’s the difference? You’re selling yourself.

So, what’s your “farm?”  How do you define it and who “lives on your farm?”

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

The Bad Words You Should Never Use in a Sales Call

By Jeff Beals

During the summers in high school and college, I worked as an outbound telemarketer.

I hated it, but because I was a good salesperson, it paid a lot more than the typical summer job.

For four hours each evening, I’d sit in a call center with 150 other college kids (and a few adult “lifers”) selling a vacation membership program to unsuspecting people who made the mistake of answering the phone.

There was a catchy little phrase we telemarketers used to say to each other back in those days:

“Smile, dial and push trial.”

What did that mean?  The vacation membership program came with a 30-day trial.  If you were not completely satisfied, you could get your money back as long as you cancelled in the first 30 days.

Our employer didn’t allow us to push trial, instead preferring us to sell the membership on its merits.  From the telemarketers’ point of view, however, it seemed so much easier to make a sale if we could simply say, “Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always cancel it within 30 days!”

Well, our employer was correct.  It’s never good to put a lot of emphasis on free trials.

In fact, a recent Gong study listed the term “free trial” among the worst words you can use in a sales call.  Uttering the words, “free trial,” to your prospective customer decreases your likelihood of securing the next step in the sales process by five percent.

Here are the other taboo sales-call words:

1. “Show you how”

2. “We provide”

3. “Competitor”

4. “Billion”

5. “Discount”

6. “Roadmap”

7. “Contract”

8. “Absolutely” and “perfect”

9. “Implement” and “implementation”

10. “Payment”

11. “However”

12. “For example”

13. (Your company’s name)

As I consider these worst words, a few observations come to mind.

Prospective clients don’t respond well to anything that demands a commitment, comes across as cheesy, makes them feel overwhelmed or is focused on the seller rather than the buyer.

When choosing the words you’ll say in your next sales call, use collaborative words and focus on what your client values rather than what your company offers.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

Avoiding the Fake Listening Trap

By Jeff Beals

Ask any sales professional about the key to success, and there’s a good chance they’ll say, “You have to listen to your client.”

As a sales strategist, I meet with many successful sales reps, managers and executives.  I always ask them about the secret to successful selling. The answers tend to be similar. One time, after yet another of them mentioned the importance of listening, I responded with a slight tone of frustration in my voice:

“Everyone says that listening to the client is the most important skill a salesperson can have,” I said, “yet few salespeople actually bother to listen! It’s a cliché. Yes, you have to listen to your clients, but most salespeople do a lousy job of it.”

The sales leader responded, “You are right. The key is to listen and TRULY HEAR.”

Salespeople think they are listening but they are really just pretending to listen.  They’re going through the motions and not really comprehending what the client or prospective client is trying to communicate.

The more I pondered this, the more it reminded me of an experience I had back when I was in graduate school and working for the university as a graduate assistant.

An Ear-Opening Experience

Each month, we grad assistants were required to attend professional development sessions. The topic during one of those sessions was “active listening.”  The presenter was some sort of “active listening guru.”

What she said made sense…Stand or sit with an open stance – arms not folded and legs not crossed – and lean slightly toward the person who is talking.  Nod your head and show interest with your eyes and facial expressions.  Make reaffirming noises to assure the speaker that you are actually listening.  And finally, paraphrase back the last few words of each spoken paragraph.

If you do those things, the presenter said, you will be engaged in the conversation and will make the speaker feel understood and appreciated.

At one point, the presenter said it was time for all of us to role-play what we had just learned.  She told us to pair up with another audience member and move our chairs so we were staring at one another. The presenter informed us that we would each take turns speaking and actively listening.

I was paired with a fellow grad student named Sandy.  We agreed that Sandy would talk first and I would actively listen first.  The facilitator blew a whistle to indicate it was time to start.  As Sandy spoke, I monitored my posture and all my non-verbal messages. I nodded.  I showed interest with my facial expressions. I paraphrased back certain words.  I made sure my arms were not folded for even one second.  All in all, I was pretty good at this active listening stuff.

Or so I thought.

As soon as the facilitator blew her whistle indicating it was time to switch roles, it suddenly occurred to me:  I hadn’t the foggiest clue what the hell Sandy had just told me!

How You Can Truly Hear

I was so focused on the mechanics of good listening that I never really HEARD what she had to say.

This happens to so many professionals on an almost daily basis. People intend to listen to their clients, but in the end, they don’t truly hear.

How can you fight this tendency and not fall into the fake-listening trap?

It’s not easy, but here is what works for me.

When I begin a conversation with a prospect, current client, colleague or some other professional who might refer business my way, I set my brain to “listening mode.”  I tell myself that the person in front of me is going to say something that will have a direct impact on my success.  It’s my job to find it.  I try to approach the conversation like a detective who has to keep digging until he finds the right information.  My ears are constantly searching for cues and clues.

That may or may not work for you, but it helps me a great deal.

Whatever technique, you use, the sales experts are right: you DO have to listen and truly hear.  Showing interest in a client helps build a trusting relationship.  Discovering what the prospect values makes it possible for you to do business with them.

The key is to “listening with intention,” not just going through the motions making it look like you are listening.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300

Ego Management: How to Make the Smartest People Part of Your Life

By Jeff Beals

You have probably heard the saying, “To be successful, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.”

For better or worse, that hasn’t been terribly difficult for me.  I’ve been blessed with many intelligent, talented people in my career – colleagues, bosses, direct reports and friends.  I’m a better person and a more successful professional because of the gifted people in my life.

Whether you’re at work or in your personal life, surround yourself with smart and talented people.  If you are in a leadership position, hire people who are smarter than you.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

Surrounding yourself with more talented people can be very intimidating.  And a blow to the ego.  And even threatening!  Nevertheless, move forward with faith and conviction that you will be better served by teaming up people who are better than you at certain things.

Hiring Talented People

As a leader, have no fear of hiring people you think might pass you up some day.  It is better to be seen as a person who brings in and develops great talent than a person who protects the status quo by hiring mediocre or under-performing people.

Don’t Hide the Light under a Bushel

When you do end up employing an ultra-talented, hardworking individual, don’t try to hide them or prevent them from moving up just because you don’t want to lose them.  Great talent rises to the top.  Let the exceptional person move up.  In the long run, it will benefit you as they will remember and appreciate the role you played in boosting their career.  A former employee who makes it big can become a huge ally for you in the future.

Friends and Colleagues

Regardless of your professional role, identify talented friends and colleagues and build close relationships with them.  Another old saying tells us that you tend to become who you hang out with.  “You become the sum of your five best friends.”  Spending time with exceptional people makes you more exceptional.

Have a Mentor and Become One Too

Mentorship is one of the best professional development tools in existence.  We benefit both by being mentored and by mentoring others.  Find a successful role model and use that person as your mentor.  Some mentors don’t even have to know they are your mentor – just study them and do the things they do.  Other mentor relationships might be more formal.  At that same time, mentor someone yourself.  You actually become better in your work by teaching and coaching junior colleagues.  As I once wrote in a previous article, you don’t know it until you’ve taught it.  Mentorship is a classic win-win situation.

Different Intelligences

Here’s something that might help salve a bruised ego resulting from hanging around smarter people:  There are different kinds of intelligence.

Just because a colleague is smarter than you in one area doesn’t mean he or she is better in another.  Perhaps you struggle with creativity and idea-generation but have superior analytical skills.  Team up with the creative person and together you can accomplish more.  You might not be as quick to pick up operational details as a certain person but maybe you are better at building relationships and navigating institutional politics.

When it comes to intelligence and talent, we all need to identify our top strengths and biggest weaknesses.  You can maximize your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses by joining forces with people whose abilities complement your own.

Accountability

If you hire a team of exceptional people, it will be important to have a culture of accountability in your office.  Top performers expect to be held accountable and they expect that other employees in the company will be too.  Perhaps the most important person to hold accountable is yourself.  If you hold yourself to a high standard as a leader, your talented employees (even the ones more naturally gifted than you) will respect you and hold you in high esteem.

Speaking of “accountability,” I’m offering a webinar on June 5th at 10 a.m. Central Time called “How to Hold Your Sales Team Accountable.”

You’ll learn HOW TO:

1. Use 4 simple metrics that make it impossible for sales reps to hide weekly output and results
2. Implement 11 steps that will create a culture of sales accountability in your company.
3. Get reps to buy in to your accountability plan.

Investing just one hour of your time and only $49 will translate into bigger revenues, less stress and a happier work environment for everyone!

You are not going to want to miss out on this.  Register TODAY!

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

(402) 637-9300

How Do You Know If Your Company Lacks Sales Accountability?

By Jeff Beals

 

Nobody wants to be micromanaged, but today’s ambitious professionals do crave some level of accountability.  That’s especially true of sales practitioners, because they know accountability helps them make more money. 

 

While people thrive when working in a culture of healthy accountability, 91 percent of sales reps nationwide say “lack of accountability” is a major problem in their companies.  In fact, 46 percent of managers worldwide do a poor job of holding their teams accountable, according to a Harvard Business Review study. 

 

What about your company?  Do you have a lack of sales accountability in your organizational culture? 

 

It can be difficult to discern whether your company has a sales accountability problem, because you’re so close to the situation.  When you’re immersed in your work on a daily basis, it’s hard to get an unbiased look at what’s really happening. 

 

That’s why I’m providing you with the following list of factors that indicate your company may lack a sales accountability culture:

 

1. Plateaued or declining numbers.

 

2. Difficulty retaining top producers.

 

3. Difficulty recruiting top producers (Talent attracts talent.  Similarly, a lack of talent in an office is patently obvious to highly talented prospective employees).

 

4. Sales managers who appear to be more interested in building friendships with team members instead of being bosses.

 

5. The sales team lacks clear, quantifiable, unambiguous and regularly monitored goals both for the team overall and for each individual rep.

 

6. Sales managers aren’t having at least monthly one-on-one meetings with each sales rep.  If they do have these meetings the sales managers aren’t getting specific information from reps about results and pipeline progress. 

 

7. Sales managers utter vague, meaningless “motivational” phrases such as “We are tracking behind this quarter and need to take up our game to the next level,” or “Let’s get after it!”

 

8. Sales reps do not engage in healthy competition among themselves.

 

9. Sales reps talk more about their busy activities (like meetings, emails and phone calls) than their actual results. 

 

10. There is confusion and ambiguity about sales procedures, territory divisions, new product launches, etc.

 

11. Basic procedures keep getting changed for no apparent reason, which makes reps less confident and motivated. 

 

12.  Social loafing has crept into the sales department.  “Social loafing” is the tendency of individuals to put forth less effort when they are part of a group. Because all members of the group are pooling their efforts to achieve a common goal, each member of the group contributes less than they would if they were individually responsible.  This is more likely to happen in departments in which a lot of team-based selling takes place.

 

Do you see any of these problems in you company?  If you have one or two of them, you will want to address them, but your performance is probably fine.  If you have several of them, you got some work to do immediately.  A strong culture of sales accountability pushes all sales reps forward and maximizes revenue.

 

The good news is that you can hold your team accountable and it doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable!

 

P.S. I’m offering a webinar on June 5th at 10 a.m. Central Time called “How to Hold Your Sales Team Accountable.”

 

You’ll learn HOW TO:


1. Use 4 simple metrics that make it impossible for sales reps to hide weekly output and results
2. Implement 11 steps that will create a culture of sales accountability in your company.
3. Get reps to buy in to your accountability plan.

 

Investing just one hour of your time and only $49 will translate into bigger revenues, less stress and a happier work environment for everyone!

 

You are not going to want to miss out on this.  Register TODAY!

Perpetual Prospecting Is the Key to Beating the Sales Cycle

By Jeff Beals

Do you invest in the stock market?

If so, you’re probably aware of the constant waxing and waning that characterizes the life cycle of the stock market. What goes up eventually goes down and what goes down eventually goes up.

If you’re a long-term investor, you tend to wait out the market cycles and instead count on the long-term growth that has always happened in the market over extended periods of time.  If you’re a short-term investor, you may be playing the cycle, hoping to buy or sell at precisely the right time.

Either way, the stock market goes up and down.  When markets are optimistic, investors begin to feel enthusiasm, then exhilaration.  Eventually, it starts to feel like you’re invincible, that every investment you make pays off.  That false belief compels some investors to make reckless decisions and take questionable risks.

Just as the stock market reaches its feverish peak, the bull market ends.  Most people don’t realize it right away, and investors often go through a period of denial.  But eventually pessimism sets in, which leads to panic and then despair: the bear market.  Of course, when people are depressed at the bottom of the trough, that’s when things slowly start to trend upwards, starting the whole cycle over again.

Sales practitioners tend to go through cycles quite analogous to the stock market: highs and lows, peaks and valleys.

At the peak of the prospecting cycle, the “bull market,” you have so many deals to close and so much easy business that you’re tempted to put off prospecting activities.  Of course, that eventually leads to an empty pipeline.  When you realize you have no prospects in the pipe, you prospect like crazy, which eventually leads to another up cycle.

If your personal sales cycle is too volatile, you are putting yourself under a great deal of stress.  There’s one secret to evening out your cycle while keeping your revenue going up each year: perpetual prospecting.

Prospecting is the key. It’s the reason 20 percent of sales reps do 80 percent of the business (In some companies, it might be closer to 10/90).  It’s the reason why some sales reps do well even during a recession.  Prospecting separates the good from the great.

I like to define prospecting as “the art of interrupting someone when they don’t expect to hear from you in order to provide them with something they need that they might not yet know.”

As that definition implies, there is one aggressive part of prospecting: “interrupting someone.”  But the rest of the definition implies that sales reps are doing prospects a favor by introducing them to something important: valuable products and services.

If you want to be a better prospector, and consequently make more money, here are five quick pieces of advice:

Prospect Life Your Life Depends on It

Your sales life DOES depend on prospecting.  Ideally, you should consider prospecting to be a mindset, a way of life and a fundamental part of your company’s culture.  When things are going well and you’re closing so many sales you can hardly keep up, you still need to carve out at least a little time for prospecting.

Be an Opportunity Detective

Turn over every rock and scratch the dirt.  Opportunities are often buried layers below the surface.  Keep in mind that every person you meet could potentially lead to business and that prospects can theoretically be found any place you go.

Apply Discipline to Your Prospecting

In order to make sure you prospect perpetually, block out a couple periods of time each week that are reserved for prospecting activities: telephone calls, personalized direct emails or showing up at prospects’ offices.  This time should be a non-negotiable calendar commitment not to be interrupted or rescheduled unless it’s an emergency.

Be Obsessed with Prospect Value

When you engage cold prospects, you want to talk about things you believe they value instead of talking about you or your company.  For instance, too many sales reps start prospecting messages with statements such as: “We’ve been in business since 1910,” or “We offer a full suite of IT solutions.”  Instead, research the prospect before contacting them and talk about what they value and then be ready to explain how the outcomes/results of your products and services satisfy those values.

Plan Ahead

Nobody plans to fail but sales practitioners regularly fail to plan.  I recommend you map out your weekly prospecting plan on Sunday evening or early Monday morning.  Decide who you’re going to contact and research those prospects ahead of time.  That way, when you get to your dedicated prospecting time, you’re focused on communicating instead of digging through websites and looking up LinkedIn profiles.  If you do anything other than communicating during dedicated prospecting time blocks, you’re wasting the prime calling hours.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant.  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.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events this year. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events next year!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Jeff Beals is a consummate pro. With short notice, he put together an engaging, fun, sales-focused presentation full of specifics – just what our exec team needed. We’ll ask him back for annual company retreat again next year.” – John Baylor, President, On to College, Lincoln, NE

“You brought great value to our event. The workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

(402) 637-9300