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July 2011

Positive Thinking in a Negative World

When I launched Selling Power magazine, I wasn't too confident that the publication would make it through the first year. Then I learned about the humble beginnings of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and requested an interview. What impressed me most was that for one summer he sold aluminumware kitchen utensils by going from house to house. He learned early how to deal with rejection. As a preacher, he sold people on the power of positive thinking in a negative world. His book,The Power of Positive Thinking is a classic and an international bestseller, with more than 7 million copies sold and available in more than fifteen languages.

We Are the Managers of Our Thoughts
When I interviewed Dr. Peale about the power of positive thinking, he explained that our thoughts and images are mainly responsible for how we feel. He suggested, "You can make yourself sick with your thoughts, and you can make yourself well with them. A positive emotion is created by positive thoughts and images. You can say, 'This is a great day. I am fortunate to sell a wonderful product. I look forward to meeting many interesting people today. I'll be able to help some of these people, and I look forward to learning a great deal today.' You see, thinking and talking that way adds to your enthusiasm and vitality. Your mind is expanding, and all this contributes to your well-being." 

He explained that many people take a dim view of enthusiasm, and some of them show real pride when their negative views begin to irritate other people. In his view, we all have a choice as to how we interpret a particular situation. We can react with automatic, negative thoughts, or we can interpret the same situation with positive thoughts. 

Negative Thoughts Are Self-Defeating 
I also asked Dr. Peale about those people who confuse negative thinking with realistic thinking. He answered, "When most people say that they are being realistic, they actually delude themselves, for they are simply being negative. These people don't realize that if you put yourself down mentally, you are reducing the vitality of your system." 

Problems Are Opportunities in Disguise 
Dr. Peale suggested that salespeople can be more successful in dealing with problems:

"A problem is a concentrated opportunity. The only people that I ever have known to have no problems are in the cemetery. The more problems you have, the more alive you are. Every problem contains the seeds of its own solution. I often say, when the Lord wants to give you the greatest value in this world, He doesn't wrap it into a sophisticated package and hand it to you on a silver platter. He is too subtle, too adroit, for that. He takes this big value and buries it at the heart of a big, tough problem. How He must watch you with delight when you've got what it takes to break that problem apart and find at its heart what the Bible calls 'the pearl of great price.' Everybody I've ever known who succeeded in a big way in life has done so by breaking problems apart and finding the value that was there." 

Positive Thinking Creates Positive Energy
Many people often wondered how Dr. Peale developed all this energy for a healthy, creative, purposeful, and meaningful life -- a life that included lectures and worldwide travels, even past his 90th birthday! An Australian sales trainer told me about seeing Dr. Peale speak in Melbourne: "He went on stage, took his jacket off, did 10 push-ups, got up, and started his speech. He is 90 years old, and he has more energy than a 50-year old!"

Dr. Peale once said, "Successful old age is built on earlier years lived right. In old age, you will be just about the kind of person you are now, only more so. If you are positive and enthusiastic at thirty, you will be that way when you are eighty. If you are a grouch and negative at thirty, imagine what you will be when you grow old." 

Get Your Daily Boost of Positivity

Recently the Selling Power team launched a new, free resource for sales professionals who want to stay positive. The Daily Boost of Positivity is a daily email that delivers one practice or thought to help you stay positive & climb toward future success. I invite you to click on the button below to see a sample and subscribe. 



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CEOs Lose Confidence: What's Wrong with the Economy?

According to, CEO confidence in business conditions has fallen to 5.28 on a scale from 1 to 10.

How does that compare over time? In February 2011, the confidence rate was at a high of 6.39. This means that it's fallen by 17.4 percent.

What should business leaders worry about? There are three things that are wrong with the economy.

1. Government debt is sky high.

According to Wall Street analysts, there are 10 signs that the economy might be headed toward a double-dip recession.

The US government debt is more than $14 trillion. And 42 states are spending more money than they take in. The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the budget shortfalls of state governments in the past three years totaled $430 billion.

USB Investment Research predicts that state and local governments will cut 450,000 jobs this year and next.

2. Unemployment is sky high.

In July 2000, the national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent. In July 2011, that rate is 9.2 percent. In California, unemployment is at 11.7 percent.

There are currently 14.1 million people in the United States without a job. To put this number in perspective, imagine that the entire populations of the following nine cities were out of work: Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, and Detroit.

What would be the economic impact if an economic stimulus package could put just 7 million Americans back to work? Assuming an average salary of $43,000 a year, their total earning power would amount to $310 billion. That would be the equivalent of the combined sales of these six industry giants: Dow Chemical, Metlife, BestBuy, UPS, Kraft Foods, and Lowe's.

3. Small business, America’s growth driver, has little access to credit.

In his testimony before the House Committee on Small Business on June 22, Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury, said that lending has declined by a cumulative $4.2 trillion since Fall 2008. Over the same period, larger businesses were able to raise $3.6 trillion by issuing debt securities. While big business got 100 percent of the attention of the Treasury during the recession, small business has received very little consideration. House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) said, "The key to America's long-term, sustainable economic recovery is held by flourishing small businesses – our nation’s number one job creators. But in order for small firms to grow and create jobs, they need access to adequate financing."

He further added that while the Treasury Department expedited the delivery of funds from TARP, the Treasury's Small Business Loan Fund has been held back, and for the past nine months not one lender has received funding. It seems that the recession that started in 2008 was caused by greed and the lack of a financial safety net, and the next recession might be caused by the lack of support of America's number one job creation engine: small business.

What's your take? What should sales leaders do to prepare for the next recession?

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What's Your Greatest Sale Ever?

Mark_Rodgers-290x290 Guest post by sales guru and author Mark Rodgers



What's Your Greatest Sale Ever?
(Click Here to See Mine: Greatest Sale Ever Video)

"I'm going to see what the other guys have." The customer, in his early 20s, had brought along his father for reinforcement. Dad didn't say anything. He didn't have to; his facial expression said it all: Don't mess with us.

If you've spent two minutes in the profession of selling, you've probably heard customers threaten to go somewhere else, to compare you with others, to see what else is available. This situation is one that causes fear and panic in most salespeople, dejection and depression in others. But not in motorcycle sales manager Ken Fisher.

"Hang on one second," Fisher enjoined. "I have an idea."

He proceeded to the dealership locker room, changed out of his logoed staff shirt with name tag and into his street clothes – so he looked like any other person who might be running errands – and joined his customers back on the showroom floor. Upon returning, Fisher announced to his stunned prospects, "I'll go with you."

"They looked at me like I was crazy," Fisher remembers.

Fisher drove father and son down the street to the next motorcycle dealership. After five minutes in the store, no one had acknowledged them, so Fisher started to talk bikes using the other dealership's inventory. Ten minutes passed, still no one had acknowledged them. At the 15-minute mark, the 20-something son looked at Fisher. "Let's go back to your place," he said. "We want to buy from you."

Fisher didn't get frustrated. He didn't get angry. He used the natural flow of the sales exchange, more than a little creativity, and some chutzpah to win the business. He was confident he knew the product, secure in his relationship with his buyer, and best of all, he had no fear of failure. He had nothing to lose, so why not? He was unconventional and assertive, while not being aggressive (take a moment to think how you might be able to be bold and innovative in your next buyer exchange). A great sales success story and one we can all learn from.

The problem is that most sales managers – in an honest attempt to improve their own skills and their organization's performance – focus almost exclusively on those sales situations in which they weren't successful. This follows conventional wisdom: When you make a mistake, scrutinize it and fix it.

Focus on Your Success, Not Just Your Failures

0071760407 In my new McGraw-Hill book, Accelerate the Sale, we detail the research of Tel Aviv University professor Shmuel Ellis, who conducted a revealing study of after-action reviews with two companies of soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces. He demonstrated that soldiers performing successive navigation exercises learned at a significantly higher rate and improved their performance when they were debriefed on their failures and successes following each day of training. Soldiers who reviewed only their failed attempts did not perform as effectively.

In a second study, Ellis similarly found that individuals who experienced success also were more comfortable discussing their mistakes. Learning from mistakes after a successful experience is much more effective than learning from mistakes after a failed experience. People learn more from their mistakes if they feel psychologically safe. And that means focusing on success. They were able to dig deeper, find higher leverage improvements, and be more open to trying new approaches.

Want to sell more, faster? Concentrate on learning from your sales successes.

In Accelerate the Sale, we included "Street Smarts," sidebars from successful sales practitioners in a wealth of industries, from motorcycles to marketing, forensics to firearms, computer technologists to consultants par excellence, from giants of academia to a giant of an alcoholic recovery mentor. In the last chapter, we asked them to share their greatest sale ever. The stories have been described as riveting.

And now we want to discover "Your Greatest Sale Ever."

Beginning August 1, 2011, we are scouring the planet for great sales success stories. It's easy. Simply send us your 500-word story about a sales or customer service situation that you feel categorizes you as "an outstanding sales professional."

And just like when you close the deal, when you win this contest, you get paid. First prize is $1,000, and the next three runners-up will receive $500 cash. No games. No gimmicks. We just want to spread the good news…about you.

Go to and click on the tab "Your Greatest Sale Ever Contest" for contest rules and specifics about how to enter.

So what's your greatest sale ever?

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Increase Sales by Defining and Selling to Your Sweet Spot

Jonathanlondon Today's post was written by Jonathan London, founder and president of the sales and leadership training company Improved Performance Group. He is a respected speaker, trainer, coach, consultant, and author.

One of the most important elements of sales success is to try and sell your product or service, as much as possible, where you have unique advantage or the strongest fit possible. This is your "sweet spot," where you will win most often.

The experience related below occurred more than 30 years ago but is as relevant today as it was then (if not more so).

My first job was selling Olivetti typewriters. (For those of you who don't know, a typewriter is an ancient device that puts pen to paper.) At the time, I was 22 years old and had no experience. My biggest competitor was IBM, who had approximately 93 percent market share. People would buy hundreds of IBM typewriters at list price and then store them, because they never knew when they would need one and were afraid they might not be able to get one from IBM in a timely fashion. It was a measure of prestige to have an IBM Selectric on your desk.

After panicking for about 90 days, I asked for advice from a more experienced and successful salesperson, who helped me see things clearly. He suggested that I look at what my typewriter could do that IBM's couldn't. He also suggested that I concentrate on industries and applications where these unique capabilities might be critical to business. That would give me an advantage over the almighty and powerful IBM.

So that's what I did. I had to make sure there was enough volume in these industries and applications to be successful, and that is all I focused on.

I became much more intelligent about how and what people needed in these industries or applications (architecture, finance, legal, etc). I learned the terms and acronyms they used and had many references, so I was much more credible. I was able to demonstrate and differentiate my product in a much more relevant way. The best example of this is when I presented my typewriter to an architecture firm that needed to create wide documents with symbols unique to the industry – all things that I could offer and IBM could not. The prospect needed many typewriters and asked me for a discount. I said I couldn't offer a discount (because I knew this was the perfect solution for this firm, and the value was a fair one). The firm ordered all the typewriters it needed.

By focusing in this way, I became the number one salesperson for four years in a row. Since then, I have applied this concept to every sales or management position I have had, with the same exceptional results. It has helped me through three recessions, and, as an entrepreneur, has helped me win business against my biggest competitors.

I have used this concept
    - to manage my sales teams at PictureTel, and we became the world's most successful sales team four years in a row;
    - in 2000, as president of IPG, to sell every major video, audio, and Web-conferencing provider, since clients needed my services to sell more;
    - in 2008, emphasizing my pricing solutions so people could buy my services more easily than the competition's.

Some examples of how my clients have used this concept:
    1. reselling and repackaging what was done for some of their biggest opportunities (research and analysis that they did internally) as unique offerings
    2. turning perceived disadvantages (not having as much technology or service as the biggest competitors, for example) into unique selling advantages or the right blend of benefits
    3. focusing all or most of their selling efforts on three or four verticals and abandoning efforts to sell in other industries

How Do You Define Your Sweet Spot?

You should define
    a. what your company's unique strengths are
    b. who your most successful clients are (what industries or applications)
    c. your own personal knowledge
    d. where you or your company tend to win more often
    e. where you are best connected or networked

Then choose the three (or four, if you can manage it) best industries and horizontal applications (sales, finance, etc.) that you should sell to. Then find the names of the companies that are the best fit for you, and enter their information into your CRM or buy the information from a company that supplies it (Hoover's, Jigsaw, OneSource, etc.). Most often, there are more opportunities than you could possibly cover.

Then go after them with a vengeance, and don't be distracted. This works and gets you the best results.

For more from Jonathan, visit his blog, Jonathan London's Real Advice.

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Part II: Is Your Sales Funnel a Trash Can or a Treasure Chest?

How Do You Prioritize Your Opportunities?

"There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
William Shakespeare

As you know, sales leads can quickly grow stale. Every lead and opportunity is like a milk carton with an expiration date. If marketing sends you a lead indicating that "Acme Corp." has received a $12 million round of financing, you want to call Acme within a few hours, not days. If you get a Web lead that looks promising, you want to call that lead within minutes, not hours. Research shows that the odds of calling to qualify an online lead decreases by more than 6 times in the first hour.

As you convert sales-ready leads in your sales funnel into opportunities, ask yourself:

  • Is there a great fit for your product or solution?
  • Is your prospect actively looking for a solution?
  • What is the prospect's timetable for finding the best solution?
  • What are the competing solutions?
  • What does the company have to lose if it did nothing about the problem?
  • What is the company's process for making a decision?
  • What are the company's preferred steps involved in a purchase? 
  • Is there an established budget?
  • What is the dollar potential of this opportunity?
  • Do I have access to all decision makers, and how many of them can I convince?
  • What is this potential customer's long-term value to my company?
  • How long will it take until the sale is closed?
  • What are the potential obstacles that stand in the way of the sale?
  • What are the realistic chances of closing this sale? (25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent)

These questions will help you prioritize the opportunities in your sales funnel, and they will help you develop a realistic sales forecast every month.

Action step: create a list of your most important and most urgent opportunities, and refresh this list daily.

How Much Time Do Your Prospects Spend in Your Sales Funnel?  

Time is the ultimate scorekeeper in selling. Many salespeople fail to accelerate the movement of their opportunities in their funnel because  

  • they take too long to uncover and understand the true needs of their customer,
  • they are unable to align the prospect's priorities with their priorities,
  • they are too slow to respond to their prospect's needs,
  • they are unable to time their calls with their prospect's available time windows,
  • they don't immediately record their call notes and thus forget follow-up details.

The magic question: What’s the average time a qualified opportunity stays in your funnel?

Successful salespeople know that speed is their friend. They analyze their sales cycle and ask themselves:  

  • At what point will I cut off an opportunity because there is no chance of creating a customer?
  • How much time do I invest in moving the average prospect from the opening to the close?
  • How can I reduce the number of calls needed to close an opportunity? 
  • How can I add more value to each call to accelerate the decision?

If you can find new ways to reduce by 20 percent the time your prospects spend in the funnel, you will close 20 percent more sales!

Action step: think of new ways to accelerate the speed of your sales funnel by 20 percent, and you will be able to increase your sales by 20 percent.

The magic question:
What percentage of your opportunities will turn into closed sales per month?

Successful salespeople know that reaching their goals at the end of the month depends on being keenly aware of what they need to accomplish every single day. They plan their work and execute on time. They know that to win in sales, they have to be first. To be first, they have to be faster than the competition. Second place in sales never gets a commission check.

Additional resources:

Books: The Funnel Principle by Mark Sellers

Video: How to Flip the Funnel with Seth Godin

Blog: The Media Funnel

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Part I: Is Your Sales Funnel a Trash Can or a Treasure Chest?

One of the most misunderstood fundamentals in selling is the funnel concept. The basic premise is simple: new prospects enter the sales cycle at the top of the funnel, and over time, these prospects turn into customers and closed sales. Your goal should be to analyze your funnel so that you can optimize your lead generation and qualification process and ultimately monetize your sales funnel in a predictable and profitable way.

Fundamental Funnel Dynamics

Sales success depends on achieving a balance between lead quality and lead quantity. Lead quality begins by answering the magic question, what is a sales-ready lead? Successful salespeople don't chase garbage trucks; they focus on money trucks. Your definition of a sales-ready lead will determine your personal effectiveness and professional success. If marketing is clueless about what a sales-ready lead is, chances are the leads generated by marketing are useless. If that's the case, don't whine; generate your own leads instead. Successful salespeople are like hound dogs – they have a good nose for business.

The more sales and marketing leaders are aligned and in sync with one another, the greater the chances that your marketing-generated leads are as good as gold.

How Many Sales-Ready Leads Are in Your Funnel?

Count the number of sales-ready leads in your funnel and do the math. How many leads can you qualify each month? If you qualify three leads a day, that would equal 60 leads a month. Let's say you have 180 qualified leads in your funnel; it would take you 3 months to qualify every lead. The good news is that new technology can dramatically accelerate the number of leads you can qualify in a day.

If you have too many qualified leads in your funnel, you will waste your company's sales potential. If you don't have enough leads, you won't meet your sales goal, and you will sabotage your earnings potential. Simple math will tell you what you can expect to close next month.  How many sales-ready leads are in your funnel at this time? 

The magic question: How many sales-ready leads do you need to qualify each month to meet your sales goal?

Technology that can accelerate the lead-qualification process: ConnectAndSell, InsideSales, Refractive Dialer

Technology that can dramatically enhance lead information (content and contact): Hoover's, InsideView, OneSource, ZoomInfo, D&B 360, Jigsaw

Technology to capture more leads on your Website: Genius, HubSpot

Marketing automation to improve lead generation, lead nurturing, lead distribution, and lead prioritization: Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Silverpop

Outsourcing companies that can offload or improve the task of lead generation or lead qualification: BAO, Green Leads, Frontline Selling.

How Many Opportunities Are in Your Funnel?

As you qualify each sales-ready lead, you realize that not every lead will turn into a sales opportunity. Let's assume that you plan on closing 10 sales per month and that your closing ratio is one in four. Simple math will tell you that you will need 40 opportunities in your funnel to reach your monthly sales goal.

As discussed earlier, if you qualified three leads a day, that would translate to 60 qualified leads a month. Let's assume that one in two of your qualified leads turned into an opportunity. This means that out of 60 leads, you'd end up with 30 opportunities in your sales funnel. Since your goal is 40 (you need 40 so you can close 10), you'd realize a shortfall of 10 opportunities. Surprising, isn't it? If you don't analyze your funnel and take corrective action, you will end up closing only seven sales that month, and you'll be 30 percent short of your goal.

And you wouldn't be the only one to fall short of your sales goals. Research by CSO Insights shows that only 59.4 percent of sales reps achieved their sales quota in 2010. Why? Salespeople are optimists by nature, and they don't enjoy analyzing their sales funnel. They think that's the sales manager's job. And sales managers think it's the salesperson's job. It's your choice: are you happy with a funnel that's a trash can, or do you want to turn your funnel into a treasure chest?

The magic question: What percentage of your leads will turn into qualified opportunities?

Technology that can help you improve pipeline visibility, targeting, and forecasting accuracy: Birst, Cloud9, Lattice Engines, Right90

Here's a poster for your sales office to remind your salespeople to develop their funnel strategy.

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Manage Your Sales Knowledge

Wellshg In 1940, H.G. Wells wrote, "An immense and ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today – knowledge that would probably suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age – but it is dispersed and unorganized. We need a sort of mental clearinghouse for the mind: a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared."

According to recent research from IDC Sales Advisory Service, salespeople spend seven hours or more a week looking for information to help them prepare for a sales call.

While many top sales executives would like to create an information database that contains all the information salespeople need in order to satisfy customers' requirements, sharing best sales practices can become the most powerful knowledge management tool in any sales organization. A few years ago, Rank Xerox collected the best sales knowledge from its divisions in Europe and the Middle East. Team members began to study the top-performing selling systems across the region. A year after they imported the new methods and strategies, they realized breakthrough results. Norway increased sales by 152 percent, Holland by 300 percent, and Switzerland by 328 percent.

To focus their sales teams on knowledge management, sales leaders must ask these key questions:

- How intelligent is our sales organization in the eyes of our customers?
- How can we share our best sales practices among all salespeople?
- How can we facilitate access to experts within the company?
- How can we motivate people to share their knowledge and expertise?
- What is the cost of re-creating knowledge that already exists?
- What is the cost of mistakes that existing knowledge could have prevented?
- How much longer can we afford the cost of ignorance?

To build a productive and profitable knowledge-management system, experts in the field recommend three steps.

1. Communicate your expectations. John F. Kennedy's vision to send a man to the moon seeded the knowledge base that led to space travel.

2. Appraise sales-knowledge management technology (aka sales enablement) tools, such as Microsoft SharePoint, SAVO, or Qvidian.

3. Create incentives for better knowledge management. At Hewlett-Packard corporate trainers and educators were offered 500 airline miles for contributing to the trainer's trading post, a computerized training library.

Good leaders encourage sharing of information and discourage information hoarding, or mistrust of outside intelligence. Effective knowledge management requires a shift in power. Peter Drucker explained it this way: "Knowledge is power, which is why people who had it in the past often tried to make a secret of it. Today, power comes from transmitting information to make it productive, not from hiding it."

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Is Social Media "Bulk BS" Sold to Social Animals in Australia?

Everyone has a different view of social media. In one of our Sales 2.0 Conferences, a VP of sales from Microsoft shared a story of how, as he was walking through the office with Steve Ballmer, he noticed employees quickly changing screens from their social-media accounts to Excel or Word. The story suggests that Microsoft is not as enlightened about the use of social media as Zappos. (See how Zappos does it.)

Here is a unique, contrarian voice from Australia on social media:

"Social media will fragment," says David Chalke, an Australian media strategist, suggesting that a wave of disillusionment has washed over the market because social media has been "massively oversold." He concedes that social media works for many companies: "For some brands, it’ll work. For others, it's a complete waste of time. Snake-oil salesmen have been telling us that this will fix all your problems."

Chalke has received many comments such as the following: "The potential for bulk BS is demonstrated by those people with 750+ friends." ( Note: This link may not work in all browsers.

Is there much thunder in the voice from down under? Not likely. Although Chalke’s views have been tweeted and retweeted by about two dozen Australians, Chalke himself isn't likely to know about it, since he doesn't have a Twitter account.

Robert Scoble, a noted blogger, tech writer, and industry icon from the United States, offers a unique, positive voice on social media. In this recent interview, he shares how you can achieve social-media success. He explains that such success requires a strong culture and smart people, as well as social-media training.

P.S. Robert Scoble has 191,100 Twitter followers.

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Summer Reading for America’s Best Sales Teams

To get the best results, salespeople have learned to adapt to a business environment that moves at the speed of light. But many of us get so used to that adrenaline rush of pursuing the deal that we often forget about the power of powering down.

What I like about the long days of summer is that they are a great time to recharge and bolster your skill set in order to set yourself up for end-of-year success. In the May/June 2011 issue of Selling Power magazine, we published “Summer Reading for America’s Best Sales Teams,” to put the power of learning within reach of any team that wants to achieve a brighter future. The reading list is reproduced in full below and is also available via PDF download on

Sales leaders who fail to equip their sales teams with winning methodologies and fundamental selling skills will fail to see results. I encourage you to use the terrific books on this list as a starting point to get your team in gear and make the most of your long summer days.

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Serendipity Sells

Serendipity is when someone finds something that they weren't expecting to find. We have all heard stories of how people meet by chance and develop a lifelong friendship. Sometimes, serendipity comes from being the first to see something, like Dr. Roentgen when he discovered X-rays. And sometimes it's not about being the first to see a new thing, but the first to see something common in a new way. For example, Percy Spencer noticed that the microwaves he was working on at Raytheon had melted the candy bar in his pocket. Percy wasn't the first person to notice that microwaves generated heat, but he was the first to think of using microwaves to heat food.
Casablanca Serendipity often makes history. Take the movie "Casablanca." Ingrid Bergman wasn't Warner Brothers' first choice. The famous last line "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" was written after the shooting was completed and the producers had to call back Bogart to dub the line. The song, "As Time Goes By" was almost cut because the artist who wrote the score didn't like it. When they tried to reshoot the scene with another song, Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for her next film, which saved the song.

Salespeople can harness the power of serendipity by preparing the right message which will lead to an unexpected surprise for the buyer. For example, the cofounder of Marc Benioff wasn't the first one to create and sell online software. Pat Sullivan, the founder of ACT! Launched Interact, an Internet-based CRM system long before started. Tom Siebel, the founder of Siebel Systems (later bought by Oracle) created,another online CRM system. Both services vanished. What set Benioff apart was his ability to create a more compelling message designed to surprise more buyers. Salesforce_logo141x111His first message was "Point, Click, Close" but it didn't create a lot of traction. By seeing things in a different way, he discovered the slogan "The end of software," which later morphed into "Software as a Service," and even later turned into "Cloud Computing." Since then, every large software company has jumped on the Cloud wagon, and Benioff recently stated that the Cloud was an old hat and declared that the next great thing will be the"Social Enterprise." Because more and more customers rely on social networking to learn about new products and services from people they (barely) know (but whose opinions they trust), the term Social Enterprise seems the perfect bait on an old hook designed to catch more fish.

Salespeople can use serendipity as a great sales tool to surprise customers with an unexpected message. Lawrence Block defined serendipity as follows: "You look for something, find something else, and realize that what you've Virgin-Atlantic-flight-stewardessfound is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for." Customers are always looking for good surprises. They have seen it all, and they buy from salespeople who give them something that they don't expect. Serendipity is like getting a first class upgrade on a long flight. Think about ways to give your next customer an upgrade to a first-class sales experience. That's harnessing the selling power of serendipity. 

Question: Can you share an example of how serendipity helped you sell?

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