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February 2014

Creating an Objection Planner for Sales Teams

RonShapiroRon Shapiro is an expert negotiator, sports agent, attorney, New York Times best-selling author, and cofounder and chairman of SNI, a global leader in performance improvement. 


The following is a shortened and modified excerpt from Perfecting Your Pitch: How to Succeed in Business and in Life by Finding Words That Work.

While scripting is often employed to meet the challenges of a specific situation, sometimes it is useful to develop scripts for recurring situations salespeople face. I have worked with organizations in a variety of industries in which salespeople must constantly deal with objections raised by potential customers. A home builder may have to deal with questions about room size, proximity to schools, curb appeal, or even doorsill heights. An insurance broker may be asked about the appropriateness of a policy for someone of the prospect’s age, premium levels, or other investment products compared to whole life insurance. Car salespeople may have to be ready for pricing objections based upon blue-book values or other dealers’ quotes, questions about the value of extended warranties, or delivery times and service issues.

Salespeople must develop blueprints to confidently rebut competitor claims, unsubstantiated rumors, or consumers’ misunderstandings about the products or services that salespeople are selling. The best preparation for this challenge often involves developing a script with the help of peers in the same situations. Proposed answers can be drafted and shared with team members. After some group “devil’s advocating,” an “objection planner” can be developed, which members of the sales team can turn to as a script for guidance. Caution should be exercised, however, not to use the planner responses as an excuse to go on automatic pilot. Never stop listening to the customer. What the other side says may contain shades of difference from the objection for which you’ve prepared.

Before the affinity credit card pioneer MBNA merged with Bank of America, I and others from our Negotiations Institute trained MBNA workers, including members of the business development team, in negotiation and influencing skills. In particular, I worked with managers negotiating deals in which MBNA partnered with potential and renewing affinity credit card partners, including alumni associations, university athletic departments, high-visibility retailers, and trade associations. In its negotiations, MBNA needed to sell these and other groups on why it was the best bank to acquire or renew the organization’s endorsement.

Because of the intense competition among bank card organizations and MBNA’s market dominance, the competition floated rumors and leveled attacks against MBNA and its credit card product. After discussing the situation in our training programs, we noted that the attacks and rumors fell into a pattern. For example, it was common for an association to suggest that it was being offered a less favorable deal than other associations, that its prestige was being disrespected. It was also said that MBNA rotated account executives too often and was so big that the potential group would feel lost. In order to tackle the issue, we took the following approach:

1. We established what we were up against.

2. We used drafting to develop the right words to counter what we were hearing.

3. We scripted answers to common objections and practiced the delivery to help build the business developer’s confidence in responding to customer concerns.

Here’s one example of using objection planning to lay out the issue and draft possible responses:

Issue: “Is my compensation structure in line with schools that are considered to be my peers?”

Possible response: [Ask, “Which schools do you consider to be your peers? Why do you consider them to be your peers? What are the factors you use to compare yourself?”] “We work hard to keep compensation for like programs consistent; however, just as I’m sure you wouldn’t want us discussing your compensation with your peers, we prefer not to discuss theirs with you. In fact, we’re all contractually obligated not to discuss contract specifics with others. I will say that we take a lot of factors into consideration when developing a financial offer, including the types and cost of the products that we will be offering to your members, the size of the list, access to marketing channels and venues, the strength of the affinity, and the historical performance of the portfolio. We’re happy to discuss how we can increase your revenue stream using these factors.”

The objection planning process was frequently an effective tool for the developer to solidly make the bank’s case to a new endorser or one contemplating renewal. Even when not successful, team members benefited from collaboration with their peers in developing the scripted answers in the planner. They felt increased confidence in making points to hesitant renewal prospects and potential new customers.

4 Tips for Hiring Great Salespeople

Mustafa Kapadia-Professional-4Today's post is by Mustafa Kapadia, North American Sales Leader at IBM. It appeared originally here on his blog



Hiring great sales talent is brutally hard. The most sophisticated organizations get it right only 75% of the time. Others consider themselves lucky if they hit the 50% mark. And if that is not bad enough, consider the cost of a bad hire. Hiring mistakes can impact sales, market share, team dynamics/morale, and management time, just to name a few.

So what should organizations do to help increase their odds of getting a rainmaker? Consider the following. 

1. Create a “want list" and stick to it. 

It’s easy to think that you have found the perfect candidate when you see only his or her best behavior: telling you exactly what you like to hear, spouting out the company mission statement, and raving about your product. Instead, evaluate all potential candidates against a list of desired criteria and personality traits. But don’t stop there. Create your entire hiring process around this “want list," from the job description, to initial phone screening, to interview format, to questions, and even interviewers.

Once created, stick to it. Don’t abandon it because you just came across a shiny new candidate. Instead of your gut, make the process work for you.

2. Never hire alone.

Have the candidate interview across the entire team, from managers, to colleagues, to subordinates. Collect opinions from everyone. It is the best way to get the full picture. If possible, get the hard-ass from your department to interview; someone who is tough, practical, and unsentimental. Leverage those types to cull the crowd.

Some organizations prefer a group interview format; my personal preference still leans towards the more traditional one-on-one. Group interviews have merit but they are susceptible to group think (especially if the boss is in the room) and you can never get to know the candidate at a more personal level.

3. Give an assignment. 

Talk is cheap. If you want to see your sales candidate in action, give him or her an assignment. Case studies, a type of an assignment, are extremely effective in the consulting world. The same theory applies to sales hiring.

Assignments can be something as simple as a short presentation on a product (yours or your competitors), market trends, orals pitch, or competitor analysis. Each of the above examples will give you insights into the candidate’s strengths, help you see them in action, and provide you with free work/insights.

4. Let them talk. 

Fight the natural tendency to talk throughout the whole interview. The urge is even stronger when you like the candidate and want to sell the job. The best strategy is to ask a question, shut up, and listen. As the candidate continues to talk you will find out fairly quickly if he or she is a good fit. Pay special attention to not just what they say but how they say it.

Despite your best efforts, bad hires will happen. It is inevitable. So what do you do then? Recognize the mistake, take ownership, and act fast. While it might be painful, owning up to your mistake in the short run is good for the organization, your career, as well as the person you are letting go. Sales is a people business and only the best teams win.

What are you doing to hire great sales talent? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Ten Truths about Sales Training

BobButlerToday's post is by Bob Butler is president/CEO of Butler Learning Systems in Dayton, OH. 




For more than 35 years, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of being in the sales trenches, as well as facilitating sales-training seminars for hundreds of thousands of sales professionals in various industries throughout North America and beyond. Whether training a large group of sales executives or a small wholesale or distributor sales group, there are truisms that are revealed with all salespeople, regardless of industry or profession. Here are my top 10 truths about sales training that sales leaders should bear in mind as they plan their training initiatives.

TRUTH #1: Training is the vehicle to communicate sales strategies and initiatives.

All too often, sales training is provided without a common focus or goal. Communicate your strategic initiatives through training for better acceptance and successful implementation. Let your sales team know exactly what is expected and the outcome to achieve. When you communicate this to your sales team, everyone is in alignment with your sales objectives, so progress can be tracked accordingly. Structure must follow strategy, so use the training format and disciplines to help explain the “why,” and your sales goals will be better accepted and executed by the sales team.

TRUTH #2: Sales culture is dependent on a standardized selling process.

One of the biggest mistakes sales management makes is not adopting, structuring, or standardizing a process for precall planning. A sales process provides a common sales language to which reps can relate. You get consistency of message in the field, and best practices start to evolve with repeated use and preparation. Overall, you deliver a better value story in a shorter amount of time so you can call on more customers. Productivity and performance are enhanced, which leads to increased market share.

I worked with a food service manufacturer that attributed its sales growth and national footprint to using our 6 A’s selling process for more than 10 years. It helped my client’s team members stay focused to achieve sales plan and raise the bar on sales excellence throughout the industry.

TRUTH #3: Relationship selling first, product selling second.

Sales leaders, why are your reps in such a hurry to give their pitch? I was recently in the field with a salesperson, and the buyer said to him, “Let’s cut to the chase and give me your pitch.” The seller was astonished, looked up at the customer, and said, “Not yet. Right now I’m catching.”

What’s the hurry? After hello, the salesperson goes right into a sales pitch and ends up “puking” it all over the customer. Remember, it’s not about the seller; it’s about the buyer. So salespeople should take the time to establish rapport and get to know their customers. When your reps create mind share and the customer thinks of your company first, your salespeople have done their job. Discipline reps to develop relationships in order to sell deeper and wider in existing accounts. That’s where the low-hanging fruit is, ready to be picked!

TRUTH #4: Understand customer needs first before providing recommendations.

When I train rookie salespeople, I say, “Listen first and talk second, and you never go wrong.” Why do salespeople continually disregard this practice? How can we make recommendations without diagnosing? We’re “doctors of selling.” So no more sales malpractice! No more recommendations without an analysis first. It’s our due diligence as sales professionals.

TRUTH #5: Asking questions is our finest selling skill but is weakly applied.

There is an art to probing. Why do so many reps start out with close-ended questions, giving the customer an easy opportunity to say no? Question as a servant would, not as an attorney. My dad was a master at probing. He could carry on a conversation just by probing, allowing the customer to respond freely and willingly. He developed a concept that I call the layering technique in probing: OPEN – OPEN – CLOSED – OPEN – OPEN – CLOSED. He got the customer accustomed to saying yes, thereby creating the right selling environment with probing. Sales leaders, develop your top open- and closed-ended questions, document them, and provide them to all of your sales reps. Their calls-made to calls-closed ratio will improve.

TRUTH #6: Salespeople continue to sell features but not benefits.

This is the big difference between transitioning from a seller perspective to a buyer perspective. Emphasizing benefits is not passé. Talking about them still creates value in the customer’s mind. Without benefits, all the customer thinks about is price, and the battle begins.

I was on a call with a rep who handed the customer a benefits sheet and went through the presentation methodically, talking benefits and advantages, and ended with the product features that were specific to the customer’s needs. By the time the rep finished, the customer had his hands out, saying, “Give it to me!” Leaders, think about it. When was the last time you had a “benefits clinic” on your products and services?

TRUTH #7: Salespeople must learn to sell value and not price.

Consider the old saying, “If you live by price, you die by price.” Who created price sensitivity? We did! I always talk with the purchasing team while training in sales organizations and ask, “What don’t you like about sales reps?” The response is that salespeople talk too much, are not prepared, and cave on price.

One buyer shared with me that she handed a rep a competitive quote and said, “Match this price, and you’ve got it!” The rep not only matched it but went back to management for additional discounts and concessions that the buyer didn’t expect. Never lay your cards down until you ask, “What do you want?” The customer’s expectations may be less than what most salespeople are willing to give away. How much money have you left on the table?

TRUTH #8: Eliminate the fear of answering objections.

I love watching and critiquing salespeople as they handle objections in the field and role-play while being recorded. The skillful ones go right to the answer immediately and end up defending it while being cornered by the customer. Why do we fear objections? Don’t we ask the customers questions? Why can’t they ask questions? Objections are opportunities that lead to buying signals, which means you go for a trial close. When you create this positive mind-set, you welcome objections, anticipate them, and even come to expect them.

Do you use an objection-handling method or technique to develop best-practice responses, document them in a book, and distribute them to all salespeople? Shame on you if you don’t! Sales leaders, here’s a topic for your next sales meeting: develop best-practice responses to your most frequent objections, especially ones on price. Eliminate this fear factor once and for all and be ready to close!

TRUTH #9: It’s never too early to ask for the order or commitment or go for sales action.

I’ll never forget what a buyer once told me about a salesperson: “I would have given her the purchase order if she had just asked me.” The end results of that lost opportunity were a plant shutdown because the needed parts weren’t obtained, a reprimand and relocation for the buyer, and a dismissal for the sales rep. Never feel that it is premature to ask the customer for a commitment. Remember, interaction dictates our actions, so close and keep closing until the customer says yes. How many times can you ask? As many times as you want, as long as the customer continues to interact through the stages of the buying process. If you feel you’ve asked enough, change the subject, go back to relationship building, and keep the door open. But before you leave or hang up the telephone, set the next call objective with that customer to keep the stages of the buying process moving. Too often, we miss the opportunity when the customer says, “Let us think about it, and we’ll get back to you,” and later you can’t even get back in the door. So during the call, set the time and date for the next meeting with the objective to close the sale.

TRUTH #10: Training brings the sales team together.

I have enjoyed watching Urban Meyer, coach of the Buckeyes, who seems to bring out the top performers both on and off of the field. His training philosophy and leadership are symbolized in his huddle concept. So many of us base our success on material things, such as how much money we have, how big our house is, how fancy our cars are, and whether we can take exotic vacations. But when we come together, none of this matters anymore. In the huddle, professionals come together: one team, one goal.

Sales leaders, have you run a sales-training boot camp lately? If not, maybe it’s time to bring ‘em together and ignite your sales reps to exceed their sales plans for 2014. Today, we don’t train just for skills and knowledge, we train for high performance and sales excellence, just like the pros do, week in and week out. Remember, the team that executes wins. Mastering sales fundamentals takes skills, practice, and repetition: TRAINING + PRACTICE = HABIT. Are your sales professionals able to sell their value story instinctively? It’s never too late for a refresher!

Overcoming the Heartbreak of Losing a Sale

LaVonKoenerToday's post is by LaVon Koerner, Chief Revenue Officer of Revenue Storm, which he cofounded in 2000 to offer companies worldwide a suite of comprehensive, proven tools and techniques for profitable revenue growth. Download Revenue Storm’s latest white paper, “How a Successful Coaching Strategy Increases Revenue.”

Awhile back, one of my colleagues made a comment that stuck in my mind. It is one of those comments that just eat away at you until you get it off your chest. She said, “I could never be in sales because I’m too sensitive. I could never take it when someone says ‘no’ and picks someone else over me.”

She, like a lot of people, believes that salespeople don’t experience feelings of hurt and rejection when they lose a deal. They believe we have thick skins and have become numb to the sensitivities of doing business. They erroneously surmise that good salespeople must be ruthless and maybe even a little heartless.

I’m sure there are extremely successful sales professionals who never have to feel the agony of defeat; however, over the years, it has been my observation that those who feel the most pain over a loss are the ones who have the largest capacity for love and care towards a customer during the sales campaign.

I like to see sales professionals allow themselves to become vulnerable to the pain of rejection by letting their heart get involved. If you hold back, you are not putting it all on the line. By default, a campaign becomes a clinical exercise of executing a strategy through a carefully constructed set of controlled tactics. Why not also make it a personal crusade to advance your heartfelt beliefs that you, your offering, and your company can really help your customer more than your competition?

So what do you say when you’ve put all your heart into it and still lose? 

  • Don’t say your price was too high. It is our job to know the price range in which we will be competing. Once that is known, and you elect to stay in the pursuit, you can no longer justify a loss by blaming it on price.
  • Don’t say your offering was subpar compared to the competitor. Chances are slim that you and your company had not already gone up against the competitor to whom you lost. That being the case, you should already know what is most likely being offered to your mutual prospect. With this competitive intelligence and electing to stay in the pursuit, you remove offering superiority as a reason for losing.

When you lose a sale, the only honest thing you can say is: “I was outsold.” Once you’ve qualified the opportunity and elected to engage in a sales pursuit, you are saying that it is possible to win. This means you’ve accepted the responsibility for orchestrating and managing a sales campaign aimed at winning. So if you don’t win, it’s because you executed an inferior sales campaign and were outsold. Each loss flags an ineffective sales campaign, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the sales professional that conducted the campaign.

That’s the reason losing hurts so much. It places the spotlight on a poor performance. The more we accept this, the more mature we become as sales professionals and the more we enable ourselves to learn from each loss.

The best sales professionals I’ve met and interviewed always accept the blame for encountering a loss. They can say the hardest and most gut-wrenching words in the language of sales, “I was outsold.”

Not getting the sales traction you want? Hear LaVon speak on the evolution of selling and why you need to update your approach.

Saving Your Sales Proposals from the Void

LawrenceAbramsToday's post is by Laurence Abrams, CEO and President of Paperless Proposal.



Have you ever spent hours customizing a perfect proposal to meet a requested deadline from a prospect … only to hear nothing back for weeks or months?

Losing your proposal in the void is frustrating. It’s disappointing. It adds stress to an already stressful profession. It’s also an all-too-familiar experience for most sales professionals. Why does it happen?

Because there hasn’t been any true innovation in the proposal space for many years.

True, most of us have moved away from printed proposals that are hand delivered or need to be shipped in the mail. Today most of us email our proposals as PDFs or Power Points with links to our website and perhaps links to videos. But going electronic hasn’t stopped our proposals from getting lost in the void. Think about it. Typically salespeople still have no way of knowing:

  • When and if your prospect received your proposal,
  • When and if your prospect opened your proposal,
  • Who your prospect might have forwarded the proposal to,
  • What order was your proposal read in,
  • Which pages of the proposal your prospect spent the most time on.

All of these are important questions and salespeople still struggle with answers. This lack of knowledge creates speed bumps in the sales cycle. Sometimes not knowing what happened to your proposal can derail a deal altogether.

We founded Paperless Proposal with the intention of empowering sales teams and saving proposals from the void. Here are just a few of the things our solution allows you to do:

1) Salespeople (and sales managers) can see exactly which proposals they’ve sent to prospects in a single dashboard. Our dashboard makes it easy to see when you’ve accidentally dropped the ball on sending something to a prospect. Our system also shows you which proposals have been sent and not yet viewed, as well as proposals that were actually viewed, signed, and downloaded. In essence, it helps you keep track of all the deals in your pipeline in one easily accessible location.

2) You get an alert in real time when the prospect opens your proposal. How cool would it be to get a text message or email alert the very moment your prospect opens your proposal and starts to read it? No more wondering if the proposal arrived or when or if the prospect looked at it. And hey, since they’re reading right now, maybe pick up the phone and offer to have a quick chat? Looks like your follow up call is now a helpful assist rather than a pesky annoyance. (Perhaps that’s why our statistics show that the client is 90% more likely to take your call when they’re looking at your proposal.)

3) You can see who your proposal gets forwarded to. Our system prompts a viewer to enter his or her email address in order to view the proposal. This gives you great visibility into everyone that is involved in the decision making process in the organization. Often salespeople send proposal to the person they believe to be the decision maker only to find that person is a gatekeeper. This feature allows you to start a dialogue with the gatekeeper and get to the actual decision makers).

4) You can see which pages of the proposal got the most attention. Our system automatically tracks how long the prospect spends viewing each page of your proposal, which means you can see which areas seemed to interest them most. You can also see what order they read the proposal. With this knowledge you can now have pinpoint discussion on the pain points most important to your prospect versus the “spaghetti principle” (throwing as much up against the wall hoping something sticks).

I say it’s time to say goodbye to the days of spending weeks or months chasing your prospect to get feedback on your proposal. With the technology available to us today, it’s entirely possible to make proposals an efficient, effective, and stress-free experience for you and your prospects.

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Proof That Gamification Has Become a Game Changer

BobMarshToday's post is by Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven



When the idea for LevelEleven came to me a few years ago, I had never even heard the word “gamification.” When I first heard it, in conversation about 2011’s Dreamforce conference, I reacted as I imagine most people do: I dubbed it a buzzword and predicted it would come and go.

Buzzword or not, falling into a trendy category has its advantages. In LevelEleven’s first full year of business in 2013, we saw exposure from national media outlets in print and on screen. We landed a dozen speaking opportunities at the world’s largest vendor technology conference, Dreamforce. About 40 percent of our clients became clients because they actively sought out gamification solutions.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, we battled misconception after misconception as we worked to show potential clients that gamification isn’t just some add-on for young teams who want to establish or reinforce a cool culture. It can be. But gamification really goes more like this:

1. It’s not always a game.

It certainly isn’t for the sales leaders at companies like the Detroit Pistons, who use gamification to ensure they’ll hit their goals. The Pistons hit a six-month sales goal in six weeks thanks to sales contests, driving more than $500,000 in sales around a new product. Nor is it a game for sales leaders at any of the other 71 companies (out of 100 that LevelEleven surveyed) who said they see between 11 percent and 50 percent increases in measured sales performance when using gamification to motivate key sales activities.

2. Gamification’s just as effective – or sometimes even more effective – for older generations.

People equate gamification with gaming and thus with younger generations. It makes sense, but it’s not accurate. The desire to compete and be recognized doesn’t expire, nor does the fact that nobody wants to see his or her face at the bottom of a leaderboard.

Sometimes gamification tools are more applicable for more seasoned sales folks, especially if they tend to resist the technology that gamification can help them adopt. In fact, that’s the reason Stanley Black & Decker chose to bring gamification into its environment, which houses employees with an average age of 54 years and tenure of 19 years.

Here are the results driven by Stanley Black & Decker’s first sales contest:

·      29 percent increase in pipeline activities

·      43 percent increase in documented opportunities

·      320 percent updated records

·      70 percent engagement rate (for which live leaderboards were credited)

3. Gamification’s not about motivating everything.

You could call gamification sales motivation, but that just doesn’t sound right. Hire a motivational speaker, get your team amped, and call that sales motivation. As I explained in this recent interview (below), sales gamification goes beyond that. It adds another layer. It uses competition to motivate your team, not just to start performing in general, but to start performing more of the specific behavior that drives your business forward.

For every team, that behavior varies. It may include social-selling activities, such as leveraging LinkedIn connections, or getting in front of the customer through face-to-face meetings. Kelly Services can attest to the potential in the latter option. This company credits competitions centered on face-to-face meetings for $5.8 million in additional revenue.

In the end, gamification really comes down to filling in the blank.

It’s completing the statement, “If our sales team got us more _______, it would ensure we’d hit or surpass our goals and increase our revenue,”and then using competition to motivate certain behavior until getting more of whatever your variable is becomes habit.

Whether the “buzzword” stays or goes, the concept of gamification will continue to stick around. When used carefully, gamification gives sales leaders the power to improve their sales outcome. It can change a business. That considered, maybe the name of the category’s not all that bad, as long as we understand that gamification’s about helping businesses conquer the game – not just stay in it. 

Ditch Your CRM and Get More Done!

I've seen the future, and I’ve decided to ditch my CRM and get more done.

What's the secret? Contatta. It’s a brand new cloud solution that could have 10 million subscribers within the next five years. I think it’s destined to dwarf’s numbers. Why? Because this software works for the salesperson, not the sales manager.

Here is a little-known fact: the average time a salesperson spends on per day is less than 40 minutes (check for average site visit), which represents only 8.3 percent of a salesperson's day. Contatta is designed to help salespeople work smarter, collaborate better, and leverage social media to the max. It’s like a Swiss Army knife that has everything a salesperson needs to sell like a rock star.

Contatta has been developed and designed by the creator of ACT!, Pat Sullivan, who sold ACT! for $45 million to Symantec in 1993. He then started Saleslogix and grew his second company to more than $100 million and sold it to Sage for $260 million in 2001. He has quietly spent the last few years designing and developing Contatta, which in my opinion will lead to a business three-peat.

Here are just three of the most exciting functionalities, among many others:

1. Contatta turns email into a sales-productivity hub. You don't have to hunt for past emails or spend time searching for files that you know you received but can't locate. You can transfer emails to a workroom, which allows you to work on your projects whenever you choose. No more lost emails or dropped projects.

2. Contatta turns email into a social-media listening post that would make the NSA proud. This clever software not only allows you to see what your prospect has tweeted or posted on Facebook or LinkedIn, but you can see all your salespeople’s connections and leverage the collective social-media power of your entire sales team.

3. Contatta ends email forwarding forever. The sales team can share emails (private or public settings), and anyone from your team can collaborate and add messages, comments, and advice, so your salespeople can tap into the collective intelligence of your organization.

I've had the privilege of interviewing Pat Sullivan, and I’ve edited this half-hour video down to the most essential 3 1/2 minutes. 


Get Smart with Three Productivity Apps for Sales

GordonMangioneToday’s post is by Gordon Mangione, CEO of Tipbit.


Selling is about wearing out shoe leather. Great sales managers understand this. Long before there were computers or smartphones – maybe even before there were landline phones – the sales manager’s credo was, “Don’t let me catch you in the office too much.” Marking time behind a desk was no way to be productive and close deals.  

With his handy shoe phone, spy detective Maxwell Smart from Get Smart would have been a great salesperson.

The pressure is even greater today to be productive when on the go. As we see a consistent global shift toward mobile platforms for all of our business activities, sales productivity increasingly means being able to stay on top of an endless stream of social media, email, content, and other online-information feeds. Try these three apps to help you save time and become more productive on the road.  

Tipbit is a “smart inbox” app for your mobile email. It integrates email, calendar, and social context and combines all of that with personal search. Tipbit keeps you from toggling among too many apps. For instance, without leaving your calendar, you could find an email with attached documents that were relevant to a specific meeting. Tipbit automatically delivers relevant content to you. If you want to be up-to-date on a key customer before a sales meeting, use the app to review your recent email correspondence, the customer’s social-media activity, and any files in Dropbox that are relevant to your specific meeting.

Cloze is a great tool for keeping up on industry news and competitors without the overwhelming deluge of information. Cloze sorts and manages a selective feed from your social-media platforms, autofiltering all of it according to your specifications. You can prompt it to give you a feed of your professional contacts, selected based on such criteria as company and region.

Newsle tracks colleagues and potential clients in the news,  allowing you to avoid the “buzz” of social media and bringing you “real” news. Newsle doesn’t ignore social completely, however. You can still tweet, post, and search within the feed it gives you, but Newsle gets rid of the “fluff” that can plague social-media platforms. It also auto-imports your contacts from the social platforms you plug into it and allows you to follow public figures to keep track of mentions in blogs and articles.

As a sales professional today, you’re lucky to have your smartphone. Try these three apps to save time that you would have spent searching, filtering, and parsing information yourself. After all, in a mobile world, the adage that a great salesperson is never behind a desk rings truer than ever. These tools will keep you organized and in touch, even when you’re wearing out the shoe leather.

What apps do you use the most, and why? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments section. 

Sales Negotiations: Collaborative vs. Competitive Styles

Behar 146 (2)Today's post is by Norman Behar, Managing Partner, Sales Readiness Group, Inc., a leading professional sales training company that develops customized sales and sales management programs for business-to-business sales organizations.



Much of the advice on how to conduct effective sales negotiations counsels you to use a collaborative sales negotiation style to achieve a "win-win" outcome. And you do want to be thought of as a good person, right? Someone who is not out only for your own gain? Someone who doesn't exploit other people's weaknesses?

There are many times when you work hard to achieve a win-win outcome from your sales negotiations, but there are situations where you are better off to be competitive or even adversarial in your negotiating style.

Collaborative vs. Competitive

Before we get into the question of when to be competitive or collaborative when you negotiate, let's define the outcomes of the two negotiations.

Collaborative negotiating, or achieving a win-win outcome, in sales negotiations generally means an agreement in which both parties get something of value AND they are happy with the outcome. If you arrive at an agreement through a competitive or adversarial process, each party will have gotten something of value (otherwise they shouldn't have agreed), but only one party is happy with the outcome. The other one feels like a schmuck. (Just think of your last auto purchase.)

When should you use a competitive negotiating style? First of all, the issue can't be very important or doesn't have long-term consequences. Second, you either have to get to an agreement quickly or you can postpone the issue. Third, you either don't really need or want the item or issue you are negotiating for, or there are many other suppliers for the item. Fourth, there is a single issue or only a couple issues to negotiate. But key to all of this is that you have no plans to do business with the person or company again.

Let's turn this around and look at when it is in our best interest to use collaborative negotiating. The most important reason that you will use collaborative negotiation is that you want to preserve or enhance your relationship with the customer. You plan on doing business again or continue to enjoy an ongoing relationship that benefits both of you. There are multiple issues on the table. You have sold the customer on the value and superiority of your product or service over other suppliers. You have convinced the customer that he/she needs to act now to achieve his/her goal and you have time to work out the terms of the agreement. And lastly, you will be negotiating issues that are important and have long-term consequences. Because there are long term consequences, at the end of the negotiation, both parties have committed to support the terms of the agreement and make it work.

Techniques that Help Ensure a Win-Win Solution

First of all, both you and the customer want to come to an agreement that helps both of you achieve your individual and mutual goals. If you have done a good job of identifying the customer's priorities, relating and reinforcing the benefits of your product/service that align to those priorities, you probably already have a good idea of the customer's position and the interests behind the position. Often in a large sales negotiation you will have additional stakeholders add other issues (for example, procurement or a CxO), so if you can get prior information on the nature of those issues from your supporter in the company, you can be prepared.

As you offer a trade, you always reinforce the value of that trade by relating the benefit to the customer based on his or her priority. You have to be patient and allow the issues to unfold. You will be holding some of your offers back as will the customer. If you have done effective questioning, research and planning, you can be prepared with what you can trade for the customer's requests for additional consideration. You will not only be patient but also persistent, using the negotiation process to gather additional information on why the customer wants or desires something from you. This is especially important if additional stakeholders with new demands show up after you think you have gotten all the issues identified and perhaps agreed to.

As when you are selling, as you negotiate, you will paint the picture of what it will be like in the future when the customer achieves his or her important goal (and it will be great!). When negotiating you will relate the value of what you trade to the customer, you will let him or her know the total value of what you trade and how that value will be there for a long period of time.

If you can identify multiple issues, you will have a greater ability to provide a creative solution that will benefit the customer than if you negotiate on a single issue such as price. Issues are either tangible or intangible. Tangible issues are easily identified costs, such as cost of goods. Intangible issues can be competitive advantage, time to market or enhanced image. Intangible issues are harder to value, but it offers you the creativity and flexibility to trade something that is of low cost to you (such as consulting hours), but of high value to the customer (improved productivity). Here is a Harvard Gazette article on being open-minded in negotiation to provide creative solutions.

Besides building a stronger relationship and the increased probability of future business, when you use collaborative negotiating, you have an equal partner in supporting the solution. Your customer is as invested as you are in seeing the solution implemented and effective. And as they say, a satisfied customer is a repeat customer.

To answer the question, should you always use a collaborative sales negotiating style? No, only if you want a customer for life.

Is It Time for a Sales Reinvention?

DaveKurlan_75x100Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball. Hear him speak on March 10 at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia.


Companies reinvent themselves all the time. You don’t have to look much further than AT&T, IBM, and NCR to recognize that none of these companies make and sell anything resembling what they made and sold just 40 years ago.

People reinvent themselves too. Just review some of the profiles in your LinkedIn network, and you’re certain to see people doing something completely different from what they were doing 10 years ago.

For some reason, sales forces tend to fall behind in the reinvention department. There are so many experts producing so much content: blogs, videos, newsletters, and e-books. Yet most sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople are often the last to know that things have changed. Despite the fact that the sales profession has changed significantly in just the last six years, I’m still seeing sales forces selling as if they were stuck in a time warp hardwired to 1975.

Sales transformation does not require a complete sales-force makeover. In most cases, only a few changes may be needed to achieve greater effort, efficiency, effectiveness, and results. Here are just six areas in which transformation should be a consideration:

1) Infrastructure. An optimized, milestone-centric sales process will shorten the sales cycle and improve conversion and win rates. Metrics, aligned with milestones and tweaked for desired goals, provide more predictive information, allowing for coaching and correction.

2) Architecture. A reworking of the ratio between sales managers and salespeople will often yield tremendous results. In some industries, moving outside salespeople to the inside significantly decreases costs, allows for a huge increase in conversations and activity, and yields an increase in revenue and profit.

3) Talent Management. An improved sales-recruiting process, creative sourcing, accurate and predictive sales assessments, applicant tracking, and improved interviewing skills and better-defined selection criteria will significantly improve the quality, ramp-up, contribution, success, and tenure of new salespeople.

4) Enablement. Selecting the most sales-friendly and effective tools over the most popular and fashionable tools will help A) fill the pipeline and keep it filled, B) integrate the sales process, and C) make salespeople more efficient. A more consultative methodology will lead to better differentiation from your competition, and getting your sales model right will allow for scaling.

5) Sales Management. An increased emphasis on coaching – specifically the time spent and quality of the coaching conversation – can increase sales by nearly 30 percent. Nothing has as great an impact on sales effectiveness!

6) Human Capital. An emphasis on sales skills and sales DNA will improve the culture of your sales force. The Boston Red Sox, 2013 World Series Champions, taught us about the power of intangibles and its impact on culture. When everyone is committed to the goal, share a rallying cry, and pull for each other, great things happen.

It’s likely that these points all make sense to you. As a matter of fact, you may even think that you are already doing these things – but that’s the biggest trap for sales leaders. They think they’ve got it right when, in reality, not much has changed. Most leaders find it helpful to have an expert review what they’re doing to get third-party confirmation that they do – or don’t – have it right.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 10, I’ll be elaborating on these six areas and helping you ask the right questions to determine whether or not your sales force needs to undergo a sales transformation.