Selling Skills Feed

Read This before You Talk about ROI

Fleming Darrin headshotToday's post is by Darrin Fleming, managing director at Stratavant, which provides strategic marketing and value-based sales and marketing tools for B2B companies. Read the original post here on the Stratavant blog (this version has been slightly edited and is used here with permission).  

How frequently do you use the term “ROI” (return on investment) in front of customers and potential buyers?

I frequently hear sales and marketing professionals talk about ROI inaccurately. In a casual conversation, people might give you the benefit of the doubt and have faith that you know your stuff; however, if you’re making a formal presentation or having a serious conversation with a prospect who’s well versed in financial terminology, misuse of the term could obviously leave a disastrous impression of you and your company on your conversation partner.

For example, I hear both sellers and marketers say things like this all the time: “Your ROI is $100,000.” Here’s why this is incorrect: if you’ve ever expressed ROI in dollars, you’ve likely confused it with net present value (NPV). NPV answers this question: “What is the cash benefit minus the expenses required to achieve the benefit worth in today’s dollars?” ROI is not a dollar amount, it’s a percentage. Specifically, it’s a percentage that represents what your net gain will be on any investment.

ROI = (Gain of Investment – Cost of Investment)/Cost of Investment

In other words, if your benefit is $100 but you spend $50 to achieve that benefit, your ROI is 100 percent.

NPV is still an important consideration because the term takes into account the value of a dollar over time. Let’s say you invest $100,000 with an expected return of $120,000 within the next two months. That investment would be worth more to you than an investment of the same amount of money with an expected return of $120,000 five years from now. The reason is that $120,000 is worth more two months from now than it will be five years from now.

I’ve also heard sellers and marketers say things like this: “You’ll get a six-month ROI with our solution.” Here’s why this is incorrect: if you’ve ever expressed ROI in terms of a period of time, you’ve likely confused ROI with payback period. Again, ROI is always a percentage, never a period of time. If I invest $100,000 in a project, the payback is the length of time it takes for the cumulative benefits to become greater than the cumulative investment. Payback period is always measured in time (typically months).

In my first job out of college, I was an economic evaluator. That meant part of my job was to evaluate capital investments and decide whether they represented a good investment for the company (including evaluating the payback period, NPV, and ROI). So that was where I learned a lot about financial analysis and how to talk about numbers with chief financial officers.

The magic of these financial metrics is that together they give you a great picture of the impact of an investment. Essentially, you can measure ROI on anything. The formula is simply to subtract the cost of your investment from the gain of your investment, and divide it by the cost of your investment. That’s how we’re able to build ROI calculators for so many different scenarios for our clients.

People confuse financial terms all the time, so if you’ve gotten this one wrong in the past, don’t feel bad – just don’t let it jeopardize your ability to close a deal.

What’s your understanding of the term “ROI,” and how frequently does it crop up in your discussions with prospects and clients? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

An Unusual Way to Become a Better Seller

JeffreyLipsiusToday's post is by Jeffrey Lipsius, president of Selling To The Point® Sales Training and Consulting. Email him at





Could a salesperson sell more by applying a mindful approach to selling? Meditation and mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zinn has done much to bring mindfulness practice into the mainstream. He defines mindfulness as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment."

Can mindfulness practice be used to improve sales performance? What does it mean for a salesperson to purposely pay attention in the present moment?

The “present moment” for salespeople is when they’re selling. It's when they’re interacting with customers. The past is their preparation. The future is the outcome.

“Purposely paying attention” means the salesperson chooses to put aside how he or she had prepared for things to go. It also means the salesperson chooses to put aside expectations for a particular outcome. In exchange for setting aside the past and the future, the salesperson pays attention to his or her experience in the present, the customer interaction, as it's unfolding moment to moment. The attention will be nonjudgmental, meaning the salesperson won't deem the interaction to be going well or not going well.

Practicing mindfulness while selling flies in the face of some traditional sales-training assumptions. Traditional sales training puts an emphasis on presentation preparation. It also encourages salespeople to maintain control of customer interactions so that salespeople can create the desired outcome. Could salespeople be more productive putting their preparation and outcome aspirations aside while in the midst of a customer interaction? My answer is a resounding yes.

Mindfulness improves sales performance because the salesperson's attention is on his or her customer interaction as it unfolds moment by moment. This results in interactions with more depth and breadth. Customer interactions are where the rubber meets the road in terms of sales performance. Clinging to presentation preparation and expected outcomes can be as limiting for salespeople as they are helpful.

Mindfulness deepens customer interaction by inspiring buying decisions that the customer helped create. It sounds paradoxical, but it's better for buying decisions to be different from how the salesperson planned. It means the customer's buying fulfilled his or her own reason, rather than a salesperson's predetermined reason. Salespeople can't always be around to remind customers to use, recommend, and reorder their product. Salespeople must rely upon some degree of customer initiative. If a customer feels part of the buying decision, then it’s more likely that customers will follow through after the salesperson leaves.

Practicing mindfulness gives customer interactions more breadth by helping salespeople be more versatile. In the real world, few customer interactions go as planned. A salesperson who is nonjudgmentally paying attention in the moment is best able to respond appropriately. A mindful salesperson's response is unencumbered by dependence on predetermined plans or a narrow limit of acceptable outcomes.

Practicing mindfulness allows salespeople to succeed beyond limits and expectations!

How to Negotiate Successfully through the Sales Process

Marty FinkleToday’s post is by Marty Finkle, CPT, CEO of the Parsippany, New Jersey-based Scotwork North America ( Contact him at



It’s time to make a deal with the prospect, so you unleash your negotiation skills – but by then, it may be too late to make a meaningful difference. You need to incorporate strategic negotiation into the entire sales process, from start to finish, for each lead you qualify.

Be Curious and Ask the Right Questions

Begin by analyzing the key issues from the prospect’s standpoint. Be curious about the person’s intentions, goals, motivation, limits, and areas he or she can be flexible. Some questions to ask:

  • “What are your intended results?”

  • “What type of agreement would make you look good to colleagues at your company?”

  • “What are your priorities when making this purchase, e.g., price, service, or duration of contract?”

  • “On what terms can you be flexible?”

Listen carefully to the responses, and at various points during the negotiation, summarize the other side’s point of view out loud so there are no misunderstandings. These practices may also help you uncover a hidden agenda and recognize when your negotiating partner is ready to close. Plus, you’ll be able to shape your negotiation strategy throughout the rest of the sales process.

Practice 8 Steps to Successful Negotiation

1. Prepare

Clarify your objectives and develop wish and concession lists, while anticipating what will be important to the client.

2. Argue

Rehearse your opening statements, ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and exchange additional information.

3. Signal

Be alert to the prospect’s signals (verbal and nonverbal), which may reveal needs that you didn’t pick up in prior sessions.

4. Propose

Trade with the prospect to secure specific and practical items of greater value to you (e.g., higher prices, longer-term contract, and later deadlines) while conceding items of lesser value.  

5. Package

Give those on the other side what they want – on your terms – and shape your proposal based on any uncovered needs.

6. Bargain

Set a price for the prospect’s demands, and put conditions before offers with this type of statement: “If you agree to sign a two-year contract, then we’ll provide delivery at a 25 percent discount for the first twelve months.”

7. Close

For a trial closing, you can ask, “Are you saying that if we agree to provide delivery at a 25 percent discount for the first twelve months, you’ll sign a two-year contract?” This type of question encourages the prospect to reveal any hidden issues and should enable you to close the negotiation.

8. Agree

Clarify potential ambiguities, and confirm that the terms of the agreement are acceptable and can be implemented by both parties.

Negotiate So Both Sides Come out Smiling

Don’t view success as “we win, you lose,” an approach that won’t lead to long-term relationships. Instead, seek to understand the prospect’s needs so you can offer a practical solution while at the same time getting what’s important to you, such as a longer-term contract, flexibility in service, and ultimately higher revenue.

How to Handle Customers Who are "Considering Other Options"

In case you missed it, here's a video interview I recorded with the great Jeffrey Gitomer. Watch above to see his best tips about how to handle a customer who says he or she is still considering other options.

What do you think of the tips in this video? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Crowdsourcing Lead Generation: 5 Critical Steps

Richard BeedonToday's guest post is by Dick Beedon, founder and CEO of Amplifinity.




There is a new strategy in the field of lead generation. The concept is simple and compelling, and it works. The idea: leverage people (customers, employees, and influencers) and/or companies who can influence your prospects’ buying decisions into a channel or community that drives leads on your behalf. You can call it crowdsourcing lead generation. You can call it a form of social selling. You can call it advocacy marketing – but the goal is the same: to build long-term lead generation channels that consistently drive leads on behalf of your brand.

Think of it as a new paradigm. Today, brands typically think of sales channels (inside sales, direct sales, third party) as channels that actually close business. This new channel sits somewhere between the current models, as it does not actually close business. It drives leads. I call it crowdsourcing lead generation.  

Customers, employees, and influencers are the fastest growing lead generation channel today. Smart brands are starting to ask these constituencies to become part of a channel/community that drives leads on behalf of the brand. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize this community by creating and leveraging their social relationships to generate the highest quality leads and drive new business. In fact, so many brands are doing it now that there is a critical set of proven best practices:  

1.  Determine who influences your prospects’ buying decisions.  

Always look to your customers first. They are great sources of leads, and you have good access to them. Real estate agents can be a good channel for banks, security companies, etc., because they have some influence with new people or families who move into market. If you are selling payroll services, CPAs might be a high-producing channel because they have influence over small businesses, and it is the same with banks. Organizations such as chambers of commerce have influence over a large number of small businesses and can be a great channel.     

2.  Promote, engage, and recruit these advocates into a community/program/channel by motivating and nurturing them.  

Any place you “touch” them is also an optimal opportunity to recruit them, whether it is through an online banner ad after an e-commerce transaction, a sales rep in the field, or an email – but it is important to recruit them into the channel. Think of this as a professional channel/relationship. Ask them to read the overview of your program, sign the terms and conditions, and register to become a part of your team.  

It is very important that you motivate your new advocates by sending regular communications reminding them of the opportunities and encouraging further engagement. Nurturing is a key factor in creating long-term relationships with your advocates and growing the program. Make sure the software you choose to run your advocacy programs can be configured to send nurturing communications, thanking your advocates for their leads and encouraging future participation.

3.  Ask your advocates to give you leads.  

This is a professional sales and marketing channel and deserves to be treated as such. You can drive advocates to the program, but you must ask them to provide leads for your brand, and there are many subtle and unobtrusive ways to do it. Once advocates begin adding value to your business, reward them with cash, points, donations to a charity, special offers, or other forms of recognition deemed most effective.

Don’t forget to continue asking for their help. There is an effective cadence of reminders and communications that have been proven most effective at generating the highest levels of engagement and the greatest numbers of leads. Have a strategy based on proven best practices.

4.  Empower them with multiple sharing tools to make their job easy and convenient.

There’s nothing worse than watching a brand launch an advocacy marketing program designed to crowdsource leads and then realizing it has significantly limited the performance of that program by offering a limited choice of sharing tools. Make mobile, social, digital, and offline sharing available. These tools are vital to your program, and they are also key to tracking and managing your growth.

5.  Track and manage the leads and channel.  

Your advocacy marketing software must be capable of seamlessly dropping the leads into the buy flow and lead flow. In a B2B environment, this feature is a highly effective tool for sales teams. They are traditionally effective at knowing who could influence prospects and drive high-quality leads.  

The major benefit is simple and powerful: you extend your sales team with additional overhead. This team knows when friends are in the market. Another benefit: sales-management teams can measure their progress and motivate their sales teams to both acquire members into the channel and determine how to motivate the channel to drive more leads.

Crowdsourcing lead generation is an important part of growing a big brand today, and once a system is in place to automate the process, it couldn’t be much easier. If you’ve got a product worth referring and customer service worth talking about, then it’s probably time to maximize those assets using your customers, employees, and third-party influencers as a sales and marketing channel.

Every brand has customers, employees, and other influencers who are willing and able to refer leads. Ask them for those leads – they will share them.

Top 10 Steps Salespeople Can Take to Improve

DaveKurlanToday'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.

Baseball players can have some really incredible games, yet there are other days when things just don’t go nearly as well. The players’ timing could be off, their swing can get too long, they may not see the ball clearly, they may move too much, they could drop the back shoulder, they could pull their head off the ball and open their hips or shoulders too quickly, or they could swing too hard. Any one of these things can cause them to hit a weak grounder or pop-up, miss entirely, or just suck – and that’s just the hitting part.

Salespeople can have the same kinds of days.

  • They can sound too tense, serious, or professional.

  • Their timing could be off.

  • They could try too hard.

  • They might be too easily put off.

  • They could be too aggressive.

  • They might ask the wrong question.

  • They might not listen well.

  • They could miss the big opening.

  • They could offend someone.

  • They, too, could just suck.

(And all of that could happen in just the opening phone call!)

The question is, how do we minimize the days when salespeople are ineffective and maximize the days when they are on their game? What would a ballplayer do?

In baseball, players would take lots of batting practice. They watch video; hit off the tee; hit soft toss; hit off a machine; hit against live pitching; practice bunting, hitting to the opposite field, and situational hitting; and more – before and after every game. There’s extra practice between games. That’s what the best baseball players in the world do. They are already elite and working hard to make sure they stay that way. After all, there could be a big contract at stake.

Elite salespeople make up the top 6 percent of the sales population. They practice more than the bottom 74 percent combined! They have sales coaches; push themselves; and prepare for their most difficult sales scenarios by watching videos, role-playing, and reading books, articles, and blogs – a lot.

They are constantly thinking about their opportunities and a valid reason to make a follow-up call, studying their notes, analyzing their competition, strategizing ways to win deals, and they’re role-playing, even if the role play takes place in their own mind. They record their phone calls, listen to how they sound, and identify areas where they could improve. They live in their CRM system. They do the things they dislike first. They don’t allow fear, negative thoughts, or negative people to influence them. They are confident but not overly optimistic. They know that they must question everything they hear. That’s what they do better than anyone else: push back, challenge, question, and question some more – but nicely.

What should you begin doing to improve yourself? Here are the 10 areas for you to consider.

    1. Sales process: Yours should be consistent, effective, milestone-centric, and predictable.

    2. Great tonality: People enjoy talking with you because of how you sound.

  1. Consultative selling: Develop excellent listening and questioning skills.

  2. Qualifying: You know for certain when an opportunity is real.

  3. CRM: You learn how to live in and leverage your CRM application.

  4. Pipeline: It is always stuffed with the right number of opportunities that are the right size.

  5. Persistence: You will make the 10 to 15 attempts to reach the person who is not returning calls or email.

  6. Social selling: You make full use of LinkedIn to leverage your network

  7. Closing: When you have an opportunity to close, you close.

  8. Trusted advisor: Prospects and customers alike view you, not as a vendor, supplier, salesperson, or option, but as a partner or subject matter expert.

In how many of these areas could you improve? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Are Salespeople Born Competitive?

Kevin McGirlToday’s post is by Kevin McGirl, president of sales-i, award-winning business intelligence software that simplifies and improves the sales process.


What brings out our inner Usain Bolt? No, I’m not talking about how fast we can run. I’m talking about that competitive edge and drive to succeed. Are we born with it, or does it emerge when we pick up the phone in our first sales role?

It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot. In an industry such as sales, where a strong stereotype of the typical employee exists, can we determine whether it is the job that forms the personality or the personality that is destined for the job?

Recently, I set out to find an answer and, along with my company, surveyed 254 sales professionals across the United States and United Kingdom. The results showed that a salesperson’s personality and subsequent career may be decided from an early age.

Kevin McGirl blog post INFOGRAPHIC  (1)

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Sixty-eight percent say they were made to earn their pocket money as a child.

  • Thirty-one percent were first employed at age 13.

  • Seventy percent belonged to at least one school sports team.

  • Thirty-six percent selected “competitive” as a principal childhood characteristic. Qualities including “social,” “driven,” and “positive” were also indicated.

  • Ninety-two percent have at least one sibling (39 percent have more than three), and 38 percent are the eldest (eldest children tend toward diligence).

  • Sixty-six percent were popular at school. Only 7 percent were unpopular, while 3 percent say they were bullied.

  • In the United States, 55 percent of those with a parent working in sales chose sales as a first career choice.

When analyzing these results, I thought it useful to get a psychologist’s point of view. Enter professor Cary Cooper, CBE, from the United Kingdom. He confirmed that the survey reveals an unmistakable personality type for salespeople and commented that what’s really important for salespeople is to define themselves as competitive, driven, pragmatic, and confident.

This “unmistakable personality type” is something that employers might want to look for in candidates when hiring. Making the wrong hire is costly to the business, so if a future selling star can be identified by his or her personality, then great!

Sadly, reality is never as simple as that; hiring someone who fits a profile won’t guarantee striking employee gold, and I caution anyone from hiring a person based purely on confidence. I know plenty of confident, driven people who would struggle in a sales role. I also know people who, while quiet and demure in their personal lives, are selling gods in their professional ones.  

Ultimately, it is the sales manager’s responsibility to tease the best out of the team. Personality will get someone only so far, and whether a person is competitive or not, he or she will still need the right training, plenty of support, and the right technology to succeed. In fact, of the salespeople we spoke to, 57 percent told us that nurturing by managers and team leaders has helped them improve their selling ability.

So what’s the real takeaway from this survey? Good, nurturing leaders are key to a team’s success. Yes, a person with a particular personality type is more likely to end up working in sales, but personality doesn’t promise success. Concentrate on up-skilling staff, giving team members the tools they need to succeed and nurturing their talent, and you’ll soon find yourself with a high-performing sales team that meets and exceeds targets month after month.

Why Salespeople Should Ask the Big Questions

Bill Dellecker Today’s post is by Bill Dellecker, president of Austin Outdoor. It appeared originally on the Austin Outdoor blog and is used here with permission.




If you don’t ask, who will?  What’s the price of remaining silent?  Will you miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime?

The world is a busy place, and it’s not going to slow down to figure out what you want.  It’s up to you to use your voice and ask about the things that matter most to you.  

  • Do you remember the days when you had to ask your parents for permission to do something?

  • As you grew up, did you learn how to ask teachers to explain a subject one more time or in a different way,  or did you ever ask an expanded question?

  • Have you asked someone on a date or for a lifelong commitment?

  • Do you know how to ask a team member to find a way to produce more?

  • Are you willing to ask the “hard questions,”  or do you avoid them?

  • Have you asked what success looks like to those with whom you work?

  • Are you willing to dig deep and ask more of yourself?

  • Do you make sure to always ask why?

  • If you ask a question but the answer isn’t what you expect (or want), what happens next?

  • Do you really want to know the answer when you ask, “How are you doing?”  (If not, why ask?)

  • Are you willing to ask yourself to step up, to do more?  What inspires you to push yourself to accomplish more?

  • Have you ever asked a customer what’s most important to him or her?  How about a family member?

  • When you ask someone to do something, does that person know why?  Shouldn’t he or she know why?

If you’re not willing to ask the questions, then how will you know what others care most about?  More importantly, how will you know what direction to take with your own life and career?  The answer may be yes, no, or maybe, but it’s most certainly equal to a no if you never ask the question in the first place!

Success and happiness begin with asking great questions but depend upon listening to the answers – and then actually doing something with them!  

What have you asked about today? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Two Tactics to Get Your Prospecting Email Opened

Sue HCToday’s guest post is by Sue Hershkowitz-Coore.




At this moment, I have 135 emails in my inbox. I admit to using my inbox as my to-do list, and you may be a “zero-email inboxer.” Either way, we are both being strategic about the email we deal with and how we deal with it.

Whether your prospects favor one extreme or the other, the only way to persuade them to read, archive, or act (hallelujah!) on your email message is to keep it concise and totally relevant. 

Tactic #1: Respect your customer.

The clearest sign of respect is to show value for time.  A long email filled with product features or one that doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than to toot the writer’s horn is just wrong, but even a concise email can be disrespectful.

Here is an example of a concise sales effort gone bad:

Hi Name,

I trust this email finds you well. We would like to secure a date to come and an discuss opportunities. How does your calendar look the week of January 6, 2014?



The first sentence is the tip off. Instead of providing an authentic touch point, the email begins with a throwaway sentence. More than that, it reads as if the writer is living in the 19th century! He “trusts” the email finds the recipient well? Who talks like that?

The next sentence is all about the writer and his opportunities. It provides no motivation for the buyer. Oh, and the typos were part of the original email.

The last sentence provides a semi-action. How does my calendar look, you ask? Busy. Very, very busy.

Respect customers by crafting a brief message that helps them see the value in taking precious time to talk to you. Help them understand why it might be to their advantage to meet with you.

And don’t make them take the next step! Make their life easy. Offer to phone them the week of January 6, and suggest that, if there is a time that is most convenient for them, you’ll follow up as they suggest. Take control and make them feel safe in advancing their buying process with you.

Tactic #2: Be relevant.

Upon receiving a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 12 sleeping rooms for one night and a boardroom with accompanying food and beverage, the eager salesperson emailed back:

Thank you for your request! When you see our new 241-slip marina, you will know you made a great choice selecting ABC Hotel.

What? Did the RFP mention a flotilla, and I just missed that part? (And how inauthentic, as an RFP indicates only a consideration of the hotel, not a commitment to select it!)

Just because you are excited about an aspect of your product or service doesn’t mean your customers will be. Align your messaging with what matters to them, not to what excites you. When you can transfer the passion you feel for your product to passion for the prospect’s success, you will enjoy unlimited success.

How to Get Better Responses to Sales Emails

LisaRussellToday's guest post is by Lisa Russell, director of marketing at PointDrive.



We know the value of in-person meetings. You can quickly gauge your audience’s interest, get a read on who the key decision makers are, and see which of your materials most attracts them.

In-person meetings are highly effective. They’re also expensive and time consuming. In part, that accounts for the rise in inside sales teams, which can rake in new customers at 40 to 90 percent lower cost than field sales reps, according to ZS Associates and Harvard Business Review.

Email and conference calls are great ways to reach lots of people with very little investment in time and travel expenses, but everyone uses communication platforms such as email to try to reach prospects and customers. The result is clogged sales pipelines. You email a presentation, sales pitch, or proposal to a client and hear nothing back for weeks (or ever). Selling with a smile and a handshake will not be what it once was, but the good news is that the era of digital selling is still evolving.

Imagine, for example, being able to access more information about your customer’s behavior without leaving your desk. What if you could be instantly alerted via email to a real-time report of how your prospect interacted with your materials? How about gaining the ability to know whenever a prospect or customer

* clicks a link;

* views a PDF, image, or document;

* forwards your materials to a colleague;

* fails to open your presentation at all.

These are the kinds of metrics offered by our PointDrive Insights solution. We find that, once salespeople are armed with this kind of information, they gain far more control over the next steps in the deal cycle.

Gone are the days of simply crossing your fingers as you send your email. With technology such as PointDrive, the metrics behind each presentation provide you with the ability to make more intelligent, real-time decisions. Knowing the instant recipients have viewed your presentation and which assets they've opened allows you to be quicker, more informed, and more prepared for your follow-up. The result is a better match between the customer and you – in real time.

Read about one user's experience with PointDrive.