Have You Heard of the Telephone?

The greatest sales tool ever invented is not social media. It’s not LinkedIn. It’s not NLP. It’s not SPIN Selling or some other formal sales process. It’s not Salesforce.com or other CRM software. It’s not the fax machine. It’s not the iPhone. And, it’s certainly not email. Those all are great tools, but they are not the best. No, the greatest sales tool ever invented is the telephone.

If you’re like most people, you’ll do anything you can to avoid making an outbound call. It’s so much easier to send an email. There’s no risk.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked, “Have you talked to so-and-so?” only to hear, “I sent him an email last week.”

Really? That’s the best a salesperson can do? Send an email and wait? What if your email didn’t go through? What if your customer or prospect accidentally deleted it? What if they are on vacation but do not use an out-of-office auto responder? What if they are interested but forgot to reply? What if they have 1,500 emails in their inbox and haven’t seen yours yet?

“OK, you’re right, Noah. I’ll send them another email.”

“Hey, sales guy, have you heard of the telephone?”

Let’s look at why email is so attractive to weak salespeople:

  • It’s non-confrontational
  • You don’t have to think on your feet
  • It’s “non-intrusive”
  • You can send it any time
  • It doesn’t hurt as much when they say no
  • If they don’t reply, you can blame them

And now let’s look at why you may shy away from the phone:

  • Reluctance – You’ve been blown off before, turned down before, and hurt before. You don’t want that feeling again.
  • Fear – What if you blow it? What if you never get a second chance? What if you say something stupid?
  • Procrastination – You’ll get around to calling people when you’ve finished all your paperwork, responded to all your internal company email, and had lunch. Right after you find a few other things to fill your day with.
  • Inconvenience – You don’t want to “bother” them.
  • Timing – It’s the day before the holiday or the day after the holiday. It’s their busy season. It’s their slow season. It’s too early in the morning or too late at night. It’s Monday. It’s Tuesday. It’s Wednesday. It’s Thursday. It’s Friday. You get the point. If you think you’re bothering someone, you’re bothering them. If you have nothing of value to offer, you’re going to bother them no matter when you call.

If you send an email instead of calling you increase your chances of being turned down. The prospect has too many options and too many ways to say no to you. They can choose not respond at all. They can be downright rude to you without fear of having to hear your reaction.  So, the next time you have a lead – pick up the phone and call them.

When’s the best time to follow-up on a lead? Right now. One second after you get the lead. Don’t email them. Call them. Your prospect is the most excited they’ll ever be right now. With every second that passes your prospect loses interest. They have the opportunity to call your competitor. They have time to change their mind. They have time to Google you and your company and uncover negative feedback.

The longer you wait, the harder it gets. It’s harder to sell, it’s harder to overcome the fear of calling, it’s harder to reach them, and it’s harder to impress your prospect with your responsiveness.

To rise to level of master salesperson, you must master the usage of the telephone. Not how to dial it, but how to leverage it as your best method of increasing your sales.

I’ve got good news for you: over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing articles that will help you to overcome your reluctance, discover new ways to use the phone to land appointments and find new customers, differentiate yourself from the competition to become perceived as a value-provider rather than a cold-caller, and uncover a few tips and tricks along the way.

Check out a few titles from this series below:

Outbound Calling is Not Cold Calling

To Leave or Not to Leave a Voicemail

Answer the Phone!

What Your Voicemail Greeting Should Sound Like

How to Get Their Phone Number

How to Get Past the Receptionist


Be sure to stay tuned!


Yours in Sales,


photo credit: dave bradley photography

The New Guy

There’s an interesting thing that happens when you hire someone new.

There’s a new guy in the office. And everyone knows him as the new guy.

The new guy asks questions. Hard-hitting questions. He doesn’t know any better.

The new guy pushes buttons. He doesn’t know any better.

The new guy challenges the status quo. He doesn’t know any better.

The new guy comes to the table with how things were at his last job and how he thinks things should be at your company. And, foolishly, you ignore the new guy. You dismiss his suggestions as naivety. Don’t worry, he’ll fall in line soon enough. He’ll quiet down when he realizes you won’t give him the freedom to try new things, to implement new ideas, or to present his plans at your meetings.

Maybe the problem is that you know too much. You know what works, and you know what doesn’t. Maybe your knowledge of what can go wrong is preventing you from getting things right.

Instead of hoping that the new guy gets used to the way things are, work hard to leverage his excitement and ideas – they’re often more creative than anything you’ve thought of.



photo credit:  getty images, uniquely india

Are You an Order Taker or a Salesperson?

There’s an argument going on and it’s time for me to weigh in. For years I’ve heard managers complain that their salespeople are “lazy order takers.” I’ve witnessed teammates jab at one another by delivering the lowest of all low-blow insults: “You’re nothing but an order taker.”

So what’s so wrong with being an order taker?

Better yet, what’s the difference between an order taker and a salesperson?

The difference, in my not-so-humble opinion, lies not in the title but in the attitude, the approach, and the effort of the individual. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive. Between giving a prospect a quote and giving a prospect a show. It’s a combination of attributes and qualities rather than a scientific definition. Let’s compare:

Order taker
• Reactive.
• Borders on passive.
• “Call me if you decide you want it.”
• Waits for the phone to ring.
• Does what the customer asks.
• Gives great information.
• Can make a decent living.

• Proactive.
• Follows up.
• Asks for the sale…every time.
• Makes the phone ring.
• Does what’s best for the customer.
• Gets great information.
• Can make a fortune.

Perhaps the best way to truly identify the difference between an order taker and a salesperson is to consider the difference between a bartender and a sommelier. A bartender (like an order taker) waits behind the bar for customers, and fulfills requests for drinks on demand. But a sommelier, that’s a different story. A sommelier is more consultative in nature, asking questions of their customers, and making a final recommendation based on their customers’ responses. A sommelier combines their product knowledge with their ability to uncover buying motives.

So which are you?

Bartender or sommelier?

Order taker or salesperson?

Which would you like to be?

Pick your title. Then go earn it in the eyes of your customers.


photo credit: Jacobs Photography

Show Up Prepared

Woody Allen says, “80% of success is showing up.

Woody Allen is wrong.

He should say, “Showing up will make you 80% successful.

It’s like getting to the 80-yard-line and then not scoring. It doesn’t count for much. And, it’s the equivalent of getting 80% of the way through your sales cycle and finding out your prospect is going with your competition.

I don’t know anyone in sales that wants to be 80% successful. If you are happy with almost winning the sale, stop reading now and go back to watching Dancing With The Stars or American Idol.

Oh, you’re still reading? Good. Let’s get to work.

The secret to success is showing up prepared. There are many ways to prepare for a meeting or sales call. This post is focused on LinkedIn because it’s my favorite place to start and often the best source of insight. Not every prospect uses LinkedIn, however, so learn these strategies and apply them to other technologies and other sources of information. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are great as well. Keep in mind that often the best source for information is your own offline network. Who do you know that knows your prospect? Somebody knows something. All you have to do is ask the right questions.

LinkedIn is one of the best ways to ensure that you are prepared in terms of your prospect. Most salespeople spend too much time memorizing their PowerPoint deck and every feature and benefit of their product or service, and not enough time (think, none) preparing intelligent questions or searching for commonalities that will help them to connect on a personal level. But not you…not anymore. What you will be able to accomplish in under fifteen minutes will take days, weeks, or even months off your average sales cycle.

Assuming you already know your prospect’s name and company, follow the steps below in advance of your next sales call or meeting.

Find your prospect on LinkedIn. Click through to the profile and look for:

How you’re connected to your prospect. Often, you’ll find that you are a 2nd or 3rd degree connection and that you have a mutual connection that you can reach out to for insight and the inside scoop.

Previous employment. Has your prospect worked with or worked for anyone that you know? Have you done business with a former employer? Perhaps you worked for the same company at some point?

Education. Do you love the school football team? Do you hate the school football team? Did you go to the same school? Did your prospect earn a degree that is completely unrelated to her current position? For instance, I look for people who attended law school but do not practice. Or a VP of Sales that studied molecular biology. Makes for a fun conversation.

Websites. Does your prospect have a blog or link to a non-profit organization or foundation? If so, click! Read the blog and print a post or two out to bring with you to your meeting. Same thing about the social cause – be prepared to ask questions about your prospect’s involvement.

Twitter. Many LinkedIn users list their Twitter account. Click on it and uncover what your prospect likes to tweet about. Is it something related to business or does your prospect tweet about a hobby or personal interest?

Status. What is your prospect working on? What has your prospect commented on?

Recent activity. This gives you an understanding of how active your prospect is on LinkedIn. If there’s no activity, that’s an indicator that your prospect is a passive user and that you’ll have to do a little more digging to find out what’s new.

Interests. If you’re meeting with the VP and your prospect lists fine wine or marathons, it’s time to study up. People love to talk about their passions, and this is your opportunity to uncover the path to your prospect’s heart. Come prepared with relevant information and questions.

Groups and Associations. What groups does your prospect belong to? Anything look familiar to you? Are you members of the same group? Are there groups listed that stand out as unique or unexpected?

Honors and Awards. How is prospect known within his industry? Is there something recent that you can congratulate her on?

Recommendations. What do others say about working with your prospect? What is he known for? What value does she provide?

Additional applications. Some LinkedIn users will turn on the Amazon.com, WordPress, LinkedIn Events, TripIt, or SlideShare applications (to name a few). If so, you’re in luck. Check to see what books your prospect has read recently and be prepared to ask engaging questions about how your prospect has used something he’s learned from that book in his business. Has your prospect traveled somewhere you have been (or perhaps to your birthplace)? What events has your prospect attended recently?

Sound like a lot? It is. A lot of gold. And it’s all on one page, right in front of your face. With a little practice it will take you only a few minutes to uncover enough insight to warm up a prospect at a first meeting.

I’ll make you one guarantee: you walk in armed with the information you gather from your prospect’s LinkedIn profile and you will instantly differentiate yourself from the 98% of salespeople (think, your competition) that show up and “wing it.” And, being prepared with engaging questions sure beats looking at the walls in your prospect’s office trying to come up with something pithy to say about bass fishing.

Small Talk is for Small Sales.

“How’s the weather over there?”

“Enjoying the heat?”
“Did you see the game last night?”
“Man, it’s sure raining out there!”

Chatter. Chitchat. Babble. Blabber. Jabber. Small talk.

Anything about the weather, television, movies, or sports…it’s all small talk.

Small talk is conversation for conversation sake. Small talk is meaningless yapping about nothing at all. Small talk is safe, but it accomplishes nothing of value. It’s a restatement of the obvious. Small talk is for small sales.

What you need is something more meaningful. Something more engaging. A conversation starter, not a time-waster. A warm-up for the sale, not a nervous exchange. A thought-provoking start, not a bunch of fluff. What you need is a great open that puts you on the path to making a sale, instead of making small talk. Can you imagine going back to your office saying, “Hey Boss, I didn’t make the sale…but we really agreed about the fact that it’s been so hot lately!”

Eliminate the small talk from your sales process and you’ll be on your way to earning bigger sales.

Instead of five minutes of “winging it” or “shooting the breeze,” walk in ready to rock with a focused line of questioning that gets your prospect thinking and engaged in conversation about things that earn you respect, the right to come back again and, a better shot at making the sale.
The more thought-provoking your conversation, the more likely you are to become perceived as a person of value. The more valuable you become, the less you will be perceived as a salesperson. For why you should do anything and everything to become perceived as anything other than a salesperson, read The Stigma of Sales.

A few more thoughts:
1. The deeper your relationship with your prospect or customer, the deeper your conversations will be. That’s a report card for your chances of earning the sale.

2. How well you open determines whether you’ll close. When salespeople ask me what’s the most important part of the sales process, I always answer “The approach!”

3. To prepare your prospect for a more productive discussion, send a brief agenda in advance of your meeting. Nothing too formal…just some bullet points so that your prospect knows where you’re going together.

4. The best way to engage a prospect in a meaningful conversation is by asking powerful questions. It’s not “Hi, Bob, how are you doing today?” It’s “Bob, how did you get started in this business?” or “Bob, what are you most proud of in your role here?” Check out Don’t Ask. Don’t Sell. for guidelines for creating your own power questions.

5. Come with a few ideas for your prospect. Ideas about them and their business. Ideas about their productivity, profitability, efficiency or image. Bring big ideas, because big ideas lead to big sales.

Prepare for your next sales call. Create a plan. Write and rehearse your questions in advance. And walk out of your next meeting with the only thing that counts – THE SALE!

image credit: RubberBall Productions

Manage Yourself. Lead Your People.

This week I’ve decided to share a webinar that I delivered for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association on leadership and management. It’s a combination of my own experience as a sales leader, VP of Sales, CEO, and understudy of Jeffrey Gitomer and his latest book, “The Little Book of Leadership: The 12.5 Strengths of Responsible, Reliable, Remarkable Leaders That Create Results, Rewards, and Resilience.”

Here’s a taste of what you’ll get if you watch the entire show, starting at 4:55 & ending at 46:52 (If you’re watching on a Mac, you might need to download Flip4Mac)

The secret to becoming a great leader begins with an understanding of:

  • The difference between compliance and commitment. You may be able to “get someone to do something” but that’s a short-lived win and a telltale sign of poor engagement. I don’t want a bunch of yes men working for me. I want engaged, passionate, dedicated people who are willing to fight for what they believe is right. I don’t want people who comply with my commands – I want people who are committed to doing what’s best for the company and for the customer every time.
  • The difference between a manager and a coach. Managers are needed for supervisory purposes in industries that require remedial tasks. And even that’s a stretch. Nobody really wants or needs a manager. What they need is a coach. Think of the greatest coaches of all time: Vince Lombardi. John Wooden. Pat Riley. Joe Torre. I’ll bet you can name 25 off the top of your head. Now name the greatest managers of all time. Go ahead. Can’t think of one? That’s because managers are forgotten. Coaching and leading leaves a legacy.
  • The difference between motivation and inspiration. Dr. Bob Nelson wrote, “You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.” I couldn’t agree more. Great coaching leads to employees who perform well even when the boss is away. Motivation is temporary; inspiration is forever. And the key is to inspire your people to win for themselves – not for you.
  • The difference between expectation and encouragement. This is the difference between “You better do this or you’re fired” and “I know you can do it…I’m behind you every step of the way.” You’ll get far more out of your people as a result of your support, your help, and your encouragement. People like a little chanting from the crowd. Be their support network, not their taskmaster.
  • The difference between telling and showing. “Do as I say, not as I do” is the oldest and most trite parenting technique in the history of mankind. It’s also the most ridiculous thing you could ever say to your kids. Your kids watch you, they emulate you, they follow you. So do your employees. Lead by example is not just good advice – it’s a standard by which the best coaches and leaders (and parents) live.
  • The difference between negative and positive reinforcement. Both are (sometimes) required. But positive reinforcement should be given publicly, and negative privately. Try catching your people doing something right for a chance. You just might like what happens next – they’ll do more right things more often!
  • The difference between quitting a job and quitting a boss. If you say, “Bill quit,” you’re only one-third right. “Bill quit ME,” is two-thirds right. But the reality is that you were fired by your own employee. People don’t quit jobs. They quit bosses.

Note well: If you understand and agree with what I’ve written above, you’re ready to begin your evolution. Coaching is an action. It’s a process. It’s not a title. It’s an honor that your employees and colleagues bestow upon you. And it only comes after you have established a track record of your own dedication, your own commitment, your own performance, and your ability to bring out the best in everyone.

Ready to get started? Great! Now keep in mind that “Coaching is 90% attitude and 10% technique.” Author Unknown

How’s your attitude? Are you an upper or a downer? What tone do you set when you walk in the door each morning? Let me guess: your attitude is just fine – it’s the people who work for you that have the bad attitudes. They just always seem to ruin your mood. Here’s a hint: you are completely in control of your attitude. And, as a leader, you can influence the attitude of your people (and, therefore, their performance) by creating an environment in which positive attitude is revered and people with negative or toxic attitudes are voted off the island.

Six Secrets of Sales Success

I recently conducted a sales training day for a little over one hundred automotive parts professionals. Two hours in, somebody slipped me a note that read, “What’s the secret to success?”

I responded, “Two words – hard work.”

Somehow I think the audience felt cheated, so I decided to continue.

“Want a more in-depth answer?” I asked. “Work your tail off.”

The reality is that salespeople often look for shortcuts. They want the easiest path to success (aka commission checks).

Here’s the good news: there are no shortcuts. If you want to win, you’ve got 
to be willing to work harder than your competition.

Sure, sometimes luck plays a role. But, as Jeffrey Gitomer often reminds 
me, “Hard work makes luck.”

Success in selling means destroying your quota. It means having a closing 
ratio that exceeds that of your teammates and your competitors. Success in
 selling means becoming your best, earning customer loyalty, and not having 
to cold call.

Success is the reward you get when you think the right thoughts, when you take the right actions, when you bounce back from adversity, when you fully dedicate yourself to your craft, and when you do the hard work it takes to become known as a value provider and resource rather than simply “sales guy.”

I have studied thousands of successful salespeople across hundreds of industries. While many of these salespeople have their own definition for success, most of them agree on what it takes to get there.

Here are the six secrets to sales success:

1. Work hard. Really hard. The world doesn’t owe you anything. Nor does your boss. The only one who owes anyone anything is YOU. You owe it to yourself to skip tomorrow’s episode of Dancing with the Stars and instead make a half-dozen sales calls.

2. Start early, stay late. Don’t worry about how many hours you’re working. Hit your numbers and then look for ways to become more efficient. But first, hit your numbers.

3. If you’re not getting what you want, you’re probably not asking for it. So, ask for it. Ask your customers, your boss, your prospects.

4. Find your passion. Success in selling has more to do with your confidence, your belief system, and your passion than anything else. If you’re not passionate about your company, your product, and your ability to help your customers, you’ll never be successful.

5. Put “sales calls” and “cold calling” in your appointment book. If your iPhone or Droid or PDA doesn’t have an hour blocked for outbound sales efforts each day, you don’t have a shot. You’re not going to ever “get to it” or “squeeze it in.” You’re busy. You’ve got paperwork. You’ve got inbound phone traffic to handle. If you intend to make sales calls, put them in your calendar. Otherwise, get out of sales.

6. Take risks. Playing it safe will ensure that you have a job forever. Taking calculated risks will help you to earn a fortune. Put yourself out there. Take your shot. Reach out and sell something!

Taking a little liberty, I opine that success is a journey, not a destination. It’s a journey through consistent positive action, dedicated effort, and endless pursuit of improvement.

When You Need a New Idea, Often an Old One is Better

I’m an avid reader of sales books. Sometimes, I find a concept that was created hundreds of years ago that just needs a little adjustment before it is relevant in today’s world. And, sometimes, I read something a hundred years old that is just as relevant today as it was when it was written.

I recently re-read Napoleon Hill’s How to Sell Your Way Through Life and was amazed at how on point nearly the entire book seemed. One particular section really spoke to me. I intended to revise and comment on it for this week’s Ark of Sales article, but the more work I put into the process, the less powerful the piece became. And that’s when it hit me: the times may have changed, but salespeople today are making the same excuses that sales people in Napoleon Hill’s day did. Therefore, I’ve decided to share this powerful piece with you as it originally ran.

As you read this, think about your own career, your own habits, and your own personality. Do you have what it takes to succeed in sales?

Here it is, a direct excerpt, from Napoleon Hill’s 1939 classic:

The Major Weaknesses in Personality and Habits of Salesmen

Success in selling is the result of positive qualities that one must possess and use. Failure in selling is the result of negative qualities that should be eliminated. Among the more outstanding negative qualities are the following:

1. The habit of procrastination. There is no substitute for prompt and persistent action.

2. One or more of the six basic fears. The man whose mind is filled with any form of fear cannot sell successfully. The six basic fears are:
a. The fear of poverty
b. The fear of criticism
c. The fear of ill health
d. The fear of loss of love of someone
e. The fear of old age
f. The fear of death

To this list of basic fears should, perhaps, be added fear that the prospective buyer will bite the salesman.

3. Spending too much time making calls instead of sales. A call is not an interview. An interview is not a sale. Some who call themselves salesmen have not learned this truth.

4. Shifting responsibility to the sales manager. The sales manager is not supposed to go with the salesman to make calls. He has not enough hours or legs to do this. His business is to tell the salesman what to do, not to do it for him!

5. Perfection in creating alibis. Explanations do not explain. Orders do! Nothing else does! Don’t forget that!

6. Spending too much time in hotel lobbies. A hotel lobby is a fine place to “park” but the salesman who parks there too long is bound to get walking papers sooner or later.

7. Buying hard-luck stories instead of selling merchandise. The Business Recession is a common topic of discussion, but don’t let the purchasing agent use it to switch your mind from your own story.

8. Imbibing too freely the night before. Parties are exciting, but they do not add to the following day’s business.

9. Depending on the sales manager for prospects. Order takers expect prospective buyers to be hog-tied and held down until they arrive. Master Salesmen catch their own prospects on the wing. This is one of the chief reasons why they are Master Salesmen.

10. Waiting for business conditions to pick up. Business is always good with the robins, but they do not wait for someone to dig the worms out of the ground. Be at least as clever as a robin! Orders are not being slipped under the salesman’s door this year.

11. Hearing the word “no.” This word, to a real salesman, is only a signal to begin fighting. If every buyer said “yes,” salesmen would have no jobs, for they would not be needed.

12. Fearing competition. Henry Ford has plenty of competition, but he apparently does not fear it because he had the courage and ability to turn out an eight-cylinder car at an amazingly low price during a period in which many motor manufacturers were retrenching.

13. Devoting too much time to the “poultry” business. The only sort of chickens that lay eggs are the feathered variety, and they roost on farms, not on Broadway or Main Street!

14. Reading the stock market reports. Let the suckers bite at this bait. You may be smart enough to dodge the hook, but think how the sales manager would feel if you won a fortune on the stock market and quit the house, as 1 out of every 10,000 who play the market do—sometimes!

15. Plain pessimism. The habit of expecting that the prospective buyer will give you the gate is likely to result in your getting it. Life has a queer way of trying to please. It usually gives that which is expected!

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