Simple Sales Tracking Blog

Do you set the Sales Meeting Agenda or does the Prospect?

Today we will look at how we bridge the gap between introduction and uncovering the buyer’s need, which of course is the primary aim of the sales interview. If we are to be able to add any value through our solutions a way to do this is to set an agenda.

By setting an agenda at the start it helps the prospect to understand what will happen and what the outcomes of the meeting will be. It will also show them that you have structure, particularly important when dealing with analytical buyers.

Sales meeting agendas are either set by you or you let the prospect set them. The trouble with letting the prospect set them is their agenda is to deal with you as quickly as possible as their time is generally very limited.

Studies have shown that most senior managers have at least 56 hours of work in front of them. The more direct type of prospects will come straight to the point and might ask questions such as:

What do you offer?
What can you do for me?
How much will it cost?

The trap for many of us is we mistake these questions for buying signals and launch right into our sales presentation. This is what I refer to as “premature presentation”. This has killed many sales before they ever got off the ground.

If we can define the steps in our sales process which consistently lead to sales we can follow these methodically and therefore achieve predictable results.

An agenda might look something like this:

• A brief statement about the purpose of the meeting and the likely outcome
• A value statement about our company and service/product (25 words or less – less is more!)
• Then onto asking them your prepared questions

This is an interview the purpose of which is to uncover a specific need you can help this prospect with. It is not a sales pitch. A sales pitch is basically a “show and tell” where the seller ends up doing most of the talking after asking some routine questions and establishing a few of what I term “surface needs”. The flaw in this type of presentation is it is very difficult to show a return on investment for the buyer.

Business owners need to see a clear return on investment as there is generally a large amount of risk in their mind when considering changing to another provider. Therefore we need to minimize the risk or eliminate it entirely to changing to our solution.

Imagine if I offered you a rock for $10,000, your initial reaction might be “how ridiculous”, however if I then provided a certified jewelers valuation identifying it as a 9 carat uncut diamond then the risk of the purchase would have been eliminated and the real value established – making it easier for you to make the buying decision.

So coming back to the opening – this is the most critical part of your sales process as this is where the sale is made and the stage is set for closing the sale.

We will continue with this subject in my next article.

Key Action –

Write a value statement in 25 words or less about what you do.

Quote of the Week –

“A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it”

Henry Ford

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy,

What Is Your Sales Impression?

As has been discussed in earlier articles, sales teams need to have a process to follow when presenting to new prospects to ensure more consistent closing ratios.

In my experience very few companies I have seen have taken the time to identify the most effective process for selling their products or services which brings me to a sales principle which states:

“For every product category and market segment there is a best practice sales process which ensures optimum sales”

The key is to identify what creates sales and what doesn’t and develop the process into a standard operating procedure.  This will only come about through measurement.

Unfortunately without a process salespeople are left to their own resources and do the best they can.  These same salespeople are given sales targets to meet and budgets to achieve without the sales formula/process to follow and spend most of their time “flying by the seat of their pants”.

So if we agree we need to have a formulated approach to our sales the process could look something like this –

-Introductions and pleasantries
-Agenda set
-Discover needs through prepared questions
-Discussing solutions
-Ask for commitment

Let’s look at introductions and pleasantries.  This is the most critical phase of the whole sales process as the decision to buy from you will be made in the first few minutes of meeting you. The fact that we make decisions about people so quickly is just part of human nature.

Research done with 267 Human Resource Managers from the Fortune 500 companies in America showed that on average they decided that a candidate would get the position being applied for within 40 seconds of meeting them.  They then went on to conduct exhaustive tests and interviews to prove they had made the right choice. 

Think of your own attitudes – have you ever had the experience where you have met someone for the first time and taken an instant dislike to them?   The fact is we don’t buy from people we don’t like!

The keys to this phase are to be on time or 5 minutes early, be professionally presented, have professional tools e.g. high quality compendium, a good quality pen, professional looking business cards, rate cards etc.   There is nothing worse than asking someone for their business card and they pull a dog-eared looking card out of their wallet and hand it over!   Your dress and stationary need to be appropriate to the type of clients you are presenting to.     I was meeting with a senior executive recently and suggesting the company invest in some very good quality leather compendiums for their sales team.   He very graciously pointed out that the majority of their clients were intent on preserving nature – we agreed a recyclable/hessian type compendium would be the order of the day!

You look good, you are on time – now what do you say?

The old school sales trainers would suggest you identify something the buyer may be interested in through observation e.g. they may have a marlin mounted on their office wall – most salespeople would begin by commenting on the fish.  I believe there is a factory in China producing these fish to sell to buyers as an accessory to catch newby salespeople who are trying to build rapport!

My recommendation if you are serious about helping the prospect is to thank them for their time, mention your referral source and then get down to business.

Most prospects are short of time and have answered the same fish questions hundreds of times before– respect their time.

We will look at how to set the agenda of your sales meeting in my next article.

Quote of the Week:

Most people think “selling” is the same as “talking”.   But the most effective salespeople
know that listening is the most important part of their job.

                                                                                          Roy Bartell 

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

What Is Your Sales Confidence Level?

Confidence is a huge issue for many salespeople.

Following on from my last article regarding order takers and their comfort zones, my focus today is around the issue of confidence. This is something that always comes up when discussing prospecting for new business.

The truth is not many salespeople feel absolutely comfortable in approaching new prospects with the sole purpose of selling them their product or service.

Confidence comes from knowledge. With salespeople there are two types of knowledge that they must have. The first is they must have a thorough understanding of the products and services they offer and just as importantly the application of these. The next type of knowledge is based around a complete understanding of sales planning, prospecting, and presentation processes.

Firstly let’s look at the sales presentation, or as I like to call them sales interviews as in today’s selling environment our goal at the first meeting is not to present but rather to interview the prospect to uncover explicit needs that we can possibly help with. So if we agree that it is a sales interview then we need to have a list of prepared questions to ask the prospect.

Some interesting statistics I uncovered from a US Survey on sales presentations found that 86% of salespeople ask the wrong questions.

The plan then is to develop questions that lead to uncovering needs and implications and formulate these into a process.

So its all about preparation, remember this leads to confidence. The National Cash Register Co (NCR) was the pioneer in developing a “canned” sales presentation. The canned approach they used which most of us have heard about is known as “AIDA”- Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

NCR trained every one of their salespeople in this sales process.

While the sequence worked the process failed as it was too wordy and the salespeople were expected to deliver it verbatim and spoke parrot wise and that’s of course how it came across. This was in the 1920’s, interesting some companies are still using verbatim scripts today – these are what most people recognize as “canned” presentations.

What I suggest is a planned approach to your sales interview as opposed to the canned version.

We need to have an agenda or sequence that we follow when interviewing new prospects. This achieves a number of call objectives –

1. It makes the best use of your time and just as importantly your prospects
2. It provides a logical flow to the conversation
3. It uncovers the need if one exists
4. It highlights buying signals for you and the prospect
5. It leads you to asking for the business.

By developing a process that we follow in each presentation we become more confident as we have a track to run on leading to our destination – more sales!

Just to illustrate the power of good questioning and how it invokes thought and focuses our thinking, here is a question to ponder –

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one ability or quality, what would it be?

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , ,

Do You Have A Sales Process?

Every business says they have a sales process, however many of these businesses do not have a process so much as an evolved way of doing things. When asked what is working well and what is not the answers are vague at best. It is very hard to measure something that isn’t managed.

A major study in 2006 in the States found that 51% of businesses do not have a standard operating procedure (SOP) for their sales teams. From my personal experience over the past 14 years I would have to say the figure in New Zealand would have to be much higher.

The consequences for these businesses can be very expensive.

Problems caused by the lack of sales procedure include –

• Inconsistency in sales
Which means an inability to budget accurately

• Lack of sales systems and structure
Which means reduced closing ratios

• Poor client management systems
Which means lost clients and opportunities

• Poor reporting and measurement systems
Which means a lack of accountability

• Lack of a detailed sales plan
Which means average results

• Salespeople spending all their time servicing existing and favourite clients
Which means a lack of growth

• Lack of structured prospecting activity
Which means inconsistent growth

While these may not all apply to you, any one of these could be impacting your profitability.

The advantages of developing standard operating procedures for sales include –

A systemised process for selling
Which means – more consistent sales

A systemised prospecting system
Which means – increased numbers of qualified prospects through referrals

Increased closing ratios
Which means – most efficient use of time and increased profitability

Reduced sales cycle
Which means – most efficient use of time and increased profitability

System for maximising existing accounts
Which means – reduced costs of sales

A systemised presentation structure
Which means – increased motivation and confidence of the sales team

The key areas that need to be systemized are –

• Sales Planning
• Prospecting
• Presentations
• Follow-up and 90 day contact system

In these so called tougher times businesses are looking to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. The key area to increased efficiency is in sales.

By developing a systemized approach to the selling process you should be able to increase your sales team’s closing ratio by a minimum of 10%

What would a 10% increase in turnover mean to your business?

My point is it is vital to the success of any business to standardize their sales process. This starts with all of those involved in sales using the same processes and this is achieved through a customized sales training programme which then becomes a standard operating procedure for all the sales team.

Training is the first step – you learn process through training then practice and eventually it becomes habit.

We will begin to look at sales planning in my next article.

Quote of the Week:

“If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got”
Action Step:
To record all your sales processes and identify key areas that need to be standardized.

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group Limited.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , ,

Have You Benchmarked Your Sales Process?

Most people tell me they can sell once they get in front of a prospect, however if they don’t get the appointment they never get the opportunity to sell to anyone.

There are two parts to a sale – the first is getting the appointment, the second is everything that happens after that.

The point is if you don’t get the first part right nothing happens!

Brian Tracey talks about identifying what he calls your critical success factors. These are the activities that will determine either success or failure in your chosen field. He suggested there are generally 5-7 of these for most of us. In sales this could include such things as detailed preparation, prospecting, presentation process, following a sales plan to name a few.

People often ask me if I have worked with other businesses the same as theirs and in most cases I am able to answer yes however the point I am quick to make is that the sales “process” is the same for just about every product or service.

You need to:

  • Develop your sales plan

  • Identify the type of people you suspect may have a need for your product or service

  • Do your research

  • Arrange an appointment

  • Present your questions

  • Establish the return on investment

  • Ask for the business

  • Deliver on all promises

  • Keep regular contact

  • Gain referrals

  • Resell to new needs
As you can see this is probably how you develop new business using some or all of these steps if you are a pro-active salesperson.

The key to this however is developing processes around each of these areas so they happen on a consistent basis day in day out, week in week out.

The most successful companies benchmark their sales process to ensure consistent sales growth. The definition of Benchmarking is –

“A systematic process of comparing the activities and work processes of an organization or department with those of outstanding organizations or departments in order to identify ways to improve performance.”

Benchmarking programmes commonly include the following stages – identifying the area requiring benchmarking and the process to use, collecting and analyzing the data, implementing changes and monitoring and reviewing improvements.

From benchmarking, best practices can be developed for each process. This is particularly applicable for the sales process.

Do you have a set process for each of the eleven steps I have identified above?

A quick quiz –

Rate yourself between 1 – 10 for each of the steps above, 1 being no process at all and 10 being absolutely satisfied you have a system to ensure consistent delivery every time.

Your lowest scoring activity will limit and determine your level of success in sales in all the other critical sales activities. So if you don’t have a set process for arranging appointments then you will miss many opportunities. Likewise if you can consistently get the appointment but don’t have a process to advance or close the sale once again missed opportunities.

I will be continuing with this subject in my next article.

Quote of the Week –

“There’s no magic to it, and you don’t need a lot of natural talent. What you need is a disciplined, organized approach to selling. If you have that, you’ll outperform the great salesman who doesn’t understand the process every time. Selling can definitely be learned.”

Steve Bostic

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group Ltd.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, ,

Questioning To Build Trust

Following on from last time we are looking at the importance of developing questions.

Many of us feel the need to build credibility and trust through telling the prospect all about what we have done and what great companies we work for however asking the right questions achieves the same goal. It is most important to spend time planning the questions as more sales are lost through asking the wrong questions than are lost because of not having the best price.

There are two more key areas that relate to asking good questions –

3. Good questions build relationships

The act of asking good questions shows that you care about the person and his/her problems. The more questions you ask about your customer, the more he/she feels your interest.

The law of reciprocity indicates that the more interest you show in a customer, the more likely that customer will be interested in you.

Did you ever attend a reception or party and meet someone who was very interested in you? Asked you question after question about yourself? When you parted, you thought to yourself “What a great person”. Why did you think that? Because of what he/she said? Probably not. You thought the person was wonderful because he/she expressed interest in you! And you formed that impression because of the questions they asked of you.

You can make use of this principle by asking good personal questions of your customers and thereby building strong relationships.

I also recommend you take good notes.

4. Good questions convey the perception of your competence

In other words, your customer sees you as competent and trustworthy – not necessarily by what you say – but rather by what you ask.

Here’s an illustration. Suppose you have a problem with your car. You take it into the mechanic down the street and say to him – “My car is making a funny sound” and he says to you “OK, leave it here and pick it up at five”.

You’re not reassured by his approach so you take it to the mechanic across the street. You say the same thing to him and he says to you “What kind of sound? You reply “A strange thumping sound”. And he says “Is it coming from the front or the back of the car?”. And you say, “It’s coming from the front.” And he asks, “Is it a metallic kind of sound or a rubber kind of sound?” And you reply, “It’s definitely metallic” And he says, “Does it go faster when you go faster and slower when you go slower, or is it the same speed all the time?” You respond, “It definitely speeds up as I do.” Then he says “OK leave it here and pick it up at five”.

Which mechanic seems to be the more competent? That’s easy. Obviously, the one who asked more questions. Questions show you understand your prospects problems which in turn builds your credibility.

Got the idea? The focus and precision of your questions does more to give your customer the perception of your competence than anything else.

Every one of your customers wants to feel that the salesperson he/she is dealing with is competent. You convey that perception by asking good questions about the details of your customer’s needs and applications.

Mastering the use of good questions is the salespersons single most powerful interpersonal tool – in every aspect of your sales interactions will dramatically improve your results.

A word of caution, remember what I said at the start – just as the right questions build your credibility asking the wrong questions can just as easily destroy it hence the need to plan your questions – do you homework – do your pre-planning before you ever make the call.

Quote of the Week –

“Price is always an issue if you look and sound like every other salesperson”

In my next article I will look at mistakes to avoid in your sales presentations.

Have a successful week!

BRETT BURGESS is a sales trainer and programme developer for Moss and Associates International.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

Do You Use Manipulative Closing?

We have been looking at the closing phase of the sales presentation and last time I touched briefly on objections.

Sales trainers in the past would spend a large proportion of their time teaching methods of overcoming objections. Indeed a common myth propagated by these trainers was that objections were in fact strong buying signals, however studies by Huthwaite have shown where there are a number of objections that closing ratios go down correspondingly.

Our goal as professionals is not to learn 100 objection handling techniques but rather to answer all questions in the buyers mind before we present our solutions.

To achieve this you need to follow a process with your questioning. It is not about firing 101 questions at the buyer. It is about having prepared questions that follow in logical sequence.

Once you have a process for your sales they cease to be a problem. If you don’t systemize your sales they will continue to frustrate and give you inconsistent results. Look at other business models – Ray Kroc of McDonalds is a great example – he developed processes for everything. In 1989 McDonalds were making 10 million dollars a day worldwide by asking one question – you guessed it – “would you like fries with that?”. This shows you the value of processes and also asking the right question. I will be looking at questions in my next article.

Very few salespeople follow a planned sales presentation and so very few are truly successful. It has been my experience that in today’s selling environment the most successful people I see coming through our programmes are the ones who have developed the key elements of the sales process into systems and preplan their interviews.

If we don’t have a system for uncovering buyer needs then we must rely on the old “show and tell” which invariably leads us to the most ineffective way of closing the sales known as manipulative closing and unfortunately these are still taught today.

Some examples (they even have names!)

Distraction Close – catch them in a weak moment Embarrassment Close – make not buying embarrassing Hurry Close – go fast to stop them thinking too much Now-or-never Close – to hurry things up Ultimatum Close – show negative consequences of not buying

And a real oldie of interest is the “Ben Franklin Close –

The Ben Franklin Close

This “close” uses logic to get the closer’s point across to the customer. It is a good “close” to use on a customer who is a thinker or who is reserved and overly cautious when buying a product.

How the Ben Franklin Close is Used –

“Mr Customer, in America everybody has always regarded Ben Franklin as a pretty smart fellow. When Ben Franklin had a problem to solve or something important to figure out and make a decision on, he would take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On the left side of the paper he would write the word “Yes” and on the right half he would write the word “No”. In the “Yes” column Ben would make a list of all the positive and beneficial factors that would favour his decision to pursue or purchase something. And in the “No” column he would list all of the reasons for not doing or not buying something. When Ben was finished with this “Yes” and “No” process, he could simply look at the list and his decision would already be made for him. He would either have more yes’s or more no’s. It was that simple. Mr Customer, why don’t we try that and see what happens, it sure can’t hurt?”

Note: The closer should hand the customer a sheet of paper and a pen and have the customer fill out the “Yes” and “No” column. The closer should tactfully assist the customer on the “Yes” side by giving out suggestions, but on the “No’ side keep quiet and not say a thing. The “Yes” side will always, with the closer’s help, win. When this process is finished the closer should look the customer straight in the eye and ask him to give the product a try.)

It’s a fundamental truth in sales that pressure causes objections and ultimately rejection of your solution.

In today’s market buyers have seen it all and heard it all and are well aware of when salespeople are using manipulative sales techniques on them.

Why would you bother?

Quote of the Week –

I once heard a car salesman say, “I peddle metal.”
Well I disagree. To the extent I do “peddle” anything.
I sell helpfulness and solutions. That to me is the heart of the sales experience.
That’s what a good salesperson really does – identifies a need and fills it.

Marion Luna Brem

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Moss and Associates International.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,


Simple Sales Tracking is web-based sales CRM software for the tracking, analysis and forecasting of individual and team sales pipeline and contacts.

Built with simplicity at its core, focus is kept on key sales tasks, while eliminating unnecessary ones, helping to ensure buy-in of the entire sales team.
Go to