Tag Archives: Sales Articles

Simon Says: Open or Closed?

By Elaine Senecal / Illustration by Chris Lewis

Simon Says - May 2004The person asking the questions controls the call, right? Yes! Asking questions allows us to direct the next part of the conversation. Asking the right questions moves the conversation along to the direction of a close or a sale.

Your agents should know how to choose the questions they ask in order to gather the information they need. We are talking about close-ended questions versus open-ended questions.

  • An open-ended question encourages the customer to talk, to engage in conversation.
  • Close ended questions are answered with a simple “yes,” “no,” or a brief phrase.

How to decide which way to go? Think about the customer’s level of expertise and the objective of the call. What is your final goal?

For instance, imagine that you are an agent providing PC support through a help desk. One item you need to know is what operating system (OS) the customer uses. Mr. Customer basically knows how to turn on the PC and type, but you don’t know this until you ask, “What OS are you using?”

Most likely Mr. Customer will be too embarrassed to ask what “OS” is and will again explain his problem without answering the question. However, if asked a close-ended question, such as, “Do you know which operating system you are using?” or “Are you using Windows XP?” the results will be much better.

Open-ended questions usually begin with words like – what, how, or why.

Close-ended questions usually begin with words like – will, does, do, did, can, and are.

Will you try it? Does it make sense? Regardless of whether you serve inbound or outbound clients, the same rules apply.

[From Connection MagazineMay 2004]

The 10 Immutable Laws of Sales Success

By Len Foley

Law #1: Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. This is important for the first few minutes of any sales interaction:

  • Don’t talk about yourself.
  • Don’t talk about your products.
  • Don’t talk about your services.
  • And above all, don’t recite your sales pitch!

Obviously, you want to introduce yourself. You want to tell your prospect your name and the purpose of the visit (or phone call), but what you don’t want to do is ramble on about your product or service. After all, at this point, what could you possibly talk about? You have no idea if what you’re offering is of any use to your prospect.

Law #2: Sell with questions, not answers. Remember this: Nobody cares how great you are until they understand how great you think they are. Forget about trying to “sell” your product or service and focus instead on why your prospect wants to buy. To do this, you need to get fascinated with your prospect; you need to ask questions (lots of questions) with no hidden agenda or ulterior motives.

Many years ago I was selling CD’s at a music festival. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it wasn’t my job to sell the CD’s, it was my job to get the earphones on every person that walked by my booth! I noticed right away whenever people sensed I was attempting to “sell” them a CD, their walls of defense immediately popped up and they did everything in their power to get as far away from me as they could. So instead, I made my job about introducing new music to anyone who wanted to put on the earphones. Once they heard the music, either they liked it or they didn’t. I didn’t do any “selling” and made more money that week than any other CD hawkers at the festival.

Back then I didn’t know anything about sales but I knew enough about human nature to understand that sales resistance is an oxymoron; the act of selling creates the resistance! Which leads us to the next principle.

Law #3: Pretend you’re on a first date with your prospect. I’m sure you’ve experienced it a hundred times. You walk into a store and the clerk says, “May I help you?” and how did you respond? “No thanks, just looking.” It’s as if the response were genetically embedded into your DNA. It’s a survival response. Like blocking your face when you see a Frisbee hurling towards your head. When you learn what you’re really selling and stop trying to convince or persuade your customers into doing something they may or may not want to do, you’ll see your customers trusting you as a valued advisor and wanting to do more business with you as a result.

And how do you do this? Get curious about your prospects. Ask about the other products or services they’re already using. Are they happy? Is it too expensive, not reliable enough? Find out what they really want. If not from you, then perhaps from someone you could recommend. But remember, you’re not conducting an impersonal survey here; in other words, don’t ask questions for the sake of asking them; ask instead, things that you’re curious about.

Law #4: Speak to your prospect as you speak to your family or friends. There is never any time that you should switch into the “sales mode” with ham-handed persuasion clichés and tag lines.

Affected speech patterns, exaggerated tones, and slow, hypnotic sounding “sales inductions” are never acceptable in today’s professional selling environments. Speak normally, (and of course, appropriately) like you would when you’re around your friends and loved ones.

Law #5: Pay close attention to what your prospect isn’t saying. Is your prospect rushed? Does he or she seem agitated or upset? If so, ask, “Is this a good time to talk? If it’s not, perhaps we can meet another day.” Most sales people are so concerned with what they’re going to say next that they forget that there’s another human being involved in the conversation.

Law #6: If you’re asked a question, answer it briefly and then move on. Remember, this isn’t about you; it’s about whether you’re right for them.

Law #7: Only after you’ve correctly assessed their needs, do you mention anything about what you’re offering.

Correctly assessing the needs of your prospect means you’ve gotten over to their side of the world. I knew a guy who pitched a mannequin (I’m not kidding)! He was so stuck in his own automated, habitual mode that he never bothered to notice that his prospect wasn’t breathing. Don’t get caught in this trap. Know whom you’re speaking with before figuring out what it is you want to say.

Law #8: Refrain from delivering the three-hour product seminar. Don’t ramble on and on about things that have no bearing on anything your prospect has said. Pick a handful of things you think could help with your prospect’s particular situation and tell him about it. If possible, reiterate the benefits in the prospects own words, not yours.

Law #9: Ask the prospect if there are any barriers to them taking the next logical step. After having gone through the first eight steps, you should have a good understanding of your prospects needs in relation to your product or service. Knowing this, and having established a mutual feeling of trust and rapport, you are now ready to bridge the gap between your prospect’s needs and what it is you’re offering. You’re now ready for the final law.

Law #10: Invite your prospect to take some kind of action. This principle obliterates the need for any “closing techniques” because the ball is placed on the prospect’s court. A “sales close” keeps the ball in your court and all the focus on you: the salesperson. You don’t want the focus on you. You don’t want the prospect to be reminded that he or she is dealing with a “salesperson.” Remember you’re not a “salesperson,” you’re a human being offering a particular product or service.

[From Connection MagazineMarch 2004]

The Five Terrible Lies About Selling

By Len Foley

Terrible Lie #1: You need to sell more to make more money.

Fact: You need to sell less to make more money. I have a motto: In order to sell more, you must first learn to sell less, a whole lot less. Sound crazy? I have a friend who just moved from selling photocopier machines to selling Mercedes-Benzes in the most prestigious dealership in New England. His secret? While selling photocopiers, he did the exact opposite of what everyone else in his company was doing.  He focused less on selling and more on why his customers wanted to buy. In fact, he stopped selling altogether and made his mission to discover precisely how he could solve more problems for his customers than anyone else in his company. He not only solved more problems, he made more money and opened up more opportunities than any other copier salesman in his industry.

Terrible Lie #2: Most salespeople are full of themselves.

Fact: The world’s best salespeople are full of other people. In my seminars, I play a little game with the audience. I say, “It’s the last week of the month and you haven’t made half your quota. Your boss is on your case and you may lose your job if you don’t make three sales in the next two hours.”

Okay? So it’s 9:30 in the morning and you need to make a sale.  You pick up the phone to make your first call. So here’s my question – what in the world is going through your head as you dial the telephone?

The typical responses from the audience include: “I wonder if I’ll make this sale?” “I hope she says yes,” and “This call better not turn out like the rest.”

To these responses I ask, “As long as you’re thinking about yourself, how interested will you be in finding out how you can help your prospect?”

The typical answer is, “Not too interested at all!”

If you’re not interested in your prospect, why in the world would your prospect ever become interested in you?

Terrible Lie #3: Selling is one of the worst paid professions on the planet.

Fact: Selling is the highest paid profession on the planet. After spending thousands of hours studying some of the richest salespeople alive (people like Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and Mary Kay Ash), I came upon two very surprising realizations:

  1. The world’s greatest salespeople never appear to be selling anything at all.  In fact, you’ll never catch a great salesperson making any irritating sales pitches or initiating a single close.
  2. Despite the fact that the world’s greatest salespeople don’t appear to be selling anything, they still manage to outsell every one of their competitors! Remember, when most of us think of a typical salesperson we think of a pushy used car salesman or an annoying insurance representative. However, these so-called salespeople aren’t really salespeople at all; they’re professional peddlers or cashiers in fancy suits. In fact, successful business executives and celebrities are also good salespeople.  Which leads us to Terrible Lie #4

Terrible Lie #4: Great salespeople use slimy tactics.

Fact: The world’s best salespeople hardly use any tactics at all. Selling, in the traditional definition of the word, is a crude pursuit. We think of selling as using deceptive gestures, words, and emotional appeals to persuade and manipulate prospects into doing something he may or may not want to do.

Now, do you really think Steve Jobs became one of the most beloved CEOs in the world by using ridiculous, simple-minded sales tactics? What about Mary Kay Ash? Can you imagine her using “Leading Questions” or a “Porcupine Close” on national television?

Of course not! The world’s greatest salespeople wouldn’t be caught dead using crude, slimy selling techniques. They interact with thousands or even millions of people each year.  They make the most money, attract the most opportunities, and effortlessly rise to the top of every profession without resorting to these techniques.

Terrible Lie #5: Great salespeople have the gift of gab.

Fact: The world’s best salespeople have the gift of listening. Professional salespeople also enjoy listening to their prospects, they’re not simply waiting for their turn to speak.  Great salespeople never look for what their prospects can do for them.  Instead, they are intensely interested in what they can do for their prospects!

[From Connection MagazineNovember 2003]

Lessons from Sweet Pea

TAS Marketing

By Steve Michaels

The dreaded day had finally come. One of the requirements to enter our alpaca, Sweet Pea, into the top Celebrity Sale of the year was to take a profile picture of her bite showing her teeth and upper gum. This particular female came directly from Chile and was difficult to deal with because her every contact with humans was unpleasant for her. She had been forcibly caught, given a series of shots, loaded onto a boat for transport to Canada, and then brought to the States for sale. She was not a happy camper when it came to physical contact with humans. Simply stated, she didn’t trust us.

Our first encounter with her was trying to put on her halter. She would kick, spit, scream, and literally drag us when trying to be led, thus the dreaded thought of holding her head still to take a photograph of her bite. I got into a small pen with her while my wife, Chris, held the camera for the shot. I came up to her from the side where she could see me and gently started to stroke her. No resistance. I then began rubbing her neck getting closer to her head and still no resistance. Could this be the same alpaca that only a few months ago would have spit at me between the eyes rather than look at me? Finally after a few more minutes of comforting her, I was able to slip my fingers into her mouth and separate it enough so we could get the profile shot required for the sale. Over time and with a lot of patience, we had gained her trust.

The lesson here for the service provider is that there are some customers who will know what they want, survey the marketplace, and sign up with you immediately. On the other hand, there are others who need to take their time and learn to trust you and your company. No, I’m sure that they are not as untrusting as the alpaca story I just told you but you never know what kind of negative experience a potential client may have had with another company, projecting that prior bad experience on your organization.

The sales cycle of these particular clients may take time and may need some gentle persuasion. But often they become your most loyal and lasting customers. All clients are not equal. They come from different backgrounds and have different experiences when it comes to being sold a product or a service. Making a cold call and offering sales literature may not be enough. These clients need to be weaned slowly to gain your trust and to be able to interact with you at their own pace and comfort level.

Staying active in professional and community organizations is always beneficial. It puts you face to face with new clients and allows you the opportunity to make contacts and form alliances, which is usually the first step. There you can get to know them first as people and later as clients. Giving them a firm hand shake, educating them as to what you do without coming on too strong, and letting the relationship develop over time is often the only way you will establish their trust. The soft sale with this particular type of client is a way to establish a long-term personal and business relationship.

I know of individuals in our industry who have sold a majority of their accounts on the golf course. By getting to know someone in a neutral area, a potential client does not feel threatened and gets to know you, your abilities, and what you are capable of providing. We would all prefer to do business with someone we know and trust. Through persistence, networking, and patience, those potentially difficult clients will become die-hard customers for many years to come.

By the way, we have decided to keep our top female, Sweet Pea, to enhance our breeding program. She has become a nice, trusting animal.

TAS Marketing

Steve Michaels and TAS Marketing have been serving the TAS industry in the mergers and acquisitions arena for over 23 years with over 220 businesses sold. His years of experience have widened his scope and experience in buying and selling businesses nationwide. He may be contacted at 800-369-6126, tas@tasmarketing.com, or visit www.tasmarketing.com.

[From Connection MagazineMarch 2002]

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No Time to Sell? You Better Make Time

By Paul Butler

In the world of answering service sales, the window of opportunity opens and closes very quickly. Never has the saying “timing is everything” been more true than in selling a service customers only think about when a problem arises. The percentages are very favorable to close a customer currently dissatisfied with their present service. The challenge is to be prepared to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself. Since none of us are able to see into, or predict when the window will open, it is imperative to develop a system that increases the number of times the customer contacts your company when they require a change.

Just as improbable as the ability of clairvoyance, is the existence of a “magic” formula that attracts customers to your company. To maintain a pattern of growth takes good people with both time and the available resources to sell prospects on the benefits of using your service. While not all companies can afford a dedicated sales staff, neither can they afford not to dedicate time to selling. If the person assigned to sell has multiple responsibilities, a prescribed portion of each day must be set aside to the task of adding new customers.

For the part-time sales person the importance of a plan of attack is magnified. To be a success in sales regardless of the amount of time available, you must stay…


Follow-up: Do what you commit to in the given time frame;
Organize: There are a limited number of hour search day … use them judiciously;
Communicate: This involves your mouth and ears… you can talk too much!
Understand: The better you know your product, the easier it is to convey to the prospect;
Sell: Don’t be satisfied with a good presentation. Nothing is gained until you ask for the order;
Educate: Use your knowledge and experience to implement a program that addresses the needs of the customer;
Distractions: Eliminate them! It is time to sell; do nothing but sell!

Not even the most seasoned professional can create a need for answering service. There are specific industries in which the need is inherent, but outside those specific few, prospecting is merely guess work. Because of the uniqueness of the industry, there exists a great potential for wasting time. That, coupled with the fact that in most instances sales is only one of numerous duties performed by certain individuals, having a detailed routine and sticking to it is essential. The sales person must create an environment conducive to selling. If it is not possible to retreat to an office, or to an area of isolation, make everyone aware of the selling schedule.

Sales is the first of many steps on the road to success. Everyone in the organization should have an appreciation of the importance of adding new customers. In the answering service industry, customer “churn” is inevitable. Many companies are forced to sell just to replace lost revenues. You must set sales goals to allow for incremental growth based on past performance. (If churn averages 2% of billed revenue, new sales need to exceed that number by an accepted amount as determined by management.)

There is a fine line to be walked in regards to bringing on new business without affecting the level of service expected by your present customer base. To keep things moving forward, remember to plan ahead and stay focused.

Paul Butler is the National Sales and Marketing Manager for A+ Network, Inc. in Nashville, TN. Mr. Butler can be reached at 615-291-7565 ; Fax 615-291-7555.

[From Connection Magazine, May 1996]

Sales, Line 1…

By Ed Gorman

When a prospect calls to inquire about your service, the sales person simply quotes rates and hopes that you are the lowest in town. Sales is easy. Anyone can do it. Pretending to be a sales person is an easy job. And it costs your company a lot of money. Not only in lost sales, but also in the cost of providing service at an unprofitable rate.

What traits does it take to be an outstanding sales person?

Goal Oriented: An outstanding sales person must have a goal, backed by an action plan. They know how many calls, contacts, presentations and sales they must make every day to be successful

Self-Motivated: An outstanding sales person does not rely on others to get the job done. They control their own destiny and have the satisfaction of knowing they have set goals and achieved them.

Persistence: Above all else, persistence is the key to a successful sales career. Over 80% of all sales are made after the fifth sales contact. The willingness to make one more phone call separates the winners from the also-rans.

Good Organizational Skills: An outstanding sales person has a system to manage his time and paperwork. Organized sales persons are prepared and waste little time. Their responses to customers are prompt, accurate and knowledgeable.

Effective Listening Skills: There is a significant difference between listening to the words and hearing the message. Active listening – “hearing the message” – allows sales persons to provide insightful solutions to their prospects needs.

Enthusiasm: An outstanding sales person loves their job, their product, and their company. They have a positive attitude and radiate energy and excitement no matter what the challenges and obstacles.

Now that you know the type of person you need to handle your sales calls, what next?

Organize your sales department: Do you have someone on your staff now who meets the qualifications of an outstanding salesperson or do you have to go outside your organization to find the right person? How will you get the incoming sales calls to the sales person? How will you compensate the salesperson? You must organize your sales program before you hire a salesperson.

Provide training: What are the features and benefits of the different product lines you sell? What are your company’s unique advantages? Who are your customers? How does the call handling system work? The same amount of time and energy you devote to training a new TSR must also be invested in a new sales person.

Provide the necessary resources: The minimum resources a sales person requires are a desk, a telephone and a quiet space. In addition, do you have marketing support literature or will they need to create their own? Will they have access to a computer and printer to develop letters and proposals? Will you generate leads for them to follow-up? You must be prepared to invest time and money in their success.

An outstanding sales person will do more than simply make sales. Outstanding sales people create a positive, high energy environment. They will make you and your company better as a result and are worth every investment you make in them.

Ed Gorman is Director of Marketing for ProCommunications, Inc. which provides telephone answering service, voice mail, inbound telemarketing and paging services through a nationwide network of telemessaging companies. Mr. Gorman can be reached at 410-631-1655.

[From Connection Magazine, March 1996]

Ten Characteristics of Great Sales People

By Orvel Ray Wilson

It’s a jungle out there. You are not paranoid; they really are out to get you. Doing business in the highly competitive environment of the 90’s requires the boldness and ingenuity of a veteran commercial mercenary.

Today’s winners in business are the renegades, the rebels who break all the rules, who use information and surprise to gain a tactical advantage. There are ten characteristics that set the sales people apart. Study them. Sell by them.

1. Investment: The average business in America invests only 3% of gross sales in marketing. The “Great Sales Person” averages 10%.

Great Sales People believe that the difference between winning and loosing, more often than not, is a very slim margin. So they invest heavily in technology, in people, and in themselves. They are constantly expanding their horizons, constantly training, and constantly on the lookout for anything that will give them a slight advantage.

2. Consistent: Poor selling done consistently will be more effective than great selling done sporadically. In the mind of your customers, consistency is interpreted as credibility, longevity and success. Great Sales People earn this confidence by communicating their identity, not their image. They are very resistant to changing their name, their logo, their color scheme. Be consistent and you will out sell the better armed, better equipped, better organized corporate regulars.

3. Confident: Great Sales People believe in their products, their services, and their people. They count on others in the organization to deliver on every promise, every time, and then some. If you can’t feel that kind of confidence, you’re working for the wrong outfit. When something goes wrong, take personal responsibility for making it right, right away.

4. Patient: A hunter will sit in the trees for days waiting for a clear shot. Less than 4% of sales are made on the first call, over 80% are made after the eighth call. Great Sales People are always on the lookout for the next need cycle and strive to be there when the need arises. So stick with it. Keep mailing out your brochure.

5. Assortment: The old days of Henry Ford, when “you can have it any color you want, as long as it’s black” are long gone. Great Sales People offer a wide variety of goods and services, and adapt their offerings, their terms, even their delivery schedules to meet the customers’ needs. Look for the new, the unusual, the unique, and add it to your offering. Ask customers what they’d like to see. The more flexible you can be, the better. The more options you offer, the more people you can serve, and the more successful your company will be.

6. Subsequent: Great Sales People are in this for the long haul, and getting the order is only the first step. Great Sales People spend 10% of their resources educating the universe, promoting the business to the community at large. They spend 30% of their time marketing to prospective customers. But they spend a whopping 60% of their time, energy and money marketing to people who have already bought. Why? It costs five times as much to sell a new customer as it does to make the same sale to an existing customer. Great Sales People sell and re-sell and re-sell the benefits of their offering.

7. Measurement: Any behavior that is rewarded will tend to be repeated, so Great Sales People reward every customer and client for the opportunity to serve them. It’s the thirteenth doughnut in the baker’s dozen; it’s doing everything you promised, everything the customer expected, and more. And because expectations are constantly changing, Great Sales People are always asking “how are we doing?” and “how can we improve.” Survey your customers. Get out in the field and talk to them. If you do exactly what they tell you, you cannot fail.

8. Convenient: Great Sales People are both receptive and responsive. They know that they have to be “user friendly.” That means easy to reach, east to talk to, and easy to do business with. They return their calls. They give out their numbers at home, at the office, in the car. They keep phones staffed at night and on weekends, even if only by an answering service. They are in touch. Be available. Lend a near to your customers when they have a suggestion, a question, or a problem. And do everything immediately.

9. Excitement: Great Sales People are enthusiastic, and militantly optimistic. They have a good word for everyone, and never complain about the weather, the economy, or the people they work for. Their passion spreads like a wildfire. People love to do business with people who love their business. Spread good news and cheer about your people and your industry to everyone you meet. Start a one-sales person revolution to turn your corner of the economy around. Launch a success conspiracy. Enthusiasm is contagious.

10. Commitment: The Great Sales Person is enlisted in a larger mission that just closing the deal and getting the order. They are deadly serious about adding value and serving the community. When a customer complains, the Great Sales Person tracks down the cause and corrects it, whatever it takes. They have no time for excuses and apologies, and they never argue with results. They treat every customer as if the survival of their business depended on it, because it does.

Get committed to your marketing effort, and if you’re more comfortable hosting receptions or maintaining membership rolls, assign someone to be your full-time designated sales person.

It’s time we launched a revolution in American business. You have no choice. To survive in today’s brutal economic environment, you must become a Great Sales Person.

Orvel Ray Wilson is an author and speaker on sales, marketing and management, and co-author of Guerrilla Selling: Unconventional Weapons and Tactics for Making the Sale. For a free copy of The Guerilla Selling Newsletter, call toll-free 800-247-9145.

[From Connection Magazine, January 1994]

A Novice’s Guide to Marketing & Sales

By John E. Hudson

Marketing has long been a fancy of mine. The reason I find marketing so interesting is that it deals with the way people develop and react to different concepts. It also provides insight into the process a particular individual uses to develop the rationale for the decision they just reached. The key to a good market program is to focus on, and exploit this human trait. Creating a plan to suggest consumer acceptance before the targeted prospect develops the sense of need is a great skill.

While this may sound like a subliminal message, it really isn’t. Today’s technical name is pro-active marketing. You can really call it what you want. The bottom line is to create a market need using your strengths in order to capture a position of leadership. After you have done it, you tell the world about it and they stand in line to give you money.

Sounds great doesn’t it? You know the market really needs what you have to offer. Are you ready to start tomorrow? Why not?

These are the key attitudes necessary to create an aggressive marketing campaign that will increase your sales volume and profit dollars. A common mistake of business is the belief that price management allows you to maintain a level of business that is necessary for long term success. To develop long term business success you must provide value to a select group of individuals who truly believe you are the only source for what they seek.

There are several items critical to the development of a successful, aggressive marketing plan: Market Leadership, Risk Management and Selling Tactics. Without these essential skills it is difficult to control the business environment because you don’t have a complete picture of how outside influences affect the market.

Market Leadership: If you are not willing to define the industry accepted criteria for a specific product or service offering, your competition will. The prospect will always have an opinion of what they want to buy and how much they are willing to pay. They will also have an opinion on the perceived value of your goods and services to their business or to them personally.

Selling Message #1, Perception. Create an industry need only you can fulfill!

To lead the market it is necessary to teach it about the benefits of purchasing goods and services from you. The consumers are influenced by what they read, see and hear. Rarely do you find an independent thinker. People want things that make them successful. So, your objective is well defined. Create a message that is believable and is verifiable by references in the market segment.

Risk Management: Aggressive campaigns must be measurable. The primary goal is to take control of the market. Other elements that must be influence dare, the content of services offered, the proper price structure, and the acceptable standards for conducting business. These are the goals. To be successful you must have criteria for measuring your success at reaching these goals. Risk management consists of many elements. Each of these issues deals specifically with the elements that affect your potential for success. Also, each has an associated out-of-pocket expense. This makes it mandatory to manage the effectiveness of the program.

Selling Message #2, Value. By tailoring our products to the requirements of their market, we have helped our customers succeed.

I believe the two most critical issues in a pro-active marketing campaign are the “time line for success,” and the “barriers to entry.” Many business planners deal with these issues separately. In my opinion, it is mandatory that these two issues be dealt with as a set. This is especially true in a small business that has limited resources in time and money.

The “time line for success” provides a schedule of events that must occur during the campaign. You manage the campaign with a series of milestones. Each milestone has a set of goals associated with it. The milestones will change with each new campaign. As you approach the milestones at the end of the schedule, you should have specific goals for capture rate and customer acceptance.

If you are meeting your goals on the time line you set, you are on the road to success. As soon as you sense that you are having trouble meeting the goals, reevaluate both the goals and the timing for success. You may find that the market is not what you expected, or your goals are too ambitious. Apply the rule of “time versus money.” Will the project create the income I want in a time frame that is acceptable to me and by business? If the answer is no, or maybe, you should consider abandoning the project. If you do closeout the project, you need to know why it did not succeed. Some parts were successful, some were not. It is equally important to know why elements of any project succeed or fail.

Selling Message #3, Need. The market needs your services because you told them they did!

Entry barriers have a major effect on the time line. The level of market awareness by the consumer, as well as the number and quality of your perceived competitors, can severely impact the timing required to succeed. In either case these are two items that you must understand and factor into your campaign before you commit to spend your business development dollars.

Other issues affecting your decision to enter are; market segment knowledge, your time commitments to other projects, personal and business resources, and the cost of technology to serve the market. The bottom line in risk management should not be viewed as a negative. It is good business to know your strengths and limitations. This kind of knowledge allows you to optimize your personal and business resources. Any time you decide to take an aggressive position you should be well prepared to win.

Selling Tactics: Creating an aggressive marketing plan without an aggressive selling plan is like practicing all your life to hit a home run and then never getting up to bat. If your intent is to attack the market you need to:

  1. Develop the language of the industry
  2. Solve the problem
  3. Manage the selling cycle
  4. Steam roll the competition

These four items are dealt with in sets. Language development and solving problems go hand-in hand. In order to successfully sell in a market segment you must develop their vocabulary and understand how and when to apply it. We have all seen it É someone tries to sell us something and they have no concept of how it’s used, or why we would use it. If that applies to us, why wouldn’t it apply to our prospect? To make the sale, allow the prospect to be the hero. We win because we allowed them to provide solutions to the individuals they are responsible to.

Selling Message #4, Ask for the Order. At some point in the selling cycle you must stop selling and ask for a commitment from the buyer. Managing the selling cycle and steam rolling the competition are keys to sales success. The only way to steam roll the competition is understand and manage the selling cycle. This means that you, or a sales manager, must take an active roll in preparing the sales staff to be well trained in creating the approach to closing the sale.

The requirements for closing a sale are part of the risk management portion of a marketing plan. To complete a sale for anything certain needs have to be met. The other portion of the sales cycle is managing the flow of the sale. By managing the flow it makes it difficult for competition to invade the prospect.

Selling Message #5, Winning. To win both the seller and the buyer must believe that their objectives are being met. Remember, the company that defines the buyers needs, presents products to fill those needs, and controls the selling cycle will always win in the long run.

Conclusion: Some industry critics believe that aggressively attacking a specific business segment is risky and leaves a bad image if it is done improperly. To some degree they are correct. The business that is not prepared to actively solve the buyer’s needs will fail and negatively influence the prospect on the value of goods offered to them by another company. The message is be prepared to win. Fill the needs of the prospect at the point of sale.

John Hudson is a Product Director for Comverse Technology, Inc.

[From Connection Magazine, January 1994]