One of my favorite sales gurus is Scott Messer of Sales Evolution. Not only is Scott a good friend, he is a sales expert and master sales coach.
This post will help you solve Your Biggest, Nastiest, Stupidest, Most Expensive Sales Mistake... and give you several of Scott's brilliant sound bites to help you improve your sales success.
We're talking about a BIG sales mistake you probably made last week, will make again this week, and -- unless you heed Scott's wisdom -- will make next week again.
All of which will cost you THOUSANDS if not TENS of thousands of dollars in lost sales.
What is this big, nasty, pervasive, expensive sales mistake?
Here it is: Not being a fanatic about collecting decisions from prospects.
Scott says selling is 100% about collecting decisions.
It's not about getting yeses, it's not about closing gimmicks. It's simply about being tenacious about taking prospects down a path (aka your sales process) to help them make a clear and definitive DECISION. As in "Yes" or "No."
Not "Let me think about it" - not "I'll get back to you" - not "circle back with me next week" - not anything other than a firm date and time on the prospect's calendar for you to hear "YES" or "NO."
How do you do this? Simple - Scott recommends that at every step of the sales process, put a date and time on the calendar for a "decision call." Here's how to ask:
- Let's put a date and time on the calendar for us to discuss your decision
- Let's put a pushpin in the calendar for us to reconnect about your decision
- Because you and I are both so busy, let's put a date and time on the calendar so you can tell me "Yes" or "No" or to answer any final questions you may have for me
Scott recommends that you forget about your sales pipeline - forget about your number of first appointments, forget about your number of "hot leads" - there is ONE and ONLY ONE measure of how healthy your sales pipeline truly is.
That measure is - how many decision calls are on your calendar? A decision call, by the way, needs to be not only on YOUR calendar - it needs to be on your PROSPECT'S calendar because it is their responsibility to make one AND communicate it to you on that call.
Example: I had a prospect call me two weeks ago. Let's call him Paul (which is cool because his name is really... Paul.)
All was going well. Then I got a little derailed when he asked for references. Ordinarily, I would set a decision call by asking him, "When will you make time to call my reference folks? Let's make a time to discuss your decision after that."
But I goofed. I was in a hurry. I let Paul wander off with no decision date on the calendar. When I called him this morning to circle back, he told me that he had gotten "distracted" and had not called the references at all. He then said, "I'll get back to you within three weeks."
Instinctively, I said, "You'll get back to me in three weeks because you're the kind of guy who likes to take lots and lots of time to make a decision and have people like me chasing you endlessly and leaving message after message and email after email when the real answer is no."
Yup, I said that.
Right to Paul's face.
Why? Because to quote another Scott Messer sound bite - "You can't blow up a good prospect."
Paul laughed and admitted that he did NOT, in fact, enjoy being chased endlessly.
So I put Paul out of his misery and fired him as a prospect. Here's how that sounded:
"Paul, I'll put you down as a "No" for now. If you'd like to revisit working together, you know where to find me."
He was perfectly cool with that. So I knew the deal was dead.
I've used that "No for now" line in the past and GOOD prospects will jump in with "No, no, no I definitely want to work with you. I just need more time to..." and they put themselves back into the active prospect column.
What do I do then? You guessed it - we set a decision call on the calendar.
Anyway, back to Paul... I wanted to put a nail in the coffin so I sent the following email after we hung up the phone:
Because you are no longer an active prospect, please do NOT call the folks I sent as references.
As I'm sure you can appreciate, references are precious and I do not want to burn out my reference folks by speaking with less than 100% committed prospects. (I probably should not have given you references this early in the process anyway. My mistake.)
Best of luck on your adventures and thank you in advance for respecting my wishes.
So the lesson is - be relentless with setting your decision calls. There is no other single determining factor that's more important to your sales success.
Trust me - I make more money when I relentlessly implement Scott's "decision call" philosophy. And I make less money when I don't!
Tags: sales prospecting mistakes, big nasty dumb stupid expensive sales mistake, doit marketing, marketing speaker, marketing coach
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Use the COMMENTS area below to leave your advice, insights and recommendations on these ideas to boost your sales success...
Bad news: You are 9 days into the month and your website traffic is down 43%.
Worse news: You don't even know about it.
Because if you're like most small business owners, (non-web) entrepreneurs and independent professionals, you look at your web stats once a month - and almost always when it's too late.
So the question for you and your organization is - are you looking at your web marketing game plan as a forward-looking fitness program -- or as a backward-looking autopsy?
The autopsy approach sounds like this: "What went wrong? Where did our site visits go? How come opt-ins dropped? Our bounce rate climbed again..." Sigh, worry, fret, fret, fret...
The fitness approach sounds like this: "It's been 10 days since our last blog post, we have to post more regularly - let's put something up this Tuesday and again on Thursday. Where's our SEO score card? I think we dropped back a few places on two of our keywords and it looks like we're back at #1 again for 'Poughkeepsie laundromat' - woo hoo! We need to load some fresh tweets to drive more traffic to our free report because it looks like opt-ins are dropping..."
DANGER: The fit get fitter. And the autopsy people are dead on the table.
Where do your website stats stand today?
Please leave your insights, advice and recommendations in the COMMENTS section below...
Keywords: Marketing coach, small business marketing coach
Guest Column By Lee Thayer
Firing someone is often a distasteful, sometimes painful, act. It is the end of something. Hiring someone is usually full of hope and expectation. It can be exciting. It is the beginning of something.
Yet you don’t learn much when you hire someone. It often turns out to be not all you had hoped.
You could learn a great deal about yourself and about others from the process of firing someone, however.
If you can do a better job of firing, you could do a better job of hiring. The most direct way of learning how to do a better job of hiring lies in what you can learn from the process of firing.
- Hope and wishful thinking clouds your perspectives when you are hiring someone. But when you fire someone, you are challenged to understand why.
- Firing can clear the lenses. It can be – ought to be – a very rational process. If you do it right, you are dealing with bedrock criteria, not wishful thinking.
- If you can figure out why and how and when to fire someone, it will clarify why you went wrong in the first place.
- If you did a perfect job of hiring people, you would have a perfect understanding of how to fire people. But most organizations haven’t done a better job of hiring people in spite of the tsunami of advice about how to do it.
- You have to come at it the other way around. There is no reliable recipe for doing a perfect job of hiring. You have to learn from your failures – as all leaders have had to do.
- It is figuring out who needs to be fired and why that provides the clarity needed to get better and better at hiring.
There are always the conventional reasons for firing someone: poor performance, redundancy, obsolescence, RIF, attitude, and myriad others. There are reasons. And then there are the real reasons.
It is these real reasons the chief executive needs to uncover. You have to plow through the verbiage and your own thinking to arrive at the real reasons. Was it a poor hire? Was it just a poor “fit”? Was it the culture of the organization that was at fault? Was it the attitude of the person’s peers? Was it the person’s boss? Could it even be you?
Done well, this kind of forensic exploration begins to illuminate better hiring practices by starting with reality rather than the jargon of the day.
To the person targeted for being fired, there is often no correlation between the reasons offered and that person’s assessment of his or her own performance. Big clue.
Here is the crunch issue:
The person being fired was probably not told at the time of hiring the specific reasons that might lead to dismissal.
Three mistakes were likely made:
- The person was probably provided with a list of activities to be performed. That’s the way conventional “job descriptions” are constructed. There may have been some past experience or credentials thrown in for the company to hedge its bets.
- It was likely nothing was said about what was to be accomplished. You can’t measure activities objectively. But you can measure accomplishments.
- The person was most likely hired for a “job.” He or she was not hired to a role in the organization’s future. It is the future that really matters, not the past. Past performance does not predict well to future performance.
Competence is difficult to measure. So most organizations measure what’s easy to measure – the financials. But, to use a provocative metaphor:
Financial performance can only be measured in the wake of the ship. It is where the ship is headed that matters most. And then it is how it is powered and steered to get there.
It is full competence in every role in the organization that seals its fate. If you hire for full competence to carry forward in a well-specified role, you won’t have to fire for incompetence.
A key ingredient of competence is being in the “learning mode.” The best evidence for being in the “learning mode” is that the person performs his or her role better today than they did yesterday. You fire for lack of that. Maybe you should hire for the presence of that.
And, if it isn’t necessary for the person to perform his or her role better, poor performance may not be the person’s fault. It may be your fault for not making continuous improvement in every role necessary.
What is necessary will likely happen. What is not necessary may not happen.
Every organization, like every person, arrives at a status quo – ways of doing things that take precedence over doing them right. Percy Barnevik of ABB fame considered the status quo to be the enemy. His suggestion? Kill it.
There are people who have one year’s experience repeated 20 times. They become deadwood. How frequently do you clear the deadwood? Ranchers cull their herdsat least annually, in order to get better breeding.
Jack Welch eliminated the bottom 10% of performers annually. That takes the uncertainty and pain out of firing.
Outstanding performers are disruptive of the status quo. They are therefore more likely than mediocre performers to get the axe. If the culture of your organization is a safe haven for mediocrity, you are not doing a good job of firing.
And if you aren’t, you can’t do a good job of hiring.
One of the hidden reasons for firing people is that they don’t seem able to learn from experience. They never seem to get consistently better at what they do. Lesson? Make that explicit.
The best CEOs are not in their role to do the job. They are there to learn how to perform their role better today than they did yesterday. They expect the same of others.
If that’s not why you are there, you should be fired. You are, after all, the exemplar.
The best time to fire someone is the day before you hire them. If you can do that, you will be doing a far, far better job of hiring.
The bonus is that firing the wrong people for all the right reasons makes room for hiring more of the right people for the right reasons. But you have to know clearly what those are.
This is why knowing the real reasons for firing people will help you to make better and better judgments about hiring. In other words, the best way to get better at hiring is to get better at firing.
For what good reasons would you fire yourself? If you really figure that out, you will do a far better job of hiring – including casting yourself in the right role.
Lee Thayer has been a CEO coach and consultant for 45+ years and is known worldwide for his work “in the trenches” with executives to create high-performance organizations. Dr.Thayer has also held distinguished professorships in many of the major universities worldwide. His recent, acclaimed books include: Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing; The Good Leader; Leaders and Leadership; Leadership Virtuosity; How Leaders Think; Explaining Things and The Competent Organization.
Brilliant advice from marketing expert Maria Marsala. Maria is a Business Builder and former Wall Street Trader. With her motto of "Powering-UP service businesses and their owners," she provides articles, tips, classes, and resources to do just that. Learn more at www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com
1. My charge for an initial consultation is "x." If we turn out to be a good match, and you hire me, I'll apply 1/2 of "x" towards your commitment.
2. I'm happy to give you 5 minutes or less of free time, however, most issues are more quickly & effectively resolved in an undisturbed session(s). May we schedule a meeting so I can give you my undivided attention?
3. If someone is very persistent, whip out a stopwatch & say "For $2 a minute I'd be happy to go into this now. May I start the clock & do you prefer to pay with cash or check?"
4. What I can do is refer you to a free resource on "_______."
5. I do work with two pro-bono clients, who are in desperate need financially. I'll take your card and add you to the waiting list.
6. Yes, I do work with clients on "name the issue." Would you like to set up a consultation?
7. That will cost "x" per hour.
8. There's a lot I can do for you that's similar to the work I did for "xyz" client. Would you like to get together and build a marketing plan? (And then charge for those services.)
9. Well, I'd love to suggest something; however, my fees are "xxx" per hour.
10. Are you looking to hire me?
11. Are you looking to hire _____? Well, I'd love to talk to you about that; my fees are "x" per hour."
12. You may call me for a 15-minute talk, very focused, on that issue.
13. "Well, the answer to that question depends" and then spend a few minutes explaining some of the options and considerations. For example, I may explain that the best way to identify the "solution" is to work backward from the desired end result and process. That provides a natural lead-in to: "If I were to work with you on this project, here's how we would do it..."
14. Sorry, I can't answer that unless you pay my fee (or hire me).
15. A complete answer to your question is going to take more than 15 minutes over the phone. Would you like me to send you a proposal on this?
16. I have really enjoyed talking with you and would like to help more. May I send you one of my brochures and a rate card?
17. Do you have a time line and/or budget in mind for solving this problem?
18. Have you looked at cost estimates from others who would like to help you solve this problem or complete this project?
19. It's not a good time for me to begin a session right this minute. Would you like to briefly discuss session times and fees?
20. Are you seeking generic free information on "the topic" or to work with a "your profession here" to address your specific situation? [If I have a free resource, I'll ask for their email address and send it to them.]
21. I provide a general 3-4 sentence overview of how I would address their concern with them. Then I say that I've found that the sorting of the information available and subsequent application of that information is so specific to each individual that I always recommend hiring a "your profession here" for getting that one project completed.
22. Well what I can offer you on that subject is an ebook (CD, audio, etc) called ________. I'll email you the link.
23. Refer them to these "free" or "almost free" resources:
p.s. If you'd like some personalized help
- The library has books/tapes/audios/CD/reference librarians.
- To an outsider, your local SBA and SCORE Offices "look" free. They're really not "free" either. Their classes "cost $" and their advice is paid for by all of us as part of our taxes.
- Find a professional who needs your services and see about some sort of in-kind exchange or barter. Again, this isn't totally free, as you do need to report it on your taxes, but in most cases, there isn't any money exchanged.
- Join lots of ezines by experts in the area you're looking to learn about, but do it quickly while they are still free. And know that the 'best of the best' contain ads and affiliate programs, too.
- and your very own customized marketing and sales toolkit
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Let me start by saying I'm not some crunchy, helpless, hapless, whining technology boob.
Quite the opposite in fact... from 1992-1996, I worked in technology consulting and I became one of the first wave of Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCT) on the East Coast. I know all about batch files, command line programming, operating system voodoo, and way the hell more than I care to know about the ugly smelly guts of Windows.
I was also one of the first folks online... WAY before the web. My CompuServe account was "73247,731" in 1984 so I can tell you the thrill of upgrading from a 300-baud modem to a 1200-baud modem. Man, I was *flying* with that baby!!
Alright - enough of our stroll down memory lane... the rest of my 1,000 words can best be told with this picture - the one where you'll see six - count 'em SIX - separate error message dialog boxes on a graphically corrupted screen and totally locked up system:
Funny how my black MacBook never does this.