Sales tips, leadership communication skills insight and more from Steve Giglio, sales training professional for more than 25 years.

Giving Feedback to Your Boss: Be a Confidant

“You don’t understand. My CEO doesn’t realize what’s really going on here…”

I hear this at least once a week. The good news is my client realizes their CEO is not seeing the entire picture. The bad news is my client gets distracted with other “fires” and forgets to give this feedback directly to his boss.

The issue is an OPPORTUNITY to be your boss’ confidant, NOT to shy away from it. Abandoning it makes it worse. Said a different way, the glass is half full, not half empty. Read more

Four Tips for Handling Your Employee Review

Your superior sends an email. “Let’s go over your employee review.” You break out in a cold sweat and look for the nearest exit. Perhaps it’s the only time you wish you had a dentist appointment!

We all go through it. Feedback received during an employee review can be a bit nerve wracking. You think you’re doing a good job but, you’re about to find out for sure. In my world of executive development, this glass is half full, not half empty. Read more

Have Something They Need

A little while ago, I was engaged to work with a sales executive on many aspects of his game. But I soon discovered that his biggest stumbling block occurred long before he even had a chance to get his foot in the door. In fact, it was getting his foot in the door that was the real problem.

His challenge was personified by the head of a major beauty care company. My client knew his product was good and he was clear on his message, but he was bedeviled with self-doubt about his chances to even get a meeting, much less present his case.

Doubt Can’t Be Cured with Cheerleading

As his coach, the traditional way to deal with issues of self-doubt would be to convince the executive that he just needed to have the moxie to knock on the door and get that meeting. However, if you come to me expecting that approach, you will be disappointed. Because it doesn’t work…long-term.

My goal is to give people the tools to overcome their difficulties in their careers, be they salespeople, managers or executives. I am not a booster. I am not a cheerleader. I don’t believe that your problems can be solved with a pep talk. My coaching style was once described by a client as “Vince Lombardi…with a little bit of mom in there.” My clients show up with real problems (many of which I have to help them discover) and it’s my job to guide them so that the issues are resolved…forever. IN this instance, had I tried to help my client by boosting his ego, “You can do it!”, it would have been akin to my father, a doctor, telling his patients that they can “wish” their ailments away.

Strength in Knowledge

No, what my client needed was to approach potential clients with something they need. And to do that, he needed a deep knowledge of the client. So, we scoured all available information sources….the company web site, news articles, competitor sites, social media pages, annual reports…all to determine what the company’s goals were. Then we assessed what his company had to offer that helped THEM get to the THEIR goals, not to just sell his product/service. That match was the key to tailoring his messaging and convince the client that he had something worth meeting about. And it worked…he got a meeting and eventually became a trusted adviser for the client, establishing a long-term relationship.

So, just remember this…clients won’t see you to help you out. They only want to see you if you can help them out! Bring something to the table that’s worth their time.

What does your client need or want from you? Are you delivering it? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email.

Want Business from Existing Clients? Ask for It!

As companies plan for the coming budget year, one question I get a lot from leaders and sales teams is, “How can I get more business from our existing customers?” I have a simple answer: “Ask for it!”

Ok…it is a bit more complex than that. But not much!

Customers Are Like a Village

When you think about a client’s business, I want you to think of it as a village into which you just parachuted. At first, you are in unfamiliar territory and don’t know anyone. But then someone greets you and is genuinely interested in what you are doing there. You are genuinely interested in the village, its inhabitants and what they do there. You establish a relationship with the person you initially met, building a trusted reputation. You are in!

However, for many people, that’s where it ends. They maintain a connection with their initial contact and the amount of business coming from that client plateaus. What many people do NOT do is meet other “villagers,” people in other departments who could benefit from their services or products.

So, how do you make inroads into other areas in the company? You ask about them!

Be Curious and Engaged

“Terry…I’m curious…based on the work we’ve done together, I get a sense that there may be other areas in the company that could benefit from the same type of results. Do you agree?”

It really can be that simple. You’ve now established a dialogue that allows you to learn more about the company and possible opportunities that could exist for you. From this, you could get a recommendation from your contact regarding who you could contact next. That’s gold!

“Terry…that’s great and it does seem like we could help them like we’ve done for you. Could you make an introduction for me?”

Now you are rolling. You’ve asked your contact to advocate for you…without really asking. The act of introducing you to another contact in their company is, in essence, them endorsing you internally. You’ve just had a door opened for you….walk in!

Make Them Look Good

And why would your client contact want to introduce you to others in the company? To look good, of course! Again, a simple answer that merits more explanation.

When they introduce you, they are as much as saying, “Look how smart I am to have hired this firm to advance our company’s goals.” That, in turn, creates a situation where others want what your contact has. It’s a herd mentality…they will flock to you if you’ve proven you can deliver results.

Your responsibility now that you will meet with other “villagers” is to conduct yourself well, ask probing questions, learn as much as you can, and make your current contact proud by delivering exceptional service.

And all of this comes your way because you had the desire and curiosity to ask about other areas of the company. See? Simple!

What is stopping you from asking about other opportunities at your client’s business? Let me know in the comments or send an email.

 

Stay in the Pain to Partner

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the point of this meeting?” Here’s a better question to ask: “What is the pain of this meeting?” Let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve noticed, through client role-play and other probing exercises, that people are able to get to the client’s pain point but once getting there, they move right past it onto other topics not as urgent as the one they first uncovered.

Don’t let this happen to you. Let the pain BE the point of the meeting! Stay in the pain.

Make sure when you are vetting a client or partner you understand their challenges and stay inside those challenges to pinpoint the largest pain point you can solve. Then, play the pain point back to them and watch them elaborate on it. You’ll recall my most favorite probing question, “Really?” Use it so that you fully comprehend, and empathize, with their pain. You want this elaboration because with it will come an understanding of the urgency to solving this pain.

Then and only then can you begin to deliver your recommendation/solution. So next time you are in a meeting or on a call, make the pain the point!

 

Show Your Homework

When meeting with a client where it’s important to recommend a course of action, be sure to show your homework. Your due diligence illustrates forethought and respect.

It also shows that you have put considerable effort into understanding their business and have earned the right to make recommendations. Often salespeople come to a meeting without the correct level of homework completed, therefore their ideas are viewed skeptically versus relationally.

Don’t give into the excuses for not doing homework…”I don’t have time,” or “I know enough about what I need to know already.”

Try presenting your homework and notice your client’s engagement. You will create a level of trust that then gives you the status of adviser, rather than salesperson…which will lead to more sales! Let me know how it goes.

It’s Your Meeting….Take Control of It!

In my last post, I listed six things to stop discussing with your clients. Did you do it? How did it go?

The reason those things are important to eliminate is that when a meeting diverts into those areas, you’ve lost control and it will be hard to get it back.

So this week, let’s look at my key steps to controlling a meeting, even before it begins!

Send out an agenda

So often, this is overlooked. I cannot stress enough the importance of a setting an agenda prior to a meeting or call. If you just said, “Yes, Steve. Everyone knows that” then I’d ask you to recall the last 5-10 meeting you or someone else hosted. Did they all have an agenda, in advance?  Probably not. You must set the agenda because it creates AGREEMENT on what will be discussed and decisions that need to be made. Just as importantly, it puts you in control of the meeting right from the start. Send it out at least 24-hours in advance to give people the chance to review it and comment.

Start with agenda

As last week’s post directed, don’t start the call with the weather, a joke or a story about your weekend. Jump right in and state, “Everyone has had the agenda since yesterday at 1pm. I’ll quickly go over it and then we can begin.”

It’s important that your agenda have a timeline. Make sure people know how much time will be spent on each issue. I suggest using exact times, like this:

1:00 pm Review agenda

1:05 pm Past business

1:15 pm New business

This way, both you and the attendees can tell whether the meeting is on track or running ahead of or behind schedule. Try it and see how much more in control you’ll be when you know exactly where the meeting is vs. the agenda.

Review and Plan

At the conclusion of each agenda item, review what was discussed. Then, determine the next steps and who will own them. Ever been to a meeting where a lot was discussed yet nothing got done as a result? Bypassing this step is why. Don’t do it!

Send a Timely Recap

After the call or meeting, people will jump back into whatever they were doing prior to it or had planned to do after it. You might, too! It is critical that you create time (put it on your calendar) to create the recap notes and send it out to participants. You want them to have a bulleted list that recaps the following:

  • Challenges Discussed
  • Resolutions
  • Next Steps
  • Owners
  • Deadlines

You should close the email with something like: “If I you don’t send back comments or questions, I will assume that you agree with this recap and your assigned tasks/deadlines.” Talk about taking control!

Privately Talk with the Meeting Hijacker

Even if you’ve done all the steps above, your meeting can get hijacked by someone who will manipulate the meeting, sending it down the rabbit hole and into long discussions that ignore your agenda. After the meeting, call that person and discuss what happened. Relationally call them out by asking something akin to: “It might be me, but it seemed that you were upset or frustrated when we were talking about X. Maybe I missed something so, can you let me know what’s on your mind?”

You need him or her to get past whatever it is so that things can move forward. Your goal is to neutralize them for the next call. “I understand. In the 20 minutes we have…let’s find out the real issue here because we all have to move forward on this….we need everyone on board.” I bet they will think twice about hijacking a meeting of yours again!

Try these tactics for your next call or meeting. Don’t skip any! Let me know if you see a change in how the meeting goes and the control you have over it.

 

Six Things to Stop Discussing with Clients

It has been said that you get just one chance to make a first impression. I have found that that holds true even with people you know. Let me explain.

When you have a meeting with an existing client, how the meeting or call starts is critically important. This “first impression” will give your client some insight into how the next 30-60 minutes is going to go and how vested you are in the outcome.

So why, then, do so many people waste that first 5-10 minutes with idle banter? If you really listen to what you are saying from the client’s perspective, you might be shocked to realize the relationship damage, subtle as it may be, that you are doing.

That is why I want you to stop discussing these six things with your clients immediately.

The Weekend/Vacation

People get on a call, that their client is paying for, and say, “I can’t wait for the weekend” or “Thank God it’s Friday” or “Just a few more hours until my vacation.” What that says to a client is, “I can’t wait to stop doing work for you,” a message not likely to be well received by your client.

The Weather

If you have many people on a call, all of them in different geographic areas, bringing up the weather can be a real time suck since everyone will want to tell everyone else what the weather is like in their area. And to a client, time really is money and you are spending it pretending to be Al Roker.

Other clients/work

“We’ve been really busy with a few projects that have taken up a lot of time.” That forces the client to think, “So…..who was working on our stuff?” Clients want to feel, while knowing it’s not true, that they are your only client.

Jokes

Clients are paying you to do serious work. Having a good sense of humor is one thing, spending any time telling jokes is a waste of time…their time. And it says that you aren’t taking this call seriously so perhaps you have the same attitude about their business.

Your Health

“I’ve been out the last few days, sick as a dog.” Clients will, of course, be empathetic but, they’ve got a business to run. You just told them, in their mind, that no work got done in the last few days. If you have to note your absence, be sure to immediately tell them how work got done despite you being out, by whom and the results they achieved.

Reading what you sent

This probably happens more than any of the things on this list. People prepare a status update and then proceed to dictate every point to them. Stop! If you sent an update, assume your client can read it! Don’t ask them if they want you to “walk them through it,” because they will politely say yes and then dread you actually doing it. What they really want is your insight into the issues, concerns, future plans, etc. That’s what they pay you for!

Stop discussing these six areas and it will open up a space in every client encounter for you to begin a meaningful conversation right from the first “Hello.”

In my next post, I’ll provide some tips on how to do exactly that!

 

 

 

 

Managing Summer Time

Summer is a season of vacations, beaches, time with family and other distractions. However, you’ve still got business to manage and clients to satisfy. Perhaps more than any other time of the year, summer presents time management challenges for you and your team. It’s up to you to make sure work gets done. Here are some time management tips to help.

Read more

Cognitive Dissonance: Your Secret Weapon

“We might not be the right company for you.” Said no one ever, right?

Not so. I say it often and coach my clients to do the same. “Steve…you counsel people to TELL their potential client that their company might not be the right fit?” That’s right. I put it in the category of Cognitive Dissonance, having thoughts that are inconsistent. Allow me to explain.

The Unexpected Opens the Conversation

So often, I see people go into a meeting with a predetermined goal of securing new business without giving serious consideration to the possibility that their firm might not be the right one for this client. Get the business….get the business…get the business. That’s the sole focus.

How do you know you are right for them already? You’ve barely just met and already you’re thinking about marriage! What I say often to potential clients is, “I’m not sure I am right for you. That’s why I’m here, so we can discover that together.” Wow…does that open up the conversation! They were expecting me to sell my service in whatever way possible, not to admit that I might not be their guy. From that point, they start to see that I’m not there to sell them something they don’t need, but to determine if I can provide something that they do.

Unidirectional vs Open-ended

If you come into a presentation focused only on selling, you are setting up a unidirectional conversation. In your mind, it can go only one way. But, if you let them know that your goal is to determine whether you are a fit, that leaves the floor open for them to give you information that will help make that determination. And best of all, you are working together to see if the relationship will be mutually beneficial. Let me repeat one word here: together! From this one small shift in your normal method of communication, you have already created an alignment that distinguishes you from everyone else who comes through the door.

Objective Inquiry

Now that you’ve shattered their preconceived notion on how the meeting was going to go, you can get down to business in an atmosphere of objective inquiry. You’ve prepared probing questions so, now is the time to dive into them. As you listen to the answers, you are not looking to find openings where you can sell your product/service. Rather, you are looking for evidence that this relationship could work out for both of you for the long term. They will be doing the same.

The important thing is that their guard is down. You can see it. Many times, I will observe someone’s shoulders drop, they take on a more relaxed demeanor and will talk far more than they might have otherwise. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your forbearance. Allow them the time to get into details about their “compelling event,” the thing that is most on their mind. Use my favorite open-ended question, “Really?” to have them provide more insight. The more you learn, the better positioned you are to discover if your firm has the solutions they need.

“But Steve, my supervisor will kill me if he knew I started meetings saying that I wasn’t sure our firm was a good fit.” No he won’t. Once you start establishing strong relationships based on a mutual decision that your firm IS a good fit, your docket will be full of business that has long-term implications for your firm. Who doesn’t want that?

Can you do it? Let me know your thoughts on this approach. – SG